4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if he has seen in this morning’s papers that the Premier of Western Australia has secured a copy of a letter written by Mr. McCallum, Secretary of the Western Australian Division of the Australian Labour Federation, and published in the English Labour Leader, warning immigrants against coming to Australia ; if so, will he look into the matter, and, should he find the statements of Mr. McCallum incorrect, will he - seeing that it is necessary for the Commonwealth and. the States to work harmoniously in the in-‘ traduction of immigrants to Australia - give those statements an ample denial in the newspaper in which they appeared?
– I have not seen the statements, but I shall ask the Minister of External Affairs to have the matter looked into.
– A telegram was published in the Adelaide press of 17th September, stating that in view of the unexpectedly large volume of work involved in the taking of the census, the Commonwealth authorities had authorized the payment of 50 guineas to each of the State Statisticians, in addition to the original fee of100 guineas. Some time ago I wrote to the Department of Home Affairs a letter setting forth exhaustively the claim for the better recognition of the work of the enumerators connected with the census, but I have had no reply to it.
– We are doing everything possible to adjust the claims received from all parts of the Commonwealth, but as we have to work on the reports of the State Statisticians, the adjustment will take some time. I assure the honorable member that we are going to do absolute justice.
– Having regard to the growing importance of the Imperial Conferences, will the Prime Minister have a bound copy of the proceedings of the last Conference, and, if possible, of the two preceding Conferences, supplied to each member?
– A copy of the proceedings of the last Conference has already been ordered for each member. No doubt we can obtain copies of the proceedings of the two former Conferences if they are desired.
– Every honorable member who wishes for a copy of the proceedings of the two previous Conferences, as well as of the last, should be given one if possible.
– If there is sufficient interest in them, they ought to be got. We may try to get them.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs aware that the Government contracted to clear the site of the wireless station at Fremantle, and to erect buildings for housing the necessary plant, by March last, and that for some months past the contractors have been waiting for the housing for the plant to be provided? If so, can he tell us the reason for this extraordinary delay?
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of the question. I am pretty sure there has been no delay.
– Does the Minister say that there has been no delay, or that his Department is not responsible for the obvious delay?
– Whatever delay has occurred has been due to the exigencies of the situation.
– I understand that a criticism of the 4-ft. 8½-in. railway gauge by a Mr. Hales has been replied to by Mr. Henry Deane. I ask the Minister of Home Affairs if copies of both documents are available, and, if so, will he lay them on the table for the information of honorable members?
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs consider the advisability of reverting, in connexion with the preparation of the next electoral rolls, to the system of printing separate lists of the electors entitled to vote at each pollingplace, instead of merely printing lists of those entitled to vote in each electorate ?
– I believe that the present arrangement was come to by the last Government for economical and other reasons after a careful examination of the case, but I shall have the matter looked into again.
– Much uncertainty prevails among honorable members on this side as to the area over which the proposed new preference to unionists is to apply, and the methods of its application. Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of making a statement which will remove the doubt and anxiety in this regard?
– I am surprised that there is doubt and anxiety. The proposal is not a revolutionary one, but merely a straightforward and honest statement of policy. Instead of favourites being appointed at the nod of the Minister, as under the old system, the officer whose duty it is will consider the fitness of the applicant for the work to be done.
– Will he receive instructions from the head of his Department to give effect to the policy of the Government?
– In some cases, instructions have been given. I have given none, but no doubt the policy announced will be recognised.
– I do not expect the Prime Minister to make a statement now, but ask him to define later the areas over which the proposed preference will apply, and the method of its application in the States, the Northern Territory, and the Federal Capital Territory.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, a question regarding preference to unionists which may help him with respect to policy. When applications for appointment are made to an officer, will it be his first duty to satisfy himself with respect to capacity before ascertaining whether the applicant is a unionist or not?
– If the responsible officer wanted a man he could ask him whether he was a unionist or not.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister this further question : - Whether, when a man sends in an application for temporary employment in any of the public Departments, he will be required to state whether or not he is a member of any union; further, will he have to state whether he is a member of the union concerned with the particular class of work he applies to do; or whether membership of any union whatsoever without regard to the nature of the work will be sufficient to enable a man to get into the Public Service?
– In some handicrafts, unless a man is a unionist no other workmen will work with him, and he will therefore be a wise man if he says that he is a unionist.
– I do not wish to have to repeat my question, but the Prime Minister has not answered what I asked him. I shall put the question differently, and ask the Prime Minister whether, when a man places upon his application form his qualifications for a position in the Public Service, he will be expected to say whether he is a unionist or not; and whether the absence of any such statement will disqualify him for employment in the Public Service ?
– There is no intention to call upon people to state upon their applications that they are unionists, but if a man were a unionist of long standing he would not be ashamed of doing so.
– Will the Prime Minister make it clear that it will be compulsory, all things being equal, for a nonunionist to join a union before he can obtain a Government position?
– In answer to the honorable member I have to say that what he has suggested is not correct.
– May I ask the Prime Minister if, when tenders are being invited in connexion with Government works, preference will be given to members of the Employers’ Federation?
– There is no limit as to the class to which this principle will apply.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether the principle of preference to unionists could possibly apply to members of an Employers’ Federation seeing that such a body is not registered under the Act?
– That matter is governed by the reply which I made yesterday, and which is in print.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether he has yet laid upon the table a copy of the Naval Agreement, and whether, if he has not done so, he will lay the document upon the table soon?
– I think that the paper referred to has been laid upon the table. If not. there has been an oversight on my part. I am almost sure that the naval papers included the Agreement.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1911, Nos. 124 (Provisional), 125, 126 (Provisional), 127.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations (Provisional) - Charges - Statutory Rules1911, No. 128.
Defence Act -
Regulations Amended (Provisional) -
Military College - Entrance Examinations - Parts I. and IV. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 133.
Military Forces - Nos. 142A, 143 - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 130.
Naval Defence Act - Financial and Allowance Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Naval Forces - No. 50e - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 136.
The Clerk laid upon the table ;
Immigration - Amounts expended and Particulars re Advertisements - Return to an Order of the House dated 7th September, 191 1.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The Public Service Commissioner reports, in answer to the honorable member’s questions -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he furnish a return showing the number of employes within each section of the Postal Service, and the wages cost of each section, as on 30th June, 1901, 1909, and 1911?
– Yes. The information will be furnished the honorable member as soon as it can be made available.
– I move -
That in the opinion of this House no further expenditure should take place in regard to the Federal Capital Site till the question has been submitted to the people referendum at the next general election.
In submitting this motion, I am animated by no feeling of antagonism to any section or party in the House, nor have I the slightest desire to interfere adversely with the interests of any State. I am well aware of the constitutional provision that the Federal Capital must ultimately be established in New South Wales, and that pending its establishment, the Federal Parliament can only sit legally in Melbourne. It is because of that constitutional provision that there arises the necessity, if anything is to be done to prevent what appears to me to be a wasteful, if not a sinful, expenditure of public money, that an appeal should be made to the public. I suggest that, where there is a reasonable assumption that the public mind, on any very large question, differs very widely from the determination arrived at here, it is a proper one for submission to the people. I should like to see the issue regarding the establishment of a Federal Capital submitted to the people in some such form as is indicated by the following questions : -
Capital at all at the present time?
It is obvious, from these questions, that I have no intention of injuring New South Wales, or depriving its people of an advantage which they obtained under the Constitution ; and, moreover, a position which they insisted upon getting prior to entering the Federation.
– The honorable member’s name was not upon my list as one who intended to vote for Dalgety.
– I assure my honorable friends from New South Wales that I have not the slightest desire to injure that State, or to prevent its people from having the Federal Capital established within their territory. I have indicated that there seems to be very grave reason to doubt whether the determinations of this House to go on with expenditure on the Federal Capital are in accordance with the will of a majority of the people; and in support of that argument, I would recall what was done by the Argus about the 24th August, 1910. Prior to that date, it issued three questions to all the newspapers in Australia, asking their editors to vote in order that some determination should be arrived at as to whether or not the public really desired a
Federal Capital to be built. Of the 802 newspapers to which the questions were issued, 40 per cent, returned answers. To the first question, “ Are you in favour of establishing the Federal Capital at YassCanberra?” the voting was: - Victoria, Yes, 6 ; No, 145 ; New South Wales, Yes, 55; No, 40; Queensland, Yes, 11; No, 23; South Australia, Yes, 3; No, 17; Western Australia, Yes, nil; No, 8 ; and Tasmania, Yes, nil; No, 8. Seventy-eight editors in Australia voted in favour of the proposal as against 241 who voted against it. I expect that it will be conceded by most honorable members that, whatever may be the attitude of the press of our country, it represents very largely what is the true state of public feeling in regard to this important matter. To the second question, “ Do you prefer any other site not less than 100 miles from Sydney?” the voting was: - Victoria, Yes, 80; No, 54; New South Wales, Yes, 29; No, 53; Queensland, Yes, 10, No, 20; South Australia, Yes, 8; No,11 Western Australia, Yes, 8 ; No,5 ; and Tasmania, Yes, 3 ;. No, 4. The third question was -
Do you approve of an amendment of the Constitution to make Sydney the meeting-place of Parliament, and the temporary Seat of Government for a fixed term of years, with reversion to Melbourne, or the selection of some other capital for a like term, so as to afford further time for ascertaining beyond all doubt what is the best place in New South Wales in which to permanently establish the Capital under the Constitution ?
On that question the voting was - Victoria, Yes, 106 ; No, . 33 ; New South Wales, Yes, 21 ; No, 59 ; Queensland, Yes, 15 ; No, 16 ; South Australia, Yes, 15 ; No, 4; Western Australia, Yes, 3; No, 10; Tasmania, Yes, 6 ; No, 2.
– What do these figures prove ?
– The figures prove, to my mind, as I think they will prove to the minds of honorable members who choose to consider them, that there is a very large section of the people who are in favour of the building of the Federal Capital being delayed. I have always taken the attitude that a site should be selected as early as possible in our history.
– Can the honorable member tell us the names of the editors of newspapers who have sent in replies?
– That information can be ascertained. I have always favoured the early selection of a site, but l have opposed the building of a Capital which would involve a very large expenditure of public money until our population was largely increased, and until we had been able to carry out a great many works which are necessary for the purpose of developing the country. That is my attitude, and it is because 1 think that I have a majority of the people at my back that I ask my honorable friends on the other side to submit this question to the people and let them decide. One thing which has a direct bearing on this question is the enormous expenditure which is contemplated on other matters. Yesterday we had a Railway Bill submitted which involves an expenditure of £4,000,000. We have also to carry into effect the Northern Territory Agreement with South Australia, and it is quite certain that the proposed railway through that territory will involve a considerably larger expenditure than will the railway to Western Australia. In addition to that we have all the other expenses incidental to the fact that we have practically placed ourselves in the shoes of South Australia. On top of that most important fact, and when we have spent or become responsible for the spending of all that money, we have not taken one single step towards settling the land. How much this is going to cost is certainly problematical, but in my judgment, and I believe in the judgment of a great many honorable members, the expenditure is likely to be large indeed. The departmental expenditure is rapidly expanding. The old-age pension list is growing every day. The public expenditure for the present year will approximate £12,000,000. We have had recourse each year to additional taxation. I feel satisfied that the people have quite enough to do to bear the large expenditure on necessary developmental works without being burdened with the obligation of carrying out works which, so far as I can see, are likely to serve no useful purpose. I think I shall have the people of Australia decidedly with me on this motion. The question of taxation is an increasingly important one to the public, seeing that it means paying out solid cash. Every year we are taking more out of the pockets of the people. In 1909-10 the amount raised by taxation was £15,990,000, and this year it will amount to £18,796,000, showing a very substantial increase. Though I am optimistic in my disposition, and think there is a great future for Australia, -we should, when no true advantage can accrue to the public, do all we possibly can to save the expenditure incidental to the building of the Capital ; and the only way in which we can escape from our present position is by submitting the question from this Parliament to the people. If this should be done, I am quite satisfied what the answer will be. The question of expenditure assumes an added importance from the fact that the Government policy at the present time is a no-borrowing policy. At the present stage I do not propose to enter on a controversy as to the wisdom or otherwise of that policy ; but, unless we are going to put an undue strain on the taxpayers, we ought to exercise more than ordinary care to see that there is no expenditure that is not absolutely necessary - that there is no expenditure merely to gratify some fanciful desire. All these considerations should lead us to call a halt. I am aware that considerable expenditure on the Federal Capital is going on even to-day ; but that expenditure is of a preliminary character, and, I understand, will be serviceable at a later period, when our population has perhaps increased to 20,000,000. I do not know that the money now being spent can be regarded as wasted ; but what I ask is that the expenditure of millions shall be deferred for an indefinite period, so that we may see really where we stand. Where is the necessity to provide a Federal Capital now ? The Parliament is very well circumstanced in Melbourne ; but the people of Victoria have no desire to retain the Seat of Government here. There has, I believe, been a. strengthening of the public mind in this State on the question; and I feel satisfied that the vast majority of the people of Victoria are prepared to say to New South Wales, “ You may have the Capital in Sydney.” We know, of course, that such a change cannot be made without an amendment of the Constitution: and I hope I shall receive the support of a considerable number of members of the House. While we are devoting this large expenditure to the Federal Capital, we are, to some extent, starving public Departments which require money to enable them to be successfully administered. I entirely disagree with the policy of making rural districts pay for a portion of their postal facilities. Of all Departments, the Post and Telegraph Department ought to be financed by the public, in order to encourage settlers to go out as far as possible without fear of being penalized. Then, again, during the last three months, I have received three distinct letters from the Defence Department in regard to certain necessary works; and in each case I have been informed that the question of cash is the determining factor. One letter had reference to the establishment of the Young Guard, another referred to drill halls, which are absolutely necessary, and involve an expenditure of ^1,000,000, and the other was in regard to rifle butts and ranges. The extension of these necessary branches of the Defence service is being retarded because the Department is not placed in possession of the necessary money ; and I suppose that there are other honorable members who have received similar intimations from the Department. The defence of the country, above all things, should be provided for without stint; and I cannot see why, in the name of common sense, we should sanction this expenditure on a Federal Capital, whilst starving Departments which the public expect to be administered effectively. Considering that our population has not as yet by any means reached 5,000,000, the contemplated expenditure on the Federal Capital is simply staggering ; and, under all the circumstances, honorable members ought, to be prepared to give the motion most serious consideration. If honorable members are true to the democratic spirit, I am satisfied as to what the result will be; the House will, by an overwhelming majority, decide to submit the question to the people. There is good ground for believing that we are out of harmony with public opinion.
– -The Government policy in regard to the Federal City is to carry out the expressions of opinion that have been given statutory form by this House, and proceed with the work with all possible expedition.
– It is rather late, I think, to submit a motion of this kind. The question has been thoroughly discussed in the House, and many statements have been made about the “ bush capital “ and its unsuitability from many points of view, but all the objections that have been raised have been refuted time after time and completely demolished. The honorable member for Echuca now asks us to agree to a motion that no further expenditure should take place on the Federal Capital until the question has been submitted to the people by referendum at the next general election.
This is simply an attempt to get behind the decision of Parliament and to postpone, without any justification, the carrying out of the will of Parliament. It is a mere subterfuge. How are the people to decide the question? What data could they have before them to enable them to express an opinion ?
– We have lost our enthusiasm for referenda lately.
– Having regard to the disastrous results, from the point of view of the Labour party, of the recent referenda, perhaps honorable members opposite do not feel too keenly in favour of a proposal such as this, especially when the referenda suggested relates to a matter about which the public can have no practical knowledge. A very large proportion of the 4,500,000 people of the Commonwealth know nothing about the site. I doubt if i per cent, of them even know its locality. They certainly know little or nothing about its climatic, physical, and topographical features, and. have no data upon which to form any intelligent opinion as to whether or not any further expenditure should be incurred in connexion with it. The Parliament has already decided the question, and that decision is irrevocable. Our Victorian friends are very prone to raise this question, because apparently they dislike the inconvenience of having to travel a few more miles every week to attend to their Parliamentary duties.
– That is not correct.
– I know that some, at all events, take that view. I have heard them say that they are satisfied with Melbourne as the Seat of Government, because it is handy to their homes. But what is to be said of those who for the last ten years have had to travel every week hundreds of miles to attend the sittings of Parliament here? There is a large element of selfishness associated with the almost perpetual attempt to block the progress of this undertaking. Money has already been expended by vote of this Parliament in making preparations for the occupation of the Territory. Invitations have been extended to professional men all over the world to send in designs for laying out the city. Is that expenditure to go for naught because the honorable member for Echuca has this “ bee in his bonnet “ ? The proposal embodied in this motion originated with the newspapers in Melbourne. Does the honorable member seriously think that it could be put into practical effect, or that it would be a fair way of dealing with so large a question ? The Seat of Government has, under the terms of the Constitution agreed to by Victoria, as well as the other States, to be removed from Melbourne, and we are already making arrangements for its transfer. We have accepted the Territory in which the Capital is to be established, and the sooner we make up out minds that the only thing to do now is to proceed with the work which Parliament has authorized and build the Capital as quickly as possible the better. In that way only shall we get rid of the dominant influence of the large metropolitan press which will always affect prejudicially, even though it may be unconsciously, the views of honorable members respecting many measures brought before the House.
– Apparently the Sydney press influences the honorable member.
– I think not ; but, if. it were so, it would but furnish another reason why neither Sydney nor Melbourne should be chosen as the Capital. The sooner we are able to deal with legislation uninfluenced by the immense pressure brought to bear by some of the powerful newspapers of .Australia the better. I hope that we shall have a vote on this motion, and I am sure that the good sense of the House will be against it.
.- In connexion with this motion, I am in a position to place before both the House and the country the absolute impartiality of the Caucus party. I intend to support the motion, subject to an amendment,’ which I hope the honorable member for Echuca will accept, and when we proceed to vote we shall see how honorable members are divided on this question. I have never been in favour of the present site. I was never in favour of building a Federal Capital, but having very little choice, I certainly voted for the selection of Dalgety. If another opportunity were given me, I should still vote in that direction, and I regret very much that another site was selected by the Parliament. The honorable member’s motion provides that there should be no further expenditure on the Capital. On that point I am heartily in accord with him. I agree with those who say that the expenditure is an absolute waste of money which might be devoted to other and better purposes than that of building a Capital which is absolutely unnecessary. I do not think, the people of Australia are competent to form an opinion upon this question.
– They were able to form an opinion on the last referenda proposals. ,
– They came to a very foolish decision in that case - a decision which I am sure will be reversed at the first opportunity. That opportunity, I hope, will occur in the near future. I visited most of the sites, and since honorable members, after inspecting them, were yet greatly divided in opinion as to their relative merits, how can the people of Western Australia and Northern Queensland, who have never seen Yass-Canberra, be competent to form an opinion on this question? When we were first discussing the several suggested sites, many honorable members were enamoured of that of Lake George. We had letterpress describing that site in the most glowing terms, lt was said to be everything that was admirable. Photographs were circulated in the chamber which showed the site advantageously from every point of view, but when members saw the site themselves not a man of them would vote for it. It is impossible for men who have never seen the sites to form an opinion as to which would be the better to select for the Federal Capital. .
– Lake George got one vote, but the present site was not given even one.
– The honorable member is quite right. I do not think that if, on a subsequent occasion, it had been put to the House separately, it would have received a vote. The honorable member for Lang said that we desired to be removed from press influences, but if the Seat of Government is in Yass-Canberra members will go to their homes in Adelaide or Melbourne, or Sydney, at weekends, and will be just as much impressed by press articles as they are now. I do not believe that a single member of the present Parliament would reside in YassCanberra for a week-end, and there is no doubt that press influence would be brought to bear upon members quite as strongly, or even more strongly from both sides, regarding legislation proposed or suggested than is the case at the present moment. I remember the honorable member for Parkes canvassing this Chamber for support for an amendment which he proposed to move to provide that the Seat of Government should be alternately .ins
Melbourne and Sydney, the period to be ten years in each case. He obtained ample support from both sides of the House, and could have carried the amendment if he had had the courage to bring it forward. But the press influence from New South Wales was so strong, and influenced the honorable member’s colleagues on that side of the House, especially those from New South Wales, that he did not bring the question forward lest it might be carried. If it had been brought forward, the bush Capital would have been wiped out of existence.
– It is pretty good for the honorable member to say that the honorable member for Parkes “ dared not “ do a thing.
