9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator theHon. T. Givens) took thechair at3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the Senate that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has appointed the hour of half-past 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon as a suitable hour at which to receive the Address-in-Reply.
– In accordancewith the announcement made by the Minister for
Some and Territories (Senator Pearce), I desire to announce to the Senate that to-morrow I shall leave the Houses of Parliament at a quarter-past 3 p.m., to proceed to Government House, there to present to His Excellency the AddressinReply. I shall be pleased if, following the usual practice, as many honorable senators as possible will make it convenient to accompany me.
Proposed Royal Commission
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate - Has the Government yet appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into a certain contract entered into in connexion with the erection of War Service Homes ! If not, will the Commission be appointed before the parliamentary shutters are put up next week?
– The Commission has not yet been appointed. It is hoped that an announcement will be made before the Parliament is closed.
Payments m Queensland.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, whether he can inform the :Senate what was the total amount paid in Queensland up to, and including, 30th June, 1923, under the Meat Export Bounties Act?
– The details sought :by the honorable senator were laid upon the table of the Senate recently, and he can have access to them on application to the Clerk of the Senate.
– Can the Leader ofthe Government in the Senate yet state whether there is a possibility of an advance copy of the Auditor-General’s report for 1922-23 being made available to honorable senators before they are -called upon to discuss the Estimates?
– ] have made inquiries, and I find that it will not be ^possible to present to Parliament before the close of this part of this session the report of the Auditor-General.
– I again ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he is yet in a position to advise me of the amount of money proposed to be expended on a forest products laboratory?
– I again am compelled to ask the honorable senator to bear with me a little longer. Sir George Knibbs is engaged at the Pan-Pacific Scientific Conference, and probably that somewhat accounts for the delay. I can assure the honorable senator that he will be given the information immediately I receive it.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories supply me with a return showing the number of Chinese in Australia to-day and in 1901, with the increase, or decrease, as the case may be ?
– If the honorable senator will refer to the census returns which have been distributed to honorable senators, he will obtain those figures, which are capable of being added to or deducted from, as the case may be, in accordance with the figures appearing in the returns that are published periodically under the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act, and are always laid on the table of the Senate.
Abolition of HOBART Branch: Position of Officers.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
If, under the proposal to abolish the War Service Homes Department in Hobart, any officials who may be retired will be allowed the same concessions regarding accrued leave and bonus as other officers previously retrenched from this Department!
– The reply is as follows.: -
Any leave actually due to the staff on retrenchment will be disposed of by payment in lieu thereof, and, in addition, returned soldiers with over twelve months’ service will be paid a sustenance allowance equal to half their ordinary pay until they obtain other employment,, but not exceeding eight weeks. The staff of theTasmanian branch has already been advised of these provisions more than a week ago.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The statement in reply to the honorable senator’s questions is rather lengthy. Benefiting by recent experience, I ask leave to read it.
– A proclamation, bringing into operation on 1st October next certain specified provisions of the Navigation Act, was issued on 2nd July last. In view of its publication and of consequent arrangements made with the Imperial and the State Governments in the matter, the proclamation cannot well be revoked excepting for some very weighty reason. It is not, however, proposed to bring any further provisions of the Act into force within the next six months at earliest. The following are the provisions proclaimed to commence on. 1st October next: -
Sections 4, 5, 15 to 25 inclusive, 27, 187a, 188 to 201 inclusive, 201a, 202 to 204 inclusive, 205, 206, 206a, 207 to 217 inclusive, 217a, 218 to 230 inclusive, 232 to 234 inclusive, 248 to 258 inclusive, 258a, 268, 269, Part V. (namely, sections 270 to 283 inclusive), Part IX. (namely, sections 356 to 367 inclusive, and 360 to 377 inclusive), and sections 420 and 421.
These provisions relate to the following matters : - Examination of masters, mates, and engineers for certificates of competency, survey and inspection of ships and detention of unseaworthy ships, life-saving appliances and fire protection, Courts of Marine Inquiry, deck and load lines, signals of distress, adjustment of compasses, carriage of dangerous goods, lights, signals and sailing regulations, and passengers and their accommodation. The commencement of these provisions represents not so much the enforcement of new legislation as the taking over from the States and placing under one central control of activities already existing, and having a parallel in the United Kingdom and all maritime countries. As the commencement of the sections and the consequent transfer of control cannot affect, except in a very remote degree, the subject-matter of the inquiry now being held into the effect of the Navigation Act on the trade, industry, and development of the Commonwealth, the fact that such an inquiry is being held does not, it is considered, constitute any sufficient reason why the commencement of the sections already proclaimed should be deferred.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Has the Government any intention of fulfilling the resolution agreed to at the Imperial Conference of 1921, and to which we were a party - that the franchise and other benefits under our laws should be granted to Indians who are British subjects and were domiciled within the Commonwealth before Federation?
– The resolution to which the honorable senator refers was an expression of opinion that it was desirable that the rights of Indians to citizenship should be recognised. No indication has at any time been given by the Government that it would extend the franchise to Indians in Australia, but the matter is receiving consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Department to allow Admiral Clarkson to complete the survey of the northern coast of Australia which has recently been interrupted?
– Admiral Clarkson has completed his mission, and has reported to the Government. H.M.A.S. Geranium will return to northern waters on surveying duties at an early date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1 How many officers and men were quartered at Osborne House, North Geelong, during the period when the submarine base was situated in Corio Bay?
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to introduce a Fruit Bounties Bill on somewhat similar lines to the Meat Bounties Bill which has recently been passed by Parliament.
– The matter is under consideration, and it is hoped that an early announcement will be made.
Motion (by Senator PEARCE) agreed to-
That leave bo given to introduce a Bill for an .Act to approve the Agreement made between His Majesty’s Government in London, His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, and His Majesty’s Government of the Dominion of New Zealand, in relation to the Island of Nauru.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Wilson) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Service and Execution of Process Act 1901-1922.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Wilson) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act- to repeal the Aliens Registration Act 1920.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the Removal of Prisoners from- Territories under the Authority of the Commonwealth.
Bill presented,’ and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 14th.August (vide page 2676), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the Estimates and Budget-papers 1923-24 be printed.
– The debate on the Budget is, in my opinion, one of the most important in which the Senate can engage, as the actions of the Government, particularly in relation to financial matters during the last twelve months, are necessarily brought under review. This is the one chance that Parliament has of determining whether the Government have, during the preceding twelve months, done justice to their task of administering the financial affairs of the Commonwealth. Honorable senators, are at a disadvantage in not having before them the Auditor-General’s report, but that is quite unavoidable, because we know that the early presentation of this year’s Budget - which, by the way, has not quite an equal in the history of this Parliament - was made to allow the session to come to a speedy termination, so that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and Senator Wilson might leave for Great Britain to attend the Imperial Conference. Nevertheless, the report of the Auditor-General will be very valuable to honorable senators when it does come to hand. I have not as much fear on this occasion as to the manner in which the finances of the Commonwealth have been handled, as I have had in some previous years, because we now have in charge of $ie Treasury the mouth-piece of a new party in Australia. If there was anything that was responsible for the creation and growing popularity of that party, it was its regard for the necessity to keep a close watch on the finances of the Commonwealth. I have been a consistent supporter of Governments that have preceded the present one, and am a supporter of this Go*vernment, but no Government stands above the necessity of being watched. Rousseau has truly said that all Governments are bound to deteriorate in time. It is- a rather sweeping declaration, but there is a good deal of truth in it, because the average human, being is all the better for being watched. The members Df the Government might behave in a way that would be dangerous to them.selves, and, even in their own interest, as well as the public interest, it is proper J&at a close scrutiny should be kept over the financial affairs of the, country. In the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) we have a man who has ransacked the whole of the financial operations’ of Australia, and, I hope, has- swept the corners clean, down to the last pound. In the statement he has presented I believe he has. left no stone unturned in order to _ present a national balance-sheet, which it. a true reflex of the financial position Qf Australia, based upon the assumption that for every pound expended last year there. was one pound’s worth of work delivered. I notice that he claims credit for a surplus of some £1,020,000, and he goes on to explain, in the course of the Budget speech, that that surplus would have been more had it not been for the unforeseen expenditure of some £2,000,000 in connexion with fruit pools, and’ the payment of other demands that were not mentioned in last year’s Budget. While it is quite’ true that this amount of unforeseen expenditure was responsible for the surplus being much less than it otherwise would have been, I suppose the Treasurer has also kept well in mind the fa.ct:that he did not expend as much out of revenue for works and buildings as did the Government last year and even in the preceding year. I find from the tables that the expenditure from revenue on works and buildings was in the neighbourhood of £1,800,000 less than in the previous year, so that if that amount were included in the financial operations, of the year just closed, the Treasurer’s surplus would disappear. As against that, however, the Treasurer states that there was a contra account of £2,000,000, and the net position is that the surplus would have been increased by some £300,000 if that contra had not been met. If the financial operations of last year were carried on in the same way as in the previous year, and the same amount devoted to public works and buildings out of revenue, then, after paying this £2,000,000, instead of having a surplus, there would have been nothing at all. Against these considerations, however, Australia has had a very bounteous time as far as revenue is- concerned, as over £5,000,000 more than was estimated has been received. Had it not been for that fact, not only would the Estimates have been upset, but the Commonwealth’s finances would have been in a bad position.
On an occasion like this, Parliament has an opportunity that does not occur in the same way every session to size up, at this period of national stocktaking, whether or not the people whom we represent are receiving a fair return for their money. The people have a chance of asking themselves whether they are overtaxed, undertaxed, or just about - rightly taxed. It is rather difficult to hit upon a standard by which we can make the comparison; but when we look abroad and. see. what is happening in other countries, we may take as a rough guide, countries similarly situated to ourselves. It is quite true that there are exceptional circumstances in Australia which may make the necessity for taxation greater or less than in other parts of the world; but there are new countries, such as the United States of America, Canada, and New Zealand that, in many respects, very closely resemble our own. Looking into their financial position, we find that, instead of the Commonwealth being undertaxed compared with them, it is far more he’avily taxed. In the cases of New Zealand and Canada, and particularly Canada, the people there have escaped the burden of taxation very much more than have the people of Australia. I take the position of Canada first, because there we have a community that in all respects resembles our own. It has a huge area to develop, and it has its own peculiar problems to contend with, as we have here. I shall refer to the statistics for 1914, because after that year the war so dislocated the finances of many countries that it would be hard to say whether the extra taxation imposed was justified or not. Australia put very much more energy into the war effort than did Canada, despite its resources, population, and proximity to the seen© of the struggle. According to the Canadian Y ear-Book, the revenue collected in Canada in 1914, for defraying the cost of government, was 21 dollars, or £4 4s. per head of the population, whereas the revenue collected in Australia amounted to £4 7s. per head, showing a difference not worth mentioning. In New Zealand the revenue collected for the sustenance of the Government in the same year amounted to £5 per head. The war then intervened, and the finances of New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. were much disturbed in proportion to the energy they put into their respective war efforts. The revenue collected by Canada last year amounted to 42 dollars, or £8 8s. per head. In that £8 8s. per head are included provision for war expenditure, and such extraneous revenue as railway’ and canal receipts, which are equivalent to our Commonwealth railway receipts. Thus the figure I have quoted is a fair standard for comparison with Australia. The Commonwealth went rapidly up the scale, and arrived last year at a taxation of £12 12s. 5d. per head. The rate in New Zealand was very high in 1921, being in the neighbourhood of £17 per head, which was a very lofty pinnacle of taxation for that country. This year, however, it has sunk back to £12 14s. per head. What stands out in this comparison? It is, I submit, the fact that in the case of Canada the revenue collected for the upkeep of Government only dou’bled during a period of nine years, whereas in the case of the Commonwealth it practically trebled, and in the case o’f New Zealand it increased by 150 per cent., or two and a half times.
– There is no State expenditure in New Zealand.
– That makes the comparison all the more favorable, to New Zealand. Although the New Zealand figure appears to be high, it still stands intrinsically in that country’s favour, for the reason that the New Zealand Government carries many forms of. expenditure which are not borne by the Commonwealth Government. Notwithstanding that fact, the taxation per head in New Zealand is only £12 14s. per head, »s against £12 12s. 5d. per head in the Commonwealth .
– It would be necessary to add the average of the States’ expenditure to that of the Commonwealth to make a fair comparison with New Zealand.
– That is so. So much by way of comparison with other countries. .1 presume we adhere to the maxim, which ‘has stood the test of time, and cannot be reasonably challenged, that it is never justifiable to take out of the pockets of the taxpayer more money than is- necessary for the legitimate purposes of government, or to kee)? that money longer than is necessary for that purpose. In the light of that maxim, we are an over-taxed people. Even the most radical advocate of humanitarian legislation will not contend that we are ahead of New Zealand in that respect. For advanced legislation New Zealand is on a level with this country. Canada has not old-age pensions, and it lags a long, way behind this country in social legislation. On that account, I do not propose to make a severe comparison with Canada, further than to say that . the people of that Dominion are more lightly taxed than those of Australia to the extent of about £4 per head. Suppose our expenditure per head was brought down to the Canadian level, and that the £4 per head now taken from the people was left in their pockets, £20,000,000 would* be retained for use by the people of this country, lt would provide a marvellous stimulus to production. To the extent to which that money is impounded in the Treasury, the progress of this country is hindered.
There is another comparison which I shall make for the interest of honorable senators. It relates to the trade balance. In this connexion Australia is very backward in the matter -if statistics. 1 tried to ascertain the true income of the people of Australia during the period from 1914 to last year. I referred to the Statistical Bureau, and to the Income Tax Department, but they . assured me that the standards adopted by °them were by no means complete, and that the figures they had obtained did not include many forms of income drawn by the people of this country. It would be unreliable to accept a standard of income which is not complete. I was driven to find out for myself a standard to indicate the progress of the country, and I decided to adopt that of the balance of trade. A debtor nation, such as thi3 young country, must live upon the excess of what it produces over what it buys. If we have not that excess we are driven, nationally speaking, to the wrong side if the ledger. The position in this respect during the last nine years is nothing of which to be proud. I shall start my comparison with the year 1916-17. I could not go back to 1914, for the reason that we had a minus balance that year and in the two following years. That was a result of the great upheaval in Europe. Even in 1916 the shipping facilities were o much disorganized that I question whether the figures for those years are a reliable guide. * Accepting thu figures as they are, however, with all their faults, they show that the excess of our exports over our imports amounted to £21,000,000. In 1917-18 the excess amounted to £19,000,000; in 1918-19 to £11,000,000; and in 1919-20, to £50,000,000. In 1920-21, instead of there being an excess of exports over imports, there was an excess of imports over exports amounting to £31,000,000. In 1921-22 the balance righted itself, and there was an excess of exports of £26,000,000. Last year we had a balance of £14,000,000 on the wrong side, which means that we bought in the markets of the world that much more than we sold. There is a very interesting table in the Commonwealth *Y ear-Book showing the effect of borrowed money on the balance of trade. It would be misleading were I to set down in round figures the ratio of exports to imports without taking into account the effect of borrowing money on the London market or elsewhere. In his comparison, Sir George Knibbs has eliminated altogether the effect of introduced capital, and therefore his calculations are all the more valuable. He allows the figures relating ito our exports and imports to stand by themselves, as indicating the amount which this country had for the payment of interest on its debts, the cost of industrial expansion, &c, and all other governmental expenditure. He shows that for the year 1916-17 this excess of exports over imports stood at £21,000,000. It is important to note that for the last four years the balance of exports over imports was in our favour to the extent of only £20,000,000, representing an increase of but 10 per cent. Let us see what the population of i this country was during those four years, because, as I remind honorable senators, population is an important element in the consideration of this subject. I find ;that during the period 1920-23 tlie population of Australia increased by 16 per cent., and, as I have shown, the trade balance for a portion of that period increased by only 10 per cent. Unfortunately our burden of taxation has increased in- a very much greater ratio, namely, from £6 5s. per head in 1916 to £12 12s. per head last, year - exactly 100 per cent, increase. These figures warrant a very close examination of our system of finance. We might very well ask ourselves if we are on right lines. In spite of the very careful scrutiny which, I am sure, the Treasurer has given to the financial position of the Commonwealth, there is still room for investigation as to the extent to which the taxpayer may be relieved.
