5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister now in a position to make a statement in reference to a cablegram recently published in the press to the effect that it is denied in Great Britain that this Government asked for a Conference last year?
– To what cablegram does the right honorable member refer - to that which appeared in the Herald, or to that which appeared in the Argus?
– To that which appears in the Herald, wherein there is reference to the publication of a White Book. The cablegram in the Argus and Age speaks of a Blue Book.
SirJohnForrest. - The same publication must be meant. It is not likely that a White Book and a Blue Book would be published on the subject in one day.
– On 10th October of last year-Hansard, Vol.Ixxi, page 1981 - the honorable member for Capricornia asked the Prime Minister these questions -
The replies given to those questions were -
On 14th October of last year- Hansard, Vol.Ixxi., page 2020 - Mr. Bruce Smith called attention to the matter. He said -
Since the House met on Friday last, reports have appeared in the newspapers to the effect that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence have made important statements concerning the necessity for holding an Imperial Naval Conference. Some rather important details seem to be briefly expressed in those reports. Will the Prime Minister give the House the benefit of the information that he gave to a private gathering?
To that the Prime Minister replied -
I am not aware that I gave any information to a private gathering, except that I made the most general reference to the fact that we had requested the Imperial Government to convene a conference, with a view to determining future constructional developments in connexion with the Navy. That is all I have said. The newspapersare doing the rest, and I cannot help that.
Can the honorable gentleman say now whether the statement in the White Book montioned in the cablegram, is correct?
– My answer to the right honorable member last night was that at the proper time I would give him the fullest possible information. The time to do that is not when a censure amendment is before the House.
– The night before last I asked if the papers in connexion with the survey contract made with Messrs. Laurence and Chalmers in connexion with the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway might be laid on the table of the Library. Possibly the Prime Minister has overlooked the matter.
– I asked for the information to be supplied immediately, but it is not yet to hand. As soon as it is receivedI shall letthe honorable member have it.
MrFISHER.-IaskthePrime Min ister, asMinister ofHome Affairsand responsible for that Department, if he is now satisfied that all the papers relating to the construction contract have been laid on the table?
– I am afraid that I cannot answer these questions at the present time.
The following papers were presented -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at -
Bayswater, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Vaucluse, New South Wales - For Postal purposes (two).
Woodforde, near Magill, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Debate resumed from 22nd April (vide page 247), on motion by Mr. Kendell -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor -General be agreed to by this House: -
May it please your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address : - “ but regret to have to inform you that your Advisers deserve censure for having failed to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.”
.- Before making a few more or less uncomplimentary remarks about the Ministry, I wish to compliment the honorable member for Adelaide upon his maiden effort of last evening. It will be a long time before we forget that brilliant debater, the lamented Alfred Roberts, and any honorable member would find it difficult to fill his place ; but his successor has made a good commencement; and he has a good knowledge of the Labour question, a strong voice, and the gift of ready repartee, which will be very useful to him in this House.
– And to us.
– And to the party to which he will readily admit it is an honour to belong. I also congratulate my oldopponent, thehonorable member for Parkes,who hasbrokenalongsilence. His political opinions have undergone no change. They are opinions which were very popular in the middle of the last half century. He belongs to the Manchester school in politics, and his views on Free Trade and Labour have never altered. But nature has endowed him with such a fine presence, with such a cultured manner, and with such eloquent diction, that we are always glad to hear his speeches. He has, too, such a refreshing candour - honorable members opposite might consider it somewhat brutal - that his remarks are very agreeable to listen to. I am glad to observe that a reconciliation has taken place between him and the Treasurer lately.
– We were always very good friends.
– I do not know whether a new party is about to be formed opposite, but I hope so, because one led by the Treasurer, with the honorable member for Parkes as lieutenant, would do a great deal more good for the country than that now led by the Prime Minister and his chief lieutenant, the Attorney-General. I join with those who have expressed regret that the Governor-General is about to retire from his office for reasons of health. I have never had a conversation with Lord Denman, but I have heard him speak on two or three occasions, and I have read his speeches. To my mind those speeches disclosed considerable wife and humour, and an earnest endeavour on his part to faithfully fulfil the functions of his distinguished position. “We have had some failures in the Commonwealth as Governors-General. Lord Dudley, for instance, is generally recognised as having been quite unable to rise to the dignity and responsibility of the position.
– Is the honorable member going to discuss that matter on a motion of censure?What has the Ministry to do with the shortcomings of the GovernorGeneral referred to ?
– I think that Lord Denman ranks in the same class as the late Lord Northcote, who was a great success as Governor-General. Personally, I do not believe in imported GovernorsGeneral, and I hope that political parties in Australia will make it a plank in their platforms as soon aspossiblethatallGovenors-General of the Commonwealth shallbeAustralian citizens, so that our Australian youths may be given a chance. I do not believe in allowing any political party 12,000 miles away to nominate persons for positions in the Commonwealth.
– Why, there would be confusion in the honorable member’s own ranks if that occurred.
– I do not regard the honorable member as of sufficient calibre to warrant me in paying any attention to him. My chief concern this afternoon is with the Ministry and their works - good, bad, and indifferent. In the first place I wish to refer to the blunders of the Government. The Ministry - most of the members of which have had a university education - have not exhibited the capacity to govern this country. Upon consulting Who’s Who, for example, I find that the Attorney-General is a B.A. and LL.D. of Trinity College, Dublin, and M.A. and LL.D. of the Melbourne University. One would expect that a gentleman who has had such a superior education would disclose the capacity to govern Australia. But what did he do as soon as he got into office? He commenced to break the law. The spirit, if not the letter, of our Electoral law is that all ballot papers and documents connected with an election shall be placed in sealed packets which shall not be opened until a Justice of the High Court orders them to be opened. But the Attorney-General, in his anxiety to discover something to back up the slanders of the Government on the people of Australia, broke the Electoral law by ordering the officials to open the certified lists of voters. This opening of the sealed parcels containing the electoral lists was not to take place in public, hut was to be done in secret. There was to be a Star Chamber investigation by electoral officials, and certain permanent officers, with a view to discovering some evidence that would be useful to the Government. The Attorney-General refused to allow any member of the general public to be present when the parcels were opened. When he was pressed by the honorable member for Ballarat to allow scrutineers to be present he replied -
The suggestion made by the honorable member for Ballarathas been considered from all points of view, and ithas been thought that for thepurposes of thepreliminary investigation it isundesirable tohave anyone presentsaveresponsible officers.
It is quite true that the honorable gentleman gave way, but he did so only as the result of public opinion created by the criticism of honorable members.
Blunder No. 2 was that committed by the Hon. Littleton Groom, Minister of Trade and Customs, a gentleman who is described in Who’s Who - with his own approval, no doubt - as a distinguished scholar of Ormond College, Melbourne University, an M.A. and LL.M. What was the blunder that he made? He allowed 32,387 tons of sugar to be taken out of bond without the payment of duty. The duty which ought to have been paid on that sugar amounted to about £150,000. The Minister sheltered himself behind “what he declared was a mistake on the part of the late Minister of Trade and Customs. We do not admit that any mistake was made by the honorable gentleman’s predecessor in office, or by the late Government. It was the duty of the Minister himself to become acquainted with the habits of the clients of the Government, and not to have allowed that sugar to have passed out of bond. It is quite true that £150,000 has since been paid by way of duty, but it was not paid until after an Act had been passed authorizing its collection.
Blunder No. 3 was the abolition of preference to unionists, and here again I have to turn to my friend tlie enemy - I mean tlie Attorney-General. He has a very great objection to wage earners’ trade unions, but he has no objection to trade unions of employers. Nobody ever heard him utter a word, for instance, against the Bankers’ Union - a union which exists for regulating the rate of interest, for deciding what charge shall be made for keeping accounts, and which determines the discount rate on bills. Who ever heard the honorable gentleman say a word against the Ship-owners’ Union, which regulates the freight and passenger charges around our coast, and which agrees to non-competition with regard to trade routes? Who ever heard him say a word against the Coal Vend, which regulates the price of coal, or against the Property Owners’ Association, which exists for the purpose of keeping down rates and keeping up rents, and of discouraging municipalities from building houses, and thus entering into coinpetition with them?
Who ever heard the AttorneyGeneral say a word against the Employers’ Union, which, generally speaking, has been formed for the purpose of keeping up the price of goods, keeping down the rate of wages, and of starting bogus unions like Mr. Packer’s Union? I note in a balance-sheet recently published in connexion with that gentleman’s tramway union, that the “ other receipts, donations, and subscriptions “ amounted to £289, whilst in connexion with the Agricultural Implement Makers’ Union the amount so contributed was £436 3s. 9d. Who ever heard the Attorney-General say a word against the Farmers’ and Dairymen’s Union ?
That is a union formed for the protection of farmers and dairymen, a very legitimate object. But it is formed also to keep up the price of butter, and to induce the Government to spend as much as they can possibly secure in aiding the. farming industry.
– What unions has the Attorney-General ever condemned?
– The only unions the honorable gentleman condemns are the unions of the working classes. His antipreference law is not directed against any of the unions I have just been enumerating, but against working-class unions, the carpenters, labourers, stonemasons, plumbers, and other unions of tradesmen who may be engaged upon Government work. I cannot, this afternoon, refer at length to the work done by the working men’s unions, but I might briefly refer to the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners Union, some of whose members will be affected by the action proposed to be taken by the Attorney-General, and his colleague, the former leader of the Labour party in New South Wales. The Carpenters and Joiners Union has distributed about £3,250,000 in benefits of various kinds amongst its members, in sick benefits, unemployment, accident, trade privileges, superannuation, contingent and benevolent fund, and compensation to widows of members. Nearly every trade union - and I could enumerate fifty or sixty of them, and probably will do so at a later stage, when the AttorneyGeneral brings forward his antipreference to unionists Bill - is formed on the lines adopted by the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners Union.
The Attorney-General belongs to the closest trade union in Australia - the Lawyers Union. It is characteristic of gentlemen of his type that they are absolutely unable to “ put themselves in the other fellow’s place.” If, for example, the AttorneyGeneral were put out of his present position as one of the leaders of the “Victorian Bar, and, as a boy, brought up without any advantages at school, and compelled to take his place in the ranks of the labourers, I venture to say that if he found that Parliament was not moving any faster than it is at the present time to improve the conditions of working people, he would be a Syndicalist, a direct action man, a man prepared to use force. We have only to notice the attitude of the honorable gentleman in this chamber. When asked a question the other day he was so supercilious in his attitude that the Speaker had to call upon him to rise in his place and give his reply
– That is characteristic.
– It is characteristic of the honorable gentleman. I say that, in my opinion, if he were down amongst the ranks of those who have to graft for their daily wage at hard manual labour, he would be so disgusted with the slowness of parliamentary procedure that he would belong to the Industrial Workers of the World. I notice that the honorable gentleman has been referring recently to Labour’s ugly big brother, the Syndicalist. The honorable gentleman ought to be the last to talk about anybody’s ugliness. Strip the Attorney-General in .Court of his wig and gown, put a suit of rags on him, and stand him in the dock charged with not having sufficient lawful visible means of support, and I venture to say that any intelligent jury would convict him without calling any evidence.
The honorable gentleman has a great objection to unions of workers deciding that their members must receive 10s., Ils., or 12s., a day, but the Lawyers Union to which he belongs is backed up by all the Parliaments of the States of Australia, by the Commonwealth Parliament, and by the Judges. Let a non-union lawyer - if any honorable member can imagine such a thing - attempt to appear on behalf of a client in any Court of Australia, and the
Judge would immediately say, “I cannot see you.” If the non-union lawyer insisted upon being seen, the Judge could commit him for contempt. Further, if the non-union lawyer insisted upon appearing in the Court the police would turn him out, and if he still continued in his desire to earn a living outside the union he would be put in gaol. No doubt the AttorneyGeneral would consider it very wrong if the Waterside Workers Federation decided that only a certain number of the members of their union should apply for work at Howard Smith’s wharf, and a certain other number at the Australasian United Steam-ship Navigation Company’s wharf. I have no doubt he would consider that a very dreadful thing. I have here a document that has been issued by the New South Wales bar, headed, “ Circuit Rules.” This document shows that barristers in New South Wales can only register their names to appear in certain places in that State. For example, it is provided that a barrister must register himself for one Circuit in New South Wales, the Northern Circuit, including various towns, the Southwestern or the Western, and the secretary to the “ Bar Council “ - that is the elegant name of the trade union - shall keep a register of the names of barristers attached to each Circuit.
Now as to the rates of pay, it is provided -
No barrister shall accept on any Circuit other than the one on which he shall have been registered any brief the fee on which shall be less than twenty guineas, if in the Supreme Court or Assizes, or less than fifteen guineas if in the District Court or Quarter Sessions.
No King’s Counsel -
I believe our friend the Attorney-General is one - not being a permanent Crown Prosecutor on his Circuit shall accept a brief on any Circuit the fee on which shall lie less than thirty guineas.
These matters are fixed by law. No doubt, later on, when the Labour party in the Australian Commonwealth propose to pass a law - and I hope the time will not be long in coming - to provide that no employe in the Commonwealth shall be paid less than a minimum wage the Attorney-General will object strongly to the passage of such a law, and will urge that the unfortunate workers shall be subject to cut-throat competition for their labour, although he and all his class have the law, the military, and the police behind their demands for the payment of whatever fee their union decides is a fair one.
Blunder No. 4 of the present Ministry is the proposal to reduce the maternity allowance. In a Governor-General’s Speech submitted here about a year ago it was declared that the Government proposed to limit the present maternity allowance to necessitous cases. What does that mean ?
– That is not the wording of the Speech.
– I know that the Treasurer did not put it in that way, but it was proposed that the Government should give the maternity allowance only in “ necessitous cases.” It will be found that those words “ necessitous cases “ were used. What does that mean ? It means that before a woman about to become a mother can secure the maternity allowance she must declare herself a pauper. She must say that she is poor and in need .
– You would like to waste public money on people who do not want it. What you want to do is to give the money to rich people.
– Order ! The honorable member forCapricornia is addressing the Chair.
– We have explained to the Treasurer before to-day that the reason why we are willing to give the maternity allowance to persons who happen to be rich is to remove the stigma of charity or pauperism.
– Oh, yes-poverty and pride!
– Why should not a poor person have some personal pride?
– Do you think that we ought to keep this system going for generations? You will ruin the country if you do.
– It is only a million.
– Order ! This speech cannot be converted into a dialogue.
– It will cost millions and millions by-and-by.
– Order !
– If we referred to the Acts , of Parliament which were passed when therighthonorable gentlemanwas Premier of Western Australia no doubt we would find inhis electoral law a provision denying the right to vote to a person who was in receipt of relief from a charitable institution.
– They have that provision now in the State Act. I did not introduce the provision; it was there when I took office.
– While the Labour party have the power, they will prevent the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues from paying the maternity allowance only to poor persons. Do honorable members opposite pay no attention to pre-natal influences ? Have they no idea that the mental state of a mother has an important influence on the child? What mother with any regard for her offspring would go to a Government Department and sign a document that she is a pauper? I do not believe that there is a woman in Australia who would do so. To propose to limit the maternity allowance was a blunder, and I would like to know whether honorable members opposite would propose to seek a double dissolution on that question.
