8th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Importsfor Box Manufacture
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs the following questions : It has been stated on the authority of persona in the timber trade that the manufacture of boxes from Australian timber for the export of fresh fruit or dried fruit has almost entirely ceased, due to the imports of timber in shucks, at a cost which renders local competition impossible -
– Order! The honorable senator must not make statements in asking a question.
– I intend to conclude with a question.
– That will not avoid a breach of the standing order, which provides that statements may not be made in asking questions.
– I say merely, “ It has been stated “-
– In doing so the honorable senator calls attention toa statement, and the standing order is distinctly against any statements being made or arguments being used in asking questions, which may only be asked for the purpose of eliciting information.
– Perhaps I may put my questions in this way : Is it a fact that the manufacture of boxes from Australian timber for the export of fresh fruit or dried fruit has almost entirely ceased, due to the imports of timber in shucks at a cost which renders local competition impossible? If so, will the Minister have the situation investigated and referred to the Tariff Board for its opinion.
– I ask the honorable senator to be good enough to give notice of his question.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired - For Defence purposes - Adelaide, South Australia.
For Postal purposes - Dover, Tasmania.
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 81.
War Service Homes Act -
Land acquired at Bega, New South Wales.
Revocation of notification of acquisition of land at Newcastle, New South Wales.
Senator NEWLAND brought up a report, from the Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence relating to the provision of automatic telephone exchanges at Brighton, Glenelg, and Prospect (South Australia).
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
SenatorVARDON asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Upon land tax - number of officers and total salaries paid;
Upon income tax - number of officers and total salaries paid -
– The answers are -
Land tax - year ended 30th June, 1921, £166,260; year ended 30th June, 1922, £174,982.
Income tax - year ended 30th June, 1921, £1,382,029; year ended 30th June, 1922, £1,494,215.
Collected in all States in respect of assessments made by the South Australian branch alone -
Land tax - Year ended 30th June, 1921, £105,800; year ended 30th June, 1922, £126,151.
Income tax - Year ended 30th June, 1921, £1,034,285; year ended 30th June, 1922, £1,175,606.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Will the Government direct that the Public Service Arbitrator shall take evidence in South Australia in relation to the dissatisfaction existing in South Australia relative to the interpretation of the judgment of the High Court as to the age of retirement of officers compulsorily transferred under section 84 of the Constitution?
– The Government has no power to direct the Public Service Arbitrator to take evidence upon any matter, and as legal proceedings are pending in connexion with this question, it is not considered proper to make any farther comment on the subject.
Disposal of Unoccupiedwar Service Homes
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
What action has been taken by the War Service Homes Department to dispose of houses which were built but stood empty on account of soldiers not taking same?
– Many of these cases have arisen through uncertainty as to actual costs of the houses. The Adjustments Boards which were intrusted with the task of reviewing these costs have now completed their assessments, and their recommendations are receiving consideration. The Commissioner is endeavouring to find soldier applicants for unoccupied houses, but an increase in unemployment has added to his difficulty, particularly in Queensland. If it is found impossible to obtain soldier purchasers, the advisableness of placing unoccupied houses on the market will be carefully considered.
Debate resumed from 12th July(vide page 321), on motion by Senator Garling -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to : -
To His Excellency the Governor-General.
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
When I asked leave to continue last night, I was endeavouring to place before the Senate some facts and figures in connexion with the Queensland sugar industry. It is estimated by those in a position to judge that approximately 100,000 people in Australia are directly or indirectly concerned in the sugar industry. In addition to the actual growers of the cane, the number of which I gave last night, there are approximately forty sugar mills in which large sums of money have been invested, and I believe I am correct in saying that if the mills had to be replaced to-day the expenditure involved would be in the vicinity of £500,000. The sugar industry is in a very different position to other manufacturing concerns, inasmuch as the strain upon the plant during the crushing season is exceptionally heavy, and the result is that continual replacements have to be made, sometimes at considerable cost. During the recent visit of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and other members of the Federal Parliament, it was explained that certain portions of the plant have to be replaced once every season, whilst other parts have to be renewed less frequently. Moreover, a serious breakdown in the plant of a sugar-mill involves very heavy expenditure. The Queensland sugar industry also provides a very excellent market for agricultural implements manufactured in the southern States.
– What implements ?
– I have had prepared a long list, and for the information of honorable senators I shall mention some of the implements required for working a 100-acre block. They are: two disc ploughs, three swing ploughs, one drill plough, disc cultivator, harrows, roller, scarifier, swing bars, dray and harness, manuring machine, plough harness, sulky and harness, saddle and bridle, tools, chaff-cutter and engine, sledge and drums, truck, pulling harness, and mechanical cleaners. There are other implements which are required for the cultivation of the soil.
– The honorable senator has not mentioned waggons or cane planters.
– I have not exaggerated the list by any means..
– The. Sunshine Works manufacture a large number of implements used in the production of sugar.
– That is so. Sugar refineries are established throughout the State in which large sums have been invested and which give employment to many men. The industry also provides freights for vessels trading on the Australian coast, because, under the provisions of the Navigation Act, the product of the industry cannot be shipped on vessels engaged in the overseas trade. These facts may appear insignificant to some, but they are of importance and must not be disregarded when the whole question is under review. There is also every a probability of power alcohol being manufactured on a large scale from molasses, which is a by-product. Experiments recently made at the Bundaberg Distillery show that a greater mileage can be obtained from power alcohol than from benzine, and that there is less likelihood of carbon accumulating in the cylinders. At present the Department of Trade and Customs is actively co-operating with those engaged in the industry in completing arrangements for power alcohol to be profitably manufactured in Australia from molasses, which at present is not utilized in any way. The molasses are poured into the sea, and consequently become a waste product. That huge waste ought to stop, and. the molasses converted into something of benefit to Australia. By the introduction of power alcohol a very great benefit would be conferred both upon the sugar industry and upon Australia.
– It would mean more income for the sugar people.
– I suppose my honorable friend is noi objecting to any particular section of the community doing well in Australia. If we can turn a waste product into something useful, it does not matter much which part of Australia is benefited. The whole of it will benefit. I hope Senator Duncan is broad-minded enough to appreciate that point of view. There is another matter that those in the south should remember, and that is that a large number of workmen from the southern States each year make their living by going up to the sugar fields.
– About 4,000 workmen do that.
– That is so. When the last Sugar Council was sitting, Mr. Dunstan, president of the Australian Workers Union, in putting the case from the Union’s point of view, pressed this point home to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers), who was in the chair. A newspaper report of the proceedings says - -
The wages paid in Queensland by the whole of the pastoral industry, as shown by the State insurance returns, . amounted during the year to £2,600,000 per annum, whilst the wages paid by the sugar industry last year amounted approximately to £6,000,000. Altogether there were something like 20,080 men directly employed in the sugar industry, and it was estimated that of these about 4,000 were permanent residents of the southern States, who came to Queensland for tour to six months in the year to get employment here. Thus the southern people reaped very material benefit from this seasonal industry.
This statement drew from the Minister for Trade and Customs the remark: “ These are very forceful figures.” And so they are. That is only another instance of how the sugar industry is benefiting the southern States and helping to absorb a lot of unemployed. There is another fact that we cannot lose sight of, and that is that the sugar industry is providing closer settlement in one of those parts of Australia where it is most needed. It is one of the most vulnerable parts of Australia. (Extension of time granted.)
Let us turn our attention for a few moments to aconsideration of what the sugar agreement, which has drawn upon itself so much criticism, has actually done for the sugar industry. I am speaking as one who is merely a. looker-on at the industry, but has made an honest endeavour to investigate every point concerning it. although I have not the intimate knowledge of it that Senator Crawford possesses.
– Surely we are not going to have another sugar speech.
SenatorFOLL. - I do not think it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and, therefore, I hope Senator Wilson will remain and hear all he can, because I feel convinced that after the discussion he and I had during his recent visit to Queensland, he is very nearly converted to the point of view that Queensland members are putting forward. In the first place, as a result of the agreement made by the Commonwealth Government, the industry has been stabilized. I think that the Queensland representatives in Parliament, and the people interested in the sugar industry, should be very grateful to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and to the National Government, for bringing this agreement into existence. Although the Government have received a certain amount of criticism in that connexion it is recognised, nevertheless, by those who know something of the sugar industry, that it has been revolutionized by the agreement. As I have said, it was stabilized.
– At whose expense ?
SenatorFOLL. - I shall come to “ at whose expense” later. I intend to state the consumers’ case in due course, and Senator Wilson and Senator DrakeBrockman need not be concerned on that point. The agreement I am referring to is the last agreement entered into, when the price was raised from £21 to £30 6s. 8d. As a result of the agreement, and of the stabilizing of the industry, it has been possible for many of those engaged in the industry to build decent homes for themselves, instead of occupying humpies, which were their homes in the past. In some cases they have been able to erect houses for themselves, and they are living as white people should. They are in a part of Australia where every effort ought to be made to give white men and white women reasonable comfort. They are developing the tropical areas of north Queensland, and are entitled to better conditions than those who are living in the more genial climate of the south. They have been enabled tobuy fertilizers to secure a better return from the land. The millers have been able to improve their plants by up-to-date machinery, and as a result have got a greater return from the cane. The whole industry is being run on a more economical basis than before, and that has been brought about by its stabilization. Senator Drake-Brockman interjected some time ago, “At whose expense?” If Senator Drake-Brockman,Senator Wilson, and other carping critics who know very little of the subject they are talking about would take the trouble to find out what the world’s parity was for sugar when the Queensland growers were making sacrifices and selling it at 3½d. per lb., they would realize that Australia is still in the debt of the sugar-grower.
– What about the wheat and wool growers? The honorable senator is blowing only one bugle in the band.
– Senator Wilson will have an opportunity of putting the case for the wheat or the woolgrowers, and, if he does so, no section of the community will adopt the tactics that have been pursued by some of the critics of the sugar industry. I have yet to learn that a public meeting has ever been held with a view to damaging the wheat or any other primary industry except sugar-growing, and I regret that there should be found in
Australia people so unpatriotic as to call a public meeting to do injury to the sugar industry. The very individuals who are always crying about the White Australia policy fail to realize that this industry is the foundation of that policy. I am sorry to notice that among those who were present at the meeting recently held at the Assembly Hall in Melbourne were men who are supposed to be leaders of public thought, and are expected to mould the minds of the public in the right direction. Yet in order to do a little vote-catching, they were prepared to attend a meeting called to do injury to one of our primary industries. It is regrettable that members of this Parliament should lend themselves to such tactics.
– There was no member of the Senate present.
– The Labour members spoke in favour of the sugar industry at that meeting.
SenatorFOLL. - There has never previously been an organized attempt by any section to destroy one of the primary industries of Australia as there has on this occasion, and the chief offender has been one of the Melbourne newspapers.
– You are as unreasonable about this question as you were about bananas.
– A public meeting was called, and all and sundry were requested to be present.
-And only a few hundred house-wives were attracted to the meeting.
– A member of the Commonwealth Parliament, who was quite within his rights, endeavoured to submit an amendment, but the great Australians present were not prepared to hear the other side of the case. They had this member gagged, and they bundled him out, neck and crop. I do not believe that this attitude reflects the true opinion of the people of Australia. I would give the majority of the people of Victoria and of the other States credit for being justas jealous of the interests of the sugar industry as citizens in the eastern States would be, say, of the wine industry in South Australia. I cannot imagine that the “ rags “ that constantly harp upon the sugar question represent the true views of the general community.
Now I come to the consumers’ point of view. Had it not been for the Queensland sugar-growers during the war period, instead of sugar being obtainable at 3½d. per lb., the price would have been more like1s. 3d. if the whole of that commodity had had to be imported. Many of the big manufacturing concerns builtup a huge export trade during the war, and they did so only because of the fact that sugar was obtained from Queensland at a very much cheaper rate than it could have been got from other parts of the world. There were big overseas contracts, and the manufacturers profited because the Queensland growers did not demand world’s parity, but were patriotic enough to supply a cheap article in order that the large Imperial and other contracts which manufacturers in the south entered into might be carried out. Although the Queensland growers have played the game right through, many others, unfortunately, are not playing the game at present. The subjoined figures indicate how Australia would have fared between 1915 and 1921 if sugar had had to be purchased in foreign markets at world’s parity: -
Those figures are very striking, and show that there was a saving of £12,329,950 to the consumers through Australia having a sugar industry of its own. Apart from the actual saving to the community, there was a large amount of employment given, and manufacturers had the opportunity to accept large contracts for the hundredandone things for which sugar is required, enabling Australian products to be made more widely known abroad. Sugar is selling at 6d. per lb. to-day because, when the price was high a year or two ago, the Queensland production was not sufficient for Australian requirements, and the Government had to import sugar at a very high figure. If the Government had determined then to charge the consumer a fair price for the product, the people of Australia would have been obliged to pay from10d. to1s. per lb., and there would not have been the present overdraft in the sugar account which is responsible for the present prices, because it has to be wiped out. But, even under the renewed agreement, it will be possible, I understand, to provide sugar at a cheaper rate than at present, and also to insure that the overdraft shall be liquidated at no distant date. It must be remembered that in spite of statements to the contrary, the export trade is still being supplied with the cheapest sugar in the world, quality considered, and owing to the rebate principle, export business is not being injured in any way. My own opinion is that certain vested interestsin Australia are endeavouring to use the Queensland sugar industry to force the fruit-growers to accept unfair prices for their products. They are trying to pit the sugar industry against fruit-growing without any justification whatever. Both are great primary industries; both are essential to the true development of the Commonwealth, and it is the act of a little Australian to endeavour to pit one against the other. I sincerely trust that honorable senators, during the time they may have at their disposal, will make themselves fully acquainted with all the conditions under which sugar is grown.
– I thought you were going to give us the consumers’ point of view.
– I have pointed out that the consumers have not actually suffered, but have greatly benefited, by the agreement. If Senator Wilson had been listening he would have realized that they have benefited by the arrangement. I hope that when an opportunity is given to honorable senators to discuss this question again they will recognise the fairness of the request that is being made on behalf of the sugargrowers of Queensland, and that we shall have an extension of the agreement. In spite of an agitation that is going on in certain quarters, I believe the majority of the people are sufficiently alive to the importance of the industry to realize that a renewal of the agreement will be in the interests of all concerned, and that this great primary industry is one that should be jealously guarded by the whole community.
– We have heard a lot about the sugar industry this afternoon, and as I have just returned from Papua and Rabaul, I think it desirable that I should acquaint honorable senators with my impressions of those places.
– Do they grow sugar there ?
– It is possible to grow anything there. Australia has a very fine asset in the Mandated Territories. What is most gratifying indeed is the fact that the plantations are in the hands of Australians - returned soldiers forthe most part - and everything is being conducted in a most businesslike manner. The plantations are a credit to the men who are working them. It is a pity that there appears to be a disposition in certain sections of the southern press to circulate disparaging reports about Papua and late German New Guinea.
– The policy of the papers here is to disparage everybody and everything.
– Well,I appeal to those honorable senators who may have time at their disposal to have a look at Rabaul and the surrounding district. If they do so, I am sure they will be quite satisfied that everything is being carried on most satisfactorily. The authorities have cleaned out a number of men who were unsuitable for the work, and there are still a few Germans left who might well be got rid of. We have only had the mandate over Rabaul for about twelve months, and I think that General Wisdom and his staff have, during thai time, done very fine work. Theirs is an uphill task; but still they are doing splendidly. Frequently we hear the complaint that Government undertakings always fail. Very seldom do we hear anything about mistakes made by private enterprise. The Germans, who are supposed to be a very clever people, made a mistake in Rabaul some years ago. The planters established big plantations of Assam rubber, which has now grown to beautiful forests, so dense that it is almost impossible to see the sun through the trees; but, unfortunately, Assam rubber is not suitable for that class of country. It is worth only about two-fifths of the price of Para rubber. If the Australians who are now in charge of the plantations are only left alone, I have no doubt as to their ultimate success. It is not advisable, however, that every returned soldier should endeavour to get hold of a plantation, because a fair amount of capital h required to work one of those properties. The prospective settler should know something of the conditions of the country, and, in addition, be equipped with sufficient capital. A cocoanut plantation takes from ten to twelve years to come into full bearing and during the whole of that time it must be kept absolutely clean. This is somewhat difficult because the variety of grass that grows there is injurious to the cocoanut tree. It has, however, been found that when the cocoanut trees are sufficiently grown cattle will eat this grass, and thrive fairly well on it, and they are now being introduced. It is believed that this will be found to be a means of getting rid of this grass.
