4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– It is stated in the newspapers that several of our Australian industries are to be specially advertised by means of posters by the Government. I ask theMinister of External Affairs if he will see that the dairying industry, as well as the others which have been named, shall be specially advertised.
– I am not sure that posters have not already been published to advertise the dairying’ industry. If the industry is not being advertised,I shall consider the advisability of advertising it.
– Some months ago, before the referendum, the Prime Minister threatened that if the Government proposals were not accepted the Ministry, would bring in a Bill which would make the people fall down with fright. I. wish to know whether such a measure is included among those referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. If it is, which one is it?
– The honorable member must know as well as any one in the House that questions such as he has asked are not permissible.
– For what reason are they hot permissible ?
– I asked whether there was included among the Bills announced yesterday, one to carry out an object which the Prime Minister, ten months ago, promised to effect were the referendum proposals rejected.
– It seemed to me that the honorable member put the question rather as a joke. Such questions are not allowed.
– It was not a joke. I will put it again seriously if you, sir, will let me.
– The question is not in order.
– I meant it, and I dare the Prime Minister to answer it.
– Before we proceed further, Mr. Speaker, I should like to invite your attention to the ruling given in relation to the question by the honorable member for Parkes, and to ask if you will be good enough to give it your consideration with a view to laying down some definite rule on the subject. So far as I remember, after fairly long experience in this and other Parliaments, I have never known a question refused merely on the ground that it was humorous, so long as it referred to a matter of public interest. If it should be thought desirable to propose to add to the orders of the House some provision of the character suggested, I think we ought to have an opportunity of discussing that proposal before it is carried out.
– The Willis precedent !
– I remind the honorable member for Parramatta that when the Speaker rises he must be silent. I would point out that these questions are purely for the Speaker to decide as they arise. It would not be possible for me or anybody else who occupied this chair to lay down a hard and fast ruling. There has grown up in the House for some considerable time a custom of asking a number of questions that certainly have nothing to do with the business before us, and in many cases are of a personal nature, leading occasionally to cross-firing, which is certainly not in keeping with the dignity of Parliament. In these circumstances, when questions are put which, in my opinion, are such as ought not to be asked - and until the House otherwise orders, I am the sole judge of the matter - I shall decline to allow them to be put.
– If I might be permitted, sir-
-The honorable member is distinctly out of order.
– Then we shall have to deal with the matter in another way.
– I do not think you will say that I am out of order, Mr. Speaker, when you hear me. It is because I have foreseen the possibility of trouble arising in connexion with the matter that I ask for a definite statement. As you have said, a certain practice - which I am not rising to defend - has grown up in this House, and it has been abruptly stopped on a particular question being put. I rose simply to point out that, if it be your intention hence-, forth to rule in a certain direction in this regard it is only fair to honorable members, who have no desire to disobey your ruling, that you should give some indication of your intention such as will prevent them erring quite innocently in future.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Imperial Conference, London (191 1) - Minutes of Proceeding.
Northern Territory - Agreement between the’ Government of the Commonwealth and South Australia for the lease by the latter of the Port Augusta-Oodnadatta Railway.
Post and Telegraph Act -
Regulations amendedm&c (Provisional)Statutory Rules 1910, Nos. 109, 125, 127,
129, 134, 136.
Statutory Rules 1911, Nos. 9, 10, 24, 45,
Statutory Rules 1910, Nos. 114, 126, 135.-,
Statutory Rules 1911, Nos. 3, 40, 41, 43, 46, 61, 68, 70, 90,100, 113, 114.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Provisional Regulations - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 105.
Importation of Officers - Woollen Mills .: Appointment of Manager
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence obtain a return showing the number of officers imported into Australia for employment in the Defence Forces for each of the three years ending 30th June last, and lay! it on the table? .
– I shall have pleasure, in securing the information. The Minister of Defence has given me a return showing the officers’ imported during the term of office of the present Government. They number only three, namely, Lt. -Colonel C. W. Gwynn, Director of Military Art; Lt.-Colonel E. G. Sinclair-Maclagan, Director of Drills, Musketry, &c. ; and Capt. R. L. Waller, Instructor, all of them for the Military College.
– Why does the Minister look at me?
– The honorable member is one of those who has proclaimed that we have gone in for importation.
– I have never, at any time, in any place, or under any circumstances, criticised the Government regarding the importation of officers I challenge the Minister to say when and where I have done so. I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, since I have been pointedly brought into the matter, whether he will, in accordance with the suggestion already made, complete the return by adding to it the total of the officers imported from oversea in connexion with the Department. I do not mean only military officers, but all officers under the Department, and suggest that the list be made for over two years.
– There is not the slightest objection to giving honorable members the fullest returns as to what has been done in order to secure efficiency in the Department.
– In order that the report may be complete, I suggest that there be added the honorary titles that have been bestowed on those appointed to what we might call “ fancy “ offices.
– The reply to the previous question is sufficient for that now asked. There is not the slightest objection to members of Parliament knowing exactly what is being done in order to bring the Department up to a state of efficiency.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether the appointment of a manager for the contemplated Commonwealth woollen mills, mentioned in the press, has actually been made?
– Yes. A Mr. Smaile, who is connected with the manufacture of woollen material, cloth, flannel, and so forth, and was, I understand, manager for many years of a Scottish woollen factory, has been selected.
– This is in connexion with the Defence Department?
– Then why not put him on the list?
– This gentleman is to control a factory ; he is not an officer of the Defence Forces. I may say that a Committee was appointed to inquire into the qualifications of those offering for the position, and that Committee was unanimous in its recommendation of this gentleman. His qualifications and those of the other applicants were personally inquired into by the Acting Minister of Defence and by the Minister of Defence.
– What Committee was it?
– A Committee of the Defence Department appointed to deal with this particular class of work, and, I think, the Assistant Adjutant-General was chairman. Inquiries were made by the Minister while in London, and an officer of the Commonwealth there, together with the High Commissioner, was consulted; and it is believed that this man possesses the exceptional qualifications necessary to successfully fill the position.
– Does the Minister give us to understand that this man is imported, or is proposed to be imported, by the Defence Department, as a result of action taken by the Minister of Defence in consequence of there being no competent manager of such a mill to be found in Australia ?
– I am not going to give an affirmative reply to a leading question of that description. I am making the present statement on the authority of the Minister of Defence, namely, that of all those offering for this position the man appointed is supposed to have the qualifications most suitable for the requirements of the Australian people.
– Is it the intention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to submit a proposal during the session in regard to taking over the lighthouses?
Mr. A. G. WARD.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs prepared to lay on the table all the papers and correspondence in connexion with the appointment and subsequent cancellation of the appointment of Mr. A. G. Ward as a census collector in the electorate of Dalley?
– I desire to know from the Prime Minister whether the Government are making any arrangement to replace the present coat of arms we have on our official documents and stationery, because I should like to see it replaced by a more artistic one.
– Last year we asked an artist to recast that coat of arms, so that it might be in a more acceptable form; and I think that the result is an improvement.
– Why have a coat of arms at all, seeing that we have no mace? It is a waste of money.
– I think that the new coat of arms is a distinct improvement, with the motto of “ Australia “ only under it.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question which may be considered related to that just answered. When the honorable member is considering the question of a new design, will he also consider the question of the quality of the stationery itself? A great deal of the stationery at present in use is absolute rubbish for writing purposes, and we might well be ashamed to send some of it from the precincts of this House.If the honorable gentleman will take the trouble to compare our stationery with that supplied to honorable members of another place, he will see that there is a vast difference in quality.
– I had anticipated, to some extent, the question of the honorable member, because I have long felt that the stationery one uses, somewhat like attire, oft proclaims the character of a place or a person. I quite agree with the honorable member in the remarks he has made, because I have always complained of the very inferior quality of the stationery.
– I should like to know whether the suggested alteration in the quality of the stationery will mean importing it, instead of using local manufactures.
– I can only add that I have always understood that Australian articles are the best.
Price of Sugar
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have seen the report referred to in the first paragraph ot the question, but I do not think it is correct to say that none of the growers receive an increase in their returns as the result of the increase in the price of sugar. I think that there is a sliding scale. As to the second paragraph, I may say that the Government do propose to take steps to deal with the matter.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Debate resumed from 5th September (vide page 52), on motion by Mr.
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech, as read by the Clerk, be agreed to by the House.
.- It has been but rarely in this House that, on the opening of. a new session,, we have had to regret the loss of an. honorable member, and on no occasion that I recall the loss of more than one. Of the late Mr. G. B. Edwards, who represented two constituencies for two periods in this House, it would be difficult to say enough to indicate the regard and esteem in which he was held, not only by those with whom he was associated, but by those to whom he found himself opposed in politics. A man of wide reading) genial temper, and independent judgment, he was a very valuable addition to the debating power of the House on almost all subjects, and had made specialties of certain rather intricate questions on which he had become an authority. We shall continue to miss him for a long period, no matter what the qualities of his successor may prove. While we had for a much shorter period - for only a part of this Parliament - a knowledge of the late Mr. Beard, he had already established ties of affection with members on both sides of the House in consequence of his evident ingenuousness and kindly disposition. It is unfortunate that we should have to commence our proceedings with recollections so sad. One can, however, more than formally congratulate both honorable members who yesterday opened this debate. Only the mover of the motion was new to the House, but it must be admitted both fulfilled the obligations of the positions they occupy, and in no sense erred against the principles or the practice of the House. Their expressions of. opinion, as authorized by their constituents, were full and frank.
In these circumstances, we open a debate which not only commences at the conclusion of by far the longest recess this Parliament has ever marked, but a recess marked by far more important and far-reaching events than we have ever noted in any predecessor. While it may appear that the proper period for discussing some of those larger issues that lie outside the ordinary range of our debates has not yet arrived, I doubt if there are any who will demur on this occasion to references only preliminary, but. at the same time specific, to those questions which, while they relate to the external affairs, so to speak, of Australia, cover more particularly the internal affairs of the Empire as a whole. Our attention has naturally been focussed upon them, owing to the recent Imperial Conference. As it is only within the last few moments that the official report of the proceedings of that Conference has been laid upon the table, and since the supply yet to hand is insufficient to enable a copy of the document to be placed in the hands of every member of this Parliament, it will probably be at a later date that any criticism that may appear to be called for by those proceedings will be heard in this House. Prior to any such examination, however, the circumstances of the time, both within the Empire and’ without, the testimony of the daily press, the testimony of that perhaps keenest of all indicators of the feeling of Europe - the. markets, the war risk rates which indicate the apprehensions of the best informed, from day to day, of the trend towards or away from peace - all these combine to remind us more forcibly than usual of a series of issues with which we rarely cope in this House, save in a casual manner. I venture to think no apology necessary for touching upon some of the aspects they possess, since I fail to foresee in the business of the session, except so far as it may be devoted to the discussion of the proceedings at the Conference, any other occasion on which it will be open to us to reflect upon the situation of Australia as it exists to-day in relation to the Empire as a whole. The Conference proceedings ought to be debated in this House, and fully, as soon as possible. This subject is strictly germane to some portions of the Speech which the Governor-General yesterday delivered, but in the special circumstances of the time to which I have already referred it becomes even peremptory in its call upon us for more than a passing consideration to-day.
It will be recollected that we had practically no opportunity prior to the Conference of discussing the issues,or the attitude to be taken by the representatives of Australia. In fact I am afraid that what reference was made was confined almost wholly to my own remarks late one evening at the very close of the session, when the matter was discussed with a number of important local issues. However, we may felicitate ourselves upon the fact that it was owing to the suggestion then made by me for the Opposition, that Ministers included among the subjects which they intended to submit a proposal for the establishment of a final court of appeal. This promises to prove one of the most fruitful undertakings given at the recent Conference. In fact, a. preliminary Bill making one step in this direction has already been presented to the House of Commons, and I am indebted to the kindness of an Australian in London for a copy of the measure by the recent mail.
The only portion of the paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech to which I am at the present moment calling attention is the statement in paragraph 4, that the “ Conference emphasized the strong ties of kinship and common ideals of the various nations composing the Empire.” If I may venture to say so, the Conference did well in laying stress upon that. _ But if it is to be supposed that common ideals and ties of kinship are anything like all the ties that relate us, or all that deserve our consideration, I contend that the limitations implied cannot and ought not to be sustained. There are these broad and permanent bases upon which some - I will not attempt to define how much - of our relationship may be said to depend, or rather by which our patriotism may be said to be inspired, but in addition to that we have an organic institutional relationship of a clear, precise, definite, permanent, invaluable, and imperishable kind.
The Imperial Conference in itself is a most marked example and illustration of our union. It would be unbecoming to approach this subject without some recognition of that fact, and without recalling some truisms which are home truths, though apt, like truisms generally, to be overlooked even where they are most important. It seems advisable at the present time to remind ourselves that Australia is not isolated; .that Australia is not irresponsible ; that Australia is not self-sufficing, as recent .comments seem to suggest. We all look forward to the time when this great continent shall be effectively settled and -effectively defended, being first effectively occupied. Parties on both sides of the House make that achievement the goal of their common effort, although they approach it by different roads and approve different means. We both make that our aim, arid both agree that, for our strength of population, and having regard to our circumstances, we are now at last doing what is becoming to us and due for us to do - what is peremptorily necessary for us to do - in the way of our defence. I wish I could say also in the way of the rapid settlement of this country, but we know that, making the best speed we can, and using extraordinary efforts, that task will occupy us and our children after us before it cart be accomplished in such a manner as to enable- us to regard ourselves as a full-grown people, fully equipped for holding this great portion of the earth’s surface, over which, under die protection of the Mother Country, we exercise at present exclusive control.
So I venture to insist that some suggest tions, from mainly irresponsible critics, that it will be for the Dominions to consider at times of crisis whether they shall stand in or out of the Empire– the idea apparently being that they are in when there is anything to get, and out when there is anything to pay for it - are not only out of place, and out of tune with our aspirations, but are also entirely out of keeping with the actual and indisputable facts of the Australasian situation. We cannot conceal from ourselves that at any moment we may be put to the test. I believe we all realize the gravity of our present situation in that regard and the peculiar character of our position. We as members of this Parliament are responsible if we permit the circulation of suggestions of that kind without taking the first reasonable and proper opportunity of publicly contradicting them. Ministers of the day are even more responsible than we are for pro*moting throughout the whole Commonwealth that adequate apprehension of our exact position and its perils which brings sobriety of thought and caution of speech. This issue, as a whole, rises far above party and has no party implications. Such divagations as I have in mind are rarely associated directly with men responsible to our constituencies. Yet their .echoes famish the greater reason why, at a time -of .stress and strain like the present, the people .of this country should take into account our current risks from the play of foreign forces through which we move and with which we shall do well to avoid collision.
In a later portion of the same paragraph, reference is properly made to the action of the British Government in taking the representatives of the Oversea Dominions into full and unreserved confidence regarding foreign policy. That is a notable, marked, and most beneficial advance. No member of this or any other House would at any time endeavour to draw from our Ministers, either directly or indirectly, information thus confidentially communicated to them. The condition of its communication must remain : it is for them alone. We must look for its fruit, not in the words, but in the actions of those communicated with. Enjoying this knowledge, and by virtue of their positions of responsibility, Ministers now realize better than any of us the trials through which the Mother Country is passing, with which our own fortunes are at stake. We shall look hopefully for a steady and useful influence upon them from the very generous confidence reposed in our representatives when in London.
Happily both the traditional and actual policy of the Mother Country make for peace, and have never done so more than at present. “ Britons hold your own,” was the warning of the late Poet Laureate, and Britons are content to do so, if they may, without trespassing on the rights of any other country. But their task is made one of no inconsiderable difficulty and gravity by the position of Australia, beyond all other parts of the Empire. While the hopes and aims of the Mother Country are centred upon the continuance of a regime of peace, in which the development of civilization shall proceed even among rival nations, with all possible good feeling and co-operation, the money market, by its fluctuations, warns us how near we are to a vortex of rival ambitions on the Continent, which may at any moment suck us into its perils. No one can be blind to that fact or ignore it. Above all others, the people of Australia cannot afford to do so for a single hour. The policy of the Mother Country being wholly and solely one of peace, we in Australia must preserve and reinforce it as far as possible. We have most to lose by strife, and most to gain by the continuance of peace. For selfish reasons alone, we must remain armed. But if a challenge to the Empire should come our answer will be unhesitat ing, our attitude unflinching, and our action instantaneous.
What is now being done in conformity with the joint policy of the late and the present Governments in respect to defence has for its object the prevention of strife by a preparedness representing to the full our present capacity in that regard. The House and the country being, as I trust, at one on this subject, it should be possible for us to re-echo the note that is now being struck in the Mother Country without delay and without any variation in its significance. As we are one of the chief stakes on the table, we owe it to ourselves and to the rest of the Empire, to show that we realize the risks of our situation, and appreciate the advantages which we enjoy. Some curious and amazing suggestions have found their way into print in this regard, some of them almost strange enough for a museum, although apparently impressing certain people as if contributions of moment. They appear to ignore entirely our interests in the maintenance of peace and our close inter-relation with our kin in the Empire that protects us.
I have read speculations as to what would happen if the Empire declared war. Would the Dominions join in the fight - a fight for life for them more than for the Mother Country - or would they look on as passive spectators, or would the war be kept away from us under some mysterious conditions? It seems to be assumed that there might be a truce with the enemies of the Mother Country, under which the Dominions could say to them, “ Keep away from our shores; we are not taking part in this conflict.” It has been suggested that the Dominions might disclaim adherence to the Mother Country, and leave her to fight her own battles, forgetting that if we passed from her protection and that of her fleets, we should pass also from the “protection of her treaties, both being all important to our future. If we reject her guardian-, ship, to whom should we appeal ? To the flag we had deserted or to some other Power, and, if so, at what price?
– What is all the trouble about ?
– Do honorable members agree with the position, or do they disagree with it? They cannot help agreeing with it; they dare not do otherwise. Yet they complain. “ Let the galled jade wince.” Why do they cry out? Some of the suggestions to which I am referring have been quoted in the public press during the last few weeks, and have emanated in both cases from sources overseas whose representative position makes them worthy of special attention. They are being debated as if they were sane proposals, and my object is to show that they are not sane and are not arguable. I am dealing with the question first on the lowest and most selfish level, but I shall not finish there.
– There is no one on the other side.
– There are a few newspapers in this country which have dealt with the suggestions as if they were arguable.
– We are not responsible for that.
– 1 hope not ; but that is not my present concern. The incredible folly of these propositions is plain. Had I neglected to say so, I might have been met with much the same challenge as was uttered just now under a misapprehension. Each and every one of these propositions is unthinkable, and must be put out of court if we face the actual position. Australia to-day is the largest and most opulent unoccupied area in the whole world. That we draw our breath at ease, and look forward to its development, is due to our confidence in the maintenance of peace by the Mother Country. Any Australian who, on any public issue, forgets the prize which we hold in trust for future generations under the flag, is incompetent to approach this subject. It must be approached gravely by all citizens who realize that it is not only their own lives and safety for which they are now providing. This is a matter which will not bear trifling with, and which is being trifled with.
– All this is very cloudy. I am looking for light, and it is not forthcoming.
– I am sorry, but thatneed not be the fault of the light-giver. Why are we able at present to confront the world? Because there is a British Empire, and we are part of it; because the Commonwealth to-day lives and conducts its trade under the shelter of the guns of British war-ships, and because it would be ingratitude and folly to entertain speculations which imply that these are forgotten, and that we are able alone to face hostile nations.
– We have been very good children to the Mother Country !
– So far, I have ignored entirely the ties of blood and race, though I place them far higher, believing them sufficient in themselves to guide us, independently of the enormous personal and selfish interests of which I have spoken. Our strong ties of kinship and common ideals come in their proper place. Surely all have realized that sheer necessity compels us to adopt the course of standing by our kinsmen in order that they may stand by us - we superadd those ties to that foundation of indebtedness. Our first sentiment is one of profound gratitude to the country to which we owe the whole of this magnificent heritage; buttressed by a sincere and manly loyalty to the Crown and institutions from and through which we have received our rights and liberties. Then come our interests.-
– Why, 95 per cent, of the people in Australia are from the Old Country !
– 1 am afraid the honorable member for Ballarat misses the mace !
– Nothing but grumbles, even when an appeal is made to the necessary, inevitable, and inherited gratitude we owe for these great gifts ! From what other nation would a Dominion receive the treatment we have received from the Mother Country ? I shall not particularize by name, but we know other nations that are colonizing, and we know what liberties and advantages those colonies enjoy as compared with ourselves.
