9th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) . took the. chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether, in view of the fact that it appears likely that the Government will sell the Commonwealth Woollen Mills before Parliament meets again, he will inform the purchaser that should a Labour Government he returned to power at the next election, it will resume the mills without paying any compensation in excess of the amount paid for their purchase ?
– I suggest that the honorable senator or the Leader of his party should convey the message himself.
– I wish to ask for some information which may be supplied during the recess, with reference to the case of a man named Dalton, a shipwright on one of the Commonwealth vessels, who was to be deported. He left his tools behind him in Melbourne, and was placed on a ship, but by pressure of threats from the Seamen’s Union was put on shore. I should like to know why it was proposed to deport him, and who was responsible for the action taken?
– I shall endeavour, if possible, to obtain the information before the Senate rises to-day, and if that is not possible, I shall see that it is sent on to the honorable senator.
The following paper was presented: -
Audit Act - ‘Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor -General in Council - Financial year 1922-23 - Dated 7th March, 1923.
(By leave). - I have very great regret in informing the Senate that Mr. Percy Whitton, the Comptroller-General of Customs, and an old and respected public servant, died during last night, and was found dead in his bed this morning. He was at work at his office yesterday, apparently in his usual health, and notice of his death came as a very great shock to us, as I am sure it will to all honorable senators who have been in contact with the deceased gentleman. I feel sure that I am voicing the opinions of all when I express our deep regret and our sympathy with the bereaved widow and family upon this sad occurrence.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the urgent necessity for peopling this vast rich empty continent, and the enormous amount of work still to be done in connexion with repatriation, including War Service Homes, will the Government consider the advisability ofappointing a Minister to deal exclusively with immigration and repatriation?
– The rearrangement of Departments recently instituted should prove satisfactory. Should, however, experience show that further action is necessary, the Government will not hesitate to take it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow : -
Overhauling in Australia.
asked the Min ister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister supplies the following answers: -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answer is - 1 and 2. The Government proposes to review the War Service Homes Act in connexion with the framing of its policy.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
In view of the spread of drought conditions throughout Australia at the present time, will the Government take steps to expedite the construction of water storages on the River Murray ?
– The answer is -
The works covered by the River Murray Agreement are being carried out bythe three State constructing authorities on behalf of the four contracting Governments.. The River Murray Commission has had under consideration the question of the necessity for expediting the construction of the Hume Reservoir, the Lake Victoria Storage, and the other works providing for the needs of irrigation, and every effort is being made to complete these works at the earliest possible date.
Senator ELLIOTT (for Senator
Guthrie) asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
If it is possible, will the Government take steps to provide more reliable information regarding seasonal conditions than is now published as having been supplied by the Commonwealth Meteorologist?
– The answer is -
The Commonwealth Meteorologist bases his reports respecting prevailing seasonal conditions upon data furnished by country observers. If the honorable senator will supply specific instances of inaccuracies they will be carefully investigated.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In reference to an advertisement appearing in the Melbourne Argus of 14th March, calling for tenders for the building or leasing of premises to provide 83,000 to 140,000 square feet of office accommodation - will the Minister say for what department or officers this accommodation is required?
– The answer is -
The smaller building would provide accommodation for the Taxation Office - Central and Victorian branches - and one of the Departments (yet to be determined) at present located in the Commonwealth Offices, where acute congestion now prevails - the larger building would provide accommodation for the following additional branches : - Auditor-General, Wheat Storage. Staff, Immigration Bureau, Ship Construction, Pensions and Maternity, Crown Solicitor, Copyright, Investigation, Trade and Customs, Navigation Branch, Commonwealth Dairy, Science and Industry, Home and Territories Head Office, Statistician, ‘ Electoral Branch, Department of Health, Works Director, Victoria.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it intended to proceed at once with the erection of Automatic Telephone Exchanges at Glenelg, Brighton, and Prospect (South Australia), as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works?
– The answer supplied is -
No, pending further consideration of the matter by the Works Committee in the light of information to hand since it was previously dealt with.
Sitting suspended from 11.9 a.m. to 12.5 p.m.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
It gives me much pleasure to receive the Address, which has been adopted by the
Senate, in reply to the speech which I delivered on the ocasion of the opening of the first session of the ninth Parliament of the Commonwealth. I desire to thank you for your expressions of loyalty to His Majesty the King.
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 28th March.
