7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister representing (the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the Senate a copy of the agreement between the Government and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company relative to the disposal of tho Queensland sugar crop for the year 1917?
– The answer is, Yes.
asked the Min ister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has the Government yet granted permission to tho Queensland Government to act as agent for the export of tungsten metals to the Imperial Ministry for Munitions?
– The answer is, No.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
If, in view of sinking of vessels belonging to the mercantile marine in Australian and adjacent waters by explosions, occasioned by agencies at present not discovered,’ he will cause the marine trade Toutes along the coast of the continent, and particularly off points touched by the main ocean currents, to be as carefully searched as may be for drifting or anchored enemy mines?
-This matter has already engaged the attention of the Government, who are taking such steps as are considered necessary for the protection of shipping.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the extensive powers the Government has under the War Precautions Act, does he not consider it would be in the best interests of Australia to put this Act into force, and deport Miss Adela Pankhurst?
– The matter will be brought under the notice of the AttorneyGeneral for consideration.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
.- I move-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders bc suspended as would prevent the Bil] being passed through all its stages without delay.
I propose, if the Senate agrees to this motion, to make the consideration of the measure an Order of the Day for a later hour of the day, so as to leave the way open for Senator Gardiner to proceed with the motion standing in his name.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Millen) read a first time, and second reading made an order of the Day for a later hour of the day.
Message received from the House of Representatives stating that it had agreed to’ the amendments made by the Senate in the Bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives. -
.- I move-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
In submitting this motion I make the same intimation as I made in moving the previous one.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Millen) read a first time, and second reading made an Order of the Day for a later hour of the day. >
.- I move-
That Statutory Rules No. 212 of 1917, regulations under the War Precautions Act 1914- 1916, be disallowed.
I am submitting this motion as a general protest against the growing practice of legislation by regulation instead of by what we are accustomed to in a deliberative assembly - legislation by Parliament representing the will of the people.
This is one of many cases in which the War Precautions Act has been misused most unfairly. It has been misused in a way which was never dreamed of by those who originated the measure and those who passed it. We were told when it was under consideration that it was a measure to enable the Government to grapple with emergency cases arising out of the war. At that time, that is, in the early stages of the war, we naturally realized that things might happen which would detrimentally affect the conduct of the war, and render it necessary lor the Government to act without convening Parliament to grant additional powers. The regulation which I ask the Senate to disallow reads -
After Regulation 29 of the War Precautions (Supplementary) Regulations the following Regulation is inserted: - “ 30. ( 1 ) Where’ the Governor-General is satisfied that any association or organization of employees registered under any Commonwealth or State Act relating to arbitration or the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes has, or that members thereof or of any branch or section thereof have, since the making of this regulation ceased work or become engaged in a strike or cessation of work, the Governor-General may by notice in the Gazette declare that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the registration of the association or organization shall for all purposes whatsoever be deemed to be cancelled and the members of the association or organization shall cease to be entitled to the benefit of any award applicable to the association or organization, or, where the declaration applies only to one or more branches or sections of the association or organization, the registration of the association or organization shall as regards the members of that branch or section of those branches or sections, be deemed for all purposes whatsoever to be cancelled, and the members of that branch or section or those branches or sections shall cease to be entitled to the benefit of any award applicable to the association or organization. _ “ (2) Within seven days after the publication in the Gazette of any such declaration application may be made to the Attorney-General by or on behalf of the association, organization, branch or section to which the declaration relates for the cancellation of the declaration, and if, after the Attorney-General has heard the representations made by or on behalf of the association, organization, branch or section, the Governor-General is satisfied that the association or organization, or the members thereof or of the branch or section, as the case may be, did not cease work or become engaged in a strike or cessation of work, the Governor-General may by order cancel the declaration made by him, and the declaration shall thereupon be deemed to be and to have been of no effect.”
It does not need many words to bring home to honorable senators the seriousness of legislating in this manner by regulation. Here is an attack made upon our system of arbitration, a system which, provides a legal and legitimate way through the properly constituted Courts of the Commonwealth to decide questions of whether unions should be deregistered. But what has happened ? When some of these cases were actually under the consideration of the Arbitration Judge, he found himself placed in a position that, no matter what his decision might be, even the Attorney-General could reverse it under legislation of this kind.
This, to my mind, is part and parcel of the arrangement - and I make the statement without fear - between the State Government, the [Commonwealth Government, the Chambers of Manufacturers, the Chambers of Commerce, and employers generally to break up unionism. It is .a deliberately planned organized attack on the unions of this country. Not only has it been carefully planned and effectively carried out - and I admit that the parties may have obtained a passing advantage
– I agree with you that there was am effort to break up unions, but it was hatched in the Trades Halls of Sydney and Melbourne.
– I can quite understand the feeling with which the honorable senator says that the plan was hatched in the Trades Halls of Sydney and Melbourne. If it were so hatched, the eggs were put in the incubator by the power-holding classes who fear unionism because it has compelled them to pay fair wages.
– The question of wages never came in.
– Of course, Senator Millen makes that remark, but I venture to say that as regards this combination of Governments and employers to break down unionism, the whole question is one of wages. I know that they have not made any open attack upon wages ; they dare not do that. But let us get away from the organization of the Governments, particularly this Government, to assist the employing classes in their attack upon unionism.
What excuse is there to use the War Precautions Act to deal with business which can be dealt with. well and effectively by the ordinary Courts of the Commonwealth and the States? Within the last few weeks we have had example after example of where the Judges presiding over the Commonwealth and State Courts have, after hearing the cases in the manner prescribed by law, deregistered unions. If that machinery is not effective owing to the conditions under which we are living, why should the Commonwealth Government rush in to pass legislation by regulation ? This Parliament is sitting, if an amendment of the Arbitration Act was needed, why was it not consulted, and asked to amend the Act by giving additional powers ?
– Why would they not use these powers to settle the strike if they can use them to deregister unions?
– That interjection is quite pertinent. Why did not the Government use the powers of the Arbitration Act to settle the strike ? We know the reason, and it is that they do not want to settle the strike.
– The Arbitration Act is defied.
– Yes, by the employers.
– That is an old tale.
– “The Arbitration. Act is defied,” says the recent convert to the power-holding sections of thiscommunity, which he h,ad opposed so long. During the last month, the Arbitration Courts have shown not only that they have not been defied, but that they are permitted to carry out their business. Their decisions are given day after day, in most cases in conformity with the arrangements made by the combination of the State Governments, the Commonwealth Government, and the organizedemployers of this country.
– Is not this a reflection on Mr. Justice Higgins ?
– No; nor is it even a reflection on Mr. Justice Heydon. It is not meant for “a reflection on Mr. Justice Higgins. I recognise that in the art of twisting language we have no superior to Senator Millen. During the last month the Arbitration Courts have given decisions which suit exactly thehonorable senator, because they enable him and the party he is associated with to carry out successfully their attack on unionism. Here we have a clear case of where the ordinary law Courts are actively and successfully conducting the business for which they were created, and, let me add - it may be a reply to the interjection - doing it in an impartial manner.
I recognise that with the power they have the employers have brought about this disturbance, so that the weight of legal evidence may be with them at the present moment, and they may get the verdicts. They have exercised that power effectively to gain their miserable points. But why a Government should strengthen their hands, why a Government should lay itself out to say, “ Lest the Arbitration Courts will not be subservient to the wishes of the employing classes we will put the whole power in the hands of the Government, and the only appeal to be allowed will Be an appeal to the present Attorney-General, the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes?” Just imagine the unionists, under existing conditions, finding that their only appeal against a decision given under this regulation is not even to the Government itself, but to one individual, the Attorney-General, who, since hig return from Great Britain has placed himself in the position of the most bitter opponent whom unionism has ever had.
– No, he has not.
– He has done more for unionism than any other persons have done.
– You do not believe that, Senator Gardiner.
– Not. only do I believe it, but I know it to be true. I would not have uttered the remark if I did not know it to be true.
– It is good gallery stuff.
-The very fact that this regulation makes the Prime Minister the only court of appeal from a verdict is the only reason why I have mentioned his name.
– The whole policy on your side is hatred of Hughes.
– Hatred of the unconstitutional methods of Hughes, a man who is prepared to set aside the ordinary constitutional procedure and take the whole power into his own hands.
– You would have licked his boots twelve months ago, and did.
– The honorable senator is down on his knees grovelling before him at the present time. The honorable senator has left behind him a long and honorable record in unionism, and has become the crawling sycophant of the Attorney-General.
– Order !
– Is not that parliamentary? If not, I withdraw it.
– It is a reflection that is utterly unwarranted.
– Every unionist who knows Senator Guthrie’s record hangs his head with shame when he sees the honorable senator doing all he can, in the closing years of his career, to counteract the good he did in his vigorousyoung manhood.
– I got more unionists’ votes at the last election than I got in my life before. I told them straight that I did not want direct action.
– If the honorable senator got any unionists’ votes he got them on his past record. What does the honorable senator propose to do now that he is brought face to face with the question of whether he will vote for the deregistration’ of unions, with the only appeal against it lying with Mr. W. M. Hughes, who at present is most vindictively opposed to unionism and everything belonging to it?
– I am not going to vote for direct action.
– The honorable senator may fall back on the old electioneering cry of direct . action and I.W.Wism, but here is the direct action of a Government in the issue of a regulation which places full power to deregister unions in the hands of the GovernorGeneral in Council. They are to be deregistered before there is an appeal, and the Court constituted to hear the appeal is actually the Attorney-General himself. If he is not satisfied that the grounds of appeal are sufficient, nothing further can be done. There sits on that side supporting such a proposal Senator Guthrie, who gave the best years of his life to organizing and building up unions, and is now devoting his declining years to destroying all the good work of his earlier days.
– You are destroying it by your direct action.