– Market fluctuations would have an important effect upon those figures.
– I am endeavouring to include all the elements that indicate progress and exclude obtrusive factors with the idea of ascertaining where we stand. I submit that since the increase in taxation has outpaced every other standard of comparison, our financial position is not so favorable as it might be. I have already referred to the reduction in the proposed vote for public works as compared with last year and the year 1920-21. I should now like to direct the attention of honorable senators to certain items under the heading of loan expenditure. It is not wise to draw upon loan money for the payment of ordinary services, and when we find expenditure for what should be ordinary every-day services charged up to loan account, it would appear that our system of financing requires immediate overhauling. Last year the loan account was debited to the extent of £34,000 for the maintenance of buildings, investigations, and the payment of salaries and other expenses of technical and administrative staffs incidental to the construction of the Federal Capital. I find also that the cost of transport, rabbit destruction, hospitals, and bachelors’ quarters, for the administration of the Federal Capital, totalling £41,000, was similarly charged to loan account. This practice does not square with what I regard as right principles in public finance. Any investor about to subscribe to Commonwealth loans would naturally inquire how we were expending the money, and if he did not approve he would withhold financial support. In the early nineties the several State Governments “ overran the constable,” if I may use a colloquialism, with the result that they found the London money market practically closed to them. I do noi want the Commonwealth to suffer that indignity, and I regret to know that last year nearly £80,000, which should have been provided out of revenue, was charged to loan account on the two items I have mentioned. I notice, also, that there was an item of £45,000 for the purchase of a wharf in Papua, and that the loan account was drawn upon to the extent of £48,000 for naval base works and establishments, and £82,000 on account of the Port Augusta-Kalgoorlie Railway. The last named is a perfectly justifiable expenditure chargeable to loan, because it is on account of an asset which, we hope, will stand this country in good stead in the future. The ballasting of that line should be completed without delay. This work, when completed, will add to the comfort of travellers, and insure longer life for the heavy rollingstock employed on that line. Travellers are seriously inconvenienced by the dust nuisance within the vicinity of Ooldea, owing to’ the unballasted state of the line. I am glad to be able to say that the Government have at last paid heed to a matter which I mentioned first many years ago, and repeated on several occasions, namely, the folly of maintaining two Government railway workshops in close proximity. I refer to the workshops at Quorn and Port Augusta. The item, “ Serum and health labora tories, £12,500,” ought not to appear in the proposed vote from Loan Account. That expenditure ought to be made out of revenue.
Whence came this £5,000,000 excess of revenue over, the estimate? It came mainly, if not entirely, from the Customs Department. Every Treasurer, whether he is a teetotaller or a man who indulges in a glass, looks to stimulants and narcotics to provide him with a buoyant revenue. The Treasurer has set down £360,000 as the increase in the revenue from those sources - a miserable 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, of the total. So it would appear that we are sobering up, or we must have had a very large stock of stimulants and narcotics on the imposition of the Tariff. The most important aspect of the receipts from the Customs Department is the effect which the imposition of import duties has upon the industries of the country. A number of prophecies were indulged in regarding the effect which the Tariff would have, but many of them have not been fulfilled. We were told that it was very necessary to impose adequately high rates in order to protect our industries, the consequential effect, of course, being to keep down the revenue from that source. Honorable senators must have noticed that, instead of keeping out imports, the increased duties have helped to swell the quantity of goods brought into Australia. The effect of the imposition of those duties must have been that the people buying the goode paid more for them than they should; yet, on the other hand, our industries, judged by the volume of imports in competition, have not been stimulated proportionately. On page 441 of Bulletin No. 19, ‘issued by the Commonwealth Statistician, appear figures which show the effect of the Tariff passed in 1921. Honorable senators will remember the battle-royal that took place over that Tariff. Some supporters of the Government wanted to have the highest duties possible, while others thought there ought not to be any duties. Not being an extremist, I desired to adhere to the golden mean, and to have a Tariff which would safeguard the revenue and at the same time afford adequate protection to the industries of the country. On page 441 of the bulletin to which I have referred, honorable senators will find an interesting schedule giving the value of goods imported under various rates of duty, ranging from 5 per cent, to 60 per cent. I do not consider that any duty under 15 per cent, was ever intended to be a protective duty. The value of the goods imported during 1.921-22, bearing duties ranging from 15 per cent, to 60 per cent., was £28,600,000. The revenue derived from the duties was £9,528,000, or 33 per cent., which is no mean duty when one considers the incidental expenses that are borne by the goods from the time they leave the land of origin until they reach the consumers in’ Australia. The value of the goods bearing duties ranging from 5 per cent, to 15 per cent, was between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000. Stimulants and narcotics are loaded with a duty in the neighbourhood of 100 per cent. The Tariff was introduced and made law by proclamation in March, 1920, and the majority of the duties became operative £rom that date. It did not leave the House of Representatives until December, 1921. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the fact that in 1919 the goods imported into Australia were valued at £40,000,000. In 1918, the value was £42,000,000. In 1920-21, keen business men, who had an eye upon the direction in which the cat was going to jump in the political arena, and who guessed fairly accurately that there would be an increase in the rates of duties, placed large orders abroad,, and an inordinate supply of goods, representing a value of £70,000,000, was imported “ during that year. In 1921-22, the value of goods imported was £43,000,000. Compare that value with the value of £40,000,000 for the year immediately preceding the passing of the Tariff, and £42,000,000 for 1919. The Tariff has not kept out goods, but. has simply enabled our manufacturers to avail themselves of the unnecessarily /high duties to . mulct the users of the commodities in higher prices. It has not helped, but has seriously retarded, the primary industries of this country, which are paying a total tax of £9,000,000, a good deal of which should have remained in the pockets of the taxpayers. I am not in favour of a policy which would in the least degree hamper or injure our manufacturing ‘ industries ; but I should place them upon the same level as that occupied by other industries. By giving them the benefit of that 33 per cent, to which I have referred, plus all the attendant expenses, we are putting the manufacturers of this country in a veryrosy position. At the same time, those who purchased that huge quantity of goods valued at £28,600,000, were compelled to pay a greater sum than should have been necessary. It is rather illuminating to study the table showing thu amount that has been paid for agricultural implements and machinery. I have here the latest particulars from Canada and the United States of America. As we are all aware, agricultural implements and machinery bulk very largely in the imports from Canada and the United States of America. The figures I intend to quote will show what happened in the cass of Canada before and after the Tariff. The purchases by Australia in 19.19-20 amounted to £223,259. in 1921-22 the value was £288,942. “Let us compare the value of the imports of agricultural implements and machinery from all countries. In 1919-20 - the year before the Tariff - the value was £437,733; while last year the value was £450,639. Although we imposed a specially high Tariff, to prevent certain goods from coming to Australia, the figures show that the imports actually increased. Whenever I have the opportunity, whether in the Senate or out of it, I shall certainly endeavour to place manufacturers in such a position that they will not have greater advantages than are given to those engaged in rn.. mary production, consistent with their advantages and disadvantages.
It is .urged that we should not make the post-office a taxing machine. I suppose by that it is meant that the postoffice should not be the means of adding to the revenue of the Commonwealth, but should make just sufficient to enable it to finance itself. With that proposition I agree, but with some limitation. At present we are very much in the dark as to who is benefiting from the postoffice. Broadly speaking, I suppose it will be said that the population of the country benefits. What comprises the population of the country ? It is divided into many sections. There is the commercial class; there are the country people; there are hundreds of thousands of workers who use the post-office, perhaps, twice a week on the average. The commercial class in the big cities, I venture to say, in the absence of reliable data to the contrary, is making use of the post-office to a very much greater extent, for its own benefit and profit, than is any other section of the community. Unfortunately, we do not know the position with regard to the different departments of the post-office. The figures are inextricably mixed up. I suppose it would be very difficult to separate the accounts, and show clearly how the different sub-departments stand financially. There is no doubt, however, that the commercial class, and those who use the post-office for the delivery of tens of thousands of letters every month, are benefiting by the cheap rates that are in operation to-day. Many people are waiting for telephonic connexion, and some, it appears, will have towait fora considerable time, whilst we shall be adding to the benefits already enjoyed by the commercial section if the postage rates are reduced. I am strongly opposed to such a suggestion, because I believe the rate on letters should be retained at 2d. per half ounce, and the money derived from this source utilized in providing additional telephonic and mail services throughout the more remote parts of the Commonwealth which are in need of improved facilities. If there is one thing more than another which needs the attention of the Government, it is that of providingimproved means of communication in the backblocks. It has been frequently stated, and I do not apologize for repeating it, that the Government should utilize loan funds in order to extend our telephonic and mail services in the country. Whilst the finances of the Post and Telegraph Department are in a solvent condition, I do not think it prudent to reduce the existing rates by a half-penny, more particularly when a sum of no less than £5,900,000 is still owing by the Department to the public revenue. By whom should this amount be paid ? It is the business section which has gained the benefit, and which is now to be provided with a further advantage, whilst those in the interior are not to receive the consideration to which they are entitled. When the measure giving effect to the Government proposals in connexion with the proposed postal reductions is before the Senate, I shall oppose the reduction in letter postage rates as the money is re quired in developing the facilities in country districts.
– I shall give the honorable senator my support.
– And so shall I.
– I am pleased to learn that there are other honorable senators in the Chamber who realize that the proposed reduction is unwarranted, and that there is really no urgent demand for it. It is one of these idle, nonsensical notions, conceived by representatives of the metropolitan press who write leading articles in obscureback rooms in the city of Melbourne. It is such men who make the demand. I am not saying that they are not estimable citizens; but they have no right to speak for the people. The Senate as a States’ House is the custodian of the political welfare of the country, and it is our duty, for the reasons I have mentioned, to strongly protest against reduced rates. The letter rate has been as low as a penny, but owing to financial stringency duringa particular period, it was restored to 2d. per half ounce.
Those who refer to the Post and Telegraph Department as a taxing machine must be prepared to treat it on that basis. What do the figures show? This so-called taxing machine is still owing £5,900,000 concerning which there is no mention of payment. Until that amount is repaid to the taxpayers, it is not my intention to assist the wealthier interests of this country to secure cheaper postage. That amount has been owing over the period since the inception of Federation, and still stands as a debit in the public ledger. What is happening elsewhere? Honorable senators are of course conversant with the letter postage rates in other countries, but it may be necessary to refresh their minds. The figures I intend to quote have been supplied by the Post and Telegraph Department, and are therefore authoritative. In the United Kingdom, the rate is 1½d. for the first 2 ounces, and½d. for each additional . 2 ounces. The area served in Great Britain cannot of course be compared with a continent such as this.
– That is why a comparison should not be institutedbetween Great Britain and the Commonwealth.
– Yes, when we consider what it costs to conduct mail services in the more remote parts of the Commonwealth. In the United Kingdom, the country is closely settled, and delivery can easily he effected, at a minimum cost. Is it to he suggested that we mould come down to the rate charged in “Great Britain, which has a population of 40,000,000 people? A comparison between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth is absurd. In Canada, which is in all respects a kindred community to our own, it costs from one place to another in’ the Dominion, 3 cents for the first ounce and 3 cents for each additional ounce, or 6 cents for a 2-ounce letter. It has already .been conceded that the overwhelming bulk of the people in Australia will not benefit by a reduced rate, and the suggestion is to reduce the rate in certain cases to onehalf of that charged in Canada. In the United States of America, where the proposition is vastly different, the rate imposed is 2 cents per one ounce.
– But they have 105,000,000 people.
– Yes, which makes a comparison quite unacceptable. “ In New Zealand, 1½d. is imposed on the first two ounces, and Id. for each additional two ounces, but in that island Dominion, the people can very easily be reached. - That is not the case in Australia, which is not measured by miles, but by parallels of latitude. In view of these figures a reduction is totally unwarranted, and I trust the proposal will not have the general support of the Senate.
In regard to the telephonic systems in the different countries, it is interesting to note that the number of telephones per 100 people in the United States of America is 12.4, in Canada 9.8, and New Zealand 7.0. The population per square mile in the United States of America is 30.5, in Canada it is 2.3, in New Zealand 11.7 and in Australia 1.8. The number of telephones per 100 of the population in Australia is 4.3, or one-half of the number in Canada and one-third of the number in America. We are behind New Zealand, Canada, and the United States of America, and are therefore justified in asking that a more liberal amount should be placed on the Estimates for the purpose of developing our telephonic system. The proposal is to reduce the postal revenue to the extent of £900,000, merely to benefit those who do not need consideration. The charges for telephones in Australia are more favorable than in Canada. On a 500-call basis, the charge in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, is £7 12s. Id.; in New Zealand, £18; in New York, £10; Boston, £13 Ils.; Chicago, £9 17s. ; and St. Louis, £20 19s. In London it is £10 12s. Id., and in Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, £11 2s. 6d.
– What are the rents ?
– Unfortunately I have not those figures at my disposal, but they would doubtless influence the calculations. The charge for 500 calls in Australia compares more than favorably with that in other countries, and in regard to ‘the” cost of 1,000 and 3,000 calls our position is also satisfactory.
I wish now to refer to the small vote devoted for the purposes of bringing immigrants to Australia. I have already stated that I believe immigration is a question which should be shouldered entirely by the Commonwealth, as it is foolish for a State Government to bring people to Australia, and then find in a very short while, that they are tracking over the border to add to the population in another State. It has been pointed out that although large numbers of migrants have reached Western Australia, the population has not increased, and that the landlords in Melbourne and Sydney derive the benefit, while the Western Australian Government is saddled with the responsibility. In Queensland, a few years ago, an embargo was placed upon immigrants coming south, and immigrants were supposed to remain in Queensland for a specified period. [Extension of time granted.] The States, individually, do not benefit, but the Commonwealth benefits all the time, and it should, therefore, shoulder the burden and expense of bringing people to Australia. It is the duty of the Commonwealth, under the Constitution, to bear the burden of the defence of this country, and, as population is essential for defence, the Commonwealth should undertake the expense connected with immigration.
I congratulate the Commonwealth on the flourishing state of the finances. Seeing that we are the most heavily-taxed English-speaking country outside Great Britain, the time is fast approaching when we should consider whether or not we should adopt a policy which would result in taking less out of the pockets of the taxpayers than we do to-day, and would leave more money for the development of Australia. Every pound that is left in the pocket of the taxpayer is like talents of old that were put to good use and made to fructify; but every pound that goes unnecessarily into the Treasury resembles, to some extent, the buried talent.
In order to satisfy the popular clamour for business methods in administration, certain business men were appointed to Government positions, and, as a Minister in another place rightly said, we have to bear the brunt of it. There’ was a cry for business men to be employed in the Government Department intrusted with the administration of the War Service Homes Act, and after that course had been adopted, no less than £2,000,000 was required to make good the work of those so-called business men. I do not attribute the blame to the Government; I think that Parliaments are too shortlived. In the first year a Minister has only sufficient time to become acquainted with his job ; in the third year he is getting ready for the next election; and the middle period is the only time available for solid work. Government offices in different parts of the Commonwealth become almost picture galleries, because of the array of photographs of Ministers who have held office in rapid succession. This is due to Parliaments succeeding one another every three years, and sometimes oftener. There can be no continuity of policy under such a system. It is time that the people, generally, realized that it would be better if the life of a Parliament extended over four years instead of three.
– Five years would be still better.
– I know that a demand has arisen f or longer Parliaments. It is not in the best interests of the country that the Ministerial heads of Departments should succeed each other so rapidly as they do at present. No private business would be conducted on such lines. I wish that the finances of the States were in the same prosperous condition as those of the Commonwealth, but instead cf having surpluses, the States have had a succession of deficits.
– Excepting Victoria.
– In this State the people are. not half taxed.
– They are properly governed; that is where the difference lies.