– Then I take it that our ambition is to preserve all our ties of relationship, honour them, and be worthy of them - to enrich and extend them as far and as fast as we can, seeking every possible opportunity of showing our eagerness to repay the vast and immeasurable obligation we owe to the Mother Country. I have now rapidly reviewed our position ; and have no doubt of the sentiment of the people of Australia. If instead of the hopeful and confident outlook which we at present enjoy there was danger ahead, then the graver the danger, the more severe the trial, and the harder the task set to the Mother Country the deeper the appeal would be to Australia, and the warmer the response, “ We are with you and behind you.”
– I wonder if the honorable member believes what Stead said?
– The honorable member is endeavouripg to introduce the very per-: spnajities I am determined to avoid.
– Is it necessary to assertour loyalty ?
– Not often; but this is One of the times when there is good ground forit. The honorable member would search in vain through any previous remarks of mine when I have felt called upon to discuss this particular issue with any such avowals - I desire to dissociate myself, and those who agree with me, entirely from those hare-brained and fantastic speculations to which I have referred, and to which I shall not refer again. I am discharging, in my opinion, a duty which is without personal reference, except, as I have already indicated, to other Dominions where the very two proposals I have challenged have been lately discussed as if they were feasible.
– Are those Dominions under suspicion ?
– I am justified now in leaving those considerations, with the remark that I have not been answering any but the criticism to which I have referred proceeding from narrow-minded, shortsighted, and occasionally false-hearted pepple. I wish one voice, at all events, to say that Australia has nopart or lot in any of those idle suppositions which prove more mischievous the more their secret purport is disclosed. They mean nothing less than the dismemberment of the Empire. The Federal unity of the Empire is pur imperishable possession, but it depends on its effective organization, industrially and commercially, as well as in naval and military strength. The Empire only justifies itself as, by every possible means, it relates and correlates all the energies and activities of its people in the development of the enormousterritories under their control. This authorizes our partnership, if justification were necessary, on the business side as well as on the national side; and much depends on the extent to which that development takes place.
One of the means, and, so far, the most promising of all the means adopted in order to carry that partnership into operation within the Empire, is the periodical meeting of Conferences, one of which we have just witnessed. At these Conferences, as is gradually becoming more and more recognised, we are taking part in the making, maintaining, and re-making of this Empire, always accomplishing its development by pacific and constitutional means. Our object is to preserve the integrity - or, in other words, to assist the integration of the Empire - and, sp far as the parts are concerned, to foster their development, wherever possible diverting it into those channels most fruitful for the allied Dominions and the Mother Country. We are knitting them together in their self=governing relations by a common policy, so that those scattered and distant segments of a great race shall continue in the closest possible union one with the other.
I see hinted at rather than promised’ in the Speech more reciprocal trade with New Zealand and Canada, and shall hail proposals to that end, hoping to be able to give them a most cordial and hearty support. They represent the most promising of the many means by which closer relationship may be established. At present Canada, at all events, and also South Africa, like ourselves, are undertaking the garrisoning of an enormous region, imposing on our peoples tasks which in their present numbers they cannot hope to fulfil. The greatest, and possibly the most arduous, policies of our time will be those which will bring about our more frequent and familiar co-ordination in the enormouswork which is given to the next few generations - that is to say, if those generationsfind times of peace. No similar constitutional problem is presented elsewhere, or, at any rate, so far as it may be presented’ elsewhere, no attempt is made to solve it in the same way. In our case the Dominions, are now exercising an effective voice, and we are at last beginning to arrange pur ideas so that by followingeither the same or a parallel course we may not only continue to co-operate,but conduct far larger enterprises than any yet attempted by uniting our common resources.
The Conferences, in fact, represent a. growing partnership. And as it happens,. we are only now, for the first time, about to be equipped for effectively criticising them. The well-known political writer, Mr. Richard Jebb, has published in two volumes a close and careful examination of the proceedings of all the Conferences prior to that just held, analyzing them with remarkable ability and judgment. It is true that he has made anaddition, and that the core of the whole-: work consists of his own powerful thesis, presented with great skill, and for which much may be said. But quite apart from that, or from any disputable propositions, there is to be found within the compass of these two volumes the first and only adequate study of previous Conferences. It is fortunate for us that Mr. Jebb visited Australia, and has some personal knowledge of its circumstances, as well as of other Dominions.
This very valuable book enables us to understand why it has taken us twenty-five years to arrive at our present situation. It shows that, instead of having a meeting every four years, as now fixed, we have lost, during that period, one sitting altogether; another held in Canada included no Ministers from any other Dominion ; that two others were held in great haste, no reports of their proceedings being published, and that consequently to-day there are only the Conferences of 1887 and 1907, in addition to that of the present year, by which the gradual growth of this extraordinary institution can be, in some rough and ready way, satisfactorily tested. It would be premature for us to endeavour to assess the results of the Conference just closed, inasmuch as in all the previous cases Mr. Jebb has been able to follow up this has largely depended upon the subsequent proceedings taken, almost all of which have been in charge of the Home Government. So in relation to the Conference that has just closed its doors there have been many undertakings by the Government that no doubt will be fulfilled, but it is upon their action very much of the fruitfulness of this as of preceding sessions must necessarily hinge. The vested interests of the Colonial Office, which have presented obstacles at every preceding session, are, in my opinion, still clearly manifest. Those who have read the remarks which the very distinguished and able gentleman who is at present Secretary of State for the Colonies made to his colleagues of the Colonial Office after the Conference was closed will be able to judge how far the old attitude has been retained.
The great fact to remember is that every session sees this Conference strengthened : assists further to define and extend its scope, presages new methods of co-operation; discovers more opportunities for its action, and arrests more attention from the people ‘of the Empire in every portion. Its growing authority is also making it more and more difficult to sterilize its results. I trust that henceforward the whole of this House and the country will be found behind every movement for developing the Imperial Conference, and for giving effect to its decisions, speeding up its pace and enlarging its functions, carefully but steadily. We should push on, for instance, with the valuable investigation unanimously agreed to, on the motion of Sir Wilfred Laurier, into all the resources and opportunities of the Empire, our exchanges, and inter-relation. One would prefer definite action to have been taken in conjunction with that inquiry. That was found impossible in the preceding Conference, and although the Colonial Office temper was evidently far more favorable this year, it apparently remains impossible still. If certain steps had been taken as they might easily have been, in relation to the Suez Canal, rates, freights, and other matters - if instead of these matters being again postponed with promises of representation some positive action had been taken - we should have had so much more to show for the debates. Nevertheless, having regard to the extraordinary nature of the task essayed, and the immense areas under differing conditions that are affected, we cannot be surprised that the advance is relatively slight. Our best hope is that it may be increased under the evidently much more friendly feeling now existing on the part of the British Government compared with that exhibited for some years. The projected study of the resources of the Empire and its business unfortunately expressly excluded any inquiry into fiscal questions of any kind which might have been, and yet will be certainly one of its most fruitful fields. However, I believe it is sufficiently plain that the last Conference will add to the confidence of all those who have supported the institution in previous meetings, and will induce them to lend a most willing and cheerful aid to our own Ministers in any and every effort they may make to keep up the work authorized by the Conference to the full plan outlined and accepted in London.
Turning next to the bill of fare presented by the remainder of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, I find nothing to suggest that we are meeting two or three months later than usual, and that we have presumably only the intervening time between now and Christmas to perform the work outlined. We know, of course, that every bill of fare goes beyond the needs’ and generally beyond the possibilites of each Parliament, and this is one of the most striking instances of that character I have seen. The range of subjects is one indication of the demands that are likely to be made upon us, and the complexity of others is another. The allusion in the Speech which is peremptory, one might almost say dictatorial, is that contained in paragraph 24, in which we are informed that -
It is intended before the session closes to pass the Navigation Bill through its remaining stages.
So far as I recollect, we have not yet seen the Navigation Bill in this House. It has been in the sole possession of another place, which has spent many months in bringing it to its present stage. 1 am far from suggesting that those many months will raise more difficulties than they have removed, but having regard to all that such a measure affects outside ourselves - to the fact that it is one of the gravest that the Commonwealth Parliament has ever taken in hand - it ought not to be dealt with without the most careful deliberation. I shall not anticipate, however, the good or evil day when we shall be faced by that portentous measure.
– The honorable member’s Government had it in hand for a few years.
– We had everything to do with the shaping of the original, but since then parts of it have been shaped and reshaped.
– It went to a Royal Commission, and then went to England, and came back again.
– And is still in the same position.
– No. It has been much handled - I will not say mishandled : - since then.
– The honorable member’s Government introduced it in the Senate.
– We did; but I am speaking now of this House, and am pointing out that the words used in the paragraph would imply that we had already had acquaintance with the measure in this House, and had only to finish the work of passing it.
– This House has not had the Bill before it, but the honorable member’s Government shaped it.
– So far as it is our Bill it is a good one, but I am told that it has been extensively injured since it left the late Government’s hands.
The last paragraph in His Excellency’s Speech is a curious one. In it we are told that Ministers regret that no settlement of the question of the consolidation of State debts has been arrived at. So do we. We are all dropping tears. But why Ministers’ regrets should break out in this tone, and in this way, is more than I can understand. No one has impeded them. They have been eighteen months in office. During all that time they may have been removing huge obstacles in the way of dealing with the State debts So far as we know, they have not even considered the question up to the present time, so that their regret is that they have not done what they ought to have done during the last eighteen months. That is a very candid admission on their part, which may appeal to the sympathy of the House.
– The honorable member thinks the measure unnecessary?
– No; I think it most essential, but since the Government regret that nothing more has been done, I ask, why has it not been done? Who has refrained from doing anything asked of them? The late Administration made a special proposition authorizing the transfer of the State debts, and that proposition was approved by the people. The present Government have brooded over the matter for eighteen months, possibly with much mental enlightenment, but why they should regret their own non-settlement of the question is a mystery.
– Would the honorable member say that- we have power to take over the debts without the consent of the States ?
– This Parliament has.
– Have the States withheld any consent?
– They have withheld the debts.
– If the suggestion is that the States in some way or other have been impeding the consolidation of the debts, we ought to hear the full facts. I shall be glad if the responsibility goes from Federal to State shoulders, but cannot at present understand this allusion.
– But we are told that “ the matter continues to engage the most serious consideration of the Government!”
– That does not puzzle me, but the statement as to the grief of the Government does.
– Have not the State Treasurers always opposed the transfer?
– That is immaterial. By the referendum, the people of Australia have given this Parliament power to deal with the question. We have not dealt with it. We regret that it is not being dealt with, but why Ministers should express their regret is more than any one can understand. They are responsible; they have the power and the authority, and they regret that they have done nothing. So do we.
– It is possible that Ministers wanted to do something, but were overridden in the caucus.
– They may be regretting the caucus. We all do.
There is another rather extraordinary paragraph in the Speech. It is that stating that consideration is being given to the question of “ life, fire, unemployment, and invalidity insurance.” The “invalidity “ of the suggestion I can understand, but the appropriateness of the word I question, although we all know what it means. We agree that consideration ought to be given to unemployment and invalid insurance, but when and why did life and fire insurance come into question? As no information is vouchsafed, we do not know why this consideration has been given, nor what are the intentions. How fire and life insurance, particularly the life insurance which is mutual, should call for the pressing attention of Ministers at a time when they are apparently overburdened with other business is a conundrum which I am unable to solve. I merely indicate it now. No doubt we shall discover the reason later. There are many other conundrums in the Speech to which there is no time to allude.
– Did the honorable member say that we can deal with the State debts to the extent of excluding the States as borrowers under the powers conferred on us?
– I said we had passed a referendum which gave this Parliament power to deal with the State debts. That is as far as I went.
– The honorable member must remember .that the Attorney-General was against it.
– I know the honorable and learned member was opposed to it; but it was carried, even in spite of that.
– Yes ; but I wanted to know what the effect of it was.
– The effect of the honorable member’s disappointment on us is that we afford our sympathy to him. Then there comes a most necessary paragraph. I never saw a Speech which better justified or called for its last paragraph. I quite agree that we hope for “ Divine guidance,” and, judging by the Speech, we shall badly need it.
It is next incumbent upon me to call attention to the very grave and serious position into which Australia appears to be partly propelled and partly drifting in relation to industrial affairs. Never do I remember a time at which those matters gave thoughtful citizens more cause for anxiety. It must be remembered that in this Commonwealth we have undertaken the boldest and most advanced experiment yet made with the specific object of preventing strikes or locks-out. We framed a large measure to the best of our ability, and it has been re-shaped by successive Governments since. It now represents four or five of the most important debates that this Parliament has ever seen, and yet we find ourselves at the present time in a condition of unrest and turmoil which I think has not been paralleled in area and variety, and this in spite of all those preceding steps and provisions which were intended to guard against just such contingencies as are now crowding-upon us day by day. The time has not yet arrived for striking a hopeless note in regard to this development, but I venture to say that no representative of the people can regard with equanimity the news which flows in to us day by day from the most opposite corners of the Commonwealth of the breaking out of disputes which we had taken every pains to prevent, and the bitter fashion in which they are often being conducted. We have evidently still a great deal to learn before we can expect to effectively cope with this great outcrop of disorder, dissension, and distrust. We appear to have been practically successful in preventing . employers from locking out, although there may be exceptions of a small kind; but we appear to have been unsuccessful in most of the instances lately in which we have been dealing with strikes. After the varied political fortunes of our first measure in this House, which proved the intensity of the interest taken in it, and the great hopes cherished in regard to it, one would have naturally hoped that a general sense of obligation would have pervaded the community. It should have been said by this time on both sides, “ Whether you have taken the right means or not, we recognise that Parliament after Parliament has done its best to solve this knotty problem, and that we ought to approach the question in the same spirit, endeavouring to obtain a mutual understanding by mutual concessions. Strikes and locks-out are supposed to be forbidden under penalty, and whether those penalties can be enf orced or not, we realize that a trust has been placed in us and ought to have been accepted by us ; so that in future industrial disputes should be settled by pacific and legal means.” That would have been natural. That is the temper and the course of action which would have brought Parliament at once into the closest touch with those who had legitimate complaints to make, and should have made all sides most eager to do whatever was necessary to re-establish good relations. But in the present circumstances, all we have done is treated as if it were naught. Our endeavours to meet them have provoked little or no response ; and at the present time we find ourselves met by some of the most inflamed disputes we have witnessed - some apparently undertaken at times and in manners in order to evade the control intended to be imposed by the Act. That is distinctly discouraging, and is a symptom which cannot and ought not to be ignored. Another amending Bill is to be laid on the table, and what we shall require to know in connexion with it is what guarantees are likely to be supplied that any future law forbidding strikes and locks-out will be made effective on both parties, and fair to both parties. That is what we are entitled to know, and what we are entitled to have.
– The right to strike is the only weapon the workman has, and we are not going to give that up.
– Then why ask for arbitration ?
– The honorable member must remember that, in a number of cases, the men cannot get into the Federal Arbitration Court.
– But, as I am pointing out, there is nothing to show the slightest appreciation of the fact that any law has been passed. If there is a legal obstacle to getting into the Court in the way of those who have some real case for hearing, no one would be more ready to repair it than we are, but nothing is less likely to put Par:liament in a favorable spirit than to find that this law is apparently being consistently dodged and evaded by those for whose benefit it was made, and that, instead of its operating fairly as between persons, it is used to bind the one side and leave the other free - free to conduct reprisals sometimes as violent as if there were no such Act in existence.
– Is the honorable member speaking of the Federal Act ?
– I am speaking of the whole arbitration legislation, but particularly of the Federal Act. That is a most unfortunate feature. The object of this legislation was probably the most difficult which has ever confronted the Legislature, and there are points in it that still remain to be solved. I am thoroughly in sympathy with its spirit, and am prepared to sacrifice my own judgment in many particulars if it can only be brought into operation on principles of equity and fair-dealing. But what are we to think of the circumstances under which of late we have seen not only cessation from work, but practically social war, including the “methods of barbarism “ that were so much con:demned when they were employed in actual warfare ?
– To what is the honorable member referring?
– More particularly to such conduct as that in Queensland. There, a tram bridge having broken down, and men being engaged in repairing it, and a branch railway line being in course of construction, although neither of these had anything to do with the people engaged in the dispute, but simply affected the residents of the district, the men were called out from both, so that communication by rail should not be made, and communication by the bridge should not be restored- - that, too, at a time when fire was being set to the cane-fields of the farmers in the vicinity. If these are not the methods of war and barbarism, what are?
– Is that from a newspaper report, or what?
– I read it in the papers, and have them here in my hand.
– How can the sugar men come under the Federal Arbitration Act?
-There is a good deal to be said about the sugar question that will come presently. If the honorable member wishes for more illustrations, what about the condition of the streets of Adelaide, where, for two days, you required a permit from some union official to carry your goods along the public streets ? What of the brutal assaults during the Harvester strike here? Armed camps were set up in Queensland - those were the armed camps of the strikers.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I must ask honorable members to cease these continuous interjections, and allow the honorable member to proceed.
– What would the honorable member say about the police going along with loaded rifles protecting scabs?
-That is part of their duty if it be made necessary to preserve order.
– It is only a moment since I asked honorable members to cease interjecting. If they continue to interject, I must take another course.
– I do not wish to press any point too far. But suppose that the employers had prevented the construction of a building or a railway, or had set fire to their employes fields, what would have been said, and what would have been done to them? In the application of the law there can be no distinction between man and man, without injustice. Unless the law is applied to both sides it should not be applied to either. Surely one of the worst features of the sugar strike was that it was postponed until the cutting of the cane became urgent and necessary.
– Hear, hear.
– That is not so.
– I should like to put the honorable member in the position of having his wife and children robbed of food, to know what he would say then.
– The honorable member prejudices the case by the way in which he states it. If one man who offers for a job which another man declines is to be regarded as robbing that other, there will be nothing for it. but for society to go armed. I have been a school teacher, have been employed in an office, have been a journalist, and a professional man, so I know what it is to earn a living. I have had to meet the competition of others who, being abler or more fortunate than myself, according to this strange reading, took my bread from me.
– I do not object to that.
– It is on the same principle that all the rewards of all employment are everywhere distributed. You cannot draw the line and say, under these circumstances, no man shall compete with another.
– Give us a review of the doctors’ strike.
– One cannot pick his subject to please his critics opposite. Whatever subject you choose, they ask for another.
– The honorable member ought to come with clean hands to discuss this case. His are not clean.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I do so.
– I ask the honorable member not to make remarks which have to be withdrawn immediately. It is not fair. If he continues to interrupt, I must take another course.
– It is very hard-
– I name the honorable member for disobeying the Chair.
– With your permission, Sir, I appeal to the honorable member to withdraw his remark.
– I do not know what to do. I was asked to withdraw what I said, and I did so, and then Mr. Speaker found fault with me for withdrawing too quickly. However, I withdraw again, and apologize.
– If honorable members are not prepared to assist me in maintaining order, it will not be possible for me to do so.I called the honorable member for Bourke to order a number of times, but he continued his interjections. Order must be kept, and I expect the Government and the House to assist me in keeping it.
– I am always ready to assist and protect the Chair. I asked your permission, sir, to appeal to the honorable member to withdraw and apologize. Had he not done so, I was bound to give effect to your naming of him.
– It is not a pleasant task to have to challenge, as I am doing, the action of large bodies of men, the majority of whom are no doubt well intentioned, but I feel bound to do so, and there will be an opportunity to answer my statements, or to make any charges against me. My point is that a structure we have spent so many years in rearing is being undermined in public confidence by the onesidedness of which I complain. The existence of unions is necessary to industrial progress, and I have always, and shall always, support them. I recognise, too, their need of the services of men who must be wholly employed on their behalf. But when trade unions become drilled political forces, led by officers whose interest often lies in the promotion of strikes and disturbances, we have a formidable state of affairs with which Parliament may yet have to deal. I am informed by those directly concerned that in many instances it is to the interest of trade organizers that there should be strikes and disturbances, and the number of the organizers said tohave found their way into Parliament, and to other positions, is a dangerous attraction to others to follow in their steps.
– Name one such member in this House.
– I do not choose to do so. Let the case be regarded as hypothetical, and judged on its merits. When the Government introduces its next industrial Bill, some proposal will be expected for the prevention of industrial organizations from participating in the civil war which now and then occurs, chiefly under the generalship of persons whose interests are not confined to their connexion with the unions as such. You have labour organizations, and there ought to be; they become more and more united, as is only right, if they pursue their industrial ends. But when the whole system is led by persons whose interests lie in promoting strife and political helotry, we have a reason for the continued disorder which we must find a way to prevent. I wish to do so without laying a finger on the powers of trade unions as such, and without discouraging them. But they should be separated from organizations which appear to act as if of militant Socialists, who would seize possession and rule Dy force of arms.
As the chief legal adviser of the Ministry, and, incidentally, as head of the Waterside Workers’ Federation and the Seamen’s Union, the Attorney-General informed the latter , body that they need not be in any difficulty by refusing to carry or handle sugar grown in Queensland on the scene of strife. He said -
Although partial cessation of work is forbidden, we are not ceasing to work wholly or in part ; only giving notice of our intention to decline to handle a particular class of cargo.
