8th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act- Transfers of amount approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1921-22- Dated 11th July, 1922.
Norfolk Island- Ordinance No. 5 of 1922- Preserved Fish Bounties. .
Northern Territory - Report of Administrator for the year ended 30th June, 1921.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory Crown Lands Act (of South Australia)- Statement setting forth the reasons for the resumption of a Mineral Reserve and Reserve for Gold Mining purposes near Union Town, Northern Territory, together with plan showing area resumed.
Public Service Act- Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 80.
SenatorFOLL.- I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether he has yet received any communication from the Queensland Government to say what they have decided to do in connexion with the proposition to acquire certain timber property submitted to them by the Commonwealth Government?
– So far as I am aware there is no communication yet to hand on the subject. As I have been absent for a day or’ two from Melbourne such a communication may have been received within the last forty-eight hours without my knowledge.. I shall make in- . quiries, and inform -the honorable senator of the result later.
– (by leave.) - I move -
That the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works,so far as members of the Senate are concerned, have leave to sit in Adelaide during the sittings of the Senate.
I may inform honorable senators that the necessity for urgency in this matter arises from the fact that the Public Works Committee is anxious to proceed to Adelaide immediately. As honorable senators are aware, the Committee is not entitled to hold sittings when the Senate is in session, and it therefore becomes necessary to apply for the leave sought by my motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 14th July (vide page 493), on . motion by ,. Senator Garling -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to : -
ToHis 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.
– Although it may be said that one who excuses himself accuses himself, and although there is an unwritten parliamentary rule that the occupant of the high office filled by the President and the occupant of the subordinate and secondary position filledby myself in this Chamber should not take part in a debate that is of a controversial character, I think that, at times, exceptions to all good rules may be justified, and it is my intention to contribute a few remarks to the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Opening Speech.
I noted that most honorable senators, as, perhaps, is quite natural nowadays, seeing that we have the war no longer with us, devoted themselves very largely to dealing with questions of Australian or domestic importance. I do not think it will bo out of place if some of us address ourselves to the consideration of questions which involve our relations with the whole of the outside world in a way that, if not properly attended to, may, perhaps, make our national life something that would not endure for any great length of time. .
Several honorable senators have commented very favorably on the representa tion of Australian interests by Senator Pearce at the memorable Conference held in Washington. I also desire to express my congratulations to the honorable senator on the manner in which be represented the interests of the Commonwealth at that Conference. Very great results were achieved. If they become permanent in regard to the relationships of nations with each other, something , which will be a great advance in the progress . of mankind must be considered as having been accomplished. Senator Pearce played a very distinguished and considerable part at Washington, and the fact that he did -so is a matter of great personal pleasure to me. He will not think it amiss of me to. refer to the fact, as 1 think Senator Wilson has already done, that there were many people who questioned the wisdom of sending -him to Washington as our representative. I was not one of these. I augured the happiest results from his championship of, the interests of the Commonwealth at that Conference, and, beinghuman, like every one else, I am naturally pleased that my prediction of his probable success has been verified by the event. I congratulate the honorable senator.
This leads me to the consideration of another matter mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech whichis treated in this country in a way which, to my mind, shows that its real pith and marrow are not quite understood. I believe that the true inwardness of the position is now fully recognised by the Administration. I am quite sure, however, that the press of Australia, and, indeed, manypublic men who comment upon this matter, do not properly understand it. I am referring to the paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which declares the intention of the Administration to appoint a Commissioner at Washington. I interpret the intention of the Government to be the appointment as High Commissioner of a man with somewhat of a quasi-diplomatic status, who will represent Australia in the British Commonwealth of Nations at Washington, much as Senator Pearce represented us at the memorable Conference to which I have referred. Of oourse, he will not be independent altogether from that representation which the British Empire has, as a whole, through Britain’s Ambassador at the capital of the
United States of America, but he will, on behalf of the interests of Australia, exercise a watchfulness and exert an influence which the British Ambassador Gould not, perhaps, with the same particularity, exercise and discharge.
I must be pardoned for referring to this 1 matter - not, I trust, in any vain sense, because I am conscious enough of my shortcomings as a man and as a senator - but it did fall to my lot to see the necessity some years ago of Australia being represented at the capital of the “United States of America, if the Imperial Government said there was no obstacle in the way. In consequence of that, during the war I put on the notice-paper a motion to the effect that Australia should be represented there in the manner apparently contemplated by the present Government. Notice of my intention to move this motion appeared on the notice-paper as far back as the 19th December, 1916. The motion was carried by the Senate without, any dissentients on the 9th August, 1917, that is, the motion in a somewhat modified form. All steps in advance necessary to the life of a nation are necessarily made slowly, and I was content for the time being with one step forward. The resolution in its altered form did not commit the Commonwealth to the appointment of a High Commissioner; it was modified somewhat to provide for Australia’s representation by a Trade Commissioner. A Trade Commissioner was duly appointed in pursuance of the terms of the resolution carried by this Chamber, the matter having been adopted as an item of Government policy; but a good deal of water has run under the bridge since the passage of that modified resolution, and we are now face to face with this position, that Senator Pearce, representing die Commonwealth as an independent legislative, if not altogether independent diplomatic, unit of the British Commonwealth of Nations, has been to Washington, and has had a share in the formulation of the resolutions of the Conference.
What does that involve? When I hear such senators as my friend Senator fairbairn referring to the matter of a Bligh Commissioner to the United States of America as something savouring of extravagance, and therefore unnecessary,’ J beg leave to tell the honorable senator, and those who think with him, that my conception of the whole matter, when I first gave notice of the motion, was that a High Commissioner representing Australia in Washington could do a great deal in the interests of the Commonwealth and of the Empire during that critical period which preceded the entry of the United States of America into the war. I Called attention to the fact that on the 19th December, 1916, when my motion appeared on the notice-paper, the United States of America was not a belligerent. She never was actually our ally, but in the beginning Qf 1917 the United States of America did become a party to the war. I regard the appointment of a High Commissioner as one of the adjuncts of our scheme of national defence. Keen, well-balanced intelligence and diplomacy will sometimes do more for a nation than even fleets of ships or numerous armies. Had it not been for the successful diplomacy of our Empire in the period antecedent to the outbreak of hostilities, I venture to say that the ‘outcome would not have been as satisfactory as it has been. It was the ‘serious mistakes in diplomacy that Germany made that brought the possibility of defeat very much closer to her doors than would, perhaps, otherwise have been the case.
America, it seems a platitude for me to say, is the most populous hive of human beings in which our language is spoken. It is true that only a certain percentage of the people is of AngloSaxon descent, but the Anglo-Saxon section is, beyond all doubt, the ruling element. Our language, spoken certainly with somewhat different accent from that which we employ, and with variations that we regard as somewhat peculiar, is, nevertheless, the language of the American people, . and although the Americans of the future must be an amalgam of all the nations and races now represented there, I am sure they will have English as their language. The Pacific, and the countries bordering it, have come greatly into prominence since the war. It may be said that the world’s centre of gravity has, to it large extent, shifted to Pacific regions. America, as a nation - and its population is at least 110,000,000 - speaks our language. These people have, in their national repository, the bulk of the world’s gold currency, and in consequence of the war, and many other factors, they have become the creditor nation of the world. With their territory touching the Pacific littoral, just as our shores are washed by the waters of the Pacific, the Americans must in future exercise a preponderating influence on the destinies of the nations with Pacific possessions; in fact, of the nations of the whole world.
Australia, of course, is known in America, . bub not widely known. In the East, which I visited quite recently, there is an almost total absence of news regarding Australia. We are told that our relationships with the East are of great importance. One may look in Eastern publications in vain for news of Australia. It is true that a column or two is contributed every fortnight or month to one of the most important newspapers published in Shanghai, by a gentleman who was formerly a member of this Legislature, and this information isabout all that an Australian in the East can have recourse to regarding occurrences in the territories in the Commonwealth. I was not aware of some or the most important happenings here until my return. America is not in that position. The Chinese people are pro- American, because America occupies the premier position in their regard. If a prominent baseball player drops dead, or is seriously injured, the news is published in the American communities in the East the next day. If one of the oarsmen for an Oxford or Cambridge crew strains the sinews of his back the English-born men in the East know it the following day. But you will learn very little about Australian happenings.
The American people are beginning to exercise in the world that preponderating influence which is justly due to their numbers, to their instinctive regard for some of the higher forms of civilization, to their commercial importance, and to their inventive ability. This Australian community of ours numbers somewhat less than 6,000,000 of people, and claims exclusive possession of this continent, which is in itself as large as the United States of America, so we cannot but be in the closest relationship with so important a people if we value our future. By the American people - and when I refer to the American people I mean the inhabitants of the United States of America - our future and our ideals are not very often discussed. They have important concerns of their own; but it will be the duty of our High Commissioner, I trust, to conduct an active campaign of education amongst the American people regarding our ideals and the national goal which we hope to reach some day. That is what our High Commissioner should have in view. The American people should be familiarized with and by his presence. They should come to think of him as the ambassador from a continent, and at least as important as the gentlemen representing (Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, and Norway. I am not alluding to any of those countries in an invidious sense. The affairs of Australia should, and must, loom largely in the eyes of the American people if we are to extend this business as I believe we shall.
On the 3rd June last, on an unruffled, sapphire sea, in the warm light of a tropical day, a few hours from the’ harbor of Manilla, I saw seventeen American war-ships engaged in naval evolutions and slowly steaming northward on their way to Shanghai. I venture to predict that it is out of Shanghai, or out of the east of Asia, that all the great future events that are likely to disturb what we are pleased to term the equilibrium of the world’s peace will come. Therefore we want to familiarize the American people with the fact that we are bone of their bone, to a very large extent, blood of their blood, and flesh of their flesh. Once they realize fully what we are, they will exercise towards us, till we have grown to full national stature and attained complete national manhood, that protecting influence known as the Monroe Doctrine which they extend over the mean - sometimes very mean - and turbulent people of the Latin Republics in Central and South America. This is necessary in the interests of the American people themselves, and vitally necessary in our interests. Will any man, whether he be an editor of a newspaper, a member of Parliament, or a representative and responsible citizen, declare that the money which we would disburse in constructing and maintaining a third-rate cruiser would not be a more satisfactory item of expenditure if it were devoted to the representation of Australian interests at Washington, where that memorable and historic gathering, the Peace Conference, was held recently ? What sort of economy is it that would deny representation in this way, and then persuade us that we are proceeding on business lines? Never let us drop into the mistake of running this country with the yard-stick, or in accordance with the maxims of the merchant, desirable though he may be in every community.
