7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if he has perused the evidence of a number of witnesses taken before the Interstate Commission during the last two or three days, referring to the manufacture and distribution of soft goods, in which it is alleged that goods of Australian manufacture, such as hats, cloth, &c., can only be obtained’ through merchants, who levy a tax of something like 20 per cent. on the consumers? Is the Minister not of the opinion that such tactics have the effect of hampering Australian industries, and, consequently, of limiting Australian production ? If so, will he, on behalf of the public, have this matter placed in the hands of the Price Fixing Board for regulation ?
– The matter is one which falls more particularly within the province of my colleague, Senator Russell; but, the question having been asked, I am perfectly safe in saying that the evidence referred to by Senator Long has already been under the notice of those responsible for this part of the Government’s activities.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine : Half-yearly Reports, from 1st January to 30th June, 1917, and from 1st July to 31st December, 1917.
Commercial or other Boards, Pools, Committees, or other Organizations under Government control : Revised Return.
Customs Act 1901-1916-
Proclamation, dated 1st May, 1918, prohibiting exportation (except under certain conditions) of Empty Glass Bottles.
Defence Act 1903-1917.- Regulations amended. -Statutory Rules 1918, No. 107.
Java and East Indies, Singapore andthe Straits Settlements- (Senator the Honorable J. J. Long) on Trade Conditions, &c.
Northern Territory. - Ordnance No. 2 of 1918 - Crown Lands.
War Precautions Act 1914-1916. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 108.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs if it is the intention to review the question of the importation to Australia of fancy soaps from America? In view of the fact that the United States of America is one of our Allies, will she be placed, in this respect, on the same footing as Japan?
– I shall bring the question under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
Importation of Corn sacks and Jute Goods.
– I have received an intimation from Senator ‘Shannon that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The matter of cornsacks and jute goods for Australia.”
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 10 a.m.
I regret exceedingly to have to take this course, but it is the only means available to enable me to achieve the object I have ‘ in view. I wish the Minister (Senator Russell) in charge of this particular matter to understand that, notwithstanding his remarks on the motion for the adjournment at our last sitting, I have no desire whatever to charge him with withholding any information on this question. I do not ask him to divulge anything with reference to the bag contract for the coming season. Senator Pratten first brought the matter under the notice of the Senate by referring to an interview reported in a section of the daily press, headed “Cornsacks and Woolpacks,” “ Cause of Increase in Prices,” “ Some Startling Statements.” The honorable senator asked a’ question in connexion with thatreport, and I then asked the Minister, who promised to make a statement on the subject, whether he would in that statement define the position of Australian bag merchants in the coming season. Nothing was done, and last week I again asked a question of the Minister in connexion with a further paragraph in the press, in which the gentleman interviewed made what I considered some glaring misstatements. The Minister said that he was awaiting some cablegram from India. The statements which have appeared in a section of the press are so misleading to the people of Australia - those interested in the bag trade and the farming community - that the facts in connexion with the matter should be. placed before the Senate at the earliest possible moment. I shall be as concise as possible.
I have not yet been able to ascertain who Major Purcell is. He is the gentleman who was interviewed, and, according to the press, he was connected with the Light Horse in India, and made inquiries in connexion with the jute trade. The second statement he makes is this -
Major Purcell pointed out that the Imperial Government had purchased the whole of the wheat and wool of Australia for the past three seasons, and Australia was, therefore, entitled to be supplied with wool bales and cornsacks direct from the mills.
If that was correct, I would point out that the Imperial Government did not supply the bags to hold the wheat; they purchased the wheat in the bag, and, therefore, the Imperial authorities did not trouble as to what was paid for those bags. It made no difference to them in relation to the price of the wheat itself. If those bags could have been secured for less, then it is a matter for the farming community of Australia, and not for the Imperial Government. But that is not correct. The Imperial Government have not purchased the whole of the wheat for the past three seasons. The amount totals less than half of two seasons’ crops, and is equal, therefore, to about one season’s; and it does not represent anything like the whole of the three seasons’ crops. If such a statement as that fails to accord with facts, we would do well to look closely into certain of the other assertions. The point is that this man should have been able to find a journal in Australia ready to publish such a glaring misstatement. He goes on to say: -
The low cost in 1914,” and present cost, see- ing that no increase has taken place in cost of production, is sufficient indication that the primary producer of Australia is being badly exploited by the Indian middlemen as far as jute supplies are concerned, and this the Imperial Government can prevent if representations are made.
I understand that representations have been made to the Imperial Government to see if the bags can be secured more cheaply. But, if Major Purcell had been commissioned to buy bags’ in India, he could not have got them at anything like the price ruling in 1914. It is idle nonsense, therefore, for him to say that there is no difference in the price of manufactured bags in India to-day compared “with 1914. The jute commodity has a fluctuating value, and it does not .vary materially unless there is a great scarcity. Thus, it has not a very great bearing on the cost of the manufactured article
– What about the value of the rupee?
– If this man has made inquiries from the millers in India, he should be in a position to tell the people that, since 1914, the hours of labour, and rates of pay, and the conditions generally, under which bags are manufactured have been so altered by regulation that the price for jute materials in India, despite the war, in 1914, would have been higher than they were in the year preceding the war. Therefore, it is not correct to say that the bags to-day’ can be manufactured at the same1 price as prior to “the war. One of the great influences on the jute trade has been the enormous demand for different kinds of bags owing to. the war - for sand-bags, particularly. It will be readily understood that the mills, upon getting an order for huge supplies of sand-bags at one time, will not put their machinery into order for the manufacture of cornsacks for Australia at the same cost as hitherto.
– What is your trouble? Have misrepresentations been made with regard to the possibility of bags being bought more cheaply?
– Great misrepresentations have been made. This man whom 1 have quoted states that bags purchased in 19.14 were 6s., 4Kd. per dozen in Australia, -.and, to-day, are. 9s. 6d. ; and he insinuates that the merchants of Australia and the middlemen of India have pocketed the whole of die difference.
– Can you get bags at that price to-day?
– That is nominally the price. I do not wish to go into the detail, but into the principle. The point I desire to make clear is that bags purchased at 6s. 4 1/2 d. in 1914 are to-day nominally 9s. 6d., and that the whole of the difference has not been pocketed by the middlemen of India and the bag merchants of Australia.
In 1914 the freight was only 25s. per ton. That is equal to 4d. per dozen for bags. There are 75 dozen bags to every ton freight, and, at 25s., that amounts to exactly 4d. per dozen. But freights on the bags used for Australia last year were four times increased. I do not wish to hamper the Minister in relation to the transactions for next season. I take it that, as the Government have seen fit to enter into this trade for the coming season, it is the duty of all parties, including those of the bag merchants, to render every assistance’ in making the whole scheme a success. But, as the freight for the past season was no less than £5 per ton, which is four times what it was before, that means another 16d. to be paid. And, in addition, there must be considered the rise in exchanges, extra war risks, extra insurance during time of war, and, above and beyond that, the fact that the Indian Government have placed 4d. export tax on all cornsacks leaving India. If those factors are added to the cost, it will be found that bags could not be sold in Australia at 9s. a dozen if they had been bought at the same price as in 1914.
– Are the farmers getting all the bags they want?
– They are, up to the present.
– They are not getting all they want in my State.
– If those bags could be bought in India to-day at the same price as in 1914, they could not be retailed in Australia for less than 9s. per dozen. /
– -Even if the agents got the same commission?
– That is so. There was no complaint against the merchants of Austrafia who were retailing to the farmers at 6s. 4£d. in 1914, but there is against those who are selling at 9s. 6d., and there is the suggestion in Hie article from which I have quoted that there is something sinister in lie position, namely, that the merchants are pocketing the difference. That is not so.
– -Where does the difference go?
– It is absorbed by extra freight, extra insurance, extra war risk, and by the export duty of 4d. per dozen which has been imposed upon bags by the Indian Government. I wish - specially to point out that since 1914 the industrial conditions governing the manufacture of jute goods in India have so changed that the cost of those goods has been materially increased.
– From what newspaper is the honorable senator quoting ?
– From the Age of 9th April and 2nd April last. Major Purcell goes on to say that he investigated the wages paid, and found that no advance had taken place in the cost of labour since the outbreak of war. I do not know whether he has been misinformed by the jute manufacturers of India, or whether my own information is at fault, but what I have already stated was the information, which was given to us in 1915, when we were specially told that in the future, and quite irrespective of war conditions, Australia would not be able to purchase bags again at anything like their former price. This jute industry in India, I would have honorable senators understand, is not a. small one, nor is it carried on by only one or two mill’s in Calcutta. . My information is that so numerous are the mills which are engaged in the production of jute goods there, that if a man decided to make a round of them with a view to obtaining first-hand information regarding their output, he would practically be occupied for his lifetime.
– There axe some jute mills in Dundee, are there not?
– That is rather a pertinent interjection, and I believe that until two years ago a very excellent sack was manufactured in Dundee. It was much superior to any bag made in any other part of the world, and I am not so sure that, taking into (consideration its life and its cost, it was not equally as cheap. But I am assured that the interests of the Dundee mills have been transferred to> Calcutta, and that those mills are now closed. I give that infor- mation for what it is worth. In directing the attention of the people df Australia to the difference between the prices paid by Argentine farmers for their bags, and those paid by Australian farmers for their bags-
– The .honorable senator might mention the difference between’ the prices they get for their wheat as well.
– That does not trouble me at present. I am not a bag expert. But if Major Purcell had stuck to the remount service, to which he was attached in India, and had -made as many mistakes there as he has made in discussing this question of .bags, I could have dwelt upon his errors until’ all was blue. “Unfortunately, I am not such an expert on bags as I am upon horses. Major Purcell then proceeded to draw an invidious- distinction between the price of the Argentine bags and the price of the bags supplied to Australia. He said -
On pursuing inquiries further, Major Purcell ascertained that the Argentine was being supplied with cornsacks at about half the price Australia was paying (based on the cost of different sized bags), and further investigation was- made as to how the Argentine obtained such favorable treatment. The method of purchase was disclosed, and Major Purcell, claiming that Australia was entitled to be treated in the same way, was told plainly that Australia could obtain her supplies on the samo footing as the Argentine, and that it was only the Commonwealth that was to blame for not having made direct representation to the jute manufacturers.
But strangely enough, he does not disclose what is that method of purchase. Now, I have taken the trouble to bring into the chamber a sample of the Argentine bag and of the Australian bag, so that honorable senators may see for themselves. The Argentine sack is made of hessian, and holds only 100 lbs., whereas the Australian sack is made of cloth, and’ has a capacity of 180 lbs. or 190 lbs. If any sane’ man, after viewing these twobags, can discover an analogy between them, or can compare them from the stand-point of price, I shall be extremelysorry for him.
– Will the Argentine bag hold wheat ?
– It is used forthe carriage of wheat. I know that afterthe drought which occurred in Australia: in 1914 some Argentine wheat was- innported into South Australia. Upon it» arrival at Port Adelaide- although it had been bagged - it was found to be practically in bulk, and, so far as I can ascertain, all those bags were burnt. About the same time, a shipment of maize from Argentina arrived in Sydney, and I am informed that, between the wharf and the warehouse, the wheels of the lorries which carted it were grinding through 6 inches of maize. Certain it is that the man who bought 100 bushels of that maize had to accept only 93 bushels. In the light of these facts, it is ridiculous for anybody to assert that the Argentine farmers are getting their bags for half the price that is being paid for bags by the Australian farmers. No comparison can be instituted between the qualities of the respective bags, and, as I have already said, the Argentine sack has only half the capacity of. the Australian sack. To the farming community of Australia, the Argentine bag would be useless. I have been informed that a shipment of these sacks has been tried in the Commonwealth, with the result that to-day they can be obtained for practically nothing. As a matter of fact, if they were offered gratuitously to our farmers, the latter would decline toaccept them. The difference between the price of these two classes of bags in India, on the 31st March of the present year, is represented by the difference between 6¾d. and 9d. per dozen. Yet we are informed, in the article from which I have quoted, that the Argentine farmers are getting their bags at half the price which the Australian farmers are paying for their sacks. I say, unhesitatingly, that the Australian farmer is not only getting the better of the bargain, but that he is getting his bags at half the price that is being paid for sacks by the Argentine farmer.