– That ought to satisfy the honorable member as a lawyer.
– As a lawyer it delights me. There are no heights which the honorable and learned member may not reach in this fashion - no heights of sophistry, in the making of distinctions where distinctions do not exist. Even if the definition he gave were technically, tenable, it was not honest in his position, or to these men.
– Under what law would an offence have been created by a strike?
– The honorable gentleman said that the law forbade a partial cessation of work, but he told these labourers that to refuse to handle sugar grown on certain plantations was not a partial cessation of work. If it was not, what was it?
– Against what law would a strike have been an offence?
– Against the section referred to, so far as I know, because that is the only one with which the honorable member dealt. I take him on his own ground and in his own words.
– The honorable member said that it was, or might have been an offence against the law.
– I repeat that the AttorneyGeneral, being asked what was the effect of this refusal to handle sugar, said : -
This cannot be regarded as a strike, as there is no cessation of work. It is really a notification of the intention of two unions not to take after a given date any more of a certain class of cargo. In the Act a strike is defined as follows : - “ A strike includes the total or partial cessation of work by employees acting in combination, as a means of enforcing compliance with demands made by them or other employees on employers.”
I do not think it can be said for a moment that this is a strike, because we are not ceasing work wholly or in part, only giving notice of our intention to decline to handle a particular class of cargo.
– We are perfectly entitled to give notice.
– I am content if the honorable member is satisfied to stand by his ruling. The honorable gentleman concluded with this statement as a basic principle -
Clearly, there must be inherent in every man the right to give notice to decline to do a certain thing in the future. whether he had agreed or not to do it. Those last words were not added by the Attorney-General, but that was the effect. I understand that there is some agreement between the waterside workers and shipping companies and others in regard to the handling of cargo; and fail to see, if there be such an agreement, how declining to. handle a particular kind of cargo can be anything less than a breach of that agreement and partial cessation forbidden by the law. However, I have no desire to labour the matter; but merely to call attension to what I consider a most serious official utterance in this regard.
Let us now come to another side of the industrial question, the fiscal side. After the general election of 1907, Sir George Reid, who is now the High Commissioner, speaking in this House on. 21st February of that year, said that the result -of that election marked a distinct adoption of the Protectionist principle throughout Australia. During the election last year, the utterances of honorable members opposite were, with very few exceptions indeed, in support, not only of that admission, but also in support of a wider application of the Protectionist principle to the development of Australian industries. We, the opposing party, went to the country with a specific proposal binding us to undertake in the first session the rectification of Tariff anomalies. This undertaking had with us a well understood and clear meaning - the anomalies arising wherever the Protectionist principle had been defeated in any way. Sir George Reid admitted that the electors had decided that this should be done. Consequently, the inaction of the Government last year, except in regard to certain trifling literal changes, was, in my view, and in the view of the great bulk of the people, a distinct departure from the pledges solemnly given. It meant an abandonment of the Protectionist policy. Since then we have a further indication in the Speech now before us that nothing more than was accomplished last session is to be undertaken this year, and that any revision is to be only where information shows a technical change to be necessary. The Minister of Trade and Customs has thought it within his province to introduce a new condition which has never been sanctioned by the Legislature, either in an Act, or, so far as I know, by any regulation under an Act. The honorable gentleman proposes to grant Protection, not to the industries of Australia in accordance with their needs and in harmony with the will of the people at the election, as admitted by Sir George Reid, and not in accordance with the Min ister’s own proposals to his constituents at the election-
– The honorable member cannot say that I ever went back on pledges to my constituents.
– I shall be very glad to hear the honorable gentleman if he can show that, prior to the last election, he warned his constituents that, if he were returned, he intended to grant Protection only in cases which he thought fit after a personal examination of the methods possibly affecting trade secrets and the operations of manufacturers.
– No trade secrets are asked for.
– That is so ; but information is asked that cannot be given without indicating the means by which particular manufacturers have succeeded in their business; and this information, if made known to rivals, might at once damage, if not destroy, advantages now enjoyed.
– That is incorrect.
– I am so informed. Such a decision may cut several ways; but even now it is not claimed by the Minister that he ever obtained authority from the electors for such extraordinary proceedings, or that any one else did.
– Is the sanction of the people not involved in the new Protection?
– No; and I shall tell the honorable member why.
– The honorable member for Parramatta is a “ new “ Protectionist.
– We are all new Protectionists; even those who were Free Traders now, I think, without exception, take the view that once Protection is granted to manufacturers, the “ new Protection “ is necessary and inevitable. When the preceding Government considered this question we decided, from a general knowledge of the nature of businesses, that it was not desirable that the Minister of Customs, or any other Minister, should have access to the private methods, plans, and procedure of employers in any particular trade. We consequently proposed that an independent Board of Commissioners, sworn to secrecy and independent of politics, should be the only persons to whom such information should be communicated if necessary. There is no desire now to cast any reflection on the honour of the present Minister of Trade and Customs as compared with his predecessors ; indeed, this is shown by the fact that it was our Government which intended to deny our own Minister such a power. We proposed that only an independent body of experts should have the power, after obtaining a general knowledge of the business under review, to ask, when necessary, for further information, and thus pursue the manufacturer behind his last guard. The power was practically to say to a manufacturer, “ We find you have obtained certain results in your trade which others similarly occupied have not ; why should you not acquaint us with the cause so as to throw light on the process you have adopted, which is not adopted by them?”
– Would not the secrets divulged to the Minister be held sacred?
– Possibly not; and, in any case, I remind the honorable member that we proposed to impose the restriction in the case of our own Minister, so that there can be no personal reflection implied now. I add also that the relation of present Ministers in Cabinet to the Caucus and their supporters are entirely different from those which prevailed in the case of the previous Government.
– The honorable member for Riverina can answer that - he is a new member of this party.
– There is no imputation upon any Minister’s honour.
– The honorable member means to say that a Minister of this Government would divulge the secrets in Caucus.
– All Departments leak, and the honorable member knows it.
– The most notable prosecution we had in Victoria was that of the Stevensons, and that was because information did leak. There is a difference between this and the previous Government, because the majority of the supporters of this Government can threaten a Minister, not only with the loss of his Ministerial post, but with the loss of his position in Parliament, if he does not bow to their dictation.
– The honorable member for Ballarat has done that before to-day; and the State Premiers frightened the lot.
– That is irrelevant and also wholly incorrect. I have only to add that, in my opinion, this new regulation is unnecessary. The principle of Protection has one distinctive feature that commends it to honorable members opposite. An industry, whatever it may be, must be carried on under the industrial laws of the Commonwealth; and all questions df wages, hours, and conditions are under the absolute authority of Parliament. It doesnot matter a snap of the fingers by what particular process one manufacturer obtains results that others do not, so long as the men employed are treated fairly. The two matters are totally separate; there is no possibility of confusion; and, therefore, I say that the demand of the Minister of Trade and Customs is unnecessary and irrelevant. Such a regulation does not place us in any better position for deal* ing with the people employed ; and honorable members opposite ask no more than there shall be fair wages and conditions observed. Why ask for this inquisitorial power if it is not intended to bring these men under the heel of political authority? Where is the advantage? I see none to the working people and none to the Government.
– The honorable member is a spokesman for the workmen !
– No doubt the honorable member thinks, and thought of himself, as a spokesman for the workmen, yet there was a time when his opinions, quite honestly, no doubt, were not what they are now.
– I have always been a labour man.
– That is a matter we need not discuss, though the honorable member knows to what I am alluding.
I intended these remarks to lead up to the extraordinary and inexplicable attitude of this Government in regard to the inquiry into the sugar industry. It will be remembered that it was merely the accident of Mr. Justice Cohen’s ‘ illnessthat prevented our full inquiry by commission into this industry, including, particularly, the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Only that unfortunate retirement of a .distinguished and learned man prevented an inquiry from being launched eighteen months ago. If that inquiry had been instituted, its first aims would have required the determination of the very problems which have been at issue in the recent, sugar strike. Two experts, who had no political opinions,” and a Judge who was obliged to have none, were to form the commission ; and, of course, the evidence was to be public and open to the criticism of all concerned.
– The honorable member cannot say that the two experts were not political. ..
– The late Government were specially assured that they were State officers who had not been allowed to express political views; and, at any rate, they were recommended as experts without our knowing what their political personal tendencies were. Nothing remained for the present Government but to put the Commission into working order by the appointment of a substitute - an independent chairman. When the gentleman we proposed declined, we could not appoint another; but the present Government, having come into power, had a free hand in the selection of a chairman. They also had a free hand in regard to both the other nominees, and could either have replaced them or have appointed additional members.
– The other two were actually gazetted.
– Even that could have been undone by the present Ministry. Again, Ministers were themselves pursued in this House with requisitions for such an investigation. Even some of their own supporters echoed the demand, and pressed in this House for an inquiry. Ministers, however, were absolutely stubborn. They not only refused to grant an inquiry, but would not set apart a time for discussing the questiqn of why there should be one.
– There was a big breach of faith in that respect.
– The honorable member refers to the promise that time would be set apart, towards the close of the session, for discussing the question. It is extraordinary that the present Government, proposing as they did to deal with the sugar question, when this direct challenge was made in the House - when they were challenged by our action - should not have permitted that inquiry into the industry. Inquiry could have injured no one. It would merely have elicited the facts. The Government had the chance of compelling the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to lay before us the whole of its proceedings. I saw in print a letter signed by Mr. Knox, chairman of directors, in which he said that the company would gladly have put before the Commission the whole of its books, and. have disclosed its operations.
– Would that mean letting out the secrets?
– I cannot imagine any secrets that would affect the terms of the inquiry. Years ago there were so few secrets in the industry that any one could obtain permission to walk through the mills and see the whole process carried out. I did so myself in Fiji.
– They are not afraid of competitors.
– That may be the reason, but no reasons were given. We had this House persistently asking for an inquiry and that inquiry stubbornly refused by this Ministry. Can there be any reasonable doubt but that if the Commission had then been appointed, and had commenced its work, the present sugar strike would not have occurred ? The men would have waited for the report of the Commission. It was proposed to appoint it some fifteen months before the strike occurred. There would thus have been fifteen months in which to inquire, and the Government would then have been in a position to deal with the question on its merits. That being so, the responsibility for the existing difficulties in the sugar industry must undoubtedly lie wholly on the shoulders of Ministers. Yet the AttorneyGeneral, whilst Acting Prime Minister, attacked the Colonial Sugar Refining Company again and again. The honorable member made a number of statements concerning it that were directly contradicted by officials or others writing for the company, since he made those assertions, without knowledge, of a subject on which he had deliberately refused to allow an inquiry. Whoever is responsible for the strike, the Opposition are not. Whoever else is responsible for the refusal of an inquiry, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is not. I have nothing to do with that company. I know no one connected with it ; I have had no communication from any one acting for it ; I do not know what its views are.
– The reason for it all is that when the facts come in the politics go out.
– That may Be the explanation, but there was never a more unfortunate failure to act, or one more costly to Queensland. There was never a steptaken by this Ministry which has been followed by so long a train of loss, and so great an infusion of temper, as has occurred in connexion with the recent sugarstrike. The only effect of the AttorneyGeneral’s continuous references to the question has been to put his colleagues in thepillory. He has put them in the pillory and cheerfully pelted them, in common with himself, by demanding informationwhile complaining that he has not got it, when, as a matter of fact, it was offered to him and refused by him more than a year ago. The honorable gentleman even threatened that the Government would repeal the sugar duties and throw the whole of the sugar industry into confusion, although he had refused an opportunity to make himself acquainted with the full circumstances of the case.
Take another illustration : The AttorneyGeneral was very bold in his challenges, through the public press, to trusts, one and all. They are institutions which he singles out, as he has recently singled out the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, for special attack. And yet no one knows better than does the honorable member himself that he has paid the highest tribute to the trusts as preparing the way for the future transfer from private to public ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. He has indorsed them so cordially that he has been attacked by members and publications of his own party for preaching such a doctrine. He has, none the less, justified their existence at the same time that he has demanded their extinction. That is quite in harmony with the theory that he has put forward.
– The AttorneyGeneral said, in the Chamber of Commerce at Launceston, that the Labour party were not against trusts -per se.
– Since then he has been alternately denouncing them, and defending their existence in the newspapers. I shall not allude in detail to the Coal Vend and Steam-ship case in New South Wales, because, although the hearing has been closed, the Judge has not yet delivered his judgment. But it will be remembered that it was the Attorney-General himself who, at the very outset of the case, pathetically reminded his State colleague, Mr. Edden, who had attacked him for interfering with so beneficent an institution as the Coal Vend, which is understood to have been extremely useful to the miners of Newcastle, that he, Mr. Hughes, was not to blame - that it was not his action which was then being proceeded with. The honorable gentleman reminded Mr. Edden through the press that the late Government instituted the prosecutions and prepared the whole of the materials. We had done everything, in fact, in the way of loading the gun, and all that remained when he entered the office was to pull the trigger. He disclaimed responsibility for doing anything more by way of launch ing the case than pulling the trigger. That he had to do.
– Mr. Wise said that he was instructed not to prosecute the Vend.
– He was distinguishing between the Coal Vend and the steamship owners. While disclaiming responsibility in this way the Attorney-General, at the same time, is rejoicing to-day in his attacks upon all trusts. When he was censured by his fellow Labour members for instituting proceedings in the Coal Vend case he justified his action by saying that he was compelled to proceed owing to the conduct of the preceding Government. Now these several converging lines lead me to apprehend that the motive power behind a. great deal of this industrial unrest without, and possibly some portion of the motive power employed in politics in regard to the same thing, is really evoked, not simply to establish industrial peace and accord, not merely to insure just wages,, just remuneration and conditions of employment, but to go very much farther. It seems to me that there are active agencies behind this scheme, which appear to be becoming more and more potent, whose object is to first force private ownership into the hands of trusts in order that as a next step they may be dealt with more simply and directly by the Government of the day obtaining power to control and practically to possess them. By these steps private ownership and individual energy and enterprise would be entirely destroyed over the greater part of the social field, and we should have a scheme of things, as yet practically unexperimented with and unknown to history, in which we should find a complete transfer of property following the transfer of power. I do not propose to elaborate that point, but it is certainly a fair view of all the circumstances of the case. This objective discovers itself at every turn. We see that motives other than those publicly expressed must be directing Ministers that way. In that way only can we understand the persistence and energy with which attacks are being made on all forms of private occupation and investment, coupled with a frequent confession from certain quarters that the aim is to consolidate the whole in a Government political ownership of all the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
– The honorable member must have an evil mind.
– I should be very much distressed if I could bring myself to believe that the honorable member had not qualified himself for passing a professional judgment of that character by reading his own party’s programme.
To come immediately to the rest of business before the House, we on this side face the music once more with eagerness and interest to learn what is to be done this session. So far as we know, it may resemble its predecessor. The Government and their supporters have considered the Speech upstairs, and it has been passed nem con. They have had their measures expounded upstairs, and they have amended them or adopted them as has seemed right to them. The Government have had their administration criticised and exposed, and possibly not even Sir Edward Grey himself has been more explicit than the Prime Minister. But so far as honorable members opposite are concerned speculative interest in the session is over. Nothing remains for them but to sit steadily and see effect given to their programme. We poor uninformed innocents on this side of the House wait here with trustful expectancy for what honorable members opposite may be pleased to send us.
– The honorable member does not seem to be pleased with what we have sent out.
– I have criticised only four or five paragraphs of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, although tempted to criticise a good many more. That proves my self-suppression. To the omissions from the Speech alone I wish rapidly to call attention. I am sorry to find no reference of a practical character to the development of our immigration policy. The word “ immigration “ occurs only at the end of one paragraph in connexion with a reference to the progressive land tax.
– Our progressive land tax has done more for immigration than the honorable member’s party has ever done.
– I can only say, in answer to the honorable member, that I consulted recently two experts - one particularly familiar with the largest part of Victoria, the other familiar with a large portion of southern and western New South Wales. Both of them assured me that, so far as they could see, having regard to the ordinary rate of transactions for the year or two preceding, the Federal land tax had not operated, in the districts with which they were concerned, in the way of subdividing estates for closer cultivation to any appreciable extent whatever. They are both men of experience, whose words I accept without any other support. A similar statement has been colloquially made to me in regard to other States, but by men of less information. I submit this as sufficient evidence to call for rebuttal by facts and figures.
– Is it not an argument for an increase of the tax ?
– The honorable member may use it so; I should not. Apart from the question of the amount, if the tax had been better applied in the way that we indicated last session, it might have produced immensely better results than in its present form.
– How did it apply to the Van Diemen’s Land Company?
– Hear, hear ; half of Tasmania has been sold since it was passed.
– That transaction has not taken effect yet. Further, I have been told, for what it is worth, that the proposals to purchase the area in question were instituted several years ago, and have been on and off during the interim. However, I am waiting for the evidence that will show that, up to date, the progressive land tax has justified the expectations of its authors. _ I am open to be convinced. As it is obvious to every one that Australia cannot be held without immigration, and no statement as to the further development or encouragement of immigration, or no new proposal in regard to it, appears, the silence is, at all events, ominous and disquieting. There is no subject which can better engage the attention of those who are now directly responsible for the huge area known as the Northern Territory. That Bill was passed exactly as we introduced it, and is now being acted upon, and yet that gigantic area, which could not be cut out of any of the other continents of the world without creating an entire reversal of their present situation, has not evoked from the Government any recognition of their responsibility for peopling it at the earliest possible moment.
I regret to find no steps proposed for the establishment of an agricultural bureau, upon which, again and again, many of us have laid so much stress in this House. It is particularly essential if any of the settlers for the Northern Territory are to come from colder climates than our own, and most necessary even for men trained in the cultivation of land in southern Australia. An agricultural bureau, in connexion with our ownership of the Northern Territory, is one of the greatest necessities of the present time. As it cannot come into effective operation until some months have been devoted to providing the proper buildings and -appliances, and collecting the requisite staff for the task, it is a most unfortunate circumstance that it should have been omitted from this programme.
We have no prospect of Tariff reform, except coupled with conditions which, in many cases, it will be impossible to adopt, and which, in any case, ought not to be imposed. Prices are up, costs have increased, the margin that gave protection of a kind is disappearing. Though the present Minister wishes to keep all power in his own hands, let him appoint some independent Board, which shall give the public sufficient guarantees of its efficiency and its secrecy to justify its action. Then the Minister would soon find that the present objections of manufacturers to disclosing information about their business could no longer obtain. Why should he endeavour to insist that business matters should be laid before a political Minister, whose power already over wages, hours, and all the circumstances which affect employes is of the amplest. This provides him with the greatest security that can possibly be given that no advantage shall be taken of the men because a superior process or method or mechanism is in use in one particular business as compared with another. These really are questions of no interest whatever to the Minister, except of curiosity.
– That has never been asked.
– But that is what it amounts to. Whatever he asks, or can ask, is met by the same reply. I am informed by those who are concerned that the questions as they are at present drawn are capable of being applied mischievously.
– There are only three questions. The most important is: “What proportion is there of wages?” and they will not answer that.
– That is not the only question, although it may be the most important to the Minister. It does not matter, as I have said, what the wages now are, inasmuch as the whole power in regard to wages and hours is already vested in one of the Governments - local or Federal.
I also regret the omission of the InterState Commission, which Ministers will find essential to the complete harmonization of the industrial findings in different parts of the Commonwealth. I had hoped that the object was so eminently desirable that the means would be accepted by all parties. Of course, it was framed by us merely as a general proposition, with some adaptation to urgent present circumstances, owing to different findings as to wages in different States. Ministers have now had time to consider it more fully and to realize the many opportunities it affords of coordinating our powers with those of the States, regarding which the State Governments, I understand, are about to hold a Conference in which this, as well as other matters, will come up for discussion. I have not the least idea what decisions they will arrive at, or what their views are, but it is evident that if they meet at all it will be for the purpose of doing business. It is allowable to hope that they will succeed in proposing a means of action which will accomplish the end for which Ministers hitherto have thought it necessary to propose much more violent and costly means. The industrial question can be greatly assisted, and industrial difficulties immensely harmonized, by the appointment of such an Inter-State Commission as we proposed, clothed with proper powers.
Finally, I regret to see no revision of the schedule of bounties for the development of Australian agriculture and manufactures, but incidentally of all Australian industries. There are now several opportunities where a little encouragement would lead to the establishment of new industries, that is, if any measure of industrial security could be obtained.