– These things speak louder than the honorable senator’s words, especially a regulation which takes power from the very ‘Courts the honorable senator has helped to constitute - Courts that were supposed to hold the balance evenly between the employing and the employed classes. Here is the champion of labour, the one-time exponent of unionism, standing up as the champion of legislation by the Attorney-General, who constitutes himself an Arbitration Court to hear appeals, although even Senator Guthrie will agree that the AttorneyGeneral does not possess the confidence of the unions that he will give impartial decisions in any of their cases.
– I have confidence that he will.
– If the honorable senator subscribesto a statement of that kind he is almost past hope. I did think that there might be in him some lingering glimmer of that intelligence which he once possessed.
– Because I was suspended by eight men, that does not mean that I have lost the confidence of. the union.
– Under this regulation a registered union can be deregistered because of the acts of some of its members, acts that canbe instigated by Mr. Hughes himself or by the Government, acts that can be carefully thought out and planned to bring unions into a position in which they can be deregistered. Everybody knows that one of the chief reasons for the strike was the irritation of the pastoralists at) having to obey the recent award of the Arbitration Court. They have endeavoured to bring out the Australian Workers Union by irritating and annoying it by every means in their power, in the hope that it would break the award of the Court, so that they might escape the necessity of having to obey that award themselves. If. they can only get sufficient men to join a union to create a disturbance, that union can be deregistered and robbed of the arbitration award that it has worked for years to obtain. Does Senator Guthrie propose to give power to the AttorneyGeneral, in his present frame of mind, to do a thing like that? Is Senator Reid, who was at one time, I believe, a Labour member, going to do iti?
– You say you believe I was a Labour member.- I have a better record than yours, anyhow.
– It would not be much good if it was not.
– I am glad to think that some honorable senators get satisfaction from the reflection that at one time they were better Labour members than I have been. I have never boasted about how good I was in anything, but I have always done my utmost for over twenty-five years for the movement. I have been an active member of organizations all that time, and I will not put them under the control of the Attorney-General now. Senator Reid, who claims to have been a better Labour member than myself, is prepared to hand over the whole machinery of the Arbitration Court to the decision of the AttorneyGeneral.
– The whole machinery ?
– Yes; because the Arbitration Court alone should have this power. It is constituted for the purpose. A gentleman was placed at the head of it with the best and highest qualifications that the Government of the day could obtain to carry out that duty.
– Do you really believe that the pastoralists tried to drag the Australian Workers Union into the strike?
– When another regulation comes before the Senate I shall show where the Government attempted to irritate the unions by penalizing what the organizers said in the sheds. Every one knows that the irritation of the pastoralists with the recent award is one of the chief causes of the strike. The pastoralists are suffering under that award, and saying they will not obey it.
– I suppose that is what brought the railway Tien out in Sydney.
– Honorable senators like to appeal to what is patentand public, and avoid “the underground engineering that they know is taking place, such as the organizations and combinations of the employing class, who are using the Government and one-time Labour members to assist them in doing things of this kind.
– Did not the honorable senator say in this chamber that it was the card system that brought the railway men out ?
– But that was a week ago.
– I said in this chamber that the immediate cause was the card system, but that the trouble was really the old trouble of the organized employing class trying to impose degrading conditions on the employees. Let us consider this regulation apart altogether from the question of organized employers as against organized labour generally. The properly constituted Courts of the country are to have their powers taken from- them, or to see greater powers given to the AttorneyGeneral and the Government. What would be said if we attempted to take from the business people of Australia their right of appeal to the Supreme Court and obtain the judgment of the best legal minds, and hand over all their civil rights to a partisan Government which they knew would vindictively attack them? That is what legislation of this kind does to the labouring class. If any honorable senator believes that the War Precautions Act should be used by the Government to override our civil Courts and our civil liberties, when the persons with whom they are dealing are in no way interfering with the conduct of the war, he is agreeing to the use of that Act in a manner which was never intended.
– I should agree with the honorable senator if he proved that.
– This is one of many regulations passed with that object.
– When you were a Minister you agreed to put the Naval Discipline Act into force, contrary to the Arbitration Act.
– Then in those days the honorable senator was a sufficiently good Labour member to protest against it. What a change is there ! He is on his knees now crawling after the Attorney-General and cannot muster sufficient courage to protest on behalf of labour against anything he does.
– When you were on the Treasury bench you put the press gang law into force.
– If I did, why did not the honorable senator rise in his place in Parliament and let us know in what way we were doing wrong ? This is one of Senator Guthrie’s usual methods of attack. Any falsehood that comes into his mind he will utter as if it were a truth. If when I was on the Treasury bench I did anything to suppress organized labour, I never heard of it from Senator Guthrie. I challenge him to produce any record showing where any Government with which I was connected ever interfered to suppress organized labour in any way. If I did anything of that kind, as a Minister, he is more to blame as a party man for remaining silent and permitting it to be done.
– I got to the Arbitration Court over it, and the Judge knocked out your contention.
– This regulation allows the Government and the AttorneyGeneral to supersede or go beyond the power of the Court. Are honorable senators going to vote for it? It is in the power of the Senate to prevent it becoming law, because a simple majority can disallow it, leaving the Court free to deal in the proper way with the question of the deregistration of unions.”
If honorable senators ‘ vote for the regulation, and a decision is given to-day by any Arbitration Court Judge in Australia, they are giving the Government power to-morrow by a simple Executive act to override that’ decision. Are honorable senators opposite prepared to do that? If so, I am determined that they shall do it with their eyes open. It will not be much of an excuse for any one of them to say that his record as a Labour man is a better one than my own. It may be that something else has been given to them for joining the enemies of Labour to-day. 1 cannot look at Senator Earle without recalling the circumstances under which he was suddenly transformed into a supporter of the present Government. He used to be a stalwart champion of Labour-
– Do not be personal.
– Why not? This is the place to be personal.
– Give us facts, not fancy statements.
– I know thai there is a class of the community who believe that matter does not exist, but I have not yet been able to reconcile myself to that view. If it be not a fact that Senator Reid was at one time a Labour member, and that he is now a stalwart supporter of the opponents of Labour; that Senator Earle was at one period a strong champion of Labour, and is now supporting a Government which seeks to take from our Courts the power to deregister unions-
– Because they fear that the decisions of the Courts will nob accord with their own wishes.
– The honorable senator is relying on his imagination for his facts.
– All the facts I have stated are contained in these regulations. The Government propose to take this power to themselves, even “after a High Court Judge may have arrived at his decision upon evidence. How will the determination of the Cabinet be reached ? Possibly on the ex parte statement of one individual.
– The honorable senator ought to know. He has been there.
– I venture to say that if the present Prime Minister asked for the deregistration of any union at a Cabinet meeting, and placed before his colleagues the facts as they presented themselves to him, if there were no representative of the union at the meeting, his decision would stand. This power. 3 submit, ought” not to be taken from thf Courts.
– A Judge may give his decision in favour of an organization and that decision may be wiped out h) these regulations.
– If the .nation were at peace, the arguments of the honorable senator would undoubtedly be strong.
– If the Courts of this country cannot peacefully conduct their business, let the honorable senator make that excuse for voting against my motion. I have not heard anything to warrant the supposition that the Courts cannot properly discharge their functions.
– The honorable senator has not heard of a good many things.
– I have not heard any statement which will satisfactorily explain the political change which the views of Senator Earle have undergone.
– The honorable senator must have a poor case when he has to depend entirely upon personal attacks.
– If I attacked Senator Senior I would certainly have a poor case. But I have not made one word of reference to him, nor have I referred to any other honorable senator who has not interjected.
– I suppose that remark is intended as a warning, “Do not interject.”
– It is, because the person who interjects will get an exchange from me.
– Go on. We are enjoying the honorable senator’s hogwash.
– I would wash a hog like the honorable senator if he was worth it, but to do so would be an insult to a decent hog. Hog-wash ! Why, what I am throwing over the honorable senator - but there, I will refrain from using unparliamentary language. The honorable senator would pollute hogwash.
– What about the Arbitration Act?
– When the jackals who support the Vice-President of the Executive Council allow me to proceed without interruption, I will tell him something about the Arbitration Act.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator has forgotten this is the Senate.
– I recognise the difficulty of addressing one’s self to a serious question like this-
– Go on. The honorable senator is in his best shearing-shed form this morning.
– I now propose to read the regulation to which I take such strong exception.
– I hope that the honorable senator will not attempt to do that. He has already read it once, and I would remind him that his time upon this motion is limited.
– I shall be my own judge of how I shall speak upon this question.
– Excuse me, I will be the judge.
– You, sir, may be the judge as to the time that shall be occupied upon it, but you are not yet in a position to regulate how I shall speak.
– I have already pointed out that the honorable senator must not read the same matter again, because the time which the discussion of this motion can occupy is strictly limited.
– The regulation reads -
Where the Governor-General is satisfied that any association or organization of employees registered under any Commonwealth or State
– Order ! The honorable senator is defying my ruling. I rule that he is guilty of tedious repetition, which cannot be allowed.
– I wish to read a portion of the regulation.
– The honorable senator will be in order in doing that.
– The portion I wish to quote reads -
Where the Governor-General is satisfied that any association or organization of employees registered under any Commonwealth or State Act relating to arbitration or the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes has, or that members thereof, or of any branch or section thereof have, since the making of this Regulation, ceased work or become engaged in a strike or cessation of work, the Governor-General may by notice in the Gazette declare that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the registration of the association or organization shall for all purposes whatsoever be deemed to be cancelled.
I do not wish to read more than that. I have no desire to traverse the ruling of the President, but I appeal to men who at one time represented Labour to say whether they think an organization should be deregistered at the will of a Government merely because some of its members have acted contrary to the award under which it was working. Will honorable senators vote to make that the law of the land? Will the
Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Millen) say that he favours legislationby regulation which will, empower the Government to deregister a union without the matter being heard even by the Cabinet? This is not a question of whole unions defying the Arbitration Act. Take an organization like the Australian “Workers Union, which has some 50,000 or 60,000 members. Under this regulation, if a section of that union be driven to strike, the whole of the award which it had only obtained after years of fighting, and which was perhaps being loyally observed by 999 of every 1,000 of its members, would be severely punished. .