– I say advisedly that he dared not. I could cite other instances wherethe honorablemember dared not act. On one occasion he gave his vote on this side of the House, and dared not repeat that vote on another occasion. We on this side have pretty good memories. Another objection raised by the honorable member for Lang was that the distances from the different centres to Melbourne were greater than the distances to YassCanberra. What difference, however, does it make to a member of Parliament who gets into the train at Brisbane or at Gladstone, or Rockhampton, if he has to travel a few miles more or less to tht Federal Capital? It only means a few hours’ extra travelling in the train, whether he has to go to Yass-Canberra or Melbourner The difference is so slight that it is not worth considering. The honorable member also raised the question of the expenditure already made on the selected site. My answer is that the first loss is the best loss. It is better that we should not spend any more money on the site.What used to be said about it by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, the Minister now in charge of the business of the House? I remember that he used the strongest language permissible in this House against the site, but now he sits in the Ministerial chair at the table supporting it. It is better to lose what has already been spent than to waste we do not know how much more. I say advisedly that it will mean the expenditure of millions of pounds. We have been furnished with estimates, but we know what Government estimates are. Every honorable member knows in his heart that the estimates which have been made in regard to expenditure on the Capital Site will be exceeded by perhaps 100 per cent., and even then we shall have an unsatisfactory condition of affairs so far as water supply is concerned. The drain on the revenue of the Commonwealth will mean either very heavy local taxation for persons resident in the Federal City, or drawing upon the Consolidated Revenue, not merely for a few years, or for the first cost of construction, but for all time, to provide water supply for the Capital. I have much pleasurein supporting the honorable member for Echuca in his opposition to the building of the Capital at the present site. In my opinion, if I may be allowed to use the expression, it is a public scandal-
-Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the word “ scandal,” and say that it is a public misfortune that the money should be expended in the direction in which it is going. It is most unfortunate for the people of Australia, who have no concern in it at all. The people in my electorate do not care a straw whether the Federal legislation comes from Yass-Canberra, Melbourne, or Sydney, so long as it is, in their opinion, good and the administration honest. If the people had the opportunity of voting on the question, apart altogether from the respective advantages of the sites, I am certain that, as a matter of principle, they would vote solidly against the building of the Capital. I move -
That the words “ at the next general election “ be left out, with a view to insert, in lieu thereof, the words, “ in the year One thousand nine hundred and twenty-five.”
– I second the amendment. If honorable members are anxious to come to a vote, we can settle the matter at once, as I think all our minds are fully made up on the point. I should like, in the first place, to ask the honorable member for Echuca, who has moved the motion, why he “ ratted “ on Dalgety. If he had only carried out the promise that he gave to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, he would have had no occasion whatever to move the motion to-day.
– The honorable member for Maranoa has accused me of breaking a promise which I made to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I have not done so. I wish to deny the statement.
– I must inform the honorable member that he is distinctly out of order in denying the statement of the honorable member for Maranoa in the way he has done. Probably the honorable member did not realizethat. He should know that he must not interrupt an honorable member while he is speaking merely in order to deny a statement. The honorable member will have an opportunity of making a personal explanation later if he thinks it necessary to do so.
– On a point of order, I should like to ask whether the honorable member for Maranoa is accusing the honorable member for Echuca of “ratting” onthis project. Doubtless from long use, and perhaps justifiable use, of the term amongst themselves, honorable members opposite may have grown careless of its application, but I should like to know whether you, sir, consider it in accordance with the forms of the House?
– I heard the honorable member for Maranoa use the expression referred to, but I did not gather what his meaning was. If in using the expression the honorable member intended to impute an unworthy motive - and I do not think he did - he was distinctly out of order.
– I apologize if I have hurt the feelings of the honorable member for Wentworth ; and if the use of the word “ratted” caused the honorable member any pain I withdraw it. I am very pleased that the honorable member for Echuca managed to get in his little explanation, because have the honorable member for Gippsland here who heard him make the promise to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– Was it made on the floor of the House?
– It was made on the Treasury bench.
– Surely a private conversation ought not to be repeated.
– It was not a private conversation.
– I regard this as a public matter, and I think that a man who has given a promise is in honour bound to carry it out. What does the honorable member for Echuca mean? In the Constitution, as agreed to by representatives of every State in the Commonwealth, New South Wales is given a solemn promise that the Federal Capital shall be established within that State, but not less than 100 miles from Sydney.
-A miserable bargain.
– Whether it is a miserable bargain or not does not matter. It was made, and was accepted by the people of all the States, and as a representative of the people of Queensland I feel that I am in honour bound to see that that bargain is carried out. I am gratified to think that it was a Queensland representative who moved the amendment.
– I do not think that the honorable member understands what the amendment means.
– Yes, I do. It means that a referendum is to be taken on the question in 1925.
– It means also that no money is to be spent on the Federal Capital until 1925.
– That part is all right, too, because Parliament will decide to spend the money, and we can thus overcome that difficulty. The honorable member for Echuca, in submitting this motion for a referendum, reminds me of a little cock sparrow perched on an elm, and calling out “I am the lord of creation,” because the elm tree is higher than the other trees around. The honorable member fancies that because the party opposite won at the last referenda they are going to win every referendum. As I have told the honorable member before, if he can derive any consolation from that bloodless victory he is welcome to it. If a referendum were taken on this question the honorable member for Echuca would find very different forces arrayed against him. He would find, not only the Labour party, but the “ People’s Leg-pulling “ party arrayed against him in New South Wales. I should like to ask the honorable member why he has moved this motion at this late hour. Why did he not raise his objection before he gave a vote on the site for the Federal Capital ? If I felt as the honorable member does on this subject, I should not have voted at all. Yass-Canberra has been decided as the Federal Capital Site by will of the majority, and though I was in the minority on the question, I am quite willing to bow to the will of the majority. I never visited any of the sites, but acted on the reports of men who knew what a Capital site should be, and the reports of the best engineers in Australia to-day. I am satisfied that these reports were honestlymade, and when the experts told me plainly that Dalgety was the best site I went for it *’ bald-headed “ to the finish. Had it not been for the sudden illness of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro YassCanberra would not be the Capital Site to-day.
I am as confident of that as that I am standing here.
– The honorable member may be very confident that he is here.
– I am just as confident that
I shall be here for a year or two longer if God gives me good health. The party opposite cannot put me out of the Maranoa seat no matter how hard they try. I invite the honorable member for Wentworth to come up to the Maranoa district and try to oust me.
– The honorable member would get ahead of the honorable member for Wentworth with that bicycle of his.
– I shall always be ahead of the honorable member, even without’ my bicycle. I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to come out to Western Queensland and try to oust me.
– The honorable member said he wanted me to go there and die.
– I said that when every one has forsaken the honorable member, and he is politically dead, he can come up to the Maranoa and end his days there in peace.
– Does the honorable member wish that the Federal Capital were established there?
– No, it is too crowded.
– That is one of the best jokes I have ever heard. The idea of the Maranoa electoral division being too crowded, notwithstanding that it is as large as the whole of New South Wales, is irresistibly funny. I come now to the motion submitted by the honorable member for Echuca.
– The honorable member is supporting, most thoroughly, the amendment which has been moved.
– I will support the amendment, so long as its adoption will defeat the object of the honorable member for Echuca. I feel confident that there is no sincerity in the motion.
– Order !
– I withdraw the word “ sincerity,” and will content myself with saying that there is no fire in the motion. The position of the honorable member for Echuca reminds me of that of a swagman in the bush who is anxious to obtain a fire, but who has no matches, and who comes across a few smouldering embers. In such circumstances, what does he do? He gets a few small sticks and brambles, which he carefully places over the dying coals, and these he endeavours to ignite by blowing them for all he is worth, only to discover, at length, that he has blown out the last vestige of a spark. The honorable member for Echuca knows that he has blown himself out. He has been taken to task by the press of Victoria for the vote which he gave on the Federal Capital site. I do not know why the press of this State has such a hold upon the representatives of Victoria. Irrespective of whether they be members of the Labour party or of the Opposition, they appear to be afflicted with stage fright. As soon as either the Age or the Argus publishes an article condemning a proposal, they vie with each other in endeavouring to prove that they are not the persons at whom the article is aimed. That is the position of the honorable member for Echuca. He wishes to make it appear that he is the white hen which never lays away. He would like the people of Victoria -to believe that he did not know the gun was loaded - that he was under the impression that if he voted in favour of Yass-Canberra no Federal Capital would be established for a number of years. But, thanks to the advent of the Labour Government, we have accomplished something. We have laid the foundations of a great city, and every day we hear the ‘ Minister of Home Affairs orating picturesquely of what a perfect paradise the Federal Capital is going to be. From what I know of the honorable member for Echuca, his aim is to get to Paradise as quickly as possible after he has shuffled off this mortal coil. That being so, I ask him, “ Why not have a paradise on earth ?”
– The Federal Capital is the only paradise to which some honorable members will get.
– It will be paradise to me. But we are not there yet; and I do not think some of us will ever get there. Speaking seriously, I say that the sooner we deal with this motion, and show the honorable member that we mean business, the better it will be for this Parliament
.- From the opening remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa, I was satisfied that he had not heard the observations made by the honorable member for Echuca iri” submitting this, motion, and that he was mainly desirous of dealing out political “stoush” to a person of whom he is possibly afraid outside of this chamber. I cannot understand why the honorable member for Echuca does not welcome the amendment. Will he accept it?
– I am quite prepared to do so.
– Then may I offer my profound congratulations to the honorable member upon having such an able lieutenant in the person of the honorable member for Maranoa. I do not think it is necessary for me to say more. I am glad to know that, on this occasion, the honorable member for Maranoa is going to be his faithful supporter, and the sooner we see them sitting cheek-by-jowl the better. I would suggest that we should take a vote upon the question immediately, so that we may show the people of Australia that we are not going to accept dictation from 114 editors scattered over this continent, and that we propose to establish ourselves in our own home in the near future.
– I am a believer in the referendum at all times/’but I am not going to support any proposal which I regard as unconstitutional, as I do that which is now under consideration. If we agree to this motion we shall be asking the people of Australia to break a solemn compact which was entered into with New South Wales. I opposed the selection of Yass-Canberra, but I do not intend to allow certain honorable members who assisted to bring about the biggest bungle ever perpetrated in this House to publicly whitewash themselves. That is what the honorable member for Echuca, and the honorable member for Grampians, are endeavouring to do. The question of the Federal Capital site was well considered in this Chamber, and an exhaustive ballot was taken upon it. We know that prior to that vote being taken heads had been counted. I saw no less than four lists in which the names of the honorable member for Echuca and the honorable member for Grampians appeared amongst those who had pledged themselves to vote against Yass-Canberra site. But when the ballot was taken they voted for it. Now they wish to whitewash themselves by referring the matter to the electors.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the honorable member for Echuca voted for YassCanberra ?
– Yes. But in the lists which were circulated in this House the honorable member’s name appeared amongst the names of those who had promised to vote against that site.
– It is not right to break a confidence.
– The honorable member had the lists to which I refer.
– I never had the honorable member for Echuca counted against YassCanberra.
– It is a pity to refer to private communications.
– I do npt think that any member ever makes public what is communicated to him privately, but this was a mere counting of heads to ascertain how the vote would go.
– At what stage?
– The day on which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro made his speech, or the morning after. I saw the name on two lists.
– Who made the lists ?
– The whips for both sides.
– It might have been a month later that the honorable member changed his mind, after hearing argument.
– It was not twelve hours later.
– The whole thing is a scandalous untruth.
– It is well known that I opposed the selection of the YassCanberra site, and I shall do my best to prevent the spending of money there. But as my action on this occasion may be criticised, I wish to declare publicly again that I intend to vote against the motion, to prevent men who assisted in the bungle from whitewashing themselves.
.- This seems an opportune time to review the actions of honorable members in regard to the Capital site. I was not aware that the honorable member for Echuca had acted as described, and thought that he was incapable of doing so. What we have been told shows how few men there are in whom absolute confidence may be placed. I would not mind delay in the settlement of the Capital site question if thereby a better site could be obtained.
– The honorable member would like to have the Capital at Tooma.
– The rejection of Tooma was due, in the first instance, toa train being late. In order to prevent the honorable members for Bendigo and Riverina from voting - they were prevented by the lateness of the train by which they were travelling from arriving in time - the division was taken hurriedly, and what would have been an ideal site was rejected. Tooma has all the qualifications for a Capital. Its climate is salubrious, and its landscape so inviting that tourists would have visited the Capital and helped to support it, and on going away would have advertised Australia in all parts of the world in a manner which will not happen now.
– We took good care to have the division before the members named arrived.
– The honorable member is one of the keenest manipulators of votes in the political arena. He does not suggest that the train was delayed by arrangement with the “Victorian Commissioners ?
– At any rate, the facts are as stated, and being a real Australian, and not a professed one, thatis, having the welfare of Australia at heart, I was in favour of having the site chosen without regard to the interests of this or that member, or this or that newspaper. I recognised that the question concerned, not merely this generation, but all who are to come after us, who will doubt the wisdom of this Parliament in selecting a tinpot site like Yass-Canberra. One must admire the manner in which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro advocated the claims of the site which he favoured.
– He did it squarely, too.
– He did it honestly, but to his physical undoing. He will, I am sure, credit me with equal sincerity regarding the Tooma site. That site was not chosen in the first instance because of a train being late, and on a subsequent occasion it was defeated by only one vote, and, again, in the Senate, by only one vote. The site thrust on the people of Australia for all time was selected by a majority of one. The selection of a site has always been a subject for political manipulation. The question was always asked, Which1 site does the Sydney Morning Herald, or the Melbourne Age or Argus favour? Certain honorable members changed their views according to the expressions of opinion published in the organs which controlled them.
– Did the Argus select Yass-Canberra ?
– The Argus supported nothing, and opposed everything.
– If we had a vote now, Tooma would be selected, and I am against that site. I think that YassCanberra is better than Tooma.
– No; the honorable member knows as well as I do that there is no comparison between the two. If I were to describe the position of Tooma and its claim for preference, I should have to relate once more the magnificent experience that I had when I first visited that place. I inspected the site quite independently and without prejudice. I had but one object, and that was to do the best for Australia. Tooma is ideally situated. The water is of the purest, and there is an abundance of power for the equipment of a modern city. The country round about is splendid. The landscape is such as did not present itself in connexion with any other site that was advocated. The point that we now have to consider is, however, that the honorable member for Echuca has gone back upon what he previously did when he voted for Yass-Canberra. What guarantee have I that if I supported him now he would not go back upon me again?
– I have not gone back upon Yass-Canberra. I only ask for delay.
– Until the people get an opportunity of reversing the decision.
– Has the honorable member become a convert to the referendum ?
– Yes, after the last experience.
– We may be thankful for small mercies ; and if the honorable member can induce the House to agree to a referendum for the purpose of delaying the matter - and not only that, but for preventing the possibility of this Parliament having to meet at Yass-Canberra - he will have done good service to the country, which will be sufficient to wipe out any blame that may have been attributable to him on account of his former votes. I should like to ask a question in relation to the plans for the Capital City? Has the Department laid down any idea as to the material to be used in the construction of the Parliamentary buildings? In other words, has it been determined whether the Parliament House is to be built of granite, of marble, of “compo.,” of brick, or of freestone? Because, after all, the material to be used has a great deal to do with the architectural design.
MrFrazer. - I think that that has not been definitely decided.
– Surely the architects who intend to compete ought to have been informed on that point. If I ask an architect to design a house for me, it is necessary to tell him whether I want it built of brick, stone, or wood.
– There has been no necessity for determining what the material shall be yet.
– If the honorable member says that, it shows that he does not know much about the question. If the plans are to be worth anything, they must be based upon knowledge as to the character of the buildings tobe erected. Otherwise they will not be worth the paper on which they are drawn. In my judgment, it is essential, in view of the errors which have been made in the past in erecting Parliamentary buildings in Australia, that we should have some cognisance of what the Department contemplates, otherwise mistakes which have been made hitherto may be repeated. We are now meeting in a Parliament House which cost £800,000. If honorable members remain here long enough, they will have to appeal for medical assistance to enable them to recover from the effects of want of ventilation and other disadvantages pertaining to the building.
– The conditions could be made very much better with a little expenditure.
– I believe that every Speaker who has presided in this chamber, both under the State and under the Commonwealth, has endeavoured to effect improvements. But, owing to the manner in which the building has been constructed, the chamber is precluded from having a system of effective ventilation. Healthy conditions have been sacrificed to the exigencies of Queen’s Hall. An enormous amount of money was spent on decorations and on a number of corridors which are unnecessary, and involve waste of money and waste of space.
– They are architectural beauties.
– No, they represent architectural waste. Throughout these many corridors there is nothing to attract the eye or to gratify the sense of beauty. One design runs throughout, though I admit that it is elaborate.
– Wait until our photographs adorn these walls !
– I do not want any artist to come here and hand down to posterity a picture of the honorable member for Echuca in the act of protesting against proceeding with work on the Capital site. This, however, is not a matter for jesting. We have had considerable experience here. We have also had experience of Parliament Houses in Sydney and elsewhere. We know that architects have made serious mistakes. We want to insure that those who come after us do not have to pay the penalty for mistakes made in connexion with the Parliamentary buildings at Yass-Canberra. We all know that architects have a weakness for elaborate drawing, and for showing their skill in designing on paper, rather than for entering into those essential qualities which are necessary for the proper con-: struction of buildings of this character. Therefore, it will be necessary, in my judgment, even when the designs are received, that more attention should be paid to essentials than to architectural adornments or embellishments. Take the ordinary case of a man who asks an architect to design a house so that he may be able to enjoy all the blessings of a good home. I guarantee that in five cases out of six the architect sacrifices comfort and health for the purpose of getting embellishment and adornment.
– Perspective views.
– Perspective views on paper look well, but in all the capitals we may see the results of architectural efforts. It is more essential to be careful when we are deciding upon the description of the home for the Parliament of Australia. I am now speaking quite apart from the question of whether we have selected the right site or not. I maintain that we have chosen the wrong site. That is bad enough. But if we get or select the wrong design, that will be ten times worse. It is about time that we knew whether the Department has discovered in this wonderful area those elements which are calculated to enable the builder and the architect to make a presentable city at a reasonable cost. It is time that we knew whether adjacent to the position there are granite deposits of a character which . will last as long as the ages if required, or whether the marble we shall have to rely on is the most economical, beautiful, and easily obtained, or whether we shall have to rely on bricks. I understand that within a reasonable distance of the position there is nothing but clay to be found.
– At Canberra they have some of the finest bricks which you could possibly wish to have.
– I have seen bricks out there which would almost crumble in your hands.
– The honorable member is speaking of bricks made at the State brickworks in New South Wales.
– No, at Canberra.
– I can honestly tell the honorable member that bricks made at these State brickworks are exceptionally good ; indeed, superior to any bricks I have seen from most of the brickyards adjacent to Sydney; Not only are the State-made bricks of superior quality and finish, but they are produced at practically less than one-half of what the combine charged previously.
– Order !
– I want to show, sir, that with a wise scheme for procuring material, this Parliament can follow in the footsteps of the State whose example I have cited, and not only secure good material suitable in every way, and ample for the requirements, but secure that material at an economic value, which would be advantageous to the Department and the Commonwealth. I think, sir, that that is clearly connected with the subject before the House.I want to know whether there exists on the Yass-Canberra site material for producing bricks of equal quality to the State-made bricks I referred to; also, whether the material is likely to give an even shade of colour, and whether wecan produce a variety of shades, without which it will be impossible to give to the Parliament House an attractive appearance. We must be able to get a variety of shades. If we were to put up a building in bricks of one shade, and probably not a pleasant shade to the eye, we would have a building which would remind us of a barn rather than a Parliament House. It would not be possible to carry out a design successfully without a variety of shades of colour.
– Is it intended to build Parliament House of brick or of stone ?
– Of stone.
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Lang has any authority for making that statement.
– Certainly; a building of that kind would need to be constructed of stone.
– No. When I was discussing this matter with Colonel Owen and Mr. Miller some time ago, I understood that the idea of the Department was to erect a brick building, with brick facings.
– There are magnificent quarries of stone close at hand - at Bundanoon, and in that district.
– Are the quarries working ?
– I am not sure about that.
– If they have not been opened up, neither the honorable member nor any one else can judge of the quality of the stone which they contain. A man who judges a quarry by an outcrop is just as likely to be deceived as is a miner when he thinks that he has discovered a gold reef.
– The quarries have been tested by experts.
– Testing by boring is not a satisfactory way in which to ascertain the quality, or the density, or the beauty of a stone, which may require work: ing and polishing in order to give the best effect.
– The late Colonial Architect of New South Wales told me that the finest stone in New South Wales was to be found there.