I must limit myself to a few remarks upon the very important proposition in the Speech to introduce a Bill for the purpose of giving the public servants of the Commonwealth the right to appeal to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Hitherto these officers have been dealt with by Parliament on the responsibility of Ministers, acting on the advice of the Public Service Commissioner. Why this particular proposal is brought forward at this juncture it will be for Ministers to explain, but the House will see the inevitable effects. That Court will be called upon to consider the services of those who are engaged by the Commonwealth, and this House will be expected to vote increases according to its findings. The situation in which Parliament will then find itself is one which, so far as I know, is constitutionally without precedent. If members reply that, despite the recommendations of the Court, they still mean to retain the power in their own hands, we are next confronted by the serious possibility that this may mean that all the concessions granted by the Court will have to be voted by this House, and that all the other requests refused by the Court will still continue to flow up to Parliament, the responsibility being cast upon us of endeavouring to harmonize them and the recommendations of the Court. An examination of the debates on the first Bill providing for the Commonwealth Public Service, will show that some of us at the very outset called attention to the enormous difficulty of organizing a public service in such a fashion as to attract and retain the services of the most competent men by affording, as private business attempts to do, every possible opportunity for the best man to find his way to the post for which he is the most fitted. It was then pointed out that the scheme which passed the House, amending that originally proposed by the first Government, adopted the expedient of appointing a Public Service Commissioner, with assistant commissioners, serving something of the same purpose as bank inspectors, by continually overlooking the whole business done by the Commonwealth, passing judgment upon its quality, and giving advice. That power, however, was limited in a number of directions, and appears to have been applied without satisfying all those concerned.
In this connexion I invite the attention of the Postmaster-General to a publication called, “ A reply to the Public Service Commissioner from the South Australian Post and Telegraph Association.” I suppose this has reached the hands of a number of honorable members. It is a product of the present system of which we can scarcely feel proud. As a preliminary, let us consider it* we have in the Public Service, as at present constituted, proper opportunities and encouragements for the public servants to put forth their best ability and endeavours, as men have to do in private businesses to merit more rapid promotion than falls to the lot of those who are less energetic or less capable. That is a question which would repay careful scrutiny. Without that principle we get in the first place the existing discontent in the Public Service, and we also get dissatisfaction outside when it is found that men are reduced to a dead level - every one of them being aware that any devotion of himself and his abilities to his particular work would probably little advance the rapidity of his promotion. Under such conditions we take away the great motive power upon which the success of all businesses outside the Government at present depends. I have been assured lately by two or three heads of large businesses in Melbourne that they are seeking hard to discover in various places abler men than they have at present. Some have been casting glances at the Public Service, but find themselves unable to discover the men who are making their mark in the Public Service, because they can find so little index available of the relative value of the different officers. I fail to see how the introduction of this particular tribunal, which impairs the powers of Parliament, and infringes its authority, is going to meet the real difficulties of the Public Service.
One of them is that the present Government, when previously in office, altered the existing rule as to the conduct of public servants, so as to forbid them to publicly comment on the administration of any Department of the Commonwealth. It has not since withdrawn or modified the regulation, yet I hold in my hand this 1 Reply to the Public Service Commissioner.” on. several pages absolutely bristling with expressions that do not help the argument, that are not necessary to prove or illustrate their case, but that are distinctly offensive comments on the Public Service Commissioner and others.
– It is about time they were.
– I am sorry for the interjection. The very cogent arguments which these public servants wish to use they have put in print, and it is an advantage that they have stated their own case, but they gain nothing by this treatment of the Public Service Commissioner. I wish to know how the Minister at the head of ‘the Department” regards this setting aside of a regulation which he and his colleagues have passed. I shall approach the officers’ case with an open mind, with a view to forming a fair judgment, as every honorable member desires to do. Its impartial consideration, however, has been gravely prejudiced by the use of offensive terms carrying no weight, mere outbursts of spleen which are directly in conflict with the regulations of the Department.
The passages should be withdrawn, so that the regulation may be obeyed, and the case put forward considered on its merits. We must hope for a further opportunity to deal with it.
I am not surprised that Ministers regret the referendum vote, but am surprised that the only reference to it in the Speech is this -
They are very strongly of the opinion that the ever-increasing exactions of the Trusts make an extension of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth imperative.
That seems now the only one of the bunch of referenda proposals about which they have a strong opinion. We all share their view in regard to the exactions of trusts.
– But honorable members opposite back up the trusts.
– When we sought to inquire into the Coal Vend and Shipping Trusts, the Attorney-General said we were responsible for it and he was not. Again, when we wished to inquire into the Sugar Trust the honorable gentleman and the Ministry to which he belongs swept the proposal aside. We did not receive a communication from the Judge who had accepted declining the appointment until the election was in progress.
– The honorable member for Kooyong knows that that is incorrect.
– That what is incorrect?
– That the late Government did not get word from the Judge until after the elections.
– I said until after the elections commenced. No one would have cried out more loudly than the Minister of Trade and Customs if we had made an appointment under “the circumstances. We had told the House that we were willing to appoint a certain commission. We would not alter its -personnel without the knowledge of honorable members. So far every practical attempt to bring the trusts to book has been made by us, and we have yet to see what the present Ministers are going to offer. Although we would not make an appointment to the Sugar Commission pending the elections, we asked another gentleman occupying a position on the Supreme Court bench if he would undertake” an inquiry, so that in the event of our being returned with a majority we could appoint him Commissioner. During the referendum campaign the real battle did not rage round the trust question. The Opposition had told the
Government that if that question were submitted to the people separately, they would support the Government proposal in that regard.
– An amendment was moved with that object.
– Yes ; by the honorable member for Angas. We desired a direct vote of the people on the trusts, but that was refused by those who now profess to grieve because their tactics led to failure.
– There was a separate ballotpaper dealing with combines.
– That conferred the power of nationalization. The Opposition insisted that the question relating to trusts should be asked separately, but our amendment to that end was defeated. Why is it that Ministers do not regret the loss of the other referenda proposals?
– We do.
– The Attorney-General, while Acting Prime Minister, told the country through the press more than once that the Government proposed to reintroduce its Referenda Bills without altering them in any particular ; the proposals which had been defeated were to be resubmitted.
– I should like to know the authority for that statement.
– It can easily be found. I read it at least twice, and wish now to have the report either indorsed or repudiated.
– I stated that no one in my responsible position would say in what form he would present proposals of this kind two years hence.
– That was said by the honorable member after his return.
– No; when I was at Port Said.
– The Prime Minister and his colleagues owe it to the country te take this matter into consideration without delay. The electors are entitled to know at the earliest moment substantially what will be proposed.
– We could not legislate on the subject this session.
– What I suggest is that the statement should be made for public information. It was impossible during the last campaign to deal with all the issues involved. We had to confine ourselves to a few of the principal points, omitting many others which were serious. In so momentpus a matter as the alteration of the Constitution the people cannot know too early exactly what proposals will be submitted. There cannot be too much time for the consideration of such drastic changes in our Constitution.
– There was too much money behind the Opposition during the last campaign.
– I saw evidence of the fact that there was too much money behind the honorable member’s friends.
– There was no Colonial Sugar Refining Company behind us.
– Nor behind us, though there is strong reason for suspecting that, at least, some of the monopolies found part of the money used by the Labour party.
– It is said that they spent£1,500 in Mudgee the other day.
– I again appeal to honorable members to cease these continuous interjections. I appeal especially to the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I travelled the Commonwealth from north to south during the referendum campaign, and everywhere found our committees complaining of want of funds.
The country is undoubtedly entitled to know at once the substance of the Constitution amendments to be proposed by the Government. This claim is reinforced by the incidents disclosed in the last debate of the Labour Conference, reported in the Worker of last week. It appears that, after the Prime Minister had left Australia, an agreement was proposed between the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government, both being elected by the Labour party, the Acting Prime Minister giving a written undertaking to the State Government that, if two of the powers were agreed to, the Federal Government would undertake that the law passed in that connexion should not operate except within a fixed area. The Worker of last week sets out at length the statement of the Attorney-General to Mr. Holman, following the latter’s complaint about his ineffectual visit to Melbourne with the object of having the Referendum Bill amended. These proposals of this Ministry have now reached the public ear for the first time, many months after the event, and only because of an extraordinary upheaval within the Labour party. We have an engagement offered in writing which would have altered the whole scope of the measure so far as it related to employment. Speaking from memory, it would have amended two most important sections of the proposed law in a serious manner ; and this undertaking was given when the only question before the country was whether the whole powers should be granted or not.
– As I read it, this took place after the Bill was passed.
– The Bill had been passed determining what the referendum was to be upon ; but the Attorney-General, in a written letter, undertook that the powers sought for should not be employed in two important directions so as to affect State legislation
– I think that a statement to that effect was made in the House.
– I am indifferent as to that. If so, it was not an official statement and no one considered it. Here we have a Bill passed by Parliament proposing to amend the Constitution in a most vital and wholesale fashion; and yet, the AttorneyGeneral, in a private letter, offers to agree on two most important points to limit the operation of a vital amendment, although the whole question was about to be submitted to the people without amendment of any kind. That is to say, there was a private deal between two Labour Ministries, behind the scenes, as to what powers should be used.
– Who wrote the letter?
– The honorable member will find all the facts set out in the statements of Mr. Holman and the AttorneyGeneral - these are my only two authorities, and they are men whose word we can take. An incident of this kind is another revelation of the possibilitiesof Caucus Government when our established parliamentary rules and procedure are departed from.
I venture to repeat that the full statement, for whichI have asked, in regard to the next proposed amendments of the Constitution, should not resemble the last proposals on the same subject, but that it should show material amendments announced at once, so that the country may be given full time to consider and examine.
– The people can change very much in twelve months, as the honorable member knows !
– The honorable member is about the most unhappy interjector for his own side. The Labour party, with a majority over the whole of Australia of less than 5,000 votes, obtains a majority of eleven in this House; and, with a majority of only 9,000 votes, they get eighteen representatives in another place ; then in twelve months a majority of 250,000 sweeps away the proposals of the Labour party. What was then submitted to the country was the policy of the Government, of the Labour party, and of the Caucus. The core of their policy has been refused by a majority of a quarter of million of people.
– And the people regret it already !
– Honorable members opposite are still in the same caucus, supporting the same policy, and hold large majorities in both Houses, though they do not now represent even the 5,000 people they did, just as their colleagues do not represent the majority of 9,000 in another place. Small as we are in numbers on this side, we represent to-day a majority of a quarter of a million of people of this country. We placed a distinct policy before the people by way of contrast in April last.
– The honorable member said that the alteration of the Constitution was not a party question.
– The honorable member for Indi said it was.
– We showed exactly what we were prepared to do. It became a case of policy against policy ; and on the cardinal planks of the Labour party’s programme - though not all the minor planks, they were not at stake then - , the great majority of the country pronounced against that party.
– And still the honorable member and his friends are in Opposition.
– Yes; but after the next referendum we shall not be in Opposition. The people will assert their right to be heard ; and deeply attached as some good friends opposite are to the Government, they had better realize that the electors’ will again break all such ties rather than imperil the Constitution and their liberties as they were sought to be forced to do a few months ago.
– Like the Leader of the Opposition, I must devote my first words to an expression of regret at the loss of two members of this Chamber during the recess. They were men that any Chamber might be proud of ; and doubtless they have been succeeded by others who will perform the duties of their position with honour and credit to them selves and those they represent. The late Mr. G. B. Edwards was a man of marked ability, who rendered service to this Commonwealth Parliament which will not soon be forgotten, and which will make itself evident many years after we have passed away. The late Mr. Beard was a man of singularly winning personality, and great earnestness of purpose; and he was so well known that I think I need add nothing to what has already been said. We all . agree as to the serious loss we have sustained, but at the same time, of course, we extend our welcome to their successors. The honorable member for Ballarat complained in a gentle manner of the length of the recess. I can only reply that there were good reasons ; and, indeed, justification might be found in the fact that, if nothing else, it has enabled the honorable gentleman to return to this House, and, in a speech of much vigour and length, show us that his health has been entirely recuperated, and that he is now in much better condition to fulfil his important duties as Leader of the Opposition. The Government will always welcome criticism, fair, if possible, but even if it degenerates into unfairness, no serious complaint will be raised. Strong criticism is the best thing for a country, although it may affect the fate of Governments, but I speak for the present Administration when I say that we shall never shelter ourselves behind the plea that we, or our measures, should not be criticised too much. We hope, however, that the criticism offered will be brief and to the point. I appreciate the manner in which the honorable member for Ballarat approached the discussion of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference ; and I think he was right when he said that the most important steps ever taken at such a gathering were those taken in London this year. The momentous step of taking the representatives of the oversea dominions into unreserved confidence regarding measures for the defence of the United Kingdom, and the foreign policy of the Imperial Government generally, is one which I venture to say no succeeding Government will be able to set aside. I may say, as I have said on more than one occasion, that such an advance has broadened the foundations of all succeeding Conferences to such an extent and with such security that we shall be able to build safer than prior to that decision. The proposal of the Conference to appoint a Royal Commission to visit all the Dominions, and take evidence in regard to industrial and social matters, must be to. the advantage of us all. Nothing impresses visitors to other countries more than the lack of accurate knowledge of Australian affairs. Even Ministers in charge of important Departments, and Colonial Office officials themselves, display a want of knowledge of the conditions that prevail in the Dominions under their control. It is evidently a realization of the fact that they are not sufficiently well acquainted with the Dominions that has induced the British Government to readily accept a motion originally submitted by ourselves, but subsequently included in one proposed by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, declaring the advisableness of appointing a Commission such as that to which I have referred. I am glad to be able to say that the British Government have already made known their intention to appoint the body at an early date.
– Is there not power on the part of the Commission to divide itself so that one part may visit one British possession and another part visit another?
– It was thought wise to leave all arrangements to the Commission itself; and, though I have no doubt that what the honorable member suggests could be done, I doubt whether such a step would be wise. The honorable member for Ballarat, I believe, is thinking of another proposal. I refer to the fact that, at the instance of the representatives of Australia, another motion was passed at the Conference suggesting that it would be advisable to hold a Conference outside the United Kingdom, as by that means we should be able to divide up the work of the main Conference itself. The British Government would not agree to any proposal that the Conference itself should meet outside the United Kingdom, but they accepted an amendment providing that a Conference might be held outside. Let me illustrate what I mean by pointing out that whilst we have self-governing Dominions, we have also British possessions that are Crown Colonies, some of them lying quite adjacent to the self-governing parts of the Empire. A difficulty arising in a Crown Colony might seriously affect a selfgoverning Dominion close by, and it might be desirable in such circumstances to hold a Conference of representatives of the whole of them - because the whole of them might be affected more or less - in the neighbouring self-governing Dominion. Such a Conference would be near the seatof the trouble, and would thus be able to arrive at a better conclusion on the evidence immediately under review.
– One meeting of the Conference itself was held in Canada, although only Canada was represented by Ministers in office. That took place in 1894.
– That may or may npt be. If the question at issue affected only one Dominion, it would not be to the interests of the other selfgoverning Dominions to take part in such a Conference as that which I have just described. But if, whilst affecting one Dominion in particular, it incidentally affected the Mother Country, and the remaining Dominions, then it would be the duty of the Conference to meet at the seat of the trouble, and to try to remedy it. That was the position taken up by the Conference.. I was glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition commend the proposal to establish one Court of Appeal, for I think the decision is a wise one. It has been left to the Lord Chancellor to prescribe the means by which effect can be given to the resolution. Something has already been done in that direction, and it is gratifyingto know that it is proposed that henceforth where learned Justices in the Court of Appeal dissent from a finding provision will be made’ for those Judges to express their individual opinions separately. I listened with pleasure, and occasionally with some apprehension, to the Leader of the Opposition’s description of our relationship with the Mother Country. I feared sometimes that he was about to make certain declarations as to there being a danger of our breaking away from the’ Mother Country, or as to there being some feeling amongst a considerable body here or elsewhere, that we should break away from that connexion, or an intimation’that we were tired of it. Wherever that feeling may be, it certainly does not rest in theminds of this Government, or of this party. As to my own expressions, I say at once that I stand by all of them. I hold that we are a family of nations, all under the United Kingdom legally, and its determinations in law will affect us all both as regards peace and as regards war. But, as I have said publicly at the Conference and elsewhere, the safest way to preserve the Empire, and every part and every citizen of . it, is to leave the self-governing Dominions the right and the power to say what they shall do in all circumstances.
– Take all, and give nothing.
– I shall not even attempt to answer such a statement. Some of us have not the honour to be citizens of this great country save by adoption, and memories of the Mother Country are imperishable with us. While some persons may hold views that would not be considered loyal or patriotic, I desire to say at once that I believe not only that the form of government that has grown up is the best arrangement or system of government known in the world’s history, but that it is not yet at an end. That is the actual position. The present system has gradually grown up. The greater freedom these independent Dominions have, the closer the binding ties with the Mother Country, and the more closely must they be associated with her. We are asked to believe, because of some criticism which certainly ought to be made, if the people so think, that this system of government is in danger. We can assure all those who wish to be assured, that such a fear does not apply to this Dominion. Indeed, in my opinion, it does not apply to any of the Dominions of the Empire. None of the men who are responsible for advising the Government of the United Kingdom are in any doubt regarding the position occupied by this Ministry. Members of the front Opposition bench are familiar with the action taken by the first Government which I had the honour to lead in regard to the Australian Navy question. They know that whilst we were accused of disloyalty in the matter, there were great and grave considerations that were withheld from the public. I refer to a document the contents of which were not discussed. The policy that has now been approved practically unanimously by the Government of the United Kingdom in regard to the position of the Australian Navy is at least a tribute to the policy, and, shall I say, the loyal attitude taken up at that time by the Administration to which I refer.
– I do not remember that we challenged it.
– The honorable member knows that shortly after the occasion to which I refer, we found ourselves in Opposition. Subsequently, an election took place, and statements were made regarding our action in this matter, which were diametrically opposed to the actual facts. Rather than reveal, however, the contents of the secret document to which I refer, we suffered as a party, and appealed, on the merits of our case, to the electors.
– To what document does the honorable member refer?
– To a memorandum forwarded to the British Government regarding the views of the first Fisher Administration on the question of Naval Defence.That memorandum embodied the policy that has now been adopted for the government of the Australian Navy.
– Does the honorablemember refer to the composition of the Naval unit?
– The honorable member, having been in office since the transmission of that memorandum, has had anopportunity to be in possession of thefacts.
– I have not seen the document. It has never been made public.
– That is the whole point. How could it be made public? It was a secret document.
– When the honorable member said that those who had been in office could see what had been done, he suggested to me that the memorandum had been published.
– No ; but its contentscould have been known to the honorable member as a Minister had he so desired. The accusation was made against the Labour party that they were taking up a disloyal attitude regarding the Naval question. If that contention were true, then the present agreement would also come within the category of disloyalty. I declined just now to answer an interjection regarding the attitude of our party on the relations of the Commonwealth with the Mother Country; but I must take notice of a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in that connexion. The honorable gentleman said that those who took the view he indicated were desirous of the severance of our relations - in other words,, that they would be with the Old Country in her prosperity, but would leave her in her adversity. It is true that that honorable member said later on that he did not believe that such was the attitude of any considerable body of people in Australia. I agree with the honorable member.
– I had something else in my mind.
– My only regret is that the honorable member laboured that portion of his speech as much as he did.
– Who was responsible for that? I wished to pass it over, but was continually challenged.
– Then, profiting by the honorable member’s experience, I shall not discuss the matter further than to say that I hope it will be understood by all countries who may think that the Mother Country can be attacked with impunity that the people of Australia consider that the rights and liberties upheld by the British Government and British traditions are too sacred for us to allow the Old Land to be at- . tacked with impunity. The honorable member also referred to our proposal for reciprocal relations with other Dominions. Such a proposition has long been in the minds of some of us, but the opportunity to give expression to it has not always offered. I hope that good results will come from negotiations not yet fully entered upon, but which I trust will be developed later on.
– We made a reciprocal Tariff agreement with New Zealand; but the Dominion Parliament rejected it.
– I am aware of that. The late Mr. Seddon visited Australia just prior to his regretted death, and entered into a reciprocal Tariff agreement which was passed by this Parliament but was rejected by the New Zealand Parliament.
– We carried a reciprocal Tariff agreement with South Africa.
– And that being already in existence, no reference need be made to it in this connexion. I do not know whether a Prime Minister can properly express a private opinion in a matter of this kind ; but I do say that I have never been able personally to discover any limit to reciprocity between Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand is really a country that ought to be associated, as its destiny undoubtedly is linked up, with Australia.
– Hear, hear ! New Zealand was represented at the first Federal Conference.
– I well remember its distinguished representative, Sir George Grey, who honoured this country by attending the first Conference in 1891.
– And Mr. Atkinson.
