11th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to a statementwhich appeared in the Melbourne press to the effect that the superintendent of the Melbourne Fruit Markets complained that the quality of the bananas supplied by Queensland growers is so wretched that not even pigs will eat the fruit? If this is the case, will the honorable senator request the Tariff Board to inquire into the matter to see whether some alteration of the tariff is not warranted, toenable the people of Australia to enjoy the advantage of having available sound fruit from outside sources ?
– My notice has not been directed to such a statement. If the honorable senator can, upon inquiry, authenticate it the matter shall receive further attention.
Bill presented by Senator Sir William Glasgow, and read a first time.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that thousands of pounds have been spent to provide golf links in Canberra and to keep them in repair; if so, will the Government erect swimming baths for the lower-paid servants of the Commonwealth who for financial reasons are unable to take up golf?
– This question should have been addressed to the
Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, who furnishes the following reply:-
I regret that I am not in a position at present to answer it. The information desired is being obtained, and will be supplied at the earliest possible date.
The following papers were presented : -
Aboriginals and Half-castes of Central and North Australia - Report by Mr. J. W. Bleakley, Chief Protector of Aboriginals, Queensland.
Ordered to be printed.
Federal Capital - Administrative Buildings - Report of Committee appointed to inquire into construction of foundations.
Defence Act - Royal Military College of Australia - Report for year 1927-28.
Debate resumed from 7th February (vide page 53), on motion by Senator Cox-
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to: -
ToHis Excellency the Governor-General -
May it please your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I welcome the opportunity which this motion affords me to address honorable senators with regard to the visit of the Empire Parliamentary Association to Canada last year. I am strongly of the opinion that the activities of that association cannot be too strongly commended. After my 7½ weeks’ sojourn in the great Dominion of Canada, as one of the Australian delegates, I returned to Australia feeling satisfied that it is only by the personal contact enjoyed by members of the Parliaments of the Empire, when attending these conferences that we shall really come to understand one another’s problems. Such fraternisation makes for a common understanding. It seems to me that the greatest value of the League of Nations is the opportunity it presents to representatives of the various nations to come into personal contact with one another. I feel that it is eminently desirable that the conferences of the Empire Parliamentary Association should be held annually instead of bi-annually
The personnel of the delegation was an extremely interesting one. It consisted of 53 members, 20 of whom represented the United Kingdom, 8 the Union of South Africa, 4 New Zealand, 4 India, 4 the Irish Free State, 2 Newfoundland, 2 Malta, 1 Southern Rhodesia, and 8 the Commonwealth of Australia. “With the exception of those from Australia, the delegates represented all shades of political opinion, and it was a matter of very great regret to me that our own section did not include some of our colleagues from the other side. The Opposition, however, did not see fit to accept the invitation to send one of their representatives from this Chamber and two from another place. The tour was very interesting, and of great educational value to all who participated, in it. Whilst in the Dominion of Canada the delegates met the Premiers and members of the nine provincial parliaments and also the members of the Dominion Senate and House of Commons. Every opportunity was afforded us also to meet members of the boards of trade in the various provinces. The hospitality extended to us on all sides was splendid, and the experience was a very pleasant one ; but it was also very strenuous. The majority of us were wearied by the constant travelling, but the real value of the tour, when viewed in retrospect, is fully realized. Although the personnel of the delegation wa3 of such a mixed character, and the duration of the tour was lengthy, our relations throughout were most amicable.
The chief value of such conferences is that all who are willing have something to learn from their neighbours. We were extremely fortunate in having as a member of the British Delegation the Secretary of the Board of Trade, and Mr. Tom Johnston, a Labour Member of the British House of Commons, who is on the Empire Marketing Board. Mr. Johnston, as we were crossing the Atlantic, gave us a very interesting resume of the objects and activi- ties of that board. Undoubtedly, Australia must, in great measure, look for her future development to the remunerative export of her products. To-day, mainly owing to the high cost of production, our exports are limited practically to wool and to wheat. In order to build up a remunerative export business, Australia must bring down its cost of primary production to world’s parity. It is futile to depend upon the artificial fostering of industry which now exists. Having artificially fostered our home market we find it increasingly difficult to market our surplus abroad. That is particularly noticeable with respect to our wine, dried fruits, and sugar industries. Our discussions respecting the Empire Marketing Board convinced us that if Australia is to foster an export trade within the Empire, she must make constant both the quality and the quantity of her output, so that those who purchase our goods will be able to rely upon the fulfilment of our contracts. The members of the delegation had the privilege of attending the Canadian Exhibition which is held annually at Toronto. Last year was their jubilee. It is one of the most marvellous exhibitions held anywhere in the world. We became so accustomed to being told that what we were shown was the biggest, the longest, or the greatest in the world, that we developed a degree of scepticism; but I am inclined to agree with their contention that their exhibition is certainly the biggest of its kind in the world. On the occasion of our visit as the guests of the executive, all previous records for one day’s attendance were broken, those who paid for admission numbering 320,000 persons. During the fortnight that the exhibition lasted, it was patronized by no fewer than 2,179,000 persons. It would have taken us weeks to inspect it thoroughly, on account of the multifarious nature and large number of the exhibits. In some respects it resembles the Royal agricultural shows that are held annually in Sydney and Melbourne, but in addition it is a wonderfully fine manufacturing exhibition. The grounds extend over an area of 360 acres, on the shores of Lake Ontario, and have erected upon them magnificent permanent buildings. The point I wish to stress is that this exhibition affords Australia an almost unique opportunity to advertise her resources and her products. A large building was placed at the disposal of the Empire Marketing Board, for the housing of British Empire exhibits. I feel sure that the other members of the Australian delegation shared my hitter disappointment, and even shame, at the poor showing that was made by the Commonwealth cif Australia. Anyone not acquainted with this country could be excused for concluding that the Union of South Africa was the greatest wool-producing country in the world. It had an interesting and attractive exhibit, admirably displayed. Similarly, New Zealand, had an extraordinarily fine exhibit which was well laid out. Unfortunately, our exhibit was in close proximity to those of New Zealand and South Africa, and would hardly have done credit to an unenterprising grocer. I should like to learn who was responsible for it.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the state of the public finances in Australia had something to do with it ?
– I do _ not. The expense could not have been very great, and we missed an extraordinarily fine opportunity to advertise our wares. We have a reciprocal trade treaty with the Dominion of Canada, but the balance of trade is very much against us. I gave the matter a good deal of thought while journeying through Canada, and I came to the conclusion that we shall not be able to make the fullest use of the opportunities that are available in that country until we appoint trade commissioners or agents. So long as they are live men, it matters not what they are called ; but they must be young, and must possess a good business experience. It is of no use to send to the United Kingdom or to any other country old political hacks who have outlived their usefulness in Australia. We must send thoroughly able men who are well versed in the conditions that exist in this country. It would pay us handsomely if we had in Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal, live men who would advertise Australia and keep us posted in regard to the openings that present themselves for trade. From one end of
Canada to the other, we experienced the very greatest difficulty in obtaining Australian wine.
– That was a terribledisaster !
– It is a disaster to our wine growers not to be able to exploit such a big market. We must build up an efficient selling organisation wherever we desire to expand our markets.
– Is not the importation of wine into Canada prohibited?
– I do not think so. Only one of the nine provinces has prohibition, and it was the wettest that we visited. I refer to Prince Edward Island. One would imagine that there would be a better fighting chance of enforcing prohibition upon an island than in a State which is adjacent to others that have not similar legislation ; but our experience of Prince Edward Island was that it was wet enough for any reasonable man.
During our stay in Canada we could not fail to be impressed with the extraordinary prosperity of that country. The authorities are very much alive to the necessity for appointing trade commissioners in the United Kingdom, on the Continent of Europe, and wherever else they desire to trade. They are out to get business, and they are succeeding in their aim. I was rather surprised at the paucity of knowledge of the Commonwealth that was possessed by the political leaders in the different provinces that we visited. Probably a similar charge can be laid against us with respect to Canada. Before I visited the Dominion I held the view that it was an expansive country, with large forests and lakes, and that.it relied mainly on the production of wheat. The few references to Australia that appear in the Canadian press relate to bush fires, floods, droughts -
– Strikes particularly. The people we met held the view that we were perpetually on strike, and a few jocularly remarked that apparently the strike was our main product. While on board ship we found that the wireless news regarding Australia was both faulty and incomplete.
– What about the test match scores?
– The test matches had not then commenced, but we found it exceedingly difficult to ascertain the winner of such a well-known sporting event as the Melbourne Cup.
We had facilities that are vouchsafed to few people to examine Canada’s wonderful manufacturing development, that has been brought about largely by the provision of water power on a large scale, and the desire of the manufacturing interests that have their headquarters in the United States of America to establish branch factories so that they may obtain the benefit of Empire preference. We also had the opportunity to examine her great forest wealth, her wonderful paper pulp producing plant, and her fisheries. But what struck us particularly, especially in portions of Northern Ontario, was the mining development, which is only just beginning. The conditions of living are good, and the wages high. I have in mind a particular mine that has been paying dividends for many years, and is now down to a level of 3,800 or 4,000 feet. Although it is not a high grade proposition it is being worked at a profit. Some of the members of the party went down to the 2,500 foot level.
