9th 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. -
Northern Territory Election, 1922- Chief Electoral Officer’s comments in reply to certain allegations by Mr. H. G. Nelson, M.P.
Territory for Seat of Government - Ordinance No. 5 of 1923- Recreation Land Leases.
Typewriters and Silencers imported into the . several States - Particulars as to value and Customs duty collected.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - StatutoryRules 1923, No. 81.
Public Works Committee Act- Eighth General Report.
-Can the Leader of the Senateyet reply to the questions which I asked last week with reference to the Midland Railway Company?
– On 5th inst. the honorable senator asked the following questions -
The Treasurer (Dr. Earle. Page) has furnished the. f ollowing replies -
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Tradeand Customs if he is in a position to reply to the question which I askedon 5th July in regard to the importation of typewriters and silencers into the States and the rate and amount of duty paid ineach case?
– I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : - 1, 2, and 3 -
The; foregoing figures do not include silencers theimportationof which is notrecorded separately in the statistics:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health,. upon notice -
– The answer is as fallows-: - 1.Yes. 2: Fall information has been obtained concerning this preparation
asked the. Minister representing the Treasurer,upon native -
– The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has supplied the following replies : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What is the present position of the case between the Crown and Kidman and Mayoh regarding an award made by the High Court of Australia in favour ofthe Crown?
– The reply is as follows: -
The application of the Commonwealth for leave to enforce the award isstill pending in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
– I desire, by leave, to withdraw my notice of motion -
That Ordinance No.7 of 1923, relating to Crown Lands in the Northern Territory, be disallowed, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) has informed me that an Order-in-Council has been made suspending its operation and that there will be full opportunity for debate before effect is given to it.
Leave granted; notice of motion withdrawn.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) agreed to -
That two months leave of absencebe granted to Senator Foster on account of ill health.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to Crown Lands in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Bill presented by Senator Pearce, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 6th July(vide page 788), on motion by Senator guthrie -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Opening Speech be agreed to: -
MAY it Please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– When I last had the opportunity of addressing the Senate on the occasion provided by a motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, I directed attention to what I considered we should do in order to place our finances on a proper basis. I directed: attention to the big interest bill to be paid annually on our war debt, amounting to something in the neighbourhood of £17,000,000. Whatever may be done for the reduction of this war debt, by means of a sinking fund or otherwise, the interest bill must continue as a constant drain on the resources of Australia, necessarily cutting inter our power to develop the country. And if we do not develop the country our position will be dangerous, and even perilous. We can provide the money necessary to meet the interest on our war debt of some £350,000,000 only by increasing productivity, and we can increase productivity by adopting a series of policies to which. I was proceeding to draw attention when the Senate adjourned on Friday. I first referred to the necessity of stopping all forms of waste, both public and private. That would help materially. I next referred to the necessity of cutting out of our industrial life all unnecessary holidays. That is to say, we should not idle our time away. I also referred to the chance of securing, some very much needed revenue from a tax on luxurious living. The war is past and gone, and the only thing that stands out as an asset; against the huge expenditure of valuable lives and treasure blown away on the battlefields of Europe is the glorious liberty we enjoy. I refer to luxurious living in the shape of eating and drinking and excessive raiment. The social enjoyment now indulged in almost reminds one of the days of Babylon. The Government could help to meet the interest bill on the war debt by putting a tax of, say, 10 per cent. on all forms of luxurious living. When the Tariff was under consideration in this Chamber I tried to have heavier imposts placed on all articles that were not absolutely necessary to those who lead normal lives. I wanted to have heavier imposts on all useless, vicious, and abnormal forms of expenditure - that is to say, on luxuries. There could be for a start a tax on the excessive cost of luxurious eating and drinking - for instance, on the choice wines which are imported. Then, again, in regard to raiment; look. at the excess to which even young persons in Australia are addicted. Choice dresses are worn, the prices of which I believe range from £8 to £12 each. Some may be even more costly.
– They cannot be obtained for the prices which the honorable senator has mentioned.
– That is quite possible. We should have a simpler form of living. If people will persist in living on a luxurious scale, the only remedy is for the Government to place a handicap on them by the imposition of a tax such as I have suggested. I was referring to another form of waste in the field of industry - the loss of time occasioned by men going on strike. I prefer to call things by their proper titles. This loss is brought about by men needlessly going on strike in a country where there ought not to be a single day wasted from this cause. The Tear-Book shows that the loss occasioned through strikes during last year and the preceding year averaged £1,000,000 a year. This loss, which can never be regained, was brought about simply because men sat down and challenged, in the first place, their employers, and in the second place, society. This was done at a cost to Australia of £1,000,000 a year during these two years, which of the last eight years show the lowest losses in this respect. There is no need for such a loss in a country where the one thing that stands between an unfeeling employer - and he still exists, and is sometimes recruited from the ranks of labour - and his employees is a tribunal which fixes a fair day’s wage. I referred, also, to a greater form of wastage in the shape of unperformed labour commonly known as the “ go-slow “ policy. I do not propose to speak of the why and wherefore of this insidious element which has crept into the industrial life of this country during the last few years. There was a time when it was unknown here, and when the Australian workman stood at the very apex of superiority as a worker.
– He is a better man to-day than he ever was.
– He may be in his own imagination, but, judged by results he is not. He would be a better man if he would “ deliver the goods,” and, indeed, now that he has had a fair day’s wage fixed by an independent tribunal,- it is his duty to give a fair day’s work. He is probably getting more than his employer would give him of his own free will, but the employer is made to give a fair day’s wage, whereas there’ is no law to compel the employee to give a fair day’s work. What is happening in Australia is shown in a most unobtrusive way in the Commonwealth Year-Booh. This publication, which is known all over the world, and, has an international reputation, reveals a development in the industrial arena of Australia which is nothing short of disheartening. It is certainly nothing to be proud of, and the state of affairs revealed should cause the average Australian who takes a pride in his country to feel ashamed.
– I do not propose to stick my head in the sand like the ostrich, and say that things are not as they are. I try to find out what is actually happening, and I find it in the Y ear-Book, the only authority worth quoting. It cannot be contradicted. It always continues to bear witness to the truth, caring not on whose corns it treads. Senator Gardiner, who is a man of many parts, must acquaint his mind with almost every development in the industrial, economic, and political field ; yet this information in the Year-Book may have escaped his attention. I hope that my bringing it under his notice will refresh his memory to some good purpose, not only for himself, but also for the party which he so worthily represents, and for the country of which he claims, to be a native. On page 1035 the YearBoole sets out in almost compendious form what is happening so far as the productivity of Australia is concerned. Mr. Knibbs has made quinquennial calculations from as far back as 1871, and has adopted the figure .1,000 as the standard by which to judge the productivity of Australia. In 1871 this country was at a rather low ebb, because the standard of efficiency was little more than one-half that attained in 1910. The processes in every line of industry were very backward in those far-off years, but the volume of production gradually increased until the peak was reached in 1910, when the figure was 1,026. In 1911 it dropped to 1,000 for the standard year. One would naturally have expected that, with the increase in the number of inventions, and application of science to industry on an increasing scale, our productivity would correspondingly improve in the following years, but the record of the present position is about the saddest page in the whole publication. Instead of production increasing from 1910 onwards, it started to go backward until, for the year 1920-21, we had retrograded to the index figure of 689. The productivity of the Commonwealth has been calculated upon the wholesale prices of products and the production prices - two independent guides. This pendulum of ill-fate has swung backwards and forwards, but it shows clearly which way Australia is going, and the standard in both cases has now been reduced to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 800. Why should we be going down ? Australia is sliding almost to its industrial doom. I do not wish to paint a gloomy picture, but I do desire to get at the facts. It will not hurt anybody to do so. Facts are always a corrective that brings us back to the straight line - to the perpendicular - and keeps us on the path of duty.
– Would not. a drought or a bad season affect the productivity of the community?
– Yes, and so would a bumper year. The scales would be moved either up or down. They are certainly on the level at present, but we should not be content until the indicator starts on the upward trend. In the last year for which the productivity of the Commonwealth has been ascertained, the total amounted to £402,000,000, which, compared with the standard of 1911, meant a reduction in the neighbourhood of 20 per cent. In other words, potential wealth to the extent of about £80,400,000 was lost. We are producing less material wealth, and the poor are the poorer for it. Although these figures are startling, I stand by them, and I believe they are absolutely correct.
What is happening in this country is quite obvious; it almost “ barks “ at you from every corner. The bad spirit that has for some years been manifested between employer and employee is suicidal, and it must spell doom to Aus-‘ tralia if the position is not remedied. If we do not produce more, how can we hope- to pay an increasing dividend? If the quotient is lessened and the. divisor increased, the dividend must”, be less. And when things arescarce, they are always dear. Whom production is on the down grade, we cannot expect an increased output;, we might as well try to obtain a quart of’ water from a pint measure. I shall leavehonorable senators to consider the undoubted wastage that is occurring. It is due in part to the bad and envious spirit that has crept in, and which I deplore anr? abominate. Let me tell a story, just as a straw to indicate the trend of the current. I was electioneering in New South Wales some time ago. I need not mention the town, but the story is authentic.
– That is right. I heard the tale from the lips of a man who obtained a seat, we will say, in the New South Wales or Victorian Parliament. As a friend and neighbour, and also as a public man in a minor capacity, he was recognised as anallround good citizen. He had a small’ squattage, and was getting on very well with his employees and all and sundry in the neighbourhood. A delegate from the Australian Workers Union came along on one occasion and said to the employees, “ How is old Mac. treating you?” The men, who were members of the Australian Workers Union, replied, “ All right.” They were then asked whether the log was being faithfully observed, and the reply to that question also was, “ Yes, quite all right.” “ Are the conditions obtaining quite satisfactory ? “ was the next question, and the answer was, “ Yes, we have nothing to complain of.” The representative of the organization then said, “ You know you must get as much as you can, do as little as you can, and always look upon the. employer as a bifurcated bastinadoed blighter,” or something of the sort. One does not have to travel far to be told stories similar, if not in language, then in action. There may be minor degrees and processes of differentiation, but one can hear similar statements everywhere from far too many. This doctrine which’ is being encouraged and fanned into flame “by those who should not be doing it, .03 reflected in these figures, which <show the inefficiency of the country and a drop of SO per cent, in our productivity .during the last ten years. The Leader *of the Opposition -may smile, but facts such as these are not disclosed on the public platform by the members of Senator ‘.Gardiner’s party. That is the last thing that they would think of doing. My conception of the duties of a .public man is that he should, when telling the citizens of their rights, which he spells with a .capital “R,” ‘tell .them also ©f their responsibilities. When I speak to the workers concerning their rights I never fail to mention their responsibilities, and I shall continue ito do >so.
I had reached the point of showing how our huge interest bill could be met by men in Australia coming together and forgetting the -false doctrines and ruinous admonitions given to them from time to time, and working as “they did in the past, thus regaining the reputation which they once possessed of being the beet workmen in the world.
– They are the best workmen in the world to-day.
– They -were until they were ruined ‘by the poisonous ‘doctrine which has been poured into their ears. I have been showing where the leakages occur, and how, if -we only behaved as we -ought to do, (the burden of a heavy interest bill which is now hanging around the necks of the people .could be considerably reduced. The advice that £ am giving is only that -we should do what any ordinary practical citizen would do when a misfortune struck him md blotted out, at a stroke, a good part -of his life’s earnings. If he wanted to .recover and rehabilitate himself in the ‘eyes of his fellows, he would become -more industrious, frugal, and self-denying. By this means, and no other, would he recover the leeway lost and retain the respect of his fellow men. Australia has lost large sums of money in consequence of capitalists declining, owing to the disturbed industrial conditions, to invest their money here. Men prepared to inwest .their money in the Commonwealth - men who do not desire to crush the workers - have found that they cannot get a fair deal in this country and have invested it elsewhere. Instead of offering every inducement to such men, Australia has , Deen wedded to a suicidal and foolish policy, hut for which we could have had -more money >and more people here. Although we could easily provide for the manifolding of our present “population, one of the leading parties in the political field is constantly endeavouring to discourage immigration. The representatives of that party may say that they .believe in a qualified form of immigration, which will not bring in new arrivals to compete in the labour market, and so on. The only instance I can recall in which the Labour party adopted a different attitude was when a Labour Government in the Western State voted a substantial sum to encourage immigration. From 1870 until the early nineties the increase in the nott population .from overseas was remarkable. What were the conditions in Australia at that time? I was not here during all that period, but I venture to say that the conditions of the workers were .good. Then came the nineties .and following on from them, as will ,b.e seen from the statistics, the .number of immigrants was reduced to a mere .trickle. I am a living witness to what happened during the early nineties .and onwards. I had to accept a reduction of *£2 per month in my wages’, and during that period an employer in this State was paying 4s. Hd. per day for a man, horse and dray. Did an increase in the population cause ;a ‘depression in the la-hour market? .It did :not. That is (Sufficient to show the -fallacy- which prevails that increased population adds to unemployment. During the time that I ^experienced the hardest conditions and was more subject to’ ‘the dictates of -employers than at -any other period, immigrants were not arriving here. When the representatives of a party, which takes a leading partin public life and which can do an immense amount of good, blows hot and cold upon a proposal of this -kind I ask them to judge -the future by -lie past. If they do that, they -must come to the conclusion that immigration -does not prejudicially affect the workers’ welfare. Immigration should be undertaken by the Commonwealth and not toy .the States, because immigrants will come to one geographical or political area, as was the experience of -Queensland years ago, and then pass -on to other ‘areas or States. People who arrived in Queensland under a- State immigration scheme filtered down to* the south, and- the. Government of the day in- that Stale, had to> face the proposition) that whilst, it had. to- meet the expenditure incurred, it did’ not. derive. any material, benefit. As. soon as the period of probation was completed the immigrants came down to Sydney and Melbourne, and their services were lost to- Queensland. “Western Australia is having a similar experience to-day- The central authority alone should be. responsible for carrying out- an immigration policy, because when new settlers arrive. her& they can cross from one State to another and still be within the Commonwealth.
Senator Gardiner has prompted, me to discuss the economic or sociological) side of national development. The1 present “whole ‘hog,” objective of the: Labour party is. different from the objective et earlier days.
– It is the same, word for word, as it was when the honororable senator waa a member of the Labour party.
– In- the early days a haphazard decision might have been- arrived at by the Labour party for the socialization, of industry, but that objective* was- very quickly altered’ so- as- to apply ©aly to the* abolition of monopolies . There* it should, have stopped . The members of the Labour party now wish, to socialize everything, from, the meanest to the highest form of industry - from a, fish shop to a. shipping Une.
– We wish to socialize nay industry that is. exploiting the people..
– If I were satisfied that by supporting this objective we should reach a: stable state- of society, such ais has been talked’ about and dreamed about, I would hesitate to oppose itr because I have ito inclination to ignore the benefit which would result from maintaining or supporting an ideal socialistic state. But a remedy for the various ills and injuries of mankind! will’ not be obtained by merely supporting the platform of the Labour party. It has been suggested that another system would work.. Ah ! but willi it- work ? There is one- small detail which makes a difference such as- that between daylight and dark. This new social state ha» been, dreamt about, not only by the- Labourparty,, but by all other parties, and doctrinaires. From, the* timer Elate drafted.’ the scheme- of his, republic-,. Sio; Thomas More and others right, down the centuries have; suggested a- superior, socialistic order wherein- every human being, would hame a- happy amd prosperous Ma- approaching that.- hi an earthly paradise-.. Prior t©> the departure of the voyagers; tot the M«w Australia, Paraguay, thirty years ago, 1 saw the Royal Tar im Sydney Harbor. Several people.- were expressing their- regret; than so many people were? leaving Australia,, but a schoolmaster,, one- of the new, community, turned to them and- said that he> required nome of their- commiserations-. H-e added: ’“‘Dei not pity us; I pity yea because, yoon are remaining behind in tha capitalistic- State of Australia.’1 What happened?. In the course of time the old Adam in Nam commenced to rB-assert itself,. aw:d came with- stealthy steps to disturb the happiness of that community The people broke away, stage by stage, from their ideals. If a fence required repairing, a special coiumitt.ee meeting was called’ to decide who should, repair- the broken rail - and drive the wild animals out of the Indian corn - about the only thing they had to eat. These men were idealists. I contend that a success-fuJi socialistic order cannot be evolved in -any community. Russia, has- tried to establish a successful communistic order,, but has failed. It has. been authoritatively stated- that a man- in. that country is as. secure iu the- possession of private wealth as he would be in. any other part of Europe. According t©> these idealists, all1 things are beautiful to the imagination,, burt bring- them down to the hard’ facts of life amd these condition’s1 do not materialize.
-Did State control1 work successfnilly during the- war ?
– My time is limited, and J cannot deal with that question. A community established themselves in the neighbourhood of Boston. It was composed1 of intelligent youths and students’ -ft-ho’ wished to commence a new era on a co-operative or some socialistic plan. The new movement was unsuccessful, as the old Ad’am - that- ghost that can never be- settled, and whose appearance upset all calculations - once more appeared. The obituary notice of this colony stated that there were too many philosophers and not enough men to hoe potatoes. The same thing occurred in connexion with the New Australia movement. Tolstoi’s only objection to the establishment of an ideal State was that it would not work in practice, and his difficulty was to find the man who would clean out the cess-pit. The war experience is not at all applicable to this matter.
– State control was the only possible course during the war.
– Supposing by some act of necromancy we were to wake up one morning and find the present system changed to that existing in Russia - where industries would be governed by so many commissioners- what would be the position ? What would be the effect of an undiluted form of communistic rule in Australia ? We must ask ourselves what the worker would get out of his industry. That is the point. It is no use making speeches to tickle the ears of the groundlings. It is very seldom that the average man likes to- be told of his shortcomings, but this at times is necessary. In a case of bodily infirmity, when a person is reduced to a bed of sickness, the invalid knows that he is not able to take the part of a man. Medicine is prescribed which, of course, is not relished by the patient. No one will take medicine from, choice, but when necessary it is taken without complaint; because, nauseous though it may be, it will yield bodily benefit. This applies in a moral sense. A man on occasions needs good medicine for his moral benefit. A foolish doctor might prescribe palatable but ineffective medicine for a patient through fear of giving offence, and consequently the patient would be fortunate if he did not die. But the wise doctor would make a proper diagnosis and prescribe suitable medicine to restore the patient to his full vigour. Men shrink from performing unpleasant tasks. When we find ourselves surrounded by a number of workers, all of whom have votes, we tell them everything that is favorable to them. At the same time we should not shrink from telling them what they ought to do. If we insist upon their obtaining what is due to them, we should at the same time tell them what is expected of them. In 1915 a wealth census was taken on the authority of the Labour
Government, which I then supported. We have .been told that if the income derived from all forms of investment were distributed amongst the operatives, they would be much better off. It is asserted that those who are designated capitalists are so much of a handicap upon industry, and -so much of an objectionable element in the industrial field that they must be got rid of. It will be remembered that Mr. Piddington was commissioned by Mr. Hughes to ascertain the basic wage that ought to be paid in Australia. Mr. Piddington is a doctrinaire. I do not think that doctrinaires are of any use to this or any other country. Such men derive satisfaction from telling other people what to do and how to do it, yet they do not do anything themselves. I doubt whether this or any other free country benefits one iota from having a doctrinaire directing its affairs. We want a practical man who will stand up and say, “ This is what I have done ; yOU do likewise.” This doctrinaire fixed a minimum wage of £5 16s. to be paid by the industries “ of the Commonwealth to married men. A greater insult to the intelligence of the people of the Commonwealth was never perpetrated. Mr. Hughes asked to be furnished with information as to how it could be applied. When the figures were analyzed it was found that it could not be done. All that time was spent in going round the country and collecting figures which were of no value. Arising out of this recommendation Mr. Knibbs was asked to supply certain particulars. He did so in his Bulletin for March, 1919, and in a supplementary report which he tendered at the time for the use of Parliament and of the public. It was shown that, if the incomes derived by people in receipt of £6 per week and over were distributed amongst those who were in receipt of a less income, the addition per week to the income of the latter would be as follows : -
(Extension of time granted.) How would the £3 a week man fare if everybody had to throw his income into a common pool ? The increase would be as follows : -
I direct attention specially to the last figure, because at the age of twenty-one years a man is beginning to think about taking on the responsibilities of keeping a wife and family. Is it worth while breaking up our social order and putting the Labour party’s objective into full operation for the sake of an extra 10s. 5d. per week?