BlunderNo. 5 was one which, I have no doubt, came from the AttorneyGeneral. I can imagine that only a politician like the honorable gentleman would propose to destroy the secrecy of the ballot. The proposal was that before an elector could obtain a ballotpaper he must sign the butt of it, and so enable the honorable member to discover how the people in his electorate voted if he so desired.
– You do not think that, do you?
– Certainly it would. One can understand when the AttorneyGeneral was willing to break open the sealed parcels of electoral lists-
– You must not forget that the ballot-papers were to be numbered also.
– Quite so.
– The absent vote is numbered now.
– And the electors were to sign the ballot-papers. One can imagine the Attorney-General, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council conducting an inquiry into the butts of the ballot-papers to ascertain how certain personsvoted.
Mr.McWilliams.- Isnot that the system with absent voting ?
– I should imagine that the honorable member for Franklin does not agree with any proposal to compel an elector to sign the butt of the ballot- paper. But he and several others are going to theirpolitical ruin in following the Attorney-General.
– And the Treasurer.
– The Treasurer, I am glad to see, is a Knight of the Crown of Italy. I found that information in Who’s Who, the other day.
– That appeared a good while ago.
– I believe thoroughly that the Treasurer is not in sympathy with the Attorney-General in his proposals, nor is he in sympathy with this giving of public works to contractors such as marked the Teesdale-Smith case. This morning I found in a Western Australian paper a speech of the right honorable gentleman on day labour, which is utterly opposed to giving out contracts of that kind, and I am sure that he will not go back on his principles as readily as the Prime Minister has done.
Clause 19 of the Electoral Bill of this Ministry was a clause requiring an elector to sign his name on the butt unless he made a verbal declaration that he was unable to do so. That is to say, every man and every woman applying to vote must sign his or her name on the ballot-paper. I desire to know if the Prime Minister and his colleagues want a double dissolution on that question.
Another blunder of the Ministry was the endeavour to abolish Saturday as a polling day. Now, the Saturday polling day is a very great convenience to the majority of the people. Fanners, especially, seldom go into the town or village in the middle of the week. If they do go to town at all it is generally on Saturday afternoon, and very often they return on Sunday. Another blunder with which the Prime Minister may be credited was the proposal to establish a Federal Agricultural Bureau without consulting the States.
– Give me a rest.
– I am sorry that I cannot give the honorable member a rest. I would like to give him a long political rest, but he will not take it. Iwillprove to the Housethis afternoon that he will not at any time take a political rest.
I now come to the Ministry’s broken promises. The Prime Minister told us in the speech he made on the 12th August, that “ the purification of the rolls is being proceeded with, and every endeavour is being made to insure their accuracy.” That statement was made nine long months ago. But last week - on the 16th April - the honorable gentleman told us that the rolls “ are in a shocking state.” Nine months after the Ministry had been in office, although they told us on the 12th August last that the purification of the rolls was proceeding, the Prime Minister told us that the rolls are in a shocking state. Is not that a sufficient reason for turning him out?
– Under which Department is the electoral law administered?
– Under the Department of the Prime Minister, who has as his assistants, Senator McColl and the Honorary Minister.
What has become of the proposal of the Postmaster-General to introduce a measure for the appointment of three Commissioners to manage the Post Office ? I understand from the press that he has decided to retire from office, because he is so disgusted with the condition of the Post and Telegraph Department. He may be, as the honorable member for Gwydir interjects, overwhelmed with the work which has to be done, but the fact is that he finds the Department almost unworkable. At any rate, he promised us a Bill for the appointment of three Commissioners to manage the Post Office. I ask the Prime Minister where is that Bill which was promised nine months ago?
What became, too, of the Ministerial proposals - vote-catching proposals, no doubt - for a scheme of superannuation for public servants, and a scheme to secure a retiring allowance to those serving in the Military Forces? I wonder that the honorable member for North Sydney is not prodding the Ministry up, and asking what has become of their Bill ?
Again, what has become of the comprehensive scheme for national insurance on a contributory basis, embracing sickness, accident, maternity, widowhood, andunemployment? The Prime Minister knows all about unemployment: He isa man with a most extraordinary talent; in fact, I think he is the greatest political actor on the Australian stage to-day.
– That is saying a lot.
– It is saying a lot. We hear of Edmund Kean, Macready, Henry Irving, Rignold, and Walter Bentley. Those eminent actors have made a great and lasting impression, but none has shown greater versatility than the Prime Minister. He has the ability of being able to play a part to suit any gallery. His speech, made in July, 1913, to a deputation of unemployed, shows that he knows all about unemployment. The honorable gentleman said on that occasion -
I think the very last thing a Government can afford is a huge unemployment problem. Every day, every hour, a man is out of work over a given point he is deteriorating. He begins to deteriorate once his spirit and hope begin to go, and, therefore,he isa serious problem for the wisest statesman to consider….. The time has come to lay this burden fairly on the whole country in the shape of a contributory insurance scheme. We are all in it, and we cannot escape from it, and we are all more or less responsible.
What has become of that scheme? The Minister for External Affairs is appalled at the prospect of investigating the mass of information which the Government Statistician has prepared, a mass so great that it is impossible to carry it up to the Minister’s office. When are we to get that Bill to deal with sickness and accident, widowhood, and unemployment? It was promised a year ago. What has become of the Land Bill for the Northern Territory, a Bill which was to take the place of the Ordinance?
– I hope to bring it down next week.
– Then where is the promised bankruptcy law? Where is the law proposing to deal with offences against the Commonwealth? We hear nothing of that. Is it because the Prime Minister and his colleagues expect to be amongst the first to be arrested under that measure?
Now I come to another proposal. Twelve months ago the Ministry promised us a Bill to deal with reciprocal trade. Reciprocal trade seems to me a sort of preferential trade, and I am not in favour of preferential trade, except upon the basis of a union rate of wages. I object to any sweater, under the flag of patriotism, getting his goods into this country at a cheap rate to compete with Australian goods and manufactures. Reciprocal trade seems to me to be only a device of Free Traders to get goods imported into the country at a cheaper rate.
– Are you not in favour of reciprocal trade?
– I am in favour of it only when the man, who sends goods into this country, accompanies those goods with a certificate that they have been manufactured at the standard or tradeunion rate of wages. The Ministry promised twelve months ago that they would introduce a Bill to deal with anomalies in the Tariff. What has become of that Bill ? Honorable members may have noticed in the daily papers a couple of days ago a cablegram referring to a strike of cricket-ball makers employed at Tunbridge in Kent. Those men were on strike for an increase in wages of 5s. per dozen balls, and they were skilled workmen who received only 30s. per week. The manufacturers declined to give the increase asked for, because they said theretailers would not pay the price, and the retailers are not paying the price because they have to compete with the cricket-ball manufacturers in India. The patriotic British capitalist, who is such a great lover of Britain and the Empire, has taken his capital to India, and is employing cheap labour to produce goods which will compete with the manufactures of the United Kingdom.
It is individuals like those employers in Kent, who pay their employes 30s. per week, whom I object to being allowed to bring their goods into Australia under any preferential Tariff. I have referred to a number of the Bills which the Ministry promised, but I do not believe that they had any intention of passing any of them, because we have it on the authority of the Government Whip, who spoke at Murwillumbah, New South Wales, on9 th February, that -
The Cook Ministry, when it took office, did so with the deliberate intention of appealing to the country. They had made up their minds to secure a double dissolution, which would come this year, but he could not say exactly when.
There we have a statement made by the Government Whip, who, we must believe, enjoys the confidence of the Ministry, that it was the deliberate intention of the Ministry from the very first to try to get a dissolution. I “have my doubts about the Prime Minister desiring a dissolution. The Attorney-General wants it.
As a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, so this great Liberal party is weak in this fact, that it can do nothing without the consent of that conservative honorable member. After we had been sitting in this chamber for about three months, after the last election, the AttorneyGeneral, it is said, rose at one of the Liberal party’s Caucus meetings and said, “ I am tired of this, and if you do not bring in double dissolution Bills I will leave politics.” And the Liberal party, having a majority of only one, had to bow to the honorable gentleman’s wishes. Only a gentleman of the type of the Attorney-General would have the impudence to ask for a double dissolution. Why should sixty-six men be sent to the country in the interests of forty-five socalled Liberals? What reason has the Attorney-General for believing that a double dissolution will help him at all? The Liberal party did not get a single senator returned in 1910. The people of Australia thought so little of the Liberal policy that they would not return a single Liberal senator in 1910, and in 1913 they returned only seven Liberal senators out of eighteen. Those seven represent the full strength of the Liberal party in the Senate to-day. What reason have they for believing that if they go to the country now the Australian public will give them more than seven senators? I do not believe they have any reason for so believing. It seems to me that the public of Australia should realize that under the present Federal Constitution there is only one party that can govern Australia; that there is only one party that has the power to pass legislation; that is the Labour party. With the Constitution providing for one adult one vote, the big cities of Australia will return the senators, so that for all time the Senate will have a majority of Labour men. In regard to the Lower House, however, country districts, swayed by the influence of Conservative papers like the
Melbourne Argus, where the people read nothing but the biased views of journals established to voice the opinions of capitalists, owing to the fact that the Labour party have not a press to voice their views, may possibly return Liberals in a majority. The result will be a dead-lock I wish to devote a little more attention to the Prime Minister, and show that he is not in earnest in his professed desire to pass legislation.
– According to your reasoning, you are keeping yourselves out of power. Why not, then, go to the country and get into power ?
– The Prime Minister did not follow me. I say that a majority in the Senate is assured for the Labour party on account of the big vote in the big cities, whereas there may be a doubt about the House of Representatives owing to the influence of the capitalistic press in the country districts, which was able to send a Liberal majority into this House, while it could only return seven to the Senate.
– In that case, what is Parliament going to do ? Is there to be a perpetual dead-lock ?
– There is to be a deadlock until the people realize the insincerity of the honorable members on ‘the Ministerial benches. I shall prove out of the mouth of the Prime Minister that he is insincere in his proposals to introduce the legislation to which I have referred this afternoon. He is reported in the Melbourne Argus of the 8th August to have said at Wangaratta -
Why should the people always be crying out for legislation? Had there not been eightythree Acts in the last three years placed on the statute-book? What more could the people want? Those who were continually asking for more legislation were really worse than Oliver Twist in his demands.
Here is another speech, made at a cafe in Melbourne, where the New Zealanders were giving a dinner -
Whether Parliament would do any business . remained to be seen. It had been at work for some weeks without any result, but he was not sure whether the country did not want a rest from legislative enactments. There had been eighty-three enactments during the period in which the Labour party was in office, but he did not know whether the country was any the better for it. The present Administration was certainly not going to be responsible for a record in that direction, and he, for one, would not be sorry for that fact.
This speech was made on the 22nd September last. Speaking at the Agricultural Show the following day, the Prime Minister said to those assembled -
It does not much matter what the Parliaments do. You can get along in spite of us, if only the elements are kindly, and if only we leave you alone.
The honorable gentleman is a master of the art of electioneering. This was said at a time when the rural workers’ log was in evidence, and when it was expected that the Federal Parliament would give the benefits of the Federal Arbitration Act to the rural workers.
– I do not think it had any reference to that matter.
– Then what did the honorable gentleman mean by saying “ so long as we leave you alone ‘ ‘ ? There was loud cheering; and the Prime Minister said, “ I knew that would fetch you.” The Prime Minister is a man who can play many parts. Addressing the unemployed, he can make a speech to suit them. Addressing the Chamber of Manufactures, he can simulate a lot of indignation against Judge Higgins; he can tell them that he has heard of Judge Higgins glving a decision in which 99 per cent, of the proceeds of the industry were to be mopped up in paying the wages and conditions imposed by the award.
– I merely quoted from the report of the Public Service Commissioner.
– The honorable gentleman did not tell the Chamber of Manufactures that he was referring to Government employment. He led them to believe that it was an award concerning private employers. Now I come to the talk of the honorable gentleman about having no desire to hang on to office, and I shall prove that he will bang on by arms, legs, feet, and hands. On the 7th August last, speaking regarding an election, he said -
When it came, tin; Ministry would bc ready for it. Much, however, would depend on the temper of the House. If the House was there” to do business, the Ministry would be also there to do business. If it was there to wrangle, then it would find that the Ministry- was not there to wrangle. The Ministry was not there to hang on to office at any price - certainly not at the price of its political reputation and honour.
The honorable gentleman also said that he had been up to the Senate, and had seen a Labour man taking charge of thebusiness, and he proceeded -
I want to say that that kind of thing cannot be tolerated in a free Australia, and this Government does not intend to put up with that; kind of thing for very long.
I shall prove out of the records of Parliament that the honorable gentleman isprepared to spend Government money tokeep in office. What happened in connexion with the Tasmanian grant?
– An act of justice..
– During the last Parliament, the Australian Labour party, under the sections of the Constitution, granted! Tasmania £500,000, to be spread over a period of ten years. Tasmanian members, when they saw the state of parties in theHouse, realized their opportunity, and3 brought pressure to bear on the Government to get another £400,000. Ministersin the Senate were asked whether they proposed to carry out the recommendation of the Royal Commission, and pay this further sum, and the Government,, the members of which claim to have somepolitical honour and reputation, said, “We will not consider the question.” In fact,, they told the senator who asked the question that they would have nothing whatever to do with the matter. - What happened ? The honorable member for Bassin this Chamber submitted a motion that the £400,000 be paid; and the Ministry,, having heard a whisper that the honorable member for Franklin and anotherTasmanian member would otherwise voteagainst them, decided, within eight daysafter their refusal, to bring in a Bill” authorizing tlie payment. Where is thepolitical honour of the Government?” Where is the political honour of the AttorneyGeneral ? I know that that gentleman is very sensitive on the point, but hedid not mind supporting the proposal. He was one who took a stern stand, and’ said that the Government would not paythe money; but within eight days, when he was confronted with the possible defeat’ of the Ministry, he reversed his form, sothat the Prime Minister might hang on tooffice.
I now desire, in a few words, to contrast the conduct of this university educated Ministry- with the Ministry thatpreceded them. . First, we have the. AttorneyGeneral as s.a B.A. and LL;D.,rand the other distinguished scholars. Of’ course, they are entitled to all the credit due to them for having passed with such “high honours at the universities. Let us Hook, however, at the record of the individual members of the late Ministry. First we have the honorable member for Wide Bay, who was a miner, and was ;never at a university; and then Ave have ;the honorable member for West Sydney, who, though a lawyer, was not, I think, educated at a university; the honorable member for Barrier, a miner ; the honorable member for Darwin, a banker; the 1 r.+I honorable member for Kalgoorlie, Mr. C. E. Frazer, an engineer; Senator Pearce, a carpenter; the honorable member for Yarra, a journeyman hatter; Senator McGregor, a builders’ labourer; Senator Findley, a compositor; and the late member for Adelaide, Mr. E. A. ^Roberts, a wharf labourer.
Let us now contrast the work done by the two Ministries. Many of the eightythree Acts which were passed by the .Labour Government were really monumental iu their effect. The land tax is at the present time producing a revenue of £1,200,000 per annum, and I am very pleased to know that the honorable mem:ber for Riverina, on his own admission, !has to pay £11,500 of that every year. In order to be liable for such a sum the honorable member must have land worth about £500,000 unimproved value. This tax, as honorable members may have observed from this morning’s newspapers, is having the effect of making big land-owners cut up their estates, and while it is doing that, it is also compelling a number of people to pay taxation which otherwise would have to come out of the pockets of -the working classes.