– There is no sign of it up to the present.
– There is no sign of it. Fortunately for Australia, its people have sufficient prescience in re gard to their future welfare to send to this Parliament on occasion men who believe that the interests of posterity demand something more than the application of the maxims of the shop and the counter. While giving proper care to the finances and the proper running of this country, let us not be led into an unwisein fact, a fatal- economic error of this nature. The appointment of a High Commissioner with as large a diplomatic and negotiating status as the exigencies of Imperial diplomacy will permit will have my full support.
– What do you think of my tentative suggestion, that a Minister should visit Great Britain and the United States of America once a year?
– Until means of communication between Australia and the great centres of America and the Old World are more expeditious, I cannot agree with the honorable senator that it would be wise to adopt that course, because it would necessitate a Minister being away from Australia for such a length of time that he would really get out of touch with what I may term the executive side ofthe administration.
– He would certainly be out of touch with his constituents if an election took place.
– Yes, and perhaps that is a consideration that would weigh with more than one of us. While I was absent in the East, I was almost totally oblivious, through no fault of my own, of Australian happenings, and I am constrained to say that, while there may be a good deal to recommend the occasional visits of Commonwealth Ministers to the Old Country, until we have more expeditious means of communication, such perhaps as may be provided by aviation, I cannot subscribe to the suggestion.
There is one matter to which I must refer, and my reference is necessitated by the speech from my friend Senator Drake-Brockman. He said something about the lack of appreciation on the part of Australia for the services of Sir John Monash in the recent war. There are other senators who, like himself, performed deeds of valour which, I am sure, are appreciated by all who, as I do, belong to the civilian section of the nation; but I think he is somewhat in error when he charges Australia with having been, to a certain extent, cold in connexion with the services rendered by Sir John Monash. But there are other honorable senators who, just as he did, rendered service as generals and as officers of a somewhat lower rank during the great war from which we eventually emerged successfully, and who may, perhaps, have some diffidence in speaking on this matter. I will take upon myself as a senator who did not possess any military rank during the war, and did not render any military service, the duty of making clear that which necessarily should be made clear in connexion with the services of the distinguished officer to whom Senator Drake-Brockman referred. I say this, frankly and freely, that we all owe a very great debt to our military and naval men who exhibited that wisdom and discretion which ultimately led their forces to the victory which happily was achieved. I have no hesitation in saying that the civilian population of Australia - I am speaking of those who did not take part in the war - fully appreciate the sacrifices of those officers and members of the rank and file who fell in the great struggle to achieve victory. We were perilously near national defeat on several occasions. I do not know if many of the men who gave their services during the war, and who participated in the hazards of the great venture, were as keenly seized of the possibility of defeat as others were; but upon three or four occasions at least there was practically nothing between us and irretrievable and utter disaster. Fortunately we survived. the struggle, and it is due to the officers and men who fought that their services and sacrifices in a national sense should again and again be recognised for the benefit of the generations which will come after us. I do not think that many of us overlook the services rendered in a national capacity by this particular officer who was made ‘ the subject of Senator Drake-Brockman’s remarks. It must be remembered that in this struggle our Empire and its Allies really represented the triumph, of Republican, Democratic and constitutional Monarchical principles against despots and semidespotic kings. We had four republics representing nearly one-half of the world’s population collectively on our side. We had in alliance constitutional Monarchies and our own Empire, which, after all, has at its h’ead an hereditary president who is constrained to govern in such a constitutional way that he is alluded to by certain British writers as the crowned head of- a Republic. Democracies have certain habits of thought, and perhaps sometimes certain shortcomings in action, and of one we can plead guilty, inasmuch as we did not recognise Sir John Monash’s services by the presentation of a large sum of money. It is true that he was commanding our Forces in Europe during the most critical stage of the struggle; and it is true, also, that he rendered such service as to be of the most material value in bringing about the successful termination of the war, particularly at the time to which Senator Drake-Brockman referred. But there were other Australian officers operating at the same time in other theatres of action. To have recognised Sir John Monash’s services only by a. money gift would have made a particularly invidious distinction; and to recognise the services of all successful commanders in other theatres in which Australian troops were operating would perhaps have necessitated a financial disbursement which the nation might not have considered desirable because of the psychology of Democracies to which I have referred. I have in my hand an official report which records the presentation of resolutions passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, recording the thanks of this Parliament to the Australian Sea, Land, Air, and Auxiliary Forces “for war services between 1914 and 1919. Whatever our shortcomings may be, we did then as we do now as representatives of the Australian people, and as was right and proper, record the thanks, which I am sure were heartfelt on the part of the people’s representatives, the Government, the people of Australia, yourself, Sir, and Mr. Speaker in another place, who jointly presented the resolutions. The thanks of the nation were conveyed to Sir John Monash and his brother commanding officers in the Naval and Military Forces in set terms. They are on record, and if it is true that- we do not possess that dramatic sense which is supposed to be the peculiar property of our allies,- the French, nevertheless the presentation of those resolutions was of a most dignified character, and befitting the -rank of the officers who received the thanks of Parliament as conveyed bv the representatives of the two branches of the National Legislature. I feel sure that the people of Australia are profoundly grateful to their officers who led their troops to victory.
– The honorable senator is not suggesting that that was a recognition of Sir John Monash’s services alone. It referred to the whole Australian Forces.
– The resolutions conveyed the thanks of Parliament to the members of the Sea, Land, Air, and Auxiliary Forces, and I shall take the responsibility of reading what Sir John Monash said on that occasion. ‘It reads -
As representative of the Australian Imperial Forces who served in the European theatre of war, I desire, through you, Mr. President, UK you, Mr. Speaker, to express to your respective honorable Houses our sincere thanks for the resolutions of 4th May and. 5th May, which have just been presented to us. No greater honour can come to any man, or to any body of men, than to receive at the hands of the Parliament public recognition for services rendered to the State, and such recognition compensates for every sacrifice and every endeavour. May I be permitted, on this occasion, to say a word or two about the troops which it was my privilege to lead in the Western theatre of war during the period of their greatest achievements. No commander in war in the whole range of history could have been better served. The Divisional Generals, the Brigadiers of Artillery and Infantry, the heads of Auxiliary Services and Departments, and the numer- ons Staffs rendered notable service with most whole-hearted devotion. They brought to their daily tasks a fortitude, a resolution, and an industry which was always exemplary. Australia owes much to these men, in the palms of whose hands lay the national honour and prestige and the well-being of her soldiers. But all of these men will, like myself, be the first to acknowledge that the foundation of all their achievements lay in the superb spirit and performance of the troops themselves. It was the regimental officers, the. non-commissioned officers, the men in the ranks - the gunner, the sapper, the airmen, the signaller, and the infantry soldier - who bore the heat and burden of the day. These mon underwent untold privations and sacrifices, and won for us the battles that we planned. They have gained for themselves a place in history which none can challenge. . . .
That is ari honorable and fitting reply on the part of Sir John Monash, and I feel sure that this Parliament, through you, Mr. President, and Mr. Speaker in another place, on behalf ‘ of the people of Australia fully recognised the great services rendered by Sir John Monash and his brother officers in planning and carrying out those great battles in which, according to the distinguished General’s remarks, the men whom he led performed such great .service. It is not for me to say that Sir John Monash should have got a large sum of money. Undoubtedly if he were to receive a large sum of money the other officers, who, while acting independently of him, performed satisfactorily, and led troops with success equal to his own in other theatres of war; would have to be recognised also. It was probably due to considerations of this kind, and also probably to that democratic psychology to which I have referred, that the Administration, and perhaps Parliament, did not take the step which I feel sure would have met with favour at the hands of Senator DrakeBrockman, who, himself, I have every reason to know, played a most important part, and rendered most gallant services, in connexion with those actions which Sir John Monash planned, and in which the Australian troops fought their way to victory. “ Senator Drake-Brockman has very properly referred to some officers who have become military specialists, who have devoted the whole of their life to the study of military science, and who, in consequence of a policy of military economy - regarding which I am somewhat doubtful, and for which I do not take very much responsibility - are about to be dischargedAll I can say is that if the Administration likes to take the responsibility of doing such financial justice, or giving such a financial benefit to these men as will meet the occasion, I shall take the responsibility in my place in Parliament, by my vote, should it come in question, of helping to pass’ an allowance to them which shall neither be tardy in its character nor parsimonious when regarded as a gift such as Senator Drake-Brockman thinks the nation should make by way of compensation.
There are two other matters to- which I wish to refer. One of them is mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. These matters are of very great national importance, and I feel sure that honorable senators present will not mind my occupying a few moments of their time in discussing them. In the Governor-General’s Speech there is shadowed forth an intention on the part of the Administration to seek amendments of the Australian Constitution. I, of course, subscribe to the theory that no one should be condemned unheard. The advocates of the necessity of these contemplated amendments must have a preliminary hearing before they can be judged to be wrong ; but I can frankly state that my attitude to any suggested amendments of the Australian Constitution at this juncture, will be, as it has always been, severely critical, and perhaps, as it has always “been, markedly hostile. I may have rendered the State some service here on occasions as a senator, but if I have done so, I, myself, put above all other services the fact .that I have, ever since the memorable attempt to substantially alter the Australian Constitution in 1911, exerted myself to enjoin upon the Australian people the utmost care in permitting amendments to be made of that great instrument of government which we call the Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth. I congratulate myself upon having done so, and I particularly congratulate myself upon not having consented to the temporary amendment - because it was suggested only as a temporary amendment - which would have permitted this Parliament to deal with “ Post-war problems.” Where are those “ Post-war problems “ ? The Australian Constitution has not been altered. The people, very properly to my mind, would not permit its alteration. The post-war problems. have, to a very large extent, disappeared. Those particular post-war problems which it was intended to attempt to solve in some miraculous fashion if the Australian electors had allowed the Australian Constitution to be so altered as to permit the attempt to be made, have solved themselves. They have gone. The fact that they exist no more justifies, above all other things, the electors of the Commonwealth in having, by’ a majority, refused to have the Constitution amended for even the comparatively short period of three years. I am aware myself of certain defects in that Constitution. I think they are defects, but it is by no means certain that they are. Because of these defects, I am not going to alter the whole character of the Constitution. Despite what some people say, I always maintain that one particular characteristic of the genius of British descended peoples, and of the British people themselves, is to desire to enjoy, in regard to most matters, the privileges of self-government. No greater mistake could have been made when the Australian people decided to call the Australian nation into being than to have created a Commonwealth. Constitution of a unitarian character. The wise men who formulated that instrument of government followed the American model very largely, and, to a. large extent, very wisely. Our Constitution is Federal in character, and we must not. at any time, permit any amendment to be made which, although specious enough in language and appearance, Would bring such a result about as would destroy the essential Federal character of the Australian Commonwealth.
