8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I -have to inform the Senate that on Tuesday the District Registrar of the High Court at Hobart forwarded to the Clerk of the Senate a copy of the petition filed by Senator Mulcahy against the declaration of the poll in connexion with the Senate election. The copy of the petition will be laid on the table of the Senate.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
How many members of the Australian Imperial Force up to 26th February, 1920, have made application for land for settlement purposes; how many were rejected; how many granted; how many abandoned; how many now in possession; how many under consideration; and the amount paid or promised to be paid by the soldier for the land, apart from the improvements thereon?
– The several State Governments by which the settlement of soldiers is carried on in accordance with an agreement with the Commonwealth Government are being asked to supply the particulars desired.
Scrutiny of Invalid Votes, Tasmania - Instructions to Returning Officers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Will he authorize the Returning Officer for Tasmania to cause to be assembled at Hobart, without delay, the invalid votes polled at the Senate election on13th Decemberlast, to be scrutinized by any Senate candidate who so desires, in the presence of an officer of the Department?
– The law requires that at the conclusion of the scrutiny all ballot-papers used in a Senate election shall be sealed up by each Divisional Returning Officer concerned, and held by him in safe custody pending their ultimate destruction by direction of the Chief Electoral Officer acting under the authority of the law.. The parcels containing the ballot-papers cannot lawfully be opened except for the purpose of an official recount made prior to the declaration of the poll pursuant tosection 137 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, or by an Order of the Court of Disputed Returns in connexion with proceedings before the Court.
– Following on the reply to my question, I ask the Minister if the necessary steps to appeal to the Court of Disputed Returns will be taken to have the request contained in my question granted?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of that question.
– Surely the Minister does not require notice for that question ?
– It is too late to give notice now. Questions arising out of answers to questions on notice are really questions without notice, and the time for asking such questions has now passed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Will he lay upon the table of the Senate a copy of the instructions issued by the Chief Electoral Officer to Returning Officers throughout Australia as to the methods to be followed in counting and transferring votes for the election of senators on 13th December, 1919?
– In compliance with the honorable senator’s request, I now lay on the table a copy of memoranda, issued by the Chief Electoral Officer for the information and guidance of Divisional Returning Officers in connexion with the scrutiny of Senate ballot-papers.
Admiral Jellicoe’s Report on Naval Bases.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that Admiral Jellicoe presented a report on Naval Bases in Australia to the Government! 2.Will the Government make this report available to senators?
– The answers are -
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act. - Orders of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and other documents. in connexion with awards or variations of awards in the following cases: -
Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers Association - dated 20th February, 1920.
Commonwealth Engine-drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australia- dated 30th January, 1920.
Line Inspectors Association - Commonwealth of Australia - dated 30th January, 1920.
Electoral - Memorandum relating to the duties and functions of Divisional Returning Officers in the conduct of the scrutiny of Senate ballot-papers.
War Service Homes Act. -Land acquired for War Service Homes purposes at-
Cootamundra, New South Wales.
Goulburn, New South Wales (two noti fications).
Mayfield, Newcastle, New South Wales.
Wagga Wagga, New South Wales (two notifications).
Motion (by Senator O’Keefe) agreed to-
That two months’ leave of absence be granted to Senator Guy, on the ground of ill-health.
The following sessional orders were agreed to (on motion by Senator Millen) : -
That the days of meeting of the Senate dur ing the present session, unless otherwise ordered, be Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of each week; and that the hour of meeting, unless otherwise ordered, he 3 o’clock in the afternoon of Wednesday and Thursday, and 11 o’clock in the forenoon of Friday.
That during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the sittings of the Senate. or of a Committee of the whole Senate, on Bitting days other than Fridays, besuspended from6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 2.30 p.m.
Adjournment on Fridays.
That during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, at 4 o’clock p.m. on Fridays the President shall put the question, That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not be open to debate ; if the Senate be in Committee at that hour, the Chairman shall in like manner put the question, That he do leave the chair and report to the Senate; and upon such report being made the President shall forthwith put the question, , That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not be open to debate.
Provided that if the Senate, or the Committee, be in division at the time named, the President or the Chairman shall not put the question referred to until the result of such division has been declared; and if the business under discussion shall not have been disposed of at such adjournment, it shall appear on the business-paper for the next sitting day.
That on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business on the noticepaper, except questions and formal motions, and except that private business take precedence of Government business on Thursday after8 p.m.; and that, unless otherwise ordered, private Orders of the Day take precedence of private notices of motion on alternate Thursdays.
The following Sessional Committees were appointed (on motion by Senator Millen) : -
The President, the Chairman of Committees, Senators Barnes, de Largie, Foll, Guthrie, McDougall, O’Keefe, and Earle, with power to act during the recess, and to confer with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
The President, Senators Bakhap, Buzacott, Guy, O’Loghlin, Needham, and Rowell, with power to act during the recess, and to confer or sit as a joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
Keating, Lynch, Maughan, and Pratton, with power to act during the recess, and to confer or sit as a joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
Senators Barker, Grant, Guy,Newland, Plain,Reid, and Senior, with power to confer or sit as a joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
Debate resumed from 26th February (vide page 26), on motion by Senator Lynch -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to: -
To His Excellency the Governor-General. May it Please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– In view of the crowded galleries, I think I should offer some apology for the unavoidable absence of
Senator Grant, who secured the adjournment of the debate. I desire, briefly, to address myself to the proposals put before us by the Government in His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech, whichwe are now discussing. I cannot refrain from thanking Senator Lynch, the mover of the motion, for the kind manner in which he referred to me, and I trust that temper will be preserved. During the recent campaign, one of the things that worriedme most was the fact that a railway strike prevented me from visiting Western Australia to enjoy the dip in the Swan River which the honorable senator promised me on one occasion. Senator Lynch now appears to be in a different frame of mind, and I am quite prepared to meet him half way.
– I would not be too certain about that.
– From the remarks of Senator Lynch, his opinion of me has somewhat altered, and I cordially reciprocate the kind things he has said.
Coming back to the Governor-General’s Speech, I think it can be said that there is not much in it. Those important items of policy that should have been included have been omitted. So far as I can see, there is not one word in the Speech to show that it is the intention of the Government to give the primary producers of this country a fair price for their produce. There is not one word in the Vice-Regal utterance about granting a rebate of at least1s. per bushel to the farmers of this country out of the freights - the exorbitant, extortionate, and profiteering freights - charged by the Government for the carriage of wheat upon Commonwealth vessels. These are the things which affect the producers, and which Parliament should be called upon to consider. Wheat, which used to be carried in pre-war days at from 6½d. to10d.per bushel, has recently been carried by Commonwealthvessels at more than 4s. per bushel. During the past four years the farmers of Australia have experienced a most distressing period of drought - one of the worst droughts within my recollection - and yet the Government, who have exacted from them eight times as much as it used to cost for the carriage of their produce, have not offered them a rebate out of’ the money thus derived.
– The Commonwealth vessels carried wheat for about 30 per cent, less than was charged by private shipping companies.
– That is not so. It is characteristic of the one-time Premier of Tasmania (Senator Earle) that he does not hesitate to make statements which lack even the slightest foundation. No man can speak in this chamber without having a knowledge of what this Government have charged for the carriage of wheat. In reply to questions put to him by me, the Minister in charge of this particular business (Senator Russell) admitted that the Government were carrying wheat at 150s. per ton as against the charge of 32s. 6d. per ton in pre-war days. As a matter of fact, it was the action of the Government in breaking away from the bluebook rate, settled by Great Britain, which gave private shipping companies the opportunity of carrying wheat at higher prices. The British Government in their blue-book had fixed the charge for carrying wheat at ls. 10 1/2d. per bushel, and it was only when our own profiteering GBvernment, from a desire to pose as a Government which had made a splendid bargain in purchasing the Commonwealth line of steamers, increased the freight to 4s., and thus paid for those ships in two years, that the private wheat carriers were enabled also to fleece the Australian farmer.
I come now to the question of wool. The Australian wool-grower, small and large, is under an arrangement with the Government to accept ls. 34d. per pound for his wool. Yet we know that Australian wool has been sold openly in the British market for from 6s. per pound upwards. The Minister who controls this business in Great Britain has himself pointed out that the sale of our wool at a fiat rate is not fair to the Australian farmer, who is entitled to participate in any increased price obtained for his wool, and to share that increase with the British Government. Why should the Australian farmer share the value of his produce with the British Government ?
– The Australian wool-growers are very well satisfied with their bargain.
– I know that, otherwise they would not have caused this side of the Senate chamber to be come so vacant and the other side to become so full. But they are satisfied because they have never had the facts put before them, and because honorable senators opposite are part and parcel of the machinery which is intended to prevent them from learning the facts.
– The honorable senator is not supplying the deficiency.
– I am going to do so, and if the Minister for Repatriation will deny, that Australian wool has realized from 6s. per pound upwards in the open British market, I invite him to bring forward his facts. . If he fails to accept my challenge, it is obvious that he has no facts,- or that he wishes to keep people in ignorance of them. I repeat that two years ago Australian wool was sold by the British Government, upon which enormous profits were made. For two years those profits have failed to reach the wool-grower in this country.
– That is why the pastoralists are so poor.
– As far as the pastoralists are concerned, I venture to say that any man who has watched what they have gone through during the past two years will recognise that they are entitled to all they have earned, and that they ought not to be called upon to share it with the British Government or with any other Government. It would be a good, safe, sound business proposition for the Government to estimate the amount to which our producers are entitled by reason of the sale of their produce abroad, and to pay it to them in full.
– Does the honorable senator desire the price of bread to go up to ls. per loaf ?
– Why, the 4-lb. loaf in London is not costing a shilling at the present time.
– Because of the State subsidy.
– And the 4-lb. loaf here costs more than ls.
– Bread in England is nearly twice the price that it is here.
– I say that today bread is selling in London cheaper than it is in Sydney.
– That statement is absolutely incorrect.
– Why is it cheaper in London ?
– Because of the mismanagement of the Wheat Pool by the Government.
– When I left England bread was just double the price that it is in Australia.
– I made the statement deliberately, that bread to-day is cheaper in London than it is in Sydney, and if Senator Pearce disputes it, I am willing to resign my position if my statement be wrong, conditionally that he will resign his seat should his statement prove inaccurate.
– What is the price of bread in Sydney?
– It is a little more than 6d. per 2-lb. loaf.
– The honorable senator forgets that the price in Britain is kept down by. the Government subsidy.
– One honorable senator is endeavouring to explain why the price of bread is kept down in Britain, whilst another wishes to account for why it has gone up. At any rate, I know that if sufficient wheat had been kept in Australia for our own requirements instead of the friends of the Government ‘ being allowed to make money out of the business, there would have been no dear bread here to-day. What is the position in regard to Australian wheat and wool ? “Wool is being sold in the British market at more than 6s. per lb., and this sort of thing has been going on for the past eight months.
– Some wool has been sold at that figure.
– Most of rtin fact, nearly all the wool of good quality. Yet the Australian farmer gets only ls. 3 1/2d. per lb.
– Plus half the amount of the increase on the re-sale.
– I will deal with that aspect of the matter presently, because I wish -to be perfectly fair. Itis nearly two years since some of this wool was sold, but our wool-growers have not yet received their share of the increased cost.
– Some of our miners have been waiting for two years for a settlement in regard to the sale of their ores.
– That is a disgraceful thing, and I am glad to hear the honorable senator voice his view of it.
– The fact that they have been waiting two years for a settlement has nothing to do with the Government. ‘
– Of course not. If the honorable senator’s remark is likely to hurt the Government, naturally he is sorry that he made it. It is a disgrace to Ministers that the miners of this country should be kept waiting two year. for payment for their produce. If the Government are aware that that produce has been sold at extraordinary prices, surely now is the time for them to grant our producers assistance which is urgently needed. What is the cause of this delay? Why are one and a half million bales of wool held in Sydney to-day by the British Government? Why is this wool not sold ? Is it because the Government desire that the farmers, in common with the rest of the community, shall be afforded an opportunity of paying the British manufacturers high prices for their tweeds ? The Government took very good care to allow our Australian woollen mills to be supplied with wool at ls. 3d. per lb., but they have utterly failed to prevent the price of a suit of clothes being inflated to double its prewar value. Further, in the warehouses of Australia to-day, there are millions of bales of wool. The world’s woollen manufacturers are waiting for it, but in order to enable combines to obtain inflated prices for it the Government allow it to remain here.
– Why does not the honorable senator provide us with ships?
– Let Australia become what she is entitled to become, namely, the world’s wool market, and the requisite ships will soon be provided.
– The Wool Committee is urging that the Imperial authorities should not throw the wool too precipitately on the market at present.
– I have not the slightest doubt that they are urging it.
– Who are the Wool Committee ?
– They will be men like Mr. Falkiner, a director of the Bank of New South Wales, who was a member of the other House, and represents one of the biggest financial interests in Australia - in fact, I do not know where the interests of those men begin or end.
– He is also a woolgrower.
– He is, but the small wool-grower with his small flock has been at his wits’ end for two years for his money. The sovereign of twelve months ago, or of to-day, will be worth 10 sovereigns in five years’ time, but he is being kept put of his money by this Government, or by the Committees appointed by this Government, and by their ineptitude for business-. Why is Australia, the country that produces th© world’s best wool, denied that market at the present time? Why is none of its wool sold in the open market in Australia? Why are buyers prevented from coming here ?
– Because you, or the Government of which you were a member, made an agreement to sell it all to the British Government.