– I think the honorable .member for Riverina said that that amount of taxation was paid by a company with which he is connected.
– The honorable member for Riverina, I think, used a first per- ; se nal pronoun.
– He said, “my company.”
– Did he ? Another Act, -opposed by honorable members opposite, was the Australian Notes Act, which has enabled the public to get the benefit of the note issue, and of profits which formerly went -into ‘the pockets of bank shareholders. f The Commonwealth Bank, the inauguration of which Avas also opposed by honorable members opposite, though not fulfilling the functions which the honorable member for Darwin had in his mind, is certainly doing good work, and, I believe, will do better work as the years roll on. We have to our credit also the Conciliation aud Arbitration Act, which gives the President power to convene compulsory conferences of employers and employes, and strengthens the Court’s power to give preference to unionists; and honorable members may have observed that the President of the Arbitration Court has been able to remove considerable trouble by calling compulsory conferences under the Act. The Australian National Labour party also passed the Postal Rates Act, which established penny postage throughout Australia and to other parts of the Empire. The Public Service Arbitration Act, which gives the employes in the Public Service power to appeal to the Arbitration Court in regard to questions of wages and conditions, is also to our credit. Then there is ‘ the Seamen’s Compensation Act, which provides a scale of compensation for widows and relatives; and we know that the other day the widow of the second officer of the Burwah, who fell overboard and was drowned as the vessel was passing through the Sydney Heads in a rough sea, Avas awarded £500, which the shipping company had to pay. Then there is to our credit the Inter-State Commission Act, which, no doubt, Will prove of great service to Australia. I am not sure, however, that it was wise to hand over the Tariff to the Inter-State Commission, for there is urgent necessity for it to be speedily dealt with. I know that the Attorney-General does not believe in Protection, but he swallows his Free Trade proclivities because he loves power, of which he seems to have a good deal in the Cook Ministry at the present time.
The Labour Government also passed the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act, and the Judiciary Act, increasing the number of High Court Judges from five to seven. I am very sorry that we did not appoint the Attorney-General to the High Court Bench, where, I think, he would have made a far better showing than he does hero. Further, there was the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, which abolishes the deduction on account of the possession of a home, and provides that all blind people shall receive an invalid pension of 10s. per week. When will the Attorney-General and his party he able to match that list, which represents only a few of the Acts passed during the three years of the Labour régime? If he stays in office for ever, the Attorney-General will never be able to pass a tenth of such measures.
– Do not suggest such a thing.
– The Attorney-General, like the honorable member for Parkes, is politically quite out of date. The ideas which he tried to impress upon the minds of the. people of Victoria, when he inaugurated the Kyabram reform movement, and later tried to pass his Coercion Bill, which was very much on the lines of the recent South African tyranny, will not find favour to-day. In his CoercionBill the honorable gentleman had a clause penalizing any. person found guilty of giving half-a-crown to an individual on strike. Under it, it would have been an offence to give a subscription of half-a-crown to any people who were out on strike against unfair working conditions.
– Even if it was to feed their wives and children?
– Yes. The Bill was passed on the lines of some of the Coercion Acts which operated in Ireland, and it is surprising that such legislation should have been introduced by an honorable gentleman who, according to Who’s Who, claims relationship with the Irish patriot John Mitchel. The Attorney-General finds it impossible to place himself in the position of “the other fellow.” His environment has been such that he has no sympathy with “the man on the job.”
– With the “ under dog.”
– He has no sympathy with the “under dog” - with the man who has to toil hard for his living. There are many thousands of such workers in the Commonwealth, but he cannot sympathize with their views. He has also, apparently, an extraordinary fear of the Syndicalist, whom he declares to be Labour’s ugly big brother. He does not realize, as was pointed out the other night, that it is the failure of parliaments to meet the necessities of the growing number of the educated populace that makes it possible for Syndicalists to obtain a hearing at all. Syndicalists are to be found, I suppose, to-day in almost every country, and they are to be found solely because the parliaments are so slow in meeting the necessities of the people. The nations have now to educate their children. They must do so if they do not wish to lag behind, and the educated children of the nations, on reaching manhood and womanhood, desire a better share of the wealth that is produced than was secured by their fathers and mothers. There is no reason why they should not have a larger share, but the Attorney-General cannot see that.
– He cannot see that “ the schoolmaster is abroad.”
– The Attorney-General was himself a schoolmaster, and still has the habit of the pedagogue. He tours the rural districts of Victoria, giving expression to his “views concerning monopolies and combines, but he offers no remedy. I repeat that he cannot place himself in the position of the wage-earner who has to work hard for his living. He is quite out of date as a member of his party, and he is going to wreck it.
– The honorable member cannot object to that.
– I do not, but there are in the Ministerial party several honorable members who, I believe, would be willing to vote for what might properly be called Liberal legislation, but who are being politically ruined by the AttorneyGeneral. Although this country is crying out for legislation, the AttorneyGeneral stands in the way of the satisfaction of that demand. He says in effect to his colleagues, “ If you do not bring forward the two test Bills and secure a double dissolution,. I shall leave you, and then you will incur all the odium and disgrace attaching to your failure to stand up to the Labour party.” He seems to be very much in the hands of the Melbourne Argus. He voices the views of the Argus, and the Argus voices his views. There must be a kind of co-partnership between them.
It seems to me that a dead-lock has arisen in the Federal Parliament, and that nothing will be done. The Prime Minister is going to hang on to office as long as he can. He has said that he will not even by a deliberative vote go out of office. All the parliamentary traditions as to a Prime Minister refusing to carry on unless he has a majority of three or four have been cast to the winds, and the Prime Minister is going to stop where he is as long as possible. I challenge the Attorney-General to bring forward his test Bills, and to letus have a dissolution. I am perfectly willing to go before my constituents to-morrow, for I think a dead-lock has arisen, and that there will be nothing but talk during the rest of the life of this Parliament. I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister and his Attorney-General will go before the electors. If we do go to the country the political situation will not be determined on such a paltry issue as that of the Preference to Unionists Abolition Bill. It will be decided rather on questions that directly affect the people. One salient question will be the attempt of the Government to destroy the Commonwealth Bank. Their proposed surrender of the savings bank branch to the States is only an attempt to destroy the power of the Commonwealth Bank, and for that the Government must reckon with the electors. The electors will also require them to account for their attempt to diminish the maternity allowance, and to require mothers seeking it to declare themselves to be paupers. The electors will also consider the endeavour made by the present Government to destroy the secrecy of the ballot - to find out how the people vote - by making them sign the butts of the ballot papers. That willbe a test question, and those honorable members of the Ministerial party who do not agree with the Attorney-General will have to face it.
– Who are they?
– One has only to turn to the record of speeches made in this House to find that there are members of the Ministerial party who do not agree with the Attorney-General, but who, owing to party considerations, have to follow him. Those honorable members will have to meet, not the question of preference to unionists, but the attempt of the Government to destroy the Commonwealth Bank and to reduce the maternity allowance.
Mr.McWilliams. - The Commonwealth Bank, as it is now, cannot be destroyed.
– The Government have given the people a sufficient indication that they would destroy it if they could. I have shown the House the differences between the two parties. I think I have proved that the Prime Minister will hang on to office at all costs, and that there is no sincerity in regard to the programme which the Government have put before us. They do not intend to pass anything. Judging by their record, we have no reason to believe that they would not go on holding office for ever on the present conditions.
– What do you think would happen if they got a majority?
– They have no hope of getting a majority. If they did secure a majority in the Senate and in this House, we know perfectly well that they would destroy adult suffrage. The Constitution says there shall be adult suffrage, but it contains no provision to prevent the Liberals, if ever they get power, from so altering the electoral law that it would be impossible for all the people to vote. They might introduce the provision of the British Elections Act, that a man must be eighteen months in a given locality before he can vote. As the honorable member for Adelaide pointed out last night, only 7,000,000 out of 41,000,000 odd people in the Old Country have the right to vote. The Attorney-General is looking for fight - I do not know that his followers are so anxious - but he can get all the fight that he wants from this party. We are ready to go to the country as soon as ever the Government can get there, but I suppose they are not going there until they have purified the rolls by striking out as many Labour electors as possible. We on this side are quite ready to meet honorable members opposite and go before our masters as soon as possible.
– I do not know whether we ought not to apologize to the Government for taking part in this debate, because, according to the Attorney-General, it is part and parcel of a scheme which we have hitherto pursued to waste the time of the country, and prevent any legislation from being passed. I am not altogether prepared to take that view of it, because there is ample warrant for the censure motion now before the Chamber. If there were none prior to the moving of the amendment by our leader, the revelations that have been made from day to day in connexion with the Teesdale-Smith contract have amply justified it since. Another reason why a debate of this character ought to take place in the National Parliament is that it is most desirable that the attention of the House and the country should be directed to the existing state of public affairs. No-confidence motions that have taken place in days gone by, both here and elsewhere, have in most cases represented a dispute between the Liberal and Conservative parties, who were merely having a field day with their tongues in their cheeks, without caring a rap about the interests of the country. That is what happened under the three-party system, but now, thanks to the electors, we have a clean-cut issue between two parties only. One outstanding feature of the position to-day is that, even in this sunny land, where the conditions of the workers are better than in any other part of the Empire, there is a feeling of industrial unrest. It is to be found all over the world, and will continue for many years to come. It has arisen because the intelligent workers of the community have begun to realize that the conditions are not altogether what they should be. The great mass of the wage-earners are working for a bare living. I do not say they are starving, because they have been able to raise the standard of living slightly, but they are certainly working for a bare living, and there is always the fear before them that, with a diminution in trade, they will have to stand idle and see their savings eaten up. That condition has existed for years past, and will, I think, persist. On the other hand, the plutocratic section of the community hold all the means of production and exchange, and have the backing of the financial, commercial, and .business interests. The upshot in a nutshell is that” on the one side only one in thirteen of the workers of Australia leave anything at their death, while the private wealth of the community has increased by £150,000,000 during tlie last five years. That great wealth is neither more nor less than unpaid wages. That is too serious a question for party bitterness or recriminations between one side and the other. It would-be my last wish to. deal with the matter in that light. I .desire to treat it’ as. a ..modern historical, fact, worthy . of the serious attention of every man in the community. Every one should ask himself whether he is not in favour of a voluntary charge which will materially improve the conditions of the great masses of the workers, so that it may no longer be true that all they possess in this world is the power to labour for others, with the risk of periodical unemployment and consequent suffering ani-ong their children. It can be said, to the honour of many Australians, and many others who speak our language in other countries, that these views are not confined entirely to the workers. There are men with princely wealth, and women of culture and refinement, who believe in such an alteration in the economic conditions as will increase the prosperity of the whole people. All I ask of any man is that he shall make up his mind what he is going to do. Never mind about tomorrow. What are you going to do today? Are you going to join that party which is trying to bring about a better state of society than that under which we now live? That is the question which every one should be called upon to answer. I do not say that the Labour party never make mistakes, bub I do claim that the Labour movement in Australia to-day stands for the principle I have enunciated. We Have had a mandate from the people to bring about better conditions. We have a majority in another place, and in this House we are as near to a majority as it is possible for any minority to be. What is the attitude of the Government in regard to this matter? True to its Conservative instincts, it is opposing all evolutionary change. Changes must , come, as the result of- either revolution or evolution. Revolution in Australia is unthinkable, but the pace may be made in Europe, and we may be dragged in, whether we like it or not. Therefore it is of vital importance that we should think straight and see clearly. The party that opposes us is supported with Conservative principles of the worst type, aud to it may be applied what Thackeray said of George IV, “ it has great opportunities for doing mischief, and does not miss a single one of them.” We all regret that the. present Governor-General is leaving Australia, This, distinguished gentleman brought to the Marge ‘of his. duties ,an. .acquaintance, with., .public “affairs, and a masterly way ‘or dealing with them, that have gained the admiration »f all, and cause us to “wish him well in the future. It is a matter of regret to me that he cannot finish his term of office. Noblemen can be picked up any day, but gentlemen of his stamp are few and far between. I make this reference to him because I am about to quote from the Speech which he has addressed to Parliament. Although I have never been a resurrectionist, I do not quarrel with those who believe in resurrecting the words and deeds of the past. “We have been told by the Governor-General thaw
During the first session of this Parliament my Ministers, for reasons which they advise me were beyond their control, were unable to pass legislation on many subjects outlined in their policy statement presented to you on 12th August last. Those subjects comprised Bills dealing with the prohibition of preference or favoritism in Government employment, and the restoration of the electoral provisions for voting by post.
My charge against Ministers is that they have done nothing, and have had no intention of passing legislation in the interests of the country. The Prime Minister, speaking at Mount Gambier, said that he had been unable to get legislation passed because of the rough treatment which had been, given to noncontentious Bills here and iri the Senate. I suppose that in the interests of party it is never desirable to make a full statement about any fact. There must always be the suppression of what it does not suit the politician to tell his audience. If the Government was not successful in its legislative efforts last year, Ministers had no one to blame but themselves. Their treatment by the Labour party was remarkable for its generosity, and they played for a fall. Their manifesto included an alteration of the Electoral law and the passing of legislation to prevent the rural worker from approaching the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Such a manifesto was a declaration of war, and, as such, must have provoked opposition. Some of us have been associated with the Labour movement _ during the full term of its existence - that is, for about twenty years - and we had either to abandon our principles or to allow the Government to give effect to a policy which was entirely antagonistic to them. The ‘Government proposals had to be contested Vat every, step.11- We have’ ‘a’ right to expect thar Ministers who receive from the Governor-General a commission to administer the affairs of the country in the King’s name shall be alive to the situation of the day. The present Ministers are not. Their proposal meant that the rural workers, who are only just beginning to organize, should be deprived of privileges and rights that are enjoyed by the metropolitan workers. The party opposite hypocritically cants about its love of justice and its desire to give every one a fair deal; but this is not fair play.
– Does the honorable member think that the rural industries should be subjected to trade union conditions ?
– The rural worker is entitled to as much liberty and protection by the Law Courts as any other worker, and no Government would have made the proposal to which I have referred had not Ministers been actuated by unjust motives. My honorablefriend, when supporting them, was as unjust as they were.
– The rural workers hav(as much liberty as any others.