– How do the wages compare with those paid in Australia ?
– It is difficult to arrive at an accurate Comparison because of the difference in the currency. The rate of exchange at the time was about four dollars 85 cents to the pound sterling, and the wages, on the whole, were higher than those paid in this country. I am referring to the Hollinger gold mine in Northern Ontario.
We were impressed by the extraordinary facilities for handling commodities. I was particularly interested in the lumber industry, because for seven years before the war I was engaged in saw milling in Tasmania. I was also connected with the industry for some years after the war, and I was very glad to get out of it, although I left behind me my war gratuity bonds and my deferred pay. After the official work of the delegation had been concluded I recrossed the continent of America, and had some days in British Columbia, where I visited some of the large lumber concerns on Burrard Sound, and saw something of the fish canneries on the Eraser River. What struck me most in regard to all the various industries in Canada was that the men earned high wages. I want to stress that fact. I point out that they not only received high wages, but also earned them. This particularly applies to the lumber business, for the inspection of which I had unusual facilities. I was keen on getting down to bedrock, and I spent two days at one establishment on Burrard Sound. When this Chamber was discussing the imposition of increased duties on lumber I was rather prone to accept as gospel the statement that the men employed in the timber mills in Canada - I know nothing about the mills in the United States of America - were Chinese, Hindoos, or southern Europeans, whose standards of living were nothing like our own, and who worked tremendously long hours for low wages. It has been stated loosely in this Chamber that these employees work ten or twelve hours a day, and receive extremely small sums for doing the bullocking work in the mills. That may be the case somewhere, but it certainly does not obtain in British Columbia, which supplies the world’s market with the bulk of the timber, such as Douglas fir, which we call Oregon.
I examined for a couple of days the working of the mill at Burrard Sound and its output amazed me. It turns out from 400,000 to 500,000 super feet of sawn marketable timber per day, and it employs about 360 men. It is the last word in efficiency and up-to-dateness with its handling appliances, and its almost illimitable timber reserves at the head of Burrard Sound. It employs only white men, the bulk of whom are Canadian born. The lowest paid employee, a sort of rouseabout, receives 52 cents, which is over 2s. per hour. The men work 48 hours a week just as we were accustomed to do in the mills in Tasmania. I visited some of the other establishments, and found that similar hours were observed there. I noticed some double-toothed band saws which enable logs to be cut when being moved both forwards and backwards. I asked the saw sharpener what wages he was paid, and he replied. “seventeen dollars a day.” This is well over £3 a day. Of course, the man is an expert and sees to the brazing, but the whole establishment is a triumph of efficiency. It is a fallacy to say that the employees in this industry work tremendously long hours and are paid low wages. During my sojourn in British Columbia, I saw no indication of such conditions. The manager of these mills, which I closely inspected, is a Canadian, and he remarked to me, “We want efficient labour that we can rely on, and we pay our men good money because it pays us to do so.” In the bulk of these industries - I found it also in New Brunswick in the sardine and herring fisheries, and almost all over Canada - there are systems of bonuses on increased output, and they have proved satisfactory to both the employers and the employees. This was noticeable particularly in the mining world. I found also that the bulk of the men engaged in logging in winter preferred, as a rule, to do the work on contract rather than for wages.
In Australia we must do some hard thinking about these matters. We find it practically impossible to build .up an export trade in some of our minerals. I am one of those who believe in high wages, but I want them to be earned. It struck me in my travels that the difference to a great extent between Australia and some of its competitors overseas is that we have rightly or wrongly based wages on the cost of what a man eats. This is a rather fallacious system. If we get down to the hard, economic facts, we must realize that we cannot take out of an industry more than we put into it. We may go on with the system of artificial stimulation, the granting of bounties, and so forth; but when it comes to the marketing of our products we sometimes fail because we have to meet the world in open competition. I was chatting with a member of the House of Commons in Canada, who was telling me of the way in which markets were rigged. He was speaking of the juggling that took place in the marketing of tin. I remarked, “When you get down to the final analysis, is it not a fact that the world’s price of tin must be based upon the world’s output of that commodity and the demand for it?” We cannot escape from this economic fact. We in Australia are living in a fool’s paradise, if we try to evade these hard and sometimes unpalatable, economic truths.
I do not wish honorable senators to imagine that I am endeavouring to show that the millennium has been reached in Canada. Far from it; but in many pursuits Canada is a long .way ahead of Australia in efficiency.
– Is it not ahead of us industrially?
– Undoubtedly it is.
– Does the honorable senator mean in machinery and workmanship?
– I mean in all respects. I am particularly speaking, of course, of the saw-milling industry with which I am familiar.
– Does the honorable senator refer to machinery?
– In Canada they have realized the wisdom of adopting the system of payment by results.
– Do they use hydro-electric power or generate power by other means?
– They use hydroelectric power for their plant, and they also supply lighting to small towns in the vicinity.
– That is an economical form of power.
– That is true, but in some parts of Australia similar sources of power are available.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Canadian workmen are superior to Australians?
– No; but I was impressed with the expedition with which vessels were loaded and unloaded at St. John, Halifax, and Sydney, Nova Scotia. In my opinion, the great winter port of Montreal, on the River St. Lawrence, is one of the most, wonderful harbours in the world. Although it is in the heart of the Dominion, 1000 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, vessels of 20,000 tons and even 30,000 tons can berth there. Mon,treal is the greatest grain exporting port in the world ; more wheat is loaded there each year than is grown in the whole nf the Commonwealth. Our Australian ports are far behind Montreal in the matter of loading and unloading ships.
– Is the greater efficiency there due to the adoption of the piecework system?
-I do not know. It may be due partly to the fact that at Montreal men work in shifts throughout the day and night. Owing to the severity of the Canadian winter - of which, however, one hears very little in Canada; the people there continually praise their glorious climate - the port of Montreal is open for only 7½ months each year. The whole of the produce available for export must be dealt with while the river is navigable. While at Montreal we were the guests of the Harbour Commissioners, and, as such, inspected the port. That such development had taken place without costing the people of Canada a cent is indeed amazing. We in Australia have so hamstrung our ports that the fees payable by shippers have increased enormously.
– That is mostly the human element.
– That is so. My observations while abroad convince me that Australia has much to learn in the conduct of its ports.
I read with considerable interest the report of the British Economic Mission. It may be, as some critics have said, that it contains nothing new, but it sets out a number of facts in a clear and concise manner - facts which, unfortunately, we are prone to overlook. One of the greatest faults of the average Australian is his casual manner. The interjection of one honorable senator opposite yesterday, “What is a million, anyway?” is typical of our attitude towards many important matters. We should not forget that every million pounds we borrow has to be repaid and that until repayment has been made interest has to be paid on* the amount borrowed. I am not a pessimist, but it appears to me that until certain sections of the community are prepared to face the facts fairly and squarely we shall have a continuance of periods of depression. No one viewing industrial conditions in Australia can say that all is well. I commend to honorable senators the report to which I have referred, and crave their indulgence to read an extract from it:-
But all measures designed for the increase of Australia’s wealth production and power of absorbing new population tend to be defeated if there are strong forces within her which operate so to raise her costs of production that she cannot sell her products in the markets of the world, and is restricted within the limitations of her own home market. Here we approach the most vexed, and the most important of all Australian questions, that of the combined effects of the protective Customs Tariff, and of the legislative enactments, both of the Commonwealth and of the States, for the fixing of wages and conditions of labour, which we will call, for brevity, the Arbitration Acts.
We could not fail to be impressed, throughout our travels in Australia, with the fact of which we were continually reminded, that, notwithstanding the magnitude of the interest on her external debt, and of her imports for which payment can only be made in goods or services or, temporarily, by fresh borrowing, Australia exports only an almost negligible quantity of the products of manufacture, unless we include therein minerals, such as lead, silver, and zinc; while, broadly speaking, the only primary products which she exports in important quantities, and which arc not directly assisted by tariffs or bounties, though they may be assisted indirectly by Government expenditure from taxation on roads, railways, water schemes, and the like, are wool, hides and skins, meat and tallow, wheat and timber. Of these, wool and wheat are by far the most important, and it has often, though somewhat loosely, been said to us that the primary industries concerned with these products are the only industries in Australia which stand on their own feet and sell their goods at the world’s price; or even, still more loosely, and with a change of metaphor, that all Australia is riding on the sheep’s back. Without committing ourselves to full acquiescence with these broad expressions of opinion, we may say that we have been strongly disposed to the view that the combined operation of the tariff and of theArbitration Acts has raised costs to a level which has laid an excessive and possibly even a dangerous load upon the unsheltered primary industries, which, having to sell in the world’s markets, cannot pass on the burden to other sections of the Australian community, and, consequently, as between the various States, upon those, notably Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, which are poor in manufactures, and are principally concerned with primary production. These States, and Tasmania, probably, most of all, are further handicapped by the high costs of freight in interstate trade, which result from the operation of the Navigation Acts along with the other causes which we have mentioned.
The mission is aware that some of the States have been assisted by grants from the Commonwealth, but, even so, such relief is only a temporary palliative. There is something seriously amiss in Australia, and we should have the courage to face the issues which confront us.
While we were in Canada we heard a good deal about the Kellogg pact for the renunciation of war.
