8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 12 noon, and read prayers.
Case of Captain Strasburg
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that Captain Strasburg, who piloted the Berrima, and did useful work, which was highly commended by all the superior officers who came in contact with him in the capture of many German boats in connexion with the Expedition to Rabaul, has been refused war gratuity, the reason given being that he was not a member of the Australian Forces?
SenatorPEARCE. - I regret that I am not in a position to answer the honorable senator’s question off-hand. I am aware that there has been some correspondence in regard to this case. If the honorable senator will put a question on the subject on the paper, I will undertake to have the matter followed up, and a reply forwarded to him later.
– The honorable senator undertook to do that once before when I placed the facts before him, but I received no reply.
The following paper was presented : -
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1920, Nos. 222-223.
Purchase of Saw-mills and Timber Areas.
Senator J. D. MILLEN, on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, presented an interim report on the purchase of saw-mills and timber areas in Queensland.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for Defence to give the Senate an opportunity of discussing the report of the Basic Wage Commission before we adjourn for the recess? Is it the intention of the Government to concede to the Public Service, at any rate, the basic wage recommended by the Royal Commission which they appointed ?
– There is a motion on the business-paper for the printing of the Estimates and Budget papers, and in view of the fact that the other House has not yet completed its labours, I propose to give honorable senators who may wish to discuss any particular matter which they regard as of importance, an opportunity, on the motion to which I have referred, to do so whilst we are waiting on another place. In regard to the application of the basic wage recom- mended by the Royal Commission, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made a statement on the subject in another place, which I repeat here. The Government have not had an opportunity to fully consider the report of the Basic Wage Commission and the memorandum presented by Mr. Piddington. They propose to consider, not only the general application of the basic wage recommended, but also its bearing on the basic wage now paid to the Public Serviceof the Commonwealth.
– Will copies of the report of the Commission be available to honorable senators during the recess ?
– There is a sufficient number of copies of the report now printed for circulation amongst members of this Parliament, and they will be at once circulated.
Commission of Inquiry
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether, in view of the promise he made to the Senate that an inquiry will be held into the conditions of rural industries, particularly gold-mining and wheat-growing, that promise will be given effect to during the coming recess.
– I informed Senator Lynch that the Government were not opposed to an inquiry into these matters, but would not bind themselves to the form of inquiry. On the day following the discussion of the honorable senator’s motion, I obtained a copy of his remarks and the promise I made by way of interjection, and forwarded them to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), directing his attention to the promise I had made, and asking him, as head of the Government, to give early consideration to that promise.
– Arising out of the answer to Senator Lynch’s question, I should like to know whether it is intended that the inquiry shall be confined to wheat-growing and gold mining? Why should it notbe extended to mining for other minerals? I believe that in the State of Tasmania there are millions of tons of barytes.
– Yes, and of tin, copper, and almost every other mineral.
– If the honorable senator will look at my statement,he will see that I said that the Government would not be bound by the terms of Senator Lynch’s motion as to the form of the inquiry that would be made. There is no reason why the matters to which. Senator Guthrie has referred should not be considered.
– Several representations have been made to me concerning minerals in the Macdonnell Ranges, and if we are to have an inquiry into industries, we should consider, not merely the growing of wheat and mining for gold, but the growing of barley and other products, and mining for other minerals.
– May I askthe Minister for Defence, in connexion with his reply to Senator Lynch, whether he will recommend to the Prime Minister that any individual, or the members of any Commission appointed to make the promised inquiry, shall be selected from Parliamentarians, so that members of this Parliament may later, on the presentation of the report of the proposed Commission, be in a better position to perform their own work as the result of a verdict arrived at by persons with experience equal to their own?
– I have not committed myself or the Government to the appointment of any particular form of Commission. I can promise Senator Bakhap that, in connexion with the constitution of the body appointed to make the promised inquiry, his suggestion will be brought under the notice of the head of the Government.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the Senate’s last sitting in the year 1920 to the date of its first sitting in the year 1921.
On notice of motion, private members’ business, in the name of Senator Gardiner, being called for postponement or re-arrangement.
– The honorable senator may do so.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) proprosed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent me from moving my motion.
– There being no seconder for it, the motion lapses..
Debate resumed from 17th September (vide page 471S), on motion by Senator E. D. Millen -
That the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1921, ‘ and the Budget-papers, 1920-21, laid on the table of the Senate on the 16th September, 1920, be printed.
– I have not very much, to say on this motion, although it is one upon which, there is ample room for discussion of any matter of importance.
– That is not so, since the Estimates and Budget-papers have been dealt with. If the honorable senator will permit one, I shall explain the position. This motion has always been submitted in the Senate to give honorable senators an opportunity to initiate a general debate similar to that which takes place in another place on the Budget. The purpose has been to enable honorable senators to discuss all the items contained in the Budget, as is done in another place in the discussion of the Financial Statement. But I point out that the Budget has now been fully dealt with in the Senate, and it is not competent to have a second discussion on the same ‘subject during the same session. There is no rule better known than that. Honorable senators will see that, in speaking to this motion now, the only question that can be discussed is whether the Estimates and Budget-papers should, or should not, be printed.
– The ruling just given blocks me from bringing up a matter of the greatest importance to the Senate, and, therefore, I refuse to say more at this stage. But on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate I shall speak, sir, to a matter between yourself and me and a third party. I shall get it out.
– I wish to offer as a good reason why the Budget-papers should not be printed the fact that they do not contain an account of the unfair treatment meted out to Captain Strasburg by the present Government. I believe that the Minister for Defence will agree with me-
– Order i The honorable senator is not in order. The matter to which he is referring might have been gone into fully on the other occasions upon which the Estimates and Budgetpapers were considered by the Senate. The honorable senator cannot raise a discussion on a matter of that kind on the motion now before the Senate without contravening my ruling; but, as Senator de Largie has just indicated, he can say what he desires on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
– I do not wish Senator Gardiner, or any other honorable senator, to be under the impression that in making the statement I made just now I was aware that the President would rule as he has done. I was absolutely unaware that he would do so. In order to honour the promise I gave to honorable senators, that they should have an opportunity of discussing the report of the Basic Wage Commission, I pro- pose to move the discharge of this Order of the Day from the paper, and to follow that up by submitting a motion for the printing of the report of the Basic Wage Commission and the memorandum of Mr. Piddington. I move -
That the Order of the Day be discharged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into a basic wage, and the memorandum of Mr. . Piddington accompanying the report, be printed.
I submit this motion in order to give honorable senators an opportunity to express their views on this subject if they desire to do so. I can only repeat what I have already announced in this Chamber. The Government do not feel disposed, before fully studying the report and its accompanying memorandum, to saywhat attitude they intend to adopt on the report as a whole.
– Honorable senators have not yet seen the report.
– No. I have seen a copy, but I have not had time to read it.
– Has not Professor Osborne issued a report of his own ?
– I did not know anything about that. The report was placed in the hands of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on Sunday last, when only one copy was available. Other Ministers were not supplied with copies until the following Wednesday, when they were distributed at a Cabinet meeting at noon. Honorable senators are aware that Ministers’ time has been very fully occupied since then, and, consequently, it would be foolish if the Government professed to be in a position to come to any decision, because the document is one that needs very careful consideration. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has already made it quite clear that the claims of public servants will receive immediate attention. But that, too, is a matter that must be considered from every point of view, because the decision given in regard to the basic wage and whether a married allowance should be granted must affect the whole community.
– Is there any truth in the Argus report that the Prime Minister made a certain statement in Sydney?
– I have no knowledge of the matter, and I do not know if such a promise was made. That is all I feel I can say at this juncture, but, as other honorable senators may wish to express their opinions, I have given them this opportunity.
– So as not to transgress any of our Standing Orders, I would like to know, sir, whether, on a broad motion of this character, I will be in order in discussing matters not contained in the report.
– It is impossible for me to determine at this juncture whether the honorable senator will be in order or not.
– I think I should have an opportunity of dealing with matters that are not in any way connected with the Public Service on the motion that the report and the memorandum accompanying it be printed. If the Standing Orders do not permit me to do so, I shall have to avail myself of the opportunity on the motion for the adjournment.
A basic wage for the different States has been arrived at by men well qualified to make a thorough investigation, and who took ample time to make the inquiry as complete as possible. As to what is really a living wage in Australia for a man, his wife, and three children, there is room for considerable difference of opinion and lengthy discussion. In the case of New South Wales, the State which I represent, Mr. Piddington and his colleagues have fixed a rate which, under all the circumstances, I do not think can be considered excessive. Any one who knows Mr. Piddington, and has had an opportunity of judging his great ability and the industry he brings to bear upon any work he undertakes, must admit that the decisions have not been reached without mature consideration.