I also visited Papua, or British New Guinea, and I may inform honorable senators that a bore has been sunk 1,200 feet in exploring for oil, and every one there seems very pleased at the prospect of striking real oil there in a very short period. It is as well that we should know that the Government have not been idle in this matter. The man in charge of the whole business is an Australian, and there are three Americans, who are specialists at the work, engaged in the actual drilling. The place at which they are now expecting to strike oil, Po Po, is about 100 miles from Port Moresby, and it is within 30 or 40 miles of Yuille Island, where there is a beautiful port, from which it can be shipped, if it should be obtained, in large quantities. I understand that there are good prospects of the discovery of oil in the late German New Guinea, at Eitape, also, and exploration for oil is going on there now.
Speaking generally, the prospects of Papua at the present time are considered very bright. Copper has been found, and a good deal of money is ‘being spent in recovering it; and I am informed that the industry is likely to be a big success. If oil and copper are discovered in payable quantities, Papua will be a wonderful asset for Australia.
– Are they getting over their shipping troubles?
– I do not know much about shipping, but, as far as I could see, they have plenty of shipping to meet their present requirements. It should be remembered that there are no big plantations in Papua, such as there are at Rabaul. Honorable senators must not run away with the idea that the whole of Papua, or British New Guinea, is fertile, easy country. It is very much broken, and there are only small plantations in pockets in different districts. When I was there a couple of men had gone over to Cairns to purchase a few small boats. The shipping difficulty there is to secure a sufficient number of small boats that can cross the little bars and navigate amongst the many small islands, in order to pick up a few tons of copra here and there. Papua at present is no place for big ships. There are ports at Yuille Island, Port Moresby, Samarai, and Missima. Entering the port at Missima is like entering’ through the door of the Senate chamber. The boat goes full steam ahead until it gets through the entrance, and then must go full steam astern, to avoid hitting the bank on the other side. When a vessel is turning in the port the chief officer is stationed at the bow and the second officer at the stern, and one is shouting to the captain to go full speed ahead, while the other is shouting to him to go full speed astern. Honorable senators may smile; but I am not exaggerating what takes place. There is deep water in the port, and a vessel is perfectly safe once it gets through the entrance. At Samarai, Port Moresby, and Yuille Island there is plenty of water for shipping. Copra is brought to Yuille Island, Port Moresby, and Samarai.. Samarai appears to me to be the real commercial centre of New Guinea.
– It is the prettiest spot in the Pacific.
– I agree that it is a very pretty spot. The boats engaged in conveying copra to these ports are small sailing boats or oil launches, carrying only from 10 to 20 or 30 tons. So far as I could see, there is little inducement at present to put on bigger boats in the Papuan and New Guinea trade than are now being used. If copper mining is developed, and oil is struck, there will be a need for larger boats. While I was in Rabaul a sailing ship arrived that had been chartered by some people who were not satisfied with the terms and conditions under which they were previously getting their copra away. It took them a long time to load the vessel ; and I think they over-estimated the quantity of copra they could get, and had some difficulty in filling the vessel. She was waiting there some weeks for a load. In the circumstances, I think that it would he just as well if people who speak of the lack of chipping facilities for Papua and New Guinea visited the Territory and saw for themselves what is taking place.
A good deal of pearl-shell is being exported from Papua, and a fair amount of shell from which buttons are manufactured. Beche-de-mer and a little sandalwood and ebony are also exported.
– What about the hospitals which we hear so much talk of ?
– At Rabaul, I saw about thirty-five real wild natives, men, women, and children, who came in for. treatment by the doctors. There- are doctors going through the country, treating the various diseases of the natives; but honorable senators must remember that our possessions in Papua cover a very big area, and it is difficult to estimate what would be tho expense of keeping doctors in every village.
– Are there any tent hospitals there?
– I did not see any. Dr. Moseley is going up through the Samarai district looking into the various diseases of the natives and administering the new treatment discovered for one of the most prevalent diseases. I was told that the natives whom’ I saw coming in to Rabaul for medical treatment had never been in touch with civilization before. They were absolutely wild, but it was clear that they must have been given the “ tip “ and that they had confidence that our medical men would treat them well.
Some complaint was made here concerning the treatment of a man whose leg was taken off, and I may inform honorable senators that the story I heard in New Guinea was that this man was clearing timber and a tree fell on him and broke his leg. The natives with him became frightened and ran away, leaving him for some days. When they came back they made some effort to get him out of his trouble, but he was 80 miles from any doctor, and it was five days before a doctor could see him. The doctor rushed up to the place prepared to look after the man, but when he got to him he found that blood poisoning and gangrene had set in, and that his case was hopeless. He told the man that there was no hope for him, and that he would die in a day or two, and that he would not operate on him. The man begged him so hard to do so that he yielded and operated on him with a hacksaw. The man died within forty-eight hours afterwards.
– Was he a white man or a black man?
– He was a white man, I believe of German descent. That is a sort 6f thing that might happen to any man in the backblocks of Australia, and I maintain that there was no occasion to make a stir about an accident of that kind. Had the natives helped this man out of his trouble by bringing the doctor promptly he would have been saved. The medical men up there should be given consideration. They are doing remarkably good work. They are treating venereal diseases, and are doing what they can to improve the health of the natives. If we do not keep the natives healthy and breeding, we shall make a failure of the development of both Papua and the late German New Guinea. If we do not do so, we shall have no one to work the plantations, and we shall be up against it.
– The population is comparatively small.
– That is so. The doctors are doing everything humanly possible, and they understand tropical diseases.
– I understand that one of the troubles is that the birth-rate is exceedingly low. in some instances.
– No; the birth-rate is all right. One big planter suggested to me that good homes should be built for their labourers, and that the men should be allowed to have their women living with them on the plantations. I do not understand enough, about the matter to express an opinion as to whether that would be desirable or not.
– It seems natural.
– It seems quite natural, I admit, and it might be a good thing to do ; but there is the food question and one or two other matters to be considered.
– Some Departmental reports from Papua have recommended the same thing.
– The recommendation was rejected.
– I noticed women working, with their clothes on, at work which was not under Government, hut under outside control. So far as I could gather, the women folk have only one outfit.’ The .climate is very hot, they perspire freely, and after returning from work they retire to sleep in. the clothes they have been wearing all day, with the result that they catch a chill, which frequently develops into consumption. The Government should seriously consider the desirability of allowing the people to wear their native dress, because at present the European attire is not only inconvenient, but is directly responsible for a good deal of the sickness which prevails.
– The same thing is accountable for the reduction in numbers of the Maori race in New Zealand.
– That is so. From what I saw, the natives appear to be a very happy people, and seem to be well fed and cared for. Some are suffering from skin diseases; but it is expected that it will not be long before these will be checked and eventually cured by the medical officers. I regret that certain carping criticisms have appeared in the Australian press concerning the administration of the Mandated Territories; but I believe that these axe based largely on false statements supplied to the newspapers by ex-enemy subjects, or by men whose services were no longer required in those Territories. From what I could gather, every ‘one is prosperous and happy, and . Australians, wherever they have been placed in Rabaul and Papua, are carrying out their duties with credit to themselves and satisfaction to the Government.
; - Before I commence my chief comments I desire to congratulate the right honorable the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) on the very excellent work he accomplished on behalf of the [Commonwealth at Washington. May I also be permitted to congratulate him on the honour His Majesty the King has recently conferred on him - I refer to his elevation to the Privy Council. It is an honour earned by twenty years’ continuous service of a very high order in the interests of Australia. Many criticisms have been levelled at him from time to time.
– And many unjust ones.
– Yes, as the honorable senator observes, many unjust ones. Before some of us came into close touch with tilled Minister, we were inclined to believe that there was some truth in the vitriolic; comments published when he was selected by the Government to represent this portion of the British Empire at Washington; but those critics have been well and truly confounded by the admirable results achieved by the right honorable gentleman at that memorable gathering.
While congratulating the Minister, may I also express my appreciation of the policy which he has outlined in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory. Since the Commonwealth took over the Territory vast sums of money have been squandered in a vain endeavour to settle it, and grandiose schemes have been submitted from time to time, framed apparently in an endeavour to make it run before it walked, and to construct a Paradise without any foundations. The Minister has indicated that he intends to follow the policy that has been successful in. other portions of the Commonwealth. The whole history of Australia from its early settlement shows that first’ of all came the pastoralist, then the agriculturalist, then the cities, and lastly the secondary industries.
– What of gold mining?
– That came in between. The policy outlined by the Minister is one that appears to be sound, and which does not aim at achieving results in five minutes. It has been formulated with the idea of providing a solid foundation for the future development of that great Territory, and of honouring the trust imposed in this Parliament.
Very closely associated with the work of the Minister for Home and Territories at Washington, and in a great measure in consequence of the admirable results attained, is the reformation and reorganizing of the Defence Forces of Australia. Let me say at once that I view with- concern, and a certain amount of alarm, the reduction of the Defence Forces of this continent. The Defence vote last vear was reduced by approximately £2,000,000 when there was a howl in many parte of Australia for economy ; but in my humble opinion the direction in which the Government exercised the most rigid economy is the one in which they should have shown the greatest caution. In consequence of the action of Parliament we have to-day a very much reduced Defence Force, both naval and military. The Military Forces have already been reduced, whilst the Naval Forces are in process of reduction. That brings me to the question of compensation proposed to be paid to those members of the Defence Forces who are being compulsorily retired. Honorable senators are aware that when it became necessary for the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) to act in accordance with the instructions of Parliament, he sent out a circular, the full text of which I shall not quote, although I have it before me. The circular letter sent out by the AdjutantGeneral stated that, subject to parliamentary ratification, payment of compensation would be made to compulsorily retired officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers,and men of the Permanent Military Forces of Australia, and all compulsorily retired officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men, in addition to any leave accruing to them under the regulations, should be paid as compensation one month’s salary for each year of service, subject to certain conditions. These, broadly speaking, are that the minimum compensation shall be £200 to any officer, and that to any warrant officer or non-commissioned officer six months’ pay, and to all other ranks three months’ pay. These are the proposals which the Government intend to place before Parliament and I trust that at least the amounts which the Government propose shall, in fact, be paid to those gentlemen. One of the weaknesses of a Democracy, excellent institution though it is, is the tendency to disregard the rights of small numbers, and to have too much regard for the voting power in the community, as well as insufficient consideration for absolute justice to public servants who have done valuable work in any capacity. I ask honorable senators to consider the position of these men, some of whom have been in the Service for over thirty years. I am informed that the average length of service of officers about to be retired is from fifteen to twenty years. Many of these men have devoted the whole of their lives in acquiring highly specialized professional training, which can be used only by the Commonwealth, because once they are out of the Service, there is no scope for the employment of the special training they have acquired. They are in the position of a prominent barrister who has lost his voice, and who, although he may possess the greatest skill and knowledge, his forensic ability cannot be applied. They can also be compared with a surgeon who becomes paralyzed, because all his knowledge would be of no avail unless he could employ his hands. Thatis the position of these highly trained professional men, who have devoted all their energies to the service of their country, and who are now tobe turned adrift. I trust there will be no hesitation in granting to these men the compensation which the Government propose, and which Parliament will be asked to sanction. In this connexion, I desire to direct attention to similar action which is taking place in another part of the Empire. It has been found that, in India, the number of junior officers is largely in excess of immediate requirements, and consequently it has become necessary to retire a large number of them. The minimum that it is proposed to pay to any officer in Australia is £200. but the minimum that it is proposed to pay to any officer retired from the Indian Army is £850.
– Many of the officers in the Indian Army served only during the war.
– BROCKMAN. - Most of those retired were taken on in the years 1916-17. Some of them were from the Australian Forces, and some from the Canadian and British Forces. The minimum paid to a subaltern is £850, and to a captain, speaking from memory, £1,500. In addition to that, for each year of service in their respective ranks they receive a sum which amounts, in the case of a captain, to £150. That is the treatment which is given to officers compulsorily retired from the British Army.
– Are they retiring any non-commissioned officers in the British Army?
– BROCKMAN. - No. The men who are being retired there are practically all young men.
– Those who joined since 1915.
– BROCKMAN. - That statement is correct. They are still at that period of life when they can strike out in practically any direction, whereas the men who are being retired in- Australia are mostly of advanced years. They are not in a position to strike out in a new direction, but are mostly saddled with great responsibilities. Many of them have wives and families, and they are being turned adrift to find new avenues of employment, after having devoted the whole of their lives to attaining a high,;i professional standard. There is now no opportunity of using the qualifications which they possess. I submit, therefore, that there should be no hesitation in granting to these men, at least, the sum proposed by the Government, but, on the contrary, I hope that the Government will be able to see their way to increase the amounts proposed.
I have not touched upon the question of the non-commissioned ranks, because the hardship to them is not so pressing. In the circular that was sent out it was stated that any man who cared to retire might do so voluntarily, subject to approval by the Military Board, under the conditions set out, and to financial arrangements being made by Parliament. It so happened that, in response to this invitation, more warrant and noncommissioned officers volunteered for retirement than were actually required for that purpose. They are mostly comparatively young men. . Unfortunately, die consequence of this request for voluntary retirement was not quite what was contemplated by the Government, and I believe I am correct in saying that, as a result of it, we have lost to the Australian Forces some of the best warrant and noncommissioned officers that we had. Had the Government insisted upon making their own selections and dispensing with those whom they thought should be retired, we could have got rid of a number of men whom we could well have spared, but the consequence of allowing voluntary retirement has been that we have lost the services of some of the most valuable warrant and non-commissioned officers that we had, and have retained a number of men whom those who know them would gladly have disposed of. In that respect I think the action taken by the Government has been rather unfortunate.
Possibly they did not foresee - I believe they did not - that there would be such a large number of these junior grade men wanting to get out of the Service.
Rhat brings me to another point. In the past in Australia we have had very little consideration for the claims of the commissioned ranks. That, I suppose, is due again to the fact that we are a Democracy, and are always thinking about votes. When we came to consider what gratuities should be paid to Australian soldiers at the end of the war, we apparently thought it democratic to place the chief commander of the Australian Imperial Force on exactly the same basis as his batman. £% John Monash was paid the same amount of gratuity as the batman at the Base Depot. The position is absurd. Either a man like Sir John Monash should have received no gratuity at all, or1 he should have been paid an amount similar to those paid in the British Army. While I am on the subject of that gentleman, I may mention that I have never been able to understand the official attitude towards him. Whether it was due to fear of him, or to the possibility of his coming into political prominence, I do not know ; but personally I have always thought that he has never been properly treated in this country. Possibly it is because he has never been properly appreciated in Australia. I believe that is more or less true.
– Perhaps that is because the people do not know what he did for Australia, and they look to the honorable senator and others who have the knowledge to tell them.