– It would not be used in a case like that.
– The regulation says that in those cases only the section which disobeys the law shall be deprived of the privileges of the award.
– I shall read the regulation again.
– Read the last three or four lines of paragraph 1.
– I prefer to read the first three or’ four lines of that paragraph. There it is set out that -
Where the Governor-General is satisfied that any association or organization of employees registered under any Commonwealth or State Act relating to arbitration or the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes has, or that members thereof, or of any branch or section thereof have, since the making of this Regulation ceased work or become engaged in a strike or cessation of work, the Governor-General may by notice in the Gazette declare that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the registration of the association or organization shall for all purposes whatsoever be deemed to. be cancelled.
– Readthe last three lines of that paragraph which refers to “ the members of that branch or section.”
– I say that if any members of an organization go upon strike the regulation provides that- the members of the association or organization shall cease to be entitled to the benefit of any award applicable to the association or organization, or, where the declaration applies only to one or more branches or sections of the association or organization, the registration of the association or organization shall, as regards the members of that branch or section of those branches or sections, be deemed for all purposes whatsoever to be cancelled.
– That is right.
– It is right from the honorable senator’s stand-point, but it is absolutely wrong from mine.
– The honorable senator said that if one branch of a union struck the whole organization would be deregistered. That is not so.
– It is. I object to that. I recognise that the Government have a great deal of business to get through, and I am sorry that my remarks have occupied longer than I intended. I oppose this regulation because I regard it as part of a deliberate and matured attack upon the labouring classes by the Commonwealth Government and the organized employers of this country.
– Those who have listened to the honorable senator and who recognise the circumstances under which he spoke, will make every allowance for him. He and many of his associates occupy a very peculiar and difficult position, and naturally they are looking for a way out of it. Therefore I make every allowance for the frantic efforts which are now being made by them to escape, just as one can understand and sympathize with the dying struggles of a drowning man who attempts to catch at a straw. The position of Senator Gardiner is that he and others who are associated with him have led a large body of those who look to them for leadership into an absolutely impossible position. They have led them to take up an attitude of defiance of constituted authority, they have fanned the flames of this strike, and now that the men recognise that there is coming upon them the unfortunate consequences of their own action-
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know if the Vice-President of the Executive Council is in order in imputing dishonorable motives to Senator Gardiner and others upon this side of the Chamber?
– I did not hear dishonorable motives imputed by the honorable senator.
– He said that we led the men into the dispute. I say that
– Order ! The honorable senator must withdraw that remark and apologize.
– I withdraw the remark, and say that the honorable senator is a perverter of the truth. I will- not stand that kind of thing from him or from any one else.
– Senator McDougall does not mean what he is saying now. He may think that I am mistaken, but in his heart he knows that he does not mean what he has just said.
– The honorable senator knows that no honorable senator on this side led the men into the strike.
– Let me put it in this way. The men who should have led the strike, and who, if they had any intelligence, must have seen that the strikers were taking a wrong course, which could only bring about disaster, never raised a voice of warning to tell the strikers what they were doing. On the other hand, we know that, even in this chamber, they ‘have encouraged them to continue the unfortunate struggle in which they engaged. Only a few days ago, Senator Gardiner declared here that the men were absolutely solid, that he had never seen men so solid on a question before, and then he expressed the hope that they would continue in the course they were pursuing until they secured that for which they were fighting: Those were words of encouragement to the men; and now, when the strikers see that they were misled, and there is a tendency on their part to call to account the men who misled them, and when Senator Gardiner finds that he is likely to be called to account, and that his claims to leadership are threatened and undermined because of the false position in which he placed those who followed his advice, we have him making an appeal to class prejudice and passion in order still to induce his deluded followers into the belief that he, and he alone, can save them.
Let us look at the facts of the position. We are at war.
– I suppose that justifies everything.
– It does, absolutely. I say that in time of war there can only be one consideration for the country, and that is the national safety. Men who, in the time of war, think we can afford to be guided by the niceties of rules which we might be expected to observe in times of peace, ignore the teachings of history. They are unintelligent and innocent of common sense, or they wilfully mislead those who are foolish enough to believe in them.
– This is not war, it is despotism.
– In time of war, even despotism may be necessary. For too long the Empire to which we belong conducted the war with kid gloves on, and we are paying the penalty for it today. I remind honorable senators that the responsibility upon a Government in time of peace is intensified a hundredfold when the nation is fighting for its existence. In my judgment, the first responsibility upon the Government to-day is to see that nothing is done in this country which will paralyze its energies and activities in making the best contribution it can to the prosecution of the war. One of the first things that it- is necessary for us to do is to keep the wheels of industry moving. It is impossible for the nation to carry on the war if it refuses to find food for its soldiers and have it transported across the water for their sustenance. It would be impossible for us to continue to carry on the war for twentyfour hours if we ceased to produce the material things necessary for its prosecution and the maintenance of the nation.
Senator Gardiner made an astonishing statement when he told us that the strike had no relation to the war.
– Certainly not.
– It has a most important bearing upon it. If all industries ceased in Australia, could we continue to carry on the war? Is there no relation between the needs of our troops at the Front requiring food and wool and the action of men here who say deliberately, that they will not load those goods on to the transports? I need not labour the point. No one who considers the position to which Senator Gardiner has referred to-day can venture publicly to deny that the relation between the strike and the war is indeed of a most intimate character.
– The Government forced the strike.
– - The honorable senator says that we forced the strike. These interjections only confirm the remarks with which I began my speech, when I suggested that honorable senators opposite now find that it is necessary for them to put up some kind of a case.
– They are afraid that Pankhurst will supplant them.
– Probably that is so.
– Senator Millen surely does not -want us to be dumb dogs, like his followers.
– During the last few days my trouble has been that the followers of the Government were not dumb enough.
Senator Gardiner was a member of the Government that introduced the War Precautions Act. It was brought in to meet emergencies arising out of the war.
– Not to deal with civil cases.
– Yes, if necessary, and it was used to deal with civil cases without a protest from Senator Barker. It was under the War Precautions Act that the Government which the honorable senator supported commandeered many things and did many things for which there was no justification under the ordinary law.
– Commandeering and suppressing are two different things.
– They may be, but it is just as necessary that the Government should pass war regulations to suppress in one case as to commandeer in another.
– Why did not the Government commandeer the men when they had a right to?
– I was one of those who wanted to commandeer the men. The War Precautions Act was passed to meet emergencies arising out of the war, and I say that an emergency arose in this case. The statement that the Law Courts were competent to deal with the cases covered by the regulation to which exception is taken is absolutely incorrect. The only cases which the Arbitration Court dealt with, and with which it was invited to deal, were those which occurred immediately the strike took place. The Executive did not interpose in any way in those cases between the Court and the men where a breach of the law had taken place. It was not until the industrial crisis had ‘continued for four weeks, and unions were coming out one after the other, and those who were leading them were doing their level best to bring still more into the strike, and throw further industries idle, that the Government issued a proclamation, which they did not make retrospective, but in which they said that if in future any more unions struck they would withdraw from them the registration which they had under the law.
– Why not do that by an amendment of the Act?
– We had to deal with a situation where the unions were coming out and were liable to come out every minute of the day, and the sooner it was dealt with the better.
Let me say why I justify the action taken by the Government in this matter, apart’ from the method adopted. What is the registration of a union but a privilege secured to it by law ? Those who rely upon registration claim that they are entitled to it because the law gives it to them, but they must remember that they cannot have the privileges of the law without its responsibilities also. When honorable senators say that the action taken by the Government is an interference with the law, to what law are they referring ? Is it not to the law which the unions have broken and destroyed ? It is an absurdity for men who are willing to trample underfoot one portion of the law, and to bring the whole of the industries of the country to ruin in violation of the law, to immediately turn round and claim not only its benefits and privileges, but that for violations of it they shall be proceeded against by the ordinary slow processes of the law, at a time like the present. The only men who can appeal to the law in this case are those who are prepared to abide by the law.
Senator Gardiner talked of an attack upon unionism and upon arbitration. The men who are destroying arbitration in this country are those who refuse to abide by its results.
– Chiefly the employers.
– There is no force in Australia capable of destroying arbitration except that of the men who refuse to accept its decisions when they do not suit them.
Senator Gardiner denounced the second part of the regulation because it provides for an appeal being made .to the Attorney-General where a union is deregistered consequent upon it striking. The honorable senator denounced that as being something too nauseous for unionists to consider. He has overlooked the fact that several efforts’ have been made during the strike to appeal to Mr. Hughes through the unions themselves.
– With what result?
– I am only saying what has been done, and I say that the action taken by the unions in sending representatives of organized bodies to interview the Prime Minister shows the opinion that they hold of him. The one thing that is troubling honorable senators opposite is that the action taken by the unions in seeking direct access to the Prime Minister shows that they have a greater confidence still in Mr. Hughes than is at all comforting to them.
Senator Gardiner went on to plead pathetically that these matters should be left to the Arbitration Courts to decide, but within five minutes after making that) appeal we found him making another charge, and imputing that the decisions of those Courts were the result of a conspiracy with the State and Commonwealth Governments and the Employers Federation.
– I repudiated that when the honorable senator interjected during my speech, . and I ask now that he should not be allowed to attribute to me a statement which I did not make.
– I ask Senator Millen to withdraw the statement to which Senator Gardiner objects.
– I accept Senator Gardiner’s denial of the statement, but be is so frequently contradictory that it is difficult to know what he intends to imply. I certainly understood him to suggest that there was some conspiracy on foot on the part of the Government, employers, and other evilly-disposed persons.
– I stand to that.
– And that in some way or another there was a relation between that conspiracy and the deregistration decisions recorded by certain Courts.
– That is wrong.
– I accept the honorable senator’s disclaimer. I remind the honorable senator that the Courts in his own State showed that certain unions had lost their right to registration because they were law breakers. It was proved that they were law breakers, and I ask whether in a time of war we are to stand by and see our industries brought to a standstill, and our efforts to prosecute the war paralyzed at the instance of those who have been proved to be law breakers by the decisions of the Courts, to which’ Senator Gardiner referred. The whole thing is an absurdity.