– I was about to touch upon the prospective arrangements between, the States and the Commonwealth, in regard to taxation, but as that matter is still in the air there is no need for me to men-, tion it. I assure Senator Guthrie that a State can be taxed too little for the benefit of its neighbours. I should like the taxation arrangements in the various States to be such that no particular State would be able to draw for itself more than its fair share of the wealth of Australia. I know a man from Western Australia, who has come here because Victoria is the lowest taxed part of the Commonwealth. I am pleased that the Commonwealth is in a highly satisfactory financial position, and I hope that the expenditure will be kept down to, approximately, the level of. either Canada or New Zealand.
.- A great deal of interest has gone from this debate, chiefly owing to the fact that, because of the practice adopted, the Senate is unable to discuss the Budget at the same time as it is considered in the other Chamber. It appears to me that wie might very well eliminate a considerable portion of this discussion, if we are limited to time, and devote the time saved to the consideration of the various details of the Estimates as they come before us. I am aware that many subjects are here ‘ discussed in a most interesting manner; but the speeches fall on deaf ears, because what is said in this Chamber carries very little weight with the Government. Seeing, however, that the Government has plenty of time to spare, and wants some more time wasted, we should oblige it, by having something to say on this most important matter. It is rather pleasing to notice that the Government has been able to product another surplus.
– Is it really a surplus ?
– I was just about to observe that, after hearing the figures quoted by Senator Lynch, and taking into consideration the amount expended from loan, instead of from revenue, one doubts if it is a surplus. I deprecate the adoption of such methods of finance, for the purpose of showing a surplus year after year. They encourage extravagance and laxity of administration. No Government is justified in presenting a Budget which provides for a greater revenue than is needed for its ordinary expenditure. Last year I thought that the Government embarked upon a very dangerous experiment, when, instead of having a deficit, it undertook to reduce expenditure by something like £3,000,000. This year with a surplus of over £1,020,000, and accrued surpluses which will amount to something over £7,000,000, the Government makes no proposal to remit taxation other than the paltry proposition to reduce the postage rates at the end of the year. I believe that there is a proposal, which’ emanated from another place, to reduce taxation with respect to a section of the community that can very well afford to pay what is asked of it. I refer to the matter of remitting the land taxation of wealthy land-holders. With those exceptions, there is no promise in the Budget to reduce taxation in any shape or form.
When we have an opportunity to deal with the proposed reduction of postal rates, I shall support any honorable senators who care to vote in opposition to it. Senator Lynch has said that the Postal Department is already a taxing machine. He stated that we had spent from . revenue a sum approaching £6,000,000, in order to make up losses on the Department, which losses increased the interest liability by almost £400,000 a year. It would nave been very much better finance if the Government, instead of reducing the postal rates to the extent of something over £1,000,000, had wiped off some of the liability, or had decided to increase postal facilities in country districts. This proposal will benefit only one section of the community, and that the section which could very well afford to pay the present rate of postage.
A problem which is, I suppose, of outstanding importance to the people of Australia, is that of finding markets for our primary products. Other important questions are migration and defence,, which will, no doubt, be brought prominently before this Parliament next year. We heard an interesting speech in which Senator Guthrie,, a few days ago, pointed out, as is apparent to any one who has studied the subject, that our imports,, notwithstanding our high Tariff, are increasing every year.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable senator applauds. He will no doubt assist us later to reduce the duties.. The surest and best indication of a. nation’s prosperity is its trade balance, and when we find that our trade balance is £14,000,000 to the had, we must , look about us for a means of improving it. There is only one way to do that, and that is to export more of our manufactures and primary products. We cannot finance this country in any other way. We cannot continue for long to import from other countries more than we export without exporting gold to meet the deficit on those transactions, and that, of course, isalmost impossible. Any country that continually imports more than it exports is on very dangerous ground. How do we propose to meet that situation and improve the trade balance? What does the Government propose to do to encourage manufactures and primary production? It is true that the encouragement of manufactures and primary production is portion of the policy of the Government, hut the Ministry has given no clear indication to me that it will pursue that policy, with any substantial chance of success. Again, what is the use of producing if we cannot find markets for what we produce? Why have we not sent more of our goods across the seas? Statistics show that some of our markets have disappeared as a result of .the war. Before the war, .10 per cent, of our exports went to Germany, and the value of those exports was about £7,000,000 a year, ‘
– They consisted almost entirely of wool. We have a world’s market for wool, and if we could produce 1,000,000 more bales of it the world would take them.
– Our yearly exports to Germany have decreased from £7,000,000 worth to a few hundred thousand pounds worth. In addition to wool, we sent thousands of pounds worth of minerals to that country before the wax.
– Twenty-five per cent, of our wool clip went to Germany before* the war.
– And most of our minerals, too. Before the war, we sent 9 per cent, of our exports to Belgium. We now send less than 3 per cent. Those markets have been closed to us, because of what I term the insane policy - perhaps I am unwise in saying that - but, at least, the mistaken policy of Prance in the Ruhr Valley. The object of the nations who fought in the Great War should be to restore normal conditions of trade as soon as possible. The policy pursued by France is not only detrimental to herself, but is creating conditions which will be disastrous, not only’ to the countries of Europe, but also to those which produce raw materials.
– Does the honorable senator not think that Belgium is quite right to exclude Australian goods, and employ her own people?
– That may be so, but I am pointing out that the struggle for markets will become keener every day, and that we must enter into the fight and endeavour to find markets for our primary producers.
– The only way to do that is to cheapen the cost of production.
– That will not seriously affect the position. I am not a champion of cheapness. .The Australian workman is entitled to good conditions and decent wages, and I agree with Senator Guthrie that we should not preach to the workers a policy of going slow. The Labour party does not preach that policy, and I, personally, have always told the workers that going slow must, in the long run, act detrimentally to them.
– No responsible man in Australia has ever preached the go-slow policy.
– I am merely saying that it is not my policy or that of the Labour party, but so-called leaders of the Labour movement, at a public meeting in Tasmania, have told the workers to go slow. I say that “ go slow “ is a suicidal policy for the workers themselves.
– The statement must have been made by irresponsible men.
– Not by irresponsible men, but by so-called leaders of the Labour movement in Tasmania. 1 heard that policy recommended at the Trades Hall in Hobart, and I stood up and objected to it. The Labour party believes in the truth, and in its members speaking the truth.
– The honorable senator ought to give the names of those responsible leaders.
– I shall be pleased to give the honorable senator the information. If production is decreased by a “ go-slow “ policy, what will be the ultimate result. The cost of commodities will be increased. Who will bear that extra cost? As a matter of fact, production, instead of being decreased, ought to be increased by reason of the improvements that have been made in machinery and the methods of production. The inventive genius of man should give the workers an opportunity of increasing production.
– And causing unemployment.
– One cannot speak on this subject without being assailed with interjections about unemployment from colleagues in one’s own party. We know that unemployment exists.- We know that it will continue. to exist. We know that it has existed in all times, and that no Government - not even a Labour Government - can or ever will remove it. It is no use for a Labour man to stand up on this side of the. Chamber and say to the Government, “ There is an unemployed problem. Solve it. If we were where you are we would solve it.” No Government can solve it. It is one of the unfortunate phases of our economic system.
– Then alter the system.
– I stand for the present system. I want ito improve, not to destroy, it.
– I meant improve it.
– Many people say, “Abolish capitalism and bring in a system similar to that operating in Russia.” We cannot abolish the capitalistic system because it is not a system. It is a human passion. The old system must continue, bad as it is, and all we as legislators can do is to try to make it as perfect as it is possible for human hands and brains to do. I wish to bring the question of markets prominently under the notice of the Ministers who will deal with reciprocity at I the Imperial Conference. 1 believe it is proposed to introduce some kind of reciprocity with Canada. We send very little produce to Canada. We can hope for a market there for very little except dried fruits and a few products of that character. Our imports from Canada, however, contribute very largely to our debit trade balance of £14,000,000. I have an excellent paper which has been prepared by representatives of the saw-milling industry. It shows that our exports to Canada in 1920-21 were only £365,000, and our imports from that Dominion amounted in the same period to £3,146,000. The imports consisted almost entirely of timber. The statement goes on to say -
It will be noted that our imports in money values exceeded our exports by £2,780,999.
If a comparison is made between our exports to Canada and those to Fiji, Ceylon, and the Straits Settlement, the following position is revealed : -
Those figures indicate that the question of reciprocity with Canada will have to be very carefully considered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) before he leaves this country to attend the Imperial Conference. I have already said that Canada has an advantage over us of nearly £3,000,000, but there is another factor to remember. The position is even worse than that figure indicates, because, according to the statement by the mill representatives -
The United States would now appear to have invested in Canada, in round figures, two and a half billion dollars, or almost as much as the British investment. Other foreign countries may still have a small amount invested. This would give as the total investment of foreign and British capital, as on January, 1923, in Canadian Government, provincial, nuncipal, and ‘ corporate securities, properties and enterprises, about five and a quarter billion dollars.
That brings me to the point that even if we did provide a system of reciprocity with Canada, we should assist, not Canadians, but the large American firms who have invested huge sums of money in that country. The document further points out that -
The Canadian saw-miller has many natural and other advantages over his Australian brother which materially reduce the cost of production of Canadian timber. Transport conditions play a dominant part in turning to account a commodity that is so bulky ana difficult to handle. In this respect thu Canadian timber trade occupies an extremely favourable position, as there are numerous easily navigable rivers, inlets, and channels indenting the coast and separating the many islands which make the coast timber extraordinarily accessible. There are many deepwater harbors suitable for mill sites, and many good water powers. Some of them arc now used, more are still available. Because of the mild climate, the harbors do not freeze in winter, and logging can .be carried on all the year round.
The lumber industry on the Pacific coast is conducted under the keenest competitive conditions. This is because of the enormous quantity of virgin timber and its distance from the great timber markets of the world, such a3 Central and Eastern North America, the United Kingdom, Europe, South America, Australia, and South Africa, where the Pacific coast timber must meet and compete with tuc timber from Eastern North America, and from Northern Europe.
These factors, in conjunction with the fact that the British Columbia forests are estimated to contain no less than the enormous total of 400,000,000,000 super, feet, which is over half the total of all Canada, have resulted in the adoption and use of the biggest, most powerful, and fastest machinery, the largest and finest mills, and the most efficient methods and .machinery for logging and saw-milling in the world. It must also be remembered that Canada is the principal competitor of the United States of America in the trans-Pacific lumber trade, seeing that Canada has a forest area of 799,000.000 acres, against the United States of America estimated at 545.000,000 acres. Australian forest areas, on the other hand, generally speaking, are situated some distance from shipping facilities.
It is further pointed out that saw-millers operating in some of the northern districts of Tasmania, for instance, pay as much as 4s. per 100 super, feet for cartage to the nearest railway station, 4s. per 100 feet railway freight to the nearest port of shipment, and 5s. 2d. steamer freight to Melbourne.
– Can the honorable senator quote figures making a compa rison of wages paid in Canada and Australia ?
– Yes ; I shall do that presently. This document shows that while the total transportation charges on Tasmanian timber landed in Melbourne are 13s. 2d. per 100 super. feet, Canadian lumber companies can land their timber in Melbourne for 6s. In view of these facts I submit that the question of reciprocity with Canada deserves special consideration, and I trust that no arrangement will be made that will have the effect of injuring one of our primary and most important industries.
– Our timber millers are having a pretty rough spin as it is.
– They are. Now, as to labour conditions me ntioned by Senator Guthrie.We are all heartily in agreement with the White Australia policy of the Commonwealth,and desire to protect our workers against unfair competition. I find from thisdocument that, of the employees in the Canadian lumber industry, Asiatics, including Hindoos, Japanese, and Chinese, represent 26 per cent., and that the hours of labour average fifty-eight, compared with forty-eight in Australia.
– They work ten hours longer in Canada than we do in Australia?
– Yes, that is so
– And yet Australia is not supposed to be a good country for the working man to come to.
– The average wages per man in Canada is £14 18s.per month, compared with £22 7s. per month in Australia. It must also be remembered that the Canadian lumber companies handle exclusively soft timber, whereas the Australian millers deal only with hardwoods. I am quoting these figures to illustrate the nature of the competition which the Australian millers have to face, and to emphasize the need for great caution on the part of Ministers when they attempt to deal with this problem of reciprocity. Fere is another illuminating statement from the document referred to -
Further, in connexion with thisquestion, a very carefully prepared analysiscompiled from authoritative statistics, of the output per man per day, shows that the general average, on a basis of the total employees employed in connexion with the logging and milling operationsin Canada, is 800 super. feet, Australia 150 super. feet. But it must be remembered that in Canada they are cutting softwood, of which there is a big percentage of marketable timber in the log and very little waste, whilst in cutting our Australian hardwood, with which comparison is made, there is a big wastage owing to the fact that the heart and sap of this species of timber are useless for commercial purposes.
The statement also makes reference to the loss to Australian timber mills throughhaving to pay for work that is not done, but I have no desire to deal at length with that matter. Interestinginformation, however, is given on the question of costs. It is shown that it costs more to freight timber from any of the States bo Melbourne than from Canada. The document goes on to state -
It costs the Western Australian, Tasmanian, and Queensland miller in every case as much, or almost so, to freight timber to Melbourne, as it does the Canadian saw-miller. And, further, so far as Queensland is concerned, it costs8s. to 8s. 6d. per 100 super. feet to ship timber from Cairns to Melbourne, while the Canadian freight is only 6s. to 6s. 3d. Thus at the present time the Canadian saw-miller has an advantage in the marketing of his timber of 2s. per 100 super. feet. . . . The following statement clearly sets out the position : -
In the face of these facts, the question of reciprocity with Canada is fraught with very grave danger to one of our most important primary industries. The document shows, also, that of the 192 sawmills in Tasmania, only 92 are working. It is stated that fifty are closed and that particulars are not available with respect to forty-four mills. Presumably they have changed hands, or have gone out of the business. The same tale is told of the milling industry in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland. On the question of imports it is shown that in 1920 Tasmania exported 39,000,000 super, feet of hardwood; in’ 1921, the export trade dropped to 35,000,000 feet, and in 1922 it had further declined to 26,000,000 super, feet. It is evident, from all I have said, that the timber industry in Australia is suffering severe depression, and that competition from Canada is making the struggle all the more difficult. We do not want reciprocity with Canada. Our most pressing need is to do something to prevent the importation of large shipments of soft woods that are coming into competition every day with the production of Australian timber mills.
– From a Tariff point of view the position appears to be almost hopeless.
– I admit that we should require an enormous Tariff protection to equalize the position. The problem is a most difficult one.
I come now to a question which I did not refer to during the debate on the motion to print the papers relating to the Imperial Conferences, and perhaps I may be pardoned if I now do so. I believe implicitly in the principle of a White Australia, but I do not think it can be maintained simply by waving a sheet of paper containing the dictation test. If we want to preserve it, and I am sure we all do, we shall have to provide means for maintaining it, by force, if necessary. We cannot keep out the people of the Japanese race by means of a dictation test, and we do not want them to come into competition with Australian workers. There would be a public outcry if Parliament removed the present embargo against the introduction of Asiatic labour. What would happen if we cast adrift our defence policy and severed our connexion with Great Britain? I do not say that the Japanese would attempt to come here by force of arms, but if we were no party to the scheme of Empire protection they would certainly insist on the removal of certain provisions in our Immigration Act, and could then invade Australia by the process of peaceful penetration. That is the danger as I see it. In the community, and in this Parliament, there are three distinct sections. One believes in the co-ordination of the Dominions with Great Britain for Em pire defence; another believes in a system of purely Australian defence; and the third - I hope and believe it is a very small section - believes that there is no need for a system of Australian defence at all. I heard one honorable senator yesterday declare that Australia need not fear invasion. If I held that belief I would not vote for the expenditure of one penny piece upon defence.
– Nor would any one else.