– And the building of additional cruisers to perpetuate war.
– We found that a number of thinking people - including members of the provincial legislatures and of the Canadian House of Commons - were of the opinion that the signing of the pact practically meant that the millennium had come. The pact, which originated in the United States of America, and was signed in Paris on 27th August by all the great Powers of Europe, including Russia, has been the subject of many articles in the press and elsewhere. From the mass of writing on the subject and the discussions which have taken place concerning it, the man in the street finds difficulty in understanding what it really means. There are thousands who believe that war is now a thing of the past, while on the other hand, there are many who contend that the pact is merely another scrap of paper to be torn up at will. The truth is somewhere between those two views. It is wise neither to under-rate nor to over-estimate the importance of this attempt by the statesmen of various countries to outlaw war. Their purpose is perfectly definite. However vague the document they sign may be, they recognize what is obvious to every one, that war as a means of settling international disputes is an obsolete policy, and disastrous to modern civilization. The signatories to the pact declare on behalf of their people that they will no longer have recourse to war. Only an unthinking fool believes that a mere statement of an intention to renounce war as an instrument of international policy is sufficient of itself to prevent war, but the signing of the document in Paris was, nevertheless, a landmark, and a very prominent one at that. The London Times referred to it as “a landmark in the turning-away movement” - turning away from war. It is not surprising that people of the present generation who passed through the ordeal of the years 1914 to 1918, and know the horror, the misery, the futility, and the frightful waste of modern war, should do all they possibly can to prevent war; but can we foresee the attitude towards war of those who come after us - our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren, who have not been through the fiery furnace of war? All we can do for the future generations is to educate people and try to bring them to think along right lines. The present pact cannot do any harm and it may do good by forcing the nations to pause and possibly think before precipitating a war. No one who is a soldier as I am would belittle or sneer at the signing of this pact.
– Does the honorable senator think that the people of the United States of America are themselves sincere in the matter?
-I do. I sincerely believe that war between the United States of America and the United Kingdom is unthinkable. There is far too much talk in the press, particularly in the scare press, of a possibility of a clash between these two nations. I refuse to believe that it is possible.
– What of the cruiser programme of the United States of America?
– We have no need to worry if the United States of America wishes to build so long as Great Britain has sufficient to fill its task of policing the seas. In Stanley Park, Vancouver, there is a monument which was unveiled in 1914 by President Harding to commemorate the fact that peace had existed between Canada and United States of America for 100 years. That memorial was erected jointly by Canadians and the people of the United States of America. As a soldier, I was greatly interested in it, because I had studied the campaigns of 1812 and 1814, when Great Britain was within an ace of losing Canada. The Americans had invaded Canada and captured York, the then capital. It is now known as Toronto, on Lake Ontario; That campaign took on all the bitterness of a civil war, because men of the same blood and families werefighting one another. It is extraordinary that on the 25th July, 1914, at Lundy’s Lane, near Niagara Falls, 10,000 men, Canadians and Americans, met to perpetuate the celebration of 100 years of peace between the two nations. They little knew that within a few weeks, Europe would he enflamed and that within three years Americans and Canadians would be fighting side by side on the battlefields of France. I may lack foresight, but I cannot imagine two great countries whose people are descended from the same race and who speak the same language, being foolish enough to attempt to settle any dispute between them by recourse to arms.
To a very large extent, we must place reliance on the work being done by the League of Nations to bring about a general reduction of armaments, but no one believes that the mere fact that the nations have reduced their standing armies and navies will abolish war. I would prefer a general reduction of armaments. I would rather fight a mau with my fists than with long range guns, firing high explosive shells. If the nations follow the general principle of getting down to a general reduction of armaments and fighting one another with tooth and nail, it will suit Australia. But generally speaking, we must place our trust in the machinery of the League of Nations, grinding slowly though it may be, always bearing in mind that the agreements between the nations foster a feeling of security which banishes fear. And fear is one of those things that go a long way towards causing war. I am glad that we are a signatory to the pact; but I am also glad to learn from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that Australia will still pursue her policy of sound defence precautions. It is not an aggressive policy; but we must rely on ourselves to a large extent, and in any case a certain proportion of armed and disciplined forces is very necessary in any country to preserve law and order. To my mind, therefore, the signing of the pact has not altered the position in regard to Australia’s defence policy.
I am glad to notice in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that provision is to be made for the extension of existing air communications. When we were in
Canada we saw quite a deal of what has been done by way of aviation there. Forest fires are of vital consequence to the Canadians, and the authorities have adopted a very. fine system of patrol by planes fitted with floats. During the summer these air patrols keep watch for forest fires, and, by the use of chemicals, they can extinguish small fires and thus prevent larger conflagrations. I am bitterly disappointed that no mention is made in the Speech of the long-promised air service between the mainland and Tasmania. I trust that it is an oversight and that at no far distant date an air service between Tasmania and the mainland will be in actual operation. Communications with the mainland are absolutely vital to Tasmania, and an air service will assist in a great measure to remove the state of isolation in which the people of Tasmania live to-day.
– I have to repeat to-day what I have said on former occasions, that I never could see very much use for the traditional . practice of debating an address-in-reply, especially when it involves a waste of the time of Parliament.
– The motion gives honorable senators an opportunity to talk.
– I could quite understand the formal adoption of an address without wasting the time of Parliament, which is rightly regarded as precious ; but, as Senator Thompson has said, a motion such as this gives an opportunity to talk. It is usually availed of to arraign the Government, to hold up its shortcomings to the public gaze, and to present against it an indictment of several counts. But, apparently, on this occasion nothing like that is to happen. There is no executioner in sight; no sawdust or basket is lying about; there is not even an accuser. I do not know what change is coming “o’er the spirit of the dream.” Honorable senators of the Labour party, although in opposition, appear to have no charges to make against the Government. They are here, but they have imposed on themselves a kind of self-denying ordinance whereby they are silent.
I do not understand this silence., especially when I remember that they are usually such excellent talkers. The only conclusion to which an impartial spectator can come is that they think the Government has done nothing to warrant an accusation, and that it is told, metaphorically, “ Go your way. You have done no wrong. “ Personally, I do not intend to let the Government down so lightly. My regret is that, when the opportunity presents itself to review the administration of the Government, nothing is said. What will the man in the street think and say of the silence of the Labour party ? What will he think of that party which, during the recent election campaign, raised its voice in such general condemnation of the Government and yet, when the opportunity is presented, fails to vindicate its accusations, and imposes upon itself a voluntary silence ? The only rational conclusion is that either the members of that party did not believe in what they said during the election, or that they had not the heart to stand up to their jobs and press their accusations’ to a finish.
I join in the expression of goodwill and thankfulness extended to our Sovereign upon his improvement in health. In my juvenile period, and even after attaining maturity, I was one of those who had no time for an hereditary monarch. But I have lived in this country, which has a king, and in another country which has no king, and I returned to Australia firmly convinced that an hereditary ruler was no impediment to my progress. My observations ha.ve led me to realize the unique and important part that his gracious Majesty, King George V. plays in the destiny of the British Empire, and the salutory influence which he wields not merely nationally, but internationally. I appreciate the beneficent influence of the close analyses made and the keen judgment that has been manifested on many occasions by our present ruler, and by his immediate predecessor, King Edward VII., in solving domestic and international problems. I find that this is the best country on God’s earth for mine and for me; for the man who wishes to create for himself a destiny according to his lights. For Her Majesty, Queen Mary, my admiration is unstinted. In this degenerate age, when too many women, at the dictation of effete man, have unsexed themselves, Queen Mary lives in such a queenly but withal motherly and homely state that she radiates a fine example which is reflected to the ends of the earth, and makes me proud that I am one of her loyal and humble subjects.
One has often heard it remarked by latter-day wiseacres that the Senate has outlived its usefulness, and that it does not fulfil the purpose for which it was elected. If the Senate is at all lacking - and I shall dissect that matter later - the fault rests with the electors themselves. King Demos is the presiding genius that makes and unmakes Parliaments. This and the other chamber are the creatures of their outside creators. I shall prove that. At previous elections whenever a man stood as an independent and claimed that he did not belong to any party King Demos promptly crushed him between the party machines and said, in effect, “ I have no time for you.” This attitude on the part of the electors is strikingly exemplified in the treatment received by distinguished men like Sir Josiah Simon of South Australia, Colonel Cameron of Tasmania, and others who, many years ago, claiming that they would come into this chamber as free agents and with an independent mind, were crushed between the party machines. That being so, how can these shallow-brained critics blame this Senate for its behaviour. No man dares seek a seat in this chamber unless he belongs to this party or to the other. Made by’ the breath of the electors, democracy, this is the only second chamber in existence to-day that springs from the loins of the people. If it is bad, the people who created it are bad. If those who criticize the Senate but ponder over these’ few facts they must inevitably come to the conclusion that this is the tolerant chamber of the time, brought into existence by an unshackled expression of opinion of the people. I admit that I hold the view that the Senate has not done its .duty in regard to the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the ‘States, but, generally, it has stood up to its work. T shall prove that by relating^ briefly, what members of the Senate have done.