It was shown further in this bulletin that if all estates of a value of £5,000 and upwards were divided amongst the people the additional wealth so obtained by them- would be as follows: -
I contend that £5,000 is not an impossible amount for even a workman in this country to save. I know men who, by their savings and by judicious investment, have made very nearly that amount during their working lifetime. If all the so-called capitalists and men of money had to disgorge their wealth the maximum addition it would make to the wealth of persons twenty-one years of age and over would be £139 ls. lid.
– The honorable senator knows perfectly well that that is not what we are asking for; we want equal distribution.
– This is an equal distribution. Mention has been made of the coal-mining industry. I have often referred to that industry in the Senate. The men in New South Wales are on strike at the present time. I see no justification whatever for their action. Those men have dictated their own terms in the past. I hare seen reports which state that men on the New South Wales fields earn up to £2 a day. The tri bunals which have been appointed by the Commonwealth Government gave the men all that they wanted; they were in the happy position of being able to dictate their own terms, yet they are out on strike again. I have figures showing that if the whole of the profits made in the industry -were distributed among the men engaged in it, there would be added to their wages not more than £1 a week.
– That would do for John Brown, would it not ?
– I ask Senator McDougall - who, I believe, is a fair man - whether he thinks that if the coalmining industry in New South Wales were nationalized, and the coal-miners haddistributed among them the whole of the profits made, the miners engaged in the metalliferous mining industry - many of whom earn as low as 15s. a day - would stand silently by and agree to it? I d> not think that they would. These men produce a commodity which is the basis of all industry. They “ are holding up our industries, and at the same time are sending letters to the men engaged in the metalliferous mining industry, addressing them as “ comrades.” Their troubles about our railways or our steamships or factories, so long as they, and they alone, can get what they are after! What do they care about the wives of the miners on the gold-fields of Western Australia, who are prevented from having a trip by sea or rail because of the excessive freights and fares charged by. reason of the high price of coal? Their idea of comradeship is to help themselves to as much as they possibly can, and let their fellow employees in the industrial field “go hang.” I conceive comradeship to signify a sense of fellowship, a readiness and willingness to share equally with one’s fellow employees in the industrial field, not to rob them on every occasion - which is what the miners in New South Wales have done, and are doing. I can see no justice in one set of men getting £2 a day and another set of men, who are going to their deaths *at a much faster rate, getting only 15s. a day. I describe it as positive inequity. And it must not be forgotten that, if our social order were changed, production would lessen - aye, go back to vanishing point, as in Russia to-day, or in any other place where such lunacy was introduced.
If all the interest and all the profits derived from industry were put into a common pool, how would the operatives in the -industrial field fare? After dealing with Mr. Piddington’* report, the Commonwealth Statistician says -
At the present time the ;basic rates of wages Joi- adult males in Mie several States are approximately as follows: -
Tie .average for -the whole .Commonwealth is at present approximately £3 18s.
Now, this is the important point -. that we cannot get out of an industry more than there is in it. If a main possessed the philosopher’s stone, and could turn wood into gold, he could not ha<ve it regarded as actual wealth. Et is ‘quite true that one could .start a paper mill, as the German Government and the Moscow Soviet have done, and pay -one’s debts by notes.
– What is the honorable senator’s definition of wealth ?
– Paper money is not wealth. ‘The German mark -and the Russian rouble have no international value. Their value is confined to the boundaries of the respective nations. Their value lies at the nation’s frontiers, and they are next to valueless within the frontiers. Neman has l3ie power to take out of an industry more than is in it ; and what that is, so far as Australia, ‘is concerned., is shown ‘by Knibbs, as follows: -
If the amount of /interest and net profit combined per employee per week, which was realized in the manufacturing industry of Australia in -the years 1913 to .1918, had been realised in ai) Australian industries, and if the -whole .of this interest and profit had been distributed amongst -the wage-earners, the maximum basic wage that could have been provided in those years (corrected to basis of prices for .September quarter, 1920) would have .been as follows.: -
Here we have the kernel of the whole social problem in Australia. If, by some occult, act during the night, this country could change, its present system to absolute Soviet rule, the utmost reward ito any worker would be £5 13s. lOd. a week. Not a brass farthing would be available for ‘ the expansion of industries ; not a sheet of iron could be used for that purpose after the maximum of £5 13s. JAL a week had been paid. That is all the wealth there is in industry! Where would the coal miners of New -South Wales be under that system ? Their wages would have to come down. What would be the position of those men who wrecked the industries of Darwin ? Their wages would also have to come down. What -would happen to all these who earn more than £5 13s. lOd. per week, including the clamorous sugar workers of /Queensland? Their wages would have to come down ; and when the proposition that wages must come down was made, the combined volume of indignation that would follow would almost shake the universe. If Senator Hoare wants an explanation of the distribution of wealth, let him read Knibbs. His views would be considerably altered.
– Is Senator Lynch asking for that distribution?
– Of course I am not.
– Neither am I.
– Bulb if the ideal -of the .party ito which the honorable -senator -is attached were realized- and surely Ihe Brisbane objective is not included in tb party’s platform for .idle purposes - this is all that the wage earner would receive
– I am not connected with amy par.ty that advocates ‘ such a proposal.
– I am very glad to hear the honorable senator say so. He shows -the beginnings of common sense. It is .almost, as it were, a. break in the ‘ dark cloud that has enveloped this country :too much, since -the Labour party ‘has (determined thant the Brisbane ‘objective should be carried out, which is not meant * as even .a disguise -of “Soviet rule-; but the very thing itself. -When Senator McDougall says that he is not connected with any party that advocates -such, a -course, I welcome his statement. because
I know that he would not dream of saying anything but what he ‘thinks .and “believes in. Honorable senators sitting to -the right of , the President are not out to crush any one. Our ranks may contain many men .of wealth, just as the old Labour .party had mem .of wealth among its .supporters. I remember Sir E. T. Smith giving the Labour party in Adelaide a sum of money -to enable it ‘to build a hall. I remember other benefactors to the Labour movement. But, taking them a-s a whole, honorable senators on this side of the -Chamber are not out to injure the worker.. In any case, if we were so inclined, we should very quickly be stopped, because there are such, things in this country as the ballot-box, majority rule, and that glorious privilege we enjoy, an adult suffrage, which gives to the meanest unit in the land as much political power as is enjoyed by a man having millions and every social influence at his command.
I might succeed in getting some men to rid themselves of false impressions, but there ave others whom it is almost hopeless to expect to grow out of that state of mind which leaves them always in the past. There are men whose bodily forms walk abroad, but whose view-point is that of the sixteenth century or earlier. We see repeatedly instances of how men’s minds lag behind. There was,a time when people were not so honest as they are to-day. Before we had an organized society, there were bands of robbers’ roaming about the country, and succeeding generations still imagine that they are always in danger of being robbed. Because men’s minds have lagged behind ,and people cannot trust their fellows, we find locks on doors even in the .far interior, where the doors are never closed. When George Stephenson invented the locomotive and had Iris first engine running on rails, an old woman who saw it felt that there must be horses inside it to propel it. Her mind having been associated with horses as a means of transport, she could .conceive of nothing moving in any direction unless horses were propelling it. There are a lot of old women nowadays whose minds cannot progress. I ‘have seen honorable senators passing out of this Chamber bow instinctively to the Chair, even when the President was not in it. They cannot get away from ha’bit. I appeal to honorable senators opposite to bring themselves .up-to-date mentally, and :to realize that honorable senators «mi this side of the Chamber are mat bent on bringing about -the destruction, either materially or otherwise, of any ‘section of the citizens of this .country. On .the contrary. -they are prepared to afford help to all, and more (particularly are they impelled to do -this because there is -always the ballot-box to make them .do it.
I conclude %y appealing ,for amity ki this country. It matters not whether we belong -to any particular -section or race, or whether we worship at ‘.this shrine or that, or belong -to this political party or that. If there is any country that needs unity for its development, it is Australia, which, because of its empty spaces, -is a .standing attraction to those who -are -disposed to cast their jealous eyes upon it. While .these -eyes are on lis we moist not hm amy disunity in the political or other field j we must not have men casting aspersions on others., telling them that they are inferior in many ways, or that they have some design -on the well-being >of any section of the citizens, or, indeed, of the whole community. In this remote continent we must oe as united as possible to maintain -our safety; we cannot continue to ‘be divided on lines that invite trouble, danger, and -peril in the “future. We must invite to this country -hundreds -of thousands of people from Europe. There is room for them all, and only when we have ample population shall we feel secure. There are honorable senators -on this side of the .’Senate who are just as anxious, as our actions in the past have proved, to attain the essential ideals of labour as are -those who call themselves Labour men. There is on the other side a .party which has changed its opinions completely, and no punishment has been yet visited on it, I have never ‘changed my opinions, nor am I ever likely to do so. Yet it sought to .punish me, but has failed, so far.
– Then -the honorable .senator is in very strange company.
– I am where I am, and no one can alter my opinions on these vital issues. I appeal for that toleration towards ‘this side which we ^ourselves are always prepared to extend to others, reserving to ourselves, of course, the glorious freedom of pointing out each others faults, without magnifying any one’s shortcomings.
This Senate is capable of doing a wonderful amount of good. We have here thirty-six men, gathered from distant parts of an island continent. We are sprung from the people, and from them alone. A word from them makes or unmakes us. We, like Ant,mus, spring from the earth, and have been, given a mandate from the majority of the people. We are the trusted of the people, and i hope that no one will ever seek to lower the status of the Senate. Those who attempt to do so are doing the country an ill service. I hope that the press will discontinue its attacks upon this Chamber, and remember that the men who come here, after many crucial tests have been applied to them, are honestly desirous, in their public as well as their civic capacity, of forwarding the interests of the Commonwealth. I appeal again -for unity, and I remind honorable senatorsthat any nation that has its eyes on this country does not want to know what race we belong to, what religion we profess, what our grade in society may be. or what political party we may support. All that it wants is our country, and when it seeks to execute its design, disunion among ourselves will only serve to sharpen their weapons, and give weight to their blows. By making war against each other here we shall not assist ourselves when the time comes to preserve our liberty, but will rather bring about our destruction. Internecine strife and sectional warfare is only playing our enemy’s game. It makes it easier for him to conquer us. . I appeal finally for unity of every description, and let our watchword be, “ Let merit foe the measure of the man,” in the firm conviction that without it Australia cannot progress as we wish it to do.
– I claim the indulgence of honorable senators in making this my maiden speech in the Senate, and am confident that the latitude which has been accorded other newcomers will be extended to me. I desire, first of all, to voice the objection of the electors of Western Australia to the sale of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills. Considering the enormous profits that the mills have made from time to time, the people of my State consider that they were practically given away. It i3 remembered that they proved a boon to the returned soldiers and others by promoting the establishment of tailoring shops and similar establishments for the retail sale of cloth, blankets, and other woollen goods at reasonable prices. It has been said that the mills were established solely for the benefit of the soldiers during the war, but, since they were opened just prior to the war, they were evidently not intended for that period alone. ‘ Private enterprise recognised the undertaking as a competitor in the production and sale nf woollen goods, and saw fit to use its weight to crush it out of existence. Tweeds were sold to the. returned soldiers at a price of ls. 6d. per yard above the actual cost. As I am in the woollen line myself, I have some knowledge of the subject. The fact that tweeds similar to those produced by the mill and retailed at from 8s. to 12s. 6d. per yard could not he procured in any part of Western Australia under from 18s. to 22s. 6d. per yard proves conclusively that the mills were a boon not only to the returned soldiers, but to their dependants and to the people in general. Speaking from memory, I believe that some £40,000 was set aside to enable the operations at Geelong to be extended, so that increased benefits might be conferred upon the community. No sane person with any business capacity would have given away an establishment that was making the huge profits that the Commonwealth Mills at Geelong were returning, and the fact that they were sacrificed shows that there must be something “rotten in the State of Denmark.” The result of the sale was that those who had enjoyed the benefit of cheap woollen goods were forced to obtain their supplies from the Flinders-lane - firms at an enhanced cost, and consequently the price of clothing was raised. If any honorable senator were to place his suit on a pair of scales, he would find that its total weight did not exceed 4£ lbs.
– Not 3£ lbs.
– In many cases it does not, and this shows how much profit there must be when as much as 33s. and 35s. per yard is charged for material. It is nothing short of piracy that is practised on the people. The Commonwealth Mills certainly exerted a steadying influence, and it is deplorable that they shouldhave been placed in the hands of those who are prepared to penalize the people by means of exorbitant prices. Such an industry ought to be nationalized for the benefit of the community.
The Commonwealth Bank has made handsome profits for the people. I do not know whether the Nationalist Government intend to do away with our national bank, or whether the proposed. Board of Control will play into the hands of those who direct the interests of other banks, and who therefore willbe inclined to curtail the profits of the Commonwealth Bank. Since it has been able to make the large profits that undoubtedly stand to its credit, there should be no room in Australia for any private banking institution. Mr. Fisher established the Commonwealth Bank for the welfare of the people, and it should be apparent that the intention at that time was to absorb all the other banks in the Commonwealth.
The sale of the wooden “ coffin “ ships for something like £10,000 took place after an offer of £ 15,000 had been received and rejected, and the people are asking why they were disposed of for £5,000 less. I do not know whether the sale was due to the supposed business acumen of the party in power at that time, or whether the desire was to please the people who backed the Nationalist Government Such matters should be investigated, because the electors are entitled to know why such lamentably bad business was permitted.
There is a reference in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, to a measure for liberalizing invalid and old-age pensions. In some cases old people are receiving as little as 5s. each per week. When an aged couple have only 10s. between them, and have rent to pay, there can be very little for them to live on.
– They must have other income.
– Very little. I attended to some eighteen cases of this nature before I left Perth.
– The amount of the pension is determined by the income. If a pensioner has no other income he receives the full pension.
– Inspectors have been sent out to inquire how pensioners exist, and what income they enjoy, and I believe that some of them have been deprived of a portion of their pension. The payment of the pension to old folks, who have lived in Australia perhaps all their lives, is merely giving them back a little of their own, and there should be no cutting down of the dole. The cost of living is on the increase, and they should receive not less than £1 per week, to enable them to have a little more comfort than they have enjoyed.
I have always been in favour of arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes. The miners on the eastern goldfields of Western Australia, over two years ago, were awarded liberal increases in wages, and a fortnight’s holiday was granted them on full pay. The miners were well pleased; but what was the result? In this instance the masters became direct actionists, and forced a great many of the men out of employment, because they thought they were not able to earn the amount of money awarded by the Arbitration Court.
– Was it not because the mines would not pay under those conditions?
– Not at all; the mines can pay as well now as ever they did. I make that statement on the authority of two mine managers, who told me that it was not the amount of wages, but the Tariff, andthe consequent increased cost of mining requisites that had forced the mine-owners to take the action they had.
– It was at least a combination of the two.
– One day last week an honorable senator from Tasmania referred tothe value of conciliation between employers and employees, who, he said, should meet around a table and settle their differences. That system has proved not to be as beneficial to the employees as are Arbitration Court awards. Many cases have been determined by conciliation, but where the employees do not see eye to eye with the employers, they become marked men, and are discharged. The system, therefore, opens the way tovindictivenessandvictimization on the part of employers.
Reference was made by Senator Lynch tothedesirablenessofabolishingholidays, andtheremaybeagooddealinwhatthe honorablesenatorsaid.
SenatorLynch. - Unnecessary holidays.
– What about the holiday this Parliament is to take, whether honorable senators like- it or not, while the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) goes to London ? Itwillbeaholidayof three or four months’ duration. Asfar as this Chamber is concerned, there will not be a great deal for honorable senators to do.
SenatorPearce. - There is a lot of public work to do, apart from parliamentary duties.
-. - Such as reporting onRabaul.
SenatorGRAHAM.- The position of a carbide factory in Tasmaniahas been mentioned, and I wish to make an appeal onbehalfofWesternAustralia,Agrav- ingdockshouldbeconstructedatAlbany for ocean-going vessels.
SenatorReid. - Does the honorable senator desire to see the Henderson schemecarriedout.
SenatorGRAHAM.- Whatis needed at Albany is a graving dock.There isverydeepwaterthere,andthelargest vessels afloat can some alongside the wharf. Many portsinAustraliadonot possessthatadvantage. I sincerely, hope thatthe Government will do something for Western; Australia in this matter.
I believe inimmigration. These are vastvacantspacesinAustralia,and, with Senator Lynch, I think that they should be populated. Before people are brought here, however, some provision should be made for them to receive suitableland, sothattheywillnotdriftback tothecities,andtherebyincreaseunemployment.ImmigrantsinWesternAustralia are,insomecases,receivingaslow awageas 10s. per week. That is not at all creditable to those who. brought them to Australia. A number of theimmigrantsaretotallyunfitforfarmwork Many of the men engaged in; the mines havenodesiretoundertakeruralwork, and,iftheydid,itisveryunlikelythat theywouldachievesuccess.Manyhundred’s of immigrants who are arriving in
Western Australia are not suitable for farm work, and, consequently, after a short time they drift from the country to the cities,andcompetewithmenalready at workbyoffering their services, at lower ratesofpay. I am surenoonewishes to see wages reduced, and. it will be readily admitted that the present systemunder which men and: women are being brought to Australia, is not altogetherdesirable.Insteadofanattempt being, madeto force new settlers to take up land in isolatedplaces miles from a railway with the object of opening up new country, the large tracts of land adjacent to railway lines should be opened, up for closer settlement. To do this,, a tax should beimposedontheunimprovedvalueof theland,whichwouldhavetheeffectof burstingupmanylargeestateswhich havebeenlying dormant for many years.
SenatorHays. - Western Australia has large tracts of Crown lands-.