– And the honorable senator refused to put him on the High Court Bench.
– I do not know why I should be interrupted by stupid interjections of that character. Mr. Piddington was appointed to the High Court Bench, but resigned.
– I do not know why I should be asked to go into that question, but the mere fact that the Government considered him a man possessing sufficient ability to occupy a high judicial position should be sufficient to prove that his qualifications cannot be questioned. He resigned of his own volition because of certain criticisms, and, being a somewhat sensitive and highlystrung man, he did not feel disposed to take the position when his appointment did not have the support of those associated with him. After mature consideration and close investigation, Mr. Piddington and those associated with him have decided that £5 17s. is necessary to support a man, his wife and three children in the city of Sydney. In the State of Queensland, where there is a Labour Government, and where, in consequence, the cost of living is cheaper, a somewhat lower rate has been fixed. The Parliament and Government of this countryhave to face the fact that the workers in Australia, whether in the Public Service or not, have, for a considerable time, owing to the increased and ever increasing cost of living, been faced with great hardship, and have been living or existing I know not how. I feel sure that honorable senators wonder how, under the grave conditions which prevail, a working man with a ‘ family of more than three children can possibly exist. The experts appointed by the Government to inquire into this matter have recommended what they consider a basic wage for the maintenance of a family of three. I realize that at the first glance the amount seems large compared with the wages of a few years ago; but; in comparison with the cost of living before the war, the amount is exceedingly small. Mv advice .to the Government- which I hope they will accept, as they will not have the opportunity of taking advantage of it for some months - is that if they have the power to enforce a basic wage, they should give effect to it at once. They have authority to apply it to the Public Service, but I advise them to face the situation boldly, and tell the workers of the Commonwealth that they do not expect them to live on a wage less than that recommended by the Commission.
– Would it not mean that they would be actually worse off than at present?
– I know there are great dangers of ills that might accrue from what I take would be the logical consequence of what the Government should do. If the Government desired to ascertain a basic wage by appointing a Royal Commission, and have practically pledged themselves to give effect to the Commission’s recommendations, it is time for them to act. What is the use of calling expert evidence if it is to be entirely disregarded ? This is by no means a party matter, but one of grave importance to the Commonwealth of Australia. We have been told that it will spell ruin and disaster to the industries in Australia. That may, or may not, be so. But, from opinions one may form from a casual perusal of figures or from close reading of Knibbs, file wealth of Australia is so divided that 85 per cent. of the wealth is in the hands of 15 per cent, of the people.
– That is not so.
– Then Knibbs must be wrong. I do not make statements in this Chamber without fortifying myself by obtaining accurate information. I do not suggest that the wealth should be taken from those who possess it, but that the earnings of workers should be more equitably distributed, so that many who are now merely existing should have an opportunity of living in reasonable comfort.
In answer to a question, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) admitted that the employees in the Public Service, including married men, were receiving £3 12s. per week. If that is the rate in a city such as Sydney, where the bare cost of living, according to the report of the Commission, is £5 17s. per week, these patriotic public servants for years past Lave either been living on their capital or getting into debt in order to give their services to this rich Commonwealth.. Facts like these have to be faced, and it is no use endeavouring to allow this discussion to drift in such a manner that no good can be accomplished. If married men in the Public Service are receiving £3 12s. or £3 13s. a week, it is time drastic action was taken. There is not an honorable senator, I am sure, who would wish a public servant to be employed, at a wage or salary that was insufficient to maintain him and his family in reasonable comfort. If such is the case, it is imperative that the Government, which is controlling the living conditions and destinies of such a large number of men, women, and children, should immediately remove the real grievances which exist. For some time past I have watched the growing agitation in the Service, and I believe that our Commonwealth employees are quite justified in bringing their case before the people in an effective manner. It has been said that the position of public servants is to be brought before the public by displaying facts and figures on picture screens; but I do not believe in that. Are the Government aware of the fact that married men have been compelled to maintain their families on their capital or run into debt, because they are not receiving sufficient from their employers to enable them to exist? I agree with the Minister that the Government should have time to fully consider a report of such an important character.
– And find the money.
– Yes, and find the money. But, while that is being done, the Government must be held responsible for the conditions which prevail. Let me show the difference there is between the public servants, or the employees of the Commonwealth,as I prefer to call them, and outside employees.
– The honorable senator’s allegations have no foundation, because yesterday I laid on the table of the Senate the reports of twenty cases heard in the Arbitration Court in which claims were made.
– The position of persons engaged in the Public Service is entirely different from that of those in private employ, different from, say. that of a clerk in a warehouse, because if the latter’s earnings are insufficient for his needs, he may employ his leisure hours by making up income tax returns or doing other work, and thus add to his income.
– But I thoughtyou were an eight-hours man.
– The honorable senator may think what he likes. Usually he thinks in such a confused’ and stupid manner that it does not matter much what he thinks. He would be well advised to remain silent when another honorable senator is endeavouring to address himself to a serious subject. I have to admit that frequently I lose my temper in this Senate because of stupid interjections, and I think that when we are dealing with a matter of such a serious nature as this, flippant and uncalled-for remarks are altogether out of place.
– I know the honorable senator is thinking that my temper will take me off a subject which I am endeavouring to deal with in my own way, and which he has not the courage himself to face. When I point out that employees of private firms may, in their leisure hours, by other employment, add to their income, I am met with the interjection from Senator Guthrie that he thought I wasan eight-hours man. I prefer the hours which the Senate works, for I find that, during the whole of this session, the average is a little less than three hours for each sitting.
– And some honorable senators are not here very often either.
– Quite so. I notice that the honorable senator is one of the very few who live in Melbourne, and attend fairly regularly.
– I do not live in Melbourne.
– No; but the honorable senator is within easy distance of the city.
But let me return to my subject. In ordinary times, I would not approve of public servants accepting outside employment in their leisure hours ; but if, by means of regulations, or the conditions of employment, our public servants are not properly treated, we are, I think, bound to give them that opportunity. We are bound to see that they are not sweated. Now this Commission, after a searching inquiry into the cost of living, has come to certain conclusions as to the basic wage of the Commonwealth. Surely honorable senators realize what a great amount of mental unrest there is among those in the community who are not getting sufficient to maintain their families in comfort. I hold that the payment of the basic wage will not have the serious effect that some people imagine it will have, because the increased purchasing power given to the whole community will add to business in every direction.
– It will increase the prices of commodities. That is the trouble.
– It will increase the purchasing power of the people, and therefore it will increase the returns of people engaged in business.
– It will nearly double the cost of production.
– If I were given unlimited power for one day, I would decrease the cost of production by 25 per cent. Would the honorable senator follow me?
– If you could do that, I would.
– I would decrease the cost of production simply by abolishing the Tariff, and making it possible to obtain the necessary machinery for production at lower cost. This would bring down the cost of production.
– But agricultural machinery 16 dearer in Free Trade countries than in Australia.
– I would like to know where these Free Trade countries are ?
– New Zealand, for one.
– Does the honorable senator say that New Zealand is a Free Trade country? I lived there some years ago, and I know what high Protective duties are imposed.
– Not on agricultural machinery.
– I merely referred incidentally to the enormous burden placed upon production by the imposition of Customs duties. Only a month or two ago there was a statement in the press that the Customs charges on a shipment of hats from Italy were so high, based upon the present rate of exchange, that the importing firm would have been landed in a heavy loss if they had passed entries for the goods.
– Does the honorable senator seriously contend that the abolition of the Tariff would make it possible to pay the basic wage?
– I contend that it would enable the people to £et cheaper commodities and so reduce the’ cost of living.
– What would your leader in the other place (Mr. Tudor) say if we abolished the duties on hate?
– That does not count. We want to face the facts. I say that the Government have added enormously to the cost of living by high Customs duties in a new Tariff, which, so far, Parliament has not had an opportunity of discussing. I realize that, when we start a discussion on a question like this, some honorable senator is bound to say that increased wages must, of course, mean an increased price for commodities, and that there is no end to, and no way out of, a very serious position. I believe there is a way out. I believe that if the great masses of the people are expected to do the impossible, and maintain their families on insufficient wages, then the end to that form of government which allows this state of affairs to continue will come; because, as all honorable senators know, Governments exist only with the consent of the governed. As other honorable senators desire to speak on this subject, I have no desire to prolong my remarks. I urge the Government to face the situation in a manly way, to tell the people in Australia that the Commissioners, about whose ability and integrity there can be no doubt, have made a certain recommendation, and that they intend to adopt it by paying the Public Service, without any further -delay, the full amount set out in the report.