Think for a moment of the policy of the State of New South Wales in the early days of federation. I have seen the six men returned to this Senate to represent that State, troop across the chamber time after time, in opposition, at the first suggestion that there should be an increased tariff - because at that time the electors of New South Wales gave their allegiance to a policy of freetrade. But later, when that allegiance was transferred to protection, those six freetraders were superseded by other representatives who held a directly opposite political view. New South Wales had simply “ tasted blood “ and, like the tiger, its appetite became insatiable. Similarly, the representatives of Victoria become of one mind when the interests of their State are at stake. Again, when the sugar industry of Queensland was threatened, the representatives of that State iu this chamber became one solid unit, forgot or submerged their party differences and were undivided in their desire to safeguard the industry, and give their State a chance to develop. Then, too, when it came to seeking reimbursement for Tasmania for the loss which it had suffered through linking up with federation, its representatives fused their interests and forgot all party differences. My own State of Western Australia is the only sorry example of the lot in this respect. But we are a rare, disinterested, and high-minded people. I have, when a tariff schedule has been brought down, used all the eloquence of which I am capable in support of a moderate duty in respect of certain items, in the interests of my State, yet have seen my colleagues walk across the chamber to vote for the highest possible rate. My colleague, Senator Needham, is elected by the same electors as myself, but when we have to speak on the same subject he is of one opinion, and I of another, illustrating, if I may say so, with due modesty and commendable frankness, that the State of Western Australia has set an example which might well be followed by the other States if independence of speech and action be the objective.
Undoubtedly our critics have failed because they have omitted to take into account the political tone and temper of the present day. A critic or historian, to be worthy of the name, must take cognizance of all facts and must do so broadmindedly. However, we have heard of these reformers before. The country is full of them. What is needed is a reform that will reform the reformers, if such a thing is possible. 1 do not admit that the Senate has failed in its duty, but should the day come when this chamber is abolished, because of the propagation of such fallacious views, I’ am confident that on the following day federation also will go. It is somewhat depressing to think that, though this chamber is founded on the people’s will, and springs from the loins of a free democracy which is unequalled in the world, many who call themselves democrats now slink about with a dagger in their apparel, seeking to plunge it into the heart of the Senate. They do not know the game from shinty. The representatives of each State have faithfully performed their duty, and have protected the vital interests of their individual State when the occasion arose. I should like to see the Senate a House of 36 parties, that is to say, each member having a mind of his own and severed from all party affiliation. But as the world goes we know that is impossibleLet us think less of party interests and more of the interests of this country. Our trouble is that we have too many “ isms “ and “ asms.” What are they and what are they worth? We magnify what concerns our own party, and devote the greater part” of our energies to the determination of the best means to adopt to hold our positions. Is it not time that we first asked ourselves how we can best advance the interests of our country? Let us get that firmly rooted in our minds, and root out all other pettifogging things that matter not. Then some good will be done, and this chamber will enjoy the respect of the people of Australia.
I wish now to touch upon the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. I expressed my opinion of that proposal when we discussed the measure that was introduced last session authorizing” a reference of the question to the people of Australia. I consider that it will he bad for this country, because it must necessarily lead to the undue aggrandizement and the financial opulence of the central power and the simultaneous impoverishment of the States. That will not he to the advantage of the work-a-day citizen; and, after all, it is his interests that we are sent here to conserve. Governments and parliaments are nothing; they come and go; hut that which makes for the welfare of our citizens should he jealously guarded. Power was sought by the Government to make agreements with the States. What was the experience in Western Australia ? We of the Nationalist party are sometimes charged by those who occupy the Opposition benches with being members of a party whose chief characteristic is its financial strength. They say that we have only to press a button, and tens of thousands of pounds will immediately roll in and be made available to support us in the constituencies. Yet, what is the fact? During the last election, and that which preceded it, we did not have in many important centres in Western Australia even a motor car to convey our supporters to the poll. On the other hand, the party that claims to represent the toilers, and that has so much of an uncomplimentary nature to say about capitalists and capitalism, had at its disposal fleets of the most luxurious cars for the conveyance of its supporters to the poll. Members of that party say that we are associated with the wealthy interests. They know, of course, that whether such statements are true or false there is a certain percentage of the people who will believe them. “ The eternal charm of error” is on their side; the people swallow that which is erroneous, and ask for more. They say we are not deserving of popular approval, and that we are presumptuous when we claim that we have the right to control the affairs of this country and to guide its destinies by virtue of our mandate from the people. On one occasion ex-Senator Gardiner, who led the Opposition in this chamber, made the statement that 90 per cent, of the people of this country were workers, and that the remaining 10 per cent, represented the idle rich. I am not disposed to dispute that contention. Yet, what happened when that 90 per cent, was asked to decide which party should be entrusted with the government of this country ? Did not those workers say most emphatically “We have heard what Mr. Bruce has said ; we have also heard what Mr. Charlton and Mr. Scullin have said. Although we personally respect Mr. Charlton and Mr. Scullin, we have no faith in what they say, but, on the contrary, will place our trust in those whom they say we should not trust.” An analysis of the position makes it plain that we are here because the workers trust us and mistrust our accusers.
I have already mentioned that Nationalist candidates in Western Australia did not have sufficient funds for propaganda purposes or to procure cabs and motor cars to convey their supporters to the poll. We had to talk and walk and make the best of an impecunious situation. Such, however, was not the case with the organization which conducted the campaign in favour of the financial proposals of the Government. I have in my hand a full page advertisement that appeared in one of the daily newspapers in Western Australia on the eve of the poll. It purports to give in pictorial form typical examples of ‘ the electors of the Commonwealth. I am afraid that the artist’s courage failed him, that he became seized with a conscientious - spasm and found that he was not up to the job. The gentleman in the foreground of the picture is probably the best looking of the artist’s subjects. He looks as though he feels that he is about to perform a terrible deed - an act of spoliation upon the States. The next figure has the appearance of a jockey, and wears a smart cap. Behind him stands what may justifiably be regarded as an average type of flapper. The next resembles Bill Sykes in appearance. Then there is an individual who looks like a bookmaker; while the next wears a top hat. Presumably he is intended to represent the class that subscribes to the funds of the Labour party. The last figure is that of a lady whose appearance suggests that she has not had a very happy time in either her single or her married life. The point I wish to stress, however, is that, although those, including this Government, who were in favour of the financial agreement had their advertisements and .other propaganda accepted by the newspapers, I and others who were opposed to it were refused the opportunity of placing our views before the people. Plenty of money to let the States down, but none to help the ministerial candidates up! Therefore, I am compelled to have my objections recorded in Hansard.
– Will that have any effect?
– I remind the honorable senator that:
While yet the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return.
The agreement has not yet been passed and there is still a hope, forlorn though it may be, that those who are opposed to it will secure its rejection. There have been times when forlorn hope has been turned into a triumph. As a public man, I wanted the press to publish my opinions. I could not pay for the publication because then, as now and always, I had no money. I wished to secure the publication of the following reasons for the non-acceptance of the financial agreement by the people of Western Australia, but was unable to do so: -
Let safety first be the watchword of the electors now. This can best be done bv votinc “No.”
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– My experience during the last election shows what liberty of political conscience there is within the party with which I am associated. If that liberty did not obtain, I would immediately leave it. When, as a member of another party, I found that I could not speak my mind on a subject that I considered vital, and’ on which I considered that the party of the day had no right to command my obedience, I left it, because I considered that it was not a party of liberty and not a democratic party. Am I bound to agree with everything that the present Government does? Not at all. Does the Government expect me to cross every “ t “ and dot every “ i “ in accordance with its particular views? Not by any means. For long years Parliaments have been fighting for freedom. So far as my party is concerned, and the policy for which it stands, its members are free agents. But, above free speech, we fortunately have a free Parliament, which is a grand asset for any country to possess. So long as we abide by the rules governing parliamentary procedure, and express our views respectfully, we have absolute liberty of speech. Therefore a comparison can be struck between the party that I left and the party to which I now belong.
Although honorable senators on the Opposition side are usually among the best talkers in the world, they have begun a talk strike. I remind them, however, that at the present time the country requires them to say something. They should show in what respect the Government has done wrong, and try to prove the charges up to the hilt. The occasion has now arisen for them to draw attention to the misdeeds of the Ministry. Should they remain silent the Government will go without a stain on its character, so far as the Opposition is concerned. We hear of the empty north and the empty south, but there is no place more in need of a closer settlement act at the present moment than the Opposition benches in this chamber. There is no congestion and the ventilation is superb.
A brand new story has lately been told about the effect of Australia’s fiscal policy. The “Big Four” have visited this country, and have told us many useful things, which were known to us before, but which, owing to the source from which they emanated, impressed us afresh and reminded us strikingly of the lines on which our industrial destiny was running. We realize, of course, that four Australians, chosen either inside or outside this Parliament, could have given some good advice to the people of the Old Country. It would have been possible for the scholar to have taught the school master. Nevertheless, I welcome what these emissaries from Great Britain have told us, because the opinions they have placed on record will do much good if they but awaken public conscience to the need for arresting the fatal courses we have been pursuing with regard to our protective policy.