– I leave it to tin House and to the country to decide whether I have exaggerated anything. This Government is Conservative and anti-Labour, the most stupidly Conservative Government that the world has seen for many years. I am not foolish enough to think that even under an adult franchise the people of this country may not occasionally call a halt, and say to the party to which I belong, “ You. had better stop. We shall let the other side come in to give us breathing time before we go onward again.” That has happened before in the history of the world, and will happen again. The late Marquis of Salisbury, when Leader of the Conservative party of Great Britain, a man who forgot more than Ministers opposite ever knew or will know, when asked to propose the repeal of a measure that had been passed by his predecessors and opponents, said, “ You cannot repeal what has been enacted. It is impossible to retrace your steps.” But this hotch-potch Conservative crew instead of adhering to the best traditions of their party, attempted to repeal the measures passed at the instance of their predecessors in office. At the last” election’, we had th’e heaviest poll ever ¥Scorded in Australia/ and if anybody had reason to grumble at the result, certainly it was not my honorable friends opposite. Yet they immediately gave utterance to gross slanders upon the people of this Commonwealth. I am pleased to say that in my own constituency I had a walk-over, but 87 per cent, of the voters enrolled there exercised the franchise for the Senate candidates. What was the object of the Electoral Bill which the Government brought forward last session ? Honorable members will recollect that we fought that measure for weeks, and we owe the people of this country no apology for our action. After the lapse of a considerable time, the Bill was dropped, and disappeared from the business-paper. I have no hesitation in affirming that its object was to secure an attenuated roll, and to keep as many Labour voters off that roll as possible. That is the way in which the Government proposed to “ purge the roll “ - a term with which we have recently become very familiar. The objective of that Bill was a sufficient justification for our attitude towards it last session. For instance, it provided that no new names were to be placed upon the roll a month before the issue of the writ. In itself, that would have resulted in the disfranchisement of a large number of electors, including all those young people who had attained their majority during that month, and who, in the very nature of things, would be extremely anxious to become enrolled. The measure would have inflicted a gross injustice upon them, seeing that they had been guilty of no offence. The complaint is often heard that there are more names upon the roll than there should be. But, under healthy conditions, that will always be the case, by reason of the fact that many persons change their residence without obtaining transfers, and are thus necessarily enrolled twice. The Bill further provided that ballot-papers were to be printed in blocks, and that when an elector attended the polling booth, he should be required to sign his name before receiving his ballot-papers, so that anybody might know exactly how he voted. How effect was to be given to such a system in the metropolitan divisions, I do not know. However, there was the intention plainly expressed of destroying the secrecy of the ballot. Then it was proposed to repeal the deposit of 5s. which has to be made by any person who objects to the name’ of any particular elector appearing upon the roll. I say that that penalty was imposed to protect the worker who has to move about because of economic conditions which he himself has not created. That is the way in which the Government met this Parliament, and attempted to carry on the business of the country. Had they come down here with a number of noncontentious measures-
– Like the Norfolk Island Acceptance Bill, for example.
– I would point out to my honorable friend that if the Government had been sincere in their desire to enact legislation for the benefit of the Commonwealth, they would have brought forward such measures as tlie Norfolk Island Acceptance Bill and the Agricultural Bureau Bill, but would not have submitted for our consideration the Electoral Bill. That is what a Conservative Government with any respect for Conservative traditions would have done. They might have introduced a Companies Bill, a Bankruptcy Bill, or a Marriage and Divorce Bill. These are all questions which still require to be settled, and for the settlement of which people are urgently crying out. In what position would we on this side have been if we declined to pass such measures? Undoubtedly it would then be said that we were a factious Opposition, whose grievance was not with the policy of the present Government, but that they were in office and our friends were not. I am prepared to ask any elector of Australia whether the introduction of an Electoral Bill as the first business with which the House was asked to deal was not an indication that the Government did not wish to go on with any noncontentious measures at all, and would only bring on such legislation when they could not carry on any longer. What is the history of the Electoral Bill ? It dragged on from week to week up to the time when a certain article appeared in the Argus newspaper. Our august friends, the big metropolitan newspapers, take a very great interest in the welfare of the present Government. They take more interest in them than in any other people I know. Probably it is because they believe they are excellent men to -prepare the way for the scheme which, not the gentlemen of the press, but those who conduct the press, are pushing forward to bring about the government of Australia by the press. We have had enough of the government of Australia by the present party in power, but if the day should ever come when we have government of Australia by the press, it will be woe unto Australia. I have no fear of anything of that kind, because I have too much faith in’ the intelligence of the men and women of Australia to believe that they would consent to it. What did our friend, the Argus , say? It came out with a leading article, in which it said, in. effect, “You will never be able to carry this Electoral Bill. It is too big. You should study the temper of the House, and bring in a very small Bill - a tiny affair dealing only with the restoration of the postal vote. You can carry that through, for the obvious reason that it is more easy, in the face of persistent opposition to pass a Bill of three clauses than to pass a Bill of thirty clauses.” What happened? The advice of the Argus was taken, and down came the wonderful little Bill to restore postal voting. The Electoral Bill was displaced on the business-paper, and fell off it altogether at the close of the session. All over the country we have heard from every platform, from which the Government have had an opportunity of airing their eloquence, their grievances against members on this side; but if they had any opposition, they had no one to blame for it but themselves. They asked for it; they went out of their way to get it, and they got it. Before I leave the matter of the Electoral Bill, let me say that there was a roll in existence when the present Government came into office. I saw a new roll for my own district about a fortnight ago, and now I learn that there is to be still another new roll. The expense to which the taxpayers of this country are put for the purpose of printing rolls is a monstrous and profligate waste of public money. We are now going to have another electoral roll. What for? Because the present roll does not meet with the approval of the Government. It is not sufficiently purged. When they have it sufficiently purged, it will be printed, and remember that the taxpayers have to pay for every new roll that is published. The existing roll for my own district was published only a couple of months ago.. After a great deal of talk about the necessity for alteration in the Electoral Department, the Government decided to appoint Divisional Returning Officers in each of the districts for the House of Representatives, and I think more than one in some of the districts. Why they were so anxious to make this alteration I cannot make out, though I admit that there was need for some alteration in the Department. Last week the Government ‘made these appointments of Divisional Returning Officers, and I have a statement to make in this connexion which may surprise honorable members.The Returning Officer for my own district is a man who has been associated with his father as Returning Officer for a period of over forty years. During the last six or seven years he has been the Returning Officer himself. The father was an elderly merchant at Port Adelaide, and is highly respected. I do not know the political opinions either of himself or the members of his family. Judging by environment, they are probably on the other side, but I do not know whether they are or not. This gentleman put in an application for the position with which he has been associated for over thirty years. He has forgotten more about electoral matters than is known by any of the electoral officers here in Melbourne. The Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth knows no more than half he should know on the subject. We have heard recently of engineers who have no right to be in the Public Service; but there are other officers also who, in my opinion, should not be there. I understand that the Chief Electoral Officer was a Customs officer in Tasmania. That was an eminent qualification to fit him to manage the rolls and look after electoral matters. He is regarded as a very able man now, after fishing out information from men who do know something about electoral matters. I do not know whether it was a case of “ Take your time from me, boys,” or not, but I can inform honorable members that the Government, or the Public Service Commissioner, turned down this man of experience to whom I have referred, and put a man into the position who knows no more about electoral matters than might the first man you . would meet in the street. This is the Government of justice and equity. The gentleman to whom I have referred is still in the service of the State of South Australia, and I am sure will remain in that service for many years, because the State authorities can better appreciate the value of his services than can the Commonwealth Government. This gentleman had charge of the rolls in my district for the magnificent and princely sum of £26 per year. Only a year ago his remuneration was raised to £36, hut when an appointment to the position was to be made at a salary of £300 a year, the man who had done the work faithfully for the Commonwealth since its inception was turned down in favour of another man. I asked a question of the Minister the other day, and he said, “ Do not ask me; what do I know about the matter? Ask the Public Service Commissioner.” What do I care about the Commissioner ? What has he to do with me ? The members of this House are not sent here simply because a previous Government set up czars who are stronger than the Executive, and entrenched behind an Act which is a disgrace to any Parliament that would pass it. Indeed it must be so in the very nature of things when we find that an act of injustice such as I have mentioned is done. Take the neighbouring electorate of Boothby. A gentleman who since Federation had been Returning Officer also put in an application, but it was turned down. Evidently the czar did not want this gentleman; he appointed an officer new to the work to the position. That is the inference I draw from his action, and I feel that I am justified in doing so.
– That is a serious charge to make.
– I think it is a serious charge against the officer who appointed the person.
– I do make a serious charge, but I will go a step farther. In the course of my life I have always gone on a rule of thumb principle. If in matters I understand I find injustice done, I infer the officer equally unjust in matters I do not understand. I judge the Public Service Commissioner by the action he has taken, so far as my electorate is concerned. There are complaints of his administration in every direction. If he is capable of doing a thing of that kind, of being so blind and so stupid as to ignore the recordof a man of the type I have described, his administration calls for serious consideration. Some persons have said that it is a practice for this czar, if any one sends along a recommendation as to character, to put his pen through it because the applicant is not the man to be picked. “ You have no right,” he says, in effect, “to ask me to appoint a particular man or to approach me on his behalf. Do not forget who I am. I am above the Parliament and above everybody.” That is the sort of thing which goes on in the process of purging the rolls. It is said, “ Let us not only purge the rolls, but purge the Electoral Office and all the Returning Officers. Let us have a new lot so that if the heads of the Department have not the experience to carry them along, or if there is any doubt at all, they will look to the Government, and ask, ‘What have we to do?’ “ I leave honorable members to form their own opinions of the policy of the last movement in electoral matters. There is no power to interfere with the Commissioner. The Government cannot undo what has been done. I know nothing about the new officer in my district. All that I say is that there is not a gentleman outside this House with a spark of manhood in his composition who would turn down a man that had given him faithful service for years in favour ofa new man in the manner in which the Government turned down this officer.
– Shame !
– I think it is a. shame. Another matter I wish to deal with is the Premiers’ Conference. I notice that the Government take some pleasure and pride in the fact that they attended the Premiers’ Conference, and! are very well satisfied with the excellent work which was done there. I suggest to the members of this National Parliament that we have a perfect right to be very emphatic in regard to such gatherings. A Premiers’ Conference has no existence in the Constitution. It is an innovation which no doubt is looked upon very graciously and very generously by the Government at the present time. I object to the House seriously considering any of their proposals; at any rate, if we do consider the proposals they should be treated in no different manner from proposals which emanate fromany handful ofcitizens ofAustralia,whether richor poor. There isnothing that can justify the Government in the position they take up in regard to the Premiers’ Conference. Let me go a step farther. I congratulate my honorable friend, the Minister of External Affairs, on the paragraph in the GovernorGeneral ‘s Speech which deals with the matter of irrigation and navigation. Paragraph 9 reads-
A Bill will also be introduced to give effect ito an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States of New South .Wales, Victoria, and South Australia for the future use and control of the waters of the River Murray and its tributaries for irrigation and navigation, and to reconcile the interests of the Commonwealth and the riparian States mentioned.
I do not desire to discount the efforts of his colleagues, but I am inclined to think that my honorable and learned friend opposite played a leading part in making this the very pre-eminent question it is. I am afraid, however, in spite of the efforts of the Government, that they will find all their labour in vain.
– That is discouraging.
– It is discouraging, and I will proceed to give my reasons for making that remark. I hope that my view may be found wrong, and that the honorable gentleman’s will be found right. In the first place, I have always looked upon the navigation of the Murray as a matter which should be dealt with by the National Parliament, because it is a national question. I was in hopes that the Inter-State Commission would have taken up the matter, and dealt with it as the navigation of rivers in America is dealt with by the Inter-State Commission. If that function were taken away from . the latter body, at least one-third of its work would be withdrawn. On the other hand there is the possibility of delay. It is difficult to know what is best to be done, because there appears to be a desire on the part of New South Wales and Victoria to use the whole of the waters of the Murray for irrigation utterly regardless of the consequences. That is their policy, and that is why I think the Prime Minister will be disappointed by subsequent events. In the Parliament of South Australia five or six years ago I took some - interest in this question. My late friend,. Mr. Price, made an agreement, with, .Sip-, Thomas Bent,,,. arid. I think- ,that, Mr- Swinburne was the Minister of Water Supply here at the time. A solemn agreement was drawn up between New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and a good many men in the Parliament of South Australia thought that we were all right, but I said, “ You will not get anything out of this agreement.” I felt that the Victorian Parliament would not ratify the agreement, nor will it ratify the present agreement. They dare not take that step. Honorable members, no doubt, are surprised at my remark. The .4 (74 which is the king of Victoria, has not at present very much to write about Protection, so it writes about the iniquity and infamy of South Australia in robbing the Victorians of the waters of the Murray. The Age will declare, as it has done over and over again, that irrigation is of far more importance than is navigation. It will write to that effect in season and out of season until it terrorizes the Parliament of Victoria, and we shall have a repetition of what occurred some time ago. What is the Victorian Parliament? It has a majority of gentlemen whose only point of agreement is hatred of the Labour members; they cannot agree on anything else. How did the distinguished Premier of this State, Mr. Watt, get his position? By turning out the Bent Government on the question of the Murray River agreement.
Do not honorable members think that some of Sir Thomas Bent’s friends may turn him out on the Murray River waters agreement? In Labour politics, the getting rid of a Government is dictated by our platform, our wicked and infamous platform ; but the public know where we are, and they know that if we could promote our programme by getting rid of the present Government to-night, we would do it. In the politics of our opponents, the position is different. If Jones bunts Robinson out, Robinson will bunt Jones out at the first opportunity, and, in doing so, will not bother about the interests of the country. It is that fact which is going to interfere with the carrying of this Murray waters agreement. In those circumstances, I do not think that the Commonwealth Parliament need worry itself very much about the present proposal. I am sorry that this should be the position bemuse I undoubtedly take the same view as the Minister for External Affairs. We South Australians, though we may fall out and sit on opposite political sides, have no differences of opinion in regard to important questions affecting our State.
An Honorable Member. - But you want to. see something done.