– Do you mean the adoption of the report with the family allowances ?
– I mean the basic wage as generally understood. I have not had time to give consideration to the complicated method suggested By the Commissioners, and to which tEe Minister has drawn my attention. The drastic results anticipated in some quarters will, I think, be more imaginary than real. This has been our experience throughout the Commonwealth in regard to all other matters. The Government should pay the full basic wage, then take their own time to work out the problem, and, if necessary, keep Parliament sitting until the matter has been dealt with to the satisfaction “of the Public Service and the rest of Australia.
– I am encouraged to say a word or two on this important subject by Senator Gardiner’s remark that other honorable senators are just as anxious as he is to see that every person in the Commonwealth receives a sufficient wage to enable him to live in decent comfort. This question wants consideration, not only by the Government, because they have power to deal only with the Public Service, but by all sections of the community. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) should summon the round-table conference of employers and employees to which he referred some time ago. The ramifications of this problem are many. Senator Gardiner has just told us that 15 per cent, of the people of Australia own 85 per cent, of the wealth! I wonder if he gave consideration to the fact that the 15 per cent, includes all the companies, because, for statistical purposes, a company is regarded as a person.
– The Australian Mutual Provident Society, for instance?
– Yes . The Australian Mutual Provident Society, I think, includes about 40,000 individuals, bo is it likely that the figures as to the percentage of wealth owned by 15 per cent. of the people of the Commonwealth are rather inflated? The whole trouble wants sifting to the bottom, and this can only be done, in my judgment, by a conference as suggested by the Prime Minister. There are tremendous difficulties to be overcome. Take the man who grows crossbred wool. At present, he cannot sell it, so how could he expect to pay any wage at all, let alone the basic wage? His neighbour, who might be growing merino wool, can get enormous prices for the product, and pay almost any wage without any disturbance to his industry. All these things must be gone into very carefully. We cannot expect to do it in a day or a month.
– And a very big sum is involved.
– An enormous sum of money is involved, and so action cannot be taken hurriedly. If this basic wage is paid, the cost to Australia, according to Mr. Piddington, will be an additional ?93,000,000, and, according to Mr. Knibbs, ?101,000,000. The total wealth produced in Australia last year was only ?298,000,000. Assuming that labour gets one-half of that, there will be left ?149,000,000, so that all that would remain, according to Mr. Piddington, would be about ?50,000,000 with which to pay everything outside of the bare cost of labour. My own opinion is that the only way in which we can get along smoothly is by an agreement between employers and employees. But there are some wild men who have attained to positions of leadership in the industrial unions,, and who do not desire industrial peace. Senator Gardiner knows that what I say is true, and frequently has to combat this extreme element. These extremists desire a new state of society. But our present state of society is the result of thousands of years of careful building up. We see what has been the result of extreme measures in the dreadful example which Russia presents to the world at the present time. We cannot bring about reforms by revolution - I am sorry to hear
Senator Gardiner refer to revolution sometimes , we can secure them only by peaceful evolution. In Australia the process of evolution has been very rapid. We are doing away with classes, notwithstanding the fact that many of these agitators are constantly endeavouring to stir up class feeling as much as possible. I hope that in the near future we shall have only two classes in Australia- the workers and the loafers. We wish to insure that every man shall do his fair share of work.
– But big fortunes are made by men who do not work.
– I am not suggesting that work is done entirely by hand. There are many men who work extremely hard with their brains. When we attain to the ideal state of Socialism my honorable friends of the Labour party can keep a job for me in which I shall have to work only eight hours per day. I shall then be able to enjoy a glass of beer, which, at present, I cannot touch. At this late stage of the session it is idle for me to attempt to discuss this matter in all its bearings, but I hope that the Leader of the Senate will direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the promise which he made some time ago in regard to the holding of a round-table conference between representatives of employers and of employees. I trust that the unions will send to that conference only reasonable men - not men who wish to destroy society by means of revolution. Such individuals injure the condition of the worker more than does anybody else. A revolution in a country like Australia, where practically every person has a good sum of money in the Savings Bank, is almost impossible. But if representatives of the employers and of the employees could meet at a round-table conference some good might result from their deliberations.
-Whom would the honorable senator send as the representative of the employers of Victoria ?
– It would be very difficult to get anybody to undertake that duty. I experienced the utmost trouble in inducing Mr. E. Keep to accept a position upon the Basic Wage Commission. Finally, he accepted it upon the distinct assurance that its investigations would last only six weeks. They have lasted twelve months, and have cost the Commonwealth £40,000. The result of their labours is very disappointing.-
– I have heard the honorable senator make the same statement in regard to Mr. Keep upon several occasions.
– Yes. That gentleman blackguards me for the action which I took upon every occasion that he meets me. The only way in which we can secure industrial peace, I repeat, is by a conference between representatives of the employers and of the employees, and in the absence of industrial peace the outlook is pretty well hopeless.
– The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has suggested the advisableness of a conference being held between representatives of the employers and of the employees to decide this very intricate question. At the present time a proposal is being made to summon a Convention for the purpose of solving a very much more insignificant question, namely, the revision of our Constitution. When we attempt to settle the problem of a basic wage by means of a round-table conference between representatives of the employers and of the employees, we are attempting an impossible task, for the simple reason that it is the most gigantic question which any body of men - no matter how eminent they may be - cadi possibly take in hand. It involves the study of one of the greatest questions in the world - that of economics. To suggest that the representatives of two sets of people can satisfactorily decide this world-wide problem is utterly ridiculous. Will anybody who knows anything about production and political economy affirm that we could have expected this Commission to arrive at a satisfactory solution of the problem with which it was confronted? Its members were given a task which it was quite impossible for any five men to solve. It is no surprise to me that they have failed. In order to get to the root of the trouble we should need to enter into the whole of the ramifications of wealth production. When Senator Lynch gave notice of his very lengthy motion in regard to rural industries, some of us were inclined to think that it outlined an altogether too comprehensive scheme. But nothing short of some such scheme can possibly solve the question which we are now discussing. One has only to look at the terms of that motion to obtain an idea of the enormous issues which are involved. I do not claim to have a closer acquaintance with the report of the Commission than may be gained by a perusal of the press reports of its proceedings. But when evidence was being tendered to it. I could not fail to notice that the only persons who were examined were those who represented the trade unions of Australia. It was only proper that they should be represented, and that they should give evidence before this tribunal. But when the producers’ side is confined to that one section of the community, we naturally get only a very small view of the question of production. Most of the witnesses who appeared before the Commission were men who were engaged in the production of commodities for the Australian market - commodities the price of which could be fixed in Australia without any regard to the wages being paid in similar industries outside the Commonwealth. But when we come to the question of production and export, can we treat it in the same high-handed manner? No. We then have to consider what the world’s market would return one for his labour. A man may make an engine, or a suit of clothes, or any other article which is to be consumed in Australia, and the price of that article may be fixed here; but if an attempt be made to fix its export price, one will immediately be faced with an entirely different proposition. That being so, need anybody be surprised at the failure of the Basic Wage Commission, seeing that the man who carts bread around the city is demanding £7 a week in wages, whilst the man who is driving a team of horses upon a wheat farm considers himself very lucky if he can secure only half of that amount ?
– What about the man who has to take that corn round the Horn?
– We hear a horn very often ! If we look at the production from that greatly enlarged point of view, we shall- recognise that the Commission was set an utterly impossible task. Consequently I am not surprised that the figures quoted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), when dealing with this question in another place, showed conclusively that if the recommendations of the Commission were adopted we should be attempting to take out of the wages fund more than is actually going into it. If we endeavour to do that, how long will the position in Australia be satisfactory? The Prime Minister showed that if Ave raised the basic wage to £5 16s. per week, within a very few months - by reason of the increased prices of commodities - a further increase in th’at wage would be necessary. After that second rise had been satisfied, another increase would be inevitable, and this process would be repeated ad infinitum. Therefore, I say that the Commission was set a task which it was impossible for it to perform.
.- <I desire to address. myself very briefly to this important question at the present juncture, because, like other honorable senators, I recognise that we have not had a fair opportunity of studying the report of the Basic Wage Commission. That report demands very careful consideration at our hands. It cannot be scrapped, and the opinion of any one man upon it will not exercise very much influence with me. I agree with many of the remarks which have been made by Senator Gardiner; but when he affirmed that the cost of living in Queensland was cheaper than it is in the other States, he omitted to mention the reason for that. The fact is that in Queensland there is a large nomadic population, which live3 in tents and inferior houses. Tn Brisbane, for example, rents are 5s. per week cheaper than they are in Sydney. Many people who reside in the centre and the western portion of Queensland live in houses which are built entirely of iron, whilst a great number reside in tents.