I direct attention to what has lately been discovered by the Constitutional Commission. This body was appointed to inquire whether any alterations were required to the Constitution under which we have worked for 28 years. So far the commission has done good. It wished to find out what had been the effect of the policies of various Governments on the material affairs of the people, and it inquired in particular as to the effect of protection. It detailed Professor Brigden, of Tasmania, and Mr. Giblin, Deputy Commonwealth Statistician, to discover whether our policy of protection had been of benefit to the people. I believe that the report on this matter has not yet been placed before Parliament, but the tenor of it is that certain industries that have a home market in Australia for the disposal of. their output have fared very well, but have done so at the expense of those industries which depend upon foreign markets for the disposal of their products and have to be content with what foreigners will give. It was found that this is happening in the several States, and sometimes in one State to the detriment of another or other States. They found that, because of the position of affairs in New South Wales the industries dependent on local markets are just about balanced by the primary industries that are dependent on overseas markets in that State. In Victoria and Queensland, however, and particularly in Queensland, owing to the fact that the sugar industry is protected, the conditions are different.
I shall always support the protection of the sugar industry, because only by this chief means can we demonstrate to the world that the white man can live and prosper in the tropical areas of the North. He may be doing better than others correspondingly situated, but I will go a long way to give him the benefit of the doubt. It is hard to get some persons to believe that, but I know it because I have lived there. In Victoria the overwhelming bulk of the secondary industries depend on the interstate markets for the sale of their products. Queensland is the only State that enjoys an economic advantage at the expense of the rest of Australia. The commission pointed out that the other three States, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, were paying through the nose for the maintenance of our fiscal policy. Of course, the views of members of this Commission, who have no axe to grind, no party to support, and no Government to uphold, must have respect at our hands. We are assured that the threeStates last mentioned are. carrying by far the greatest burden of the protective policy of Australia. They go further and say that the cost of running our secondary industries is about equal to the amount of salaries and wages paid in it. It will, therefore, be seen that we could afford to retire all the persons employed in those industries on their present salaries and import, at world prices, goods in place of those they now manufacture, and yet be no worse off.
Let us consider the position of the wheat industry, which is the chief industry of at least four of the States, and employs about 250,000 adult persons. What is the commission’s finding as to the effect on that industry of the protective policy of the country? It is astounding to find that it represents a tax equal to 14 per cent. In Western Australia the last wheat harvest averaged twelve bushels to the acre. That was a better return than was obtained for several years previously. On that average the cost of protection represents a tax of 8s. per acre. Taking the total wheat production of that State as 30,000,000 bushels, that represents a contribution of over £870,000 by the wheat growers of Western Australia to maintain the fiscal policy of the country. A young man taking up farming in Western Australia could, in a few years, have 500 acres of land available for cultivation, but would have to pay £200 per annum to uphold our policy of protection. Of Australia’s gold production about 80 per cent. comes from Western Australia. That means that with a total gold yield of 440,000 ounces, the gold mining industry of Western Australia contributes to the public revenue about £250,000 per annum. That is the industry which we have been told is “ languishing “. So the wheat and gold industries of Western Australia contribute annually over £1,100,000 towards the upkeep of protection and that State gets in return no advantage worth speaking about. The position is so serious as to warrant the earnest consideration of all public men.
The old adage “You can take a horse to water but you cannot make him drink “ has its application to-day. We can say to our young men “ Go on the land “, but they will not go ; or if they do, they soon relinquish their holdings to take up other pursuits. Wheat production in Australia is practically at a standstill; the area under cultivation is less than it was in 1915. It is true that more recently the position has improved, but only to a limited extent. The area of Japan and all her possessions, supporting a population of 70,000,000 people, is less than that of New South Wales. In Western Australia there is almost unlimited land available for settlement, but it is notbeing applied for as it should be. Similar conditions exist in South Australia, Tasmania, and in the wheatgrowing portions of New South Wales. The time has come for us to call a halt with regard to our protection policy. It is not right that protection should be given to industries to build up fortunes for a few individuals. The late Mr. Hugh V. McKay, under our protection policy made a huge fortune within a few years at the expense of people less fortunate than himself. The same is true of the late Mr. Hoskins who died leaving an estate worth nearly £5,000,000.
– It is true, also, of Mr. MacRobertson.
– Honorable senators may remember that time after time Mr. Hoskins asked for duties on iron and steel at every stage of production from the time the iron ore left Iron Knob until it was incorporated in farm and other machinery. To-day, from the top of the Commonwealth Bank buildings, Sydney, one can see the huge building which Mr. Hoskins erected out of the profits he derived from what he said was an unprofitable industry. The scales are not evenly balanced; they are weighted against the man on the land. There is room in the agricultural districts of Australia to build a race of sturdy Australians, but land is not being used as it should be, because our young men find the cities not only more attractive, but also more profitable.
Under existing conditions, it is no wonder that the drift to the cities continues. Our secondary industries flourish at the expense of our primary industries. When duties were first imposed in order to encourage Australian industries, a protection of 25 per cent, was considered sufficient. Now, however, it is not uncommon to provide a protection of 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, sometimes, to assist industries which are not worth protecting. It is true that . the imposition of those duties resulted in the export of some boots to New Zealand, some chocolates to the South Seas and some jams to the Malay Peninsula; but what have we to show for our 21 years of protection ? A miserable three or four million pounds worth of protected products against £70,000,000 in the case of Canada. The fiscal policy of Canada is far in advance of that of Australia.
In our consideration of these problems we must not overlook the human element. In the early days of the Labour party in Australia we painted rosy pictures of the future of the country. If only things had gone according to specifications our hopes might have been realized, but the human element came into play and our realization to-day falls far short of what we anticipated. The State implement works at Fremantle are now in a bad way, or, at least a Labour government is inviting private enterprise to come in and take a hand in running them. When these works were established at Fremantle, the project on paper appeared to be sound, but no sooner had they been established than we heard men asking “Why work so hard and do others out of a job “ ? That virus remains there and elsewhere, and for that reason Australia lags behind other countries in the industrial field. Public men who see the trend of events and fail to sound the note of warning are failing in their duty.
The workers of Australia should realize that it is their duty to give full value for’ the money paid to them. If a man wants a pair of boots, he wants value for his money; he wants soles of leather, not of paper. Similarly, if buying a suit of clothes he wants the best material he can get at the price he is willing to pay. Yet so many of our workers are prepared to receive for their labour twice as much as they earn. There is a tendency for employees to regard employers as enemies of society, or at least as being less worthy than the men who work for them, notwithstanding that the latter for every fi he receives in wages may give service worth only 10s. or thereabouts. No country can progress while these false standards remain. The continuance of such a policy will inevitably lead to insolvency. There must be value for value. Upon honorable senators belonging to the Labour party rests a heavy responsibility, because no other persons in the community are so well situated to make these things clear to the workers. If only they would denounce the men who bring distress on the community by checking production and causing industrial unrest, they would alter the whole outlook for this country. Why do they not do it? Because their leadership would be frowned on, and the frown would be more than they could stand. There is no inducement for them to speak, because their position and their livelihood depend on their silence. Regarding our national credit “and the stringency of the money market, in my opinion
Ave have not over-borrowed although we have an indebtedness . of something like £170 a head - twice what it was in the early nineties when the banks closed. In those days when Mr. Deakin, then Premier of Victoria, attempted to float a loan, »word came from London that it would be better to postpone the flotation until a later date because the credit of Victoria had gone and no Australian colony could borrow except at ruinous rates. Yet at that time the indebtedness of the people of Australia was only £74 a head, whereas to-day it is more than double that amount. The wonder is that we can make progress with such a heavy burden of interest ; but the worst feature of the position is the diminishing return on the borrowed capital invested. I am afraid we cannot go much further unless we can show at least a better balance-sheet. A nation has to observe the practice of private business and show a fair return on the money borrowed. No person would lend another £100 if he stood still even if his security was good. It is necessary for the borrower to go forward and show a profit on the money he has borrowed, otherwise the lender is not encouraged to lend. This obligation, which is observed in private business circles, applies equally to the nation.