SenatorLong.-Does the honorable senator claim that that Argentine bag is the one which Major Purcell discussed in the Age article?
– Major Purcell did not know anything about the matter until he came to Australia and ascertained the class of bag that was being used here.
-Is that the bag the price of which he refers to?
– I presume it is the bag used in the ordinary wheat trade to the Argentine.
– Then you are only presuming?
– If the writer is referring to some other bag, there is no analogy.
– It is possible that the same bag has been sent to the Argentine as is now being exported to Australia.
-If so, they will have to pay the same price in India as we are paying. I think that, so far as lies in my power, I have shown that the salient points of both these reports are absolutely inaccurate. Another statement the writer makes is-
Had Australian woolpacks and cornsacks been obtained direct from mills for the past two or three seasons, it is possible that from £1,000,000 to £2,000,000 could have been saved to the Commonwealth.
I do not know how that strikes the Senate, butit strikes the. farmer straight in the pocket; and if you want to hit a man, especially a Scotchman, hard, you cannot hit him harder than in the pocket. I do not know whether Major Purcell means from £1,000,000 to £2,000,000 per annum for the past two or three years, or from £1,000,000 to £2,000,000 spread over the three years. If he means that amount per annum, his statement is worse than an absurdity. If he means the same amount spread over the three years, it is absolutely ridiculous, because the cornsack trade of the whole of Australia does not exceed an average of £2,000,000 per annum, and certainly has not exceeded that sum during the past two or three years. How is it possible for the farming community of the Commonwealth to have been saved from £1,000,000 to £2,000,000 when the whole of their annual trade in this direction is worth only £2,000,000? The statement is so absurd that it only requires to be pointed out for the people to see the utter futility of the whole of this man’s remarks.
-What about other bags? There is a big bag trade outside of wheat bags.
– Yes, if the writer had taken the whole of the jute trade of Australia, he would have cut some of the ground from under my feet; but Senator de Largie, if he had been listening, would have noticed that the writer refers only, to woolpacks and cornsacks, of which the cornsack trade is much the greater. Taking the trade at its full estimate of £2,000,000 per annum at 5 per cent., which has never been made by the merchants of Australia on an average during the last three years, the possible saving is only £100,000 per annum, and, at the very worst, it could be only about £250,000 spread, over the three years. Evidently Major Purcell likes to talk in big figures, and when big figures are used, and nobody takes the trouble to refute them, unfortunately the farmers get the impression that they have been fleeced to the tune of millions.
– The time allowed to the honorable senator has expired.
– I am glad Senator Shannon has afforded me the opportunity of reviewing briefly the position of cornsacks in Australia. Senator Pratten asked the other day a question limited to jute. If I did not give him as complete information as was possible on that occasion, it was the fault of yourself, Mr. President, who ruled both of us out of order. I have always endeavoured, on the floor of this chamber, and in another place, through my colleague, Mr. Greene, and through the newspapers, to give the public an indication of what was going on; but I could not be definite, nor could anybody else be definite, about a contract that was not, and is not yet, finalized. Senator Gardiner interjected during the debate that the farmers could not get bag3 in New South Wales .at the last harvest. I am not questioning the statement. There was a shortage of bags for 1916, and it arose in this way: There was a bad drought in Australia in 1914, consequently, there was a large surplus of cornsacks; and, during the next year, we had plenty of sacks in “Australia ; but the following year, there was a good season, and there was a shortage. Let me give one typical instance. An old sea captain came down .to my office to look for cornsacks. He said he wanted some to put his wheat> in, and when I told him the Government were not dealing in cornsacks, he asked, “ What sort of a Government is it, when a man cannot get a few cornsacks from them at a pinch?” This brought the question under my notice, and I went into it with Mr. Clarke, the then Prices Commissioner. As a result, we cabled to the Indian Government in March, 1917, asking them whether the Commonwealth Government could make direct arrangements through them to purchase the cornsacks required for Australia. Their reply was that, as most of the Australian merchants had previously ordered - and cornsacks are sometimes ordered as far ahead as thirteen or fourteen months - they could not act for us that year, seeing that the Australian mer-‘ chants had entered into contracts with the millers of India. To get over the difficulty, I called a conference of the jute trade of all the States. We asked them to give the Government, through me, an undertaking . to supply sufficient cornsacks for Australia. Following that, we took a census of the whole of the cornsacks in Australia, and of the . cornsacks on order, and made them supply a further return once a month showing any new orders for cornsacks. The census showed us that we had a surplus of something like 10,000,000 more bags in Australia and on order than were required for Australia last year - which was quite correct. Everything went .well. Shipping had been engaged; but in September, owing to war conditions in the East, the shipping belonging to the British-India Shipping Company, which had been engaged for the jute exporters and importers, was suddenly required for war purposes by our Allies, and particularly by Great Britain. Australian ships, iti cooperation with one or two vessels allowed to us by the British Government, brought the cornsacks to Australia, and from September onward those responsible for distribution in this country worked very hard indeed. Some of the ships purchased by the Commonwealth Government were employed in carrying the bags to Australia, and thus the farmers of this country were saved from a very serious position indeed. As honorable senators are aware, seasons differ throughout Australia. We found that in some cases farmers who usually reap in January, and had ordered bags under contract for November, were about two months late with their harvest, while on the other hand farmers who wanted bags’ for November had npt ordered them until .September. In order to obviate the difficulty thus created, the Government issued a regulation under the War Precautions Act giving them authority to deviate contracts, with the result that 3,000 boles of bags under order for Victoria were diverted to Western Australia without any ‘additional expenditure, and thus these sacks were available for an early crop in Western Australia. Subsequently, anticipating difficulty, we purchased about 20,000 bales of bags ourselves, and were able to return to a Melbourne private merchant the 3,000 bags which had been under order for Western Australia. Night after night those intrusted with the details of cornsacks distribution were engaged in solving the difficulties as they arose, and the Government practically took control of all bags on order for Australia. We studied the weather and the condition of the crops, and tried, as far as was humanly possible, to see that each particular district had cornsacks when they were required, supplies for the late districts being held back. It was an enormous task, but we had the hearty co-operation of the whole of the jute merchants in Australia, as well as all those associated with artificial manure companies, and I must say, oh behalf of the Price Fixing Commissioner and the staff responsible for this work, that they carried out in a very satisfactory manner one of the most difficult tasks that could have been intrusted to them.
– The Minister may be satisfied, but I am not sure that the farmers are.
– I’ want to point out that, though we did all we could, we were still from ten. to twelve days behind right throughout Australia. But I desire also to point out that but for the action of the Government cornsacks for the Australian wheat harvest would not have been available at all. Everybody knows that we cannot control shipping, and it was owing to this fact that New South Wales was for a time without bags. I am not, much interested in the price of bags iri 1914, but I do know that at the time we bought cornsacks in India we were able to purchase at about 2s. per dozen lower than the rate at which any private firm could have bought, and. I hope the1 farmers will get the benefit of that transaction. Last year the Indian Government declined to allow us to use their Jute Controller, who has been buying all jute material for the Allies, but we are pur- ‘ chasing through the Jute Commissioner this year 60,000,000 bags, or 200,000 bales. The purchases already made by the Government carry no commission. So far as I know, the cornsacks were bought from the mills direct. At the time of purchase the freight to Australia was 80s., but since then it has advanced to 20s. by neutral boats.
The contract for the purchase of the sacks has been finalized, and as reference has been made to costs, I might mention that insurance is lj per cent., and that the rupee has increased in value by about 2£d., which means that we shall have to pay about that amount in advance of the nominal value of the rupee.
– It is changing front day to day.
– Yes ; but the demand for silver in India is increasing, and , must have a tendency to harden the market. We have been asked about the distribution of bags, and, in this connexion, I might mention that as soon as the contract was sufficiently advanced, I summoned a conference of the whole of the jute trade in Australia for the purpose of dealing with this question. The decisions of the conference, which have been indorsed by the Government, favour the utilization of existing distributing agencies, as it was thought to be impossible to organize any other system for distribution at a cost less than that entailed by existing agencies. . We will receive information when each boat leaves Calcutta, and it has been agreed by the trade that the cornsacks will be apportioned between the States according to the. quantities required. All details will be publicly advertised, and we hope to effect the sale of the cornsacks in transit, basing the price at ships’ slings at Melbourne, Sydney, Fremantle, or Adelaide, as the case may be, instead of at Calcutta, as in previous . years. It is hoped that the price to be realized will cover all costs, and, perhaps, leave a small margin, although we have no desire to make any money out of the farmers of Australia. We are not doing this as a commercial business at all, but merely to helpthe producers of this country out of the difficulties that confront them in war time. The retail price of the bass will be controlled by the Prices Commissioner, in the same manner as other commodities are controlled.
I have been asked” if I can say anything about the price, but I do not want to discuss in detail Major Purcell’s statement. The whole of it is absolutely inaccurate. He seems to be very much in the position of a man who, when passing through a city or township, meets another man on the street corner, and, after having, had a chat with him, accepts his statements as facts.
There was another incident to which reference should be made. The whole of the ships that were trading between Calcutta and Australia have been taken off the line. During the last fortnight,, two boats belonging to neutrals arrived, and they asked for a freight of 200s. That is an impossible price for jute freight. I met the Shipping Board of Australia on Monday morning, and, as a result of our conference, we have cabled to the British Government, who have promised to find us the necessary shipping.
– And to store the jute goods until we get the ships.
– We have made -arrangements that no ship shall be kept waiting at Calcutta. There will always be 7,000 tons of jute goods awaiting immediate loading there. That is being arranged by the Jute Controller in India. There are only two things which prevent me making a public pronouncement as to the price. One is that we have not yet finalized arrangements with respect to exchange, which runs into something over £50,000. As honorable senators are aware, the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) has, during the last few days been attending the Premiers’ Conference in Sydney; but I hope to be able to finalize this matter in the course of the next few days. Another matter which delays an announcement is that, whilst the British Government have promised us sufficient shipping accommodation to bring cornsacks to Australia, we have not yet come to an agreement with regard to the freight; and I regard the price which they suggest as too high.
– That will affect the price of cornsacks.
– That is so. I cannot make an announcement as to the price of cornsacks until I know what the total, cost and freight will be. The moment I know the facts I shall, without any reservation, give them to the people of Australia.
-. - Before the Minister resumes his seat he might make some statement .with reference to the position of men who have already purchased jute goods in India.
– To-day bags are unobtainable; but a few months ago they were costing from lis. 3d., to 12s. per dozen c.i.f. on the Melbourne wharf. Some men made contracts, and some of these got in early. Some want their contracts cancelle’d, while others do not desire that that should be done. I believe that the matter has been settled finally by the British-India Steam Navigation Company cancelling their contracts for shipping, because the British Government have taken their ships off the line. That matter is being determined at a conference of the jute trade which is being held ‘at the present moment.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council might explain his reference to exchange.
– I cannot go fully into the matter, but it is sufficient to say that it costs money to transmit money between Australia and India. I hope that there will be an adjustment made which will lead to a considerable reduction in the price of cornsacks.