– The Government of which I was a member made no such agreement.
– The scheme started in your time.
– Of course, as we started many good schemes, which, if we had remained in office, we would have administered properly. I am complaining, not of the schemes, but of their administration. Does the honorable senator think we would not have had enough sense to keep sufficient wheat here, for instance, to feed our own people?
– You said just now fiat there was any amount of wool here.
– The world’s wool. is being sold in the British market, and Australia, the country that produces the best wool, has no wool market. The war being over, and all the countries scrambling lor advantages, Australia is shut out by this Government.
– Australia developed wool markets only very recently.
– The Australian wool markets have for very many years been of considerable importance to the people who desire wool.
– Only within very recent years. London used always to be the wool market until lately.
– We have only to take the record for the last twentyfive years of the wool sold in Australia to realize what an important thing it has been to Australia to have this great staple product sold in Australian markets. What is happening with regard to this Government?
– They have got back to power.
– They have, and they will remain in power. Some honorable senators believe that by merely getting enough votes to enable them to remain in power, the Government are doing the right thing. All I have to say is that, so far as this transaction will rob Australia of its natural opportunity to have its own wool market, that of itself should condemn this Government in the eye3 of all sensible people.
– Would the honorable senator sell the wool to Germany straightway ?
– That is the sort of thing on which honorable senators opposite won their election. Let me tell the honorable senator what this Government has done. It has sold the wool to the British Government, and the British Government has re-sold it through open sales in Antwerp.
– Who made the sale to the British Government?
– The honorable senator’s Government.
– The Government of which you were a member.
– I do not want to haggle about it, but I think the honorable senator will find that his Govern - ment must take the responsibility.
– If we sold more within the Empire we would be all the better.
– My complaint is not against selling to the British Government. It is that, the war being over, Australia is entitled tq its own markets and to all the advantages of its produce. The honorable senator asks if I would se’ll the wool to Germany. May I ask him in return if he would prevent any of it going to Germany ? Would he sell wool to any buyer with the condition that it must not go to Germany ? The honorable senator knows that he would do nothing of the kind. He cannot do it. Moreover,- the honorable senator shuts his eyes when Britain is selling to Germany. He is not aware of it. He dees not read that kind of thing. Great Britain can buy our wool from our farmers at ls. 34d. per lb., and sell it to Germany at 10s., and our farmer loses at least 5s. per lb. by the bargain, but Senator Earle, in his loyalty, would not sell direct to Germany. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech congratulates us on the fact that the war is over and peace has been restored. I would like to ask the Government whether the war is over, so far as they are concerned, or whether they are still waging war against the enemy? If the Government think it well to put into the mouth of the representative of His Majesty a statement that we are again at peace, it is as well to ask them if they have really established, or done their best to establish, the peaceful conditions that obtained prior to 1914 ? I do not think they have, nor do I think they intend to.While British interests take precedence over Australian interests, the Government do not care a snap where the Australian farmers’ wool is sold,or whether German or other looms are manufacturing it. All they care is that British buyers and British manufacturers should have the whole of the profits.
– All this flows from an agreement to which you were a party.
– Of course, we entered into an agreement, which we would have carried out properly in the interests of the producers. Unfortunately it fell into the hands of a Government that has carredit out in the interests of the Combines. We entered into an agreement for war time; the Government are spreading it into peace time. That makes all the difference in the world. The sooner the Government restore Australian markets for Australian produce the better. If they say, “We have no ships,” let them put that million and a half bales of wool on the market to-morrow and ships will come from all parts of the. world with advantage and profit to Australia. I will go further, and urge the Government to ask the British Government to cancel their contracts, in view of the magnitude of Australia’s undertakings and financial responsibilities. I would immediately put the case before the British Government in that light; there is nothing dishonourable about it. They have made millions upon millions of money Out of our wool over and above what they paid for it, and we here, a few people in a sparsely populated country, are struggling under a burden of debt and taxation, which I admit that we willingly brought upon ourselves. If the Government put Australia first, their duty would be to ask. the British Government at once to cancel the contract, and permit Australia to return to normal conditions immediately. If that were done, there would be no trouble about financing the soldiers’ gratuities, and there would be no difficulty in meeting all those big problems that we have in hand.
– How could you insure that that money, which belongs to the wool-growers, would be available for Government uses?
– If the woolgrower is getting £20 for every bale of wool under present conditions, and if from the same bale sold in open market he gets £120, and that applies to all the growers in this country, with their millions of bales, there will be an ample fund in this country that we can draw from. I do not suggest that we should rob the wool-grower, but if Australian wool producers occupied first place in this matter, millions of pounds would be packed into the banks of this country for developmental purposes. There would be an increase of wealth to the extent of £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 over and above what the wool-growers will obtain under the existing arrangements from the wool at present in the warehouses. This course is one which the Government could reasonably demand. They could point out to the British Government that, the war being over, and they haying made magnificent profits out of Australian wool during the war period, the contract might be cancelled.
– There would be a big slump in the price of wool then.
– The honorable senator is afraid of a slump in wool. I say there is room for a big slump in wool prices.
– The arrangement with the British Government will cease at an early date, anyhow.
– I realize that it will, but I am pointing out the loss that will be sustained by the Australian wool-growers before the present arrangement comes to an end, and I want them to get something of their own without waiting for next season’s clip.
– You know that before now men have incurred lossesthrough carrying out agreements, but nevertheless they are expected to carry them out.
– I know that Australia will carry out her agreement, irrespective of what she loses, but I say it would not be beneath the dignity of this Government to ask for the cancellation of the agreement with the Imperial Government. I think, also, that the Imperial Governmentmight well be expected to agree to this course. They know their own financial difficulties, and with their knowledge of our sparse population, they must know ours. I repeat that if the agreement were cancelled the sale of wool at present in our warehouses would realize an additional amount of from £50,000,000 to £100,000,000 to the wool-growers of Australia. We have to realize that already there has been a sacrifice of more than half the values, the British Government taking more than 50 per cent. of the profit on the re-sale of our wool. Even from the scant information we have, we know that those profits have been enormous; that they run into tens of millions of pounds. With the condition of things at present obtaining here, it is the duty of this Government, in the interests of our wool-growers, to point out tie facts and ask the Imperial Government for the cancellation of the contract.
– How could you manage that? The wool has been paid for.
– That may be quite true, but the strangest thing about the matter is that the Australian producer has not been paid for his wool.
– Yes, he has.
– He has been paid at a price fixed by some one who had nothing to do with growing it. I have here a short cable dealing with wool profiteering in Great Britain, which I shall read for the information of honorable senators: -
G OVERN MENT DENOUNCED.
In the House of Commons, Mr. H. T. Mackinder, of Bradford, denounced the profiteering in wool, and declared that the Government had made over £60,000,000 profit on its transaction. Last year the Government paid Australia and New Zealand £64,500,000 for wool, which at auction fetched 100 per cent. above the prices of the previous twelve months, yet the Government had paid no more since March.
The Government holds 1,450,000 bales, 1,000,000 of which were sold to the highest bidder.
Mr. Mackinder pointed out that one firm’s profits averaged £8,500 before ‘the war, yet the profit for last year reached £37,900.
That refers to profiteering by the British Government in Australian wool, and all I am now asking is that the contract entered into during war time for the benefit of Great Britain should now be cancelled in the interests of the Australian wool-growers.
– I really cannot account for the stupidity of such an interjection. By entering into the agreement, the Australian wool-growers’ interests were sacrificed for the benefit of Great Britain.
– But also for the benefit of Australia at a critical juncture.
– Had the Australian wool been sold in the open market, every pound of it could have been disposed of at an enormous advance in price, and ships would have come to Australia for it.
-How would buyers have got the clip away?
– The cloth manufacturers of the whole world were on the alert for raw material, and ships would have been available.
– At that time?
– Yes, at that time perhaps more than at any other. America had a fleet of ships available.
– But we cannot get ships to lift our apples even now.
– I find it difficult to argue with an honorable senator who makes a comparison between apples and wool, though I admit that both are grown to perfection in the State from which he comes. He speaks of the difficulty in getting ships for the few cases of apples that are grown in the Island State.
– The honorable senator’s sense of proportion is very much askew, I am afraid.
– I say again, that had we sold our wool in the open market during war time, the Australian wool-growers would have benefited enormously; but under the arrangement to which I now refer their interests were sacrificed to those of the Empire. In the open markets of the -world they would have received double the price they obtained for it, and, as wool was the most valuable commodity in the world at that time, ships would have been found to lift it. Wool was then the one thing needful for all the nations engaged in war, because the soldiers had to ‘be supplied with woollen goods in quantities never provided before. The Australian woolgrowers willingly consented to make the sacrifice, but now that the war is over, Great Britain, in my judgment, should not wait to be asked to cancel the agreement. Indeed, it would not have been overgenerous if Great Britain had represented to Australia that the position might be reconsidered. The duty of this Government is to place Australia first. Their endeavour should be to establish markets in Australia for the raw material, which is grown here to perfection.
At one time I used to feel annoyance when certain honorable senators opposite refered to me as disloyal. It was quite a long while before I knew what they meant. I now realize that nearly all of those who referred to me as disloyal are British born, and so it naturally follows that, to them, anybody who is not pro-British is disloyal. They have exploited the word “ disloyalty “ for their own uses. I notice that in this Address-in-Reply the Government quite properly promise a generous welcome to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, who will shortly be visiting Australia, and I- would like to know if they expect the “ disloyal “ section of the community to join them, or whether they wish to make loyalty the prerogative of only one party in Australia.
– Ask honorable senators on that side.
– As far as we are concerned - and I shall soon be able to speak for my own party - we have correctly interpreted the meaning of the word “loyalty-“ Some honorable senators opposite, in their conception of loyalty, put Britain first, and think that any one who puts Australia first must be branded as disloyal.
– The interests of the Empire must be considered.
– Well, in connexion with this matter we are brought face to face with the fact that every one who puts Australia first has been branded by gentlemen opposite as disloyal. In the whole of their electioneering propaganda they declared that they alone had the exclusive right to be classed as loyalists. They are welcome to that, but I ask them to postpone this campaign until the visit of the Prince of Wales is over. I think it would be wise to do so, because we have to realize that, so far as parties are concerned, the country is equally divided, and the party opposite will not be doing much for lie country if they make expressions of loyalty of the people the exclusive privilege of the Nationalist party, and that for purely political and parliamentary purposes. Honorable senators opposite had no big broad ideas of loyalty to the Empire during the election campaign; their only idea was to win their seats, and that they succeeded in doing. I am glad that the laugh with which my remarks have been received justifies my statement.
I propose to make a brief reply to another of the electioneering moves of the party opposite. During the last five years honorable senators on this side have been maliciously and falsely branded as pro-Germans by honorable senators opposite. We have been branded as Sinn Feiners, and I may say that if I were in Ireland I think I should be a Sinn Feiner. We have been branded as anarchists, as Socialists, and lastly as Bolsheviks. I have here a little pamphlet containing the report of the Bullitt Commission as placed before the United States of America Senate Committee. The pamphlet may be obtained at Andrade’s in Bourke-street. I find in it the following statement: -
Typographical errors and inconsistencies are due to a strict following of Government Printing Office typography.
We have been branded with all these names, and people have been led to believe that to call an Australian a Bolshevik is merely a polite way of calling him a murderer. The American Government appear to do these things better than the Australian Government. They sent a Commission to Russia to find out . exactly how things stood there. Those who read the report of that Commission will not waste time in doing so, and I venture to say that they will form quite a different opinion from that which they hold now as to what the Bolsheviks are in Russia, and what they have been doing.
– It is said now that ‘they are very decent people.
– I might, under the old Standing Orders, have wearied theSenate by quotations from this pamphlet, but I do not wish to do so under the new Standing Orders. I refer to the pamphlet in the hope that honorable senators will be induced to read it, and that persons outside will also read it, to get some idea of what is really taking place in Russia.
-What have Russian affairs to do with Australia?
– That is what I have always wondered when the honorable senator has been calling us Bolsheviks. Now that the elections are over, we ought not to answer honorable senators opposite, but should let their miserable falsehoods and insinuations pass unchallenged. What on earth have Russian affairs to do with Australia? By a system of suppression the press belongs to the party opposite, and is not entitled to speak for Australia.
– The honorable senator’s party has a pretty hot press of its own.
– We have; and our press bears on its face the fact that it is our own, and speaks for us. It does not pose in the guise of a public press, and pretend to express public views while it belongs to the party opposite.
– I want no better electoral ammunition than I can get at any time from the press supporting the honorable senator’s party.
– No doubt, any . kind of ammunition will suit Senator Bakhap. So far as terming us Bolsheviks is concerned, it is only in keeping with the practice which the party opposite have followed of making use of every new word and discreditable phrase to attach odium to the party on this side since ever it has been a party. I am now only answering the latest of these moves in terming us Bolsheviks. I understand that “bolshevik” means the majority, just as on the contrary “ monshevik “ means the minority. The majority in Russia have obtained the power to govern the country, and have put out of existence the most cruel and tyrannical Government that ever existed. .
– Does the honorable senator refer to the Kerensky Government?
– No; its formation was a part of the revolution.
– The Bolsheviks put out the Kerensky Government, and it was the Kerensky Government, and not the Bolsheviks, who deposed the Czar.
– Did they murder any one?