One thing perhaps that damages our credit more than anything else is the interminable turmoil we have in this country. Despite the fact that it is against the law of the land to strike, we have workers going on strike time after time. Why they do it I do not know, unless it is that they are encouraged to strike because of a belief that it is right to “knock” capitalism - that it is the capitalists of Australia who are doing the mischief to the country. I have a recollection of working out some figures from the census of wealth taken during the war period. Those figures indicated that if all the incomes in Australia over £3 a week were pooled the general level would not be raised by more than about lis. a week, and that if we pooled all incomes over £6 a week the extra dividend secured would not be more than about 5s. a week. In this latter alternative the strike promoter with a wage of £7 or £8 a week would get a shock! In those circumstances where are we to get the extra income to keep pace with this rainbow painting of what is likely to happen if only Labour can get control of the affairs of the Commonwealth? Labour has been in control of the affairs of Queensland for an uninterrupted period of 12 years. But is Queensland a working man’s paradise? It is nonsense to say that it is when able bodied men can be seen trooping to the police court for rations. Yes, that happens in rich and resourceful Queensland to-day. Old Mother Nature seems to have been doped when she endowed the northern States so lavishly in comparison with the other States, yet to-day, after twelve years of Labour control there are empty shops in Queen-street, Brisbane, and grass is growing in places where many years ago thriving industries existed. The Legislative Council was abolished in Queensland so that no one could stop Labour from arriving at its objective, but nevertheless Labour has not produced the goods, for the simple reason that the rainbow pictures that Labour has painted are all moonshine - all damnable nonsense - and the leaders of Labour in their innermost hearts knew all the time that they were. This party of platitudes has kept itself in power in Queensland by resorting to means to which even bookmakers on an unregistered race-course would not stoop. By a manipulation of the electoral districts and by roll stuffing they have retained their control of the legislative machine. Quite recently the State Electoral Registrar discovered on his rolls some 20,000 more electors than were on the Commonwealth rolls. Where were those electors? Presumably most of them were in the cemetery. He also found that 60 “ comrades “ in Townsville had given as their address a certain boarding house which contained ten rooms and ten beds. I do not know how those 60 “ comrades “ accommodated themselves on ten beds. But it is a long lane that has no turning, and the turning point is coming in Queensland. To his credit be it said that Mr. Collier, the Premier of Western Australia, has shown sense. He has used his best endeavours to keep a very cautious hand on the finances of the State, and he has suggested a means whereby the people of the State can be properly represented in the State Parliament. He has succeeded in having a commission appointed to subdivide the State on fair and just lines. That commission will consist of a man selected from either side in the State Parliament, with a Commonwealth electoral officer as umpire. Thus, again, the western’ State has set an example to the rest of Australia. We know what Mr. Lang did when he was Premier of New South Wales. We know how the Labour Government of Queensland trebled and quadrupled taxation. Mr. Bavin, in New South Wales, and Mr. Butler, in South Australia, have had the task of clearing up the mess created by their Labour predecessors. It was an easy matter for Labour in the States to squander the taxpayers’ money on the construction of works with the object of making friends. It is not a case of robbing the poor to give to the rich, but that of robbing the willing and giving to the unwilling, or robbing the worker and striver and giving to the person who has “work fright.” That is the policy observed in Australia if the people are foolish enough to sanction it, but it will not be pursued very long; there always conies a time when there must be an accounting season. . If I can manage it we shall soon have an accounting season. We shall have a census taken of what wealth is produced, and then we shall see the source of all the money and how much truth there is in what is said and believed in by a wide circle that the capitalists are ruining Australia. We shall again see what the war census demonstrated - that the capital of Australia is in the possession of the overwhelming mass of the people of the country; all the taradiddles preached by those who spread the poison among ‘the electors that in some unknown and unexplained fashion capital is ruining the country will be proved false; and the overwhelming majority of electors will thrust the spreaders of those taradiddles into the chasm of obscurity, whence they should never have emerged.
I want to push this country forward without detriment to any individual. Notwithstanding what has been said to the contrary, the members of the party to which I belong want the honest working man to rise to the surface. I have declared over and over again that I want the farm labourer of to-day to be the farmer of to-morrow, and I want the artisan of to-day to be the employer of to-morrow. I hope the time will come when the workers will rise above their present conditions; when they will cease to be grumblers and discontented; and when the overwhelming majority of intelligent voters who have been duped in the past and led to believe in false nostrums will learn, that if we want to keep this country in perpetuity we must fulfil certain conditions - that we must get back to the good old belief in honest toil and just reward for that toil. No pastoral, mining or fishing lease can be held unless certain .labour Covenants are observed. Here we are in Australia a small garrison of 6,000,000 holding a continent and saying to all other nations “Keep off the grass.” But unless- we fulfil the labour conditions properly applying to this country the time will come when an authority higher than the 6,000,000 people of Australia, higher even than the British Empire itself, will ask of us, “ Have you fulfilled the labour covenants in regard to your continental area?” If we have not - and I say that, up to the present, we have not - then will come the time when the weak points in our armour will be shown, and our friends of the past will become very disquieting enemies. When that time comes danger will arise. Unless we make the best use of our heritage by working it and by not allowing discord between one section of the community and the other that hour of danger will come. Let employer and employee work together. If we watch the records of the Labour movement in the United States of America and even in “ England, we see that the trend of the industrial movement to-day is cooperation and not antagonism. The keynote most noticeable in those countries is cooperation - the spirit of living together and doing one’s best for industry so that both sides may extract the most that industry will provide and so that the community in general may benefit.
.- I congratulate the Government on the renewed expression of confidence that the people of the Commonwealth have given in favour of its political policy. Senator Lynch has expressed his concern at the silence of the. professional critics of the government, but I suggest that it would be rather hard for the present Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Needham) to speak on this matter. He would be bound, by the force of political expediency, to chant a paean of victory on behalf of the Labour party. But it is very difficult for him to do that as, in effect, he is under sentence of death from the electors, who turned down their thumbs when he appealed to them for a new lease of his political life. So that one really ought not to be disappointed at the tactics of the honorable senators opposite.
I am very interested to learn that the Government is giving careful attention, to the report of the Economic Mission. The remarks of that body with regard to the administration of the Customs Department were particularly interesting to me in view of some recent experiences I have had with that department. On one occasion a contract was entered into with a British firm for the erection of a large organ in Melbourne. As the regulations under the act appeared to be silent on the matter of organs, inquiry was made at Australia House as to the duty which would have to be paid on” the various parts. The officials there replied that, no doubt, those parts would be treated in a similar manner to piano parts, which are admitted duty free. I think that any but a government department would have conceded that if separate piano parts were so treated, it would be but rational to deal with organ parts similarly, as we have a so-called piano industry established in Australia, and there is a piano in almost every second house in the land, whereas organs are practically rare, being confined chiefly to town halls and cathedrals. The organ parts arrived in Australia and the council concerned was astounded when confronted by a demand for the payment of an exorbitant duty. An appeal was made to the Minister, who justified his decision not to introduce suitable regulations to cover the free admission of organ parts by stating that an individual in Adelaide claimed that, if he were given a chance, he could manufacture such things. He admitted that he had never previously done so, but expressed complete confidence in being able to perform the task. No reference was made to the Tariff Board, which, I understand, was formed to inquire into such cases.
My next experience concerns the X-ray plant at the Melbourne Public Hospital. As honorable senators are aware, that plant is of such a modern and comprehensive nature that it is used not only for the simple treatment of cases of fractured bones, but also for the diagnosis of obscure diseases. Moving pictures are taken, for example, of the action of the heart, and it is essential that the films used should be of the ultra sensitive type. At present there exists in Australia a firm which manufactures such films, which, . however, are not sufficiently rapid in action for that purpose. The representative of the firm admitted that it would be possible for his business to manufacture films of the necessary rapidity, but that, as its product is used in tropical Queensland as well as in the milder por- tions of Australia, it is compelled, owing to the restricted market available, to manufacture one film for all purposes. Unfortunately, the Minister took the view that it was necessary to impose a duty on the imported’ film, which possesses the necessary rapidity of action. My contention is that the imported article should, in this instance, be admitted free, as the imposition of a duty penalizes the poorer section of the community, and will probably deprive many needy people of the advantage of having their disease diagnosed by the latest scientific methods. Specialists in charge of the X-ray department at the Melbourne Hospital were not afforded any opportunity to state the case before the Tariff Board, but were merely questioned in a casual manner by an officer from the office of the Collector of Customs. It is interesting to note that there is now a hill before the other House to enlarge the powers of the Tariff Board, and I hope that attention will be given to the instances I have cited. The Australian film industry which I have mentioned is not a struggling one; but, chiefly due to our protective tariff, has become firmly established. I wish that industry all good fortune for its enterprise, but it should not make use of the wealth it has gained to oppress the poorer section of the community.
I note with great satisfaction that the Government intends to proceed with its policy of making provision for the adequate defence of Australia. It appears to me that our military forces are now, and have been for some time, treated as the Cinderella of our defence service. I direct the attention of the Government to that paragraph in the report of the Inspector-General of the Australian Military Forces, which reads -
At present the existing peace establishment of the Citizen Forces require 608 officers and 1771 warrant and non-commissioned officers to complete it. Details are given in appendix “A”. As units themselves are on a nucleus establishment only, it follows that our deficiencies - in officers and noncommissioned officers required to complete to War Establishment are serious.
I have on occasion remarked to this Senate that when we were forming that portion of the Australian Imperial Force to which I was attached at Broadmeadows, I was reprimanded to some extent for taking in ‘men who had not had previous service. I justified myself in three weeks, because by that time- my critics were unable to pick out those who had not received previous training. That was due to the fact that our compulsory military service at the time gave us a body of trained officers and noncommissioned officers and with that nucleus it was an easy matter to drill the rest into shape. Because of the wastage of officers and non-commissioned officers, who have not been replaced, the position is now serious, and the Government has failed to give the matter proper consideration. It is becoming more and more difficult to induce men to give their services after they have completed their term of compulsory training. Employers object to the men being taken away from their staffs for their period of training. The Commonwealth Bank, in particular, has protested strongly against having large numbers of its employees called away to undergo compulsory training, and the situation will become even, more serious if something is not done. I regret, too, to note a recent innovation of the present Minister for Defence, which ‘ withdraws a form of encouragement previously extended to officers who had served for a certain period. Upon retirement they were granted a further honorary step in rank, a privilege which, though costing the country nothing, was highly appreciated. These matters may appear to be too slight to have any influence, but I remind honorable senators that the only serious trouble which occurred in the ranks of the Australian Imperial Force was when the authorities endeavoured to take away the regimental colour patches of certain battalions which were about to be amalgamated with other units.