I know what is in the mind of those who put forward such proposals; it is a belief that, by an amendment of the Constitution the functions of the Arbitration Court could be so enlarged and qualified as to permit of arbitration being carried on with less friction than at present. It is a dream. People who will talk like that are dreaming in the day-time. The faults of the policy of arbitration are not inthe Arbitration Court itself ; they are not in the Constitution; they are in the very nature and essence of industrial things. One might say that if the Commonwealth High Court has jurisdiction over all litigants - between man and man, man and corporation, and corporation and corporation, throughout the length and breadth of Australia. - there is no reason why it should not have supreme jurisdiction in all industrial disputes. The two cases are not analogous. Corporations against corporations, men against men, and men against corporations as litigants are within the complete control of the Court, in the sense that the Court can enforce its judgments against them, can cause its minions and the instruments of law to be used to enforce its judgments. Corporations can have their finances seized, and an individual can be sold up to satisfy a judgment which the Court may pronounce; but what can be done in regard to an arbitration judgment which, perhaps, 100,000 men refuse to obey? The Court, in such a case, is powerless. We may alter the Constitution if we please, and we may make amendments of our arbitration and conciliation legislation, but nothing; that we can. do, and no function that the Court can perform, will enable the Court’s judgment to run. The men who are pronounced against by the Court may say, “ This is unsatisfactory, or only partially satisfactory, and we are not going to obey it.” Does the Government possess gaols large enough and strong enough to imprison them ? Can the Court enforce judgment of a financial character regarding penalties? Consequently there is that inherent defect in arbitration which, willing though many of us are to subscribe to the principle, prevents it from being placed on all fours with legislation between man and man.
– The same problem has to be faced by the States; they have not prison accommodation for 100,000 men.
– I am arguing about defects inherent in the principle of arbitration - defects which have broken that principle down wherever it has been established in a legal sense in any country in the world.
-Brockman. - Would the honorable senator abolish the Arbitration Court?
– I am quite certain that whether I take action or not as a legislator, and whether I subscribe to legislation of the kind or not, time itself will break down the Arbitration Court.
– We may have something a great deal worse. We may have practically civil’ war as they have at present in America.
– In a minor sense we have here the same troubles as they are having in America. We have large bodies refusing to obey awards, and the Court is powerless to enforce them.
– The same argument applies to the States.
– That may be so, but it is in a very muchminor degree because of the circumscribed area. It is a fact that Wages Board legislation, insufficient and unsatisfactory though it may be, has always proved in regard to its general results very much better than the Arbitration Court, and this will continue until the time . when men representing largebodies of workmen will take upon themselves the responsibility of settling their differences with employers rather than appealing to the Court. That is going to be the outcome of the whole thing. Arbitration legislation’ is not new. When, with the youthful enthusiasm of a young nation, our legislators undertook arbitration and conciliation legislation, they believed that it would be thoroughly effective. Some of them must have been wilfully oblivious, as all could certainly not have been really oblivious, of the fact that right through the ages, other nations had tried conciliation and arbitration, and had tried it unsuccessfully.
I shall not beforehand, or by inference, promise my support at this juncture for any proposal, even though it should be made by the Administration, which will have for its objective the substantial amendment of the Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, although there are matters in connexion with it which I regard as defective.We are sometimes told that the Senate is a weak body. I venture to say, in spite perhaps of press derision, that the Senate in regard to its personnel is not a weak body. But it is weak by virtue of its constitutional position. The Senate does not occupy a constitutional position as high as that of the House of Lords, even at the present time, notwithstanding the fact that that Chamber, by the Parliament Act,has been deprived of certain of its hereditary and legislative privileges. The House of Lords can even now hold up legislation for a very much greater length of time than can this Senate.
– It is not possible to get a double dissolution in Great Britain.
– That is so, but I shall make my meaning clear. The Senate of the Commonweath cannot twice reject a Bill which it believes to be detrimental to the interests of the nation, without subjecting itself to the possible penalties of a dissolution, and there is only a three months’ interval permitted.One can imagine the electors infatuated with a principle, desiring the passage of a certain legislative measure, and instructing their representatives in another place to pass that measure. Though public opinion fluctuates very speedily, we may imagine that the electors may still be of the same opinion after a period of three months, although they might not continue to hold that opinion after an interval of twelve months. I say, wisely framed as an instrument of government though the Commonwealth Constitution may be, it is defective inasmuch as it does not permit the Senate a sufficiently long interval in which to avoid the consequences of its action in the shape of an appeal to the electors before they are given proper time for reflection. Although that is my belief, I would not at this juncture throw the Constitution into the melting pot on that account, or because of one or two other defects, which, in my opinion, it contains. I counsel the Administration to be exceedingly wary in regard to submitting amendments of the Constitution to this Legislature, because, although they may be carried here, they are always in imminent danger of being defeated by the electors, who, day by day, are becoming more and more conservative in their attitude towards the instrument of government created by the great men of a couple of decades ago, and, in my opinion, very properly so. What would be thought of a man whobuilt a splendid house, in which he could live comfortably, and which every one regarded as very fine, if he made structural alter ations in it every day ? He would be regarded as seriously lacking in wisdom Yet this is the kind of thing which the Australian people are invited to do; and once more I assume the responsibility of advising them to proceed with the greatest care in this matter.
There is one more subject to which I shall address myself, and I shall have done. In this country, as I said in the early part of my remarks, we have something less than 6,000,000 of souls. That is a matter of statistics. It is one of those things which no one is likely to attempt to controvert. It is, so far as human ability can furnish such a thing, a matter of fact. We are anxious to increase the number of our population, and very properly so. We are also very properly anxious to increase our population by bringing into the Commonwealth people of the same racial extraction as were most of the ancestors of the people who live in Australia at the present” time. I believe that 97 per cent, of the people of the Commonwealth are of British extraction, and it would be an eminently wise policy to add to the population of the Commonwealth by bringing out here the surplus population, if there is a surplus population, in the countries of the British Isles. I am not prepared to admit that there is a surplus population in those countries; but some people say that there » is, and if those people desired to come in a body to Australia I believe we could find room for them here. Side by side with this I have noticed a most peculiar modern development. I am going to speak of a matter which is not referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech or which is not within the scope of ordinary legislative action, but which, nevertheless, is of the utmost importance to the nation. .We find professors lecturing here, and . reports in the press of doctors in England, advocating birth control in the name of science, and in the name of the welfare of the nation. This sort of thing is ‘being preached in our country, to which we want to introduce millions of immigrants. We desire to add very greatly to our population, preferably by those who are born here, much as we would like to see immigration from the British Isles. Man cannot add to his stature by taking thought, and I very much question whether the human race is going to be bettered by the attempt to limit population because of the specious argument and contention that we may prevent from being brought into the world a few people with curvature of the spine, a few with unnecessarily bowed legs, or a few with receding foreheads, whose condition may, to a greater or less extent, be attributed to some of the sins of their forbears. It may be contended that, other things being equal, the race that can absorb scientific knowledge and adopt principles of modern development will be superior to other races which only increase and multiply - and these, . too, can secure scientific education - but the idea that we can so limit births as to rear a race of super-men and demigods, arid that we shall have no more the halt, the lame, and the blind, is a dream. It is one of those delusions that some men harbour in the day-time. We may call it a day-dream. It is very much like the scientific calculation that a , penny put OUt at interest at the creation of the world would .now mean something in silver, gold, or copper that would be the equivalent of the globe itself. These men. who grope only in the fields of abstract learning, axe not acquainted with the facts of life. Much as I respect learning, particularly of a kind I do not possess myself, I believe that there are no more unpractical men than “University professors. Here we have ai gentleman telling us that .if the population had doubled itself every few years since the Conquest there would be now, I do not know how many thousands of millions of people in the world, and the population would have increased to such an extent, that there would be one and a half men for every square yard of its surface. That is the sort of thing that is disseminated in the name of knowledge. We are told that we should take that kind of thing into account when our first consideration for the preservation of the nation is to populate this continent of which we claim exclusive possession. Those who know me are aware that I am no Puritan, nor am I one who claimspossession of biblical or saintly knowledge, but I say that what I have referred to is the advice of Satan. I had the happiness recently of listening to three members of this Parliament, two of whom told me that they were members of families of thirteen, and one of whom said that he was the fourteenth child of a family. Those families were not reared in poverty because they were numerous. Those children who. became members of this Na- tional Legislature were the descendants of people who Game out here, and with bullock teams, camp ovens, axes, and mattocks subdued the Australian wilderness. Never mind if a few children are born who must be looked after during the whole of their lives; much as we may commiserate them, we must have 60,000,000 or 80,000,000 of souls if the destiny of Australia is to have some chance of fulfilment. Listen not to these professorial statements and deductions of medical men who tell us that it is desirable to limit births. We want more families of fifteen and sixteen children. Let me tell young men in Australia, and perhaps some who are not young require the information, that’ I have found in my experience that the children of families that are most numerous are the best brought up, and very often the most useful to the nation.
– There is no time to spoil them.
– That is so. They are less pampered. I read with very great pleasure a French account of the visit of a French delegation to Canada to thank the Canadian people for their services during the war. The French Mayor of a Canadian community met Marshal Joffre and presented to him an old man, who, with’ his wife, had had twenty-four children, all of whom were present at their parents’ golden wedding. Since French keels first ploughed the St. Lawrence the French inhabitants of Canada have increased to over 4,000,000 people, or nearly half the population of the Dominion. The whole of that population has descended from the sixty odd thousand French adventurers who went in the firstplace from old France to Canada. It is clear that there was no limitation of the birth rate among these people in Canada, and we want no such thing in Australia. I am not very much in the habit of advocating harsh measures, but I say that these professors and these unsexed women who come here and” advocate birth control should have put salt upon their tails. With these remarks I conclude in order to give another honorable senator who has national matters to speak of an opportunity of contributing to the debate.