– Can the Minister give the Senate an assurance that we shall meet on the 28th March. If not, I may have something to say, ou the motion for the adjournment, in connexion with the question which I addressed to the Minister this morning?
– I certainly cannot give the honorable senator that assurance, but I think it extremely improbable that we shall meet on that date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Re-assembling op Parliament - Immigration - Unemployment - Political Parties - Labour Party’s Policy - Prime Minister’s Visit to England - Senator E. D. Millen - Defeated Senators.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– In view of the answer the Leader of the Government has just given, I intend to have a few words to say before this Senate adjourns. Many senators, sitting with us to-day, may not be present when we next meet. Although in the victory of my party, so far as the Senate is concerned, at the last election* Providence gave me the sweetest draught of pleasure that I have ever experienced ; it has its bitterness in the losing of old friends, even though political opponents.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– An attempt is being made in this country to put Australia in a wrong position, at any rate, before the people who do npt live in this country. I heard one honorable senator endeavouring to create the impression that our workers are so narrow in their outlook that they do not want the huge open spaces and the great advantages of Australia to be shared with the workers from other countries.
– I did not allude to the workers particularly. I said that the general population has a su’b-conscious or open antipathy to southern Europeans, which should be reprehended.
– I am very glad of that explanation, because it gives me more room for. discussion. The point I want to make is that, just as there are some people who hold a shallow view regarding the revolt of the workers against machinery, so there are some people who take the shallow view that the workers are against newcomers into this country. It is a wrong view. The workers in this country want continuous employment. It is a very fine thing for the man to whom next week’s wages count nothing to speak of the greediness of the man who, perhaps, is out of employment, or who, through the importation of foreigners, may be put out of employment. It is not greediness; it is a fear of want ‘by himself and family; and, in the condition of this country at the present time, that fear is justified.
– If we had 20,000,000 people there would be a greater amount of work for everybody.
– If we had in this country a Government that had a desire tq govern Australia as it should be governed, instead of closing Parliament for two or three months at a stretch, it would face the problem of finding employment for the people we have here and for those who come here. If you provide work for the men who are willing to work you will find that the Australian working classes can be just as generous as any other section in this community.
– The Government of the country still goes on although Parliament is prorogued.
– It is a very small job you are asking to have done.
– Unemployment has been the problem of the centuries; but never ‘before has there ‘been a Democracy in which the workers have governed themselves, a Democracy such as that which we have. I can understand Britain, notwithstanding its magnificent record, being unable to solve the problem ;because the people who have had the governing of that country have not been the people who have suffered from unemployment. Now that the Government of this country has been placed in the hands of the people who suffer from unemployment the problem can be settled, and it will be settled without very much loss of time when the public find that this Government have not any interest in the matter, and are not going to try and settle it.
I want to draw attention to a statement that has been made by Sir Joseph Cook - that no immigrant leaves Great Britain unless employment is waiting for him carrying good wages. I ask the Leader of the Government in this Chamber whether that statement is correct or incorrect? If the Government are making that statement to the people on the other side of the world, well and good; but, before they make it to other people they ought to make it good to the people who are here. If it is a good thing for our Australian representative in London to be able to say that no man leaves Britain for Australia unless employment and good wages are assured, it is a better and a sounder thing to be able to say to the people here who have borne the brunt of the development of this country, and must bear the brunt of the taxation of this country - because nearly all the taxation, through the operation of the Tariff, is placed on the shoulders of the workers - “You shall be assured of continuous work and good wages.” I urge the Government to face this problem in a way in which it has never been faced before, and to settle it by the simple method of providing work for the man who wants to work.
– Are the wages in Australia fair, or good?
– At the present time, thanks to the unanimity of the workers themselves, there is a living wage, but merely that. It is considered by the Arbitration Court Judges that the wage to be paid should be sufficient to maintain a man, his wife, and two children.
– If he has three children, somebody goes short.
– The point is that the men who have been chosen to ‘ adjudicate upon these matters have decided that they will fix a wage upon which a man, his wife, and two children can live. Beyond that no provision is made. I realize that not very much provision has been made for the farmer, the Government simply leaving him to his fate.
– You do not know yet what this Government are going to do.
– I do not want to see the doors of Parliament closed before I get from the Minister some information as to what they are going to do. We talk about the pioneers of this far-flung outpost of the British Empire - those great men who went into the forests and made two blades of grass grow where only one grew before. Now, having cleared the land, the sad result of all their efforts is that they must sit by and watch two rabbits fighting for the blades of grass that they caused to grow, because by the high duties they are prevented by this Government from obtaining the means of protecting themselves.