Let us get back to the origin of the strike. . There is no secret about it. We know that it arose, not because of any efforts on the part of the employers, whether private or Government, to introduce iniquitous conditions, to harass men, tyrannize over them, or sweat them. We know that the strike had its roots in matters that extended back to the 28th October of last year, and which were emphasized on the 5th May of this year. Senator de Largie made a most useful contribution to our debates when he placed certain resolutions before the Senate.
– The secret minutes of a body.
– I am glad of the interjection, because it is an admission that the minutes produced were true.
– I did not say so.
– The honorable senator does not deny that they were true, and that is all I am concerned about at the moment.
– The secretary of the union, Mr. Morris, denied their truth in the public press.
– There were also, in the Trades Halls here in Melbourne and in Sydney, resolutions passed which clearly indicated that there was an organized effort to bring about a strike.
– There is no doubt about that.
– That is why Hughes issued the proclamation calling the men out - because he wanted a strike.
– I have to confess my inability to argue with gentlemen who talk in that way. I say there has been in this country an effort, to which, unfortunately, thousands of perfectly honest and loyal citizens unconsciously lent themselves, on the part of designing persons in this country, to challenge the constituted Government.
– Does tha honorable senator apply that to the Amalgamated Engineers in Sydney?
– I apply it to all who engineered the strike.
– They were the men who came out.
– If they were the men who engineered it, let them fit on the cap. I am not concerned about any particular body. The statement I make is that the strike was engineered by those who desired to deliberately challenge the Government of the country. The Government could not stand idly by when it was vestedwith certain powers, given to it by Parliament. The action taken was not that of a despot, because it was Parliament that gave the Government their authority under the War Precautions Act. When the Government were faced with circumstances requiring action to be taken, they would have been remiss in their duty if they had failed to do what they have done on this occasion. The only reason for regret is that the action taken by the Government was not adopted a little earlier in the strike. The regulation was not issued as a punishment for what the unions had done up to that time, but as a warning to unionists as to the position in which they would stand if they gave heed to those who were seeking to wreck this country by tying up its industries.
.- I had not intended to take any part in this debate, and would not have done so but for the assertion made by Senator Millen that we were the leaders of the strike, and had led the men into the position in which they find themselves to-day. I am proud of the fact that, for forty-three years, I have been a member of one of the unions that struck. I was present at their meeting when this decision was arrived at, and next Monday, for the forty-third time, I shall walk with them through the streets of my native city.
Senator Millen has said that this regulation was issued in order to punish the law breakers. If that is so, it should be applied all round, and to all those pastoralists, graziers, and employers who are seeking to form one big union to fight against the arbitration laws of this country. Apparently, they can do as they like; but if the unfortunate workers use the only implement at their disposal, they are deemed to be law breakers. Listen to this -
“ONE BIG UNION.”
Turn of Men on the Land.
Glen Innes, Friday. - A meeting of graziers and landholders in the town hall last night protested against the award delivered recently by Mr. Justice Higgins, declaring it economically unsound and restrictive of development and production. It was resolved to seek the support of all graziers, stock owners, and Farmers and Settlers’ Associations in the protest.
The general opinion, embodied in a resolution, was that the excessive additions to the wages of employees will bring about an increase of unemployment in the country districts.
It was decided to institute negotiations with . pastoral ‘and agricultural bodies with the idea of forming one “United Employers’ Union.”
Apparently, these people will be allowed to do as they like. I am not attempting to justify anything that has taken place, but I do condemn the Government for having issued regulations of this sort to punish only one section of the people. On the opposite side of the Chamber, there are men who have been our political opponents all their lives, and’ we are proud to know them as our life-long opponents, but regret the enmity and spleen that pours from many of those who a few weeks ago were our political friends, but are now behind the Government.
Senator Millen has said this is a political upheaval. If he is correct, he must be in the “ swim,” and the political move must have been on the side of the employers of Australia. I maintain that this trouble was caused by the action of the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales in forcing upon the men conditions which they’ will never accept. There waa in existence an agreement as sacred as the marriage bond, not to interfere with the relations between employer and employee during this war; but the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales deliberately broke that agreement, and caused this industrial upheaval. Volunteer strike-breakers are now being secured ; but we had news only yesterday that a vessel loaded at Williamstown by these strike-breakers has been destroyed by an infernal machine which had been placed in No. 1 hold. If that vessel had been loaded by union labour, there would have been leading articles in’ every journal of this country condemning the unions, and placing responsibility upon those bodies.
I object to the regulation issued by the Government, and I contrast their attitude with the course adopted by the Governments of Great Britain and the United States of America. Mr. Lloyd George went to the Welsh miners, and Mr. Bonar Law interviewed the boilermakers and engineers on the Clyde in order to settle industrial disturbances in the, Old Country. They held out the hand of friendship to unionists, and by their actions averted serious trouble in Great Britain. In the United States of America, also, during an industrial crisis, the Government sent for the Labour leader - Mr. Gompers - and secured his intervention to prevent any trouble during war time. The Commonwealth Government, instead of holding out the hand of friendship to the working men of this country - the men who are fighting our battles - issued a regulation penalizing them for any action that has been taken, for by the workers has every battle been fought, and by them has every battle been won, and always they have been rewarded by returning again to toil and amass money for the money lords who meet in secret conclave and shackle them hand and foot by fixing the price of foodstuffs and raiment.
– It is not surprising that a regulation issued by the Government of which Senator Gardiner was a member should now be objected to by the Leader of the Opposition, because we do not expect consistency from that honorable gentleman, and his exhibition this morning was one with which we have become very familiar in this chamber. Indeed, if he were to perform in any other manner, members on this side of the Senate would be very much surprised. He tried to insult every member on’ the Ministerial side, and his whole attitude seemed to be due to his intense hatred of Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister. It is just as well, therefore, that we should review theposition, and see where Mr. Hughes stands in the opinion of those who know him best.
– They know him pretty well in England. Smuts has got his job on the Inner War Council now.
– Had hebeen able to go to England on the second occasion, I feel confident he would have been just as much honoured as he was on his first visit.
– He is breaking his neck to get there now.
– The Prime Minister gained his position as Leader of the Labour party with greater honour than was conferred upon any former leader of the party, because he was elected without opposition in any shape or form, though to-day he is being abused by the very men who so elected him. Times have changed very much. The time was when the leadership of the Labour party in this chamber was considered an honour.
– It is now.
– I am sorry to think that the conduct of the leadership here has put the matter in another light. So often has Senator Gardiner dragged the position into the mud, that he only arouses disgust in one’s mind. No other man has done so much for the Labour movement in the same number of years as Mr. Hughes. The Prime Minister was invariably called upon to interpose when unionists revolted against the Arbitration Act, and although it was always a very distasteful duty to approach the men during such times, no other member of the party was ever asked to do it. Mr. Hughes often had to travel a rough road to get the Labour movement back to a sane and sensible position. His ability and courage were always recognised, so that when the leadership of the party became vacant, he was regarded as the only man fit for the position.
– You are not touching the question before the Senate very much.
– I realize I am referring to a matter which honorable senators opposite do not wish to have mentioned. The Ferrickses, and the rest of them, having misled the men in this industrial crisis, are now anxious to get somebody to help them out of their trouble. That istheir position to-day.
– Not much !
– I admit that it is a very sad one so far as honorable senators opposite are concerned ; but they need not think that they will get Mr. Hughes to be thecatspaw he was in the past to lead them out of the difficulties which they have got themselves into. It must be recognised that in Australia we have reached this position, that a stand has to be made either for arbitration or directly against it. We cannot have in operation the arbitration system and also the strike system.
Years ago, the Labour party, after a prolonged agitation, secured the enactment of an arbitration law, not only in the Commonwealth, but in the States. It took years of agitation to arrive at that stage. The opponents of arbitration in those times were undoubtedly the Employers Federation, and its champions were the Labour party; but all the opposition which was ever offered to the principle by the Employers Federation has never done it so much harm as has the action of the so-called friends of arbitration. And now, having landed themselves in a pickle, ‘they turn round to the one man whom they never cease to abuse when an opportunity presents itself, and ask him to get them out of their difficulties. Time and again since this strike began we have had very good indications of the truth of what I am saying. Time and again delegates from the Trades Hall and elsewhere have been only too anxious to induce Mr. Hughes to get them out of their troubles.
– To whom but the Prime Minister should they appeal?
– I should think that, if the honorable senator is appealing to the Prime Minister to get the strikers out of a difficulty which the honorable senator himself is partly responsible for leading them into, he ought to speak with some degree of respect of the man to whom he addresses the appeal.
Some remarks have been made about the attitude of the British Labour party in this connexion. When I was in Great Britain last year I was surprised to find that in the land which has been often referred to as the classical land of trade unionism they had practically suspended every rule, regulation, and principle in connexion with trade unionism, so that the war might be continued in the most successful way possible. That attitude was taken up in the Old Country by the Labour party, with two exceptions, and only very recently I read in a Labour newspaper here an article in which Mr. Tudor was criticised for not having sufficient backbone, and the writer was wishing for a Snowden or a Macdonald to lead Labour at the present time. “ Oh, for a Ramsay Macdonald or a Philip Snowden to lead our Labour party in Australia’s Federal Parliament!” This indicates the fate awaiting Mr. Tudor. With these two exceptions, the Labour party in the Old Land are united in the strongest possible way, backing up the Government to do everything in their power to bring the war to a successful end. The ordinary principles of trade unionism - the practices which had been in vogue for generations - were suspended so that the maximum quantity of guns and munitions could be produced. Here was an example of loyalty and solidarity which it was undoubtedly refreshing to, see exhibited. Still, it has been stated here that a tyranny is being practised against trade unionism in Australia which the unions in the Old Land know nothing of.