It would appear that the Government will have its hands full with industrial troubles. It is indeed regrettable to find men who occupy important positions as leaders of the industrial movement making statements such as the following, which is attributed to Mr. Holloway, secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council : -
If principles which had been recognized for years by the Arbitration Act were to be swept aside by the Court’s orders - and they asserted that they had been by Judge Lukin in the timber workers’ award - then the public and the Arbitration Court authorities should be informed that the unions could not any longer have faith in, or owe allegiance to, orders of the. court.
– That is peculiar arbitration.
– It is not arbitration at all, and it is a great pity that the statement was not made before the men went into court. If a private litigant went into court stating that if the verdict were in his favour he would obey it, but if it were against him he would resist it by force, he would be sent to gaol immediately. The people of the Commonwealth expect, and I feel sure that their faith will be justified, that the Government will be firm in insisting that the awards of the courts shall be obeyed. No one by an award of the court is compelled to work, and no employer is compelled to carry on an unprofitable business. Just as no employer should be permitted to prevent another employer from carrying on his business under the conditions prescribed by the court, so no worker or body of workers should be able to say that their fellow workers should not be permitted to work, although they might be perfectly satisfied that the conditions prescribed by the court were fair and just, and necessary for the continuance of an industry.
I note that a new Minister has taken charge of affairs in Canberra. As a result of a recent inquiry, a further loss of £20,000 has been disclosed. This should convince the Government of the necessity for making a close examination of the affairs of the Federal Capital Commission. The result of the recent election for the position of third commissioner, when the people returned as their mouthpiece the bitterest opponent of the Commission, should convince the Ministry that drastic changes are necessary in the policy of the Commission.
– It was rather hard to determine who was the bitterest opponent of the Commission.
– The rumour 1 heard was, that if a more bitter opponent could have been found he would have been elected. Drastic action will have to be taken if the people are to be made contented by being given conditions that I approximate as nearly as possible to those of other cities. An investigation will disclose the fact that the rates which the unfortunate people in Canberra are called upon to pay are heavier than those of any other city in the Commonwealth. This Parliament will probably be approached for an additional’ living allowance, by public servants who are compelled to live here. That is not the correct way to deal with the matter. The rates which are levied in other cities of a similar size ought to be carefully examined, and the residents of Canberra should be placed upon something like an equality with their citizens. Canberra will not progress so long as those who wish to commence industries here are handicapped in this manner.
– Although the Governor-General’s speech does not contain anything spectacular, and does not make any alluring promises, yet, in the present state of the finances of the Commonwealth, I regard it as an eminently sane document, which should restore the confidence that is so urgently required in Australia at the present time. The existing conditions have not been brought about by scarcity of money. The annual report of one of our greatest banking institutions, which was published the other day, disclosed the fact that during the last financial year its deposits had increased by £3,000,000, and that the amount of money -advanced had declined by £2,000,000.
– Is that altogether a good sign?
– It is not. On the contrary, it is a sign that there is a lack of confidence. The programme placed before us by the Government is calculated to establish that confidence. It shows that there is not to be any grasping for the moon; but merely an endeavour to conduct the affairs of the nation in a satisfactory way.
Like Senator Sampson, I had the opportunity to visit Canada recently with the parliamentary delegation that left Australia. I realize fully what a splendid opportunity it was, and congratulate the honorable senator upon the fine account he has given of our tour through that dominion. I have already given to the electors of Queensland, in a series of articles that I wrote, my impressions of. the tour ; therefore, it is neither necessary nor desirable that I should now traverse the ground as fully as Senator Sampson has done. I can, however, draw comparisons between the conditions that exist in Australia, and those that we encountered, in relation to certain subjects that will come up for consideration during the present session. We had opportunities to discuss with delegates of other countries many matters of mutual interest, and out of those discussions a great deal of good is likely to accrue to both Australia and the Empire generally. I join with Senator Sampson in expressing appreciation of the wonderful kindness that was shown to us throughout the dominion, and also pay a tribute to the organizing ability of those who had the conduct of the tour from the time we left England until we made our departure from Canada. They had the assistance of two of the chiefs of the great railway systems, who, in conjunction with a parliamentary committee, drafted an itinerary which worked without a hitch from the beginning to the end of the tour.
A matter of special significance that arose out of our visit was the conference held in Vancouver to discuss a question of the extraction of petrol from coal. The stage has now been reached when the Commonwealth Government can he of material assistance. At this conference the Mother Country was represented by Mr. David Hall, a miners’ representative, who spoke with a good deal of knowledge of his subject. Australia, New Zealand, and one other country also were represented. The delegate from. Great Britain was firmly of the opinion that that country is lagging behind Germany and the United States of America in its scientific research work. He did not question the scientific attainments of the man who was in charge of the research operations in Great Britain, but he believed that that gentleman did not have much faith in the possibility of extracting petrol from coal, and that he was not putting his best foot forward. I explained that Australia was awaiting the result of the efforts that were being made in Great Britain. The Minister for Mines in British Columbia said that that also was the position of Canada. If,. as the British delegate assumed, the man in charge of the research operations in Britain is not putting his best foot forward, it is our duty to enter a protest and to endeavour to have him replaced by some other person who will handle the matter in the proper way. In Germany the Bergius process has been responsible for the production of 250,000 tons of petrol from coal, and it is claimed that in five years’ time that country will be able to produce from coal the whole of its petrol requirements. The possibilities are so vast that the best brains in ourEmpire should be brought to bear upon the problem. If we can place upon a commercial basis the extraction of petrol from coal, we shall solve many of the difficulties that now confront both the Mother Country and Australia in regard to mining operations and. defensive measures. I ask the Minister responsible for the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, to have the investigations pushed forward as rapidly and as far as possible. I believe that in Great Britain the Admiralty, the army and the aviation branch are keenly interested in the subject, and are doing all that they can to further the investigations.
Senator Sampson has rightly said that at the present time Canada is passing through a period of remarkable prosperity, and is going ahead by leaps and bounds. I confess, however, that I expected to find it very much further advanced. Although its history goes back over three centuries, and it possesses marvellous natural advantages, its population is only a little over 9,000,000 persons.
– It is also within a week’s steam of Europe.
– That is so. Further, right at her door -is the greatest population of English-speaking people in the world. At one time, of course, that was a disability, because over a period of years probably 1,000,000 splendid men migrated from the eastern provinces to the United States of America. The pendulum has now swung back in the direction of the dominion, whose wonderful mineral resources and other advantages are attracting American capital, brains and labour. The working-class people will probably remain there and become good Canadian citizens. Naturally, a large sum will return to the United States of America by way of dividends ; but we should not grudge them that. Australia might very well hold out the hand of fellowship to America in a similar manner. The factors which make for prosperity in Canada are, in some respects, similar to those that obtain in Australia. Wheat is, of course, their biggest item of production. I am not a farmer, and cannot speak with authority upon the subject of farming; but we had with us the honorable member for Forrest, Mr. Prowse, who is a farmer. He assured me, and also stated publicly in Canada, that in many ways the agricultural methods there employed are inferior to those that are employed in Australia, and therefore Canada does not produce wheat as cheaply as Australia. In the matter of transport, the Canadians beat us completely, because the produce is handled in bulk. They have wonderful silos, and their railway and shipping arrangements are perfect.
– We have silos in Australia.
– Not to the same extent as in Canada. The cost of transport is greater here because most of the wheat of Canada is handled in bulk.
– Does not the whole of the produce from the wheat areas go to Montreal ?
– No ; much of it is sent to the United States of America in specially constructed barges ; but Montreal is so central that I dare say most of the water-borne produce goes there. The wheat is marketed on a very good basis. The pooling system is well established, being in favour with the great majority of the growers.
Reference has been made by Senator Sampson to the tremendous export trade in Douglas fir, which is known as oregon pine. The Canadians were rather keen about obtaining a preference from Australia on timber. They put up a case to us when we were in Vancouver which, I venture to say, if it had been placed before this Parliament last November when the timber duties were under consideration, would have been accepted. They merely asked for a moderate preference, and when the matter again comes up for consideration, Canada’s request will probably be granted. We pointed out to them that already the trade balance was in favour of Canada, and if we granted a preference on timber we should be merely increasing our adverse balance. There was a good deal of sympathy with us on that ground, and I hope that one of the results of our visit will be a reduction of the adverse balance.
– They now want to shut our butter out of Canada.
– We nailed down the lie responsible for that time and again, and yet when I returned to Australia it was being revived. The story told over there was that Australian butter was being dumped in Canada, and to enable that to be done the industry was subsidized by the Government and a levy was imposed on the butter producers of Australia. We pointed out that no butter subsidy was paid, that our producers had to accept world parity, and that any arrangements made with them were only of internal benefit to them. I understand that a small minority of the dairy farmers, who have considerable influence, have been reviving this subject lately even though they are unable to supply requirements during winter.
Arising out of the timber industry in Canada, there is the great pulp industry. One manufactory alone produces 600 tons of paper per day and employs 5,000 men. This is the biggest factory of the kind in Canada, and probably in America. Great industries such as that, which are capable of using millions of tons of timber and employ so many men, are a great factor in the prosperity of the country.