– I can scarcely approach the discussion of this question in the normal frame of mind in which one should consider a question of so much importance. About this time last year we had a Tariff Bill before the House in connexion with which the price of cornsacks came up, and I endeavoured to have the duty on these goods, amounting to £40,000, knocked off, to enable our farmers to obtain the bags they required for last year’s harvest at a lower price. I took that opportunity to urge upon the Government the necessity of securing cornsacks in time for the harvest. But honorable senators on the other side, in the interests of the people who deal in cornsacks, but do not use them, retained the duty. I warned the Government at that time that there would be a shortage of bags for the harvest, and now the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) stands up here and makes his excellent explanation. The honorable senator will never be found guilty, of anything which he did not do with the best intentions. The charge he has to meet with respect to the scarcity of sacks for last year’s harvest, and also for the coming harvest, is that he has never yet succeeded in securing results commensurate with his expectations and promises. What happened in connexion with cornsacks last year? There were ships in Sydney Harbor bringing cornsacks, and the Government, instead of unloading them, allowed one vessel - the Dorset - to leave the wharf and go out into midstream, causing a delay in the lauding of the goods of twenty-four hours. That might appear to be a small matter, but if honorable senators were wheat farmers, and had wheat lying in their paddocks which they were obliged to cover with tarpaulins because they had not the sacks in which to bag it, they would know what such a delay means.
– What was the cause of the delay?
– It was because the Government were working in. the interests of the bag merchants for whom Senator Shannon speaks. Those people wanted the delay because. they were selling secondhand cornsacks at the price of new bags.
– That does not explain a ship being taken from the wharf and anchored in the fairway for twentyfour hours. ‘ j
– That is the reason I give for what was done.
– The honorable senator must know that there was another reason for it.
– No doubt; the Government can give many reasons.
– Does the honorable senator seriously suggest that the Government ordered that vessel to be taken from the wharf and anchored in the fairway for twenty-four hours in order to hurt the farmers and help the jute merchants?
– The fact that they did so is shown in that, when representations were made, the vessel was brought -back to” the wharf. I say that the whole manipulation of the wheat business and the cornsack business has been against the fanner. We have Senator Shannon’‘ defending the bag merchants because the price of cornsacks has gone up. He has said that the price has gone up to 9s. 6d. per dozen, whilst Senator Russell has told us that they have gone up to 12s. per dozen. .
– I referred to the price in 1914.
– I repeat that the manipulation of the wheat business and the cornsack business has been against the farmers. Fortunately, owing to the wet season, the harvest in New South Wales last year was six weeks late. If it had not been for that, it is hard to say what the disaster to the fanners would have been in the harvesting of their crops. But with that six weeks to the good, the Government were still behind in the supply of cornsacks. I heard one man offering to sell his wheat for one-third of its value because he could not obtain bags for it. That was late in November. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has told us that something happened to the shipping in September ; but why were not the necessary bags here before September? Those who are familiar with Australian conditions know that the harvest begins late in October or early in November, and anything that happened to the shipping in September was too late for the purpose of the Minister’s argument. He should have had the necessary bags here before September, and in the districts in which they were required.
– There were bags here, but there were some final shipments to come.
– Why were there not enough bags here, seeing that the Government had taken the whole business over?
– The Government had not taken the whole business over last year.
– I want to say a word or two on behalf of the farmers. Let the Vice-President of the Executive Council wake up and realize that the men who are growing wheat in this country are as much entitled to a rise in prices as are the manufacturers of bags and jute goods in India. Even under the existing high shipping rates, wheat can be landed on the American’ coast for lOd. per bushel.
– Will the honorable senator suggest what has not been done?
– I can make suggestions if I am left alone. My time is too short to enable me to follow up the Minister’s questions. Wheat, last year, was landed in America for10d. per bushel, and sold there for 10s. 6d. per bushel. Our farmers were compelled to sell at 4s. 9d. per bushel. Why were they not allowed to secure some increase in price? It cannot be said that it is because we want to give the wheat to the British Government.
– Does the honorable senator say that wheat was sold on the market at 4s. 9d. per bushel?
– I do not. I say that the Government have taken the farmers’ wheat at 4s. 9d. per bushel. It could have been landed in America for 10d. per bushel, which would make the cost 5s. 7d., and there would then have been a profit of 5s. per bushel, to which the farmer wouldhave been entitled. When prices are soaring up all over the world, it is not fair to say to the farmers of Australia that the price of bags may go up, the price of machinery and labour may go up, but the one thing that must not increase in price is the wheat he produces, which must be kept down to the level of pre-war times. The Government and their supporters are working in with the people whose direct aim is that the farmer shall have to pay.
– Rubbish !
– I ask that when we are making the farmer pay, at least we should not compel him to Waste his crop. Even if we make him sell his wheat at half its value, we should supply him with the cornsacks in which to bag it. If we are not prepared to do that, we should let him know sufficiently early to enable him to make an effort to do something for himself. The farmers are kept waiting, their crops are ready to be gathered, the machines are ready in the paddocks, and the wheat has to be laid on tarpaulins and covered with tarpaulins because the farmers are not supplied with cornsacks. A farmer dealing with a local merchant is supplied, because the merchants have the foresight to make provision for the supply of bags to their regular customers. But those who are dependent on the promise of the Government, and on the men for whom Senator Shannon spoke,are unable to obtain the bags they require, and have to pay for secondhand bags a higher price than they ought to be charged for new bags.
– There is nothing like private enterprise after all.
– On the subject of private enterprise, let me say that we have had a good deal of feeling expressed with regard to the after-the-war trade. Quite a number of our people say that when the war is over we should not trade again with our enemies. In this connexion, I venture to say that the Government should.direct. the attention of the Shipping Ring to the way in which they are treating the people of Australia in preventing the landing of goods except at exorbitant rates of freight, and should tell them that when the war is over their ships will not be allowed to trade with Australia. If a really determined stand were made on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth in dealing with the Shipping Ring, the Bag Combine, and the J ute Combine, they would know that there would be a day of reckoning for them when we get back to normal times, andthere would be less of the exploitation that is going on now. I say that this country is being absolutely crippled at the present time, that our producers are being hampered, hindered, and interfered with by middlemen, who are making profits that they have no right to make at a time like this.
– That is Senator Fairbairn’s private enterprise.
– That is private enterprise. Let honorable senators read the balance-sheets of the Shipping Rings in every country of the world, and they will know that during this awful war their profits have gone up from hundreds of thousands to millions.
– And the Commonwealth Government is one of the biggest shippers.
-I am sorry to say that at the present time the Commonwealth Government are working hand in glove with the exploiters. This is not a time when the Government should be dependent upon something being done by the British Government, or upon a secret arrangement made with the Indian authorities.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we could obtain shipping without an arrangement with the British Government?
– The interests of the farming community of Australia are sufficiently large to make them the first consideration with the Government.
– “Will the honorable senator answer my simple question ?
– I have only a limited time in which to speak on this motion. I would like to answer the honorable senator’s questions if my time were unlimited. I ask the honorable senator to answer the question : Is it not a fact that the price paid to the farmers of Australia for their wheat is only half the’ world’s market price? Let the honorable senator answer that. His colleague, Mr. Joseph Cook, went round recently telling us how very much obliged we should be to Great Britain because she was buying our wheat harvest at half its price.
– And we are feeding our mice on it.
Senator -GARDINER. - We are; and this is done by the “rats.” It is they who are responsible for it. I said in the beginning that I could scarcely * trust myself to deal with this matter in the frame of mind in which one should approach so serious a question. During the recent campaign, I was all over the wheat districts of New South Wales, and it was a saddening thing to see men who had put their year’s work into the harvest hampered and hindered, not by a Government who did so wilfully, but by a Government actuated by good intentions but unable to secure results. I am speaking now with the hope that the Government will at once take active steps to secure cornsacks for the wheat farmers.’
– And float it away !
– There are hundreds of ways of doing it if only the Government have the will to do it. ‘ Of course, I do not blame the Government.
– What did you do when you were there?
– There were no complaints of that kind. I am prepared to go to the farming districts iri the honorable senator’s State, and compare last year’s conditions with those which ruled when I was in office.
– Hear, hear ! But I was controlling the same Department.
– Yes, but the Minister was not controlled by the same influences. Behind him then was the
Democracy of Australia, which had no interest in shipping rings or bag merchants ; but behind this Government now there are factors which mean that they are nothandling public affairs in the interests* of the farmers. When toe Government are led by commission agents and land agents in the name of the Farmers. Union, it is about time the farmer himself began to get a fair chance of securing a fair price for the crop which he grows. - It is about time the farmer got. his bags in time to harvest his next crop. I hope the Government will cease from their attitude pf depending upon’ something to turn up at the last moment. It is time the Government made the harvesting of next year’s crop their first business, and let everything else wait.
– Knock out the German first.
– That is a good excuse all the time, but the supply of foodstuffs to the Allies is the best way to beat the German. Is the German less an enemy than the shipping enemy, who will take his ships off the line and prevent our getting ‘our supplies away to the people at Home? If any honorable senator saysthat the - shipping companies are fighting in the interests of the Empire, I violently differ with him. If there is one glaring scandal in the world to-day it is the enormous profits of the Shipping Ring.
– And the Government ‘ only took the shipping over when there
Was talk about a raider outside.
– That is a fair sample of the wild things you are saying on that side.
– If there is a party Government, running the country in the interests of private enterprise, whose business it’- is at all times to exploit the people when profit can be made, then the ‘ farmers must know that they cannot expect anything else than that they too will be exploited. Yet we heard Senator Fairbairn talking about private enterprise.
– You were saying that they were doing better than the Government. You were advocating private enterprise yourself then.
– The Government should give the producer himself a chance, without putting him under the handicap of export duties from India, and shipping duties to companies which have no increases in their costs in proportion to the increased charges upon goods’. The time has arrived for the Government to take drastic steps to deal with the men who are out to make profits- r-not steps to try and tak© their profits from them, but to treat them as they should be treated, namely, as traitors. And let them pay the penalty of traitors; for although I am not an advocate of the death penalty, if ever there was justification for it, it is that it should be put into operation against the combine which is increasing the prices of food to the women and children of those who are fighting for us.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I do not think honorable senators will have difficulty in deciding whether the honorable gentleman who has just concluded was more- anxious to help the farmer or to hurt the Government.
– I did not move this. It came -from your side.
– I know; but the honorable senator is not slow to take any peg upon which to hang an accusation against the Government. I understand him, however. I have been in Opposition myself for many years. I graduated there. I yield to no one in my experience of what it is to be in Opposition; and all my experience there has taught me that the only place where anything can be done perfectly is where one is in Opposition.
– -You appoint me commissioner with unlimited powers, and I promise that the farmers will get bags.
– If the honorable senator means that statement, and knows how he can get bags when everybody else knows that the matter of shipping is the difficulty in the way, he should get up and expound this panacea for our ills. But he is only talking bombast now. I rose not so much to’ deal with the general tenor of the honorable gentleman’s remarks - remarks with which we are all familiar when we stop to listen to an orator at the street corner-7-for it was in no sense a serious contribution to the subject brought forward by Senator Shannon. There were, however, two or three statements made, upon which, because they are incorrect, and have been utilized by an honorable senator reckless as to their accuracy, I feel it my duty to make some comments.
– I hope I will not be called to order when I make similar statements about you.
– One of those statements was that the Australian farmer was getting 4s. 9d. a bushel for his wheat, that it cost lOd. a bushel to land it in America, and that it was there sold for 10s. And he said that this Government was deliberately and wickedly swindling the Australian farmer.
– Preventing him from getting the money. Call it what you like.
– Yes, swindling is the word to use.
– If the Government had been a party to such a transaction, then the Government would be convicted either of the grossest imbecility or of something approaching fraud.
The position was this : That the wheat was sold to America through the Government there, and the understanding was that it was to fetch the price which wheat was realizing in America at the time; that the wheat was to be graded according to the American grade, and to be paid for at the same rate for the’ corresponding grade as that which the American farmer himself received.
– Paid to whom?
– To the Pool here. And the honorable senator knows why it was paid to the Pool. It was in order that, as different prices were realized for different parcels of wheat sold, the whole of the farmers should get the average price. It was for the reason that one farmer, whose wheat had gone to America, should not receive a better return than the man whose wheat had been sent to England, or was being consumed locally. The freight was 95s. per ton. That is very different from the price which Senator Gardiner stated.
– It is not. Take 37 bushels to the ton, and that shows that it is very close.