It must be admitted, I think, that there can be only one principle at work in connexion with the statutory regulation which we are considering. We cannot have in vogue at the same time the strike system and the arbitration system.
– This regulation is killing the principle of arbitration, and you support it.
– Yes; and the honorable senator is one of those who are responsible for the killing of arbitration.
– You are going to support this regulation, which kills the principle of arbitration.
– I am quite prepared to back up the Government in their present action. It is time that the country decided whether it is to have the strike system or the arbitration system. It is very unfair to those who advocated the principle of arbitration in bygone years, and helped so materially to secure its enactment on the statute-book, that certain men to-day should be killing the principle.
– You are going to support the regulation.
– Then you are go.ing to kill arbitration.
– Because, unless we clear the air and learn exactly where we are in regard to arbitration, we must have strikes. A choice is placed before us, and the question is which, system are we going to have.
– As the discussion on this motion must cease on the expiration of two hours from the time iti began, I shall be very brief.
– Who said that?
– The standing order does, if the honorable senator was not aware of the fact before he asked the question.
This statutory regulation is, I consider, one of the most monstrous proposals which have ever emanated from a body calling itself a Democratic Government, and trying to guide the destinies of a Democratic country. As Senator O’Loghlin very pertinently interjected, “ This is not law, but despotism.” If this action of the Government was going to be so comprehensive as to embrace all socalled law breakers, perhaps one’s opposition to the monstrous proposal would be weakened. But we are told in the regulation that there is only one section of the community included in the category of law breakers, and that section is tha workers of Australia. They are dubbed disloyal because they have dared to stand up against an attempt to. introduce’ one of the worst systems of sweating which the world has even known - a system which was turned down by even America, one of the greatest speeding-up countries of the world, and one which would not be allowed to be introduced into Great Britain. “Who was the originator of this trouble? We have been told from the Ministerial bench to-day that it is a political struggle, that it is a re-echo of the 28th October, and, as a result, of the verdict of the 5th May. Nothing is farther from the truth. The men who stand condemned to-day as the instigators of this industrial trouble are the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales. As Senator McDougall just said, they broke the bond. . Talk about Germany and a scrap of paper! Here was an honorable agreement between the Railways Commissioners of New South, Wales and their employees, that no new conditions of employment would be introduced during the time of war. But the Commissioners broke the agreement and threw down the gauntlet to the men. The latter would not have been men worthy of a free Democratic country if they had not stood up to the Commissioners.
What has been the result? We are told by this statutory regulation that if trade unions do certain things they will be deregistered. The Government knows that there is in existence a judicial tribunal which could have done all this work. But consider the remarkable position which the Government have taken up ! It has put one man in the position of being an absolute dictator. So strongly did the President of the Arbitration Court feel on this matter that he had to protest from his seat on the Bench against the action of the Executive Council in taking to itself certain powers which it could exercise under the War Precautions Act, and, at the same time, coming to him as the President of the Arbitration Court and asking him to do something which it could do under the regulation. He pointed out that if he refused to do what was asked, after all judicial thought and care had been given to the application, then the Government could do the thing itself. Is there any other part of the civilized world, be it in time of war or in time of peace, which would take up such an attitude as that?
Senator de Largie has said that we are attacking the Prime Minister, and that during this unfortunate, strike the leaders of trade unions have approached the Prime Minister. It is true that they approached the Prime Minister. To whom could those leaders apply but to the head of the Government? They did not go to him because he was William Morris Hughes, but because he was the Prime Minister and Attorney-General of Australia. And, in that regard, Senator Millen wants to justify paragraph 2 of the regulation where it provides that in every case the AttorneyGeneral has to determine whether or not an appeal in the case shall be allowed. There is no similarity between the two things. I think it is right for men to approach the Prime Mnister with the view to getting a matter settled; but it is quite a different thing when that gentleman, as AttorneyGeneral, deregisters an organization, or a section of it, and then is called upon as a judge to determine his own action. It is absolutely a prostitution of all forms of Democratic government.
– He does not do it until they break the law.
– It is a wonder that he did not do it before then. Even if they did break the law, and were deregistered in consequence, is it right that the man to determine the appeal should be the man who was the judge the day before ? Is that British fair play ? Does the honorable senator support that kind of thing?
All the time I have been in public life, I have been an ardent supporter of arbitration. I am that to-day. The greatest offenders against the arbitration law all these years have been the employers, and even to-day they are amalgamating with a view to flout the decisions of the Court. Yet there is nothing about the employing class in the regulation. They can do whatever they like, because, in the present Cabinet, there is a majority ot men who were put here by the employers. There are five men in the Cabinet who would never have seen Cabinet rank, and never have been in any parliamentary hall if it had not been for the workers whom to-day they are endeavouring to crush. Senator de Largie and the rest of them can make all the protestations they like; they are practically bought, politically, body and soul. The Cabinet contains a majority of six men who, all along the line, have endeavoured to damn the workers of Australia industrially and politically. Now they have the power, and the five other men, who hitherto have been Labour’s champions, are helpless in the lion’s mouth. I oppose the regulation. It is unjust, monstrous, and a prostitution of all Democratic law.
– The regulation contains no power for the deregistration of organizations of employers, although Senator Reid seems to think that the same power exists to deregister associations of employers as of employees. If it is considered necessary to pass a regulation of this kind, which means Government by regulation, and not by this Parliament, sweeping aside the laws passed by this Parliament, it should surely not be one-sided. Is it not fair to apply it to both sides?
– The employers do not want preference.
– Will the honorable senator say the employers have not broken Arbitration Court awards ? Senator Millen says the reason for the introduction of the regulation is that the sweeping away of the laws of the country has been only on the part of the unions. Does Senator Reid agree with him that the unions are the only organizations that have deliberately broken the laws?
– If it is true of both sides, that only proves that arbitration has gone to the wall.
– Senator Millen is changing his ground. If his interjection is correct, the proper way to deal with the situation is to bring in a Bill to wipe out arbitration altogether, and allow it to be criticised and dissected by the Federal Parliament, which was elected by the people to deal with all these questions. The power should not be placed, in the hands of the Government for the time being.
I shall produce proof of my assertion that the arbitration laws have been broken, in many intances, by the other side. Senator Guy, if he could have been present, would have been able to put the case better than I can, because he is in possession of all the details. Mr. Guy, M.H.A., of Tasmania, secretary of the Wharf Labourers Union, Launceston, is a son of his. A Mr. Hutton was sent to Melbourne to represent the employers of Launceston before the Arbitration Court at the recent hearing of the application of the carters and drivers for better conditions and wages. The award of the Court gave certain increases in wages and improved conditions to the carters and drivers. Mr. Hutton, who was a fairly large employer of that class of labour, went back to Tasmania, and immediately stuck up on his premises - to be exact, I think it was in the stable - a notice that, “ Owing to the award given in the Federal Arbitration Court in the carters and drivers’ case, my carters and drivers are no longer required.” Does Senator Reid say that that was not flouting the award of the Court?
– It was simply in conformity with the intimation that Mr. Justice Higgins gave.
– Senator Millen again changes his ground.
– Did he shut up his business for fun ?
– He shut it up for the time being to flout the award of the Court. I do not defend the breaking of awards by either side; but let us be fair. Do not iet all the condemnation come from one side of the Senate, and fall only upon one party to the disputes. This is a case, typical of many, in which the awards of the Court have been broken by the employing side all over Australia. It is a flagrant instance, which stands out from all the rest, of an award being openly flouted. Mr. Hutton, of course, carried on his business soon after; probably he got some cheaper kind of labour. I can give another instance to show how the employers are always trying to dodge the award of the Court. Mr. Guy, M.H.A., of Tasmania, has given me these facts. The Waterside Workers in Launceston did not go on strike. This regulation, by the way, applies to men who did not go on strike, which shows the injustice of it. These men never refused work as a union, although one or two individuals might, at some time or other, have done so in the recent industrial upheaval. Mr. Morris, the central secretary, sent word instructing them to remain at work, and the men continued to work. They were waiting to be employed at the usual place, the shelter shed. Holyman and Company, for whom J. B. Ellerker, the great strike breaker, is the representative here, showed that they deliberately wanted to smash the union if they could. Instead of going to the usual place for picking up wharf labourers, although they knew that the men would be there, because they had received a letter from the secretary of the Waterside Workers Branch there informing them that the men were prepared to continue in their employment, they employed free or voluntary labour. The object, of course, was to smash the union. In all previous cases, when they required labour, they sent to the secretary of the branch, and the men were always engaged. This time the secretary, thinking there might be trouble, wrote to tell them that the men were there ready to be employed. The men had never struck, but not only did these people not employ them, but they deliberately refused to employ them, thereby showing that they were only too pleased to do their part in smashing the union. Holyman and Company, who own a. small line of freight steamers trading between Launceston and the mainland, had been in the habit of writing to the secretary of the union if they wanted men, but, on this occasion, they did not do anything of the kind.
It has been said here many times that the beginning of the whole dispute was the coming out of the railway men in New South Wales, because they were opposed, not only to the Taylor card system, but to any proper system which would give the value of their work to their employers, the people of New South Wales. That is supposed to be the genesis of the whole of the industrial trouble that has been causing so much disaster to Australia, and it has been said repeatedly both here and in another place, in the New South Wales Parliament, and in the press, that the men came out because they did not want to do a fair day’s work, and objected to any system which would show whether they were doing it or not. As that is said to be the reason for the beginning of this great industrial trouble, which in turn is the reason for the gazettal of the regulation now before us, I trust I shall not be out of order in putting briefly before the Senate an extract from the report of a Commission sent by the South Australian Government a few months ago to Sydney to inquire into the system of working in the New South Wales railway workshops.
– Was that before the card system was introduced ?
– Yes, only a little while before. I want to show that, before the present card system was introduced ato all, the New South Wales Government had ample opportunity under the system then obtaining to find out everything they wanted to know. Major Smeaton, a well-known member of the South Australian Parliament, who was chairman of the Commission, asked -
You have apparently a very perfect system of control. Now, in huge workshops such as you have, there are bound to be leakages somewhere. We would be glad if you would, for our benefit and the benefit of our own State, tell us where you look for those leakages; leakages which mean uneconomy, loss of time, loss of value through spoilt material?