Although a great deal of cutting is going on, and much loss is often occasioned by fires, sufficient attention is not being paid to afforestation. As a matter of fact, those interested in the industry are not troubling about afforestation, because they say. that they have a thousand years of cutting in sight at the present rate of progress. That is not correct, because I have it on good authority that much closer attention should be given to afforestation than it is now receiving. It behoves the Canadians to realize that the tremendous denudation of their forests calls for immediate attention.
Senator Sampson referred to mining and to the great Hollinger gold-mine near Timmins. This is the greatest single mine’ in the world. At one time, Australia had the privilege of claiming that honour for the Mount Morgan mine. It is said that the Hollinger mine produces gold to the value of £2,250,000 per annum, but I do not think that Mount Morgan ever exceeded an annual output of £1,500,000. The great Canadian mine is a low grade proposition and it is paying. Of course there has been a considerable reduction in the dividends; but the mine pays to-day because the methods of operation are good. The wages paid are probably higher than those ruling in this country, but the mine is an easy one to work compared with Mount Morgan, where the difficulties of treatment were great.
– How is the mine situated climatically?
– It can be worked all the year round. The timber and pulp industries are also carried on uninterruptedly throughout the year, but the men engaged on the land can only work for four to five months in each year, and many of the ports have but four or five months of business activity.
SenatorFoll. - The heavy snow experienced in Canada is not entirely a disadvantage.
– That is so, but farm work is at a standstill for from seven to eight months in the year. Most of the farmers, especially the successful ones, go to California for the winter.
So far as the production of beef cattle is concerned, I think that Australia compares very favorably with Canada, but in dairying that country is well in advance of us.The Canadians have large numbers of dairy cattle. The methods of milking are vastly ahead of what I have seen in this country. Machinery is largely used and the cattle are well housed on account of the rigidity of the climate. In the matter of sheep growing, however, Canada is very much behind Australia. It has only 3,000,000 sheep in the whole country. Queensland, I regret to say, has lost more than that number in one year. Canadian farmers are now giving increased attention to sheep, and by housing them they could probably have larger flocks.
We heard a good deal from Senator Guthrie about the sheep industry and I listened with great interest to his remarks. If there is one authority on this subject in this chamber it is Senator Guthrie. He referred to the many millions of pounds that the industry was worth. I may mention in passing that as I went through Seattle, I was informed that the revenue from timber alone in that city was greater than the value of Australia’s wool production. This shows that there are other avenues that can and should be exploited in this country.
– What is the value of Seattle’s timber exports?
– Over £70,000,000. I have always been opposed to Senator Guthrie’s suggestion that restrictions should be placed on the export of stud sheep. Australia has arrived at a high standard of sheep production, and if our pastoralists are not strong enough to stand up to any position that may arise through the exportation of stud rams they ought to be. If the Mother Country had adopted such a doginthemanger policy as to refuse to sell stud stock for distribution throughout the world, despite the risk of bringing about competition with her own producers, there would not have been anything like the volume of trade that is found throughout the world to-day. I would not like to see any other country rival or even approach Australia in sheep production, and I do not think there is much risk in that direction. Although only a few men are engaged in the breeding of stud sheep, we know what an important industry it is, and I deprecate the placing of any restrictions upon it. Senator Guthrie mentioned that South Africa had refused to supply Australia with ostriches at one time, and the result was that we went to Other countries for them.
– To our sorrow.
– Fortunately, we did not go far in that matter. Ostriches were brought to central Queensland and they thrived there, but as a marketing proposition the industry proved a failure. Perhaps it is just as well that South Africa refused to supply them at that particular time.
Another great factor in the progress of Canada is its tourist traffic. Situated as Canada is alongside the United States of America, with its teeming millions and its many wealthy people, its tourist traffic ranks next in value to its wheat trade. I asked Canadians how they could possibly assess the value of their tourist traffic, and they pointed out that they obtained returns from the principal hotels and tourist resorts. Canada, of course, has great scenic beauty and it attracts visitors from all parts of the world. In addition to that, it makes the most of its opportunities by providing all kinds of attractions for tourists. Heavy charges are imposed at. the principal tourist resorts, but wealthy Americans and others do not seem to object to them.
I had an opportunity to make inquiries into industrial matters both in Canada and California. Throughout Canada there seemed to be no strikes, and no fear of them. Industrial councils have been established in several of the provinces, but there is no federal arbitration court such as Australia has. It might be well to mention how some agitators entered Canada. In order to garner the wheat crop, 9,000 miners and other were imported from England. The majority of them proved satisfactory. When I alighted from the train at Moose Jaw I was approached by a deputation and asked if I was a member of Parliament I replied that I was a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth and advised the deputation to approach Major Kindersley and Mr. Cyril Atkinson, members of the British House of Commons, who were with me. Thm did so, and immediately made a number of complaints. One man said that he had been asked to work for a dollar a day. Another, who evidently had not been accustomed to manual work, showed us his hands and said that he wanted to return to England. We went to the colonization office to test the first man’s story that he was expected to work for a dollar a day. The Colonization Officer showed us a bundle of over 600 applications for men who would be paid six dollars a day and provided with food and accommodation. We asked the man who introduced that deputation what he had to say. He replied that he was earning six dollars a day and that he hoped to obtain a farm for himself, otherwise he would return to England with a substantial sum in his possession. “When asked why he had introduced the deputation he said that he had been approached by the others, and had consented to do so. The Colonization Officer said that any trouble which had been caused was due to a communistic element among the men who had arrived from England. He mentioned, particularly, one able-bodied man who had caused a lot of trouble in his district.
After leaving Senator Sampson at Vancouver, I spent nearly three weeks in California, where I came in contact with numbers of employers, farmers and others, with whom I discussed industrial matters. I found that they have councils of employers and unions of employees for various trades and sections of trades, and that, apparently, they were able to work in harmony together. There is no Arbitration Court in California. On all sides we were told that Australia was unionridden, a statement which I am afraid is only too true. It was pleasing to find community of interest between employer and employee. The role of the union secretary in California seems to be not only to secure good pay for the men, hut to encourage the employees to produce as much as possible. Instead of advising the workers to “play the darg,” he urges them to do a fair day’s work for their pay. Should he find a man loafing on the job he warns him, and thereafter keeps him under observation. If after a number of warnings there is no improvement in the man’s output, he advises the employer to dismiss the man, and he is dismissed. In California they seem to have emerged from the industrial chaos which now exists in Australia. While in Canada we did not hear of one strike. In the United States of America we heard of trouble in the textile industry, and occasionally there are disputes in the coal industry there, as appears to be the case in that industry in all countries.
– There are more strikes in the United States of America than in Australia.
– I now come to the report of the British Economic Mission which, as has been said before, contains nothing that is new; .but old truths clothed in different language and coming from men of such standing bear a new message. I hope that the Government will introduce legislation to give effect to some of the recommendations of the Mission. I agree with that portion of the report dealing with our transport system. That our ports, railways and roads are not what they ought to be was clearly shown in the report of that eminent engineer, Sir George Buchanan. Wherever we went - England, Canada or the East - we found better port arrangements than those existing in Australia: the handling of goods was done more effectively and more cheaply than in this country. These things count when goods have to meet the competition of the world. In both Canada and the United States of America we saw the great advantages accruing from a standard railway gauge. Not only do the Canadian Pacific and the Canadian National railways extend into the United States pf America, but there is also an exchange of rolling-stock between the companies in. the two countries, a factor of considerable importance at peak periods, such as the handling of the wheat harvest. I feel that the unification of the railway gauges in this country is beyond our financial resources for many years, but we should keep the ideal before us and work towards securing a standard 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge throughout Australia. Within the next two or three years it is expected that the capital cities of the Commonwealth will be united by a railway of standard gauge. The work of constructing the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway appears to be progressing slowly on the New South Wales section. Only one pier of the Clarence River bridge has so far been erected on the south side of the river. It would appear that the railway will he completed long before the bridge is ready for traffic, whereas the completion of the two works should, as far as possible, be made to synchronize. I hope that pressure will be brought to bear on the New South Wales Government to expedite the work on the Clarence River bridge. In both Canada and California I found good roads, the more satisfactory roads being in California. I found also that in the
United States of America federal assistance has been given to the States to assist hi road construction. Our Australian roads follow too closely the railway routes, an error which they have avoided in California. Our aim should be to construct roads which will act as feeders to the railways. All the first-class roads in California are constructed of concrete, covered with bitumen. When first constructed they were too narrow, but they are now adding 5 feet to each side, thus making them safer for traffic. On no day when in California did 1 motor less than 120 miles. In one day’s trip to see the wonderful redwoods of Santa Cruz we travelled 205 miles in five hours - but because of the quality of the roads I felt no fatigue. If the Constitution will permit it, 1 favour the appointment of a royal commission to investigate transport matters in Australia, covering ports, railways and roads. No doubt some persons would raise objections to the appointment of another royal commission, but it must be admitted that such a body could secure information which would not be obtained otherwise.
– Under the Sessional Orders the time has arrived when I must put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 February 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1929/19290208_senate_11_120/>.