– The Labour party has a defence policy. It believes in preparing for eventualities. There must be some fear of invasion, otherwise we should not subscribe to a system of Australian defence. I believe that the only way in which we may achieve our purpose is to become associated with a scheme of Empire defence, by means of which there shall be co-ordination of the different Dominions of this vast and . glorious Empire in which we live. No other system can be effective. As a matter of f act, the same principle has been adopted by the industrial sections of our community. They realized that isolated craft unions were ineffective for the preservation of rights dearly won, and so we have a combination of trade interests. At present, we find that the formation of one big union is the proposal engaging the attention of the industrial leaders. They say that while separated the workers are helpless, that it is necessary to combine their strength and their efforts in order to defend themselves against the aggression of those who would take away their privileges. The same principle should apply in the defence of this country. If it is found that the establishment of the Singapore Base, proposed by the Imperial Government, is a part of Empire defence, I shall have no objection to Australia bearing a fair proportion of the cost. In order to make the burden of defence as light as possible, Australia should join in a scheme of Imperial defence. Like every other honorable senator, I hate and detest war. Whatever influence I possess will always be used in the direction of preventing war. We all think alike on that matter, I believe. Surely, however, the fact that we are preparing to defend ourselves does not imply that we have become aggressive. I once had’ a childlike faith in human nature. I left my back yard open and the wood-shed unlocked. I said, “ Nobody will come along and take my wood. There are a lot of good people in this country who believe in humanitarianism, and preach the doctrine of the brotherhood of man. They would not steal my wood.” One night I found an intruder in my yard with a bag on his shoulder. I declared war immediately, and chased him with a gas-pipe. I apply that little, homely simile to the question of -defence. Some persons say that when a nation has a perfect system of defence, . it is always anxious to use that organization in prosecuting a war. Putting it briefly, they say that the construction of armaments and the possession of a defensive organization . cause war. I take the opposite view. I look back to the years when Japan was in a defenceless condition. I remember that other powerful nations imposed upon Japan certain conditions - closed up her ports, imposed Customs duties, took possession of the country, and in a number of ways humiliated the Japanese people. Defence systems are probably a means of preventing war. They certainly will not lead to it. If we abolish big guns, the fight will be carried on with rifles. If we abolish rifles, revolvers will be used. If we do away with revolvers, sticks will be requisitioned. So ‘it appears to me that the disarmament proposals, which were discussed at Washington recently, will not materially lessen the chances of international disputes arising. They may reduce the awful results of war, but they will not prevent the international disputes which eventually lead to war. I differ from some of my colleagues on this matter, not materially, but in details. The best safeguard Australia can have is, not only to maintain its present relationships with the other portions of the British Empire, but also to draw closer together the bonds of Empire. I want to see the Empire grow in strength and in influence. At the same time, I want to see it give expression to the great ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. I want to see the day when the great gulf between the rich and the poor will be considerably narrowed, and when poverty will have become a thing of the past. I have looked to the past to try to judge the future. I suppose Russia to-day has the most advanced system of Socialism in the world. Yet the Russian worker to-day is under a stricter discipline than is exercised over the worker in any other country. Trotzky and Lenin, the great leaders of Communism, said, “If we want to preserve the Soviet system we have to maintain an army, and do it by force.” When the French Revolution occurred in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and the revolutionaries pulled down the existing institutions - some- of which needed pulling down - they immediately sought to obtain control of the military forces to preserve’ the rights and liberties which they had obtained. So, under any system’, while human nature remains as it is, it is necessary to have some form of national defence.
– Human nature is all right. Circumstances and environment are responsible for the trouble.
– I give the honorable senator great credit for the excellent speech which the made yesterday. He, however, has a childlike faith in human nature that I do not possess. He believes that we can easily persuade the nations of the world to look at matters from our point of view, and thus accomplish what we desire without going to any further trouble.
Senator Duncan the other day told the people of Sydney that the Labour party was trying to do away with the White Australia policy, and, by reason of a motion relating to the application of the Navigation Act to Tasmania, which I had submitted in the Senate, was endangering the sacred provision of that Act. The Labour party is not responsible for the views that I hold regarding the effect of the Navigation Act upon Tasmania. Probably, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) stated, I should have been left on my own had that motion gone to a vote. I disavow the statement made by Senator Duncan that it was an effort on the part of the Labour party to destroy the Navigation Act. I alone was responsible. If I have the opportunity to pursue the matter further during this session I propose to avail myself of it.
I think that congratulations ought to be extended to the Government by honorable senators on this side when the Government does a fair thing. I congratulate it on the proposal to introduce a scheme of national insurance. I hope it is sincere in its professions, and that we shall have an opportunity to deal with a comprehensive measure. I congratulate the Government, also, on proposing to increase the invalid and old-age pensions. I regret, however, that it is not thought fit to make the pension £1 instead of 17s. 6d..per week. I believe that the Senate would ‘ favour the granting of an additional 2s.. 6d. per week. I suggest that the Commonwealth should save the £900,000 which it is proposed to forego in connexion with postal rates, and apply that sum to the payment of an extra 2s. 6d. to the old men and women who have helped to build up Australia to its present position.
– That is a very sensible suggestion.
– It could very well be done. Not a word would be heard from any section of the community if the Government took that action. I hope that the Senate will decline to agree to the reduction in the postal rates, and will see that the saving thus effected is devoted to the payment of an increased pension.
I thank honorable senators for having listened to me. I regret that we are forced to rush through a number of important matters. Sufficient time is not being allowed honorable senators to enable them to deal properly with a number of big questions. Some honorable senators, for instance, are members of a Select Committee, the work of which occupies considerable time, and consequently they have not the opportunity to devote attention to the important proposals which come before the Senate in such rapid succession. During the next session, I trust that more time will be allowed for the discussion of important Bills and motions.
I have congratulated the Government upon their action in one direction ; but I must most deliberately and emphatically condemn them for the policy adopted in connexion with certain Tasmanian industries. The hop industry is firmly established in Tasmania, yet hops are being imported from overseas, notwithstanding that we have an adverse trade balance. The Government also ap pear to have adopted a policy with the deliberate intention of destroying the carbide industry. Unless the dumping of foreign cargoes is prevented, the Tasmanian carbide industry cannot possibly be retained. The annual consumption of carbide is from 5,000 to 7,000 tons, and 5,000 tons, at £30 per ton, represents £150,000 a year, which will have to be added to the present adverse trade balance. The dumping duties are of no use at all, and I doubt very much whether they can be imposed under the Industries Preservation Act. The Tariff Board, which has great powers - greater even than the powers of Parliament - recommend an embargo on importation for eighteen months.
– It realizes the serious situation in which the carbide industry is placed.
– Yes. The Government adopt the recommendations of the Tariff Board when it suits them, but disregard its recommendations / when “ its proposals are not altogether acceptable to them. The Board recommended that an embargo should be placed on imported carbide for eighteen months, but the Government objected.
– Was not an embargo imposed for a certain time?
– Yes, for a while. The Tasmanian industry is now in a position to meet the requirements of Australia.
– The manufacturers want a monopoly.
– The industry is able to supply carbide at a cheaper rate than that at which it can be imported. That is being done at present.
– Is it not time the users were considered?
– If the local industry is destroyed, the users will have to pay from £30 to £40 per ton, instead of £26 per ton, which is the price at which it is now being sold. The policy is to practically destroy the industry, and even at this late hour I earnestly ask the Government to adopt the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The imposition of an embargo would not involve the Treasury in the loss of a single penny, and the cost pf carbide would not be increased. What is wrong with such a proposal ?
– A substantial duty is a fair thing.
– The local manufacturers are able to supply the Australian requirements, and produce, in addition, certain quantities for export. If an embargo were imposed our adverse trade balance would be reduced. We have done all in our power to urge upon the Government the necessity of protecting this industry, and, although we have spoken in a loud voice, our efforts have been of no avail. Not only will the users of carbide be penalized, but the Tasmanian Government, which has already expended considerable sums in assisting the industry, will incur a loss if the industry is closed down.
I trust that those Ministers who are going abroad will have a pleasant voyage. I do not wish them to embark on a vessel of stone with leaden sails. I am sure we all hope that in discussing matters of international importance they will pay due regard to the desires of the Australian people, and that this Parliament will have an opportunity to consider the recommendations which may be made.
– Honorable senators who have spoken on this and another important motion recently debated, have declared that they are in favour of peace; but <hey do not appear to go any further. If we are all in favour of international peace, why should we not send to all parts of the world ambassadors who would preach peace, and not war. The representatives of the British Government should be informed by our delegates that we realize that while men use their brain power and energy to construct vessels of war, there are ethers of equal intelligence and ability who are engaged in the construction of guns to destroy those vessels.
Senator Duncan attempted to prove that the number of depositors in the Savings Bank was an indication of the prosperity of the people; that the poor in Australia were becoming rich, and the rich were becoming poor. When I referred to the position of the workers I was dealing with the question from an international, and not an Australian, stand-point. Senator Duncan might have mentioned that the rich in Australia, in order to dodge income taxation, were placing thousands of pounds in the Savings Banks of Australia, to the credit of members of ‘ their families, and that in consequence the number of depositors had considerably increased. The honorable senator overlooked the fact that hundreds of new companies have been established throughout the Commonwealth during and since the war period. He did not refer to the unemployed in Victoria, and especially in Melbourne, or to the fact that the proprietors of the Sun newspaper had been cadging clothes from the people of Victoria in order to cover up the nakedness of the unfortunate unemployed. Neither did he mention that a child was born in a stable, and that the parents were not only without adequate clothing, but also that there was insufficient bedding to keep the little one- warm. Senator Duncan shouldalso have mentioned that the iron merchants of Australia fleeced and cheated the returned soldiers, by purchasing galvanized iron at £16 and £18 per ton, which they sold to contractors constructing soldiers’ homes at £80 and up to £100 per ton. During the lime when those purchases were made the South Australian Government purchased galvanized iron from Messrs. Harris, Scarfe and Co., in Adelaide, at £42 per ton. If the South Australian Government could obtain iron at that price, others should have been able to obtain supplies at a similar price. In conversing with a returned soldier the other day, I said, “You have your new house now ; I suppose everything is all right V and he replied “ No; the position is just the reverse. My wife paid the first instalment of £2 5s. on the house last week, £2 of which represented interest, and 5s. was deducted from the principal. The total cost of the dwelling was £700.” I then said to him, “Old chap, you will get your reward in heaven ; you can never expect it on earth.” I was informed by another purchaser that he had disposed of his house because he would be eighty-two years of age before he completed his payments. The iron and timber merchants robbed the soldiers, and no attempt was made to prevent exploitation. The honorable senator, in discussing the position of the workers, overlooked the fact that the same old struggle is going on in the workers’ homes, and that the conditions which existed when the basic wage was 8s. a day are practically in operation to-day. As prices increased the battle became more intense, and although wages were raised, the additional amount was of no .benefit to the masses. I know the struggle that I had in my own home. When the basic wage had increased to 13s. 3d. a day, the struggle of the working man was greater than when it was Ss. let Senator Duncan go to the homes of the people, and tell them that the poor are becoming rich and the rich are becoming poor. The honorable senator might have gone a little further and have told us that the shipping rings of Great Britain made a profit of £20,000,000 in 1913, and of £250,000,000 in 1916. He might also have mentioned the fact that the private banking institutions of England, within six months, after the commencement of the late war, showed a clear profit of £200,000,000. There are 218 millionaires in England, and during the war period they added £200,000,000 to their banking accounts. In the United States of America there are, on the dollar basis, 46,666 millionaires, and 50 per cent, of them were created during the war. How does that correspond with the honorable senator’s statement that the rich are becoming poor ?
– Was the honorable senator not referring to Australia?
– I have just stated that, although I was speaking from the international point of view, Senator Duncan dealt with the matter from the Australian stand-point. Had the honorable senator been fair to me he also would have taken an international view of the situation.
Senator Guthrie is usually very fair, but I do not think he was quite fair in some of his quotations when addressing the Senate a few days ago. He said that in Queensland there were more unemployed than in any other part of the Commonwealth. He should have pointed out that thousands of men flock to Queensland during the sugar-cane cutting season, and flood the market for a certain period of the year. Thousands of these men remain in that State when the cane cutting season is over, and there is necessarily a vast army of unemployed.
– I took the figures from the official Year-Booh.
– Perhaps so; tout the honorable senator should have mentioned that some thousands of the men towhom I have referred become unemployed after a certain time.
– The cane-cutters donot go on the unemployed list. They earn enough to keep them all the year.
– That is mere guess-work. Senator Guthrie objects to the bursting up of large estates.
– The honorable senator tried to show that that policy, would destroy the wool industry; but he knows as well as I do that, under a system of closer settlement, more sheep to the acre would be carried than if the estates were not broken up.
– I have always admitted that.
– An increase in .thenumber of sheep carried would be favorable to the wool industry.
– I did not say that the bursting up of estates would decrease the quantity- of wool. 1 was pointing out the danger of dispersing stud stock.
– Looking over the honorable senator’s speech, I noticed nothing about stud stock. He endeavoured to show that if 10 percent, of the large holdings were devoted to share-farming, it would make available something like 16,250,000 acres. That, of course, would be of very great benefit to- Australia generally. On the other hand the honorable! senator endeavoured to prove that there was no shortage of land. If there is no shortage there is no need for his share-farming proposition; but, if there is a shortage, land should be made available for closer settlement purposes.
– I advocate sharefarming, because it enables a man without capital to earn a good living.
– In many instances I have known it to operate in quite a different direction. A good deal depends upon the quality of the soil and the rainfall. Share-farming always favours the owner of the land.
– That has not been my experience.
– I have found it so.
– It largely depends on the fairness of the land-holders.
– Are they ever fair?
– Yes, there are some fair nien among them. Senator Guthrie said that the wool industry was providing a living for 80,000 families. The report of the Institute of Science and Industry shows that if the woollen industry was fully exploited it would give employment to 250,000 people. It must be realized that the overhead charges are at present killing the manufacturing industries of this country. I pointed out in the debate on the Address-in-Reply that it is impossible to have woollen materials sent from the mill door directly to the purchaser. Senator Guthrie, seemingly, is opposed to the Flinders-lane people, who are, in the main, responsible for the present backward position of the woollen industry in Australia. They make their dividends simply because they are the middlemen.
– The honorable senator cannot yet do away with Flinders-lane The people are not ready for that.
– When they are ready for it, Flinders-lane will have to go, and I venture to say that that time will not be long in coming.
I regret that Senator Elliott is not present, since I desire to refer to something he has said. In reply to a statement I made in discussing the Imperial Conference agenda, I quoted Colonel Repington. Senator Elliott tried to show that Colonel Repington was hot an authority, and he quoted from various volumes to prove something of a disparaging nature regarding him. All he could find was that Colonel Repington had written something concerning the British Empire. Other quotations referred to by Senator Elliott were of a childish nature. One related to Colonel Repington being kissed by “ Pretty Bridget “ under the mistletoe one Christmas eve.
– Does the honorable senator call Colonel Repington an authority on the Singapore Naval Base?
– I do not know what knowledge he has, and I am sure that the honorable senator does not. We must take his remarks as we read them, and give him credit for being an intellectual nian. I should say his judg ment would be of some value, from the mere fact that he attained the rank of a colonel. Senator Elliott said that he was surprised at my quoting a man who belonged to the “ idle rich,” but it is immaterial to me with what section a person may be connected, if his argument agrees with my own. view. I would not despise him simply because of the class to which he belonged. Senator Elliott went on to suggest that Mr. Asquith ‘s opinion as to the Singapore Base was worth nothing, because he was a discredited man. The honorable senator should recognise that the mighty Northcliffe press was the power that discredited Mr. Asquith. It exerted the strongest measures to get rid of that Prime Minister. When Mr. Lloyd George was of no further use to it, it again found an excuse to discredit him. He had to go and make room for another man whom it supported. The Northcliffe press boasted that it had made and unmade more Ministries than any other power in the British Dominions. The mighty press of England can make, or mar, any individual it chooses. The fact that the Northcliffe press discredited Mr. Asquith does not carry with it the conviction that Mr. Asquith was not a reasonable or sensible man.
– They will shunt Mr. Baldwin when they have finished with him.