– He has told the honorable member a number of things about this site which I have not been able to verify, and, therefore, I have my doubts in connexion with any ex parte report which may be given on inadequate ground. The Commonwealth is offering a prize for a design for a Federal Capital. Some men think it is to be merely a design to lay out a city, and to indicate where the Parliament House is to be built. What we really want is a design to show us where the various buildings should be placed, and the character of the buildings themselves, so that we may be able to form an idea of what the city will be like when it is completed, and not have to trust to somebody else to supply the essential knowledge, without which we cannot judge the work of the architects. I shall watch with some. curiosity the developments on the Capital site, with regard to providing foi the erection of a Parliament House and the public offices. I sincerely hope, however, that we have not come to that pass in Australia that we shall have to erect those buildings in brick. If there is one building which, in a Commonwealth like this, just entering on its career as a young nation, should be built of durable material, and calculated to give pleasure to both outside observers and those who inhabit it, it is Parliament House ; and such a building can, I think, be provided without in any way trenching on the economical administration we are supposed to secure. It is the duty of honorable members to keep a watchful eye on the expenditure, and see that full value is obtained for our money, so that we may avoid the errors of the past, and provide a city as good as may be on the site selected. The disadvantages of the site make it all the more necessary to take care that in the design and construction of the buildings, and in the laying out of the city, the inevitable defects are, as far as possible, minimized. I throw these hints out to the Government; but, of course, I observe that we always fail to obtain the attention of Ministers, who usually seem to be engaged in other business. As a rule* members are treated as though their utterances represented mere passing thoughts not worthy of consideration. The idea of Ministers seems to be, “ Let them talk ; that is all they are here for “ ; and that would appear to be a feature in all Parliaments. Members are not given credit, very often, for any sincere desire to attain better results than possibly might be brought about by the plans of the immediate Department concerned. I do not know what amount the Minister intends to expend this year ; but, of course, we shall ascertain when the Estimates are before us. In any case, I shall want to know what we are going to obtain for the expenditure - whether those results would be acceptable and abiding, or whether the Government are merely taking a spasmodic course, which may have to be reversed by some future Government. I am very anxious on this point, in view of the example presented in the House in which we are now assembled. A Federal Parliament House sufficient for all purposes for the next 500 years could be built at Yass-Canberra for half the money that has been spent on the unfinished Parliament
House of Victoria. This building cost £800,000, and I am told that it would cost as much more to finish it.
– If the honorable member looks at the plan in the Library he will see that all that remains to be done is the dome, to cost £90,000, and the completion of a wing.
– The dome is rather an expensive item.
– The front of the wing is completed, and .there only remains the back portion to be supplied.
– I am told that the unfinished work would run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– Nothing like that.
– Of course, we know that the front, and most expensive portion of the building, is completed; but if ever there was money wasted, it was on this House.
– The honorable member must remember the gold-digging times, in which the building was commenced.
– I remember that the building was commenced when Victoria thought that it was the hub of the universe, and when it was not conceived that the gold could come to an end. At the back portions of the building, where there is no need for elaboration, most expensive bluestone mouldings are to be found. I should like to know whether the architect, who could throw away money on such a design, was engaged on commission.
– No; he was a member of the Public Works Department. I am speaking from memory.
– I should have thought he was engaged on commission. Only those in the trade know what it costs to cut mouldings in bluestone; and right throughout there is the same elaborate work. A mint of money must have been spent on the Senate alone.
Mi. Scullin. - Look at .the mint of money the Legislative Council represented in the old days !
– I admit that it was thought necessary to house these lords of creation in halls equal to any in the world ; but such days are now past. However, my objection is not so much to the adornment as to the absence of essentials which’ go to make a real home for the legislators of any country. Honorable members who have travelled may have some knowledge of the designs of Parliament Houses in other countries.
– What we desire is a good Parliament House for the Commonwealth.
– We certainly ought to have a Parliament House in which we can sit for some hours without getting a headache - without having our constitutions undermined by an unheal thy. atmosphere - so that we may be always in a mental and physical condition to give our best services to the country. When this chamber is full of members and the public, no one can remain here for any length of time without suffering ill effects.
Debate interrupted tender sessional order.
Motions (by Mr. W. Elliot Johnson) agreed to -
That the request of the Senate, contained in its message No. 4, for the resumption by the House of the consideration of the Banking Companies Reserve Liabilities Bill, be complied with, and that a message be transmitted to the Senate acquainting it therewith.
That the further consideration of the Bill in Committee of the whole House (the stage which the Bill had reached last session) be made an Order of the Day for Thursday next.
– I move -
That a Royal Commission, consisting of five members of this House, be appointed to inquire into and report upon the sugar industry.
In discussing this question on previous occasions, our position has been very different from what it is to-day, and I am pleased that the efforts of those who have been endeavouring for many years to secure a full inquiry into the sugar industry are about to be successful. The House is now practically unanimous in the opinion that an inquiry is necessary, and, since the Government have intimated that they intend to appoint a Commission of some kind, we should confine our attention to the question of what form that Commission shall take. There have been two attempts to obtain a Commission. The last Deakin Government selected three gentlemen to constitute a Commission of Inquiry, but the gentleman who was chosen to act as chairman, for reasons over which he had no control, resigned his position immediately previous to the last general election. At that election, the Government were defeated, and their successors - the present Government - did not proceed with the appointment.
– Was there not a considerable hiatus between the refusal of a certain gentleman to act as chairman and the holding of the general election? I think he declined in January, 1910, whereas the general election did not take place until April of 1910.
– No; the selection was made almost immediately prior to the general election, and the gentleman chosen for the position of chairman resigned during the election campaign. On the meeting of Parliament, after the last general election, an effort was made to obtain a Commission, but, although there was a considerable majority of the House in favour of the appointment of one, we were unable to secure an opportunity to divide on the question before the session closed. As the House is almost unanimously in favour of the appointment of a Royal Commission, I shall not discuss the necessity for such an appointment. Every one admits that, in the interests of the sugar industry, and especially in the interests of the people generally, there must be a full and complete inquiry from the stand-points of the grower, the miller, the Sugar Company, and the consumers of Australia, who have paid, since the formation of the Commonwealth, something like£12,000,000, by way of bounty, Excise, and duty on sugar-. I am one of those who think that the time has now arrived when the sugar industry must be treated just as every other industry. In its wisdom, Parliament thought it necessary to establish a system of bounty and Excise, with a view of assisting the sugar growers to do away with kanaka labour. That object having been secured - the kanakas having left Australia - there is now no reason why the industry should not be treated exactly as every other primary production. There should be such a duty as is considered necessary, and the payment of bounty and Excise should be abolished. The only question for us to decide to-day is whether the Commission should consist of members of Parliament or outside persons. I believe that a Commission of members of this House would be the best to appoint. If it can be truthfully said that we have not in this House five members possessing sufficient knowledge, and the integrity necessary to act upon it, in preparing a fair report, then the sooner a new House is elected the better. There are two excellent reasons why this Commission should consist of members of Parliament. From its very inception, the sugar industry has been the subject of more Conferences and legislation than all the other primary products put together. In England, it has been the subject of some of the greatest International Conferences the world has ever seen. Even men of the stamp of Joseph Chamberlain have not thought it unworthy of them to summon a Conference of representatives of the industry from all parts of the world to deal with it. It has tested the ability of the master-minds of the world to form a fair and proper conception of the industry, and some of these Conferences have been world-wide in their effects. We have .now to ask ourselves whether we ought to pass what would be practically a vote of want of confidence in this House by declaring that there are not five members of it capable of dealing with the subject, and that, therefore, outsiders should come in and do our work. There can be. no comparison as to the relative cost of the two kinds of Commission. If outside people are appointed, they will have to be paid £3 3s. or £5 5s. a day and their expenses, whereas, if members of the House are appointed they will do the work for their bare expenses. What is even of greater importance is that the members appointed to the Commission will have to go thoroughly into every phase of the subject, from the time the plant is put into the ground until the finished produce reaches the consumer. When they return to the House the education which they will have obtained on the subject will be at the disposal of every honorable member, and thus the House will be enabled to deal with the subject in a way that would not be possible if an outside Commission were appointed. We have simply to make a choice between the two kinds of Commission. I believe that a tribunal of members of this House will be the cheaper and better.
– I second the motion. I am sure the whole community is satisfied that the time has arrived for a thorough investigation into the sugar industry in Australia. We, in this House, must have all the information that can be obtained from the fullest consideration of the circumstances of this enormous industry before we can express a definite opinion as to what action shall be taken in the future to put it on a sound footing. All the figures which, so far, have been made available by the AttorneyGeneral and others show that apparently the consumers of Australia are paying no less than the full amount of the duty, or, probably, £1,200,000 per annum, for the support of the industry. There are several phases of the question upon which I should like some light. The prices paid by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for the crude sugar at the various mills would indicate that already the protection to the industry is equal to about 50 or 60 per cent. If the House finds that that is so, it will have to consider whether it is prepared to continue a protection of that magnitude in order to preserve the industry under the white labour conditions already imposed in our legislation. It seems an extraordinary thing that there should be such a wide disparity between the price charged for sugar in Australia, and New Zealand.
– The duty.
– The difference amounts to more than the duty. According to figures which have already been quoted in a previous debate, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, in August last, were charging £22 16s. 6d. per ton in Australia, and £15 15s. per. ton in New Zealand, for practically the same sugar. The New Zealand article was refined in New Zealand, so that all the benefits and advantages of the refining industry were enjoyed by that Dominion equally with Australia, yet the people of New Zealand were getting sugar at over £7 per ton cheaper than were the people of the Commonwealth, the duty in the Commonwealth being only £6 per ton. The results of the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in both places offer material for investigation. According to all the figures that I have been able to gather from newspaper reports, it appears that, in New Zealand, with a consumption of 50,000 tons, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company make a profit of about £70,000 per annum; whereas in the Commonwealth, where the protection is £6 per ton, and the consumption is about 200,000 tons, the company’s profit on their Australian business is about £120,000. Apparently, under any system, the company enjoy such a complete monopoly of the business both in New Zealand and in Australia that they can earn similar profits whether the product is protected or admitted free. We therefore require to find out whether the extra £6 or £7 per ton that is being paid by the Australian consumers represents the difference between the cost of the production of the crude sugar by white and coloured labour. The figures I have quoted regarding New Zealand and Australia seem to indicate that something requires investigation with respect to the production of the sugar. As an Australian who believes in the development of Australian industry, and as one also in whose electorate there is practically no possibility of sugar production taking place, I am quite prepared to vote for a continuance of a reasonable duty in order that this great industry may be preserved. The northern territories of this continent are being peopled far too slowly, and the future integrity of the Commonwealth is bound up with the successful introduction of a system of tropical agriculture in our northern areas. It is, therefore, the duty of this Parliament to look at the question from a national, and not from a local, stand-point, but the present indications are that the Australian consumers are paying j£6 for every ton produced in order to encourage the production in Queensland of an article which brings the primary producer in probably not more than about £12 per ton. These are very serious considerations. They -show that there is an immense expenditure taking place somewhere, and that enormous profits, which do not appear on the surface, are being made. Either the industry is being carried on by the growers of Queensland in an unscientific way which does not give a proper return for the labour put into it, or else the product is passing through the hands of middlemen who are charging enormous secret profits. Everything indicates the necessity of immediate inquiry into the production and distribution of a commodity which, in some form,, is used by every individual in the community. The last Government, with a proper appreciation of the enormous value of this industry to the Commonwealth, had the -statesmanship and foresight to propose that an immediate investigation should be :made into its operations and ramifications. It is extraordinary in the circumstances that the present Government should have taken so long to make up their minds as to the best course to pursue. I believe there :is a patriotic desire on the part of honorable members generally to preserve and extend this industry, and, in order that we may deal out even-handed justice to the growers and consumers of sugar, we should see that Parliament is afforded the fullest possible information concerning the industry. That «can only be secured by a thorough investi gation by a competent tribunal. I believe that, for the most part, the various items of the Tariff are so interdependent and inextricably interwoven that a permanent Board should be appointed in order that all the facts connected with the conditions and progress of our industries should be made known, and information concerning them periodically presented to Parliament. But the enormous sugar industry which is capable of still further development and expansion is sufficiently separated from the other industries of the Commonwealth to justify the appointment of a special commission to investigate its conditions exhaustively for the information of Parliament. I fail to see why we should go outside this House in order to find a competent tribunal for the purpose. I believe we have men in this House who are quite competent to thoroughly investigate this important question, and elicit information which will enable this Parliament to make up its mind as to the future policy which should be adopted in dealing with this great indus try. I hope that, in the interests of the sugar-growers of Queensland, and of the consumers of sugar throughout the Commonwealth, and in order that Parliament may do its duty to the people as a whole, and advance the national interests, we shall not delay an hour longer the appointment of a competent Commission from the members of this House to investigate this important question.
– I desire to say that, as announced by the Prime Minister in the Governor-General’s Speech, it is the intention of the Government to appoint a Commission to inquire into the sugar industry. The Government ‘have decided that the Commission shall be a nonpolitical Commission. We have just heard from the honorable member for Wimmera that the late Government displayed statesmanship and foresight in proposing the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the industry. I remind the honorable member that the late Government proposed a non-political Commission. It has been contended that they only made up their minds to appoint the Commission just before they went out of office, and, owing to the general election intervening, they were unable to proceed with the inquiry. Honorable members who were present in this House at the time will recollect that the present Prime Minister raised a discussion on the 7th October, 1909, in Committee of Supply, on the necessity of an inquiry into the sugar industry, and suggested that some action should be taken in the matter, before the gradual extinction of the sugar bounty was brought about under the legislation in existence at the time. No doubt, as the result of some remarkable inspiration, the then honorable member for Capricornia, Mr. Archer, raised the same question on the following day, when he asked -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to appoint a non-political Board or Commission for the purpose of conducting an inquiry into all matters relating to the sugar industry?
The then Prime Minister, the honorable member for Ballarat, replied -
It is the intention of the Government to appoint a non-political Board of Inquiry into matters relating to the sugar industry, should the Inter-State Commission not be able to make that inquiry sufficiently early.
The general election did not take place until more than six months after that, and, in the meantime, the Government had had ample opportunity to appoint the Commission. It is a matter of history now that the scope of the Commission’s inquiry was considered, and certain gentlemen were approached with a view to their appointment as members of it. The chairman selected, for some reasons best known to himself, did not act. That was the position when the present Government came into office. As we announced last year, we decided that we would pass legislation dealing with the sugar industry, putting the bounty and Excise on precisely the same footing as the import duty, and fixing no date when they should cease to operate. We decided to take that course believing, as I believe now, that it would be in the best interests of the industry, and, further, decided that there should be no Commission of inquiry appointed until that had been done. When a Commission was asked for last year, by the present member for Capricornia, the Government decided that they could not agree to the request. Personally, I believe that it was in. the best interests of the worker that the Commission then asked for was not granted. I feel confident that had a Commission been appointed then the employers in the industry would have made it an excuse for refusing to improve the conditions or increase the wages of the employe’s. During the whole of the recent trouble in the industry they would have said that it would be unreasonable to alter any of the conditions until the Commission had completed their report.
– How long does the honorable gentleman think the inquiry would have lasted?
– I can tell the honorable member what were the anticipations of the late Government on that point. The late Prime Minister gave the reply to the question put by Mr. Archer on the 8th October, 1909, and the late Government did not retire from office until after the 13th April following, though I admit they decided that they could not do anything as a Government after that date. After the hitch that occurred between the chairman first selected and the representative of the Government administering the Department concerned, no successor to the first selected chairman was appointed until the time of the election. If my memory serves me aright, according to the terms of the commission issued by the late Government, the report was to be presented before 1st October. As the Commission was issued early in March that would have allowed six or seven months for the completion of the inquiry. I am convinced that had we decided at the end of last session to grant the request made for a Commission to inquire into the industry, the inquiry would still be proceeding, and the improvement which has taken place in the condition of the employe’s - though it is not such as I should like to have seen - would not have been secured.
– That was not the reason why the Minister opposed the appointment of a Royal Commission.
– One reason why I opposed its appointment was that I believed the whole of the information that we required could be obtained by the Department.
– I think so still.
– I am not now so sure that it could be thus obtained, because, when the Department endeavoured to ascertain the number of coloured aliens employed in the different mills, although the information was forthcoming from every other mill, we could not get it from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– Would the appointment of a Commission in any way weaken the power of the Minister under the bountysystem ?
– No. In regard to the trouble which recently occurred in the industry in Queensland, I merely wish to say that the men asked for no more than justice when they demanded a minimum wage of 30s. and their keep for a week of fortyeight hours.
– Eight hours a day is quite long enough for a man to work in Queensland.
– I do not think their demands were anything but just, and I believe their claims to consideration would have been prejudiced had a Royal Commission been inquiring into the industry at the time those demands were formulated.
– Did the Government refuse to appoint the Commission because they anticipated trouble in the industry?
– No. I was not aware that any trouble existed until I read it in the newspapers. I believe that a Royal Commission will be able to obtain information which the Department cannot secure, and I trust that it will not be like the Harvester Commission, which found that its powers were so limited that it was unable to compel witnesses to give the evidence which it desired to obtain.
– This Commission will find that it occupies a similar position if its members endeavour to get to the bottom of things.
– If that be so, I trust that this Parliament will not hesitate to arm the Commission with all the powers necessary to make its inquiry an exhaustive one.
– Why do the Government propose to appoint a Commission of a non-political character?
– One reason is that we are anxious that the Commission shall get to work early, so that it may present its report as soon as possible. I do not think that any honorable member could give his attention to that inquiry and at the same time properly represent his constituents here. We think it is wise to appoint an outside body, whose members may inquire into the conditions surrounding the sugar industry free from all political bias.
– Do the Government anticipate that they will get the report of the Commission in time to enable us to legislate for the industry this session?
– No. But the sooner we get the information, the better. The Commission will consist of five members.
– Is it the intention of the Government to widen the powers which are conferred by the Royal Commissions Act?
– I understand that the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill, which engaged our attention yesterday, confers upon Royal Commissions additional powers to deal with witnesses who may come before them. Should it be found that those powers are inadequate, I trust that they will be extended sufficiently to enable the inquiry to be made full and complete.
– I did not intend to take part in this debate, but one or two matters which have been touched upon by the Minister of Trade and Customs” call for some supplementary remarks from me. In the first place, he alluded to the fact that in October, 1909, the late Government announced their determination to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole of the conditions surrounding the sugar industry. That proposal had been before us for some time in several forms - one of those forms being that which is now put forward by the honorable member for Franklin. In October of that year we decided to appoint a Commission consisting of experts,’ assisted by as eminent a man as we could obtain from one of the Supreme Court Benches. After that decision had been arrived at, I placed myself in communication with Mr. Justice Cohen, of the New South Wales Supreme Court, because I recognised that he was a Judge of quite exceptional experience in dealing with industrial causes. Honorable members will recollect that he was the President of the first Arbitration Court established in New South Wales, that he filled the position for many years, and retired only because the strain imposed upon him’ proved too great. During the period that he discharged the duties of his office, he was fortunate enough to give complete satisfaction to both employers and employes. In October, 1909, when I personally made this proposition to him, he was reluctant to consider it, on the ground that he had already endured a very severe strain, and some weeks elapsed before he was induced to accept the appointment. In the meantime, we were carrying on a correspondence with the Queensland Government with a view to securing the services of any suitable officers who might be available for the inquiry, and we were also busy inquiring into their standing and their independence of political parties. It was well on in December before we induced Mr. Justice Cohen and the two gentlemen who were to be associated with him to act as members of the Commission. One of those gentlemen was supposed to thoroughly understand the commercial side of the industry, and the other had had great experience in its practical working - in the mills and in the cultivation of sugar. The appointment was about to be confirmed when Mr. Justice Cohen suddenly communicated to us his doubts as to the wisdom of his undertaking so grave a task. I saw him again, and some correspondence followed, but, in the end, he reluctantly said that, considering all the circumstances of the case, he found it impossible to act on so close and arduous an inquiry- as that contemplated would be if it was to be completed within the time specified. Speaking from memory, I think the Government stated that they expected to receive the report of the Commission within six months from the date of its appointment. Mr. Justice Cohen made himself acquainted with what was to be done, and finally replied withdrawing from the Commission.
– I thought that the honorable member said he could not accept the position because he was ill?