– I have not time here to give the full story in appreciation of this wonderful man - and he really is a wonderful man - but if the honorable senator wants to know some of the facts, I can at least give him one or two illustrations of what I mean. I say deliberately, with a fairly .full knowledge of what I say and of the history of the war, that Sir John Monash was probably instrumental in saving a year of’ war to the world. We all know perfectly well that on 8th August, 1918, when the Australians first made their break through the German lines, plans were well advanced for the following year’s campaign, and even for the year after that. Nobody thought that the Allied Forces would succeed at that time in breaking down the German resistance. Probably the only man who really did think that anything of the sort might be done was Sir John Monash. He had worked out a new scheme of tactics. He had demonstrated in the battle of Hamel, by what we call “leap-frog tactics,” how it was possible to break through, consolidate, and keep possession of the full depth of the advance. Having demonstrated how it could be done, he then formulated a larger scheme, which was accepted by GeneralRawlinson and sent to the CommanderinChief. I believe the CommanderinChief’s reply was, “Let them have a go at it. It cannot do any harm, anyhow.” They did “have a go at it,” and the Australians and Canadians, working together, on the 8th August, 1918, smashed through 10 miles on the first day, to the amazement and surprise of the whole world. I was fortunately at the apex of that smash through, so I know how far they got. The immediate consequence of it was that the Generalissimo took advantage of the success, instead of waiting for the following year, when it was intended to make an attempt to break completely through. The following up of that success resulted, as we know, in the complete débâcle of the German armies. That was the work - I put it very crudely, shortly, and broadly, perhaps - of Sir John Monash. Success was, of course, made possible by the wonderful troops under his command, but nevertheless the idea was conceived by him, and the attack was carried out under his direction. How are we going to estimate the value of his services to Australia, to the Empire, and to the world? What recognition has ever been accorded to him in Australia? And yet, how can we reckon the money value of this accomplishment alone? Possibly he saved to the Empire hundreds of millions of pounds.
– Has this service ever been properly appreciated by the Imperial authorities ?
– It has.
– And it has been recognised by the Germans, too.
– It has, indeed but the people who have not recognised it, and have done nothing to commemorate it, are the Australian people who owe him most. Honorable senators may remember that at the end of the war, when Great Britain washanding out gratuities to all ranks, the minimum amount given to any army commander was £10,000. The amount we gave to Sir John Monash was £124 and some odd shillings, the same as was paid to his bâtman. The British Government gave to Sir William Birdwood for his services a baronetcy and £10,000: All that we have officially given to Sir John Monash is the “ cold shoulder.”
– And £124, with some shillings odd !
– That is so, as the gallant- and distinguished senator has observed.
– I cannot follow the honorable senator when he says that we gave Sir John Monash the “ cold shoulder.” I, as an Australian, would hardly plead guilty to that. I would like the honorable senator to be more clear on that subject.
– I was Deferring to the officialattitude. I have not seen any reference in the records of this Chamber, or of another portion of this Parliament, which is properly appreciative of the wonderful work accomplished by this man.
– I think this Chamber is for the first time informed of it.
– I believe that statement is correct.
– It is exactly the same tneatment as was meted out to every other Australian commanding officer.
– Pre cisely; but I realize that the so-called democratic principles adopted in dealing with public men in Australia are very weak, and in my opinion they are very wrong.
– What would you have us do in the case of Sir John Monash ?
– I am not prepared at present to make a suggestion on the matter; but I think this Parliament should have granted him a gratuity at least equal to the amount given to General Birdwood by the British Government.
– All our generals did so well that perhaps it was thought invidious to discriminate.
– I did not contemplate being led into a discussion of this nature, but I do not regret it, because I have the greatest admiration for Sir John Monash. I have always felt intense resentment, as every other member of the Australian Imperial Force has, of the way in which our chief has been treated, and of the failure of the general public to appreciate the work he accomplished on behalf of Australia, the Empire, and the whole world.
It will be remembered that, when we first enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, certain promises were made to all ranks that in the event of their being killed their dependants would receive certain pensions. The amounts promised in those days were fairly small, and in consequence of the increased cost of living many of them were subsequently, very properly, increased; but the relative amounts promised to the various ranks when the Australian Imperial Force was formed have not been maintained. The widow of a major to-day receives the sum that was originally promised to her, and the widow of a private gets a sum very nearly equal to the pension originally promised to a major’s widow. J£ it was right and proper in the first place to differentiate between the amount to be paid to the widow of a major and a private respectively, the same relative difference should be preserved ; but that has not been done. Of course, people say that it is democratic to put them all on the same mark; but I think it is quite wrong. “We who were on active service knew very well that the risks run by the private were altogether less than those to which the junior officer had to submit.
– His responsibility was greater, too.
– BROCKMAN. - Yes; but, apart from that, the company officer was subjected to greater risks than the rank and file. On many occasions, when I offered promotion to men in the ranks to positions as commissioned officers, they declined, saying that, being married men with dependants at home, they could not afford to run the extra risk involved. Yet the pension for the widow of a junior commissioned officer has been kept the same, as that of the widow of a private. When the question of pensions comes up for revision, as I understand from the Governor-General’s Speech it will, I hope the Government will consider the claim of these comparatively few people who have not a very large vote in the community. I trust that justice will be done to them, and less regard will be shown for the larger, and noisy, crowd, who possess many votes.
To return for a moment to the matter I, was dealing with when I was induced to , mention the name of Sir John Monash, 1 would like to point out, as I have done on other occasions, that it seems to me to be a fatal mistake to allow the very excellent staff we created and discovered during the war, to be dissipated. The very excellence of the Australian Imperial Force appears to me to be creating a danger for us to-day. The notion has got abroad that the “brass hat” is a person to be looked on with contempt, and that when we put an Australian into a uniform he at once becomes a complete and accomplished soldier. Another equally erroneous idea is that we can put a couple of red tabs upon an officer, and he at once becomes a complete and accomplished staff officer.
– The so-called’ “brass hats “ were mainly recruited from the ranks.
– BROCKMAN .- Practically every one of them came from the ranks. There are two or three of them present in the Senate now, and I think that, without exception, they have been privates, but they attained their present rank by many years of study and a good deal of practical experience. Many people imagine that, because the Australian Imperial Force in due course became a wonderful fighting unit, it is only necessary to put these seme Australians into: uniform to get a Force of the same calibre again.
– Not the same Australians, but a new lot.
– Just so. It is a very wrong assumption. When the late war commenced we had ‘enough officers and non-commissioned officers to equip very efficiently one division. We had to borrow from the British Army the majority of our staff officers.
– At one time we had. as many as 1,200 borrowed men.
– In due course practically all of them disappeared.
– All except twelve.
– At the end of the war we had accumulated from the Australian Imperial Force a very excellent and highly qualified lot of stall officers, most admirably trained, and a very capable body of instructors. A great many of them had been civilians in their ordinary avocations. They had not attained those qualifications merely by having red tabs placed on their uniforms ; it was the result of hard learning in a most difficult school. Seeing that we have all that knowledge in Australia, whatever we do let us keep together an efficient staff. Now we find that Parliament, in its wisdom, has said that the Defence vote has to be reduced, and there is an element in the community that would like to wipe out defence altogether. In response to the clamour of those who desire to wipe out the Defence vote, and of those who wish to reduce it almost out of sight, Parliament has been compelled to cut it down by £2,250,000. Consequently, many of these staff officers are being allowed to go. It is time the people of Australia put on their thinking caps, and called a halt. It is all very well to say that in the next war we will have the good old British Empire to keep the flag flying. It may not happen that way. We may walk right into trouble in the next war without being given twelve or eighteen months to build up the necessary staff of instructors. While I realize that there is nothing finer in the world than the Australian manhood, nobody can make soldiers out of them in five minutes. Yet the false notion exists that we only have to put a musket in an Australian’s hands to make him a complete and finished soldier.
While the Conference at Washington succeeded in reducing the navies of the world, it did not reduce the armies to any extent at all. There is no agreement between the Great Powers to lessen their armies. The agreement is merely one to limit the navies, but the relative strengths of thosenavies are retained, with this difference, that the dominating position of the British Navy which obtained some seven or eight years ago no longer exists. The Empire is in the same position under the Washington Agreement as another great nation so far as naval strength is concerned. The position, therefore, seems to me to be that, while we have reduced the navies, we have not altered the armies of the world, and Australia’s vulnerability has not been minimized. In fact, we are in exactly the same position as before. If armaments had been reduced to merely police or local requirements, I could have understood the feeling that seems to obsess Australia that we now require no defence at all; but since that is not the position, I cannot understand this demand to do away with defence in Australia. While the relative strength of the great nations is retained, it seems to me that Australia’s position, except for the honorable understanding that has been arrived at with regard to the Pacific, is as it was before, and any menace that may have existed prior to the Washington Conference is there still. Armies are not transported by fleets of battleships, but by fleets of transports. If it were possible under conditions that existed before the Washington Conference to threaten Australia, it is possible still to threaten this country. In any event, the Naval Agreement will last only for ten years at the longest.
– No; the minimum period is ten years.
– I stand corrected. That is so. But under the agreement there is no limitation on the construction of submarines, despite the excellent endeavours made in this direction by our Australian representative at the Washington Conference.
– But there will be some limitation as to the method of conducting warfare by submarines.
– What will that be worth if war comes again?
– I am afraid that at best it is a pious hope. If we remember the wonderful development in the construction of submarines that took place during the war, we may get some idea of the possible operationsby submarines in the future. I am afraid that Australia’s position is not quite so secure as some people would have us believe it is.
I turn now to the conditions in Papua and ex-German New Guinea, referred to this afternoon by my gallant and distinguished friend, Senator Cox. I am glad to hear from him that the outlook, from an administrative point of view, is so satisfactory;but I cannot agree with him that trading operations are in the same position. As all honorable senators are aware, the principal products of the islands are rubber and copra.
– They are not tapping the rubber now.
– I know; and that is exactly what I am coming to. The cost of producing rubber - I have obtained my information from the Demara Rubber Company, which honorable senators will please understand is one of the largest plantations in Papua - is 9½d. per lb., f.o.b., Port Moresby, and the cost of transhipment to Sydney is another 2d.,making the landed cost in Sydney11½d., whereas the latest Sydney quotation, that is world’s parity, is only 7¾d. Now that is the position of the rubber-growers. I remind the Senate that a large number of plantations has been established in Papua at the instigation of the Commonwealth Government, and that we are also concerned about the future of. a large number of plantations established in ex-German New Guinea by German planters prior to the war. It is impossible, in the face of the figures I have quoted, for these plantations to continue operations unless the planters get some relief somewhere and somehow, because no industry can go on producing an article at11½d. per lb., and selling it for 7¾d. per lb. The figures dealing with rubber production in Papua are rather interesting. I cannot speak for the rest of the islands, because the details are not available to me. In 1919 Papua exported 207 tons, valued at £33,000; in 1920 242 tons, valued at £41,000, and in 1921, 255 tons, a very considerable increase, valued at only £1,850. Now that is part of the position. Last year we imported into Australia rubber goods to the value of £511,000, and the previous year goods to the value of £240,000. The entire production of Papua and New Guinea could be used in Australia. We are committed to a policy of Protection, and yet we give no protection whatever to the rubber industry of Papua, which as I have already stated was established at the instigation of the Government.
– They want an agreement like the sugar -growers.
– They want some sort of protection, otherwise the rubber industry of New Guinea and Papua must go out of existence. Everything that residents of the island import from Australia has to pay duty under our Customs laws, but their own products have to compete with the rest of the world without any protection. Importations of rubber to Australia from Papua last year totalled only £23,000 out of a total of £511,000, representing rubber goods.
– There is a protection on rubber goods.
– Yes, but I could not get any figures dealing with the raw product. Unless the industry is to be allowed to disappear altogether, some form of Protection should be provided.
– Can you enlighten the Senate as to the onerous conditions under which rubber is produced, seeing that it costs the grower 9½d. per lb.
– I can only say that the figures I am using were supplied to me by one of the largest of the Australian plantations in Papua.
– After planting, very many years elapse before the trees are grown sufficiently to produce rubber; meanwhile the plantation has to be kept clean and the expense of preparing the ground is tremendous.
– But I understand that even that item is not included in the figures I have given.
I turn now to copra. I am advised that the cost of production, f.o.b. Port Moresby, is £12 per ton, and that the cost landed in Sydney is £17 5s. per ton; the freight between Port Moresby and Sydney being £4 10s., while the freight from Port Moresby direct to England is £5 5s. per ton. Owing to the limitations imposed by our Navigation Act, planters are forced to send their products to Sydney before they can be transhipped elsewhere. But that is not the whole of the trouble. The principal foodstuff of the Islands is rice, which comes from China, and again the unfor- tunate consumer of the product is obliged to see ships carrying his rice go right past his door, so to speak, down to Sydney, and then the product is transhipped back to Port Moresby, or elsewhere in the Islands, all of which means additional cost to him. That is one illustration of the unfortunate effects upon Australia of the operation of the Navigation Act. The Dutch packets that sail right past Port Moresby are not allowed to take the rice that is required there into that port, but must bring it on to Sydney. Brums, Philp, and Company in due course pick it up at Sydney and take it back to Port Moresby, and the people of Papua have to pay the freight from Port Moresby down to Sydney, and from Sydney back again to Port Moresby, because exemptions are not granted to ships visiting Papua from the restrictions imposed by the Navigation Act.
– Which Department could grant such an exemption?
– The Trade and Customs Department. If copra could be shipped direct to England its production would be quite a profitable industry even at present reduced prices, but it is not a paying proposition because it has to be sent from New Guinea to Sydney, and thence to Great Britain, or wherever else it is required.
To give a further illustration of the misfortunes of the people of Australia because of the iniquitous legislation of the Navigation Act, let me inform honorable senators that, whilst maize coming here from South Africa has to pay a freight of 22s. 6d. per ton, maize coming from Cairns to Melbourne has to pay a freight of 40s. per ton. Sugar pays a freight of 25s. per ton from Cairns to Melbourne, and sugar brought from Java to Melbourne pays a freight of only 15s. per ton. These are some of the anomalies due to the monopolies created on the coast of Australia through the existence of the Navigation Act.
I wish now to say a word or two on industrial matters, but before referring to industrial matters proper I should like to make some comment on the recent appointments to the Arbitration Court. I do not, of course, propose to criticise either of the two gentlemen recently appointed to the Court. Such action would be highly improper on my part, and would rightly be prevented by the President. But I will say that in my view it is a. great mistake to appoint men to the position of Judges for a term of years. The high standard that has always obtained in British Courts of Justice is due in a very great measure to the fact that the Judges are appointed during good behaviour and for the term of their usefulness, and can only be removed, speaking generally, for improper behaviour, and even then only by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. Men even when they obtain the high position of Judges are still human beings, and if we are to-;- appoint men to the Judiciary in Australia for a term of years, we shall run serious risks. The men so appointed may possess all the necessary qualifications, and be excellent persons for such positions, but they will still be men, and whether they actually depart from the high moral standard that has always characterized the Judiciary in Australia, or whether they do not, it will always be said by interested parties that they do depart from it. It will be said, rightly or wrongly, that men in such positions whose term of office is drawing to a close will be calculating upon who is in power, or who is going to be in power, or whom it is necessary they should please with their various judgments.
– The honorable senator should not overlook the fact that in this particular case but for the appointments made there was a strong probability that the arbitration machinery would break down.
– BROCKMAN. - I grant that, but I am pointing out the danger of making such appointments for short periods. I am rightly reminded that possibly at an early date the whole question of arbitration in Australia must go into the melting pot again, and my comment on that is that the sooner it happens the better.
– In that event the!;Government might be blamed for appointing men for life to positions that might be wiped o%t.
– T would say that that would not matter. The principle involved is, in my opinion, so vital and. important that it should be maintained. Even if it should be necessary to compensate Judges for doing away with the positions they held”, that would be better than running the risk of the introduction of the new principle to which I take exception in appointments to the Judiciary of Australia.
– I am not objecting to the honorable senator’s contention, but his arguments apply with equal force to the appointment of an acting Judge.
– I do not think so.
– The contingency suggested by the Minister might arise even though the Judges were appointed for a stated period.