Senator JOHN D. MILLEN (Tasmania) [4.5). - In view of some of the recent developments in regard to wireless telegraphy in the Commonwealth, I wish to refer to this important subject for a few minutes. Let me say at the outset that I regret that the Amalgamated Wireless Company has exhibited bad faith in relation to the appointment of the seventh director. I wish to clearly set out the reasons I have for saying that the company has exhibited bad faith. When the Committee that was appointed by this Parliament, at the end of last session, decided to turn down the agreement that had been before Parliament it brought forward a new draft agreement, and this was handed to the representative of the company for the purpose of getting the criticism . of his Board in regard to its clauses. When the representative had considered that matter he handed to the Committee a document that set out, in my opinion, the vital points contained in both of the agreements. I have in my hand one of the documents that was handed to the Committee by Mr. Fisk, representing the Amalgamated Wireless Company. Among other things, it sets out the following : -
The agreement signed by the company provided (inter alia) : -
Commonwealth control of company in general meeting.
Commonwealth directors with exclusive veto powers.
Company directors to control commercial and technical management.
The new draft made by the Committee provides : -
The Commonwealth to retain its full advantages under (a) and (b) above.
The company to surrender its advantages under (c) above.
Thus the Commonwealth control is increased and the company’s control is decreased under the new draft. The company’s directors have endeavoured to meet the Committee’s requirements in full and are prepared to accept all the important points of the new draft. On the other hand they ask for a slight modification which is necessary to protect the existing business while the new stations are being built and the [present coastal service is being reorganized.
The Committee, as set out in the last clause of the document, thought that there would be some difficulty during the construction period under the new proposal, and decided to grant the company certain relief. That relief was granted on the understanding that the Commonwealth should have three directors, and that an independent seventh director should be’ appointed. Clause 7 of the new agreement provides -
During the period of construction and reorganization or for a period of three years from the date of this agreement, whichever is the less, the Commonwealth shall pay to the company monthly all amounts expended in carrying on the existing Commonwealth radio stations, and the company shall pay to, the Commonwealth monthly all sums received as revenue from the working of those stations. In the case of the existing radio station in the Territory of New Guinea, for a period of seven years from the date of this agreement, the Commonwealth shall pay to the company monthly all amounts expended in carrying on that station, and the company shall pay to the Commonwealth monthly all sums received as revenue from the working of that station.
That consideration was given to the company largely because it accepted the condition that there should be equal representation on the directorate. On the last page of the document to which I have just referred is the following paragraph: -
This arrangement will enable the Committee’s requirements to be fully met without our present business being overwhelmed by a large undeveloped liability and surrendering the management of our present business tb a Board constituted on entirely new lines and beyond our control.
– What document was that on?
– A document handed to the Committee by Mr. Fisk on the company’s own paper. There were certain features that made me extremely suspicious.
– You were not alone in that respect.
– The first was that before the new directorate was appointed the former managing director of the Amalgamated Wireless Company went home to England, apparently for the purpose of arranging for, or purchasing, the new high-power station. When honorable senators remember that this gentleman has been Home for over two months, and that the appointment of the seventh director was only accomplished within the last two weeks, the question arises, ‘ ‘ Who sent him home, what wag it for, and what is he doing?”’
I would like to point out- why the Wireless Committee was so emphatic that the division of control on the Board should be equal, and why an independent Chairman of Directors should be appointed. To deal with this aspect effectively, it will bc necessary to go “ to .some slight extent into the history of wireless telegraphy in Australia. The Wireless Telegraph Act was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1905, and Senator Keating, who was the Minister in charge of the Bill at that time, stated that the main object was to make a
Government monopoly of wireless telegraphy in the .Commonwealth. That Act remains in force, with the following amendments: - (a) In 1915, owing to the control of wireless passing from the Postmaster- General’s Department to the Navy Department the Act was amended by substituting “The Minister Controlling Wireless” for “The Postmaster-General” ;
That this House is of opinion that wireless telegraphic stations should be immediately established as found desirable around the coasts of Australia, and that our merchant marine should be equipped with wireless installations as an up-to-date means (.1) of obtaining intelligence of the appearance in Australian waters of a hostile force; (2) of saving life and property in peril by accidents on the sea.
In view of that, it was decided to call for tenders for the erection of two stations, one at Perth and the other at Sydney. The result of calling for those tenders brings out rather a peculiar circumstance. The Australian Wireless Company, of Sydney, which was a branch of the Telefunken Company of Germany, put in a price of £4,150. The Lepel Wireless Syndicate, London, submitted a tender of £7,000; the British Radio Company, London, put in a price of £9,317, and the Marconi Company presented a tender of £19,020. The Government accepted the Australian Wireless Company’s tender of £4,150, and paid the company another £2,000, bringing the total up to £6,150, for which the Commonwealth got the stations at Pennant Hills and Perth. The Marconi Company promptly took out an action to defend their patent rights, but the case was eventually quashed by the amalgamation of the
Marconi and Telefunken companies, which then called themselves the Amalgamated Wireless Company of Australia.
While these events were transpiring, the Commonwealth Government engaged Mr. Balsillie to look after the wireless proposals. He wished to extend the works suggested by Admiral Henderson; and undertook to secure tenders. He obtained tenders, but these were turned down. He undertook to provide for material that would not involve an infringement of the Marconi Company’s rights. When this material was employed, the Marconi Company applied to the Courts for an order of discovery. After about two years litigation, the company obtained an order of discovery, and continued the legal proceedings. Then an arrangement was made to engage the services of Mr. James Swinburne to come here from London at a fee of £2,000 to report if there had been any infringements. He reported’ that there was none; but the company still persisted in litigation, with the result that the Commonwealth Government paid the company £5,000 for the use of its patents. The Government went further than that. When the war was on, and the Navy Department had decided to put up an arc station in a certain place, the Amalgamated Wireless Company again took action for an infringement of its arc patent. After a consultation between Rear- Admiral Creswell, representatives of the company, and the Crown Solicitor, the company got another £2,000 out of the Government for the use of its patents.
– Although the only expert who had gone into the matter said there had been no infringement.
– Yes ; and a well-known expert at that. When the Committee heard of this matter, it naturally felt somewhat anxious that there should be no predominating control on any Board that the Amalgamated Wireless Company had anything to do with, particularly in view of the fact that when the representative of the company appeared before the Committee, he stated that the old company had entered into an agreement with the Marconi Company, of London, for the erection of a high-power station in Australia for £600,000. When he was asked to produce plans and: specifications for them, he said that there were none, nor had he ever seen any. There was also a tender from the Radio Communication Company, of London, for £281,000 for just as efficient a service. I must say that this company did not propose to put in the prime power, but to buy it from some selling company. If there were no such company in the neighbourhood of the power station, it would cost another £49,000 for the power scheme. In these circumstances, one can understand why it was thought necessary for the Amalgamated Wireless Company to have four directors as against the Commonwealth’s three. Consequently the Committee felt that it was essential to safeguard the position, and it would not consider any proposal that did not give the Commonwealth equal rights and equal powers with the old company. The chairman, Mr. Bruce, informed the representative of the Marconi Company that the Committee would not in any circumstances consider such a proposal, and that the Committee would insist on tenders being called for the erection of the plant. That was not put in the report, for the reason that, having three representatives of the Government on the directorate and one independent man, it was thought that common sense would dictate the proper course for any business board to take.
– You did not know what sharp people you were dealing with.
– There is not a shadow of doubt about that. We did not, and in view of this sharp practice so many of us have lost all faith in the proposition that the Government would be well advised to tear up the whole agreement, and end the business.
– Could the Government do that now?
– I am not the Solicitor-General, or I might give my advice free.
– I think, if you were Solicitor- General,, you would give advice very cautiously.
– Well, perhaps I would. The majority of members of both Houses feel keenly that the Commonwealth has been taken down, and that the mala fides of the company have been shown so openly that they cannot be trusted any further.
– Somebody had to pay for the wealth of literature that we received from time to time.
– There, is no doubt about that. The way they carried on thepropaganda work was certainly somewhat startling.
– They were still able to pay big dividends.
– That is true, but everybody knows that advertising pays.
– Does the honorable senator consider that the Government have observed the lines laid down by the Committee tolerably well? I was out of Australia when the report was presented.
– Then I understand the honorable senator is complaining of the action of the company rather than of the Government.
– As soon as the Government knew what had occurred they took action. I understand from what was said in another place that the Government have absolutely refused to agree to the appointment of the seventh director, who, as has been shown, was previously chairman of the old company. Let honorable senators think of the position. Here was a gentleman, chairman of the old company, and not amongst the three to represent his company on the directorate of the big concern - for the scheme is a tremendous one so far as wireless is concerned-
– He was the safety valve.
– I shall leave it at that. I do not think I could improve upon what the honorable senator has suggested.
SenatorFoll. - But was not the arbitrator to blame?
– One cannot blame the arbitrator unless one knows what facts were placed before him.
– Surely he knew the gentleman he nominated was associated with the old company.
– Perhaps he did not know of the honorable understanding” arrived at by the Committee.
– It is not the honorable understanding I want to draw attention to. It was an absolute engagement in the document.
– He was to be the independent chairman.
– Not chairman at all, but the seventh director. The Committee agreed to the proposed subsidizing of the Amalgamated Wireless Company during a certain period, in order to get that concession, as something in exchange for the company forgoing its claim for a fourth member on the directorate. The proposal to appoint an independent chairman was thrown out, and it was agreed that the seven directors would select their own chairman. The Committee were emphatic that there should be no preponderance of power for the Marconi Company or the Amalgamated Wireless Company of Australasia on the Board, believing that it would mean, possibly, that the Commonwealth Government, as one of the partners of the company, would have to pay over £200,000 more than was necessary for the erection of a high-power station.
– We were to be dragged at the tail of the cart.
– Apparently, but I think the temper of Parliament was such that the dragging will be the other way now.