Sitting suspended from 1 till 2.80 p.m.
– I had just begun, before the suspension of the sitting, to discuss the basic wage and to disprove some of the statements of Senator Gardiner, who had stressed the point that, on account of a Labour Government being in power in Queensland, the cost of living was lower there than elsewhere. I find from Knibbs that,, although the cost of living ought to be very much less in Queensland than in any other State, because very much lower rents are paid there owing to the -inferiority of the houses, and the great number of people who live in tents, and despite the fact that the Queensland Government practically steal the beef from the producers at an absurdly low price, at which they do not sell what they .produce themselves, yet the purchasing power of money has depreciated in Queensland since pre-war days in a greater ratio than in any other State. In 1914 what 21s. Id. bought in Melbourne, it now takes 29s. 7d. to buy, and in Perth what 22s. lOd. then bought now costs 29s. 4d., but in Brisbane what 19s. lid. bought in 1914 it now takes 28s. lOd. to buy. Therefore the depreciation in the purchasing power of the sovereign, is greater in Queensland than in any other State. It must also be borne in mind that owing to the warmer climatic conditions, it is not necessary to spend so much money on clothing in Queensland as it is in the more southern States. The rise in wages is less in Queensland compared with 1914 than in other States. In New South Wales the weekly rise in wages as compared with 1914 is 9s. lid., in Tasmania it is 9s. 2d., whereas in Queensland it is only 7s. 6d.
Like all Nationalists, I believe in a basic wage, and have always maintained that either the cost of living had to come down or wages must go up. That 13 the object of the Nationalist Government. The great trouble is that if we put up wages indefinitely, without consideration of other factors, we simply go round in a vicious circle, which meanshigher wages and higher prices of commodities. As the Minister for Defence suggests, it is like a dog chasing his own tail. While some industries can bear perhaps greater increases in wages than have been paid in the past, many others cannot possibly do so. The production of raw commodities is an instance. If we award a very high basic wage to people who work on farms, how can we demand a cheap loaf? We cannot hav.e it both ways.
– Cannot 3s. ll£d. for a pound of wool pay a fairly good wage?
– I can see at a glance that the honorable senator is an extremist. He picks out an extreme case, and not a fair average. If we pay extreme rates of wages to those who work on primary production, we cannot expect reasonably cheap bread, meat, or butter.
I agree with Senator Fairbairn that round-table conferences must do good, but the great trouble in Australia is that, whilst certain sections of the community are working, a very large proportion of the population are ‘agitating, slowing down, striking, and thus not. helping to increase that production which is essential to bring down 1/he cost of living. I have spoken fully on previous occasions on the question of the cost of living and the paramount necessity for increased production. To increase production we must have more work, less slowing down, fewer strikes, and fewer agitators. As honorable senators wish to get away, and as Senator Gardiner, to whom I particularly wished to direct my remarks this afternoon, is not present, I shall conclude by expressing the hope that I shall have another opportunity of making a more carefully prepared speech on the basic wage question. I believe in the principle of a basic wage, and am convinced that it is essential that we should handle this question very thoroughly and carefully, as no doubt the National party intend to do. We must increase wages or decrease the cost of living if we wish to have in this country peace and industrial rest, and that comfort which we, as Christian men, desire to see.
– The previous speaker pins his faith to round-table conferences as a means of settling industrial troubles. I suppose no man in Australia has attended more round-table conferences than I did, up to the time when the Federal Parliament in its wisdom passed the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That took the place of the round-table conferences. I, as an executive officer of an industrial union, hailed the change with satisfaction, and I do not think any one in Australia took a more active interest in the question of arbitration than I did. A good many years ago men now sitting on the Treasury bench stated that arbitration was only a matter of bridging over things, and that we must get down to the root of the question - that is, the land - if we wanted to put Australia on a solid footing. I submit that arbitration, at the very least, was a means of bridging over trouble. My experience previously was that we had negotiations and a new agreement every six months. We came up against this position: The shippers, Dalgety and Company amongst others, said, “ The ship-owners are giving way too freely to the seamen, and are increasing their wages beyond rates which our shareholders and the shipping community can pay.”
– Dalgety’s never said that. They do not own a ship.
Senator R. STORRIE GUTHRIE.I remember one ship they had.
– You sank it.
Senator R. STORRIE GUTHRIE.I did not. Dalgety’s sold it at a big profit. The consensus of opinion was that the round-table conferences were unsatisfactory. The managers of the steam-ship companies were being attacked by their shareholders and by the shipping people for giving way too lightly to the seamen, while on the other hand the seamen’s representatives were accused ,of giving way too lightly to the steam-ship owners. In, I think, 1910, the proposition was put up, “Why not let somebody else settle our differences?” In 1911, the business went into the Court, and Mr. Justice Higgins has been saddled ever since with the whole burden of increased freights and increased wages. I’ do not want to go back to the round-table method, and I do not think that honorable senators will attempt anything of the sort if they give the question proper consideration.
The whole point of this debate is the question of what it costs a man to live. Take the- men on the Australian coasts, men who are doing bigger work in transporting our products from State to State and to foreign shores than any farmer in Australia is doing.
– They would not unload the sugar.
– That was not the seamen; it was my honorable friend’s friends. Why should not men who carry the products of Australia round the world receive as much consideration as has been demanded from the benches on both sides of this Chamber for the man who reaps wheat or digs gold? Senator Crawford, for instance, has only two ideas in his head - one is bananas, and the other is sugar. Where does the wealth of Australia come from?
– The land, every time.
– Then let us get back to Senator Pearce’s teaching, and put on the single tax. Senator Pearce advocated that when he came to this Chamber.
– I did not.
Senator R. STORRIE GUTHRIE.Do honorable senators believe that Senator Pearce’s policy in 1900 was wrong?
– Give us your policy.
Senator R. STORRIE GUTHRIE.My policy is to tax you big squatters who sell your wool at 3s.11½d. per lb., and get 60 lbs. off a sheep.
– They might get 60 lbs. of mutton, but not of wool!
– The single tax means taxing the people off the land.
Senator R. STORRIE GUTHRIE.I remember that very long ago Senator Crawford was also a single taxer.
– Never in my life. The honorable senator’s memory is at fault.
Senator R. STORRIE GUTHRIE.Senator Crawford followed Billy Lane
– Not to Paraguay.
Senator R. STORRIE GUTHRIE.The honorable senator was not game, but he followed Lane in his single tax policy.
– Never. Lane went a long way further than the single tax.
– I want to disabuse the minds of honorable senators of delusions about the roundtable conference. Nothing can settle industrial disputes unless it has the force of law behind it. Agreements may be broken at any time, and have been broken. It requires the power of the law to enforce them. The world is supremely interested to-day in what is being done by the League of Nations. Are we to have a round-table conference to maintain the peace of the world? It is clear that such a round-table conference can be of no use unless the agreements at which it arrives are policed by the League of Nations. I am prepared to favour round-table conferences for the settlement of industrial disputes if a, means is discovered to police the agreements arrived at. If we had force behind the decisions of such round-table conferences, there would be very few merchants and manufacturers in Australia out of gaol in a very short time, because they are breaking agreements all the time.
– Whom is the honorable senator hitting at? Who are his friends ?
– I have an illustration in support of my statement out of the honorable senator’s own mouth. He has told us recently about some one who committed a fraud.
– And who has since apologized to me.
– A round-table conference without force behind it is of as little use as the fifth wheel of a coach.
– The fifth wheel of a motor car is the steering wheel. Senator R. STORRIE GUTHRIE. - The fifth wheel of the Arbitration Courts has been the lawyer, and he has sucked everything out of arbitration that he could possibly get out of it.