-The honorable senator said lOd. a bushel. That would be about 30s. a ton. There is somewhat of a difference between 95s. and 30s. ; but it is on such loose handling of figures that Senator Gardiner tries to arouse the ire of the fanners against the Government. I am supplying official figures.
– Yes, but the figures of officials to whose interest it is to supply them. I put my seat against yours that10d. a bushel is nearer the price delivered in America than 2s. 6d., as you say.
– That is mock heroics, for the honorable senator knows that it could not be done; and, even if it could, what a characteristic offer it is on his part, seeing that my seat has five year’s purchase and his has but two !
– Well, I am putting my statement against your official figures, and I am willing to make it a five to two offer.
– The honorable senator states that his10d. is more nearly accurate than the official quotation. Any one conversant at all with the public life of Australia knows that official figures supplied in this manner are unimpeachable.
I do not want to be switched off this matter of the freight just yet, however. Senator Gardiner quoted10d. a bushel, and held that it was more nearly accurate than the 95s. a ton. I ask him to produce the authority for his statement, and, failing that, I call on him to publicly withdraw it.
– I will do that, and I suppose you will do the same with regard to your official figures if they are proved inaccurate.
– Undoubtedly .
– Well, I invite you to do so.
– If the honorable senator is shown to be wrong, and the figures which Igive are correct, then he owes it, not only to the farmers whose case he pretends to be championing, but also to the Government, that he should admit in this Senate that the whole of his arguments were also wrong.
These are facts which any one should be able and prepared to demonstrate, or otherwise to discard; and unless Senator Gardiner proves his statements, he has done a great injury to the people in trying to create the impression that the Government have been so negligent of the welfare of Australia as to have given away wheat which they merely controlled as trustees for those who grew it.
– He knows that is not right.
– I know it is, and you know it, too.
– The honorablesenator only increases his obligation to either demonstrate the accuracy of what he says, or to withdraw it in this Chamber. I have quoted official figures.
Now I shall direct attention to another extraordinary statement - one which is marvellous, coming even from an honorable gentleman so reckless in his public statements as Senator Gardiner. He declared that a ship loaded with bags was deliberately and purposely taken from the wharf at Sydney, and hauled out into the fairway and kept there for twenty-four hours, to prevent the farmers from getting access to the bags in its cargo.
– But you have not read those official figures you were going to quote.
– The whole matter turns on this question of freight. Senator Gardiner’s figures were that the wheat was sold in America for 10s. I have to inform honorable senators, from official figures, that it varied in price according to the grade, and that it was graded there. It ran from 8s. 7½d. for No. 1 grade. Senator Gardiner’s 10s. has to be set against 8s. 7½d., which is the official figure.
– My 10s. is the market price. ,
– I say that the price paid by the American Government for our wheat was the same as that paid to the American farmer for corresponding grades grown in the United States. The. honorable senator will see that the amount of 95s. per ton divided by the 37 bushels to the ton brings the quotation to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3s. 7d. per bushel freight. , If he deducts that from the price paid for the wheat, he will find that we are getting 5s. 9d. per bushel from our contracts with the American Government. That 5s.9d. per bushel went into the Pool. It is absurd to think otherwise.
– Is not the Minister making a mistake of Is. when he says 3s. 7d. per bushel ?
– I did not get up to make a prepared statement, as the honorable senator did. I merely say that, dividing 95s. by 37, we get the freight per bushel. The price we obtained for the wheat was8s. 7½d. per bushel, or, deducting freight, 5s. 9d. per bushel.
I come now to Senator Gardiner’s statement, that in Sydney a ship was deliberately hauled out into the fairway, with the malign purpose of aiding persons who are interested in the bag .trade and of hampering the farmer in his operations. Does Senator Gardiner really believe that 1
– I am sure of it. I know that the Minister will get excuses made, but what I said is nevertheless a fact.
– I have no desire to advance excuses. It is the honorable senator who needs to excuse himself for asking the people to believe his statement. The facts are that on the eve of New Year’s Day - and the honorable senator knows the rules of the unions whose members work ships in all the ports of Australia
– There were no unions then. They were deregistered.
– In order to avoid delay occurring over the holidays-
– Surely there would be no delay with your scab unionists working.
– That is typical of Senator Gardiner.
– The .Minister is endeavouring to put the blame for what was done on the unionists, and I am letting the public know that it was the scab unionists who were concerned. I want to put the. blame on the proper shoulders.
– I am only desirous of putting the blame where it rightly belongs. Senator Gardiner’s statement was that this vessel was deliberately taken out into the stream for the wicked purpose of helping those in the bag trade, and hurting the farmers. I will show what a different course would have been taken if that had been the object. Those «nv trolling the vessel knew that there was no chance of getting her coaled during the holidays. Accordingly, they decided to get her coaled first, and to have her unloaded afterwards.
– How could she get coaled in midstream f
– There are certain holidays upon which men will not work. The vessel did not coal at the wharf, but was hauled out into the fairway to be coaled by barges and colliers.’ Let me now show how little there is in the accusation which has been made by Senator Gardiner. He himself most effectually dis posed of his own argument by saying that the moment representations were made to the Government on the subject, the vessel was brought back to the wharf. In other words, the moment it was pointed out that the farmers would be prejudiced by the action which had been taken, the Government risked the coaling of the vessel, and had the bags taken out of her hold. Probably a little forethought on the part of those who had charge of her might have impelled them to the conclusion that this was the correct course to adopt. But the fact that the vessel was brought back to the wharf the moment it was pointed out that the work of coaling her first would be prejudicial to the interests of the farmers, shows conclusively that the Government had no such desire as that which Senator Gardiner has alleged’. Had they entertained that desire they would have kept the vessel out in the fairway.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– We are all obliged to Senator Shannon for having initiated this debate, which, though it promised to be a somewhat dry one, has proved to be extremely interesting, as well as of a practical nature. Upon this motion I do not intend to discuss the price of wheat. A great deal of time has been devoted to that matter,- which might more profitably have been occupied in discussing the price of bags. When we recall the pre-war prices of bags, and remember the enormous increase which has taken place in the freight ‘from India to the Commonwealth, it must °be recognised that the bag merchants are to-day deriving a smaller profit than they were receiving before the war. That being the case, I ask Senator Gardiner and bis associates why they allowed greater profits to be made in former years without then entering any protest against the price of bags, and without bringing forward extravagant charges of corruption? According to the figures in my possession, the freight from India at the present time is about 80s. per ton.
– We cannot get freight for that now.
– That is the minimum given by Senator Russell a day or two ago. These bags are selling at 9s. 6d. per dozen. Now, I can recollect that long before the war, evidence was given before the Tariff Commission that the freight upon these bags from Calcutta to Australia was as low as 7s. 6d. per ton. Yet, at that time, the minimum price of the bags was 6s. 4d. per dozen. The figures prove that in those days there was a larger margin of profit to the bag merchant than there is to-day.
In the light of these statistics, the Government may be complimented upon their very successful handling of the freight business. The most improbable of the reckless charges made by Senator Gardiner was that honorable senators upon this side of the chamber are parties to a conspiracy to get the better of the farmers, and to play into the hands of the bag merchants of Australia.
– I will meet the honorable senator before any farming audience in Australia and discuss the matter with him.
– The honorable senator is always very good at making challenges of that sort. But only one interpretation can be placed upon his utterance here to-day. It is that after his speech of last week he feels bound to make up a little bit of the ground which he has lost with outside organizations, and, in order to do that he has indulged in his usual reckless talk about “rats,” “ scabs,” &c.
– Mock heroics.
– Exactly . I never hear Senator Gardiner talk about “ scabs “ and “ rats “ without feeling disposed to reiterate the statements I made on a former occasion, that he is quite qualified to speak with some authority on that question. The absurdity of Senator Gardiner’s remarks re farming interests is seen in the fact that there are many honorable senators on this side who are wheatgrowers and are thus directly interested in cheap supplies for the farmers. As one in that position, I say, unhesitatingly, that there are more honorable senators upon this side of the chamber who are directly interested in wheat-growing than are to be found on the opposite side. As a matter of fact, I doubt if there is a single honorable senator opposite who is directly interested in wheat-growing.
– Why not?
– And if there is one then is there more than one? I understand that Senator Gardiner has some interest in wheat-growing.
– Surely Senator Grant, with his land tax ideas, is interested in wheat-growing.
– Upon this side of the Senate I can mention half-a-dozen men who are directly interested in wheatgrowing.
– Is that the honorable senator’s estimate of the duty of a member of this Parliament?
– Surely the fact that there are half-a-dozen honorable senators upon this side of the chamber who are wheat-growers is convincing proof that they are interested in getting their bags as cheaply as possible. Surely it is evidence that they do not desire to play into the hands of the bag merchants and injure the wheat growers. Regarding Major Purcell’s statement, I have no desire to throw cold water ‘ upon any officer if he thinks that he possesses information which is of value to the public.
– Does not Major Purcell come from the country that produced the Arabian Nights?
– He certainly indulges in a good many tales which are highly improbable. I do not pose as an authority upon this question, but I say that if Major Purcell knows as little about the business upon which he was sent to India - I refer to the purchase of horses - as he does about the purchase of wheat bags, a Royal Commission ought to be appointed to inquire into his knowledge upon that subject, and I do not think we could appoint to such a Commission a better man than Senator Shannon. The Government are doing their very best to insure a sufficient supply of wheat sacks for the coming harvest. For some months past they have been endeavouring to secure a sufficiency of shipping for that purpose, and consequently they cannot be charged with negligence. They have been in communication first with the British Government, and secondly with the Jute Commission in Calcutta. In attempting to obtain an adequate supply of wheat sacks for our Australian farmers, they are certainly taking proper action. No suggestion has been made on the other side to give greater help than the Government are giving, and altogether the Government deserve credit rather than blame for the manner in which they have handled the bag question up to the present time.
– I welcome the motion because it has presented an opportunity to focus attention on the question of the treatment meted out to the wheat industry in Australia. The question of the bags which hold the wheat is inseparably interwoven with the question of the conditions under which the industry of producing wheat is being carried on in the Commonwealth. It brings back to my mind the great hullabaloo raised about the wheat agreement, the wool agreement, and the metals agreement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on the memorable occasion on which he went to Great Britain. With the exception of the wool industry, these agreements have not given satisfaction, . and there has not been dissatisfaction in the case of wool only because of the abnormal demand that has arisen for wool on account* of war usage. Both the metals . industry and the wheat industry have received detrimental treatment as the result of the agreements entered into on that occasion by the Prime Minister. Senator de Largie referred to honorable senators on this side as not being personally interested in the subject of wheat production’, but I hold that every citizen is seriously concerned in the wheat industry and its expansion, and. in the question of procuring bags to complete the harvest. The harsh treatment that the Australian wheat industry has received makes it more difficult for wheat producers and users of wheat bags to pay the enhanced cost they have to pay for commodities on account of the general increases that have taken place since the outbreak of war. That harsh treatment becomes very apparent when we compare the price, 4s. 9d. per bushel, paid in Australia for wheat to the wheat-grower, and the price being paid in England for wheat from Canada and the United States. Senator Millen quite mistakenly thought I was trying to attract his fire from Senator Gardiner, but I was only trying to pin that elusive gentleman down to some definite reference to the difference in price.
– Is not keeping down the price here giving cheap food to the people of Australia ?
– I was speaking of wheat for export, for which the Australian farmer gets, only 4s. 9d. per bushel, although it is sold in London for use in England or at the Front. Senator Millen, however, cleverly eluded a direct reference to the difference in price. The Commonwealth Government is not primarily or directly responsible for the harsh treatment of the Australian wheat industry, because the fault lies in the agreement made by Mr. Hughes when in England, but the Government must take any blame attachable to them for their acquiescence in it.
– The honorable senator is discussing the price of wheat and not the question of bags. He may refer to the question of the price of wheat, butonly incidentally.