– They will dispose of every man they do not want. Senator Elliott went on to state that the unemployment and other labour problems would vanish if we had millions of people in Australia. How, in the name of fortune, Senator Elliott can accept that belief is beyond my comprehension. To disprove that theory it is only necessary to look at the large nations of the world. England, for example, according to the statement -made by Mr. Lloyd George a few weeks ago, has “ A standing army, numbering 5,000,000, of unemployed or semi-unemployed people.” If big populations counted for anything, the workers of England would be much more prosperous than those of Australia. A writer says of America, with its teeming millions, “ We have in America, six months out of the year, a standing army of 12,000,000 of unemployed.” The mighty nations of the world have their unemployed problems to solve. If big populations counted for anything, the population of India, which numbers over 320,000,000, would be supremely prosperous. During the Indian famine, millions of Indians were starving, while, according bo official figures quoted by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, in his book, Th, Awakening of India, there “was at that time a two years’ supply of corn in that country. Let us compare the position of New Zealand with that of other countries. I ask honorable senators to cast their minds back to the period before the Ballance and Seddon Government. There were then soup kitchens in almost every town of any size. The people were ill-clothed, ill-housed, and ill-fed. Ballance educated the people by means of a little publication, and, on the other hand, they were educated by starvation. A change came with that Government. Soup kitchens and poverty disappeared, and the people became prosperous. The people then named New Zealand, “ God’s own country,” owing to the prosperity of its working classes. The Honorable Richard Seddon passed away, and a Conservative Government succeeded the Seddon Government. Poverty again raised its head among the working classes, and during the war the people of New Zealand, instead of referring to their country as “ God’s own country,” called it a “ Hell ‘ on earth.” I say, therefore, that the number of people in a country does not count for as much as does the legislative element, which tells its own tale every time, and all the time. Senator Guthrie said that honorable senators on this side of the Chamber had decried Australia throughout the world. I speak of men as I find them, whether they are friends or foes, and I speak of Australia as I find it, and say that it is the fairest example of a democracy that the world has ever known, but that there is’ no reason why it should not be better. There is no reason why the conditions of its people should not be improved. Senator Guthrie also said that we should invite people to come from England, because there were a number of ex-service men out of . employment there. If that be true it is a disgrace to the British Government, which should provide employment for such men instead of bundling them OU to Australia. If the British Govern- ment had done its duty, it would have seen that the ex-service men were fully employed. That goes to show that war, wherever it occurs, injures the workers, while the rich get slightly richer
A speaker in another place said that Australia was producing too much fruit, and that the producers, in consequence, could not dispose of it. I think the reverse is true. We are suffering, in fact, from under-consumption. When a worker is pinched for money, the first things he cuts out of his household expenses are fruit and vegetables.
– What about beer and tobacco ?
– I am not concerned about those. I am a teetotaller and a non-smoker. The consumption of tinned fruits in America is three tins per head of the population, while in Australia it is only l tins per head. The canned fruit industry in Australia, if it is managed properly, has a wonderful future before it. The middleman steps into the breach between the producer and the consumer, and inflates the cost. If some means of cutting out the middleman were devised, I think Australia would consume the whole of the canned fruits produced here. There are persons in the back-blocks who never see canned fruits, except perhaps at Christmas time. Even in the metropolitan areas canned fruit, owing to its high cost, is a luxury to the working man.
– It is fairly cheap in Melbourne just now.
– In South Australia we have to pay ls. to ls. 3d., and sometimes as much as ls. 4d., for a’ tin of peeled peaches.
– I recently purchased a tin for 8d.
-The honorable senator is more fortunate than the people of South Australia. The means of distribution need improving. An orchardist. _ writing recently in South Australia, said there was a difference of 300 to 400 per cent, between the price received by the primary producer and that paid by the consumer. The people of Australia are prevented from eating fruit by the interference of the middleman, and that, of course, means much to the fruit industry.
– Does the honorable senator not think that much could be done by a better organization of the industry ?
– I agree with the honorable senator that the organization of the fruit industry is in a deplorable state. The search for a remedy is puzzling the minds of fruit-growers throughout Australia.
– Especially in regard to the fresh fruit industry.
– That is so. It is said that a Fruit Pool would solve the problem.It would, no doubt, go a long way towards solving it if we could get men who understood that part of the business to act with honesty and strict integrity of purpose.
– I believe the industry in America went through the same phase of disorganization.
– I can quite believe that. The people of America eat much more fruit per head than do the people of Australia.
In reference to the dairying industry, the Treasurer’s Budget speech says -
The Commonwealth Government’s proposals for the adoption of a national brand to be applied to butter and cheese intended for export, have at last been approved by the Australian Dairying Council. The council has requested the Government to issue a proclamation, to take effect from the 1st August, 1924, thus giving all factories sufficient time to install the necessary pasteurizing plant. The value of any proposal by which the quality and selling price can be improved will be appreciated when it is mentioned that an increase of 1d. per pound means an addditional payment to our dairymen of over £380,000.
It would be interesting to know thepersonnel of this Dairying Council. Are its members bonâ fide dairymen, or are they representatives of such firms as Sandford and Company, and Charles Wilcox and Company, of South Australia? Those are the exportingagencies, who reap enormous benefits at the expense of the farming community. It would be interesting to know who will get this increase of1d. per lb. , Will it be paid direct to the primary producers, or will it be passed on to some other individuals? The Government should be compelled to answer the question clearly, but how it can insure that the primary producer shall get the increase is beyond my comprehension, because I believe the middleman will still find some means of cheating the primary producer.
I claim that every industry in Australia should pay a living wage. If it cannot do so, it might as well be blotted out. If Australian industries were managed as they should be, and unnecessary charges were not loaded on to the primary producer, Australia would become one of the greatest of nations, and we should then be in a position to welcome immigrants from overseas. Once again, I say that we on this side are not opposed to immigration. If the way is paved for these people, we shall give them a hearty welcome in Australia.
– I had not intended to take part in this discussion, but I feel it necessary to reply to one or two statements that were made during the debate. Senator Duncan accused me of being something in the nature of a currency maniac.
– I did not say that.
– I hold very strong opinions on currency questions, but they certainly do not justify the charge made by Senator Duncan. My view is that money is merely a promise to pay, and that the labourer exchanges his labour for other forms of currency to procure the necessaries of life. The honorable senator was not justified in suggesting that my views on currency are economically unsound. Senator Guthrie also hurled an unjust accusation at me, charging me with being antiAustralian in sentiment. I am quite as good an Australian asSenator Guthrie. He takes pride in the fact that he was born in Australia. So was I - Iwas born on The Rocks, Sydney, and I have always endeavoured to be a big Australian.I hope that, when Senator Guthrie has lived as long as I have, he will prove as good an Australian as I am. The honorable senator declared that statements which I made in the course of the debate on the Address-in-Reply were damaging to Australia, and would be spread broadcast throughout the world. There is little prospect of that, because I never get a line in the newspapers, and the circulation of Hansard is not very extensive. I was merely quoting facts, and was endeavouring to put Senator Guthrie right as to the attitude of the Labour party towards the migration policy of the Government. I quoted briefly from the report of the Sydney Conference, which clearly showed that the attitude of the Labour movement towards immigration was that if employment was available immigrants would be welcomed in unlimited numbers. Almost every day new-comers are joining our unions. We realize that, provided there is sufficient employment, any addition to our population will improve the home market for our producers. It is not people like me that defame my country. That charge can more truly 4e levelled against Senator Guthrie’s friends, and especially the newspapers. Almost every day news published in the metropolitan press, telling of the distress among immigrants, is being sent to the Old Country. The other day one of the Sydney newspapers published the photograph of a tailor’s cutter - a man with six children, who had come out to Australia on the strength of representations made by Mr. Percy Hunter that there was plenty of employment for him in Australia. He is now almost on the borderland of starvation, and the particulars of his case have, no doubt, been cabled to the Old Country. He has had five weeks’ work in seven months. A few days ago- also the Melbourne Herald was informing all- and sundry of the straits in which immigrants in Western Australia found themselves. We were told that they were stowing away on board ship, in order to get out of the State, because of the dreadful conditions under which they had to work. When Senator Guthrie’s friends, including the proprietors of these newspapers, cease to publish these statements about immigrants, t will be time for Senator Guthrie to ask me to cease. I am as good an Australian, if not a better one than Senator Guthrie is, because I have lived longer. I felt very indignant, indeed’, at his allegation that I am an an ti- Australian. Senator Guthrie’s, friends are the real anti-Australians. Do they patronize local industries? They talk to us about the question of apprenticeship, and the objections which some of us have to certain of our Acts of Parliament relating to the subject. No notice is taken when members of the privileged classes so conduct themselves as to bring upon them the ridicule of all right thinking people. I venture to say, that if’ the workers conducted themselves on Eight Hours Day as the under-graduates of Sydney University did the other ‘ day, they would be haled before the Courts and: adequately punished. The same treatment should be meted out to these under-graduates. Apparently, our trouble is that the ‘wrong class of people enjoy all the privileges of our improved educational system. The Sydney Bulletin very properly censured the Sydney University under-graduates for their disgraceful conduct in their last commemoration procession. This is what the Bulletin said about that incident -
On a lorry, half-a-dozen young men, made up . apparently to represent prostitutes, jazzed uncertainly, smoked and flung clumsy badinage at the grinning crowd. The procession halted for a moment, and one of the man-girls leered towards a silver-badge wearer, “ Say, Dig. givvus a feg,” he said. The ex-soldier turned away. “ Thank God,” he observed to the crowd in general, as the tide of self-conscious buffoonery flowed on again - “ Thank God, t was never at a university!” Perhaps he imagined that all universities are like this. As a matter of fact, they are not - outside Australia. Sydney’s undergrads, on last week’sform, have not a hundredth part the restraint and dignity of tlie humblest artisan who participates in an Eight Hours Day procession. But, whatever their manners may be, they presumably claim to constitute the intelligentsia of the State; and this is where the matter is of public interest. A university is not primarily a place where young men go to pass examinations and get degrees. Its most important function is to act as a radiating centre of the nation’s culture. Most of our universities on the only occasion when they appear before the public behave in such a way that it takes the hoi polloi the rest of the year to recover from the shock.
This is the example which the “ cultured “ young gentlemen who are getting their training in our Universities set to other sections of our community. If we were training some of these young men to be good artisans we should be doing something worth while. The fault of our education system is that it does not reach the right class of people. The son of the average working man has to get out to work at too early an age, to help keep the home going. Many of these young men attending our. Universities are wasting their opportunities. Some of these “ cultured darlings “ should be required to do real work. Of course,. Senator Guthrie has no sympathy with my point of view, because he has never done a hard day’s work in his life. Hewas born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and it has been there ever since; but heshould not defame the working classes by declaring that they are ruining the- country by their policy of strikes and still more strikes. I was really surprised at Senator Guthrie. I could understand the bitterness on the part of certain other members of this Chamber who. have left the Labour side of politics and gone over to. the enemy, but whatever views thev hold they ought to be fair to their fellow men, and should not. misrepresent the Labour movement by saying that we are -defaming our country. It is Senator Guthrie’s friends, those who control the press, who are defaming Australia. I do not care how many persons come to Australia so long as they know what is going to. happen to them when they arrive here.
Senator Guthrie criticised what I said on another occasion regarding the price of land. I referred to the land in New South Wales. He was cunning enough to base his arguments on the whole of the lands in Australia. My estimate of £8, an acre was obtained from the records of the Department of Public Lands in New South Wales. I mentioned every acre that was available, and stated where it was situated. Senator Guthrie took the whole of the land which has been bought by the different Governments in Australia for disposal to our soldiers, and worked out the price at £3 16s. 4d. an acre. It was a wonderful calculation! In Victoria the price works out at £7’ an acre. Senator Guthrie was honest enough to say so. I defy Senator Guthrie, or any one else, to disprove my statements.
Senator Guthrie also criticised my remarks regarding the price of wool. Again he misrepresented the position. I like a man to come into the open and say candidly that he is carrying on a class fight. I do not mind being told that a man dislikes me because I belong to the Labour party. If he can see no good in the million electors who sent the little band of Labour members into this Chamber, let him say so, and not attempt to misrepresent us. Senator Guthrie gave the price of wool at 16d. per lb. That was the lowest price. The highest price for scoured wool was 55½d. If the price is averaged quite a different complexion is put upon the matter. Senator Guthrie was not man enough to average the price; he took the lowest (price and made, it the basis of his state ment in an attempt to prove that I was wrong. I obtained my data from the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald. I have no other sources of information. The Sydney Daily Telegraph, of. 29th June last, said -
The season will rank as a year of great achievements, a period, of solid progress and exceptional results to producers. It would be difficult to find a parallel in the whole history of wool-selling in Australia. During the past season, practically every description of merino wool and most grades of crossbred have steadily appreciated, until they have touched record figures. Not only have sensational figures been reached for super lines, but the lower grades and the skirtings have made exceptionally good figures. Taken all round, the results have been altogether without precedent.
It must not be thought that these phenomenally high prices are the result of short supplies of wool. On that aspect of the matter the Telegraph says -
The enhanced values ‘of the past season have not been secured at the expense of production. There has been a full production, and every bale has bad keen competition. . . Prices have been too high for undue speculation, and the wool-user is probably nearer to the sheep’s back to-day than has been the case for years past. . . There is the comfortable reflection that prices have in no sense been boosted.
Mr. Justice Powers quoted these prices in the Arbitration Court before he gave that ever-to-be-remembered award which cut down the shearers’ wages to a figure lower than it had been for many years. His award was lower than that given by the State Court. He made a mistake in his calculation, and admitted it afterwards. His figures were as follow: -
Taking all classes of wool - prime, medium, and low-grade inferior wool - the average price per bale of the whole clip increased from £12 19s. 2d. in the pre-war year to £23 per bale” for the season just closed - an increase of nearly 80 per cent. Senator Guthrie quoted 16d. per lb., and said that the average increase had been 80 per cent. He claims that it ought to- have been 300 per cent., because cotton had increased in price by 300 per cent. I defy Senator Guthrie to prove that my figures are not correct. They clearly show that Senator Guthrie was misrepresenting the position. I do not think that any honorable senator should attempt to place on the records of the Senate a misrepresentation of any case. These wool prices are not on an artificial basis ; they have been built up on a foundation which has stood the test of the ages - the law of supply and demand. Senator Guthrie says that the price of wool has an infinitesimal effect on the price of clothing. If that is so, whence does the difference arise?
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Senator Guthrie stated that the poor deluded working men were led by the union bosses and driven into strikes against their will. That is the sort of stuff that is published in some of our newspapers; but as one who has had practically fifty years’ experience of unionism, I have no hesitation in saying that men whom the honorable senator terms ‘ union bosses “ on almost every occasion prevent industrial disturbances. We have only to recall the last coal strike, which has fortunately been settled, to realize that if it had not been for the executive of the Coal Miners Union there would probably have been the biggest industrial upheaval that Australia has ever known. The “ union bosses,” as they are termed, did their utmost to confine the coal dispute to the Maitland field. If they had been influenced in any way by the communistic section a general strike would have occurred, the effects of which would have been felt for a very long time. If Senator Guthrie and other honorable senators who support the views he expressed, were to attend a union meeting occasionally, they would find that the working men of Australia are intelligent, and are always prepared to do the best for themselves, which in the end means the best for the country.