– Of course it might. I wish to say, with regard to the Arbitration Court, that, in my opinion, arbitration has been a failure in Australia. Honorable senators will remember that when arbitration was first introduced by men of the high calibre and standing of the late Mr. Deakin and the late Mr.’ Kingston, it was promised that we would witness a new era in which “ sweet reasonableness ,! would take the place of force. That promise, has’ not been realized. Instead of having the industrial peace which was promised us as the result of the introduction, of arbitration, we find that between the years 1913 and 1920 in New .South Wales alone, there were over 2,000 strikes, involving a loss of about 11,500,000 working days. That occurred under the arbitration system that obtains here to-day. In the Commonwealth during the same period there were over 3,000 strikes, involving over 900,000 working people and resulting in a loss of 17,200,000 working days. If that could happen during the period referred to, how can it be said that the system of arbitration in Australia is anything but a complete failure ? There are more industrial disputes and there is more industrial unrest in Australia than in any other part of the world. Let us compare our position in this regard with that of Canada. For every forty-four industrial disputes that take place in Canada, there are 400 in Australia. In Canada there are no industrial tribunals such as we have here. The various industries are there allowed to work out their own salvation, and employers and employees are not interfered with in the same way as they are here. Arbitration was introduced in Australia to eliminate industrial disputes. They were to be brought before the Arbitration Court, “and “ sweet reasonableness” was to prevail.
– The honorable senator must go further back, and admit that before the introduction of arbitration there was a series of very extensive and costly strikes.
– That is so, but I am pointing out that we are in a worse position to-day under the arbitration system than we were in before.
– I do not think that Australia is any less prosperous because of the arbitration system.
– I ask the honorable senator to consider the figures I have quoted. Does he mean to say that Australia would not have been more prosperous if the 17,200,000 working days lost by strikes in the Commonwealth had been used as such?
– No doubt it would, but I doubt whether Australia would have been any more prosperous if we had not had the Arbitration Court. We should probably have been worse off without it.
– BROOKMAN. - That is purely a matter of speculation, but the fact remains that in Canada, where they have not the system of Industrial Courts that we have in Australia, for every forty-four disputes that occur there are 400 in Australia.
– In New. Zealand, where they had an Arbitration Court, there were no strikes, and we followed the example of New Zealand.
– BROCKMAN. - In New Zealand, in a period of great prosperity, they had no strikes, but when that period came to an end they began to have strikes; and if Mr. Seddon, who boasted continuously that New Zealand was a country in which there were no strikes because of their industrial system, had lived long enough, he would have realized that New Zealand under its industrial system is a place in which there are more strikes than in any other country in the world, with the exception of Australia.
Let me go back to the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution desired that industrial enterprises extending beyond the boundaries of any one State should be dealt with by the Commonwealth, and that purely State industries should be dealt with by the various State Parliaments. That would be a very desirable condition of affaire, but under the interpretation given to the Constitution by the High Court of Australia it has been possible for every industry in the Commonwealth to artificially manufacture an Inter-State dispute. Consequently, by apaper warfare, if I may use the expression, it is possible to bring before the Federal Arbitration Court every industry in Australia. That was never contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. They intended that such industries as shipping and shearing should come under the jurisdiction of Federal Arbitration Courts, but that other matters should be left to the control of the States. At present, the States are able to legislate with regard toall these matters, and so also is the Commonwealth, and the consequence is that throughout Australia we have this wretched overlapping of awards in practically every State, and industrial harmony under such conditions is practically impossible. We find the workers in one trade in, say, New South Wales, ignoring the State Court and manufacturing an Inter-State dispute in order to get a Federal award. If they are not satisfied with that they revert to the local tribunal.
– A Federal award does not apply unless it is higher than a State award.
– That is so. As the position stands to-day there is overlapping jurisdiction, and consequently utter confusion, and we shall have to go back to the position which was thought to exist when the Constitution was drafted. This matter will come up for review during the session, and I understand that in order to make the position clear an amendment of the Constitution will have to be made. Personally, I trust that an amendment will be made in the direction of returning to the States the exclusive powers which we thought had been reserved to them when the Constitution was drafted.
– Was it not said at a recent Premiers’ Conference that that could be done without an amendment of the Constitution?
– It was agreed that there should be a surrender of additional powers to the Commonwealth to enable it to effectively handle the situation, and the wretched overlapping awards could be dispensed with. The handing over to the Commonwealth of additional powers to enable it to effectively deal with the situation is one method, and the other is by definitely fixing in the Constitution what the original framers had in their minds, which,I submit, is the better plan.
– Cannot Parliament limit the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court?
– No. The Arbitration Court is in a peculiar position. We can appoint a Court. We have the right to legislate, but not to adjudicate. Invested in that institution is the power of making laws, with which we cannot interfere under the present Constitution. If the Commonwealth Parliament, or the people, who really decide the issue, will not agree to give back to the States the powers which the Commonwealth now possess, the only way to settle it is for the States to give to the Commonwealth the powers they require in orderthat the position may be satisfactorily settled. As it is to-day, nobody can handle it by reason of the fact that the framers of the Constitution thought all the powers, withthe exception of those required in connexion with legitimate InterState disputes, were reserved to the States, whereas, in fact, under an interpretation of the Constitution, and a little manipulation on the part of trade unionists, the different States, and all disputes, whether Inter-State or not, can be dragged into the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I am sure honorable senators will agree that this position is almost intolerable. The merchants and traders in the Commonwealth require some certainty concerning industrial conditions, and they should know definitely with what they are likely to be confronted. As it is now, they cannot discover where they stand.
– There is also the matter of retrospective pay.
– Yes, that is terrible and scandalous.
– This Parliament has removed the Commonwealth Public Service from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– This Parliament has created a separate Court.
I notice that the Government contemplate introducing during the present session measures relating to Naval and Air Defence, Lands Acquisition, Bankruptcy, Patents, Trade Marks, Service and Execution of Process, Crimes, Declarations,
Navigation, Customs, Beer Excise, and Nationality. Many of these proposed measures are very desirable ; but there are two which do not appear in that long list that are most essential to Australia. One of the many enactments we require under the powers we possess under section 51 of the Constitution is a uniform company law. The present position in regard to company law is that we have a separate law in each State, which is most undesirable, confusing, and inconvenient to business men particularly.
– The constitutional difficulty has hitherto been a bar.
-BROCKMAN. - Yes, but we have certain powers which we have not used. The constitutional position has never been tested, and never will be until we take some steps in this Parliament to place an enactment on the statute-book to see whether it is constitutional or not. We cannot go to the High Court with a hypothetical case and get a decision, and the only method of ascertaining how we stand is to legislate and see if the measure will be attacked. We have discovered recently that we possess a great many powers under the Constitution which we thought we did not hold, and we shall probably discover that we have also wider powers in regard to company matters than we thought we possessed.
A most unsatisfactory position exists in regard to domicile. We have no Australian domicile at all, because it cannot be acquired under any existing law. We may acquire a Victorian, Western Australian, or any other State domicile, but we cannot acquire a Commonwealth domicile.
– What would the position be in the Federal Territory?
– I have not considered the position very closely, but I believe a person resident in the Federal Territory could not get a divorce. As the law stands, a man and a woman may have complete rights to institute divorce proceedings in Victoria, but if one party resides in Victoria and the other in New South Wales, neither can get relief. If one were to decide to go to Victoria to secure a divorce it would then be said that he or she came for that purpose, and no relief would be afforded.
– We have ample constitutional power to legislate in that matter.
– BROCKMAN. - Yes; but in the list submitted by the Government there is no suggestion that early action is contemplated to deal with that matter, which is easily remedied and urgently required.
Senator Foll, in referring to the sugar industry, gave some very interesting information; but I havealways found it most difficult to get a grip of the sugar question. I listened with interest to his eloquent appeal; but I find that I am no better informed than I was before he commenced. I have also listened to Senator Crawford and others, and I have not learned any more than I knew before I heard them.
– The honorable senator cannot blame us for his lack of ability to understand.
– Senator Foll means your inability to grasp what he says.
– BROCKMAN. - I was going to say that I am not blaming him for my inability; but I cannot be held responsiblefor the incoherence of the Queensland representatives and their inability to express the opinions which are burning in their minds in such a way that they will be reasonably intelligible to reasonably intelligent people. Senator Foll mentioned this afternoon that, as a result - I wish honorable senators to note those words - of the Sugar Agreement the planters have been able to establish beautiful homes.
– I said that they were now able to work under better conditions.
– BROCKMAN. - The honorable senator also said that the millers had, as a result of the agreement, been able to introduce improved plant, and generally to install up-to-date machinery. Judging by the honorable senator’s statement, the industry has now reached the quintessenceof perfection, all in consequence of the agreement. Well, I am not surprised. I believe that when he made that statement he was quite correct, and that, unlike a good many of the utterances that come from Queensland representatives in connexion with the sugar question, it was not a mere half truth. I do not intend at this juncture to condemn the Sugar Agreement, because I am not going to pass judgment on incomplete information. The people of Queensland and Victoria are in the same position. They have both given judgments, and those judgments are based on incomplete, if not false, premises. If one is to believe the information obtained from the press, the taxation that is going to be paid by the rest of Australia for the benefit of the sugar-growers in Queensland will amount to no less a sum than £6,000,000. If that be true- I am not sure whether it is true or not, but it is one of the things stated in the press in Victoria - then it is too much to pay to one section in the community.
– If the honorable senator read that in the Victorian press, he may guess that it is wrong.
– Possibly the honorable gentleman is right when he says that;but it is a statement that has appeared over and over again in the press of this State. Rightly or wrongly, the Victorian press says that the amount of profit per pound of sugar that goes to the sugar growers in Queensland is 2¼d. That is one side of the picture that has been presented, quite ex parte, quite interested. We have another side of the picture put to us by the Queenslanders, and, on the face of their story, it is incomplete. Therefore, from their statements, and from the statements in the Victorian press, I am not in a position, and I do not think anybody else in Parliament is in a position, except, perhaps, the Ministry, to form a correct conclusion.
SenatorFoll. - Does the honorable senator recognise the right of the primary producer to live and work in reasonable conditions?
– I admit that; and I say there is no man in this Parliament to-day who has fought harder for the primary producer than I have.
– For a section of them.
– For the whole of them. The honorable gentleman has no right to say that I have ever fought for a section of them, and I am not fighting the sugar-growers now. I want to know what is a fair thing for the sugar industry of Queensland, and not what is an improper tax to put upon the people of Australia for the benefit of one section of the community. I hope to be able to form an opinion after I have heard Senator Crawford; I cannot do so after having heard Senator Foll, who spoke this afternoon. The fact is - and it is a fact - that plantation white sugar from Java can be landed in Melbourne, after paying all handling charges, freight, and a duty of £6, for £33 a ton. - [Extension of time granted.] - This works out at about 3¾d. per lb., whereas in Melbourne to-day the people are paying 6d. per lb.
– About1½d. of that is for the repayment of the overdraft.
– The honorable gentleman says so; but there are no figures available at the present moment to justify the assertion.
– There will be tomorrow.
– There maybe to-morrow, and when those figures are available I shall, perhaps, be in a position to state my conclusions regarding the industry. We have had the example of the Queensland representatives howling like a lot of dingoes all over Australia, as if they had already been bitten - howling so loudly that I am inclined to think they have bitten somebody else, and bitten them badly. They have been prejudicing the position without giving us the complete facts, and without even knowing the complete facts themselves. Because they are making such a loud noise about it, and penetrating peaceful meetings of Melbourne’s housewives, I am inclined to think that possibly there is some truth in the assertions that are being made by the housewives. Certainly they are paying more for the privilege of using Queensland sugar than they would have to pay if there were no Queensland sugar industry. I am not going to say that the price is too large, if it be true, as has been asserted, that we have to pay it in order to maintain a White Australia. But I want to know what the true facts are. I do not want to pay, and I do not want,my State to have to pay, a large sum of money to a privileged few in any portion of the Commonwealth. It is the unfortunate lot of my State to make contributions to privileged people in various parts of Australia. They pay very heavily under this wretched Tariff that now operates for the benefit of manufacturers in Victoria, and for the privilege of using Queensland bananas. They also pay very heavily in many other directions; in fact, I believe I am correct in saying that they pay more heavily for the privilege of being part of the Federation than any other sections of the community.
– Except Tasmania!
– Not even excepting Tasmania, and yet we do not squeal for special privileges at the expense of the rest of Australia. We do not howl like a lot of dingoes for fear that something we have already grabbed is going to be taken away from us - we have never been able to grab anything - but what we do, whenever the opportunity occurs, is to lead the rest of Australia in all matters patriotic.
– Would the honorable senator mention one or two instances ?
– I would, with pleasure. More money per head of the population has been contributed by the people of Western Australia to patriotic objects than has been contributed by any other .portion of Australia. That is example No. 1. More men enlisted per head of the population of Western Australia than enlisted from any other State.
– Fewer old-age pensions are paid in Western Australia.
– BROCKMAN.That is true, and greater independence of spirit is displayed by the people of that State, who are essentially pioneers still, than is displayed by those of any other portion of Australia. I am very proud to represent the ‘finest people in Australia to-day, as indicated by their various actions, principally during the war, and it does not make them any the less fine because the majority of them were born in other parts of Australia. On the contrary, the pioneering instinct of the best men in the community has induced them to go to Western Australia and open up another big section of this continent ‘of ours.
– Why pit State against State? Surely we are big enough Australians to look beyond State boundaries ?
– Of course we are, and the only part of Australia that has never looked to State boundaries is Western Australia. It is not I who has introduced State jealousies this afternoon. I have said that the only people who are not squealing for any assistance from another portion of Australia, who are not trying to hang on to something they have extracted at the expense of the rest of Australia, is Western Australia. That is the true Australian spirit, as I understand it.
– Western Australia gets a very solid contribution from the Commonwealth Treasury every year.
– I do not even know to what the honorable gentleman refers, nor does the honorable gentleman if he thinks that a special contribution is going from the Treasury to Western Australia.
I desire to speak briefly of immigration. The thing most required by Western Australia is more people, and the thing most required by Australia altogether is more people. We hear from South Australia a demand for the construction of a railway from north to south through the portion of Australia that is least useful for settlement. The railway will run through a greater- proportion of useless country even than the East-West railway. It is said that the line is wanted for the purpose of opening up and developing Australia. I hope that some day, for that purpose, it will be necessary to build it, but that time is not yet, for there are millions and millions of acres within reach of existing railways which have yet to be opened up and used to their full capacity, or even to one-tenth of their full capacity. Until that has been done there can be no justification for building this North-South railway on the plea that it is f.or the purpose of opening up and developing the country.
– The honorable senator will remember that the same arguments were used against the construction of the East-West railway.
– I am perfectly well aware of that. I know that, looked at purely from the point of view of opening up and developing the country, those arguments were unanswerable.
– The honorable senator is a bit parochial, though.
– I am not parochial at all. I say. that if this money is spent it should be spent to the best advantage of Australia. It may be a very desirable thing that the North-South railway should be built, and no doubt in the course of time it must be built, but not yet. Until such time as the good portions of Australia are developed, let us not waste the limited amount of money available on a work that must be a “white elephant” for many years. Let us use this money for the purpose of peopling the great rich areas in Western Australia.
– Or along the Murray.
– BROCKMAN. - Or in Queensland, or any other part of Australia. I speak of Western Australia because it is the State I know best, and it affords greater opportunities for development than, any other part of the Commonwealth to-day. It requires more people than any other portion, and it is the duty of the Parliament to open up and develop that State more than any other.