– I am trying to prove that the price paid for wheat has a harmful effect on the grower. Senator Millen was allowed to make assertions on that question in reply to Senator Gardiner, and surely I should be able to make a comparison between the prices paid in Australia and London..
– I allowed Senator Gardiner and Senator Millen to allude only incidentally to the question of the price of wheat as affecting the question of bags, but the honorable senator is making it his main argument.
– Very well. While the price of everything, bags included, has gone up to the grower, the price of wheat has not been allowed to enhance. That is why I say the Australian wheat industry is being harshly dealt with through the agreement made by Mr. Hughes on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. He mixed that question up, as he mixed up everything else that he touched on that occasion.
– To what agreement are you referring?.
– The agreement for the sale of Australian wheat at 4s. 9d. per bushel.
– We have more wheat in the Pool in Australia than the British Government have got.
-They are paying 10s. 6d. per bushel for wheat in England, but the Imperial Government gets a dividend out of that in this way : Senator Millen referred to the freight of 95s. per ton as one cause of the difference in price, but the Imperial Government gets a dividend out of that increased freight by taking 80 per cent. of the war profits from the shipping companies, and included in those war profits are the increased freights on Australian wheat. The British Government also draw an increased income tax from the earningsof the shipping companies which bring the bags and wheat from Australia.
– Will the honorable senator explain how that matter affects the supply of bags?
– The agreement is not in the best interests of the Australian wheat industry, and the Government, in supporting Mr. Hughes in putting it into force, is injuriously affecting the industry in Australia..
– Senator Gardiner must have felt as if a 6-inch shell had burst alongside him when Senator Millen had done with him. Senator Millen has covered all the ground-
– Senator Millen was allowed to go all over the shop, and debate every phase of the question.
- Senator Ferricks seems to think that he is to be allowed, not only to evade the Standing Orders which regulate debate, but also to reflect on the President. That will not be tolerated, and I ask him to withdraw unreservedly the expression which he has just used, and which amounts to a “reflection on the Chair.
– I withdraw it.
– One point which Senator Millen did not make was that the British Government, in buying wheat from Australia-
– On a point of order, is the honorable senator in order in referring to the price of Australian wheat in London?
– I have allowed every speaker to make a passing allusion to the price of wheat and the question of freight in discussing the matter of bags, but I did not allow any speaker to make those matters the main purpose of his address. He was allowed to refer to those points only so far as they affected the question of bags, or to illustrate an argument. Until I know whether Senator Fairbairn intends to transgress that ruling, I cannot say whether he is in order or not.
– I thought, as the question of the intentions of the British Government had been raised in the debate, it would not be out of place to say-
– I cannot allow the honorable senator to discuss that question.
– People who make charges against the Commonwealth Government of toying to favour a few men who are importing bags, and of actually hurting the interests of the enormous number of farmers in Australia who want sympathetic treatment at the present time, must think the Government a pack of lunatics.
– Surely nobody doubts that !
– It is the proper attitude of the Opposition to think the Government always are lunatics, but the public cannot be expected to take that view. The Flinders election showed that the farmers of that district - and they are a good sample of the farmers of Australia - thought it better to return a supporter of the Government. “ In time of war, we cannot hope for an entire absence of friction. The farmer does not think he has been well dealt with in every way, and the wool-grower who had to sell his wool much under the free market price also did not think he was getting too good a deal; but we must look at these matters from the point of view of war-time. The Government, in stepping in to buy the bags, took the place of large numbers of instrumentalities that were operating for the public previously. Thousands of brains were working in the past at the businesses which are now managed by the different Pools. All that work is now concentrated in the hands of Senator Russell and a few others, who deserve our utmost sympathy and patience. I think they are getting it from the bulk of the farmers, judging by the Flinders election, and also from the bulk of the wool men-
– The Government want all the sympathy theycan get.
– They do, because they are carrying out a Herculean task. When we think of the Wheat Pool, the Meat Pool, the Butter Pool, and the Metals Pool-
– And the Money Pool.
– Yes, the Money Pool also.
– The Metals Pool is not satisfactory to the metal producers of North Queensland.
– I can quite believe it, because I have always held that one or two men cannot satisfactorily take the place of the hundreds of agencies which operated before. What we want is a sort of pool of Siloam, where we can dip Ministers at the end of each week to rejuvenate them. On the whole, we must recollect that this is a time of war. The British Government were tremendously criticised in the Old Country for buying the last Australian wheat crop and leaving it in Australia to be eaten by mice. The post of freight has a great deal to do with the cost of bags. Honorable senators oppositehave been criticising the enormous profits made by the shipping companies, and I am inclined to agree with them; but the British Government get 80 per cent. of that money back, and no doubt they have an arrangement whereby a great deal of the remainder of that profit is spent in building fresh ships, which are of vital importance now.
– There was no way of dealing with the high freights, owing to the action of neutrals.
– The neutrals, of course, were quite independent of the British Government. The bags could not be carried in neutral bottoms, and at the same time our Governments insist on the neutral ship-owners charging reasonable freights. They were absolutely independent of any of our Governments. There is no doubt that the shipping companies have been making most excessive charges.
– The Imperial Government is hand in glove with them, getting 80 per cent. of their profits. The burglar would do business with the policeman on those terms.
– I am afraid that you, Mr. President, would not allow me to discuss that interesting topic. I hope that all these jute goods, which are of such vital interest to a great producing country like this, will be brought down in price, and that Senator Russell will be able to make an announcement on the subject in a few days. I agree with Senator Gardiner that it is of the utmost importance that these great transactions should be finalized almost at once, if not at once.
– They are camouflaged rather than finalized.
– No; I believe they will be finalized in a very few days. We depend entirely on our production of wheat and other primary products, and without the bags to hold our wheat and wool, we are helpless. I hope soon to hear that the deal has been brought off successfully, and that the interests of the producers are being well looked after by the present Ministry.
. -I must congratulate Senator Fairbairn upon his contribution to this debate, and especially for the skilful manner in which he evaded the real question. He was good enough to say that Senator Gardiner, after Senator Millen’s remarks, must have felt as if a 6-inch shell had exploded beside him, but judging by the commotion caused on the other side of the Senate, I should say that Senator Gardiner’s speech gave Ministers and their supporters the impression that ah 18-inch shell at least had exploded on the other side of the chamber.
– No, it was simply a “dud.”
– Then all I can say is that the Government and their supporters have made a big noise over a small thing.
– It is not a small thing.
– Senator Shannon is to be congratulated for having introduced this subject. I have not the slightest desire to question his motive; I have every reason to believe that it was good, but I do not think he did himself justice when he was dealing with the comparison that Major Purcell had made between the cost of bags to Australia and the cost to the Argentine producers. We ought to be satisfied - and I do not know that Senator Shannon is satisfied on the point - that there was the difference that he claims did exist in the price of bags exported to the Argentine and those exported to Australia. If the bags sent to the respective countries were of the same quality, obviously Major Purcell would have been quite right in his contention that the Argentine producers were getting bags at about half the price charged to Australian farmers, but I think Senator Shannon failed to demonstrate this fact. It was very interesting to hear Senator de
Largie’s pleading on behalf of his new; found supporters. It was really refreshing to listen to the honorable senator defending those who, when he was associated with the party on this side of the Senate, comprised what is known as the Bag Combine of Australia. The honorable senator went back to the time when the Tariff Commission made inquiries into the cost of different articles, and in that way endeavoured to show’ that the bag merchants were really not getting as much profit to-day as they were then. Obviously they are not, because in 1909 bags were costing the Australian producer 4s. 9d. per dozen, but at the latter end of 1913, when there was no stress of shipping, and no increase in freights, the price had mounted to 9s. 3d. per dozen.
– I say positively that the price was 9s. 3d. per dozen at that time. At all events, that was the price in the State from which I came.
– Whatwas the price of bags in 1914 ?
– I am giving the honorable senator figures for the latter end of 1913. Bags were then 9s. 3d. per dozen. I remember Senator de Largie on more than one occasion denouncing this combine for its ruthless exploitation of the Australian producers, but to-day we had the humiliating spectacle of that honorable senator - I believe he now feels bound to do something for his new-found supporters -trying to show that although the Australian producers have to pay nearly 12s. 3d. per dozen for their bags, the Bag Combine is not receiving as much profit as. formerly. Indeed, he went further, and said that the Government were doing all that could reasonably be expected of them to protect the Australian farmer from exploitation. If that is so, then all I can say is: Between the Bag and Shipping Combines and thepresent Government, may the Lord have mercy on the Australian producers !
Senator Millen, in his reply to Senator Gardiner, carefully avoided some of those wholesome and grim-visaged facts that the Leader of the Opposition presented. He attempted to ridicule them, and introduced into some sentences meanings that were never intended by Senator Gardiner. And in that spirit of magnanimity for which he has become noted, the Minister tried to throw upon the unionists respon sibility for the removal of that shipping from wharf -side to mid-stream. For the moment “the Minister forgot it was not the Wharf Lumpers Union that had been engaged by the Government to coal the ship. It was the organization known as the Loyalists. Senator Millen told us that, while the men refused to coal the ship alongside the wharf, they cheerfully undertook this duty when the vessel wasremoved into mid-stream. Is it not pitiful to find a responsible Minister of the Crown going to such lengths to attempt to answer the definite statement and charges made by the Leader of the Opposition? This question of the supply of bags for the Australian producers has been a bone of contention for many years. One party and the other party have always been going to do something; yet no party has ever done anything, with the result that the price of hags has to-day reached its absolute maximum, and is a tremendous burden upon our producers. The present Government claim, however, to have adopted a course that will relieve our farmers to a considerable extent in the future.
– Is it not a fact that freight, and hot the price of bags, is the trouble?
– There is no doubt that a considerable advance has been made in freight, and this must be taken into consideration and met; but I remind the Minister that there was no such factor to influence the increase in price of bags from 4s. 9d. in 1909 to 9s. 3d. per dozen at the latter end of 1913.
– Freight had gone to 80s.
– I am not talking about freight. I am speaking of the increase in the price of bags during the prewar period. Does the Minister say that freight had increased to that extent prior to 1914 ?
– I am pointing out that in the latter end of 1913 bags had increased to 9s. 3d. per dozen, and it is not unreasonable for members on this side of the Senate to say that the Government should have foreseen that somethingin the nature of what has happened was likely to occur, and taken action accordingly. I realize that to-day the price of bags is governed in a great measure by freight, but that does not relieve the Government of their responsi- bility for not having taken some action at least two years ago.
– What Government was in power two years ago ?
– As the honorable senator is aware, the Government at that time was under the leadership of the gentleman who now occupies the position of High Commissioner for Australia.
– Then you can scarcely blame the present Government for failing to do something two years ago.
– Mr. Fisher’s leadership of the Government was just about to terminate at that time. No Government are entirely free from blame in connexion with the exorbitant charges made for bags from year to year by the Bag Combine.
– Does the honorable senator refer to the Australian Combine or the Indian Jute Combine?
– I refer to the Australian Bag Combine. In 1908 or 1909 a number of Australian merchants acted independently, with the result that’ the farmers of this country were able to get bags at a fairly reasonable price, regulated in a great measure by competition; but competition gave place to combination, and bags rose to 9s. 3d. at the latter end of 1913. I hope the Government will do their utmost to see that the maximum of protection is extended to our farmers, and that there are no middlemen between the purchaser of the bags and the farmers who have to use them. It is to be hoped that the Government will not allow any medium of distribution to levy a profit on those bags, but. that they will be made available direct to the farming i community at net cost.