I always gave the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) credit for being fair, but when he said, by interjection, that we were opposed to one bricklayer being brought to Australia so long as one watchmaker was out of employment, he was grossly misrepresenting us. That is not our policy. We believe, however, that every migrant brought to Australia should be provided with employment. When referring to the experience of an immigrant as reported in the newspapers the other day, the Minister said that the person whom I mentioned was not an assisted immigrant. For the information of the Minister, I may mention that the man’s name was Daniel Bonarius, of Leyton, Essex, England. He is the father of six children, and is an ex-service man. He personally interviewed Mr. Percy Hunter, who told him that Australia was a country possessing wonderful opportunities, and one in which he would have no difficulty in obtaining work. This man had five weeks’ work in seven months, and left for Australia on the Peninsular and Oriental steamer Borda in November last. If he was not an assisted immigrant I have nothing further to say. Senator Kingsmill has a bland and gentlemanly way of hitting below the belt. I do not mind telling the honorable senator that if he thinks he can make a point by means of a joke he can only do so effectively when the joke is original. He referred to the unionists employed on Commonwealth steamers; but the story he quoted is almost as old, and just as stale, as the honorable senator himself. Senator Payne, who has a “ pain “ on the apprenticeship question, is right in certain respects; but most of his statements are totally wrong. The honorable senator apparently does not wish employers to obey the law of the land, which distinctly provides that the number of apprentices to be employed in an industry shall represent a certain percentage of the number of men engaged in it. Full advantage of the award has not been taken by the employers, as in New South Wales only 45 per cent., and in Queensland a similar percentage of the total number allowed has been employed.
– I think the honorable senator’s figures are wrong.
– No. The employers do not wish to engage apprentices to learn trades. They desire rather to obtain the services of hefty men from twenty to thirty years of age, measuring 18 inches across the forehead, and guaranteed to be able to carry one ton. There is a bricklayers’ school, at which men receive fifteen weeks’ tuition without remunera- tion, and after that period has expired they are allowed to take employment at 50s. per week, while the bricklayers are receiving practically that amount per day. The employers are seeking cheap labour; but they should remember that so-called cheap labour is always expensive and nasty. Mr. J. N. Grace, of Grace Brothers, one of the largest employers of labour in Sydney, in giving evidence before Judge Curlewis in the Industrial Court, said that in 1891 he was opposed to unionism, but that he had now joined a union. He said that he welcomed the visit of a union secretary to his establishment, and that if there was trouble, he and the representatives of his employees approached the Arbitration Court, and arrived at an agreement satisfactory to both parties. His concluding words were, “ God bless the Union.” Colonel ^Murdoch, who assisted to start the Shop Assistants Union in Sydney, and who did good work during the war, is now an employer of thousands of assistants, who receive good wages, and who are also paid a bonus at the end of the year. He is a strong believer in unionism., and also welcomes the union secretary when he enters his huge establishment. The evidence of these men was a fitting answer to the opponents and defamers of unions and their members.
Usury is the curse of the world. It is not so very many years since the laws of England were so severe that if a person loaned money at high rates of interest his tongue was removed, or his fingers cut off. The loaning of money has now grown to such an extent that class distinctions have arisen, and many of God’s creatures are now the slaves of others. Palatial banking and trading institutions are being constructed in our capital cities, but the men employed in them should be building factories. Our manufacturing industries ‘ should so increase that Australian people will be able to wear clothes manufactured in Australia, and consume Australian products. There appears to be a prejudice against Australian manufactures, particularly Australian cloth. Some must have broad-cloth imported from England, for which they are prepared to pay more than is charged for the Australian article, which is in every way superior. I have been wearing Australian tweeds for fifty” years, and the quality of the material first produced in Australia was superior to that now being manufactured. It then replaced the popular white moleskin, which was worn in the days of the red shirt and cummerbund, which were ‘ so popular amongst working men years ago. We are told that more business men are needed in Australia - they are even brought from other countries - but we require more manufactories and smoking chimneys, and not more business men.
Returning to the subject of usury, 1 would remind honorable senators of what we find in the Bible concerning it. In Leviticus, chapter 25, verses 36 and 37, we are told -
Take thou no usury of him or increase, but fear thy God, that thy brother may live with thee
Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.
These are divine commands. We have the surprising result that the World Peace Foundation of America now estimates the financial handicap assumed by the world on account of the Great War at 350,000,000,000 dollars, now worth about £100,000,000,000. The interest on this sum at 6 per cent, per annum is no less than £6,000,000,000. If we add to this all other accretions of interest on mortgages, overdraft, private loans, guarantees, Sca,., a sum fully equal in extent, we find that £12,000,000,000 constitutes the sum which our fatuous financiers expect the world to pay annually in interest. The only remedy that the privileged class can offer for our financial troubles is more work and less wages. Every honorable senator will agree that when man reaches a position of affluence, he should be prepared to allow other people sufficient to enable them to live decently, rear a family, and put away something for a rainy day. Senator Guthrie endeavoured to employ class bias to inflame the minds of the workers against those in authority, and I hope that next time he endeavours to do that in this chamber he will be more accurate in his figures, and not one-sided and misleading in his statements.
– I have no doubt that those honorable senators who have listened attentively to the debate have found it instructive. I had no idea that there were in this chamber so many authorities on a variety of subjects. There seem to be authorities here on all forms of finance, and on all classes of business. Most of the knowledge that I, as a. young man, have gained- during this debate has come from this side of. the chamber. Ministers should thank the Opposition for the generous way in which honorable senators on this side have treated them. There is not much business on the notice-paper, and the Opposition has readily assisted the Government to keep the Senate occupied. Next week I suppose that Parliament will close down for an indefinite period. Whether for six or nine months–
– Until the next election 1
– The Government would like to close Parliament until close on three years hence. I am sure that the Government will be pleased to close the session, but I am equally certain that 98 per cent, of the people do not approve of Parliament being shut up at this juncture. I have no objection to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) going to London - I hope that he and Senator “Wilson will, represent Australia well - but surely, just as we have a Minister representing the Prime Minister in this Chamber, so it should be possible to find in the other branch of the Legislature a Minister who could represent him equally well in that House. Evidently the Prime Minister is afraid to leave Parliament in session, because he sees trouble looming in the distance. Whatever legislation has been passed by this Government has been mainly in the interests of the big financial institutions. First of all, it sold the Commonwealth Woollen Mill for considerably less than it was worth, although it would have been of very great benefit to the people. The Northern Territory has been practically given away, so that it can be exploited by the big pastoral interests. The National Debt Sinking Fund Bill, I admit, was a * necessary measure, the Estimates, too, are essential, and the Opposition will not prevent their passage.
The Labour party is interested in humanitarian legislation, and I am glad the Government has seen fit to increase the invalid and old-age pensions, although more generosity might have been shown. In view of the prosperous times through which Australia is now passing, these old people might at least have been given £1 per week. I was surprised to note the statement of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) that the pensions were now a heavy burden on the taxpayers. I claim that the taxpayers do not regard that expenditure as a burden, since the invalid and old-age pensioners, who are now no longer able to look after themselves,” are entitled to all the consideration that the country can show them.
A matter that has not been discussed at great length is that of the maternity grant. This payment should be increased. I was sorry that Senator Duncan, when speaking on the Meat Export Bounty Bill, in effect placed the womanhood of this country in the same category as the beeves of Queensland. He said that the Labour party was prepared to accept one sort of bonus, meaning the maternity grant, but would vote against the beef bonus. Senator Duncan certainly offered an insult to the womanhood of Australia. I hope that he did not mean what he said. I resent statements of that nature; they are not worthy of honorable senators. The maternity grant should never be referred to as a bonus. It was dubbed a bonus by those who were opposed to it when its introduction was suggested. That payment has resulted in many young Australians receiving a better chance- in life than they would otherwise have had. I do not suggest that the Government are unsympathetic in legislation of this nature. I am hoping that they will increase the grant. It should be possible to adopt a scheme of national insurance of which mention was made in the Budget speech.
Whenever the word “ defence “ crops up in this chamber, the minds of many honorable senators seem at once to become inflamed, and interjections come from all parts of the chamber.
– The honorable senator is distorting facts.
– He has been distorting facts all along.
– You insulted the womanhood of this country.
– Order! I cannot allow personal references between honorable senators. The honorable senator has been long enough in this Chamber to know that it is contrary to the Standing Orders to address an honorable senator personally. He must address the Chair. Remarks addressed to senators personally only lead to disorder.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. President. Labour believes in the defence of this country. I have no fear of aggression on the part of any foreign Power, and I think that much harm is done by people in high places suggesting that there is danger of Australia being attacked by Japan or some other great Power. Honorable senators ought to be careful not to make statements that are likely to engender on the part of the people of Japan and other countries a bad feeling . towards Australia. Representative gentlemen from Japan have been visiting Australia during the past few weeks. They have given good, sound reasons why the Japanese people do not want to attack Australia. I believe that, and I believe, also, that if the governing powers in all countries would do what the Labour party is attempting -to do, and engender in the minds of the people a spirit of peace, we would not have any more war. We cannot, of course, engender in the people of Japan a spirit of peace, but we can do our bit to that end in Australia. In this movement, however, we are opposed by the great newspaper and financial interests of the country. Immediately they perceive what we are doing, they say we are pacificists and disloyalists, and do not want to defend Australia. The Labour party has never said that Australians should not defend Australia. No Labour party in any part pf the world has said that a people should not defend their own country. Australia is capable of defending itself, notwithstanding the opinions of alleged experts on the other side of the Chamber. I agree with Senator Findley that it is more honorable for us, as Australians, to say that we will defend this part of the Empire, than to expect men and women who are out of work on the other side of the world to bear portion of the burden of protecting what the other side says is a “ working man’s paradise.”
– What is the attitude of the honorable senator’s party towards the compulsory clauses of the Defence Act’.
– The honorable senator is well aware of the attitude of this party against conscription. The Labour party says that we will defend Australia, and defend it scientifically.
– As free men.
– I think every man who left these shores to fight in the Great War, and has come back, is pleased with what the Labour party did for him. They left Australia as free men, and returned to a free country, such as exists in few parts of the world.
– Did not the Labour party expunge the compulsory clauses from its platform ?
– We have a platform which says that the Labour party is prepared to defend this part of the Empire. We also say that if we do that we shall be doing our duty and our share in the defence of the Empire.
– Australia cannot be defended without trained men.
– What about the men who fought on the other side of the world in the Great War ? We claim that they were the greatest soldiers that ever lived. Were they conscripts or trained soldiers? No. Most of them were born in Australia, in the good, clean environment of this country. An Australian will learn more quickly than any man, and when this country needs defending Australians will be there to defend it.
– Some of them will. ‘
– All of them will. They will always be ready to defend their own country, but I do not know whether it is fair to ask Australians to go out of Australia to defend other people’s countries in what may possibly be unjust wars.
I agree with Senator Elliott when he says that any decision by the Government regarding the Federal Capital should be submitted to the Senate for ratification, and that this Chamber should have a voice in that matter. I am not a “ Little Australian,” but I do think that a lot of money having been spent on the Federal Capital, the Government should make up its .mind either to go right ahead or stop entirely. A considerable sum of money is lying idle, and the longer we wait the more we shall lose. If the Government intends to proceed with the transfer of the Capital it should not delay.
I am pleased to notice that the PostmasterGeneral will provide improved postal facilities. They will be a greatboon to country districts. The proposal should have the support of every honorable senator. I have no particular grievance from South Australia, but I hope that State will receive the same treatment as other States. I would point out to the Minister that Port Adelaide, being the third largest seaport” in Australia, is entitled to better post-office facilities than it has to-day. The existing facilities are abominable. I recently showed the PostmasterGeneral over the Post Office there, and he agreed with me that something better should be provided. As a matter of fact, the Post Office there is more or less Like a rabbit warren. Such inadequate provision is neither fair to the public nor the employees of the Department. The claim for better accommodation is justified, and is worthy of special consideration. I hope the Government will effect a substantial improvement.
The Budget speech states that the Government has decided to submit to Parliament a Bill to abolish the taxation of Crown leaseholds; and to make the repeal of the tax operative from the 1st July, 1917. I wonder what reason the Government . has for proposing that alteration. It would appear that the big land-holders are able to obtain exactly what they want from this Government. The Land Tax Act was amended in 1914 to include pastoral leases. In 1918 a verbal direction was given to suspend the collection of the tax pending an investigation. In 1918 a Royal Commission was appointed which recommended in general that the taxation of Crown leases should be continued, on the ground that the equitableness of such taxation was on allfours with that of the taxation of freeholds. Mr. Poynton, then Acting Treasurer, announced in his Budget speech in 1919 that the Government had decided to accept the recommendation of tlie Commission. In 1921 a Royal Commission on taxation, of which Mr. W. “Warren Kerr was Chairman, recommended -
That after careful .investigation of the question of the taxation of lessees’ interests m Crown leaseholds, we are unable to discover any principle of taxation upon which mel interests should be relieved of land tax if other interests in land are taxed.
The country will lose a lot of money by the repeal of this tax. Any small man who defaults in his income tax for four or five years finds that the income tax officials insist upon collecting all the arrears and charging him interest upon
Senator McHugh. them at the rate of 10 per cent. It is all very well for the Government to say that the repeal of the tax will affect some small pastoral lessees. It will affect the big pastoral companies of Australia. The arrears of tax at the present moment amount to about £1,250,000, and they should be collected. Leaseholders should be taxed in the same way as other landholders. The Government is unwise to introduce legislation of this character, which is so manifestly unfair that it will certainly be revised by a future Government. It is undesirable to make laws one year and repeal them the next. The two- Royal’ Commissions that inquired into this question consisted of experts in taxation. The members of the first were Mr. (now Sir George) Knibbs, Mr. H. O. Allan, and a representative of the pastoralists. The second comprised Mr. W. Warren Kerr, Chairman, representing the Chamber of Commerce; Mr, John Jolly, representing the pastoralists; Mr. J. G. Farleigh, representing the Chamber of Manufactures; Mr. W. T. Missingham, a farmer, and now a member of the Country party in New South Wales; Mr. John Thomson, ex-member of the House of Representatives; Mr. S. Mills, ex-member of the Inter-State Commission; and Mr. M. B. Duffy, representing the Trades Hall Council. The Commission travelled all over Australia and took evidence. No one would say that its members were men who would not be expected to give the lease-holders a fair deal, for they represented big interests in this country. After these extensive inquiries the Government, unless it can show some sound reason for repealing the tax, has no right to relieve the pastoral lessees of the country in the way proposed. I do not object bo the remission of taxation when times are bad, but in normal times, pastoralists should be liable to taxation just like the humblest- unit in the community. Wealth does not entitle a man to special privileges.
– Not even - if he supports the Government.
– Even if he supports the Government, he should not be given an unfair advantage over any one else. The small men in the community have not been given any special advantages. If the small man is forced to pay income tax, we ought also to enforce the payment of taxes by the big pastoral lessees. When the country is going through a drought any sane man -would be willing to remit taxation, but when times are good, pastoral lands are worth large sums of money. The Government has no right to protect these big interests.
– The majority of married’ men receiving the minimum wage are not taxable.
– But a great number of them are taxed. Does the honorable senator contend that we should not tax the man with an income of £1,000 a year, but should tax the man with an income of £200 a year? The large pastoral leases are held by big firms, the members of which are, in some instances, millionaires. The honorable senator would remove taxation from them while admitting that it is imposed upon at least some married men. That is unfair, and such an act would be unworthy of the. Commonwealth Government.
A reference was made in the Senate this afternoon to the workers going slow. It is peculiar that while the workers are supposed to be going slow, the number of Rolls-Royce motor cars is ever on the increase. We hear from the lips of men, and read in the newspapers, that the workers of this country will not work; but if we “walk down the main streets of any of our big- cities, we see men in their Rolls-Royce motor cars, we find their portraits in the public press, and we hear that their wives have returned from trips across the world. Yet the workers, we are told, are not working. I say that the workers in this country are working, and I resent any honorable senator libelling the fair . name of the Australian worker by saying that he is a slow worker. It has been said that leaders of the Labour movement have advised the workers to go slow. No sane man in the Labour movement has advocated such a policy; if he did he would not live long in the movement. The Australian worker naturally works well, but he insists upon fair conditions. The only men who go slow are those who, after a fairly long starve, are physically too weak to do a day’s work. The best that a very beneficent citizen of Melbourne was able to do for the unemployed in this city was to provide 150 of them with a 4d. ticket to enable them to get a meal at the Salvation Army barracks to-morrow morning, and probably that will be the only meal they will get to-morrow. We could not expect men in that condition to get hold of the business end of a pick, and do 0 the same amount of work as a man who is fairly well fed. .1 am confident that 98 per cent, of the Australian workers are honest men. They are the best toilers in the world. Honorable senators who declare that they approve of the go-slow policy are grossly libelling the working classes of Australia. I agree with other honorable senators that rather too much revenue is being received through the Customs. Some other form of taxation should be devised; but, unfortunately, whenever the Government want a little more revenue, they invariably fix upon Customs and Excise duties as the most legitimate source. Thus the burden falls chiefly upon the workers of the Commonwealth, because they are the principal consumers of tobacco and beer in this country. I hope, therefore, that relief will be afforded at an early date.
