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 : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by Arbitrator, &c. - No. 14 of 1922 - Australian Telegraphists Union.
Federal Capital Advisory Committee - Construction of Canberra - Second General Report.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whatis the quantity and value of hops imported into the Commonwealth for the year ended 30th June, 1922?
– The Minister’ for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
Experimenters : Licensing Fees - Board of Amalgamated Wireless
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will the Government encourage experiment and research amongst wireless enthusiasts by. considerably reducing the present annual licensing fees?
– This question should have been directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I have an answer to it supplied by the Prime Minister as follows: -
Yes. This question has already received consideration, and directions were given to amend the regulations so as to reduce the fees and provide every facility for encouragement of experimenters; the amended regulation will be available in the course of a week or two.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
What technical advice is furnished to the Government representatives on the Board of the Amalgamated Wireless Company?
– The officer who was previously in charge of the Commonwealth Radio Service, Mr. J. Malone, is now acting as Controller of Wireless. His services and advice are at all times available to the Government or its representatives on wireless matters.
Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What control is being exercised to prevent the introduction of timber insect pests into the Commonwealth?
– The following answer has been supplied: -
Under the Quarantine Act all imported timbers are liable to inspection for the presence of noxious insects, which include destructive borers, and special measures are taken to ascertain the extent to which the importation of timber offers any risk of the introduction of new insect pests.
Operations and Proposed Sale
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Method of Estimating Taxable Income
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Allocation of Advance to State
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Has the ‘Minister arrived at any decision re the request of South Australian senators and representatives on the matter of increased allocation of money for the purpose of meeting commitments and continuation of repatriation work in South Australia. If so -
What amount has been allocated?
What rate of interest does it bear?
– Yes. It has been arranged to continue to South Australia for War Service Homes purposes during the current financial year the same monthly amount as that advanced last year, viz., £62,500 per month. The matter of extending the agreement over a longer period is subject to future consideration. The interest rate will be 5 per cent.
Removal of Duties - Closing of Works : Coal Prices
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
If the manufacturers of iron in Australia persist in keeping their works closed, will the Government have the duties on iron and steel removed to enable the users of iron to obtain supplies ?
– The Government will not allow the free importation of iron and steel from other countries. The policy of the Government is to protect Australian industries and Austraiian workers. If proof is furnished! that manufacturers are operating to the detriment of the Australian steel industry, steps will be taken to meet the situation.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are-
Legislation to Protect
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Recognising the great help rendered by the Boy Scout movement to the Empire during the war, and the good it is doing to the youth of Australia, will the -Government consider the advisability of introducing legislation to legalize the name, uniforms, badges, &c, of the Boy Scouts, and so protect them against any fraudulent attempts which may be made by individuals to collect money from the public for the Boy Scout movement?
– The Minister for Defence supplies the following answer : -
The matter alluded to by the honorable senator is now receiving attention and it is hoped to be able to introduce the necessary legislation shortly.
Bill (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– By what time do the Government desire the Supply Bill to be passed ?
– Any time before 9- o’clock to-morrow morning.
– The other Chamber has sent the Bill here father late for it to be passed by 9 a.m. to-morrow.
– Who is responsible?
– The Government.
– How can the honorable senator say that?
– This House surely is not responsible.
– We should have had the Bill last Friday. .
– This is not the first time that Ministers have asked for the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable a Supply Bill to be passed rapidly. Every time they have made such a request there has been an objection, and the reply has always been the same - that they regretted the necessity for making it, and would do their best to see that the delay did not occur again. The fault lies with the other Chamber.
– But that is not the fault of the Government.
– The Government are in charge of the business in another place. I take it that they could have sent the Bill here whenever they liked. If they have not full control in the other Chamber, the sooner they appeal to the electors for such control the better. I feel almost inclined to refuse, on this occasion, to support the motion before us. If the Senate took the stand once of refusing to suspend the Standing Orders, I venture to say that there would never be a recurrence of the present situation, but that the Bill would always be up to time. It seems to me that the only thing for the Senate to do is to decline to suspend the Standing Orders. Once we did that, I do not think the Government would again treat the Senate with the contempt now shown by sending up an important Supply Bill at 3 p.m. , and asking for it to be passed by 9 o’clock the next morning. It is not a proper thing for the Senate to be required to sit all night. Why should a Bill dealing with the finances of the country be considered by a tired House? In common with other honorable senators, I have protested before against such action on the part of the Government.
– Why not move for a reduction of the amount?
– All we have to do is to refuse to accept the present motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. I have no desire to sit here until to-morrow.
– The way out of the difficulty is . to finish up by 9 o’clock to-night.
– There is another, and quicker way, which is to pass the Bill at once without any discussion.
– They did not discuss it in the other Chamber.
– Bills are sent here for the Senate to examine, and discuss them. If we are to receive them merely as a matter of form, let that be known to the public. We are not nominees; we are sent here by the people to do our duty, and our position is exactly the same as that of honorable members in another place. The Government have placed the Senate in this , dilemma again and again. They simply say, “You can please yourselves. If you do not pass the Bill, the Civil Service will not be paid to-morrow.” I repeat that, if we took the responsibility of once declining to suspend the Standing Orders, the Government would not offend again in this respect.
– I join in the protest uttered by Senator Thomas. When entering my protest on a similar occasion, I believe I said that if ever this occurred again, I personally would be quite willing to refuse to suspend the Standing Orders.
– The position to-day is very much more favorable to the Senate than an the previous occasion.
– Yes. The Constitution provides that Bills of this description shall be initiated in the other House, but it is also laid down that all Bills shall receive the concurrence of this Chamber before becoming law. It is the duty of this Chamber, therefore, to thoroughly consider all legislation. The Senate has as much responsibility as the other House in regard to the passing of this or any other law. Experience has shown the necessity for, and the practice has arisen of, having first, second, and third readings of a Bill, with a proper interval for reflection between each reading before a Bill is finally passed into law, but the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) wants us to deal with all the phases of the Bill to-day. We are invited to put aside our rights under the Constitution, and depart from the practice laid down in the Standing Orders, by dealing with the matter forthwith. I have protested before, and I protest again. I remind the Senate of what occurred on a previous occasion. I was then protesting that there was no legislative sanction for a particular action, and I was told that there was an item in the Supply Bill which gave the necessary legislative sanction. I dare say that if I had gone to the trouble of turning up the records of the Chamber, it would have been found that, even on that occasion, the Standing Orders had been suspended. Consequently, that is probably why proper consideration had not been given to the matter referred to. For these reasons I very much deprecate the position in which we are placed so frequently. It is all very well for the Government to say that they cannot help it, and that the present position is the fault of another place. But the Government could have introduced this Supply Bill at an earlier date elsewhere.
– On Friday last, for instance ?
-Y es, on Friday last.
– With a motion of censure against the Government.
– There is always some reason.
– But a motion of censure is fatal.
– I know that is the reason given by the Government in the present instance. I am not putting the whole blame on to the Government. The fault, of course, is with another place, because members of that Chamber know quite well what is the constitutional position. They know that the concurrence of this Chamber is necessary for the passage of any Bill, and, therefore, any responsibility for delay in this matter must rest upon other shoulders, not upon ours. I again voice my protest, and will let it go at that.
– When Supply Bill No. 1 of the current year was introduced, I protested strongly against the inadequate time allowed the Senate for its consideration, and I had an assurance from the Government that no new item of expenditure was involved in the appropriation; that is, nothing new in the sense that the Supply asked for was over and above what Parliament had already sanctioned for the corresponding period of the previous financial year. Nevertheless,’ I still protested at the inadequate time allowed to review the measure in this Chamber, and personally dissociated myself as much as possible - one cannot, of course, do this effectively or constitutionally - from any responsibility for commitments incurred by the passage of that particular measure. We’ were assured then by the Government, as we have been assured on many previous occasions, that as far as possible they would endeavour, for the future, to give the Senate adequate time for the consideration of Bills of this character.
– And the Government have done that on the present occasion.
– They have done it very unsuccessfully and ineffectively, because, as my honorable and learned friend Senator Drake-Brockman has pointed out, we are now asked to pass a motion to dispense with all those conditions that, ordinarily, are necessary for the passage of a Bill, namely, time for consideration and reflection between the successive stages of the Bill.
– That does not prove that the Government have not done their part in this matter.
– But I repeat that they have done it very ineSectively. As far as I can see, there is no reason why this Bill should not have been in our hands last Friday morning.
– How could it have been here by then ?
– By passing it through another place before last Friday morning.
– But a motion of censure was moved on Thursday last.
– Then the Bill could have been put through on Wednesday.
– Did the honorable senator know that a vote of censure was about to be moved? If so, why did he not tell us?
– Because I am not a. member of another place. But the Government have their whips and scouts, and, presumably, they should have had this information.
– Yes, the Government have their whips, but they are not members of the Opposition.
– But still it is their duty to find out what is likely to happen. In this Chamber, we are not concerned about the fate of any particular party. Our responsibility is to the people, both to those who will receive moneys under the appropriation of this Bill, and those who will have to find the moneys. In the circumstances, I conceive it to be the duty of the Government to have furnished the Senate with this Bill at least on the last day of sitting last week. “We are now at the 17th of the month. I think the payments to the Public Service are due about the middle of each month, and as the 15th occurred very early in this parliamentary week, the Government should have had. the Bill in this Chamber last week. In the circumstances the Senate is quite justified in refusing to pass the motion. I am quite sure that, if this Chamber does take that stand, while a number of people will be inconvenienced through the delay in receiving their remuneration, they will realize that the Senate is not to’ blame for having done its duty and taken definite action to vindicate its constitutional position. Delay in the passage of this Supply Bill may cause inconvenience, and possibly honorable senators may incur odium, but I still think our duty is to adopt some means of protest against the manner in which the Senate is being treated,.
– It is quite plain that if the Supply Bill is to be passed by the normal adjournment hour to-night, it will have to pass through all its successive stages in about five hours, that is, if we deduct the dinner adjournment. If, as honorable senators think, that % is ample time for the Senate to dispose of a Bill of this character, all I can say is that those who hold that view must have a very imperfect idea of the responsibilities of this Chamber in regard to this or, indeed, any measure that comes before us. It has been suggested by the Ministry that the Government in another place were not masters of the situation last week, and, that, therefore, the responsibility for delay in introducing the Supply Bill in the Senate does not rest upon their shoulders. I would remind the Leader of the Senate (Senator E. D. Millen), however, that I do not think the Senate has yet got down to the level of being a mere plaything in party warfare elsewhere. We are not to be regarded as subservient to or, for that matter, mere tools of incidents elsewhere. This Supply Bill, as Senator Drake- Brockman has said, could not be passed without the concurrence of this Chamber, though, if one may judge from the practice of this Government and, to some extent, of former! Governments, the concurrence of the Senate has almost come to be regarded as a formal matter. I do not blame this Government entirely, but I hope honorable senators will refuse to be placed in such a position. Some honorable senators, I believe, would be prepared to admit that if the Supply Bill reached us by 8.30 to-morrow morning, they would not complain. Now the Government have said that they were not masters of the situation elsewhere, but I remind the Senate that, at the psychological hour in the proceedings of another place, the Government decided to become masters of the situation by applying what is known as the “ gag.” If . the Government were satisfied that it was necessary to give this Chamber ample time for the consideration of the Supply Bill, they could have advanced that as a reasonable and ample excuse for the application of the “ gag “ at an earlier period in the debate. We would then have had the Supply Bill much sooner, and there would have been ample time for this Chamber to do its work. The Government was only concerned about itself, and its own welfare. Governments, particularly this Government, think it wise to fling anything at the Senate, and consider that the Senate should accept it without demur, f hope we shall not do so, for otherwise the prophecies indulged in by critics of the Senate will be amply fulfilled. If we show that we are subservient to happenings in another place, we shall give joy and delight to our critics wherever they are, and anxiety and anguish to those who want to see the Senate pre- ( served as an integral part of the Constitution. I hope the Government will take heed of this protest, and recognise that it had every opportunity last week to put the Bill through, and allow the Senate full time to discuss it. It should have said to its opponents in another place, “ We will throw upon you, the Opposition, the onus and responsibility of voting this Bill down.” This would have put the different parties in their proper places. It appears that the Senate is to be held up as a scapegoat. There is the challenge - 9 o’clock to-morrow morning, or the Senate will be found wanting, and will be the cause of Supply not being passed.” Who caused this situation? Did we cause it? No. The Government had before it the weapon it used in the last resource, and it could have tested the feeling in the other House, and have thrown the responsibility on the right shoulders ‘ instead of cutting into the time given to this . Chamber to deal with the Bill. Instead of doing this, it says, “ Nine o’clock to-morrow morning; your life or this Bill!”
.- I am delighted to hear this attack upon the Government. I think it is well deserved. If the Government could not have anticipated two votes of censure a week in another place, it is incompetent. I do not think that those honorable senators who desire to shelter themselves behind the actions of another place have very good grounds of attack on this occasion, for members of the other place allowed the Bill to be passed in less time than we have available for its consideration. They commenced to deal with the Bill yesterday afternoon, and before the evening had closed it had been passed. I have voiced a protest against suspending the Standing Orders, but I would much rather prefer that the Standing Orders should be. amended to permit the Government to bring on Bills and pass them as it likes, so that the procedure which the Government might wish to follow would be followed. This would be much better than going through the farce of asking us to suspend the Standing Orders.
– I appreciate the honorable gentleman’s expression of confidence in the Government.
– It is not. so much my confidence in the Government as my lack of confidence in its supporters to do the right thing by this Senate. They would like to follow Senator Thomas, but if we call for a division the Government will find that even those who feel that the procedure is wrong - and even the Minister thinks it is wrong - will support the Government. It is undoubtedly wrong to bring down an important Supply Bill in this way without allowing a reasonable time for each honorable senator to speak. I do not think I can remember an occasion, however, when a similar motion has not been moved on the introduction of a Supply Bill. If there have been exceptions, they are not registered in my memory.
SenatorFoll. - And on every occasion the same protests have been lodged.
– That is so. The protests are lodged, but they are never backed up. The first time they are backed up, it will end the system. I venture to say that, after the next elec tion, if I happen to be sitting on the Government side of the chamber, honorable senators will back up their protests if I ask them to suspend the Standing Orders. The rights of the Senate are being given, or frittered, away, and I felt so tired of protesting that I was actually prepared to sit still and permit the Government to follow its usual course of procedure. I do not say that in a party spirit. This, and other Governments, have always followed the same procedure, as far as my memory serves me, with Supply Bills. Another Supply Bill is required for next month. Why should we not ask the Government to introduce it next week ?
– The other House is now listening to the real finances, the Budget statement.
– The debate on the Budget and the Estimates will not be completed before the end of the month. Will the Minister ask the Government to pass the next Supply Bill through the other place next week, so that we in the Senate may have ample time for discussing it? If the Minister will do that, I shall feel disposed to vote with him, but otherwise I shall vote with Senator Thomas - if he has the pluck to call for a division.
– I am surprised at the uncalledfor petulance of certain members of the Senate with regard to the way in which the Government has brought down this Supply Bill. I am particularly surprised at my learned and honorable friends Senator Keating and Senator DrakeBrockman. We expect members of the legal profession to preserve an unbiassed frame of mind, and recognise the exigencies of the situation. We all know that this Chamber is only a House of review; that we have to wait for Supply Bills until the other House sends them along; and that we have to pass the present Bill before 9 o’clock . to-morrow morning, or our civil servants will be defrauded of their legitimate income. We know, also, that this is not the fault of the Government, which has been delayed in the conduct of public business through the tenacious opposition of certain parties in another place. I do not wish to name those parties, but, as my honorable friend, Senator Wilson, was very loud in an interjection just now, I will say that the Country party was one of them. There have been four no-confidence motions in the last few days - roughly, one a day. The majority of us are supporters of the Government; and will those honorable senators who are petulantly and childishly objecting to the suspension of the Standing Orders vote against the Government? If not, what is the use of wasting the time of the Senate?
– What is the honorable senator doing now but wasting time ?
– I am here to tell the Senate that I am prepared to occupy my seat until 9 o’clock to-morrow morning in order to get this Bill through. At -present I am only occupying the time of the Senate for five minutes. I hope that honorable senators will not waste any more time with objections to the Government getting on with the business of the country.
Senator E.D. MILLEN (New South
Wales - Minister for Repatriation) [3.40]. - I am sorry I cannot share the surprise expressed by the last speaker concerning the criticisms which have been levelled against the Government for moving the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable,, the passage of a Supply Bill. The charges made are, first of all, that I promised, as I have done on previous occasions, to take the necessary steps to enable the Senate to have longer time in which to discuss the Supply Bills. I want to tell the Senate what I did to redeem that promise. I placed the facts before the Government, who readily recognised the position in which honorable senators had been placed by having only a limited time in which to discuss such measures as this, and steps were immediately taken to see that ample opportunity was provided. This measure was ready for presentation to Parliament last Thursday. That is proved by the fact that the Bill was distributed and was available to honorable senators on the Monday morning. Had the Government not been interrupted in a very rude way it would have been presented to Parliament last Thursday - theday on which Senator Keating said was the proper day. I like facts, but I do not like exaggeration. On Thursday last the Government were challenged in another place, when a vote of censure was moved. Senator Drake-Brockman seems to think that the Government are merely bringing that forward as an excuse, but he surely recognises that it is a long-established consti tutional practice that a Government cannot ask for Supply when they have been challenged ?.
SenatorFoll. - Were the Government challenged ?
– They are, apparently, being challenged here to-day. The challenge was thrown out on Thursday, and no Government can ask or expect Supply when a vote of censure has been moved. That motion was not disposed of until just before honorable members in another place, following the usual practice, joined their trains for the other States on Friday. When the House met on the following Wednesday the Government were quite prepared to proceed with the Bill, in the hope that it would come here in sufficient time to allow ample discussion. But what happened? It was met, not with one, but with two censure motions. Is it suggested that we should have spies inside the Labour Caucus, and also some one in the Country party, to see what is going on ? We do not have our spies there, and even if we had, the launching of a censure motion could not have been prevented.
– I remember a Government placing a vote of censure at the bottom of the notice-paper.
– That must have been on an occasion when the Government had a very large majority. I ask ‘ honorable senators to bear in mind what occurred in another place. We pretend not to know officially what is transpiring there, but in reality we have a very good idea.
– The Government forced the position last Friday.
– Yes, and if the honorable senator will peruse the records, he will find that when the Government applied the “gag,” they carried it by only one vote. It is all very well for honorable senators to say what the Government ought to do, but it must be remembered that there are, usually, difficulties in the way. There are some who say that the Allied generals should have pressed through to Berlin in the first week of the war, but there were obstacles which prevented them.
– It would have saved a lot of unnecessary expenditure.
– Yes, and more than that. We do not have to consider only what we want, but what the other fellow is likely to do. In the circumstances, I did all that was humanly possible, and the promise which I gave to this Chamber to take steps to see that ample time was allowed for the consideration of Supply Bills was redeemed, because the Bill was ready last Thursday. Some honorable senators stress the point that this is a financial measure. It is, but it is not a Bill which covers the finances of the country for the whole year, . but merely a measure to authorize payment for the ordinary monthly services, and covers those amounts which are paid to the servants in the Government employ. The country’s finances generally are discussed on the Budget, and we are now seeking approval for the payment of ordinary services which have been approved on a previous Budget. Senator Gardiner has said that the discussion in another place did not last more than ten minutes; but that was because the time was “taken up in debating a censure motion. The Bill was regarded in another place as a formal appropriation for the payment of ordinary services. If we were dealing with the finances for the year, I can quite understand honorable senators seeking further time for discussion. Under the procedure adopted many years ago, immediately the Budget is tabled in another place, and before the Appropriation Bill reaches this Chamber, Budget-papers are presented here, and a motion is submitted, “ That the papers be printed,” to enable honorable senators to discuss at whatever length they desire the whole financial situation. Judging by past experience there seems to be a good deal of insincerity in the claims which have been lodged for proper time in which to discuss the year’s finances, because, if honorable senators will peruse the records of previous sessions, they will find that little interest has been taken in Commonwealth finances, although on the motion I have mentioned they can be discussed from A to Z. For weeks or months at a time those keen and earnest financiers who are so anxious to dissect the national balancesheet have refrained from discussing the motion, the consideration of which has frequently been postponed. As this is merely a Supply Bill to authorize the payment of monthly accounts, I ask honorable senators to accept my statement that the Government will again make every effort to see that reasonable time is allowed for discussion. I can do no more, neither can the Government; and, in this circumstance, I ask the Senate to pass the motion which I have moved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Government Policy: Financial Position : The Tariff - Unemployment and its Causes - Carbide: Embargo on Imports : Slade and Company and Tasmanian Industry - Defence Force : Retrenchment : Compensation on Retirement - Capital and Labour : Arbitration Courts - Sugar Agreement and Prices - Nauru Island: Superphosphates - War Service Homes: Canungra Timber Mills : Purchases op Land : Evictions - Unification of Railway Gauges - Taxation : State Percent ages - Public Servicebill - Country Telephone and Mail Services.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
. - In order to preserve the rights we possess in discussing Supply, and also to exercise the privilege of ventilating grievances, I desire to have a few words to say at this stage. I regret that the Government, after a recess almost unprecedented in length, were not prepared during the first week of the session to submit their financial proposals to Parliament. It is four years, in November next, since the war ended, and during that time Australia has been struggling under a financial burden sufficient to crush it. During that, period the present Government have been in office, and have brought forward no programme to in any way relieve the taxpayers of the load they are carrying. It may be that they have discharged a few men from the Defence Department; but my charge against the Government is that, although during the last four years we have been up against the most serious position with which Australia was ever confronted, they have never taken the Parliament into their confidence with a well-thought-out scheme for bettering our conditions.