– A few people were killed in the revolution. I shall quote something dealing with that aspect of the matter. It is as well to remember that the deaths due to the revolution were according to the American Commission, less than 5,000, whilst one of the antirevolutionary generals, Mannerheim, massacred more than 12,000 in one district. There was death and bloodshed in Russia, but the chief part of it was due to the present Federal Government and their Allies, who sent Australian soldiers to Russia to try to put the Czar back on the throne. They tried to reinstate in Russia the awful condition of things that obtained there. I suppose, during the whole of our previous recollection.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– Does the Minister for Defence say that he never gave permission to Australian soldiers to go to Russia, and did not enter into an agreement with the British Government to take them there?
– We did not. We never sent Australian soldiers to Russia.
– I prefer to take the word of men who have come back from Russia.
– They were discharged in England, and went to Russia on their own responsibility.
– I am very glad that the Minister for Defence repudiates Great Britain in this transaction.
– He repudiates the honorable senator’s statement.
– There is no shutting our eyes to the fact that a number of Australians, by arrangement with Australian authorities in Great Britain, were permitted to go to Russia, and we know that the purpose was to replace the Czar upon the throne.
– The fact is absolutely not so. No Australian soldier was sent to Russia.
– The Minister for Defence has recently returned from the diplomatic centre, but he was always an artist at mis-stating facts. I am reminded that this is the first time I have been face to face with him since he went to Great Britain, and let me recall the fact that he is the man who stood on the floor of this chamber, and, in answer to question after question which I put to him, repudiated the statement that he was going to Great Britain.
– At that time the repudiation was true. The honorable senator was cowardly enough in my absence to try to bring that matter up when I had no opportunity to reply.
– f am bringing it up now so that the honorable senator will have an opportunity to reply.
– Who is being called’ to order, myself or the Minister for Defence?
-No. I have noticed various sounds coming from the galleries. This is contrary to all parliamentary practice and procedure, and cannot be permitted. If it occurs again, I shall clear the galleries.
– I shall speak in so mild a way that there will be no occasion to have the galleries cleared. The Minister for Defence was referring to the incident that took place before he went to Britain. He denied on the floor of this chamber that he was going to Great Britain.
– At that time.
– A few minutes before the Senate rose, he made a statement to honorable senators that he was going.
– The Government’s decision having been come to in the meantime.
– Of course, the taking of berths, and that sort of thing, was only in anticipation of the Government’s decision.
– At the time the honorable senator asked the question, he was given a correct reply,
– I am using the honorable senator’s denial on that occasion as evidence of the value of his denial now of the statement that Australian soldiers were not, by arrangement with the Australian Government and the Imperial Government in Great Britain, sent to participate in the campaign in Russia.
– Both denials were true.
– It is true that Australian’ soldiers went to Russia, and went in sam el , numbers though I am very glad that my countrymen did not go there as a body.
– On their own responsibility.
– They were paid by Great Britain, and sanction foithem to enlist for that campaign was given by Senator Pearce.
– That is not so. They did not need my sanction, or that of any one else.
– Does the honorable senator mean to tell me that our soldiers in Great Britain at the time dared to enlist for another expedition without his authority?
– Any Australian soldier was entitled to get his discharge in the United Kingdom at his own request. If he did so, he was then a free citizen, and might do what he liked.
– And the honorable senator facilitated the discharges of those men to a greater extent than he did the discharge of others who desired to return to pacific occupations in Australia.
Senator Fairbairn referred to the number of deaths that took place in Russia. It is quite true that a revolution cannot take place without some deaths.
– What about bloodless revolutions?
– That is what we are going to have in this country.
– There was no bloodshed in the Portuguese revolution.
– My honorable friend can speak for his own country.
– The honorable senator is speaking for Woolloomooloo.
– I am, and I am proud of it. I venture to say there are quite as decent citizens in Woolloomooloo as there are in Portugal. I am rather proud of Woolloomooloo, where I received a great number of votes. I am glad that I have been sen’t here to represent them, because they belong to just the class that needs representation here.
I wanted to refer to the number of persons slaughtered in Russia, and I remind honorable senators that I quote from a report of an American Commission, and not of persons favorable- to Bolshevism. They were not even Socialists. They were gentlemen selected because of their capacity to investigate conditions in Rus.sia. Here is one statement they make with, regard to the conclusions they arrive at: -
Uo Government save the Socialist Government can be set up in Russia to-day except by foreign bayonets, and any Government so set up will fall the moment such support is withdrawn. The Lenin wing of the Communist party is to-day as moderate as any Socialist Government which van control Russia.
– That is a very dubious statement.
– Why “were American troops sent to Eastern Siberia? Was it to encourage Bolshevists?
– They were sent to Siberia in accordance with Allied’ agreements. Possibly the honorable senator will find that the Americans had not then discovered that the purpose was to replace the Czar upon the throne, because they have since been engaged in pacific trading with Russia.
– Not one .per cent, cf civilized humanity is in favour of replacing the Czar upon the throne.
– Why were those troops sent to Russia if it were not for that purpose?
– Because of the Allied international opinion of Bolshevism.
– That is an absolutely false opinion. I am quoting from the report of the American Commission to show that, in their opinion, there are no grounds for such a view, and that the revolution in Russia was conducted without unnecessary brutalities or bloodshed, and to show, also, that we in Australia have been kept in ignorance of the facts by the maliciously false statements published by the press that supports the party opposite.
– Does the honorable senator set himself up as a defender of the Bolshevist system?
– I set myself up as a defender of the truth.
– Then the Bolshevist system is not identical with the truth.
– I am prepared to let the Russians work out their own destiny.
– The honorable senator is evading the question.
– I do not know that one is called upon to answer questions. But so far as the revolutionary Government in Russia is concerned, any one may champion its cause, since it has won out. It has conducted a revolution in its own country, and has made good. Dealing with social conditions in Russia, I quote the following from the pamphlet : -
The red terror is over. During the period of its power the extraordinary commission for the suppression of the counter-revolution, which was the instrument of the -terror-
Honorable senators will mark that it was the counter-revolution that was the instrument of terror - executed about 1,500 persons in Petrograd, 500 in Moscow, and 3,000 in the remainder of the country - 6,000 in all Russia. These figures agree with .those which were brought back from Russia by Major Wardwell, and inasmuch as I have checked them from Soviet,, anti-Soviet, and neutral sources, I believe them to be approximately correct. It is worthy of note in this connexion that in the white terror in southern Finland alone, according to official figures, General Mannerheim executed, without trial, 12,000 working men and women.
That is the statement of the American Commission and not of any one favorable to Bolshevism.
– Taking them by and large, there are a nice lot in Russia to-day.
– No doubt we are a nice lot, too. Let me give another quotation from these Commissioners -
Morals. - Prostitutes have disappeared from sight, the economic reasons for their career having ceased to exist. Family life has been absolutely unchanged by the revolution. I have never heard more genuinely mirthful laughter than when I told Lenin, Tchitcherin and Litvinov that much of the world believe that women had been’ “ nationalized.” This lie is so wildly fantastic that they will not even take the trouble to deny it. Respect for womanhood was never greater in Russia than to-day. Indeed, the day I reached Petrograd was a holiday in honour of wives and mothers.
Honorable senators are aware that th press of Australia fed us up with the view that in Russia they had adopted the principle of the nationalization of women. They know that the report of the American Commission has been available, but they have not commented upon it. What is the reason? Has it not been done to keep the Australian people in ignorance of the true position in Russia.?
– Has the honorable senator read all the criticisms of that report?
– Senator Bakhap will have an opportunity of putting his criticisms before the Senate.
– An easy task, but is it worth while?
– The honorable senator should think it worth while, because he could make out the best case, as he resembles the Czar in many ways.
– Do I?
– Time after time the honorable senator has expressed opinions in support of the eastern idea of government He would have favoured Australian soldiers being despatched for service overseas without any payment whatever.
– I would have done that if it were necessary to secure victory.
– In regard to education, the Commission reports: -
The achievements of the Department of Education under Lunacharsky have been very great. Not only have all the Russian classics been printed in editions of 3,000,000 and 5,000,000 copies, and sold at a low price to the people, but thousands of new schools for men, women, and children have been opened in all parts of .Russia. Furthermore, working men and soldiers clubs have been organized in many of the palaces of yesteryear, where the people are instructed by means of moving pictures and lectures. Iri the art galleries one meets classes of working men and women being instructed in the ‘ beauties of the pictures. The children’s schools have been entirely reorganized, and an attempt is being made to give every child a good dinner at school every day. Furthermore, very remarkable schools have been opened for defective and over-nervous children. Oh the theory that genius and insanity are closely allied, these children are taught from the first to compose music, paint pictures, sculpt, and write poetry, and it is asserted that some very valuable results have been achieved, not only in the way of production, but also in the way of restoring the nervous systems of the children.
This is what is being done in dreadful Russia. But every effort has been made by the capitalistic press to keep us from a true understanding of the position in that country. Honorable senators will find in the report of the Commission, that, after eighteen mouths of revolution, Russia nas -done more for the education of ‘ Russian children than was done under the old regime m fifty years.
– That is quite likely.
– Honorable senators will probably say, as Senator Foll said quite recently, “ What has this got to do with Australia?”-
– At all events, the Russian people were kept in ignorance.
– Yes ; and it was the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) who allowed the Australian soldiers to go to Russia to endeavour to re-establish the old form of tyrannical government. Honorable senators opposite have been using the imaginary and tyrannical horrors of Russia against us, and saying that the electors represented by senators on this side were in every way similar to the Bolshevik. They have drawn pictures of anarchy and bloodshed, as they were supposed to exist in that country, and I have merely quoted a few opinions from the report of the American Commissioners who were sent to inquire into the true position. Honorable senators who read the report of that Commission cannot but feel disgusted with the press of this country for its endeavour to keep the Australian people in ignorance. How much more disgusted should they be with a political party that won the elections witu the support of such, a press.
– The country is not’ guided by the opinions expressed, in Australian newspapers. Do you think the Australian people read only their own newspapers ?
– I do not. They would not be so intelligent if they did so.
– You are complaining that the people have been “ bulldozed “ by their own newspapers.
– As soon as I have organized my following after 30th June next, we shall establish a boycott against the Australian newspapers that profess to give a true expression of Australian public opinion.
– Numerous condemnatory articles have appeared in other newspapers.
– The press of the world has abused its power in a way that an Australian Democracy wholly denounces. As soon as we can organize the Australian working classes, we will have another revolution, but there will be no bloodshed. When newspapers deliberately print lies, and .refuse to print the truth, we will not purchase them. When Trusts and Combines are daily increasing the price of necessary foodstuffs the people of Australia will take a firm stand and absolutely refuse to purchase many articles that are now being sold at ridiculous prices. As soon as we are organized I suppose we shall have the Government coming along and preventing us from operating on our banking accounts. If it is necessary in order to get justice to discontinue drinking tea, I am prepared to do so, although it is one of the few luxuries I do enjoy. In an endeavour to prevent the profiteer from increasing prices, I am sure a large section of the community would be prepared to dispense with tea, tobacco, beer, and spirits, and institute a boycott of all luxuries to bring profiteers to their senses. The first thing I would boycott would be the lying newspapers. In our own State they have increased the price by 50 per cent., and when I reached Seymour and was offered a paper for a penny, I felt like purchasing two because they appeared so cheap. So far as conditions in Russia aire concerned, I believe that in the hearts and minds of almost every labour man there is wholehearted sympathy for those down-trodden Russians who have been fighting so long *to improve their conditions.
– So there is on our side.
– There is always a desire on the part of the honorable senator to support our views so long as they do not interfere with his own special preserves.
– You are in favour of protecting my preserves.
– Quite so, as the wool -growers are fully entitled to market value for their produce. But it is a- pity that the growers are not prepared to pay a better wage to the people who have to do the work. Russia has a population of 170,000,000 people, and the number of lives lost in the recent revolution is not large in comparison with the total. We have passed the stage that Russia is working up to, as the working classes in Australia possess the power that the Russian people have not yet secured. The profiteers are amassing huge fortunes while the cost of commodities is daily increasing, and the employer is swooping down and securing his share of every increased rate granted to the workers. The profiteers in this country are creating unrest in the minds of the men and women, and when the crisis comes they will not be relieved by merely saying that the prices shall come down. It is much harder for large families to live than it ever has been before; in fact, it is becoming most difficult for many to exist. When a bread-winner is out of work to-day it is different from what it was twenty years ago.
– And you want to increase the price of bread?
– Fiddle away! You can go on saying such things all day and’ refuse to face the facts, but when the time comes that you have created serious unrest and have practically starved the people, it will be too late. Honorable senators opposite are sitting behind a Government that tells men that if they refuse to work for a certain wage the funds of their organizations cannot be operated upon. It was a dastardly act on the part of the Government to interfere in the engineers’ dispute in the way they did. It mav be only a few months when we may be in the position of honorable senators opposite, and the precedent they have established may be very useful to their successors. The position is worse, and is becoming more serious every day.
The supporters of the Government won the election, and used a faked Electoral Act to do it.
– At the declaration of the poll in New South Wales I said the Act was a fraud and a scandal, and the Minister for the Navy (.Sir Joseph Cook) called me .to account, and stated that I would be sorry for having used such words, and for having cast a reflection upon the then Minister (Mr. Glynn), who was responsible for the administration of the Act. I have known Mr. Glynn in public life for many years, and he has now left us. I may say, how- ever, that I hold him in high esteem, and lock upon him as a high-minded and honorable gentleman. I am as sure as 1 am that I stand here that the Act was a fraud and a scandal. Take my two colleagues, Senator Grant and Senator McDougall. There were three vacancies, and, although an elector voted for Senator Grant as the first preference, the second and third preferences were not counted. Senator McDougall’s second votes were not counted, and the second and third votes to Senator Grant and myself were not counted, and will never -be counted, unless the request of Senator O’Keefe that all the voting papers be examined is complied with.