SenatorGRAHAM. -Yes;.but in Western Australia, as in other States, there is goodandbadland, and if a settler wereplacedonpoorlanditwould be very difficultforhimtomakeasuccess ofhiswork.InWesternAustraliathere arehundredsofsquaremilesofcountry on either side of railways whichhave neverbeen developed. It is thebounden dutyoftheGovernmenttoseethatthose peoplewhomwewishtoassistareplaced onlandonwhichtheycanmakealiving. Theonlywayinwhichclosersettlement canbemadeasuccessisbyimposingan unimprovedlandvaluestax.Thisisan oldcry,butsuchapolicywouldenablethe landadjacenttorailwaystobeproperly developed. If that weredone,. settlers would be able todespatch their produce by rail, instead of carting, it as. many do, 30 miles toarailwaystation.
SenatorGuthrie. - We have a Federal land tax.
– Taxation is imposed on unimproved land values in a Sydney municipality, and, I believe, in other places. All importantpublic utilities should be under Government control. I am in favour of national insurance against unemployment, sickness, and death, and if effect were given to such a policy unemploymentwouldnot be as prevalent as it is to-day. Although the Queensland insurance scheme does not go as far as I shouldlikeittogo,its profits are- enormous. It is the* duty of the’ Commonwealth. Government to- embark upon a national’ insurance scheme im competition with the- private- companies’,, which on the money subscribed by the people are constructing, palatial buildings- in the capital: cities.
– The Queensland State Insurance Office has a monopoly of the- Workers’ Compensation Scheme..
– I wish wes had a similar monopoly in Western Australia..
I do not intend to refer at length to the method adopted in electing the President of this Chamber, but I consider that the. eleven new senators were practically’ disfranchised. If the practice followed was similar to that followed in the past, I can only say that we on this side will’ adopt a similar method at the first opportunity.
I desire to make an appeal’ on behalf of the miners on the gold-fields of Western Australia who are suffering from phthisis, or what is commonly known as miners’ complaint. I am glad to learn that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is having investigations made concerning the Spahlinger treatment. Those conversant with the conditions on the mining, fields know that in many eases,, after a miner has been working underground for three or four years, he devlops miners’ complaint. Before long he rs unable to carry on his work, and has to be, removed to a sanatorium to await what i* known as the “white death.” There is nothing worse than this- scourge, and- although it exists in other’ parts of the Commonwealth,. I believe it is more prevalent in Kalgoorlie amd the Boulder section than elsewhere. I sincerely trust the Government will make the fullest investigations concerning possible effective treatment, or a means whereby the complaint’ may be avoided. If that were done if would he money well’ spent. When a miner, has been at work underground for a year or two dust accumulates on the lungs, and! when it becomes crusted and commences1 to break, fibrosis develops. Later the lungs- begin to disintegrate, = and miners’’ phthisis, follows. If all the wealth derived from the Golden Mile were divided amongst the miners iti would not be- sufficient compensation for the losses sustained in consequence of the suffering and’ death from, this. disease and’ accidents, and the Government would be conferring a: great benefit on those: engaged in the raining.’ industry if it took, action in the direction I have indicated.
Senator’ Lynch referred to the fact, that! miners were receiving £2 per day, and although’, the statement) may Be- correct-, it is very misleading. Some miners receive that sum-, but they work only two- or ‘three days1 a week, and’ occasionally- only three or four days a fortnight. A number oE men engaged on> the- wharfs also- receive fairly high- wages, but their work,, too-, is very intermittent.
As I have a very heavy cold, I have been at a. disadvantage in addressing the Senate this afternoon, I thank honorablesenators for listening to me with such patience, and trust that the Government wilT be able to give attention to some of the matters which I have brought forward’.
Senator ELLIOTT (.Victoria) [4.46.).- I desire to direct the attention of the Senate to the* question of sulphur duties, which has not been, mentioned’ during the debate.. There has been a good deal of misrepresentation in- regard to the deferred! duty on sulphur, and it has been said that the action of the Government in imposing these duties has increased’ the cost of superphosphates to the farmers. Nothing is: further from the truth. I understand from the report which the Tariff Board has recently prepared, and which has just been presented to Parliament, that none of the sulphur used in fertilizers at present being sold has Been dutiable. It is rather interesting to trace the- history of this matter in the report of the Tariff Beard. The reason for including in the Tariff, a deferred duty on sulphur was given by the ex-Minister for Trade audi Customs ‘ (Mr. Massy Greene) in the Howse- o* Representatives. He said -
Many of our ores, in conjunction with other . metals, hold large, quantities, of sulphur. This sulphur is very often one of the greatest detriment to the recovery of the precious- metal, but at the same, time, if’ it can be used, it- becomes in- itself a valuable by-product, and in this way enormous assistance to mining is afforded-.
It was with a view to making use of that by-product that sulphur duties were first imposed. A gentleman associated with the fertilizer industry,, in company with the representatives of the mining industry,, interviewed the Minister for Trade amd Customs and told him that, although they had been opposing a duty on sulphur, they had now come to a definite agreement with the Electrolytic Zinc Company to establish a plant for its manufacture. Unfortunately, the farmers were not represented on that deputation. Under the arrangement entered into, the Electrolytic Zinc Company undertook, irrespective of the price of sulphur outside Australia, not to increase the rate to the fertilizer companies above the actual working costs. Considering that sulphur cost as much as £14 per ton during the war, that was an enormous apparent advantage to the farming community, as it meant that, whatever might intervene, the price in Australia would not be raised. The question of world’s parity was not even involved. The then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) went on to say -
When these gentlemen tell me that they have made an agreement on this basis, I accept their word, just as I think the honorable member would do if he were in my place. I am telling the Committee as much as I may of the terms of that agreement. This is a very important matter from the point of view of the farmers. Here is an agreement under which, if any untoward happenings outside Australia lead to tremendous rise, such as occurred during the war, in the price of sulphur, wo havea definite assurance that it shall not affect the price of sulphur here, so far as it enters into the manufacture of superphosphates. That is a very valuable position from the farmers’ point of view.
The agreement referred to was made between certain fertilizer manufacturers and the Electrolytic Zinc Company. The Minister gave no verbal undertaking, either in regard to the agreement or otherwise. The fact, however, that the Minister availed himself of the existence of the agreement as a strong argument in favour of the duty would imply a certain responsibility in seeing that the agreement was observed.
In order to investigate statements concerning disputes as to the interpretation and carrying out of the agreement referred to, the exMinister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers), in April, 1922, called a conference of the interested parties to ascertain andreport whether the agreement was being faithfully carried out. The conference appointed the following representatives of the various interests concerned as a committee to report to the
Minister : - Mr. T. J. McGalliard, President of the Chamber of Commerce; Mr. W. G. Gibson, M.P., representing agricultural interests; Mr. W. A. Cuming and Mr. Burns Cuming, representing superphosphate manufacturers ; Mr. Colin Eraser and Mr. ThomasHaynes, representing sulphur producers; and Mr. Ambrose Pratt, secretary. The function of the committee, as expressed in the letter to the secretary, was “ to inquire into the disputes that have arisen between certain parties as to the interpr eta tion and carrying out of the undertaking given, through the Minister for Trade and Customs, to the House at the time the Tariff was passed, and also by reason of later developments in connexion with supplies of pyritic ores by the Mount Lyell Company, with a view to arriving at a satisfactory arrangement for the use of pyrites and other sulphide ores in the production of sulphuric acid for the manufacture of superphosphates.” The following report from the committee was received : - 415 Collins-street, Melbourne, 25th May, 1922.
The Hon. Arthur S.Rodgers, Minister for Trade and Customs, Department of Trade and Customs, Melbourne.
Re Sulphur Duty.
Sir. - Ibeg to advise you that meetings of the committee appointed by the conference on the 21st April last were held at 415 Collinsstreet, on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th May.
Present: Mr. T. J. McGalliard (in chair) and Mr. W.. G. Gibson, M.H.E., representing the agricultural interests; Messrs. W.F. Cuming and Burns Cuming, representing superphosphate manufacturers; Messrs. Colin Eraser and Thos. Haynes, representing sulphur producers; and Mr. Ambrose Pratt, secretary.
The attached letter, re functions of com- . mittee, was read by the secretary. It was decided -
It was decided to inquire what the increased cost of superphosphate would be to the farmer as -a result of the duty of ?2 10s. per ton on sulphur.
It was agreed that, on the basis of utilizing imported sulphur, this would be equal to 5s. per ton. Providing, however, that the arrangements (now in progress) for the supply of locally-produced sulphur are completed satisfactorily, the increased cost, while remaining at 5s. per ton in Western Australia, would be only from 2s. to 3s. a ton in the other States.
It was further agreed that a substantial reduction in the price of superphosphate would take place owing to the lower cost of phosphate rock, wages, &c.
Consideration was given to the insurance benefits Australia would receive by the establishment of sulphur production in the Commonwealth in time of war, and representatives of the mining companies gave an assurance that no advantage would be taken of war conditions should they arise.
I have the honour to be, sir,
Yours faithfully, (Signed) T. J. McGalliard, Chairman.
With the above communication was forwarded the following letter from Mr. T. J. McGalliard: -
Melbourne, 25th May, 1922.
The Hon. A. S. Rodgers.
Hon. Sir. I enclose herewith a report of the findings of the committee you directed to inquire into the position with regard to sulphur required in the manufacture of superphosphate.
The findings in the report, signed by mo as chairman on behalf of the committee, were unanimous, and were arrived at on the information supplied by manufacturers of superphosphate and sulphur producers. This information was placed at the disposal of the committee with the greatest freedom and candour.
An additional, or minority, report, subscribed to by Mr. Gibson and myself, is added in the form of a protest against the increase in the price of superphosphate to the farmer as a result of the duty on sulphur.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) T. j. McGalliard.
Although Mr. McGalliard said that the report was arrived at unanimously, he and one other member of the committee forwarded to the. Minister a protest against an increase of 5s. per ton. The protest was as follows: -
The Hon. A. S. Rodgers, M.P.
Dear Sir. - As representatives of the primary producers, we beg to submit a minority report, placing on record our opposition to a further impost on one of Australia’s greatest industries - wheat growing - and upon those rural industries in which superphosphate is used, over 400,000 tons being used annually in Australia.
To-day, superphosphate of the same analysis is sold in South Australia at ?5 10s. per ton (lists enclosed). At the meeting to-day, the calculations were based on the Victorian price of ?6 3s. per ton. One South Australian firm advises that the duty on sulphur would mean 7s. per ton increase, not 5s. We consider it no part of the farming community’s duty to bear the whole burden of establishing the industry of sulphur production. Such cost should be borne by the whole community. (Sgd.) T. J. McGalliard.
The Committee delivered a unanimous report, which would lead the Minister to believe that they were in accord with the duty imposed; still these two gentlemen included a dissent, such as I have read.
– The superphosphate companies of Victoria have guaranteed to reduce the price of superphosphates by 6s. per ton, provided the duty is taken off sulphur.
– The sulphur duty is scandalous.
– The secretary of the Committee, on the 7th June, 1922, wrote this letter to the Minister -
The Hon. A. S. Rodgers,
Minister for Trade and Customs,
Trade and Customs Department,
Melbourne. 7th June, 1922. .
Re Sulphur Duty.
The Committee appointed by you to confer on the above question on 21st April last, and which duly met in conference on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th May, unanimously decided to make a’ report, which I duly forwarded to you on 26th May. It has come to the knowledge of members of the Committee, by means of an article published in the South Australian press, that two members of the Committee, Messrs T. J. McGalliard and W. G. Gibson, presented to you a minority report. I have the honour to inform you that the other members of the Committee have no knowledge of this minority report, and that when the conference broke up they were under the impression that Messrs. McGalliard and Gibson had no intention of sending to you any report other than the unanimous report of the Conference. On behalf of the other members of the Committee, I have made every effort to obtain a copy of the minority report, but without success. Perhaps you would be good enough to supply me with a copy, so that the other members of the Committee may know how Messrs. McGalliard and Gibson reported. It is only fair to let you know that when the Conference broke up it was distinctly understood that no report should be presented to you except the unanimous report of the Conference, and if a minority report was presented to you, this was done in violation of the unanimous understanding arrived at by theConference.
I have the honour to be,sir,
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) Ambrose Pratt.
Thedeferred duty was provided to come into effect on 31st March, 1922, the item reading : -
Honorable senators will note that where sulphur is used for purposes for which the sulphuric acid produced from pyrites cannot be used it is free of duty.
-Didthe Committee indicate in any way whysuperphosphates in South Australia were £5 10s. per ton, while for a similar grade of superphosphate in Melbourne, the place of manufacture, the price was £6 3 s.?
– The superphosphate is produced at the pyrites works at Port Pirie, South Australia.
– Why should the Victorian farmersbe penalizedby the duty on sulphur?
– There was a difference of 13s. per ton for superphosphates of the same analysis.
– It wins by reason of theexcessive freights around the coast.
– Can the honorable senator say why some companies manufacturing phosphates in Melbourne, were selling their phosphates in South Australia at the price charged by the South Australiancompany?
– That would be the effect of competition.
On the 28th March, 1922, the Tariff Board recommended that theduty be not further deferred. The full report and the recdomendation are as follow: -
The Tariff Boardhas very carefully considered the question whether the duty on sulphur should foe further deferred after 31st in- stant. All the papers on the subject have been carefully perused, and representatives of the mining and superphosphate interests have been consulted.
It is clear from the statements made by a deputation thatwaited on Mr. Massy Greene in November, 1921, that the manufacturers of superphosphate had then arrived at a definite agreement with the producers of pyrites, and assured the Minister that if he would postpone the duty until 31st March, 1922, they would th en be in a position touse the locallyproduced sulphuric acid. As far as the Board can ascertain, practically no effort has been made by the two superphosphate manufacturer - who gave such assurance - to prepare for the roasting of the necessary concentrates to obtain the sulphuric acid required.
Therecanbe no question that there are many years’ supply of the necessary pyrites already available in Australia, and it seems most desirable that in every possible way the use of such material shouldbe encouraged.
The Board has ascertained that the price rulingfor imported sulphur is , at present . £415s. per ton, whilst local pyrites can be suppliedat an equivalent of £5 10s. per ton.
It must be remembered that the price of sulphur in war time went up to £14 per ton, and until last year was stillin the region of £8 to £9 per ton. Evidently owing to the proposal of the Government to place a duty on sulphur, the price has decreased very rapidly, and enormous supplies havebeen obtained by the companies. ‘Representatives of two companies examined bythe Board estimated their present stock is availableto meet all their requirements for the next nine months.
When it is remembered that the superphosphate companies undertook about five months ago tobe ready at the and of this month to use the new system of roasting, it will beseen that the companies can readily get into a position of manufacturingfrom local material long before their present supplies of sulphur are exhausted.
The mining companies interested have given the Board a definite undertaking thatthey will not take full advantage of the duty of £2 10s., nor will they increase -their price over the present amount unless contingencies arise such as increased wages .or more stringent conditions are imposed.
As far as the mining companies earn see, there is rather a tendency to reduce .that increase, as the wages and other conditions are likely to become easier. It has been made clean: to the Board that the imposition of the duty will not result in the increase in the price of superphosphate to the farmer.
– It has resulted in an increase.
– I do not think so. The manufacturers have offered to reduce the price .by 6s. per ton if Ais dirty is taken off sulphur. That is not am increase, hut merely a catting <of the present price. The report continues -
Tt .must bc remembered that one ton of sulphur will make 10 tons -of superphosphate, so that the .duty would amount to .about 5s. per ton. As the’ company is only taking advantage of a little more than one-half of the duty, it is evident that in the coming regulation of prices there must be a reduction ‘in the price of superphosphate to the .farmer.
The supplies of superphosphate up to the present tare being manufactured from .sulphur costing between £8 and £ 0 per ton, so that, so far a« sulphur is concerned, at the next fixing of prices of superphosphate, “both the -cost of sulphur ‘and wages have been “reduced, and .that reflection ‘Should :show in the price to be fixed for superphosphate.
There can .be jio question that the iiu.poa.tion «of this duty will be of immense importance to the mining industry, and Should provide work to a great number of men, as well -a* transport service for 0Ur idle ships, and the Board lias no hesitation in recommending .that the .duty should he imposed as from 31st March, 1922.
The importance of the .use of Austalian pyrites or ore concentrates for the manufacture of sulphuric acid .cannot -be overestimated -
Not .only does it assist the mining industries, .but it scmov.es .Australia from the necessity of depending on overseas supplies of sulphur for the production oi superphosphates.
An agreement has recently .been come to between .Sicily and America for the world co.ntirol .of the price -of sulphur, and .this agreement is likely to result in higher prices being charged.
For tlie last six months negotiations have teen in progress between representatives of the Sicilian amd American sulphur-producing interests.
Between them they monopolize the whole of the outside supply of sulphur.
These negotiations have .had as their object the conclusion of a (working agreement to eliminate competition, fix prices, and to allocate the various ‘markets of the world /between the two sources -of supply.
How are we likely to fare if that comes off?
From -the point of view of the Sicilian producers, such An -understanding was essential if the industry w.as .to be preserved from complete collapse, for notwithstanding the efforts both of the Italian Government and the mineowners themselves, Sicilian sulphur was gradually and continuously losing ground, and the prospects of seducing costs of production .to .a point sufficiently low to compete successfully with the American product were negligible. From tlie American stand-point also, consider.able benefits would, -accrue fr-oni an agreement. The negotiations proceeded fairly smoothly., and a definite agreement has at last been arrived at, which is to “operate until 30th September, 1-926, with an alternative after that date .either of renewal for a .further period, :or of expiration on six -months’ notice of -such intention being given by either party.*
Full details of the agreement are not yet available but -the bread outlines have “»een published.
– The same thing obtained here in connexion -with the manufacture of superphosphate.
– That is quite likely. But it is idle to blame the duty alone for any increase.
All North American needs are to be exclu-sively provided for by United States sulphur and ail Italian needs by Sicilian- sulphur. The rest of the world’s markets are to be divided between the two countries in a definite ratio but in -addition to their fixed quota, Sicilian producers -are to !be granted annually the further (facility of selling 65,000 tons of crude sulphur destined for exclusive use in the manufacture of sulphuric acid. and for “this 65,000 tons they are to be allowed a free ‘world market.
Tlie total amount o? sulphur to be -exported by Si-oily -each year U fixed- at 145;000 tons, exclusive of the’ 65,000 tons .mentioned above and this figure, although far below pre-war figures, is considerably above those of 1021 and” 1922.
As (Ear as price questions are concerned, .each market is to be studied individually, and a suitable selling price fixed by the ItaloAmerica;n combination. The ultimate idea, however, is to increase prices gradually until they approach those ruling in pre-war years expressed on a gold currency basis.
As regards immediate “price alterations, it appears that complete mutual agreement has been -attained, amd that a.n average increase <sf $i , per .ton is to (be made on tlie prices provisionally fixed by American producers in October last. Further details on the price question will be anxiously awaited by sulphur consumers both in this country .amd abroad, as it -is .difficult to >see how. even in the face of this -agreement, the prices ruling for the .two products can he .reconciled. American crude sulphur can be obtained in this country at a ci.f. price of .about -£5 per ton, whereas -.the comparative Sicilian product cannot .be , aD lamed under £8 per ten. T-o what extent, if any, iiic consumer will suffer will only be seen in the light of future events.
If Sicily happens to have Australia allotted to it, we shall have to pay a very considerable increase on the price at which we are obtaining it from America.