– That is very good, coming from the honorable senator.
– Is it true? That is the question.
– What about the strikes that have taken place, and that have hindered production? Is there anything in that?
– I do not know what the honorable senator is muttering about; my statement was a statement of plain fact.
– The honora’ble senator will pardon me - not of plain fact, but of confident assurance.
– If the Minister is unwilling to accept the statement as one of plain fact, I may take the opportunity of proving that it is a fact by innumerable quotations from almost every follower of the Government. I can refer to ex-Senator Pratten, and honorable senators who heard the speech which he delivered to the National party will admit that, although I am quoting from memory, I am right in saying that he used the words, “ Australia is stagger * ing under a huge financial burden.” Why should we go on year after year doing nothing, whilst this huge burden is weighing heavily upon the business and producing sections and every interest in the country? Nothing has ‘been done by the Government to make the conditions of the country any better. What are they waiting for?
– An opportunity to bring in the Budget.
– I shall not complain of the length of the recess, because I enjoyed it as much as most people; but I do say that from November of last year, until May of this year, the Government had ample time to bring in their Budget.
– They could not bring in the Budget until the financial year had closed.
– Then I will say that from November of last year till May of this year there was ample time for the Government to have thought out a scheme to put conditions in this country on a sound footing, and to bring Parliament together to consider our financial position.
– I think the honorable senator must be frightened of the Budget in advance.
– The Minister may quibble with the word “Budget,” but I am trying to bring home to the Government and their followers that, in the most serious position with which we have ever been confronted, when any intelligent Government would call Parliament to their aid to meet the situation, the present Government do nothing at all to make conditions better. Practically . the whole of the financial arrangements they submitted to meet the huge .burden of taxation imposed upon the people, were confined to the introduction of a Tariff which has extorted millions from the pockets of the taxpayers, and has pressed most heavily on the primary producers. If we look at the financial statements that have been made, we shall find that indirect taxation brings in more money to the revenue of the Commonwealth than does direct taxation, at the present time. Upon whom is indirect taxation levied? On rich and poor alike ; but as the people without wealth outnumber those with wealth by hundreds of thousands, it is clear that those least able to bear heavy taxation are called upon by the Government to bear the bigger share of it.
– I heard the same argument when a Government, of which the honorable senator was a member, was in power.
– Possibly it was a very good argument. The Government of which I was a member had one proposition to deal with, which was quite big enough for them, and that was the war. That is another story, but they can defend the manner in which they handled that proposition.
– The way in which they started it.
– The start to which the honorable senator refers was carried on for two years by the Government of which I was a member. A Government of which Senator E. D. Millen was a member, made a start with the proposition in the first six weeks, but the Fisher Government carried on for the next two years, and did all that was effectively done in this country regarding the war during that period.
– Their commitments brought about the burden of which the honorable senator is now complaining.
– I realize that what was done then has to be financed now, but, after four years of peace, the Government have not yet put before Parliament any plan to relieve the people of Australia of the awful load of taxation they are carrying.
– The honorable senator carries the peace back to Armistice day.
– Not being a lawyer I have no desire to quibble, but whether one dates the peace from the declaration of peace, or the date when the Armistice was signed, it will be generally agreed that when the Armistice was signed the war was at an end. “What is the financial position to-day? The Government are collecting through the Customs Tariff a huge sum of money. I suppose that since the Tariff was introduced in March, 1920, something like £60,000,000 have been collected through the Customs House on goods imported into’ this country. I know that they did that with the consent of Parliament, and because Parliament desired to give work to the community. But the question which I should like to ask of those who passed the Tariff with that intention is: Has work been given to the community?
– To all who wanted it.
– I am rather glad to have had that interjection. I throw it back to Senator Garling, and say that there are thousands of men in this country who have been asking for work for months, and have not been able to get it.
– Because some of the honorable senator’s people would not allow them to take it.
– The men who will not take it are few and far between. During the last two years the position in respect to unemployment has been as bad as at any time that I can remember in the history of Australia.
– Does the honorable senator blame the Government for that?
– I do, certainly, blame the Government for unemployment. They have the management of the whole of the affairs of the Commonwealth, and if they will do nothing to improve existing conditions, and will permit things to drag along any old how, no improvement in our conditions can be expected.
-brockman. - What is the remedy ?
– I hope to be able to’ introduce it next year from the benches opposite. A remedy for unemployment, under the existing conditions, would be most difficult to carry out. But, if we are sensible men, having the interests of the people at heart we should . endeavour to do something to improve conditions under which thousands of men who are willing to work are unemployed and compelled to live in such a way that those dependent upon them have not the wherewithal to maintain themselves as they are entitled to be maintained. If we are not prepared to face this problem, we are not fit to govern the people who sent us here.
– The honorable senator must have some remedy in mind. Suppose he outlines it?
– My remedy is quite simple. It is first of all necessary to consider the complaint. What is the position with regard to unemployment in such reasonably well-governed countries as Great Britain and the United States of America ? If we take pre-war times for the purpose of illustration - because it would not be f air to consider the question of unemployment only during the period after the disastrous war - we shall find that some of the best writers in those countries have shown that the number of unemployed has averaged one for every four who are in employment. That has been the history of’ Great Britain and America for years, and it is remarkable how closely the figures are followed year after year. The experience of these older countries should teach us a lesson. When we have men willing to work and unable to obtain work, short of supplies, without hope of securing assistance in that respect, and when children are not being given the advantages which the country should afford them, are we going to tackle the system responsible for such a condition of affairs ? Are we sufficiently sane men to realize that the system that has brought about such results in the countries to which I have referred is the last system that we should adopt in Aus- tralia?
– The honorable senator will not assert that Australia has proportionately to population as many unemployed as there are in Great Britain or in the United States of America.
– It is quite obvious that it has.
– How can the honorable senator say that in the face of the statistics on the subject. He must know that the statement is not correct.
- Senator Senior may wish to quibble about the exact- number of unemployed in Australia, but the point I wish to make, and the only matter worth considering, is that existing conditions have brought about the result that millions of people in the two countries to which I have referred, and thousands in Australia, are unemployed, although willing to work.
– How would the honorable senator alter the condition of things ?
– The honorable senator should exercise a little patience. I must state my case before I give my conclusion. I think I have honorable senators now in a frame of mind to admit that similar conditions produce the same results. A few people under the competitive enterprise system are making huge fortunes, whilst many have scarcely enough to live upon. That was unfortunately the position in pre-war days in countries which we are pleased to regard as civilized countries. There were quite a number of people in this country who believed that the remedy was to build a Tariff wall so high as to shut out all foreign goods, and so give employment to our own people. I strenuously opposed the Tariff when it was under consideration in the Senate, and it is sad to think that the people who advocated that means of giving employment must, during the last two years, have been convinced that they were wrong, because since the Tariff has been in operation no man can say that it has minimized unemployment. We imposed high duties on iron and steel, and we now find our steel manufacturers shutting down their works.
– Is not coal necessary to the production of steel?
– It is essential to the production of steel, but I do not know what bearing that has on my argument.
– What was the price of coal in pre-war times ? With different conditions the results cannot be the same.
– I suggest that the honorable senator, instead of muttering, should give notice of his questions. He must have asked a dozen since I rose to speak.
– It is not the number of Senator Senior’s questions, but their awkwardness, which is troubling the honorable senator.
– There is nothing awkward about them. The world’s history, as well as our own, shows that the present system destines thousands to unemployment and poverty, when they are willing to work.
– The change of system, in Russia was not very successful.
– Russia is still in a condition of war with Great Britain, France and the United States of America because it will not resume trade relations with those countries except on its own conditions. Russia, is emerging from a system of tyranny to which even the Minister (Senator Pearce) would not care to see it return.
– Certainly not.
– Therefore, I shall reserve my judgment of Russia until the world declares peace with that country, and resumes trade with it. Even under the best circumstances, England, the United States of America and Australia have an industrial system which dooms a lot of good people to unemployment and want. It sentences their children to a lack of education and of that degree of nourishment that would make them better citizens.
– Is there any country in the world that educates its children better than Australia does?
– Australia is doing well, but to be really effective its educational system should be carried on under conditions whereby those receiving that education would not be dependent on the will of somebody else to employ those responsible for their upkeep.
– Are there any conditions anywhere in the world that are freer than those in Australia?
– No doubt it would suit the honorable senator if I continued to discuss the educational aspect, instead of the matter of unemployment. No matter how much the problem of unemployment may be side-stepped, it will still demand the attention of the Government.
– Do you blame the Government or the capitalistic system 1
– I am not saying any more against the Government than against the capitalistic system. I am speaking of a condition of affairs that rests upon facts. Despite their opportunities to alter the conditions of which I complain, the Government of this great Democracy are not lifting a hand, and I think that there are a great many who will join me in blaming them.
– Will you support an effort to prevent interference with men who want to work ?
– It depends on the conditions under which they want to be employed. I certainly would prevent the employment of men under conditions that are not good for the community. The Arbitration Courts and all our industrial legislation are due to the rottenness of the system of employment in Australia. As far as the assurance of a meal was concerned, the slaves in the United States America were in as good a position as many of our people to-day who are out of employment through no fault of their own. The whole history of the British people is a sad commentary on the fact that opportunities for doing good have been missed.
I was looking recently at a report of the Archbishop of Canterbury, where regret was actually expressed at the attitude of the church on the slave question, and the question of unemployment was dealt with in such a way as would bring a blush of shame to the cheeks of .honorable senators who wish to continue the present system. After the experience of centuries of government in the Old World, why should Governments in Australia, simply to maintain a fetish, uphold a system which prevents a large percentage of the people from having the ordinary comforts of life? Products suitable for the manufacture of clothing and foodstuffs, to the value of £100,000,000 a year, are permitted to be sent out of Australia, when there are people in this country who need those very articles.
– You did not say-tha when you were on the Treasury Bench.
– -During that period there was war, which threatened our very existence, but there was less unemployment then than previously. When 300,000 men were taken out of industrial production, and were either fighting or getting ready to fight, there was less poverty than there has been during the present Government’s term of office, when at least 200,000 more men have been engaged in industry.
– Did you expect a dislocated world to swing back to its former condition straight away?
– No ; but the evil I am speaking of is not a result of war. It was emphasized before the war began.
– There were 30,000 unemployed in New South Wales up to March last, and your party was then in power in that State.
– I think that there ‘are more now. I am dealing with facts, and I shall leave the honorable senator to quibble about figures. Suppose for argument’s sake there were 30,000 unemployed in New South Wales, and a larger number in Queensland. If we could raise in all the States an army of 100,000 unemployed men, and employ them in profitable production, why not set them to work to help reduce the burden of debt under which the community is staggering?
– That would be all right if they would work.
– If they continued until they had worked the debt off, they would never be unemployed.
– There would be no unemployed very soon, nor would there be any debt. If an individual had a huge holding which had been ill-managed, and the productive capacities of which remained almost untouched, and if he found bankruptcy staring him in the face, but had a lot of dependants on that holding who were fit and able to work, would it not be wise for him to say that, with all those people dependent on him for the right to live, they should set to work to put the holding in order? How long would it he before he and those dependent on him would be in a prosperous condition? If year in and year out we are to face this ever-recurring struggle, with one section eager to get a little more, and another section just as anxious to cut the wage down, surely, as sensible men, we should realize that we have a country that could be improved out of all knowledge. I do not suppose that the most optimistic of us can imagine the possibilities of Australia if we addressed ourselves seriously to the question of making it productive. I hold that the business of Governments is to look after the affairs of the people, and take care that nobody actually starves. The Government realize their responsibilities when it comes to the point of actual starvation. I want them to realize that they are confronted with a serious problem, but which by reason of our magnificent climate and our vast spaces should be solved more satisfactorily than is possible in other parts of the world.
– And do you not think it has been answered effectively when you contrast conditions in this country with those of other countries ?
– That is owing to the advantages we possess over other countries. Never was there a better opportunity for a striking object-lesson in effective government than in Australia.. But the Government have done nothing to solve our unemployment troubles except to promise that they will help private enterprise. To this end they have built a Tariff wall so high that it is impossible for private enterprise in any other country to trade with Australia except under most onerous conditions. It will, I think, be generally admitted, after two years’ experience, that high Tariff protection as a remedy for unemployment has been a dismal failure.
– The honorable senator’s own party does not say that.
– You are about the only Free Trader in your party.
– I am speaking for myself oh this matter. I have here an. important and informative return showing the amount of Customs duties collected in Australia during the last three years. It is as follows: -
– What is the total amount?
– Roughly, about £60,000,000. I do not think it can be said that this levy upon the people of Australia has contributed very materially towards the solution of our unemployment problem. Put £60,000,000 spread over two years in the hands of any ordinary intelligent man confronted with unemployment difficulties and I will guarantee that at the end of two years there would be no unemployment in Australia. But what have the Government done with this money? They have left the workers to the tender mercy of the big companies, whose balance-sheets, read in this chamber on some occasions, have demonstrated, how .they are prospering. I call to mind, for instance, the balancesheet of the iron and steel industry, submitted by,Senator Lynch when the Tariff was under discussion, which showed that within a few years the companies concerned had wiped out their total capital expenditure. Nevertheless, they were shutting down their works in order to force men to accept a lower rate of wage.
To show honorable senators how these protective duties are operating, I should like to give a few facts concerning the carbide industry as set out in the following letter from C. H. Slade and Company, Sydney, 11th August, 1922 :-
On 25th November, 1920, Parliament, after strong opposition, agreed to an import embargo for one year only. Government proclaimed it an absolute embargo. Why? How is such a departure from Parliament’* express wish regarded by sincere members? Does the debt to the Tasmanian Government justify all Australia being penalized? The actual cost is £S 5s. 6d. per ton.
Bingham, in his book on carbide manufacture, sets out the cost as under for a factory with furnaces taking 2,000 b.p. or over -
Government decides that £30, f.o.b. Hobart, is a fair price, without any stipulation respecting gas yield. We have notified the Tariff Board that we are prepared to sell Canadian carbide o£ highest standard quality a-fc £30 per ton. delivered Australian main .ports. The Customs permits just issued state that imported carbide is not to be sold lower than the price of the Tasmanian product. We -would mention that included in the cost of imported carbide is freight, insurance, exchange,, duty, and landing charges, totalling £21 9s. per toil. This makes the net cost, f.o.b. Montreal. £8 Ils. per ton.
We ask you to remove the unconstitutional and iniquitous embargo.
– Do you know that the embargo has been removed temporarily?
– Yes, I want to be quite fair. The embargo has been removed conditionally on the imported material being sold at not less than the declared cast f.o.b. Hobart. I am advised that the Tariff Board recommended the ‘ Minister for Trade and Customs to allow the importation of 500 tons of carbide to meet the local shortage, but on a stipulation that the imported article was not to be sold lower than the Tasmanian product. This recommendation, which was approved by the Minister, applied only to 500 tons.
– That is disgusting, because it virtually means forcing up the price.
– What is the reason for this action on the part of the Government? There is certainly a growing industry in Tasmania, and, as an Australian, I welcome every growing industry, but I do not want to see other industries in the Commonwealth loaded too heavily in order that one concern in any particular State may prosper. The users of carbide, say, for lighting purposes, are not the people who live in our cities where electric light and gas are always available, but people in the mere remote areas, who have to make provision for their own lighting. They are the people who will suffer from this policy recommended by the Tariff Board and approved by the -Government. Importers are prepared to pay the present exorbitant Customs duties, high freights, and meet all other requirements, but they may import only a limited quantity, and then must not sell it below the price charged for the Tasmanian product. We hear a lot of talk about the high cost of living, and have been told that conditions will not be altered until men are prepared to work harder and longer. Why are this Government behind a system that distinctly aims at keeping prices up ? Is this a free country? Men who band themselves together, and use the power of numbers to prevent other men from working for less, than a fair living wage, axe soundly condemned, and yet we find the Government deliberately agreeing to a recommendation to keep the price of carbide at a high level. Were we in Canada we could buy this carbide retail at £18 per ton, but if we import it we must not sell it for less than £30. What is happening? A Melbourne wholesale merchant will buy this carbide, at £33 per ton. When he has brought it here, handled it, and despatched it, he can get £38 a ton for it.
– He can get up to £43 a ton.
– I waa stating the figure on the low side. I turn to Senator Garling, and say that if this Protectionist system is established and maintained for making profiteers richer still, it is a ratten system.
– Has it come under the notice of the honorable senator that the Labour representative of Tasmania, the delegate who looks into these industries, has reported that the Carbide Company is one of the best and most considerate employers he has known?
– Nothing can exceed the generosity of the workers for their employers. We are prepared to give them a good character at any time. I represent people who are called upon to help this company out of their meagre earnings, but when it has become a rich, profit-earning concern, will it go out of its way to return to them the money they are now contributing to keep it going? I understand that the company is about to double its plant.
– And carbide in a year or two will be cheaper in Australia than -anywhere else in the world.
– I had a question on the business-paper to-day as to why the importation of Swedish carbide had been prohibited. I did not obtain an answer, and I expect that this debate will be finished before I get one. I venture to say that the reason for the prohibition is that the Swedish carbide might be landed a little more cheaply than the Tasmanian carbide. I am trying to be logical. I do not mind supporting a system that will encourage industries if the industries will pay good wages and supply their commodities cheaply to the community, but it is a one-sided assistance which makes the community pay exorbitant prices for commodities in order to give assistance to only one section of the community. There is nothing very unusual in the wage scale. In a reply to what they call the Slade Company’s misstatements, the Carbide Company points out that it has 150 hands, including a staff of highly qualified engineers and chemists, and that it has a pay roll of over £40,000 per annum. Taking a three years’ period before the war, the importations of carbide into this country averaged over 12,000 tons per year. To-day it would pay Australia to import its carbide and pay the whole of the wages that the employees of the Tasmanian concern are earning. We could say to these people, “ You need not bother about this laborious work of manufacturing carbide.
We will give you £40,000 a year. Sit down without working, but let us have carbide at a cheap price.”
– The same argument could be applied with equal force to the. steel industry.
– Exactly ; I am quite consistent.
– The honorable senator is a Free Trader, but the policy of Australia, by the will of the people, happens to be Protection.
– The community stupidly believes that it can create work by making commodities dear, and yet it is a community that would not lift a finger to help a starving, unemployed man, because action in that direction would be regarded as unnecessary interference, and would break down his independence. It will, however, vote thousands of pounds to help manufacturers to develop their own business and pick the pockets of the people.
– The company in Tasmania has not declared a penny in tie way of dividends yet.
– That is all the more reason why we should give them a bonus or gratuity of £50,000 a year, and tell them not to try to. If they cannot manage their concern so that it will pay dividends, what is the good of it? Not only are we paying a duty which Parliament says is sufficiently high, but we have established a Board which can actually prohibit any man from coming into competition with the local manufacturer. If the protective duties are not high enough, make them higher; but why tell importers that they must restrict their imports to 500 tons?
– The carbide manufactured in Tasmania is almost sufficient to meet the requirements of the Australian market.
– Because the Tasmanian company can almost meet the requirements of the Australian market, is it the will of Parliament that no one else should be permitted to come into competition with it? If that is the policy, stand to it, but I object to it as a man who believes that there should be some freedom in this country. The more freedom we can give to every enterprise, consistent with the welfare of the community, the better it will be for all of us.. The position is equally grave in regard to the steel works, in which industry the employers have kept men hanging around for nine months, putting them off, and putting them on. Manufacturers who are given high duties to shut out the commodities of other countries will only produce on their own conditions, and the conditions of the steel works are cheaper wages.
– Or a bigger output.
– No, cheaper wages, notwithstanding the fact, as reported in Hansard, and uncontradicted by the company or their representatives, that their dividends ranged from 28 per cent, down to 14 per cent., and ‘that in the first five years of their existence, after allowing a fair margin for reasonable interest on capital, they paid the whole cost of the establishment of the works. I ask the Government to direct their attention to the serious problem of unemployment, and to the financial condition qf this country. If there are thousands of idle men whose energies can be used for producing wealth, surely they are an asset that an intelligent man could convert, and ought to convert, from a loss into a profit. While this Chamber acknowledges, and the country participates in, a system which helps the manufacturer and the man with money, we would not be going far out of our way if we assisted the man without money to get into the avenues of production.
– I think the honorable senator is fair enough to admit that even if we had untrammelled Free Trade in this product al the present time, it could not be imported and sold at a price substantially below the price quoted by the Tasmanian company.
– I am credibly informed that it can be sold for £30 a ton, after paying high duties, freights, and the cost of manufacture in Canada. The discrepancy between tha figure I quoted and the £43 mentioned by Senator Wilson is possibly the difference between the wholesale and the retail price. Although £8 or £10 difference in the price of carbide per ton. may not seem much to Senator Bakhap, it is much to the man who has to pay it. The Government should let other people go into competition with the company, and grant a bonus which will make up the price to the company and give it a profit.
– That argument could be used to justify the untrammelled entry of German goods. I do not think the people of Australia desire that.
– That is another of the feasible, crowd-catching statements - “ untrammelled entry of German goods.” Before the German embargo was taken off, the unscrupulous dealers in German goods were selling them under other names, and every one shut his eyes to it.