– There were others whom I do not remember so well; but if that distinguished man had lived, I venture to think we should have had in this part of the South Pacific to-day a condition of political affairs different from that now existing. I hope it is not yet too late for thinking men and women in the two Dominions to consider the question whether closer relationship would not be advan tageous to both. I hope that as far as possible our trade relations with Canada will be reciprocal. The destinies of Canada are not linked up with our own in the same way as are those df New Zealand. Canada can afford to take risks which we cannot ; but we are bound to give full and fair consideration to proposals on the part of her Government for reciprocal trade relations. The honorable member said that we must beware of the traditions of the Colonial Office, as they are rather conservative in their ways, but our proposal to have a travelling Commission of inquiry and a Conference elsewhere than in Great Britain will help to remove that conservatism. So far as I am concerned the Colonial Office will not be sheltered if they delay or in any way try to prevent the carrying out of the reforms initiated at the Conference. That will not be an act of disloyalty, but will be an act of loyalty to what they have agreed to, and I assure the honorable member we shall not fail to give attention to that aspect of the matter. The honorable member was, I think, slightly unfair, although perhaps he did not mean it, when he said that nothing had been done with’ a view to consolidating the State debts.
– I said nothing that we knew of.
– I am not a lawyer, but I have always had the impression from what legal members have said here and what has been conveyed to me that this Parliament, even with the Constitution as amended, has not the power to control the borrowing of the States.
– The honorable member did not interject about that when I was speaking. He spoke of the control of loans. I did not know that he referred to future borrowing.
– While that question is not absolutely essential to the taking over of the debts. I believe that any scheme which does not provide for a Commission or authority to operate as one in future borrowings will absolutely fail. It is my business to think not so much of the legal position as of what will be to the advantage of the people of Australia. What is the use of transferring a sum of money from the credit of the States to the credit of the Commonwealth if no advantage is to be gained for the people by doing so? If an agreement that the whole of the existing and growing indebtedness of the States shall be consolidated into one stock could be arrived at, an enormous saving would accrue to the people of the Commonwealth almost from the start. Although no great amount of saving would be visible perhaps in the first year or two, there would be an enormous accumulated benefit in the years following.
– Have the Government been conducting negotiations with the States on the subject?
– The proposal has been earnestly made to the States, but our difficulty at present is that the States feel that they must stand by their existing rights. No one has been stronger lately than the Leader of the Opposition himself in asking the Stares to stand by the whole of their rights, even when it is to the disadvantage of the people in the States. However, I do not want to raise that political question, for the States are entitled to hold to their legal position. The Commonwealth is only in the position of pleading with them to do that which we think would be an advantage to them and to the people, but we cannot approach them as a matter of right.
– Have the Government approached them again?
– It has never been admitted that we have not the power. There have been very good opinions both ways.
– I am always very glad to hear the opinion of the honorable member, and I will venture to make this statement to the House, that if it is really thought that this Parliament has the power to take the necessary steps_ in that regard, I believe it will be the duty of this Parliament to do so, because it will be an undoubted advantage, financially and otherwise. It it is not legally possible, I do not see the advantage of negotiating continually in a matter of that kind, unless you can see where a distinct advantage can be gained.
– Has the Prime Minister formed the opinion that the Commonwealth would be able to borrow in London to-day at a cheaper rate than, for instance, New South’ Wales?
– I formed the opinion before I went to London, and, in consultation with those who were named to me as the highest authorities there, each and every one of them said that it was so.
– Have the Crown Law Officers given any opinion against the legality of the Commonwealth’s position in assuming the State debts as they now exist ?
– The question in dispute is the regulation of future borrowing, or some understanding with the State authorities regarding it.
– I think that the doubt the Attorney-General must have had was whether we could take the indebtedness over simply to manage for the States, or take it over as the debtors.
– I do not wish to labour the legal aspect of the question. The practical aspect is that our advice is that a common stock would undoubtedly bear a lower rate of interest than the existing State stocks if put on the London market. Whatever view we may take regarding the action of the States or the action of the Commonwealth, the people of the Commonwealth should know that by the present condition of having six borrowers they are losing money that could be saved if the whole business was transferred to one authority, whether the Commonwealth or any other.Another important question raised by the Leader of the Opposition was that ofstrikes in Australia. An interjection was made regarding a statement attributed to me, that this was a country where no strikes took place. I said nothing of the kind. I think the Leader of the Opposition exaggerated the industrial troubles of Australia. They are deplorable enough, but they are as nothing compared with the strikes that have taken place in the past, and that were hidden and smothered up, and not given the prominence that present day strikes receive. It is the policy of some people to exaggerate these happenings as though they were revolutionary in character. The industrial troubles in Australia have not disturbed the production of the country very much. Even in particular districts they have not set it back to any great degree, except in the case of the great coal strike. We have not had, and I hope we shall never have again, anything to compare with the maritime strike of 1890, or the great shearers’ strike of 1891 and 1894. When the honorable member complains of Arbitration Acts not transforming the whole- face of industrial matters in one swoop, let him remember that this legislation has prevented industrial troubles over the whole of the great pastoral lands of Australia for the last eight or nine years by agreements entered into, involving 40,000 of the most active of our citizens, and ,£30,000,000 of our production.
– And in the case of the seamen also.
– I am coming to the seamen and waterside workers. That great organization of the whole of the waterside workers of Australia, over which the AttorneyGeneral presides, has often been saved from any extreme struggle by his genius in settling difficulties. I speak from experience, having been on that council. Let any man who thinks that he has greater wisdom in guiding an organization of that kind than has the Attorney-General step into his shoes and try it, and see how he gets on. I speak with knowledge of strikes from my earliest youth - but for an industrial trouble I do not think I should have been in this country at all - and I assure honorable members that it is a mistake for people to think that the fault is all on one side. Speaking generally, the workers of all countries, the toilers who have only their labour to sell, have a very narrow margin between comparative comfort and dire poverty, involving hunger and perhaps starvation for their wives and children. If, under those conditions, they strike, and they know what that means, they do not do it out of wantonness, or from mischievous motives. Strikes are not singular to Australia, or to any country in the world. It must also be said that the most civilized countries are receiving the greatest attention in that regard at the present time, and one wonders whether the reason is not to be found in the abounding wealth that exists on one side and the great poverty to be found on the other. The Leader of the Opposition asserted that it is only the workmen who strike, and that locks-out were not so frequent. The honorable member may not have been in the ranks of the toilers, as some other honorable members have been, but if he had been he would have known that there is often no need for a lock-out. Men can be passed out. They can be moved out. Conditions can be brought about that compel a strike, when a lock-out would have served the same purpose. That can- be done, and has been done, and the fault is not always on the one side. The man or woman who can see provision for a year or two ahead, whatever happens, has a much calmer mind, and much more capable judgment, than a man who is subsisting from day to day, and week to week. The employers also have other advantages, of which we do not wish to deprive them. They are, and always have been, better organized than Tabour is, because they have a common interest. We do not object to their being organized. We think it is the right thing. But when they on the one side, and labour, which is also essential to the carrying on of industries, on the other, have come to a difference, we desire to apply a new system of jurisprudence, to provide that neither the seller nor the buyer of labour shall be allowed to bring the country to disaster, and that every dispute shall be brought before a competent tribunal and there settled on its merits. The Leader of the Opposition discussed foreign affairs and the perils of the nation more quietly and with less feeling than the industrial civil war. It is a pity that there should be exaggeration in this matter. I believe that Australia fs freer from strikes, taking into consideration its conditions, than any other country, and I am pleased that it is so. But, in my opinion, there would be still fewer disputes if the constitutional powers of this Parliament were less limited. As for the attack on the Attorney-General, that honorable gentleman is able to look after himself. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of an organization of which the Attorney-General is president, breaking its contract; but it is not long since a barrister, a fellow-member of the profession to which he himself belongs, which is considered an honorable one, having accepted a brief to defend a poor creature charged with a capital offence, put it aside when something better offered, and allowed the accused to take his chance of justice.
– The barrister concerned would not admit that version of the case.
– The circumstances came into my mind when the Leader of the Opposition was attacking the AttorneyGeneral.
– I said that he holds two offices which should not be united.
– Dead cargo is of little account compared with the lives of human beings. The organization of which the Attorney-General is the head declared that it would not handle certain produce. Is such action to be compared with that of the barrister to whom I have referred?
– There was a partial cessation from work.
– In the first instance, it was for the union to decide that question.
– Our point is that the question might have to be referred to the Attorney-General, who is president of the union.
– I leave it to the AttorneyGeneral to deal with that part of the attack. As to the non-appointment of a sugar Commission, I take all the blame. Had a Commission been appointed earlier than the present time it would have been valueless, and, I believe, mischievous.
– How has the situation altered ?
– Until last session the sugar legislation was only tentative, and there was hardly a thinking sugar grower who did not fear a long-winded inquiry, which would keep all connected with the industry on tenter-hooks.
– There was to have been a report within six months.
– No body of men could make a full and fair investigation into the sugar industry in six months, even if they worked from the day of their appointment.
– Suppose experts were appointed.
– Not even a body of experts could do the work in the time.
– Why was the honorable member for Capricornia keen for the appointment of a Commission? He represents a sugar-growing district.
– An inquiry was asked for by workers, growers, and all concerned.
– The honorable member for Wentworth should put his question to the honorable member for Capricornia. What the honorable member “for. Darling Downs says is correct, and I was invited by my constituents to support the appointment of a Sugar Commission ; but declined to do so at the time. It was the growers who needed protection, and the occasion for an inquiry was not ripe until the industry had been protected in the way in which other industries had been protected.
– But that protection was given six months ago.
– We were delighted at the zeal of the Opposition for the appointment of a Commission. I hope that members opposite will support an inquiry into every phase of the industry.
– That was what was intended.
– That will mean what the Leader of the Opposition said ought not to take place, an inquiry into the profits of the industry.
– I did not say that profits are a trade secret.
– There must be. an inquiry into every circumstance affecting all connected with the industry, whether as growers of cane, mill hands, or refiners ; and the interests of the consumers must also be considered. The Commission must have power to compel witnesses to answer all reasonable questions.
– We are at one with the honorable gentleman in that.
– If the Commission is judicial, fair, and non-political, no one will be able to object to it.
– When will it be appointed ?
– Very soon. The new enthusiasm for the inquiry is due to the rise in the price of sugar. What is needed is a better distribution of the profits of the industry, and the greater protection of the consumer. The Leader of the Opposition was ungracious in what he said about the Speech being discussed upstairs. His statements about the superiority of honorable members opposite–
– Say, rather, freedom.
– References to the freedom of honorable members opposite, and the inferiority, or want of freedom, on this side are getting rather stale. The freest of representatives are those who belong to a party like ours.
– What about the New South Wales Caucus?
– I am speaking now only of this Caucus. In 1909, I told the then representative for Maribyrnong the actual position of affairs; and, although the Leader of the Opposition knows exactly what the position is, he persists in his misstatements. Surely the honorable member for Riverina, who is a new member of the party, should be believed iri this matter. But the Leader of the Opposition does not wish to accept these explanations. The matter is one to which I shall not refer again. The freedom of the Labour party is known. Its members are bound only by their pledges to their electors, and there could be nothing more honorable than giving effect to such pledges.
– What was the position of Mr. Holman in regard to the referendum?
– An Opposition candidate may receive the support of his party, be elected to Parliament on certain pledges, and then be told by his leaders, “ Your views do not suit us. You must accept our policy, and follow us, or leave the party.” And he goes back on his pledges.
– In caucus, too !
– I do not mind what was done in caucus.
– Then the honorable gentleman does not mind what is done in caucus ?
– No. What I am concerned about is that nothing is done to the detriment of the public interest - we may do as we please so long as the public interest is safe. The Leader of the Opposition referred to immigration; and ‘ I may say that, while we have not paraded our policy in this regard, we have done much to create a steady stream to this country. I venture to suggest that Australia was never better or more favorably known in the country from which we expect our best immigrants to come; and I shall rejoice when the Minister of External Affairs has an opportunity to submit measures for the settlement and development of our great Northern Territory. In the meantime I may say that every ship leaving the United Kingdom has its space filled with people either coming for the first time or returning to Australia.
– At the instance of the State Governments.
– I do not know what else the Commonwealth Government could do, in view of the fact that we have no lands or any control over the lands. The Minister of External Affairs sent out circulars again and again to the State Governments asking what lands were available, and what opportunities were presented for immigrants, and only one or two States replied. Before we enter upon a great scheme of immigration we ought to know what we can do with the immigrants when they arrive, for otherwise we shall simply be a great advertising agency without the power to extend to immigrants the treatment to which they are entitled on arrival.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition is not present, though I make no complaint on that score, because we all recognise that he has had rather an arduous time this afternoon. I merely desire to point out that in the course of his remarks he said it was unfortunate that the sugar-workers should have struck at the very moment when their services were most required, and when their action would do themost damage in regard to the cutting ofthe crops. I accepted that statement as a fact, but I find from correspondence published on page 40 of the Queensland Hansard of this year that on the 1st February this year the Sugar Producing Association, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and others were written to by Mr. McCormack, the secretary of the Australian Workers’ Association, with a view to a conference, and that it was the 22nd and the 23rd of the month before all the replies were received. On the 17th February a reply was sent by the Sugar Producers’ Association, and on the 13th of the month Mr. Edward W. Knox, general manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, wrote as follows : -
Colonial Sugar Refining Company,
O’Connell-street, Sydney, 13th February, 1911.
Dear Sir, - In reply to your letter of the 1st instant, I have to say that we have never discussed with any one not in our service the terms and conditions under which the men employed by us are engaged, and we are, therefore, unable to entertain the proposal you have made for a conference on the subject with the officers of your association. Moreover, we have no reason for believing that any of our permanent employees, or even those who work for us season by season are members of your organization.
Edw. W. Knox, General Manager.
General Secretary, Amalgamated Workers’ Association, Chillagoe.
There were other communications all showing the facts to be quite opposite to those stated by the Leader of the Opposition. That honorable gentleman is now present, and I ask him to peruse the correspondence in the Queensland Hansard, in view of his statement that the workers chose the most opportune moment for themselves, and the most inopportune for the sugar producers. The correspondence shows that the sugar-growers wereapproached when they had most time on their hands, four clear months before the cutting season, and the manner in which the reasonable request for a conference was met. I shall pursue the matter no further, beyond expressing regret that the Leader of the Opposition should have plunged into it without due inquiry. When the sitting was suspended, I was discussing the steps taken by the Minister of External Affairs and the Acting Minister, who endeavoured to ascertain from the States some indication of the lands and industries that were open to immigrants, and showing that no satisfactory replies had been received, except from one or two States. I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition as to the operation of the land tax, which I believe has had a tendency to develop the lands, not only in the way of breaking them up into small parcels and permitting larger settlement-
– It is not a question of tendency, but an absolute fact.
– I say, moreover, that this tax has freed a considerable amount of capital which is being used by men, assisted by their own industry and that of others, in the development of our land. It is singular that, notwithstanding this tax, land values in the aggregate have not declined.
– That is not correct !
– I say that, in the aggregate, land values in Australia have not declined.
– I say that they have !
– And in every State J
– The facts before us show that there has been an economic effect, and that proper settlement has caused greater production and given more employment, and thus helped towards the prosperity of the Commonwealth. I shall leave the question of the settlement of the Northern Territory to the Minister of External Affairs. As to the Agricultural Bureau, that has been talked about by more than one Government; and, no doubt, it ought to be established in a central position, so that it may be beneficial to the whole of the country.
– The honorable member did not favour . the Labour bureaux at Home.
– The representatives of the Colonies were not in favour of getting immigrants through the bureaux of Great Britain, and for excellent reasons. They found that they could deal with the immigrants directly much more efficiently, and there was no difficulty in regard to obtaining them. I think that the Minister of External Affairs does not regard the bureaux in the United Kingdom as the most suitable means for the recruiting of immigrants.
– The Liberal press were in favour of them.
– The Liberal newspapers are not so well acquainted with the Dominions as they might be ; and I may say that the Dominion representatives and, I believe, the High Commissioner, were unanimous on the point.
– Hear, hear; and so were all with any experience of the matter.
– The appointment of an Inter-State Commission is not a question of that urgency to call for serious comment. A serious point was raised by the Leader of the Opposition when he described as “ dangerous “ the proposal to give the public servants of the Commonwealth the right of appeal to the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I do not agree with his view, nor with his contention, that a reckless step was taken by a previous Labour Administration in giving public officers of the Commonwealth the right of citizens to criticise policies and persons so long as they did not communicate to the public any knowledge acquired by them in the performance of their duties. I believe that that freedom is one to which they are entitled as citizens of Australia, and, whilst it may have at first a slightly disturbing effect, it is bound to improve the Public Service itself. By giving our public servants this further right - a right attaching to citizenship of the Commonwealth - we enable them to realize to the full their manhood as workers in the same manner and degree as do the other workers in the Commonwealth. We desire neither to withhold privileges from them nor to give them privileges not available to others. In giving them the common rights ot citizens, we demand from them the service due to the Commonwealth. Another point raised by the Leader of the Opposition was that we proposed to set up a Court to come between this Parliament and its employe’s. Why should we not do so?
– Because we have our Public Service inspectors, who should be our independent guides. What is the use of keeping them if we are to have a Court to come between the Parliament and its employes ?
– For what is the Public Service Commissioner? He has to regulate the Public Service according to his knowledge. He is better acquainted than any other man with the ability and capacity of officers, and has to allot to each officer his proper place in the service. In one sense, he is the general manager of the whole Commonwealth service, and; as such, he may err in his judgment as to what is the proper remuneration- as to what are the proper hours and conditions of labour for the service. No man is infallible, and the Public Service Commissioner’s views regarding wages and conditions of labour in the service should be subject to review by the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court just as is the view of any manager; of an industry respecting like matters.
– Then the Public Service Commissioner does not meet all our needs. Some one should be there as an inspector and examiner of the service, and his examination should render the appeal futile; otherwise, it is not worth having.
– 1 do not understand the honorable member’s contention.
– I am afraid the honorable gentleman did not listen to me when I made the comparison of the banks and their inspectors.
– The Public Service Commissioner was appointed to do away with political patronage. He is the general manager of the service, and we can remove him only by an act of this Parliament. He is, therefore, the general manager appointed by this Parliament to prescribe the wages, conditions, and hours of labour of the Public Service. In carrying out those duties, he may err, and instead of this Parliament being asked to review his decisions - and I have repeatedly said that it is quite unfit to determine any question of the kind-
– I have not advocated that. I agree with the honorable member.
– Then we are at one.
– What is the alternative ?
– Proper inspection by our own independent inspector of the work done by our officers.
– That would mean calling upon this Parliament ultimately to deal with these questions. If a public service inspector could not do the work, the honorable member would put another over him to -review his decisions. Our desire is that the decisions of the Commissioner shall be open to review in open Court; and we wish to secure thE best juries available to hear all trie arguments pro and con. The Government case, under our proposal, could be put by the
Commissioner as the representative of the Commonwealth, and the case for the employes could be put by their own representative. Every good citizen would do his utmost to elicit the facts and to arrive at a true determination. That having been done, the time would arrive when the Government and the Parliament would be asked to say whether they were prepared to obey a decision of their own Court. That is the only point at which any difficulty could arise. This is not a new phase of the question so far as I am concerned. Early in the history of the Federal Parliament I expressed this view, and it has been strengthened, rather than weakened, by my experience and acceptance of responsibility. So far from our proposal being dangerous, it means rather an act of justice to our public servants, and I am sure that it will be beneficial in its working. Like the Leader of the Opposition himself, I regret the terms of the communication to which he referred as having been issued by a section of the Public Service, and I say with him that no good cause can be strengthened by the use of such language. I do not go with him into his arguments as to bringing the whole of the service down to one dead level. Such an argument is unworthy of him.
– The public servants themselves complain of it.
– I do not object to their complaining. They, like others, have the right to complain, but every complaint is not sound argument. If we had no complaints we should make no progress. Another matter which was more pleasing to the honorable member was the result of the referenda in April last. I freely concede the Opposition all the joy that they have got out of the failure of the people to accept our proposals, but I venture the opinion that the time is not far distant when all the powers for which we asked will be given to this Parliament. The longer that this Parliament is without them the longer will the general community suffer. No one who believes in a representative system, such as ours, can complain about the majority of the people voting in any particular direction; but no man worthy of his position would hide his opinions regarding a proposal that he believed to be in the public interest merely because he feared that an expression of them would make him the victim of unpopularity. My conviction is that proposals such as we submitted would, if adopted, make for the welfare and advancement of the people. That being so, I shall not cease to advocate the giving of such powers to this Parliament as early as the electors will permit. As to the controversial matter referred to by the Leader of the Opposition - the correspondence between Mr. Holman and my honorable colleague, the Attorney-General - I am not so well acquainted with it as to be able to discuss it. I will say, however, that no private compact made between one Minister or private member and another could have any effect on a matter of law. If the Commonwealth had a certain power it could not be denied, and it would be exercised in a legitimate way in the interests of the people.
– The Attorney-General promised that it should not be exercised in certain particulars.
– How could he?
– The statement is in his own letter.
– When I see the letter I shall better understand it.