– Why say “ this Government.” It did not put on the high duties.
– If this is not the same Government as that which has just gone out of office, all I have to say is that its efforts are going to be the same. Measured by the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, those efforts will be nil.
A gentleman named Mr. Bruce has been saying something regarding the formation of new political bodies. I had better quote him exactly -
There was nothing so much needed in Australia to-day as unity, not merely in political bodies but among the people as a whole. As to political unity, there was a new phase which had sprung up lately of always wanting to create some new political body.
He should be an authority on that matter.
– Maybe he was referring to the new Labour party in New South Wales.
– I can assure the honorable senator that the Labour party in New South Wales possesses all its old vigour. When members of a party are able to fight vigorously amongst themselves, they may be depended upon to put up a good “ scrap “ against their opponents. Mr. Bruce, the Prime Minister, spoke of the evils of new parties springing up. That sort of talk comes very well from Mr. Bruce. I doubt if /the party he is leading at present is going to spring up at all. I would not have referred to his speech had he not claimed that he was not one to abuse the other side. He went on to say -
There was a duty thrown upon him to show what the other side stood for, to show exactly where the once great Labour Party stood today. Its present position was that the Leader of the party in Parliament was bound hand and foot by the resolutions passed by the conferences held outside.
Mr. Bruce further said that he had no desire to live in a country ruled by a party whose leaders had not the courage to tell the people what they stood for. I would like the Government to tell me whether Mr. Bruce intends going to England immediately? When he refers to leaders who are lacking in the courage to tell the people what they stand for, does he refer to his own party? He is using his argument against the Labour party, but if the press had had any sense of humour they would have published the remarks as the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) against Mr. Bruce.
– Mr. Bruce told the country what we stood for.
– Mr. Charlton is always pictured outside as a man of unquestionable courage and integrity, and yet Mr. Bruce questions his leadership, although he himself really has to do what is dictated by outside organizations.
– It is a fact, however, Dha t Mr. Charlton never mentioned the socialization of industry.
– The honorable senator may think so, “but Mr. Charlton held seven meetings, at which he mentioned it, and sent reports of them to the press, which were never published.
– I read his policy speech, and it was not mentioned there.
– If the honorable senator had read it carefully I think he would have found it fully referred to. I intend to nail down this statement about the Labour party having no policy.
– You have a policy. You have the socialization of industry.
– Yes. I shall address myself to that matter presently. The Federal pledge of the Labour party is as follows: -
I hereby pledge myself not to oppose the candidate selected by the recognised Political Labour Organization, and, if elected, to do my utmost to carry out the principles embodied in the Australian Labour Party’s platform, and on all questions affecting the platform to vote as the majority of the Parliamentary Party may decide at a duly constituted Caucus meeting.
All we are pledged to is in that platform, but instead of attacking that, Messrs. Bruce and Pearce, and the members of their party, have been attacking the objective of Labour, the socialization of industry. If Labour, like little children, has been stumbling in the dark, and has not yet been able to evolve a system that will lead the workers to the position they are entitled to occupy as the producers of the whole of the wealth of this country, that is no ‘reason why people should imagine that Labour cannot do it. Has not the time arrived to talk of the socialization of industry? Consider the conditions obtaining, at the beginning of last century! Remember the records of the Royal Commissions asked for by Lord Ashley! We read that, after ten hours’ work in the factories and in the mines, the children became sleepy, and had to be chastized to keep them awake. After a further four hours’ continuous work, it was found impossible to keep them awake.
– That was a damnable system ; but it does not make the socialization of industry a desirable one.
– We can all realize the horrors of that system; but is it not damnable that, even to-day, a man who is willing to work may be forced to see his children growing thinner every day, and have no means of providing a remedy? It is easy for us to say we would not tolerate the conditions of a century ago, but let us look at the present position, and ask whether unemployment should be allowed to bring starvation to children in this community.
– Nobody justifies the faults of the present system. We say that the system you are heading for is no better, hut is infinitely worse.
– When the Labour party conies into its own, the present system will go under.
– The socialization of industry in Russia has not improved the position.
– Russia is still at war with civilization. Great Britain still refuses to trade with her. She lost more men than any other country in fighting with the Allies, and now the nation she helped refuses to trade with her.