– If those foreign suppliers are putting their heads together, what is to prevent local men doing the same thing?
– We cannot interfere with the outside man, but we have under our thumb those who are in Australia.
In March, 1923, when the foregoing report was written in London, the ci.f. price of sulphur in England was: - Prom United States of America, £5 -per ton; from Sicily, £8 per ton.
At the same time, i.e., March, 1923, sulphur from America was being sold in Australia, at £4 7s. 6d. per ton c.ii.
The fact that American sulphur was being offered in Australia at 12s. 6d. per ton less than the price in England, at a time when effort was being put forth to make Australia independent of overseas supplies, is a very significant matter.
They wanted to destroy the local indus- try.
It should also be particularly noted that if Australia had to depend on imported sulphur, the price would, in view of the SicilianAmerican agreement, undoubtedly be raised considerably, though to what extent would only be seen in the light of future events.”
The development of the Australian sulphur resources, in order to make the Commonwealth independent of outside “price agreements,” and at the same time to insure for the superphosphate makes a regular supply of sulphuric acid at a reasonable price, is a matter of the first moment.
Sulphuric acid made from pyrites is used extensively for the manufacture of superphosphate in different parts of the world, and is used almost exclusively in Great Britain, France, Belgium, and Germany. It has also been used in Australia for a number of years, and in 1913, 12,S35 tons of pyrites, valued at £28,255, were imported from Spain for thi3 purpose.
The .question has been raised as to whether sulphuric acid made from pyrites, or other Australian ores, will be unsuitable for the manufacture of superphosphates on account of the presence of small quantities of zinc or arsenic.
The Tariff Board has given special attention to this question, and is thoroughly satisfied there is no danger.
In the production of the sulphuric acid from Spanish and Portuguese pyrites and zinc concentrates, in England, France, Belgium, and Germany, the -acid is not treated in any way with the object of removing the small proportions of zinc and arsenic invariably present as these have been proved to be of no signifi cance .whatever in relation to the application of superphosphates to the soil. Recent experimental studies of English and French agricultural chemists showed that restricted quantities of zinc and arsenic act as stimulants to the growth of wheat and other crops.
It is important also to note that -
Superphosphate made in Australia with sulphuric acid produced from Australian ores is being sold in South Australia at present at 24s. per ton less than is charged in New Zealand for similar superphosphate made in that country from sulphur imported free of duty.
The use of our own sulphuric acid is a very important consideration to Australia because it is the basis of the manufacture of modern high explosives. This consideration cannot be too much stressed. At the outbreak of the war Great Britain had only one establishment at which was being produced sulphuric acid which could be used in the manufacture of explosives. It was necessary to enormously multiply the factories and increase their output in order to supply the explosives used in the war. It is . a well known fact that in Australia we have something like four days’ supply of gun ammunition. It is impossible to manufacture in peace time a very much larger quantity of ammunition, because it deteriorates quickly. Unless we are prepared to spend a huge sum of money in making good the wastage, the only alternative is to encourage the production of sulphuric acid in this country.
Speaking of sulphuric acid in this connexion leads me to the question of defence. I was very pleased to notice from the speech of Senator Ogden that there is hope of a return to reason on .the part of honorable senators opposite in regard to the vital matter of our defence. I do not forget that it was due to a Labour Government that universal training was inaugurated in Australia. That system, was of great advantage - one is tempted to say, of incalculable advantage to Australia during the recent war. Our mobilization for that war was carried out, not without difficulty. Had it not been for the institution of com.pulsory military training our difficulties would have been infinitely greater, if not insurmountable. The system provided us -with officers and non-commissioned officers and with “the means of training men as they came forward. It made our army possible. During the course of the war a change took place in the views of honorable senators opposite - a change which I have been totally unable to fathom. Instead of that support, which’ Mr. Fisher promised, of “the last mau and the last shilling,” there was a gradual cooling off, if not an actual hostility towards recruiting, culminating in the branding, -by certain elements of the party, of the men who came forward as recruits, as “six bob a day murderers.” At that very time we were within a hair’s breadth of defeat. Even now - although this fact, I believe, is realized fully - some people do not really grasp what the defeat of the Allies would have meant to us. I have heard it urged that, even had Germany defeated the Allies in Europe and had come to Australia, we should never have been conquered. Let. us assume that that view is correct.
– It is a very foolish view.
– Foolish, indeed, but let us assume its truth. It could only have been demonstrated to the invader at the sacrifice of all our cities, the destruction of our farms and countryside, and the infliction of terrible sufferings upon our people. Such would be the price of victory. Let us, however, consider what would have happened if we in Australia were conquered by Germany. Such a defeat would mean our enslavement for generations. How, with that terrible risk before his eyes, any one could have faltered in his determination to win through on. the other side at any cost, passes my comprehension. Had it been possible for the Labour party to remain united and carry out ‘their original policy to the end, in my opinion they would have been so firmly established in power in this country that their position would have been unassailable, at any rate, for a very long time. From the time of the split on the conscription issue - right up to the present time - no doubt in order to justify the position which they then took up - the Labour party have consistently opposed any attempt to maintain the system of compulsory training. This attitude and the open sympathy displayed by the party towards those trainees who resist military training have immeasurably increased the difficulties of those who are intrusted with the administration of the Aci. However, Senator Ogden’s able speech seems to betoken a return to sanity in this matter. I trust that his views will prove infectious.
I desire to acknowledge my personal debt to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) for his assistance in eliminating from the Defence Bill introduced into the Senate last session features which were considered to be undesirable. The majority of those clauses which last year I deemed to be objectionable have, I am glad to note, been eliminated; and, with the exception of a few provisions, I shall be able to support the measure.
One aspect of the Defence question has been referred to with which I am thoroughly in accord. It is now almost two years since I advocated that Great Britain should be approached in regard to the fortification of Singapore and the creation of docks there. I believe that I was the first in Australia to publicly advocate that policy. If honorable senators will glance at a map of the world, they cann’ot fail to see the enormous strategic importance of Singapore to Australia. We can be attacked from two quarters only - the North Pacific and the North Atlantic. In both cases a force proceeding to Australia would be threatened from the flank and rear by a force stationed at Singapore, and would not dare to pass it by without reducing it to subjection. As this would lead to delay in any contemplated descent on Australia, it could not fail to be to our incalculable advantage. With a similar base in New Zealand and one at Capetown, we would be practically unassailable. But Singapore would be the most important of the three posts, and I, therefore, commend the Government for its co-operation with Great Britain in thi3 regard, because it will prove to be the cheapest form of insuring us from invasion. At the same time, there is, in my opinion, no immediate danger. Germany is impotent for the time being, and present reports indicate that Japan is conscientiously carrying out the terms of the Washington Treaty.
I join most emphatically in the support accorded to the League of Nations. At the same time, one must realize the difficulties faced by the League. No Court in our land can function without its executive” officers, backed up by the police force, and, if necessary, the army,, to compel the observance of. its< judgments or awards-. Similarly,, the League of Nations must have an army at its back to- insure the observance of its decrees;. The question is how that army is to be- provided. The League, must either have its own standing, army, a body of mercenaries stationed at. some, agreed, upon spot,, and ready to- move whenever required, or depend on volunteers from tlie diff erent, nations. Both systems have their disadvantages. A standing, army might become, an instrument of tyranny and ultimately enslave the world under a vast despotism. In the other ease, it might- be very difficult,, or even ‘ impossible, to collect an. army of volunteers in time of need. Suppose,; for instance, there is a quarrel- between Poland and Austria or some other States’ over one of those obscure issues1 which frequently cause wars. How would Australia, as a member of the League of Nations, regard a request to call her young men away from their desks, their ploughs, and their looms, to help ‘keep- the peace between the quarrelling countries? We had an example of that sort of thing recently, when there was danger of Turkey breaking the Treaty of Sevres and starting another war. As one of the signatories to the Treaty, Mr. W. M. Hughes, our ex-Prime Minister, loyally promised to support ‘Great Britain even to the extent of sending our troops overseas again. He was assailed from all quarters for even contemplating; such a thing;, but what difference would there be between that possibility and a. request to support the League of Nations in. regard to some obscure conflict- in tha middle of Europe ? How, also> would India regard a call from the- League of Nations, to assist Australia against some Asiatic or coloured race in a dispute omer the White Australia policy? The subject bristles with difficulties; nevertheless it is a great ideal. N©’ doubt, if any one five hundred years ago had suggested- that, the Highland clans! of Scotland or the robber chiefs of the borderland of England amd Scotland could be induced to unite even for common defence,, much less to. go’ overseas to fight side by side for justice and right, it “would have seemed but a wild, impossible dream. But we have pro- gressed and made such a thing possible, and it. may be that sooner or’ later the ideal of the League of Nations will, become a glorious reality..
I welcome the announcement that the Government will shortly introduce a measure to liberalize invalid and old-age pensions. Great hardship is. occasioned at times through the administration of the Act. A case brought recently under my attention is that of a daughter who is an absolute invalid. She is so helpless that it is necessary to pay an1 attendant to be constantly with her- to assist- her in every task of nature. She was receiving an invalid pension, but recently, because her father had received an increase in his wages to £4 10s. or £i 12s. a week, her pension was stopped. The increase in the father’s wages had’ put him just above the regulation standard wage which permitted of a pension being paid to a dependant. The withdrawal: of the pension was a terrible infliction on these people. I tried my best to help them to get the decision reviewed, but the Commissioner of Pensions pointed out that under the present regulations he was utterly helpless in the matter. I hope that provision will be made to meet a case such as this. In. another instance a woman with a bed-ridden husband who is utterly helpless and has only a few months to live, has supported’ herself and her husband by acting as cleaner and caretaker of- a picture theatre. For this work she- receives £2 10s. a week. When she applied for an invalid pension for her husband, she was informed that he could’ not be assisted because she wa3 drawing a wage of £2 10s. per week. Her case was complicated because owing to her heavy work in having, not only to clean out a picture theatre, but also to look after a bed-ridden husband., her own health broke down, and for some time she had) been obliged to pay an assistant to doi her work at the- theatre. However, she failed to state that fact in her application- for the pension . I hope that some provision will also be made tomeet her case.
I trust .that the Government will be able to increase pensions payable to war widows. The utmost liberality has been shown by past Governments to returned soldiers, but there is no doubt that war widows, particularly officers’’ widows-, have cause for complaint. At first- the pensions provided for officers-‘ widows were considerablyhigher than those payable to privates’ widows,but as the ; costof living increased, public opinion forced the Government to raise the pensions payable to privates’ widows to the scale previously allowed forthe widows of captains. There was, however, no increase in the pensions of the widows of officers. The wives and childrenof many of our young doctors who lost their lives at the war were accustomed to a reasonable amount of comfort, but they are now obliged to subsist on the same amount that is allowed to the widow of a private. However Democratic we may be we ought to have regard to circumstances. Educated ladies and their children, who have not been accustomed to “ rough it,” feel their present position much more acutely than do those accustomed to living on a lower scale of comfort.
– What is the pension allowed to , an officer’s widow?
– A widow with one child is paid a pension of £2 12s. a week.
There is a matter not referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech which I consider is worthy of Attention. Section 44, sub-section 4, of the Constitution provides -
But sub-section (iv) does not apply . . . tothe receipt of pay as an officer or member of the Naval or Military Forces of the Commonwealth, by any person whose services are not wholly employedby the Commonwealth.
That provision was made with the object of preventing a Government insuring support for any part of its policy by providingpaid positionsunder the Crown to members of Parliament supporting it. At that time we had very small Naval and Military Forces, and as far as I can ascertain, no one serving in either the Army or the Navy, was receiving more than £30 a year, an amount which would not even cover the expense to which he was put. Therefore no one’s vote was likely to be influenced by such a paltryallowance. The position, however, has entirely changed. We find that Major-General Sir Neville Bowse, V.C., a member of the House of Representatives, occupies a part-time military job, at something over £800 a year, and a number of other senior officers in the Military Forces, who are also members of the Commonwealth Parliament, are in receipt of sums approaching , £300 a year, for positions which may, at any time, be brought into line with that which commands the salary paid to Major-General Howse. Surely it is a breach of the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution. Where will it end ? As our Forces develop, it might be quite constitutional to create the position of part-time Admiral of the Navy, carrying a salary of £5,000 a year, in order to take away the sting of criticism from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I feel sure that even the Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber, Senator Gardiner, would not find it in his heart to refuse a flattering offer of £10,000 a year for acting as nine-tenths Permanent Field Marshal of the Australian Forces. I have, perhaps, intentionally exaggerated this aspect of the question, but I have done so for the purpose of opening the eyes ofhonorable senators to the danger of the continued development of this practice which, I declare, is quite contrary to the spirit of our Constitution. Honorable senatorsopposite have harped on the subjectof immigration, and have alleged thatwe have no suitable land available on which to place settlers. I would remind them that twenty years ago the ‘best wheat land we have - the Victorian Mallee country - was classed as unsuitable and useless. To-day the Mallee promises the best reward to the enterprising settler who is not afraid of hard work. The construc tion of water channels has solved tie difficulty.
– And cheap superphosphates.
– Yes. With the provision of the vastwater storages in the Murray Valley, and particularly with the development ofour railways, we may expect a new ; State or province to spring up intheRiverina.
It hasbeen said thatthe Government have notkept their promise in regard to the settlement of soldiers on the land. Speaking for my own State, at least, Ican say that the Government have carried out their promise to the fall. I think I am right in saying that only some four thousand soldiers, whilst overseas, originally applied for land, but the returned men were stimulated by the prospects of those who took up the land at first. More and more qualified themselves and applied, and up to date about 14,000 have been settled in Victoria. There is surely not the slightest ground for alleging that the Government have not done all that was promised. In some instances the soldiers have made extraordinary progress, and some have paid off every penny the Government advanced to them.
– In the Mallee, too.
– It is a wonderful record. Taking the soldiers as a whole, if they were allowed to resell their holdings, they could, almost without exception, realize more than the Government ;.re charging them for the land.
I welcome the announcement that an attempt will be made to draw a dividing line between labour disputes that are essentially Federal and those that are local. At the same time I do not think that this will altogether solve the difficulty. I look for a solution rather to the Labour Unions themselves aspiring to own and control their own production - not in the direction of confiscating the works of employers, but by organizing and finding their own capital and carrying ou their own businesses. An example of what I mean is afforded by the action of a number of returned soldiers who were wharf labourers by occupation. They combined and formed the Returned Soldiers Stevedoring Company. They accepted contracts, and I believe that they are now rapidly becoming wealthy men. One ideal of the Labour party has been attained by these men ; in that they control the whole of the product of their own industry. Surely that system could be extended.
Much criticism has been levelled against the Government for selling the Commonwealth Woollen Mills. Why did not the labour unions get into the field ahead of the private syndicate and purchase the mills? They could have organized a fund, floated a company, and acquired control of the undertaking, thus securing the whole of the fruits of their industry.
– Nobody ever dreamt that the mills would be disposed of for less than a million sterling.
– Not less than half a million, at any rate.
– That merely shows the lack of trained knowledge and business acumen on the part of the party leaders. What a splendid chance employees in the building trade have st present to form themselves into a company for the purpose of owning their own brickworks. They could then accept contracts for building houses for all and sundry, and secure to themselves the whole profit of their .labour. There is still some talk of this being done, but the project appears still to be only in the air. I appeal to honorable senators opposite to endeavour. to find a solution of the labour problem to that end. .
I was greatly heartened to find in Senator Ogden a recruit for the system of proportional representation. Last year I was told that it was all very well for .me to support such a’ proposal in view of the fact that I had not to seek reelection at the then approaching general elections; but if I have a chance this session I shall show my bona fides by endeavouring to get a measure through, and I hope to hav.e the support of honorable senators opposite.
– Labour senators voted for proportional representation before the honorable senator came here.
– Then I hope that they are still in. favour of it.
– I desire to express my pleasure in having a direct voice in the affairs of my country, and I hope that during my occupancy of this high and honorable position, I shall show that the confidence that the people of South Australia have reposed in me has not been misplaced. I realize that there are many pressing problems engaging the attention of Parliament. We should all be proud of the franchise that has been applied to the National Legislature.. Every man and woman, over the age of twenty-one years, has a voice in the affairs of government, and every eligible person should exercise that valuable right, which makes all the difference between a free man and a slave. I have been in the Labour party for about twenty years, and I am not “ one of the young men in the movement,” as Senator Pearce described me the other day. Ever since I have been able to take an intelligent interest in politics I have been in the Labour movement, and I assisted in putting into the Senate men who, years ago, helped to make Senator Pearce a Minister in a Labour Administration. Although I am not very old in years, I am at least old in the work of the Labour party, and I hope that, by the time I reach the age of Senator Pearce, I shall still be in it; in fact, I know that I shall be.
The Labour party stands for constitutional government, and we think that, when there is legislative work to be done, Parliament should do it. The present composite Government, however, seem, for some reason or other, to be afraid of Parliament. Early this year Parliament was called together for a very brief session, and the present session, too, is to b a short one. Then we shall go into recess, while the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) proceeds to England. The Labour party maintain that the first duty of the National Parliament is to Australia. There are men in England who can manage British affairs even better than our Prime Minister, bub he seems to think that he is the only man in Australia capable of conducting the affairs of this country.
– He thinks himself “ it and a bit.”
-He certainly imagines he is the only one who counts. We hear a good deal about autocrats, and the Prime Minister in this connexion reminds me of Cromwell. He will put the key of the Parliament in his pocket, and the parliamentary work of this country will be hung up until he sees fit to return from England. Why should not his twinbrother in the Government, Dr. Earle Page, be left in charge during his absence? The Country party say that they are capable of managing the affairs of Australia. If I were in Dr. Page’s position I should consider it a direct insult to suggest that I was not fit to take charge of the Government. It is called the Bruce-Page Ministry, and surely Dr. Page can be trusted to carry on, if it is necessary for the Prime Minister to leave Australia. The first essential in a Democracy is to have free and open discussion of all measures appertaining to the government of a country. We are legislating for over 5,000,000 of people, and the least the Government can do is to allow the fullest and most open discussion on every measure brought down. When we go into recess, even some of the followers of the Government will possibly not know the full effect of the legislation that is evidently to be rushed through. I have no doubt that the closure will be used fairly frequently this session. Its application does not make for free and open discussion, but it often ‘ creates bad feeling, and that is not in the best interests of Australia.
More than one honorable senator has referred to the sale of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills. I regard that act as one of the greatest political crimes ever perpetrated in this country. I have heard men who are now opposed to the Labour party calling attention to the fact that the establishment of the mills represented a great achievement in the people’s interest, and yet to-day they are hand in glove with the salesmen who have handed the mills over to private enterprise. There is something to be learned from this as to the difference between Labour’s objective and the objective of our opponents. My party’s objective is practical socialization, and the woollen mills were a striking example of that.
– Oh no; not socialization.
– They were a practical example of what Labour is striving to attain. The Minister has read the Labour party’s platform, and he should know that we advocate the socialization of industries, and nationalization is the first step towards our objective of socialization. We cannot socialize industries within a year, but we can do something in the interests of the people of Australia, by leading up to practical Socialism by a sensible method of nationalization. I am surprised at the Minister’s interjection, because when he was a member of the Labour party he was proud of the fact that he was a socialist.