There is just one other matter to which
I desire to direct attention. I should be glad if the Government could see their way to very materially reduce the licencefees charged to amateur wireless experimenters, because we have quite a number of enthusiastic men who may be able to do something in advancing the science of wireless telegraphy or telephony.
– The charge is, I think, £2 per year.
– Yes ; but in the United States of America there is no charge. At the most, the Common wealth Government get only about £1,000 revenue from this source. We have, as I have said, any number of enthusiastic men who have not too much money to spare, so, perhaps, the licence-fee of £2 might mean a good deal to them.
– They should be eneouraged.
– Of course, they should. Because their experiments may lead to a material advancement of the science. We have only to remember that the valves now in operation have absolutely revolutionized wireless telegraphy and telephony. Certainly the licence of £2 does not mean much to the Common wealth, and if it were reduced we might get from these experimenters something that would be of very great service, not only to the Commonwealth, but to the whole world;
: - I do not wish to occupy the time of the Senate to any great extent, but I should like to direct attention to one or two matters that have cropped up during the debate. In the first place, I desire to join with the Government in expressing my feelings of sorrow at the death, and extending my condolences to the relatives, of the late Mr. Frank Gwynne Tudor and the late Senator Adamson. I had not the pleasure of knowing Mr. Tudor very intimately, but ‘I knew of his great reputation, and although I differed from him in politics, I believe that he was honestly animated by high ideals, and sought, to the best of his ability, to forward the true interests of the people of Australia. The late Senator Adamson was of a genial and affectionate disposition, and came to us with a great reputation from Queensland ; but the nature of his illness prevented us from becoming very intimately acquainted with him. It is a lamentable fact that men who devote their time to the service of their country, in. addition to the stress and storm of politics, suffer so often from the attacks of a bitter and venomous press. I was quite amazed, when I came into this Parliament, to note the attitude of the press, particularly the press of Victoria, towards the public men of the Commonwealth.’ It is a shocking and a scandalous thing that newspapers like the Melbourne Argus and the Melbourne Age should day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, be continually pouring out the vials of their wrath and malice, and all uncharitableness, upon those who have been selected by the people of Australia to represent them and carry on the affairs of the Commonwealth.
– Why do you exempt the Melbourne Herald?
– I do not. I include the Herald. ‘
– You ought to leave out the Argus and put the Herald in the list.
– I class them altogether. When I read the attacks by these unknown journalists, who from behind the ‘boxthorn hedge of anonymity fire their poisoned arrows at the selected representatives of the people, I am amazed, and I ask myself who are these men?
Are they skilled in the changes of public affairs and vicissitudes of events? ‘ Are they men whom the people of Australia would elect to this Parliament in our place, to carry on its affairs and control the destinies of the Commonwealth ? No ! They are men whom you would not trust with a threepenny bit out of your sight. Who is the editor of the Age? Personally, I have not the misfortune to know him. I do not know who he is or who she is. But when I read the articles that appear in the Age, I am tempted to believe that the editor is some vituperative charwoman of more or less easy virtue, and, indeed, of no virtue at all. And I am inclined to believe that the editor of the Argus is some intoxicated office boy who has been drinking into the early hours of the morning, and who is pouring out of his diseased imagination those diatribes and vitriolic, outbursts upon the public men and statesmen of Australia. It is a scandal that these attacks should be tolerated. Our fathers had to fight for the freedom of the press; but it seems to me that we shall have to fight to curb and restrict the press of our generation. The liberty of the press appears to be degenerating into licence. In the good old days when George III. was King, there was a law on the statute-book dealing with libellous pamphleteers and scurrilous journalists. It provided that if they made false charges they were to be stood in the stocks and pilloried. It would have a wholesome effect, I believe, if we had some such legislation -to-day, and could put the 1 editor of the Argus and’ the editor of the Age in stocks at the corner of Swanston and Collins streets for a few hours each day. We should then, I think, note a much better tone in the daily press of this State.
– Is the press of your own State immune from attack?
– The press of my own State is not without blame. I do not want to acquit- them altogether.
– You are pretty rough on the Victorian press.
– The press of South Australia is, on the whole, better; but, unfortunately, it is inclined to follow the lead and copy statements which we all know are only rumours set going by the unscrupulous press of Victoria.
– The honorable senator must give the press credit for making us pay 2d. per copy to read what they have to say about us.
– That is so. And I ask myself, who are the men’ who are continually being attacked? Have not they carried on the affairs of this country for the past six years with prudence, as Lord Beaconsfield said, and certainly not without the most brilliant success? Are not they men who produced an accumulated surplus of £6,000,000, and ended last year with £819,000 to the good? Who is the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes, tie great Prime Minister of this country, that he should be attacked from day to day by these scurrilous pamphleteers ? He is a great Australian, an Imperialist, and, without doubt, a notable statesman. He is known all over the world for a great statesman.
– Does not the honorable member conceive that for that reason he would be attacked by a gentleman named Schuler.
– I dare say that is one reason for these venomous attacks upon the Prime Minister. I had not known the name of the editor of the Melbourne Age. And who are the members of’ the Government that they should be assailed in this way? The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator E. E. Millen) came back from England shortly after I became a member of the Senate, and we all know what splendid work he achieved. When f entered this Senate, being a Scotchman, I kept my mouth closed, and took stock of .my surroundings, and I have to admit that I was much impressed with the personnel of this Chamber. . It is, I believe, the finest legislative body in the world. When I looked around this Chamber my eyes rested upon the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator E. D. Millen), and I said that if anything happened to the Prime Minister - which God forbid - here is a man capable of stepping into hie shoes and of efficiently undertaking the responsible duties of Prime Minister of Australia. The Minister for Repatriation visited London and completed a most important financial undertaking,, and returned to the Commonwealth clothed in glory. When the Minister was in Great Britain as the representative of the Commonwealth, he completed, with the assistance of the British Government, a treaty for funding the National War Debt of £96,000,000, under which it will automatically become extinct in thirty-six years. That in itself was a feat which none but an experienced and capable statesman could accomplish, and his efforts on behalf of the. Commonwealth should not be overlooked. Little mention waa made in the Victorian press of his departure, and of the important work which he was to undertake, and when he returned the success of his mission was hardly mentioned. Then we have the Right Honorable the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), who distinguished himself at the Washington Conference, who is also a Minister in this Chamber, and who, after many years of valuable public service, has been elevated to His Majesty’s Privy Council. Notwithstanding the year’s of faithful and satisfactory service rendered by these men, and the highly satisfactory results which have followed their overseas missions, little reference is made in the’ press to their achievements. A third representative of the Government in this. Chamber is the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Earle), who once occupied the proud position of Premier of Tasmania, which is, I think, the second ‘Sta te of any importance in -the Commonwealth.
During the course of Senator Bakhap’s eloquent and ornate speech, which I listened to from ‘beginning to end ‘with absorbing interest, he called attention to the fact that in the Governor-General’s speech one of the most important items was the reference to international relations, which appears to have been slurred over. Probably there, are few members of the Senate who realize the radical alteration in, the status and dignity of the Commonwealth since the war. Perhaps honorable senators hardly realize that prior to the great conflict we were really an insignificant dependency of the great British Empire, whereas to-day we are an absolutely independent nation in the great British Commonwealth of Nations. Few realize that we now have absolute independence, not only in internal, but in external, affairs, with power to make war or peace and to appoint ambassadors or deputies to foreign nations. That has all been achieved since the outbreak of the war.. In Duncan-Hall’s British Commonwealth of Nations reference is made to the famous Borden memorandum, which is recognised by the British Government as, setting out the self-governing powers of the Dominions of the Empire, and which is now preserved in the archives at “Westminster. The parties to this famous document were Sir Robert Borden, .the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, and General Smuts, and under this memorandum the Commonwealth of Australia can make peace or. war. We can send our ambassadors to any country in the world we desire, and it behoves us as members of the Senate to recognise the responsibilities thrown upon us by our old Imperial Mother. When we realize the authority we possess it is our duty to tread slowly, astutely, and wisely, and refrain from . entering into any international controversies without the consent of Great Britain. I believe that this is only the second time in the history of the Commonwealth that _ treaties involving international relationships have been before us. I was a member of th Senate when we concluded the Peace Treaty between Great Britain and her Allies and Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Turkey, and the Government are now submitting further treaties which we will have to. consider with due recognition of their importance.
I listened to the remarkable homily from Senator Thomas, in which he referred to the unification, of gauges.
– Is the honorable senator going to advocate the direct route ‘!
– I shall allude to it. Senator’ Thomas addressed his remarks more particularly to the South Australian and Victorian senators, who, he said, were against the unification of the gauges. I interjected, when he was speaking, that if it had not been for the duplicity and treachery of New South Wales - I did not use those words then, but I do so now - we would have had a uniform gauge many years ago. New South Wales,. Victoria, and South Australia entered into an agreement many years ago to adopt a standard gauge of 5 ft. 3 in., and on that understanding South Australia and Victoria commenced building on that gauge. New South Wales, however, tore up tie treaty and threw it into the waste-paper basket, and that State is really to blame for the fact that we have such a number of gauges in Australia to-day. I am not opposed to a uniform gauge, but there are many points which have to be con sidered in connexion with the proposal. It is, indeed, a big question, and it is apparent to everyone that -the longer the work is delayed the greater will be the cost.
– When was the first line in South Australia laid ?
– I know it was after an arrangement was entered into with New South Wales to construct a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. If the work can be done with due regard to the exigencies of the financial situation, I am in favour of it: but the Government have no right to spend millions of money until they have constructed the North-South railway, which they have agreed to do.
– And also to standardize the gauges.
– Let us see if the Government are in earnest. I believe some honorable senators are bitterly opposed to the construction of the NorthSouth line.
– Quite so.
– A deputation of senators and South Australian members of the House of Representatives waited upon the Prime Minister in 1921, when he solemnly pledged his word that the Government would go on with the North-South line as soon as the proposal had been reported on by the Public Works Committee. The Prime Minister said that he was in favour of the line being constructed as far as Alice Springs, and then to the Barkly tablelands, and as a representative of South Australia I ask the Government to see that their pledge to construct the line by the NorthSouth route is honoured. .
– Subject, of course, to the exigencies of the financial situation ?