– One of the most important questions which honorable senators and honorable members in another place have to address themselves to is that of the basic rate of wages. I realize, with Senator R. Storrie Guthrie, that there is difficulty connected with the round-table conference. I maintain that the only possible hope we have if we are to effectively deal with the question is in co-operation and profit-sharing. When Senator R. Storrie Guthrie referred to ships, he brought to my mind something which I read in a New York newspaper a short time ago. In the month of August of this year the Crema, an Italian ship, arrived in New York. She was one of a flotilla of five vessels handed over by the Italian Government to a society somewhat similar to our Seamen’s Union here, which had been formed into a co-operative body for the purpose of taking over these five vessels from the Italian Government and working them and retaining the profits made from their operations. They have made a good thing of it, and have put all profits, over and above their wages, into other ships. When a. representative of one of the New York newspapers asked the chief officer of the ship how they dealt with trouble amongst the seamen, his reply was, “ We have none.” When he was asked “ Why?” he said, “ For the simple reason that the seaman who does not do his work in a seaman-like manner is fired out of the union and black-listed, and that results in maintaining efficiency and economy, and producing profits.”
– That is the remedy for half the trouble.
– I got up just to say so. I go a step further. In Cleveland to-day they have started a bank known as the Locomotive Engineers’ Cooperative Notional Bank, with a capital of §1,000,000. The members of this association have said that, they have had enough of handing over their money to other banks where it might be used to fight them. They are now putting their money into their own bank to finance their own affairs. A few months ago in Chicago, the Garment Workers Association started mills of their own. They, propose to have their own retail establishments for the sale of the material they manufacture in their own mills.
I do not propose to keep the .Senate many minutes longer, but I should like to say a word or two about Leclaire, who started the scheme of profit-sharing in Paris. Leclaire was born in 1S0.1, and was apprenticed at eighteen years of age to the business of a painter, which was one of the most difficult trades then carried on in Paris. In 1828 he was himself employing nine employees. It was not long before he found it difficult to retain his men. In 1830 he reduced the hours of labour of his men from eleven to ten per” day. In 1838 he started a mutual provident society in order that permanent employees might be provided with a certain sum of money when they became sick. In 1841 he went to the members of the mutual provident society with a proposal. He said, “.I have thoroughly considered this matter, and I believe that you can save me a considerable amount of time on your work and can save a considerable amount in materials if you agree to do so.” . They said “ No.” In 1S43 he called them together, threw 12,000 francs on the table, and handed each of them the equivalent of £11 in our money. They then realized that there was something in it, and from that moment the business started to go ahead. He withdrew from the business in 1869, leaving his capital in it at 5 per cent. It was continued on the lines he had laid down, the workers receiving 50 per cent, in profits, the mutual provident society 35 per cent., and the managers 15 per cent. The business was going on splendidly in 1912, when the workmen received 2S2,000 francs, to be divided amongst them.
Honorable senators can realize that that was a scheme in which the workman was not fighting against the employer, because he was his own employer. If you go to Ford’s place in America to-day and ask a man there if he is working for Ford, the motor car manufacturer, he will tell you that he is not working for Ford, but working with. him. There is a very material difference. In the United States to-day the great United Steel Trust is endeavouring to induce its employees to take up its stock and to accept representation on its Board. Those concerned with, the railroads in that country are prepared to adopt the some course. The new Railway Bill there is going to mean an increase in cost, and now amounts to §3,600,000,000 per annum, and the only way in which the enterprise can be successfully carried on is for the employees to buy the stock, get representation on the Board, and look for their reward to a share in the profits.
– The keystone of an arch of that kind is always rare organizing ability.
– The keystone of any industrial arch is always rare organizing ability. I maintain that the man who is controlling the traffic is capable of going on the board of directors and helping to control the destinies of the railroad. We should do all that is possible to encourage co-operation in industry. The world is going to learn that lesson. The basic rate may be fixed at any standard we please, but if it is fixed too high., as Senator de Largie has pointed out, it will exhaust the wages fund. There is no possible hope of continuing things like that. We must produce if we are to expect a return. It is of no use to say that we can carry on on credit: ‘There are many examples to show us what carrying on on credit means. Just after the French War they said, “ We will have credit, and that is good enough. There is no better security for credit than the land we stand on,” and it took £100 of their money to buy a pair of boots. In 1873 the United States of America _ was flooded with bills to such an extent that the statement was made that it took a basketful of bills to bring home a purseful of meat. The bills that were issued were known as “ continentals,” and they became of so little value as to give rise to our term, “ It does not matter a continental.” They were considered cheaper than wallpaper. The fact must be stressed again and again that we must produce more if we are to increase the rate of wages. Employers to-day ‘are generally becoming more and more influenced by the public sentiment in favour of giving to the worker a higher standard of living, and I maintain that it is only by a system of co-operation and profitsharing that we can hope to find a solution of the difficulties with which this country is now faced.
– It cannot be expected that a matured judgment on this question can be arrived at in a hasty way. The report of the Basic Wage Commission has been in our possession for twenty-‘four hours, and during that time we have had an allnight sitting. Honorable senators, therefore, have not had time to digest its contents. However, broadly speaking, on this question of a basic wage it can be said, I believe, on behalf of every member of this Parliament, that the time has come in this country when the employees can no longer be regarded as chattel possessions of the employer. It is admitted, on the contrary, that he is an actual, and not merely a nominal, partner in the industry in which he is employed. The extent to which he should share the rewards of that industry is a fundamental problem for which, up to the present, no :118 has found a practicable solution.
– What about the factory at Sunlight. Has not Lord
Leverhulme established a practicable scheme there?
– I indorse all that Senator J. D. Millen has said about profit-sharing as a means of solving this hitherto insolvable problem. I have already in my own State of Western Australia seriously put forward a proposal for profit-sharing. I urged that the Government might assist the movement by agreeing to remit taxation from enterprises carried on under the system of sharing profits with the employees. My proposal was regarded -as Utopian, but I still stand to it. It was discussed for days in the Western State as a means by which some effort might be made to solve this knotty, ancient, and, so far, unsolved problem. My proposal was that those engaged in an enterprise might say to their employees, “Here is an enterprise, in the management and profits of which we ask you to become partners.” I suggested that they should be to that extent recognised by their employers as human beings, and no longer as a mere factor in production, whose welfare should be the last thing to be considered. This was put forward by me and tossed aside - .1 want this to be remembered - by men who were endeavouring to find a way out of this impasse, which is working against the interests of the employees.’ This shows the success I met with in an endeavour to discover a formula by which we could divide the profits between the man on the one hand who takes the risk, and the .one who does the work. Especially should we recall the success which has followed the efforts of those who have adopted similar methods for dealing with their employees. Senator J. D. Millen has mentioned the experiences of several commercial undertakings. In the Baldwin Works, in Philadelphia, the employees have worked in that huge undertaking from generation to generation, and there has never been a strike. That is the object lesson that presents itself to us to-day, and, if it is within the power of the Government to discover the correct equilibrium between employers and employees, they should exercise that power, with all the moral force at their command, and come right down into the arena by formulating a scheme whereby the employers who> are sharing the profits with their employees shall have their taxation reduced on a graduated scale. To those who are not prepared to adopt this policy, the Government should say, “ You will have to pay a higher rate, and we, as the controlling authority, shall compel you to do so.” It is a novel scheme, but it is one I have seriously considered, and which I believe would benefit not only the employer and employee, but the whole Commonwealth. Coming down to the other alternative of socialistic control, we do not h’ave to inquire very far to ascertain what the result of that has been. It has been one of the most ghastly failures in the record of industrial endeavour. I have read of the experience of those who are engaged in socialistic undertakings in the neighbourhood of Boston, the details of which are well remembered by honorable senators. The result of those undertakings, according to the decisions finally reported, were that there were “ too many philosophers and not enough potato-hoers.”
– There were numerous socialistic undertakings in the United States of America.
– Yes, and they all failed miserably. We all know what is going on in Russia, but at present we are too close to the picture to judge the results on their merits. I do not know where the Russian people are going to land, but there is every possibility of their again coming under the control of a dictator, and they will then be in a worse position than they ever were during the late Czar’s regime.
I would not support the Government unless they were prepared to recognise that something should be done to meet the increased cost of living. I am supporting this Government in what they are about to .do, and I trust they will do a fair and honest thing to their employees. In many , instances, consideration has been too long delayed, but I am not going to support the Government if they are to take a false step, so to speak, and stifle industrial ambition in this country by granting high wages, without giving due consideration’ to those who have to bear the heat and burden of the day. If the proposed rate of £5 16s. per week were to be paid to the metalliferous miners employed on the Golden Mile, in Western Australia, it would mean that the mines would have to close down. Even if we take into consideration the recent increase in the price of wheat, the payment of the basic wage mentioned by the Commission, would result in practically every farm in this country closing down.
– And the people would be starving for bread.