– She is being helped by the other nations.
– It was just as bard to fight in liberty-loving England, at the beginning of last century, for ‘the children who were being sweated, as it is to-day to get a free Australian people to mete out justice to children whose fathers and mothers have no means of providing for them. Unless we direct attention to what has happened in the past, nothing will be done. If the present Government, during the coming recess, will introduce a system by which able men and women who require employment will be enabled to earn a fair wage for a fair day’s work, they will deserve- well of the people. The Ministry should not hesitate to take action. Australia’s greatest wealth lies in its possibilities. Every pound spent to-day in the. interests of Labour would return a hundredfold in the near future. If the Government would face the problem of unemployment, there would be no need to jeer at Labour because we do not want strangers coming in, not to share what is on the rich man’s table, but to take from the poorly-spread table of the workers.
– You say you have a cur-e; but you do not tell us what it is.
– There is the cure, and “ Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.” Here is a rich and undeveloped country, in which any quantity of labour is available. Any sum spent in the interests of the working classes is sure to give a good return after a few years. It was estimated that, at the ‘end of last year, there were 36,000 unemployed in Australia, yet thousands of people continue to come to this country, and members of Parliament complain because those who are out of work express the view that the influx of men from Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland, and elsewhere- is encroaching upon the little they have.
– Has the honorable senator in mind the Labour cure in Queensland?
– I do not ‘think that any one section of the community can provide a cure. Queensland, despite its great resources, cannot hope to do so when thousands of the workers of New South Wales flock across the border to reap the benefits of Labour rule in the northern State. I do not suggest that a cure can be found in five minutes; but it is time that the Federal Government set the stamp of its approval on a system that would end the trouble. We are living here under conditions which make it possible for the few to assure themselves against poverty, while the many are in constant dread of actual want. It is said by some people that men can be induced to work only by the application of the spur of poverty. Their attitude is very much like that of the overlookers in England in days gone by, who flogged little children to make them work. Under the system for which honorable senators opposite stand, we do not flog little children to-day; we practically starve them; and my complaint is that when Labour tries to improve upon that system, my honorable friends opposite misrepresent and vilify us. They use the press to put only one side of our case, and to carefully suppress the other and more favorable side. At the same time, they contend that they are working in the direction of making this a better country in which to live.
I do not propose to detain the Senate as long as my opening remarks might have suggested. I have availed myself of this opportunity to deal with these matters because I do not think we shall meet again for months. The Government has had the audacity to meet Parliament without a programme, and its Leader has said that he does not desire to live in a country where Labour rules. I take that to be an intimation that he is going to England; that he will stay away as long as possible, and that when he does return it will not be for long. London to-day seems to be the Mecca of Premiers and Prime Ministers. They would have us go to England for everything. They seem to disregard the fact that they have to look to Australia for the men to do the work that keeps the country going. The sooner we all turn our attention to the fact that Australia itself wants looking after, the better for Australia, its Parliaments, and its people.
– I purpose, in supplementing the remarks of my chief (Senator Gardiner), to draw upon my practical experience. Last Tuesday week I attended a meeting of . the Iron Shipbuilders Union of New South Wales, of which I am proud to be a member. On that occasion twelve new members were elected. Eight of them had arrived recently from Britain. They had their clearances and their union cards, and were what honorable senators opposite would call true Bolsheviks, every one of them. The remaining four were apprentices. Out of our total membership of 1,600 we have at the very most a thousand, or probably only 800, in constant employment. The others are always looking for work, and manage to make a living as the result of mishaps to shipping along the coast. In passing, I would draw attention to the remarkable fact that, with the exception of the Commonwealth Government liners, all shipping on the Australian coast makes for Sydney for repairs. The vessels of the Commonwealth Government line are sent to other countries for repairs.
– Were the Britishers in the honorable senator’s union assisted immigrants?
– I shall tell the ‘honorable senator. A vast number of men in our union are constantly looking for work. I dare say that fully 200 of them earn barely enough to provide a livelihood. They have to scratch along, and, in many cases, do not earn more than an average of £1 a week for the whole year. The eight Britishers who joined our union, at its last meeting, were welcomed, and had extended to them the hand of friendship. At the same time four apprentices - young Australians - joined our ranks.Whatchance will these young Australians have? The new arrivals informed me that they were advised in the Old Country that plenty of work was offering in the Commonwealth Dockyards, Sydney. I know, as a fact, that such information is supplied.