– The same thing occurred iri the other States.
– Exactly. I am merely referring to the election in New South Wales because I followed’ the position there very closely. The same system obtained in all the States. I will take, for the sake of argument, a farmer in New South Wales who wished to vote for the farmers’ candidate, Mr. Falkiner. Such an elector, doubtless, considered the matter very carefully, and went to the poll knowing that he had to vote for seven candidates. He received his paper, and gave his first preference to Mr. Falkiner, and then, like a sensible farmer, probably thought that, as Cox would be one of the hardest of the candidates to . beat, he would give him his No. S, and that, as Gardiner had a good chance, he would give him No. 9. He would then vote for the other candidates in such a way as to make the votes for the farmers’ representatives most effective. He would give Conroy, No. 2; Corcoran, No. 3; Judd, No. 4; Mrs. McMahon, No. 5; Grant, No. 6; McDougall, No. 7; Cox, No. 8; and Gardiner, No. 9. What happened to that paper? When Falkiner dropped out, all the others voted for also dropped out, and that ballot-paper with the No. 8 for Cox was counted, and helped to elect a senator. When Cox’s papers were returned, and the second and third count took place, the ballot-paper was counted to make up my majority, which enabled me to be elected as a senator. Why were electors compelled to vote for a candidate whether they wished to ot not? But that is really what happened under this .system of voting.
– That man’s vote was not lost.
– No, it was given to the candidate he wanted to put out. The No. 8 and 9 votes helped to elect Cox and Gardiner, and the system is a fraud on the electors of the country. The people were deprived of their franchise by an Act which is a fraud and a swindle. When the Bill was before the Senate, I drew attention to the unfairness of a candidate who was within one vote of the required number being compelled to forfeit his deposit of £25. The Minister in charge of the Bill (Senator Russell) was so impressed with the general opposition to the clause that he took time to consider it, and brought down a new clause, which was adopted by the Committee. However, the next day the new clause was struck out, and a fraud perpetrated upon the electors of the country. Mr. Garling, who polled within a few votes of the required number, was compelled to forfeit his deposit. We have heard of “ the rich uncle from Fiji “ being sent to gaol for six months without the option of a fine for adopting fraudulent practices, and a Government responsible for- such a fraud as this should be similarly dealt with. If the members of the Government had a spark of decency left in them they would appoint a Royal Com.mission or a Committee of this Senate, to count the votes recorded at the last general election, before the time arrives for calling the new Senate together in July. If that were done at once their election might be placed on a fair basis. Although I ‘have been elected for six years I am quite prepared to run the risk of being defeated at another election provided it is conducted’ in a fair and proper manner. It is the duty of the Government to inquire into the operation of the Act, and seeing that one honorable senator in Tasmania is going to the Court in connexion with the system adopted, it is the clear duty of .the Government to act promptly. It was a clever swindle on the part of the Government. I do not give them credit for possessing sufficient brains to manufacture such a fraud. It is one they blundered on accidentally. At one stage in the New South Wales count only 400 votes separated me from my two colleagues, and if Senator McDougall had remained in the count longer than Senator Grant I would not have been here to-day. If Senator McDougall had secured 500 more votes, or Senator Grant had secured 500 less, another senator would have been here in my place. An Act such as this is- a disgrace to the Parliament that passed it, and grossly unfair to many men who have been defeated as a result of its operation. Taking my own case, the electors voted Grant, Gardiner, McDougall”, and on the votes that I secured I was entitled to one of the three because the three seats were of equal value. When Senator McDougall dropped out of the count, if it had so happened that the names had “been McDougall, Grant, and Gardiner, instead of McDougall, Gardiner, and Grant, I would have dropped out, not because less votes had been recorded in my favour, but because I would have been excluded from the count. Such an Act is not creditable to this Parliament, and the result of its operation does not give a true expression of the opinion of the people. I have gone into it most carefully because I am personally interested. When the matter was under discussion in the closing hours of last session I drew the attention of the Senate to the dangers that existed, and every opinion I expressed on that occasion has proved to be true. Under the provisions of the Act those responsible for the counting of the votes were in a position to bring about almost any result they desired. When the first count was taken the candidates with the lowest number of first preferences dropped out. When the second count was taken nothing was done with the first preferences, which then dropped out. Under the system adopted it was possible for the persons responsible for the count to bring about different results.
– Only one system was adopted right through.
– The electoral officer in charge in Melbourne sent to Sydney a representative to instruct Queensland and New South Wales upon the question of how that count should be made. I am not imputing dishonesty in this connexion - I am merely pointing out that under the one interpretation of the Statute two different results can be achieved. I do not wish to say anything further upon this Act. I have condemned it in the strongest language possible-
– The use of strong language does not necessarily imply strong condemnation.
– Perhaps not. At all events, I have used language as strongly condemnatory of it as I possibly could. I have characterized it as a fraud and a swindle. If the Government continue to use it, they will be perpetuating a fraud and a swindle. I have shown that at the recent elections there was not a fair count of the preferences recorded by the electors. Take Mr. Falkiner’s case as an illustration. He was the New South Wales farmers’ candidate. Mr. Cox won his election by 343,000 votes. Had as many of Mr. Falkiner’s votes been counted, he would have secured 450,000 votes, because the Labour party placed him upon all their tickets. He was fourth on Senator McDougall’s list, sixth on Senator Grant’s list, and either fifth or seventh on my list. Now, Mr. Cox and myself were elected on 9th and 10th preferences. It is obvious, therefore, that if Mr. Falkiner’s preferences had been, counted up to his fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh, he would have been returned by an overwhelming majority.
– The honorable senator is assuming that all Labour supporters followed the advice that was given to them.
– I am arguing that as Mr. Falkiner obtained more than 100,000 primary votes, as he was fourth on nearly all the National candidates’ tickets, and fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh on all the Labour party’s tickets, he must have obtained nearly all the votes cast. Yet he was defeated, although eighth, ninth, and tenth preferences were actually counted in the majorities obtained by Mr. Cox and myself.
– Is the honorable senator endeavouring to show that ho ought not to have been elected?
– Yes. There is not much credit in being elected when one knows that candidates who have been defeated were swindled out of the votes recorded for them. In the 1910 elections I ran with Senator McDougall, and on that occasion “ McDougall topped the score “ by 1,600 votes. Then in 1914 I was placed ahead of him on the poll by 2,000 votes. That sort <of thing was likely to occur again. In other words, either of us might have been at the top of the poll. Had Senator McDougall been placed in the same position as that which, he occupied in 1914, Mr. Duncan would have been elected to this Chamber. 1 do not ask the Government to accept my word in regard to this matter, but I do urge them to appoint a Commission of experts to examine the ballot-papers that were used at the recent election. It is the duty of Parliament to look at those papers, with a view to ascertaining what swindling or blundering took place, so that in the future such things may be obviated. Personally, I would rather be beaten fairly than be elected simply because other candidates have been denied a fair opportunity of obtaining a seat in this Chamber.
– In one State a candidate is elected with 30,000 votes, whilst in another State a candidate who receives 33,000 votes is defeated.
– That is because one State with a small population returns three senators, whilst another State with a big population returns only an equal number of senators.
– I think that the present Act will approximately insure the election of one man by an absolute majority of the votes cast, but it quite fails to achieve that result when applied to a constituency in which there are three vacancies. The idea underlying the system in regard to the return of three candidates is that the three votes cast by an elector shall have an equal value. A3 a matter of fact, they do not possess any such value. That was clearly shown in the cases of Senators McDougall and Grant. I ask the Government to closely inquire into this matter. I have satisfied myself that the Act is not a fair one. I believe that any body oi’ mec who will investigate the ballot-papers used at the recent election and also the method which was adopted in counting the votes recorded, will come to the conclusion that no three candidates had an equal chance of filling the three vacancies for the representation of each State in this Chamber. If they do arrive at that conclusion, it will then be the imperative duty of the Government to take immediate steps to remedy the defects of the Act.
Of course, I do not know how energetically the Government intend to set to work to give effect to the policy which they have enunciated in the Vice-Regal
Speech. They have put before us a programme, and I suppose that, as usual, they will give effect to just as much of it as suits them, and that they will throw into the waste-paper basket whatever portion of it does not suit them. But I do hope that during the present session they will not proceed to revise, the Tariff, because we have the Parliament peculiarly constituted, with only half of it fresh from the .people. It will be July before the other half comes fresh from the people. i hope the Government will have the decency not to levy any fresh duties until the new Parliament is in its place to express an opinion on them. i do not think it is fair to place on the table a Tariff under which new duties will be collected when there -will come into the Senate in July quite a new lot of men, who may hold absolutely different views from those held by the newlyelected members of the House of Representatives. I know there will be opportunities of discussing the Tariff Bills in due season, but the Government’ ought to look where they are going, and consider well what they are doing. The cost of living is increasing. Why increase it more by making imported commodities dearer? The cost of living is a serious menace to the means of the people. Why make it more serious?
– Some people argue that Protection makes commodities cheaper.
– Yes ; they tell the people of the country, “You pay these duties to enable a private investor, who wants to use his money, to establish an industry, and when he has that industry sufficiently established to do without duties his goods will be. cheaper.” i believe them, but I do not think that peoples or nations will live long enough to see those industries sufficiently well established to live without Protective duties. When an industry is established by means of a duty, we find that in twelve months’ time it is not only not well enough established to live without the duty, but asks for more, and at the end of five years it demands still more Protection.
Some one in another place said that this was to be a scientific Tariff. I shall be glad to see a scientific Tariff introduced. If the Government can tell the Senate’ that the Tariff is really scientific. and can induce all its members and supporters to subscribe to that statement, while I will not make any rash promises, I believe I can promise the full support of the Opposition for that Tariff after June next - that is, if it is scientific, and the Government can get the whole of their party to agree that it is scientific. What will’ be the effect of increased duties? Australia’s great wealth to-day is in its natural resources, which must be exploited. The Government propose to exploit them by. building up new industries in the great centres of population, and taking workmen from the natural primary industries of Australia to make them compete with Chinese, Japanese, American, and British machinery. While the Government are crying out with a loud voice, “Do not build your cities so large; do not overcrowd and congest your cities, but send your men out to engage in primary production,” they propose, with the catch-cry of “ scientific Protection,” to bring the people from the primary industries and put them into factories.
– You ought to join the Farmers party.
– I ought to wait until I am asked. I am growing too old’ to “scab,” and shall stay with the party I belong to until I am through. I hope the new Country party is really a Farmers party, but I believe it is merely the tail of the National party. I do not think its members have any intention of being anything but Nationalists, or of voting anywhere except behind the National Government. I hope they will prove my words wrong, but my impression is that the Farmers party is merely one of the names under which the Nationalists masquerade in order to deceive the workers, and particularly the farmer workers.
– The Farmers party will vote with the Nationalists because, like the Nationalists, they are elected in the interests of the producers.
– Then they ought not to bother to run candidates against the Nationalists. I welcome the Farmers party as a party in public life, particularly as it is likely to embarrass the Nationalists. Although the other side claim a great victory, we must remember that they went to the country with fifty-four supporters in another place, and came back dependent upon the votes of the farmers and the Labour party for their majority. That is rather a happy position for us. Our numbers have been strengthened in another place, although they have been sadly diminished here. No one feels that loss here more seriously than I do. The Government that went to the country with a majority is now dependent upon the support of a third party in the place where Governments are made and unmade.
On the question of Protection, or increased duties, or a scientific Tariff, I hope the Government will hold their hand until the Parliament elected by the people has an opportunity to deal with it. It is neither fair nor honest to deal with it with Parliament in its present position, one half composed of men elected six years ago, and the other half of men elected- within the last few months. If the Government persist in bringing the workmen from the country and crowding them into factories at less remunerative employment, I warn them that they will diminish Australia’s wealth. The great wealth of Australia is in the country districts, and a scientific Government would say, “ Legislate so as to direct your labour to such places as will produce the greatest national wealth.”
– Are those the views of your Leader (Mr. Tudor) ?
– I am in the most fortunate position that I have candidly informed my Leader upon every occasion upon which a Protectionist Tariff has been put forward that he can have my resignation, but I will not support a Protectionist Tariff. That resignation has not been accepted. On those conditions, my Leader has in me a most loyal follower, but on that issue I intend to have my freedom.
– Save we not a Protectionist Tariff now?
– Yes, and it ought to be sufficient. When it was introduced, wages in Australia were three times as great as they were in Great Britain. There is very little difference between the standard of wages in the two countries now, so that the comparison between then and now on that score is very much in favour of Great Britain. A gentleman who recently returned from Great Britain reckoned that a 25 per cent. Tariff passed in those days, in view of the improved conditions of living in Great Britain and the cost of labour there, was equal to a 75 per cent. Tariff at the present time. . That being the case, there is no reason and no excuse for penalizing the people of Australia by increasing their burdens at a time when wise statesmanship would remove them. This Government intends to increase those burdens.
– I think they will get the support of your party in another place for that proposal.
– I think so, too, but I anticipate that Senator Pearce, Senator Millen, Senator Thomas, and other Free Trade senators from New South Wales will .propose such amendments of those duties as I shall be able to support. Senator Pearce’s old Free Trade speeches make very good reading. I have been practising on them of late. I have no doubt that I could also find some very interesting speeches on the subject by Senator Millen.