– There is no reason why one section of the community should have to struggle on, continually facing adverse circumstances in order to support other sections of the community by providing a cheap loaf. I am in favour of a line being drawn that will recognise and satisfy the frugal needs of every employee in the Commonwealth, but I am not in favour of extravagance. I have read with astonishment the lists which, have been submitted to the Commission, but it has never been necessary for me to clothe myself in the way some people believe they should be clothed. Witnesses giving evidence before the Commission declared that a man should have at least two suits of clothes in two years, and an overcoat once in four years. I have had an overcoat for thirteen years. I do not wish to reflect in any way upon those who submitted evidence before the Commission, but it is time we got down to averages, and considered what is actually required in every-day life. It was said that neckties could not be purchased under 5s. each, but I have never had to pay that amount in mv life.
– You have not bought one lately.
– The one I am wearing was purchased eight months ago.
– You do not think they require such things?
– I do not want my statements twisted or misconstrued ; I can substantiate what I aim’ saying before any Court in this land. I have seen the lists that have been supplied to the Commission, and I have compared them with the needs of the average frugal family in this country, and, in all earnestness, they are beyond what is actually needed. It is just as well to consider real facts. It is useless for the working men to endeavour to make his lot appear worse than it is, because over-stating the position will only be to his detriment. I know the position is really bad, but surely the merits of the case are sufficient to support it. I want the Government to travel a line that will not cripple or in any way impede the wheels of indus- try. I hold no brief for the moneyed classes of this community, and I know what they are because I have had dealings with them. This much I do know, and recognise, that we have a country which is being worked and exploited, and if nothing is done by this Government’ to improve the position of those who are producing wealth, they will be striking a severe blow against honest and ambitious men. I shall support the Government in saying that something tangible and justifiable should be done which will enable public servants to meet their obligations without experiencing unnecessary hardships.
.- Although we have not anything definite before us in regard to the basic wage, it will be expected that honorable senators should give some expression of opinion concerning the matter, although they have very little information concerning the Commission’s report. On the details outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in another place, we could not be expected to express a definite opinion. From various quarters peremptory demands have been made upon honorable, senators to state definitely and conclusively if they favoured the report of the Commission. These demands were submitted to us before the report was in the hands of the Prime Minister, and, consequently, we could not be expected to give any definite opinion. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) tabled the document in the Senate only yesterday, and it is, therefore, impossible for us to express an opinion concerning its merits. The basic wage suggested by the Commission is very much in advance of the average wage which is being paid in Australia to-day. It must be recognised that a basic wage cannot in fairness be applied to only one section of the workers of Australia, because, if it were, it must necessarily follow, that efforts would be made - and justifiably so - to have it applied to others. The Commission, so far as I can gather, has not taken into consideration whether the money could be found to pay the rates suggested. It is stated that the basic wage, which varies in the different States, would enable the wage-earners of Australia to enjoy a greater degree of comfort. If a Commission had nothing outside of that to report upon, what is the use of the report? The .Commission should also have been asked to report upon the possibility of industrial operations being continued after the adoption of the basic wage recommended. Of course, there is no such suggestion in the report, because that was not one of the duties of the Commission, and so we are brought face to face with the fact that the Commission has recommended a certain basic wage to insure a certain degree of comfort for the workers, and, in (the consideration of this problem, we must necessarily consider whether the industries of Australia, which we are all anxious to see developed and extended, can carry on if the basic wage has to be paid. One has to give a great deal of consideration to this question before he can answer it, and I say it is impossible, at this juncture, for any one to give a satisfactory answer. It would first be necessary to delve into the figures which have been prepared from time to time by boards of inquiry and committees concerning the industrial position of the Commonwealth and the ramifications of its various industries. Until we have collated and digested the figures bearing on this aspect of the problem, and can state with some degree of accuracy what proportion the basic wage will bear to the cost of production, we cannot possibly arrive at any satisfactory conclusion. One honorable senator who preceded me gave an interesting address on the value of cooperation. I believe he struck the right note, and stated a principle which, if seriously considered by the workers of Australia and put into practice, even in a small way for a beginning, would go far towards solving our difficulties. “1 have made statements from time to time during the last two years that cooperation on the part of the workers, especially in relation to commodities, is absolutely essential, and, in my opinion,only the difficulty of . finding a capable organizer, a man of exceptional ability, has prevented the workers from adopting the principle. Many cooperative enterprises have been established throughout the Commonwealth, but comparatively few of them have been entirely successful. But there is no reason in the world why the workers of Australia should not co-operate with the object of securing the necessary commodities for their comfort at the lowest possible cost, because the average working man - and I refer particularly to the married man with a family - finds it extremely difficult to make ends meet at present. In many cases there is absolutely no margin, after household expenses have been met, and surely, then, the time is ripe for cooperation by the workers in this direction.
I do not want to dwell at length upon the high cost of living, but I should like to refer to one special feature of Australian production that was brought prominently under my notice only a few days ago. With other honorable senators, I paid a visit to the Geelong Woollen Mills, and there saw tweeds of admirable quality, good enough for any man to wear, being turned out. This : cloth, known as 6-quarter tweed, all wool, 56 inches in width, is worked up in decent patterns, and is being retailed to returned soldiers at 5s. 6d. a yard, Which price, I was informed, shows a profit to the mill. Tweed of similar quality cannot be purchased from a retailer anywhere in Melbourne under at least 15s. to 18s. 6d. per yard. Material of this quality is absolutely essential forthe comfort of the working classes and those dependent upon their weekly wages, and surely here is a splendid opening for co-operative effort on the part of the workers. One might enumerate many other instances in which co-operation to supply the needs of the people could be carried out successfully, if only the co-operators could secure the services of a capable organizer, a man able to put the affairs of a society on a sound business basis.
I do not want to say any more, except to indorse the hope so ably expressed by Senator Lynch, that the Government will give careful consideration to the report of the Basic Wage Commission. This, I take it, must be done in recess, because the Government will require time to carefully analyze the report. If the Government, after consideration of the report, reach the conclusion that our public servants are being underpaid, I hope they will take the necessary action to redress a grievance. Certain of the public servants have been very prominent lately in urging members of this Parliament, at a time when the report was not available to honorable senators, to promise to support the finding of the Basic Wage Commission. It may be just as well to remind them that they are permanently established in their positions, and, subject to good behaviour, can safely rely upon employment for the whole of their working life-time.
– They are outside the realm of political patronage.
– Exactly. That fact must not be lost sight of in dealing with this question. We cannot apply the basic wage, as suggested by the Commission, or, indeed, any basic wage to the Public Service without the outside workers being justified in putting forward a claim to similar treatment, in view of the fact that the latter are always confronted with the possibility of employment terminating any day, and also because of the fact that during prolonged illness they do not receive the same consideration from private employers. Consequently, the basic wage cannot with justice be applied to one section of the community and refused to another. That is my view of theposition. To those telegrams and letters which I received from members of the Public Service that were couched in courteous terms I replied that the matter would receive my earnest and, close consideration; but I absolutely refused to reply to any telegrams or letters which were, in my opinion, absolutely insulting in their language. I make that promise again publicly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired in New South Wales at Goulburn, Greta, Marrickville, Tighe’s Hill. Weston.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on a day to be fixed by Mr. President, which day of meeting shall be notified by Mr. President to each Senator by telegram or letter.
Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence [3.27]. - In moving
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I wish to say a few words in appreciation of the assistance rendered to my colleagues and myself by you, sir, and the Chairman of Committees in presiding over our deliberations in such a way as to facilitate the conduct of business. I also express the appreciation of the Government to honorable senators generally for their consideration and for the impartial criticism bestowed by them upon the various measures. The session has been a very long and arduous one, and many useful and important measures have been dealt with. I think it will bear favorable comparison in that regard with any previous session, with the possible exception of the first, when many measures of firstclass importance were passed. I may also remark that the work of the Senate is not to be judged by the length of time occupied. I have noticed a disposition in certain quarters to refer to the prompt manner in which the Senate does its work, and the inference, of course, is that measures do not receive full consideration. I venture to say, however, that an examination of the Bills dealt with will show that this is not the case. In this Chamber measures receive as much, if not more, consideration than is given to them in another branch of the Legislature. This is proved by the fact that so many of the Bills contain amendments inserted by the Senate. I would also like to express, on behalf of the Government, appreciation of the assistance rendered by the officers of the Senate and the staff, including Hansard, who have greatly facilitated the work of the Parliament. In conclusion, I wish to extend to you, sir, to the Chairman of Committees, to honorable senators generally, toHansard, and officers of the Senate our best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. I trust that when, early in the New Year, we meet again to face importantproblems that will then come up for consideration, we shall have benefited by the short recess, and be able, with fresh minds and renewed vigour, to undertake the duties which the country has imposed upon the Senate as one branch of the Legislature.