– That is right; and I hope something can be done. I am only pointing out my fears in reference to this matter. In spite of the wonderful argument in the Age, I hold this opinion”, which is as old as the hills, that the navigation of a highway between States, as in the case of the Danube, and other European rivers, should be covered by international agreement. And any river which runs through big States, as the Murray does, should be tinder the control of the National Parliament. Navigation is of as much importance as irrigation. What do we find in America today? That, after railways have been built here, there, and everywhere, and after they have plundered the public, as the American railways have done,* and are bound to do when they are in the hands of private firms, the people of America are beginning to realize the necessity for a better appreciation of their water highways. Water carriage all over the world is cheaper than land carriage, and the producer in the interior knows what it means to be able to get his wool carried down the Darling River into the Murray River, and so to the market. This is a matter in regard to which there can be no difference of opinion. That fact is recognised by every jurist in the world, and our riparian laws have been handed down to us from the times of the Roman Empire. Common sense will tell us that, in order to bring about the proper utilization of this highway, the river should be locked. If the Commonwealth Government can do anything to bring the proposal to a successful issue on the lines indicated, I shall not be disposed to blame them much; but I am inclined to think that history will repeat itself, and Victoria will play the same trick as was played with the Price-Bent agreement a few years ago. Another matter I would like to call attention to is the Beef Trust. We have heard a great deal about that trust, but I am not going to say that there is any immediate occasion for excitement in reference to it. I am rather inclined to think - with our knowledge of the American gentlemen who control the Beef Trust, and whose operations in the United
States we are well aware of - that when the graziers have done well out of the trust for a number of years, the prices will ultimately be forced down, until tlie growers are ruined, and the trust is able to plunder the public of Australia just as it plundered the public of the United States. I do not feel disposed to single out the Beef Trust for any direct action, but I do think it will be a serious matter, if we find the price of meat increasing materially in Australia. It will be the duty of the Government to closely watch the trust’s operations, and, if necessity arises, put a duty on beef and mutton exported above a certain quantity. That, is the view I take in this matter. It is all very well for a few men to make princely fortunes while the great mass of the people cannot get the necessaries of life, or can get them only by paying an enhanced price, and when the majority of people are living from hand to mouth, it means that their having to pay more for their meat obliges them to effect savings in other directions. The burden presses very heavily upon them, and it is simply monstrous to allow any section of the community to ride rough-shod over others for the one purpose of filling their pockets at the public expense. Something should be done in the direction I have indicated, but the people made a mistake when they turned down the referenda proposals at the last elections. The Government may say that they have the power to deal with these combines, but they have not. The American Government found that they had not power to deal with trusts and combines in the United States. Where the regulation of trade and commerce is in the hands of the States, and does not belong exclusively to the National Parliament, there must be dual control, and wherever there is dual control the public must suffer. This is a case in point. No argument has been adduced by our opponents against putting the referenda proposals before the people again. The honorable member for Riverina pointed out in his speech the tremendous expense involved in the governing of Australia. There is a tremendous expenditure, but the Australian has too much common sense to be fooled long, and I believe that in another ten years the people will come to the conclusion that’ a better and more economical form of government could be introduced than we have to-day - a system by which national affairs will be in the hands of a National Government, and local affairs in the hands of the local Governments. It is obvious that if trusts and combines are to be dealt with, the National Government should have the necessary power. Let me quote a case in point to illustrate the irony of the present position. The Premiers agreed at their recent Conference to introduce a uniform Companies Act. That means that the six State Governments have to introduce six Bills which will be framed on the one pattern, and the agreement is made on the assumption that all the State Parliaments will agree to those measures, and that one Parliament will not emasculate the Bill in one part, and another Parliament knock the bottom out of the other provisions. In dealing with this legislation, the Legislative Councils of the States will also have a finger. I do not say that members of Legislative Councils are not all honorable men, but some of them could tell us a great deal about bogus companies and “ fakes,” and I should think that the Companies Bills would have a rough time at their hands. However, is it not sheer humbug to tell the people not to vote for this amendment of the Constitution, when, as an alternative, we are to have the farce of six Legislatures dealing with one thing ? Yet the argument that the States can pass the necessary legislation will be repeatedly brought forward. At the conclusion of this debate, perhaps the Attorney-General will tell us what he proposes to do to reform the Senate.
– He would split up the States so that Tasmania would have about two representatives.
– The Ministerial party have discovered that the great principle of State rights is not what it is cracked up to be. At the Conventions that framed our Constitution there was not one wicked Labour man, with the exception, perhaps, of Mr. Trenwith. At those Conventions university men, highly-cultured gentlemen, with any amount of letters behind their names, concocted a Constitution closely following on the American example, and though in that respect they cannotbe blamed, they must be blamed for not being truthful about the matter. A correspondent of a leading English newspaper told me recently of a point he was always urging in regard to our Constitution. He said, “ I want the people at Home to be under no misunderstanding about what the Constitution is. It was created merely for the purpose of dealing with an urgent difficulty at the time, and it did not represent a great deal of what is claimed for it.” It is certain that, had it not been for the desire to have Inter-State Free Trade, we would not have had the Federal Constitution at the time we did; and the talk about its being sacred is all moonshine. “We all know that those who put the structure together, asked the Australian people to agree to it in the full knowledge that the people had, by means of a referendum, the right to alter it and shape it as they desired at any time. The Senate was created on the. basis of equal representation to each State, so that Tasmania, with its small population, would have an equal say in Federal affairs with New South Wales or Victoria. This provision was made in order to protect State rights; but no one has yet been able to discover where those State rights come in. Probably the Conservatives imagined that if they could only keep the representatives of the different States quarrelling about State rights, they could do as they pleased. But what has . been the outcome? Through industrial unrest and the determination of the Australian people to look into matters concerning their welfare, and bring about an improvement in economic conditions, in order to leave their children better provided for, the matter of State rights has disappeared from Federal politics, and in either Federal House we are confronted with the fact that honorable members are either Labour or antiLabour. Thus in regard to the State rights issue the Senate has failed, and now it is claimed that this condition of affairs is a disgrace to Australia, and that there should be a reform of the Senate. Why is it a disgrace? When Conservative Governments have been in power the Legislative Councils of Australia have been “ all right”; but when Radical or Liberal Governments have brought in reforms the Legislative Councils have turned down everything.
– And have seen no wrong in it.
– No ; the only infamy occurred when the people elected a Labour party strong enough to have a majority in the Senate. The crime the people of Australia have committed is that, for the first time in the history of Australia, we have a National party entrenched in the Senate. I hope the people will keep the Senate as it is to-day. What is a passing wave of feeling at election time? What was the wave last year ? What will it be this year, or in two years’ time? What are two or three elections in a decade as compared with the life of the Australian nation? Not worth talking about. Statesmen would not worry about it, but would accept the condition of affairs for the time being. I have said more than once, “ I respectfully differ from the judgment of my fellow countrymen, but they have a right to come to any decision that they choose, and it is my duty to bow to it.” However, it is said by Ministers that, because of the political exigencies of the moment, the constitution of the Senate must be altered, and one proposition put forward by a very respectable section of people, who always support honorable members opposite, is provision for the representation of minorities. This is said to be the medicine that will cure all the ills of Australia, or, indeed, of the world. It is said that minorities should be represented. I do not know that minorities have any trouble, except when they are in tlie minority, and when they have that grievance, the best course for them is to work hard, and turn the minority into a majority. What would be the effect of minority representation? There might be two powerful political parties, one for progress and evolution, and the other for standing still; and yet with this cleardrawn line betwen the parties, we should have others returned to Parliament upon some fad, and, not being concerned in the general welfare, or with questions of vital importance to the people as a whole, they could harass and worry the Government of the day. Had I the time, I could point out more than one Parliament in Europe to-day cursed “in this way. There.may be, though I do not say there “ls] evil in the party system, but it is an immeasurable blessing’ as compared “with the system in some of the Parliaments on the Continent of Europe, where there are gangs of men who have no principles, and are prepared to sell themselves to any Ministry. I do not suggest that that will ever be the case in- Australia, and I do not refer to the side issues that repeatedly arise with sufficient influence to divert the attention of the people. I have been in the Labour movement from the start. For over forty years I have been familiar with the movements for the benefit of the working people on both sides of the world, and I never knew one occasion, when we were within fighting dis’tance and ready to obtain some right, that some philosophic, wise man, with a university education, did not suggest some side-tracking expedient which would have the effect of splitting up the workers and rendering it easy for the big interests, whose position was affected, to successfully oppose the reform. The honorable member for Riverina told us that he has been reading something about Socialism; and I hope that he will carry his studies further, and, avoiding a lot of rubbish, acquire some sound information on the subject. The honorable member asked us why we remained up in the clouds - why we had not something practical to suggest. Well, we have something practical, too practical for the other side; and that is our policy of day-labour. All the Blue-books from here to Gibraltar - all the professors and experts that could be got together - could not prove that the Government are unable to borrow more cheaply than any private company or corporation. At the present time, interest and profit represent gigantic sums taken’ out of the industries of the people every hour, every day, and every week; and we know that the Government, while it can borrow cheaply, does not desire to make profit beyond sufficient to provide a sinking fund. It is utterly impossible for any contractor in the world to beat a Government which does its own work under the supervision of efficient officers, and until it can be proved that two and two make five, it cannot be proved that the contract system is the superior. Of course, if a Government is stupid enough to employ incompetent officers, whom no one else will have, then a contractor such as Mr. Teesdale Smith ;can:;beat- it hands down. But with efficient engineers of organizing ability, a Government, which is always a large buyer, can, taking all the circumstances into account, carry out works more cheaply than any private individual or company for the benefit of every taxpayer in the country. A further advantage is that the Government are in a better position than any private person or persons to guarantee constant employment; they are able in slack times to spend if necessary, a quarter of a million of money in order to keep in employment men who would otherwise be looking for work, with their wives and children crying for bread. In advocating an evolutionary change of this character, I do not ask the richest man in Australia to give up his wealth, but I do ask him to speak on its behalf, and put his hand in his pocket in order to support it, and not lie about the subject throughout the country.
– Will the honorable member explain why individual members of the Labour party have their own work done by contract?
– The honorable member ought to realize the vast difference there is between the prick of a pin and the prick of a bayonet. I do not say that the Government ought to have all their work done by day labour. If there was a job worth, perhaps, £5, to be done in a township, it would be stupid to first send an architect, and then a clerk of works to inspect, and, perhaps, nin the expense up to £60 when it could be done for the smaller sum by a man on the spot. In my opinion, the Government are deserving of the strongest censure, and I intend to support the amendment. The Government and their friends, on the platform and in the press, have told us of the glorious harvest the working men have been reaping for years past, and they have decided to inaugurate the system of contracts for Government work. It would appear that they are doing all they can to stop, as quickly as possible, the employment of any day labour on the transcontinental railway. The Minister in charge of the Department, in view of the fact that the members of the Government and their supporters had been declaring their intentions in this connexion for months past, must have known that contractors would be on the alert to se.ize any chance of obtaining the work, and one would naturally think that, in iconferWi.ce with, h;is -officers, he would have asked if “any .applications had been sent in, and, if the officers were uncertain, would have asked them to make inquiries. I admit, of course, that a Government or a Minister must depend very largely on the experts in the public employment, but if there is any suspicion in regard to their advice, I think another expert should be called in in order to assist in the formation of a proper judgment. I know Mr. Teesdale Smith , very well as one of theshrewdest men in Australia; and what hedoes not know is not worth knowing. As a keen business man, he would try, in accordance with the canons of trade, to upset “the other fellow.” That, after all, is but part of the glorious gospel of cut-throat competition.
– Does the honorable member admit that there was cut-throat competition in connexion with this contract?
– No. I am simply pointing out that this gentleman’s shrewdness has probably been gained ir» dealing with other equally smart contractors. An attempt has been made to justify this contract on the ground that if it had not been let the work could not have been done within three months. Mr. Saunders, however, has said nothing to justify- that opinion. He said practically that if he had the plant and the men he could do the work in three months. Mr. Teesdale Smith is receiving considerably more than he would be entitled in equity to get. He is being paid 4s. 6d. per yard for excavations and 2s. 6d. per yard for removing the earth from the cuttings to the banks, whereas with day labour the same material was removed for ls. 9d. per yard. I do not say that the character of the country was exactly the same.
– Where was the work done for ls. 9d. per- yard?
– On the transcontinental line, in the neighbourhood of Port Augusta. A Government officer has said that he could do the work for 2^ per cent, less than the contract price.
– The comparison is not a fair one, and I make that statement as one who knows the facts.
– Then why do not the Government tell us what it did cost?
– I do not think that the House or the country, will be satisfied until a Royal Commission has been appointed lo “sift the whole ‘matter.
There is a strong suspicion on the part of the Opposition, as well as outside, that all the papers relating to this matter have not yet been produced, and that there is something more to come out. We are indebted to the press for the information received this morning that on the 24th J anuary last Mr. Timms telegraphed to the Government Engineer asking for information, as he was prepared to tender for the work. That is a significant fact which justifies me in blaming the Minister for not inquiring whether another offer had been made.
– When the honorable member for Grey questioned the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs he practically denied that any other offer had been received.
– He was justified in doing so when he did not know that there had been other inquiries, and had been too lazy to find out the facts for himself. Does the honorable gentleman think that he should sit in his office and wait for his officers to come along and advise him as to what is happening? If he read his newspaper he ought to have recognised that since the Government had intimated their intention of reverting to the contract system inquiries would be made by contractors as to the letting of such work. As it is, I do not suppose we should have heard anything about Mr. Timms’ offer but for the letter written by Mr. Verran, recommending him as a suitable contractor. He did not, as has been suggested, recommend that the work should be done by contract; he simply advised the Government that he could recommend a suitable man to carry it out if they proposed to let a contract. His letter is the only official information concerning this offer that can be found in the Department.
– Was Mr. Verran’ s letter a private or an official communication ?
– It was an official letter. Had it been a private communication it would have been marked “ Private,” and would not have been filed.
– It was a confidential communication.
– After all, it is not a material point. I wish to emphasize the fact that Mr. Verran is no more in favour of contract labour than I am. Like him, if I knew thatit was proposed to let a contract for work of this kind, I should not hesitate to give Mr. Timms or Mr. Teesdale Smith a letter setting out that he was competent, in my opinion, to undertake it. Mr. Timms telegraphed to the Government engineer about the 24th January, and came over to Melbourne about that time, to offer to do the work at a certain price. He offered to tender for it. In the face of that fact, the private arrangement made with Mr. Teesdale Smith cannot be defended. The Government cannot shelter themselves behind their officers, but must take the responsibility for what has occurred. I am inclined to think that alterations are required in the Department, and that, while some of its officers are thoroughly competent, the sooner others are removed the better. It is essential that the Government should have competent men to advise them, but, in any event, they must accept the responsibility for what is done. We do not impute corruption or anything of the kind on the part of any Minister. All that we say is that the Government, after extolling the virtues of the contract system, blundered badly in letting this work to a contractor without inviting tenders for it; and that, as the result of their action, the country will have to pay double, if not treble, the price that ought to be paid. If the Government are not deserving of censure for this, then I cannot conceive of any Ministerial action which ought to be condemned. As the Government say that they are anxious to get on with the business of the country, I shall not delay them further; but I must say, in conclusion, that I have not yet found evidence of any desire on their part to submit to the Parliament any question of real importance.
.- In adding my small quota to this debate, I propose to ask, at the outset, what price Australia is to pay for its Liberal administration. We have on the Treasury bench to-day a Liberal Government, which came into office some ten months ago, and, since then, has completely changed the policy of the previous Government. For this change the country has to pay. I could excuse a young man like the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs for any lack of attention to his Department, but he is only one of the men in charge of Home Affairs. The Prime Minister, a man of seasoned experience, who has been long in public life, and has had charge of other Departments, must take some share of the blame for the mistake that has been made in the Department.
– I do.
– I am pleased to hear it. I hope the party sitting behind the Government will see that some change is made in the Department in the interests of ‘the taxpayers. I am not looking at this matter from a party point of view. There should be a separate and distinct Minister for the Department, who should give the whole of his time and attention to the carrying on of the great works of this country in an economical way. I make no charge of corruption in this matter. What has happened is simply due to blundering and stupidity. I wish to place on record the history of the daylabour system in New South Wales. The Prime Minister, who comes from that State, ought to have learnt the lesson that that State had some bitter experience of the contract system, which was tried there before the Labour party came into power, and proved very costly and disastrous. A contract was let for sewerage work at Kensington and Randwick, part of the district I have the honour to represent. The contractor “ diddled “ along and wasted time, and failed to complete the work in the specified period, with the result that the Government had to take it over and complete it. He put in a claim on that account for £18,000. The Government offered him £8,500, which he refused. The case went to arbitration, and he was awarded £10,300, with £700 expenses. The Government were, therefore, mulcted in an extra £11,000 through the contractor not doing the work properly. Other contracts were let at Mosman, and the ‘contractor was paid £1,673 in excess of his contract, after arbitration, and legal expenses also had to be paid. Another contract was let for £38,500, and the tenderer claimed almost as much again. The case went to arbitration, and he was awarded £10,434, and costs running into thousands of pounds. In the case of the Long Creek storm-water channel, the saving by the adoption of day labour was £1)200. As much as lOd. per cubic yard for earthwork was saved on the day-labour line, Byrock., to Brewarrina. The work was done there at 8d. per yard, as compared with the contract price of ls. 6d. on the
Nyngan-Cobar extension. With regard to railway contracts, the Government had to pay to Proudfoot and Company an excess of £5,600 over the Marrickville to Burwood-road railway; and to Smith and Finlayson, contractors, on the Narrabri and Moree line, extras to the amount of £5,083 were awarded. The policy of every contractor is to try to get away from the original contract so that he may claim extras, or have an extension of time. That is, I suppose, regarded as legitimate business so far as contractors are concerned. To McMaster, contractor, on the St. Leonards to Milson’s Point line, £10,000 was paid as extras. In the case of the Molong, Parkes and Forbes line, the contractors, Baxter and Sadler, made a claim for a very large sum, and were awarded £12,651. I have no particulars as to legal expenses in these cases. On the .Koorawatha-Grenfell line cutting and side cutting cost ls. 11¼d. and 10¾d. respectively under day labour, as compared with 3s. and ls. 3d. for similar work in similar country under contract labour on section No. 1 of the Parkes to Condobolin line. Day labour, therefore, showed a great saving in that case.