– We could commence the construction of the NorthSouth line and consider the standardization of the gauges afterwards; but perhaps it may be possible if funds are available to undertake both works simultaneously. Senator Fairbairn uttered some disparaging remarks concerning the possibilities of the country to be traversed; but I read only to-day the remarks of Mr. McCallum, a member of the South Australian Parliament, who has just made a wonderful and romantic trip from Adelaide to Port Darwin and back through Queensland, in which he said that there are 2,000,000 square miles of country suitable for pastoral pursuits, which will, in time, develop into thriving country.
I am glad to see that the Government are still anxious to press on with their policy of immigration in an endeavour to settle this great Commonwealth with people of our own race. I wish now to publicly dissociate myself from certain utterances made in the State I represent purporting to be in favour of importing black labour into Australia.
– Is that the policy of the Liberal party ?
– No; it was repudiated in the first issue of the Liberal Leader after the announcement was made.
– Whose policy is it?
– I understand that Sir Henry Barwell, the Premier of South Australia,1 favours the introduction of tropical labour. I met that gentleman when he was passing through Melbourne last week on his return from Great Britain and America, and he informed me that he had never said a word concerning black labour. I suppose it is another instance of misrepresentation on the part of the press.
– Why did the High Commissioner (Sir Joseph Cook) refer to the matter in London ?
- Sir Henry Barwell referred to tropical labour.
– What is the difference ?
– That is a point which the South Australian Premier must explain. I was one of the firstmembers of the Liberal party to go on a public platform and deny the suggestion that it was the policy of our party to introduce black labour into Australia.
I am glad that it is the intention of the Government to introduce legislation relating to bankruptcy, because it is surely an anomaly to have different bankruptcy laws in each State.
It is now twenty-three years since the Constitution was founded, and we still have different divorce laws in each State. It is well within the functions and scope of the Government to deal with this important problem, and, although a measure cannot very well be introduced and passed this session, it is to be hoped that the Government, after the next election,, when they will return stronger than ever, will introduce a Bill to unify our divorce laws.
Reference has been made to an amendment of the Constitution, and in this connexion. I would like to say that I agree entirely with the views expressed by Senator Bakhap. I am totally opposed to conventions, a principle which was never recognised when the Constitution was framed, because it is quite competent for Parliament to pass a . law embodying amendments, which can then be submitted to the people for their acceptance or rejection. If we were to submit our Constitution to a convention for amendments, we would simply be inviting the Bolsheviks in our midst to rend it asunder. We are competent to decide what should be submitted to the people, and I agree with what Senator Bakhap has said concerning the powers of the Senate. It no doubt makes for weakness in the Senate that we oan only throw out a Bill twice. Before a double dissolution is ordered there ought to be a dissolution of the House of Representatives, and after the members of that House have been returned by the electors, the Senate could give way if the electors had so decided. If any amendments of the Constitution are proposed, it would be a good plan to provide that the members of the Senate should be elected for a longer period than at present. We know that in the latest Constitution that has been framed, namely, the Irish Constitution, members of the Senate are elected for twelve years, and of the’ House of Representatives fox six years. I think that is a splendid idea. I do not consider that people should be encouraged to change their minds frequently. We hear some talk of biennial and annual Parliaments, but I think they would be a fatal mistake, for they would invite the electors to change their minds frequently without just cause. The Mother of Parliaments, the British House of Commons, is septennial. Why should we not take a leaf out of her book, and have an appeal to the electors only every six or seven years for the House” of Representatives and every twelve or fourteen years for the Senate? I congratulate the ‘Government on the programme they are submitting.
– If I were asked to give a title to my speech this afternoon, I think I would call it “ Cheer up, Australia,” for I am afraid that at the present time there is very serious need, both for the public men and the press of Australia, to be a little more optimistic. I think that the speech we have just listened to contained a very justifiable rebuke to certain sections of the press, for it is manifest to nearly every reader of the press of Australia, and to every listener to the average speeches delivered by public men, either here or in the different halls of the country, on the Yarra-bank in Melbourne, or in the Domain in Sydney, that there is a strain of pessimism, of continual “ grousing “ and discontent, which is not calculated to inspire an enthusiasm for the building up of our nation. The object of some people at the present time is to create dissatisfaction with the constitutional authorities, and to discredit their own country.
Before entering upon my speech, may I join with previous speakers in expressing my regret at the demise of the Honorable Frank Tudor and of the late Senator Adamson. I was not well acquainted with Senator Adamson, having known him and his family only for a very short period, but my brief acquaintance led me to appreciate them very much. 1 want to extend my sympathy to his wife and family in their very sad bereavement.
The other gentleman who has passed away was one of my oldest friends in politics. He, with Senator Thomas, were two mainlanders who came to Tasmania twenty years ago to help me to fight my first political battle. Although unaccustomed to the rough bush life which was lived on the West Coast of Tasmania, they walked through slush and slurries many miles in order to address the miners on my behalf. Consequently, honorable senators can easily imagine that I always had a very deep friendship and respect for that gentleman. We became estranged in our political views later on, through circumstances connected with the great war, but in spite of that I do not think there was ever any alteration in the deep friendship we held for each other. By his death I lost a very dear friend, and my sympathy goes out to his family.
I want, also, upon this, the first occasion on which I have spoken as a Minister, to extend my very sincere thanks, publicly, to my predecessor, Senator Bussell. I, with other members of this Chamber had an opportunity of observing the hard work done by Senator Russell for many years previous to his retirement, and when he resigned the position which I now occupy in order to permit of the reconstruction of the Government, he was one of the first to come to me to proffer assistance and, indeed, to give valuable help to me in my new position. I appreciate that action very much indeed, and publicly thank him.
I offer my congratulations to the mover of the motion that we’ are now discussing. With a rather extended political experience, I can say that, having heard very many similar motions moved in this and the State Parliament from which I came, I have never heard a better speech delivered by a beginner than that made by Senator Garling. I think I can safely say, without any reflection upon the gentleman who has gone to another branch of the Legislature, that this Chamber, at least, has lost nothing by the exchange.
I want to deal with one or two of the speeches delivered by previous speakers. The first of note was that made by Senator Lynch, of Western Australia, but it was so thoroughly answered by the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) that I think I may pass over it without further comment. Senator Fairbairn, among other things, raised rather strong objection to the suggested appointment of an Advisory Board in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I hardly think that Senator Fairbairn was quite fair to the Government or to the PostmasterGeneral in his implication that the latter was repudiating in some way his responsibility for the administration of his Department, and was endeavouring to hand it over to some Board, Commission, or other agency. It has to be remembered that under the present Government the postal service is entering upon a new era. It is launching upon the expenditure of some millions of money upon material which is ever changing. Therefore, it is only by obtaining the most complete expert knowledge and the most advanced scientific advice that the best value can be obtained for the Commonwealth, and I know that although we have every confidence in the expert advisers to the Commonwealth in these technical questions, these gentlemen have changed their minds from time to time, and have caused some considerable embarrassment to the administration of the Department. I think the
Government would be lacking in discretion did it fail to obtain in the carrying out of. this very much extended service the most reliable advice that it is possible to obtain.
Another question was raised by Senator Foll, and I am sorry that he, and Senator Wilson, to whose speech I also wish to refer, are not at present in the Chamber. Senator Foll made special reference to the arbitration case in the shipbuildingcontract between the Commonwealth and the firm of Kidman and Mayoh. There has been, not only here, but in the other branch of the Legislature, and throughout the country, an endeavour made to discredit the Government in connexion with this matter. The inference has been invited that there is some “ hole and corner “ business going on, or, as it was stated in the other branch of the Legislature, that an attempt is being made to “ whitewash “ somebody for an almost criminal act. It must be remembered that when the Government entered into that contract one of the main things to be considered within Australia, and within the Empire, was the procuring of oversea freight. It was entered into at a time when there was a serious danger of the people of England being starved for want of wheat which was lying on our wharfs and railway stations deteriorating because of weevil, mice, and other pests. Every one knew that when the war was over the wooden ships which had been contracted for would be very much discounted in value, even if they would have any value at all. ‘It was recognised that ships had to be obtained at any cost. Steel was not procurable, but there was a chance of building wooden ships as substitutes . to carry this precious wheat - useless to us, but precious to the people of England - to the other side of the world. This contract was entered into with full knowledge that when the ships had served their purpose there would undoubtedly be a considerable loss upon* them. It was ascertained that the contractors had failed rather badly in the enterprise they undertook. There were faults of construction which indicated a criminal act on the part of somebody. When the Public Works Committee inquired into the question whether the contractors, in accordance with their own request, should be released from their contract, the Committee. although it found that the ships were not faithfully constructed, and that one was “ hogged “ when placed in the water, was unable to say to what part of the faulty construction the “hogging” or “humping” was attributable. Some contend that something in the nature of a criminal prosecution should be entered against somebody in connexion with this affair. The full examination of witnesses on sworn evidence before the Public Works Committee showed that there was no possible chance of convicting anybody of the actual commitment of the criminal act referred to. The Government, on the recommendation of the Public Works Committee, and guided also by other information at their disposal, decided that they could not take possession of the ships, which were unreliable and unseaworthy. They went further, and demanded from the contractors the return of the money paid as progress payments. Immediately that demand was made, the contractors issued a writ against the Government, demanding payment for the ships as completed. We all know very well that if a case like that went before the Courts of Australia, the result would be long drawn-out litigation and enormous legal expenses. Experience has taught us that in such cases, where there is an element of doubt, the opponent of the Government is always given the benefit of it. In order to adopt the most economical and just way of dealing with the question, the Government submitted a proposition that the whole ‘ matter should be decided by arbitration, giving the” arbitrator power to use the evidence obtained by the Public Works Committee, and to arrive at a final’ docision fair to the Government and to the contractors. That proposal was agreed to by the contractors, and Sir Mark Sheldon entered upon the duties of arbitrator. The Government have been subjected to some criticism on this account. What they were expected to do I fail to understand. It was obvious that if the Government could have cancelled the contract and secured a refund of progress payments, it would have been beneficial to them, because had the ships been faithfully built the Commonwealth must have lost on them once they had served their purpose. They could not possibly be worth in the world’s markets an amount equal to the cost of construction.
SenatorReid. - America found that out.
– Every one knew that in constructing wooden ships to serve a specific purpose that, must be the case, and these ships were being constructed by the Commonwealth for the specific purpose of taking wheat to the people of England when they were in danger of starvation.