– And by ‘ the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– Those, I have no doubt, will be interesting reading also.
– And by Sir Joseph Cook.
– The trouble is that Sir Joseph can be quoted on each side. With that solid Free Trade party inside the Cabinet, I feel sure that my suggestion that the Tariff be not submitted to Parliament until July will be put before the Cabinet. The Tariff and other questions can be dealt with when they are brought forward. I have said regarding the Speech all I have to say, but, I recognise, not very much of importance, the reason being that the Speech itself is neither all-important nor even very important.
– I feel that I may congratulate the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat. There was possibly some little fear that after the not altogether pleasant experience of the last election, he might reappear here with somewhat diminished vigour, and with some of his old characteristics slightly tempered by what he had gone through. However, we find him here to-day just the same Senator Gardiner as of yore, learning nothing and forgetting nothing, mistaking strong language for strong argument, and with all his old-time aptitude for strong adjectives, which, I presume, he puts forward because of his inability to find strong arguments. I wish to traverse briefly some of the rather remarkable statements he has made here to-day, and they have been remarkable, none the less so because the honorable gentleman, with what I can only regard as an audacious attempt to impose on the credulity of the Senate, put them forward as facts. Whether he was speaking of the marvellously cheap loaf in England, which none but he has ever discovered before, or was engaged in laudatory references to the simple beauties of Bolshevism, it was all the same. He was making affirmations so startling in character that I doubt very much whether he himself believed them. Everybody here, except Senator Gardiner, knows that the loaf in England is costing more than in Australia, and that but for the subsidy from the Imperial Government, it would cost still more. I mention this as a sample of what Senator Gardiner puts forward as facts - facts that he has undoubtedly been pouring out very freely from many platforms during the last few months. Apparently they have not been very effective in the constituencies, and I venture to predict that they will be no more effective here.
One cannot but be impressed by the honorable senator’s deep desire to pose as the friend of the farmer. The farmers evidently do not take that view. Senator Gardiner has himself shown that they do not. He says they are npt an ally of the Labour party, but are merely an adjunct of the Nationalists, which shows that they do not believe his protestations that the real friend of the farmers is the Labour party.
– The result of the New South Wales elections showed that what I say is true.
– No; what happened in !New South Wales was that Labour voters transferred their votes to farmer candidates, not because they believed in them, but for the reason that Senator Gardiner said he welcomed the farmer’s party here, that they might harass the National Government.
– What about Parker Moloney, Lazzarini, and Cunningham? The farmers have returned all Labour men in New South Wales.
– The farmers did not return them. The farmers did exactly what the Labour voters did. If they could not get their own men in, they said, “ We will try to hamper the Nationalists.” That was done in many cases, and that is one of the objections I have always had to preferential voting. ‘ The great tendency of many people under that system is to mark, not their preferences, but their dislikes.
– Then you admit that the farmers did not like the Nationalists?
– The country liked them better than it liked the other parties. The preference of Australia was shown by the result of the election.
With regard to Senator Gardiner’s contention that the Government is not sufficiently or fairly looking after the interests of the primary producers, everyone knows that the Government is anxious to quit control of all these activities, but it is worth noting that, when the Government does do so, the result is not always beneficial. It has released control of some of these commodities, with the result that there has been an instant rise in prices, and the farmers themselves have recently come along and pleaded that the Wheat Pool be continued. In the early days, when the matter was less understood, and gentlemen like Senator Gardiner were assiduously going round spreading this array of so-called facts for public consumption, it was easy for people lo believe that something was wrong, but when the farmers got together and looked into it, they were, metaphorically, down on their knees pleading with the Government to keep the Pool going. . That is the best answer from the producers to Senator Gardiner’s statement. They know that the action of the Government was beneficial, and they hope for further benefits by continuing it.
Senator Gardiner repeats a statement that he has made ‘from time to time in this Chamber, that the Government is robbing the farmers by not carrying their wheat on the Commonwealth steam-ships at pre-war rates. To have done as Senator Gardiner asks would have been to rob the community.
– Better rob the whole community than a section of it.
– There is no necessity to rob any one. Whilst robbery seems a very natural pastime with Senator Gardiner, I have an instinctive dislike to it, and so has the Government. What the Government management of the Commonwealth steam-ships did was to insure, not merely to the wheat farmers, but to others, a much lower range of freights than they would otherwise have had.
– You know very well that the profit on wheat freight paid for those boats in two years.
– I do not mind whether it did or did not.
– But that was profiteering.
– Those vessels were purchased as a national liability, and the Government carried Australian wheat at a price infinitely lower than would have been charged in any other circumstances and by any other ship-owners, so there is no justification whatever for- any suggestion’ of profiteering or any accusation that the Government robbed the farmers of anything.
– Four shillings for the carriage of wheat to Great Britain !
– At a time when the producers of other countries were paying 8s. in neutral boats.
– But - the British Government were carrying at ls. 10 1/2d
– Senator Gardiner now reminds me of another statement which he has been in the habit of making, namely, that this Government broke the blue-book rates. It did nothing of the kind. It was the Imperial authorities themselves who revised those rates. And here may I point out that it is impossible to make any progress at all if Senator Gardiner persists in making statements of this kind which I flatly deny. The time is altogether too short for that.
– But you do not give the facts because they are against you.
– Well, there is my statement. I say again that it was the Imperial authorities themselves who revised, amended, or destroyed if you like, their own blue-book rates, being prompted to do this no doubt by the circumstances of the time. There was a great shortage of shipping, and urgent necessity for. the purchase of neutral freights at that time. No doubt these were the reasons which compelled the British Government to raise the rates.
– The fact is that the boats were paid for in two years through excess profits on wheat freights.
– If the general wheat freights then ruling had been obtainable for the Commonwealth vessels they would have been paid for within twelve months. Our regard for the interests of the wheat farmer led us to provide that he should have some participation in the benefits of the Governmentowned line of steam-ships, because we realized that he would have been called upon to pay his share of any loss, if loss had been entailed in the operation of those vessels. I reject the idea that Senator Gardiner seems to stand for, namely, that if there is to be a profit in any transaction undertaken by the Government one section of the community alone is to enjoy it, but that if there is to be a loss, it must be borne by the whole community. You cannot have it both ways.
– That is not Socialism.
– Of course it is not.
– Was it Socialism that made . the farmers pay for your boats?
– Senator Gardiner’s proposition appears to be that though the Government by buying these boats could have had as much freight as it liked from a variety of commodities, because it gave preference to wheatgrowers they were to get the profit out of the transaction. The Government, however, preferred to give a range of freights infinitely lower than were charged anywhere else in the world.
– That is not correct, and you know it.
– I say it is, and I take my stand on the statement.
There is one matter in connexion with wheat and wool which I desire to emphasize as much as possible. Senator Gardiner speaks of the agreement made with the Imperial authorities as if it were an altogether faulty and foolish business deal. It is easy in 1920 to talk like that; and so I ask honorable senators to take their minds back to the time when the deal with regard to wheat was made. When it was announced early in the war period that freight ships were disappearing from all trade routes, the farmers of Australia were plunged into the depths of despair. They said, in effect, “Here is our wheat crop coming on; but we have no earthly chance of placing it on the markets of the world. What encouragement have we to put in a fresh crop ? No one will give us ls. a bushel for it. We are not going to plough and put in crops from which we are not likely to get any return.” But when it was announced that the Government had completed a deal with the British Government for the purchase of the Australian wheat crop, there was not a farmer in Australia, except, perhaps, the staunchest members of our Rechabite lodges, who did not feel disposed to go out to express his joy by getting drunk. Not only did our farmers have reason to rejoice; every man who gave a moment’s thought to the financial position of this country felt infinitely relieved. In the circumstances under which the arrangement was arrived at, every man in public or commercial life, and even the workmen in the streets, said “Thank God that deal has been made.”
Let us now consider the position in regard to wool. Senator Gardiner has said something about our wool now realizing a substantial price in the markets of the world. But what was the thought in the minds of the wool-growers of Australia when the agreement with the British Government for the purchase of the clip at a flat rate of is. 3d. per lb. was made? I have grown a little wool in my time, and I remember that wool-growers were mighty -glad to get 6d. per lb. for the best of our fleeces. We thought it a good price; but when the market commenced to rise, and we got 8d., we began to fancy ourselves. No one ever dreamed then of 15£d. as a flat rate for all wool. And so I say that when this agreement was made, the wool-growers of Australia were profoundly amazed. It is childish to denounce this agreement in’ the light of present-day wool prices. I say that the wool-growers of Australia were glad of the arrangement at the time; but now, because the wool market has gone up and up, some people turn round and squeal as if it were a deal that should not have been made. I repeat that it was an excellent deal at the time it was made.
-But the men who owned the wool did not have a say in the making of the agreement. They had to accept it willy-nilly.
– That, again, is a statement characteristic of my friend, Senator Gardiner. It was not possible then for the Government to consult individual wool-growers. There was no time. The Government had to act with promptitude; but we did consult those organizations or individuals who could be regarded as representative of the wool and wheat-growers with respect to the deals I am referring to. WhenSenator Gardiner interjects in this way, let me remind him again that he was a member of the Government that made these agreements.
– Notthe wool agreement. That was not made until after the Prime Minister’s return, at the latter end of August, 1916.
– If the honorable senator says so, then perhaps I am wrong. But he certainly was a member of the Government that made the contract with regard to wheat. The mere fact that since the wool deal was made the world’s price has gone up is no justification at all for all this clamour about the agreement. It does not prove that it was bad. I have no doubt that in this chamber there are many honorable senators who have made deals which, if there had been some delay, would have been more profitable or otherwise, according to the rise and fall of the market. In this particular case what would have been the result if instead of prices going up the bottom had fallen out of the market, and wool, instead of being worth 15½d.all round, was worth only 1s. ? Would Senator Gardiner then suggest the cancellation of the agreement? Would he say, “ This is not quite a fair deal with Great Britain. We made a bargain on the basis of 15½d., and wool is now worth only1s. Let us cancel the contract.” I do not think Senator Gardiner would do that, or if he did, I feel sure that the wool-growers, whose friendship he is now seeking to secure, would not listen to him. The fact is, we made a bargain, not at a fancy price, it is true, but, nevertheless, one of the finest bargains ever entered into on behalf of the wool-growers of Australia. It is quite true that a tremendous profit has been obtained by the Imperial Government on the re-sale, but it is also true that one clause of the agreement provides that if Great Britain re-sells, instead of using the whole of the Australian clip for governmental requirements, the wool-growers of this country shall share the profits of such re-sale.
– Has the Minister any knowledge of Australian wool having been sold to Germany by the British Government?
– None at all, nor do I believe the statement. But we must bear in mind that whatever restrictions are imposed, there will always be a possibility of trade leaking through side channels to some forbidden destination. I again point out that the agreement does secure to the Australian wool-grower not merely the 15½d. per lb. flat rate, irrespective of the future of the market, but participation in any profits made by Great Britain later on re-sales. Great Britain did not claim, as she might have done, that as she took all the risk of the future of the market, she should have the right to all the profits. Even if she had taken that stand, it would not have been a bad deal for the Australian woolgrower. Senator Gardiner says that the profit on the re-sale of our wool ought to be available now. I cannot say whether it ought to or not. I do not know what are the reasons for delaying settlement; but I am aware that this Government has not been idle. We have pressed on the Imperial authorities the necessity for the presentation of accounts at the earliest possible moment. We cannot do more than that. Senator Gardiner wants to know why all this wool, which is bursting the walls of our warehouses, has not been sold. He says that it is being kept back expressly for the malign purpose of hampering trade, and enabling our manufacturers to get higher prices.
– I meant the British manufacturers.
– But the British manufacturers are not being helped by this delay in sale. They would be very pleased indeed if we would throw thousands and thousands of bales upon their warehouse floors. The man who is benefiting by this policy of conservative selling is the Australian wool-grower - the man whose friend Senator Gardiner professes to be. There have been communications on this subject already on behalf of the Wool Committee. It is quite clear from the correspondence, and also from the cables in the press since then, with regard to the wool held in England and here, that our own wool-growers have a very lively fear that if all this wool is thrown on the market there will be a slump in prices, with the result that instead of getting £20 or £25 per bale they will only get half that amount. The policy is being urged upon behalf of, and by, wool-growers, that whatever steps may be taken during this transition period there shall be only a steady and reasonable feeding of the market so that prices shall certainly be maintained, not perhaps where they are to-day, but that the. wool, owing to a glut in the market, shall not be sold for less than it is worth. This policy is in direct antagonism to that advocated by Senator Gardiner, who evidently overlooks the fact that the Australian wool-growers have another clip coming on, and there will be another one after that. I assume that his figures with regard to the wool held in Australia on Imperial account are substantially correct, and all I can say is that if I represented the holders of that wool, I would be prepared to co-operate with Australian wool-growers in such a way as to prevent any serious disturbance of the wool market.
– If that wool had been sold twelve months ago, it would have been used before now.
– How could it have been sold twelve months ago without breaking the agreement?
– Ask the British Government to break it. It is a fair thing.
– If Senator Gardiner had made an agreement to buy a horse from me at £10, and the market suddenly rose to £20, would the honorable senator come along and say that it was a fair thing to cancel that agreement or pay me the difference in price. But do honorable senators imagine for a moment that he would do that?
– The honorable senator fails to realize that the Government made an agreement for some one else who had no say in it.