It seems to me that the National Government should take charge of the whole of the arrangements for the colonization of Australia, and should see to it that the right class of people are brought here. To be successful, we must take away this duty from the States. While the Commonwealth is paying the passages of immigrants to Australia some persons in the States, on the arrival of these people, are consigning them to a life of drudgery in the back country. A number of Dreadnought “ boys “ were brought out here recently, not by the New South Wales Government, but by a private organization. I saw them as they landed at Sydney, carrying gloves and little canes, and wearing “ Teddy “ hats and ties. We cannot hope to make settlers of such men. After all,they are men, not boys, and their first anxiety on landing was to ascertain how they could spend on the pleasures of society the few pounds they had. One might as well paint the legs ofa “poddy” calf and enter it for the Melbourne Cup in the ‘hope of carrying off that event, as think of successfully settling such young men in the back country. Their lives have been spent in the cities of the Old World. They have been working behind desks, and on their arrival here they are sent into the backblocks to sleep on bags and to be tormented night after night by mosquitoes and other pests of the bush. With such conditions they are sure to become discontented and to return to the Old Country. Out of 80,000 immigrants, who arrived here in one year, 70,000 have returned. The whole system is wrong, and can be placed on a proper footing only by the Commonwealth taking charge of the work of settling Australia, and building up a class of manhood that will take its proper place in the country. We can best achieve that object by assisting Australians to a greater extent than is now done.
It is stated in the press that the Government contemplate closing down dockyards in Sydney, where a steam-ship of 12,500 tons burden is almost ready for launching. The material for another vessel is on. hand, ready to be assembled as soon as this steamer is off the stocks. Yet Mr. Scott-Fell, the financier, and others of his class, are crying out that the cost of building this steamer has- been excessive; that such work must be carried on elsewhere, and that the dockyard must be closed down. These people, apparently, are unaware of the fact that large sums of money have been expended’ in buying the material for the second steamer, which is all ready to be put together, and, that if that work be abandoned, the capital costs will be loaded. I rose in order to draw attention to the fact that this nation is not placing in power men who are able and determined to take the bull by the horns, and do what they should for the benefit of the country at large. The Commonwealth should take full charge of immigration, and see that before people leave the Old Country there is work for them here, so that they may not be left to fight for a living against their fellow men We do not object to immigrants if they are introduced in the right way, but it is certainly not the right way to tell them that there is plenty of work for them in Australia. It is proposed to close down Cockatoo Dock Yard.
– Who said so?
– Our only source of information, like that of the honorable senator and those with him, is the press. We are told that the British Government are re-organizing their naval workshops and docks at Singapore, and I should think that that fact is significant enough to induce the Government of Australia to follow the example. When I was honorary secretary of the shipbuilding union, and when the Admiralty had charge of the dockyards in Sydney I had a list of all the available men throughout Australia who could be sent to Singapore in case of war and of any mishap to the Pacific Fleet ; but I do not know that the Government have in their possession similar information. I hope and believe that nothing will happen in the Pacific, but seeing that the British Government are preparing for the worst we should also take precautions and organize our staff in case of emergency and keep the dock in our own possession. I am in this Chamber as one of the six representatives of New South Wales to look after the interests of . that State, and that I am doing to the best of my ability. I am sorry to say that for years, honorable senators have allowed their powers as a legislative Chamber to be impaired and taken from them. Matters are now dealt with by- secret conferences in Melbourne, and conferences - even the Methodist Conference - always seems to be arranged for a time when there is something interesting going on in this city. These political conferences have usurped the rights of this Senate and this Parliament, and I should be glad to join with any one in taking steps to have these rights restored and maintained.
The Labour platform has been thoroughly explained and justified by my Leader, Senator Gardiner. I am not ashamed, but proud of that platform, and I went before the electors with it showing on my back and on my front. I also went out armed with the moral teachings of our Saviour; and I should like honorable senators who have time during the recess to look into those teachings, with which they will find the Labour platform to-day runs parallel. The Saviour’s command was to love one’s neighbour as oneself, and not to lay up treasure, and on that command the Labour platform is based. I also advise honorable senators to get a copy of The New Religion, by Mr. Proctor, an evangelist. That gentleman wrote a pamphlet in 1912, prophesying the great war, which he said must come at the command of vested interests. He also contended that the teachings of modern dogma are entirely opposed to the moral teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. The Labour platform knows no caste or creed, and has no object but the bettering of the conditions of the people.