– What about the time they took to do it? That is the essence of the contract.
– I will deal with the question of time when I discuss the contract which is more particularly before the House. When the present Prime Minister was Postmaster-General of New South Wales, the Government undertook the construction of telephone tunnels. At that time the late Sir William Lyne was Leader of the Opposition, ‘ and had the ear of the contractors of Sydney. He initiated a crusade against the day-labour system, and the construction of the first section of the tunnels, from the Post Office to the Exchange, was let at schedule rates - so much a yard for shifting stone, somuch for mullock, and so much for brickwork. When this section was completed the Department knew exactly how much it. had cost per yard. The PostmasterGeneral, under the guidance of Sir George Reid, who was then Premier, decided to apply the principle of day labour to the remaining sections. They increased the height of the tunnel by three inches, which meant an extra brick on each side of the tunnel, before they could throw the arch; they paid 2s. a day extra to the carters, and better wages generally to the men employed, yet, in spite of all this, when the work was completed, the Government found that they had saved the country £29,008 17s. 6d. by the adoption of day labour. The Prime Minister had these facts and his previous experience to guide him, and yet he has changed the system that has been so beneficial to the people of New South Wales, and inaugurated another that will prove most disastrous to the Commonwealth. On earthworks a saving of 37 per cent., and on concrete work a reduction of from 10s. to 15s. per cubic yard, has been shown by adopting day labour. Harbor works are generally large undertakings, and the New South Wales Government have found that they effected a saving of 40 per cent. on the departmental estimate for such works by employing day labour. When the Newcastle Post-office was being constructed there was a great outcry against the adoption of the day-labour system, and there were many complaints about the “ man on the job ‘ ‘ similar to those which were published in this city a short time ago. But the building was erected in a workmanlike manner for £910 less than the average tender, although erected with day labour instead of by contract. The stone that was used in the construction of that post-office is very hard, and, because the men who were engaged in cutting it seemed to work slowly, they were submitted to a tirade of abuse. Let me turn from the experience of the New South Wales Government to that of Queensland. When the present Queensland Ministry went to the country it declaimed against the day-labour system, and advocated the contract system; but, before making a change, the Premier very wisely looked into the facts, which is what this Government should have done, and, finding that they were strongly in favour of the day-labour system, he continued that system.
– It is the butty-gang system that they have in Queensland.
– Between 1881 and 1896 Queensland constructed 1,144 miles of railway at a cost of £5,491,720, an average of £4,796 a mile. During the following twelve years the same length was constructedat a cost of£3,413,249,an average of£2,982 a mile. Thus the daylabour system effected a total saving of £2,078,471 in twelve years, and reduced the average cost of railway construction in Queensland by £1,814 a mile. The Queensland Government are so satisfied with the day-labour system as being in the public interest that it would not go back to the contract system.
– The Queensland system is not the day-labour system ; it is the small contract system.
– Another matter which should have been considered by the Commonwealth Government before adopting the contract system for the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta line was the risk of litigation in connexion with contracts. In New South Wales, in the famous McSharry case, the contractors claimed £250,000 from the Government for extras, alterations, and so forth. The claim was submitted to arbitration, and the arbitration proceedings lasted three years. Finally, the arbitrator awarded the contractor £50,000, but the legal expenses cost the country £33,000. Had the Government of New South Wales done the work under the day-labour system, it would have saved, not only the £50,000 paid to the contractors, but also the £33,000 that was distributed among the lawyers connected with the arbitration proceedings. In the face of these facts, is it to be wondered at that the Labour party, whose members have been returned to represent the workers and taxpayers, pins its faith to the day-labour system ? I am sorry that there is no Minister now present, because this is a very important matter. The Government went to the country saying, “ We do not want the ‘ man-on-the-job ‘ scandals. Every public work should be carried out under the contract system, and everything should be done in the light of day.” But what has happened? We knew nothing about the adoption of the contract system until we found out, a few weeks after it had been signed, that a contract had been made with Mr. Teesdale Smith.
– It is most discourteous that Ministers should think it not worth while to remain in the chamber. We should offer a protest against their conduct.
-I wish to know why this particular contract was made without tendersbeing publiclyadvertised for? Let us analyze that statement. Here is a railway, 1,200 miles in length, which is only in the initial stages of construction. I could understand the anxiety of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs to finish a particular section of it if the whole undertaking were nearing completion. But, as a matter of fact, we all know that this railway will not be completed for years. Yet, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has pleaded as an excuse for his hasty action that the completion of this particular section of the work within a specified period was of the utmost importance. Why, at the very time that he accepted this contract, he had two steam navvies lying idle. Had he been anxious that the Department should undertake this work, he would have looked ahead. Honorable members will recollect that when he was asked what is the formation of the country which will have to be traversed under this contract, he replied that he did not know. I have perused the plans which were laid upon the table last evening, and I find that they contain a description of that country. They state that it consists of clay, loose stones, and sand. There is no indication that it contains any rock. It is quite clear to me that the whole formation is of a soft character. Just imagine the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs letting, in secret, a contract for the removal of soft material from a cutting at 4s. 6d. per cubic yard. Why, in Melbourne to-day, one can obtain delivery of a cubic yard of blue metal for 3s. 6d. That stone has to be quarried, broken up so that it will pass through a 2-in. mesh, and brought to the city; and it can, nevertheless, be delivered here for 3s. 6d. per cubic yard. Yet the Government have let Mr. Teesdale Smith a contract for removing soft material at 4s. 6d. per cubic yard. That gentleman has thirty-five horses at work with scoops, and he is making a fortune out of it. I venture to say that he will net over £20,000 out of this contract. Is that the way in which the Government protect the taxpayers of this country ? Mr. Henry Deane, the late consulting Engineer-in-Chief, stated, on oath, before the Chinn Select Committee, that upon this very railway, rock could be removed for 4s. per cubic yard. But, notwithstanding this exposure of their unbusinesslike methods, the Government have the audacity to hang on to office. Whenan ordinary person secures a contract for the removal of a hill, he receives nothing for dumping the material so re moved into a hollow. But the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has been kind enough to give Mr. Teesdale Smith another 2s. 6d. per cubic yard if he removes this soft material more than 100 feet.
– Did not Mr. Hobler say-
– Mr. Hobler, like other public officers, does the best that he can for the people whom he serves. I prefer to be allowed to make my speech in my own way. I want my constituents to read what I say. The honorable member for Indi laughs.
– I laugh at the people who are the honorable member’s dupes.
– The honorable member himself will not dupe them next time. Everybody knows that a yard of earth, when removed from any place, becomes, in the loose, a yard and a third. If a yard of solid rockbe removed and broken up it will measure one and a half yards. Yet, what have the Government done ? They have entered into a contract to pay Mr. Teesdale Smith, not merely 4s. 6d. per cubic yard for the removal of earth from the cuttings, but a further 2s. 6d. per yard for all the soft stuff which he tips one and a half chains from the face. Seeing that a yard of material taken from a solid face becomes one and a third yards in the loose, it is manifest that the Government are paying 3s. 4d. for every yard of material that is tipped upon the bank. This contract, therefore, really represents a total cost of 7s.10d. per cubic yard. One would have thought that, when the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs was about to let this contract, he would have consulted the Prime Minister. It was his duty to do so.
– How does the honorable member know that he did not?
– He says that he did not. I wish further to point out that, whilst Mr. Teesdale Smith obtained a contract in secret from the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, under which he is to be paid 7s.10d. per cubic yard for removing soft material along this section of the line, a Mr. Timms, who obtained a contract in open competition to sink a large tank on the same railway, and who will have to remove exactly the same class of material, is being paid only 2s.5d.percubic yard. Does the honorable member for Wakefield think that that is a fair thing? Does he not recognise that it is more difficult to excavate material for a large tank than it is to plough out earth from the face of a cutting? Does the honorable member for Calare think that it is a fair thing, in the interests of the country. Mr. Teesdale Smith has had an interview with the Minister of Home Affairs, and he now receives from this country 7s. lOd. for shifting a cubic yard of stuff. My honorable friends opposite may smile, but these matters require to be answered. If the day-labour system is to be displaced by a system of that kind, the people should be called upon for an expression of their opinion on the matter. When a Government, in the face of such an exposure, will e continue to cling to the Treasury bench, I do not know what would shift them.
– No, I do not think dynamite would shift them. These are serious matters, and I believe that there should be a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into them.
– If a Royal Commission is to be appointed, it should inquire into the whole history of the railway since its inception.
– I should not mind that. I want to get at the truth. I am here to do what is right in the interests of the people. I wish to ask : Who were the people who let out the information that the Government intended to do this work by contract? How did it come about that Mr. Teesdale Smith came to Melbourne, and had an interview with the Honorary Minister? How did it come about that Mr. Teesdale Smith came from South Australia without any public tenders being called for this work? Who gave him the information that the Government were likely to let the work by contract, and who arranged the interview which he had with the Honorary Minister in the Home Affairs Office, and at which we are told Mr. Deane and Captain Saunders were present? How is it that Mr. Teesdale Smith received this information and other contractors did not? These are things which honorable members supporting the Government should be anxious to find out. Our honorable friends are endeavouring to blame the late Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. Deane. He may have been to blame, but I say that there are others who are also to blame. If the Home Affairs Department is to be run in the interests of the country there must be some change in its administration. We were told that Mr. Teesdale Smith was consulted because he was on the spot, and had a great plant ready to take over the work, but only this morning we discover that there waa another contractor who was able to carry out the work. The Honorary Minister, when speaking in his own defence, said that Mr. Teesdale Smith was the only man with a plant prepared to do the work speedily. To-day it has come out that there was another contractor who had offered to do the work. His offer was kept in the office, and I believe the Honorary Minister when he says it was not put before him. Why was it not put before him ? There must have been more than on© man connected with a thing like that. How could a document in the shape of an offer from Mr. Timms to do this work be sent to a public Department, and the Minister in charge of it never see it? A Department nui on. such lines i3 a disgrace to the supporters of the Government. If I were a supporter of the Government I should insist upon some alteration being made in the administration of the Home Affairs Department. I am one of those who believe that Ministers have too much work to do, especially in the Home Affairs Department. I have said before that there should be a special Minister and a capable man appointed to take control of that Department. It should not be in charge of an Honorary Minister with the Prime Minister as nominal head.
– What else has the Honorary Minister to do but look after it?
– He is not running it very well.
– There is. no need to excuse him.
– I do not excuse the honorable gentleman, but I say that the Home Affairs Department is a growing one, and should have a man of experience in charge of it. It is the biggest spending Department we have, and it should be under the control of a man of ripe years with some experience, and not under a young man who treats everything in an off-hand way.
– Is youth a crime?
– It is not a crime, or the honorable member would be dead long ago. The honorable member for Parkes dealt last night with the subject of the naval defence of the Commonwealth, and, being an Imperialist of the truest blue, he was quite indignant with the Minister of Defence because that gentleman had departed from what he believed to be the right policy. When we, as a Commonwealth, entered into an agreement to have an Australian Navy, we were told that we should have an Australian Navy in Australian waters, manned by Australians, and built with Australian money. We have kept our part of the compact, and have almost completed our Fleet Unit, according to the agreement. We have now one of the best Dreadnoughts that has ever been in these waters in the shape of the flagship Australia; we have two cruisers completed, and another will be launched in a few months’ time. We have our destroyers almost complete, and we have two submarines on their way here, which will complete the Fleet Unit. After we have done all this, we find that the First Lord of the Admiralty in the Old Country says that large ships of the Australia class are useless lying in the Pacific, and suggests that they should be sent to the North Sea, where they are more urgently required. While I believe in the Old Country and the Old Flag, I am an Australian so far as the Australian Fleet is concerned, and I say that Senator Millen took the right stand when he said that the Fleet should remain in Australian waters, as it was intended that it should do.
– The honorable member should castigate the honorable member for Parkes, and not the Government.
– The honorable member for Parkes adversely criticised the Government, and I am now putting in a kind word for the Minister of Defence. If we are to be the plaything of the people who raise war scares, we shall fall in very badly. There is a class of people in the Old Country, and in every country, to-day who make it their business to keep before the public the great danger of an immediate war. It used to be that wars were brought about by kings declaring them. Later they were brought about by those who wished to fight religious wars. Then wars were undertaken for the acquisition of territory. Later, war was brought about to secure the command of commerce; but to-day wars may be brought about by individuals who have something to gain. Who are the people who are pulling the strings to bring about increased navies throughout the world? They are the builders of battleships, and the manufacturers of guns and armament. These people combine to-day to create a feeling of dissatisfaction with the existing armament of different countries.
– The honorable member should not leave out the editors of the press.
– I am coming to them. These people are not influenced by racial hatred. The great firm of Krupp and Company, in Germany, which employ 65,000. people in the manufacture of ships and guns, has amongst its shareholders a number of Frenchmen. There is French capital invested in that firm. There used to be racial hatred between the people of France and Germany, but there is no hatred amongst the owners of capital where profits can be made. People interested in ship-building yards send men all through the world to write up the necessity for increased armament. The London Times had to pay compensation to a journalist who went to Brazil and other places to write up a war scare for the benefit of the builders of ships. What happens ‘in the British Parliament? An article, or the report of an interview, will appear in the London Times or some other big paper, pointing out that the manufacturing districts of Germany have had their population increased by 38,000 employes, with a view to strengthening the position of Germany. A member of the House of Commons will rise and ask the question, “Has the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty been drawn to the great activity taking place in Germany in the building of ships and the manufacture of large guns?” And some of the members are interested in these companies. The profits of these men are made by the companies. They ask questions in the House day after day, and finally succeed in getting the Government to take the matter into consideration. Next we read of interviews of Cabinet Ministers with large manufacturers, and then is brought down a naval policy providing for an increase in the Navy. It is said, “ We want more ships in the North Sea, and so forth.” We need to be on our guard against such wild scares as have taken place in Europe. We must learn the lesson that our population is too small to warrant an increase of our Fleet and our military system at their expense. We spend over £6,000,000 a year on Australian defence, and the cost is growing. I am very pleased indeed that the First Lord of the Admiralty has struck a new note by saying that large ships are not required in the southern seas. That is very good indeed, and I hope that no Government will bring down a programme to build more battleships or large cruisers, since we are assured by the First Lord of the Admiralty that such vessels are not necessary. I hope that they are not necessary, and I trust that they will never be used. I shall be found supporting the motion given notice of by the honorable member for Perth - that we should cut down the expense of our military system. Last session I had the pleasure of supporting a motion to raise the age at which boys are to start training from fourteen to sixteen years, and proposing not to train lads over twenty-one years. If we pursue that course, we shall effect a great saving, and have a large standing army of young men trained, and, if necessary, ready to take the field.