– I had not quite finished my remarks in submitting the motion when my time expired, so I now take the opportunity of correcting what is apparently a clerical error in the newspaper statement to which I made reference. The price quoted for woolpacks was given at 3s. per dozen in 1913, and today at 6s. 6d. This ‘ quotation should not be at per dozen, but for each woolpack, In reply to Senator Gardiner’s remarks to the effect that the merchantmen were the people who exploited the farmers, I point out that on the 10th of last” month a report by the
Commonwealth Prices Commissioner. a painstaking, level-headed official, was laid upon the table of the Senate, and it stated -
The importer and merchants had a particularly trying and anxious time, and I have no hesitation in saying that the evidence discloses that, as a whole, they did everything in their power to meet the crisis that had arisen, and are entitled to the greatest credit.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) said that the bag merchants are exploiters, and that I am standing here to champion them. As a director of one of the largest companies engaged in importing bags to Australia, I say that the object of that company has been to enable the farmers to secure the bags they require at the lowest possible cost. The Commissioner went on to say -
The position as disclosed by the evidence is such that it -is clear that, even if the purchase of the sacks Had been in the hands of the Government itself, the same difficulty would have arisen, and would have had to be met in exactly the same way. My answer to the question is “No.”
That is to say, that it was in no way due to matters over which the Government had any control. That is an absolute reply to Senator Gardiner’s tirade this afternoon. He should have read the report before making such wild statements. The honorable senator referred to the difference in the price of wheat in Australia and in the Old Country. It was very nice of him to try to tickle the ears of the farmers with that kind of thing. Of course, we should like to get 10s. per bushel for our wheat ; but his remarks remind me of the story of a farmer who was driving half-a-dozen head of cattle by the side of a loch, and some tourists asked him where he was going. When he said he was going to the market with them, they asked him how much he expected to get for them. He replied that he expected to get £6 or £8 per head, and one of them said to him, “ You fool, if you took them to Smithfield you could get £20 per head for them.” The farmer’s reply to that was, “ Yes, and if I had this loch in hell I could get ls. a gill for it.” The honorable senator is aware of the shipping difficulty, but he told the Senate that if he were made Commissioner in connexion with this matter he would have all these things done. If that is to be the honorable senator’s price for helping the farming community, of which he has professed to be the champion, I say, “ Bosh to- such a legislator!” If he knows a way by which the farming community of Australia might be benefited, it is his bounden duty, as a representative of New South Wales, to give the informationin his possession to the people if he will not give it to the Government.
– I gave it to honorable senators opposite last year, but they would not take it.
- Senator Long has said that I did not make clear the difference between the price of bags in the Argentine and Australia. I produced the bags, and used the arguments, butI could notgive the honorable senator the brains to understand them.
– That was quite impossible, because the honorable senator has none to spare.
– I directed attention to the quality of the bags used for holding wheat in the Argentine and in Australia.
– If the honorable senator produced an Argentine bag, how did it get here ?
– The honorable senator could obtain Australian bags in the Argentine. He has told us that, despite the fact that there was no rise in prices in 1913, bags were selling in Tasmania at that time at 9s. 3d. per dozen. If that be true, all I have to say is that the honorable senator was very lax in his duty, as a representative of Tasmania, if he did not protest against such a charge for bags in 1913, as I pledge him my word - and it can be proved by a reference to the books of the South Australian Co-operative Farmers Union - that in March, 1914, we were retailing bags at 6s. 3d. per dozen.
– Will the honorable senator tell us what the bag merchants were charging at that time?
– If Senator Long will take the trouble to look through the evidence taken by the Commission, whose report was laid on the table on the 10th April, he will find that merchants in Australia sold bags at absolutely cost price to farmers, provided that they would give them their wool in return. They made the bags a side line. In the face of that fact it cannot be said that the bag merchants were making very much profit out of the sale of bags.
– They made it out of the wool.
– Some may have done so, but all did not go in for that kind of business.
– The honorable senator is barracking for them.
– I am not barracking for any one. My only purpose has been to prevent the people of Australia being misled by such statements as have been made by Major Purcell and by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate this afternoon. I have done what I could by reciting the facts to place the absolute position before the Senate. I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
– Would I be in order, before the motion is put, “in submitting to the Senate the evidence of my statement that the freight on wheat was 10d. per bushel, and the selling price of wheat in America 10s. 6d. per bushel?
– The reading of an extract from a newspaper will not supply , the evidence.
– I ask permission to make a statement.
– Is not the debate closed, in accordance with the Standing Orders?
– The debate is closed, but an honorable senator may, by leave of the Senate, make an explanation at any time, provided he does not interrupt a speaker. Is it the pleasure of the Senate that Senator Gardiner have leaveto make a personal explanation in the way he has indicated ?
– I realize that the right to make a personal explanation does not entitle me to re-enter the debate. My statement to the Senate was that the freight was10d. per bushel. To my astonishment, Senator Millen challenged that statement. A further statement I made was that wheat was selling in America at 10s. 6d. per bushel. The truthfulness of that statement Was also challenged. I am in a position to submit facts to the Senate which will enable honorable senators to know the grounds I had for the statements I made. Here is a letter that was sent to the British Australasian -
(To the Editor of the British Australasian.)
Sir, - In your issue of 2nd August, you state : - “ While British farmers get 72s a quarter, or 9s. a bushel, for their wheat, the Australian farmer gets only 4s.10d. High freight, of course, accounts for the difference in the cost of wheat here and in the Commonwealth, but those freights go to British ship-owners.” If by this you mean that the difference between 4s.10d. and 9s. a bushel is the freight on wheat from Australia to England, you are in error. By a question in the House of Commons, I elicited the fact that wheat is brought from Australia at “ blue book rates,” the charge being10d. a bushel. So that the British shipowner does not get the difference. As I wished to find out if the British consumer got the difference, I put questions to the representative of the Food Controller, who replied that Such questions should not be asked, at which the seventy-two shilling patriots on the Tory benches cheered loudly. Wheat was then up to 9s. a bushel. I presume that the Government sells the wheat at market rates, and that the Treasury takes the difference. It appeared to me that if the Australian farmer is not permitted to get his share of the plunder that is going, the benefit should accrue either to the British consumer or to the Commonwealth Treasury. The Canadian Government refused to commandeer the Canadian wheat harvest at a maximum price, the Canadian farmer declaring that so long as the British farmer was free to extort a war price they were not going to consider the proposition. But the Canadian farmer can sell his wheat without having to make terms with the British Government in control of shipping. The scandal consists in the difference of treatment meted out to the British as compared with the Australian farmer. Of course, I realize that the Government has to keep up the enthusiasm for the war, and so the British farmer must be paid his price. If the Treasury ear-marks the difference between the cost of Australian wheat landed here (5s. 8d.) and the current price, say, 10s. a bushel, and later utilizes it to pay the bonus on wheat due to the British farmer under the Corn Production Bill, if his wheat is sold below a certain minimum, the Australian farmer will at least have the consolation of feeling that he has lent a helping hand to a poor distressed brother, not to mention the British landlord.
That is signed by Mr. R. L. Outhwaite, a member of the British House of Commons.
I elicited the fact that wheat is brought from Australia at “ Blue-Book rates,” the charge being10d. per bushel.
– Order !
– Mr. Rees, who quite recently landed from America, made a statement at a Farmers and Settlers’ Conference in Victoria -
Mr. Bees said that Mr. Hughes had shifted the Australian ships to the Pacific, and they were now carrying cargo to America, and that wheat is sold for 10s. 6d. per bushel in America.
That is all that I can say. I think it is quite sufficient to justify me in the statement that wheat is selling in America at 10s. 6d. per bushel. I made that statement on the authority of Mr. Rees, a member of the Victorian Parliament. I have made the statement that the freight was10d. per bushel on the authority of the answer to a question asked in the British House of Commons, in which Blue-Book rates were quoted.
– The honorable senator does not produce the Blue-Book.
– Senator Millen knows that I cannot produce the BlueBook in ten minutes. That can be done later; but I have produced quite enough to show that the honorable senator’s tactics will not work with me.
– The honorable senator stands convicted of repeating untruths.
– Then you stand condemned as a liar before the community.
– Order! I ask the honorable senator to withdraw that remark.
– I do not care if you expel me from the Senate, I will not put up with lies against me like that.
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw.
– I will not withdraw while you allow an honorable senator to insinuate that what I say are lies, and I do not intend to withdraw.
– Order ! I must again ask the honorable senator to withdraw his statement.
– I doi not care if you expel me from the Senate, I will not withdraw unless he withdraws what he has said about me.
– I ask the honorable senator to obey the Chair. He -has had long acquaintance with the rules governing the Senate, and knows ‘that he must do so.
– Rules of the Senate! While he brands .me as a liar! How would you like to have your statements treated in that way ?
– I must insist that the honorable. senator obey the Chair. I again call upon him to withdraw. There can be no mistake about the offensive nature of the honorable senator’s remark. Whatever his feeling may be regarding the Minister’s attitude upon his statements, he is entirely out of order, and, for his own dignity and’ the dignity of the Senate, I ask him to withdraw the remark.
– I will not be branded as a liar by anyone. Let them expel me, and be damned.
– Mr. President, in the circumstances–
– Order ! Will the Minister please resume his seat. He will not be in order in speaking now. I ask again that the honorable senator withdraw his statement.
– Let the Senate take its course.
– If Senator Gardiner will not do so there is -only one course open to me. I ask Senator Gardiner not to force upon me the painful duty of having to take action.
– The insinuation of Senator Millen was, and is, that I have been telling falsehoods.
– That is not so.
– If you are willing to accept my statement I am willing to withdraw, but. otherwise I am not. .
– Order ! Whatever Senator Millen may say is not sufficient to justify the- honorable senator in disobeying the rules of this Chamber. After this matter has been dealt with, if Senator Gardiner will point out anything that Senator Millen said which was offensive to him, I shall deem it my duty to take the same course of action with respect to Senator Millen, and ask him also to withdraw. Again I ask the honorable senator to withdraw his .statement. If Senator Gardiner will not obey the Chair , there is only one course remaining for me, and that is to report Senator Gardiner to the Senate for having continually and wilfully disobeyed the Chair.
– I should like, in discharging what becomes a responsibility as Leader of the Senate, in following the course laid down under the Standing Orders - that is, to move a motion in connexion with this matter - first,, if possible, to make such a statement as’ will, in my judgment, leave it quite easy for Senator Gardiner to withdraw from the position he has taken up, without in any way touching even his own conception of his self-respect. Senator Gardiner is under a misapprehension if he thinks I have in any way charged him - to use his own words - with being a liar. I made no such charge.
– I think the Minister is not in order at this stage-
– I make this statement, Mr.’’ President, to give the honorable senator ari opportunity of withdrawing what he has said. However, I shall not refrain from following the course laid down under the Standing Orders if Senator Gardiner leaves me no other course open. But first I beg him to accept my assurance that I made no such accusation. It was limited to one of inaccuracy on his part, and not that he was in any sense guilty of wilful misrepresentation of the truth. Having said that, I put it to the honorable senator whether it is not now competent for him to follow the recognised rules of the Chamber, so that there may be no necessity on my part to proceed further.
– I accept the withdrawal of the statement on the part of the Minister. My defiant attitude to you, Mr. President, and to the Senate, was provoked by Senator Millen having, after I had produced proofs of my facts, again said that I had misrepresented the case. As he has withdrawn that charge against me, I conform to the rules of the Senate and withdraw the remark I made.
– I ask leave, Mr. President, to withdraw my motion.
– Is it the pleasure of the Senate that Senator Shannon have leave to withdraw his motion?
Question - That the Senate at its rising adjourn till to-morrow at 10 a.m. - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
National Insurance - Marriage op Soldiers Abroad.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government take immediate steps to establish a national insurance scheme for Australian soldiers and sailors engaged in the present war?
– The Commonwealth War Pensions Act represents the Government’s form of. insurance of soldiers and their dependants. The Government have decided, as part of its re-, cruiting scheme, as announced by the Prime Minister in Sydney recently, to invite voluntary organizations of insurance schemes to supplement what is provided by the Pensions Act.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Commandant, Australian Imperial Force, Head-quarters, London : -
The Australian Administrative Headquarters, London, state that, while it is not the policy of the Administration to encourage the marriage of Australian soldiers outside Australia, every possible assistance has always been, and will always be, given to persons interested who desire to ascertain the bona fides of Australian soldiers who contemplate marriage in the United Kingdom. The address of the Australian Administrative’ Head-‘ quarters is - 130 Horseferry-road, Westminster, London, S.W. 1.”