– What percentage of the people are not workers ?
– I should say that the honorable senator and myself are included in the ranks of the workers, but it is quite possible that people outside would declare that we belong to the “ goslow “ brigade, because Parliament works for only about four months in each year. They are unmindful of the many duties we have to perform outside the Parliament itself.
– The honorable senator claims to speak for the workers, so he ought to know.
– The honorable senator himself once claimed to speak for the workers,” but I am afraid he was never able to define just what constituted a worker. In any case, as soon as he got into place and power he forgot those who put him in Parliament. We, on this side of the Senate, want every person in the community to be included in the ranks of the workers in some form or other. We object to a few getting all the best that life offers, whilst the great mass of the people have to be content with a bare subsistence. Many honorable senators will agree with me when I say that some people in the community are making too much money, and, unfortunately, they are making it at the expense of the majority of the people. Senator Lynch knows that a comparatively few people in Australia, by means of combinations, are able to exploit the community.
– They are the “ gofast” brigade.
– Yes. If they do not work themselves, they see to it that other people work for them twenty-four hours of the day. It should be our duty to see that the people are not exploited. I trust that when the Estimates are before us we shall not be treated as members of another place were, but that ample opportunity will be given for a full discussion of the various Departments.
– On this occasion the Senate has had more time for a general discussion of the financial proposals of the Government, than in any previous year. I hope that honorable senators, especially on the other side, will remember this when business is a little more pressing in this Chamber. There has been a very free discussion from all points of view, but there are only two points to which I now desire to address myself. The two subjects principally mentioned in the debate were immigration and unemployment. Most honorable senators opposite approached the question of unemployment as if it were an argument against immigration. As a matter of fact, that is the suicidal point of view.
– The Minister would not think that way if he had been out of employment.
– I have lived through that experience. Therefore I speak, not as an amateur, or as an honorable senator, who. calls himself a representative of the workers, never having worked himself. I speak as one who has had to work, and as one who knows what it means to be out of work. This question of unemployment is a very serious one. It is prevalent in every civilized country. It is one of those problems for which no political system has yet devised a remedy. It does not follow because there is unemployment under our present social system that some other social system would be a cure for it. This spectre of unemployment rears its head in every land. It is in evidence in countries with the most individualistic form of government, and equally in evidence in countries with the most highly organized socialistic system. We have anillustration of the truth of this even within the limits of the Commonwealth itself. There is unemployment in those States with the most conservative Governments and Parliaments, and likewise there is unemployment in that State with the most socialistic Government and Parliament. Therefore, the manwho attempts to dogmatize on this problem, is an exceedingly foolish man - one who is ever ready to shut his eyes to what is going on around him. We shall not effect a cure by declaring, in a parochial spirit, that we cannot allow any people to come to this country; that we intend to live to ourselves, and be a self-contained community.
– No one has suggested that we should.
– That is a suicidal policy. It must inevitably lead to destruction. Unfortunately, many honorable senators who have spoken so confidently on this subject have never seen any other country than Australia, and therefore they are unable to understand the dangerous position in which Australia stands in this unrestful world. They do not seem to realize that Australia is one of the richest undeveloped countries in the world; that it is one of the most sparsely peopled, andthat it lies nearest to the great masses of population in the East. They refuse to face the facts and to reason with themselves as to what may happen to this country if we do not develop and people it within a reasonable space of time. The pressure of population in those countries to which 1 have referred is such that the very instinct of preservation, which is the first law of nature among either white or coloured peoples, will compel those nations, no matter how pacific their Governments and leaders may be, to look around for relief. And when they do so they will see in Australia a vast country, with only five and a half millions of people, who deliberately adopt a policy of exclusion, and declare that this country is to be the heritage of only those people who are here to-day. This, I repeat, is a policy of madness, and if persisted in will inevitably lead to the destruction of not only our present governmental system, but also our ideals ofa White Australia.
As I said in my opening remarks, I have had experience of unemployment. I know what I am speaking about. As a young man I was working at my trade in South Australia, and, with others, suffered all the hardships following upon the collapse of the banks in the early nineties. I was then among the unemployed, but I did not go to the Government for relief or join in any deputation or unemployed demonstration. On the contrary, I looked around me to see in what direction I could better my position. I was not content to remain unemployed in Port Adelaide, so I. turned my attention to Western Australia, which just then had been granted responsible government and was commencing on a policy of public works for developmental purposes. At that time Western Australia had a population of only 45,000 people. Coolgardie had not been discovered, but, as the result of a public works policy initiated by the late Lord Forrest, the State was beginning to attract the attention of the people in the eastern States, and there had commenced a little trickle of emigration to the West. I resolved to take my fortune in my hands and go to Western Australia to work for my living there. And what did I find? I found that the people of Western Australia were afraid that the newcomers from the East were going to take away from them their means of livelihood! That, too, is the very fear that has been expressed lately by members of the Opposition with regard to immigration. Just fancy the 45,000 people of Western Australia in 900,000 square miles of country, fearing that the influx of a few thousands of people from the eastern States would rob them of their employment ! That this fear was genuine was evidenced from the nickname which they attached to people from the eastern States. They called us “ swampers,” suggesting, of course, that we were going to swamp them in the field of employment. I managed to get employment. Others came, and they also managed to get employment. The State began to go ahead. Then gold was discovered, and, whereas the Easterners had previously been coming in hundreds, they now came in their thousands, and the same process went on, much to the dismay of these 45,000 parochialists who believed that the immigrants were going to rob them of their employment. At the time when that tremendous influx of people was taking place, I witnessed the spectacle of unemployment in Perth.
Western Australia then was at the height of its prosperity. Gold-fields were being discovered in different localities, development was proceeding apace, the revenue and expenditure of the State were advancing, as the late Lord Forrest used to say, by leaps and bounds. Yet unemployment existed to such an extent in Perth that soup kitchens had to be opened. Looking back over the history of that period, will any honorable senator tell me that it was a period of depression ? It was a period of the greatest prosperity Western Australia hae yet seen in its history. What happened then - it is happening in Australia generally, and it happens in every new country - was that amongst the thousands who went to Western Australia were some whose imagination had caught fire at the story of the gold-fields, and the marvellous development that had taken place; and, without considering their fitness for the struggle, who emigrated from the States in which they were then residing. They subsequently found themselves unable to succeed, and drifted into the ranks of the unemployed. Yet, - according to the arguments adduced by honorable senators opposite, that influx of population was. a bad thing for Western Australia. They would contend, I suppose, that when unemployment began to make its appearance, the Government of the day should at once have stopped the emigration from the Eastern States. That was the parochial spirit that animated the Western Australians. The. history of Western Australia is a refutation of that argument. It shows that the people -who went to Western Australia made the State “what it is to-day.’ We know that whilst there is a section of unemployed in every State, there is, at the same time, in many trades and occupations a shortage of labour.
– That is the case in the building trade all over the world.
– While it may be true that there are in Melbourne to-day men who are unemployed, everybody knows that there are also in this city and its suburbs, as well as throughout the country, scores of buildings which are months behind - in their programme because the services of .carpenters, bricklayers, and plumbers cannot;.be obtained. The only way to cure that is by immigration. Every immigrant who comes to
Australia, if he has been wisely selected, becomes not only a worker but a producer and a consumer. Senator McDougall referred to the case of a tailor’s cutter. If that man were brought to Australia as an assisted immigrant it was a mistake ; he is not the type of man that we want. Undoubtedly, in every State there are openings for men in all branches of the building trade. The shortage of labour in the trade is adding to the cost of living. It is not so much the high wages that are paid as it is the time during which a man’s capital is lying idle whilst the building is being erected, that makes building so costly, brings about a scarcity of houses, and, because of the keen competition for the houses, enables the landlord to raise the rent. As the great mass of the workers pay rent, their wages are decreased because of those high rents. Therefore, if an immigration policy results in bringing to Australia men who can find employment in the building trade, and thus increase the number of houses that are built, with a consequent lessening of the time over which the building operations are spread, rents will be lowered, and the purchasing power of the wages of ‘every worker who is a rent payer will thereby be increased. Therefore, they truly represent the worker who are prepared to deal with the housing question by bringing into Australia a supply of labour adequate to meet the demands of the workers for houses.
Senator Needham made certain statements regarding the alleged existence of unemployment amongst immigrants in Western Australia. Those statements were afterwards repeated by other honorable senators who had not first-hand knowledge of the subject.
– I had first-hand knowledge.
– The honorable senator had very misleading information. I have here the West Australian of 8th inst., in which appears a report headed -
Opened by the Premier.
Let me tell honorable senators that this New Settlers’ League is representative of every section in Western Australia. The president of that League is Mr. A. Clydesdale, Labour member for South Perth in the State Parliament. On the League are representatives of the Trades and Labour Council, the Country party, and the Nationalist party. I shall quote from the remarks of the representatives of those various sections. Mr. Clydesdale was in the chair, and the delegates present numbered between fifty and sixty. They proceeded to welcome the Premier, who made a speech. The secretary then read the annual report. It is to that report and the subsequent remarks that I wish to direct the attention of honorable senators. The report was read by the secretary in the presence of members of the Labour organizations of Western Australia, and if the statements were incorrect, they could and would have been challenged on the spot. Those representatives included Mr. Clementson, who is the assistant secretary - I am not sure that he is not now the secretary - of the Trades Hall in Perth. This is the reportthat appears in the newspaper -
The secretary (Mr. V. L. East) then read his report on the activities of the league during the past year, which stated that forty-five steamers conveying new settlers had arrived at Fremantle, and twelve at Albany. The single men and a small percentage of married couples had been disposed of by the joint efforts of the league and the Immigration Department. The majority of the married people bad been placed upon the group settlements by the Government. During the year 4,197 positions had been found by the league, making a grand total of 13,220 positions filled by local men and new arrivals. Of these men, 1,301 had been placed a second time, 586 a th ird time, 178 a fourth time, 91 a fifth time, and 19 a sixth time. A summary of the commencing wages paid by employers for the year just endedwas as follows: -
I particularly stress the following in view of the allegation which has been made that these men were taken advantage of, and that low wages were paid to them : -
Lads and youths from fourteen years and under twenty years, at 15s. to 20s. per week and keep, according to age, 428; single men over twenty-one years, at 25s.and keep, 2,552; single men over twenty-one at more than 25s. and keep, 472; contract work, 475; married couples (135), ranging from £2 to £2 10s. per week and keep, with 57 children, 270; total, 4,197. A tribute was paid in the report to the help given by country committees in helping the executive to place men.
The report continued : “ A large amount of criticism has been heard regarding the type of migrant and the wages paid, but the summary dealt with in the earlier stages of my report shows that a percentage commence at a higher rate of remuneration than that agreed upon by this conference, and we have found during ourcountry drives that good men have had their wages increased as they become efficient in their work. I am still of the opinion that from 75 to80 per cent. of the migrants will make good, the percentagebeing arrived at by the appreciation recorded both by employers and employees. Unfortunately, we have had to divide the men into two classes - good and bad. Those who are not making goodareofabadtype,andthiscaneasily b e verified when you find men who have been engaged upon clearing work where the farmers have supplied stores, leaving the farm in the dark hours of the night, taking with them the stores, and leaving the employer a bill with the local storekeeper to be paid.”
Further examples of the bad type were dealt with, and typical cases of farmers who had not treated the employees fairly were mentioned. When such cases hadbeen brought under the notice of the league, steps had been taken to transfer the migrant to another employer, and the erring farmer had been blacklisted. It could not be expected, when dealing with migrants, that 100 per cent. would make good, but the type who were failures were well in the minority. It was urged that employers should furnish the league with full reasons for any dismissals owing to the migrant being unsatisfactory, so that if he was of the type which was not making good, the league might be protected from saddling himon to another employer. The association had rendered financial assistance during the year to the extent of £3171s.9d. to migrants; making the total expenditure of this nature between £800 and £900.
Then follow a number of testimonials from farmers in various parts of the country, and reports of country delegates. This organization is spread all over the State-
Mr. J. Watson (Kondinin) reported that in his district a large number of the migrants were receiving more than the ruling rate of pay, and he considered that 75 per cent. of the men would make good citizens of Western Australia.
Mr.E. H. Brede (Geraldton) said he was employing an immigrant whose only complaint was that unless he was given his breakfast early he could not get out to do a fair day’s work. (Laughter.)
Mr.H. M. Eva (Brook ton) considered that better results would be secured if farmers would be more patient in teaching the migrants.
Mr. C. C. Keyser (Wagin) said that farmers in his district generally found the new arrivals efficient, and in turn they were prepared to pay good wages to good men.
Mr.W. G. Clarke (Morawa) thought that generally speaking where there was any complaint the fault lay with the master rather than with the man. Just as many greedy men were to be found amongst farmers as amongst other sections of the community. He mentioned the case of men who had qualified themselves, taken up land, spent their earnings, and then when they had got their 50, 60, or 70 acres cleared were told that the Agricultural Bank would make no advances on the holdings. That was the stage when the man should be encouraged, not discouraged. He considered that it should be incumbent upon the Department to tell applicants whether they could or could not get advances upon any particular block. They should give it without being asked.
Mr. E. Duval (Woodanilling) said that90 per cent. of the migrants in that district were goingto make good.
Mr. G. Wilson (Corrigin) said he hadput an immigrant on at £2 10s. a week two years ago, and he was with him yet. The ex-sailor was the worst type of immigrant so far as agricultural work was concerned.
Several other speakers echoed this view with regard to ex-sailors.
Mr. W. Meiklejohn (Muredup) said that he waswatching the progress of four young men in his district with capital rangingfrom £500 to £1,000 each. That was the type of immigrant we wanted.
Mr. T. Butler (Central Executive) said in his experience most of the men were willing workers, but their labour was often ineffective due to lack of teaching.
Mr. Clementson introduced a heated dissua sion on the subject of agricultural apprentices. At the present time, he said, farmers were employing immigrants at a rate of approximately 8s. a day, and so long as they were training the men and hoys he had no objection to that rate of pay. It appeared, however, that while they could employ those men at apprentice rates, they were not bound by the usual terms of apprenticeships, and could dismiss them ata moment’s notice.
The immigrant was entitled to he trained, and he was given to understand in England that this would be done. It was one of the inducements held out to him. He had heard sixty or seventy of these men talking at the Trades Hall Conference the previous week, and the sorest point with them was the lack of continuity of employment. They were casual labour, ‘and not trainees at all, and were entitled to more than the apprenticeship rate unless the conditions were altered. If the farmers were prepared to take the men for a specific period, then he would agree that the rate was a fair one. and he thought the men would be satisfied. If the farmer were given a failure, he should send him straight back to the home. What was possible here in March was even more possible in England, and if bad reports were sent Home, emigration might be stopped altogether. He moved - “ That the Government be asked to bring immigrant farm apprentices under the protection of the Arbitration Court, or to pass special legislation so as to provide farm apprentises with at least three months’ continuous initial work.”
Mr. Dobeney, a member of the Trades Hall, seconded the resolution. The report continues -
Delegates stressed the point that the farmers must be protected from the undesirable immigrant. Finally, Mr. Pickering, with Mr.
Clementson’s concurrence, submitted the following motion: - “ That this conference is of opinion that the Government should be requested to evolve a policy which will insure to the immigrant trainee continuity of employment for a period of three months at a minimum wage of 25s. per week, and keep.”
The secretary pointed out that a great majority of the situations secured by the league had been for a currency of more than three months.
Mr. Clementson, in reply, denied that lie was grinding a political axe in bringing forward his motion. If they could not guarantee employment for a stipulated period, then, for goodness’ sake, let it be clearly known in England.