– We shall have to do it, too.
– We can do it. These are proposals which I expected this Government to submit in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. Last session, the honorable member for Capricornia moved a reduction of the Naval Estimates by £1, and the Prime Minister agreed to take a test vote on that proposal, and promised that he would go into the matter during the recess and bring down, at the beginning of this session, a scheme to reduce the cost of the Navy and the Army. Has he done so? Certainly not. Therefore, I submit we have a right to censure him. Some one must tackle this question, and it must be handled in an effective way. I am inclined to think that the present Ministers will not have the honour to do that, because they will not be on the Treasury bench long enough. I ask the honorable member for Calare, as an honest countryman, if he can give an honest support to aGovernmentthat made a present of over £20,000 to aprivate contractor to carry out a work that could be done better and more cheaply by day labour ?
– The Engineer-in-Chief said that it could not be done more cheaply.
– What will an honorable member indicate who votes against this motion of censure? By his vote he will: indicate that he is prepared to support a Government that is ready to give out work without open competition.
– Your Government did exactly the same thing.
– No. The proposed, vote of censure states that the Government are not protecting the interests of the people of this country. I have proved to-night by figures that it is costing the country 7s.10d. a yard to shift mullock, and that where competition was invited, the sinking ofa tank had been tendered for at 2s. 5d. a yard. Any honorable member who votes to keep in office a Government who would be guilty of such extravagance, must take the responsibility of his action. Were I sitting on the other side of the House, and our Government had done such a stupid, blundering thing as that, I would not think of voting for them. The only way to punish the present Government, and to show that the House is desirous of protecting the public, is for every honorable member to register a vote for this amendment. The honorable member for Parkes last night dressed down the Government. He did not approve of them, because, as he said, they had got away from the traditions of the great Liberal party, but he is not going to vote against that party. Why? Because he is one of those who believe in the contract system.
– You want him to support a party that will do worse, and that has already done worse.
– I challenge the honorable member to get up and make his statement on the floor of the House. Have any honorable members on the other side risen and justified the Government in what they have done? They cannot offer any justification. Consequently, they are as silent as an oyster. I would scorn longer to he a member of this House if I was afraid to get up and express my opinions. Iwould scorn,too tobelongto aparty that made to one of itssupportersa gift of £20,000. The Assistant Minister of
Home Affairs said that they are using the scoop only on the top. I am not aware that it is possible to use a scoop underneath the top. Practical men always start to take off the top. The Minister’s statement was that underneath the top there is something harder; but, from an examination of the plans which were tabled last night, we find that, for part of the section of 14 miles, the earth is described as salt-bush clay, sand, and stone, and in one part only as rock. Yet the Government are paying for the whole the price for excavating hard rock. Does the AttorneyGeneral think it is a fair thing that I should be able to get blue metal in Melbourne, broken up to go through a 2-in. gauge, and delivered, for 4s. 6d. a yard, when he, as a member of this Government, is prepared to pay 7s. lOd. a yard for the removal of soft stuff? The thing is a scandal, and no Government can outlive such a shocking oversight, unless there is a change in the administration of the Department. I regret that I did not hear the announcement from the head of the Government to-day that the Department is to be reconstructed. If the Government stand this shock, and the motion of censure is not carried against them, then it will indicate to the people outside that their action has been indorsed in this House, and they can go on letting contracts, or giving work, to persons without open competition. Every honorable member who votes against this ; amendment will say, in effect, that he is not going to ask the Government to call for tenders at all. . When the last Labour “Government was in power, we had a great deal of criticism from the Prime Minister and the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs about the slow progress in the construction of the Federal Capital. But what is being done now ? This business Government, whose members were always stating that the ex-Minister of Home Affairs was doing nothing, and deceiving the people of the country, have been in office nearly twelve months, but have not yet called for tenders for the building of the Federal Capital. If, as I was told, everything was ready to call for designs, why did not the Government act, and why do they not act” now? The land in the Federal Territory ‘is’.’held by the Commo ri wealth ’”-‘it ‘]iW900 square miles of land there. None of’ that land is to be sold. The city is to be built upon leased land which is always to remain in the possession of the Commonwealth. Had that land been for sale, and if the “ boodlers “ had had a chance of getting in and booming it, there would have been enough pressure brought to bear on the Government to make them go ahead. When that city is built the lands will increase iu value, and there will be enough revenue received from that Territory to carry on the work of the Commonwealth Government. Just fancy the pioneers of Sydney and Melbourne having the forethought to do as we have done in connexion with the Federal Territory, and saying that no land should be sold, and that as people came to settle on the land, and it was built upon, the revenue should go into the Treasury ! The States of Victoria and New South Wales would not have required to borrow money; they would have received enough ground rent to carry on the whole of their work. It is because we have initiated the leasehold principle in the Federal Territory that the present Government are not carrying on the work in connexion with the Federal Capital as quickly as they ought to do. I ask the Prime Minister to tell the House why it is that the work in the Federal Territory is being held up ? The honorable gentleman must remember that when he was sitting in Opposition he criticised glibly tlie inactivity of the previous Government iu regard to the Federal Territory, and he wanted to know why the work of establishing the Federal Capital was npt being pushed ahead. This Parliament passed £200,000 on the last Estimates for work in connexion with the Federal Territory, and what is being done?
– At the end of the year we shall have spent much more than your party ever spent in any one year.
– Not now, but at the end of the year! That is not the question. Why is it that men have been put off those particular Commonwealth works?
An Honorable Member. - You passed £200,000 too much.
– It seems, as if the Victorian influence has got the Prime Minister by the wool, and he is afraid t,o go ahead with the Federal Capital^. ,i. . . [
-I raised the men’s wages up there the other day. ‘’
– I give the honorable member credit for that, and I wish he would do the same on the transcontinental railway.
– We have done it. We have given them an increase.
– I take my hat off to the honorable gentleman, and I hope that the men will give fair value for the money. I will now ask the Prime Minister a question which I put to the AttorneyGeneral ; the honorable member for Flinders did not seem to understand the question. I ask the Prime Minister what answer he can make to this fact: that if I order a cubic yard of blue metal from any quarry outside the suburbs of Melbourne, I can get that metal delivered in Melbourne at a cost of 4s. 6d. per yard? Is there any comparison between breaking and carting a yard of blue metal, and shifting a cubic yard of sand on Teesdale Smith’s contract ?
– All I have to say is that Captain Saunders stated that he could not do the work for the money.
Opposition Members. - Captain Saunders said he could not do it in the time.
– If Captain Saunders made that statement he is not fit to be in his present position.
– Captain Saunders said it was a fair price.
Opposition Members. - No.
– The trouble is that honorable members opposite are all engineers.
– So were your supporters when they were on this side.
– Can the Prime Minister tell the House how it was that the information leaked out of the Home Affairs Department that this particular job was likely to be let to contract; why it was that Mr. Teesdale Smith came from Western Australia to Melbourne, and who arranged the interview that took place in the Minister’s office? How did Mr. Teesdale Smith get the information that this job would be let to contract?
– Mr. Deane and Captain Saunders were the men who brought him to the Minister’s office.
– Who instructed them to give Mr. Teesdale Smith that information?
– Then we want an inquiry into this matter. I say that the officers of the Department have deceived the Minister, and that their action has cost this country thousands of pounds.
– We will take care to have an inquiry into some other things, too. Make your minds easy about that.
– The idea of the Government sheltering themselves behind the backs of Mr. Deane and Captain Saunders ! I do not think we should tolerate that sort of thing. They are the heads of the Department, and certain information got outside the Department. How did it get out?
– You tolerated it for three years.
– We did nothing of the kind.Another misstatement that has been made is that the Labour Government appointee? Mr. Deane. Did the Fisher Government appoint Mr. Deane? No; he was in the Public Service when the Fisher Government came into office, and was in charge of the expenditure of a vote of £20,000 for the survey of the railway.
– I say that Mr. Deane is just now completing a two years’ appointment, which must have been given to him by the Fisher Government.
– But he was in the Service before the Fisher Government went on to the Treasury bench. Yet honorable members opposite would make it appear that this side brought him into the Service, and that he was our man. I am pointing out that nothing of the kind happened. Mr. Deane was in the Service when the Fisher Government took office, and was only appointed EngineerinChief when it was decided that the transcontinental railway was to be carried out on the day-labour system.
– Oh, no!
– It is a fact that Mr. Deane was in the Service before the Fisher Government came into power.
– Did not the Fisher Government appoint him EngineerinChief?
– And they were not obliged to do that.
– No; they could have sacked him. I will admit that.
– Who appointed Captain Saunders?
Mr.RILEY. - I do not know, and I am not acquainted with the gentleman at all; but I say there is a good number of men in that Department who ought to be shifted, if they do work like that of which we have recently had an instance. We ought to have a Royal Commission to inquire into the work of that Department.
– And I am not so sure that you will not get one.
– I wouldwelcome such an inquiry.
– It will be a very biased one if we get it from the Prime Minister.
– I would not say that. I will ask the Prime Minister to explain these circumstances: A contract was let to Mr. Timms for the sinking of a large tank along the line of railway. That contract was obtained in open competition, the same class of material had to be shifted, and Mr. Timms was compelled to take the work for 2s. 5d. per cubic yard, whilst on the same formation of country a job is given to another contractor which is costing the Department 7s.10d. per yard. I ask my right honorable friend to consider those facts, and say whether we are not justified in calling public attention to them?
– You are wrong in saying that work is costing 7s.10d.
– I am correct. The contractor gets 4s. 6d. for cuttings; he gets 2s. 6d. for every yard of soil he tips on the line. A yard of soil taken out of the solid face becomes a yard and , a third when tipped, and, consequently, the contractor has to be paid for one and a third yards, and that brings the price up to 7s.10d. per yard; while, on the other hand, as I have already explained, we can get blue metal quarried and delivered in Melbourne lor 4s. 6d. per cubic yard. Those are things that the Prime Minister should think about.
– There are two prices and two classes of work.
– But which is the harder, breaking up metal into 2-in. gauge, or shifting sand?
– What do you call shifting sand?
– The contract which has. been let to Teesdale Smith.
– Then you know more than Mr. Deane and Captain Saunders.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to look at the plans. Those plans describe every bit of the country, and I have gone through every sheet. In no part of the country is there rock. The Government are paying more for shifting sand than for shifting granite.
– Read Mr. Hobler’s description of the country.
– I ask the Prime Minister to try to bring about some change in this Department. I am not satisfied with the way in which work is carried out. I hope he will see that public tenders are called for all other contracts. Above all things, I hope that he will examine the question of contract work as against day labour, and build railways by day labour, and so conserve the interests of the country. The history of railway building in Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales shows that railways can be constructed more cheaply by day labour than by contract. Further than that, by building railways by day labour there is no fear as to the stability of the line, nor is there fear of litigation after the work is completed. In a word, that the contract system cannot compare with the day-labour system stands out boldly and in bright daylight.
– Do you distinguish between day labour and the butty-gang system ?
– That is not the point in dispute. The point under discussion now is that a large contract has been given without public competition, and we are paying 7s.10d. per cubic yard for handling material that can be handled at1s.10d.
– I can prove it. Mr. Deane’s statement is that rock could be shifted for 3s. per cubic yard. Had the Prime Minister been in charge of the Department he would have turned down the proposition.
– All I can tell the. honorable member is that, the morning before yesterday, I was talking to Mr. Deane and Mr. Bell in company, and Mr. Deane was emphatic on the point that an advantageous bargain had been made for the Commonwealth.
– What else could Mr. Deane say ? Did you send for Mr. Deane and expect him to change his opinion and give other advice?
– I believe that Mr. Deane would admit a mistake as readily as you would.
– What did Mr. Bell say ? His experience in Queensland has gone to show that railways can be constructed by day labour in that State at a saving of £1,814 per mile.
– We have Mr. Bell here now, so that everything is all right.
– Then why not give him a free hand to do the work by day labour instead of letting contracts? Enough has come out during this particular debate to wreck half-a-dozen Governments, but honorable members supporting the Government are afraid to get up and defend Ministers, apparently because they know that it is impossible to defend them. I maintain that it is a fair thing that, when the division bells ring, people sent into this Parliament to represent the interests of the country should protect those interests by voting to turn out a Government that do not believe in free and open competition in regard to contracts. I regret that Government supporters are afraid to champion their Ministers. We heard the honorable member for Parkes last night criticise the action of the Ministry very freely and forcibly, though he wound up by saying that he would vote for the Government because they were in charge of the purse.
– In other words, we might be a bit bad, but you are a jolly sight worse.
– I invite the Government to go to the country on this question, and, if only one honorable member would remain out of the chamber when the bells ring, we should soon have a dissolution. I hope the people of the country will have an early opportunity of deciding between the Government and men sitting on this side of the House, who, though they are not business men, and have not the great business training our friends say they have, have carried out gigantic works, and who have not made mistakes such as this one which has been made in the Home Affairs Department. Any Government is liable to make mistakes, but the mistake made by the Cook Government over this contract is enough to wreck any Ministry. Therefore, I welcome the chime of the division bells, for they will ring out the Cook Government and ring in a Labour Government.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7.45 p.m.
.- I had not proposed to address myself to the censure amendment, and would not have done so but for your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the debate on the amendment and on the Address-in-Reply will run concurrently. Every honorable member must now be convinced that an anaemic amendment like that submitted by the Leader of the Opposition shows on his part a Micawber state of mind - “ waiting for something to turn up.” The words of the amendment are -
But regret to have to inform you that your Advisers deserve censure for having failed to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.
This amendment shows the bankrupt condition of mind of the right honorable gentleman when he submitted the amendment - the same condition of mind that he was in when he made his innuendoes in connexion with the Teesdale Smith contract. If the debate has done anything it has proved to honorable members on both sides that the House has very little patience with a man who has not the courage of his opinions or the courage to formulate charges, but who whispers them all around the country in the most poisonous manner possible. If there be anything in the amendment, it rests on the Teesdale Smith contract. My object to-night is not to set up a defence of that contract. In my opinion, with a contract system, there should be open competition, with opportunities for the nation’s best contractors to tender; and it is not with a view to in any way qualify the Liberal opinion of what that system is that I rise. As to the charges levelled against the Honorary Minister, we must remember that, after all, any man in the position of a Minister of the Crown is apt to make a slip; and I regard the present case as showing a mere slip on the part of the honorable gentleman, as a result of the expert advice tendered to him. Ho was anxious to speed along with the line, and to increase the facilities for the completion of the work, and, in my judgment, all that can be said is that, with the best of intentions, he committed what might be said to be an error of judgment. It would appear that the Leader of the
Opposition spoke before he knew the facts, which have practically only come to light in this Chamber; and I give the right honorable gentleman the credit of believing that had he known the facts as he knows them now he would not have made the charges. The exception that has been taken to the price resolves itself, of course, into an attack on the experts of the Department; for that is not a matter on which we can expect any Minister to be posted. If a Minister has to be qualified to take out measurements and ascertain the price of every undertaking entered into by the Commonwealth we shall find it very difficult indeed to get men competent for the position. In the present day it is the custom and habit to rely on expert opinion and advice, on which the world to a great extent revolves and operates. One aspect of the matter has, I think, been rather unfortunately referred to. I mean the hint or suggestion that the country is going to pay an extra price for the material removed. The honorable member for Denison last night, mustering to his assistance twenty-five years’ experience in contract work-
– The honorable member is misrepresenting me.