– I desire to associate myself with the paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech expressing sympathy with those who have been bereaved since the Senate last met. I congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) on having, to a great extent, regained his health, and on having re-appeared in good fighting form. As a young member I am ready to recognise the great assistance I have received from him from time to time, and I hope he will long remain Leader of the Senate. ‘ I did not feel able, at the time of the selection of the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) to represent Australia at the Washington Conference, to congratulate him, but I now realize that it was one of those occasions when I have been in error. I freely admit it, because one who does not make mistakes seldom does anything. I wish to state that, having been put to the test, Senator Pearce was not found wanting. From what one can learn from the press and from general comments on his achievements at the Conference, the record is, indeed, complimentary to him. I was somewhat disappointed that Senator Russell left the Ministry. I received all possible assistance from him when I entered the Chamber as a new member. Last session his duties were altogether too much for any individual senator. He carried the burden of the Tariff, after which Bills were shot into this Chamber like peas out of a pod, and it was impossible for any honorable senator to make himself familiar with all the measures. I again protest against such hurried legislation. If we are to be of service to the community it is our duty to make ourselves conversant with the measures upon which we have to vote. There were so many Bills put through at the end of last session that the messenger could not walk rapidly enough in handing them up; he had to run. I congratulate my friend Senator Earle upon his elevation to Ministerial office, but I cannot congratulate the country. There is nothing personal in that remark. I cannot look with pleasure on a Ministerial position “ being given to one whom we have learned to regard as the high priest of Protection. I would have liked to see somebody else given the position, so that the producers would have had a friend at court rather than a man who would .put further burdens upon them.
– A practical Protectionist.
– What the Minister favours is absolute prohibition. When a certain statement was made yesterday by my friend Senator Lynch, I looked around the Chamber to see if any one had burst out laughing. He said that the Senate was not a party House. A mistake was made in the first instance in having the same franchise for the Senate as for the other Chamber, but that is the settled law of Australia, and the error has been intensified by virtually wiping out the very principle for which the Senate was called into existence. I refer to the attendance of senators at party meetings. Members of this Chamber are sent here largely to protect the smaller States. It was recently stated by Senator Thomas that New South Wales looked for the time when it could alter the Constitution in regard to the representation of the States. I would like to utter a- word of warning to the senators coming from the smaller States that they should take care to protect their rights and privileges as senators. The Senate serves a very useful purpose, but if representation is to be granted on a population basis, the sooner this Chamber is abolished the better. It would be a deplorable thing if this Chamber were to be controlled on the same party lines as apply in the other House. To-day there is a huge majority in favour of the Hughes Administration. We have to remember that another party may be in power in the future, although I hope that day is far off.
I wish strongly to urge upon the Government the necessity to continue die work of erecting War Service Homes in South Australia. Some arrangement should be come to with that State to enable the compact with the returned men to be carried out. The Public Accounts Committee has thoroughly inquired into the administration of War .Service Homes there, and it has reported that, with the machinery brought into existence, better work has been accomplished on behalf of the soldiers than has been performed in any other State. That machinery should not be scrapped.
– The Commonwealth says that the soldiers of one State cannot take priority over those of another State.
– The Minister must recognise that either the money must be found for the work or operations must be brought to a standstill. A member of the. South Australian Ministry (Mr. Laffer) has stated that unless financial arrangements can be made the work must be shut down.
– I believe that the soldiers’ houses have been turned out in South Australia at a very reasonable price.
– Yes; they are worth 20s. in the £1, and a little bit more. I looked at a soldier’s house the other day which had cost £830, and if the occupant were willing to sell he could easily find buyers in the vicinity of £1,000. No other work should take precedence of that of providing homes for the returned men, who have been waiting so long.
– Your economy party cannot have economy and expenditure.”
– It seems to me that the compact with the soldiers is binding, and I hope the Commonwealth will adhere to it.
I was rather surprised that Senator Poll should have commented upon the Kidman-Mayoh shipbuilding contract, but I was pleased that he dissociated Sir Sidney Kidman from any transaction that was not fair and perfectly honorable, because I know that Sir Sidney went into the business purely from patriotic reasons, with no idea at all of making money out of it. I happen to know the circumstances under which he was induced to become associated with the proposal, and as we all know that he will suffer huge losses, the public men of the Commonwealth ought to have some sympathy with him over the business.
– I think all the members of the Committee recognised Sir Sidney Kidman’s position, and that he was in no way to blame.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the honorable senator, who was a member of the Committee.
On the question of immigration, I repeat that we must be particularly careful about the type of people to be introduced. One honorable senator stressed the problem of unemployment. Unfortunately, like the poor, we shall always have the unemployable, and, in order to distinguish the unemployable from the unemployed, I may inform honorable senators that during the recess I took advantage of an opportunity to make myself conversant with the large production areas in New South Wales and Queensland. I was at Rockhampton on one occasion inquiring into the prospects of the cotton industry, which is being established in Queensland. A grower, who had 22 acres under cultivation, told me that there were plenty of men about, but, unfortunately, they would not work. When I inquired the reason, he said that they would not work so long as they could line up at the bureau and get a few shillings per day from the Government to keep them. And so I say that while we may have the unemployable Avith us, we still want immigrants of the right type ; people who will be prepared to produce and not accept food without working for it, as so many are doing to-day in some portions of the Commonwealth. I absolutely object to custodians of the public purse in any circumstances feeding people, instead of giving them work to do.
The necessity for charity is, at all times, deplorable, but it is quite another thing to feed men who will not work.
– Perhaps it is cheaper to feed them in Queensland than to provide work. They can get cheap meat up there.
– I will deal with the cheap meat side of the picture in a minute or two. The sooner we come to an agreement that men must work if they are going to eat and live, the better it will be for this country; and if we are going to bring people out here, we must have the land ready for them.
Senator Drake-Brockman had something to say concerning the East-West railway. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Government are in an unfavorable position in regard to that line. The railway traverses some of the finest bush pastoral areas in the Commonwealth. Some of the station-owners are doing very well, indeed, but with one lessee holding 2,000,000 acres of land along the line and with other large areas in single holdings, the financial position of the railway must be unsatisfactory. Within the last ten days a gentleman interested in that part of the country informed me that he had a look over one of these properties which had been bought five years ago, and upon which a considerable sumhad been spent by way of improvements. After riding round the station, and noting all the improvements, he informed the lessee that if the improvements had been put in one corner of the station the lessee would have had a decent property, but, as matters stood, the station was too big to be properly handled. This is a matter which the Commonwealth Government should look into, and, if possible, rectify, in order that, by a more satisfactory development of these pastoral areas, the burden of the Commonwealth taxpayer in connexion with the East-West railway may be lightened. The station to which I refer, which comprises 2,000,000 acres, would, if properly subdivided, carry at least forty small pastoralists, all of whom, I am sure, could do well upon that class of country. The railway owned by the Commonwealth runs through State properties, but the State Governments as a rule are not prepared to assist the Commonwealth in the matter of subdividing lands.
– I believe the South Australian Government agreed to open up the country if the line were built, but they have never attempted to do so.
– The only cutting up has been where the line runs through the properties, and that is why I am emphasizing the necessity for closer settlement on those pastoral areas, in order that there may be some increase in railway traffic and a corresponding decrease in the burden which taxpayers of the Commonwealth have to carry. This policy should be a prominent feature in the Government programme.
In my opinion, there has been too much repatriation money spent on inside country, as much as £8, £9, and £10 per acre having been paid for land for the settlement of returned soldiers. We want some of this money spent on outside properties on the lines I have indicated.
– Would you send a soldier settler out there on that class of country with the amount of money that could be made available to him?
– If I had my chance to-morrow, I would prefer to go on that outside country.
– With £2,000 or £3,000?
– It is not £2,000 or £3,000 that the repatriation scheme provides, or, at all events, it is not that amount in South Australia.
– It is £2,000 in the value of the land and £625 for capital and improvements. Would you be so reckless as to send any soldier out into that class of country with a capital of only £625, or even £1,000?
– -No, I would not; but I remind the Minister that it takes £2,600 to place a soldier on the inside areas, and I would sooner take my chance with £2,000 on the outside country.
– Not without other capital. You would want more money than we allow.
– On the present big areas, yes.
– And with the present rainfall.
– I do not think the Minister quite follows me. I am saying that, if that pastoral leasehold property of 2,000,000 acres were subdivided, it would carry at least about forty small pastoralists. There is plenty of water on the runs, and all the necessary facilities are provided, so the settlers would have a better chance of making good than some of them have on inside properties.
– Subdivided in that way, each small pastoralist would have 50,000 acres of country. In the name of common sense, what chance would a man have of making good on 50,000 acres of leasehold property with only about £1,000 capital? He would not have enough to pay for his horses and improvements.
– I am not talking of a capital of only about £1,000.
– But I am.
– I am speaking of the £2,600 which each settler on inside country is costing the Government, and I am contending that in some circumstances it would be better to settle men on outside country. There are any number of young men who would prefer to face their future in that way. Even when the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was at the Burra recently, five young fellows from that district, born in the sheep industry, so to speak, said they wanted to take up pastoral country, just such as I have described, and they had friends to help them.
– I am with you now, but do not talk about soldier settlement there.
– Perhaps I had better not speak of this proposal as soldier settlement in a confined sense, but four of these young men were returned soldiers, and very good fellows, too.
– Well, they had some one to back them. That makes all the difference.
-Certainly it does ; and I am saying that something should be done to develop this great asset of which I am speaking.
– If the State Government will not cut up the land, what can the Commonwealth do?
– The Commonwealth Government should endeavour to make some arrangement with the States to secure the cutting up of some of these pastoral areas.
– At present, we have no earthly control over those leases.
– I am aware of that, but some effort should be made to prevent this great asset from deteriorating to any greater extent. We should do all that is possible to conserve it. That is the position I am putting before the Minister.
With regard to the North-South railway, I suppose that we shall have books of reports on it. Senator DrakeBrockman has said that the direct route will go through the most barren land in the Commonwealth. I do not know where he gets that information. Only today I saw a reference to a report by Mr. McCallum, who has been through the country by the direct route at his own expense. He is a practical Scotchman who has been engaged in the sheep business all his life.
– Where did the honorable senator get that report?
– I saw a reference to it in a wire from Renmark. Mr. McCallum says that the direct route is the one which should be selected for the NorthSouth railway. I admit that at the present juncture it will cost a. tremendous amount of money to build anyrailway. Matters of first importance should receive first consideration, and I am doubtful whether the Government have the right to talk about going on with the establishment of the uniform railway gauge before we have dealt with the North-South railway. In my view, if the members of the Public Works Committee went round Australia three times, that would not alter the contract obligation of the Commonwealth to build that railway by the direct route. Unless there is material evidence submitted to justify the construction of the line by any other route, there can be no departure from the direct route without the permission of South Australia.
– When the honorable senator spoke of a “ contract obligation,” I thought he was coming to Canberra.
– I shall deal with Canberra a little later. I know that the Minister would be very sorry indeed if I neglected to do so. Perhaps he will regret having reminded me of Canberra, as I have something very straight to say about it. Canberra is this place where public money burns. In most other places in the Commonwealth it is spent, but it is burned at Canberra.
I am not going to say that the NorthSouth railway must be constructed in an absolutely straight line, but I do say that it should be built by the direct route, and so aid in the development of South Australia.
– The Government are pledged tothat.
– That is so. I remember that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was asked the question definitely in the Adelaide Town Hall, and he had no hesitation in saying that it was the policy of the Government to build the line by the direct route. If that course is adopted other lines necessary for the development of the Northern Territory might be constructed from the NorthSouth line into Queensland or into Western Australia. In discussing this matter, I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that representatives of the eastern States make a desperate pull for everything that comes along. I say without hesitation to the representatives of Western Australia that the construction of the North-South line by the direct route will be of immense importance to the northern part of Western Australia, if a line is constructed to connect it with the North-South line.
– Mr. Durack says that it will mean the grazing of 20,000,000 sheep west of the line.
– That will keep two or three small pastoralists going. I await with interest the report on this line by the Public Works Committee. I must say that I was surprised that they should have considered it necessary to go to Queensland to find out the route by which this line should be taken. The route was settled by the agreement for the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth, and cannot be altered by any evidence submitted to the Committee. Some of the men who gave evidence before the Committee in the eastern States have never been near the country through which the line will pass.
SenatorFoll. - There is a much greater area of the Northern Territory facing the Queensland border than there is facing the South Australian border.
– That is so, but it does not in any way affect the terms of the contract made with South Australia by the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable senator contend that access to the Northern Territory must necessarily be from Adelaide to Darwin in a straight line?
– We say that that is part of the contract.
– That no other line but that can be built?
– We hope not, and we are looking to the Government to honour their contract.
With regard to the appointment of a Commissioner to represent Australia in the United States of America, I agree to some extent with the remarks made by Senator Fairbairn that if we had a good practical man representing Australia there it might be a good thing for the Minister to go across every other year and make himself thoroughly conversant with what is being done. The creation of important and costly positions is becoming a serious matter for the Commonwealth. As Senator Fairbairn very forcibly put it, if we look through the Governor-General’s Opening Speech we shall find proposals submitted for the appointment of Board after Board in almost every Department. I believe in the system of having a man at the helm with some responsibility. If the man at the head of a Department cannot fill his job he should be kicked out. The trouble in the Public Service is that men because of seniority are appointed to important positions, and no matter what sort of “duds” they may be, they stay there until they are sixty-five years of age. My contention is that we must have efficient men in charge of our Departments, whether in Great Britain, the United States of America, or here. Ministers must have good men at the helm in their various Departments. I am not so foolish as to expect that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) shall be able to inform me concerning the details of every branch of his Department, and tell me how every penny is spent. That is not his duty. But when we have men at the heads of Government Departments who are receiving £600, £700, and up to £1,000 a year, they should be men competent to advise Ministers with respect to the qualifications of their staffs and on matters of economy and efficiency. When we pay the average Government official £800 or £1,000 a year we are paying not for his labour but for his brains, and if he has no brains we get no return for our money.
– We cannot saddle any one with responsibility when we have a Minister and a Board controlling a Department.
– That is so. Senator Foll suggested putting men outside of political control in charge of the various Departments. As members of the Senate we have a duty to perform to the public. We are responsible to the people of Australia for the proper conduct of Commonwealth affairs, and the Government in return are responsible to us. We shall not be faithful to our job if we consent to intrust the affairs of the Public Departments to Boards about whose work we are not permitted to ask questions. I hope that good business men will be appointed to represent Australia as Commissioners, and that their appointment will not involve the creation of expensive establishments. We require markets for our produce. Australia has wonderful resources. We have the goods, and I am a believer in dressing the shopwindow. It is folly for a man to pay a big rent in a main street and not to take the trouble to dress his windows. We want men to go to various parts of the world to push the consumption of Australian goods. If that were done, we should be making progress in the Eastern markets which we are not making to-day.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
-In regard to the question of taxation, it is very disheartening to realize that there is not to be any reduction, and I trust that every economy possible will be exercised, so that the heavy burden that is being carried by many will be considerably lessened.
One is often surprised at things done in the administration of the Departments, and I now wish to direct particular attention to the action of the Government in connexion with the issue of passports to oversea travellers. In addition to procuring a passport, there are other regulations which have to be complied with.
– A traveller can leave Australia without a passport, but it is an advantage to have one.
– Can he? That is the point I wish to make. Only a few months ago a gentleman with large business interests in Australia left a power of attorney with a gentleman who was to manage his business during his absence. The whole of his assets’, which were considerable, were in Australia; but directly he applied to the Department of Home and Territories for a passport, that Department communicated with the Taxation Department, which estimated his taxable income up to the end of the financial year, and payment of the estimated amount was demanded before a passport would be issued. Is that what one would expect in a free country ?
– Perhaps he was slipping away to dodge his creditors.
– That is a very unfair statement for a Minister to make. As I have said, this gentleman left the whole of his assets, which were worth approximately £200,000, in Australia, and left the control of his business, which was a going concern, in the hands of his attorney. He booked passages for his wife and family, and when he applied for the necessary passports the Taxation Department had the effrontery to demand payment of an amount that was not due, and which was only estimated, before the Home and Territories Department would comply with his request. A Department that is administered in that way only assists in breeding absolute contempt for public administration.
– If a man has paid his debts that question would not be raised.
– Taxation is not a debt until it is due.