– The Minister was branded, but he now thinks that the brand can be removed. Prior to the last election the Nationalists in South Australia endeavoured to frighten the people by telling them that I was an awful man, but when the electors saw me they said that I seemed to be an ordinary Australian, possessing average intelligence, and that I was not as I had been described in the newspapers. Consequently the representatives of our party secured a majority of the votes cast in that State, and after the next general election we shall be in a stronger position than we- are to-day. It is well for honorable senators opposite to be prepared,, because I realize that it must be hard to leave these, surroundings after one has been here for six years-. Honorable senators opposite should take time by the forelock and, during the next three years, become accustomed to what they will have to. encounter when that time has expired .
-Why introduce such an unpleasant subject?
– The fact should be mentioned. To return to the question of the Geelong Woollen Mills, I may state that Senator Guthrie said -
While chargingcomparatively low prices for splendid! material, theGovernment Millshave beenable to showa substantial net profit year after year, and employment has been under the best possibleconditions. The Mills have tended to prevent-and Ithink this is a very important fact - Government Departments and returned soldiers from being ex- ploited. . .Theyturned out highly satisfactory material at 5s.6d., 6s.6d. and 7s. 6d.. per yard, when other manufacturers were charging double that price. . . . Private manufacturers were charging from 10s. 6d. to 12s.6d. per yard for similar material to that being supplied by the Government Mills at 6s. 6d.
The manager of the Mills and Mr. Trumble, the Secretary for Defence, were also full of praise concerning, the good work of the undertaking, which showed a clear profit of £190,000. Had it been a. losing, proposition we might have understood the action of the Government; but it was such a grand’ asset, and could have been made of great benefit to the community. There must have been pressure from somewhere. Whence did. it come? Whilst the. war was in. progress a man was compelled to pay £12 12s. for a suit of clothes. The Government Mills were producing good cloth at. 6s.6d., 7s. 6d., and 8s. 6d. per yard, while the importers were charging £3 3s. per yard for similar material.
– That is not right.
– That was the price charged in Adelaide and in. Melbourne, and a suit made of high-class serge cost from £16 16s. to £17 17s.
– That was for a suit.
– Yes, but a tailor does not charge £8 8s. for making up the cloth.. A man can have his own material made up for £4.
– Where ?
– In Adelaide. Strong supporters of the Government said that the Mills had to be disposed of Why ?Merely because the material produced was not being handled by the Flinders-lane merchants, who were deprived of the big. profits which they obtained when handling imported goods. The Government had the opportunity of showing the people of Australia what could be done-, and the good work commenced should have been continued,, because it would, apart from other considerations, have been the means of providing employment for some of those coming” from overseas. We produce the best wool in the world and send practically all of it. away to be manufactured into the finished article. Apparently the Government are not anxious to protect the interests of the ordinary people of Australia, but are out to safeguard the interests of the “ fatted “ few, and in this instance they have acted on their behalf The Government contendthat they do not wish to interfere with private enterprise, but private enterprise has already had. its sway; and the tine is coming when the people will object to further exploitation. Is it to be supposed for a moment that the Government would hand over other public utilities such as’ our railways?
– The honorable senator favours the socialization of industries.
– I have already explainedthat point for the information of the Minister (Senator Pearce), who knows exactly what I mean. The Geelong Woollen Mills’ were an example of practical Socialism, for which our party stands. I cannot imagine the Government handing over the control of the Post and Telegraph Department or any other similar public utility to private enterprise. Woollen goods’ are always needed, andwhen the public is being exploited’ it is the duty of the Government to oppose the exploiters and not, to use a vulgarism-, to give them an “open go.”
– The honorable senator is making assertions, but where is the proof?
– The proof is that cloth, similar to> that manufactured at. Geelong at 6s. 6d. and 7s. 6d. per yard, is sold in Flinders-lane ait more than double the price.
– Has the honorable senator ever endeavoured to purchase in “ The Lane “ ?
– No>, but I know of tailors who have tried to purchase at lower prices and who have dismally failed. The Geelong Woollen Mills were a sound business proposition showing, a. good return on the outlay. The buildings and plant were valued at £267,000, and the Government, in selling, them at £155,000, sacrificed £112,000 of the taxpayers’ money. A syndicate has now been formed to conduct the Mills. I do not blame the men interested in the venture for acquiring shares,, but I know it is likely to pay good, dividends, which should be going into the pockets of the people whose representatives were responsible for establishing the industry. When Labour is returned to power an- effort will be made to secure the. Mills, and conduct them as a Government instrumentality.
I now wish to refer to that great tract of. country known as the Northern Territory. Not many Australians are conversant with the conditions in. the Territory, and the average person has to depend upon reports for his information. Tha Northern Territory represents about one-sixth of the total area of the Commonwealth. I am pleased to learn that the Land Ordinance recently framed by the Government has been- withdrawn, and that it is- to be embodied in a Bill to enable its provisions to be discussed in Parliament. Certain arrangements, satisfactory to- the- pastoralists, have been entered into: between the large land-holders in the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth Government, and when the arrangements are satisfactory to> the big pastoralists, it. is fair to assume that they have secured a wonderfully good deal. If the policy of the Government in thisconnexion is adopted, development in the Territory will be retarded for the nextforty years.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) * - I remind the honorable sena tor that a reference to a Bill embodying the* Ordinance to which he refers appears; cn the notice-paper. He will not, therefore, be in order in discussing its provisions’ at this juncture. Although- he wil’l bc quite in order in discussing the- way in: which he considers the lands should be dealt with, the honorable senator, will have an opportunity later on to deal’ with the Bill.
– I shall refrain from discussing, that question .until the measure is before the Senate. It will be unfortunate, indeed, if the control of the Territory is in the hands of a few men.
– It is to-day; that is the trouble.
– It is the duty of the Government to prevent large areas of land from being held by a few influential squatters. There are great possibilities of the settlement of the Northern Territory, provided tha* intending settlers have an expert knowledge of the conditions’. I am not suggesting that, the? Government do not intend to develop this country.
– We invite the- honorable senator to help us’ to do it.
– It will be my very great pleasure to do so, and every honorable senator should assist. The Government may rest assured that honorable senators on this side will place no obstruction in the’ way of the improvement of the Northern Territory. This vast area of land once belonged to South Australia, but it was1 taken over’ by the Commonwealth Government! because it was thought that that Government could handle it to better advantage. There are; people who- say that the. South Australian Government should1 not have- parted with the Northern Territory, but I aim not one of them. It can be administeredproperly if the Federal Government, carry ‘ out the covenant which- they entered intowith the South Australian Government. There is- no prospect of developing, the Territory without railway facilities-. A. railway to the Northern Territory is a rational, undertaking, and its- construction will provide extensive employment. Honorable, senators who have been through) the Territory will agree ‘ with me that there are large tracts of land there which can be made productive. I do not believe ia State “frights” or State rights to- any great, t extent;. I place the> rights of the* nation, f foremost. When the Bill for the construction of a. railway to the Territory is before the Senate, I ask honorable senators to consider that proposal from a national viewpoint, quite apart from any State interest. The Northern Territory comprises one-sixth of the area of Australia, and if it is opened for settlement by means of railway communication, all credit will be due to the Nationalist Government. I commend the proposal to the Government, and hope that honorable senators will have an opportunity of discussing the matter before this session cuds; if not this session, then as early as possible.
– The honorable senator will have the opportunity this session.
– Something should be done to develop that great tract of country.
An alteration should be made in the present method of electing members to the Senate. I prefer the old system of “ first past the post,” because it is understood by the majority of the people. In South Australia recently there were over 13,000 informal votes cast for the Senate, and 13,000 people were consequently disfranchised. Under the old system there would have been not more than a dozen informal votes.
– There were more informal votes in the early stages of Federa-. tion under the old system than there were under the present system.
– It was then possibly a new system. I do not think the Minister would suggest that, prior to the present system, the number of informal votes was anything like the number cast at the two recent Federal elections.
– The last election was not abnormal in that respect.
– We were told in South Australia that it was abnormal.
– That is not in so far as the Commonwealth as a whole is concerned.
– I made inquiries and was informed that the number of informal votes at the last election for the Senate was abnormal. I prefer the old system of “ first past the post,” because very often people do not know the effect of their votes under the present system. I am told that some people who voted number eight in my case cast an effective vote for me, and I do not think it is a right system of voting. A fair and just system is required, and one that the people will understand.
– In some cases a No. 8 vote might be an effective vote.
– That should not be. The man who gave me a No. 8 vote did not desire my election. I want to be returned by the votes of the people who want me. No. 8 votes were also cast for other candidates. Why should aman have to vote for a candidate he does not wish to be elected ? Let us adopt the system whereby a person may vote according to his wishes.
– The system the honorable senator advocates is not democratic.
– It is a simple system, and the people understand it. I venture to say, in South Australia, that there are not 100 persons, outside the Electoral Department, who understand the present system of voting.
– And none inside the Department.
– Not many inside the Department do understand the system. I questioned one or two authorities at the Electoral Department as to the effectiveness of certain votes, and none of them agreed. We want a simple system.
– The trouble is that the system advocated by the honorable senator does not always give majority rule.
– We have to chance which party gets in power. Both parties cannot hold the reins of government. If there are twelve candidates, and only three are required, naturally nine are disappointed. I would not favour a system which would give an advantage to my own party. I want merely a simple and just system that will give the people the representation they require.
The Labour party’s attitude towards immigration is very often misunderstood. We want more people in Australia but we contend that suitable provision should be made for them in Australia, either before their departure from the Old Country or immediately upon their arrival here. We know it is a difficult undertaking. It is very easy for a person to say, “ Introduce 10,000 emigrants from the Old Country, and put them on the land.” I have lived in the Mallee, and I have seen men from the Old Country settle there, but they could not stick to the work because they were not used to the country. Men taken from congested areas, without experience, cannot work successfully in the bush. The necessary experience could be gained by employing these men on large railway construction works, such as the uniform-gauge project, where extra labour would be required. After this experience, men would be able to enter other avenues of employment open to them, including settlement on available land. Imagine men leaving England in the cold weather, arriving here in the middle of summer, and then being placed in the Mallee, where the temperature is sometimes 118 degrees in the shade.
– They could be employed on reproductive works, such as water conservation.
– On water conservation and any other essential works of development. I do not advocate the wholesale introduction to Australia of men and women from the Old Country to the detriment, possibly, of our people and the lowering of the standard of life here. Honorable senators do not wish to see the standard of living in Australia lowered. In their national pride, they would insist on a decent standard of living, and on a possible improvement rather than a retrograde step. I was surprised to hear Senator Lynch relate an incident concerning an Australian Workers Union organizer. I know something of the Australian Workers Union, and if the union organizer did as Senator Lynch states, he was acting contrary to the instructions of the organization. I have never known an Australian Workers Union organizer to do anything of that nature. On the contrary, I have known them to prevent strikes at certain camps. The organizers are appointed by the men, and would not knowingly foment a strike. The office is balloted for every year, and if an organizer has brought about an unsuccessful strike he suffers defeat at the next ballot. His business is to keep the nien in work, to see that they enjoy decent conditions, and give a fair return for their wage. I do not know whether Senator Lynch was present when the incident he described took place, but if his statement is correct, then the organizer was acting contrary to the constitution of the organization. It must not be forgotten that the
Australian Workers Union has for years past stood for arbitration.
– And it stands now with about half the membership it once had, very largely because it has not stood for arbitration.
– Its membership will increase; it is still a very strong organization. Many of these organizations lose their membership for a time. The Labour party lost ground some time ago. In South Australia a few years ago there were only three Labour men ii; the State House. The next year there were a dozen, and to-day there are seventeen. It is very easy to level accusations against a big organization when it has not the opportunity to reply. The Australian Workers Union does not stand for anything that is detrimental to the best interests of Australia. It stands for arbitration and good conditions. Although at times certain members of the organization may cause trouble, its main objective is to keep its members free from trouble.
– In striking on the last occasion, they, were not standing by the Arbitration system.
– If I knew the name of the organizer who made the statement referred to by .Senator Lynch, I would report the matter, because he is not fair to his organization. Perhaps the honorable senator only told it as a story; he might have been trying to deduce evidence in support of one of his arguments.
– Did not the shearers all over Australia last year strike against the Arbitration Court award ?
– No ; they did not strike.
– They struck for the Queensland State award rates and against the award of the Federal Arbitration Court.
– They did not strike. They had more remunerative employment to which to go. If I were working for the honorable senator this week, and some one else offered me an extra 2s. a day to work for him, I would not be striking it’ I did not turn up to work for the hon- ‘orable ‘senator on Monday. These men had move remunerative employment; consequently theydid not turn up atthe sheds when the sheep were ready tobe shorn.
SenatorLynch. - If -thehonorable senator, byusing the word “story.,” wishes to infer that I made : an incorrect statement,then with the gentleman’s permission I will introduce ham to the honorable senator.
– I . shall be pleased to meetthe gentleman who told the honorable senatorofthe incident. I was very surprised to hear the story. The organization does not stand f or that sortofthing. Those honorable senators who are acquainted with the men who ‘have control of the Austra- lian WorkersUnion must appreciate the fact that they are common-sense business men. The President of that greatorganization is anhonorable senator. I do not think any honorable senatorwould suggestthatSenator Barnes would do anything foolish or unjust. These organizations must alwaysbe judged by those who are in control of them.
– Judging by results, they have almost smashedthe organization.
– Oh, no! Many organizations have their “bad as well as their good times. The Australian WorkersUnion possibly has been having a bad time; but it as coming again, and the membership next yearwill be in the vicinity of110, 000-where it was a few years ago.
I impressupon the Government the necessity for finding markets for the fruit which is grown on the soldier settlements. A lot of fruit is being grown on settlements along theRiver Murray in South Australia. Soldier settlers have been placed on those settlements, and it is the duty of the Government tosee that their labour is not wasted. I was up there recently, and I found that themen were working very hard. Their blocks are a credit to them, and theyare producing a large quantity of fruit. In another year or so, they will produce a sufficient quantity of fruit on the South Australian side ofthe Murray to meet Australia’s requirements for two or three years. At the present time they are planting out, and many trees and vines have not reached maturity. If we do not find markets, ‘that fruit will rot.
SenatorGuthrie. - Aretheydealing with freshor driedfruits?
-There arethousands of acres -planted with citrus (fruits, which cannot be dried. We shall have to’find markets fortheir output.
SenatorHays. - Perhaps the cost of distribution could be reduced.
– The Government might help in , that direction, and so increasethelocal consumption. It is difficulteven nowfor theordinary man tobuy fruit.Oranges cost3d.and4d. apiece, yet Ibought, ; onthe River Murray last November,for 4s. , a caseof themost beautifulorangesthat I had evertasted.
– That shows how littlethe producer gets, compared with the price which the consumer has to pay.
– Somebody evidentlycomes in between and reapsthe benefit of the labour of these men. The matter is sufficiently important to , warrant inquiries being made into it. The South Australian Government has spent a good many millions of money., the greater part of which has been borrowed through the FederalGovernment. The people are responsible for therepayment of that money,and it istherefore necessary that these men should make asuccess of their holdings. The best way in which to bring that labour isto seethat they get markets, and Ihope that theGovernmentwilldo somethinginthatdirection.
Ithankhonorablesenatorsforthe patient hearing theyhave accorded me. This ismy initial speech in theSenate, but I hopethat Ishall have the opportunity ofmakingmany more,and that my contributions to the debates will be received in the same spirit as that in which I always receive thespeechesof other honorable senators.
Sitting suspended from6.28 to 8 p.m.
.I congratulate you Mr. President, on your re-election -to the position you occupy. There has been a good deal of criticism . aboutthe manner in which you were elected on this occasion,and also a certain amount of fault-finding in regardtothe wayin which you have administered your office. I was rather astonished at the remarks of some honorable senators opposite, because, while I have been inthis Chamber., your attitude towards honorable senators opposite has always been more than generous. In fact, if any fault is to be found with you in respect to your attitude towards them, it is that you have been too generous towards them. Your action in defending the rights of this Chamber has also aroused the opposition of the press, and, as a consequence, the press has done its utmost to dictate to senators.
– The honorable senator must be dreaming.
– I am not dreaming. I am pleased to see Senator Givens in the Chair. Opposition to him has also arisen from some of his administrative acts. It is the fate of any one who has to take action in the capacity of an administrator to be criticised. I am sure that those who know our President’s generous nature will appreciate the fact that an attitude which might seem to call for critical comment is really on the surface only, and is by no means deep-seated.
I also congratulate Senator McHugh on the speech he has just delivered. Although he has ousted an old friend, I shall be pleased to hear him again, because he is undoubtedly an acquisition to the ranks of the Opposition.
I am not going to say a great deal about the sugar question, because the Government’s policy has been fixed. Outsiders may be demanding more than they can possibly get, but, on the whole, the Government are to be congratulated on what they have done for the sugar industry. If it had not been for the action of the Labour party in another Chamber in joining hands with the most conservative element that the State of Victoria has produced, and so arousing a feeling in the South against the Government’s proposal, the industry would have been enjoying the protection of a duty that would have been of great benefit to it. The embargo is good as far as it goes, but, as it will last for two years only, it is not sufficient to enable those engaged in the industry to know what lies in front of them. Before the period expires the return from newly-planted ground will not be available.
– Why do the sugar-growers not take their chance like the wheat-growers do ?
– The wheat-growers have an advantage over the sugargrowers. Wheat-growing is always car- ried on by white people, whereas our sugar-growers have to compete outside Australia with sugar grown by black people.
– Nonsense. The sugar-grower gets a return of £40 an acre, whereas the wheat-grower’s return is very often not £4 an acre.
– I should like to see the wheat-growers get a better return, but the local consumption of wheat is not equal to the quantity of wheat produced, and, therefore, wheat-growers are compelled to compete in the world’s market and take the world’s parity for their produce. So far, except in two seasons, our yield of sugar has not overtaken the local consumption. We could not sell our sugar outside in competition with blackgrown sugar and maintain the’ conditions under which sugar is grown in Australia. The industry is based on the maintenance of the White Australia policy. Sugar is grown by white labour in North Queensland on rich land which could be put to very little other use. The outcries in the southern press and the way in which the development of the industry has been interfered with have been very harmful to it Had the sugar-growers been given a long enough period in which to establish themselves without interference greater progress would have been made. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was in Queensland just prior to the opening of this session, he said -
It is impossible, of course, to deny or overlook the legitimate claims of an industry that pays £6,000,000 in wages to some 25,000 employees, and produces a crop worth up to £9,000,000 per annum. It ranks among the very largest primary producing interests in Australia in any or all of the States. Economically the sugar industry is of even greater importance to the nation than a superficial examination of trade statistics would indicate. For it -should always be remembered that, if sugar were not produced in Australia, from £5,000,000 to £0,000,000 would have to be remitted each year to foreign countries, which buy, in return, scarcely any of our goods. During the Government-control period just expiring over £47,000,000 was thus ‘kept and spent in Australia in respect of the locallygrown tonnage.
This is one of the strongest arguments that could be brought forward to show that the sugar industry should be treated with generosity. Coming as it does from a right honorable member of another place who represents a southern constituency, this utterance should impress the people in the south. The industry should be helped either by extending the embargo against black-grown sugar for five years, or by imposing the duty which, during the last Parliament, Victorian Liberals and the Labour party in another place declined to pass.