What I set out to deal with was the question of unemployment, and I intended to link up for the consideration of the Government the men with money and the people without work. I happened to get from one of my constituents a letter stating the facts regarding the Carbide Company. I am always anxious to serve the interests of the people who send me here. I agree that .my argument would apply equally well to the steel works, the iron works, and every other industry that we protect at the expense of the people of this country. As we are taking from the pockets of the primary producers and the business men of this country money to help these concerns to grow big, I claim for the workers, or the workless workers - those who could and would work if work could be obtained for them - the same consideration. I want this Government to say to the Australian working man, “ We will not let you remain workless while you are willing to work.” If honorable senators say that they do not believe in State interference, then let them join with me and wipe it out altogether, but do not let us have interference on behalf of one section of the community while we shut our eyes and our pockets against the other section.
– The Tasmanian carbide industry is one of those enterprises favored by the honorable senator’s party.
– I . am not claiming to speak on behalf of my party. I am adopting the independent attitude of which Senator Lynch gives us such magnificent illustrations occasionallyFor once I am trying to speak for Australia, irrespective of party, individuals, or sections of the community, and I am trying to bring home to the Government the need, at this serious juncture in our affairs, for taking into consideration the financial position of the country and the problem of unemployment.
– The carbide enterprise in Tasmania is keeping a large number of men from joining the ranks of the unemployed.
– The position I have been endeavouring to make clear is that in a country which exports £100,000,000 worth of food and material in a raw state, thousands of our’ own people are not permitted to earn sufficient money to purchase the necessities of life. Although this deplorable position exists, the Government are going out of their way to subsidize industries in every State instead of finding work for the unemployed; and I hope I have connected the two salient points to make the position quite clear. The majority, however, is, I suppose, always right, and the majority has said that the present policy is the best means of dealing with unemployment; but I claim that the Government should be logical and ‘should not only assist well-established industries, but should also provide those who are at present out of work with the means by which to live in reasonable comfort. It would, indeed, be a sound investment for the Commonwealth to utilize idle hands on the vast stretches of unoccupied territory in the Commonwealth. Any one who has visited the back portions of Queensland and New South Wales knows that there are many directions in which people could be profitably employed. There are means at our disposal by which this country could be made a dozen times richer than it is to-day, and millions could be employed where now only thousands are engaged, if the Government would only go intelligently into the matter. It is their duty to direct attention to the individual needs, and not to devote their energies to protecting the interests of companies which are already rich or which, with the assistance they are receiving, will soon be in a very favorable position at the expense of the public. It is an iniquitous act on the part of the Government to prohibit the importation of Swedish carbide and to prevent free men in this country from dealing with free people in other countries. Parliament has no right to say that men in the Commonwealth shall not deal freely with traders in Great Britain, Canada, Sweden, Norway, France, or America. While the present system prevails there is no oppor tunity to give these people a fair deal and, at the same time, to protect the interests of Australian consumers. If the duties are not high enough to safeguard our industries, why continue the present foolish policy, because it is apparent to every one that exorbitant Customs imposts are not a means of protecting Australian industries? I would prefer the payment of bounties because, under such a system, there would still be the opportunity to trade freely with other countries.
– la the honorable senator in favour of the payment of bonuses?
– Yes, iri preference to the imposition of Customs duties, because of two evils we should choose the lesser. When bonuses are paid, we pay only the difference between the cost of production and the landed cost of the goods from other countries.
– And then increase the land tax to pay the bonus.
– The taxes will always be very high while the present system prevails. The men who are out of employment could produce sufficient wealth to pay all the taxes, and even sufficient to wipe out the whole of our war debt within five years, if they were profitably employed. Work would be available for them if the country was developed as it should be. I ask the Government to seriously consider the financial position, and to deal with the unemployed as generously as they are dealing with the big manufacturers and rich importing companies. If they are not prepared to do that we can only look upon them as the representatives of a particular class, and legislating in such a way that the wealthy will become wealthier and the poor poorer.
– The honorable senator is not expressing the sentiments of the majority of the people.
– I am judging honorable senators by their actions, and. not by their sentiments.
– We are all in favourof providing employment for Australian workmen.
– -Then the Government are acting in a very strange way to achieve that object.
I now desire to refer to the grave injustice shown to a number of men who have served their country well - I refer to those men who have been discharged from the Defense Department under the retrenchment scheme. These men have been out of employment since the end of last month, and although they have been promised certain compensation in proportion to the length of service, up to the present nothing has been done. It is a very serious thing for men who have been in the Defence Department for ten, fifteen, or. twenty years to be turned adrift, and that fully a month should have elapsed without the promisee of the Government being fulfilled.
– Docs the honorable senator realize that his colleagues in another place have prevented the passage of the Bill?
– If the Government were sincere they could have suspended the Standing Orders, as they did to-day, and passed the measure through all its stages without any undue delay. Hundreds of men who have rendered long and faithful service to the Commonwealth have been thrown out of employment, and I take strong exception to the manner in which they have been treated. Not one of those men should have been taken off the pay list until the Bill was before Parliament. There are men whose services have been dispensed with whose ability and capacity cannot be questioned, and who could fill positions in the Commonwealth Public Service with advantage to the Government and credit to themselves. It would have been an easy matter for such officers to have been transferred to other Departments where they could have efficiently filled vacancies which now exist. The Government would then have had the advantage of having at their disposal picked men whose ability and capacity could not be challenged. But instead of doing that the Government have dismissed them with the promise that if the Bill is passed they will be compensated. “What would happen to these unfortunate men if the Government went out of office to-morrow? They would be in an absolutely hopeless position until after the elections. I find it very difficult to keep going from month to month when my income is assured; and how these men are managing in the unfortunate circumstances confronting them I do not know.
– Will any one make provision for the honorable senator after he has left here?
– I believe that’ if the Nationalists here were as active as they have apparently been in Queensland, there are some who would be prepared to make ample .provision for me.
– But it is quite clear that the Nationalists are guiltless in that connexion.
– Surely the honorable senator does not seriously suggest that, and that his party disowns all knowledge of the matter! I asked a question concerning the number of generals still retained in the Service, and was informed that there are still eight on the Head-quarters Staff, although there are four who, are only colonels, but. who are carrying . the rank of general earned at the war. I would not deprive any man of an honour won on the field of battle, but it is strange that when retrenchments are being made all round the Government can still find profitable employment for eight generals at Headquarters. If the eight generals were dismissed, and sufficient officers retained to train mcn, we would have a more efficient Defence Force. We have, however, started at the other end by retaining the services of an excessive number of generals on the Head-quarters Staff, who are not waiting for the passage of the promised Bill, but are comfortably sitting back and drawing their salaries. I trust the Government will earnestly consider the acute position of the men who have been turned adrift, and will not delay the passage of the measure which has been framed to give them some relief.
– I hope the honorable senator will assist us in facilitating the passage of that Bill.
– I believe honorable senators are sufficiently acquainted with my method of procedure to realize that when I secure a promise from the Government I endeavour to clinch it at once. I. shall, therefore, reserve any further remarks I have to make at this juncture, and shall not delay the passage of this Bill.
– I would not have taken part in the debate if it had not been for Senator Gardiner’s references to a letter which he received,” in common with other honorable senators, from a person interested in the carbide trade in Australia. I think the honorable senator’s remarks might well have been kept until we were dealing with the Budget. The statement submitted by the honorable senator is an ex parte one, and I regret exceedingly he was not fair enough to state the position from the other side when the had the facts at his disposal. I have received a letter from the manager of the carbide works in Tasmania, in which he refutes the statements made by Slade and Company, which was quoted in full by the honorable senator.
– I now hand the honorable senator the letter, which he can use if he wishes.
– If the (honorable senator had read both letters he must have seen that the statement made by Slade and Company in the first letter was contradicted by Mr. Gillies in the letter whichthe received. I intend to quote from a document in my possession, which will clearly show that the statement made by Mr. Gillies is entitled to as much consideration as that made by Slade and Company.
– Will the honorable senator deal with the matter from the stand-point of the consumer?
– I intend to give both sides.
– We want the consumer’s view-point- considered.
– The honorable senator will have an ample opportunity of presenting that aspect of the case, if he so desires.
– If the honorable senator intends putting both sides, will he say which he favours?
– I wish to refer to the statement made by Senator Gardiner, who quoted a letter from Slade and Company, in which it is clearly and definitely set out that the actual cost of producing carbide is £811s. per ton. They quote, as their authority; Bingham’s book on carbide manufacturing. I asked Senator Gardiner for the date of publication of the text book by Bingham, but he could not give me the date. Mr. Gillies writes me as follows in connexion with this matter. I shall read the whole of his letter, because Slade’s letter has been read, and will appear in Hansard, and in fairness to Mr. Gillies and the
Tasmanian Carbide Company the whole of his letter in refutation of the statement which has been submitted to the Senate should be published. Mr. Gillies writes -
I have been handed a copy of a circular letter under the heading “ Carbide,” which, I am given to understand, has been forwarded to every member of the Federal Parliament by the firm of C. H. Slade & Company, Sydney. This letter is so very misleading and prejudicial to my company,, which has spent over £200,000 in establishing carbide works in Tasmania, that I take the liberty of issuing a reply in a similar manner.
Objects of Slade & Co.
It would appear quite obvious that Slade & Company, who are the representatives of a foreign carbide manufacturing company, are endeavouring to influence honorable members to bring about the removal of the embargo on imports, so that they and others may again dump their surplus carbide on the Australian market, and close down the Tasmanian works before it has had time to duplicate its plant and complete the installation of its steam tramway and other labour-saving devices, which are being installed to cheapen the cost of production.
Slade& Company’s Misstatements.
I have no wish to deal with the reasons why the embargo was placed on the importation of carbide in the first instance further than to say that this action on the part of the Federal Government has since been amply justified, and has saved an industry which is now giving direct continuous employment to over 150 hands, including a staff of highly-qualified engineers and chemists, with a pay-roll of over £40,000 per annum, and when the . works are duplicated, which- it is expected they will be before the end of the summer, over 250 men will bo continuously employed, with a corresponding increase in the amount of wages paid. It also . pays over £10,000 per annum to the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Department for power,, and expends a large sum (considerably over £40,000 per annum) for raw material, coal, coke, steel sheets, and we hope it will also be paying large sums in Federal and State income taxes. Its works have been running continuously for some time past turning out carbide at the rate of over 5,000 tons per annum, and -will be increased to 10,000 tons per annum before the end of next summer, which is much more than present Australian requirements; and all this has been brought about by the statesmanlike action of the Federal Ministers and the good-will of honorable members of all parties.All my company now asks -is that the prohibition be continued until the additional plant mentioned has been installed. When this is done, we feel satisfied wo will be able, with the assistance of the Tariff, to meet any fair competition which may come along, even that of the Canadian company which Messrs. Slade & Company represent.
Coat of Production.
I do not propose to disclose, for business reasons, what our cost of manufacture is at the present time, only mentioning that it has been considerably reduced during the last twelve months, chiefly owing to the fact that the works have been kept running continuously, also that, at our f.o.b. price of £30 per ton, we are now earning fair profits. Messrs. Slade & Company’s statement as to the present cost of manufacturing carbide is simply absurd. They state the actual cost of manufacturing carbide is £8 5s. 6d. per ton, and that this is taken from Bingham’s book on carbide manufacture; but they do not explain that this is a technical book, and the costs were based on pre-war costs of material and labour, and not on present costs, which, every one knows, are more than double those mentioned. Later on, in another paragraph, and in order, apparently, to prove their statement that the manufacturing cost in Canada is about the Baine as that mentioned by Bingham, namely, about £8 5s. 6d. per ton, they make the further statement that, included in the cost of Canadian carbide (which they are prepared to sell at £30 per ton, delivered Australian ports) are freight, insurance, exchange, duty, and landing charges, totalling £21 9s., which, added to the net cost, Montreal, £8 lis., makes up the landed price of £30, Australian ports. If the figures as to the landing costs of carbide from Canada are true, only one conclusion can be come to, and that is that the Canadian Carbide Company and Messrs. Slade & Company, their agents, are prepared to sell their surplus carbide at dumping prices, which leaves them no profit whatever. If, however, the statement as to costs of manufacture are untrue, and I am sure they are, from reliable information obtained recently as to the wholesale selling price of carbide on trucks, Canadian works, namely, £18 10s. per short ton, and the landing charges are also what has been quoted us as the cost from Montreal, namely, £13 10s., which includes freight, insurance, duty, wharfage, stacking charges, and exchange, and if this latter amount is added to the above price of £18 1.0s. on trucks (but not including railage to Mon treal), the landed cost, Australian ports, should be £32, which is exactly the price quoted to ns by the Victorian agents of the Canadian company. Whatever may be the cost of manufacturing carbide before the war, it is certain that the present cost is more than double what is stated, and this is true of nearly every manufactured product, whether in Europe, Canada, or Australia. I think, from the explanation given you in this letter, that honorable members will be able to read between the lines and appreciate at their true value the statements and insinuations contained in the letter referred to, also the object Messrs. Slade & Co. had in making them.
Jas. H. Gillies,
That statement by Mr. Gillies carries on the face of it every indication of truth.
He states definitely that Bingham’s textbook on the manufacture of carbide waa compiled before the war. For a company operating in Australia as agents for a manufacturing company in Canada to approach a member of this Parliament, and induce him to quote pre-war figures of the cost of carbide, is to insult the intelligence of members of this Chamber if they are expected to accept the statement at its face value. Mr. Gillies is prepared to prove that Bingham’s book was issued before the war, and shows that the figures quoted by Slade and Company are utterly unreliable. I have no reason, to doubt the accuracy of the figures supplied by Mr. Gillies. He recognises that the company of which he is the head has received great assistance from the Federal Parliament in getting their industry going, and establishing it on a sound financial basis. In the circumstances, and in the interests of his own company, he would be the last man in the world to quote figures that he could not verify. It has been said that carbide cannot be sold at less than £30 per ton.
– Then why this embargo on its import ?
– There is in force an agreement between the Tasmanian Government and the Carbide Company which has some time to run. There will be ample time to go into the details of the agreement if the parties to it consent to its continuance. I am dealing with what is before the Senate at the present time, and I have no desire to enter into a controversy concerning the agreement.
– I do not care about the agreement; but I say that if carbide cannot be produced for, the amount stated, why the embargo upon its import?
– The policy of the Government is not only to protect, as far as possible, existing industries, but to assist in building up new industries. The embargo was placed on the importation of carbide in order that the Tasmanian company, which was very severely handicapped in starting as a result of causes which were beyond its control, and which were brought about by the war, should be given a fair opportunity of establishing its works on a substantial basis, because a very large amount of money was spent upon them before the war broke out.
– The honorable senator is making out the case that carbide cannot be imported at the price which has been stated.
– The honorable senator knows that there is such a thing as dumping. Dumping has been carried on, and we know that very often it. pays manufacturers in a large way to export their surplus products and Sell it many thousands of miles away from the scene of manufacture at a lower price than consumers are asked to pay for it in the country in which it is manufactured. I have presented the other side in this case, and will let the matter rest there for the present.
– The honorable senator has made out a good case for Senator Gardiner.
– No. Senator Gardiner read a statement prepared by Slade and Company, and I have read a statement in refutation furnished to me by Mr. Gillies, which Senator Gardiner did not read, although he had a copy of it.
– I am not a yes-no speaker.
– The honorable senator told half the truth, and left it to some one else’ to tell the other half.
The honorable senator stressed very strongly the necessity for something being done in Australia to minimize unemployment. He made many statements as to the causes of unemployment. One cannot help but be struck in passing through Australia with the fact that a very large number of people who ought to be at work are on the unemployed list. I do not think that Senator Gardiner gave anything like the real reasonwhy the unemployment problem is at present so acute.
– I shall give one directly.
– I intend to give one or two myself. - Some cases of unemployment were brought under my notice a few weeks ago in Queensland, the State which Senator MacDonald so ably represents in this Chamber. Unemployment in both cases was brought about, not through any action of capitalists, but through the action of the men themselves. There was work for them to do, but they would not take it.
– On terms, I suppose?
– I shall quote the terms. The men to whom I am referring were loading a vessel of some 4,000 or 5,000 tons with sugar. The practice has always been to put twelve bags of sugar in a ship’s sling. That practice was being carried out when I was passing up the coast some time ago. On my return I found that the men who had been engaged in the work were unemployed, and the steamer remained unloaded. The men were unemployed because they refused to place more than nine bags of sugar at a time in a ship’s sling. Will Senators Gardiner and MacDonald suggest that the unemployment of those men was brought about through the action of any capitalist, or because of the capitalistic system? It must be borne in mind that these men did not have to hoist the sugar in the slings, but merely to place it in them.
– The agitator must justify his job.
– I was coming to that. It appears to me that there are in Australia to-day thousands of men’ unemployed who are; anxious to work, but who have been told that they must not work. Who is the best judge of whether a man is getting a fair deal’ if he be not the man himself ? I could mention from memory scores of instances where men have been compelled to become idle, not because they wished to leave their work and to swell the ranks of the unemployed, but because . the organization with which- they were connected did not consider that the conditions under which they were employed were ideal.
A case occurred in Tasmania a little while ago where men employed on tramway construction were very contented because the conditions were good, but they were not allowed to continue that work simply because they were in the employ of a man who had taken a contract, and the organization had objected to any contract work being carried on in the district. The men were therefore compelled to leave their work, and the necessity arose for an armed guard of police to protect other men as they went to and from their employment.. Although Senator Gardiner was objecting to the capitalistic system, it must be remembered that much of the existing unemployment is caused by those individuals who find it necessary to keep up an agitation among the working classes in order that they may find employment for themselves. At a meeting some time ago I made a point of the fact that it was the agitators who caused the discontent in the labour ranks, and a man belonging to the same party as Senator Gardiner admitted that he was not in favour of allowing employees to be contented.
I have a document before me that is a sample of what is distributed from time to time amongst employers, and is responsible for much of the unemployment. It is a copy of a log sent out demanding £7 13s. per week as the wages of a blacksmith. The log was circulated within a few weeks of an award of the Arbitration Court being given, fixing the wage of blacksmiths at something like £5 10s. Action of that description on the part of unions is responsible for industrial trouble and the dislocation of business.
– All that trouble could be avoided by the employer at once paying everything that was demanded.
– That would mean that certain industries would soon disappear. I also have a copy of the rural workers’ log asking that £1 per week and keep be paid to the feeder of a chaffcutter. It must be realized that when employers are constantly receiving such logs, industry is unsettled. It is not to be wondered at that land is going out of cultivation. “We cannot expect landowners with small capital to go in for further development under such conditions. A blacksmith who received the log to which I previously referred, thought it was an award of the Court that he had to comply with. He knew that there had been an award made a few weeks previously, and a peculiar feature is that he only had his own two boys in his employ.
– If any proof were required as to the warrant for a protest on the part of the Senate in regard to Supply Bills, it was furnished “by Senator Gardiner’s speech. He spoke at length, but said a great deal that was worth listening to. It may not be amiss for me to essay the task of filling up the one or two blanks in that speech in order to complete the diagnosis of the present industrial position. The honorable senator told us that the present position was largely due to the failure of the Tariff to bring about the promised benefit to industry of wiping out unemployment. He has given us a long statement as to the revenue from the Tariff, and he has also told us of the vast numbers of unemployed throughout Australia. I am glad to be able to say that some honorable senators on this side took a hand in pointing out the probable effect of the Tariff at the time it was agreed to. When the honorable senator started to dig down around the roots of the many causes of the present industrial trouble, I am afraid that he either neglected to make sure that he had all the roots in view, or that he did not take their relative effect into account. We should realize what is happening in. the industrial field apart from the effect of the Tariff itself.
The. Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s works have all that they need in the way of a Tariff. It has to be remembered to the credit of that company that, when its sponser and mouthpiece (Mr. Delprat) was called upon to express an opinion as to the use or otherwise of the Tariff, he valiantly said chat he would try to establish those works without a Tariff. Now a Tariff has been tried, and last year we gave the company a couple more rails to add to the fence, but still the works are shut down. My opinion is that the idle machinery at Newcastle is largely due to what is hap.pening in the coal-mining industry alongside. I have heard well authenticated stories of how men employed in that industry use the special power which that industry gives them to extract such a wage from, and impose such a penalty on, the industry that it is clearly reflected in the shutting down of the Newcastle Steel Works. I have never supported the cutting down of wages, but I am in favour of such a wage as the general condition of industry in Australia warrants, and not a. penny more. When we start to give a wage that an industry cannot afford, we are merely taking money from some other industry and giving it to the favoured few who are in the position of being able to extract more than they are entitled to. That is not progress at all. It is progress in a circle, not in a straight line. We are told that coal is too dear. To see the result of the Tariff we only need to remember that Welsh coal has been brought to Adelaide, and it has also been shipped 12,000 miles to New Zealand, in preference to the Newcastle product. The men working in the coal fields of New South Wales are getting relatively more than the industrial conditions of Australia warrant, and they are getting it in a secondary but very effective sense, at the expense of their brother workers in the industrial field elsewhere.
Take the base metal industry of North Queensland. I believe that, in a measure, the position is the same in Tasmania and Wallaroo, South Australia. Everywhere, owing to the high price of coke, and the high cost of the . manufactures required in the base metal industry, that industry has been brought to a standstill. I have been told that Newcastle is the happy hunting ground of all the bookmakers in Australia. Surely the workmen there are no better than other men who are earning their daily bread by the application of their labour. Any one who looks abroad will see that their fellow workers in other parts of the Commonwealth, whom they call comrades, are infinitely worse off than they are. I am t&ell aware of the progress made by some companies, but I would like to know what is the average return from capital expended upon the coal-mining industry in New South Wales.