– He felt that his health would not stand the strain” which the inquiry would have imposed upon him. We were then at a loss for a gentleman uniting judicial training with business experience, but eventually entered into correspondence with another member of the Supreme Court Bench. The negotiations were incomplete when the electoral campaign began, and as Parliament would have had no opportunity to review our action, and there was the possibility that after the elections we might not be in a position to make an appointment, we thought it desirable to leave the matter in abeyance. The Minister has made another statement of the reasons why this Government did not appoint a Commission last year. Those reasons have no relevancy to the criticism of the Opposition, because by legislation, which only an Act could repeal, the growers were last year put in a position of security, and a Commission’s findings would not have interfered with them, nor hampered the industry. Apparently, Ministers took the sanguine view that difficulties were no longer likely to arise, and therefore postponed indefinitely action which would have materially minimized, if not prevented, the dispute of this year.
– The honorable member told a Geelong audience that the Government did not dare to appoint a Commission.
– The honorable member says so many things.
– A member of Parliament is called upon to do so. Were there opportunity to refresh my memory by reading the remarks referred to, I should no doubt be able to satisfy the honorable member that the phrase was a proper one under the circumstances.
– It was stated in the press, and I think by the honorable member at South Melbourne, that the last Government appointed Commissioners, and we cancelled the appointments.
– No. I said that we had framed a Commission which seemed to cover the whole scope of inquiry, and had appointed two Commissioners, nothing remaining but the appointment of a chairman. A gentleman whom it was thought would act as Chairman had agreed to undertake the work, and his name had been inserted in the Commission which was prepared ready for signing.
– Subsequently, was there a second chairman appointed ?
– No; a second was approached, but for the reasons detailed the appointment was deferred. This Ministry ‘did not dare to appoint a Commission, because to have done so would have been to throw light on the industry, which would have disproved the charges as to the abuses suffered by the growers. Our contention was that the growers had nothing to fear from an investigation, and that the policy of Parliament in regard to the maintenance of the industry would be upheld. I have not of my own accord revived this controversy, but the statement of the Minister could not be allowed to pass without correction. Had the Commission been appointed last year, every one connected with the industry would have benefited. All the Minister has to advance for its non-appointment is the suggestion that a concession obtained by certain classes of workers, which he mentioned as minor and partial, might not have been gained. But had an impartial Commission been in existence, the difficulties which recently arose would have been rapidly and peacefully settled, inasmuch as they must have been inquired into and examined at the outset, lying as they did right in the path of the investigation. The honorable member for Capricornia, with several other members interested in the sugar industry, pressed for an inquiry last session, realizing that no injury could follow to any class of persons concerned.
– The suggestion that injury might be done was an afterthought.
– The honorable member for Capricornia, who gave notice of a motion for the appointment of a Commission, and on several occasions urged the appointment, had no apprehension of injury from the investigation of the subject by a thoroughly competent tribunal which would place Parliament in possession of all the farts. As I have said, but for these innuendoes, I should not have thought it worth while to detain honorable members. I need not say that a glance at that Commission, as drawn, would show that the inquiry was to be of the most thorough description. If Ministers are able to reinforce it, that would be a source of gratification. But as it was drawn, it was made as broad as our advisers could shape it. I hope that the Commission will be appointed at an ‘early date, that it will proceed to its work at once, and that one of the results will be that, when the next sugar season comes round, we shall find that those vexed questions which have recently been agitated before the public will be settled in a pacific manner, on fair and reasonable grounds. I spoke on a former occasion of the fact that this strike was initiated just at a time when the sugar cane required to be cut, and I was then reminded by the Prime Minister that a debate in the Queensland Parliament showed that the question had been raised some months before that - in February. But I understand, from the same number of the Queensland Hansard, that the initial correspondence in February was regarded as coming from a body which, at all events at that time, did not represent, and was not recognised as representing, persons engaged in working for the sugar-growers in Queensland.
– No; that was the excuse that thev made.
– That is giving it another name ; whether it was an excuse or justification is for the honorable member to decide. The fact remains, as I understand, that the sugar-growers, and those concerned with them, did not realize that this was a question to be brought to an issue by the men whom they expected to engage for the coming season, until immediately before the cane had to be cut. Up to that time, they had looked upon this as the intervention of an outside body, who had no particular authority to speak for the cane-cutters, and those whom they expected to deal with in the coming season.
– They said to me, five months after, that it was only an agitators’ strike, and that they were not surprised at it.
– That shows that, as far as the sugar-growers were concerned, there was no expectation when the Australian Workers Union first communicated with them, that this would really mean that they wereto be involved in an industrial struggle.
– The honorable member would not expect the Australian Workers Union to inform the sugar-growers that the men were going to strike?
– Under the circumstances, I think that they should have communicated to the growers that they were speaking, not for themselves as an outside organization, but that they were in some way or other representative of the canecutters whom the growers were about to engage.
– They did that.
– But they were not regarded as such.
– Mr. Knox was the only one who thought the communication of sufficient importance to reply. The others did not.
– While correcting my previous observation to that extent, I also wished to put the sugar-growers in their true position, because it seems clear, from the informa_tion laid before the Queensland Parliament, that they did not know that these notices would be taken up as they were, and that those upon whom they were relying for the cutting of their cane would not be available to them. I have risen to remove any possible misapprehension which mav have arisen from the Minister’s reply. I have no objection to the Minister making the best defence he can for his action or inaction, but when that defence appears to reflect unwarrantably upon the views which many of us hold - which, I, at all events, hold - I have thought it necessary to take this opportunity of making a correction at once. I hope that the Commission will be appointed as soon as possible, in order that before next session all possibility of friction may be removed, and an honorable settlement arrived at, which will enable this great industry, in which, hundreds of men have embarked their all, to be provided with the labour which is requisite at fair and reasonable wages.
.- I heard the Minister of Trade and Customs say just now that at one time he held the opinion that an inquiry into the sugar industry was not required, because we already had all the information that we should be likely to get, even if the Commission were at work-
– The Minister said that he previously held that opinion, but that he did not hold it now.
– The Minister admitted that something had happened since to alter his view, and that he now thinks that possibly a Commission would be the means of obtaining such information as at present we have not.
– I said definitely that we had tried to get information from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and that they had refused to give it.
– The Minister gave that as a reason for his change of opinion. I should have liked to hear the honorable gentleman on the point as to whether, if the Commission had been appointed twelve or fifteen months ago, the late sugar strike would have been averted. It seems to me that the Government must admit their culpability in this matter, and that, if the Commission had been appointed, and had an opportunity of inquiring into the facts, we should not have witnessed the recent regrettable strike. I hold that we require the best information that can be obtained as to the sugar industry. I should like to see the Government appoint a Commission as soon as possible. I wish Parliament and the Ministry to be provided with early expert advice. An honorable member comes into this House and hears all sorts of opinions expressed concerning this great industry by honorable members whose homes are in Queensland, and who are assumed to know a great deal about it. We all admit the magnitude and importance of the question, but the opinions expressed are so different that it is hard to say. which are correct. It is time that the Government really took steps to obtain reliable information, to enable us to put the industry upon a satisfactory basis. It is not on a satisfactory basis at the present time. Almost every year we hear of difficulties, almost every year the workers express dissatisfaction with the conditions of labour. From all I can read, I think that very often they have good cause for. their complaints. But that is not what I wish to mention just now. It seems to me that the sugar industry ought to be a very large affair indeed. It ought not merely to produce enough sugar for Australian consumption. On this continent we consume something like 200,000 tons of sugar per annum, and we are, per head, the largest consumers of sugar in the world. The people in the British Isles seem to come next to us in that respect. When the House legislated to put the sugar industry on a sound footing, and at the same time to uphold the policy of a White Australia, its ideal was not the mere supplying of 200,000 tons of sugar annually to its people. If production is to stop at that point, then the community is paying too much for its sugar. There must be large areas in Queensland which should be producing sugar, and an inquiry by a Royal Commission might elicit information which would lead to the utilization.! of those areas, which ^probably would be more productive than the areas now under sugar cultivation. Something should be done with these areas. Is it intended that the land shall lie idle? Are the people to continue to pay £1,000,000 per annum, as they practically do now, for this sort of thing? It is a very serious question whether they should be asked to pay so much money to maintain an industry which is not going to do more than merely supply our own wants, and. at a high price. That seems to me to be one of the points on which we need enlightenment.
– Does not the honorable member think that it is a good thing for an industry in Australia to supply its wants first?
– I do; but it seems to me, from what I can gather in connexion with the sugar industry, that there is a great danger of production stopping at that point. The point I wish to make is that probably the best sugar-producing areas in Queensland are not going to produce sugar at all. Surely that is not the ideal at which we are aiming?
– I have no knowledge of that.
– The honorable member must know that there is a large extent of suitable country which is not producing sugar?
– Every year the area is increasing.
– I admit that, but if the honorable member will take the figures for the last few years he will see that the production of sugar has not increased in a very encouraging way, to say the least of it.
– The honorable member ought to turn his attention to the lands in Tasmania where they can grow fruit. We shall look after the other lands.
– That is another reason, I might remind the honorable member, why some solid information is required by this Parliament concerning the sugar industry, because it is the high price of sugar which is largely responsible for the low price of fruit.
– That is not so; the Jam Combine regulates that.
– I think it is so, because only last year a large factory in Melbourne gave as its reason for closing up that, owing to the high price of sugar, it could not afford to make jam.
– That was only” bluff.
– It was purely bluff.
– It is easy for hon.orable members to say that it was merely bluff. The figures were quoted here often, and, although they were waived aside, they were never seriously contradicted.
– Will the honorable member state the quantity of sugar which is required to make a ton of jam and the retail price of jam?
– Not being a practical jam-maker, I cannot give such details as those at a moment’s notice. The fact remains that the jam-makers and fruitpreservers have stated, and given clear reasons in support of their statements, that they have suffered greatly through the high price of sugar, and that, therefore, they have had to close up a great part of their business. The fruit-grower is penalized, too, because, if the manufacturer of jams and preserves has to pay a high price for sugar, he cannot afford to pay satisfactory prices to the fruit-grower.
– The honorable member is on a bad wicket.
– There are parts of Tasmania where small fruits have practically gone out of. cultivation. Raspberry canes, for instance, have been pulled up.
– Does the honorable member seriously contend that all this has happened because sugar is £1 a ton dearer or cheaper ?
– That has been one of the chief causes. I, for one, am very anxious to have an inquiry into the sugar industry. I notice that Mr. Knox, the manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, has expressed his willingness to lay all the information he can before a
Commission or Board of Inquiry. That, I dare say, would throw a lot of light on the trusts question, and we would then be in a better position to see how far the company is bleeding unfairly the people of Australia. I understand that, as regards the recent increase of the price of sugar by £2 or £3 per ton, the company only gets a certain proportion of the increase, the balance being handed on to the growers of sugar. It has been estimated, I think, that the company’s share of the last rises in price is only 2s. in the £1, the balance going to the growers. That is, I understand, a settled arrangement. It should be remembered that possibly we would have had no sugar industry in Australia to-day had it not been for the action of the company some time ago.
– Oh, nonsense !
– The history of the company is rather interesting; it has not always been a flourishing concern. If I remember aright, it nearly collapsed in the seventies, owing to a sudden depreciation in the price of sugar.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there would be no sugar” in Australia but for this company?
– No, but the probability is that but for the company there would be no sugar industry in Australia today. For many years, the company had a very trying experience, but it stuck to its guns, and came through the ordeal safely.
– The honorable member means that there would be no Colonial Sugar Refining Company if it were not for the sugar.
– That may be the position now, but at the same time we do not wish to be unfair. The company is supposed to pay good wages to its permanent employes. I know that they, at any rate, believe that they have satisfactory berths. I think that there is considerable competition amongst clerks and accountants to secure any positions which from time to time become vacant. We must remember that this company is certainly up-to-date, and does its best to get the best advice as to the latest appliances and machinery. No one wishes to deny that the company must be doing very well, and probably too well for the general interests of the community.
– The result <5f the referenda was a good thing for the company I
– There was no need for the referenda in the form submitted. I blame not only the Government, but the whole Caucus, seeing that they had the means at hand to dissolve trusts in Australia, if they had taken the advice of this side of the House and accepted the amendment that was submitted. The question could then have been put straight to the people. The object of a referendum is to give the community a chance to speak distinctly on one special point.
– Was the question relating to monopolies not put separately ?
– That question has nothing to do with the subject we are now discussing; and if honorable members opposite confound the two, it shows how little the Caucus know about the subject-matter on which they asked Australia to express an opinion.
– You chaps “ gammoned “ that you knew all about it !
– In any case, we were able to teach the people all about it.
– “We are the people!”
– We make no claim of that kind, but we do claim to have taught the people something with regard to the referenda.
– If we had had half the newspaper support that honorable members opposite had, the result would have been different !
– The newspapers gave both sides a fair chance.
– The honorable member’s idea of fairness is very crude.
– The newspapers reported both sides; and I believe that even in Tasmania the Labour party have what is supposed to be a flourishing organ. I hope the Commission will be appointed as soon as possible, and that the best expert assistance the Government can command will be obtained.
.- The Minister of Trade and Customs, when dealing with this matter a little while ago, congratulated himself and the Government on the assumption he made that, if this Commission had been previously appointed, probably the men would not have had their wages increased. Later on, however, the Minister admitted that the Government had not anticipated trouble with the men ; and, if that be so, the fact that the men’s wages were increased was due to no action or inaction on the part of the Government. Under the circumstances, I fail to see what credit the Government can take from the fact that they did not appoint a Commission. So far as the strike is concerned I must confess that my sympathies were all with the men. The wages paid in this industry are, to my mind quite inadequate to the nature of the work performed.
– The wages were fixed by the Government !
– Nevertheless, the wages are quite inadequate to the nature of the work, and the climate in which the work is carried out. When I visited Queensland, as a member of the Tariff Commission some four years ago, I was much surprised and disgusted to find that the wage-earners there were not in a position, as regards remuneration, that most of the workers elsewhere in Australia are. In fact, Queensland may be regarded as one of the low-wage States of the Commonwealth; and, in this connexion, she has considerable leeway to make up. In appointing this Commission the Government should give the members of it some idea of the nature of the work expected.
– Let the Government adopt the scope of the Commission proposed by the late Government - it embraces everything.
– If any definite lines were laid down by the late Government, I hope the present Government will adopt, and, if possible, improve on them. This question is, perhaps, one of the most intricate that has been dealt with by this Parliament. It is a many-sided problem, and it is to be hoped that the Commission appointed will be assisted to fully realize its different phases. One point in particular will demand very serious consideration. There is a certain export of Australian sugar, particularly to New Zealand; but we do not know whether that sugar is sold in the Dominion at a profit, or whether it is merely sent there as a matter of dumping in order to get rid of a surplus.
– There is no surplus.
– Then I should say an . alleged surplus that cannot be consumed here. The area of Queensland devoted to the cultivation of cane is very insignificant in comparison with the area of the State, and also insignificant compared with the total area available for such cultivation. There are large districts in Queensland which would grow sugar cane admirably, but which have not been exploited in that direction. If this industry can only exist in connexion with supplying the wants of Australia, it is of very limited importance to the country. If, however, it is possible to develop a legitimate export trade - that is, a trade which can be carried on at a reasonable profit - it will at once be seen that the industry is capable of almost indefinite expansion. Under such circumstances the industry would be entitled, for some time to come at any rate, to, perhaps, more consideration than it might receive if the possibility of such expansion were not apparent. This is an important phase of the subject, and there are many others. I hope that the Government and their officials will be able to classify the various phases, and thus direct the Commission to carry out its work in a way that will enable the representatives of the people in this Parliament to come to a decision regarding this very unsatisfactory question that will be at once beneficial to the industry itself, and to the people of Australia as a whole.
. am entirely in favour of the appointment of a Commission, the desirableness of which I have impressed upon the House on many occasions. I supported the proposition submitted last session by the honorable member for Capricornia, but at that time I was entirely in favour of a Commission consisting, as proposed by the honorable member for Franklin, of members of this House. Since then, having given the matter very careful consideration, I have come to the conculsion that a nonpolitical Commission would be very much better in the interests of the industry and the people generally. Such a Commission would obtain better evidence, and be able to get to work at a much earlier period than would one consisting solely of members of Parliament. It would also be separable altogether from any suggestion of bias that might apply to a Commission consisting of members selected from both sides of this House. If this motion, for the appointment of five members, were carried, three members of that Commission would have to be selected from one side of the House or the other, and, therefore, the majority would be biased in the one direction or the other. This is a very important question. During the debate on the AddressinReply it was freely mentioned and every one recognises that it deserves the most serious consideration of the House. I do not propose, however, to discuss it at great length, because I hope to have an opportunity later on to go into it more fully. I rose principally to oppose this motion on the ground that I am not in favour of the appointment of a. Commission consisting only of members of this Parliament. I believe that it should comprise five members, and that one of those members should be a Justice of the Supreme Court of one of the States. The necessity for the appointment of a Judge as president of the Commission has been clearly demonstrated by the experiences of like bodies. A Judge is necessary to sift the evidence in legal form, and to guide, to some extent, the witnesses.
– The honorable member says that he favours the appointment of a Justice of the Supreme Court as president of the Commission. What about the other members ?
– I should like every section of those interested to be represented. First of all, I would have a representative of the workers - I put them first, because they are the most important; then a representative of the growers, a representative of the millers, and, finally, a businessman who is acquainted with the work of distribution, and the whole of the commercial aspects of the question.
– What about the representation of the consumer?
– The consumer is certainly the most important individual to be considered, and I give him the most important place upon the Commission, by selecting the president - the Judge - to represent him and the public at large. Other interests would be more directly represented. We need to get to the root of the question. We all recognise that the consumer is paying a very high price for his sugar, and we desire to discover why he has to do so. In my opinion, the high price is due to the monopoly in the sugar business. The monopoly has increased the price by £3 per ton during the last few months, although there has been really no necessity for that increase. The Company itself is giving no more for its sugar. The rise in the price of continental sugar has not compelled the local monopoly to give is. per ton more for its material.
– And the growers get no benefit from the increased price.
– I am willing to admit that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company passes on to the miller 90 per cent., of any increase in price, but not is. of that increase goes to the grower. A contract is entered into with the millers at the beginning of the season, and if the price of sugar is raised during the season the millers receive nine-tenths of the increase. It can be proved, however, that the proportion of the increase, which is handed over to the miller, is spent in developmental work - in the laying of tramways, the introduction of new machinery, or the erection of additional buildings, and that none of it passes on to the grower.
– Where the mills are co-operative concerns-
– The process I have just described goes on in connexion with those mills just as if they were private concerns. I would emphasize the point that many of these so-called co-operative mills are in the hands of a very few people. Some of the shareholders, in a more fortunate position than others, have been able to concentrate their attention on an effort to secure the lands of the weaker members. This has been done to such an extent that when in North Queensland recently I was told that one of the so-called central or co-operative mills is now in the hands of twelve men, whilst another is in the hands of fifty-seven. It takes a large number of people to grow sufficient sugarcane to keep a mill going, but the figures I have just quoted show that these so-called co-operative mills are drifting into the hands of a few. In the near future they will become, to all intents and purposes, private mills. I repeat that the benefits passed on by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company do not reach the grower.
– The honorable member admits that the company does pass on to some one a portion of the advantage reaped from increased prices.
– Yes, but the grower gets none of it. Why should the Colonial Sugar Refining Company get the 10 per cent, that they claim when there is any rise in the price of continental sugar? Such a rise does not compel them to pay any more, yet the consumer has to pay an increased price. If prices in America, or on the Continent, are raised, prices here are, without any reason, advanced in sympathy. If, as a result of a drought in the Argentine, the price of beef went up there, or the price of beef exported from the Argentine to Europe increased, surely that would be no reason for an increase in the price of beef in Australia. Yet in all these matters an advance in prices on the Continent is followed by a sympathetic advance in Australia. Although I was previously in favour of a Commission appointed from members of this House, I cannot support it at the present stage. Ithink the suggestion of the Government - that the Commission, if and when appointed, should be entirely nonpolitical - is a better one in the interests of all concerned. Under the Standing Orders, no Commission consisting of members of this House could sit whilst the House was sitting.A Select Committee could do it, by leave, perhaps, but no Royal Commission of members could. That would mean delay, whereas we want this inquiry entered upon as soon as possible.
– We cannot deal with it until next session.
– If the House were to rise about Christmas, does the honorable member suppose that a Commission would sit and take evidence, not merely in Australia, but in Fiji and New Zealand, as has been suggested, in the interim, and prepare their report, and be ready to submit it when Parliament met again in, say, May next? The Commission may possibly go to Java as well as Fiji, and I think they would be justified in doing so. That is the place where most of our raw sugar comes from, and I should not object to their finding out as much as they could of the operations of the sugar industry in that country. If they did, it would be utterly impossible for them to present their report so that action might be taken in regard to it in the next session of this Parliament. We want a Commission appointed almost immediately, and we want it to get to work at once. I have always said that there is no means by which we can get at the inner workings of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company except by a Royal Commission. There is no other way of finding out what their profits from refining are, and what they make from the sugar they manufacture in Australia. It has been asserted that the profits are very low, but, some time ago, one of their own managers, speaking at the Richmond River to a meeting of farmers, estimated that the profits from refining sugar amounted to£1 15s. 6d. per ton - a very large amount indeed. The whole of the sugar consumed in Australia is refined by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I am not in sympathy with the suggestion made by the Attorney-General, when Acting Prime Minister, that the duty on sugar should be entirely remitted.