I congratulate the Government on their proposal to afford protection to the Boy Scouts Association, and to forbidthe unauthorized use of the uniforms, medals, badges, &c, of their organization. The Boy Scouts’ movement is one of the most beneficial of its kind.
– It is to be hoped that the Government will let it grow without putting their crippling hands on it.
SenatorREID. - The Government are taking a very wise step. Bogus people dressed in scouts’ uniforms and wearing scouts’ badges have been collecting money allegedly on behalf of the Boy Scouts Association, and the scouts have asked for the protection which the Government are now affording them. By creating a spirit of comradeship, and breaking down class prejudices, the Boy Scouts’ movement is proving most beneficial to the youth of the Commonwealth. In a Democracy it is necessary to teach the young selfreliance, and to bring out the best that is in them. Every scout promises to do some kind act every day in his life.What better teaching could we have than that ? The scouts learn to be obedient, and they are taught discipline. It is also very necessary in a Democracy like this that the young should be taught to treat others with respect. The movement brings out the very best qualities in the boys. Therefore, without interfering with the voluntary spirit or with the splendid work the association is doing, I think the Government should give it some official recognition, while not at the same time, to use Senator Gardiner’s phrase, putting their crippling hands on it.
We have heard a great deal about the results of the last election, and some honorable senators have talked of the defeat of the Nationalist party, but they have forgotten to mention how small the vote was. At elections when the majority of people have voted, the Nationalist party has been returned with thumping majorities. On the last occasion it was the apathy of the electors towards the Nationalist party or its Leader, and possibly the enthusiasm of the supporters of the Labour party, their Royalty to their party, and their excellent organization that led to the success of our friends opposite. Nodoubt the same enthusiasm exists in the ranks of the Nationalist party, but on this occasion, unfortunately, there was a split amongst them. We rememberthetreachery of the so-called Liberal section. For example, the Premier of South Australia (Sir Henry Barwell) adopted an attitude that madehim the best organizer that the. Labour party had. He, and men likehim, owing to their bitter attack uponthe ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), made a great many -electors tired of political issues.
-He did openly what the honorable senator did after the election was over.
– I did not attack Mr. Hughes.
SenatorGardiner. - The honorable senator and his party turnedhim down.
SenatorREID. - No; I am coming to that point presently. The loss of Nationalist seats was due to the dissension created within the ranks of ‘the party, and to the fact that the people were weary of politics. It is well known that it is the floating vote that usually decides an. election, and that vote was not cast. Only between 50 and 60 per cent. of the people exercised the franchise. In Queensland, where voting at State elections is compulsory, and where the people largely hold the opinion that voting atFederal elections also is compulsory, there was an 83 per cent. poll. There the Nationalists came back as strong as ever, and the so-called Country member was returnedwith the help of the Nationalist vote. Hadthe people voted in all theStates in the same proportion as in Queensland, a similar result would have been obtained -throughout the Commonwealth. The people of Queensland are not more intelligent than are those of the other States; but they went to the polls with the idea that voting was compulsory.
I congratulate Senator Gardiner on having a larger following than formerly. I do not believe that the people have changed their opinion to suchan extent that the Labour party would have been returned to power if the polling had been heavy. The violent attacks made upon the Commonwealth Arbitration ‘Court, and the vendetta of bitterness carried on by the Melbourne press against Mr. Hughes, disgusted the majority of the electors, and it was almost impossible to attract audiences. I have- been actively interested in politics for forty years, and I have never seen- so much difficulty in obtaining meetings as was encountered in the last campaign. The only candidate who was able to secure good attendances was Mr. Hughes himself. If the Labour party is gaining in strength, it is perhaps a good thing, because it will make it plain to the socalled Liberals that they cannot return to the old days when they were accustomed to dictating to Labour and putting the brake on the wheels of Democracy. I do not ‘blame the working men for voting for Labour candidates when they see the so-called Liberals trying to dominate the Nationalist party. I noticed a report in the Sydney press that Senator Gardiner, speaking in the’ Domain, stated that Mr. Hughes had been sucked like an orange, and then thrown aside when the Nationalist party could- not get any more out of him. I venture to say that some of the party could not get what they wanted out of Mr. Hughes, and so they turned him down - but not because they had sucked him dry. The Nationalist party owes its very existence to him and to Sir Joseph Cook, hut the brains of the party were those of Mr. Hughes, and without him those who succeeded him in office would never have gained prominence in public life. It was because Mr. Hughes was a thorough Democrat that he was attacked.
– I agree that the Nationalists have flung him aside.
– I differ from the honorable senator. Mr. Hughes stood for the national spirit of the Commonwealth during the war, and the people trusted him, but as soon as the war was over the Liberal section were afraid of him,, and that element in the Nationalist party caused all the trouble. Senator Gardiner himself knows that there is in his own party, the so-called “ red raggers,” who are of no great value to the Labour movement, but they have attached themselves to it for the purpose of political propaganda.-
– A similar thing happened to Lloyd George.
– Exactly; and his downfall was due to the same class of people who brought about the downfall of Mr. Hughes. The Nationalist party has so far legislated on sound- lines, and I do not think it needs to fear- that the people will turn against it.
What we have heard about the sale of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills is purely gallery talk, for’ the purpose of belittling the Government. I have no objection to the Government carrying on an industry for the benefit of the people if it will pay the country as a whole, but the mills at Geelong had reached the stage that they had nothing to do, as far as meeting Government needs was concerned. Why should a splendid plant and a? large staff of employees have been kept on, when there was work for” only three months of the year ?
– Just three months, according to the official report.
– What could have been done- in the other nine months ?
– The soldiers would have run the mills for nine months.
– They have their own mill. If the Commonwealth Mills were to be kept going for the whole year, they would either have to sell material at the same rates as private firms, or compete with those establishments, with the probable result that the employees of the private mills would be thrown out of work. What would nine months’ output of the Geelong Mills amount to in any case, compared with the needs of the whole of Australia? The Commonwealth Mills could only meet a small proportion of the demand. There was a falling off in the demand owing to retrenchments in the Defence Force, and the interest on the capital sunk in the mills was running up. What has been said about the quality of the cloth turned out is perfectly correct. The material supplied at from 6s. 6d. to about lis. 6d. per yard was as’ good as one could wish for, especially in the matter of serges and twills. So far, our tweeds are not quite equal to the imported article, but no doubt they will be in time. It must be remembered that the mills at Geelong were not paying State or Federal taxes, and were not subjected to the overhead charges that private companies have to meet. If due allowance were made for that it would be found that the private mills were producing at a price practically equal to that fit which the Commonwealth Mills were selling their goods. The Flinders-lane merchants, therefore, are simply acting fairly as agents for the supply of the needs of the people.
A good deal has been said about the lack of proper housing accommodation for the people. There are many reasons for the present situation, and some of them should be inquired into. The real collapse took place during the war period. All countries are in much the same position. We have to consider the greatly increased cost of building, and the fact that house rent has practically doubled. All the materials required in the construction of a house, including lime, mortar, timber, and bricks are double the price they were a few years ago. A good deal has been said concerning the inferiority of the homes constructed by the War Service Homes Department, but it is interesting to note that quite recently an effort has been made to produce and exhibit a home suitable for an average person at a moderate cost. An ordinary hardwood house which cost £750 to construct is being shown “at the Ideal Homes Exhibition, but it is not in any sense superior to those constructed by the War Service Homes Department, which proves that those who have been most strong in their criticisms of the work of the Department are not able to produce a better home at a reasonable price. Prom inquiries made at the War Service Homes Department I have ascertained that every returned soldier, including even those who bought at the higher prices, who has sold his house, has obtained more than he paid for it.
– That is a good answer to the criticism which has been levelled against the Department.
– Yes. Notwithstanding adverse comments, the homes constructed by the Department have been sold at a higher price than they cost to build.
– Is the honorable senator referring only to Queensland ?
– No; the information I obtained was in regard to all the States. Senator Grant said that the shortage of skilled workers in . the building trade was only temporary, and that there was no occasion to bring artisans from overseas to overcome it. If the honorable senator is honest, he must ad mit that there is not a city in Australia in which sufficient skilled labour can be secured for this class of work. That has been the position for the last six or seven years.
– Skilled labour is unobtainable in the country.
– If there is a shortage in the cities it is only fair to assume that the position must be more acute in country districts. There is such a keen demand for bricklayers that contractors are paying more than the award rates, and in some instances are offering 27s. 6d. to 30s. a day.
– And the men deserve it.
– I cannot agree with the honorable senator.
– A prospective home builder has to pay £3 3s. to a solicitor for preparing the deeds. That tends to increase the cost of a home.
– That charge is small in comparison with 30s.. a day for skilled workmen. When such high rates have to be paid, it is practically impossible for a working man to secure a home of his own.
– The honorable senator appears to overlook the fact that a duty of £5 is imposed on imported slates, and that a Combine is in control of the tile trade.
– Let builders use South Australian slates, and they will avoid the duty.
– I mentioned that all building material had increased in price. The honorable senator knows very well that skilled labour is practically unprocurable, and the cost of building is so high that those who have money available are not investing it in dwelling houses.
– That is not the reason.
– It is one of the reasons in New South Wales and Queensland, where there are Fair Rents Courts. The effect of the decisions of these Courts has been to reduce, by 10 per cent, or 15 per cent., the returns to investors.
– Similar conditions apply in Victoria.
– There is not a Fair Rents Court in Victoria. In some instances, of course, the rents are higher than the value of the property justifies. There are bad landlords as well as bad employers and employees, but when one takes into consideration the expenditure involved in meeting rates and taxes, insurance, maintenance, and the renovation necessary when a bad tenant has vacated’ a dwelling, the rent does not provide a sufficient return on the capital invested. In some instances, it requires several weeks’ rent to meet the cost of repairs.
– The poor landlord!
– If the honorable senator has money to invest, he should purchase properties and assist in accommodating working men who are at present without homes. The decisions of the Fair Rents Courts have brought rents below the rate necessary to cover fair interest on the capital invested and allow for depreciation. A little while ago a young man in Brisbane, who contemplated matrimony, purchased a house, and gave the tenant a month in which to find another home. When the time expired the tenant declined to leave, and the Magistrate presiding over the Court, according to newspaper reports, allowed the tenant eight months in which to find another home. I do not know what the purchaser did, but he was prevented from occcupying his own home. According to the press reports, the Fair Rents Court has given few sensible decisions, and that is not surprising, because those who hear the cases are inexperienced in house construction, and consequently know little of the expense incurred in maintenance. It was said the other evening that the bricklayers at Canberra were receiving 27s. 6d. to 30s. per day, and were laying only 250 bricks a day. Some time ago it was customary for a bricklayer to lay 700 a day.
– The class of work to-day is different.
– It is not in any way superior to that performed’ years ago. If Senator McDougall cares to speak to any contractor or foreman, he will find that it is difficult to get a man to do an honest day’s work for the money he receives. Honorable senators opposite are continually howling about the increased cost of living and high rents, but the position has been brought about largely by men not giving a fair return for the money they receive.
– What of the increased cost of building material?
– I have already referred to that. The timber getters, who previously had not received very high wages, are to-day being paid fairly well. Even in Queensland, the so-called Labour . Government have increased the royalty on timber to their own people by 70 or 80 per cent. A feeling of brotherhood or comradeship between men does not seem to exist, and although it may be said that the rich man “ puts it up “ on the other fellow, the workmen are; to a large extent, responsible. A man with a family finds great difficulty in renting a home, as one of the first questions asked by the landlord is, “ How many children have you, and what are their ages?” If a man has a family of two or three it is practically impossible for him to rent a dwelling. We should deal with hard facts. It is the ambition of every man to have a home of his own. To-day, however, the ordinary working man is unable to obtain a house of his own because of the prohibitive prices. He has to pay rent, and consequently is crammed into two or three rooms, according to the price he can afford to pay. Overcrowding conditions are prevalent, and a great deal of this has been brought about by the working class themselves. Any sensible man who has no prejudice or bias will admit that the housing shortage has been brought about owing to the workers refusing to do a fair thing for the wages received. The men will not do the work, and you cannot even get plasterers to put a face on their work.
– The honorable senator does not mention the merchants who purchased iron for £18 per ton and sold it to returned soldiers for over £80 a ton.
– I leave that matter to the honorable senator. I do not deny that such things have taken place, but the honorable senator’s statement is not correct by any means.
– It is correct.
– If it did occur it was in rare cases. It has been. slated by the other side that we on this side of the Senate do nothing for the working class.
– Is the honorable senator out of that class now ?
– Then why does he not include himself in that party when, referring to it?
– I was using the term which the Opposition uses against this side. The Opposition says that we are against the working class, but I do not know of one honorable senator on this side who has not the interests of the. working class at heart.
– The honorable senator objects only to the high wages.
– I do not object to high wages at all; but, as pointed out by Senator Lynch, one cannot get a quart from a pint measure. The present industrial conditions are due mainly to the action of the working class. There is no class in the community that does not wish to uplift the worker and give him. a fair deal, but he should help to uplift himself by giving a fair return for the wage he receives.
– Does not the honorable senator think he does?
– Certainly not. I have made personal inquiries in all: cities, and no. matter- where one goes, or where one asks, the decent employer will confirm the statement that in almost every branch of industry men are not giving a fair return.
– The honorable senator is not courting popularity in making that statement. He knows that his statement would be of no advantage to him at anelection.
– I put my views much more forcibly at the recent election.. I do not care whether a workman is paid £2 or £5 a day; but whatever he gets he must return to the industry an equivalent in labour, otherwise it will be ruined. It is because of this ruination of industry that the working’ classes are being deprived of homes and driven into single tenements and rooms:
– Whereas there were three millionaires in Australia before the war, there are now twenty-three. Where have the profits gone?
– I will tell my honorable friend how millionaires grow. The other night he told us a yarn about eggs and whisky, and described in a dramatic manner how one man had brought the whisky and eggs together. On being asked by the person who supplied the eggs how the drinks were furnished, the man with the brains proffered the information that he was the middleman. That is the key to the Labour situation. The working men are alright in their own particular line, but they have not the experience and brains of the other fellow. The man who brought the eggs and whisky together had more intelligence than had the publican and the man with the eggs. The man with brains initiates, and his creative f aculty accomplishes things which the general community do not attempt. The men with the eggs and whisky would never have come together without the aid of the man with initiative. The average worker in all spheres of life follows one routine. He does not launch out in business for himself, as he has no self-confidence. My honorable friend opposite has been told what to do by his employer, and he has done it. to the best of his ability. He entered the Senate intending to relieve his fellow workers of as much work as possible: They did not have his particular faculty for expressing opinions to enable them to emulate his example-. Captains of industry have the ability to seize opportunities and to take advantage of them.
– They are like some political acrobats.
– That may be so; but they are certainly not like my honorable friend. Some people have the courage to state their convictions, and I am not afraid to do so. Other people have not that moral courage, and they continue to carry out the instructions of their party or class. Those people will never accomplish anything.
– The honorable senator was an automaton the other day.
– If. honorable senators opposite had any idea of tolerance or fair play they would not throw dirty innuendoes at honorable senators on this side-
– When the honorable senator represented the working class he did not libel them as he now does in this Chamber:
-It is time the working class recognised that they are their own enemies, and their worst enemies.
– Ring off; and pay some attention to your own class.
– This infernal blasphemy of class consciousness is continuously preached by a certain section of the Labour party. I know that a section of the Labour party does not believe in it, as they have too much common sense. But the “ red-raggers “ attached to the
Labour party preach class consciousness, which is one of themost damnable things any Democracy could possibly have. They talk about brotherhood, comradeship, and the uplifting , of the working class. The whole of the community are moreor less creatures of circumstances and environ- ment.
– The honorable senator was once a good “ red-ragger.”
– I am not ashamed of it; but experience and common sense has taught me that a lot of things I once advocated are empty fads. The position was clearly explained by Senator Lynch this afternoon, when he said that it was all very well to have Socialistic ideas, but when the experiment developed to a certain stage the old Adam in human nature asserted itself; therefore one can easily understand why many of these fads have disappeared. The ruination of the State industries of Queensland has been brought about by the very men who work in those industries. The industries have not beenproperly managed; a fair return was not given for the wages received. That is the position in a nutshell.
– Did not the woollen mills pay?
– The woollen mills at Geelong did not pay. They paid only during the war time, when material fetched a high price. Sincethen they have not paid. There was not sufficient work for the mills.
The Labour party have always more or less been opposed to immigration.
– On what grounds ?
– They wish to employ everybody in the community before any immigrants are brought in.
– Quite right, too.
– That is very good in sentiment and on paper. Progress in any civilization can take place only from pressure, and it is the pressure of population that will develop Australia.No one deplores more than I do the sight of a person trying to sell his labour and ability, and being turned down every time. There is no more distressing or heartbreaking experience to a man who knows his ability, than to continue day after day looking for work, only to be turned down, and to go home to a starving wife and children: Other countries of the world are ten times worse offin respect of starvation than is Australia.
SenatorHoare. - There is no reason why we should starve here.
– Australia can only be developedbyimmigration.Every immigrant that arrives in Australia has a certain amount of money, and iseager to work and. go ahead.When the pressure of population is applied throughout Australia, the hands of the State and the Commonwealth Government willbe forced. Inspite of the possibility ofsuffering caused byan influx of population, I maintain that we should bringas many immigrants as possible to Australia. ‘The best lessons we have learned have been taught through suffering. A policy of immigration will not only relieve Australia financially, but will fill the vacant lands. There is plenty of room for all in Australia. This country depends largely upon its primary products, and markets have to be found in other parts of the world for them if Australia is to be properly developed. It will be difficult for us to export our secondary products, because the high wages paid and the conditions under which they are manufactured will saddle them with such a cost that we shall be ata disadvantage in the world’s markets. If we devote our best attention to the question of secondary production and the finding of markets we. shall eventually solve the difficulty because of the quantity of raw material we possess. At the present time we haveto devote our energies mostly to primary production. Even some of our primary products are getting beyond the outside demand. We know that the markets for dried fruits are choked up. We cannot export our sugar and compete successfully with that which has been grown by coloured labour. If a largenumber of immigrants are brought to Australia it will lead to a greater consumption of our primary products, and the building up of our secondary industries in order to supply the people with the commodities they require. We have everything to gain by bringing population to the country. The Commonwealth Line of Steamers ought to provide us with cheap freights. I hope that that Line will expand and eventually control the whole of Australian shipping. We must remember that we are a long distance from the countries thatconsume our products. The Commonwealth Line of Steamers pays the highest wages and operates under the best conditions. The employees have not responded in a proper manner to the excellent treatment they have received, but on the contrary have done everything they possibly could to ruin the Line.
– If the men do not do the fair thing there will not be a Commonwealth Line shortly.
– If similar trouble * occurs under this as occurred under the last Government, it is possible that the Line will be sold in its entirety. It would be a sorry day for the primary producers and the people of Australia generally if they were placed in the power of the shipping combine as they were before the Commonwealth Line was started .