– As a Government must do. But the Government took the advice of every man and every representative body capable of speaking on be half of the wool industry. It was impossible at the time to stop to take a referendum to discover the opinion of every wool-grower.
– The Government might have left those outside the Pool who desired to remain outside of it.
– Then the Government could not have effected the sale of the wool to Great Britain^ “ It was only by means of the Pool that they could do so.
– If a grower did not put his wool into the Pool, he would not have been compelled to sell.
– When the honorable senator defends the right of growers to put their wool into the Pool or keep it out of the Pool, I remind him that the wheat-farmers of Australia are to-day asking for a compulsory Pool.
I wish to say a word or two in connexion with the honorable senator’s very florid references to the Electoral Act. I can quite understand that he necessarily considers the Act under which the last Federal election was conducted a very unsatisfactory one. I did not expect him to come here full of admiration of the details of that measure.
– The honorable senator does not admire it, either.
– I have not much sympathy with those who act on the win, tie, or wrangle principle. If Senator Gardiner had been returned with added strength to his party in this Chamber, he would not be quite so critical of the measure under which his colleagues would have been elected. Whether the Act i3 perfect or not is not quite the question. The honorable senator referred to it as being a fraud and a swindle. I conceive a fraud and a swindle to be some intentional act, and not a mere accident.
– Anyhow, Senator Gardiner voted for the measure.
– No; I opposed every clause and every line of it.
– A fraud and a swindle does not. mean some unfortunate set of circumstances which have arisen. In this case it involves some intended purpose on the part of the individuals responsible for framing the Act. Senator Gardiner admits at once that, so far as the Government are concerned, the Act could not be a fraud and a swindle, because the members of the Government, in his opinion, have not the brains for such an enterprise.
– The honorable senator is pretty bad, but I cannot imagine him designing a thing as wicked as the last Electoral Act.
– Then the honorable senator is not entitled to speak of it as a fraud and a swindle when he laments the lack of brains on the part of the Government to frame the measure for the purpose which it achieved. I am not so certain that it is want of brains on the part of the Government in shaping the Act as want of brains on the part of certain persons to understand its working that is the cause of the honorable senator’s trouble. Honorable senators are aware that I have always had very grave doubts whether preferential voting, applied to an election in which more than one candidate is to be elected, presents any very great advantages over the old system. But I feel that mathematically it is free from the accusation which Senator Gardiner makes concerning it.
I might interpose here to say that, amongst those who have been the staunchest champions of the preferential system are our friends from Tasmania. They have always declared that it was mathematically perfect, that he who Tan might read it, and that nothing could go wrong with it.
– We advocated at the same time proportional representation.
– My honorable friends from Tasmania said, in the superior way which has always marked their discussion of the question, that we knew little or nothing about it, and that they, as people of wider experience, knew how to work the system, and it was all right. It is strange in the circumstances that it should be a representative of Tasmania who launches the first protest against the working of the scheme.
It seems to me that we can have a wrangle or a dispute under any electoral system, and that system only is perfect which gives us exactly what we want.
– The last Act effected what it was reasonably intended to effect, namely, full majority mie, and that from one point of view was quite justified.
– It did so, as the old block system would have done. Senator Gardiner’s contention that men were elected who did not carry the approval of the majority of the electors will not stand five minutes’ sober consideration. He speaks of men who marked them eighth and ninth on the ballot-paper, helping to elect Mr. 00X and himself. There is nothing wrong with that. They could only have done that on the supposition that their first seven or eight votes were inoperative. If an elector were so wise as to have marked Senator Gardiner eighth on his list-
– No, ninth.
– Wiser still! The assumption that there is anything wrong in a man who was wise enough to mark Senator Gardiner ninth on his list helping to elect him only shows an absolute ignorance of the principles of the whole scheme. That elector’s second vote could only be counted on the assumption that his first was inoperative. It was only because his previous preferences were inoperative that a later vote down to the ninth was counted.
– That is how the Government tricked the electors.
– It is not a question of tricking the electors, but of driving a simple fact into Senator Gardiner’s intelligence. The ninth vote could not have been counted if any of the earlier votes had been operative. It was only because they were ineffective, and in order not to disfranchise the voter, that the ninth vote was taken into account. There is nothing fraudulent or wrong about that. Admitting the principle which underlies the scheme, that every vote should be effective, a voter is entitled to have hia ninth, tenth, or twelfth’ preference counted provided that the earlier preferences have been ineffective. I suggest that Senator Gardiner should have a chat with some expert who has time to spare in order that he might understand the system.
– I should be delighted to get an introduction to any one who knows anything about it.
– That is a most helpful admission. Only a few momentsago the honorable senator denounced the system with an emphasis which should have been used only by a man who knew something about the subject, and he now says that he has never met any man who does. I suggest that he- should extend his investigations and get hold of some one competent to advise him as to the principles and details of the system, when I am sure he will find it necessary to revise a good deal of what he has said this afternoon.
– Introduce a new Bill and have a new election.
– That is an excellent idea. Every time a party is beaten at the polls it may claim to have the right to another election. I shall consider that for Senator Gardiner’s benefit when the fortune of political warfare goes against me, but not at this juncture.
The honorable senator mentioned one matter in which I quite agree with him, when he referred to the forfeiture of the £25 deposit by candidates. I have already publicly made the statement that I think that is obviously wrong. I consider that it is wrong that Mr. Garling, in New South Wales, should forfeit his £25 deposit whilst a gentleman he had beaten in the election should escape without any penalty at all. It is quite clear that that arose from taking too literally a provision in a Bill originally shaped to meet the needs of the other House, where only one candidate was to be elected, and transferring it without alteration to a measure dealing with elections for the Senate.
As soon as Senator Gardiner challenged my statement as to when the wool agreement was made, I sent out to find out the facts. I find that the regulations under it were issued in December, 1916.
– I was out of the Government then.
– It is quite obvious that if the regulations were issued in December, 1916, the agreement and all connected with it must have been finalized some time before that.
asked me whether the Government propose to remedy the provision dealing with the forfeiture of the deposit of a candidate for the Senate, and I think I am entitled to say that they will.
– Hear, hear!
– The Government will certainly remedy this defect. I have publicly said that I think the Government should not only prevent such a state of affairs arising in the future, but should recompense those who have been ‘ unfairly penalized by the provision in the last election. The matter has not yet been definitely dealt with by the Cabinet, but I. think I am entitled to say that -the Government will do that. It is obviously fair that it should be done, and as this is notoriously a Government that seeks to do the fair thing, honorable senators may take it for granted that it will be done.
– There is no excuse for the provision in the Act when Senator Gardiner drew attention to it while the Bill was going through.
– I suggest to Senator Thomas that there is not much use in stirring up the dead past. Every, one knows that the Minister in charge of a Bill-
– I do not blame the Minister who was in charge of the Bill (Senator Russell), because he had too much to do at the time. It was not the fault of the Minister; but I have no hesitation in saying that the official who advised him ought to be dealt with.
– There was a mistake, but honorable senators are aware that when a Bill has been drafted and shaped there is a natural reluctance on the part of those responsible for it to disturb any part of it because of the possible consequential effect upon other parts.
– I say that the official in charge of that Bill should be dealt with.
– Does the honorable senator suggest boiling oil?
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. Senator Gardiner on Tariffs is always interesting; but he will pardon me if I take suggestions from him as we have been advised to accept gifts from the Greeks. His suggestion that the Government should postpone its Tariff is a clear invitation to the Government to break one of their pledges and to do what they have no intention of doing, indefinitely postpone that plank of their platform.
– Not indefinitely, but until 1st July.
– The Government’s pledge is to proceed in that matter with due expedition, and subject to the exigencies of public business I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that we shall give effect to that pledge.
– Will the Tariff arrive here before 1st July?
– The honorable senator must not ask me to answer that question.
– I think it ought not to do so.
– The Government will not be deflected from their path by that fact.
– I do not say that the Tariff should not be laid on the table in another place, but it ought not to reach the Senate before 1st July.
– I take a different view altogether. Under the Constitution, this Parliament consists of one expiring body and one continuous body. The idea that the business of this country should be tied up at any time because a continuous Chamber such as this could not be elected concurrently with another place, would land us in an absurd position. The Government have to deal with a properly constituted Parliament. This House is properly constituted. Honorable senators who are with us to-day. but will not be here on the 1st July, are fully equipped members of this Parliament, and entitled under the Constitution to take part in legislation for Australia. After an election in June, a Government will endeavour to delay the meeting of Parliament until the 1st July, but I say there is no justification, in the circumstances of the last election, for the Government postponing any of their measures, and I have not the slightest reason to suppose that they intend to do so.
– It had been my intention, in a friendly way, to offer some criticism of certain proposals in the Governor-General’s opening Speech, which it is hoped will be realized in the shape of legislation giving effect to the Government’s policy But I shall permit myself to be briefly diverted from my original intention because of the singular remarks made by Senator Gardiner. I suppose that on the 30th June next battles will practically cease here because of the lack of combatants on one. side of the chamber at least. Nevertheless, there will be some prospect of battle with our peers if we “ go “ for
Senator Gardiner, as he will certainly never fail to have a “ go “ at us.
The honorable senator devoted himself to a most singular defence - for defence it was - of the principles of Bolshevism, as outlined in their actual operation by Mr. Bullitt.
– Hear, hear !
– He informed us that he purchased the pamphlet from which he quoted at Andrade’s bookshop, in Bourke-street. Whilst many things useful in the reading line may be purchased in that gentleman’s shop, I venture to remark that it is necessary to go outside of it to get other literature that will most conclusively deal with many phases of the world’s situation.
Senator Gardiner has most incorrectly accused the Australian press of suppressing vital and useful information with regard to the Bolshevik movement. That is not at all fair. The Australian press has quoted from time to time, and I think only in a moderate way, articles denunciatory of Bolshevism which have appeared in the press of America, of republican France, and of most European and Asiatic countries. In this very building there is available to Senator Gardiner a multiplicity of publications which give views of the actual operation of Bolshevism widely differing from those of even such a respected, although very young, diplomat as Mr. Bullitt. While eulogizing Mr. Bullitt’s report, and very nearly all that Bolshevism is effecting in the way of education, Senator Gardiner was very careful not to answer my charge that he was constituting himself a Bolshevik when he was defending the principles of Bolshevism. He resented being called a Bolshevik, but in the next breath he defended the principle of Bolshevism as set out in what is believed by many to be a very friendly report of Bolshevism in operation. The honorable senator cannot avoid the issue. If in this Senate he defends Bolshevism in operation on the basis of Mr. Bullitt’s report he is in some measure a Bolshevik himself, and he cannot claim that that accusation is unfair.
– The word “bolshevik “ means “ majority.”
– In actual operation it is found that Bolshevism has very little in common with the principles of Democracy. It is in accordance with the principles of military might and power. It is operating in the sense of the application of force, and not the application of democratic principles. The press is fair enough. In an article written by Madam Lenin and edited by Ramsay Macdonald, reference is made to the educational system, and although it contains some comments to which exception may be taken, I see nothing wrong in it. Some are of the opinion that it embodies sneering references to religion, because it refers to churches as public halls. Apart from that, it cannot be called objectionable. Literature dealing with every phase of Bolshevism is available. I have in my possession an American publication which I have taken from our Parliamentary Library, containing an article entitled, “Bolshevism or Marxian Socialism,” by John Spargo. Mr. Spargo, according to the editor of the World’s Work, from which I shall quote, is the leading ‘ spokesman of the orthodox Socialists of America. When he declares that Bolshevism is a travesty upon socialistic philosophy, he speaks with authority. What are his concluding remarks -
But nearly half a century later we find men like Lenin and Trotzky ignorantly repeating the tragic errors of 1871 upon a far vaster Beale; trying to apply the methods of the Commune to the ‘ immeasurable task of realizing the vast programme of Communism in a land in which the historical and economic development for that programme is wholly lacking. It would be a spectacle to excite the laughter of gods and mcn were the issues less tragic, but there can bc no laughter, no mocking derision, only infinite sadness, when we remember that their ghastly experiment amounts to a vivisection of the writhing and bleeding body of Russia.
– I merely expressed the opinions of men who visited Russia.
– Quite so. I may tell the honorable senator that if I had anticipated a discussion such as this it would have been an easy matter for me to have produced a dozen magazines containing articles with incontrovertible criticism of the Bullitt report. I have referred to publications that come to us from the Republic of France. Here is a French review containing an article, written by a Russian, and it is, indeed, tragic. I will merely mention one of the episodes describing the ‘distribution of the property of landed proprietors. All the goods and chattels of one particular landed proprietor were confiscated and then distributed by the lottery system. They were taken out and ticketed in this Soviet “ Tattersall “ and the prizes drawn. Here again inequality became manifest and caused heart-burning amongst the people who were dissatisfied with their economic conditions. As a result of the draw, one lucky person secured a fine horse, whilst another obtained a tennis racquet. This resulted in a quarrel, because one had received a prize of greater value than another. I am not going to illustrate at any very great length, although I could if I so desired, the fallacies of certain opinions entertained by people in favour of the socialistic system in operation in Russia. .It is true that between the horrors of Czarism and the horrors of Bolshevism there is room for many shades of opinion and different methods of economic and social action. There is no doubt that humanity, whether literate or illiterate, has to come to its senses if it is going to survive. Out of this welter of blood and misery in Russia there will arise, in time, something like sane government. But at what a terrible price, and one which I hope a community such as ours will never have to pay. I would not have dealt with this subject had I not thought it necessary to answer the eloquent, but futile, advocacy of Bolshevism by Senator Gardiner.