– Did he not speak for the party?
– I do not know upon whose responsibility he spoke, but he did not speak for me. It would be a grave and serious mistake to take the duty off. It would not matter a straw to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Their profits would be practically the same either way.
– Nothing would suit them better.
– It would suit them, because their profits are made from refining sugar, and it does not matter to them whether they refine sugar grown and manufactured in Australia or sugar manufactured outside of Australia.
– The grower would be injured by the removal of the duty.
– That is so; and I would not support any such suggestion, whichever side of the House it came from. Members of this Parliament who recently visited Papua were much impressed by the fertility of the soil there. It is a natural habitat of the sugar-cane, and possesses good climate, good rainfall, good soil, and cheap labour. It was suggested by some of them that sugar might be grown there in a national way, manufactured in State factories, and refined in a State or Commonwealth refinery. That could be done, but, at the same time, I realize thatour difficulty would be to find a market for the product. Whilst my reading of the Constitution leads me to believe that there is nothing to prevent us from manufacturing or refining sugar within our own territory, I think that, according to the interpretation of the Constitution by the highest authorities in this House and outside it, it would not permit us to enter into competition with any one outside of our own territory. We might produce for our own use, or for the use of the people in our own territory, but not otherwise. Whilst I am opposed to the motion of the honorable member for Franklin, I am in favour of having a Commission. 1 hope that another opportunity will arise shortly, when the personnel of the Commission is being considered, for me to say something more on the question. At this stage, I would ask the Government to give me leave to continue my remarks at a later period.
– The Government have no objection.
.- I would support the honorable member for Franklin in his motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission were it not for the promise of the Government to appoint a Commission at a very early date. I dare say an outside Commission will give just as much satisfaction as will a Commission appointed from members of this House. At the same time, I do not agree with those who disparage the qualifications of members of this House to take and weigh evidence and furnish a report. Honorable members are just as well qualified as are other persons to examine witnesses and draw up a report, and it is often of great advantage to the House to have in it members who have heard the evidence and can give the House the benefit of their personal experience. The evidence taken by an outside Commission, and even their report, will not be read carefully by all the members of the House. Members generally prefer to obtain from their fellow members who have been on a Commission the direct impressions gained by them. I understand from the honorable member for Herbert that the proposed Commission may go to Fiji, and also to Java. I hope that is true, because the evidence concerning this industry will not be complete unless the members of the Commission pay a visit to Fiji, where the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are not only refiners, but planters, and where they have a number of Hindoos employed under conditions of semi-slavery. The Commission should also visit Java where the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are buyers of Java sugar. I think it would be a very good thing for Australia if the people were informed as to the conditions of labour and wages paid in Fiji and Java in this particular industry. It has been suggested that we might possibly establish a national refinery in Papua. I hope that such a suggestion will never find support in this Parliament. I can see no difference between the Commonwealth, as a nation exploiting the labour of Papua, and a private individual doing the same thing. I do not think we have any right, as a people, any more than as private individuals, to exploit the labour of the natives of Papua. If there is to be production and distribution in Papua it should be for the benefit of the natives themselves. If we wish to establish a refinery and enter into the sugar industry, let us do so within the limits of this continent of ours. I am very pleased to hear that the Government intend to appoint a Commission. I am sorry that they did not do so last year when some of us went to a great deal of trouble in preparing information to show how necessary it was that such a Commission should be appointed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Kelly) adjourned.
.- I move -
I shall be very brief in submitting this motion, as I desire to complete what I have to say upon it before the adjournment for dinner. It deals with a matter which, in my opinion, is of extreme urgency to the Australian Commonwealth.
If honorable members look at the instructions given to. the British delegates to the Convention, which afterwards drew up the Declaration of London, they will find them required by Sir Edward Grey to secure the discussion of the following matter - I quote from vol. 54, House of Commons Papers for 1901, covering Accounts and Papers of the Navy -
The legality of the conversion of a merchantvessel into a warship on the high seas.
Sir Edward Grey gives his reasons for suggesting that as one of the questions to be considered in the following terms, which may be found at page 31 of the same paper -
Apart from the important question of principle involved, there are two practical considerations which have chiefly weighed with His Majesty’s Government in refusing to recognise the right to convert merchant-vessels into ships of war on the high seas. One is the facility which such a right would give to the captain of a merchant- vessel, qualified to act as a warship, to seize the enemy or neutral ships without warning. The other is that enemy vessels under the mercantile flag, but suitable for conversion, would be able, as merchantmen, to claim and obtain in neutral ports all the hospitality and privileges which would, under the accepted rules of naval warfare, be denied to them if they were warships.
Now this is a matter of supreme importance to Australia, in view of the fact that a convertible merchant vessel might get to Australia in time of war, seeing that she could coal as a merchantman at neutral ports, much more rapidly and easily than a warship, which would have to depend upon its own naval bases for a requisite supply of coal. Sir Edward Grey continues : -
Availing herself of these advantages, such a vessel, found in distant waters after the outbreak of hostilities, would be enabled to pass from one neutral port to another until she reached the particular point in her voyage where she might most conveniently be converted into a commerce destroyer. These difficulties might be met by restricting the right of conversion on the high seas to the case of vessels which had previously been specifically and publicly designated by the respective Governments as suitable for the purpose, and borne on their navy list; and by subjecting such vessels, while in neutral ports, to the same treatment as belligerent men-of-war.
The position is so clearly set forth by Sir Edward Grey in that statement that it is unnecessary that I should amplify it.
The application of this to Australian conditions is very significant. In time of war, a Power like Germany, for the sake of argument, having no ports linking up German Possessions in the East with the Home-land, would find it very difficult indeed to get cruisers or other ships of war to these stations, because such vessels, under international law, could not use neutral ports as merchant vessels might, and could not be coaled at neutral ports except in case of distress, and such emergencies. A merchant ship that is non-belligerent can be coaled in time of war, just as in time of peace, at a neutral port. Great Britain’s efforts to provide in the Declaration of London for the treatment of these convertible merchant vessels in time of war as though they were belligerent menofwar were defeated. As a result, German convertible merchant vessels might, in time of war, proceed from a German port, and then from neutral port to neutral port until they arrived in convenient waters, and then, hauling up the belligerent flag, commence to deal with our commerce more or less as pirates on the high seas. I have explained that they could get here much more easily than could war-ships, and, having got here, they would have all the rights of war-ships as belligerents, and we could not well deal with them as pirates.
The report of the Imperial Conference shows how the ‘British proposals in this respect were viewed at the International Convention that drew up the Declaration ofLondon. I quote the following from pageiii of the report of the last Imperial Conference -
– Before leaving the minor points, it would bc gratifying for us to hear an expression of opinion from you as to whether there is the least reasonable probability of agreement being come to with regard to conversion of merchantmen. That is a matter which concerns us very much.
So the honorable gentleman recognised it as of supreme importance - I presume, for the reasons I have already given the House. To that Sir Edward Grey replied -
It was tried, and it failed. . . .
– Who were the main opponents of our views? Who made it impossible to come to an agreement?
Sir Edward Grey. ; Germany was the chief opponent, and we were in a small minority.
Now, it should be of interest to honorable members to know that the treatment that Germany wants at sea is the very treatment which she refuses to mete out to her opponents on land. On land, Germany will shoot as an outlaw any person who takes up arms for his country, unless he happens to belong to an organized force of his country, and is in uniform. Dealing with ships, on’ the other hand, Germany claims the right to use converted merchantmen to prey upon her enemies’ commerce.
– And to convert them at any moment.
– Yes; and that is even more important. It is a matter of supreme importance to Australia. I have shown how these ships can come to Australia with much greater ease than war-ships, by making use of neutral ports until they have arrived in these distant waters, and may then be converted into belligerents.
Some of these vessels already trade with Australia, being specially fitted with gun platforms, and it is known that some of these vessels carry ammunition and guns in the hold.
– Is it known for certain that they carry guns and ammunition in their holds?
– It is known for certain that they may. Some years ago I saw a foreign ship unloading ammunition in Sydney. I believe that she also carried guns.
– I was wondering whether the honorable member had substantial proof that she did?
– Obviously that is a matter upon which it is impossible for a private individual to get substantial proof. But if these vessels have not munitions and guns on board, those munitions and guns are at the nearest port, at which they could be shipped conveniently on the outbreak of hostilities.
Unless we take action now, we shall, in the course of a year or two, have a vast number of these ships in our waters - vessels which are primarily intended for commerce, but which, by merely hoisting another flag and mounting their guns, would be in a position to prey upon commerce. Close observers must have realized during recent years that, owing to the keen naval competition near her shores, the British Navy, which used to be distributed all round the world, has become more or less concentrated in European waters. Possibly that navy would be able to deal with this difficulty in European waters with a reasonable chance of success; but, outside those waters, our enemies would be in a much better position to hold up our commerce and to destroy it at will.
– How are they off for coaling stations?
– To obtain coal, they would merely require to become merchantmen for the time being. They could then emerge from a port to become war-ships. ‘
My motion affirms that action should be taken in a certain direction. I have designedly omitted to say by whom that action should be taken.
– Or what action.
– Or what action. However, I shall be very happy to give some indication of my views in that connexion if honorable members wish me to do so in the limited time at my disposal. If we can take action through the Imperial authorities, so much the better. But if the Imperial authorities are slow to apprehend our peculiar position, I think that the time has arrived when the Commonwealth should act in this matter upon its own initiative. There is nothing to prevent us levying a special duty upon all goods carried in these convertible merchant ships.
– They carry His Majesty’s mails in some instances.
– Only in a supplementary and small way. In the German Navy List there is quite a number of these ships. But, if we take such action as I have suggested, those vessels will not be sent to Australian waters. In Brassey’s Naval Annual, Germany has six vessels of this type specified, and there is a footnote which reads -
Many other vessels of less than eighteen knots’ speed are in the list, including the Berlin (19,200 register tons), seventeen knots, launched at Gropelingen, 1908.
Apart from the vessels which are included in that list, there are “ many other ships “ which Sir Edward Grey was evidently anxious to see treated by neutral ports as belligerents in time of war. These six vessels mentioned in Brassey’s Naval Annual are the Kronprinzessin Caecilie, Kaiser Wilhelm11, Kronprinz Wilhelm, Kaiser Wilhelm der Grossed Trave, and Deutschland.
– Those vessels trade across the Atlantic to America.
– Not all of them. The
Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse comes here, as do also a number of French vessels. If we merely had to deal with the ships which I have enumerated, we would not experience any great trouble with foreign Powers so long as we took immediate action. But if we wait until the weaknesses of the Declaration of London are acted upon extensively by our enemies, we shall be able to act only by causing grave friction. As this matter was not provided against in the Declaration of London, these vessels may come here much more easily than can ordinary war-ships. The question is of considerable importance to us, and I deeply regret that I have not had sufficient time to make the position as clear as I would like to do. In view of its urgency, perhaps the Government would be prepared to accept the motion in the broad form in which it has been moved ?
– In that case, I shall have to ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7. 45 p.m.
Preference to Unionists - Small Arms Factory - Wireless Telegraphy - Compulsory Drill - Mr. Henry Willis
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I am glad that the Minister of Home Affairs is in his place, as I wish to take the earliest opportunity to ascertain whether what purports to be a copy of a circular issued today by the Department of Home Affairs to its officers in charge of works, published in this evening’s Herald, is authentic. Pass ing over the first two paragraphs relating to rates of pay, I come to this important direction -
Please note that the Minister has directed that absolute preference is to be given to unionists; see that this is given effect to in any future engagement, and in discharging any present men discharge non-unionists first.
The Minister also desires to be furnished at once with a list of non-unionists employed. Please make necessary inquiries, and supply at once.
Is that a correct statement of the Minister’s instructions ?
– No. The memorandum which I now hand to the honorable member contains the only instructions that I have issued.
– The memorandum handed to me is addressed by the Minister to the Director-General of Works, and reads -
I am informed that in the building trade we are paying men only 8s. 3d. per day for 44 hours a week. I desire that we should pay not less than gs. per day irrespective of the number of hours worked per week; absolute preference to unionists.
Please furnish a list of non-unionists employed.
Minister for Home Affairs. 15th September, 191 1.
– I now hand to the honorable member a copy of the circular issued by the Director-General of Works.
– This circular is, I suppose, an instruction to be sent to each clerk of works in Australia. It says -
In connexion with day labour, please carry out the following instructions : -
Then follow two paragraphs relating to rates, which I need not read. Next comes this important passage -
Also, please note that the Minister has directed that absolute preference is to be given to unionists; see that this is given effect to in any future engagement, and in discharging any present men, discharge non-unionists first.
– No such instruction was given by me.
– The circular continues -
The Minister also desires to be furnished at once with a list of non-unionists employed. Please make necessary inquiries, and supply at once.
Was that instruction given by the Minister ?
– The only Instructions given by me are contained in the memorandum, a copy of which I handed to the honorable member. I issued the order that the rate of 9s. a day should be paid, and found that, as the number of hours worked was only forty-four a week, the men were getting only 8s. 3d. a day.
– Is not the instruction contained in the circular issued by the DirectorGeneral of Works, “ See that this is given effect to in any future engagement,” a necessary addition to the Minister’s directions ?
– All things being equal, I desire that preference be given to unionists.
– Does the Minister say that he is not responsible for the instruction, “ and in discharging any present men, discharge non-unionists first?”
– I never said such a thing.
– There is nothing wrong with it.
– It was not my direction.
– Is the DirectorGeneral of Works wholly responsible for the instruction ?
– He is responsible for everything that goes beyond what is stated in my memorandum.
– I assume that the memorandum is not the only communication that has passed between the Minister and his Director-General of Works.
– It is the only communication on the subject that has passed between us lately.
Mir. W. H. Irvine. - Has the DirectorGeneral of Works been directed to withdraw his circular?
– I only heard of it this afternoon. How it got to the press is what I must find out.
– Apparently it was communicated to the Master Builders’ Association, because the Herald statement is -
The Master Builders’ Association of Melbourne held a meeting this afternoon and came to the conclusion that, in view of the circular issued by the Home Affairs Department their hands were in a measure tied. The Association decided that, pending the appointment of a Wages Board, the minimum rate of 10s. a day could not be conceded. Discretionary power to grant this was, however, given to the contractors individually.
The Association passed a resolution that it viewed with alarm the orders issued by the Department of Home Affairs, especially in giving preference to unionists, and protesting against the action which had been taken by the Minister in charge of that Department.
The circular must have been sent to the Association by the Minister.
– It was not sent by the Minister.
– The instructions were intended to be sent, I suppose, to all whom they might concern.
– The amazing thing to me is that the circular should have been handed to the newspapers before I knew anything about it. I did not know that it had been issued until it was brought to me this afternoon, after I had heard that the Argus had a copy of it.
– I assume that, in acting in this manner, the Minister is acting with the consent of his colleagues, that this is a Ministerial act?
– The directions I gave are contained in the memorandum of which the honorable member has a copy.
– I understand that this is a Ministerial act, taken with Ministerial sanction? Perhaps I should address the question to the Prime Minister.
– I shall take the matter into consideration.
– That reply suggests that the matter has not yet been considered by the Government. Under the circum- . stances I hope that it will receive immediate attention.
– This is absolutely a Home Affairs matter.
– There are Home Affairs that are wholly the Minister’s concern, but these are the home affairs of all Australia, and affect the interest of every member of the community.
– It must be all right, because honorable members opposite are making such a fuss.
– The honorable member and his partv would not like to come along and test it by a vote.
– When the honorable member inyites me “ to come along and test it,” I ask - test what?
– Whether the Government have the confidence of the House on that matter.
– As yet the Government have not adopted this particular proposition. They may adopt it ; they may modify it ; they may not adopt it. We do not know. Honorable members opposite are a little too eager, because my object is to inquire whether circulars similar in effect to this have been issued by any other Departments.
It is not only the Master Builders’ Association, but the whole country, that will view this as a very serious step indeed.
– 1 have always had preference to unionists in my Department.
– Then why this circular?
– Simply to reaffirm the justice of the principle to these people.
– Then the object is the re-affirmation of a previously accepted principle. Have other Departments similarly re-affirmed it?
– I am responsible for the Home Affairs Department.
– Is the Minister the only person responsible for Home Affairs?
– At present.
– Well, Mr. Speaker, it is impossible, in dealing with the Minister, to avoid the contagion of his humorous manner of regarding the matter. But, jesting apart, it is a very serious question, and it is made more rather than less serious by the attitude of the Minister himself in assuming, as it were, a personal responsibility, apart from the Ministerial responsibility which he shares, and cannot possibly avoid, and which his colleagues are unable to avoid, when he takes an action of this kind. The Minister must have known that the issue of the circular would tend to provoke far more than ordinary attention, and arouse far more than ordinary concern. I do not know whether the Minister’s object was simply to get in first, so to speak, and to give a lead to colleagues who he may have thought were lagging behind in the path of progress. What other purpose there could have been I do not pretend to discover. But certainly the manner of the issue of the circular makes Ae question much more difficult to deal with until we are confronted with a statement, made by the Government itself, to the country, as to the procedure to be adopted in the Departments. I venture to assume that’, in a matter of this kind, there can be no possible difference between the treatment accorded by one Department and that accorded by others. If one Department is treated in this fashion, all Departments must be. The practice must become general as applied to conditions of employment throughout the Commonwealth. Ministers will see that this is an extremely serious step. I make no further allusion to the words which the Director of Works has thought it necessary to add, apparently for the elucidation of the purpose in view, but the reference to the discharge of non-unionists first certainly makes the question much more serious.
– That is preference to unionists.
– No; I think this step does not so much extend preference to unionists as it imposes disabilities upon nonunionists. It is a positive interference with them as non-unionists, and is equivalent to drawing what may be termed a class line of a very grave character indeed. We have always understood preference to unionists to mean preference granted by accredited tribunals, and applied to particular trades and callings ; and the awards have been varied to suit the different conditions in those trades and callings.’ While there are awards which are similar in their nature, there are others in which no similarity can - be found, because no similarity exists in the trades and callings to which they apply. But here the entire -Government service is apparently being treated as one whole. Because, of all the Departments of the Commonwealth, that of the Minister of Home Affairs covers, perhaps, the greatest variety of employment. By his Department the large works which are being conducted throughout this continent are now being carried out. Consequently, an order given in these unqualified terms appears to apply to all. Was it intended that it should apply to the whole of the employes under the Home Affairs Department, or is it to be taken to be limited to a particular branch of the Department’s activities?
– Where it suits the occasion.
– And the Minister himself is the occasion.
– Is the Minister under cross-examination ?
– Yes, for the purpose of eliciting information. We have been for two or three days trying to elicit this information, and, even to-day, but for the Minister’s circular, we should still be trying in vain. Now, however, we have one illustration, in one Department, of the issue of a circular of vital importance to every one in the Department, and of vital importance to a great number of people affected by other Departments, or by no Department at all; because it does mark that new departure which we have been discussing, but of the exact nature of which we have not been fully informed..
– We have been preaching unionism for twenty years, and it is time we put our preaching into practice.
– If preference is good in some cases it is good in others.
– We told the country that if we got into power we should do this.
– I am free to admit that if the honorable member for Bass may be taken, as he suggests, as an illustration of what is to be gained after twenty years’ preaching of this or any other doctrine, his example must appeal very powerfully to some of the more meagre members on my own side of the House.
– The honorable member himself has been telling the people that we should do this if we got into power.
– I told the people that Ministers would do what they pledged themselves to do by their referenda proposals, and by their platform, at the preceding election.
– Preference to unionists.