SenatorFoll. - The honorable senator must not lose sight of the fact that the Government offered to cancel the contract when they knew that the ships would not be needed, and the contractors preferred to go on with their contract because they thought they would be able to do better by securing compensation.
– The Public Works
Committee advised that the contractors should not be relieved of their contract, and the only deduction to be drawn from that advice was that in the opinion of the Committee the contractors should be compelled to deliver to the Commonwealth in good order the ships they had contracted to build. As I have said, the Government appointed Sir Mark Sheldon to inquire into the whole matter, and the Attorney- General (Mr. Groom) has to-day been able to lay before another branch of the Legislature Sir Mark Sheldon’s award. That award is that the contractors must pay back £75,000 of the money advanced to them, with over £600 as costs.
– What becomes of the critics who were so severe during the currency of the inquky by Sir Mark Sheldon?
– I do not know. Many of them were critics, not only of Sir Mark Sheldon, but of the Government, for their proposal that he should arbitrate in the matter.
– Some of us still claim that the Government are entitled to £113,000.
– I am, confident that Sir Mark Sheldon went very thoroughly into the whole matter, and as a result of his award the Government have saved many thousands of pounds, which they would have lost if the contract had been completed.
– Because the ships would be useless.
– Yes. We should have lost 75 per cent. of the cost of building the ships if the contract had beencompleted. That contract was entered into in certain circumstances, and I have no doubt that in similar circumstances, should they again arise, any Government would adopt the same course.
Senator Drake-Brockman, amongst other things, gave us a very interesting account of the operations of Australian soldiers at the Front. The honorable senator was very emphatic in his advocacy of the abolition of the system of industrial arbitration. The opposition to arbitration in Australia is in my opinion very much overdone. We are always being told that arbitration has been an unqualified failure, and that there are more strikes in Australia now than there were before we adopted the system. But the people who make this contention fail to exercise their imagination to consider what would have been our position if we had had no provision for arbitration. In this connexion, strangely enough, Sir Mark Sheldon comes again under review, and I quote the following from a paragraph which appeared in the Argus of the 17th instant: -
Sir Mark Sheldon, formerly Trade Commissioner to the United States, has reached Vancouver by the s.s. Niagara. He told a reporter that he was on a holiday trip of no special significance. Australia, he added, was remarkably free from strikes, and the conditions were very prosperous.
We want a few more Sir Mark Sheldons, who will be prepared to express their views after experience gained in other parts of the world. If honorable senators who are crying out about industrial unrest and industrial conditions in Australia would only go and live in America for a while, they would come back much better satisfied men, and would be more contented in Australia. People in other countries are more discreet than we are They do not advertise unpleasant occurrences in their own countries. It is only occasionally, when there is a strike riot, such as we have a report of in the newspapers to-day, when a number of persons are killed and more are wounded, that we get any inkling of the seriousness of industrial unrest in other countries. We need to take a more optimistic view, and to realize that the world over to-day there is necessarily industrial unrest. I say that by our system of conciliation between employer and employee, and of arbitration where there can be no conciliation, we have avoided a great deal of bitterness between sections and some very serious industrial turmoil.
– We did not prevent our biggest mining centre being practically closed up for a couple of years.
– There have been several industrial upheavals for which it is difficult to offer any explanation or excuse, but I say that such occurrences would have been multiplied if we had not had industrial arbitration in the Commonwealth.
– That is only imaginary. One honorable senator quoted particulars of strikes that have occurred within the last few years in Australia that were astounding.
– Honorable senators fail to realize that the position industrially, not only in the Commonwealth, but the world over, is very different from what it was some years ago. I have no doubt that if an effort were made to go back to the industrial conditions of twenty years ago we should, and justly so, too, witness one of the greatest upheavals that the most imaginative mind could possibly conceive.
– Are you not in favour of effecting any improvement in arbitration ?
– Yes, it would be a, good thing if the functions of the Commonwealth Court were more definitely defined so that the States could deal with domestic disputes, leaving to the Commonwealth those matters with which no individual State could deal.
– They are very few.
– Yes, but there are some industries that extend throughout the Commonwealth, and trouble in one State may disorganize an industry as a whole.
– At present we have State and Commonwealth tribunals dealing with the self-same matters.
– Yes, in that respect the system should be amended. I do not care whether we have Arbitration Courts or Wages Boards, provided we have some official tribunal, to smooth away difficulties between employer and employee, and where that is impossible, to judiciously arbitrate between them.
I was somewhat astounded when Senator Wilson, in commenting upon the re construction of the Ministry, said he felt regret that I had been included. I have always looked upon the honorable senator, and do so still, as at least a personal friend, and a man whose political views are not violently opposed to my own. I held my breath for some qualifications of the criticism, and the honorable senator merely said that his reason for the remark was that I was an uncompromising Protectionist. I began to wonder. I thought that I had at the back of my mind a number of instances where the honorable senator had- advocated Protection, and I asked if he were so ardent a Free Trader as to object to his friend taking a seat in a Ministry simply because he was a Protectionist.
– You have never heard me claim to be a Free Trader.
– Then I fail to understand the fiscal policy of the honorable senator. I find from Hansard that on the 23rd August, 1921, when the Tariff was under consideration in regard to cornshellers, huskers and baggers, the honorable senator delivered himself in these terms -
I agree with Senator Millen that it is necessary to have an extra duty on the articles included in this item.
Again on the 24th August, when hayrakes, reapers and binders were under discussion, he said -
I am quite satisfied that no one would expect me to be a party to reducing a Tariff, which in effect gives expression to a compact entered into by the Government for the establishment of the industry in Australia.
Those are very fine sentiments.
– Would you expect me to be a party to breaking a compact ?
– That agreement was made several months previously. I was not one to advocate the breaking of the compact. Why do you use that statement against me?
– Because you have voted for an extended Protection.
– I voted for the keeping of the compact.
– On the 30th August, 1921, on the subject of lactose, Senator Wilson moved that the House of Representatives be requested to amend the sub-item, adding the words “ 6d., 9d. and ls. 3d. per lb.” After a long debate, the Minister practically forced the honorable senator to accept some 20 per cent. less. The item was passed at ls., despite this great Free Trader, who wanted to make it ls. 3d.
– I think you might at least state my reasons. .
– I must leave that to the honorable senator.
– It would not suit your book.
– It would he very difficult to justify the honorable senator’s inconsistency. Let him give his own reasons, and justify his inconsistency himself. On 31st August, the question of leather was under consideration, and the honorable senator said -
There is, in my opinion, no argument for the reduction of these duties.
On the question of goloshes, Senator Payne tried to reduce the duty, but Senator Wilson said -
If I had any doubt as to how I should vote upon this matter, . Senator Payne’s last utter1 ancc would have caused mc to V.ote in favour of retaining the rate of duty which the honorable senator seeks to reduce.
Dealing with the question of a duty on marble, the honorable senator stated on the 18th November, 1921-
If the duty is unreasonably low, the way will be open for foreign producers to export large quantities to Australia, and it will then come into competition with -the Australian marble used for general purposes.
– Will the Minister not give us something about sulphur and super. ?
– No. The honorable senator takes strong objection to me because of my being a practical Protectionist. Only the other day, when Senator Lynch was dealing with this very subject, Senator Wilson interjected in a manner which showed him to be in favour of Protection. Senator Lynch stated -
Wo see now the spectacle of important works like those at Broken Hill closed down. This is the principal manufacturing enterprise in this country; but the Tariff does not keep it going. Why?’
The interjection from Senator Wilson was, “Because the Tariff is too low.” The honorable senator is, no doubt, surprised at his own inconsistency.
– I wish you would not drag my remarks from their context.
– The honorable senator poses as a Free Trader.
– I do not, and I never have.
– I shall pass on to another subject, ‘because his reference to me at the beginning of his speech is incomprehensible.
There are very few who realize the great heritage we possess in this island continent. To bring home to the minds of honorable senators and others who happen to read what I say, I will make a comparison .between Australia and other nations. This country comprises 2,974,581 square miles, and the following table shows the area and population of seventeen other well-known countries, whose total area is only 1,709,461 square miles, or 1,265,120 square miles less than that of Australia -
The above-mentioned countries, although having an area of 1,265,120 square miles less than that of Australia, have a population’ of 312,948,000. These figures certainly bring home to us the fact that Australia is a country of remarkable possibilities. Our population of 5,455,000 represents less than two people per square mile, while the populations of the seventeen countries I have named is approximately 183 people per square mile. We hear a good deal about the so-called barren desert land of Australia. I think Senator Foll, who has had experience of the interior of the continent, will say that there is no desert land in Australia in the true sense of the word.
– I do not say that, but I do say that the statement about our barren areas is grossly exaggerated.
– Millions of acres described as barren country is not barren at all, and, could be put to profitable use if only we had the people here. In Tasmania thereis a large area of country described as barren, but on it the forest growth is so dense that you have to carry an axe to cut your way through it.
– In Queensland the term “ desert land “ is employed to distinguish one class of pastoral country from another.
– That is so. Except for a comparatively small area, the whole of Australia is capable of producing something. Although an immense amount of mineral wealth has been extracted from the soil, there is every reason to believe that these sources have not been by any means properly exploited. Vast areas of auriferous country have not yet been touched, much less prospected, and in all the States there are enormous areas of pastoral and agricultural land awaiting occupation. In the State which I represent agriculture is carried on only to a limited extent, but horticultural operations are on a fairly extensive scale. Tasmania., which is twice the size of Belgium with its 7,000,000 of people, is destined, by reason of its cheap waterpower schemes, to become a very populous and important industrial State. The hydro-electric schemes provide for the utilization ofat least 500,000 horsepower, of which 50 per cent, will be harnessed at a minimum cost. The balance of the power will, of course, be slightly more expensive, but still well within the range of practicability for industrial and commercial purposes. Sol I have no hesitation in forecasting that Tasmania, with its harbors, climate, and cheap electricity, with its mountain and lake scenery, will become one of the most important manufacturing States, and certainly the Switzerland of Australia.
– And the rest of Australia wishes you good luck.
– There is no doubt about that. Taking Australia as a whole, it is undoubtedly the most prosperous place in the world, and with op portunities greater than any other country can offer.
– We do not talk our country up enough.