– A man would not be stopped for that reason if the tax was not due.
– Federal taxation is assessed up to the 30th June, and this gentleman went three months ago. The estimated amount was submitted to him, and the cash demanded. Does the Minister call that fair play ?
– That is not the reason why his passport was refused.
– Will the Minister give that assurance?
– I can quote the case of another man who was leaving Australia for a few weeks’ holiday, and who received a communication from the Taxation Department to the effect that he must pay his income tax before leaving. Very rightly, he indorsed the notification with the words, “ Withdraw this.” The Department wrote apologizing.
– If the Department will withdraw its demands for income tax when a request is made, it is a practice I feel inclined to adopt.
– The Minister cannot get away in the smoke in that way. It is difficult enough to compile a return, and even worse to pay it ; but it is beyond all reason to be asked to pay an estimated amount before it is due. These men to whom I have referred are large taxpayers, who do not wish to evade their responsibilities, and’ merely because they wish to leave Australia for a few weeks or months they should not be refused the necessary passports, because income tax which, is not due has not been paid . I can quite understand the Department exercising certain precautions when there is reasonable suspicion of a man -wishing to evade his responsibilities; but when it is a common practice to embarrass reputable men, one of whom was a member of the Federal Parliament, in the way I have indicated, it is time drastic alterations were made. It would be an advantage if the Minister controlling the Department made himself conversant with the. disabilities under which honest taxpayers are working.
– We do not prevent the issue of a passport which, after all, is only a credential which should be in the possession of any traveller.
– I am. opposing the principle of demanding the payment of income . tax before it is due, and the Minister knows the principle to be wrong.
– If that was the only reason, a passport would not be refused
– I. have given two illustrations. I do not know if the Minister wishes more; but, if he does, I will tabulate quite a number for his information.
– If a mistake has been made, the honorable senator should help to clear up the position by supplying the Minister with the names.
– I think the Minister knows who the Federal member was, and I will most willingly supply the Department with the name of the other gentleman. I understand that a statement is to be made in another place which will support all I have said.
Honorable senators will be astonished to learn that certain bodies in South Australia have been taxed, although they do not derive revenue in any shape or form. For instance, the Murray Bridge Band, - which practises two or three nights weekly, and which gave numerous performances in aid of patriotic funds during the war, received a notification from the Federal Taxation Department stating that if they did not pay £29 legal proceedings would be taken. The band funds are utilized for the purchase of instruments, and immediately the purchase is completed the instrument becomes the property of the Murray Bridge Corporation. Not one member of the band has ever received one penny in payment for his services, and, notwithstanding this, a demand is made for the payment of an exorbitant sum, otherwise proceedings will be taken.
– Are not similar demands made on individual members of racing clubs ?
– That is nob an analogous case. Demands are made for taxation on the proceeds of smoke socials held in connexion with, say, bowling clubs, but we must not lose sight of the fact that fees are paid for admittance to smoke socials, and those attending get their amusement at a comparatively low rate.
– Has not the Murray Bridge Band received any fees?
– Not in any shape or form, and every penny has been spent in the purchase of instruments.
– Does the band ply for hire?
– I expect it does.
– Then it is a business.
– If the Government intend to adopt that attitude, they will find very strong opposition in the Senate until the .position is altered. There are seven or eight bands in South Australia similarly affected, and if this provision or regulation is not altered they must go out of existence. The Hindmarsh Band, in South Australia, held 173 meetings in one year, and the members never drew a penny from the funds apart for fares. All the proceeds have been donated to patriotic and charitable funds, and, notwithstanding this, the band is called upon to submit a return to the Department.
Before concluding, I desire to refer to the Committee appointed by Parliament to inquire into a proposed agreement between the Commonwealth and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. As a member of that Committee, I was astonished to see a minority report issued by the honorable member for. Batman (Mr. Brennan), who was a member of the Committee. The members of the Committee exhaustively considered the proposed agreement. We are all deeply grateful to Senator John D. Millen for the services he rendered. His technical knowledge and general business ability were of great assistance to the Committee in coming to a decision. After the provisions of the proposed agreement had been threshed out, it was decided to appoint a sub-Committee of three to prepare a report embodying the wishes of the whole Committee. The sub-Committee of three consisted of Senator Drake-Brockman, Senator John D. Millen, and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and these three gentlemen prepared and submitted a report to the Solicitor-General (Sir Robert Garran) to be sure it was in order. It was then brought before the full Committee!, and adopted without a dissentient voice. The honorable member for Batman played his part in the preparation of the report, which is now in the possession of the Government. During our proceedings, I did not hear one discordant note, and it was with the greatest surprise that I read in the Victorian press some weeks afterwards the minority report of the honorable member for Batman. If that honorable member wished to voice his feelings for political or other purposes, he should not have adopted that attitude, which was unfair, misleading, and unjust to the other members of the Committee. If I am to be expected to serve on similar Committees in the future, I shall expect men to play the game.
– Did he indorse the subCommittee’s report?
– Undoubtedly he was a party to it.
– Did he claim the right to express an independent opinion ?
– Not to my knowledge.
– How long after the subCommittee’s report had been published was the minority report issued? Was it issued in consequence of press criticism?
– I do not know, but I think so.
I am pleased to note the policy of the Government in connexion with thePost and Telegraph Department. I am a great admirer of the administrative ability of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Poynton).
– You South Australians are clannish.
– We can afford to be charitable. The postal facilities in many country districts are in a shocking condition, and I appreciate very much the strong hand the Government are exhibiting rectifying many of the difficulties which have existed for some time. I understand from the information submitted that an attempt will be made to make the lives of those who are living in country districts a great deal happier. I am not one of those who everlastingly refer to the hardships which some country people experience. I think that the average man in the country is happy, in spite of the everlasting speeches that we hear about the fearful, dreadful things that he has to put up with. I was at a meeting recently at which the first speaker said people were dying before they could get a doctor there. The next one said that the only novelty they got was listening to the wild dogs tearing carcasses to pieces by night. The next spoke of going to a place a few weeks previously where he saw a two-roomed tin house, with manure bags used for partitions, and where a poor little girl of fourteen had to cart water 9 miles in a temperature of 105 degrees. Yet they all came in together with the chorus, “ Go on the land.” I believe that the pioneer of the future must go through the same hardships as the pioneer of the past. If a man is going to reap the unearned increment on land, he must develop new country, and he cannot expect to be spoonfed by the community.
SenatorCrawford. - People are objecting to unearned increment now.
– I am not doing so. I am only too ready to get a bit of it, if I have a chance.
With regard to the question of railway gauges, I am one of those who believe that if it is to be tackled, and if the tackling of it is justified, the gauges should be made uniform throughout the whole of Australia. I will not agree with any policy that does not approach the problem in a big way. It should either be done properly, or left alone. I have heard that a sort of backdoor entry is to be made from New South Wales to Western Australia. I think that may come later, as a developmental railway; but to say that it is going to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth with regard to a uniform gauge is all rot. The main trunk lines should be unified first. I agree with the suggestion of the Royal Commission that we should have an independent director of works to see the affair through. He should have almost absolute control, and should employ his own staff. We have men in Australia who can tackle this big proposition, and I am sure that if we get hold of the right one, and work the thing on business lines, we can build the railway and accomplish what we are after at a much smaller cost even than is estimated in the report.
– What about doing the work by contract?
– A contract, in view of the fact that there are State railways in existence, would be a difficult proposition. It will be possible to lower the cost by getting the co-operation of the States, and by using their running-sheds and work-shops. This will obviate the necessity for the Commonwealth putting up huge structures. I can answer for the State which my friends are prone to call the small State. In our work-shops we can do the necessary work without any great inconvenience to the public.
– Do your Railways Commissioners deal with the construction of new railways?
– No. That is done by the Government. The official whose appointment I have suggested will be a construction director. It is not the intention of the Commonwealth Government to take over all the State railways. If they were to propose to do so they would have all the States against them at once, and that would be the end of the performance. The conversion to a uni form gauge can be done without inconvenience to the public where the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge is in use, by the addition of a third rail. The real difficulty will be in those States where the gauge will have to be increased. I am assured that between Melbourne and Albury a third rail could be put in and the points altered at a given date. Later, the third rail could be taken away and used for lighter traffic or for a third rail elsewhere. The remodelling of the rolling-stock would, of course, have to be undertaken. All the facilities of the States could be used for this purpose, although it might be necessary to enlarge them. The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) said it would be two or three years before they would be likely to get on with the work. I think so, too; but during the year we are in, and for thenext year or two, it will be necessary to provide work in Australia. If the task is to be seriously undertaken, there is nothing to prevent the preparing of bridges and cuttings, and the undertaking of other big jobs which will not interfere with the existing rollingstock or traffic. If it is absolutely essential that we should have a uniform gauge, I certainly would start in the direction recommended by the Royal Commission. We donot want to build up a tremendous Civil Service, which, at the end of the job, we shall not know what to do with; but the men who are being turned out of other Departments might be used in this work.
Personally, I want to see the Commonwealth Government go out of all trading concerns. I have no two opinions about that. I have stated on the floor of this chamber, and I say it again, that it is not the function of the Government to trade, I am very pleased to see that we are getting rid of the woollen mills. I disagree with some of my friends on that matter, but I think the mills can be better managed under the personal direction and supervision of those who have put their money into them. That has always been a principle of successful business management, and always will be.
I have heard it said that if it were not for the Commonwealth Government Shipping Line we should have to pay higher freights than we are paying to-day. I have heard that contention put forward by men who have more right to’ speak than I. As a matter of fact, however, it is the Commonwealth Government Line to-day that is keeping a lot of the world’s shipping away from Australia. When the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) said yesterday that it was far better in the northern parts of Australia to subsidize private shipping companies than to run a Government line, I asked him whether that was not a principle with a general application. He said, “ No, there is a difference.” I agree that there is a difference, and the difference should be to get out of the Commonwealth Line altogether. The Government considers, apparently, that we cannot control in a domestic way one or two small ships on the coast of Australia, but that we can control a Line which trades all over the world. The Government was justified in entering into the shipping business; but to-day we have reached a point at which the sooner the Government clean their hands of trading and get down to the business of governing for the advantage of the people, the better. I shall do everything possible to get the Government out of all trading concerns.
I come to the question of production. There are some misguided and misinformed people who are for ever criticising the Government unfairly. I claim to be at all times a critic of the Government, but I try at least to be reasonable and fair, and to give credit when it is earned. I have from time to time heard men who are connected with country interests, as I am, criticising the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) very severely for what he has done for the producer. In this connexion I am going to take the opportunity to read a resolution which was carried by one of the largest meetings of farmers ever held in South Australia, and which represented, I think, the largest organization of farmers in Australia. The resolution was moved by Mr. Price, of Paskeville, and seconded by Mr. T. Dunsford, of Upper North, I think. A report of the meeting says -
Mr. J. C. Price said Ite would not like the meeting to close without passing a vote of thanks to the Prime Minister (Hon. W. M. Hughes) for the assistance he had rendered to them in the formation of their Pool. It waa Mr. Hughes Uley had to thank that the Pool had been successfully inaugurated, and he trusted that next year the farmers would give it the very loyal support which it deserved.
Mr. T. Dunsford seconded, and, in a vigorous speech, supported the remarks made by Mr. Price, and eulogized Mr. Hughes’ services.
The chairman said it gave him no small amount of pleasure to hear such a resolution moved and seconded from amongst the ranks of the farmers themselves. He thought the resolution might very well be, “ That the thanks of the farmers assembled at the half-yearly meeting of the South Australian Farmers Cooperative Union Limited be tendered to the Prime Minister (Hon. W. M. Hughes) for the assistance he gave to the farmers of South Australia in financing a voluntary ¥heat Pool.” He was really glad to think that they had spontaneously moved in the matter. He was sure Mir. Hughes would value the sentiment highly. He could assure them that the success of a Pool rested very largely on the question of finance - so that they could pay an advance which would enable the smaller farmers to carry on until such time as the wheat was sold.
This resolution was carried unanimously in one of the largest meetings of farmers ever held, and it was a tribute to the” Prime Minister, for what he had done for the producers in my State. Some people, for party reasons, feel that one has no right to say “ Thank you “ to anybody in politics unless one is sitting right in the same corner. I have a long way to go yet before I shall get into that position. I appreciate very much the assistance and help that the Government have , given to these Pools, including the Fruit Pool. I can assure the Government that, in my opinion, wheat-growing is getting very expensive. The producers are finding it very difficult to carry their burdens, but they appreciate, nevertheless, all that has been done to make their produce as valuable as possible.
I wish to say another word about a matter that has been sadly neglected, namely, the breeding, producing, and exporting of pigs. It is startling to consider the figures relating to the consumption of pigs in other countries. In England, up to the end of 1919, £100,000,000 was paid for pigs and the products of pigs imported from different parts of the world. In 1921, Denmark exported no less than £18,000,000 worth of pig produets to the United Kingdom. In 1916, the pigs in the Commonwealth represented a value of £1,006,763. In 1917, the value was £1,169,365; in 1918, £9,13,000; and in 1919 the amount had dwindled to £695,000. In the early days of the dairying industry it was felt by the States that some encouragement should be given to it, and an export bonus of1d. per lb. was granted. In 1918, all that was obtained for pig products exported from Australia - mostly to Eastern countries - was £419,000. Pig raising goes hand in hand with the dairying industry, and it is not too much to ask the Commonwealth Government to assist in building up a business that may be made quite as successful as the dairying industry by the granting of1d. per lb. on export pork.
– With the present price of meat, how is it possible to compete with pigs that have to be hand fed ?
– I am doing it myself, and I am still able to make a little profit, but the industry must have an export market to regulate it. It could be taken up by the people settling on irrigation blocks. Green bacon could be sent to London for 2d. per lb.
– I thought you were opposed to the Government touching this sort of thing.
– I am not suggesting that the Government should take up the industry, but they might give it the same encouragement as has been afforded in connexion with dairying and wheatgrowing.
– You ask for a bonus, and that distinguishes it from the Wheat Pool.
– A guaranteed price would satisfy me. Here is an industry that goes hand in hand with dairying; the one cannot be separated from the other.
– America has shown that hog raising can be carried on without dairying.
– That is because America has millions of acres of maize. I am, perhaps, the largest pig-owner in South Australia. I do not do any dairying, because my honorable friend’s party imposed such conditions on the dairying industrythat I had to go out of that business. I raise pigs on corn, the same as is done in America, and I am assured by authorities for whom I have great respect that, if the pig-raising industry were assisted in a serious way, and an export trade encouraged, it would become very profitable, and be a means of adding to the public revenue.
– Dothe South Australian farmers appreciate what has been done for them by the Nauru Island agreement?
– I think so; but I do not desire to introduce that matter at this stage.
– The export of bacon is limited because the curers were permitted to send away an unsatisfactory article. Experts are required to teach them how to cure the pork.
– If the Government treated you so badly over the dairying industry, why do you complain of what the Queensland Government have done in connexion with the meat industry?
– If the bottom had fallen out of the pig market, the same as it did out of the cattle market, then I would have expected this Government to do what the Queensland Government are doing - to rig the market with the retailers so as to keep the price up and enable them to get rid of their stocks. When the Queensland Government came on the scene the butchers there were afraid they were going to be down and out, and the Government were landed with high-priced stocks, so the Govern- ment kept the price of meat up to enable them to get out without heavy losses.
– It looks as if a Governmnet can handle a. business concern, if they did that.
– But not to the advantage of the consumers of the meat. To-day we have a falling meat market, and instead of the price of meat dropping in Queensland as it should do, the State Government representing the ideal Socialists, decide to keep up the price in order to get rid of their stocks.
– Do you seriously allege that the Queensland Government have entered into an honorable understanding for the purpose of keeping up the price of meat?
– I will not say that the Government have, but their managers have.
– Where did you get that from?