– A preference to unionists to which a very different meaning from the present one has always been accorded. Preference to unionists was always associated with Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration. That is the point which I was developing at some length yesterday when we were discussing this question. Preference to unionists, as the term is understood by the Australian public, by critics of the Commonwealth Government, and by students of Australian affairs, meant a preference granted by an independent, impartial, and qualified body, after inquiry into the circumstances of each particular calling, the award being made with regard to the climate and other conditions, by which means the preference was so adapted as to do no injury in any particular instance. That is what we have always understood by preference to unionists. Up till now, as far as I remember, neither upon the platform nor in this House has there been any statement as to an intention to apply preference to unionists in this particular fashion - without a tribunal, without adaptation to conditions, but in a wholesale way, and covering, as in this instance, the one Department which operates over the whole continent, and conducts important transactions in all parts of the Commonwealth. We do pot even know that the wages fixed will be fair wages in all parts of the Commonwealth. The Minister has issued an ukase which, going out from the Department of Home Affairs, applies to the whole of Australia under all conditions. That, both in its method and in the manner of its execution, is an absolute departure from the principle of preference as applied by an Arbitration Court or a similar body under special conditions. The difficulty at present is that we do not know to what extent the Government itself takes definite action in this matter. Surely we have arrived at a time when the Government might take honorable members fully into its confidence, and tell them to what extent and in what direction preference to unionists is to be applied, and also to what extent, if any, the disabilities here indicated are to be imposed on nonunionists.
– The Prime Minister has already told the House.
– -The Prime Minister has not made a specific statement as to the area over which this preference is to operate, and, indeed, what has transpired in the course of the debate - the fact that the Minister of Home Affairs is proceed. ing of his own accord, and that his action is not yet indorsed by the Government - is of itself a sufficient indication that we have not had the whole of this case, or anything like it, laid before us. In this matter there can be nothing to conceal. Whatever is being done is presumably in accordance with the policy of the Government. In these circumstances there can be no possible objection to Ministers giving their reasons for taking this course, and indicating the particular direction in which the preference is to operate.
– Give notice of the question.
– I gave notice of several questions, and that is the surprising answer which I received to one of them. I am not asking for anything for myself. I am not asking for anything which every citizen in the Commonwealth is not entitled to obtain. Yet we have the apparently singular action of the Minister of Home Affairs in taking a course which, so far as we know, is not being followed by his colleagues, or, at all events, by all of them. Until we have the necessary information we shall not be in a position to weigh or criticise the proposal. If this preference is to be applied wholly and solely to the Home Affairs Department, we can take the matter up when the proper time arrives and discuss it on that ground, but, at present, we are at a loss for information.
– Will the honorable member be satisfied if he is informed by the Government that it is intended to give to union lawyers a preference?
– That raises quite another question. The honorable member, who with his legal mind excels many members of that profession in the dexterity in which he can spin his sophistries, is, no doubt, specially interested, but I assure him that I would not willingly consent to any restriction being imposed on his ingenuity by any member of the Government. After that assurance, I think he ought to be content. My object is to discover if this departure extends to more than one Department, and, if so, to how many, and with what variations, if any ? Why should we not be told the whole story, which must be told sooner or later? Every Minister, except the Minister of Home Affairs, appears to hide his light under a bushel. The Minister of Home Affairs has a bushel of lights, but no bushel to cover them with. Here he comes out frankly, and, although he seems surprised that it should become public, still he does commit himself to a definite statement, and we know exactly where he is. Before any criticism can be offered, it is necessary to know whether this departure is to apply to his Department, or to every Department. Apparently, we cannot hope for a full answer to that question to-night, but I would once more suggest to the Prime Minister that the House is entitled, in view of these circumstances, to a precise and formal statement in respect of each of the Departments, in order that the public may know exactly where, and when, and how, these new rulings are to be employed. Not until then shall we be in a position to treat this as anything more than a new departure in one Department. There we have from the Director-General an extension of this policy with regard to the discharge of non-unionists first, which, I am very glad to hear, was not authorized by the Minister of Home Affairs. But it would be interesting to know by what curious means that came to be added to the instruction in the Minister’s own circular of the 15th inst.
– Perhaps that is an interpretation of some interview.
– It would be interesting to know whether the Minister sanctioned it or is prepared to withdraw it?
– He has already said that he did not sanction the statement as to the discharge of the non-unionists first.
– I had nothing whatever to do with its issue.
– Now that it has been issued, does the Minister approve of it?
– After all, it is only changing the ordinary form, because, as a rule, they sack the unionists first.
– Why should we not have the fullest information about this departure? But for an evening newspaper and the Master Builders Association we should have known nothing of it. I take it that when matters are serious, and have been brought up here several times, the Parliament is at least entitled to be informed first of any Ministerial action. We ought to have known of this departure as soon as the Master Builders Association, . and we ought to have known, too, whether it is to apply to other Departments.
– You were not more surprised than the Minister was to see the circular.
– Possibly I was not more surprised than the honorable member. Parliament was entitled to be informed first. We do not know whether this is a new departure only of the Minister of Home Affairs, and is to be kept as his very own, or whether any one of his colleagues favours the same policy. Surely this is a very peculiar position for the House to be placed in, and one which leaves us very much at a loss. I do not wish to deprive honorable members of any advantage which they wish to take of this opportunity of dealing with grievances. I have not addressed another question to the Prime Minister, because it would be unreasonable to ask it now, after the intimation he has given, but at the earliest date, after he has had an opportunity to communicate with his colleagues, I shall ask him if he will be good enough to lay on the table all the circulars which have been issued by the Departments relating to this new departure, so that we may be as well informed of the intentions and procedure of other Departments as we are to-night with regard to the Home Affairs Department, thanks to the Master Builders Association and an evening newspaper.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it is time that the Hiouse and the country got fair and precise statements from Ministers on this question of preference to unionists. Certainly those who seek employment should know where they stand, and how they are likely to be treated. I was glad to hear the Minister of Home Affairs say that he did not authorize the statement which appeared in the Herald to-night, that instructions had been given to dismiss non-unionists first. But I should like to hear from him a more emphatic denial, and to have an assurance that that will never become. the policy of the Department.
– Do not anticipate too much.
– We are perfectly entitled to know whether or not the Minister intends to bring such a rule as that into force. He is here as a public servant, and he has no right to have matters of public interest locked up in his mind in this way. He seemed surprised that a newspaper or any one else should know of the issue of his instructions. Surely the Government do not intend to issue secret instructions to its officers to apply the principle of preference to unionists to those seeking or getting employment ? The whole position ought to be clearly understood by the country, because the Government has gone very much further than was ever anticipated when we talked of this principle on the hustings. Preference was always associated with the idea of an Act of Parliament, setting forth the terms and conditions, and creating a proper tribunal to grant the preference. We have a Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which sets out the conditions; and there is nothing in that Act to entitle a Minister to give preference to any section of men. The sort of practice to which we are objecting is likely to open the door to corruption, and to what are known as Tammany operations, which are regarded as a blot on the politics of the United States.
– Cannot an employer give preference if he chooses?
– By what stretch of imagination does the honorable member consider that the Ministry are employers, except as agents of the public? Ministers do not employ men with their own money, but with the money of the people.
– They should be the best employers.
– That does not touch the point at issue ; we are not discussing wages, which are left to the decision of an Arbitration Court, a Wages Board, or other industrial tribunal. Ministers are only trustees for the public, and they ought to give a fair and true account of their intentions.
– Cannot the manager of a company give preference if he chooses?
– That, again, has nothing to do with the issue.
– Ministers are managers.
– They are not managers, but, in these matters, are only very temporary figure-heads. They cannot know much of the detailed working of the Departments, and must trust greatly to the permanent heads. Last night the honorable member for Flinders showed that if there was one reason more than another for passing the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it was to prevent strikes. No one could reasonably misunderstand the object of that measure, but the honorable member for Adelaide excused strikes on the ground that the law is obscure, and he complained that the issue was being clouded. I do not say that the honorable member clouded the issue, but he certainly attempted to draw a veil over the true position. The whole point of his speech was this : “ The law is very hard to decipher; therefore, let us break it.” The honorable member, although he appreciates as well as any one the chief object of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, went on to offer the further excuse that preference to unionists had been for so long a plank in the platform of honorable’ members opposite, that, therefore, it should be enforced.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Bass, apparently, takes up the same position, that, now that the Labour party are in power, they are entitled to introduce preference to unionists. At the same time, honorable members opposite never said that the principle would be applied in this way, but always that it would be embodied in legislation, and the terms and conditions fixed by a proper tribunal.
– Does the honorable member approve of that method?
– No; but I admit that the present Government have the power, and I cannot complain if they pass such legislation. I must repeat, however, that honorable members opposite never preached preference in the sense in which it is now sought to apply it. The policy was to be introduced openly by means of legislation, and not in a sneaking, underhand way.
– Order ! The honorable member must not use such language.
– The principle was not to be introduced in the insidious way now proposed.
– It is the policy of the Government, and the Government have a right to carry it out.
– If it is the policy of the Government, why do the Government not introduce a Bill in order to carry it out ? How will the principle operate ? The Minister at the head of a Department will issue instructions that preference be granted to unionists ; “and if there be any nonunionists amongst the applicants for work, a person so authorized by the Minister will, other things being equal, have to grant preference to the unionists. But how is he to know whether other things are equal, or who are the better men? If the Government are to be the best employers they are entitled to the best work; but, under the circumstances, it is a “ guinea to a gooseberry “ that the unionists will get employment in preference to, perhaps, better men. The present Ministry, and the whole of the Labour party, are under the thumb of the unions, and must obey the mandate of the unions.
– Whom does the honorable member obey ?
– I obey the dictates of my conscience, and I hope the honorable member is always able to do the same. This principle is intended to apply in a great measure to casual or temporary employment. Temporary employment for two, three, or four months may be offered, and in some Departments no temporary employe can be retained for more than nine months. Is it to be declared that these poor unfortunates who, perhaps, have a great many dependent upon them, shall be required to join a union and pay heavy union fees before they can secure two or three months’ employment in a Government Department? The money which they would’ have to pay in union fees could be better employed in buying food and other necessaries for their families. Some of those who apply for temporary employment are, unfortunately, not blessed with much of this world’s goods; but many of them are very capable, and the very class of men required in special Departments. A direction such as that given by the Minister is a bribe held out to induce mento rush into unions, whether they like them or not. Surely a union does not want to have in its ranks men who do not believe in it. No one objects to a man joining a union if he believes in the principle of unionism; but if he does not want to be a unionist, let us treat him with toleration, and allow him to earn his living as he thinks fit, provided he does not infringe the rights of others. I hope that we are not going to lose sight of that principle in Australia to-day; but if the system introduced by the Government is to be allowed to continue, it will strike a deadly blow at it. We are brought face to face with a very extreme procedure, and one that is likely to interf ere with our greatest birthright - the right of freedom and liberty. I am sure the people of Australia will not tolerate this system once they realize its true significance.
.- It appears to me that the Opposition are very anxious to work up a case against the Government. This question of preference to unionists has been raised on three or four occasions during the last day or two.
– We did the same thing when we were over there.
– Quite so; the Opposition are quite within their rights ; but there seems to be no satisfying them. The honorable member for Wilmot, who has just resumed his seat, contended that the Minister of Home Affairs was attempting, in a secret way, to bring about preference to unionists. But nothing could have been more frank or open than the statement made by the Minister in reply to the Leader of the Opposition. He stated very definitely what he had done, andtendered to the Leader of the Opposition the memorandum he prepared and submitted to the Director of Public Works.
– All that we ask for is the same information from other Departments.
– The Leader of the Opposition is endeavouring to work up a case, so that he may be able, perhaps, to attack us. If the Opposition desire to attack us on the question of preference to unionists, let them come on at once.
– First let us know what this preference means, so far as the Government are concerned.
– The Opposition have already been told what it means.
– Only so far as one Department is concerned.
– The Prime Minister clearly stated that, speaking generally, the intention was that the principle of preference to unionists should be applied to temporary employment in- the Public Service. Surely that statement is explicit enough to enable the Opposition to level a charge at us, if they, wish to do so, instead of taking up the time of the House by trying again and again to drag something from Ministers.
– Why should we need to drag information from them?
– The information has already been supplied. It appears, however, that the Opposition, having given the matter consideration, do not think they have sufficient material to warrant a charge being launched against the Government. They are adopting very much the attitude of barristers in a Court of law. We have, every day, as soon as the House meets, something in the nature of a crossexamination of Ministers by the Opposition, in the hope, perhaps, that a Minister may make a slip that will enable them to level a charge at the Government. The information sought has been supplied. I think it is the duty of this Parliament to grant preference to unionists. The honorable member for Flinders said last night that this was a day of combinations ; that it was necessary for the employers to combine; and that it was equally necessary for the employes to combine. If that “be so, surely the Parliament generally ought to assist in that direction. Is it claimed that, whilst we make arbitration laws under which penalties are imposed on those who take part in strikes and locks-out, we should, at the same time, encourage a certain class of persons to come into competition with another section of the community, against whom we do not legislate, and who cannot be made liable to the penalties of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. There is no escape from that position if we encourage non-unionists. If unionism is a good thing, surely those who have combined in the past - who have paid their money to support organizations designed to bring about improved conditions of labour -are entitled to consideration. The definition section of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is well worth attention. It will be seen that binder it it is a very easy matter to provoke a strike on the part of the men. There are certain things which cause certain men a great deal of irrita tion, and which are very liable to provoke a breach of the Act. Nothing plays a more prominent part in provoking industrial troubles than the employment of a few nonunionists amongst a number of unionists. Some men employ non-unionists with unionists, give the former the pick of the work, and extend to them privileges which they are not prepared to concede to unionists. In that way much irritation is caused among union men, with the result, very often, that taking the bit between their teeth, so to speak, they stop work, and are immediately haled before the Court for a breach of the Arbitration Act. Do the Opposition say that the Parliament which is responsible for that Act should offer encouragement to the non-unionist to compete with the unionist, and bring about this sort of thing ?
– That is what they want.
– They argue for preference to non-unionists.
– Preference to freedom.
– The honorable member for Wilmot asked why we should compel certain people to join a union in order to obtain employment. In reply, I would ask why we should permit free labourers to be employed with unionists, if by so doing we shall bring about a break in industrial organization, and probably force men into prison. The honorable member spoke of the fees exacted by unions. Why should a section of the workers be compelled to uphold associations to improve the conditions of labour, while others are allowed to come in and reap the reward of their combination ? The honorable member talks about freedom. But what he contends is that we should allow a few men to fight the battle of labour, and to pay the cost, and then permit the others to come in and reap the benefit of their efforts. That he describes as freedom, and justice, and equity.
– But the men who joined those unions did so of their own free will.
– If the honorable member’s argument were put into force, there would be no unions. Differences between the men would disrupt their organizations, and they would be entirely in the hands of the employers.
– How could they be, with Wages Boards and the other industrial tribunals in existence?
– In the interests of the Commonwealth it is necessary that the best class of men should be employed on Commonwealth work.
– But the Labour party do not allow that.
– We do. My argument is that the unionist is the best man every time. Free labourers, as a rule, take the place of unionists only at a time of industrial trouble. Immediately that particular trouble is settled, we find the employer getting rid of as many of them as he can, and taking on unionists in their places. That is a proof as to which is the best man. I believe we should establish preference to unionists, seeing that we have thought it necessary to legislate in order to prevent men doing anything in the way of a strike or lock-out. Unless we recognise combinations, and do all we possibly can to encourage them, it is not fair to the men to pass such legislation. We can only encourage combinations by employing unionists. The Commonwealth is an employer just as a private individual is. What labour is required has to be carried out by some one, and the Minister, as the head of the Department, or those under him, must engage the necessary men. I do not see how the honorable member for Flinders can get away from the position I am putting, because he himself admits that these are days of organization, and that it would be better for the country if there were thorough organization on the part of both employers and employes. If that is so, why should not the Commonwealth set the example? Having made laws to prevent industrial trouble, we ought to say that, so far as we are concerned, we will see that justice is done to those people whom we prevent from striking, and whom we practically compel to organize and register. We ought to encourage those workers who combine and register, and who say, “ We will give up our right to strike provided that we get legislation “-
– They say they will not give up the right to strike.
– They have given it up in many cases, and where they break the law they have to put up with the penalties. Men have been recently sent to gaol in New South Wales under an Act which should never have disgraced the statute-book. This Parliament should set an example by saying that those who endeavour to comply with the Commonwealth law should be recognised by the granting of preference to unionists. If honorable members are going to advocate arbitration, and pass legislation which insists on industrial organization before men can come under the Act, and in the next breath to say that they will do all they can to break up these organizations by refusing to give preference to unionists, they will be putting themselves exactly in the position of non-unionists. Without preference to unionists, arbitration is of no value, and our legislation not worth the paper it is written on. How can honorable members expect a body of men to act in combination and obey the law if we do not compel everyone in that industry to become a member of the organization? If we allow one-third of them to remain outside the organization, and to get certain benefits conferred upon them by employers, who are always anxious to break up organizations, then we cannot expect men to obey the law in that regard.
– The Arbitration Act provides for preference to unionists when it is fair and just.
– The Act leaves it to the Court to grant preference to unionists. This House, in passing that Act, decided that preference to unionists was necessary.A Parliament which made it necessary for men to organize before they could register under the Act, cannot consistently take umbrage at what has been done by the Minister. After all, it only applies in certain circumstances. When men are offering their services, those of them who are unionists are to have the preference, everything being equal. It does not mean that, if a hundred men are wanted, and there are no unionists among those applying, those hundred are not to be employed. It means only that where there are more applicants than are required for the work, those who are unionists shall have the preference. That is a rule that ought to be laid down by this Parliament, which passed a law to compel men to join organizations to prevent strikes and locks-out.
.- - I would remind the honorable member for Hunter that we are not now engaged in discussing the conditions or circumstances under which it may be possible to recognise by law associations either of employers or employe’s. We may have in future, and I hope we shall have, opportunities of discussing that matter at length. I do not intend to deal with the merits of the question that has been raised to-night, until we have had the opportunity of hearing from the Prime Minister whether the action of one of his Ministers is indorsed by the Government or not. But I should like to call his attention, and that of honorable members on the other side of the House, to the somewhat extraordinary constitutional question that has arisen to-night. We all know’ the somewhat novel circumstances under which this Government was constituted. Honorable members opposite adopted a new method of forming the Government, which they had a perfect right to do, and for that they are not responsible in any way to members of the Opposition; but I would remind them that they cannot alter the constitutional obligation which that Government has to all the members of this House. Will honorable members put out of their minds for a moment the party aspect of the question, and look at the position in this way : No matter what our views may be about the merits of the case, one of the Ministers of the Government has adopted a course of action that is certainly novel, , and that is regarded, at all events by all honorable members on this side, as a matter of the most serious import. He has adopted the course of directing that those under him in his Department are to give absolute preference to unionists, and when they come to dismiss employes are, first of all, to dismiss non-unionists. I do. not accept the somewhat uncertain repudiation which the Minister gave of his own officer’s manifesto.
– The Minister repudiates the latter part of it.
– I do not accept his repudiation, because I find the same direction implied in his own language. It is useless to try to escape from the plain meaning, right or wrong, of what the Minister has said, because he not only directs that absolute preference is to be given to unionists, but he adds, “ Please furnish a list of non-unionists employed.” Why? Is it for the purpose of giving them a bonus or other benefit ? Can honorable members suggest any purpose at all, unless it be the very purpose which his Director of Works inferred from the language used, namely, that having a list of non-unionists employed, they should be the first to go if anybody had to go out of the Department ? Honorable members may say, if they like, that the Minister is right; I say that what he has done is perfectly clear. He has authorized, although not in exactly the same language, still in substance, what his Director of Works for Victoria has done. He has given a direction that absolute preference is to be given to unionists, “ and this is to be given effect to in any future engagements, and in discharging any present men, discharge non-unionists first.” A responsible Minister of a responsible Government having deliberately and in writing given that direction for the whole of his Department, we are faced with an extraordinary position. I say, with some experience of Parliament, that it is extraordinary, and this applies to both sides. It is not a political matter at all. The extraordinary position is that, upon the Prime Minister, the head of the Government, being asked in the House by the Leader of the Opposition whether he indorsed this new departure on the part of his Minister, he said that he did not yet know.
– I did not say so.
Mr.W. H. IRVINE.- The honorable gentleman said that he had it under consideration.
– As the honorable member is a lawyer, why does he not quote the words I used?
– As well as I can remember, the honorable gentleman’s actual words were, “ I have it under consideration,” or “ I will consider it.”
– Yes; I said, “ I shall take the matter into consideration.”
– That implies that the Prime Minister is as yet unable to answer the question. I do not quarrel with him for adopting that attitude. I think it is much more prudent than to at once either repudiate or sanction this extraordinary innovation. At the same time, members of the Opposition in every Parliament have certain rights. When a Minister takes a position which the Opposition, as a body, consider of immense importanceandutterly condemn, they have a right to know at the earliest possible moment whether that action is indorsed by the Government or not. ‘
– How does the honorable gentleman interpret “ preference to unionists ?