– I will show it to the honorable member.
– The Leader of the Opposition was reported to have publicly stated that if the referenda proposals were carried the Federal Parliament would prescribe the speed at which a hawker should travel along a back lane, and the kind of pack he could hold on his back. Other equally nonsensical statements were put before the people.
– I shall be glad to have a reference to that statement.
– It is a reported statement. The argument was that by taking the proposed power over trade and commerce we should so embarrass people in their business dealings that we should block them at every point. Was not that the sentiment conveyed to the public by the Opposition?
– I said that the Government could do so. I did not argue whether they would or would not, but I said that they would have the power if the proposed amendment of the Constitution were accepted.
– -The statement was made hypothetically that it could be done. Under our existing Customs law we could declare that no one should work in a ship’s hold unless he wore a top hat and rings on his fingers. We have made no such provision, yet that is the kind of nonsense that appeals to the public. If theletter written by my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, indicated that foolish-, things like that would not be done he certainly performed a public service in writing it. But we shall hear more of these referenda questions as we go along. The Leader of the Opposition also said that our party were returned at the general elections by some 5,000 or 9,000 votes. Let him examine his figures. They ought to be verified before they are quoted.
– Has the honorablemember any figures to controvert them?
– I have not, but I have been told, as a fact, that in making that calculation the Opposition counted thewhole of the electors in every electorate where no contest took place, and that the votes polled for every candidate who was not a member of the Labour party were also counted as having been cast for the Opposition.
– I do not make thisstatement as a fact within my own knowledge, but it was given to me on excellent authority.
– Here is a copy of the Worker containing a reference to the AttorneyGeneral’s letter.
Mi. FISHER.- The honorable gentleman has handed me a copy of the Worker of 31st ultimo, in which my honorable colleague, the Attorney-General, is reported: to have said -
Mr. McGowen asked were we going to use all the powers involved by the amendments, and I said “ No, we were not.” “ Will you say soin writing?” Mr. McGowen asked, and I said, “ Yes, I will.” I then drafted a statement as to the length the Federal Labour Party would go on that legislation, and the Cabinet, approving of it, it was sent to New South Wales. We pledged ourselves as a Labour Government not to go further with regard to industrial legislation except to extend arbitration until it gave all workers not covered wilh Slate Wages Boards’ awards a living wage. The trade and commerce laws we restricted to only deal with matters not regulated by the States.
That is a perfectly fair and straightforward letter in answer to the statements made on the other side.
– And a complete heaving overboard of what he had said: before.
– The contention of this, party has always been that the States individually, or in combination, cannot protect themselves in this matter. Only the Commonwealth can do it. The Com- monwealth, with its present powers, cannot help the people, and therefore must ask for this new power, not with a view to exercising every detail of the trade and commerce power, but to exercise those which will protect the interests of the public, leaving the States to perform those duties which can be better performed by them. That is a perfectly plain and straightforward position to take up.
– Then the Government propose to submit the questions again?
– Certainly. As I said at Port Said, when asked about the matter, no one would say that they were to be put in exactly the same form, but in substance and effect these questions have to be put to the people; because we are convinced, after long and serious consideration, that anything materially less than that would be practically ineffective for the people’s benefit.
– That is, provided that the Labour Conference indorses them?
– That is quite correct The policy of this party is determined by a representative Conference. This Government’s position will be put very clearly in the ordinary way.
– What the honorable member means is that the Government will put them, subject to any revision by the next Conference?
– Honorable members opposite will have all the advantage that arises from their present position. They will not find this party trimming its sails to catch any passing breeze. That is not a characteristic of a party which has reached its present position through the wildest and most severe criticism. Honorable members opposite had all the State Governments, practically all the press, and practically all the leading and influential citizens, on their side, and yet, at the last elections they were defeated. They have gained in the result of the referenda a temporary advantage to the disadvantage of the people generally.
– On that issue, the Government had the New South Wales Labour Government against them.
– It matters not to us if there were ten Labour Governments against vs. I believe the verdict at the referenda was given because the people did not understand the questions. We had fewer opportunities than at the general election of putting the questions to them from the platform, and we had little press support.We shall take care to do that later on. Now we find the Leader of the Opposition, and others, most anxious to have a Commission appointed. With what object? Principally to discover the actions of a Trust in robbing the people. The Leader of the Opposition said that if we had put the question of the trusts separately, the Opposition would have been with us as one man.
– Some of us in the Opposition foresaw the business from the very start. I think if the Government had followed our advice, they would not have been in their present difficulty.
– The honorable member for Angas knows the high regard in which I hold his opinions ; but surely what he has just said means that, rather than sacrifice the little differences between their opinion and ours, the Opposition preferred to allow the public to suffer a disadvantage individually and collectively.
– I am speaking of the Tariff of 1901 in the first Parliament.
– Then I was under a misapprehension. The honorable member evidently foresaw the difficulty much earlier in our career, and considers that it might have been remedied then. Honorable members must, however, take into serious consideration the fact that the trouble has not arisen alone in Australia, either in the matter of industrial struggles or of trusts and combines robbing the consumer. That is taking place in every civilized country, and the more civilized the country is, the greater is the rate at which the evil is increasing. Only one Parliament in Australia can deal effectively with the question of protecting the public and doing justice to the producers, and that is the Commonwealth Parliament; although the other Parliaments can co-operate very effectively in their own spheres. I can assure the people of Australia that whatever party is in power, the Commonwealth Parliament can be looked to to act fairly. With all its faults and blemishes, its history will compare well with that of the best of the State Parliaments. The Leader of the Opposition has criticised the Government policy; but it is an indication of a happy state of affairs when he did not think it necessary to mention administration. Few Governments can pass through a long ordeal of administrative effort without receiving any criticism from the Leader of the Opposition. That, of course, may be reserved until later. I am glad to see the Leader of the Opposition so well and fit. We are always pleased to see and hear him, and I am glad that he is able to take up his duties so ably after the long recess. If we are rather late in meeting, I hope we will find an advantage arising from the fact that we are all in much better health. While I hope that no criticism which the Opposition think necessary will be withheld, I and my colleagues will be delighted if any opposition is put tersely, so that we may finish our business as early as possible. Lest there should be any misapprehension, I wish to say that we are not proposing that the House should rise at any particular date. We shall rise when the business that is put before Parliament is finished. That is the purpose for which we are met. I should, perhaps, refer to the question of the Tariff, with which the Leader of the Opposition dealt.
– Are the Government going to repeal the sugar duties?
– That is a matter of general policy. No particular duties are going to be repealed by the Government, except in examination with others. The Leader of the Opposition assumed that the Government were not in earnest in anything they did regarding the Tariff, but I can assure him that, on the evidence the Minister of Trade and Customs collects, the Government will take the necessary action. That is the position that we occupy, and no Government would promise more.
– What about that list of 14.5 items which the Government used to throw at us two years ago? Has it grown larger or smaller?
– I should like to hear the honorable member on that list afterwards. I am sure the Minister of Trade and Customs will be very glad to listen to him also. Had the referenda passed, and enabled us to give effect to the pledges that we gave our constituents, I am sure that every member on either side of the House would have felt himself in duty bound to see that ample protection was given to any industry that paid, not only fair and reasonable wages, but the wages prescribed by Mr. Justice Higgins, or any other person in his position. That was the policy put before the country by both parties, but the policy of the previous Government was quite different. They proposed a minimum wage in some industries, and a fair and reasonable wage in others. Our party could not accept that under any conditions. We must have a fair and reasonable wage for any one who has labour to sell.
– Who said that?
– It was said in the boasted memoranda of the previous Government, as issued by the honorable member for Darling Downs.
– The honorable member is away off into ancient history now.
– Is that an answer? There were two questions submitted to the people. One of them was to give this Parliament the power, possessed now by every State Parliament, of nationalizing any monopoly.
– To what memorandum does the honorable member refer?
– I am speaking now about the power of nationalization.
– Was the honorable member referring to the memorandum issued by the Minister of Trade and Customs of the day, and dealing with the new Protection ?
– The honorable member drafted a minute when he was Minister of External Affairs in 1908-9.
– I think the Minister of Trade and Customs issued that minute.
– I think the honorable member drafted it, and that the honorable member for Ballarat laid it on the table as representing the views of the Government.
– That is right. I thought the honorable member was referring to a document issued by me individually.
– There were two memoranda issued embodying the policy of the Government on the question. There appears to be an anxiety on the part of some honorable members not to be too closely associated with that policy now. At the recent referenda two questions were put before the people. One of them was to give this Parliament the power possessed by every State Parliament to nationalize any undertaking, or do anything for the benefit of the people. This Parliament does not constitutionally possess that power, but it is a power that every Parliament ought to have for the protection of the people. That proposal was turned down by the people by almost the same vote as in the case of the new powers asked for, but, in my opinion, as soon as the people understand the question, they will, instead of turning it down, approve of it by a large majority.
– The people did not vote for the honorable member’s proposals, therefore they did not understand them; that is his argument!
– It must be remembered that the Labour party has not, until recently, had a daily newspaper to support it.
– It is treated by the New South Wales press as well as any other party.
– When questions are big enough to compel us to meet the people face to face on the platforms, our difficulties vanish, but we cannot always do that, and our numbers are limited. We are accused by our opponents of not having the means for organization which they possess.
– The Labour party has more funds at its disposal than any other party.
– When we take to the platforms we succeed. Personally, I should not like the party to succeed at the expense of the public welfare. Much as I value its success, I would rather see it suffer loss than do injury to the country, but I would think little of the party if it abandoned its proposals because for ihe moment the public would not accept them. The pioneers of ideas must be prepared for sets back;* but this party will not hesitate to do the right thing when the proper time comes, whether it seems politic or not.
.- I cannot address the House for the first time without referring to the circumstances which have led to my doing so. I regret exceedingly that the honour of representing the electoral district of North Sydney in the Parliament of the Commonwealth has come to me through the untimely death of one who, although I had not his personal acquaintance, I believe possessed the esteem and respect of every honorable member. I can only indorse the eloquent references made to him by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I feel that I have rather a hard role to fill in coming after him and his predecessor, Mr. Dugald Thomson. But I hope that, by attention to my parliamentary duties, I shall be of some practical service to my country, and trust that my intercourse with honorable members will win some measure of their respect and esteem, and prove me a worthy successor to those who have previously represented the constituency. I compliment the honorable member for Batman upon his speech in moving the adoption of the AddressinReply.
– Hear, hear; I am sorry that I omitted to do so.
– The honorable member’s arguments were logical, and his language temperate, and he will prove himself an acquisition to the party to which he belongs. As for the speech of the seconder, whatever merits it might possess were spoiled by the peroration. He was fast petering out, but he put in a brilliant run at the finish, concluding with a reference to this “ rotten, silly business of defence.” I was more than surprised to hear such words from a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, elected by the people to mould its destinies. There are several matters referred to by the Governor-General on which I should like to touch, but I shall confine my remarks almost entirely to the important question of defence. I shall deal with that matter from a national standpoint, because it seems to me impossible to deal with it in any other way. Australia, with its enormous territory, its 12,000 miles of coast line, and its sparse population, cannot defend itself against foreign aggression and interference. Its preparations for defence must have relation to and be in conjunction with the defence of the Empire. We have to provide both naval defence, or defence on the water, and military defence, or defence on the land. Until comparatively recently, I was opposed to the building of an Australian Navy ; for several reasons. For one thing, I did not consider that our handful of population could bear the expense of maintaining a Fleet, and thought that it would be wiser to continue a substantial subsidy for the upkeep of the British Fleet; but when the last Imperial Conference but one, and the British Admiralty, approved the project, I felt unable to pose as an authority in opposition, and am now in favour of an Australian unit. Perhaps, after all, it is well that we have made a commencement in this matter. The time will come when it will be incumbent on us to maintain -a Fleet of our own, and therefore we must make a beginning. One of the advantages of having a Fleet is that the manning of the ships will open an avenue of employment for our young men. Australians will readily take to naval life, and the standard set will be a high one, practically that of the Imperial Navy. It is necessary, too, that Australian waters should be protected. So long as we are under the good old Union Jack, and the noblest Fleet that ever rode the seas protects our commerce, we are secure from molestation ; but the time may come when the Mother Country will not be able to afford us the full protection necessary for our safety. In” conjunction with serious national complications, there might be trouble in India. That is quite on the cards, especially after the addresses to meetings there of such a man as Mr. Keir Hardie. Probably if England became embroiled in a European disturbance, there would be trouble in India, and we might be left to our own resources for a time.
– How many meetings did Mr. Keir Hardie address in India ? Surely the honorable member is not serious about that !
– I am. There was seething discontent in India before he went there, but his visit accentuated it. If what he did had been done under any other flag, he would never have seen daylight again. Under Russian administration he would have been sent in chains to the mines of Siberia. Under the British flag, every man may say and do what he likes; but it is scandalous that there are those who are ready to excite the races of India to rebellion. Do we desire the recurrence of an event like the Indian Mutiny ?
– What was the cause of that?
– One of the causes was said to be the smearing of cartridges with fat.
– There was no Labour agitator concerned.
– I am not prepared to say that there was not. It is well that we should have in our waters vessels which will provide for the protection of our shores, at least temporarily. We have a naval unit, and have made satisfactory progress towards the completion of a fleet. The Yarra and the Parramatta torpedo destroyers are actually in commission, and are very good boats, notwithstanding the somewhat disturbing reports which were made as to their stability, but which I think were much exaggerated. At the same time, the Warrego is being constructed at the Fitzroy dock. I do not think that honorable members opposite have altogether kept faith with the people of Australia in regard to the building of these vessels. I understand that there was a distinct promise by the Labour party that, if they were given power, two, at all events, of these vessels would be built in Australia by our own workmen.
– The programme placed before the people’ is being carried out to the letter.
– In any. case that is a Liberal programme, and not the programme of the Labour party. I give the Minister of Defence every credit for an> honest endeavour to give effect to the proposals which emanated from the Liberal’ party. The Prime Minister laughs, but he knows that his proposal was to have a lot. of little boats of the. River type - that hisproposal was commonly known as one of a mosquito fleet.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ River “ type? .
– We all know what the word means, but I understand that the honorable member who interjects was under the impression that the boats were so de- scribed because they could only go up rivers. Perhaps it is necessary to have vessels in our own waters for our protection, but I do not know whether, on the score of expense, we could carry out all the recommendations of Admiral Henderson. I trust, however, that we shall goas far as our means allow ; and, with a fleet unit and the Imperial Squadron at New Zealand, we shall be able to make aformidable resistance to any hostile or marauding force. If we are so defended the Mother Country would be given time to relieve herself of any temporary difficulty and to regain command of the high seas ; and we know that unless she hasthat command we may say “ Good bye.”” I have no desire to name, or even hint at any nation as our enemy; but we must realize that within a few days’ sail there is one nation which, mushroom like, has advanced to the position of a first class power on land and sea. I refer to Japan y and although we are very friendly withthat nation at the present time, aud then*, is a treaty between it and Great Britain,, it may prove a menace to have’ a power like that in such close proximity. I am pleased to see that the treaty has been extended ; but we all know that treaties are easily broken on any plausible pretext if there is a desire to break them.
– Does the honorable member really see any danger to us in Japan ?
– Although there is, as I” say, a treaty with that country, we knowthat the Japanese have no love for us,, chiefly, I suppose, on account of our restrictive immigration laws. I may say,, however, that I would not have those lawsrepealed on any account because, at all hazards, we ought to preserve our ideal of a white Australia - even if we have to fight anc! die for that ideal - unless we are content to disappear. I do not know that I would go quite as far as did the Minister of External Affairs the other day. No doubt the honorable gentleman is making what he regards as an honest endeavour to preserve our ideal in prohibiting the return to this country of a respectable Chinaman’s wife, although it is very hard on the Celestial gentleman. The Minister, however, ought to be consistent ; and I was surprised to read some time ago an account on his going, in company with, I think, the honorable member for Melbourne, to a swagger Chinese function in this city. The occasion was the opening of a Chinese restaurant; and whether these honorable members partook of sucking pig and rice with chop sticks, I do not know, but they did wish the new venture good luck and success. However, we must all regard our first line of defence as on the sea; and while I was very pleased to hear expressions of loyalty and Imperialistic sentiment from the Prime Minister, I am not clear on the point whether, under the Naval agreement, our fleet unit in war time is to be subject absolutely to the British Admiralty, or only so subject with the consent of this Parliament.
– With the consent of Parliament.
– I regret exceedingly that that is so.
– I can assure the honorable member that he need not have any anxiety, so long as this Government remain in power.
– I am not so sure about that, because, apparently, it will rest entirely with the Government, in the case of the Empire being at war, whether we take part in that war or not. After the expressions of loyalty from the Prime Minister, it is a rude shock to discover that, if the Empire is at war the Labour party will please itself whether or not it shall take part. If the Empire is at war fighting for its existence we are at war fighting for our existence.
– Does the honorable member not think that he can leave such a matter to this Parliament?
– I am not prepared to leave such a matter to this or any Parliament. It should have been provided in the Naval agreement that, while in peace time we could do what we liked with our navy, the vessels should in war time - no matter with what nation or on what account - go automatically under the command of the British Admiral.
– Would the honorable member send the fleet against the Boers?
– If the Empire is at war, we are at war; and why not send a fleet against the Boers? It is absolutely essential that the prestige of the Empire should be upheld in any part of the world, because, if the Empire suffers, we suffer. I regret the views of the Prime Minister on this point. I have not seen the full text of the Naval agreement, but I take it that the fleet unit is only to be used for the defence of the Empire outside Australian waters, with the consent of the Australian Parliament. If that be so I regard the arrangement as absolutely wrong, for the reasons I have already given - with the Empire we sink or swim. Referring for a moment again to the Parramatta and the Yarra, I must tell a little story which I heard the other day, and thought rather amusing. A school teacher asked his scholars which of them could tell the names of the Commonwealth destroyers, and one little boy held up his hand and said at once, “ Andrew Fisher and Billy Hughes.” As to our second line of defence, I believe that both in Australia and abroad the representatives of the Labour party have taken credit for initiating the scheme of compulsory and universal training; indeed, His Excellency’s Speech refers to the present Government as having initiated it. Let me say at once that the Labour Government did not initiate this scheme of compulsory training. It was inaugurated by the Liberal party.
– The honorable member for Parramatta was Minister of Defence at the time, and I take it that he was responsible for the visit to Australia of one who, I suppose, is the greatest organizer in the British Army - Lord Kitchener - to advise us on the very importantmatter of Australian defence.
– It was Sir Thomas Ewing who was responsible.
– I confess ignorance of all the little details of administration in connexion with the Federal Government, but I know that the Liberal party initiated the compulsory training scheme. The present Government are claiming credit for it, but it is our scheme. The Labour party have pirated it from us. I am pleased, however, that the Government have thought fit to bring it in, although I believe that many of the Labour party are at heart opposed to it. I am inclined to think that they were dragooned by the Attorney-General into approving of it.
– Perhaps the Caucus was responsible.
– When we say the Caucus is responsible for anything we are contradicted, but if the honorable member pleases we will leave it at that. The Attorney-General perhaps influenced the Caucus very considerably. We have heard very adverse criticism levelled at the scheme of compulsory training, one complaint being that we are training only the boys - that we are to have an army of boys, and” are not calling upon the men of Australia to take their fair share of the work of defending the country. I approve of a commencement being made with the boys, for I do not think it would have been possible to carry out a scheme of universal compulsory training. Such a scheme would have broken down of its own weight. I should certainly be proud, to see every able-bodied man in Australia to-day a trained and drilled soldier able if need be to take his place in the field in the defence of our country, our hearths, and our homes. But I am not going to advocate any scheme to which in my opinion practical effect cannot be given. I see insurmountable difficulties in the way of training every adult male in the Commonwealth, and therefore I say it is well that we have commenced only with our boys. I am pleased that we are meeting with fair success in enrolling and imparting instruction to the youth of Australia. There are difficulties in the way, but I am not going to deal with the matter in a carping spirit. I am not going to say that all those difficulties should be overcome, for as a military man I am thoroughly familiar with their extent. Senator Pearce as Minister of Defence is making a bond fide attempt to carry out the scheme, and to administer the important duties appertaining to his high office as they should be administered. And so long as Senator Pearce as Minister of Defence is, in my opinion, making an honest bond fide endeavour to carry out those duties he will have, quite irrespective of any question of party, all the assistance that I can give him. We should not allow any petty, paltry party views to interfere with our duty to our country, and I shall give the honorable senator every assistance in my power in carrying out this scheme. The mention of cadets brings to my mind the fact that I have, so to speak, a bone to pick with the Minister of Defence regarding the treatment meted out to the contingent of cadets who went Home to the Coronation. We have heard various versions of the matter. Senator Pearce, I believe, has made several explanations, and I have seen in the press some references to them. The first mistake made was the failure to send a Commonwealth contingent of cadets at the expense, not of private citizens, but of the country. I was one of those who subscribed to the cost of sending Home the contingent of cadets, and as a private citizen I should not have had to do so.