There is room for thousands of immigrants in Queensland, where the cotton industry has been established. A large quantity of cotton has been exported to England. The world-renowned firm of Horrocks manufactured it into calico, in which form it was returned to Australia. All the experts who have examined both the cotton and the manufactured article have pronounced it as being as good as that produced anywhere else.
– Why not . manufacture it here ?
– That will be done when we have the population. Queensland possesses thousands of acres suitable for cotton growing. The industry could be carried on on small farms, insuring a good living for those engaged in it. It is a family job, which does not require a great deal of physical labour. The industry is capable of absorbing thousands of immigrants. So long as the price remains at the present figure it will be possible to work the industry profitably with white labour. We must not overlook the fact that in other countries cotton is grown mostly with black labour. The scarcity of the commodity at the present time is responsible for the splendid return that is being enjoyed. Those conditions, I think, will continue for a long time. If our population continues to increase, why cannot we grow the cotton, have it manufactured here, and export the calico? We grow’ the best merino woo! in the world, yet we send it away in the raw state and have it returned in the shape of woollen goods. By introducing capital and population we shall be able to develop our resources to the fullest extent. If any of those engaged in the industry of cotton growing become millionaires, I shall say “ Good luck “ to them.
– Will the southern States be made to pay as is the case with the sugar industry?
– The people of Australia get their sugar more cheaply than the majority of people outside. Even America is paying for its sugar a greater price, wholesale, than that at which we retail it.
– Is it cheaper in Australia than it is in New Zealand ?
– New Zealand supplies are obtained under a special contract. Sugar is not grown in New Zealand ; that which enters New Zealand is produced by black labour. The sugar-growers in Queensland have been good friends to. the people of Australia.
– The southern States pay £6,000,000 a year to keep going the 25,000 people engaged in the sugar industry in Queensland.
– If the embargo were removed, and black-grown sugar were brought into the country, that sum might be saved. Does Senator Gardiner desire to have the duty removed ? Does he want black-grown sugar to enter Australia, and make impossible the carrying on of the industry with white labour? We might not be able -to obtain the blackgrown sugar as cheaply as Senator Gardiner appears to imagine we would. At the present time the price outside is a little less than it is in the Commonwealth. During the war the people of Australia had the cheapest sugar in the world.
– There was an agreement under which the growers made good money with the price at 3Jd. per lb.
– The people of Queensland had no objection to the agreementbeing renewed. The southern people were opposed to the adoption of that course. When it was found, impossible to have the agreement renewed, common sense dictated the policy of taking the best that was offering - a two years’ embargo on black-grown sugar and the imposition of a duty.
– I am wondering whether the southern States will have to support the Queensland cotton industry.
– The sugar industry would never have been interfered with had there not been the cry against black labour. Legislators interfered with, it, and did more harm than good. Cotton can be grown in many of the States. Queensland has thousands of acres suitable for its growth. Given good seasons and a favorable market, it can supply the requirements of the world. The only really serious problem that Australia has to solve is that of the seasons. If means can be found of coping with the dry spells that are experienced in Australia, all our difficulties will disappear. Water conservation is proceeding in many of the States, and already has done a great deal of good. There are miles of country in Australia, however, where water cannot be conserved. It is not possible to dam water in central Australia or on the huge plains that are to be found in many of the States. Once . this problem is solved, Australia will hold its own with any other part of the world, and millions of people will be settled on the land. Our friends opposite should refrain from preaching class prejudice and class hatred.
– The honorable senator’s speech has been indicative of nothing but class prejudice.
– I am sorry that a sensible man like Senator McDougall should make such a charge. I have stated a few facts, which no doubt Senator McDougall does not like. Until the working class, or any other class, recognises its duty to the rest of the community, and realizes that it has to render a service proportionate to that which it receives, Australia will not progress. When our friends opposite advocate anything with which I agree, I shall support them. I do not care what a person gets out of an industry so long as the industry is capable of bearing it. I object to the activities of the crusted Tory type of man who is trying to destroy the good legislation that has been placed on the statutebook. The worst enemy of that legislation is the working class, which will not recognise the facts and act up to them.
– The extremist is on both sides.
– I know that. The die-hard Liberal and the die-hard Communist are causing all the trouble. I shall strenuously oppose the retrogressive movement that is evidencing itself in many of the States.
– During the last few years there have been remarkable changes in Federal politics, and in some respects a complete transformation. Since I was last a member of the Senate there have been many changes in this Chamber. In fact, standing as I am now, facing you, Mr. President, I find that there have been changes to the right of me, changes to the left of me, and if I may be permitted to say so, changes in front of me. Apparently the impossibilityof yesterday is the reality of to-day. A few years ago, the Labour party had a substantial majority here and in another place, and associated with that party were Senator Pearce - Leader in this Chamber of the six-equals-five and five-equals-six composite Government - Senator Lynch, Senator Newland, Senator Russell, and others I need not mention. At that time the Labour party favoured co-operation as against competition. It opposed rings, trusts, and combines, and advocated the nationalization of monopolies; its objective was the nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. To that policy all members of the Labour party, including those honorable senators whom I have named, subscribed. But we were handicapped in the furtherance of our policy by the limitations imposed by the Constitution, arid in order to overcome those limitations we submitted proposals for the alteration of the Constitution. Those proposals were submitted to a referendum of the people in 1911, and. were defeated. They were again submitted to a referendum in 1913. On both occasions booklets were issued headed, “ For and Against,” in which we gave reasons to the electors why they should support our proposals. Both pamphlets were indorsed by these gentlemen, who say they have not changed their views. It will be interesting to other senators associated with them to hear the opinions expressed by them at the period to which I am referring. In regard to the Constitution, we, and they, said -
The Constitution is only twelve yearsold, but it already wants amending, and very badly. It was drafted on wrong lines. New conditions have arisen, and no means exist to deal with them. The Federal Parliament cannot deal with the most important problems confronting modern society. It cannot deal with combines and monopolies. It cannot protect the consumer from extortion, nor insure to the worker a fair and reasonable wage for his labour.
In regard to trusts, the Labour party, including these honorable senators, said -
They are the real rulers of the world. They fix. prices. They charge the people what they please for almost all the necessities of life. Daily their power grows greater.
– That is what the Labour party said, but. the people of Australia replied, “We will not trust the Labour party with these powers for which they ask.”
– Yes, they did not approve of clothing the Federal Parliament with powers for their own protection, at least they did not at that time; but if they had the opportunity to-day they would give to the Federal Parliament the powers which every State Parliament enjoys.
– That is what you thought at that time.
– And I still think it to-day. We went on to enumerate the number of trusts, combines, and monopolies in existence at that period, and we told the people there were at least thirtythree of them. We said of the sugar monopoly -
This monopoly levies toll on every man, woman, and child in Australia. All have to pay. There is no alternative.
We had a few words to say about the Shipping Combine, the Coal Vend, the Tobacco Trust, and Meat, Flour, Timber, and many other Rings. In regard to the nationalization of monopolies, which was proposal No. 6 for the alteration of the Constitution,we said -
This proposed amendment will give the Commonwealth power to purchase on just terms any business which, in the opinion of the Parliament, is a monopoly, and run it as a Commonwealth concern for the benefit of. the community.
That is what these honorable senators said then. In a moment I shall ask them what they say to-day. We said -
The people must control all monopolies in thepublic interest. … If there is to be a monopoly it is surely better that this should be run by the community for the benefit of all, than by a few for their own benefit.
SenatorReid. - The honorable senator would not say that to-day.
– We say exactly the same to-day ; but Senators Pearce, Newland, Russell, and others say the reverse! They are linked up with a party which is vigorously opposed to everything for which they formerly stood. They are associated with those who. have declared against any form of Government trading, and to whom State enterprise is anathema.
Senator Pearce played a prominent part in the establishment of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong, yet to-day he is associated with a Government which did not sell the mills, but absolutely gave them away. What they have done is a public scandal. It pained me when I read the announcement that the mills were to be sold, but no doubt it pleased the party that supports Senator Pearce, Senator Newland, Senator Lynch, and others. And undoubtedly it gave special pleasure to at least one honorable senator.
– Why does not Senator Findley buy some shares in the syndicate? They are available.
– I shall have a word to say about Senator Guthrie in a moment or two. The mills were established in peace time because it was the Labour party’s policy; and in order to satisfy ourselves, and convince the community in general that the manufacture of woollen cloth and the making of uniforms could be undertaken in the interests of the people, a Committee was appointed in 1911, consisting of Mr. Pethebridge and Lieut. -Colonel. Legge, representing the Defence Department, and Mr. C. E. Bright and Mr. J. A. Mason, representing the Department of the Postmaster-General. These gentlemen, in their report, said -
Having fully considered the whole question, and given due weight to the views expressed by the several witnesses examined-, the Committee is of opinion that it would be a distinct advantage to the Commonwealth Service if a clothing factorywere established. The reasons which influence the Committee in forming this conclusion are as follow: -Better uniforms would be obtained at no greater, and probably less cost;uniformprices for similar garments would obtain throughout the Commonwealth; in all cases materials andworkmanship would be subjected to a standard test; Australian manufacture of material would be insured ; the labour conditions and rates of wages of employeeswould be strictly under the control of the Government; the Government, in providing for its own requirements, would be able so to arrange and regulate delivery that any inconvenience would be reduced to a minimum.
When the Government Departments were being exploited by private enterprise, the Departments themselves and the soldiers were not supplied with uniforms just as they were required. When the Commonwealth Woollen Mills were established, and the Clothing Factory was brought into existence, there was regularity in the supply of uniforms, and they cost about half what the Departments had previously paid for them. WhenSenator Pearce, who took a prominent part in the establishment of these mills, was in England, he specially selected Mr. Smail from among a number of other applicants, because of his high credentials, to be manager of the mills. He was also recommended by the High Commissioner. In order to show our opponents that we knew no boundary line or geographical limitations in Australia, Mr. Smail, when he came to Australia, was directed to tour the Commonwealth, and to recommend to the Government - it was a Labour Government then - the best possible site for the mills. He visited thirty-three localities. His instructions were -
To inquire into the water supply; quality and quantity of water; drainage; climatic conditions as regards the manufacture of woollen cloth; proximity to wool markets; railway and shipping facilities;conditions of labour; geographical position as a distributing centre, and local conditions as affecting economicalworking.
After travelling all over Australia he had no hesitation in recommending Geelong as the most suitable site for the establishment of the mills; but they have been sold for £155,000. The buildings alone cost £81,000 in peace time, and they were erected on the most up-to-date lines. I venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that if those buildings had to be put up to-day they would cost as much as the Government have received for the whole undertaking.
– Not half.
– I think they were completed in 1915 ; not in peace time.
– I believe they were completed before the outbreak of war.
– The machinery was running in 1915, and the buildings were completed before the war.
– In any case, the mills were almost completed in peace time. Provision was made for expansion, and Mr. Smail, being an expert, saw that the most up-to-date labour-saving machinery was installed.
– A lot of it is out of date now.
– Woollen mills machinery does not, as a rule, get out of date in six or seven years.
– A lot of it becomes very much out of date in eight years.
– The machinery and plant cost £209,000, and if it had to be purchased to-day it would probably cost very much more.
– A great deal of it was bought during the war.
– Most of it was purchased prior to the war, but £45,000 worth, I believe, was ordered during that period, and came to Australia a short time ago.
– The plant and machinery, according to Mr. Scullin’s speech in the other House, originally cost. £83,000.
– There has been additional plant installed. The machinery, plant, and buildings - leaving the land out of consideration - are now worth, and would probably cost, £300,000.
– They cost £204,000 complete.
– The honorable senator ignores depreciation altogether.
– There has been no depreciation in the value of the buildings. There would be an additional cost of 75 per cent. if similar buildings had to be erected to-day.
– It would depend on whether they were erected by day labour or contract.
– The Metropolitan Board of Works comprises business men, and it has decided to employ day labour in preference to the contract system for one of its big works, because it expects to make thereby a saving of £30,000. On the 16th September last, Senator Guthrie, referring to the Commonwealth Mills, said, “ I hope to be able to get into the company or syndicate that purchases them, unless, of course, the price is too high.”
– Surely that was a fair and sensible statement?
– It was a very remarkable statement, especially remembering that the honorable senator is clothed with responsibility to the taxpayers! He wished to see the Commonwealth Mills disposed of, and he was eager. to be in the syndicate that purchased them, if the price was not too high. Apparently he got his wish. The mills were given away.
– It was a fair price, all the same.
- .Senator Guthrio’s statement that he hoped to be able to get into the syndicate was made about a fortnight before tenders closed, and the highest tender was £130,000. Senator Guthrie stated that he happened to know that.
– But I was not a tenderer.
– The honorable senator himself admits that the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) asked him whether the Government should accept the tender of £130,000. I thought the present Government were supposed to comprise commercial men with a capacity to administer the affairs of the Commonwealth, but apparently .that is not the case. They had to consult Senator Guthrie.
– It was not the present Government.
– I was consulted because I happened to be an expert.
– After consulting him, they accepted his advice. At that time the honorable senator was not in the £130,000 syndicate. Was it honest for tlie Government to approach Senator Guthrie and tell him - a future applicant for the mill - -what the Government price was ?
– The Government did not consult me.
– A member of the Government did, and it was an outrageous proceeding to tell the honorable senator that the highest tender was £130,000.
– The Minister did not say anything of the kind.
– It was an indication to Senator Guthrie to get busy, and then the syndicate with which he was associated put in a tender, which was accepted, offering an extra £5,000.
– It was an increase of £25,000.
– The mills were readvertised.
– All over the world.
– If the sale had been advertised properly, and the mills submitted to public auction, there would have been buyers from all parts of Australia and New Zealand.
– The mills were boomed in and out of Parliament, and I helped to boom them.
– Had they been adequately advertised, they would have brought a price of from £250,000 to £500,000. Their net profits for the two years amounted to £100,000.
– Made under exceptional conditions, without taxation of any kind being paid.
– Interest charges had to be met. Some taxes, it is. true, were not paid.
– They did not pay any taxes.
– If 3d. per yard had been added to the selling cost of the material, the mills could have paid all taxes, and yet made nearly £100,000 profit in two years. But honorable senators opposite, who formerly belonged to the Labour party, have the temerity to say that they have not completely changed their views. As a matter of fact, they have “boxed the compass.” They are opposed to everything that they formerly advocated, and1 the sale of the mills at Geelong is evidence of it, if further evidence be needed. Is there not the same necessity for the mills now that there was when they were established?
– I maintain that there is a greater necessity for them than formerly, because there are more employees to-day in the Post and Telegraph Department and other Departments needing uniforms.
– What about the Army and Navy?
– There may not be as many uniforms needed for the Defence Department as there formerly were, but with other growing Departments the mills were a public necessity.
– How is it that the officials reported that the mills could be kept going only for three months of the year ?
– If the mills were necessary in 1911, there is even greater necessity for them to-day. One can understand their sale by a Government who are opposed to Government enterprise, but it is hard to understand the attitude of those honorable gentlemen who formerly belonged to the Labour party. It will stand to the everlasting discredit of the Government that they disposed of a public property at an altogether insufficient price, considering the value of the plant and machinery. The Government did not proceed in a business-like way* and it ill becomes any Government to admit that they were so incompetent in coming to a decision concerning a certain tender that the ex -Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) had to interview Senator Guthrie, a supporter of the Government, for his advice as to what should be done with this property.
I now wish to refer to the composition of the present Government. Prior to the elections the Nationalist, Country, and Labour parties were in the field. The Labour party stood for a definite and distinct programme. The Nationalist party had a policy, as also did the Country party, and overtures were made by the then Leader of the Nationalist party to the Leader of the Country party, but they were turned down. The exPrime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) said that unless the members of the Country party formed an alliance with the Nationalists he would unsheath his sword and fight the Country party to the death. That party refused to form an alliance,and the political battle continued. During the course of the campaign the then Federal Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) had a few complimentary words to say concerning the Country party and their capacity to govern this country. Speaking at Maryborough, in Victoria, he said -
The present Prime Minister is the only man who can lead you in Australia at this time. I have looked around to see if possibly there was another leader. There is only one man who has the ability, but he has not the courage to lend the country. There is only the little man, who has the courage and ability. I say without hesitation that, if the Prime Minister is thrown out, it will be the end of Nationalism, and will be a poor look-out for Liberalism.
The ex-Federal Treasurer, who is now the Prime Minister, also said -
The people, or rather thegreat bulk of those who support the Country party, are all right, but they are a little misguided, perhaps. The only trouble is that the party is led by the most paralyzing leaders - men who are incapable of leading. If they obtain power, they will lead the country to disaster.
That is what the present Prime Minister said of the present Treasurer and other members of his Ministry. I wonder what his opinion is now, when he has given members of the Country party office and clothed them with responsibility. The representatives of the Country party say that they are in charge of all the spending Departments, and, in that happy position, they imagine that they are ruling the country. The present Prime Minister continued -
If you get rid of the Prime Minister against his will he could wreck you to-morrow. . . . If he be thrown out, as somecheery optimist” suggest, I may say, incidentally, that I will go out too, and I think that we will put up a stiff fight against those who attempt to run the Government of this country. “ If he goes out, I will go out too.” The ex-Prime Minister went out, and Mr. Bruce came in.
– At Mr. Hughes’ suggestion.
– After publicly avowing that he would be faithful and true to his lover he became a gay deceiver. He cooed and wooed with the Leader of the Country party for a long time, and when the present Prime Minister said for the first time, “Wilt thou?” the Leader of the Country party said, “ No.” However, in response to an urgent billet d’amour, the Leader of the Country party travelled as fast as the express would convey him to North Melbourne, where he left the train heavily veiled. From that point he was taken to “ Mayfair,” Mr. Bruce’s flat, where the present Prime Minister asked the Leader of the Country party, when offering him the key of the Treasury, “Wilt thou?” The Leader of the Country party placed his conscience in his pocket and said, “I will.” He accepted the key of the Treasury. I think it was on the 7th February, 1922, that Captain Stanley Melbourne Bruce and Dr. Earle Christmas Grafton Page joined heart and hand for better or for worse. They commenced their political honeymoon, but now they have settled down to domestic work they do not appear to be a happy couple. We have heard from some that they have very much in common, and that everything in the domestic home is “O.K.” There may be something in what has been said in this and another place concerning the parties, but the people who are reallythe strength of both have not many complimentary comments to make concerning the new alli ance . At a recent conference of real- not imaginary - farmers, Mr. Keane, of Bendigo, said the voice of the people was against the Nationalist party because of its leadership and maladministration. He, considered that the Country party managers were the party undertakers, and had carried out the obsequies of the farmers’ organization. Mr. Earlanson, at Warragul, said -
The Country party leaders should not have formed a composite Government with a discredited crowd which ‘they called upon the ejectors to crucify.
Another member of the Country party who was at the Conference stated -
When men like Page, Stewart, and Gibson entered into an alliance with Mr. Bruce and Senator Pearce itwas “ the end of a perfect day.” Was it likelynow that the Government would hold an inquiry in regard to Senator Pearce’s expensesat Washington. . . . The Country party had declared itself anti-Labour and reverted to the two-party system. When its candidates went on to the platform at the next election the people would laugh them off and say that they were a separate party.
That is the opinion expressed by their chief supporters.
– But there has not been a divorce.
– Time works great changes, and if there is no division within I am satisfied it will not be long before there is one without, and it will not be long before the party, of which I am a member, is again in office.