– The honorable member is endeavouring to draw me into a discussion of the merits of the question which I commenced by saying I would not discuss. I do not propose to do so now for the reason that we have not yet learned whether this is or is not the action of the Government. When we have learned that, I hope we shall have an opportunity of discussing the whole question. The Leader of the Opposition put the position fairly. All we know now is that one of the Ministers has issued an order the effect of which will be to place hundreds, and it may be thousands, of capable, clean-living citizens of this Commonwealth under the ban of the Department. Other things being equal, if they are non-unionists, they will be debarred from getting employment, or, being in employment in the Department, will be the first to be discharged. This is all we know now. We do not yet know whether that is the action of the Government that is responsible to this House. I rose to point out the peculiar constitutional position, and to assert that whether they are entirely wrong or not, the Opposition have certain rights. We have the right to obtain definite and clear information on this point. I support the Leader of the Opposition when he says that we have the right, not only to know this, but the right to know it at the first moment at which the information can be given to the House. In saying that, the honorable gentleman was merely giving utterance to a perfectly well-known rule governing the relations of every Government with the members constituting the House to which they are responsible. For that reason I refrain now from discussing this extremely important question in any of its aspects, on the merits. But I do hope that the Prime Minister will recognise that we have the right, even though we are in a minority, to know what attitude the Government intend to take up on the question, and at the earliest possible moment.
.- I do not think that honorable members on this side can find much to complain of in the attitude of the Opposition. This is what is known as “ Grievance Day,” and the Opposition in this House on such occasions always seek for some grievances to discuss. I remember that when honorable members on this side were sitting opposite on each grievance day they found any number of things with which to find fault. I have really been surprised that after so long a recess the present Opposition have been able to find fault with so little in the administration of the Government.
I would offer no apology for anything that is stated in the circular which has been referred to.
– Or by the Director-General of Works.
– Or by the Director-General of Works.
– Our difficulty is that the honorable member is not the Prime Minister.
– As one of the Ministerial party I accept my share of responsibility for what Ministers do, and as a supporter of the Government I am prepared to back up what has been done in this case in every way.
– Whether the Prime Minister repudiates it or not?
– Yes, whether the Prime Minister repudiates it or not; but I do not anticipate that the Prime Minister will repudiate it. The circular has been read, and the Prime Minister has stated that he will take time to consider the matter. The Minister of Home Affairs has given instructions that preference shall be given to unionists in employment in his Department. The logical outcome of that will be that if men have to be discharged from the service of the Department unionists will be retained in preference to nonunionists. If the Minister has not in express words given the latter instruction to the Director-General of Works, I say that the Director-General has logically interpreted the instruction tEat has been given.
The honorable member for Flinders tried to make some capital out of another point, which I think was referred to also by the Leader of the Opposition. The Minister has asked that he shall be supplied with a list of non-unionists employed on works undertaken by his Department. When a new principle is being put into operation it is surely reasonable that the Minister should desire to know the actual position.
– He wants to know whom he has to sack, of course.
– It is not a question of desiring to know whom he has to sack, but that he should understand the real position. It may be that out of thousands employed by the Department only halfadozen are non-unionists, and the matter may be a very trivial one. It may be that the reverse is the case, and the Minister is only doing the proper thing in taking steps to find out what the actual position is.
In his circular the Minister has given instructions that 8s. per day is to be paid for labourers, and 9s. to labourers given intermittent employment. These are higher rates than prevailed some little time ago when 7s. was known to be the unskilled labourer’s rate. This increase of is. per day has been brought about by unionist action. Yet the Opposition, if they could have their way, would say that non-unionists who stood off and absolutely refused to pay a penny to perfect the organization and set up a case for improved conditions, should be allowed to come in and reap the benefits of what the unionists have done.
– The honorable member means to say “ who refused to pay £40.”
– There is no question of the payment of£40 involved. I think that last night the honorable member for Flinders hinted that some of the unions are close corporations. I have no hesitation in saying that no union has any right to make of itself a close corporation. Unions which close their books to respectable workmen who desire to join their ranks have no right to preference.
– The honorable member is about the only one on the other side who says that.
– We all say it.
– I am not the only one who says that. Our honorable friends opposite have raked up the whole history of the trade union movement, and having found one or two isolated cases of the kind have assumed that the practice is general amongst trade unions.
– It was done by the AttorneyGeneral a year or two ago in Sydney.
– As the honorable member for Wentworth is aware, the AttorneyGeneral is at present absent through illness. When he comes back I have no doubt he will be able to defend himself against any statements from the other side.
– I am not making any charge against him that is not known to be true.
– As one who has had many years’ experience in connexion with trade unions, I am able to say that taken as a whole they are extremely anxious to secure new members. As a matter of fact a considerable proportion of their funds is expended in organizing efforts for the purpose of increasing their membership.
Both the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Flinders have endeavoured to make it appear that there is some difference between the preference to unionists which the Government propose to extend to their Departments, and that which is provided for in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– What would the honorable member think of a Minister who granted a preference to non-unionists?
– When any Minister does that I will express my opinion of him. What does the honorable member think of bosses who give a preference to non-unionists? As a matter of fact, the granting of a real preference to unionists is the deliberate policy of the Labour party throughout Australia - not the sort of preference which is placed in the keeping of the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to be granted or withheld at his pleasure.
It is true that, under the Act itself, a preference may be granted at the discretion of the Judge.
– That provision was embodied in the Bill which was passed last session at the instance of the present Government.
– It was passed into law because it was found that we had not the constitutional power to extend a statutory preference to unionists. But in administering our own Departments we are not fettered by any constitutional restriction. As a matter of fact, I have taken the trouble to turn up the discussion which took place upon the amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which was proposed last year. Upon that occasion it was proposed to amend section 40 of the principal Act by the insertion of a provision making the granting of preference to unionists mandatory. But on the motion for the second reading of the Bill it was pointed out that the power to legislate for industrial conciliation and arbitration, which is contained in the Constitution, did not permit of the incorporation in the measure of a mandatory preference. As a result of that debate the Minister had to withdraw the proposal and to submit an other which goes as far as it can in the direction of indicating to the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court what is the policy of the Government.
– The honorable member does not suggest that an Act of Parliament communicates to the President of the Arbitration Court what is the policy of the Government?
– I say that the provision in the Bill which was passed last session, contains an intimation to the President of that Court as to what is the policy of the Government, and further than that, what is the policy of this Parliament.
There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer. Last night, and upon previous occasions, the honorable member for Wentworth had a very great grievance because industrial organizations do not publish their balance-sheets.
– Because the persons who pretend to represent them in this House refused point-blank to accept a free Government audit of their accounts.
– As a matter of fact, the balance-sheet of any union in Australia can be secured upon any day.
– No, properly audited. If the honorable member chooses to visit the Trades Union Registrar, and to pay 2s. 6d., he can obtain a copy of any. union’s balance-sheet.
– Audited by whom?
– Audited to the satisfaction of the Trades Union Registrar, who is a Government official. Further, if that officer is not satisfied with any union’s statement of accounts, that statement is sent back to the union from which it emanates for amendment. More than that, the Trade Union Registrar draws up a balance-sheet himself, in which he sets forth items opposite to which the union officers are compelled to place their items of . income and expenditure. Can my honorable friend say as much for the Employers Federation, and the various employers’ associations? They may spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in swamping Australia with literature - as they did on the occasion of the last referenda - and it is absolutely impossible for any citizen outside their own ranks to learn from where the money comes, or what is its destination. Only a person with no knowledge whatever of trade union methods in Australia could complain that union balance-sheets are not available.
– Do the Political Labour Councils do the same thing?
– Are their accounts audited ?
– Yes. They are published.
– Can we see them?
– The honorable member may see them published from time to time.
– I will give the honorable member our union balance-sheets if he will give me the balance-sheet of his party in connexion with the last referenda.
– I do not think that honorable members opposite expect anything from the Labour Government but an effective preference to unionists. When they stand up here and make complaints on- that account, there is nothing very solid behind them. They are merely, taking advantage of the Standing Orders to rake up a grievance against the Government. Up till now their criticisms have been so ineffective that they think they must justify themselves with the Employers Federation and the Liberal leagues. Let them come straight out of their shells by advocating the. granting of a preference to nonunionists, which is the policy of the organizations they represent, as boldly as we. advocate the granting of a preference to unionists, which is the deliberate policy of the Labour parties of Australia.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has certainly paid much greater attention to the publications of the Employers Federation than I have. He said that those publications fairly swamped the country. I remember picking up a circular which emanated from the Employers Federation some years ago, a copy of which, I presume, was sent to other members of this House, and I certainly did not think it was of a character calculated to swamp anything. To me it seemed remarkably dry reading.
The honorable member said something in regard to the auditing of union funds, which I think requires an immediate answer, and which must be taken in conjunction with another statement which slipped from him a few moments ago. He said that union funds are getting very low because of the immense cost of organizing for new members, and that this was a reason why now, more than ever before,’ the principle of preference to unionists should be enforced.
– I did not say that.
– Then I pin my honorable friend down to the statement that trade union, funds are very low just at present.
– I did not say that either.
– My honorable friend’s memory is very defective. It would be better for him to declare that he did not speak at all. Every honorable member who was awake, and not deafened by party prejudice, heard him say that union funds are low because of the expenses incurred in connexion with organization.
– I said that the unions are spending their funds in trying to get new members.
– I accept the statement as watered down by the honorable member. Where are the funds spent? Not so very long ago, no fewer than seven union secretaries, having their head-quarters in Sydney, were in a country electorate. Were they spending the funds of the unions in organizing the shop assistants and other city workers in a rural constituency, or were they spreading the gospel of the Political Labour League, with which every member of their unions is not concerned? When the secretary of a city union, on the eve of a general election, goes, without being sent, to a place where recruits for his union are not likely to be found, you may take it that the union funds are being spent, without the knowledge of the members of the union, upon the propagation of a gospel in which they are not all interested. What would be valuable is a statement of the union organizing accounts. I should be glad to know whether the union officials spend the union funds only on bond fide union organization work, or whether the money is not used surreptitiously to support my honorable friends opposite, who, to-night, have spoken so unctuously about preference to unionists. Eighteen months ago, when on the public platform, they had not half so much to say on the subject, their appeal to the electors being on the ground that they represented the labouring com.munity, and not the unionists in particular. Every honorable member opposite must admit in his innermost heart, though it may be inexpedient to make the statement now, that at the last election he asked for the votes of all labouring men, whether unionist or non-unionist.
– Hear, hear !
– Yet twenty minutes ago, the honorable member said that the nonunionists deserved what they got, because they were too mean to join the union !
– Hear, hear 1
– Will the honorable member say that on a public platform?
– When the honorable member has finished I shall tell the House what I said to my constituents.
– We should get more light on the subject were the honorable member to make the statement now.
Honorable members have talked a lot about preference to unionists, but what does the phrase mean as used in the circular ? Is preference to be given to the members of industrial unions registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, or to the members of any union, whether recognised or not by the Commonwealth and State Courts?
– What does it matter?
– It matters a great deal. Preference to industrial unionists is provided for in our legislation to encourage the formation of unions for the purpose of bringing about industrial peace. The law makes provision for the organization of employes on the one side, and of employers on the other. It is recognised in the Statute that the existence of men outside such organizations makes the securing of industrial peace by a Court more difficult. The law provides that, other tilings being equal, preference shall be given to the members of industrial organizations registered under the Act, whose rules conform to the provisions of the Act - that is, which give fair opportunities to outsiders to join, do not strike, and so on. But if preference to unionists means what the honorable member for Maranoa says, the Government policy may be the means of getting into the Public Service men who would find it impossible to obtain preference from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Only a few years ago, the Australian Workers’ Union was refused preference by the New South Wales Arbitration Court for tyrannizing over its members by forcing them to act against their political consciences, and by using their funds for the support of political candidates. The members of that association were unionists, but not members of an industrial organization registered under the State Act. If, in the Minister’s instructions, “ unionists “ means “ members of any union,” an organization whose application for preference Has been refused by the Court may be able to get preference for its members from an obliging Minister at the public expense - a curious and anomalous state of things. We are entitled to know what the Minister means by “ unionists.” Is preference to be given only to members of organizations which do not offend against the law, or to members of any union ? Or is it to be the case that the more a union has offended against the law, the more welcome its members will be.
– Like the Liberal members of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly !
– The less said about what has happened in the New South Wales Parliament the better, because every member opposite shares the contempt pf those on this side for what has brought about the position of affairs there.
We are at present seeking information, and I ask the honorable member for Hunter if his contention that unionists, having fought the battles of the workers, deserve the rewards, applies to Government employment? Is the amount of remuneration given to public servants due to the efforts of unionists? Are not we all here to see that our .public servants are fairly paid for their labour?
– The honorable member knows very well that the Public Service Commissioner deals with the permanent public servants of the Commonwealth, and that these are only temporary employes.
– Do the unions regulate the rates of wages of the temporary employes ?
– Does not the honorable member know that on many occasions we have had to make complaints about the rates of wages paid for casual employment in the Post Office?
– Never heard of it before.
– The honorable member for Maranoa has never heard of that ! This would suggest a new line of argument to me ! For many years past - until about three years ago - it was the custom for the Post and Telegraph Department to put on, as temporary letter-carriers, persons at salaries totally inadequate to the work that they performed. These men were exceptionally badly paid, for the reason that they had to learn their job before they began to be paid for it, and were then paid at exceptionally low rates. A lot ‘of the evil came about in this way : At first the Department used to employ boys. This House took a hand, and said that boys must not be employed. Then the Department started to employ men, and to pay them boys’ wages. That went on until this House took a firm stand, and got the evil remedied. Influence was brought to bear on the Department through
Ministers, and eventually the various responsible officers in the States commenced to pay fair rates. That obviously was an illustration of the fact that this House, when all is said and done, has to decide what wages shall be paid to the servants of the Commonwealth. We are shortly to be taken a step further, and to hand over the control of wages to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court; so that in whatever way honorable members take it, the sovereign power in Australia which deals with the rates of wages paid to the servants of the people of Australia is Parliament. But now we have a new principle introduced - that the unionists of Australia, who are not in the public Departments at all, and who are seeking for temporary employment, by some mysterious means are to be entitled to take opportunities of employment in the Departments out of the hands of their less fortunate brethren.
I do not wish to deal further with this question at the moment, but I do ask, and I think the country is entitled to ask, for information as to what the Government mean by the word “ unionist “ in this connexion. Does it mean a member of an industrial organization under Commonwealth or State Acts, or does it mean a member of any organization, whether that organization be desirable, or whether it has offended against the Acts enforced in the Commonwealth or in the States?
Now, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make one or two references to matters which I think are deserving of public attention on an occasion like this. The honorable member for Cook tried to infer that the reason why we were taking up this question was because we had no particular grievance to ventilate this evening. Of course, the honorable member’s imagination is capable of fairly wild flights, but I had no idea that he was so humorous as that. In order to secure information in this House, it must be. obvious to every honorable member that we had to place our own view unreservedly before the public of Australia. We do not regret doing so. But, as we are prepared to place our own views unreservedly before the public in seeking information, we think that we are entitled to the same candour from honorable members opposite. We are not trying to embarrass the Government at this stage, but we want to know, in the public interest, what the Government propose to do.
– Let the honorable member resign his seat, and I will resign mine if he will come up to my electorate and fight me.
– I am willing to write out my resignation at once if the honorable member for Maranoa will face me in my own electorate; because, when all is said and done, my electorate contains a much greater number of temporary - employes than does the electorate of Maranoa. Mine is an electorate in a metropolis, where these men are often employed by hundreds and thousands all the year round. I am willing to accept the honorable member’s challenge to-morrow if he will fight out the contest in the electorate of Wentworth, where this question will be readily understood.
– I have the right of the choice of weapons, as I issued the challenge. Comeup to me !
– I desire to refer now to one or two matters as to which the administration of the Commonwealth has been extremely lax. We have been told what extremely business-like men Ministers are, and how extraordinarily well they are administering their Departments. I should like to ask them, if their memories are not as short as that of the honorable member for Cook, how long ago it is since Parliament authorizedthe erection of a small arms factory at Lithgow? I suppose that eighteen months have elapsed since it ought to have been completed.
– That was authorized by the late Government.
– It was one of the best things that any Government could boast of, to provide works which would make the land defence of Australia self-contained. But, owing to the inefficiency and inattention of present Ministers, that factory has not yet been completed.
– A lot of the machinery is obsolete.
– Exactly ; owing to the extreme delay that has occurred, the machinery that would have been all right a year ago is now obsolescent. We have a Labour Administration in power, supported by a party that has attempted to steal all the credit that is due to honorable members on this side of the House in connexion with defence, but absolutely eighteen months have been allowed to go by without the Government taking any earnest steps to secure theerection of the necessary buildings and plant at Lithgow to start turning out our own small arms.
– Have the penalties been enforced?
– We are entirely ignorant. A number of questions were dealt with in the Governor-General’s Speech; but this is a question which apparently has entirely slipped from the notice of Ministers. As the Minister of Home Affairs - or, as I think I should be entitled to describe him, the Leader of the Caucus - can take up so much of his time writing circulars explaining how one man may get employment at the expense of another, might we not reasonably have expected him to devote some of his attention to finding out why this contract, which is under the control of his own Department, has not been carried out?
– Has he not been sending out his “ chasers “ ?
– I have heard of this system which the Minister has introduced, and know what it means. I really think that the attention of the Minister has been so devoted to sending out his perfectly harmless “ chasers “ that nothing has been done towards expediting the Lithgow factory, or the other public works that are being carried out in the Commonwealth. Is there really anything in the Commonwealth which is being done expeditiously to-day?
– There has been more done in the last eighteen months than was done in the previous ten years.
– When we hear this sort of statement made here confidently, and with a perfectly open countenance, can we wonder at the extraordinary exaggerations in which honorable gentlemen opposite indulge when they are on the platform, and there is no one there to laugh at them? I think that these two matters are important to the Australian people. The way in which Ministers have thrown off their responsibility with regard to the small-arms factory, and the way in which they have trimmed and twisted with regard to the Australian wireless contract, disentitles them, I think, to any claim to the name of reasonably efficient administrators. It is about time that we knew what is being done in connexion with public works. It is about time that the Minister of Home Affairs, or Leader of the Caucus, whichever way he may be described, intervened without waiting for the Prime Minister, his alleged leader, to move.
– Order; the honorable member must not speak of the Prime Minister as the “ alleged leader” of the Minister of Home Affairs.
– I did not know, sir, that it was not alleged that the Prime Minister was his leader, but I will withdraw the phrase if you feel that it is particularly offensive to him.
– The honorable member distinctly used the words in an offensive way, and he must not do that.
– I deeply regret, sir, that my manners do not appeal to you, and I shall endeavour to mould myself on the pattern which you have laid down.
I should like to know, further, whether the principle of preference to unionists is going to apply to the Defence Department in the training of cadets. I saw a paragraph in a newspaper stating that at the town of Lithgow, in New South Wales, the sons of unionists refused point-blank to train with the sons of non-unionists.
– I admire their pluck.
– That was not the case.
– That was the statement reported in the newspaper. Whether it was the case or not, I do not know.
– No; they declined to be drilled by a “ scab.”
– It seems that the newspaper report was incorrect, and that the sons of unionists simply declined to be drilled by a “ scab.” Is the Department to guarantee that every officer in the Defence Force is of honest unionist lineage before he shall be allowed to get a billet, or is it to coerce the sons of unionists to submit to drill by whomsoever it thinks is best fitted in a military sense to drill them?
– The Liberal party in New South Wales declines to be presided over by a “ scab.” What more do you want?
– Order !
– My honorable friend, who has had an opportunity of seeing the extraordinary modesty and retiring disposition of the gentleman who used to represent the electorate of Robertson in this House, will realize that there may possibly be other causes for discontent as regards his presidency of any assembly, however unfortunate.
– You used to support his candidature on some occasions.
– I have had a great deal of amusement while supporting the many candidatures of the late member for Robertson, but I bitterly rue it now, because-
– Because he has proved himself a “ scab.”
– Because his weakness has made him a convenient tool for the Labour Government of New South Wales.
– I rise to order. I understand that we are working under South Australian Standing Orders, more or less, and I believe that it is against those Standing Orders for . 1 member oftheHouse to reflect oh the character of a member of another Legislature.
– Why did not the honorable member rise to order last night when the honorable member for Gwydir was speaking in that way?
-We are working under our own Standing Orders. I do not know of any standing order which will permit me to stop honorable members from making such remarks. At the same time, I do not think it is proper for members of this House to reflect on members of a State Parliament.
– I quite agree with you, sir. I was led by an interjection to make the remark. I think it is certainly a bad practice.
– I plead guilty.