– Does the Deputy Leader of the honorable member’s party indorse that view?
– Most certainly. I think that a contingent of cadets and a contingent of soldiers should have been sent to England in connexion with the Coronation.
– I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta. Both contingents should have been sent Home at the expense of the country.
– The advertisement would have been worth the money. .
– Are we to think only of money in these matters? Are we not going to show that we, at all events, are loyal citizens of the Empire. I do not suggest that the omission to send a contingent of itself constituted an act of disloyalty on the part of the Federal Government, but that failure, at all events, did not show that they were enthusiastically loyal. It was a grave mistake on the part of the Minister of Defence that a contingent of soldiery as well as a contingent of cadets was not sent Home at the expense of the country to represent us.
– The honorable member forgets the contingent of members of Parliament that was sent Home.
– And the honorable member forgets that that contingent cost the country ^7,300, while the Government on the score of the expense which it would involve declined to send Home a contingent of soldiery. If the Government, are going to economize, and to adopt a cheese-paring policy, let them practise that economy right through the piece. Do not let them withhold money with one hand. and cast it out lavishly with the other. I do not complain of the expense of sending honorable members Home to take part in the celebrations.
– I do.
– I do not. I think it is well that we were represented by members of this Parliament at the Coronation celebrations, and I was also pleased that the Prime Minister went Home to attend the celebrations and to take part in the Imperial Conference. It was due to him that he should go Home in a style befitting his station. Holding, as I do, those views, I do not cavil at some of the expenditure which was necessary to enable him and his retinue to go Home. I do not even cavil at his having an officer who has been described as a courier, and who took his wife Home with him. It was quite in keeping with his position, but the man ought to have been called by his proper name. A courier, to my mind, is a messenger. I do not know whether this officer was taken Home to run messages, but I should hardly think it was necessary to take an Australian to London to run messages there. A man or a boy knowing more about London than an individual from Australia might have been secured for the work. However, I am not cavilling, and should not have referred to the matter but that honorable members opposite, by interjection, drew my attention to it.
– The honorable member referred to it deliberately at North Sydney.
– I did; but I did not do so here.
– The honorable member promised to bring it up in this House.
– Then I have kept my promise. When interrupted, I was pointing out that it was, perhaps, wise that we should make a commencement with our boys in the scheme of compulsory training. I got into difficulties with some of the Liberal supporters at Goulburn, in the electorate of Werriwa, because I would not “ go the whole hog “ in regard to compulsory training. Indeed, some of the Defence League there said that they would vote for my opponent because I would not do so.
– Did he “go the whole hog “ ?
– He went further than that, as I shall, perhaps, be able to show. I was opposed to universal compulsory training, because I did not consider it practicable. If we had inaugurated a scheme of universal com pulsory training, under which every adult male in Australia would be required to attend drills and parades, and become a trained and drilled soldier, it would, in my opinion, have broken down. In order to explain my attitude, I will cite as an instance the position of men in what is probably the most powerful trade union in Australia - the shearers or the Australian Workers’ Union. 1 refer to that union only for the reason that its members follow an employment which would make them peculiarly liable to endeavour to avoid their training when the time came for them to attend parades. It would be impossible to arrange for drills and parades to suit every individual, and at certain seasons of the year these men, having to go to shearing sheds, would raise a difficulty. As many honorable members opposite know, at these sheds they can make very good wages - perhaps as much as £2 a day, and possibly when the time of training came round they would say, “ I have a shed to go to some distance away, and the training may ‘ go hang.’ I am not going to stop here merely to attend parades. 1 am off down the river,” and away they would go. What would be the position? Penal clauses would be necessary for the effectiveness of a scheme of universal training, and if those penal clauses were to be of any use they would have to be enforced. In such circumstances the natural result would be that some of the members of the Australian Workers’ Union would be fined, first of all, for not attending parades, and if they would not pay the fine we should have to go to the extreme of sending some of them to gaol. Immediately we commenced to do so trouble would arise. I do not wish to suggest that the members of this union are more adverse to training than are the members of any other union. I refer to them merely because they fit the position. In the circumstances I have outlined, there would be a tacit resistance throughout the big unions, and we should find it impossible to put 40,000 or 50,000 men in gaol. Thus such a scheme would absolutely break down. For these reasons I think it is well that we have commenced, first of all with our boys. Let us look for a moment at what we are doing in the way of carrying out the present scheme. We are, in a way, endeavouring to carry out the recommendations of Lord Kitchener, but I am sorry to say the Minister of Defence appears to be doing so on a cheap scale. For the purposes of the scheme of compulsory training, the more populous centres have been divided into areas, over each of which a military officer - the best procurable - is placed as an area officer. These areas are in turn grouped together into what is called a brigade, under a senior officer, called a brigade major. These area officers are, in my opinion, the men who are going to make or mar the scheme of compulsory training. They are the men who are to be responsible for the efficiency of the senior cadets who come under their charge, but they are not receiving remuneration befitting their positions. They are being paid only £3 per week, and 1 know from experience that they have to work all the time to attend thoroughly to their areas. The position of an area officer is no sinecure, and ,£3 is not sufficient pay for it.
– How does the pay compare with that in the British Army?
– I do not care what the pay in the British Army is. Would the honorable member like to compare the pay of British workmen with that of Australian workmen? All I say is that the pay is not commensurate with the work that is supposed to be carried out by these officers.
– Do they give all their time to it?
– I can assure the honorable member that many of them, even giving the whole of their time, have not the time to carry out their duties satisfactorily. Many good men are now giving up the position because it is too much for them. That, however, is not all. The area officers, when they have charge of areas in which there is a militia regiment, have to carry out the duties of adjutant for that regiment also. That is a great hardship. I was at one time adjutant to a light horse regiment, and I can assure honorable members that the job is no sinecure. There are very arduous duties to perform, and they take a great deal of time. Some area officers have to occupy the dual position.
– Why is the honorable member trying to breed discontent?
– The discontent already exists, and I am in hopes of getting the Government to relieve the position. I am not averse to the one man occupying the two positions, for I think it is a good thing, but he should get pay adequate to the service that he renders. Before this scheme was introduced, the adjutants of the militia regiments were paid £91 per year for performing those duties. Now they have the duties of area officer added, and get only ^150 a year for both. Therefore, they get only £59 a year for their area duties. The unfair part of the position arises in this way. One man may have an area in which there is no militia regiment, and get ^150 a year for performing the duties of area officer only. The man adjoining him may have a militia regiment in his area, and have to perform both duties, and yet gets only £150. One has to perform almost double the duties that fall to the lot of the other, and yet both get the same “ screw.” That matter requires the very serious consideration of the Minister of Defence, as great discontent now exists among the area officers. I take it that in a great measure the success of this scheme depends upon the spirit with which the youth of Australia are imbued.
– Hear, hear.
– I am proud to hear the Prime Minister say “ Hear, hear.” I wish that all his confreres were of the same opinion, but I am afraid that some of them would seek to discount my remarks. I am sorry, indeed, to find that a certain section of the community are absolutely opposed to the scheme of compulsory training. I have here the report of a meeting of the Stanforth-Merthyr Miners’ Lodge, at Kurri Kurri - a body of about 700 strong. If the resolutions carried at that meeting represent the sentiments of 700 men, I am very sorry for it, because I think it constitutes a menace to Australia. The report states : -
Kurri Kurri, Monday, August 14. - The StanfordMerthyr Miners’ Lodge, a body about 700 strong, has passed the following motion, and sent it on to the Northern Miners’ Federation, requesting that it be submitted to all the affiliated lodges : - “ That, whereas in times of peace the great mass of the workers of the Commonwealth are denied a living wage -
Why do not honorable members opposite see that they get a living wage? They have been in power long enough. Are they denying these poor men a living wage? If they are, shame on them : - and are exploited on every hand by classconscious capitalists and employers, whose ambition in life is to keep the workers in subjection, and to wring every ounce of profit from their (the workers’) overburdened bodies by means of class legislation, initiated for the masters’ own specific interest, and who, in time of war, call upon and compel the said workers to defend the said masters’ stolen property and murder their fellowcreatures in other countries, be it resolved : That we, the members of the Northern Colliery Employees’ Federation, who produce a proportionate portion of the wealth of the country, and yet own none of it, emphatically protest against the hare-brained murder Scheme of the Labour party, viz., the compulsory military service law; and we hereby pledge ourselves to oppose the brutal measure to our utmost, seeing that the workers of this country and their children have nothing to defend ; and believing, as we do, that the scheme is only the thin end of the wedge, and that it is against the true principles of democracy.”
If this represents the sentiments of 700 men, as it professes to do, I fear there is something radically wrong. It is disgraceful and shameful for these men to make the statement that they have nothing to defend. Is property all that we have to defend in Australia? Have we not our freedom? Have we not the freest institutions in the whole world ? We have more than material wealth and property to defend. We live under absolutely the freest Constitution in the whole world. Every man is free to come or go as he likes. He can travel from Sydney to Broken Hill, and no one dare ask him where he is going. If he attempted to do that in Russia, Germany, or Japan, he would very soon be asked for his passport. We are free to do what we like. We work when we like, and loaf when we like. We are free to work or play, and to worship in any shrine we like. If we like’ to worship graven images, there is no one to dispute our right with us. We have absolutely the freest country in the world, and that is what we have to defend. We also have our hearths and homes, no matter how humble they may be, and yet these men make the disgraceful statement that we have nothing to defend. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. That is bad enough, but I was very much surprised to read in one of the papers a reply given by the Acting Minister of Defence - Senator McGregor. If any one had told me that Senator McGregor would give expression to such sentiments as are here contained, I would have said he was mad. This is the report: -
Melbourne, Wednesday, August 16. - The Acting Minister for Defence, Senator McGregor, replied to-day to a resolution of the miners of Kurri Kurri, who condemned the universal defence scheme as a hare-brained murder scheme, and protested against their sons being called upon to take part in defence on the ground that they had nothing to defend.
The Minister said that some of these people who appeared to be suffering from a multiplicity of the most horrible delusions must have imagined that Australia was in the same position, socially and politically, as some of the European countries, where military service was compulsory. He would like to ask them whether it was not better for every citizen of Australia to know how to defend his country, as far as the worker was concerned. The worker would be the soldier, and if any difficulties arose the worker would not be likely to turn his own rifle on himself, nor would the citizen soldier bc foolish enough’ to cut a citizen’s throat, seeing that he was a citizen and soldier at the same time.
– What is there wrong with that?
– It means civil war. The Prime Minister said that the Leader of the Opposition appeared to make more of the dangers of internal dissension than of external trouble ; but the statement which I have read justified him in doing so. It is a scandalous and disgraceful statement to come from a responsible Minister. It means the encouragement of men to accept compulsory military service, so that should industrial trouble arise, perhaps such as that which occurred recently in the Old Country, they might be able, not to defend their land from foreign aggression, but to defy law and order, and defend themselves from any force used for the protection of life and property. To have one body of soldiers in arms against another would mean civil war, anarchy, and plunder. Such a state of things must make one shudder. If the views of the Minister were accepted, there must be forebodings as to the possibilities of internal dissension. To my mind, there is more danger of that - of fights, perhaps, between unionists and non-unionists - than of interference from outside.
– It will cure itself in time.
– I hope it will cure itself before it is too late. We do not desire civil war. Although I am a soldier, I am a peaceful one. I do not desire a war. Lest honorable members may think; the newspaper which I have read incorrect, let me corroborate it by a quotation from the Sydney Sunday Times.
– What is the name of the paper from which the honorable member has already quoted ?
– A most reputable journal, the Goulburn Penny Post. The Sydney Sunday Times of 3rd September, contains the following account of an interview with the Vice-President of the Executive Council : -
Senator McGregor is in no wise perturbed about the remarks made recently by Lt. -Col Ryrie, M.H.R., on the subject of arming and training the workers so that they may on an emergency be able to refuse to fire upon their fellowworkers and to “ defend themselves against the troops.” “ Yes, that’s right,” Senator McGregor replied promptly, when asked if he had made the remarks ascribed to him by Mr. Ryrie. “ I said it all right, and if Ryrie wants to hear more about it let him come to me and I will tell him.” Lt.-Col. Ryrie is reported to have stated in his lecture in Sydney before the members of the Liberal Women’s Literary and Debating Club, that Senator McGregor had, while acting as Minister of Defence, told the Kurri Kurri miners that - “ It was to the workers’ advantage to train. As far as the workers were concerned, the workers would be the soldiers; and if any difficulty arose, the worker would not be likely to fire upon his fellow workers.”
Col. Ryrie’s comment upon this was that this meant “ civil war, anarchy, and revolution,” and Senator McGregor now states that it means nothing of the sort, but a prevention of such industrial troubles as are likely to lead to civil war, anarchy, and revolution. “ Now, supposing you were a soldier under our “ compulsory system,” says the senator, addressing his interviewer, “ and all the other citizens were soldiers, would you and the others shoot yourselves? There would be no one else to shoot but your own comrades, and such a position would be impossible. In Liverpool (England) the employers knew they had the soldiers behind them, and so did the strikers; but things are different to that in Australia, and will be different. The soldiers who will be citizens themselves, will not be as ready to fire upon their fellow citizens as are those in England.”
I applaud that statement. It will be a sorry day for Australia when any soldier has to fire on our citizens. We should have a civic force sufficiently strong to insure law and order without calling out the soldiery; but if it became necessary to use the military, there should be no chance of civil war. That is what I disapprove of-
But, said the interviewer, supposing a section of the citizen soldiery thought one way on an industrial question or a strike, and another section held an opposing view; then one portion of the troops would obey a command to shoot rioters and the other portion would refuse. What would that mean? “ That,” said the senator, “ would be civil war.”
Therefore, he advocates civil war- “ That is what Colonel Ryrie says,” was the reply, “ and perhaps he thinks civil war is not a good thing. What does your side propose to Jo about that aspect of the case?”
– Was he speaking as a member of the Government?
– The original statement was made to a deputation of the Kurri Kurri miners. I believe the Prime Minister himself considers it astounding.
– There was no deputation.
– I have not finished with honorable members opposite who have given expression to dangerous sentiments.
– Ruffianly sentiments.
– Ruffianly sentiments. The honorable member for Werriwa, speaking from a balcony in Goulburn, said, according to the Goulburn Penny Post, on the nth December, 1906 -
The Labour Party propose to establish an arms and ammunition factory, and, secondly, they propose that every school boy should put in at least a fortnight a year training to defend the country against possible attack.
That is an admirable idea -
They would then have a body of men to defend the country against outside attack as well as against tyrants at home.
– Hear, hear ! I say it now.
– I am sorry to hear the honorable member say that, though I am glad to have the confirmation of the correctness of the report. I have not been able to procure a cutting from the newspaper which I have quoted, because the editor possesses only his office copy ; but I have what is certified to be a true and literal copy of the report which has never been denied. If I have any knowledge of the electors of the important constituency of Werriwa, it will be surprising if the honorable member is not called to book.
– Does the honorable member uphold tyranny?
– No; but I deny that there are any tyrants in the sense meant by the honorable member. These people are supposed to be tyrants because they will not tamely submit to impossible conditions and unreasonable demands. However, this report, which, I take it, is a resume of the honorable member’s speech, represents him as speaking of what might have happened had all the miners at Newcastle been armed at the time of the big strike some time ago. That I understand to be not the last strike, but the strike before; and he goes on to say that the miners would then have been able to repel the handful of militia “ sent up by George Reid in the interests of certain firms.”
– I never spoke of “ George Reid “ in that connexion, because I know better ; it was Sir Henry Parkes and McMillan.
– If the honorable member did speak as reported, it is a scandalous thing. Do honorable members opposite hold with men arming themselves to repel other men who are sent to uphold law and order? We have the shameful innuendo that the militia was sent in the interests of certain firms; and I say that if the honorable member advocates armed resistance to law and order, he must be in favour of civil war.
– I was in Sir George Reid’s Government, and no soldiers were ever sent anywhere.
– The honorable member for North Sydney would allow soldiers to shoot citizens, but not allow citizens to retaliate.
– The soldiers are sent to maintain law and order. When I was drawn away from my subject I was referring to pay given to area officers; and, in case honorable members may be doubtful as to the amount of work these men are required to do, I shall read the regulations setting forth their duties.
– lt is a scandalous piece of sweating.
– Absolutely; they are the most sweated men in the service of the Commonwealth.
– Why do they not “ chuck it up “?
– They are doing so, and that is not in the best interest of the forces, seeing that they are the best men we can procure.
– Bunkum !
– They are the best men we can procure at the price.
– That is so. The following are their duties, as set forth in the regulations : -
That means that they have to visit every school in the area once a month ; and that alone would take up half an officer’s time -
If there is a militia regiment of Light Horse with a gun section, the officer has to attend to all the equipment, transfers, and so forth, entailing an amount of work he can hardly be expected to get through -
The unfortunate area officer is supposed to provide his own horse at 12s. 6d. per day for fourteen days, with camp allowance of 3s. 6d. They are paid £150 a year, and yet are called upon to provide their own horse while on such duty.
– Why does such an officer require a horse?.
– The honorable member had better ask those responsible for the regulations.
– I do not see why an infantry officer requires a horse.
– It is in the regulations that he must find a horse.
– An area officer has no work to do - the sergeant-major does it all.
– I am now reading the regulations, which set forth the duties of an area officer -
That is absolutely ridiculous. It might be all very well in the metropolitan area, where the trainees are close together, and have Saturday half holidays, with opportunities for night drills ; but in the country districts the circumstances are very different, and it is almost impossible to supervise the work properly even if an officer gave twelve hours a day to it.
– An officer can only be in one place at a time !
– But supposing that his not being able to be in more than one place at a time interferes with the performance of his duty, then the scheme suffers, although the man may be doing his best. If these officers are to be supposed to give so much time to their military duties, they ought to receive adequate remuneration. That is why I said, a little while ago, that the Government are making an endeavour to carry out in a cheap jack fashion the scheme propounded by that great organizer, Lord Kitchener. If the scheme is to be carried out properly, we must have the money to pay for it, and the officers must be adequately remunerated. Certainly £150 a year is not enough.
– The area officers in Brisbane are pursuing their ordinary occupations, and are getting ,£150 a year for area officer work.
– I say that they cannot carry put the duties enumerated here and at the same time pursue ordinary avocations. They are further directed to obtain a knowledge of the distribution of the population, and to make themselves acquainted with the conditions of employment, and all matters affecting the interests of those liable to training within their areas. This means that they will have to visit the homes of practically every compulsory trainee. The officer at Goulburn will have to go all the way to Cooma to do his work. Surely it cannot be contended that .£150 a year is sufficient payment to officers upon whom the success of this scheme must depend. Lord Kitchener contemplated that the best men procurable would be appointed area officers, and that they would receive salaries up to .£300 or ,£400 a year. If the Government merely make a pretence of carrying out the scheme, they will simply be fooling with the whole business, but if they are to carry out the scheme in its entirety, they will make the area officers permanent administrators, and give them a sufficient salary to enable them to devote themselves absolutely to the work. Otherwise the scheme will break down.
– Can the honorable member suggest a way to obtain the necessary revenue ?
– I suppose the honorable member would double the land tax. That tax, by the way, was supposed to be, not for the purpose of producing revenue, but for bursting up big estates. We find,, however, that it is revenue-producing on a considerable scale. I do not care where the Government get the revenue from. They must get it if they are to carry out this training scheme satisfactorily. If they cannot get it out of the Consolidated Revenue they must borrow, and if they cannot borrow the money they can make it. The Government are making money quickly enough now by means of their note issue. To digress for a moment, the reference to the note issue reminds me of a remark which was recently. made to me. I understand that the Prime Minister has given expression to the idea that the reserve in connexion with the note issue should be made a general reserve of 25 per cent. I understand that, under the Australian Notes Act, there is a reserve of 25 per cent, up to £7,000,000, and that, after notes to that amount have been issued, the reserve is to be pound for pound. If there is to be a general reserve of 25 per cent., it would simply mean that the Government might issue notes up to £20,000,000, and have only ,£5,000,000 in gold. That is not sound. At the present time, if there are £9,000,000 notes in circulation - as I am informed is the case - the reserve of 25 per cent, applies up to £7,000,000, after which amount there is retained in the Treasury vaults a sovereign for every pound note issued. That means that for the £2,000,000 of notes issued after the amount of £7,000,000 is reached, there are £2,000,000 in sovereigns in the vaults. But if there is to be a general 25 per cent, reserve, it means that the Government cart immediately put their hands upon £1,500,000 in cash.
– What for?
– For anything they like.
– Read the Act.
– But they are going to amend the Act.