– I merely put forward the report of the American Commission.
– Yes: but incontrovertible evidence in rebuttal has been produced, and the report of the Commission has been amply criticised.
– Three commissioners reported.
– I know that. I had to go at once for these references, and ‘if honorable senators so desire they can obtain from our Parliamentary Library a magazine containing an article by a British officer of high repute who was brought into close association with the true position. He deals with one phase of the principles of Bolshevism. Although men of the world do not care to refer in the Legislature to delicate matters in broad terms, the -writer of this article speaks of Bullitt’s laudation pf the practical disappearance of prostitution in Soviet Russia. It has been wisely remarked in criticising the Bullitt report, and particularly its reference to prostitution, that there has been a general lowering of the moral tone of the Russian women. In’ connexion with the question of education’, which Madam Lenin deals with, this officer has stated that the school mistresses who are instructing the scholars are, generally speaking, women of easy virtue. Reference has been made to the fact that Russian news has been suppressed by our newspapers, but nothing is said of an article such as this which is completely condemnatory of ato least one phase of the Bolshevik educational system. It has been said that, since the revolution, the standard of education in Russia has been raised, and surely there was room for it, because it was the lowest ,of any country in the world, not excepting Spain.
In the course of his speech, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Gardiner) said that Australian soldiers bad been sent to Russia to assist in restoring the Czar to the throne. I do not think there is one Australian who cares twopence about the restoration of the Czar. Any action that would bring about the restoration of the old regime is not hoped for or desired, and I would not like to see it accomplished. Although I admire many of the principles of the French revolution, I am not likely to pronounce a eulogy on a reign of terror. The events which occurred in the Reign of Terror during the first French revolution have been eclipsed a thousandfold by what has transpired in Soviet Russia.
– Why does the American Commission report that there have not been 5,000 executions?
– Because he did not know the facts of the case. He spoke of what officially transpired under his eyes. Why, the machine guns at Odessa the other day were mowing down the unfortunate refugees who were being taken away on British men-o’-war, and who were being defended by cadets.
– The reply of the Soviets would be that the killing of those people did not amount to executions - that they were killed as the result of accident.
– I am in entire sympathy with Senator Gardiner when he says that the best attitude for us to adopt is to view the Russians as we would ‘view wild beasts in cages. Let them fight out their troubles amongst themselves. They have had, all along, as good a Government as they deserved, and until they acquire a higher mental and moral standard they will get the Government that they deserve.
– We do not understand the Russians because they are more Eastern than Western in their ideas.
– They are more than half an Eastern people, and they must laboriously, through blood, through misery, and through tears, work out their own salvation as other nations have had to do. I am not in favour of employing the soldiers of our Empire in attempting to delimit in any way the operations of the Russian people in Russia itself, be they for good or for ill. But I cannot sit silent when an attempt is made to belaud their peculiar savageries in the direction of government as something worthy of the admiration and approval of a great Democracy.
I shall now leave this phase of the question, and shall proceed to deal with the statements regarding our electoral system which Senator Gardiner evidently made whilst I was absent from the chamber - the system which resulted in such a debacle to the candidates representing his own political school of thought. I have a very distinct recollection of what transpired here when Senator Pratten, who happens to be in agreement with most of the Tasmanian senators upon the principle of proportional representation, submitted an amendment upon the motion for the second reading of the Electoral Bill, to the effect that it should be referred back to the Government as being an unsatisfactory measure, inasmuch as it did not provide for proportional representation. I do not say that all the votes secured in favour of that amendment came from the Nationalist party. I think that we secured the assistance of three of Senator Gardiner’s colleagues in the persons of Senator Barnes, Senator Needham, and Senator O’Keefe, and I believe that Senator Pratten, Senator Keating, and myself constituted the other supporters of the proposal. But how did Senator Gardiner vote on- that occasion ?
– I certainly voted against it, because proportional representation would be worse than the preferential system - absolutely worse.
– Then all that the honorable senator is in favour of is a measure which will provide for the block vote in all its original crudity, and which will enable the multiplicity of candidates to secure the defeat of majority rule.
– I want to give each candidate an equal chance.
– We were wise enough to discriminate. Whilst Senator Pratten and those who supported him were not going to abate one jot of their allegiance to proportional representation, they declined to permit the continuance of a system which has caused a majority of the electors throughout the Commonwealth to he deprived on occasion of their right to majority representation in this Chamber. Consequently, we voted for the measure which has brought about almost what it was designed to effect. No apology is required for that measure. It was* intended to do away with the danger of minority rule on account of the multiplicity of candidates when close political organizations like the Labour party would put forward only three candidates in each State.
– I am glad to hear that admission of its party purpose.
– I am not sorry that the electors, by reason of cross-voting, have returned Senator Gardiner to a seat in this Chamber. Of course, if they choose to mix their votes it necessarily follows that their representation will be mixed. Personally, quite apart from our differences upon political matters, I regard Senator Gardiner as a man who should be in this Senate. But I fear that on the present occasion the honorable senator is not acting with that- openness which usually characterizes him. He ha3 denounced our Electoral Act as a swindle, quite forgetting that he voted against proportional representation which would have secured to his party in five other States the return of at least one representative in this Chamber, just as the preferential system did in New South Wales.
– An Act which deliberately provides that minorities shall be represented here is a swindle.
– Is the honorable senator satisfied with the obliteration of his party; if not, then what is he grumbling about in respect to minority rule?
– Our party is not obliterated.
– It will be after the 30th J une next, with the exception of the honorable senator himself. Senator Gardiner objects to minority rule, and yet claims that a measure which gives complete effect to majority rule is a swindle. The honorable senator’s logic is unworthy of his intellect. So much for the Electoral Act. I am in favour of an amendment of that Act which will secure for us proportional representation. I have very little time for those people who view with horror the prospective condition of the Senate after 30th June next, because the Labour party will have very little representation in it, but who see in our State Legislative Councils, from which Labour opposition is almost entirely absent, model Chambers of review. I have no time for such logicians. They demand the abolition of the Senate on the ground that it is useless, because it has ceased to be an effective Chamber of review, and because one large section of the community will not be represented in it. But what about our Legislative Councils? Many of the members of these bodies are men of very great intellectual capacity. But is the great Labour party represented there ? In Tasmania it has one representative out of eighteen, in Victoria four or five out of forty odd. Yet we are told that these Legislative Councils are excellent Chambers of review, and that the Senate is not, merely because Labour representatives will be absent from it. Out upon such logic ! Piffle !
I wish now to say something more directly, bearing upon great national problems. Undoubtedly much has been outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech which is of very considerable value. But I first wish to deal with a policy that to my mind will be absolutely subversive to our society, if we permit it to continue. We all know that during the past eight or nine months Australia has suffered from the effects of two major strikes, and one minor strike. There have been many more industrial disturbances, of course, but I shall refer only to these three. Owing very largely to these strikes, during the past eight months I have passed only one month - that during which the election campaign was in progress - in the State which 1 have the honour to represent. For five months I was kept in Melbourne owing to the shipping strike. I left Tasmania two or three days after the recent /lection in a small vessel, and I have been here ever since, chiefly owing to the difficulties created by the marine engineers’ strike. The seamen’s strike started in June of last year, and caused an infinite amount of misery and trouble in the Commonwealth. The marine engineers’ strike commenced towards the middle of last December, and ended only at the beginning of the present week. Yet already the shadow of other strikes is looming over 11,S. In fact, we are told that in New South Wales some of the coal miners are already on strike. Therefore, this question of holding up industry - of paralyzing our industrial and economic activities - must bt». regarded as one of paramount importance at the present juncture. As this subject is related to one to which I shall resently refer, I wish it to be clearly recognised - in order that a full understanding of the position may be gained - that these strikes were of an Inter-State character. Not one of them was outside the jurisdiction of our Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The seamen’s strike, the marine engineers’ strike, and the coal miners’ strike were all Inter-State disputes - that is, disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. The strike of the engine-drivers on the East-West railway may also be characterized as an Inter-State dispute, because our Arbitration Court had undoubted jurisdiction in connexion with it. Therefore, we are able to contemplate the question of industrial legislation in iti effects upon strikes of an admittedly Inter-State character. Now what happened? These strikers, by the very fact that they struck, showed no respect for the principle of arbitration. They brought to bear what they thought was the power of force:- the power to hold the community by the throat, and to exact from it what they regarded as their just dues. Those of us who criticised severely the action of the seamen and of the engineers had very little to say about the merits of those disputes. The attitude properly taken up by all loyal citizens of a reflective mind was that in disputes of that description it was not right for the seamen or en- gineers to strike. They had a right to continue to work in the interests of the community and of themselves until their disputes had been properly adjudicated upon by a competent tribunal. Without hesitation, I take as my guiding motto in this connexion .a statement by Governor Coolidge, of Massachusetts, America, who has said, “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” Our Australian people must recognise that this utterance embodies a very great truth, the only truth which can make’ for our industrial and economic salvation. I am not going to criticise anything that the Government did in connexion with the strikes to which I have referred. Upon the whole, I approve of what they did. What I complain of is that to too great an extent they opposed inertia to the force employed by the strikers. They took up too conciliatory an attitude for too long a period. I object to no Government, to no Prime Minister, and to no Minister, at the beginning of an industrial dispute, attempting methods of conciliation by offering advice to the strikers in a friendly spirit. But “when there is an attempt on the part of any organization to exact by force from the community that which it regards as its due, and when that organization turns its head away from established industrial tribunals, the Government should act with all the force at their disposal. Until an example is made of some organization which strikes, heedless of the tribunals that have been created for the settlement of industrial grievances, we shall have a state of flabbiness set up which may result, in the min of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has lost millions sterling through these strikes, and it has also lost something which is still more valuable by reason of the sapping of the morale of its people. The people are beginning to believe that the Government are powerless in the face of an active minority. In that supposition there is some degree of truth. No matter what majority a Government may have, if they do not act with that force and directness which they are entitled to use, an active minority will sooner or later overwhelm them, and will establish a condition of things which we hardly dare to contemplate as likely to De in existence. ‘ Therefore, without comment- ing upon the merits of the seamen’s strike, the engineers’ strike, or the coal miners’ strike, I say that the next Government which, after exercising conciliatory methods, does not marshal all the forces at its disposal to deal with the strikers, will fail in its duty, and will have seen the last of my support.
– The honorable senator must be sure that he has the strength on his side if he intends to make a fight of it.
– I want to deal with people who threaten the community. I am not alone in taking up this attitude. It is the only attitude that can save any country. In yesterday’s Herald I read of the great French railway strike, and .that -
Those are my sentiments. I hope that M. Millerand will successfully carry them out, and that he will demonstrate to Frenchmen, Englishmen, and people all over the world that the majority of any nation, either politically, industrially, or otherwise, must govern. I further learn that -
The Chamber of Deputies approved of the Government’s measures by a majority of 241.
That is the sort of Government we want, and that is the sort of Parliament we require.
– The first Government in Australia which attempts to use force against the workers will make the blunder of its life.
– Here is the comment in a French magazine on M. Clemenceau’s election speech at Strasbourg -
He has declared courageously that the Government shall cause respect for order to prevail, and shall work not only against anarchy but against the excessive power of organizations which pretend to substitute themselves for the nation.
When any organization hangs up a public utility and causes infamies to be perpetrated in the name of industrial redress, then it wants to be taught a lesson ; it wants to be taught that it is not the nation. Do honorable senators know what Tasmanian representatives had to put up with during the marine engineers’ strike? There would be of a morning forty or fifty men, women, and children waiting for me and other Tasmanian representatives, imploring us to secure some means of sending them back to other members of their families in Tasmania. I can give the case of one poor woman, the mistress of a country postoffice at a place called Western Creek. She came over with her husband and daughter. She had left an infant seven months old in the care of a daughter of ten or twelve years. She had left, her post-office in the care of the eldest lad, a boy of fifteen. Her husband had to have a surgical operation performed for the removal of a diseased bone from the jaw, and the little girl, who was six or seven years old, had to have an eye removed because of some birth-mark interfering with her sight. This poor woman secured four weeks’ leave, and found herself confronted with the strike. I had to communicate with the postal authorities in Tasmania, and I «an say, to the honour of Mr. D’Emden, that he realized the circumstances at once, and extended to this poor woman the consideration which she sought. At last she got back, and the letter of thanks I received from her would move a heart of stone. Here was a mother of seven children, with a sick husband and sick child, stranded in Victoria, with a baby seven months old at home, and the post-office, which helped to bring in a little towards keeping the family, left in the charge of a boy fifteen years of age, and all this brought about in the name of redressing the ills of labour. The Government must not be content with just endeavouring to conciliate the strikers when next they strike, but must exhibit to them the whole force of the nation. If the Australian people have become so spineless that they will see with pleasure at any time a section of the community triumph over the Government, when there are tribunals already provided, or that can be easily provided, to adjudicate upon the alleged injustice, then the Australian people are not worthy of a strong Government, and the time has come when selfrespecting men, whether they be Prime Ministers, Ministers, or members of Parliament, should abandon their portfolios and their seats in the Legislature and walk out, leaving their places to be filled by the unworthy representatives of an unworthy people who know not what liberty is, or of what it should be thought to consist.
I have something to say about a matter which I think is of great importance. The referendum proposals introduced into this Chamber last session were very strongly opposed by me.
– You had a great victory at the polls.