In the maritime carrying trade the men are obtaining higher wages than the industries of this country can afford.
– Coal-mining is a very difficult and dangerous occupation.
– I admit that; but I do not know that it is more dangerous than other classes of mining.
– It is more dangerous.
– I yield to that opinion, but I remember that, for a number of years; according to figures published by the British Board of Trade, the occupation that stood first on the list in the matter of fatalities was that of the seamen, and next came the metalliferous workers in the Old Country. Coal mining is not an unhealthy occupation. A report issued by the Kruger Government in South Africa showed that the average life of a metalliferous miner working machines was three years. Any one who visits the miners’ resorts in my State oan see any number of men spending their last days in those institutions, having been literally driven to their death by reason of their occupation, which, in my judgment, is much more dangerous than that of a coal-miner. In some instances metalliferous miners go to the coal mines to recuperate. This talk about unemployment induces me to ask wherein lies the spirit of camaraderie with these men who are enjoying high wages at the expense of their less fortunate comrades in other industries. Thousands of men in other industries find themselves thrown out of work, or placed on a very limited scale of work, by the policy laid down by the coal-miners of New South Wales.
Then there is the maritime carrying trade. Men in that occupation are likewise in a most favoured position, and they, I observe, second this go-slow policy. The qualifications for a ship’s steward are not very high. A lad - he may be only eighteen years of age - is supposed to be honest, and to have a presentable appearance. If he fulfils these requirements, and gets employment, his pay is £4 per week, plus tips. No other industry in this country can pay its labourers that wage. If the industry, or rather all industries, can stand £8 per week, then let it be paid. (But the other industries, and particularly the country ones, could not live twenty-four hours and pay such high wages! All branches of the maritime industry are paid on the same lavish scale. Over and over again I have told engineers on boats that if they were flung ashore, and had to run an engineering shop, they would not make anything like the wage they are getting at sea. Of course, the effect of this policy is reflected in the high fares and freights all along our coastline. The fact that the transcontinental railway, with all its disabilities of long distance and natural drawbacks, can compete in a fair measure with sea-borne traffic goes to prove that there is something radically wrong with our maritime carrying trade. Compared with the time when I was engaged in the industry, the men are not called upon to do anything like the work, and in return they receive an infinitely higher wage than was ever dreamed of then. And what is the position of the wool, wheat, butter, and fruit industries? All of these have to place their products on the markets of the world, and a man, to make good, has to work hard and long. If the wages paid in the coal -mining and maritime carrying trades had to be paid in all the other industries they would, of course, have to shut down, because no industry can pay that rate of wage and live.
– The miners are the aristocrats of labour.
– That is the position, and the wonder ia that men in other industries suffer so long. The wonder is that they do not take some action to counter these men who are enjoying such high wages, at short hours, at the expense of the secondary industries of the Commonwealth. We want, competition. I was glad to notice that Senator Gardiner mentioned this towards the close of his speech. We want opportunities for capital, unlimited capital, to embark on various enterprises in the Commonwealth with an assurance that it will meet with some reward. It is about time we stamped with an iron foot upon this insane notion that the capitalist is an enemy of society, and particularly the enemy of the workers. If collectivism were possible, that is . to say, if the human element could stand up to its work and stand the test, I would be supporting it to-day. But, of course, we all know that it has failed miserably, and we turn, perhaps in sorrow, to the realization that, after all, a well watched competitive system is the only system humanly possible, with a healthy public opinion playing upon the relationships between an employer and an employee. Far too much of this evil spirit has been introduced into the relationships of capital and labour. According to the vicious doctrine that now has currency, even a humble bootmaker who rises from the ranks and becomes an employer is at once an enemy of society, and ought to be destroyed. It is most unfortunate that capitalists and employers have come to be regarded in certain quarters as the natural enemy of the working classes. The effect of this pernicious doctrine is reflected in the figures setting out the production of this country, which is very much below what it was eight or ten years ago. In Knibbs’ Tear Book there is a column that should stand out as a warning beacon to everybody. It shows that in recent years labour has not given the outturn that.it should. It necessarily fol lows that if the labour outturn is lower, commodities must be higher in price. This statement is capable of very simple demonstration. Let us assume, for example, that a bootmaker, working under ordinary conditions, finds he can secure the wherewithal to live comfortably if he makes two pairs of boots per day. If, unhappily, he listens to this insane goslow doctrine, the proof of which is found in Knibbs’ book, and reduces his output to one pair of boots per day, must not he get the same price for one pair as formerly he obtained for two, that is, if he is going to maintain his standard of living? This false doctrine is responsible for a very serious economic waste.
Let us consider for a moment the position of a successful business man, who, by reason of his ability to take the chances that came his way, and without robbing anybody, attains to a competence at, say, the age of fifty-five years. He sees this unsettled condition of things; he is hearing a great deal about class war and all this class-conscience nonsense that has been talked about lately, and he decides that, while he might still have ten or fifteen years of useful service before him, he will cease to produce wealth, and so he goes playing golf, or lapses into idleness for the rest of his life. I can give no more striking illustration than by quoting the case of a successful business man, a draper in North Queensland, a gentleman whom I knew very well in my early days in that State. He built up a big drapery business, probably one of the largest outside of Brisbane, and on the occasion of my visit not so very long ago, he took me to his enginehouse in which was housed a 100 horsepower Hornsby engine lying idle, covered up and rusting. When I asked him the reason he told me that his intention had been to import his material, and to establish a whitework factory in his town, thereby giving employment to a very large number, of people. But owing to the uncertain outlook he felt that there was no encouragement for him to embark upon such an enterprise. To use his own words, he said, “ I am no longer going to work for the other fellow.” Thus this worthy enterprise, which would have played its part in decentralization, giving necessary employment and adding to the wealth of the district, was nipped in the bud. No doubt, hundreds of similar cases could be quoted ‘all over Australia. All this seasoned experience of men who have by no means run their allotted span is being lost. It is so much national waste. There is a big responsibility upon those who are in a position to alter this condition of affairs. Upon their shoulders rests this obligation, and upon nobody else’s. Senator Gardiner and his party have their share of it. If only we can reconcile differences between employer and employees, we shall accomplish something. We have our Arbitration Courts, institutions that were not dreamed of in the days gone by, but which were the lifelong yearning of men who stood as the sponsors and fathers of the Labour movement. Unfortunately, the new generation of Labour leaders is turning away from the awards of the Arbitration Court, and even lately, as in the case of the Australian Workers Union, labour is being responsibly advised not to obey the awards of the Court. Whither are we drifting? This country should be one of the most attractive in the world for those who have capital to invest and those who are willing to work, but by reason of these false . doctrines, we find that capital is going elsewhere. Is it not as natural to expect competition in the field of capitalistic enterprises, and is it not as necessary to give capital an assurance of an adequate return, as that the workers Should have some guarantee of a reasonable wage?
We hear a good deal about the surplus earning of capital, and how it should be appropriated. Those who are students of political economy know that all proposals for the erection of the Socialistic State are foredoomed to failure. That system has been tried, and it has failed. We all remember the history of the socialistic adventure in South America - a scheme that took the cream of socialistic thought from this country. It was all collected together in one camp, and still the old Adam in man asserted itself to such an extent that, on one occasion, they had to call a special meeting to decide who would go out to mend the broken rails of the fences. I have read the history of many su’ch communistic enterprises.. Boston, in America, started a venture on similar lines to those followed in South America, and it was aided by many of the intellectuals of that country. In all these undertakings, when the time comes that the spirit of old Adam asserts itself, the individuals take heed for themselves and let the public weal for the time being “ go hang.” When this spirit was introduced it radiated like the ripples on a pool until it permeated the whole body of this socialistic enterprise, with the result that in the end the venture became bantrupt. The verdict recorded was that there were too many advisers and not enough men to hoe potatoes. It had all the help that human ingenuity, and an unselfish spirit could vouchsafe, but because it was one of those things which, in our present state of education, is impossible, it could not, and did not, succeed. Now it is being tried in Russia with the most ignorant people in the world, and with appalling results.
The vital point for us is that we cannot afford to experiment in that way. If we were like the United States of America, with 100,000,000 people, and if we slammed the door on able-bodied men from outside as they are doing, we could try such experiments, but we cannot do so in this vacant, resourceful, and rich land of Australia. There is a great opportunity for those who would pounce down upon us and say, “What are you doing with this country? You have no God-given right to hold it. You thrust the aboriginals on one side with a rude and sometimes a cruel hand. They were the owners; you are the interlopers.- You came here and said you would turn this country to the best account.” We started out to show them that we would turn the country to the best account, and, within limits,, we are doing it. Unless human nature is absolutely reversed, and all the canons that govern men’s actions are dead and non-existent, covetous eyes must be directed on this country, and rightly so - -just as rightly so as that our eyes and the eyes of our forefathers should be turned towards this country when the aboriginals were, the undisputed holders of it. I had better tell a story related to me by a man who had returned from a visit to Japan. I said to him, “What did you observe there?” He replied, “When I was going through the inland parts of the country I found the people most respectful in their bearing and conduct to me. It is a fearfully congested land. I have seen there women, with their babies strapped on their backs, digging on rice plots which were not larger than a city flat. “ We do not need to be told such facts by a visitor from Japan. While there is a population of 70,000,000 people on an area less than that of New South Wales, they must have, and should have, their eyes cast upon this country. They are envious of us with pur empty spaces. It is “up to” us, if we wish this country to be safe, to call a halt in the dispute between the two sections in the industrial field, and to amend our behaviour. The time has come when we should benefit by experience, for the man. who will not benefit by experience is not, and has no claim to be, the light and guide of his fellows. I venture to say that the men who are supporting this Government have jettisoned many of the notions they held years ago. They have had to say, “Although I believed in this or that in my period of political adolescence, I can see now that it will not do; it has been tried and found wanting.” We must alter our minds as a result of a wider view and a more searching inquiry and experience. I rose merely to point out, by way of reply to Senator Gardiner, that in this country we shall need to take stock of the position while yet we have time if we want to make the best use of our heritage. We shall have to drop the “ isms “ and “ asms “ of every party, and come together and make this country progress. Let us give every encouragement to the man who puts his capital into this country. He is prevented from becoming a blood-sucker of labour. He could be at one time; but is no longer so. He cannot do it in this country, and although it pays some people to go on the platform and tell the groundlings so, they cannot tell the intelligent worker that any longer. He knows that this thing has been told to him for a long time for the purpose of catching votes, and that it will do duty with him no longer.
I wish to refer briefly to the sugar question. We cannot dip into what is happening next door, and, therefore, from our peculiar vantage point in this Senate we are, perhaps, the better qualified observers of the whole rumpus. We see the parties trying to bring the Government, of which we are supporters, into public contempt and ridicule, and not having the power to make and unmake
Ministries, and not being directly concerned in the duel, we are the more faithful observers of what is going on. Sugar is a necessary of life, and it could never have been produced in this country unless its production had been encouraged. The form of encouragement was settled upon, and the war and other things happened. As a result of the Sugar. Agreement we were in a position in this country to get sugar at a price which, if the producers of it had been free to market it, we would not have enjoyed. As the producers were compelled to sell it locally, the consumers benefited very materially. I have been told that we are getting the cheapest sugar in the world. That is because we have in this country, owing to the designs of a benign Providence, the conditions which make for the production of sugar. We have a combination of soil and climate that ought to give us as cheap sugar as is obtainable with white labour in any country in the world. We have cheap bread, but it, of course, is wrung from far more unwilling soils, and under far less propitious conditions, than sugar. In connexion with the claim that we have cheap sugar, it has to be remembered that we have the natural conditions which should give us cheap sugar. It might as well be claimed that the South Sea Islanders have cheap coconuts, or the Greenlanders cheap polar bears. Naturally the conditions there make those things cheap, and it is so with sugar in this country. The argument that we get cheap sugar is vitiated by the collateral fact that conditions are here which do not obtain, anywhere else. When the prices mounted high during the war, we had an outcry from the consumers and the fruit interests that they were being unduly penalized. They ought to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth, the good with the bad. If they are being penalized now, they ought to .remember the time when they were being benefited. The people of this country have short memories, or are short-sighted or short-witted in the measure of credit that they give to the Government. Although I am not a thick-and-thin, obsequious supporter of the Government, and hope I never shall be, when I read the speech of Mr. Massy Greene I felt that from beginning to end there was displayed an outstanding degree of capacity that has done this Government every credit. Speaking as one engaged in a sister industry, I hope the time will never come when we shall be parsimonious in dealing with the sugar industry in Queensland. When we ask men to go into a region which, by all standards and tests, is far less pleasant than the places where all the grumbling comes from, we cannot expect them to go unless they are given some inducement in the form of an extra reward for their toil. When the time comes for the Sugar Agreement to be placed before this Chamber I shall, of course, while adhering to the principle I have enunciated, see that the sugar producers and manufacturers do not get too much. I shall not place them in the position of those who, when the plunder is within their reach, help themselves to an unlimited extent.
The last item to which I wish to refer has reference to the report of the manager of the Commission at Nauru. ‘ He states that an agreement has been made with manufacturers of superphosphates in this country to the effect that all the raw material delivered after 1st July of this year will be supplied at prices in the neighbourhood of £1 per ton less than the prices previously charged, and that it is part of the agreement that the manufacturers of superphosphates are to pass that charge on to the consumers. That is highly important to the fruit-growers, wheat-growers, and every ether allied industry in the interior of this country. Unless they fertilize the land they cannot hope for an adequate reward. I have to recall, a fact which is to the discredit of a, company to which I have publicly referred before, namely Messrs. Cuming, Smith, and Company Proprietary. A representative of that firm, which manufactures superphosphates, told me outside the door of this Senate that if a Tariff of 25 per cent, was put upon his product he would give me his word of honour that its price would not be raised. I had not been in Western Australia a week when the price jumped from £6 2s. 6d. to £6 12s. 6d. per ton. It has now been fixed at £6 2s. 6d. per ton for the current year; but under the agreement made with the Commissioners, the manufacturers stipulated that the reduction in price, which is in the neighbourhood of 20s. per ton, would be passed on. That has not been done. The price should now be in the region of £5 or £5 10s. a ton, as the manufacturers are under an obligation to supply at that price.
– A ton of rock does not produce a similar quantity of superphosphate.
– There is only about 18 per cent, of active plant food in every ton, and the balance is comprised of what the American journals term “padding,” which does not add to the fertility of the soil to any appreciable extent. I trust the Government will see that the wheat and fruit growers in this country who require superphosphate for their land shall get the benefit which is clearly set out. in the agreement, and that the reduced price will be passed on to the consumers.
– This is an occasion on which honorable senators have an opportunity of voicing “grievances, and I, therefore, desire to make a few observations on certain aspects of the Government’s administration. I followed Senator Gardiner’s remarks concerning unemployment with a great deal of interest, and although I do not intend to adopt the same line of argument, I would like to deal with some phases of the unemployment question. I do not share the opinions expressed by one honorable senator, who said that the Commonwealth was in no way responsible for the unemployment which, unfortunately, prevails in the Commonwealth at present. We are living in extraordinary times, and it is largely due to the peculiar circumstances which exist that we have a larger number of unemployed in Australia now than perhaps in any previous year.
– The number here is smaller than in any other part of the world.
– Yes, in comparison with the United! States of America and Great Britain, where capitalism is in full charge, and where, politically at least, labour has had no measure of control.
– There were 6,000,000 unemployed in America last year, and now there are far more.
– -Although the honorable senator may feel some satisfaction in repeating that statement, it is one that is not given much prominence in the anti-Labour press in Queensland, though here the Federal Government has to view it from a different angle. Whatever the position may be in other parts of the world, it cannot be denied that the
Federal Government is largely responsible for unemployment in the Commonwealth.
– Not necessarily.
– During the war 300,000 Australians were taken away from their employment.
– They were not taken away, but went of their own free will.
– If the honorable senator and others had had their way they would have been compelled to go.
– Hear, hear.!
– The interjection of the honorable senator confirms my opinion; but he should remember that a majority of the people in the Commonwealth do not voice that sentiment. If large numbers of men were not forcibly removed from the Commonwealth, they were withdrawn from industries, and no proper scheme has been launched by the Government to re-establish them in the employment which they left. The first responsibility in this connexion rests with this Government as the representative of the capitalistic interests, which control nineteen out of every twenty jobs available. It is upon the employing community in our midst that the major share of the obligation rests for relieving the extra unemployment which followed the termination of the war. The capitalistic class has the means at its disposal for creating employment, and directly and indirectly is responsible for creating employment in the industrial arena.
– How could the Commonwealth compel the re-employment of returned men?
– It is the duty of the Government to arrange for the employing interests to absorb these men as far as possible, and also to find employment for them in the Government Departments and on Government works. We are told by our opponents in Queensland that it is the duty of the Labour Government in that State to find employment for returned soldiers and ex-service men from overseas; but, so far as I can see, the first responsibility rests upon the vast employing classes throughout the Commonwealth, who have the financial means at their disposal, and, secondly, upon the Commonwealth Government.
– Have not the States any responsibility?
– The State Governments, undoubtedly, must take some share, because they, in their turn, have financial means at their disposal and control certain industries; but their share is not more than one-twentieth of private employ erdom and the Federal Government.
When Senator Payne was speaking I mentioned one matter which will help to show why so many are unemployed, and I shall refer to it again, because it is of great interest, not only to the people of Queensland, but to the whole of the taxpayers in the Commonwealth. I refer to what is known as the “ Canungra muddle,” and the closing down of the saw-mills, which has thrown over 200 men out of employment, besides causing loss to traders and storekeepers. I am not endeavouring to make political capital out of this matter : but it is one which should be ventilated. I have not been able to obtain -any authentic information as to when we may expect the mills to commence working on their original basis, and I think it is the duty of the Government to make some announcement as to their intentions in this direction. It has been said that there will, be a loss of approximately £100,000 over the business, and it is generally expected that when the “ private owners and capitalists get an opportunity of purchasing the undertaking the taxpayers will have to shoulder a loss of £100,000. This is only one instance of a great number in which direct loss can be traced to the maladministration of the War Service Homes and Repatriation Departments. Some months ago I was startled by reading either a letter or a report by Mr. Twigg Patterson, a representative of a returned soldiers’ organization.
– The gentleman of the Young Australia Legion ?
– I think he isthe secretary or. an official of an exsoldiers’ association in Melbourne.
– He is the bigdrum beater.
– He is not associated with the returned soldiers’ association.
– Mr. Patterson is a returned soldier, and made the statement that in the administration of Government Departments during the war period the money lost, in consequence ofthe fraudulent transactions, totalled £168,000.
– Was that in reference to the War Service Homes?
-Not directly, but in connexion with war activities of the various Government Departments.
– That frauds amounting to £168,000 had been committed ?
– I think that is an extraordinary statement, but I have never seen any reply to it, though it was published in one of the Melbourne papers some months ago.
– Why does the honorable senator repeat -it until he has had it confirmed? Some people make very wild statements, and. it is not in the interests of the country that they should be repeated.
– It is my intention to repeat some more statements which appear wild to me, but which I have on good authority, concerning the enormous profits made from the sale of certain lands in Queensland which were purchased by the Commonwealth Government. The profits in some instances have reached as high as 800 per cent. I intend to give the figures, despite Senator Reid’s hint that, before making statements, I should have them confirmed. If I waited for confirmation of everything I read, I should never rise in this chamber, or I might be asked to supply honorable senators opposite with material to refute every statement I make. That is probably the position in which they would like to place me, but I should be a strange individual if I permitted myself to be influenced by such tactics. I want to show that the frauds referred to by Mr. Patterson do not represent all the losses that have been made as a result of the administration of the public Departments. I intend to show that the taxpayers have suffered considerable loss as a result of the high prices paid by the Commonwealth for land purchased in Queensland. I shall quote a few instances which I have been led to believe are authentic. I make no statement in this chamber which I do not believe to be true.
– Then I understand that the honorable senator is vouching for the figures he proposes to quote ?
– They have been given to me as authentic.
– Then the honorable senator accepts’ the statement of those who have supplied him with the figures ?
– I do. The first instance refers to two blocks of land, totalling 1,284 acres, which were purchased in September, 1919, for £10,650, and were sold to the War Service Homes Commission scarcely a year later for £25,350.
– Where is this land?
– In Queensland. The profit in this case was 150 per cent.
– Where in Queensland is the land situated?
– I am giving the facts.
– There is one fact necessary to identify the particular land, and that is where it is situated.
– The second instance-
– I ask the honorable senator whether he will say where the parcel of land to which he has referred is situated.-
– It is in the parish of Emu Yale.
– That is near Warwick.
– Who was the vendor?
– I am not prepared to give the name of the vendor. There is another purchase credited to the War Service Homes Commission.
-Is the land which the honorable senator says is in the parish of Emu ‘.Vale situated within the timber area in Killarney Basin?
– I hope the honorable senator will help us to identify these lands.
– I am not here to be cross-examined by every member of the Senate. I might just as well permit Senator Reid, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), and other honorable senators opposite to make my speech for me. I am making this speech, and I should, be permitted to make it in my own way.
– I shall protect the honorable senator against interjections.
– I think I should be protected.