– I was travelling in the Rockhampton train recently, and I heard some stock people laughing about it. When the Queensland Government were commandeering the producers’ cattle and retailing it cheaply, and exporting it at a better price, it was a good game.
– The cattle were not commandeered.
– They sold other people’s meat more cheaply than their own. Queensland has furnished conclusive proof that it is time Governments got out of trading concerns. I do not care whether the Government be Nationalist or Labour, or representatives of the Farmers’ party.
– Head the Victorian Country party’s platform; it provides for a Commonwealth Shipping Line.
– I am not concerned about Victoria, New South Wales, or Queensland. Those States can look after themselves.
– Do you believe in the Government going out of the pooling system as well?
– Yes, as a business. I would be very sorry to see the Government again taking control of the pools, but whenthey give voluntary pools a financial backing, as they did last year, it is a good thing for the taxpayers and the country generally. The running of ships, butchers’ shops, fish shops, &c., should not be tolerated. The taxpayer has had quite enough experience of Government operations in that direction.
– That statement does not apply to ships. They have not cost the Commonwealth a penny.
– They will cost the taxpayer something if the Government keep them.
– Brockman. - The principle is altogether wrong.
– Of course it is.
– They were bought to enable the farmers to get their products overseas at a cheap rate.
– Well,that argument is a very debatable one, and no doubt I shall have more to say about the details on some future date.
– Your party will be declaring you bogus, if you do not take care.
– I am not concerned about that at all. I am here to do my best in the interests of the. people I represent, and I am only sorry that more honorable senators do not take the same stand.
I come now to a very debatable subject, namely, the sugar industry, about which we have heard a good deal of late. On this matter I am going to take the same stand as Senator Drake-Brockman. We have all heard many stories about the sugar industry. We get different versions of it in the press of the different States. I have read all the statements, including letters written by “ Mother of Ten “ and by many others, who have contributed to the discussion. The industry, in my opinion, has been absolutely spoon-fed.
– Fed with a shovel.
– That is so. I have yet to be convinced that the protective duty of £6 a ton, together with the Sugar Agreement-
-I suppose you understand that the duty is inoperative during the currency of the Agreement.
– I should think it would be.
– Yes, because there is a surplus at present. But would the honorable senator vote to-morrow to remove the duty? It is of no use for him to say that the duty is inoperative at present. That is nothing whatever to do with the question. I find that in 1915 the wholesale price of sugar was £25 ; in 1916, £29 5s.; and in 1920, £49; while the retail prices were - 1915, 3d. per lb.; 1916, 3½d.; and 1920, 6d.
– What was the price of bacon during those years?
– My honorable friend need not try to get away in the smoke. It is improper for him to introduce anything concerning pigs in the middle of a sugar argument. I find, further, that in 1920 the Colonial Sugar Refining Company paid a dividend of 8.9 per cent.; in March, 1921, it paid 11 per cent.; and in March, 1922, 17.39 per cent.
– That was not on its Australian operations entirely.
– I never yet heard of a business that dissected its operations in the way the Minister suggests should be done in regard to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s transactions. It makes no difference to me where the profits come from. It is a business, and in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company it returns to shareholders, who have little financial responsibility, no less than 17.39 per cent. What other business in Australia of the magnitude of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is returning such a dividend?
– The honorable gentleman knows that some portion at least of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s profits is made from operations outside Australia.
– I admit all that.
– Then why do you not state it?
– The Minister has already done so, and I have told him it made no difference to me, because I regard the company merely as a business.
– I recognise that it makes no -difference to the honorable senator, but it does make some difference to the. argument.
– I hope the Minister is not insinuating that I have any wish to be unfair.
– I do not insinuate - I usually state’ what I mean.
– By way of reply to the Minister, it may’ be said that the company’s business in Fiji is only about half as great as it was a year or two ago.
– As a representative of the people, I have a certain amount of responsibility, and I do not want a Sugar Agreement to be thrown at the Senate for acceptance on the assurance merely that it is a good thing for Queensland, and that we ought to develop Queensland along those lines. We have to . consider the whole of the industries of the Commonwealth - not merely one industry in one portion of this country.
– The agreement was not thrown at the Senate two or three years ago. It was accepted by the Parliament.
– Yes, and my suggestion on this occasion is that any agreement of this nature should be submitted to a sub-Committee of the Senate for consideration and report. Since the Wireless Agreement I am more firmly convinced than ever that we should appoint sub-Committees to closely examine al] important proposals before accepting them. Honorable senators, I am sure, would be quite prepared to give their time on such sub-Committees. - [Extension of time granted.) - Even if I stand alone, I intend to move for the appointment of a sub-Committee to exhaustively examine all important proposals that may come before the Senate, and report from time to time. The pros and cons of this sugar question deserve the closest scrutiny. One may read the Melbourne press, and get one view-point: one may go to Queensland, and read a totally different story, the press of that State being engaged in pushing Queensland’s own barrow. And if one goes to Sydney, one must accept the figures supplied by the Sydney press, which my friends from that State tell me is to be- relied upon.
– Upon what authority are you making your statement as to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s dividend?
– The figures I am quoting have been taken from one of the Sydney newspapers; I am not sure which. But up to the present the figures have not been challenged, and so I feel justified in accepting them.
– Does the honorable senator, then, stand for private enterprise, and advocate that company profits should be restricted. ~
– Yes, when the Government come into a transaction like this. If the figures which I have are correct, and I assume they are, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company prior to the present agreement paid considerably less than - as a matter of fact, not more than half - the present rate of dividend.
– Then, if the Colonial’ Sugar Refining Company, by the adoption of modern methods for the treatment of the raw product, can show such high profits, should the Government “collar” them?
– Does not the honorable senator think that the taxpayers have a right to be considered? Should they not get the commodity at a reasonable price?
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has paid a dividend of -10 per cent, for the last twenty years at least.
– How long has the company been returning a bonus of £4 on its share capital? These are details, which we are entitled to get. Perhaps my honorable friend is in a position to give them, to us. As a taxpayer from the southern districts, I should be very sorry indeed to hamper the producers in Queensland. With all due respect to Senator Foll, I can say that I have just as much interest in the success of the producers in North Queensland as in any other partof Australia.
– And I am giving you an opportunity to show your interest.
– It is very difficult to get at the facts, but the argument used by my honorable friend, that during the period of the war the interests of the consumer were so closely guarded in regard to sugar because the product was sold atbelow world’s parity, will not hold good. Why did not the honorable senator, to complete his argument, tell us how much the sugar-grower of Queensland has been getting since the war in excess of the world’s parity for his product? A statement, such as he gave us, must be taken over a period of years with all the debits and credits entered to their respective accounts, and I feel justified in saying that having regard to all the circumstances the sugar-grower in Queensland has not done badly in recent years. But I am a firm believer in Queensland. It is a great country. It possesses a wonderful soil, an ample rainfall, and in view of the possibilities in regard to cottongrowing, together with the sugar industry, its future is a very bright one. I want to say with no mistakable voice that whilst I am a member of this Parliament I intend to stand fast to the ideal of a White Australia, about which we have heard a” good deal lately. In some quarters there is a disposition to point the finger of scorn at South Australia, but I say unhesitatingly that the white man is entitled to more wages, and will do a great deal more work than any coloured labour we can get here. The Commonwealth offers a great field for the white man who is prepared to work.
As for the Tariff, I indorse what Senator Lynch has said. When the Tariff was under discussion, one of the stock arguments was that we must do all we possibly could to assist the Newcastle steel industry. The Government had the numbers, and, accordingly, placed a very serious burden upon the producers of this country. It is estimated by those who are most competent to judge that the increased cost of a farm equipment, due to the higher duties levied, is anything from £150 to £200.
– Who made that estimate?
– I did, for one.
-Brockm an. - And it is a very conservative estimate.
SenatorWILSON.- When Senator Duncan is a little older, and when, perhaps he has put some money into a primary industry, he will gain experience, and, accordingly, will have a greater right to speak authoritatively on this subject. We cannot prevent destruction by rabbits, because barbed-wire is so costly. I may tell honorable senators that the last binder I purchased cost me £37 10s. cash. The same implement to-daycosts something like £90. These are the prices which have to be paid by the young farmers who are engaged in production in this countryto-day. What have the manufacturing industries gained as the result of the high Tariff? They have gained nothing, and this has, to some extent, been due to the fact that, to use an Australian term, the coal-miners in Australia have for years been “ on the pig’s back.’’ They have had both hands on the throat of the iron and steel manufacturing industries demanding anything they please for coal, and those industries have had to be closed down. I put it to the Government who are in office to increase production, and whose duty it is to do everything possible to assist production, as they have done in some instances, that in this case the high Tariff, passed with a view to stimulate production in the iron and steel industries, has resulted in closing them down. The Australian works are closed down, aid iron and steel has now to be imported, whilst 18 per cent. of the people of the Commonwealth are called upon to bear a huge burden of taxation which was imposed for the benefit of the iron and steel industries of this country.
– But has not kept them going.
– I have just said that they are closed down. The high Tariff wall was built to keep them going, but the demands of the coal-miners have prevented it becoming effective, and our people have to import the materials necessary for the building of machinery. I say that, in the circumstances, the position must be seriously reviewed by the Senate and by the Government, otherwise the Government cannot claim that the Tariff represents anything but sectional taxation, which is unworthy of any Australian Government. We are always insisting that people should go out and develop the waste parts of Australia, but it should not be forgotten that the man who goes on to new country pays in respect of the machinery he must use three times as much taxation as the man occupying inside developed country, because the life of an agricultural machine in new and undeveloped country is not more than one-third of the life of a similar machine in developed country. The life of a binder used in the middlenorth of South Australia is at least four times as long as if it were used in rough country. The men in Australia engaged in developing new areas are, therefore, carrying a huge burden of taxation which was imposed for the benefit of the secondary industries, and I ask the Government now in the name of fair play to review the Tariff in such a way that justice may be done to the men who are doing so much for Australia.
I have something now to say with regard to Canberra. I visited the place with Senator John D. Millen. It is of no use to say one thing and mean another, and I frankly admit that I went up there prejudiced against the building of the Federal Capital. I had spoken several times against expenditure there. I say that now I see absolutely no necessity at thistime for that place. I saw something of the great works to be done there. Apparently, we cannot carry out our obligations to the returned soldiers, but we can spend money at Canberra. What did I find there?The first place we visited was the powerhouse. I do not know upon what design it was built, but in the country, with plenty of open space, I found it was necessary to have artificial light in the daytime to look at the machinery on the ground floor. The whole thing was to me an absurdity.
– The honorable senator must be very near-sighted if he found artificial light necessary at the powerhouse in the daytime.
– That is not so. Senator Earle may have gone round the building, but neither he nor any one else could see around the engines in the powerhouse in the daytime without artificial light. The power-house itself is very dark.
– Not at all. I have been in it a dozen times.
– Senator John D.
Millen will indorse my statement up to the hilt. We next visited the cottages of which we have heard so much, and I ask honorable senators to say whether we can afford to go on building four -roomed brick cottages costing the taxpayers of this country about £1,000 apiece. A similar cottage erected in South Australia would be worth about £650. These cottages at Canberra are being erected in defiance of all ideas of town planning. They are built in nests of ten ; they have no yards, no room for fowls, or for a, cow, and they cost, as I have said, about £1,000 each. If you want to go into the bathroom in one of these cottages, you will find that it is impossibleto open the door more than half-way because the bath is at the back of it.
– They make their own bricks up there.
– I did not go into the cost of the bricks.
– Could not every one have 2 acres and a cow at Canberra?
– If the Government were wise, they would see that that was made possible. I am telling honorable senators that these cottages are built in nests of ten with backyards of all shapes. I was disgusted to think that we were starting a new city as the Capital of the Commonwealth on such lines.
– The honorable senator does not say that these cottages are being erected in the city?
– Where does Senator Cox think that they are being erected ? Where is the city? I am reminded that my friend and I had an hour or two to spare, and thought we would have a look at the dear old church at Canberra. We did so, and then decided to have a look at the tombstones, and see whether we might learn anything from them. In the north-east corner of the little cemetery we discovered a very old tombstone of sandstone. The name on it was Sarah Webb, and the date 1856. The inscription on the stone read - “ Here we have no continuing city, but look forone to come.”
We found that one Department had charge of one operation, and another Department charge of something else, and I say now that if we are going on with the building of the Federal Capital, we should in the interests of the taxpayers of ‘ this country organize operations there under strict supervision, and go right on with the business, or withdraw from it. . In the matter of road-making, I found that roads that had been made and macadamized were discarded. I found also that metal used for the construction of roads was handled six times from the quarry to the road. We find it difficult to make ends meet in Australia if metal for roads is handled only twice. At Canberra, it is taken from the quarry, put in a dray, carted some distance, and tipped out on the road’ Then it is thrown on to an embankment, a portable crusher is brought alongside, and the metal is fed into it. We found a crusher having a capacity of 120 to 150 tons a day fed by one man, who dropped ‘Stones into the top of it, as a man might drop pennies into a bucket. When I saw this I said, “ This is indeed going to be a city paved with gold, because I will swear that all .that stuff put on the roads at Canberra costs not less than £1 per cubic yard.” Are these the lines on which the Federal Capital is to be built? I visited the place, not for a joy ride, but because of the criticisms I had passed upon it from time to time. I considered that it was my duty as a public man to make myself conversant with what was going on up there, and I say now that there is altogether too much fooling with money at Canberra.
I wish to say- further that just as I pay my board and lodging when I visit Melbourne to attend to my public duties as a senator, I believe that every man who goes to the Federal Capital and stays at. the accommodation house there should also pay his way. I did not pay mine, because I was told that as a member of the Federal Parliament I did not have to pay. I say that that practice is wrong, and should not be continued. If members of this Parliament visit Canberra from time to time, they should pay their own expenses. - I shall oppose abuses of that sort, whether at the Federal Capital or anywhere else. It is the duty of the Government to see that they get value for the taxpayers’ money It is unnecessary for me to labour my views about Canberra, as honorable senators know where I stand. This is a young country, and if we are to become a great nation I repeat what I said last year that Australia may develop a Capital of the Commonwealth, but we are starting in the wrong way when we are building a Capital in the hope that it will develop Australia.
– A speech from Senator Wilson is always refreshing, and his direct methods must appeal to any man- with honesty of purpose. I appreciate his references to a matter in which, in common with other representatives of New South Wales in this Parliament, I am deeply interested, ami that is the question of the building of tho Federal Capital at Canberra. It was unnecessary for Senator Wilson to assure us that he went to Canberra already prejudiced, with his eyes closed to the many virtues of the place, and opened, wide only to its few imperfections. I realize, as the honorable senator has done, that there are imperfections at Canberra, but they are not in any way due to the natural beauties and advantages of the site for the building of a great city. I realize, as he has. done, that the trouble at. Canberra is not due to Canberra, but to the quality of the administration we have had in the past in the construction work carried out there.
– Senator Wilson made some very serious statements with regard to the way in which work is being carried on at Canberra.
– Many of the honorable senator’s statements as to the way in which work is being carried on there are perfectly true. I have myself taken advantage of opportunities to visit Canberra, and to conduct investigations into the way in which work is being carried on there. I agree with Senator Wilson that a great amount of public, money is ‘being wasted at Canberra in consequence of the manner in which the work is being conducted. I have watched workmen constructing cottages at the Federal Capital, and have seen bricklayers, who were being paid fancy prices, laying between 200 and 300 bricks a day, while men performing ‘ similar work in other cities were laying between 1,000 and 1,100 bricks per day. These men are robbing the public of Australia, and are taking money made available by the Federal Government for work which they are not faithfully performing.