– I am very sorry that I cannot adopt a similar tone to that which has been adopted by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). But I have a duty to perform of a somewhat unpleasant character, and I should be guilty of moral cowardice if I endeavoured to shuffle out of it. It relates to a matter which arose out of a discussion in this Chamber some time ago concerning the payment of certain officers of the Parliament. Upon that occasion you, sir, made charges of a very serious character against one of those officers - a man who occupies a very humble position, but who is nevertheless as much entitled to justice as is the highest official in the Senate. Those charges were couched in language which could not be misunderstood. You, sir, affirmed that this officer had made lying statements to members of Parliament, and that he had made lying statements at home. You even went to the length of dragging his mother into the discussion by declaring that she had written complaining of the long hours which her son was obliged to work when there was no truth whatever in his statement. As I do not desire to be inaccurate, I propose to quote the exact words which you used in this connexion.
– I think that this is most unfortunate, any way.
– The honorable senator may think so, but he is not the judge of my responsibilities, and he had better care for his own opinions of what is fit and proper; and leave me to do the same thing for myself. I do not ask him to accept responsibility for anything that I say, and I do not think that it is fair for him to interject in that manner. If he has anything to say, let him say it, and accept responsibility for it just as I am always willing to do. He will not find me buttressing the case of a man who occupies a high position, and ignoring the claims of another who occupies a humble position. Upon the occasion to which I have referred, you, sir, are reported in Hansard to have said -
I want to point out further to the Committee that this boyhas been running to members of this Parliament on both sides with lying complaints - I say advisedly and deliberately that he has made lying complaints - and if I had done my full duty I should have dismissed him long ago. Not only did he go with lying statements to members of this Parliament, but he made lying statements to his mother, because of which she wrote bitter complaints about her son being kept here until 11 o’clock at night when he was getting off mostly at 4 o’clock every afternoon.
I have received a letter bearing upon this matter from the lad’s mother. I have been acquainted with the family for many years, and I can therefore personally vouch for her honesty and respectability. When they hear her letter read, honorable senators will see how much truth there is in the statement which I have quoted, and which was made so deliberately that I cannot overlook it. I had no desire to raise this matter in the Senate, and I took another course in order to secure the object which. I had in view by means of sworn evidence. My efforts in that direction, however, have been sidetracked in a manner which will prevent the matter being discussed until next year. The present, therefore, is the only occasion I shall have before the session closes of doing justice to this case. The letter which I have received from Mrs. Denholm reads -
I was very annoyed when I heard what had taken place” in the Senate. Senator Givens’ statement was that I wrote bitter complaints about my son making lying statements to me about his hours of duty. I can assure you that the statements are not only untrue, but unjust and cruel. Bob has always been a dutiful son, and has never given me any occasion to complain. I can assure you there is no truth in Senator Givens’ statement. I would be obliged if you would ask Senator Givens, or any one else at Parliament House, to produce any letter in the terms stated. I have never written, or given authority to any one else to do so, and I strongly object to statements of that kind being made in public. I would be grateful if you would inquire into this matter for me.
Honorable members will note that that letter is emphatic enough. All that I have said is confirmed by it. Seeing that such a charge was made by the President, and that it had not been contradicted, I thought there was no other course open to me - -my efforts to sift it to the bottom having been frustrated - but to ventilate it upon the floor of this chamber. “Dp to the present week I was under the impression that it might be possible for me to present the report of the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the treatment of Senate officials before the Christmas adjournment. That, however, has not been possible, and consequently I have brought the matter forward in this way. In dealing with it, I do not wish to use stronger language than I have already employed. The points must be clear to everybody. It’ is a thousand pities that any man - especially one occupying the high position of President of the Senate - should use his office to make statements of such a character against a man who is employed in this building, and that he should go so far as to drag in his mother as a witness against him. Conduct of that kind cannot be too emphatically condemned, hence my reason for ventilating the matter upon the present occasion.
– Before this discussion goes any farther, as Senator de Largie has made pointed reference to myself, I think that I should be afforded an opportunity of reply. It is rather unfortunate that an opportunity was not taken by the honorable senator to bring this matter forward in Committee, when I should have been able to combat his statements. During the present week, the Parliamentary Estimates were discussed in Committee, and every honorable senator is aware that I remained -in the chamber until they were disposed of, in order that I might be present to reply to any criticism levelled against them, and to offer any information which honorable senators might desire. Unquestionably that was the proper time to ventilate every grievance, and to have it threshed out.
It is very unfortunate for me - and somewhat unfortunate for the Senate - that Senator de Largie, in his personal bitterness, should be ‘ continually making venomous attacks upon me. Of course, I do not personally complain of that, but it is very unfortunate that the time of an august body like the Senate should be occupied with trivial matters of this kind. It is unfortunate, too, that I should have incurred Senator de Largie’s displeasure. However, that is not my fault.
I may as well take the Senate into my confidence by telling it that the genesis of this trouble dates back to some six and a half or seven years ago. Ever since then it has not been possible - and it never will be possible - for me to do anything right ‘ in the estimation of Senator de Largie. I do not expect ever to be able to conduct any business - public or private - in a way that will meet with his approval. At that time there was a vacancy or vacancies upon the Hansard staff. Senator de Largie approached me with a request for consideration for a gentleman who he thought was a suitable applicant for one of the positions. I suppose it was only a coincidence that that gentleman had just previously married one of Senator de Largie’s daughters. I fully recognised that gentleman’s good taste and good sense in falling in love with and marrying one of Senator de Largie’s daughters, but apparently I am to be condemned” for ever because I did not recognise that that gentleman’s good taste and good sense constituted a paramount claim to be pitchforked into an office connected with this Parliament.
– Will you explain exactly what transpired?
– I will. The honorable senator spoke to me more than once about the matter.
– What did I say?
– The honorable senator asked me for full consideration for the claims of that gentleman. I went so far as to speak to the head of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, Mr. Friend, upon the matter, and I told him the facts of the case. I informed him that the applicant in question was a connexion of Senator de Largie’s, and I bespoke for him not merely fair consideration, but I went so far as to urge Mr. Friend to strain a point in favour of his selection if he could possibly do so without injury to the service. When the qualifications of the candidates were put before me by Mr. Friend, upon more than one occasion, I asked him particularly if he could not give a little more favorable consideration to the gentleman who had been recommended by Senator de Largie. He replied that he could not possibly recommend him in competition with the other applicants. In the face of that statement, I ask every reasonable man, what could -I do? Should I have overridden the recommendation of the permanent head of the Department?
– Did I ever complain of that?
– The honorable senator complained bitterly, was very angry, and told me emphatically that his son-in-law did not get a fair deal.
– I did nothing of the kind. That statement is not correct.
– I did not interject whilst the honorable senator was making a bitter attack upon me. I am giving the genesis of that attack, and I ask him to be silent, as I .was when he was addressing the Senate.
– Then stick to the truth!
– The honorable senator must also be respectful in his interjections. I have now given the genesis of the trouble, and I am confident that honorable senators who know me quite as well as does Senator de Largie will accept my word.
In regard to the particular case mentioned by Senator de Largie, there are several gentlemen connected with the parliamentary service who saw. the letter written by Mrs. Denholm, which he says was never written. I can name two of them from memory. They are the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Monahan, and the steward of the refreshment-room, Mr. Field.
– (Produce the letter.
– It is not mine to produce. I cannot produce >what is somebody else’s property.
– I thought so.
– That is the position, and my word and that of the two gentlemen whom I have mentioned, will be accepted in this matter. In regard to my charge that this boy had made lying statements, I now repeat it. He was continually running to members of Parliament with lying statements. He was constantly stating that he was receiving only £2 14s. per .week, and bitter complaints were made in both Houses upon that account. But ‘his statement was not in accordance with the facts. The truth is, that he was -receiving a fixed wage of £2 14s. per week. But on top of that he was getting his meal3 at the refreshment-room free - that represented a considerable sum - and’ on top of that, again, he was being paid a bonus. In that way he was receiving a higher rate of pay than had been fixed by any Arbitration Court award for similar work outside. The moment the Arbitration Court awarded lift attendants in the
Postal Department £182 per annum, his salary was raised to that amount, although the award was not applied in the general Public Service to any branch except that for which it was given. In the face of these facts I ask how anybody can say that this young man has been unjustly treated.
– Confine yourself to the Denholm case, which I brought up. Produce your proofs.