– The honorable senator is making charges, and is not substantiating them.
– I do not think that I should submit to crossexamination.
– I would not if I werethe honorable senator.
– Is this Emu Vale land within the Killarney Basin?
– Order !
– I have particulars which I do not at present intend to read.
– It is much easier for the honorable senator to confine himself to making a charge.
– I intend to refer to certain instances about which I have been given information, and I shall refer to them in my own way. I shall not submit to dictation.
– I have told the honorable senator that I will protect him against interjections.
– I thank you, sir. I proceed to the second instance. This is a case of land that was sold in 1910 for £2,580, and was sold to the War Service Homes Commission in 1920 for £15,850, representing a profit of 500 per cent.
– May we respectfully ask where that land is situated ?
– No. I am giving the instance, and I have certain information about it. The honorable senator might just as well ask me to give the name of my authority, but I should refuse to do so.
– I think that the proper thing for the honorable senator to do is to give his authority.
– Does the honorable senator say–
– Order ! Every honorable senator, when addressing the Senate, has a right to be heard in silence. Senator MacDonald has asked that he should not be submitted to a running fire of interjections. It is my duty as President of the Senate to protect the honorable senator against interjection when he asks that he shall be so protected. I ask honorable senators not to interject further.
– I have to thank you, sir, for preserving what appears to me to be the ordinary rules of debate. It is evident that the figures I am quoting are alarming to supporters of the Government. They are very much perturbed, and would like to put me in the position of a witness who might be subjected to a fire of thirty crossexamining lawyers at the same time. I do not think that is fair. I may later on give the whole of the information in my possession. My next instance is that of the sale of land which was sold in July, 1918, for £1,164, and sold to the War Service Homes Commission in June, 1920, for £4,800, representing a profit of 300 per cent.
– Can the honorable senator give me the areas of the last two portions of land to which he has referred ?
– Order ! Senator MacDonald has said that he does not intend to give the information asked for. Of what use is it for honorable senators, in the circumstances, to continue to demand it?
– I am giving instances, and I intend to proceed I give my word of honour that my information is obtained from a source which I regard as authentic. I may write to the person who gave me this information, and obtain his permission to use his name, and I may later give the whole of the information supplied to me. I intended to give a summary of certain purchases of land which were brought under my notice in Queensland. I did not seek this information. It was given to me some months ago as evidence of the way in which money has been squandered in purchases made by the War Service Homes Commission. I have other instances to which I might refer, but I shall not weary the Senate with them.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– The prices paid for land required for War Service Homes represent an advance from 150 per cent, to 800 per cent, above the prices ruling a year or two prior to their purchase. I do not complain so much about an increase of 150 per cent., because we all know that, between 1918 and 1920, there was a very considerable increase in. the price of land as well as in other commodities, but I think that one might reasonably take exception to an advance of from 300 per cent, to 800 per cent., and I have authentic information that these increased prices were paid. This means, of course, that a good deal of money has been lost in the purchase of land, and as no doubt the position throughout Australia in regard to War Service
Homes transactions is similar, the net result has been a very considerable increase in the cost of homes to returned soldiers. In Brisbane the price of homes, in many cases, has been increased from £700 to over £900, and I have been informed that, quite recently, there were no less than 200 War Service Homes standing empty, notwithstanding that there were 269 applicants for houses. As a result, the Department have had no other recourse than to get the advanced price out of the returned soldiers, and, in one case, it went so far as to evict a returned soldier who refused to accept the increased price.
– Had the returned soldier taken possession of the house?
– Tell me this: Was he evicted ?
– I do not care for the dictatorial tone of the honorable senator.
– But I am only asking a civil question.
– Fortunately we are now in civil life. This is a political assembly, not a military parade ; but to satisfy the honorable senator, I may state that Mr. E. F. Hanman, the returned soldier in . question, refused to accept the increased assessments, and took the matter to Court. Fortunately the Court did not see eye to eye with the Department, and the returned soldier won his ‘case.
– How much was he behind in his rent?
– I have the figures.
– And I have the facts.
– The simple fact is that the Department lost its case, as the Court report I have shows. It is well known that, having made an under-estimate as to the cost of War Service Homes, the Department, in quite a number of cases, is now endeavouring to get the higher amount from returned soldier occupants.
– Do you say that, in the case you quote, the returned soldier won- his case?
– The verdict of the Court was against the Department.
– No, it was not.
– I am afraid the honorable senator’s information is not very accurate.
– I have all the particulars in my possession, and, if necessary, I could speak at great length on this subject. I have the decision of the Court here, and it is against the Depart-, ment. I have come in contact with quite a number of returned soldiers who have been penalized in this way by the departmental under-estimate of costs. It would appear that in Mr. Hanman’s case there was a certain amount of victimization because of his political attitude, and particularly his views on the question of unemployment among returned soldiers, at which the Department took umbrage, and I understand that was one reason why action was taken in his case. The newspapers are full of complaints about the bungling and expensive transactions in connexion with War Service Homes administration, and only the other day the Public Accounts Committee adversely commented on a transaction in which Messrs. E. A. and D. Green, of Melbourne, were concerned.
I should like now to say a few words upon unemployment generally, and particularly to direct attention to the Canungra saw-mills muddle, which resulted in a couple of hundred men being thrown out of work in Queensland. That concern was proceeding very satisfactorily as a private enterprise, from the point of view of employment, and undoubtedly it affected the industrial prospects of a large number of other people.
– Then you do not believe in State enterprise?
– If by that the honorable senator means our experience in connexion with the Canungra saw-mills, then I am not in favour of public enterprise.
– But why not tell us about some of the State stations.
– On that point I can reply to the honorable senator by saying that the Queensland Government have not yet come whining to the Federal Government for help, as some of his private enterprise friends, the pastoralists of Australia, have done in the past year or two. That is the position. The action of the Federal Government, in regard to the Canungra mills, has been to very considerably increase unemployment in my State. If the money that has been lost through faulty administration of the War Service Homes Department - and I have no doubt that the amount runs into millions - could have been used in other ways unemployment would not- have been so acute by any means as it is at present.
As regards the sugar industry, which has been before the public very prominently of late, I may say that, so far as Queensland labour is concerned, there is no desire that it should be a burden on the southern consumer. There is also the consumer’s view-point . in Queensland. We quite realize that all we can ask for the sugar-grower (and ‘the worker, as well as the other elements in sugar production, is that they should get a fair deal. This is all that Queensland expects of the southern States. We are not asking for 6d. per lb., but if sugar cannot be produced at a cost that will pay decent wages to enable it to be retailed at less than 6d., then no doubt the sugar-grower will expect 6d., unless, of course, it is desired to abandon the White Australia ideal, and all that it means, and throw practically 100,000 people in Queensland out of employment.
– Is there much unemployment in Queensland?
-What unemployment there is is due to the inrush of unemployed from Victoria, including Melbourne, and through New South Wales.
– Free (rations are always an attraction, you know.
– Apparently the honorable senator is an advocate that men, if they cannot get work, should starve. The Queensland Labour Government does not stand for that. The Queensland system of issuing rations is not designed to encourage unemployment; single men, for instance, get only sufficient rations to carry them on to the next police station, and I myself have received complaints from single men as to the severity of these conditions. The only alternative, and evidently that is one which the honorable senator approves, is that unemployed, and these include returned soldiers as well, should take to the road and die.
– Do you think it is right that returned soldiers-
– Order I
– Do you think that returned soldiers-
– Order ! I direct Senator Foil’s attention to the fact that when the Chair calls for order he, in common with every other honorable senator, is expected to obey.
– I apologize, Mr. President. I am afraid my voice drowned yours, and so I did not hear you.
– I have no wish to elaborate upon this unemployment problem, but I suggest that, in his reply, the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) should address himself to the consideration of the Canungra mills difficulty, as it affects employment in my State, and endeavour to give us some idea when arrangements for the sale of the mills will be completed, and when we may expect that phase of the unemployment problem in Queensland to. be solved.
.- This afternoon I called “Not formal “ to the Electoral Bill. I was not at all desirous of hanging up the Bill, but there was a little matter that I wanted to bring forward.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in referring to a matter that is already on the notice-paper. Anything relevant or irrelevant may be alluded to on this Bill, but the honorable senator may not anticipate a subject that is alreadydown for discussion.
– In that case I shall have to wait until the third reading of the Bill. I would like to know what the Government is doing in regard to the unification of the railway gauges of Australia. With many other citizens of Australia,, I think that this is an important matter. During the debate on the Address-in-Reply I asked the Minister to tell us what could be done to connect a portion of the railway system, of New South Wales with, the East- West railway. I pointed out that the experts who were appointed by the Federal and State Governments had said that the railway gauges of Australia ought to be unified viâ Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney to Brisbane. I agree with the report, but I asked then, and I ask now, what will the Commonwealth Government do if the Governments of South Australia and Victoria refuse to cooperate? Will the Federal Government be prepared to associate itself with the Governments of New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia in order to unify the gauge from Fremantle, via Condobolin or Hay, to Brisbane? The unification of the railway gauges is an important matter commercially, and there are people who say that from a defence point of view it is imperative. I notice in the Hansard report of the debate on the Address-in-Reply that Senator Newland was good enough to say that, in his opinion, the war had taught us that it did not matter very much, from a military stand-point, whether the gauges were unified. Senator Newland said -
In that regard we have a lesson to learn from the war. We were previously told that it would take many weeks to transport troops and munitions from one point to another with the breaks of gauge; but the fact is that disciplined troops can transfer themselves as quickly from train to train as a man can with his wife, family, and baggage. Every soldier jumps to his post, and such transfers would not take more than a few minutes.
Senator Duncan interjected, I think quite properly, “ A man cannot take a field gun under his arm.” In order to get over that difficulty, Senator Newland said -
No; but ten or a dozen men can make short work of the transfer of such a weapon. In any case, the difficulties of transporting troops and munitions were found to be unexpectedly slight during the war.
I do not profess to be a military expert, but it is generally considered by the man in the street that it would be much easier to transport troops and munitions if there were no breaks of gauge. Senator Newland, I have no doubt, is a great expert on military matters, as well as on all other matters. It came as news to me that the break of gauge was not a difficulty.
– I did not consult the honorable senator. I ought to have got his opinion, perhaps.
– I am sorry if the honorable senator thinks I am saying something unkind. To-day I happened to be reading in one of the newspapers a report by the Inspector-General, General Chauvel, who, I believe, does know something of military matters.
– He showed that be knew a little in the last war.
– We understood that he did. I do not know much about him, but he is generally regarded as knowing something about war.
– Is the honorable senator quoting General Chauvel’s views with reservations?
– I am giving them for what they are worth. He speaks of the unification of the railway gauges as being essential from a military standpoint. The report says -
He again directed attention to the serious situation which, in the event of troops being mobilized for defence, would confront Australia through a lack of suitable railway communications and a uniform gauge. Recent conferences, inaugurated by the Prime Minister, had acknowledged the ultimate necessity for a uniform gauge on commercial and industrial grounds, but did not appear to have fully realized the vital necessity in the interests of the safety of the Commonwealth. He regretted that a definite determination to carry out the work of unification was not even in view.
Those are the views of a man who is looked upon by the military authorities as being one of the leading officers in Australia, and who has been appointed to a very high and responsible position. We ought not to treat such an opinion with contempt.
-; - He agrees with me in the main.
– I am very glad two such high authorities agree. I can now come in without difficulty, although I trembled a little previously.
– It would be very interesting for us to learn upon what they agree.
– I understand that they agree that the unification of gauges is necessary for the defence of Australia, and, that being ‘ so, the Government should press on with the job as quickly as possible. I know- that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has spoken on various occasions of the necessity for unification. It is part and parcel of the Governor-General’s Speech, and I think we all agree with it; but we must recognise that without the consent of Victoria and South Australia the scheme cannot be carried through. In that event, is the Government prepared to fall in line with New South Wales, Western Australia, and Queensland ? I understand that the Queensland Government are prepared to build a line from Brisbane to New South Wales; Sir George Fuller, Premier of New South
Wales; stated in his policy speech that he would carry the line to the borders of South Australia via Hay or Condobolin; and the Western Australian Government is ready to do the work from Perth to Kalgoorlie. There is, therefore, only a very small section in South Australian territory that the States are not prepared to undertake. If the South Australian Government is not prepared to build this small section, the Federal Government ought to undertake it. It seems to me that a line vid Hay, Wentworth, and Mildura would be a great advantage to the people of South Australia. If the South Australian Government do not wish to participate in the scheme of unification we cannot force them, and in that case we would be perfectly justified in proceeding with the work. I was pleased to notice that Senator Lynch submitted a question on this point. I had not noticed that the honorable senator had asked the question, and I submitted one on similar lines, but in both instances the reply was quite indefinite, and it would be just as well if we had a straight-out announcement from the Government.
– Is the honorable senator still referring to. the unification of the gauges?
– Not to schemes suggested by the experts ; but to the alternative proposal if Victoria and South Australia will not participate.
– The honorable senator is suggesting the construction of a new line.
– That is so. Senator Lynch’s question reads -
In the event of a decision not being come to by the Commonwealth and the States on the question of standardizing the railway gauges within a reasonable time, will the Government think well of going ahead with the work by instalments, e.g., by seeking an agreement with the States of New South Wales and Queensland, whereby the capitals of Sydney and Brisbane may be connected by means of - the standard line; also, a similar agreement with Western Australia for widening the gauge between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle ?
The answer of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) was as follows: -
It is believed that arrangements for the commencement of the work in several States can be made, and as soon as negotiations now proceeding have been concluded, the Parliament will be asked to discuss the matter with a view to giving the necessary authority to proceed with the work.
– That seems to be a very definite statement.
– It may be, but it does not lead us anywhere. Does it mean that the work vid Adelaide and Melbourne will be proceeded with, or that the work suggested by Senator Lynch will be carried out?
– Nothing can be done without parliamentary approval.
– I know that action cannot be taken without the consent of Parliament; but it is the duty of the Government to announce a definite policy. In the New South Wales Parliament a question was asked on this point, and if I* remember aright it was to the effect that if the Victorian and South Australian Governments were not prepared to proceed with the work, would the Government of New South Wales, with the assistance of the Federal Government, proceed with its scheme? The Premier of that State, Sir George Fuller, is reported to have said that he had submitted a long memorandum on the question to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and that he was awaiting a reply. That statement was made during the last week or so, and although sufficient time may not have elapsed to enable a reply to be sent, I think we are entitled to know the Government’s intentions ‘in this matter.
Quite apart from the desirableness of unifying the gauges for strategic purposes, the construction of this vast undertaking would find work for a large number who are at present unemployed. I am not prepared to admit that the steel works at Newcastle are closed down merely because those engaged in that and the coal industry want higher wages, because I am of the opinion that the cessation of operations has been caused by the absence of orders. We have in Australia the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s steel works, and those of Hoskins Limited, and when the first-mentioned company was established I thought there would not be sufficient work to keep the two companies ‘Continuously in operation.
– That does not explain why orders from Australia are being placed in Great Britain.
– I understand that until quite recently the importations have been comparatively small. The Western Australian Government have had to purchase abroad because they cannot get their requirements from Newcastle.
– They cannot get them at the same price.
– The price depends largely upon the output.
– On the cost of coal.
– The cost of coal and the rate of wages are factors; but the output has also an important bearing on ‘ the matter, because with increased output rails could be produced at a lower cost. Employment could be found for a large number of men, not only on railway construction, but in the steel industry, and the longer we postpone the work the greater will be the expense. A Bill to authorize the construction of the TransAustralian railway passed the House of Representatives, but when it came to this Chamber it was defeated by one vote. Senator de Largie will remember if that was so.
– Yes; with the assistance of the Victorian senators.
– Two or three years afterwards a similar Bill, authorizing the construction of the line, passed both Houses, and the additional cost of £2,000,000 was incurred in consequence of the action of the Senate. When a member of another place I voted for the construction of the Trans-Australian railway, and I have always been a consistent supporter when the proposal came before Parliament. I do not favour a reduction in wages, but am looking forward to the time when greater efficiency will be achieved by the use of improved mechanical appliances which will enable work to be done at a reduced cost. It is a policy of despair to suggest that important works cannot be undertaken until men submit to decreased remuneration. Some experts suggest that unification of the railways is necessary for defence of the Commonwealth, but it is also necessary from a commercial and industrial stand-point. It is useless saying that the work will be undertaken when conditions are normal and when wages are lower.
– We will wait until we can afford it.
– It is good business to proceed at once, because if we delay we may incur additional expenditure, as we did in the case I have mentioned. If the city railway in Sydney had been carried out when it was first suggested £1,500,000 would have been paved. The Prime Minister is so strongly in favour of the unification of gauges that he has even despatched communications to the municipal councils in New South Wales, and, I suppose, to similar bodies in other States, asking them to support the scheme. This is not a matter to be dealt with by such bodies, which, in many instances, threw the communication under the table.
– Was it not a report that was submitted ?
– No; the councils were asked for their opinions. I am going by what I saw in the press, and the fact I have just mentioned shows how anxious the Prime Minister is that the work should be proceeded with. If Victoria and South Australia will not undertake their share of responsibility, will not the Federal Government do -their best to carry on the work? I am anxious to see it commenced before the next election; and although certain proposals will be included in the Budget with the idea of captivating the electors, this is one that should be given prominence.
The other day I sought information as to the percentages in income tax, land tax, and Customs duty contributed by the various States, and, according to the reply I received, New South Wales contributed 42 per cent, of the income tax, 57 per cent, of land tax, and 45 per cent, of Customs duties. I understand that if a person incurs income tax or land tax in more than one State the tax has to be paid in the Melbourne office. If that be so, I should like to learn whether New South Wales is credited with the whole of the income tax and land tax paid by residents of that State, or whether some of that taxation is not credited to Victoria because it has had to be paid in Melbourne for the reason I have stated. I have noted a difference in dealing with Supply Bills in the Senate and in another place. In another place, when a Supply Bill is under consideration, Ministers have at hand officers of the different Departments, to whom they oan refer, and such a question as I have submitted could be answered almost immediately. I think it would be well if Ministers had similar assistance in the Senate.
I have raised questions in this Chamber on several occasions concerning the condition of affairs in the Public Service. Some time ago the present Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) introduced a Public Service Bill. He told us how necessary such a measure was,: and the great economy and efficiency which would follow from its passage. I opposed many of its provisions, but I stood alone. The Senate accepted the Bill on the assurance of the Minister that it would bring about economy and efficiency. It was passed months ago by this Chamber, and I do not know what may have happened to it elsewhere. I should not like to question any statement made by a member of the present Government, but if there was any truth in the statement that the Public Service Bill would result in economy and efficiency, I should like to know bow much longer we shall have to wait before it becomes an Act of this Parliament. In the matter of efficiency, the Public Service is, in my opinion, in a very unfortunate position, and largely because we have an Acting Public Service Commissioner and Acting Public Service Inspectors. The Acting Public Service Commissioner has been for the last six years in that position, and so have the Acting Public Service Inspectors. No man occupying an acting position, in which he may be dismissed at a moment’s notice, can be expected to carry out his duties so well or so fearlessly as if he occupied a permanent position. When the original Public Service Bill was passed the first Public Service Commissioner was appointed for seven years. He could not be removed by the Government, and he could be removed only by a vote of the two Houses. That gave him permanency of office, and enabled him to carry out. his duties efficiently. In the same way the Public Service Inspectors . at first appointed could not be removed except by a vote of the two Houses of this Parliament. The Public Service of the Commonwealth has increased by leaps and bounds, and we have now only the same number of Public Service Inspectors as we had at first. Even if they were permanently appointed, they would, in view of the growth of the Service, have too much work to perform. The fact is that to-day, although they should be the eyes of the Service, they occupy the position rather of overworked clerks. They are not able to travel about the Commonwealth and see that officers asked for by the different Departments are really needed. If there is any real intention on the part of the Government to bring, about efficiency and economy in the Public Service, I should like to be informed when the Bill which was intro- duced in such glowing terms is to be passed for the benefit of the Public Service.
– I’ have heard a fair amount of talk to-night about the need for the unification of our railway gauges.
– The honorable senator has not to stand for the next election.
– I realize that, and am glad of it. I have another four years of office, and can speak freely. I have had on active service a certain amount of experience with breaks of gauge. Senator Thomas has referred to General Chauvel’s report. If there is any man in the Commonwealth who should know the value of a uniform railway gauge, he is General Chauvel, who has had the same experience of breaks of gauge as I have had. In the Palestine Campaign we had to put down a line of railway for a distance of over 100 miles across the desert. We averaged about 1 mile per day.
– Of construction or of running ?
– If the honorable senator is so dense as not to know whether it was of construction or of running, I am sorry for the electors of Queensland. We laid an average of 1 mile per day of the railway on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. Our information was that the gauge of the railway with which we were to connect, and which had been laid down by the Germans, was the same as the Queensland railway gauge; but when we got a little further north we found - and I admit that it was a clever move on the part of the Germans - that there was a difference of an inch between the gauge of the line they had constructed and the Queensland railway gauge. We had partly made arrangements to secure some Queensland engines, but they would have been of no use to us, because of the gauge of the line constructed by the Germans. We connected with that line near Gaza, and then what did we do? We simply tore up the whole of the line laid by the Germans. We brought rails from India, and, I think, some from Australia, and other parts of the British Empire, and laid down a line on the 4-ft. 8-in gauge right through to Ramelah aand Ludd, aand thence to Jerusalem and on towards Damascus. We made a line of the uniform 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge throughout, because we found that it was impossible to move troops and rations with a break of gauge.