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount has been credited to members of stock exchanges as commission or brokerage in connexion with Australian war loans to date?
– The answer is - £85,047. This amount represents commission, at the rate of 5s. per cent., on subscriptions totalling £34,018,800. Commission to brokers is paid only on applications lodged through brokers. The total amount of subscriptions to the war loans is £144,941,310. The amount quoted for commission - £85,047 - is closely approximate, but will be slightly altered when the results of the sixth loan have been finally analyzed.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Remission of Fines
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Senator -MILLEN.- The answer is - 1, 2, and 3. The Government have given con: sideration to the undertakings given at the recent Conference convened by the GovernorGeneral, and a statement of the action taken is being made by the Acting Prime Minister in another place.
Personnel of State Boards
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I will be glad if the honorable senator will be good enough to ask for the information in the form of a return.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Whitton, P., 15th September, 1917, £750, allowance £150.
Kay, J., 5th February, 1918, £400.
*Ovington, R., 8thDecember, 1916, £500.
Newman, D. H., 11th June, 1917, 15s. per day.
Lennon, J., 5th September, 1917, 15s. per day.
Hallo, N., 24th September, 1917, 15s. per day.
Dobson, L., 24th July, 1916, 14s. per day.
Witham, Mrs., 3rd December, 1917, 10s. per day.
Ridgway, M., 24th September, 1917, 10s. per day.
Nance, R. C, 18th April, 1918, £168 per annum.
Elliston, A. L., 12th November, 1917, 10s. per day.
Dobson, Miss V., 2nd May, 1917,6s. per day.
Gill, R. H., 30th May, 1917, 6s. per day.
Corcoran, D. L., 8th May, 1917, 5s. per day.
Reed, Miss G., 25th January, 1918, 10s. per day.
Dickson, F. C, 16th April, 1918, 10s. per day.
Forbes, V., 6th May, 1918, 15s. per week.
Morton, E. A., 1st December, 1916, £150 per annum.
Morton, E. L., 8th October, 1917, 8s. 6d. per day.
Powell, G. H. W., 10th October, 1917, £245 per annum.
New South Wales.
Ackerman, V. P., 21st July, 1916, £600 per annum.
Latter, G. H., 28th August, 1916, £260 per annum.
Abigail, C. J., 1st December, 1917, £275 per annum.
Lawler, A. J., 24th April, 1918, 15s. per day.
Becke, Mrs., 1st September, 1916, 8s. 6d. per day.
Glossop, R., 1st September, 1916,- 3s. 4d. per day.
Robinson, H., 24th November, 1917, £140 per annum, allowance.
Jardine, F. A. L., 4th February, 1918, £250 per annum.
McAIpine, - , 27th December, 1917, 15s. per day.
Norris, E. L., 7th January, 1918, 8s. 6d. per day.
Davidson, D. R., 21st July, 1916, £600 per annum.
Preece, W. E., 11th September, 1916, £250 per annum.
Kyd, N. B., 10th October, 1916, 13s. 4d. per day.
McKenzie, M., 1st August, 1916, 8s. 6d. per day.
Martin, G. F., 21st July, 1916, £500 per annum.
Parkes, O. E., 2nd August, 1916, £250 per annum.
Waterman, J. W., 18th September, 1916, 13s. 4d. per day.
Gillott, Miss J. A., 20th May, 1917, 8s. 6d. per day.
Rae, Geo., 21st July, 191C, £600 per annum.
Doheny, J. P., 7th August, 1916, 14s. 6d. per day.
Stewart, Miss, 2nd January, 1918, 8s. lid. per day.
Evans, R. J., 23rd October, 1916, £75 per annum; allowance.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
On inquiry, I find -that the Industrial Arbitration Amendment Act 1918, recently passed by the New South Wales Parliament, enables a trade union to provide for the’ application of its money and property to the furtherance of political objects, so long as the rules of the union provide -
that the payments shall be made out of a separate fund;
that contributions to such separate ‘ fund shall not be a condition of admission to or membership of the union ;
that a member who does not contribute to the separate fund shall not be excluded from the benefits of the union or penalized.
The Act does prohibit payments for political purposes out of the general funds, but such payments may be made out of the separate funds referred to in the Act.
I am not aware that this dissatisfaction has been created.
I recommend that those interested should make representation direct to the Government of the State of New South Wales.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the Bill be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering clauses 14 and 17.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 14 -
Section 19 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ or by the Repatriation Commission “ and inserting in their stead the words “or by the Minister”.
Section proposed to be amended -
Claims in respect of moneys advanced by the trustees of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund or by the Repatriation Commission or a State Repatriation Board or a local Committee, shall, in the event of the bankruptcy of the person to whom the money was advanced, have, in bankruptcy, the same priority with respect to the payment of debts as if the money had been advanced by the Crown.
– This section of the principal Act provides that the Crown shall have priority in respect to any debt due to it, whether the debtor becomes bankrupt or not. It has, however, been pointed out that men who become insolvent for very small amounts, rarely become bankrupt in the technical sense of the term. The Government, therefore, desire to amend the section so as to give the Crown priority as against any other creditor wherever a man may be in default, irrespective of whether or not he becomes officially bankrupt. Take the case of a returned soldier who obtains an advance from the Repatriation Department for the purpose of purchasing stock in a little business. Under this section, unless he became bankrupt, the Department would have no priority as against other creditors. Now, it is almost the invariable rule where amounts are owing to the Crown, that the Crown is a preferential creditor. I ask the Committee to put the Crown in that position, and in order to give effect to my desire, I move -
That all the words after “amended” he left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - ” (a) By omitting the word.3 ‘or by the Repatriation Commission’ and inserting in their stead the words’ or by the Minister ‘ ;
b ) By omitting the words ‘ in the event of the bankruptcy of the person to whom the moneywas advanced ‘; and
By omitting the words ‘in bankruptcy ‘.”
If section 19 be amended in the form I desire, the Crown will have a prior claim in respect of all debts due to it, whether the debtor becomes bankrupt or not.
– I gather from the Minister’s explanation that in the event of a returned soldier becoming insolvent, the Crown, under the amendment proposed, will have a prior claim over all other creditors. If that be so, it is legislation of a most objectionable kind. The very fact that our returned soldiers will be to some extent assisted by the Government will enable them to obtain from small traders and others credit which they otherwise would not get. Take the case of a returned soldier who goes farming, and who finally strikes the Insolvency Court. Is it fair to say that the whole of his assets shall go to the Government to the exclusion, perhaps, of every other creditor?I think that unsuspecting traders who advance supplies to reputable men should be placed on an equal footing with the Crown. These same traders may advance supplies to keep men going, and yet we are asked to give the Government a preferential claim over them. I am always willing to protect the interests of the, Government, but I am not prepared to go that far.
– If the Government insist upon the amendment, our returned soldiers will very properly be refused credit by ordinary traders. It is within my own knowledge that, on account of landlords having experienced a difficulty in getting their rents from persons who are deriving support from the Defence Department, they entertain a strong objection to letting houses to returned soldiers at all. If the Government are now going to tell all traders that if they supply our returned soldiers with goods upon credit, the Crown is going to have a prior claim upon the assets of those soldiers, they will be doing the men who have fought for Australia a very bad turn indeed. It would be much better for them to exercise a little more care over the amounts to be advanced to returned soldiers.
– This is the most extraordinary spectacle in the world. When the Bill was going through Committee, Senator Gardiner and Senator Grant assented to the proposition that the Crown should have a prior claim if the debtor paid a lawyer’s bill and became officially bankrupt. Now we all know that very few small debtors go through the Bankruptcy Court. Yet when it is proposed that the Crown shall have a prior claim, irrespective of whether or not a returned soldier becomes officially bankrupt, Senators Gardiner and Grant demur at it. I ask the Committee to consider what will be the general run of cases with which we shall have to deal. Senator Gardiner put the case of a number of traders who might be willing to sustain our returned soldiers for a time by giving them extended credit. No doubt there will be cases of that kind. But there will also be other cases in which traders will be willing to take advantage of them. A man may have obtained £100 worth of stock by way of advance from the Repatriation Department. Some one, seeing the business going back, or perhaps not even for that reason, may lend the man £10 or £15. What happens? When the man fails to meet his liabilities, who should have the prior claim, the Department, which put the £100 worth of stock in bona fide, or the man who made the advance on it, perhaps not with bond fide intentions ? I cannot understand that objection being taken at this stage. The principle obtains in all our land laws. Senator Gardiner will remember that when we were in the New South Wales Parliament together it was recognised in the land legislation of that State that the Crown must have the first claim. Apart from legislation here, the Crown has a claim. In order to make it perfectly cleaT, we propose to put it in the Bill. I ask honorable senators, as they have assented to the main principle on the second reading, to make the measure perfect by agreeing to these amendments.
.- .The fact that the thing has been done before does not weigh with me in the least; and the fact that Senator Millen has stirred me up only makes me the more keen. Let me put the position of the small trader who makes an advance. A returned soldier has been advanced £100 for the equipment of his farm. One of his plough horses dies just at the beginning of the season. He cannot wait for the Government to advance him money to get another, and therefore borrows from some one else £15 to buy another horse. The season is bad, and he goes insolvent, and that horse is sold, with ^ the others, twelve months hence. The whole of the £15 advanced to him to buy the horse is lost to the lender, and the Government rope it all in. That is not a fair deal. It is perfectly fair that the Government, in a case of bankruptcy, should stand on the same footing as other creditors. (
– Who will get in first every time? Under your system, the Government would never get in at alL
– When introducing legislation to benefit returned soldiers, I cannot see why we should load it up with anything likely to do them an injury. Senator Grant has put his finger on a very weak spot. No man ever started a business without finding that it required more capital than he at first anticipated, and that his returns would be slower than he anticipated. The Government in this matter will be lending money to thousands of men to start in various businesses. In many cases there will come a time when the man will want a further advance to carry on. If he gets it, and the business still goes to the wall, the tradesman who made the advance will be the creditor after the Government. In an estate that would pay 10s. in the £1, the Government would step in and get 20s. in the £1, and the other creditors would not get even 10s. The Government claim would swamp the lot. Naturally only the Government side is put in Parliament, and all the laws protect the Government. But in cases of this kind, which will be spread broadcast throughout Australia, we may be not only doing an injury to the soldier embarking on a business, by making it difficult for him to obtain credit, but will certainly be doing an injury to the people who legitimately lend him money. I do not desire to buttress the people who try to rob the
Government by trickery, and Senator Millen has been very fertile in suggestions in that regard, but there are thousands of cases of legitimate traders, such as storekeepers, who make advances against next season’s wheat or wool, either in money or goods. If this amendment is passed-, no storekeeper will be able to afford to do that. He has to get his supplies from the wholesale merchant, who will refuse to take the promissory note of the borrower, because he knows the Government claim comes first. The argument that we should do this because it has been done before would apply to every case where a reform is sought. No doubt if the Bill had gone through in its original form, I might not have noticed section 19; but when Senator Millen points out the effect of it, I am justified in pointing out to the Committee what they are doing, and in asking the Minister to reconsider the matter.