The following answer was given by Mr. Lucy, the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Eveleigh Workshops -
So far as concerns the leakage from slow working, loss of time of any description, we discover by keeping a good system of accounts where the leakage occurs. We compare one leading hand, or chargeman, and a gang of fifteen or twenty, with another gang of the same number doing precisely the same work under similar conditions, and hold the leading hand, or chargeman, responsible for the output. In that way we are able to discover eventually the individuals to whom this lack of effort can be applied, and we deal with them.
In the light of this evidence, was there any necessity for the introduction of the card system in the railway workshops in New South Wales, especially in view of the fact that the Railways Commissioners had been warned that any attempt in that direction would lead to a vast industrial upheaval ? The report continues -
With regard to the wastage orloss of materials, we have a system of watchmen and a system of detectives; also,by means of assays of castings made in the brass foundry and various other castings which contain such valuable metals as tin and copper, and less valuable metals, such as spelter and lead, we determine, by the amount of assay, the total castings coming out which contain suchandsuch a proportion of tin, and we say, “ Where is the tin consumed during the month gone to ?” “What is the percentage of waste or losses!” In that way we can check any leakage.
What is the result of all this care? Do you really check wastage and reduce to a percentage basis the loss on what you think you ought to achieve from all your work and that which you get? - Yes.
Do you think, taking the whole of your operations, that you are getting an efficient return for your expenditure? - Oh, yes. I am quite confident of that; the leakage is small.
You think that through the system of control you have the constant oversight of the superior officers, and under them the foremen, you are getting the full return for the wages paid to the men?- Coupled with the system that we have of issue from the stores stock and return to stores, both the raw materials in their unmixed conditions, forged conditions, and finished conditions, the disparity of losses is further reduced to a minimum.
Mr. J. Gunn, a member of the Commission asked, “ Do you consider that you get as efficient service from the workmen employed in the Government workshops as private enterprise gets from employees in their own shops?”
Mr. Lucie ; I do.
– The card system was introduced at Randwick, and the honorable senator has been reading evidence relating to the Redfern railway, workshops.
– The justification urged for the attitude that has been taken up by the Government and the press of this country is that the men objected to a fair “record of their work being kept. I say that there was no necessity to introduce a new system for the purpose of obtaining such a record, especially when the Railways Commissioners knew that any attempt in that direction would bring about a big industrial upheaval.
.- It is very disheartening to- those who take a deep interest in industrial problems to be obliged to listen to the abuse and insinuations indulged in by honorable senators opposite against those who happen to view matters from a different stand-point. Any student of labour problems who has endeavoured to grasp the industrial position as- it exists to-day must stand ap-
E ailed at its seriousness. This morningonorable senators opposite have indulged in nothing but abuse of those who differ from them–
– Did I abuse anybody?
– The honorable senator introduced a great deal of matter into his speech-
– The honorable senator should not make misstatements. I abused nobody.
– I have no desire to make misstatements. But honorable senators opposite- and I have in my mind particularly ‘ Senator Gardiner - have made many misstatements wHich call for a rebuttal. I have no knowledge of any conspiracy on the part of capitalists and the Government to destroy unionism in Australia. I deny that honorable senators upon this side of the chamber axe the tools of capitalists–
– Those statements were provoked by interjections from the honorable senator’s own side.
– They should not be provoked by interjections from either side. Innuendoes prove nothing. This matter should be studied from both sides. Perhaps Senator Gardiner would be a much better man if he viewed it from the other side. I know that industries which have been fighting for their very existence have recently been paralyzed as the result of the strike in New South Wales. We cannot develop Australia as we ought to develop it if we are going to be confronted with interminable disputes under the most flimsy of pretexts. It is the duty of the Government to uphold law and order during the continuance of this war.
– Law and order should be maintained by both sides.
– Certainly. The law has been made in obedience to the will of the people of Australia. After an endless amount of trouble, Arbitration’ Courts have been established, and the awards of these tribunals are now being disregarded.
Reference has been made to the action taken in connexion with strikes in England. But I would remind honorable senators that, when the engineers and shipbuilders on the Clyde went upon strike, Mr. Lloyd George deported their leaders straight away.
– And brought them back afterwards.
– He brought them back after they had promised to behave themselves. In many other instances, Mr. Lloyd George has put into operation regulations similar in character to those to which Senator Gardiner takes exception. The Commonwealth Government, it is true, have not attempted to deport anybody.
– But they are considering it.
– The Government must uphold the laws of the country. If, after the Judge of an Arbitration Court has given his decision in an industrial dispute, the employees on the one side, or the employers on the other, will nob obey it, it is the duty of the Government to give effect to the law. I believe that honorable senators opposite should advise the men to continue to carry on their work.
– The honorable senator ought to give a bit of advice to the employers, too.
SenatorREID. - In the majority of cases the so-called strike leaders do not in reality lead anybody. They are forced into these strikes. They should advise the men to respect their own industrial agreements. We cannot afford to indulge in play just now. Too much is at stake. The very existence of the Arbitration Court itself is at stake. All the insinuations of honorable senators opposite are merely so many empty words.
– The honorable senator ought to talk like that to the Brisbane Courier, which, immediately the award was given in the plaint of the Journalists Association, dismissed all its hands, and afterwards re-engaged them at lower rates of pay.
– All these little matters do not affect the main question, which is that industry is being paralyzed in Australia. If honorable senators opposite desire the law to be amended so as to make the award of our Arbitration Courts effective, I shall be only too gladto support them. But they have no warrant for affirming that the Government and employers are conspiring together to destroy unionism. Such bald assertions prove nothing. Because we have changed sides in politics, we have not necessarily changed our views. I know nothing of a conspiracy to destroy, unionism. The employers would be very great fools to desire the destruction of unionism.
– The honorable senator should get into touch with some of the unionists. They would soon give him proof of the accuracy of my statement.
– Frequently, the suspicions of the average man are not based upon fact. We cannot believe every statement that we hear as to what employers are doing. One must keep his eyes open, and use his own judgment in these matters. It is these unfounded statements which influence thousands of men, and serve to. inflame their prejudices against the employers.
– Would it not be better to have legislation by Parliament instead of legislation by regulations?
– I would point out that, if it is intended to take a division upon this motion, the time allowed for its discussion by the Standing Orders has almost expired.
SenatorGardiner. - I ask the Leader of the Senate to consent to an extension of the time allowed for its discussion under our Standing Orders.
– I do not intend to grant any such extension.
SenatorGardiner. - The Standing Orders provide that the debate upon a motion of this character shall not exceed two hours. Are those two hours calculated from the time of the meeting of the Senate ?
– Yes. Standing order 127 reads -
If any motions, excepting motions for adjournment under standing order No. 64, shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, the debate thereon shall be interrupted, unless the Senate otherwise order.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 7
– (By leave) I desire to say that yesterday I entered into an arrangement, in co-operation withthe Whips of the two parties, to pair with Senator Fairbairn. I was then under the impression that the pair would apply only to any division that might be taken yesterday. I have since discovered that it also applied to divisions taken to-day. In the circumstances, I regret having exercised my vote in the division taken before the luncheon adjournment. I hope the matter will be adjusted in Hansard.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
It will not be necessary for me to unduly trespass upon the time of honorable senators in submitting this motion. Whatever may be thought of the principles of the Bill, it is a fairly simple one. One of its purposes is to continue for the current year the existing income tax, which, as honorable senators will recollect, requires, in accordance with the present Act, to be renewed annually. A new tax is imposed by clause 6 of the Bill on bachelors and widowers without children, over the age of twenty-one, and a tax is also imposed in respect of cash prizes in lotteries. The rate of the tax payable by bachelors and widowers without children is £5, or 5 per cent. of the taxable income, whichever is the greater. Therate of the tax to be imposed in respect of cash prizes in lotteries is 10 per cent. of the gross prize money. In cases of hardship the tax on bachelors and widowers without children may be reduced at the discretion of the Commissioner. The following persons are to be exempt from the tax: - Members or ex-members of the fighting Forces, a person the majority of whose brothers of military age have been or are members of the fighting Forces, persons permanently incapacitated for work, or persons in receipt of an invalid or old-age pension. In estimating the taxable income under clause 6, provision is made for an allowance of £26 in respect of each person wholly dependent upon the taxpayer, and of such less sum, in respect of each person partially dependent upon him, as the Commissioner may allow. These are the provisions of the Bill, and I do not think that it is necessary at this juncture that I should add anything to the remarks I have made.
Debate (on motion by Senator. Gardiner) adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators will no doubt have a recollection of a Bill that was. recently passed through this Chamber, known as the War-time Profits . Tax Assessment Bill. It was limited entirely to machinery provisions for the collection of a tax, but it did not impose the tax. The tax will be imposed by the Bill now under consideration. This is in accordance with the precedent followed in connexion with taxation measures by presenting them in two Bills - one providing the machinery for assessment, and the other imposing and determining the rate of the tax. This Bill provides that the rate of the war-time profits tax shall be 50 per cent. on the excess profits in the year 1915-1916, and 75 per cent. on the excess profits of the years following - 1916-17. As honorable senators, in dealing with the other Bill to which I have referred, had in mind the rates of the taxation imposed in this Bill, I have no doubt that there will be little difficulty about its progress to completion.
– I do not intend to oppose the second reading of this Bill. I regret exceedingly that this taxation is taking the form proposed by the Government, but regrets are useless, and I content myself with saying that the Government are responsible for this legislation, and are welcome to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to.
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 3 o’clock on Tuesday next.