In the Governor-General’s Speech, reference ismade to theGovernment’s immigration policy in this way : -
The Migration policy of the Commonwealth is to act in full co-operation with the British Government and the Governments of ‘the States. … A steady stream of settlers will arrive during the current year who, under the conditions of theagreements, will be readily absorbed without dislocation of the labour market or creation of unemployment.
What are the agreements entered into by the various Governments ? The Commonwealth Government appoints recruiting officers, and is responsible for securing suitable immigrants and for their shipment to Australia. The States are responsible to the extent of guaranteeing land or employment for new arrivals. The passage money of each immigrant is £33, £11 of which is contributed by the British and Commonwealth Governments, who pay as much as one-third, and, in some cases, two-thirds, while in other instances the whole of the passage money is advanced by way of a loan.
Can the Minister say how many new arrivals have reached Australia during the last year or two, the amount paid in the form of free gifts, the amount loaned intending migrants, the sum which new arrivals have repaid, and the amount still owing?
– The honorable senator had better move for a return.
– It would be interesting to have the information. The Commonwealth Government stated that there would be no dislocation of the labour market consequent upon the arrival of many thousands of immigrants in Australia. It would have been better had that statement not appeared in the Governor-General’s policy speech. What guarantee can the Government give that there will be no dislocation of the Australian labour market? Last year, the late Government voted over a quarter of a million of money to relieve the then unemployed in Australia. To-day, throughout the Commonwealth there is an army of unemployed. The Prime Minister, at a commercial travellers’ function the other evening, apparently pleased the ears of the assembly by stating that, after the conclusion of the Economic Conference, he intended to tour Great Britain, visiting the principal cities, to encourage wholesale immigration to Australia. I wish to know what provision has been made, or is being made, to find employment for new arrivals? If the State Governments can guarantee employment to new arrivals, why cannot they do the same for the Australian born? If they can guarantee farms for new arrivals, should not pre- ference be given to Australians when land is available?
– Work can be guaranteed here for carpenters, as there are none unemployed at present.
– Who can give that guarantee?
– The State Government of Victoria. The same applies to bricklayers.
SenatorFINDLEY. - The agreements do not contain that provision. In the main, they are to the effect that work or farms will be found. In certain trades to-day there are opportunities of employment, but in many other spheres of in- -dustry there are none. The doors of opportunity are closed.
– It is in those trades where opportunities occur that immigrants will be placed.
– It would not appear to be so. The Governments are not getting the class of immigrants they require.
– They are mostly for the building trade.
- Senator Pearce makes the statement that the State Governments are bringing a class of workmen to Australia for whom employment can be found, but that is not borne out by articles published in the newspapers. I have an article here which appeared in the Argus. <1 do not say that it has general application, and I want honorable senators to clearly understand that it is not my statement. It is headed, “Undesirable Newcomers,” and the subheadings are, “Disturbing Allegations; Larrikinism and Filthy Habits.” One passenger stated, “Nothing could cure them of filthy habits, which soon disgusted every decent and moderately decent. person on board the ship.”
– Were they assisted immigrants ?
– I presume so.
– What is the date of the article?
– It appeared some little time ago.
– They may not be assisted immigrants.
– They may or may not, hut the bulk of the immigrants -are assisted.
– Many immigrants come in who are not assisted.
– It is true that some come in of their own free will, but a large number is assisted. The article continues -
They were a continual source of annoyance and unpleasantness to their fellow passengers, and, in the various ports en route, a shocking advertisement .of the type apparently encouraged to come to Australia, particularly as they, claimed to he “selected” new settlers. “ I, and many others, too,” said a passenger, “ ceased to view so agreeably the fact that I had been selected to help in Australia’s development when these examples of the selectors’ opinion of desirable migrants vere so forcibly brought under my notice.”
. None of these undesirable persons was known to have had a bath on the trip, that few of them shaved, and that most of them slept in their boots and clothes.
They are not altogether desirable settlers.
– We are bound to get a few of that description.
– If these men have been assisted, then too much care has not been exercised- in their selection. The Labour party’s policy on immigration is the same as it was when that party was in power many years ago.. If Australia were made sufficiently attractive there would be no occasion to engage recruiters or “spruikers” and to spend thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money to induce people to. come .here. They would come of their own free will. The present system of immigration will cost the people of Australia millions of money, and there is no guarantee that employment or farms will be found for the immigrants. Of all the schemes in respect of immigration there is only one sound and sensible business proposition, and that is the one adopted by the Queensland Labour Government.
– What ‘ about the Western Australian system ?
– They agree to take 75,000 immigrants during the next five years, and the Commonwealth Government are granting a loan of £6,000,000.
– Does the honorable senator say that that scheme is not satisfactory ?
– The Western Australian Government say that 6,000 farms will” be provided, and that they will absorb 75,000 immigrants during the next five years. According to the official figures more people are leaving Western Australia than are arriving there.
– That is not so.
– The official figures show that the departures exceed the arrivals; therefore, they cannot b©’ making a huge success of immigration in Western Australia.
– The Western Australian scheme is nevertheless a success.
– It cannot be a success if more people are leaving thant are arriving.
– The immigrants are not leaving.
– Two or three States are adopting the system of boy immigration. South Australia requires 6,000 boys. One of the reasons advanced is that the passage money for boys is less than that for adults. It is £16 for boys as against £33 for adults.
– There is a good deal to be said for that.
– There will be no objection if proper provision is made for the boys, and avenues of employment are opened to them when they reach their majority. But if the boys are to be introduced to displace adult labour, as a member of the Labour party I cannot subscribe to that policy.
– The boys are being placed on training farms.
– Mr. Wignall a ii! ember of the British House of Commons, who is one of the delegation now in Australia, is very pleased with the boy immigration scheme.
– The only scheme which is sound and sane, .and run on business lines, is that of the Theodore Government. They have requisitioned for 100 boys per month.
– Do they want the toys to displace some others?
– No. There is apparently a shortage of that class of labour in Queensland.
– So there is in South Australia. .
– The Queensland Government will ‘ take charge of these boys and apprentice them to the farmers until they are twenty-one years of age.
– That is being done in South Australia.
– What wages will they be paid?
– The honorable senator can depend upon it that the Labour Government will place these boys under the best possible conditions.
– It is estimated that 95 per cent, of the boy immigrants in South Australia are “making good.” It is one of the most successful forms of immigration yet undertaken.
– I am glad to hear it. The boys in Queensland are to be apprenticed to farmers and taught the business until twenty-one years of age. Until they reach manhood the Government will, in a measure, be responsible for them. They are to be clothed, &nd two-thirds of their earnings placed ir. a bank. When they reach the age of twenty-one, their accumulated savings with interest, less a deduction for clothing and the money advanced for the passage, will be handed to them.
– Mr. Theodore has borrowed Sir Henry Barwell’s policy for immigration.
- Sir Henry Barwell has borrowed Mr. Theodore’s policy.
– Sir Henry Barwell had it in mind long before Queensland 1 adopted it.
– Although honorable members opposite are opposed to tho party to which I belong, and to the principles that we advocate, I do not think they are so callous or hard-hearted as to be unmindful of the fact that there are thousands of unemployed in the capital cities of Australia, who badly need assistance from the Commonwealth and State Governments. In the Herald of Saturday last there appeared an article headed, “ Unemployed on the Doss.” The subheadings are “ Nights of Misery spent under Paper Sheets: Too Poor to buy a Bed.” Portion of the article reads -
Clad in ragged, threadbare clothes, their toes often protruding from their worn and broken boots, and in many cases without even the protection of am old military greatcoat, they are a terrible reminder of the ingratitude and lack of memory of Governments. Many of these men hurried to answer the appeal of the Government for assistance in 1914, and the succeeding years, only to find now that there is no assistance for them when they so urgently need it.
They are sleeping on the wharfs, in parks, and railway carriages. The article proceeds -
As the Reverend Ainslie Yates, of the Mission of St. James and St. John, said when addressing a meeting of the unemployed at the Labour Bureau yesterday, it ls a great pitythat some members of the Government could not be forced to share for twenty-four hours the life of some of these men. If they did so, there is not the faintest doubt that relief in some form would be instantly forthcoming. No one could view unmoved such scenes.
It is a daily occurrence to see large numbers of men seeking in vain for employment. Last Saturday honorable senators who were in Melbourne and walked the streets witnessed a sight they will long remember. At every street corner there were unemployed with collection boxes. Many of the collectors wore the badge of the returned soldier. They were soliciting as much as they could get from the kindly-disposed people to help to tide them over their difficulties. I conversed with one man who had a box. He told me that he had been out of work for some weeks. I asked him if he were a married man. He said, “Yes.” I said, “Have you any family?” He said, “I have three young children, and our breakfast, dinner, and tea yesterday consisted of bread and dripping.” He asked me if I knew anybody who could employ him.
– What was his occupation when he was in employment?
-He was a labourer. In the building trade there is work, I expect, for builders’ labourers; but there are many labourers who are not builders’ labourers and find it very difficult to get work.
– The Commonwealth Government have advanced to the States money for the construction of roads, the object being to assist the unskilled labourer.
– I know that. Although the Commonwealth Government have voted the money, and the States have agreed to back the amount and begin certain work, so far as I have been able to gather those works have not been commenced in earnest. The resultis that a large number of people are still out of employment. Until the men in the different cities are found employment, it is a wrong policy for the Government to bring thousands of others in and swell the unemployed market.
– In what way does it injure the labourer if you bring in a bricklayer, when there are buildings in this city which cannot be gone on with because of the scarcity of bricklayers?
- Senator Pearce harps on bricklayers and carpenters. Does he assume that the “class of people who are coming in are those who are engaged in the building trade?
– I have seen the lists, and I know the Victorian Government at the present time are bringing in only such labour as is required for the building trade.
– That is very interesting news. The honorable senator says there are none others coming into Victoria.
– I did not say that. I said that was the course that was being adopted in relation to assisted immigration.
– What about the assisted immigrants for the farms?
– That is farm labour; it is separate.
– There are not many assisted immigrants; the majority are those who have been nominated and those who are coming here of their own free will.
– I shall leave the matter at that in the hope that the Government will make a move to assist the unemployed.
– The Government have already moved.
– Apparently, they did not move swiftly enough.
– What else can the Government do?
– The Government can stay their hands in regard to wholesale immigration.
– It is a limited, not a wholesale immigration policy, that is being adopted.
– The statement of the right honorable senator that only those are being assisted who are to engage in the building trade I do not think would be borne out by the official records.
– That is apart from the settlers.
– In the GovernorGeneral’s Speech there is a paragraph stating that the Government intend appointing a Royal Commission to investigate allegations made in regard to a certain contract entered into in connexion with the erection of War Service Homes. I know something about two or three contracts, but as this particular contract has not been specified I shall postpone the remarks I desire to make on that subject. Serious criticism has been levelled against that Department from time to time. The Royal Commission, we are informed, is not to be a roving Commission. I do not want the Commission to wander all over Australia, but I think that some of the statements contained in an article which appeared in the Argus a short while ago are so serious and so startling that the Commission ought to inquire into their correctness or incorrectness. This. article dealt with the War Service Homes Commission (Disposals Board) Bulk Stores, an institution on the South Wharf. It states -
Mystery is tire dominant- note of the institution. How or by whom its contents were collected is one of its most jealously guarded secrets. What prices were paid for the strange things it contains will probably never be known, not, at any rate, if the responsible officials can possibly prevent it.
It goes on to show what some of these exhibits are,- arid continues -
When the buying frenzy was at its height one manufacturer received an order for over 1,500 of a special plumber’s brass fitting. Knowing it was a line not allowed by tlie Metropolian Board ,of Works, he interviewed the Department and mildly suggested that fifteen, and not 1,500, would be sufficient. He -» was told that the Department knew its own business best, and the order must be filled. The citizens of Australia still own these fittings.
There at least was an honest manufacturer, but when he told the Department that the article would not be in accordance with the regulations of the Board of Works and suggested that he should supply fifteen, he was told to mind his own business, and supply 1,500. The article goes on to say -
There is another strange line to be found at the stores. On a notice-board where the list of material is displayed is one notification referring to cement wash troughs. Across it is the significant announcement, “ Not approved by Metropolitan Board.” These troughs were made to order of reinforced concrete, and cost about 40s. each. Their exact number cannot be ascertained, but there were several hundreds of them, and they were ordered and made with outlets smaller than the Metropolitan Board will allow. They cannot be altered, and they cannot be used anywhere in Melbourne.
– Were the accounts passed for payment?
– Yes. The article continues -
There is one interesting exhibit that comes under the heading of “Damp course, ls. a roll.” This damp-proof course is one of the most important parts of. a home. . . . The material in question was manufactured in Melbourne from paper felt, saturated with tar, and was used in the soldiers’ homes. … A builder’s comment was to the effect that a black line painted on the wall would be as effective. . . . There were other lines in sewerage brassware that had an interesting history, and might have ‘been bought, at a very reasonable price had not the Metropolitan Board of Works been disagreeable about allowing them to be used. It is stated that they were eventually sold as scrap brass.
In regard to. timber, the article says -
So far as the timber is concerned, the fact that dressed weatherboards are offered at the Stores for 10s. per 100 lineal feet, while the price of good quality boards from the merchants is 20s. to 21s.’ per 100, would indicate that either the Disposals Board is very generous, or that the goods are not quite of firstclass quality. … It is quite interesting to inspect this particular line, as it offers the most extraordinary contortions of which the timber which has been machined green is capable.
Apparently there were thousands of pounds’ worth of material in that exhibition that now have little or no value. The Government ought to make the closest inquiry into some, at least, of these allegations. They ought to find out by whom the material was ordered, and from whom it was purchased. Apparently orders were given haphazardly, by men who did not understand their business; otherwise the materials would not have been rejected by the Metropolitan Board of Works. Everybody knows that builders have to comply with certain health regulations, regulations of the Metropolitan Board of Works and other institutions. If those regulations are not complied with, then the materials, no matter what they cost, are not permitted to be used in a building. It is necessary that those regulations should “be enforced. These people apparently did not care what sort of order they gave, and would not accept advice from men who knew their business. The name of the officer who was advised to order fifteen, and not 1,500, brass fittings, ought to be ascertained. I hope, that the Royal Commission will be given the opportunity to go into this and other matters that are of moment to the taxpayers of Australia.
– A lot was said regarding” the War Service Homes, and particularly the Minister in charge of the Department, which had no foundation in fact.
– I am not Collcerned about that. I am not making an attack upon the Minister or anybody else. I am quoting statements which appeared in the Argus respecting exhibits in that institution in the South Wharf. According to the article, the institution itself is wrapped in mystery.
This is the first opportunity I have had since I ‘ entered- this Chamber to enter a vigorous protest against the action of the late Government in hold- ing the elections, on the 16th December last. Some honorable senators say jokingly, ‘and others seriously, that the Labour party wants to achieve its ends by other than constitutional methods. That is not correct. We are essentially a Constitutional party, and because we respect the Constitution we want to see that those who occupy positions of trust and power also respect it. The late Administration did not do so. As a matter of fact, it showed an utter disrespect to the wishes and mandate of the people. When the Deakin Government were in power in 1906, strong representations were made against the holding of Federal elections in December. The Constitution provided that Senators, should retire at the end of December. hut it was pointed out that the holding of elections during that month was a serious handicap to those engaged in rural work. Their occupation prevented them from attending election meetings, ‘and even from recording their votes. The representations on their behalf were so strong that the Government asked the people at a referendum to alter the Constitution and provide that senators should retire at the end of June. The votes cast for the alteration were 774,000; those cast against the alteration were 162,000. Therefore there was a’ majority of 612,000 against the holding of ejections in December.
– There was another issue, if I remember, at that referendum.
– The elections of 1917 were held om the 5th May; the 1919 election should have been held at ‘about the same time of the year. But the Nationalist Government then . in power seized what they considered to he the psychological moment when their stocks wore high in the political market, and forced an election some months before Parliament would have expired by effluxion of time. They succeeded in winning many seats, and, no doubt, spurred by their victory, they chose the 16tsh December, 1922, as the date ‘for the next election.
– If the honorable senator Were a Queensland representative he would not speak as he is now doing.
– I speak ae a citizen of Australia. The effect of holding the elections in December was that successful senators had to wait until the 1st July before they could enter this Chamber. - I do nob mean that they could have entered the Chamber earlier than the 1st July if the elections had been held later than they were. My point is that if the elections had taken place during that part of the year when the people, in voting for the alteration of the Constitution, intended them to be held - if they had been held about April or May, defeated senators would not have been able to take such a prominent part in the proceedings of Parliament, and in passing legislation, ‘as they were in a position to do in consequence of the election taking place in December.
– They were quite entitled to do what they did. Their term had not expired.
– But if the election had been held, as elections formerly were held, in the autumn, both branches of the Legislature would have met about the same time, which would have been a much more business-like arrangement. I hope there will be no departure from the Constitution in future, and that the wishes of the people will be respected by not holding an election in the last month of the year.
The Government have a long programme. I do not believe, and neither do they, that they will be able to carry it through. It will be a. matter of impossibility. However, we shall play our! part in the discussion of measures brought forward. We shall criticise them when it is necessary to do so. We shall support those measures we deem worthy of support. But at all times we shall do our level best to strengthen our position, both within this Parliament and - outside. We are satisfied that whether the present Government remains in power for a short period only or for the whole term of this Parliament, the longer it holds office as a composite Ministry the stronger will our position grow, both within this Parliament and outside. We are satisfied, also, that when the next appeal to the people takes place, we shall com© into our own again and have a majority in both Chambers. We shall be what we were in the past, a force and power in Federal politics, and the legislation we shall enact when the administration of affairs is again intrusted to our hands will be for the advancement of Australia, and the happiness and betterment .of the majority of its citizens.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kingsmill) adjourned!
Motion (by Senator Pearce) pro posed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Two years ago, the Government of Australia decided that traffic in the plumage of birds of paradise was to cease, and they have since taken strong measures to suppress what we may call this nefarious trade. I was rather surprised, therefore, to notice in an article in the Melbourne Argus, that one of the leading actresses, in a theatrical show called “ Rockets,” appears on the stage wearing bird of paradise plumage in her head-dress. This lady’s attire occasions a great deal of comment among those who witness the performance, and I should like to know whether it is a fact that members of the theatrical profession can obtain permission to wear plumage that others are forbidden to wear. Is there any way- in which members of that profession can get behind the law, as it were, and take advantage of the good nature of a Minister, or his desire to assist a theatrical performance of this sort? I suppose that numbers of women are not yet educated to a standard that will enable them to realize the brutality entailed in obtaining these feathers, and there are many of them who desire to wear them. But this they are forbidden by the law of the Commonwealth to do, and I think the Government should also insist that people engaged in the theatrical profession, who appear nightly decked in this plumage, should be called upon to offer some explanation as to how they have become possessed of these forbidden feathers.
– Would the Minister when replying be good enough to indicate whether the killing of birds of paradise seriously interferes with the numbers of these birds in New Guinea?
– If, tomorrow, honorable senators will supply me with proofs of their remarks, I shall bring both questions under the notice of the Minister for . Trade and Customs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1923/19230711_senate_9_103/>.