– Does the honorable senator say that troops and rations could not be moved with a break of gauge?
– Any man who says that they can does not know anything about the game. We cannot move troops, guns, and rations where there are breaks of railway gauge, and the sooner we realize that the better for ourselves.
– There was only one break of gauge in Palestine.
– No; there were two. We tore up all the railways which had been laid down, and laid a line on the 4-ft 8’^-in. gauge, and so ran our troops and rations through. 1 hope that honorable senators will take to heart the lesson that we learned in the Palestine Campaign. It is of no use to run away with the idea that we can have different railway gauges in Australia. If we have them it will be impossible to move troops with them. I may inform honorable senators that there is a 4-ft. 8^-in. line right through from Luxor to Constantinople.
– Would the honorable senator advise the unification of our gauges now, or that we should wait until the enemy is at our gates?
– We should not hesitate a moment. We should build our line by the most direct route on the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. I would alter the gauge of the section of the lines from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie quick and lively; and I would build the line throughout on the 4-ft. 8i-inch gauge. It would be quicker to pull up the railway, and establish it upon a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. If ever an enemy entered this country, they would do exactly the same thing. I would have no objection to feeders being maintained on seme other gauge. If, for instance, Victoria wants to retain her 5-ft. 3-in. gauge lines, she could do so, but they should be as feeders only to a main gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. South Australia likewise could retain iter feeder lines on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, but the main gauge must be a uniform 4 ft. 8£ in.
– Why not make the uniform gauge 3 ft. 6 in. ?
– That would only be a toy railway.
– Is not the Cape to Cairo line a 3-ft. 6$-in. gauge?
– I do not know if the honorable senator has ever travelled upon it, .but I have travelled over 1,000 miles on the Egyptian lines from Cairo to Luxor, and I know that it is 4 ft. 8$ in.
– What gauge is the Cape railway 1
– The Cape end is 3 ft. 6 in.
– I cannot speak about the Cape end of the line, but I know the main continental railways are on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, and that is the universal gauge of the world.
.- Senator MacDonald,- in his references to War Service Homes administration drew attention to the unemployment that has resulted from the policy of the Department in closing down the Canungra Mills. I indorse what my colleague from Queensland said upon that matter, which is about the only point of agreement I can find in his speech to-night. I am at a loss to understand why the Government have adopted this policy in regard to the mills in question, in view of the fact that Queensland is the only State with a large amount of pine timber for disposal, and that the other States are crying out for pine. As a large amount of Commonwealth money is sunk in those mills, some effort should be made to get a return upon the capital cost, especially in view of the fact that we are approaching a time when, under the terms of the contract, the land will revert to the original owners. The Department, in my opinion, is not looking after its own interests by allowing these mills to stand idle.
– The Department cannot sell the existing stocks of timber on hand.
– The honorable senator is merely repeating a misstatement.
– But I can confirm it.
– How is it, then, that other timber mills in Queensland are busily employed? I have no doubt that if the Commonwealth Government had not taken over the Canungra Mills, that concern also would have been working still, because, in view of the Capital invested, a firm like Lahey Brothers could not afford to allow the mills to stand idle.
– But quite a number of mills in this State are idle also.
– They are idle east, west, north and south throughout Australia.
– Nevertheless, many mills in Queensland are working, and even if on short time, they are providing employment.
Another matter of importance in connexion with War Service Homes administration is the large number of houses built by the Department, but now standing empty. I understood that certain action was being taken by the Board in Queensland to endeavour to dispose of them, but recently I have found quite a number of houses built on the group system still unoccupied, chiefly, I believe, because the price is too high to enable the soldier applicant to make his repayments satisfactorily, and because in many instances the houses have been built so far from . the city that the cost of going to and from a soldier’s place of employment would be prohibitive for men on comparatively small wages. For instance, a number of houses have been built at Sandgate, 12 miles from Brisbane. In that case the train to and from Brisbane must be an important item of expenditure for the average man. Other houses have been built at Nundah, which are too great a, distance from the station. I have noticed also that where these group houses have been built on a speculative basis there is very little variation in design and none as regards painting, with the result that the scheme generally is not so attractive as it might be.
– Were you short of paint on colours in Queensland ?
– I think there was plenty of variety in paints; but evidently the people who had the painting work could only paint in two colours - brown and white. I understand that the policy of building houses before they are applied for is not to be continued ; but, still, I think some, reduction could be made in those already erected. In view of the fact that property in Queensland has fallen somewhat from the high range of values that prevailed a little while ago, it may be necessary to cut the losses on these houses to acertain extent, with a view to their disposal and occupation.
– It is not the wish of the Department that these houses should remain empty.
– I am aware of that; but the Minister will admit, I think, that the method of solving the difficulty, namely, letting them on a weekly tenancy with a liability to eviction should a soldier applicant take them, is not likely to commend itself to the general public. Nobody would care to take a house under those conditions.
– Half the houses in Melbourne are let on a weekly tenancy.
– I think the honorable senator is wrong in stating the proportion so high as that. I believe that if an effort were made, and a reasonable offer were submitted, a number of these empty houses in Queensland could be disposed of to the general public.
– I think that is very probable, too; but our desire has been to reserve them for soldiers.
– Many of them will never be taken by returned soldiers, because, as I have stated, the price is too high, and the locality unsuitable.
Senator MacDonald this evening made some alarming statements upon the unemployed problem in Queensland, and gave us to understand that he indorsed the action of the Queensland Labour Government in causing unemployment, and then encouraging continued unemployment by the distribution of rations. While I would be the last in the world to suggest that if a man could not get work he should starve, I am surprised that the honorable senator should support the Queensland Government in throwing -men out of work, and then offering them charity.
– I do not think you understand the system that has been adopted.
– I always understood that the noble principle of the Labour movement was the right of every man to work, but evidently that has been changed in Queensland.
– You will not get a Labour vote if you want men to work in Queensland.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong. The people in my State are just as anxious to work as are the people in any other State; but, unfortunately, on account of the maladministration
– Is the honorable senator in order in addressing himself personally to me?
– As far as I have been able to gather from Senator Foil’s remarks, he has not been addressing himself direct to Senator MacDonald, but, in reply to interjections, has referred to Senator MacDonald by name. The proper practice is for an honorable senator to address the Chair, and only allude to another honorable senator in the third, not the second person.
– The maladministration of the Labour Government during the last few years has resulted in a great deal of unemployment in my State, and, perhaps, I may be permitted, through you, Mr. President, to remind Senator MacDonald that when an award in regard to the Mount Morgan mine was made by Judge McCawley, of the Arbitration Court-now the Chief Justice of Queensland - the workers refused to accept it, and went on strike against a tribunal that was established by a Labour Administration, as a result of their own efforts. Then the Labour Government subsidized them while they were out of work by drawing upon Treasury funds. That is the principle to which I objected by way of interjection; it is the principle that Senator MacDonald is prepared to advocate in this Chamber, and that he and his party stand for, but it is one which I think cannot appeal to any sane person. I stress the fact that much of the unemployment that has been caused in the State of Queensland is duo to the fact that many of the old and tried employees of the State Public Service have been thrown out into the world by the Labour Government without any apparent reason. Since then the Government have adopted a general policy of reducing the workers’ wages. Men who were earning little enough, and trying to keep body and soul together by working for a small salary, were brought by this great Government of Queensland to the Arbitration Court to have their wages reduced. They were already struggling on the bread-line. I am sorry that any honorable senator representing Queensland should come into the Senate and indorse the actions of such men as those who belong to the Labour Government of that State. I hope we shall not have any more speeches of that character from Senator MacDonald. I trust that it will not be long before the matters to which I have referred in connexion with the War Service Homes are cleared up.
– I would like, in the first place, to say a word by way of thanks and compliment to Senator Thomas for the notice that he has given me to-night on account of the few remarks regarding the unification of the railway gauges made by me during the debate on the Address-in- Reply. I am glad indeed to notice that because of Senator Thomas’ frequent and lengthy absences from the Senate and from his duty he has found it necessary to read Hansard, but I regret that when he does read Hansard he is so indolent and lazy that he can only read small portions of it, and whenever he possibly can he tries to put other honorable senators in the wrong.
– Order! The honorable senator has no right to refer to another honorable senator in offensive terms by saying that he is “indolent and lazy.” Senator Thomas did not take exception to the expression, but it is my duty to intervene in the interests of the dignity of this Chamber.
– I quite cheerfully withdraw the remark which you, Mr. President, consider offensive to the honorable senator, and I will merely say that I regret that because of his tiredness generally he has not seen fit to quote my statement in full to-night. I did not speak a few weeks ago on the question of the unification of the railway gauges as a railway expert, or as anything else; I merely ventured, in a humble way to put my views on these matters before the Senate. But, as I said by way of interjection to the honorable senator, I did not take the precaution previously to ask him whether I ought to say those things, and therefore they have evidently come under his bann. I have not put myself forward as an authority, either military, railway, or other, and I want to say quite clearly and distinctly that I am not in any way opposed to the unification of the railway gauges, nor is the State that I represent. Senator Thomas would make it appear that both the State of South Australia and I are opposed to the unification of the railway gauges. What I ventured very modestly and humbly to do was to suggest a method whereby the difficulty and cost of unification could be overcome for a considerable number of years. I suggested that as a new railway was in contemplation from Perth to Kalgoorlie it might be built on a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, thereby linking up with the Commonwealth line at Kalgoorlie. I also suggested that in South Australia, from Port Augusta to Adelaide, a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge should be constructed. That would mean a through line from Perth to Adelaide on a 4-ft. 8-Hn. gange. Then I suggested that the line from Adelaide to Melbourne might be left as it was, and the line from Melbourne to Sydney unified to 4 ft. 8 in. From Sydney to Wallangarra the line is now 4 ft. 8$ in., and it is proposed to build a new line from Brisbane to link up with that line somewhere on the border of New South Wales. That would give a clean run from Perth to Brisbane with only two changes, and those in the capital cities.
– That would be fatal.
– I accept the honorable and gallant senator as an authority on military matters. I am not questioning his views on them, but I am putting my views forward as a nonexpert, as a humble citizen of South Australia, who is looking at the matter from a citizen’s stand-point. We have heard a great deal of the expertness and smartness of military men and troops in transferring themselves from steam-boat to wharf, from wharf to steam-boat, from steam-boat to train, and so on. We have read accounts of how speedily armies were transferred from ship to train and vice versa. We have been proud of the fact that war has taught military men the art of transferring themselves and their troops with comparatively little delay from train or boat, as the case might be, and I thought that even in Australia we would be no worse off than the British were when they had to send their troops across the seas.
It is true that towards the end of the war many of the troops were entrained to France, but the American and Australian troops had to be entrained in their own countries, transferred from trains to ships, and transported over the sea. The whole process was conducted in record time. The military men have taken great credit for carrying out these operations so quickly, and they fully deserve the credit; but, viewing the prob lem in this light, and from the standpoint ©f the military men themselves, I think it would not take too long to transfer troops, if it ever became necessary, in the capital cities of Australia, with all the conveniences and appliances that exist there for the purpose. I put that suggestion forward as a temporary expedient to overcome the difficulties that are so very pronounced to-day, and to put off the greater question of unifying the gauges until a time when, perhaps, material and other things can be obtained more cheaply than is possible to-day.
– The transfer of troops would not be any easier in a city than at Wallangarra.
– I think it would. There are platforms, cranes, conveniences, and methods of feeding and attending to the men to be found in the cities that do not exist in the country. Senator Thomas quoted an interjection by Senator Duncan that a man could not take a 10-inch gun under his arm. No one, except Senator Thomas, would say that I suggested that a man could take a 10-inch gun under his arm. I said that every man had his post when it came to handling a gun, and that every man sprang to his post when it became necessary. In that way they could make very short work of the transfer of guns, ammunition, waggons, and everything else. General Chauvel has told the- people of. Australia that the alteration of the narrow gauges to wide ones is essential for defence purposes. Everybody who is thinking at the future will agree; but quite recently our representative returned from the Washington Conference and told us that we would have peace for at least twenty years. I think I was about the only member of this Chamber who expressed any doubt about the optimistic account he gave us. I said that I hoped we would have peace for twenty years, but I feared that we would not. I hoped I was wrong in my fears, but- I still feared, and, having that feeling with regard to the prospects of peace in the future, I should be one of the keenest men in this Senate in favour of a unification of the railway gauges’. My object in pointing a way out of the difficulty temporarily was simply to show that the need for the unification’ was, in my humble opinion, not . quite so urgent as it was in the opinion of some honorable senators who had spoken. I want to emphasize again that I am in favour of the unification of the main trunk lines, but I recognise that we have a very heavy burden of debt to meet, and that the present is not the best time to undertake the expenditure of large sums of money in this direction, if such expenditure can be avoided.
– The longer the unification of the gauges is postponed the more it will cost.
– I am npt one of those who believe in putting off till 60-morrow L what we ought to do to-day. When unification was a live question here the Senate was not graced by the presence of Senator Cox or myself, so we surely cannot take any blame to ourselves for the misdeeds of the past. If a proposal is brought before the Senate and the country to engage in earnest in the work of unifying, the gauges, I do not want any one to suppose that I shall oppose the unification of the main lines, but I recognise that in the back country and in the north of Australia we have many miles of railways that we would’ never have had if we had waited for wider gauges. Those railways are of immense benefit to the settlers in the out-back portions of the Commonwealth, and I would hesitate before I would assist in doing anything in the direction of having those lines taken up with the idea of providing a uniform gauge. I rose particularly to thank Senator Thomas for the courteous and gentlemanly remarks he made concerning a previous statement of mine, and also to explain to the Senate that I am not an anti-unificationist. Certain States cannot see their way at present to come into the scheme, and, so far as South Australian senators are concerned, I may say that they will always be found supporting any scheme of progress, and if unification of the railways means progress, South Australia will not prove an obstacle.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I regret very much that anything I said should have ruffled Senator Newland.
– It did not.
– I had not the slightest intention of doing so, .and was merely replying to a statement which he had made in a previous debate, and which was somewhat different to my own views. If anything I said or my manner in any way annoyed the honorable senator, I very much regret it.
– I did not intend to delay the passage of the Supply Bill, but I feel compelled to dissociate myself from certain statements which have been made. Senator Foll and Senator MacDonald criticised the Government for allowing the Canungra saw-mills to remain idle. It is undoubtedly regrettable that those mills have been closed down, but throughout 4he length and breadth of Australia private saw-mills are idle for the same reason. The great saw-mills in Western Australia have been compelled to cease producing simply because they cannot dispose of their stocks at a profitable rate, and if undertakings conducted by keen business men cannot make a profit, what earthly hope have the Government of disposing of their timber at a rate which will show a profit, or even avoid loss?
– The timber mills in Western Australia are controlled by keen, experienced business men, and they cannot carry on profitably.
– Yes; that is the position in all the States. I have on some occasions been a severe critic of’ the Government, but I believe in giving every man a f air deal, and I think the Government is not getting quite a fair deal in this matter from the press and members of the public. Some honorable senators and members in another place do not appear to have appreciated the difficulties of the Government, and the Repatriation Department in particular, in dealing with the production of timber and the erection of dwellings. When the Repatriation Department in Victoria was endeavouring to meet the demands of returned soldiers in the matter of houses, no private person could get a firm to contract for the erection of a dwelling. The conditions were abnormal, and the Arbitration Court assumed the power of making certain of its awards retrospective. In these circumstances, how could any one venture to make a contract for a fixed amount when the calculations would be upset by retrospective awards ? The Government undertook to ‘erect houses for £700 or £800, and after contracts had been concluded and settlements made retrospective awards were enforced, and from £10 to £20 had to be paid on those dwellings. The Government had no hope in the world of recovering the amount from the purchasers of the houses.
– Their estimates were all upset.
– Yes ; and the Government cannot be blamed on that account. A contractor would not make a firm offer, and, instead of the work being carried out at a fixed price, it was undertaken on a commission basis. In my professional capacity, dozens of cases have been brought before me where disputes have arisen between the builder and the purchaser, and in a recent case, where the estimated cost was £500, the builder rendered his account for £900, and claimed 10 per cent, on that basis. After going through my client’s accounts, I was compelled to advise him to settle at £800, which was £300 more than that estimated. It is unreasonable to expect a Government concern to carry on where private enterprise cannot, because, in the former, the men are not forced to develop the same keenness. I desire to give the Government credit for carrying on under unprecedented difficulties, and it is a wonder that they have been able to do as well as they have done.
– Many houses were constructed in 1920 and 1921 at a fixed price.
– That may have been so in Queensland, but, generally speaking, the position was as I have stated. From 1919 until the beginning of this year it was practically impossible to get a firm to contract at anything like a reasonable price. Contractors would fix a price, but it was so high that, if accepted, they could not possibly incur any loss. One could not do business on such a basis.
On the question of the unification of. the railway gauges, Senator Cox gave some interesting particulars concerning problems of the break of gauge question in Palestine, but I desire to inform honorable senators that the position in Palestine, Northern Egypt, and in Asia Minor cannot be compared with the breaks of gauge in Australia at Seymour or Benalla, and Albury, where great difficulty would be experienced in manoeuvring troops in the field. In dealing with huge distances, however, such as . between Perth and Brisbane, does any one suggest that it would be practicable to transport troops and horses without detraining them? It is ridiculous. Troops and horses would have to be detrained in any case, and that would be undertaken at breaks of gauge stations, where it would be just as easy to load them on to a train of another gauge as to put them back on the same train. If troops whose base was at Melbourne were engaged in the vicinity of Sydney, difficulty would undoubtedly be experienced with their supplies, because everything would have to be transhipped at Albury. But the” defence of Australia will not be conducted on those lines. If the Japanese, for instance, descended on Queensland, it is not likely that we would transport large numbers of Victorian troops to the northern State. If we did that, it is easy to imagine the enemy taking advantage of the situation and making a descent upon, say, Cape York. Then, when we had rushed all our troops up there the enemy wouldreembark his troops and invade Victoria in the absence of the troops, for ships travel faster than troops could be brought by land. Our main trunk lines are the very reverse of strategic lines, as there is hardly one point around the Australian coastline where an enterprising enemy could not land and rush its forces across these main lines and interrupt the servicemore than any break of gauge possibly could.
– Has the honorable senator read a military report to the effect that it would take fifty-four days to transport troops from Adelaide to Brisbane with the present breaks of gauge?
– Does the honorable senator imagine that Queensland would send troops to Western Australia?
– Queensland would have nothing to do with her troops. They are Australian troops.
– The Government and the staff would be bound to take notice of public opinion.
– The Government would be supreme ; but they would not be bound to be influenced by public opinion.
– If the Government despatched the whole of the troops at their disposal to any particular point on the coast, as the honorable senator suggests, they would be playing into the hands of the enemy, who would then concentrate in a spot where there was little likelihood of meeting any resistance, because of the absence of the troops elsewhere. The defence of Australia is on the sea.
– It is ridiculous for a military officer to talk such stupid rot.
– Then, if my suggestion is ridiculous, where is the need for having a uniform gauge so that troops could he quickly concentrated at one particular point. In dealing with this matter we cannot forget that our burden of taxation at present is just about as much as we can bear. Our first problem, it appears to me, is to bring more people here to share that burden, and then we can consider the question of the unification of railway gauges. In my view, the first thing to do is to bring more people here, and settle them profitably on the land. We have existed in safety in this country for at least 100 years, and we have suffered no great discomfort or inconvenience through the adoption of different railway gauges.
– The honorable senator has not travelled, and does not know the inconvenience of a break of gauge.
– Because Senator Cox has had to suffer the slight discomfort due to a break of gauge, he is prepared to plunge Australia into the expenditure of millions without any thought of the consequences.
I have one word to say on the matter of defence. I read with very great interest General Chauvel’s report. Though I have now no active part in the Defence Force I still converse frequently with my old comrades, and I am in a position to say that the great burden of the complaint of battalion commanders, on whom the real burden of training devolves, is that they and their adjutants are compelled to spend too much time in their offices compiling reports. I hope that0 some serious effort will be made to do away with the necessity for all this paper work. If we are to have any sort of an efficient nucleus - because that is all our Army at present amounts to - we shall have to cut out all this office work, and let our battalion commanders and the staff concentrate on the actual training of the troops.
– In the absence of Senator Benny, who, I understand, is preparing to debate the situation, but is waiting until the hands of the clock pass round to 9 a.m., I propose to occupy the time of honorable senators for a few minutes. I did not join in the criticism of Ministers for delaying the introduction of this Supply Bill until this afternoon, because I had’ a copy of it in my box, and had an opportunity of looking it over since early last week. If honorable senators have any criticism to offer they have had a week in which to make up their minds as to what they will say.
Having regard to the claim of the Government that they intend to provide better postal and telephonic facilities, there are two matters of great importance to the man on the land to which I should like to refer. In many outlying districts settlers are so situated in contrast to town dwellers that they are unable to have the advantage of telephone communication, and so cannot get into touch with centres of population. I wish- to suggest that if, by some means, the Commonwealth Government could arrange with the State Governments for the general use of telephones installed at railway sidings and railway stations, many persons who are not in a position to make use of general telephone lines would gladly pay for the use of the facilities afforded at railway sidings and stations. This would enable them, in the event of sickness or fire, or some important contingency, to get into touch with some centre. I hope that the Government will take notice of this suggestion.