I offer my sympathy to those honorable senators who were cast on one side at the last election. I suffered a similar indignity myself, but I never gave up hope, and now I am here again. In passing I may say that I particularly miss one face from this Chamber. Senator E. D. Millen, though a political opponent, is one whom I regard as a man in every way. The fight we had in New South Wales was very interesting to spectators, but not so much to us, because of the great strain it proved to all concerned. However, immediately the contest was over, Senator E. D. Millen, like a true sport, sent me a telegram congratulating me on my victory. A few weeks later he was laid on one side with illness, a fact which I deeply regret.
The political and social views that I advocate and work for are expressed in the lines of, I think, Brady -
Her destiny is ours to shape,
Her lands are ours to hold;
The plastic clay of nationhood
Is ours to shape and mould.
In spite of toady, Tory bred,
Spite of foreigner, spite of fool,
I’d write “Australia” on the wall,
And teach it in the school.
Those are my sentiments; not forgetting for one moment the race from which we sprang, or the flag under which we live and have prospered. If we must be ruled, then for God’s sake let us be ruled by men who come from the race that sent us here.
SenatorDE LARGIE (Western Australia) [12.48]. - As this is probably the last occasion on which I shall have an opportunity of addressing the Senate, I should like to join in the expressions of sympathy with Senator E. D. Millen in his serious illness. If any member of this Chamber has above another offered his life in the service of his country, it is that gentleman. I am very sorry indeed that his condition is such that I shall not be able to visit him before leaving Melbourne. I remember that when he undertook the task of creating and administering the Repatriation Department, he made a rather prophetic statement about the possibility of digging his own political grave and ruining his political reputation. To some extent that premonition has been realized. If ever a Minister worked hard in the endeavour to do the right thing, and succeeded in a difficult task, Senator E. D. Millen has done so. Honorable senators, no matter on which side of the chamber they sit, will indorse that statement.
I appreciate the kindly remarks of Senator Gardiner in reference to those of us who were defeated at the last election. There is none of us who does not like a little sympathy now and then.
I am afraid that Senator Gardiner and Senator McDougall have not by their remarks on immigration added to their own political reputation or conferred any benefit on the country. Every thinking man must admit that the Commonwealth must have an increase of population. A man who condemns immigration without qualification is doing the worst possible thing for Australia. It may be said that too many people are being introduced for whom no work is provided. But I do not hesitate to say that if Mr. Charlton were Prime Minister he would be confronted with the very difficulties which face the present Government, and I doubt if he could solve them any better than they are attempting to do. Immigration is too big a question to be discussed in a light and airy fashion, and it is idle to say that work must be found for people before they are brought into the country. It cannot be done. I care not what policy is in force, whether it be Free Trade or Protection, or whether we have a Liberal Government or a Labour Government, there are bound to be some unemployed in Australia, as there are in every other country. If Australia could solve the problem of unemployment, if it could offer work for everybody, the population of every other country would be flocking to these shores to participate in such unexampled prosperity. But I know of no policy that would create such a state of affairs. I believe just as firmly in the policy of the Labour party, apart from the conscription issue on which we divided, as do either of the two honorable members of the Opposition. I have been quite as long a trade unionist as they, and perhaps have done quite as much for the Labour movement.
– Probably, because I have been not quite forty years in Australia. When Senator Gardiner was referring to the conditions of mining labour in the Old Country, one who had actually experienced those conditions was listening to him. It is over fifty years since I first went into the mines of Scotland, and I assure Senator Gardiner that, comparing the conditions then with those that obtain to-day, no greater transformation has taken place in the labour world than that affecting the coalminers. I speak with a knowledge of the mining industry extending over half a century. The coal mining conditions in Australia, especially in Kew South Wales, are better than obtain in any other part of the world. I do not say that they are better than they should be; coal mining is an industry in -which men are entitled to the best wage they can get. But I defy Senators Gardiner and McDougall to say how either the stoppage of immigration or different labour laws could improve the conditions of the coal miners of New South Wales. There is no good in ranting and raving to the gallery on this question. I challenge the honorable senator to mention one thing this Parliament could do to improve the labour conditions in the coal trade of Australia.