– The honorable senator never notified me that he was going to bring up the case. He failed to bring it up when there was a full opportunity of referring to the matter over and over again, and when I could have produced all the proofs that he could want. Again, communications have been given, and copies of those communications have been in the possession of members, which could only have come from Denholm. That, I say, is contrary to the Public Service Act. This boy is not in the Public Service at all. He is a mere temporary employee.
– Of nine years’ standing.
-That is due to my kindness to the boy in allowing him to remain so long as a temporary employee, because, after all, it is really a question whether his services are actually necessary, seeing that the lift is an automatic one. In any case, it would be a much more suitable job for a one-legged or a one-armed soldier than for a man in possession of all his faculties.
– He is not in possession of all his faculties, as you know. He has a lame hand.
– I do not know. At any rate he has received exceptional kindness and good treatment from me all the time. It appears that, because he and his family are either very old acquaintances or friends, or possibly connexions, of Senator de Largie, the Senate is to be continually bothered with his case. First, I am to fall into Senator de Largie’s disfavour because his son-in-law could not get everything that he thought he ought to get, and, in the second place, because aconnexion, or friend of old standing, of Senator de Largie cannot get everything he expects.
– That will not go down. We know you,Giv ens, too well.
– The honorable senator will kindly address me in a respectful manner. I am in the chair. The honorable senator declined, or refused, or neglected to give me an opportunity to meet him on equal terms on the floor of the Senate.While I am in the chair he will be respectful to me.
– It was my only opportunity.
– The honorable senator had a full opportunity when the Estimates were before the Committee of the Senate. The subject could then have been discussed from Dan to Beersheba, and the honorable senator could have returned to it over and over again.
– You know that the report of the Committee had to be brought in, and you know that it was side-tracked.
– The report of the Committee has nothing to do with the Denholm case.
– It should have had, and would have had but for your side-tracking.
– That question is not in dispute.
– It will be in dispute.
– I was hoping that the honorable senator would bring it up to-day, because I brought the authorities, and was prepared for it.
– You know very well that it would not be in order for me to bring it up to-day.
– I should have been prepared to give to the honorable senator everyfacility and opportunity to do so. As the motion for the adjournment of the Senate has to be put at 4 o’clock, and as I know that Senator Gardiner desires to bring a question forward, I do not propose to take up any more time in the discussion of this matter.
– I am very much obliged to you, Mr. President, for giving me an opportunity to bring forward a matter which I previously placed before the Senate. I then read a number of communications that, to my mind conclusively proved that an officer who has rendered valuable services to Australia had been badly treated in being refused his war gratuity. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) promised to send my statement on to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), and this, I think, he did ; but as no result has come from it, I wish again to emphasize the facts. Then, if the Minister for the Navy does not deal with the case satisfactorily, I believe that, when we meet again, the sense of justice of the Senate will lead them to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into it. Briefly, the facts are that Captain Strasburg was engaged in the first military expedition to Rabaul. Here is a quotation from the Sydney Morning Herald of 14th October, 1914 -
Several attempts were made to discover the s.s. Meklong, a small twin screw steamer of the N.D.L. Fleet, which, according to information gleaned by Captain J. Strasburg, who accompanied the Berrima. as pilot, and knows the islands better, probably, than any man living, was hidden somewhere on Duke of York Island. So cunningly was she concealed, however, in a crock, amid a profusion of cocoanut palms, that she was not found till Captain Strasburg, who had now been placed in command of her himself, headed the search.
Here is a letter from Colonel Holmes to Rear-Admiral Sir William Creswell, dated 5th March, 1915 -
This will serve to introduce to you Mr. J. Strasburg, who acted as pilot on the troopship Berrima while in New Guinea waters. He was engaged by the Naval authorities, and is now, I understand, meeting with some difficulty in obtaining a settlement.He wishes to see you and explain his case. Captain Stevenson can. speak as to the service Strasburg rendered to the Navy, and as Administrator 1 cannot speak too highly of the assistance he rendered in connexion with the establishment of an inter-island trade service.
This is another letter from Colonel Holmes to Colonel Pethebridge, dated 26th February, 1915-
The services rendered by Strasburg were very useful, as at first none of our people knew anything of the islands, and as it is now clear that the Navy agreed to pay him pilotage while on the Berrima in addition to his salary -
I wish to emphasize those words-
I suppose it is only fair that he should get the same treatment from the Administration while in its employ, particularly as the Navy still paid his salary to the date of his leaving Rabaul.
All I wish to establish is that a man who was a member of the Expedition, and rendered very valuable services, is now refused the war gratuity on the ground that being a foreigner - he is a Swede or Norwegian, or of some such nationality - he could not be a member of the Forces. He was taken on the strength of the Expedition with the rank of actinglieutenant, and I do not think it is fitting for the Commonwealth to treat unfairly people who render it valuable service. Here is a quotation from the Sydney Morning Herald of 21st November, 1914-
The expedition left Rabaul with Captain Strasburg as navigator, Major Heritage having command of the dispositions, both naval and military. Lieutenant Holmes, son of the Administrator, went as Acting Commissioner for New Ireland.
This article was written at the very time the events were happening. It included also the following passage: -
Late that evening we set sail for Garden Island, 70 miles down the coast, where the German traders were supposed to be in hiding. A word of congratulation may very well be vouchsafed Captain Strasburg, the G.O.M. of the Pacific Ocean navigators. The splendid manner in which our craft was taken through uncharted waters, strewn with coral reefs, is indicative of the magnificent hold our captain has over marine science. What is even more remarkable is the fact that the skipper possessed neither sextant nor log, and bad to rely on dead reckoning.
There is also the following statement: -
A glance at our prizes revealed the Siar, 550 tons, the Matupi, a new auxiliary schooner of about 250 tons, and the Sentar, a smaller boat about 100 tons in size.
I merely wish to ask that justice be done to a man who, I think, is entitled to justice. Those were the prizes taken by the Expedition, the navigation part of which was under CaptainStrasburg, who was acting-lieutenant when the Berrima left Sydney with the Rabaul expedition.
Instead of the Government hiding behind the fact that this man, on account of being a foreigner, could not be given the appointment they promised him, , with the rank of lieutenant, all I ask is that they will do the fair tiling by going fully into his case, and if they find that he rendered the services which the papers in the Department of the Navy show that he did render, I ask them to pay his gratuity money. That, I think, is not expecting too much. I believe the Senate will support me in moving for the appointment of a Select Committee, if this grave injustice continues after the approaching adjournment. I know that the British Admiralty pay prize-money for all captured vessels, but I do not think that Captain Strasburg has received a shilling, although it is clearly shown in evidence that the capture of three or four of these vessels was due to the skill and ability he displayed while acting as officer on board one of the British ships. I recognise that this case does not come within the Department of the Minister for Defence. If it had done so, I believe it would have been settled before this. Those at the head of the Navy Department will not .get any credit in Australia for trying to side-step an honest debt by the plea that there is a difficulty in the way of fulfilling the promise of the Government because the man is not British bom, and, therefore, could not become an officer in the British Navy. If he waa not an officer, what waa he? He was in their employ, he took the risks, and rendered valuable service, and now that the war gratuity is being paid out to all and sundry, I submit that he is entitled to it also. Will the Minister for Defence go into the papers, and try to have this most deserving case promptly dealt with ?
I hope I shall be forgiven for having overlooked, while stating this case, all the nice things the Minister for Defence said regarding yourself, Mr. President, the Chairman of Committees, and the officers and staff. I indorse all that he has said, and join in wishing you and the whole of the staff a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Tear.
. I shall see that the remarks made by Senator1 Gardiner to-day are also brought under that Minister’s notice. It may be that the Department of the Navy -is taking up the attitude that’, technically speaking, this gentleman is not entitled to a war gratuity. If that’ is so, I will ask the Minister for the Navy to consider whether he can see his way on the facts - and I do not propose to pass any judgment on them - to recommend Parliament to vote a sum of money to Captain Strasburg for the services he has rendered, if he is not entitled, technically speaking, to the war gratuity.
– In putting the motion, I desire to indorse the remarks of the
Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) as to the good wishes which we entertain towards each other for a Happy Christmas and a prosperous time in the years to come. I express my gratitude for the hearty assistance and goodwill that I have received generally from the members of the Senate, and also my appreciation of the officers of the Senate, the Hansard staff, and every one else for the splendid services they have rendered in a long and somewhat arduous session. I hope that, after the strain they have experienced, they will he able to enjoy a good holiday and come back like giants refreshed for the continuation of the session next year. I extend to all my felicitations for the Christmas season.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 November 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19201126_senate_8_94/>.