– At any rate, I was the only senator who set up negative action in the Senate in connexion with those proposals, and my action was indorsed by the electors at the polls. The Government in the Governor-General’s Speech exhibits its policy and says it regrets the defeat of the referenda proposals. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and others who have been so long politically associated with him, and who have voted for and advocated these proposals before, when they have been just as often rejected, have been consistent. They exhibit no spirit of great affection for the Australian Constitution as it .stands, and no one can accuse them of any inconsistency in again attempting to secure the sanction of the electors to what are known as the referendum proposals. But I have very little praise and very little political respect for those who were for so long associated with me in the Liberal party, and who on many occasions told the Australian people that these proposals embodied principles subversive of all that was best and most stable in the Australian Constitution, and then, perhaps hypnotized by the genius and ability of the Prime Minister, swallowed what they had’ said on three or four previous occasions, and attempted a somewhat halfhearted advocacy ‘ of them. I have for those gentlemen very little political respect, although I may abound in personal respect for them. It was a political action that did not commend itself to the people of Australia, and the consequence was that these proposals were rejected, as they had been rejected twice at the polls before, and as they had been withdrawn’ once before for fear of defeat.
Senator Millen spoke of his objection to the win, tie, or wrangle business, and I must say I deprecate most heartily this proposal to set up a Convention immediately after the turmoil of the general election, or .within a year following it, for the purpose of attempting to secure a radical alteration of the Constitution.
– Do not you think the difference of opinion shown in the vote justifies a Convention?
– No. This proposal of a Convention is extraconstitutional. The wise men who framed the Constitution provided the machinery for alteration in the Constitution itself. If Parliament passes the necessary amendments, as it is surely competent to do, and the people reject them, those who profess the principles of Democracy must admit that the people are wiser than the Parliament in their own interests. If they do not reject them, the Constitution is then amended in accordance with the constitutional machinery. I shall not be so unwise as to deny that many people who voted against the referendum proposals are not particularly antagonistic to the holding of a Convention ; but I do say that the proposal to hold a Convention’ was embodied in the referendum proposals, and was ‘rejected equally with them. Will the sky fall if the Australian Constitution is not tinkered with ? la there anything in the Australian Constitution which limits in any way the industrial and economic energies of the Australian people? We are a free people. I am not one of those who believe that the Constitution” is sacrosanct, but I do say that, in deference to the great men belonging to the generation now so rapidly passing away, men who were admittedly of a greater intellectual stature than ourselves, we should not lightly interfere with their work. As it is, the masonry of the Commonwealth Constitution is still green. It is not set. Let the thing work. Let the house solidify, and then it will disclose the cracks in the walla and the structure. There will then be plenty, of time to make alterations and to remedy the defects. There is nothing vitally wrong with the Australian Constitution.
– Is the dead hand to govern?
– Many of the men who framed the Constitution, so lately was it adopted, are living still. There is no dead hand about that instrument.
– Many of them were in favour of an alteration.
– The point is that the people, according to the machinery provided, have not declared in favour of alteration1. That point was lately determined at the polls. Australia wants peace - not only the cessation of belligerent activities,” but industrial peace and electoral peace. What is proposed for us? We are only a few months from a general election at which these very proposals were dealt with by the electors, and yet it is intended to establish a Convention, an extra-constitutional machine, to set all the machinery of a general elec”tion in motion again for the purpose of altering this much-beworried Constitution, which, nevertheless, has proved itself up to the present a most effective instrument for legislators to wield. What are you going to do with this Convention? Is it going to be a nominee one? In the present temper of our Australian Democracy, will a nominee Convention be considered for a moment? Will the results of its arguments and deliberations be met with honour ? I have some doubt about the matter. If it is to be an elective Convention, all the machinery of a Senate election will have to be set in motion once more. We must have a general election throughout Australia within eleven months of the holding of the last. Talk of economy ! Talk of common sense ! Talk of peace ! Talk of genuine devotion to the problems of Australian development! The criticism, has indeed point which says that our national recreation is that of holding elections. The Constitution will do very well for some years to come. It is not because of’ a defect in the constitutional instrument that we have failed to deal with these Inter-State strikes. They are Inter-State, and the Constitution applies to them. It may be that the Arbitration Act can be amended in ‘ some directions, although many friends of arbitration are beginning to despair of it because of the lack of recognition of the arbitration machinery. Nevertheless, it is competent for us to legislate in every direction in regard to arbitration, and there is no hindrance .whatever in regard to any operation undertaken by virtue of the Constitution, as it at present exists. I am opposed to the holding of this Convention and to the holding of a general election for the purpose at any time within the next two or three years, and I very seriously doubt the wisdom of any attempt to use this extra-constitutional machinery to effect the alteration of the Con stitution. I accept the thing with very great reservation. I reserve to myself the right to vote against any proposal to establish a Convention, because the machinery of our government is in its essence exceedingly simple. It is ultrademocratic, and if tho ultra-democratic representatives of an ultra-democratic people pass constitutional amendments, they are open to be adopted or rejected by the Australian people in their wisdom according to the Constitution as it at present exists. But the truth is that, unfortunately, there are iii this Parliament many people who are absolutely hostile to the Constitution as it at present exists. They hope vitally and substantially to remodel its entire character. I warn the true Federalists that by acceding to this proposal they may be letting in the tide. They may radically alter, and, in fact, almost destroy, the Federal character of that Constitution -bich they are really pledged to maintain. Is the American Constitution as flexible as ours? Is it as democratic as ours? Yet it has not prevented the American people from increasing in a century and a half from 3,500,000 to 120,000,000, to constitute a nation which is now the arbiter, almost moral as well as material, of the world’s destinies. Can it be complained that we, 5,000,000 people, are under any great disability here because of the fact that we do not whole-heartedly .adopt the principle of eternally tinkering with our Constitution ?
A great deal has been said about this Senate. If the Senate, in its unwisdom, agrees to this Convention proposal, I am going to undertake, even at the risk of wearying my fellow senators, the task of showing the public why the Senate is not constitutionally all that it should be as a Chamber of Review. I have said that the Constitution is not sacrosanct. I respect and revere the men who framed it, and I have had the honour to know many of them; but there was a great deal of talk of deadlocks at the time Federation was consummated, and there was an eternal desire on the part of every public man to do something that would prevent deadlocks. There is no such thing as a deadlock. A deadlock solves itself. It is merely the decisive exercise of the veto power. This Chamber has the constitutional defect that it has not a complete veto power. It is in a weaker position, in one sense, than even the Hou se of Lords since the passing of tie Parliament Act, because the House of Lords can veto a measure for two years. Two years must pass before its veto can be overridden, but the veto of the Australian Senate can be overridden in three months unless it submits itself to the penalty of a dissolution. The reason that this is not a stronger Chamber of Review is that it has not the power of absolute veto. Other so-called Chambers of Review, many of them containing men of ability - I refer to the Legislative Councils of our State Parliaments - have the power of effective veto ; and I think it has been a very good thing for Australia that it has been exercised on some occasions. Sometimes it has been exercised unwisely, but, nevertheless, the power has always insured that any proposal for the public benefit shall be well hammered out on the anvil of public opinion, and eventually, if the people maintain their adherence to a principle long enough, the Legislative Councils will not persist in their opposition.
– The Council has blocked measures for twenty years in South Australia.
– And the people of that State may be all the better for the exercise of the effective veto there. I know of many proposals that would probably pass the House of Representatives, but which, I believe, should be blocked for one hundred years. Under our present Constitution, the Senate can only block measures for three months, unless the people stand behind this Chamber of the Legislature.
– I think you are not in favour of the double dissolution.
– Not perhaps in the humorous sense suggested by the honorable senator ; but as a more or less superficial student of our constitutional history, I am opposed to the principle of a double dissolution, because the Senate cannot exercise its veto for a longer period than three months without subjecting itself to the penalty of a double dissolution.
– It could send the other House to the electors.
– No. The Government can itself decide to go to the electors independently of us, but because of our opposition to certain measures, it can send us to the electors within a period of a little over three months; and I say that no Chamber of Review can be effective in such circumstances. There was a proposal for a constitutional amendment which I outlined, and had it passed, would have secured my support. That was the intention to take away from the States powers which they have already exercised in the direction of preventing Free Trade between the States. The original intention of the framers of the Constitution was that the Australian people should enjoy complete Free Trade between the States. That has not been secured to them because, unfortunately, the framers of the Constitution, although great men undoubtedly, were not demi-gods, and so they could not foresee the time when the Government of some particular State would stand on its dignity and prohibit the exportation of commodities produced within its borders into a neighbouring State. They did not foresee that, and I do not blame them, because, as I have said, they were not demi-gods. If any proposal to revise the Constitution is submitted, and I have anything to say to the Convention - as I hope I shall, as it is my intention to get there if possible - should the proposal to hold a Convention be adopted, I shall see that something is done to secure complete Free Trade between the States, and also that something is done to remove the provision in regard to the veto power of the Senate. I may say, in conclusion, on this point that I shall reserve to myself the right as a senator from a small State, to strictly preserve the Federal character of our Constitution by refusing to vote for any proposal to hold a Convention, particularly as it is designed, I understand, to hold it within one year of the general election through which we have just passed. I do not say this in a spirit of hostility to the Government, members of which cannot fail to know my sentiments.
I wish now to say something with regard to the embargo on the export of Australian ores. We cannot be at peace and at war at one and the same time. Many things that seemed desirable and necessary while we were in a state of war, become not only undesirable but unnecessary, irksome, vexatious, and destructive as soon as we enter upon a state of peace. : For instance, during the war period the power of completely suspending tha Habeas Corpus Act was in reality invested in the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). I think that, on the whole, it was necessary that this should have been so, and while some harshness in administration may have been experienced by the use of this arbitrary power in the hands of a Minister, 1 do not think the administration was unsympathetic, and in any case these conditions were inseparable from the exercise of this suspension. But because we suspended the Habeas Corpus Act during wartime no one would dream of saying that the spirit of British liberty should be abstracted from judiciaries to the extent of permitting the suspension of the Act in times of peace. I have brought forward this illustration, not in an academic way, but in order to illustrate the fundamental difference between the economic, industrial, and commercial activities of a nation in times of peace and war. War is the negation of almost everything that we enjoy in times of peace. Consequently I, as a miner, and one who is daily approached by the representatives of the mining industry, feel called upon to give grave consideration to the question whether it is desirable, and in the interests of Australian industry, to allow the embargo on the export of ores to continue, without my strong protest. The matter, I understand, is under consideration by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at the present time. This embargo, I may point out, is operating to the serious detriment of the mining industry, and is likewise affecting commercial life in Australia. I am not sure whether the very best thing 13 not for the Government to relinquish all of its power in regard to pools and so forth, and to allow the various industries to be organized, if this is desirable, by the people themselves, operating under the direction of the captains of their respective industries.
– That is what the Government promise to do.
– I hope it will be done at the very earliest moment possible. I am sure the miners themselves desire this. Let us think for a moment whether any business man is doing himself a good turn when he refuses to serve a customer. For some time to come Australia must expect* primary production to constitute her principal source of revenue, and if we can secure international buyers, buyers from every country in the world, surely it will be to our benefit if they are granted full access to our markets. I know it has been stated, as an objection, that this policy might lead to trade with Germany. But, obviously, if the German desires to trade with us, and cannot do so directly, he will do it through indirect channels. It appears, therefore, that we will reap no benefit by refusing business from people who, after all, in an industrial sense* aTe the best organized nation on this planet. We can protect ourselves by developing our industries along scientific lines, and thus make provision against all those shocks which the German may attempt, to give to our trade. When the German comes to un with what we require in the shape of money, or consideration for what we have to sell, we only deprive ourselves of a customer if we refuse to sell to him, because he will either purchase through agents, or from other countries which produce commodities if not in equal, at least in somewhat similar, volume to Australia.
– We must not forget what they did with regard to our sulphides
– I assure honorable senators that, in China, there are undeveloped possibilities fully equal to those of our own country, and that the Russian Empire, which -produces almost the whole of the world’s platinum, and until the social revolution took place, one-third of the world’s supply of gold, as well as one-third of’ the world’s wood pulp for paper production, presents an attractive field for industrial exploitation by the Germans. We may be sure that if we do not sell to Germany, she will obtain her products elsewhere, and compete with us along other lines, and in other channels in other countries. I say therefore, that belligerent activities having ceased, and if the Mother Country is prepared, to trade with Germany, we must - -a,ways considering our own interests - decide whether we shall trade with the people in that country or not. This may be an unpopular statement at the present juncture, but I do not care about that. I am speaking in the interests of our primary producers. If we can secure remunerative business, and will not sell, then we shall suffer, or we may be selling to people who may be potentially just as dangerous to us as ever the Germans were. I say this with a reservation which honorable senators will understand. Therefore they will not expect me to say more. I hope the embargo on the export of Australian products will be speedily lifted, and that, under a strong Government, the whole of our activities will soon assume their normal and peaceful course again. I may remark in closing that all the talk about tyranny and misery in Australia is very much exaggerated. I observe from the Treasurer’s last Budget statement that, in the Savings Banks of Australia, there were 2,800,000 individual accounts, and as there are not 2,500,000 adults in Australia, the Savings Banks o£ the Commonwealth have more accounts than there are adults in out population. That being so, and remembering that tho amount to the credit of each individual depositor increased during the war period, we may rest assured that, under a wise and strong Government, any attempted revolution or subversion of the liberties of the Australian Democracy, must end in failure. On the other hand, government on sound and strong lines will, in these circumstances, meet the success it always deserves.
Debate (on motion by Senator Fairbairn) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 0.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200303_senate_8_91/>.