Another matter of importance to people in outlying districts is that in the delivery of registered mails, a mailman who passes many farms delivers registered matter under a system by which notice is given to a farmer that on a certain day the mailman will pass his homestead, and will leave the registered matter addressed to him. If the farmer happens to be away from home at the time the mailman calls the registered package is taken back to the post-office by the mailman, and the farmer is then given notice that he must come in to the post-office to obtain it. I suggest that the simple remedy for that state of things is that, when registered mail matter is taken back to the post-office, the farmer should have the right to send word to the post-office that if the mailman will call at his place at a certain hour, he will be ready to receive the parcel.
– We cannot have a mailman running a route, altering his schedule.
– I da not suggest that he should alter his schedule, but that the farmer to whom registered mail matter is addressed should, if he misses it on the mailman’s first trip, be able to write into the post-office, and say that he will be ready to receive it on his next trip, and should not be obliged to go into the postoffice for his registered mail. Those are the only two matters I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister on this occasion. I have taken up less time than any other speaker, so far, on the motion for the first reading of the Bill, and I have directed attention to two matters of very great importance to the man on the land.
– If no other honorable senator desires to continue the debate, I may be allowed to make a few observations on some of the comments made to-day. I should like, first of all, to say a word or two on some very striking observations made by our esteemed friend, Senator Gardiner. I draw particular attention to the honorable senator because of one thing that he said. He said, “ I am not now speaking for my party. I am trying to speak for Australia.” As the honorable senator was speaking at variance with, his party, I am justified in concluding that his party speaks not for Australia, but for itself. I am inclined to that belief in view of what followed. The honorable senator charged the Government with being very remiss because, although Australia is . staggering under a burden of debt, they have not brought down some well-thought-out plan for relieving the overburdened citizens of this country. He recognised, quite fairly, that having made that observation, he was under some obligation to submit a plan. I invited him to do so. He did not shrink from the invitation. He submitted a two-barrelled plan. One of his proposals was to sweep away the Tariff, and I specially invite the attention of the industrial centres from which. Senator Gar diner and his party so largely draw their support to the avowed declaration of the Leader of the party in this Chamber, and one of its foremost spokesmen. If the honorable senator had his will, he would sweep away the measure of Protection under which our industries have been built up, and which, I venture to say, is still necessary for. their preservation.
The honorable senator’s other plan was more ambitious, and rather more threatening. It was that we should abolish the capitalistic system, as he termed it, and resort to a full draft of Socialism. He told us that unemployment has marked every country which continues to live under our present system. He referred to Great Britain, the United States of America, and the Commonwealth aa countries in which there is a good deal of unemployment, and that he suggested was an inevitable product of the system, under which we live. He ventured to suggest a remedy, and it was Socialism. I do not propose to argue whether Socialism ‘ is a better system than that which we have adopted, but’ I want to say that the present Government appealed to the country as distinct and definite opponents of Socialism. In the circum– stances, it would be a gross piece of treachery for the Government, having obtained the mandate of the country as supporters of. the present system, if they now attempted, to introduce Socialism.
– Did Senator Gardiner refer to Russia?
– I was going to say that if there is any desire to consider the merits of this old-time suggestion of Senator Gardiner it is scarcely necessary to say that Russia to-day presents the most awful example of what will follow the footsteps of those nations that adopt such a system. Senator Gardiner told us that, in considering Russia, it was - necessary to bear in mind that the rest of the world would not trade with her. He sought to convey the impression that she is in her present parlous condition because she has been cut off from trade with other nations.
– She was attacked from all .sides ; and that was hardly a fair deal for Socialism or any other system.
– I do not know that Russia was attacked from all sides ; but I do know that she is met from all sides now with gifts of food and support.
– She is attacked” by her own people.
– There are capitalistic reports of all kinds.
– What is the use of fooling with the question? Senator MacDonald must be aware that, under the communistic system the land was taken from the settlers, and when the attempt was made to ‘bring all food into a common pool, the farmers declined to produce more than was necessary for their own purposes ; and it was owing to the pressure of starvation, due to the action of the primary producers, that the Governments in the cities were forced to give them back their land. The . people ofthis nation are to-day being relieved by the generosity of the world, on whom they declared war as much as the world declared war upon them. They are, at the . same time, doing what the world did not do, because they are sending agents of their propaganda to undermine the Governments of other countries. In such involutions as occurred in South Africa it has been possible to trace the hand of the Soviet Government.
– ‘Good old capitalisticyarns’!
– I thought the honorable senator was one who objected to interjections.
– There was not much good in my objecting.
– Order.! I must ask the honorable senator to withdraw that remark. I point out to him that he received the full protection of the Chair; and in saying . that there wasnot much good in his objecting to interjections, he is making a reflection on the Chair which I ask him now to withdraw.
– I withdraw it so far as you are concerned, sir.
SenatorE. D. MILLEN. - In reference to interjections, I may say that Senator MacDonald should, before going tobed to-night, pray fervently, if he ever prays, for the continuation of the Standing Orders. He came here to-day and made certain statements regarding purchases by the War Service Homes Commission, and when he was . asked to give those simple particulars which would enable identification of the transactions to which he referred, what did he do ? He said, “ I am not going to stand here to be cross-examined. For God’s sake, Mr. President, give me the protection of the Standing Orders! “
– I had not the particulars for which honorable senators asked.
– Then why did not the honorable senator get them before he came here and made the statements he did make? When he found himself in the position in which I and other honorable senators rightly sought to place him, he was under an obligation to give some additional particulars to enable the transactions to be identified. If, however, the honorable gentleman merely came here for the purpose of creating an atmosphere of suspicion; if he thought that, by making these vague chargeshe could attach some odium to some one and then run away ‘from his statements, possibly he succeeded to some extent, though not in this Chamber. Any honorable gentleman coming ‘here under -cover of the privileges that necessarily extend to all members of this Chamber should, at any rate in the ranks of -decent and honest men, give the particulars which ‘I asked for to ‘enable these transactions ‘to be identified. I have sought in the “time that . has elapsed since the honorable isenator spoke to trace some of ‘these transactions in the Department, and, so far as I can gather, he refers to ‘the purchase of certain areas included in what. are . known as the Queensland timber transactions. To pick out individual blocks in any large area that was bought in the aggregate, that is, blocks sold evidently at a later date for some reason, is, I submit, a -most misleading way of dealing with the business. When viewing that transaction as a whole, one should bear in mind the circumstances under which it was made. The Public Accounts Committee, which consists of members of the two Houses, have inquired into the . purchase, . and declared it tobe quite justified.
Let me put another witness in the . box., and a witness, by the way, who is , no friend of mine or the War Service Homes Commissioner. I refer to a gentleman named Mr Trapp, who recently made a number -of wild statements in the press concerning the administration of the Department. He said . that that particular transaction was an excellent one. Whatever may be said about isolated blocks here and there cannot affect the transaction as a whole, and I repeat that this purchase has been thoroughly investigated by the Public Accounts Committee with the result indicated. Then Senator MacDonald said that increased prices were paid for certain ether lands. I think he is here referring to timber lands, and it seems to me that the explanation for any advance in price is so simple that it would occur to any one who wanted to ascertain the truth rather than to level a charge against the Government. The value of these lands is not so much in the land itself as in the timber rights, and there is very good reason for this advance, as I shall explain. No doubt honorable senators are aware that the Queensland Government does not fix a definite royalty, but offers the timber rights at auction, with the result that timber men submit prices at so much per 100 feet royalty on the timber, and in recent times this royalty has increased from 100 per cent, to 150 per cent. It. has gone up from a few shillings to 15s. or 16s. per 100 feet. If you take an area of country, and particularly rich timber country such as exists in Queensland, and if you realize that there are several hundreds of feet of timber in one tree, and allow for an increase cf from 10s. to 15s. per 100 feet in the royalty, you will see that it will not be. necessary to have very many trees to the acre to represent an increase of many pounds per acre for the timber rights. It may be said, of course, that these lands are not Crown lands. That is quite true, but as the tender prices for Crown areas advance, so there is a corresponding increase in the price for all timber rights.
I pass now to one statement which Senator MacDonald quoted, apparently from a kindred spirit, Mr. Twigg Patterson. I need hardly remind honorable senators that any statement made on the authority of Mr. Twigg Patterson requires verification. This is the gentleman who declared recently that this Government had lost by fraud £168,000 in connexion with War Service activities; that Parliament, not merely the Government, is corrupt, and that his organization is going to clear the present occupants of these benches out of Parliament, and fill them with young, honest, patriotic, nation-loving representatives, such as himself. Mr. Patterson might well be asked for something more definite than his vague statement, which he has often made, and which has been repeated in this chamber.
I come now to the question of soldiers’ homes. Senator MacDonald made a statement, and, I presume, believed it - though it astonished me that any one should* make it - that the loss incurred over timber transactions in connexion with these homes was to be recovered from the returned soldiers themselves. There was not the slightest justification for that statement. Whatever losses have been made, must be shouldered by the Government. This announcement has been made again and again. It is absurd to suggest that losses made on timber lands will be spread over and added to the cost of homes bought by soldiers through the Department.
– Was that done in Hanman’s case?
– I shall come to that case directly. As I have already said, the Government have announced not once, but several times, that losses incurred in connexion with the timber transactions will be borne by the Government, and I want to stress that point, because Senator MacDonald said that the Government were trying to recoup themselves for the mistakes made by penalizing individual returned soldiers. There is not a vestige of truth in that statement. The honorable senator also suggested that there had been a number of evictions. There have, but there have been mighty few, when we consider the number of homes that have been built, and the fact that a large number of occupants went into possession without having paid any deposit at all. It would be to imagine a paradise that does not exist to expect that, in all the circumstances, there should not have been some evictions ; but the Department can put up its record of evictions before any fair body of men, and in the full confidence that the verdict would be that it had brought some of its troubles upon itself by being a little too lenient in the first place.
I come now to the consideration of Hanman’s case. This gentleman had a house built for him at a cost considerably in excess of the amount provided by the Act; but an arrangement was made by which he was to get it at £775, the Commissioner to advance £700, and the applicant to provide the balance of £75. He entered into possession, and not only did he fail to find the £75 deposit, but he declined to make any provisionto meet even his current liability. In fact, he said that he would pay when he could and how he could. As he failed to keep his engagement, and was falling into arrears week after “ week, and showed no disposition to pay, but, instead, treated the Department in the most cavalier fashion, there was only one thing to do, unless, of course, this country is. prepared to provide free homes for all returned soldiers who decline to pay, and that was to terminate the tenancy of a man who was trying to impose on the Department.
– He said he was asked to pay £925.
– That was the original amount, but the agreement was for £775, of which sum he was to find £75 deposit, and he declined to go on with the agreement.
– The first estimate was for £700, according to the evidence given before the Court.
– That was the estimated cost of the house.
– And it jumped from £700 to £975.
– The actual cost was greatly in excess of the estimate, but that does not affect the position. He had agreed to pay £775.
– And the house may be worth £975 to-day.
– That is quite true, but the man was called upon, and had agreed, to pay £775. He then said it was unsuitable, and he would not keep his current payments going. In the circumstances I submit that tie Department was entitled to ask the man to get out.
– The Department merely did its duty to the taxpayer in that case.
– But a contract with a returned soldier should be honoured.
– Yes, and when a returned soldier makes a contract with the Government he should keep it also.
– But his claim is that the Department broke its contract first.
– The simple fact is that the contract was made for £775, and I say he broke it. Senator MacDonald’s statement would lead one to believe that there were many such cases. All sorts of ridiculous statements concerning the Department are being made in supposedly reputable journals. I read the other day in a leading article in a journal, which no doubt claims to be the leading newspaper in Brisbane, a statement that the War Service Homes Commission had 3,000,000,000 feet of timber stacked in Victoria. Obviously that statement is an absurdity. Any yarn, apparently, can be circulated against the Government, and is believed.
The number of empty houses was referred to by Senator MacDonald. He said, I think, that there were about 200 empty houses in’ Queensland, while several soldiers were clamouring to get into them. We have not that number of houses in Queensland, and unfortunately . we have very few soldier applicants now. And the reason is this. When the Department started operations these men, attracted probably by the prospect of owning their own homes, applied in great numbers for homes to be built for them. Now it appears that they are not coming forward. Some of them say that they think they can get better worth elsewhere, and, anyhow, they do not like to take over an obligation to pay extending over so many years. In other words, they have withdrawn their applications, and we now have a certain number of houses that are unoccupied. It has been said in explanation that they are in unsuitable localities.
– I think Senator Poll raised the question of suitability of location.
– I believe the honorable senator is quite right, but at all events Senator MacDonald urged that one reason why these applications had been withdrawn was that there was unemployment in Queensland. I do not think the War Service Homes Administration can be charged with that, at all events.
This brings me to the point that apparently the Commonwealth Government are held responsible for unemployment, and I ask the Senate to consider that “we had 260,000 men who came back from the war. What in normal times is considered to- be -a fair percentage of unemployed in this country ? Let the percentage in normal times be compared with the percentage of the 260,000 returned soldiers who went to the war and came back, and are now unemployed. I cannot say exactly what the number of unemployed is to-day. It is regrettable that there are any,, but the percentage is surprisingly and gratifyingly small.’ Speaking from memory, the trade, unions who keep a register of their unemployed membersgive from 2 to 8’ per cent, as being unemployed. I should imagine that a fair average would be about 5 per cent. It must be remembered that these are skilled tradesmen, and not men who have been unsettled by the war. Take the figure of 5 percent., double it, and apply it to these returned soldiers, bearing in mind the experiences through which they have gone. They have slipped out of their niche in life, and have to’ get back to it. Ten per cent, of unemployment, among these men could not be regarded, as. abnormal, and certainly would compare favorably with the percentage in other countries. Ten. per cent, would mean that 26,000 of the- men would be unemployed, but I do not think that, the number is. anything approaching that. The percentage of returned soldiers, unemployed to-day will compare favorably with the percentage of unemployment in the ranks of the civilian section of the population.
– There is notthe same moral obligation in the- case of the. civilian as the soldier.
- Senator MacDonald said that there was the same moral obligation to prevent the ‘men starving. If the Commonwealth Government be responsible, the effect of its failure and its sins of omission and’ commission must be found equally throughout Australia; but here I can remind the honorable gentleman that the first occasion on which unemployment reared its ugly head in recent times was- in Brisbane two . and. a. half years ; ago.
– It was . raised at every general election.
– Who was it chased the Minister down there.?
– Professional leaders of the unemployed.
– They were the men to whom the Queensland. Government; had: been appealing shortly before.
It was in the State of Queensland, controlled for so long by a Labour Government, that unemployment first became an awkward public question ; but to say that there are unemployed in Brisbane merely because men have gone from, the other States to. find work in the State in which unemployment first made its appearance, is to talk utter nonsense. Unemployment was heard of in Brisbane before it was heard of here, and it has grown ten times faster there than it has grown here.
– I have received deputations of unemployed ten years before the- question was talked of here.
– I again remind the honorable senator that he is losing his fondness for the Standing Orders.
I pass- on to the remarks of Senator Thomas. The peculiarity of Senator Thomas is that he always wants something definite, and now he is asking for something definite regarding the unification of . the railway gauges. I have heard some arguments to-night . for and against that proposal. I venture to say that everybody would like a uniform gauge. There is no room for argument as to to its desirability, and the only question is whether it should be done now or at a later date. Senator Thomas put forward what, to’ me, is an unanswerable argument, namely, that if we cannot . afford- the money required today we have to bear- in, mind- that it. will cost, us a. much larger sum later on.Railway building will not stop in the- meantime. There is a proposal now to build’ several railways in New South Wales on the Victorian gauge. I do not know how that fact, strikes honorable senators, but I can hardly think it a businesslike procedure to build such railways while this question is being considered, and when, in theory, a uniform gauge has been approved. Senator Thomas, wants- to know the attitude of the Government. The Government, as Senator Thomas knows,, is trying to get an agreement with the- States to carry this matter through, but he says, “ If you fail, in this, what then? ” I do not thinkthatwhen we are engaged- in negotiations’ it is wise to proceed to- discuss alternatives. There seems’ to me to be a great disadvantage in doing that. The Government does, not despair of’ securing an arrangement’ which will enable’ the uniform gauge to be adopted. I do not know that
I need say any mote than that, but I think the Senate will recognise that if we should come finally to the position that a majority of four States in the union are willing to adopt the proposal, and that one State stands out, the four States are not likely to submit to having their interests frustrated in perpetuity because of a disinclination of one State to join them in the enterprise.
Senator Thomas also asked me a question regarding amounts of taxation collected. I presume that he referred to a question which was on the business-paper the other day, in which he asked for the percentage of returns of land, Customs, and income taxation raised in the different States. I am afraid that Senator Thomas could not have given to my answer that consideration which I think its importance deserved. It stated -
The Commissioner of Taxation explains that the statistics kept, do not show what portions of the income tax, the war-time profits tax, and the estate duty assessed in the Central Taxation Office are applicable to each State. The figures regarding income tax and those in the answer to question 2 (land tax) are therefore approximate only.
That is the information I gave to Senator Thomas then, and I must assume that he has overlooked that portion of it.
– The Minister, it appears, cannot tell us how much New South Wales actually pays.
– The amounts are approximate, and one must assume that when officers trained to the work state an approximate amount, it is reasonably accurate.
Senator Thomas also wished to know about the Public Service Bill. I cannot be certain that I have taken his words literally, but I think he said that the Government represented that the Bill would bring about greater efficiency, and would be of considerable advantage to the country and the Public Service, and he wanted to know if the Government to going on with it. In the GovernorGeneral’s Speech it was announced that the Bill had passed this Senate, and we were asked tq1 send a message to the other House to revive the Bill and proceed with’ it. That is the answer to Senator Thomas’ question. The Government is proceeding with the Bill, and if it has not made such progress with that and other legislation as Senator Thomas desires,
I hope he. will place the blame on the right shoulders. The .delay is not the fault of the Government.
Senator MacDonald in passing, and Senator Foll at greater length, referred to the question of the Canungra Saw Mills. I would like to thank Senator Elliott for his remarks in that connexion. They set out the position as it is known to any honorable senator who likes to recall the circumstances of the time - a position so obviously ignored by those who attempt to criticise the Department. The mills were purchased at a. time when it was not possible to get the material -necessary for building the homes. After that, somehow or other, there came a “bolt from the blue,” not only in the timber trade, but in other trades also. Honor-, able senators can learn all about that if they question the merchants in Flinders- - lane or any member of the mercantile community. For some reason or otherthere was a great slump in values, and this depreciated the stocks, of timber that we held.
– The mills were good value when they were purchased.
– That is so. It was no good carrying on the mills to sell timber to the public. We cannot sell the timber to-day. I do not hesitate to say that the big men in the timber trade of Australia will not buy from us, and the small men dare not. Rightly or wrongly, the Government is anxious to quit, but’ personally I am not disposed to give a thing away because there is some sign of an understanding among those who are interested in buying. I do not think that we should sacrifice the property we have under the impulse of an undue impatience. Therefore, whilst the Government is endeavouring to quit, and considers that it is a right thing to clean the? business up,, it is not prepared to sacrifice the mills, and incur a bigger loss than is justified.
– Does the Government use any of the timber in other Departments ?
– It would not pay to start the mill for the supply of timber to other Departments.
– What about ths timber already cut?
– I do not know what they have cut. They are trying to sell in the log, and I .do not know that the other Departments could take the timber in that form. I think they have been communicated with, but now that the honorable gentleman has raised thequestion I shall inquire into it again to-morrow.
asked two questions. The first was whether something could not be done to use the railway telephone lines in the interests of settlers. It is twenty-five years since I tried to get the railways to do that. It rests with them. If Senator Garling thinks it is an excellent scheme, and has a chance of success, I suggest that he should spend a few weeks at the door of the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales, and see what progress he can make. I tell him frankly that I could make no progress.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Senator E. D. MILLEN (Now- South
Wales) [10.30].- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Supply Bill No. 2, which is for a period of one month, totals £1,763,025, and is made up as follows: -
It will be noticed that the provision for ordinary services of the Departments in the present Supply Bill is £198,825 less than that provided for in the first Supply Bill. This reduction is mainly in the provision for salaries, because under the present system of fortnightly pays it was necessary to provide for three pay days in the first Supply Bill, whereas in the present measure provision is made for only two pay days, the latter of which falls on the 1st September. The provision under Treasurer’s Advance is necessary to provide money for continuing works in progress at the close of last financial year. This money is being applied only to works which have already been approved by
Parliament. In the first Supply Bill it was necessary to provide under Treasurer’s Advance for moneys to furnish working credit in the Printing and other Trust Accounts. This expenditure is not recurring. In addition, there is an unexpended balance remaining from the amount granted in the first Supply Bill. It has been found possible, therefore, to reduce the provision under Treasurer’s Advance by £450,000. The provision for refunds of revenue in the present Bill is £100,000, as compared with. £170,000 provided in Supply Bill No. 1. This reduction is largely on account of the refunds of revenue , received from direct taxation, which were unusually heavy in the month of July. The total of the two Supply Bills for ordinary departmental expenditure is £2,924,875, which is made up by £1,561,850 under Supply Bill No. 1, and £1,363,025 under Supply Bill No.