Mr. Pickering’s motion was carried by 29 votes to 0.
I wish to place these facts on record, because they are not mere statements of those standing behind the Government on the question of immigration, but opinions expressed at a conference representative of all political sections in western Australia. A splendid organization, has been formed, and the different opinions quoted show that it is work- 1 ing very successfully. These statements emphatically contradict those who say that migrants are being dumped in Western Australia and allowed to shift for themselves, since they show that they are being taken up by the Association, which has Government support, and are being placed in employment. The Association is not merely content to find work for migrants, but its representatives subsequently look after them in a keen endeavour to see that they get a fair deal.
– According to the official statistics that is incorrect; the balance is in favour of Western Australia. Honorable senators have apparently been led astray by overlooking the fact that every mail steamer which arrives at Fremantle lands passengers destined for the eastern States, and whose arrival and departure is recorded. .
– Are there not any unemployed in Western Australia 1
– Of course there are. I have already given my early experiences in Western Australia, and have shown that when Western Australia was in a most prosperous State, when mining ivaa booming,’ and new gold-fields were being discovered almost daily, unemploy ment was so prevalent in Perth that soup kitchens had to be opened.
– In the city only.
– Yes. However prosperous a State may be, there are always some out of work. I appeal to honorable senators to realize that the de.velopment and peopling of the Commonwealth is so urgent and important, that we must not trifle with the problem. In consequence of thoughtless speeches, erroneous statements . may be circulated outside Australia which may lead people in other countries, and particularly in Great Britain, to believe that men and women arriving here do not receive a fair deal. If that is done, we shall be doomed. In our own interests, and to protect this great Commonwealth, we must fill up our vacant spaces by increasing our population to a far greater extent than we have done during the last . few years.
– There is no occasion for the Minister to get “ jumpy.”
– I have been in other countries and I know what I am talking about. This is a subject upon which one is justified in feeling jumpy, particularly when one realizes the millions living in other lands and the empty spaces we have here. If doom should fall upon Australia, what then would become of our political parties, theories, and aspirations? They would all be buried as a result of the general catastrophe. It behoves every political party in Australia to support our immigration policy to the fullest possible extent. The present is a most opportune time, because at this juncture Europe is suffering from great economic depression. Millions of people in Europe are unemployed, and many are on the verge of starvation. When Europe recovers her normal position - which we trust will be very soon - and conditions become more prosperous, . it will be more difficult to encourage a stream of immigration towards Australia. Now is the time to invite new settlers. I do not suggest that they should be brought here recklessly. The Commonwealth and State Governments have to shoulder the responsibility of seeing that full provision is made for them. We should follow the example which has been set by certain estimable citizens of Western Australia, who have set up an organization to help these men and women and to do what the Government cannot do.
– Our first duty is to the Australian-born.
– This scheme will benefit all of us. The best way to help the unemployed is to increase our population. We cannot shut our eyes to the position in the outside world. ‘ With a population of 5,500,000 we cannot shut our doors to the people of Europe who desire to live here. We are living in a fool’s paradise, and unless our numbers increase we shall eventually have to pay the bitter price of our stupidity. Senator Hoare, and other honorable senators . on that side of the chamber, in referring to matters of defence, said that Australia should be able to defend herself.
– Hear, hear!
– Let honorable senators who favour such a proposal consider what would be our position if other parts of the Empire adopted a similar policy, and Australia were challenged. If we had to defend ourselves, and the assistance of the British Navy was needed, what would be our position if Great Britain declared that the British Navy was required, for the protection of the British Isles.
-What then ?
– That would be our end.
– Nonsense !
– That would be the end. At the very best, it would mean that we would have to defend Australia on Australian soil.
– Hear, hear ! That is the place.
– If we had to defend Australia, would it be better to defend Australia here, or on the “ other fellow’s” soil ? Cannot honorable senators recall what they have read of the devastated regions in France? . Let them ask the French whether they would sooner have defended France on the soil of France, or in Germany. They would promptly admit that they would rather defend France on the eastern than on the western bank of the Rhine.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce), read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Crawford) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 7th August (vide page 2209), on motion by Senator Wilson -
That the Bill he now read a second time.
– It is not my intention to occupy the time of the Senate at great length in discussing this measure, because I am entirely in accord with its main features. Such a measure should have been passed by this Parliament years ago. The Bill will, I believe, have the general approval of honorable senators. I understand that senator Gardiner, when a member of a former Government, introduced a similarmeasure, but that certain alterations and improvements, based on later experience,have now been included. A Commonwealth Bankruptcy Bill was discussed about fifteen years ago, when a Conference of State officials met, at which suggestions ‘ were submitted. It is an interesting fact that Mr. Commissioner Russell, a most able administrator, and Mr. (ex- Justice) Buchanan, both of South Australia, were members of the Conference, and it is due to their strenuous efforts that Part XI., which is one of the features of the South Australian Insolvency Act of 1886, has been embodied in this Bill The Honorary Minister (Senator Wilson) referred to the need for uniformity in our bankruptcy laws. The difficulty of securing uniformity is well known to honorable senators, and I do not propose to go oyer the ground that has already been so well covered. ‘ In thus legislating we are exercising one of two powers under the Constitution which have been sadly neglected by the Commonwealth. The other provision is that relating to divorce. The Government has already taken a step in the right direction by endeavouring to bring about uniformity in the Bankruptcy laws, and I hope that in the near future, some Government will nave the courage to secure uniformity in our divorce laws. The leading features of this Bill are Part XI. (Compositions and assignments without sequestration) ; Part XII. (Deeds of Arrangement), and Part IX. (Small Bankruptcies). Part XI. of the Bill covers a famous reform, for which South Australia has gained considerable kudos. It originated in South Australia, and is embodied in the State Insolvency Act of 1886. Curiously enough it is also Part XI. of the South Australian: Act. 1’ can say confidently that it has worked splendidly in South Australia, and ~it has been copied in Western Australia. It provides a minimum of salutary control by the Court, and it also ensures cheapness of administration. It is. economical for the creditor and expeditious for the debtor. It may be objected that Parts XI. and XII. should not both be in the Bill - that one should be omitted. That, I. think, is a fallacy. There is ample room for both, and the inclusion of the two gives an option as to Which procedure shall be adopted. Whatever happens, Part XI. should be left in. It was drawn and framed by one of Australia’s best draftsmen, Mr. Paris Nesbit, K.C., and I have been informed that the English Parliamentary Draftsman specially complimented Mr. Nesbit on its inclusion in the South Australian Act. Parts XI. and XII. have been designed to effect the same purpose; that is, to enable a debtor to make an agreement with his creditors to settle his debts by a composition or otherwise. What the Bill aims at i9 to secure uniform bankruptcy legislation for all the State3, and that such legislation shall, as far as possible, be uniform with the English bankruptcy legislation, on which the Australian legislation is framed. Part XI. of the BUT is adopted with necessary amendments from the South Australian Insolvency Act, 1886. Part XII. of the Bill follows the English Deeds of Arrangement Act, 1914, which is the latest revised legislation on the subject of deeds of arrangement without bankruptcy. The
South Australian system has been retained in the Bankruptcy Bill’, and ais!) the English system. The English system is in force in Victoria. In Western Australia the South Australian scheme is in force, but there are alternative schemes. The inclusion of Part XI. in the Bill is a compliment to South Australia, but it would not be wise to make it an exclusive scheme; the alternative scheme in Part XII. should remain. The New South Wales and Queensland bankruptcy laws - have no such complete provisions. It would be absurd to follow the advice given by the Queensland representation. In any case, the bankruptcy practice in New South Wales and Queensland is not being restricted, but made wider by the Bill, both in the interests of creditors and debtors. The credit for the invention of the system of deeds of assignment without bankruptcy is due to a great extent to South Australia; but the fuller English provisions were drafted later, and at a time when ideas on bankruptcy law had been modified in the direction- of more leniency iri the interests of both debtors and creditors. The South Australian system seems to owe a great deal of its success to the effective manner in which it has been administered. It has to be remembered that some of the objections to both the South Australian and the English scheme arise from the fact that without them there is greater liberty in making private arrangements which do riot come under the purview of the Courts or departmental control. The South Australians support the retention of Part XI. of the Bill. In the other States those interesting themselves in bankruptcy law, so far as can be ascertained at present, seem to be quite indifferent as to whether or not it shall be continued under the legislation of the Commonwealth. The attitude assumed is practically that each State law should remain as it is. That, however, is impossible in the case of a Federal Bill, the aim of which is to secure uniformity. I am glad the Minister announced in his second-reading speech that- the Government would give favorable consideration, in Committee, to proposed amendments from South Australia.
-brockman. - It surely complicates the position to retain both Part XI. and Part XII.
– I think both should be retained because an option is thus given.
– I think the honorable senator advocates the retention of Part XI. principally because it emanates from South Australia.
– Yes, and also because it has worked splendidly in my State. South Australians are almost as proud of the provisions of Part XI. as they are of the system of voting by ballot, the Torrens title, and several other noted reforms achieved in that part of theCommonwealth.
– This Part has stood the test.
– Yes. Business men in South Australia would be reluctant to see Part XI. dropped, because it is regarded as one of the most satisfactory features of the South Australian Insolvency law. The various suggestions from the Chambers of Commerce have been made with a view to improving the Bill.
I propose to deal with the remarks of Senator Thompson and the memorandum he read from Mr. Thomas E. White who, I agree with the honorable senator, is probably the greatest authority in Queensland on insolvency law. Senator Thompson stated that his principal objections to the Bill were, that it would withdraw the control of an estate from the persons most interested, namely, the creditors; that it would largely increase the legal expenses; that it would delay the liquidation of estates by unnecessary restrictions and formalities, and that it would not include several obviously necessary reforms, which were dealt with at length in the memorandum. The Bill contains special provisions for liquidation by arrangement after adjudications of bankruptcy. This procedure finds a place generally in State Bankruptcy Acts, but in the States where there are provisions for private deeds of arrangement it is almost obsolete. However, it is retained in the Bill so that, instead of the bankrupt’s estate being administered by it, the Court may place the administration of the estate more effectively in the hands of the creditors. Mr. White puts only one side of the case - that for the respectable and honest assigneeor trustee in in solvency, reasonable creditors and conscientious debtors. But what of the other side of the case - that of self-seeking creditors, the dishonesty of debtors, the rapacity of trustees and assignees - which has caused the English Legislature and the Legislatures of nearly all the States to introduce legislation bringing private deeds of arrangement and assignments within the scope of Bankruptcy Acts? All that the Bill does is to secure what, it is admitted, creditors and debtors alike demand - efficiency at a minimum of cost, no unnecessary publicity, and just so much judicial and official control as is requisite to maintain even-handed justice and to prevent fraud. It seems that the trustees and assignees in insolvency in the various States arekeen to retain the present provisions of their Bankruptcy Acts - provisions with which they are familiar. They havenot approached the matter from a Federal point of view with a view to uniform practice. South Australia has a system of control over private deeds, and advocates its system of preference to all others. Victoria prefers the English system; Western Australia has the South Australian system, but would like the English. Trustees and assignees and accountants in insolvency in the States, where private deeds of arrangement are outside the bankruptcy law, do not seem to appreciate that such deeds should come under the bankruptcy provision, even with a minimum of control. They fear a loss of business. Nothing is being superimposed on the Queensland practice other than a little salutary official control, which it should welcome for the sake of the good name and status of trustees and assignees in insolvency in the mercantile community. This Bill will not involve, as Mr. White suggests, the creation of a number of expensive Federal officials, needlessly augmenting the present Commonwealth expenses, whoso salaries will have to be provided by heavy fees payable by the mercantile community. The present State officers will simply be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.
– Queensland is as anxious to see the pet provisions ofthe Queensland Act included in the Bill as the honorable senator is to have the pet provisions of the South Australian Act embodied in it.
– The Government are providing for reforms in other directions, and it is quite probable that the
Queensland people are quite satisfied with theBill. Mr. White, as quoted by Senator Thompson, puts only one side of the case. I claim that the South Australian system provides for a minimum amount of salutary Court control.
– An Act that would work smoothly among educated people like those in South Australia would not operate as well in Western Australia.
– We know that Adelaide is the “City of Culture,” but I do not intend to make odious comparisons. I do not see how the Bill is likely to increase the legal expenses.
Another interesting feature of the measure is Part IX., which deals with small insolvencies up to £300. In South Australia we have a similar provision, under which, in cases of probate and administration, an executor of a small estate is allowed, practically free of cost, to obtain a probate. This provision is a step in the right direction. Senator Thompson said that he favoured giving a trustee power to examine a defendant on oath. Personally, I do not agree with that. It seems to me that it would involve a confusion of executive and judicial functions. Surely there is ample machinery provided in the Courts of law for an insolvent to be examined on oath, and it should not be necessary to give a trustee both judicial and executive functions. I shall oppose any amendment in that direction. In the main, the Bill has my approval, and I hope that the Government will push it through Parliament this session. It has been promised so long that doubt has often been expressed whether it will ever pass beyond the preliminary stages. I trust that this Government will see that finality is reached.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Loghlin) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act. - Deter mination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 11 of 1923 - Australian Postal Assistants’ Union.
Entertainments Tax Assessment Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 105.
Iron and Steel Bounty Act - Particulars of Bounty paid, &c., Financial Year 1922-23.
Shale Oil Bounty Act - Particulars of Bounty paid, &c., Financial Year 1922-23.
– In moving
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to inform honorable senators that the second reading of the Bills introduced to-day will be moved to-morrow. The Government expects honorable senators to proceed with the discussion of those measures, so that progress may be made, since the work is now beginning to accumulate.
– I hope that the Minister will not expect us to-morrow to proceed with the debate on the motion for the second reading of important Bills which have been read a first time only to-day. If he wishes to proceed withthe business in a regular way, we, on this side, will be only too pleased to meet the wishes of the Government, as we have always done. I am not capable of making myself familiar, by to-morrow, with the provisions of two or three Bills which have been read a first time to-day. Even the Government cannot answer questions in that short space of time. I put a question on the notice-paper on Thursday, and on Friday I was asked to postpone it. The Government must give and take. When the second reading of these Bills has been moved, to-morrow, the Government should grant the usual adjournment of the debates.That will be necessary if there is to be smooth working between the two sides of the Chamber.
I wish to bring under the notice of the Government a matter of importance to the State which I represent., All the printing contracts let by the Federal Government appear to be let to Melbourne firms. The Government Gazette frequently announces that large orders have been placed for pamphlets and general printing.Recently a large contract was let for the printing of a pamphlet to be used at . Australia House in connexion with the campaign for immigrants. I think about 38,000 copies were printed. From my reading of the Gazette, it would appear that very few of these printing contracts are let to firms outside Melbourne. In practically every State there are business houses capable of undertaking this class of work, and they should be given an equal opportunity with Melbourne firms. The question does not affect any party, and all the States are interested in it. I ask the Government, in future, to give all States an equal opportunity to do this work, and to see that all the contracts are not given to Melbourne firms.
– This matter was recently brought prominently under my notice. I inquired whether these contracts were advertised throughout Australia, and I was told that they were.
– But in the Gazette only.
– They may have been advertised in the Gazette only,butI was assured that they were advertised throughout Australia. The Commonwealth Government has large quantities of printing done outside the Government Printing Office. When the Government did me the honour of appointing me chairman of the Empire Exhibition Commissioners, I looked into most of these matters, and discovered that it had been decided to have much of the printing done in London. That would have saved a little money, but when people at Home read the pamphlets and found that, although they related to Australia, they were printed in London, they would not be impressed as we in Australia would wish to impress them. We have now called for tenders throughout Australia for this very large printing order, and we have placed orders which are not by any means confined to Melbourne. If Queensland has not been properly notified, and if publicity has not been given in that State to Commonwealth and British Empire Exhibition work - I shall be very much surprised if it is so - I shall take steps to put the matter right. Ifwhat SenatorFollhas statedhas occurred, it will he remedied without any delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1923/19230815_senate_9_105/>.