– le there no supervision ? ‘
– There seems to be supervision; but whether the officials in charge of operations are to blame or not, I do not know. It is true that the Government, through the Department administering affairs at Canberra, has been most unfortunate in the type of workmen selected. Whilst all these things that Senator Wilson stated may be true, the fact remains that the work must proceed, because it is an obligation on the part of the Government to comply with the wish of a great majority of the people of the Commonwealth, and particularly the people of New South Wales, who are deeply interested in the proposal. I congratulate the Government on the fact that a clear indication is given in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that it is” the intention to proceed with the construction of the Capital in order that this Parliament may, at an early date, meet in the more salubrious atmosphere which prevails there. I feel very strongly upon this point, more particularly because of the general and unjustifiable attitude of opposition shown by the press in this city. I speak from a wide experience of the whole of the press of Australia when. I say that I doubt very much if there is in any capital city in Australia a press which vilifies its public men to the same extent as does the press of this city. For some considerable time the Melbourne newspapers have carried on a campaign against the public men of Australia, for what reason I do not know. Those of us who remember the influences the Melbourne press has been able to exert in past years are able to compare it with the comparatively small authority which it exercises to-day, and it is easy to realize that it is making a bold attempt to again secure control and domination of the public affairs of the Commonwealth, not for the sake of the people, but in the interests of those who conduct the large Melbourne journals. The Melbourne Age, for instance, is a newspaper which is dominated largely by men who are directly associated by ties of blood with our recent enemies, and it is no wonder that such men are eager to do anything they can to oppose the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who played such a prominent part in seeing that Australia did her share in the recent great world conflct.
I congratulate Senator Garling for so ably moving the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
During the recent recess an election was held in New South Wales, in which the parties which confront each other in this Parliament met, and it may be interesting to honorable senators to hear details of the results, because they will give the people of Australia a fairly clear indication of what the position is likely to be after the next Federal election. It is being stated in the press of this State that the present Government is doomed, and that when the next Federal elections are held the Government will be hurled from office; but although the press makes such announcements, it is not prepared to say what party is likely to take the place of the Government, should it be defeated. We find, as a result’ of the recent State elections in New South Wales, that the total of Coalition and allied first preference votes over Labour votes in 1920, when the previous election was held, waa approximately 11,000; but in 1922, after considerably over one year of Labour administration, the 11,000 had increased to approximately 108,000, showing that an immense feeling has grown up in opposition to our chief opponents in this Parliament - the Labour party. We have, too, the details of the metropolitan electorates, of which there are eight, which indicate that the total Coalition first preference votes show an increase over 1920 of 98,000 votes, or 78 per cent., while the Labour increase was 46,542, or 31 per cent. In. the fifteen country electorates the Coalition increase over 1920 was 77,866, or 46 per cent., while the Labour increase over 1920 in the same electorates .was 15,684? or 10 per cent. These figures show that the party supporting the present Federal Government has strengthened .its position since the advent of Labour in New South Wales, and I believe that similar increases will be found in the other States.
In spite of the doleful forecast of the press on many occasions that the present Federal Government was riding to its doom, and that the people were eager to hurl it from office, the figures I have quoted prove conclusively that a majority of the people of Australia arebehind the National Government. It is evident on every hand that the work which has been undertaken, although exception can be taken to, perhaps, a few acts of administration, has been in the interests of the whole of the people.
I listened very carefully to the speech of Senator MacDonald, and I congratulate him upon its moderation, because, from the reports we have received, we did not expect to hear such reasonable utterances. One naturally associates with Labour men from Queensland extreme views on Labour problems, and more extreme opinions than are generally attributed to Labour men from other States. We have heard so much concerning Queensland, and what has been done there by the Labour Government,, that it is quite refreshing to find that the latest recruit to this Parliament is not nearly so violent as other Queensland representatives we have met from time to time.
– The honorable senator should give me a chance.
– It may be that when he grows into his stride, he will be as extreme as the rest of them, and the probabilities are that when the elections are approaching he will, with his tongue in his cheek, wax violent, in order to meet the wishes of the extreme section of his constituents. I know that some members from the State he represents do not believe in many of the principles they are called upon to support, and even the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Theodore, who in the past has given expression to the most extreme theories on Socialism and Communism, has, by sheer force of circumstances and experience, learned that many of his theories are quite impracticable. At a conference held in Brisbane last year, when the old objective of the Labour movement was radically altered, and many of the principles they supported in the past were removed, and others substituted, the Premier of Queensland, according to the reports in the Labour press of the 13th October, said: “You have changed the objective; you might as well change the name of the party and call it the Communist party.” As far as the objective of the Labour party is concerned, several members have expressed their opinions; and even in Victoria the State Labour Conference supported the socialization of industry. Mr. Blackburn, a leading Victorian member of the party, said -
The Australian Labour party has taken up the scheme of the Russian Communists, and has even adopted their phrases. It has adapted it to conform to the policy of a movement which proposed to move gradually forward upon the constitutional plane. But the variations are few.
He then proceeds to give a comparison between the two schemes. The Russian scheme asks for the “nationalization of banking and principal industries,” and the first plank adopted by the Australian Labour movement is “nationalization of banking and principal industries,” which is exactly the same as the programme of Russian Communism. The other planks of the. Russian platform are -
Comparing that with the objectives of the Australian Labour party, we find -
Is it any wonder that we find, in view of this alignment of the Australian Labour movement with the Russian Communistic movement, that many earnest Labour men in Australia to-day are asking themselves where they are, and are endeavouring to place their connexion with the organization in Russia?
– What is Communism ?
– A certain well known Australian gentleman, Professor
Meredith Atkinson, has stated an amazing ease of Communistic extremism. He said -
In a certain hospital I visited, the caretaker had become chairman of the board as a natural step in the proletarian evolution. He de- creed that everybody must take his turn, now, at sweeping and other menial work, not excepting the doctor. The latter undertook his new tasks without demur, until one day an operation was to be performed, and the caretaker bade him do it. “No,” said the doctor, “ every one must take his turn at operations,” and he invited the caretaker to do it. The end ofa long struggle was the complete capitulation of the caretaker.
This is Communism in actual practice, according to Professor Meredith Atkinson, who, in some ways, has been one of the leading lights of a certain section of the Labour movement in Australia in recent years. This new objective of the Australian Labour party, in spite of all, was adopted, and the matter came before the New SouthWales Conference for further consideration and adoption by that Conference. Certain very well-known public men were present, and the honorable gentleman who leads the Opposition in this House (Senator Gardiner) - I very much regret that owing to ill-health he is not here to-night - addressed himself to the question. He implored the New South Wales Labour Conference to consider, before they accepted this new objective arranged for them by the Brisbane Conference, what the effect would be likely to be upon the elections in that State. He said -
They would lose seats throughout the Com monwealth unless the old objective was restored. Didn’t they realize that in elections they had to side-step? They had to compromise. To bring in the new objective was stepping backwards.
This is the great Leader of the Opposition in our Senate to-day! This bold gentleman, who hurls defianceat the Government and the National party from time to time, said that, as far as this definite and declared opinion of the Labour movement was concerned, they had to side-step it so that the electors might be deluded as to the real intention of the Labour organization, and might be deluded into giving votes for Labour candidates in the belief that they were supporting opinions which Labour candidates did not adhere to. Other men who are members of this Senate, and of another place, were more honest in their views on this important matter. Mr. Blakeley, M.H.R., said that the Australian Workers Union was “ solidly behind the new objective.” Mrs. Fowler feared that the supreme Economic Council would displace Parliament, and that Labour would not get into power with the new objective. Mr. M. Gosling, M.L.A., of New South Wales, counselled strategy, and said -
They were near to a Federal election, and he wanted to see Labour elected. If Labour won the next election the present objective would enable them to do all they wished. It would enable them to nationalize the industries per the medium of the Commonwealth Bank without the spending of a single penny piece. It would also enable them to force a levy on the capitalists who had made fortunes out of the war. They hadn’t exploited the possibilities of the present objective; it could be made as revolutionary as possible. The Brisbane objective should be stopped, otherwise it would embarrass them at the coming Federal elections.
Mr. Parker Moloney, M.H.R., said that “ the objective would provide Nationalists with the whip they wanted to flog Labour with at the coming elections.” Other important gentlemen in the Labour movement also addressed themselves to the new objective. They could not, of course, say that they were opposed to it; they did not dare to say that, or the political axe of the Labour party would have fallen on their devoted necks, and they would have been politically beheaded ; but they counselled caution of the most extreme kind, so that there would be no fear of the result of the next Federal election. I mention these facts because I feel that it is necessary to point out that the Labour party, as far as the next Federal elections are concerned, are not honest. They do not propose to fight an honest fight, because they intend deliberately, as advocated by some of the leading members of the party, to cloak their real intentions and, while keeping these in the dark, to put forward something else.
– The honorable senator says that the Labour party is communistic; how are they cloaking that?
– Why, if this objective was considered good, do we find so many of the leading Labour men counselling this “ keep-it-dark “ method of conducting the next election? They pointed out, one after another, the, effect that the new Brisbane objective wouldhave upon the elections and the people of Australia, and they urged and counselled that it should not be adopted at this time.
– Has the National party’s attitude on the Sugar Agreement been kept dark?
– My honorable friend cannot “side-step” me in that way. The two things are totally different. One is a matter of administration, and the other is the objective of the Labour party, the ultimate goal of the Labour party as far as the Commonwealth and this State are concerned. They are marching forward to this one great goal of Communism, which many of those who support the Labour party shrink from, as a fearful thing, which must not be mentioned openly in the light of day, but be kept as dark as possible. I. have already said that in the opinion, at any rate, of the Premier of Queensland (Mr. Theodore) the change- has not been to the advantage of the Labour movement, but that it has deliberately altered the whole course of that great organization, and thrown it upon an entirely different line which, he declared at one stage, he could not follow. In reports published on 14th October, I find that Mr. Theodore made this statement -
It was extraordinary that there should be men at the Brisbane Conference preaching the doctrines of Russian Communism and the Industrial Workers of the World of America. With very great respect to some of those gentlemen, he stated that they had previously been propounding these views as opponents of th© Australian Labour party. They ought to understand very clearly where they were going. They were leaving the well-beaten path of the Labour .movement, and were adopting totally new and strange doctrines, and he was perfectly satisfied that the workers of the old movement would not indorse such views and principles. He could not possibly do so. He would have to take some action that would put the Labourites of Queensland on the’ right track.
– That was in the course of discussion. It was not a judgment on a finalized platform.
– I am pointing out that it was in the course of discussion. He said he could not possibly adopt this new and strange doctrine, and would take action to put the Labour movement of Australia on the right track. Here is the deliberate opinion of the Premier of Queensland. In view of the very serious nature of the proposals of the Labour party, we have a_ right to ask what he is doing to put the” Labour movement of Australia “ on the right track.” “We know that Mr. Theodore and his party- have been good enough to Senator MacDonald to send him here as one of the representatives of Queensland, and within the last week or two Mr. Theodore took very decided action not to put the people of Australia on the “ right track,” but to see that one gentleman who wanted to do it suffered for his opinions. He or his Government dismissed the Government Printer, who believed that the Labour party were sincere when they said that they believed in the freedom of speech. We hear this statement about the freedom of speech very often; we hear it from the howling mobs at election meetings, who do their best to prevent opposing candidates being heard at all. This gentleman believed that Mr. Theodore was in earnest when he said that’’ he believed in freedom of speech, amongst other things. He exercised the right of freedom of speech, and because he did so he has been thrown out of his office in one of the most tyrannous ways that has ever been seen in the affairs of any State of this Commonwealth. This is the idea of liberty which they have in a State governed by a Labour Government.
– Has he not been reinstated again?
– ‘Not to my knowledge.
– The whole of the employees of the office have petitioned the Government for his reinstatement.
– The fact remains that because he exercised the God-given right of freedom of expression, in accordance with the oft-expressed opinions of the Labour party, he was thrown out of his office, and we find now that the apologists for the Labour party are endeavouring to explain it away. Adherents of the Labour party will talk about the war, or anything other than the conditions obtaining in Queensland to-day, and the ideals of the men in charge of the affairs of that unfortunate State. I could go on giving a number of other instances of the different view-points taken up by the Labour- party nowadays as distinct from the policy of the original Labour party in this Parliament and in other parts of Australia. Is it any wonder that the people are turning from . this organization, and that the New South Wales Labour Administration was hurled from office by a majority of fourteen at the recent election? It is not surprising that, the people of Queensland are ready to strike a blow, as soon as they have an opportunity, at the Labour Government of that State, I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but it is inevitable that when they get a chance the people of Queensland will give the Labour Government there the greatest blow that has ever been dealt to any Administration in Australia’s history.
– That was said in 191S, aud the Government are still in power.
– The honorable senator showed by his maiden speech in this Chamber that when removed from the painful atmosphere in which he has been domiciled he is able to see more clearly. He expressed no extreme views in that speech, but I advise him to beware of the fate that awaits him when he seeks the support of the people of Queensland.
I have listened to several interesting speeches in the course of this debate, and to none with greater interest than to the utterance of my honorable friend, Senator Lynch, who gave us one of his typical orations. It was, filled with wails for the primary producers, and it breathed most fervid attacks upon every other section, foretelling all kinds of disasters for this unfortunate land. He urged us to take steps to avert the awful catastrophe that was looming before us.
– I was quoting from a report from, your own State.
– Yes. From a< wonderful and important report that has been issued .by the Legislative Committee of the New South Wales Parliament. It drew attention to certain grave features with respect to the depopulation of many rural centres, but the* honorable senator went a good deal further. None of the remedies that the report suggested was proposed by my honorable friend. He could not find any bitter attack on the Civil Service in that report such as he made. There was no hint whatever of the advisability of reducing the salaries of our public servants, as he suggested. The report contained no insinuation that the people of Australia were not getting from the Public Service a fair return for the money expended. It is hard to conceive how any man, look ing the facts in the face, could come to the conclusion arrived at by the honorable senator, that we are on the road to ruin, and that the only way to avert the disaster is to reduce salaries in the Civil Service. I cannot indorse that view at all. In certain respects I know that there is room for improvement, as there is in every large concern, whether a private enterprise or a governmental institution. There will always be found men who do not give as good service as they should for the money they receive. If such is the case it is for the Government to remedy the trouble at the earliest moment. I believe the Government are determined to do the right thing to see that the finances of Australia and the administration of Departments are placed on a proper basis, so that the people will get the utmost possible under the circumstances for the money invested.
It has been pointed out that so far no definite proposal has been made for a reduction of taxation. I intend to reserve my remarks on the financial situation until the Budget speech has been delivered,, but I would like the Government to give serious attention to this question. Although I know it is almost impossible to do anything in the direction of reducing taxation, there are directions in whichsome amelioration of the conditions under which taxation is levied might be brought about so as to lighten the burdens of thepeople. Despite the attacks made on the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) and on the Commonwealth Government, more particularly by the press of Melbourne, I feel surethat the Government are prepared toreduce the burdens of the taxpayers wherever possible.
Most of the other proposals in the Governor-General’s Speech I cordially indorse. As to one or two of them, I am somewhat doubtful, and I shall require a good deal of information before I can register my vote in their favour. On every matter mentioned I shall exercise the utmost liberty of speech and action. Honorable senators who are associated with the Nationalist party are not bound by any pledge of an outside organization. We are not told by executives or any otherbody how we are to vote. We are here to do what we consider to be right in our own judgment, irrespective of what any one outside the Parliament may. say. The-
Senate has shown at times that it can take a stand even against the expressed desire of the Government which the majority of honorable senators support. I hope the Senate will always exercise independence of thought and action with the object of promoting the interests of the (Commonwealth. If we become merely a Chamber for registering the opinions of the Government in power, so matter who they are, we might as well not be here at all.
– The -Senate would quite fail in its purpose then.
– Yes. Whether the whole of the programme outlined is carried out during the present session or not - and I do not see that it is humanly possible to put the whole, of it into effect - I hope that we shall rise to a realization of our duty, and see that legislation is enacted that will conserve the best interests of the majority of the people of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Senator Crawford) adjourned.
Senate adjourned .at 10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 July 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1922/19220713_senate_8_99/>.