Business or the Session - Commonwealth Agency for Export of Tungsten Metals : Request by Queensland Government.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I may intimate that, having had the benefit of a consultation with Senator Gardiner, I think it is quite possible that, following the course I am about to indicate, the convenience of honorable senators will be considered, and we may still be able to complete the business of the session within a reasonable time. There are only two measures which we have yet to consider. The first is the Income Tax Bill, the second reading of which I have just moved; and the second, the Supply Bill. I anticipate that we can complete the consideration of the Income Tax Bill on Tuesday, though we may have to sit a little late, and that by meeting on Wednesday morning it will be possible for us to complete the remaining business in time to permit us to close on Wednesday afternoon.
– The object of entering into such arrangements as Senator Millen has referred to, is to suit the convenience of honorable senators. I recognise that we must wait upon another place. I am not at all sure that they will be through with their business by next Tuesday, and I did not care to face the possibility of an all-night sitting to-night, when we might still find ourselves waiting for business to come from another place. In the circumstances, I readily entered into the arrangement which Senator Millen has indicated. I shall do my utmost to assist in completing the business of the Senate sufficiently early on Wednesday to carry out the wish that Senator Millen has expressed.
– I take advantage of this motion to again refer to a matter that was mentioned this morning, and that is the refusal of the Government to permit the Queensland Government to act as an agent for the export of tungsten metals from Australia. According to the arrangement made by Mr. Hughes with Dalgety and Company, that firm has a complete monopoly of the agency for the export of tungsten metals. This is operating detrimentally to the production of those rare metals. It is well known that prior to the war Queensland produced quite one-half of the world’s output of molybdenite. It is also known that wolfram and scheelite are largely produced in Northern Queensland. Just prior to the outbreak of the war, the prices of these metals began to rise very perceptibly ^ doubtless owing to the fact that German purchasers were “ on the job.” Prior to this, Germany had been acquiring most of these metals from various sources. In 1915 the price of molybdenite of 90 per cent, purity, which is equal to about 54 per cent, of pure metal, soared up as high as £615 per ton. The price fixed in Australia is £525 per ton. Tungsten metals are indispensable in the manufacture of munitions of war. They are used to toughen and harden steel. The magnetos of explosive shells, aerial and submarine torpedoes, and aeroplanes all require the use of these metals. This was brought home to the Allies . very noticeably in the first eighteen months of the war, owing to what might be termed the slow action of Russia, and the comparative inactivity of Italy and Roumania after they had thought fit by declaration to enter the war.
Under the agreement with Dalgety and Company, their charges per ton exported amount ito abou* £4 8s. North Queensland miners maintain that this is altogether too high’. As well as the general agency, Dalgety and Company obtain as local agents an allowance of £2’ per ton on these metals exported. They are further collectors on their own behalf, and when they collect these metals consigned to themselves for export, Dalgety and Company are given the right to pay to Dalgety and Company a commission of 1£ per cent, on the metals consigned to them. When this metal is exported Dalgety and Company pay Dalgety and Company another li per cent, export commission, making a total commission of 2-J per cent., in addition to the local agents’ allowance of £2 per ton. Between 8th September, 1915, and the 30th June, 1916, according to a statement laid on the table of the Senate on the 13th February last, Dalgety and Company had acquired for export, on behalf pf the Commonwealth, a total of 843 tons of these metals. Up to the 30th June, 581 tons had been disposed of on which Dalgety and Company’s commission amounted to £2,558. When the whole of 843 tons would have been dealt with, their- commission would reach £3,678. This matter has been before the Prime Minister on several occasions, on behalf of the Irvinebank Tin Mining Company of Queensland, and the Thermo Electric Ore Reduction Company of Great Britain. I am not advocating that the export agency for these metals should he given to any individual firm outside of Dalgety and Company, because I recognise it is essential that great security is required in the matter of supervision, to see that the metals do not reach enemy countries, as we know only too well was the case when the ores went through Mertons and other firms with English-sounding names.
As a result of negotiations through the Queensland Agent-General, an arrangement was arrived at whereby the British Ministry for Munitions agreed to allow the Queensland Government to act as supervising agent for the export of these metals. Seeing that this overcame the objections by the Irvinebank Tin Mining Company, the Federal Government should have allowed the Queensland Government to do this work for the North Queensland miners, especially as the State Government were prepared to act free of charge. Under the present arrangement, it costs £31 19s. 2d. per ton in commission, realization, and other charges, to export wolfram from Australia.
-. - Is that the charge or the cost?
– I understand it is the charge for exportation of this metal from the Commonwealth.
– I believe it is the cost.
– The DirectorGeneral of Material for the British Ministry for Munitions (Sir John Egleson) has emphasized the necessity of ample and continuous supplies of these metals, for the exportation of which Dalgety and Company’s charges are so heavy, and the present policy, I maintain, is detrimental to the interests of the industry, which is all-important to Great Britain and her Allies at the present time. Indeed, so urgent is the demand for wolfram that in Cornwall 350 miners were employed in the production of 8 cwt. of wolfram per week.
– Are they employed by the Government?
– They are employed under the British Ministry for Munitions; and, in contrast with that production, I might inform the Senate that the output from the Mount Carbine Mine, in North Queensland, for the two years prior to the war totalled no less than 600 tons of wolfram. Queensland, I understand, produces half the world’s output of molybdenite:
– That is a mere statement. What is your authority for it?
– My authority is a series of articles written by Mr. Randolph Bedford in the Queensland Register, the Townsville Bulletin, and other publications.
– But Mr. Bedford has not been in England. He is an Australian, writing in Australia.
– I think Mr. Bedford is recognised as an authority on this subject. However, I shall confine myself to a report by J. M. Higgins, honorary metallurgical adviser to the Commonwealth Government. Probably Senator Pratten will agree that he is an authority.
– I do not know that he is.
– (Neither do I, but that is the position he holds.
– Is that the gentleman who is chairman of the Wool Committee ?
– -I do not know. The Mount Carbine Mine, as I have said, produced 600 tons of wolfram during the two years prior to the war.
– I do not think 600 tons have been produced in five years.
– I have here an article which appeared in the Brisbane Courier of 12th June, over the signature of Mr. F. G. Brown, who represents the Thermo-Electric Ore Reduction Company, stating that the production at the ‘‘Irvinebank Tin Mines, in Northern Queensland, during the two years prior to the war, totalled 600 tons of wolfram, but that for the two years after the war started the production was only 100 tons. This decline was not due to any depletion in the ore reserves, or on account of any industrial disturbance of magnitude, but purely because there was not sufficient inducement to maintain the previous rate of production.
– That is one of the arguments that we have been using all along in regard to other industries.
– Dalgety’s charges for export, as I have shown, amount to £31 19s. 2d. per ton, whereas in New Zealand the cost is only £16 10s. 5d. In the case of the Commonwealth, the extra charge is due to the fact that Dalgety and Company are the sole agents, and centralize everything in Sydney, or from whatever port they operate, with the result that charges have to be met for cartage, storage accommodation, resampling, re-assaying, and rebagging. These costs could be reduced if the Queensland Government were permitted to act as agents, because they have an assay office at Mareeba, and they could easily arrange for storage accommodation there.
I fail to see any objection to the request made by the Queensland Government. When the Prime Minister initiated the policy of operating wholly through one source for the export of these tungsten metals, it was contended that a smashing blow had been delivered at German influence. Perhaps that was so, and perhaps the policy would have been wise if the production of metals had been encouraged. At a conference of the Ministers of Mines for the various States and the Prime Minister, held in Sydney in February, 1917, Mr. Jones, Queensland Minister of Mines, put before Mr. Hughes this proposal that the Queensland Government should be allowed to act as an export agency. Mr. Hughes promised to give the matter consideration, but Dalgety and Company are continuing to act as ‘ sole agents because the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Millen) has informed me that no permission had yet been granted to the Queensland Government to undertake this agency work. I do not intend to enter upon a tirade against Dalgety and Company, or any other business house. They are a reputable firm carrying put commercially a commission intrusted to them by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Commonwealth Government; but the policy is not in the best interests of the producers of these metals in Northern Queensland. Shortly after the Sydney conference, Mr. Higgins, in a report tabled in the Senate, attempted to justify the policy of the Government, but I think that those who have perused his report, will come to the conclusion that even he found grave cause for complaint. Mr. Higgins’ report was accompanied by a statement from H. H. Ling,- of the Commonwealth Audit Department, who stated -
It was found that a fixed price of 12s. 6d. per parcel was being made by Dalgetys for assaying, &c, small parcels up to f 50 in value. In these cases, therefore, assuming the producer was paid at schedule rates for his minerals, he is not only bearing the cost of assaying at the schedule rates, but also an addition of 12s. 6d. per parcel. The company would appear to justify this extra charge on the ground that the schedule rate for assaying is not sufficient to cover the cost in the case of small parcels. Even if this be true as a matter of equity, it should form a debit to the handling charges, and not to the producer, as the Commonwealth retains any profit arising from the excess of the schedule charges over the actual disbursements. If the Commonwealth appropriates the credit in one case, it is only equitable that it should shoulder the liability in the other case should it arise. The question, however, is submitted as to whether the charge is a correct one in view of the fact that it is not provided for in the agreement.
Dalgety and Company have since foregone that special charge of 12s. 6d. for assaying small .parcels; their action, I presume, being the result of Mr. Ling’s observations with regard to the matter. Mr. Ling’s report continues -
In connexion with the minerals purchased at Wolfram Camp) it has been found that the schedule charge of £2 15s. per ton for cartage to rail is £1 in excess of the actual disbursements; therefore, to protect the producer the Commonwealth’s agents have purchased from Wolfram Camp, * at Cairns, f .o.b. prices. Although this is a departure from the agreement, it is a fair solution of the difficulty, and achieves one of the objects of the agreement, viz., to protect the primary producer.
Paragraph B, clause 5, page 4, of the agreement would appear to be in conflict with the Schedule in the matter of local agents’ allowance and collecting agency . commission. According to the conditions contained in the paragraph quoted, it would- appear that collecting agency commission was only to be allowed where local agents’ allowance had not been paid, and yet both charges are provided for in the schedules. The Government agents have followed the schedules, and allowed both charges. I shall be glad of an official interpretation of this section of the agreement.