– It arose, you will remember, sir, out of a determined reference by my honorable friend opposite to the gentleman concerned as a “ scab.”
On the subject of the cadets, I think we are entitled to know what the Defence Department is going to do. I notice that the Minister representing the Minister of Defence has gone out to consult the Cabinet on the matter. If the Minister desires to secure the efficient training of the cadets, he will really have to maintain something in the nature of discipline. This is a serious matter. He should not allow any particular section of the community to decide as to what officers are to be sent by the Defence Department to drill them. If that sort of thing is allowed to creep in, we shall have absolute chaos in the elementary training of our Citizen Forces. I think that every section of the community will have the common sense to realize that. When boys do behave in this way, I sincerely hope that their unionist parents will be the very first to take sticks, and see that they do their duty creditably by their country.
I do not wish to detain the House longer, because I believe that there is a number of grievances to be ventilated by honorable members on each side. I have a number of postal grievances, which, in view of the necessity for brevity this evening, I shall have to postpone. I have a number of grievances in regard to other Departments, which also must be postponed, but I sincerely trust that the Government, in its corporate capacity, without waiting any longer for the lead of the Minister of Home Affairs, will say what it thinks, and intends, with regard to preference to unionists, telling us definitely how far the principle is to be applied, and especially whom it is to be applied to - whether to law-abiding unionists or to unionists of any description whatever.
– lean appreciate the difficulties of the Prime Minister in replying to the question put by the Leader of the Opposition as to the extent to which preference to unionists shall be applied. But I imagine that, in all probability, the preference to unionists outlined by the Minister of Home Affairs means that where the Government require carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, or labourers, they will, other things being equal, give preference to the men who are unionists. It is my opinion that the people of Australia will not object to such preference being shown. In almost every walk of life - in almost every industrial calling - we find trade and labour unions. There are no stronger unionists than members of the Opposition ; and we heard the opprobrious epithets applied by the honorable member who last spoke to one of their party who had accepted a high office in opposition to the party’s wishes. Members of the party will, no doubt, apply all their arts to make that gentleman’s position most uncomfortable. He will probably be sent to Coventry ; and all society people will, as the honorable member did this evening, declare him to be a blackleg. If possible, they will deprive this man of his comfort and happiness in life.
– Dees the honorable member approve of what he did ?
– I do not happen to be acquainted with the facts. All 1 saw in the newspapers was that a member of a certain political party has accepted a position, and that the members of that party are doing their best to hound him out ot public life. The only way to advance civilization will be for people who take part in the various industries to become members of trade and labour unions. Why should not the union labourer get preference? We know that unskilled labourers have had to accept wages as low as is. 6d. per day; and they have found it absolutely necessary to form a union. .The subscription to the labourers’ union, as a rule, is only 10s. per annum ; and he is a very poor man who cannot find that sum. The unions decide, in general meetings assembled, what is a fair rate of wages for men who carry hods, fill dirt into carts, and do other labouring work; they agree amongst themselves to charge 8s., 9s., or 10s. per clay, as the case may be. Of course, there are individuals who, as one honorable member has said, are too mean to pay the union subscription of 10s. per annum. I submit that the best men in all occupations are members of trade and labour unions, and it is in the interests of society and civilization that all the workers, mental and physical, should be encouraged to join a union. If this Government can in any way assist to bring that about the better it will be for the future of the Commonwealth. I congratulate the Prime Minister and his colleagues on determining to take their present stand. The Opposition have shown, by the avidity with which they have jumped into the breach and asked questions, that they expect to make a great deal of political capital out of the present position ; but I~do not think that in the end they will achieve very much. We find combination amongst shipping companies, banks, doctors, lawyers, architects, and, indeed, all professions, and amongst the strongest are the trade unions of the lawyers and doctors. A member of the British Medical Association will not consult with a member of the Australian Medical Association, simply because the Australian does not belong to the British body, although he is quite as well qualified. If any medical man endeavours to act in au independent way - to act, as honorable members opposite would lead us to believe they prefer labourers to act - and stay outside the union, he is deprived of his living. The doctors have what they call a rule concerning infamous practices ; and any man offending in the slightest - such as inserting an advertisement to state that he is practising - is debarred from the privileges of the Medical Union, which does its best to deprive him of his living and drive him out of the country. I am told, further, that the Medical Association publishes a black list. The lawyer members of this Chamber are the most prominent in denouncing the Government for giving preference, although they themselves get preference. Before a man can become a lawyer he must pass various severe examinations. There is a literary, an intermediate, and a final examination. Each year the Lawyers’ Union, on account of the competition - the better education of the masses and the increasing demand for entrance to the profession - make the examinations more severe, and the whole machinery of the Government, including the military forces and the police, are at the disposal of this Lawyers’ Union to see that its rules are carried out. The honorable member for Ballarat laughs, but I do not think he can prove that I am not telling the absolute truth. After a man has passed these severe examinations to become a barrister he must do nothing “ ungentlemanly “ for a period of six months.
– “ Ungentlemanly ? “
– Yes; I shall give a definition of what the lawyers call “ ungentlemanly “ conduct. When a man has passed his examinations, he may stay in his little, poorly furnished chambers, waiting, andunable to earn anything.
– Freezing !
– Yes, freezing, I suppose. He may be as poor as possible, but he dare not, for instance, do any pick-and-shovel or carpenters’ work. He is not permitted to enter the union of the barristers if he is guilty of such an “ ungentlemanly “ act as doing any such work. Such a man, however, may blackleg by doing journalistic work. That is deemed to be somewhat superior; and it is regarded as perfectly “ gentlemanly “ to take the bread out of the mouths of unemployed journalists. I hope to show the House the inconsistency of the Leader of the Opposition and those legal members who object to the Government giving employment to unionist carpenters, plumbers, and other labourers. These workers, for their own benefit and the good of society, have entered into unions, and naturally ask that they shall be given preference over non-unionists, who think so little of themselves and . their duty to society as to remain outside.
– The honorable member’s credulity is more amazing than anything else !
– It is a long time since the honorable member appeared in the Courts, and he may have forgotten. The honorable member for Flinders, however, is a barrister of very high standing; and he could not be engaged to appear in Court under, perhaps 25 guineas per day; further, this K.C., under the union rules, could not be approached except through a solicitor, who of course would also have to be paid by the client. Would the honorable K.C., whom I have mentioned, appear in Court unless he had with him a junior who was also a member of the Barristers’ Union? Certainly not. He must have a junior, and if the honorable K.C. were receiving thirty guineas per day the junior barrister appearing with him, according to the union rules, would have to receive twenty guineas per day.
– The organization is called, not a “ union,” but a “ barristers’ association.”
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet.
No non-union lawyer could secure employment in a Court. If a non-unionist lawyer attempted to practise his profession in a Court the police would be there to remove him. That is why I say that the police of the community are backing up the lawyers and their unions. Does any honorable member think he could approach the honorable K.C. - the unionist lawyer - and speak to him personally about Court matters? If he does, he is mistaken. He would have, first of all, to consult a solicitor. Then, again, he would not dare to speak about money matters to the barrister. A barrister is too superior a person to discuss money matters with you. The union has decided that it would be undignified for a barrister to discuss the question of fees with his client, and therefore a litigant must pay his barrister’s fees to the solicitor acting for him. Before a man could approach the honorable the
K.C. he would have to see about five persons. He would see first of all a solicitor, and would then go with him to the junior barrister’s clerk. Next, he would see the junior barrister, and, finally, he would have to see the honorable member for Flinders’ clerk before he could consult the honorable K.C. himself. In New South Wales, when a man is called to the bar he has to determine in what portion of the State he will practice. The State_ is divided into circuits, and he must practice in either the north, west, east, or south. If a barrister elects to practise in the northern circuit, then his union will not allow him, unless there is a shortage of lawyers there to practice in the southern circuit. A barrister practising in the northern circuit cannot practise in the southern circuit under fifteen guineas a day. These are union rules.
– And fifteen guineas is the minimum wage.
– That is the minimum fixed by the law of the country, and neither the Commonwealth nor any State Government would give preference to a non-unionist lawyer under any circumstances. If a member of a lawyers’ union is guilty of an infringement of the rules of the union, no other barrister will appear with him in Court. The Leader of the Opposition talks about preference to unionists as something that is going ‘ to bring blue ruin upon society, yet he belongs to a union which requires a member of the lawyers union in New South Wales to pay £50 before he can enter the trade union in this State. These honorable gentlemen talk about the prohibitive fees charged by the labourers unions, and yet what do we find? The labourers union charges 10s. per annum, as against the ^50 fee which the New South Wales union lawyer has to pay to enter the Victorian barristers union.
– He could not practice here unless he paid that fee.
– No; he would not be allowed to earn his living here unless he did so. Despite these facts, the Opposition lawyers make a great outcry about unionism and try to put the Government in a false position. If the Leader of the Opposition’s constituents knew all the facts concerning the lawyers union _they would not give him a hearing on th’is question. I have no more to say on this subject.
– What about the doctors ?
– I can hardly trust myself to speak about the doctors. I believe that people engaged in every walk of industrial life - and ,1 include in the term all occupations involving physical labour - should be in a union of some kind to regulate their fees and rewards. That, I hold, will be the basis of the society of the future. As to the doctors union I may say that, about ten years ago I was an active member of the Australian Natives’’ Association, of which I am now an honorary life member. At the time of which I speak one of my children was under treatment by Dr. Brough, medical officer to the Friendly Societies of Brisbane, who said that she was suffering from tonsilitis, and although he prescribed for her we saw that she was gradually sinking under his treatment. A neighbour, who did not like the look of the child, advised me to consult another doctor. I felt some diffidence in asking this medical man, who held very high credentials, to consult with another, but, finally, I requested him to do so. His reply was, “I am afraid that no other doctor would consult with me, but, perhaps, you had better see if Dr. Marks will.” I took a cab to the residence of Dr. Marks, and, on telling him what I wanted, received the reply, “ I could not consult with him. He is the Friendly Societies’ doctor!” I then called on another doctor, only to meet with the same intimation. Thereupon I called on Dr. Love, who also said, “ I cannot consult with Dr. Brough.” “ Is the child to die?” I asked, and to this the doctor replied, “ Well, if you will take the case out of the hands of Dr. Brough altogether, I will give you my first visit after 10 o’clock.” I took the case out of Dr. Brough’s hands, and Dr. Love, on visiting my child, said she was suffering from diphtheria, and that, unless I took her at once to the Children’s Hospital he would not be answerable for the consequences. Dr. Brough was a non-unionist practitioner, and would not report the case to the medical profession, because he was at loggerheads with them. He would not report that the case was one of diphtheria, and, although, perhaps, he was treating her for that disease he told us that it was something else. Had I not been able to secure Dr. Love’s services I should probably have lost my child.
– The honorable member had to give preference to a unionist..
– I had to discharge the non-unionist doctor, and it was fortunate that I did so, because my child’s life was saved. Incidents of this kind show the position of our opponents. Doctors, bankers, lawyers, and other members of the highest professions have the strongest unions. Yet they object to the poor unfortunate labourers, who have no money at all, banding together in a union to try to get enough to live upon. _ The honorable member for Wilmot talked about his sympathy for the unemployed and the poor. We always hear that from honorable, members opposite.
– It is the sympathy of the shark for the fish.
– Honorable members opposite appear to believe in the principle of “ divide and conquer.” If they can only get the labourers, the hod carriers, the wharf workers, the bricklayers, and the carpenters divided, the people will find that they will have to earn their living by physical toil at a very much lower rate of wages, and for a much longer number of hours. This will mean, for those who are on top, greater privileges and luxuries, and that seems to be the aim of the party opposite. I hope and believe that the Government will adhere to their attitude, and if they do, this party will stand by them. We will go before the public and explain our position, and I am convinced that the public will give us credit for the stand we have taken. If they do not, I believe that when they become better educated they will put the party back into power.
.- I hope the members of the legal profession will take to heart the object-lesson laid before them by the honorable member for Capricornia, and examine their own lookingglass to see what preference to unionists in reality means. In justification of the action of the Government let me say that all of us who have any knowledge of the industrial conditions at present obtaining, know that, irrespective of the awards of Courts, and without the necessity of a command from any tribunal whatever, the bond fide employer who knows what is best for his industry, gives preference to unionists. He needs no law to compel him to do so. If that kind of employer commonly existed in Australia, there would be no need to pass a law to enforce preference to unionists. It is because that kind of employer is not common that we have to band together, as it were, to do justice not only to the employes, but to the good employer who treats his men properly. We must intervene to save him from undue competition by men who will not recognise the value of the laws we pass. We have to take steps to enforce a law which will be fair to the legitimate employer as well as to the legitimate employ^. Speaking as an employer of labour, I have always found that it paid me best to employ the man who had the certificate of a union behind him, who was able to earn the money that was paid to him, and who could be relied upon to give a just and equitable return for his wage. It never paid to employ the other class of employ^ that we see about to-day. Honorable members opposite are anxious lest we should put into practice the principles that we have enunciated from the beginning of our existence. Time after time I have heard them charge the Labour party with not having the courage to put their convictions into practice, but now that we have the power, and are going to prove that we are sincere, they object to our doing what they dared us to do in the days when we had no- power. The day is not far distant when preference to unionists will become a common condition governing the relations of employer and employed. Everything tends to that state of affairs which the honorable member for Flinders predicted last night. The honorable member said there was going to be more intense organization among both employers and employes than we know to-day. That is inevitable. Modern unionism is the outcome of the oppression used by the employing class in days gone by. The employes had to unite in self-protection to preserve their independence and to- insure to themselves some share of the fruits of their labour. Step by step they have been forced, in selfpreservation, to combine in order to counteract the effects of the combinations of employers that we have seen developing up to their present stage. The people are awakening to their own interests more than they have hitherto done, and will be still more awake In the future. Having once learned what their power is, having realized what their rights are, and having grasped the fact that they have the power to demand their own rights, they can no longer be thwarted in their desire to obtain a more equitable distribution of the wealth they produce than has hitherto been the case There must inevitably grow up an economic school, both in modern politics and in modern industrial affairs, which will force us on, acting as it were as the propeller to drive the ship of modern reform at a faster pace than it has ever been driven before. The honorable member for Flinders sees that, and is anxious, if he can, to block these reforms. He would like, if he could, to prevent us from laying the foundations upon which those who come after us will be able to build. If there is one duty more than another that devolves upon a Labour Government, it is the duty of setting an example. We profess that we want to see the condition of the workers improved, and to establish a fairer distribution of the wealth produced by the toilers of the country. When I speak of the toilers, I speak of men who work with hand or brain. That is our profession, and if we are sincere we now have the opportunity of proving our sincerity by initiating the principle that we advocate in the service of which we now have control. It would be idle for us to protest that we desire these reforms if we neglect to put them into practice when we have the power. Wherever the Government have the power to employ men to do the work of the people, the duty devolves upon them to enforce the principles of the platform they advocate. So long as we adopt that course, we shall have no need to fear the people who sent us here. We shall be in a position we can defend. We can support with incontrovertible argument the economic position that underlies the action of the Government in the comparatively small matter dealt with to-day. This is only the beginning of the work which we ought to do in order to set an example, and that people outside may see that we can practise as well as preach these reforms. Honorable members opposite, and those who support them, are anxious because they know that, when the Government of the Commonwealth begins to deal justly by their workers, to treat them as civilized beings, and respect them as producers and men who are helping to drive the industrial chariot of the Commonwealth, there will be no dearth of the best labour offering to work under the best conditions, and they naturally fear that the effect will be to attract from other avenues of employment the men whom they have to-day at their command, and who, under existing circumstances, are incapable of improving their condition. It is for this reason that the cry of objection is going up from honorable members opposite, who represent the Employers Union, vested interests, trusts and combines, and every autocratic body that thrives at the. expense of the welfare of the people. The honorable member for Capricornia has well said that honorable members opposite object to the doctrine that what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, because they represent those who have been so long in the habit of taking to themselves every benefit to be derived from legislation and administration that they begrudge justice being done to the humbler members of society who perform more laudable service for the country than those who oppose them have ever done. I feel that I dare not let myself go on this question. I might trace, step by step, the progress of industrial development through the ages, and refer to what our forefathers have borne to enable us to reach the position we have reached today. I might indicate the true economic functions of government, and, dealing in a systematic and methodical way with the whole question, record my views of the obligations and responsibilities of Governments. But I have said sufficient to enable the electors who have returned me to this House for Parliament after Parliament, the party to which I belong, and honorable members opposite also, to discover that this Parliament is not here to deceive and fool the people. The Labour party is the only party that has yet been in power in this Parliament that has endeavoured to carry out the promises made to the people. I am proud to occupy a seat in this Cham ber, and to express my satisfaction that the hour for which I have been longing has arrived, the hour when those with whom I am associated have the power, to ,give> effect to their principles, and, exercising that power, will do more to educate the people of the country than could be done in any other way. Example is better than precept every time. The Government, by setting an example as a pattern employer, is paving the way for better conditions, not only for those in the Public Service, but for the employed of all kinds of private employers. The criticism we have had from the other side has largely been legal criticism. This seems to be the legal man’s opportunity. The Arbitration Court is today his happy hunting ground. He is found doing in that Court what he has done in other Courts, in preventing the good results that might have been anticipated from what was intended to be a Court of equity and good conscience, which would deal out justice to those who have hitherto had no means of obtaining it The lawyers do not object to industrial legislation setting up new tribunals. The” sharks - the “ Devil’s Brigade “-are willing to help us to make such laws every day in the week, knowing that they will only bring more grist to the mill in which- they are working. These men know nothing about the lot of the worker. They have never had to live by the sweat of their Brows. They have never had to bear the burdens of a strike. They have never known what it is to starve while righting for what they believed to be their rights. And yet it is these’ men who stand up here and tell us what we ought to do for the class who sent -us here, and to which we belong. When we find men who are not lawyers telling us what we ought to do, we may pay some attention to their advice. But we should pay no attention to members of the legal profession, who have been content to take all they could get from preference to unionists, whilst they seek to deny its advantages to every other class in the community. It is for this reason that I say to our own party and our own people that, if there is one man they ought to be wary of when giving advice without a fee it is the lawyer. _ He has never been known to give any advice worth having that he has not been amply paid for. Ever since arbitration laws were promulgated in this House, I have heard lawyers here disputing as to the merits and demerits of the general question. I have heard them debating the merits and demerits of the principle and I have never known them to agree. No guidance can be obtained from members of the legal profession on matters affecting the welfare of the people. They are too well trained in the art of verbal contortion - in the art of endeavouring to make words express exactly the opposite of what an intelligent reading of them would convey. They consistently endeavour to make black appear white. I say it more in. sorrow than in anger that they are as much the victims of their environment as are individuals in any other walk of life. Consequently they are more to be pitied than blamed. It is the system which tolerates the lawyer that ought to Be condemned. The less we have to do with lawyers in our worldly affairs the better off we shall be.
– Even the right honorable member for Swan is a doctor of laws.
– Yes. He carries the honour which has been conferred upon him well, and I am not going to attempt to detract from it. All I wish to say is that if we require guidance upon any matter we can never make a mistake if we do the op*posite of what the lawyers argue we ought to do. They have never done anything for the workers of this country.i It is the moneyed class that they are after.; We have a number of mendicant lawyers in the community who are prepared to rob anybody. The profession is overcrowded wth mediocrities who have passed their examinations as the result of a system of, “ stuffing.”
– Was not the honorable member once going to take up the legal profession ?
– No. It is true that 1 was advised by a prominent barrister to take up that profession, but I replied that I was not built that way. I recognised that to be a successful lawyer one must be able- to twist himself into any shape necessary to obtain the dollars. A lawyer wants to be absolutely without conscience, and as I have a conscience I had to tell my friend that that would constitute a bar to the ac.ceptance of his advice. Many of these men pass their examinations only to become a burden on their charitably disposed parents for the rest of their lives. The passing of the examinations does not prove that they are possessed of reasoning power. It merely proves that they are capable of being coached. There are many members of the legal profession to-day who are not earning as much as an ordinary bricklayer., It is pitiable to see the number of them who are on the verge of starvation, and who, as a result, blackleg on the journalistic and other professions. It is significant that when the question of preference to unionists is being discussed in this chamber the only persons who condemn that’ principle are lawyers of the superior type or lawyers of the other type, who have never proved that the grant of their degree was warranted. I hope that we have heard the last from members of the Opposition in condemnation of a principle which is going to be developed until the workers of this country enjoy a more equitable distribution of the wealth they produce, and until we have shown the people of Australia that we are not afraid to put into practice in this House the principles which we preach’ outside.
Question resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 10.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 September 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19110921_reps_4_60/>.