– My object in speaking this afternoon is to persuade people to drop the attitude of pessimism and the “ Dismal Jimmy “ manner of speech about this country. We should realize what a great’ heritage we have, and do all that we possibly can to make this one of the greatest countries in the world. Australia, with an area of nearly 3,000,000 square miles, is occupied, according to the last census, by 5,455,433 people. The area of land alienated totals 108,088,411 acres, or about 5.68 per cent. There is in process of alienation 56,009,047 acres, or about 2.94 per cent, of the total, and the land leased from the Crown totals 937,675,530 acres, representing nearly one-half the total area, 49.25 per cent. The balance, 801,958,852 acres’, is unappropriated and unoccupied. Let us see what we are doing with this country. In the year 1920-21, which was not by any means a record, the area under wheat and hay was 12,901,324 acres; under oats and maize, 1,334,000 acres; under sugar cane, 159,037 acres; and under other crops and grass, 12,171,146 acres; or a total of 26,565,507 acres. The yields from these respective crops were: - Wheat, 144,409,000 bushels; hay, 2,989,138 tons; oats, 12,559,366 bushels; maize, 6,674,005 bushels; sugar cane, 1,350,000 tons.
– The sugar cane this year will be considerably more than 2,000,000 tons.
– That is very satisfactory news to me. In the same year the live stock figures were: - Sheep, 75,534,087; cattle, 12,711,067; horses, 2,422,580; pigs, 695,968. The figures for produce in that year were: - Wool, 725,208,176 lbs.; butter, 165,648,791 lbs. ; cheese, 26,196,272 lbs. ; bacon, 57,747,092 lbs. The value of the primary products was : - Agriculture, £72,334,000; pastoral, £109,062,000; mining, £19,725,000. Other products, £147,162,000. The total production of wealth from about 5,500,000 people was therefore £348,182,000.We must, however recollect that there is serious centralization of population, as it has been computed that about three-fifths of the people resident in Australia reside in the cities, and therefore the other two-fifths has produced wealth to the amount I have mentioned. This is undoubtedly very creditable to the people of the Commonwealth, and it does not induce me, when I find land-workers have been able to produce practically £66.36 per cent, per head of the population, to join those pessimists and grumblers of whom we hear so much. The value of the manufactured products of Australia for the same year amounted to £292,336,608. 1
– A large proportion of which is paid to the Government in the form of taxation.
– That is nonsense. Frequent reference is made to the financial situation, the extravagance of the Federal Government, and the enormous debt which Australia has to carry; but a great many critics, I am afraid, forget that we have just emerged from five years of disastrous war, and that the debt of the Commonwealth is the price Australia paid for the freedom she enjoys to-day.
During; the course of the debate Senator Drake-Brockman referred to the glorious achievements of the Australians in breaking through the Hindenburg line at a certain period of the war, but apart from that incident, we have sufficient knowledge to justify us in concluding that if the Commonwealth had not sent the Australian Imperial Force abroad, the position of the Allies between the end of 1915 and the latter part of 1917 might have been vastly different. Australian soldiers could not have been equipped, and the price we are paying is what we have incurred bv sending 400,000 men to fight for the Empire and -the independence of the Commonwealth.
– No one is grumbling at the expense incurred in connexion with the war.
– Then what is the objection ?
– Experiments such as the Commonwealth Shipping Line.
– That is an undertaking under which the Commonwealth is able to confer a great benefit upon the producing interests in the Commonwealth, and if the Line were to be disposed of today at a very moderate figure, it would return a very considerable profit to the people of the ‘Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Shipping Line enables the people of Australia to possess a certain amount of self-reliance and independence. Does the honorable senator or any one else think that there is going to be competition in shipping in the future? Are we going to have competition in any trade? Senator Foll and those who advocate the disposal of the Line know perfectly well that the days of competition in business have gone.
– Competition was never stronger commercially than it is to-day.
– I do not believe that to be the case. If the Commonwealth did not retain its Line of Steamers, the exporters of produce from Australia “would be under the thumb of the shipping combines of the world, and those who advocate the disposal of the fleet would have to pay dearly if a departure from the present policy were made.
– The producers recently passed a resolution in favour of the retention of the line.
– If the Line is retained, I hope it will not be under the domination of the unions.
– The Government have already dealt with that phase of the question, and complete authority has been placed in the hands of the manager for the manning of the vessels.
The great debt which Australia carries to-day amounting, approximately, to £415,000,000, is owing very largely to Australian people, in consequence of a very wise policy of the Government of the day, because practically the whole of the war debts which had to be incurred in order to equip and send our men overseas was incurred within Australia, and nearly the whole of the interest is being paid to Australians. Some of that money is coming back to the Treasury in the form of taxation, or is invested in industries which we believe will result in a portion being returned in the form of income tax to the States. The approximate debt per head of population is £56 14s., which is ewing to Australians, while the debt per head of population owing to Great Britain is £19 lis., making a total of £76 5s. per head, practically 80 per cent, of which was incurred in connexion with the war. If we had not taken a part in that great conflict, it would have been easy for the Government to reduce taxation, and show a considerable surplus; but I believe that the people of Australia understand that the taxation they are contributing to-day is in liquidation of a debt incurred to secure the independence of Australia and the security of the British Empire. It is a. debt which I am sure no one will repudiate.
Senator Fairbairn referred to the heavy taxation at present imposed, but in Australia we are not badly off.
– What about a Western Australian who pays £210 out of £240.
– Western Australia is the only State that has shown a postal deficit, which has been brought about largely owing to the extent of the Sta.te_ and the manner in which the population’ is scattered. Western Australia last year showed a postal deficit of approximately £60,000, but that, of course, is easily understood. The taxpayers in some States are naturally at a disadvantage, and have to contribute on a more extensive scale than others in consequence of the exigencies which confront them. Taking the taxation of Australia right through, it will be found that direct taxation amounts to only £3 16s. 2d. per head, while the indirect taxation, paid to the Customs and Excise, amounts to £5 17s. 7d., making a total of £9 13s. 9d. The State taxation on the average amounts to £3 7s. 3d., so that the total taxation of Australia is £13 ls. per head. If we refer to the position in other countries, we find that, in the United Kingdom, direct taxation amounts to £16 6s. 5d., and indirect taxation to £7 16s. Id., or a total of £24 2s. 6d. In New Zealand, a country similarly situated to our own, direct taxation amounts to £10 17s. 7d., while indirect taxation amounts to £6 19s. 6d., or a total of £17 17s. Id. against Australia’s £13 ls. per head of population. Canada and South Africa did not incur anything approaching our war liabilities; but we find that, in South Africa, the total taxation, per head is only ls. 5d. per head less than it is in Australia. In South Africa direct taxation amounts to £5 14s. 6d., whilst indirect taxation is £7 5s. Id., making a total of £12 19s. 7d., as against £13 ls. in Australia. Taxation in Canada, of course, is low. The whole taxation of that country amounts to only £7 per head of the population, but if we had no war debt, or comparatively the same war debt as Canada, we would be in the same position as Canada in that matter. The taxpayer ought to recognise that fact. We aru better off than the United Kingdom or New Zealand, and as well off as South Africa; and if we had no war debt, and if we were only taxing for the enterprises and activities that are now being carried on by the Commonwealth Government, we would be the lowest taxed country of all those that I have named.
– It is no satisfaction to a man who is complaining of heavy taxation to tell him that he is taxed less than the people of other countries.
– That is the usual accusation. We need to explain to people that they are not suffering from very excessive taxation.
– What amount would be excessive?
– The only way to decide that is by making comparisons with other countries. Taxation is heavy in consequence of the war, and we must not overlook the fact that we have just passed through a national crisis which might have obviated the necessity for the taxpayers paying anything to the Commonwealth Exchequer - they might have been paying, instead, to a German dictator. We were not very far from that. Through the expenditure of the money that has necessitated new taxation, that disaster has been obviated. We did our duty in the great crisis. It is acknowledged the world over. that our men played their part, and we could not have sent them to the battle fronts if we had not incurred the debt.
We have heard a great deal of the slow progress made in populating Australia. I have before me figures for the past 140 years, from the first muster of the people in Australia, but I am not going to bother the Senate with them.. I will give only the figures showing the increases for the last two decades. In the year 1900, when an official census was taken, the population of Australia was 3,765,339 people; in 1910 it had increased to 4,425,083; and in 1920, at the time of the last census, it had increased by another million to 5,412,318. Although the increase indicated by those figures may not be as rapid as we would like, surely we are doing very well. They moan that 100,000 more people are being added to the population of Australia every year. We must remember that we are a young country, that -we are practically, as the life’ of nations go, only beginning our national history. Therefore, we must be more patient. It is “ up to “ the public men and the press of Australia to strike a more optimistic note, and not to be continually “grousing,” grumbling, and uttering and writing statements of despair. There ia no doubt that within a very few years the position of Australia will be very different from what it is today.
Again reverting to the “ dismal Jimmies “ of Australia, I do not think we can get anything more effective in demonstrating the prosperity of the people of Australia than by referring them to the Savings Bank credits. We find that the Savings Banks pf Australia, on behalf of 3,122,981 depositors, received, during the year 1919-20, an amount of £280,160,143, and the withdrawals amounted, in the same period, to £143,256,989, leaving to the credit of the depositors for that year £136,903,154. This is an average of £43 6s. 9d. for every depositor. I think that is most conclusive evidence of the general prosperity of the people of Australia. Necessarily, there are some unfortunates in the community who are in indigent circumstances. The trading banks of Australia also had in their current accounts or on fixed deposit an amount of £265,628,592 during the same year.
The figures I have given, although perhaps a little monotonous in their recital, should certainly have the effect of making those who study them take a little more hopeful view of the future of Australia. We have- every possibility in Australia if we will only be a little more optimistic, and accept the burdens and responsibilities which it is our duty as citizens to shoulder and carry through. We would then be able to do a greater service to our country, and to help to build up a very important part of the Empire more effectively than we could possibly do by continually complaining, cither by speech or in writing, or by leading the people of Austrafia on in a spirit of discontent and dissatisfaction. A discontented people «an never thrive; they are always in ‘difficulties, and I say that it is the duty of the press of Australia, and of every public man who addresses his countrymen, to try to instil into their minds a realization of their possibilities, and of what they are enjoying as citizens of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Senator Senior) adjourned.
Senate. adjourned at. 6.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 July 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1922/19220719_senate_8_99/>.