The Irvinebank Tin Mining Company are prepared, of course, to export their metals through their own agency to their representatives in London, but I am not advocating their case to-day. I am urging that the Queensland Government should be allowed to act as agents for the export of these metals direct to the British Ministry for Munitions. They are prepared to consign metals to any port indicated by the Federal Government or by the British Minister for Munitions.
– Quite a fair proposal.
– I have no doubt that the British Ministry for Munitions desire that the production of these metals should be rapidly increased.
Mr. A. F. Maclaren, managing director of the Themo Electric Ore Producing Company, wrote on 22nd December, 1916, to the Queensland Agent-General as follows : -
The figures of the cost are astonishing and absolutely unnecessary. They could be brought _ down to half if the mines were allowed to ship direct from Queensland to the Government brokers in London, as is done in the case of Indian mines or in any other part of the world except Australia. Therefore, I would very strongly urge the Queensland Government to get permission to ship ore direct to the brokers of the Ministry of Munitions in London. There is no doubt you would get the support of the Ministry for Munitions in this matter, and it would mean a great deal to us in securing capital to develop properties in Queensland.
That seems a fair proposal. Mr. Higgins, in his report, says that generally the agreement is working satisfactorily and successfully, but I venture to say that not one miner operating these metals in North -Queensland will indorse his statement. The producers of these rare metals in North Queensland are not’ satisfied with the present agreement. There is great discontent about what they consider the harshness of its operation. While I realize that Mr. Hughes, possessed of ability, may be able to handle a great many matters, political, industrial, and otherwise, I submit that it is too much to expect from any man that he can have a full grasp of every business which the right honorable gentleman has undertaken, such as the marketing of wool, metals, sugar and wheat, in addition to all the other national and industrial problems on which he has been engaged during the past two years. Mr. Hughes has not a grasp of the metal situation. He made a mistake, either under a misdirection or under wrong advice, and he is not to blame in that regard. But he is to blame for allowing a continuation of this unfair treatment to the tungsten producers of the Commonwealth, particularly in North Queensland, since the mistake was pointed out to him at the Conference of State Ministers for Mines, and since the Queensland Department of Mines or its Government undertook to act as agent, free of charge, to the producers of these rare metals, which are so indispensable at present.
Only yesterday we were told what a great factor would have been the comparatively small quantity of glycerine that would have been obtained from the manufacturers of American fancy soaps which represent Australia’s portion of the exportations from that country. The non-speeding up of the production of these rare metals overshadows that matter by a thousandfold. We realise the scope there is in Northern Queensland for an extension of their production. It is a conservative estimate to say that there are 20,000 square miles of country there carrying these metals. We maintain that if the Queensland Government were encouraged, as it should be encouraged, to further produce these metals, it would be of immense use to the Allies and to Australia.
There is a further unfair aspect about the monopoly agency which has been granted to Dalgety and Company. It is that while the company has the sole agency for the export of these metals - a very vital factor, it will be admitted - it will have all that inside knowledge which the Defence Department or the AttorneyGeneral’s Department had in the past. The company must become possessed of confidential information: - to an extent confidential - by virtue of the directions it receives, regarding the destination of the metals to be sent away. Its commercial connexions in this respect will be so important, and so widely embracing, that not only will it have a monopoly during the currency of the war under this agreement, but it Will have become so firmly established by virtue of the knowledge gained through its present monopolistic powers that when peace is declared no other firm in the Commonwealth will be able to have a look in with that company regarding the placing and disposal of these metals.
It is ‘unfair to other firms that this arrangement should be confined wholly to Dalgety and Company. It was well from the aspect of safety and security that such stringent precautions should be taken in the early stages of the war. But when a responsible Government - not a private firm, not an offshoot of what might be another Merton, not a firm which would be likely to send the metals to enemy countries, but the responsible Government of an important State in the Commonwealth - undertakes to supervise, transmit, and export the metals under the direction of the Commonwealth, to co-operate with the Commonwealth, and to take any directions outside the Commonwealth from the Imperial Ministry for Munitions only, we want something better than the pronouncement of Mr. Higgins, that the agreement generally has worked pretty well. “We want explained away the discrepancy between the charges operating in Australia and the charges operating in New Zealand, just about double. From Australia it costs £63 15s. per ton to export molybdenite and £31 19 s. 2d. per ton to export wolfram, whereas from New Zealand the cost is £16 10s. 5d. per ton. The saving to the producer, were the charges the same here as in New Zealand., would be about £12 10s. per ton in the case of wolfram and about £i25 per ton in the case of molybdenite.
– Are these figures for the export charges?
– Yes. The whole amount is about 13 per cent. Dalgety’s percentage runs to about £4 8s. per ton. The Minister, of course, may quote. Mr. Higgins’ schedule prices, and say that they are very nearly maintained, but there are some little differences of opinion with regard to his report. I hope that any little objection to change which the Prime Minister may have in regard to this matter will be modified. He should accept the assurance of the men who are at the head of the State Mines Departments. They are guided by experts just as he is guided by the expert, Mr. Higgins. These responsible men came together and met the Prime Minister twice in conference. According to press reports about the last conference, which was held in Sydney in February, 1917, Mr. Hughes promised an investigation, and said, in effect, “ There is much in what you say, but, in the meantime, Dalgety and Company will act as agents.”
I trust that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Millen) has not been taken unawares by my action to-day, because I had previously referred to my intention to touch on the metal question. Had I known that I would have an opportunity of bringing up the matter this afternoon I would have apprised the Minister of my intention. If, however, he has not gone into the matter, he can do so later, and give an answer whenever he likes. I submit that we are entitled to some explanation as to why the Federal Government is refusing the Queensland Government the right to export the metals produced in Northern Queensland free of charge to the miners of that district, under the supervision of the Commonwealth Government, and in harmony with the Ministry for Munitions in Great Britain.
– My contribution to the debate will be very short. But I have some knowledge of the situation. I think” that Senator Ferricks has put his case without heat, and fairly enough. I, for one, do not impute anything like wrong action to well-established firms like Dalgety and Company. I am aware that Mr. Higgins has been carrying out, without fee or reward, all the work which has been intrusted to him. I believe that he looks upon his exertions as a service he is rendering to the national cause in this time of war. Therefore, I want it to be clearly understood that I am not imputing anything wrong to ‘the gentlemen who are acting as a sort of channel for the disposal to the Imperial Government of the ores mentioned by Senator Ferricks.
– Do you know what the qualifications of Mr. Higgins are?
– No. I have heard that Mr. Higgins is a wealthy man, who at one time was the proprietor of a smelting works, and has had extensive experience in pastoral matters. I am told that he was very anxious to do something in the way of national’ service, and because of his knowledge of these matters, he was intrusted with the giving of advice in regard to the exportation of ores and metals, and was appointed to the chairmanship of the “Wool Committee.
– He has rendered most valuable service to the Commonwealth Government.
– I do not question that for a moment.
– Right from the beginning, when the Government took hold of matters, he was behind them.
– Without any payment.
– We might very easily do an injustice to a man who is outside the walls of a Parliament when we call his name in question, and I, above all things, believe in fair play.
– I did not include him. I did not know who he was.
– I do not for a moment attribute to the honorable senator any desire to besmirch Mr. Higgins in any way.
This matter was brought under my notice very early last year. It is true that Tasmania does not produce wolfram and molybdenite in such quantities as do the districts in Northern Queensland. But, nevertheless, ‘ we do produce in Tasmania considerable quantities of tungsten ores. In fact, one company - the Shepparton and Murphy Company, which produces tin and wolfram - has declared substantial dividends for some years past. In the Ben Lomond district, several mines have been operating in connexion with the production of wolfram under very great difficulties for many years. I am sorry to say that these companies will be affected very adversely by recent legislation. But that is by the way.
The trouble in 1916 seemed to be that, notwithstanding that the owners of these mines had been in the habit of disposing of their tungsten ores to British firms by the operation of the arrangement referred to Ky Senator Ferricks, they were precluded from selling their ores through the channels which had previously been available to them. One of the proprietors of the wolfram mines in the vicinity of Ben Lomond, in Tasmania, is a very old friend of mine. He is a Scotsman, and has developed his mine in circumstances of very great difficulty. He has been in the habit of selling hie ores to a firm known as Fox and Company , of Birmingham, in England - a firm on the War Office list. It is an approved firm, and British in every way. I understand. The papers which my friend sent to me, and which I submitted to tbe Honorable Hugh Mahon, when he was representing the Prime Min ister in hia capacity of Attorney-General, proved beyond doubt that this firm could not give quotations for the ores which my friend was producing, and which had previously been shipped to Fox and Company. And the fact, so my friend believes, and as the papers seemed to disclose, was that through having to dispose of his ores through the present channel, which was mandatory, he secured, a price several pounds a ton less than that which would have been available to him had he been able to dispose of the ores directly to Fox and Company.
From time to time. I have heard complaints in regard to this agreement. If the charges are what they should not be, and if satisfactory channels are available through which the ores can be disposed of to the Imperial authorities - disposed of at a cost less than that which is incurred at present - I think that the Administra- ‘ tion might very seriously take into consideration a variation of the means of disposal.
– Can they get the means of shipping them?
– It is all a question of shipping being available, because ships leaving Australia would be only too ready to take as part of their freight ores so necessary to carry on the war as wolfram. Early List year representations were made to me that the present arrangement imposed on the producers of wolfram in Tasmania the necessity of disposing of their ores at a figure which left them several pounds per ton poorer than if they had been permitted to avail themselves of the channels through which they had hitherto disposed of them. In any case the ores went to the British Government, and there was’ no imputation on the Birmingham. firm of being in any way unBritish in character.
– It is impossible on the spur of the moment to attempt to traverse what Senator Ferricks has said, but I shall not overlook the matter, and as soon as I can obtain aHansard proof of his remarks I shall go carefully through them in order to place myself in a position to give him information on the question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 September 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170921_senate_7_83/>.