Reverting to the general question of immigration, if we are to do anything to increase the opportunities for employment in Australia, we should be prepared to offer practical suggestions. It is useless to merely find fault. The one great Australian industry that i3 capable of expansion, and of giving increased opportunities for labour, is the utilization of the land. I take second place to no one in my love of the Old Country ; and X know the conditions that prevail there fairly well, because I visited Europe only a few years ago. The first big step towards the betterment of labour conditions in this country must be a radical alteration of trade policies. That can be effected partly by the Commonwealth and partly by the Old Country. The time has come when our fiscal relations should be brought under the notice of the powers that be in England, and of the public, if need be, and some plain speaking indulged in. A few years ago I had the privilege and pleasure of speaking in one of the largest halls in Glasgow. I broached the- subject of fiscal reciprocity, and my remarks were very well received-. I feel confident that if sufficient attention were given to the matter, and the public of the Old Countrywere educated fiscally, we’ could get considerable help for our rural industries. People in the Mother Country are ignorant on this subject ; they are busy in ‘their own little way, -and fail to grasp the meaning of preferential trade. At the present time, the whole of the benefit of that policy goes to them. That is not as it should be. If preferential trade is to ‘be of any advantage to us, it must be reciprocal. The present bargain is too onesided - Australia giving preference to the products of the Old Country, and receiving nothing in return.
– We have absolutely free access to the markets of the Old Country.
– The same privilege is enjoyed by Germans, Russians, and every other nation. When speaking in- Glasgow, I pointed out that Argentina, whose seasons synchronize with Australia’s, and which exports products similar to ours, took no part in the war except to make wealth, but was in a better position in the British market than was Australia. All I asked as a first step was that Australian products should be placed on an equality with those of Argentina and other coun- tries. Britain could do that without any radical alteration of the Customs Tariff. As a preliminary, dock, port, shipping, and light dues could’ be waived in respect of Australian- ships and commodities. All of those concessions it is within their power to grant. That would be the first step. Australian meat, wheat, wool, and other produce are entitled to a preference in the British markets to the extent that we give a preference to British goods sent to Australia. When I pointed out in- Glasgow that if Australia forwarded goods to British ports they were subjected to the same treatment which was- meted out to good’s arriving from Germany, Austria, or any enemy nation, there were cries of “ Shame 1” Unless the Government try to do something in the direction of bringing about greater reciprocity with the Mother Country they will fail to solve one of the great problems facing them, as it is certainly one of the big questions to which the new Parliament should devote its attention.
– Senator Gardiner would like to know the figures in regard to unemployment and immigration. I had them taken out a few days ago, and they are exceedingly informative. In 1921 the assisted immigrants entering Australia numbered 14,682. In that same year the rate of unemployment for the Commonwealth per 100 workers employed was 11.2. The figures for the State of Victoria for 1922 are not available, but excluding Victoria the number of assisted immigrants last year for the Commonwealth was 15,113, an excess of 431 over the previous year. Notwithstanding this increased number of arrivals, the rate of unemployment fell during the year to 9.3 per cent, for the Commonwealth. Evidently it is a case of “ more immigrants, less unemployment.” But when we come to analyze the figures for the individual States the position is even more striking. The number of assisted immigrants entering Queensland in 1921 was 1,147, representing 1.49 per 1,000 of the total population of the State. In the same year Western Australia had 3,381 assisted immigrants, representing 10.15 per thousand of the total population of the State. Now let us look at the unemployment figures. In the year in which the Queensland assisted immigrants represented only 1.49 per thousand of the total population of the State, the percentage of unemployment was 15.4, whereas Western Australia, whose assisted immigrants numbered 10.15 per thousand of the total population of the State, had an unemployment percentage of only 8.6. In 1922 Queensland had 1,711 assisted immigrants, representing 2.18 per thousand of the population, and the percentage of unemployment was 10.2, practically the same percentage as in Western Australia, where the assisted immigrants for the same year numbered 4,373, representing 12.88 per thousand of the total population of theState. With six times the percentage of immigration in 1922, the State of Western Australia had the same ratio, of unemployment as Queensland. The figures for Victoria show even better results. Where the immigration percentage is highest the percentage of unemployment proves to be the lowest. I thought it only right that I should place these figures on record alongside those submitted by Senator Gardiner. They certainly do not bear out his contention that assisted immigration leads to unemployment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1.6 p.m.
By His Excellency the Right Honorable Henry William, Bason Forster, a Member of His Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Council, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 March 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1923/19230315_senate_9_102/>.