– I do not wish to delay’ the passage of the Bill by speaking at any length; but, if in order, I wish to take this opportunity of replying to the astonishing statement made by Senator Payne on the first reading of the Bill. In dealing with the question of carbide I quoted a letter written by a Sydney firm, and Senator Payne adopted the extraordinary attitude of saying that I had acted unfairly because I had not read some Tasmanian business man’s reply to that communication. The astonishing suggestion is made that, in buildingup my argument against what I regard as a pernicious system, I should be compelled to put the other side ; and the suggestion is so unusual that I cannot allow’ it to pass without comment. I shall watch the future actions of the honorable senator in this Chamber, who will have to justify his attitude to-day by putting both sides of any question on which he speaks. I shall continue to put my case in my own way; and I will leave honorable senators to judge whether, in putting the position from my own polk of view, which I do sometimes somewhat savagely, I have not always endeavoured to fight fairly. As far as the provisions of this Bill are concerned, I have little to say. It is an ordinary Supply Bill, and, as the Budget-papers will shortly be before us, I shall not further detain the Senate, because I do not think it is the general desire that we should sit here all night.
. - Senator Gardiner has charged me with having unfairly attacked him in con»nexion with the manufacture of carbide in Tasmania. I do not wish to be at all uncharitable to the honorable senator, but it appeared to me to be strange that, when he had received a letter from Slade and Company, in which it was clearly stated that the expenses incurred in the manufacture of carbide in Canada amounted to about £8 lis. per ton, and he had received information from the officer in charge of the carbide company to the effect that those figures were based upon pre-war costs, he did not use the information at his disposal in refutation of the statement. I do not think I have acted discourteously in saying that he acted unfairly when he declined to quote the statement of a gentleman who had written to him personally. I have nothing to withdraw; and if, in endeavouring to make out a . case, I received a’ communication from any person showing that my statements were based on false premises, I would not withhold the information at my disposal.
i. - A good deal of attention was directed to me by Senator Foll in connexion with unemployment in Queensland. The honorable senator referred to the Mr Morgan workers-
– If the honorable senator can show me where there is any reference in this Bill to the Mr Morgan workers, I shall allow him to proceed; but otherwise I shall have to rule him out of order*
– The general argument has been-
– The honorablesenator cannot reply to statements which! have been made on the first reading, unless he can connect them with the provisions of this Bill.
– Then I shall leave it until some other time. But I would like to reply to some of the remarks which were made during the first-reading debate.
– The honorable senator would be in order in making a passing reference, but he cannot debate the matter. On the first reading of the Supply Bill in the Senate honorable senators have .the opportunity of addressing themselves to any matter of public interest, whether it is relevant to the Bill or not; but when the second-reading stage has been reached, it is clearly laid down in the Standing Orders that only matters relevant to the Bill can be discussed.
– I do not know whether the matter is relevant, but Senator Gardiner was allowed to reply to statements made by Senator Payne.
– The honorable senator must not follow such a bad example.
– I understood Senator Gardiner and Senator Payne to be making personal explanations.
– I rise to order. Is Senator Earle in order in saying that Senator MacDonald must not follow my “ bad example “ ?
– If Senator Gardiner takes exception to the expression I must ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Earle) to withdraw it.
– I am quite prepared to do that.
– If I am not allowed to follow Senator Gardiner’s, example I shall resume my seat, and await some other opportunity of discussing the matter which I desire to bring forward.
– We shall have the Budget-papers to-morrow, and the honorable senator will be able to talk on whatever subject he wishes.
– The previous debate is closed, and the only person. having the right of reply was the Minister for . Repatriation . (Senator E. D. Millen). The Minister having replied the debate is now closed, and as it is clearly laid down in the Standing Orders that matters referred to in a previous debate cannot be re-opened, . and that a passing reference -can only be made, I cannot allow the honorable senator to proceed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
– Under the Prime Minister’s Department there is an : item, “ . Commercial Agency, ‘Paris.” . It will, I think, be within the iremembrance of honorable senators, andthe Minister for Repatriation (SenatorE . D. Millen) that, on a previous Supply Bill and on the Appropriation Bill last year, Iraised. a question of the adequacy of our representation in -Paris. I then pointed out that Australians visiting Paris were unable to obtain any information of a useful character from the Australian representatives in that city, as the . directories, and such other publications which would enable persons who wished to do business with as, were, in some cases, five years old. I think it -was -said, during -the course of the debate,that persons visitingParis were dependent upon Australia House, in London, for whatever information ‘they desired, ‘and the blame ‘was attributed to Australia House, if people -who wanted information could not get -what they required. I desire to know if that condition of affairs stillprevails, or whether it has been remedied?
– I can recall the honorable senator bringing the matter up on a previous occasion, and pursuant to my promise representations were made to the Department concerned, when an . assurance was given that steps would be taken to remedy ‘the defects. I cannot saythat I have inquired recently,but some time ago, I was assured that the position had been rectified.
. -Under the Attorney-General’s Department there is an item “ Tribunals and
Industrial . Peace Act, £500.” The Industrial Peace Act was passed by “this’ Parliament more thantwo years ago, with the object of achieving industrial peace by means other than compulsory arbitration. We were assured at the time that the object of the Government was to get persons engaged in industries, whether as employers or employees, to settle their differences, as far as possible, by something in the nature of round-table conferences; but as far as I know, the only ‘tribunal that has been brought into existence under this Act is the Coal Tribunal in New South Wales.
– Yes, but with its sub-Boards.
-But more than once I have asked, on notice, in “this Chamber, . when the Government would make the Act operative, and when ‘Steps would be taken to establish the Boards intended to be created for the purpose of bringing about industrial peace. There may have been a good deal of criticism of the various . provisions of the measure, but its object was received with approval and support by every honorable . senator, and I would like to ‘ask again what I have repeatedly asked before, if it is intended togive . effect to the Act in regard to other industries ? It must be remembered that there are -other important industries in the Commonwealth beside the coal industry.
– I cannot recall the questions submitted by the honorable senator or the answers given, but the position is that there are many matters connected with our arbitration system which are in process of re-sifting.
– They were when the Bill was introduced.
– Quite so. but towards the end of last year an understanding was arrived . at by the various State Premiers in conference withthe Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in regard to certain amendments in the arbitration laws - apparently there is a hesitancy in some quarters to carry these through - the effect of which was to restrain the Commonwealth, as it were, from pushing on with the creation of the tribunals to which the honorable senator has referred. In any case, no other industry but the coal industry has applied for or shown the, necessity for the creation of a tribunal.
– The- Act does- not contemplate- action on thepart of the industry. It contemplates action on the part of the Government.
– But some action is- necessary before a tribunal iscreated.
– Action is necessary in regard to the shearing industry .
– The Arbitration Court has been dealing with shearing. I am not an advocate,” of overlapping tribunals. However, the whole matter is now in the balance. There are many people doubtful as to what ought to be done; The Government made up their mind to endeavour- to secure cooperation with the States, but have not made the progress they hoped to make in this respect, although that’ is no reason for saying that they do not anticipate making it in a reasonable time.. In the meantime, it is not desirable to create- a multiplicity of tribunals when there, is every reasonable prospect of the adoption of another course which . may render them unnecessary.
.- When the Industrial Peace Bill was introduced there was a good deal of consternation in industrial circles, and while the Bill was before Parliament the gentleman who then occupied the position of President of the Arbitration Court made some comment upon the measure and upon the policy of the Government. It was suggested, so far as he was concerned, that the legislation in question would have the effect of undermining the Arbitration Court. Whether he was right or wrong in that contention time- and circumstances, of course, alone can prove, but the- fact remains that the measure was welcomed by both Houses as a step towards the achievement of industrial peace. However, the only tribunal created under it has been the Coal Tribunal. The Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) says that there has been no application, for a. tribunal on the part of any other industry; but as far as I recollect the provisions of the Act, it- is not necessary to have an application on the part of an industry to be brought under its provisions. On more than one occasion I have; upon notice, asked the Government when they . proposed to apply the measure to other important industries in Australia, and the replies, so far as I’ remember, were suggestive that they had the matter under- consideration. I am of opinion that if the Act had been brought into effective operation in regard to all important and staple industries in Australia, we would have gone a long way towards the establishment of industrial peace; but as the- decisions’ of the- Coal Tribunal have been called in question by Western Australian senators, we ought to ask ourselves whether we are prepared to vote a month’s Supply in connexion with this particular- matter, and whether we ought not to have some information as to whether the Act has been put on the statute-book for one industry only, and not for the benefit of all industries in Australia. If this legislation was intended for one industry only, and in that respect has proved so unsatisfactory as to evoke criticism from honorable senators from Western Australia, the question is whether we- are justified’ in voting money to perpetuate it.
– An industry cannot be forced to go to a tribunal.
– But the Government can bring Boards into existence which will represent both employers and’ employees. It was to be an alternative method to the system of. conciliation and’ arbitration initiated in this Parliament as far back as 1902. Although it was ah” alternative the President of the Arbitration Court at tie time that legislation was introduced felt himself compelled to comment upon it as being calculated to undermine the existing system for . the settlement of disputes between employers and employees. Before we are asked, month after month, to pass money in this connexion, we should have something more satisfactory than we have had. Senators Lynch and de Largie have both called the Coal’ Tribunal into question.
SenatorVardon. - What is the money for?
– It seems to methat it is for the perpetuation of the Coal Tribunal.
– Surely we must meet the expenses in connexion with it.
– Exactly. But I am asking whether the- Government intend to use- the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act. Is there any tribunal established under it other’ than the. Coal Tribunal?
– There is more ( han one; there is the main tribunal, that deals with disputes affecting the industry throughout. Then there is another for the South Coast district, and a third for the Newcastle district dealing with minor and local disputes.
– I take it from what the Minister has said that there is only one industry affected by the Industrial Peace Act.
– That is so.
– We are asked to. vote £500 in connexion with the operation of the Act. It has been in force for a couple of years at least, and 1 ask now whether the Government intend to apply it to any other industry.
– Does the honorable senator not think that the Government are right in trying to secure co-ordination in Federal and State industrial arenas?
– They are; but they should have tried to do that before they introduced the Industrial Peace Bill.
– We have done it since.
– The Government introduced the Industrial Peace Bill before they succeeded in achieving that co-ordination.
– Yes, and we cannot say that we have achieved it yet.
– Are there no other industries which might be brought within the operation of the Act? Is there not the shearing industry?
– They were before the Arbitration Court. Would the honorable senator have taken them away from the Court?
– A coal dispute was before the Arbitration Court at the very time when the Industrial Peace Bill was passed. The position in the coal industry was more acute at that time than is the position in the shearing industry to-day.
– Those engaged in the coal industry could not get a hearing of their claims.
– Are there not people connected with other industries who complain that they cannot get a hearing ?
– Not since the appointment of the extra Judges to the Arbitration Court.
– There are people complaining to-day that they cannot get a hearing in that Court. The question is, What is the policy of the Government in these matters? Do they intend that the Industrial Peace Act shall operate to the exclusion of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, or are the two Acts to be operated side by side. I indicated at the outset that the President of the Arbitration Court expressed the opinion that the object of the Industrial Peace Act was to undermine the existence of the Arbitration Court. He may have been right or wrong. I do not pass any opinion on that. But I have unsuccessfully endeavoured here from time to time to obtain from the Government an expression of their intention as to the use of the Industrial Peace Act. If it was intended to deal with the coal industry alone, it has been misnamed. On the face of it, and in its terms, it covers any industry in Australia so far as the authority of this Parliament goes, to make legislative provision with regard to industries.
– Does the honorable senator desire that a number of tribunals should be established?
– Yes. I supported the Industrial Peace Bill wholeheartedly, and spoke very strongly in favour of it.
– In substitution for - the Arbitration Court?
– Yes. Because it meant bringing employers and employees together in round-table conferences instead of making it necessary for one to summon the other to a Court.
– Does .the honorable senator not think that there should be a line of demarcation between Federal and State authorities?
– It does not touch that question at all.
– It does, because we might establish Boards where the State authorities have already established Boards.
– I am strongly in favour of inducing employers and employees to come together and settle their differences without the necessity of provoking the bad feeling, and the feeling of hostility that is necessarily engendered when one invokes the other before a tribunal.
– Unfortunately, the feeling to which the honorable senator, refers is not absent from this tribunal.
– Would the honorable senator confine these tribunals strictly to Federal industries?
– They are so confined under the Industrial Peace Act itself. “We all agreed with the provisions of that . measure, which was passed in the Senate almost unanimously. I should like the Government now to declare their intention to use the Act, and make it available in connexion with disputes in all industries of an Inter-State character. Year after year, the Act remains’ on the statute-book, and there is only one tribunal operating under it, and that is a New South Wales tribunal dealing with the coal industry. One is led, in the circumstances, to the conclusion that the Industrial Peace Act is considered by the Government as of particular, and not of general application. If that be so, why should- we be asked year after year to pass estimates in connexion with its operation ?
– When the honorable senator is told that a tribunal under the Act is doing good work in connexion with one industry, why should he object to pass the necessary vote to maintain it merely because there are not as many tribunals established as he would like?
– The honorable senator has overlooked what I have said. I consider that the Act is good in principle, and I should like to see tribunals established under it in respect to all industries of an Inter-State character. On my right and on my’ left there are honorable senators representing another State who have told us on many occasions that the effect of the operation of the Coal Tribunal is disastrous to Australia. If we are to perpetuate the existence of only one tribunal, and it is disastrous in its effects, we shall be taking the wrong course.
– But the honorable senator believes in the Act.
– I do. But Senators Lynch and de Largie, who know more of the subject than I do, say that the Coal Tribunal is affecting industrial conditions in Australia most disastrously.
– It is doing no good.
– We are invited to believe that the only tribunal operating under the Act at present is operating to the prejudice of Australia.
– And the honorable senator wants more of them. He wants more of the curse.
– I am not prepared, without question, to vote for more curses.
– How long , has the Coal Tribunal been in existence?
– For nearly two years, practically since the Industrial Peace Act was passed.
– (Senator Bakhap). - I call the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that the time allowed him under the Standing Orders has expired.
– I am loath to intervene in the debate at this late hour; but Senator Keating has so repeatedly referred to Western Australian senators as having objected or criticised the Coal Tribunal, that I must say a word or two. The honorable senator is quite wrong when he says that there is only one tribunal. If he were correct, it should be borne in mind that it is associated with the coal industry, which is a key industry, subject to more disputes than any other. No great strain upon our finances would be involved in providing funds to enable this tribunal to give us the industrial peace which it was established to maintain.
– But has it?
– So far as the coal trade is concerned, it has brought -about peace at a price. Whether Australia can afford to pay that price is quite another - consideration. As to the statement made by Senator Keating that’ the Act has been applied to the coal industry in only one State, I would point out that New South. Wales is the centre of the industry in Australia. When as the result of a case brought before the tribunal by the coalminersof New South Wales an award is made, that award applies automatically to the other States where the industry is carried on. As Senator E. D. Millen has pointed out, there are three important colliery districts in New South Wales, and there is a tribunal associated with each of them. I think the position is the same in Western Australia. The Industrial Peace Bill was introduced at a. time when the Conciliation and Arbitration Act had failed to secure peace in the coal industry. It is a rather late hour at which to enter upon a general discussion on the Industrial Peace Act and the principles of conciliation and ‘arbitration generally, especially as we have had many opportunities to deal with those subjects.
– I would ask the honorable senator whether the troubles that have arisen by reason of the decisions of this Coal Tribunal are not the result of the appointment of an unsuitable chairman?
– I should not like to say that. I think that the gentleman who presides over the tribunal is familiar with the industry, but whether he has been correct in all his awards - whether he has not been just a little too generous - I am not prepared to say. I am inclined to think that he has been a little too generous, but it is unreasonable to expect a general discussion of the question at this late hour of the night.
– Senator de Largie is under a misapprehension as to my attitude if he thinks that I ask for a general discussion of the question at this late hour. All I ask is that the Government shall give us some information of their policy with regard to the Industrial Peace Act. I am not here to criticise any decision that has been arrived at by the Coal Board. My reference to the fact that other honorable senators had called in question the price of coal and to the difficulty that Australian industries generally were labouring under in regard to coal supplies, was only by way of illustrating the effect of the establishment of the Board. I do not say whether I agree with its conclusions or not. I am not calling them into question ; they are not in issue. The Industrial Peace Act was passed to apply to Australian industries generally. So far, it has been availed of in connexion with only one industry, and incidentally I said’ that the effects of its application to that industry did not seem to be free from, criticism. There I leave the matter. Now that we are asked to agree to a vote of £500, for one month, in respect of tribunals under the Act, I want to know whether it is the intention of the Government to give full and effective operation to that Act.
– I cannot add anything to what I have already told the honorable senator.
– As the hour is late I know that Ministers as well as others are anxious to get’ away. In that fact we have still further justification for the protest that we made earlier in the day. I desire only to repeat what I have said more than once in the Senate, that the coal industry of New South Wales is specially favoured. Under the Industrial Peace Act it has the advantage of a special tribunal in addition to the existing Conciliation and Arbitration Court; and yet there is no peace in the industry. The only result is that the price of coal is almost prohibitive. I join with Senator Keating in asking what the Government are going to do. The necessity for cheap coal is, so to speak, being “barked” at the Government from every quarter; and ‘yet -the Coal Board is doing nothing. Men are being thrown out of work on every hand; thousands are out of employment; and yet this tribunal, which has been sitting for something like two years, has not evolved anything. What are the Government going to do? If this discussion arouses the Senate from its lethargy and leads to this tribunal toeing the mark, some good at least will have resulted from it.
– At page 8 of the Bill we have the item No. 54, “Rent of buildings, £7,850.” I desire to ask the Minister (Senator Pearce) whether that total covers the whole of the buildings which are required by the various Departments, or only those used in Melbourne?
– It covers the whole of the buildings.
– On page 9, under the heading of “ Miscellaneous,” there is an item, “ Grant towards the publication of Birds of Australia, £200.” I should like to know who is the author of ‘ that publication, what stage the production has reached, when will it be completed, and what will be the total cost?
– This publication has been undertaken at the request of the Ornithological Society.
– Of South Australia?
– No, of Australia. The work is being published under the auspices of the society, but I do- not know the name of the author.
– It is by a South Australian author?
– I could not say. The Ornithological Society of Australia made the request to the Government, and this was thought a very worthy object.
– This is not the total amount, is it?
-I am told that it is the total amount, and it is a grant in aid.
– I wish to refer to the item relating to the Port AugustaOodnadatta Railway, in the Department of Works and Railways. This comprises the loss on the working of the railway, £45,000; intereston South Australian rolling-stock, £358; and proportion of charges in connexion with the Port Augusta Railway Station, £75 - a total of £45,433. I wish to know whether this is the average loss per month. What is being paid by the Commonwealth for the maintenance of the working of the railway?
– It is the annual loss, which is payable this month.
– Honorable senators will observe that there are items . in this Supply Bill which are described as non-recurring,’ and. I think we might have been informed that this was nonrecurring. I thought it was the amount for the month.
– I have made inquiries, and it is the loss for the year.
– I wish to know whether the Commonwealth is handicapped in any direction by reason of the unwillingness of the South Australian Railway Department to allow the Government to charge such, freights and fares as would make ends meet and reduce this loss of £45,000? Is the South Australian Government still acting in a. way that results in mulcting the Commonwealth in this big annual loss? ‘
– I ‘am informed by the officer of the Treasury that there is now an amicable arrangement between the two parties, and that things are working more satisfactorily.
._ As honorable senators are aware, when this railway was originally taken over by the Commonwealth, the stipulation was made that the train service and the fares and freights then prevailing should be retained. It was, however, afterwards “amicably” arranged by the South Australian Government that the fares and freights to be charged on the line should not exceed those charged by the South Australian Department on the other lines. Although this is purely a. Commonwealth line under the agreement, there is still the possibility of the South Australian Government having a certain amount of control over the service and the freights, and even to-day the Commonwealth Government is not free, to run trains as’ it thinks fit. So far as I can gather from information received from parts of Central Australia and the Northern Territory, the complaint is that the fares and freights are so high that it is necessary in many instances to> walk the cattle right past, the railhead and truck them lower down. I fail to see what solution is passible at the present time. On the one hand, we have a section of the public shrieking for increased freights and fares to make the railway pay, and,on the other hand, we have the cattle-growers saying that they cannot use the line on account of the high freights. The railway now belongs to the Commonwealth, and if it is found that the present service of one train a fortnight to Oodnadatta is unnecessary, and that the railway is making greater loss on account of the arrangement entered into by South Australia,I think the Commonwealth Government would be justified in making a further “ amicable “ arrangement with a view to reducing the service still further.
– There would he further complaint if that were done.
.- Is the item “Advance to Treasurer, £300,000,” an annual or . a monthly expenditure? If it is a monthly expenditure I should like the Minister to make a definite statement as to whether it is the intention of the Government to conduct the elections, with this amount. The Minister will agree that £300,000 under this head as a monthly expenditure
Tuns into a very large amount, and I should like to know the purpose of it.
.- Just as we are thinking of going to bed, I am surprised that the honorable senator should make the unpleasant suggestion he has.
– Will you give an assurance that there is to be no election?
– On account of the conduct of my honorable friends outside, I can give no assurance. This advance is merely to carry on those works which have been approved by Parliament, and the votes for which stopped on the 30th June. The advance is used for this purpose until the Senate grants further credit. Of course, it is out of this fund that the Government meets any contingencies that arise, and afterwards submits the expenditure for the approval of Parliament. Honorable senators may he sure that it will notbe out of this Supply that the expenses of the election will be met.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 August 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1922/19220817_senate_8_100/>.