– Before the land settlement question was dealt with in Australia by State Governments, advances to settlers were made by private bankers or big storekeepers, and in many instances when the settler failed the farm fell into the hands of these people. In recent years, particularly in Western Australia, the State Government have come forward as the money lender, and the result has been that in cases of failure the State has at least had the farm as security. The Government have always seen to it that they had the first claim ; but in this case the Commonwealth Government will be in a different position, because the Commonwealth does not own the land, and will have no claim on the farm for the money it advances to the soldier as repatriation help. That is all the more reason why we should safeguard ourselves and the returned soldiers. We should be handling the public moneys very rashly if we allowed soldiers to whom we advance money to incur further debts from second or third parties, and then allowed those claims to rank on an equal footing with our own. We can expect just as many failures in our efforts to settle men on the land as the State Governments have had in the past, and can look forward to much of the money we advance being squandered, or, at any rate, not spent to the best advantage. Very few men are cut out for a career on the land, and many find this out after a year or two, when all their capital has been spent, foolishly or otherwise. Something like -600 farms on’ which money has been advanced have been thrown back on the hands of the Government of Western Australia. We may expect a repetition of that, and will be only safeguarding the public purse if we take the precaution to see that the Commonwealth is not unfairly dealt with.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 17 -
Section 22 of the principal Act is amended -
Section proposed to be amended -
The Governor-General may make regulations . . . and in particular. . . .
– I move -
That the word “ and “ first occurring be left out, and the following words inserted in lieu thereof: - “for providing the form and effect of securities given for advances made under this Act, and “.
There is hardly any possibility of divided opinion on this proposal. Provision is contained in the previous Act for the Board making the advance to take security. The form of security varies in the different States, and this amendment is to enable us to have a uniform one throughout Australia. This will be an advantage to the Department and the soldier borrower.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments.
Sessional and Standing Orders suspended, report adopted, and Bill read a third time.
Catholic Dignitaries at Launceston
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– A week or two ago I called attention to an incident that occurred on the wharf at Launceston, where it was alleged that great indignity had been put on certain church dignitaries. The Minister (Sena- tor Pearce) promised an inquiry, which was made, and the Minister last week gave the Senate the report. In justification of my attitude and of my request for an investigation, to-day I received from the Defence Department a letter enclosing official correspondence on the matter, and, as it was not marked confidential, I feel I have a perfect right to place the letters on record in Hansard. The following was received by me from the Secretary to the Defence Department -
I am directed to forward herewith for your information copy of correspondence in connexion with the refusal of the guard to allow His Grace the Archbishop of Hobart and Monsignor Beechinor on the wharf at Launceston on the occasion of the departure of the Apostolic Delegate.
The letter referred to reads -
Concerning previous correspondence with reference to offence given to Roman Catholic Clergy at Launceston.
In continuation of my last minute, I beg to report that I to-day visited Launceston, and was glad to find that Lieutenant J. H. Will, No. 6 District Guard, had voluntarily yesterday written and posted a letter to His Grace the Archbishop of Hobart expressing regret that the Archbishop and Monsignor Beechinor had been prevented entering on the wharf at Launceston on the occasion of the departure of the Apostolic Delegate.
I attach a copy of the letter sent.
I hope that the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Tasmania will accept this explanation and expression of regret.
I have expressed to the Vicar-General my deep regret that the incident was not prevented.
Being absent from District Head-Quarters, I am unable to register this, but a copy will be registered. (Sgd.) W. J. Clark, Colonel.
In justice to the officer concerned, I should read his letter, which is as follows -
His Grace the Archbishop of Hobart.
Will you please, on behalf of Monsignor Beechinor and yourself, accept my deep regret that you were refused admission to the wharf at Launceston on the occasion of the departure’ of His Excellency the Papal Delegate.
The incident necessitated a military inquiry, and, pending the inquiry, I have been unable to offer you personal explanation, but am now able to do so.
The standing orders to the sentries are to admit no one but persons connected with the ship or passengers by her, or persons provided with a proper pass. In this case, the Rev. Father McNally arrived with a pass, and on presentation of the pass to the sentry, which was for admission of Apostolic Delegate and party, was at once admitted. I was not present, and did not see the pass. Later on, when you and Monsignor Beechinor arrived with His Excellency, the sentry, who had treated Father McNally’s party as the party to be admitted on the pass, in strict conformity with his orders, passed His Excellency, as he had a passenger’s ticket, but refused to pass you and Monsignor Beechinor. I was not personally present when admission was refused you, and when I became aware of what had happened I was informed by Father McNally that it was too late to admit you, as you had driven away.
I wish to point out that had Father McNally, on his arrival, informed the sentry or myself that “ the party “ specified on the pass had not all arrived,your Grace would not have been refused admission.
I trust your Grace will accept my sincere regrets and my assurance that no insult or indignity, either to the Catholic Church or your Grace, was either thought of or intended.
I have the honour to be, yours respectfully, (Sgd.) J. H. Will, Lieut.
I make no further comment upon the matter, except to say that the correspondence fully justified the attitude that I took up that either a personal and intended affront had been offered to these dignitaries, or that an inexcusable blunder had been committed.
– I cannot allow the last sentence to pass unnoticed. Did I understand the honorable senator to say that the correspondence justified him in saying that an intended insult was offered to the dignitary referred to ?
– Or an inexcusable blunder.
– I do not think that is the construction to place upon that letter, which expresses regret at what occurred. Any one who reads the letter will say that the officer, in the circumstances he sets out, fully explains that he was not in a position to prevent what had occurred, because he was not present at the gate. I do not think that Senator O’Keefe is just to the officer, who has offered his explanation and expressed his regret to the dignitary concerned.
– I do not say it was a blunder on his part. It was on the part of the Department.
.- Though reluctant to take up the time of the Senate, I cannot permit the sitting to close without referring to what took place, earlier in the afternoon. I made the statement to the Senate as to the wheat freight and the price of wheat in good faith, as the documents I produced will show, and I strongly resent the action of Senator Millen in challenging me either to prove my statements or apologize. I say the letter I quoted was published in a -reputable newspaper.
– What newspaper ?
– It was signed by a member of the British House of Commons, who said he was able to get certain information from a question which had been asked in the House of Commons, and that the particulars were in accord with the Blue-Book rates. The statement made by Mr. Rees, M.L.C., at the Farmers’ Conference fully justified me, because Mr. Rees’ statements have not been contradicted. This is the particular point I made, and I resent the action of Senator Millen in trying to place me in the position of a man who deliberately makes misstatements.
– Before the Senate adjourns, I should like to have a statement from the Minister for Defence-
– The Minister for Defence has already contributed to the. debate on the motion for the adjournment. The honorable senator will be perfectly in order himself in speaking to the motion, but Senator Pearce would not be in order in replying to the honorable senator.
– Then, sir, I shall address my remarks to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Millen). I would point out that, in yesterday’s Age, there appeared certain statements in connexion with the treatment of patients at Mont Park Hospital, and I noticed, in this morning’s Age, that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) intimated that ‘an inquiry would be made into the allegations. In view of the serious nature of the statements, .not a moment should be lost in ascertaining if they have any foundation or not; and I want to ascertain, if possible, when the promised inquiry will be held.
– I read the letter referred to by Senator Needham; and I remember, also, that quite recently a Royal Commission which inquired into the administration of the Defence Department made flattering remarks about the manner in which the military hospitals are being conducted. In view of this fact, I cannot help asking if it is wise to order an inquiry into the conduct of the Mont Park Hospital upon an idle report in the press.
– Is the honorable senator sure it is an idle report?
– I believe we may place greater reliance in the report by the Royal Commission to which I have referred. I do not think the Government would be justified in spending money on another inquiry unless there were much better grounds than are to be found in a mere idle newspaper report.
– I should like to make a reference to the matter which has been revived by Senator Gardiner; and I want to draw his attention to the vast difference, there is between questioning the accuracy of a fact, or alleged fact, and impugning the veracity, of the person advancing the statement. I think Senator Gardiner will admit there is a great difference.
– That is the part I resent. You said I was repeating untruths.
– I did not impugn the honorable senator’s veracity, but I questioned his facts.
– You did something else. You said I stood convicted of spreading untruths; and that I ought to apologize to the community.
– If any one inadvertently and innocently - or, may I say, in this particular case, who, without due care and -inquiry - gives publicity to that which is not true, although he himself may believe it to be true, he is doing a public wrong. It is his duty to inquire and see whether the facts are as represented. In this case, I said that Senator Gardiner had been guilty of recklessly publishing abroad as facts things which have been advanced by other people, and that he should have verified them himself. I challenged him to produce his proof ; and I can only say that facts presented on such proofs as he produced today would not last for five seconds in any Court in the universe. He said the statement was published in a Sydney paper, and when I asked him to name the paper, he very carefully refrained from doing so. The statement purported to be an extract from the British Australasian.
– I gave the whole of the letter.
– The honorable senator would not state what paper he was. quoting from.
– He said that the letter appeared in the British Australasian.
– I challenged the honorable senator to name the paper it was published in out here, because there is certain significance attached to it.
– The Minister said that the extracts were not right.
– The honorable senator will not dispute that it was not a newspaper clipping.
– The statement was published in the British Australasian of 9th August last.
– Yes; and the honorable senator was quoting from a paper which produced it here.
– Order! This matter having been the subject of a former debate, and been disposed of, it should not be now revived. However, as I allowed Senator Gardiner to make reference to it, the Minister should have an opportunity of replying.
– I shall endeavour to be very brief. The whole question is one of facts. Senator Gardiner advanced what he called facts earlier in the afternoon, and he was followed by myself. I challenged his statements, and invited him to demonstrate their truth. He said he would do so, and he comes down and submits as proof of his facts a statement appearing in a newspaper.
– Mr. Outhwaite’s letter to the British Australasian.
– That was a statement appearing in a newspaper. The honorable senator, on the authority of Mr. Outhwaite in that statement, affirms that the freight on wheat from Australia to England is10d. per bushel.
– According to the Blue-Book rates.
– Whether the letter quoted is signed by Mr. Outhwaite or any one else, I say that there is no man who believes that the freight on wheat from Australia to England is only 10d. per bushel. A man may believe it, but he will not get me to believe it. In view of the knowledge which every one of us possesses, that the freight on wheat is not, and has not been for a considerable time, anywhere within cooee of10d. per bushel, it cannot be pretended that Senator Gardiner has met my challenge to prove his facts by merely quoting a letter from Mr. Outhwaite in which he says that it is10d. per bushel.
– I gave the honorable senator the Blue-Book rates.
– Against that, we have the statements of officials to Parliament as to the freight per ton.
– And the British Government get 80 per cent. of the increase.
– These reckless statements continue.
– Senator Fairbairn made the statement.
– Senator Fairbairn made no statement of the kind. Honorable senators go through the country talking about a freight of10d. per bushel, and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so, although they know quite well that there is no chance of getting wheat carried at such a rate.
With regard to the other statement appearing in the Age, on the authority of some unknown or unnamed person, I remind honorable senators that there is a committee of the Bed Cross Society free to visit the hospital which has been referred to, and I venture to say they do visit it. That committee is in no sense under the control of the Defence Department. There is also a hospital advisory committee equally free to visit the hospital, and under no official control. Both these bodies visit the place, and it is a fair assumption that if any negligence exists of the kind referred to in’ the paragraph quoted, one or other of those committees would have sensed it, and would have reported the matter to the Minister for Defence. No such report has been received. I think it is highly improbable that there is the slightest foundation of truth in any of those statements, but the Minister has already notified that an. inquiry is to be made into the allegations.
– That inquiry is now proceeding, and I have no doubt that in due course Senator Needham will be supplied with the information that will be obtained, but at the same time I say that I have not the slightest anticipation that it will be in any way satisfactory to him.
– That is like the honorable senator’s usual complimentary style. I did not require the information for myself, but for the people of Australia.
– I despair of ever satisfying the honorable senator.
-That is the honorable senator’s usual style, which is always insulting.
– When honorable senators talk in that way, they really cannot understand the meaning of the words they use. How can it be asserted that I am insulting an honorable senator on the other side when I say, because of his general attitude, that I have long since despaired of satisfying him?
– The honorable senator is keeping up his reputation for being satirical.
– Then I shall say no more. I do not propose to attempt to satisfy the honorable senator. Honorable senators generally know quite well that I had not the slightest intention of insulting him when I said what I now repeat, that I long since gave up the hope of ever satisfying Senator Needham.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 May 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19180515_SENATE_7_84/>.