– They can amend it as they like, I suppose. Reverting to defence questions, I am very anxious to know whether any ‘decision has been arrived at in connexion with the Naval College. I am very much interested in the question of the selection of a site for the College. I believe that the best site procurable happens to be in my electorate. It is at Barrenjoey. I prefer a site at Brock’s Mansions, Mona Vale, but I am informed that that has been turned down. It has been reported that Senator McGregor and his advisers have looked into three sites which were in the running, and that Barrenjoey was one of them. I shall be very pleased to know when a decision is arrived at on this subject. It is highly desirable that a Naval College should be established as soon as possible. If we are going to make a success of the creation and maintenance of an Australian fleet, we must have a College in which to train our Naval Cadets. I understand that the enrolment of cadets is proceeding very satisfactorily, and that we are getting a very good class of lads, who are entering upon their work in a commendable manner. The mention of Barrenjoey brings to my mind the fact that Broken Bay is inadequately defended. I have inspected the bay both by sea and by land.. I have gone by launch round to the Hawkesbury Bridge, and have come to the conclusion that the Federal Government has been almost criminally negligent in respect to their being no fortification! whatever at Broken Bay. The mouth of the Hawkesbury River is absolutely the back door of Sydney. Perhaps some honorable members are not aware that the largest gunboat, or an ironclad, or even, I believe, a Dreadnought, could steam right up to the Hawkesbury Bridge, and blow it up. There is deep water all the way. In fact, the present King, George V., when Prince of Wales, was taken in a boat up to the Hawkesbury Bridge. It is a serious menace to us that we have no protection there either by submarine mines or forts. We surely ought to have fortifications at Broken Bay. Indeed, if we are to do anything for the adequate defence of this country, the neglect in that respect in the past must be regarded as almost criminal. There is a very excellent position which I have inspected, both from the sea and from the land. I refer to West Head, which overlooks Barrenjoey and the whole of Broken Bay, and which would command the sea for very many miles around. It is a most prominent feature, and would adequately protect the Hawkesbury Bridge. It is perhaps more important than many honorable members imagine that the Hawkesbury Bridge should be protected. If, for instance, a marauding squadron came here in time of war, and landed a party which blew up the Hawkesbury Bridge, what would be the position if an attack were made on the coast somewhere about Newcastle? The position would be that the whole of our forces in New South Wales, at all events the whole of the forces to the west and to the south, as well as those of the metropolis, would be cut off from the theatre of operations. We should have absolutely no access to it, since there has been no linking up of bur railway system. There is no connecting link between the north and the west. That is an absolute menace to our safety. Lord Kitchener reported that his observations had led him to the conclusion that in time of trouble our railways perhaps would be of more use to an enemy than to ourselves. These are matters for the serious consideration of the Minister in charge of the all-important Department of Defence. I would point out further that for the purposes of defence it is essential that there should be uniformity of gauge throughout the railway services of the Commonwealth. With our breaks of gauge we should find ourselves in a state of chaos if the necessity arose for a speedy mobilization of troops. If, for instance, we were to endeavour to transport 10,000 mounted men from Melbourne to Brisbane it would take us months instead of days to do so. The Federal Parliament has been guilty of almost criminal neglect in failing to grapple with this question of uniformity of gauge. I am speaking quite irrespective of party. I do not blame either one party or the other, but it is a disgrace to the Federal Parliament that it has not. had the courage to grapple with this great question.
– What power have we to deal with it?
– The honorable member knows that the States over and over again have signified their willingness- to allow us to deal with it.
– When ?
– I do not know when, but they have all been ready to fall in with any scheme with that object in view.
– I have never heard of it.
– Have not the Premiers of the States said over and over again that they are prepared to allow their engineersinchief to meet in conference upon the question ? Was not such a proposition put before the Prime Minister?
– They conferred at our request.
– They were willing to confer at the request of the Government, with a view to arriving at some understanding.
– Nothing more. We convened the Conference.
– I take it that the States are willing to come to an understanding with reference to this question of uniformity of gauge.
– But nothing more. Western Australia alone has promised to adopt a 4 ft. Sh in. gauge as soon as we commence the transcontinental railway.
– That is the gauge which must be adopted throughout Australia. It is the recognised standard throughout the world and it would be ridiculous to endeavour to bring up the gauges to 5 ft. 3 in. It is much easier to contract than to expand a gauge, since a contraction obviates the necessity for widening cuttings and cutting down platforms. We must of necessity adopt the 4 ft. 8j in. gauge, and we shall find that it is adequate for all purposes.
– As the result of American experience, I think there is a movement in England for widening the gauge.
– I am not aware of that; but I believe that a 4 ft. 8& in. gauge is capable of carrying heavy loads, at a speed of 60 miles, or even more, with safety. We could not think of coming down to the lower gauge of 3 ft. 6 in., which obtains in Queensland and in certain parts, of South Australia and Western Australia; and to go back to which would be to make a retrograde movement. On a line of that gauge we could not carry heavy loads with safety at more than 40 miles an hour. In the circumstances, therefore, we- must come to the conclusion that the 4 ft. 8J in. gauge must be standardized in the Commonwealth. The question is one which should be settled once and for all. Every day the trouble is being accentuated, and it is almost criminal to neglect it any longer. It is imperative that we should have this uniformity of gauge as a means of mobilizing troops. I should like now to touch briefly upon our arms’ factory at Lithgow. I think that the Government have been neglectful, inasmuch as they have not made adequate arrangements for carrying out economically the building of the factory.
– It was built before the present Government came into power.
– But not completed. If the present Government had acceded to the request to put in a siding within a quarter of a mile of the site of the factory, it would have avoided the cartage of thousands of tons of material and machinery from the Eskbank railway station at a cost of thousands of pounds. The money that has been spent on the cartage of material and machinery from Eskbank to Lithgow would alone have paid for the siding over and over again.
– It was the Fusion Government that refused to build that siding.
– The present Government has not taken action, and during the lifetime of this Administration thousands of tons of machinery and material have been carted from Eskbank to Lithgow.
– The honorable member had better blame his Conservative brothers for that.
– No, I shall blame the Government for everything. I should like to put seriously before the Minister representing the Minister of Defence a matter relating to the manufacture of arms for our citizen army. I understand that the machinery which has been installed at Lithgow is for the manufacture of the short service rifle - the .303, and I wish to know from the honorable gentleman whether that machinery will be adequate for the manufacture of the long rifle. I take it that the short rifle, although it is called the short service rifle, and is of the LeeEnfield pattern, is not a serviceable one. Indeed, I hate the sight of it, and I speak as one who has had some experience of rifle shooting. It certainly is not the most serviceable weapon. I have some practical knowledge, since I have the honour to command a regiment, teams from which often compete with teams from other regiments. So long as we compete with other regiments that have the same arm, the .303 rifle, we have a chance. But when we shoot against civilian rifle clubs which have the long rifle, we have absolutely no chance, especially at the longer ranges. The short rifle may be fairly serviceable up to 500, and possibly up to 600 yards, but beyond that it is absolutely unserviceable and unreliable. It will be a great fault in connexion with the factory if the machinery is not capable of turning out the long instead of the short rifle. The machinery which will be installed will not be adequate for the production of sufficient rifles for the Citizen Force to be created under the new scheme. It will be able to turn out 300 rifle barrels per week, or, roughly, 15,000 barrels per year. In a few years’ time we shall have from 80,000 to 100,000 citizen soldiers.
– That -is, working only one shift of eight hours a day, but three shifts can be put on if necessary.
– I was not aware that that output was for only one shift of eight hours, but I accept the honorable member’s assurance. If we can treble the output, I am satisfied, but I had calculated on the basis that we should be able to manufacture only sufficient rifle barrels to repair the rifles in use. Nowadays rifle barrels, with the high velocity and present conditions of manufacture, have not a very long life. If the rifle is not looked after very carefully, and cleaned immediately after shooting, the acid from the cordite eats away the steel in the grooving. The higher velocity of the present day weapons also tends towards the depreciation of the barrel, as the grooving may become nickled. The sight that is being used on the short service rifle is the old V sight. From what I have learned of rifle shooting recently, especially in the Old Country, the universal sight used is the aperture sight, which is very much preferable to the old V sight. ,It gives a greater sight range between the back sight and the fore sight and acts as an orthoptic. It is in every way easier for the cadet, and would be much easier for the compulsory trainee to learn his shooting with.
– Have not the Defence Department adopted it?
– I take it that they have not. They have adopted the short service .303 rifle with the ordinary V sight. These are matters for the serious consideration of the Minister of Defence. On the question of the sending of contingents to the Old Country, I should like by quoting from some old Hansards to show that the members of the Labour party have always exhibited an aversion to sending troops Home for such a ceremony as a Coronation, or to making any military display. They have shown themselves averse in every way to militarism, and are opposed to the encouragement of the Defence Forces in every shape and form.
– That is not true of the party.
– I am going to show that it is true with regard to a great number of the present party. I remember being hauled over the coals on one occasion by the honorable member for Newcastle at a meeting at that city, for stating that the Labour party in the Federal Parliament had pursued a cheese-paring and suicidal policy in regard to defence, and that they had consistently advocated the cutting-down of the Estimates of that Department. I was told that that statement was wrong. I find that on the 30th April, 1902, according to Hansard, Mr. Watson, the then leader of the Labour party, gave expression to these views -
During the last year that the military departments were under the control of the various Colonies there was an expansion of, roughly speaking, ^250,000. Personally, I objected all along to this in New South Wales, but unfortunately the majority for the time being were in favour of the expansion.
– He moved the reduction of the Military Estimates himself by .£60,000.
– I believe he moved the reduction of the Estimates first of all by a large sum, but he was not satisfied with that. At the end of his speech he said -
I desire to move an amendment to reduce the estimate by ,£62,000.
This was after it had already been reduced by about £270,000. He kept on proposing reductions in the Military Estimates, and at the time he was the Leader of the Labour party. In another place he is reported to have said -
Personally, I have an idea that ^700,000 should be looked upon as the extreme expenditure on defence for some years to come.
I saw in another part that he proposed to reduce the vote to £500,000, but I have not quoted that statement, because I cannot see it among my papers. ,,1 have here also the Hansard report of a speech by yourself, Mr. Speaker, when a private member, in connexion with the Coronation Celebration Bill. I wish to show that members of the Labour party have always been averse to spending money on Coronation celebrations, either by sending troops, or by illuminations, or anything else. You, Mr. Speaker, said on that occasion, in relation to the Coronation of King Edward -
I am opposed to the sending of troops to London. If it is necessary to be represented, then I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it would be a good thing if the people recognised that they were adequately represented by the presence there of the Prime Minister. I think, however, we should do something to let the people of England understand the commercial value of this country.
It is all commercialism and going back again to the worker. They require something to represent the worker all the time, and no one else. There is only one section of the community to be represented in any matter, according to honorable members opposite. The honorable member went on to say -
If we are going to become a nation, it will not be by taking all occasions for displaying our military powers, but by cultivating peaceful industrial methods and developing our magnificent resources. We want every penny we can get for the work, and there are many other ways in which we could profitably spend our money than in sending a body of troops to London.
I quote that to show that there is nothing novel in the omission of the present Government to send a contingent of troops to the Coronation. It shows that the policy of the party in this respect has been the same right through the piece. They are not in favour of displaying our loyalty and gratitude to that great Empire to which we owe our very existence. I make another quotation from a speech delivered by the present Minister of Customs. He said -
The honorable and learned member said that if we had not the money we might borrow it. I do not think the loyalty of Australia requires to be advertised by sending soldiers to England. We could advertise the Commonwealth if that is all that is desired -
Mr. Barton. ; No one said that.
– Honorable members seem to think that we should gain something in that direction.’ We can bring our products and our resources very much more prominently under the notice of the people of Great Britain. by erecting an arch in a prominent position in the City of London than by sending a number of soldiers there.
Always products and resources, reverting again to the worker and producer. No sentiment, no patriotism, but the workers all the time, and no other section of the community to be represented. Honorable members opposite have no room for sentiment or the display of patriotic feeling.
– When did I say this?
– On 10th April, 1902.
– It is pretty good. I stand ito it to-day.
– Mr. Barton again interrupted the honorable member to say -
If the honorable member allows us to go to a. vote I will give him the arch, and knock out the Bisley rifle team.
The present Minister of Trade and Customs went on to say -
An arch could not be erected for the money that it is proposed to appropriate for the expenses of the Bisley rifle team.
Then, 1 think the honorable gentleman gave expression to a sentiment which I can only describe as mean and paltry. He said -
If we sent 250 men to England they would pass a given spot in less than five minutes -
That is absolutely absurd. probably in two minutes - and we are being asked to vote a large sum of money for the purpose of making a brief and ineffective display.
I hold that that is not the light in which we should view the sending of a contingent of soldiery to take part in a Coronation celebration. They would be talked of for months by Imperial people, and would be cheered by millions in the streets of London. To say that they would pass a given spot in two minutes is an absolutely ridiculous criticism. I nave not done with Ministers yet. I rind that the present Minister of Home Affairs said -
But while we have not a dollar for our hungry people at home we have ,?35,000 to spend in powder explosions and champagne razzledazzles in London. If the Commonwealth of Australia is to lose its standing or prestige unless it hits 200 or 300 men to carry rifles and ride down Piccadilly I shall be sorry for it.
Further on, he “said -
We do not want to be represented by a lot of men carrying guns on horseback. Every nation that has set up a military oligarchy has finally sunk beneath the power of the military. . . . The democratic people of the Commonwealth should not be taxed in order to add to the success of ceremonies which in their very essence are opposed to the principles of democracy.
Do honorable members opposite approve of that sentiment? Silence. The present Minister of Home Affairs further said -
The system which lends itself to these displays is founded upon caste. Aristocracy is the parent of caste, and caste is the curse of the country.
Here is something I very seriously object to, and I think it is a scandalous statement for the Minister of Home Affairs to have made.
– Order ! The honorable member must not use that language.
– I have no wish to use any language to which you, sir, can take exception. What I object to in the utterance of the present Minister of Home Affairs on the occasion to which I refer is the following -
In South Africa caste has been at the bottom of many of the disasters which have befallen our troops. Flannel-headed fools were placed at the head of affairs because of their caste, and the whole operations of the army were muddled. While we have hungry people and deficient sewerage arrangements in our suburban post-offices-
What a conglomeration of an address ! Speaking of defence and of Imperial troops, who, he says, were under flannelheaded fools, the honorable member drags in the sewerage system of post offices in the suburbs. I think I shall be in order in saying that if the honorable gentleman makes many speeches of this description I have a right to wonder how he ever got into the position he occupies now.
– The Caucus.
– The good old Caucus is responsible for many funny things. The honorable gentleman went on further to say -
Why should the Commonwealth borrow ^30,000 or ,?40,000 in order to have a grand “blow-out”?
Although, perhaps, these little witticisms may be characteristic of the Minister’s nationality, they should not be obtruded when such an important subject as the sending of a contingent to celebrate the great festival of Coronation is under discussion. Further, the Minister said -
I see that it is proposed to spend ,£52,655 in powder, shot, and shell, and various other things which cause explosions.
This is a sample of the scintillating wit which permeates all the utterances of the honorable member. He says -
Unless we are very careful we shall mortgage the heads, hairs, and bodies of the people in order to establish a phantom defence, and this unnecessary expenditure will therefore have my uncompromising opposition.
Mortgage the hairs of the people ! I do not know whether the Government would be able to raise much upon that security. The Minister of Home Affairs might be more fortunate in that respect than I would be. However, these are the expressions which have emanated from honorable members of the Labour party, who are now Cabinet Ministers. I might point out that the present Prime Minister was himself opposed to sending Home a contingent to the Coronation of Edward VII. Speaking upon that matter, he said -
I quite agree that the Commonwealth should be represented at the Coronation, but celebrations such as that intended to be made in connexion with the Coronation, have been too long entirely associated with military displays. Why is it necessary, at this late stage of your civilization, to ask for military forces only on such an occasion? We have long passed the time when it is necessary to awe the people by a military display.
There was no question involved of aweing the people by a military display. It was merely a question of giving expression to our loyalty and patriotic feeling by sending Home a contingent to represent the Commonwealth at those Coronation festivities. Mr. Fisher continued -
If we have any power in this Commonwealth it lies in our great producing interests, and if we are to be represented at the Coronation we should be represented in a form emblematic of our greatness.
It all comes back to the question of the producers - of the workers. We must be represented by something which the worker produces. There is only one other quotation which I wish to make, and I make it because the sentiments it contains were given expression to by the present Minister of Defence. He made a most extraordinary speech, in which he said -
I would rather have a man carrying a pumpkin than a sword. There is nothing contemptible in carrying a pumpkin if the man came by it honestly. I should prefer to have our peopleengaged in growing pumpkins than in using weapons of war. Seeing that the question is only one of how best we can be represented at the Coronation, I think I am justified in bringing forward what 1 take to be a practical suggestion, which would meet with a certain amount of favour in another place, and which is well worthy of -consideration. I am surprised that honorable senators should be so led away by the military idea as to consider that the only way by which “Australia can be represented at the Coronation is by a company of troops. What does the King, who will be the entire centre of the pageant, represent? Does he merely represent the army? Or does he represent every branch of industry in all portions of the Empire? 1 do not think that we need drag the Kinginto our industrial life. To be quite fair, I may say that that speech by Senator Pearce was made in response to an interjection. In concluding my remarks upon* the portion of the Vice-Regal Speech whichrelates to Defence, I have only to add that if the Empire were in serious difficulty tomorrow, there would be a spontaneous response from Australia and from all the other Dominions. I believe that the Empire has stalwart sons, who, although apparently careless of its welfare, would, at the first sign of trouble, be ready to springat the throat of a common enemy. If there were any cause for alarm, the bonds of Empire would be tightened, just as they were when the South African War eventuated. Upon that occasion, all parts of the Empire responded to the bugle call. I went to South Africa. Why did I go? Because the Empire called for volunteers, and because I believed that its prestige was in danger. It was absolutely essential that Great Britain should emerge from that war victorious if her prestige among the nations of the world was to be maintainedThere are one or two matters in connexion with the Postal Department to which I desire to direct attention j but I take it that I am wearying the House, and on the advice of my honorable friend, the honorable member for Parramatta, I shall leave my reference to this Department to a future day. I congratulate the Prime Minister on his return from his visit to the Old Country. I trust that he haspleasant recollections of the visit, and I hope that both as regards himself and his; colleagues, it will be productive of great: good to the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Frank.
Messages received from the Senate requesting the House of Representatives to resume the consideration of the following Bills of last session : -
Parliamentary Witnesses Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed - .
That the consideration of the messages be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
– I desire to know whether it is necessarily the practice to initiate this process of reviving Bills in the Chamber in which they originated. I should have thought that when a Bill had passed through the other House, and come down here, it was the property of this House, and that it would be quite sufficient for it to be revived here.
– There is a standing order providing for this course to be taken.
– It is rather anomalous that the House which has already dealt with the measures should have to initiate these proceedings. I think that the standing order ought to be revised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In moving -
That this House do now adjourn.
I desire to mention that the first business to-morrow will be the resumption of the debate on the Address-in-Reply.
.- I rise to suggest to the Government that it might be advisable that we should have copies of important Imperial documents. at our disposal in the Library. For instance, this evening I have been trying, without success, to get the Declaration of London with the appended interpretation to which importance is attached by the Imperial authorities. I suggest that a document of such vast importance might well be circulated amongst honorable members.
– Does the honorable member refer to the Declaration of London with the French translation attached?
– In the Blue Book issued by the House of Commons the two documents are published side by side.
– The Declaration was published two years ago.
– I had a copy a year ago. I want to look at it again, but it is not in the Library of Parliament. It is a very important document affecting us all, and I think that it ought to be there.
– I shall be able to attend to that matter.
– There is one other matter I wish to refer to. Yesterday I asked the Postmaster-General questions bearing on wireless telegraphy, and gave notice of a motion for the production of papers on the Library table. I understand from my honorable friend that perhaps it will be better if I peruse the papers in the Department in preference to having them produced. As that will meet what I want to arrive at, I shall be willing to withdraw my motion.
– I shall be very glad to let the honorable member see the papers whenever he pleases.
.- I think it will be better in the case of future Conferences if Ministers will get 100 or 150 copies of the reports before they leave England. On a previous occasion I think that we had to reprint at considerable expense the whole proceedings of the Conference, which, if ordered in England, could have been got for about1s. 6d. each.
– I anticipated that, and asked for 500 copies.
– As regards the Declaration of London, it was not widely circulated, I suppose because it was semiconfidential, until the Conference ratified it; but I remember reading it in August, 1909.
– Regarding the official report of the Imperial Conference, I asked the Colonial Office to send us 500 copies, so that every honorable member should have a copy, and the officers too. We expect them to arrive soon. Some copies are here at present.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 September 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19110906_reps_4_60/>.