– Perhaps the honorable member will wait until I have finished the sentence. The honorable member said that he had had twentyfive years’ experience!-
– I said I had had twenty-one years’ experience of work on the railways.
– Speaking with that experience, the honorable member suggested that, as regards the bank, the Government are going to pay for a larger quantity of material than that which was contained in the excavation. I should like to know if there is any human means of ascertaining the measurement of the spoil or material other than its measurement in the bank. Is it humanly possible to put back the spoil into the excavation from which it came? Is it possible to do otherwise than estimate the spoil by the space it takes up in a bank ?
– Yes; measure the excavation.
– The excavation is measured in order to pay for the material taken out, and on the contractor is imposed the obligation of moving the material for a chain and a half and forming it into a bank; and the honorable member for Denison indicates that the Government will be paying, practically, a price and a third for the same material.
– On the bank.
– Yes, puttingthe spoil on the bank. Is it humanly possible to do otherwise? Has not the contractor to remove every yard of the stuff for which he is paid? Millions of cubic yards cannot be taken out and deposited in a wedge. It is taken out with pick, spade, and scoop; and we know that this class of material expands when exposed. Therefore, I submit that the suggestion of wastefulness goes by the board.
– If the honorable member were paying for a tank to be excavated he would not say that.
– I would pay for what came out of the excavation ; and I may tell the honorable member that I have paid for many a tank.
– And did the honorable member pay for the spoil, as well as the excavation ?
– If I required the material to be placed on a bank 2 or 3 chains distant, I would, as every practical man knows, have to pay for that material so placed. This matter opens up once more for our consideration the great question of contract versus day labour. Thanks to the new Engineer-in-Chief of Railways, we have recently had a true interpretation of what the day-labour system is, as adopted in Queensland. In answer to the Honorary Minister, Mr. Bell said -
As desired by the Minister, I have to advise that the method under which railways have been constructed in Queensland for a number of years has been by a combination of day labour with small contracts, butty-gang, or piece-work.
With that proposition I find myself in agreement -
That is to say, whenever convenient, the work has been given to men whoemployed others to assist them, parties of men working together, or men working alone.
I may say that I am not a slave to either system. The two systems should be kept in competition with each other in the Commonwealth, the one as a check upon the other, and each employed where economy and efficiency will best result from it. I candidly admit that were it possible to exercise absolute control over the whole of the men engaged upon big works, day labour, from an economic point of view, would appear to be the better system. Control is the dominant factor in the success of any enterprise, be it public or private.
– That applies to everything.
– Undoubtedly control is the dominant factor. There are two aspects of the day-labour system, and it is time that we faced the question very seriously. On the one hand we have to consider the economic, and on the other the political, aspect of this system. I hold that we should be ill-advised in allowing a system to be grafted upon Australian life which would permit the nation’s employes on large undertakings to determine the conditions upon which they should work. My honorable friends opposite will admit that the union system is at once the frame-work, the legs, and the arms of the movement that returns them to Parliament, and I consider it would be dangerous, having regard to the present position of political parties in this country, for the- nation to give itself over entirely without any competition to a system that is dependent upon the day labourers of the country. Where it can be proved that day labour can be effectively controlled I am in favour of its adoption when a huge plant need not necessarily be purchased by the Commonwealth. But we have in Australia today millions of pounds’ worth of plant which has been got together by those who have organized and have prepared themselves to undertake the nation’s contracts. If we were to adopt the daylabour system in its entirety we should throw on the scrap-heap those millions of pounds’ worth of plant.
– The contract system scrap-heaps the working man.
– It does not. Even in the course of the present debate honorable members opposite have had to admit that the private contractor is paying a higher rate than the Government of the Commonwealth were prepared to pay.
– He could well afford to do so.
– When the Minister makes him a present of thousands of pounds!
– I know that my honorable friends will always reply that the contractor is obtaining from the Commonwealth a sufficient reward for his labour to enable him to pay a higher rate. That argument is certainly open to them, but I do not think that they can secure any change from it so far as the contract now in question is concerned. At its completion it will probably be found that the contractor, instead of making the large profits which the Labour party allege, is out of pocket. When we pass over the question of the Teesdale Smith contract we at once take the sting out of the whole censure motion. If the Government should be censured at all it is in respect of that contract. The remaining material on which the Opposition rely in support of their censure motion is mere flapdoodle, and but a repetition of the thread-bare subjects which have occupied the attention of this House on three different occasions. This question has certainly produced heat, and some unpleasant things have been said. Like the honorable member for Herbert, I deplore the fact that there is imported into the debates of this House unnecessary heat and a good deal of personal animus. I hope that I shall make no such contribution to the debate. It is not my intention to do so, but if some one comes in my way then the fault will be his own. I feel it my duty to refer at this stage to a statement made by the honorable member for West Sydney, Mr. Hughes. Every one will agree that the honorable member deserves the admiration of this House for the way in which he has, by his ability, come to the front from what might be called a back mark in Australian life. But I do think that the honorable member, perhaps unwittingly, was very ungenerous in his references to another member of this House. Having tickled the ear of his supporters by an attempt to classify the members of the Liberal party he went on to speak of that section of it which he declared saw the light, but would not follow it. At the head of that section he placed the Attorney-General. He then referred to a second section of this party - those who, he said, did not see the light, and were incapable of seeing it. My comments have nothing to do with the rank and file of our party. If the honorable member chooses to place me in the second division, well and good. Let me read what he said -
At the head of those who see the light but will not follow it, I place the AttorneyGeneral, and at the head of that class who say that everything isall right I place the Treasurer. I am perfectly persuaded that if by a wave of the hand we could go back 150,000 years, and interview the cave man on this great question, we should find his views so strikingly analogous to those of the right honorable the Treasurer that there would be no friction between them.
That may be the sort of stuff that brings plaudits to the ear of the honorable member for West Sydney, but it certainly brings no credit to him. The Treasurer for a quarter of a century or more has enjoyed recognition and distinction at the hands of the people of Australia to an extent that, perhaps, no other honorable member has done. Indeed, if I may be pardoned for saying so, I think that the right honorable gentleman stands out as being probably the biggest man in Australia by reason of his political and practical achievements, and that it illbecomes one who has received the admiration of his fellow members to reflect on a right honorable gentleman who has won recognition, not only at the hands of his own people, but from his Sovereign across the waters.
– Who is this distinguished person?
– It is not the honorable member.
– The Treasurer can defend himself.
– He really requires no defence.
– Then, why all this?
– Just to get the tickle out of the ears of my honorable friends I propose now, metaphorically speaking, to accompany the Minister of External Affairs to the Northern Territory. The honorable gentleman is shortly to place before the House a complete outline of the policy of this party with regard to it. No one, I think, can be particularly proud of what the State of South Australia or either party in the Commonwealth has done in respect of the Northern Territory. In it we have one of Australia’s toughest problems, and one which we ought to be able to face entirely free from any party feeling. That tremendous Territory, containing approximately 520,000 square miles of country, has tremendous possibilities. We have looming in front of us a new phase of the stock industry, and if I were in State politics, even in Victoria, to-day, I would seek to hang my hat on the third wing of settlement - that of stock farming. I have unlimited confidence in the future of stock raising in Australia.
– Take my tip, and do not go to the Northern Territory.
– Under certain conditions I should be prepared to go to the Northern Territory. I feel that through the Northern Territory this Parliament can offer to Australia, in cooperation with the States, a stimulus in regard to stock production that it is quite time was given. At present Australia ranks practically second amongst the nations of the world in the export of their surplus stock, the Argentine leading the way. The States, for the most part, have in their closer settlement propositions pinned their faith to the wheatgrowing areas, fruit-growing, and market gardening. The most valuable adjunct to farming in this country to-day is stock raising.
– Have you any suggestion for increasing the number of our stock?
– I have, and will give it in good time. Australia will have seriously to consider in the near future the question of preventing the export of proved females for a short period, and also of preventing the spaying of stock. We are unable now to cope with the demand upon Australia from abroad.
Mr.Fenton. - What would you do with the old, big-framed cow? The best thing to do would be to spay her.
– I would fatten her off. A cow that has spent a period of usefulness would not be classed amongst the proved females that I mentioned. The present movement seems to be in the direction of an open door for surplus stock for the world’s meat and beef supply. As Australia has a tremendous extent of country and a small population, it naturally follows that for many years to come it will be capable of supplying a surplus of stock. The following reasons impel me to pay special attention at the present time to the question of stock raising in the Commonwealth: The extent of our country, our climate, the favorable conditions under which stock can be raised and fattened, and our comparative freedom from disease. Those who watch developments abroad with regard to diseases amongst stock, will find that the foot and mouth disease is one of the great outstanding questions, and is shortly to occupy the time of the International Veterinary Congress which is to sit in London. Other advantages are the richness of our pastures and the cheapness of our lands. While we can do a great deal in the Northern Territory, the big broad proposition of stock farming is important to the States as well as the Commonwealth; and if through our National Parliament we can assist to give a stimulus to stock raising, we shall be doing a great deal more service to the community than by haggling over the question of another “bob” a day. Australia has emerged from a year during which, for all her great staple exports, such as wool, beef, mutton, and dairy produce, there has been an illimitable and constantly-increasing market. For all those commodities that we rely upon for home consumption, such as hay, oats, chaff, and barley, we have no market. A great part of our country, particularly in the coastal areas, is capable of producing prolific fodder crops. There is a limited consumption, and we have over-reached it during the present year. At the same time, we have an illimitable market for fat stock, and are unable at present to supply the demand. In fact, the position in this country is such that it becomes very hard for our own people to get supplies at a reasonable price. Under these conditions, our object should be so to organize as to take advantage of the huge prices ruling across the waters for our stock, and to consume within our borders, for fattening stock, the hundreds of thousands of tons of produce which to-day is stored up waiting for a market. This waste produce could thus go to make beef, wool, and butter for export. Instead of doing that, with the residue coming back into Australian soil, the system seems to be to wait until some other part of Australia is stricken with drought. It is a sound economical proposition that this class of produce should be consumed in its year of production. Stock farming should be made a huge movement from one end of Australia to the other. The country should be thoroughly organized from the north to the most extreme south, to take advantage of the beef and mutton raising and fattening in our own country. It is not a right economical condition, when this country is capable of producing millions of tons of produce, that the offal in the country goes to other nations, such as Sweden and Denmark, to produce some of the best dairy produce in the world, while our people pay practically twice the price in Australia for offal. The great question of stock raising should engage the serious attention of honorable members, instead of our haggling so much over the industrial situation.
– What is your proposition?
– It is in thorough agreement with that of the Minister of External Affairs. He takes the view that the Northern Territory must first be pioneered by stock breeders, who should have placed at their disposal means of transport and water.. In my judgment, there is nothing that the land users of Australia require more to-day than transport facilities, water, and markets, although for beef and mutton illimitable markets offer in every part of the world.
– What about labour?
– I am glad the honorable member has raised the question. I hope that the development of this industry will mean the opening up of a new channel for the absorption of Australian labour. If we can open up a profitable outlet for fresh labour we can attract hither more capital and more labour, until our population reaches forty or fifty millions, before we exhaust our possibilities in the way of employment. I trust the House will give a generous support to the proposal which the Minister of External Affairs has to lay before us for the development of the Northern Territory. I propose now to speak on the questions that came before the recent Conference of Premiers, dealing with them, in the order of importance; but, before referring to them, I feel it my duty to compliment the Prime Minister on the step he took in meeting the political leaders of the States, and the generous assistance he gave to permit something like reasonable conclusions being arrived at in connexion with very grave issues. I take first the Murray waters question. It has already been mentioned in this debate, and the Prime Minister himself referred to it. The honorable gentleman showed great courage in his settlement of that question, which has kept several of the States divided for many years. I hope that that settlement will not only lead to the improvement of the navigability of the Murray, but will enable sufficient water to be conserved to largely extend the irrigable areas along its banks, and thus increase settlement. The adoption of a uniform railway gauge is another big question that rightly occupied the attention of the big men who met at the Conference. Their frame of mind was very different from that of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who expressed doubts as to the fruitfulness of the Conference. It will augur badly for the future development of Australia if we take no heed of the opinions of the Premiers of the States on matters of this kind, and there is no co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State Governments. As to the Commonwealth Bank, I have never thrown cold water on that project. Credit is due to those who launched the institution, and my hope is that some day, in the very near future, the bank will be discharging national functions to the great advantage of the Australian people. Up to the present time, it is suffering from constipation; the result of want of succour, and the determinations of the Conference in regard to it were in the nature of giving it bowels, so that motion may follow. With regard to the transference of the State debts to the Commonwealth, this Ministry has not shirked a big and thorny question. The Treasurer faced the Treasurers of the States, and I feel that the result will be that ultimately the management and control of the public debt of Australia will be in the hands of the Commonwealth. In regard to the Savings Banks, a sensible arrangement has at last been come to, and an unnecessary competitor for the savings of the people will disappear from the field. The Governments of the States set up institutions for the collection, management, and control of the savings of their people, and those savings were being employed in the development of- the States in which they were earned when the Commonwealth Savings Bank came into existence and began to compete for them. The last of the big questions dealt with by the Conference was immigration. That will be an annually-recurring question, demanding the best co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. In my judgment, population is the national want, but to arrange to bring people here from abroad is rather a matter of difficulty, because, with the exception of the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital Territory, the State Governments control all the land. Without generous and hearty co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States immigration will not be a success. It should be the part of the Commonwealth to bring people here, and the part of the States to make ready to receive them. The first duty encumbent on our statesmen is to provide for the employment of our own people, but the resources of Australia are sufficiently great to provide profitable employment for a population many times larger than that we have now. With regard to defence, I might say that from time to time many individual views have been put forward, among them those of the honorable members for Capricornia and Melbourne Ports, whose anti-military speeches were printed on a flaring red leaflet which circulated round the benches of this chamber. Surely if there is one question on which the Australian people have spoken finally it is defence. We have agreed that Australia must provide for her own defence. That was determined at the Imperial Conference of 1909, and the last Government, not only in this country, but abroad, received a. full measure of recognition for what they did in the establishment of the defence system. The time has passed for quarrelling as to who is responsible for that system. Both on the platform and here I have given credit to my opponents for the manner in which they handled the defence question. The last Minister of Defence faced it wholeheartedly, and, as subsequent events seem to show, notwithstanding the opposition of some of his colleagues.
– If, as a party, we had op-
Dosed the defence system, it would not be in existence to-day.
– I give the party all credit for its part. The first consideration in regard to defence must be efficiency. Recently there has arisen a craze for economy. The honorable member for Bourke said the other night that if he had his way there would be no double dissolution, but the test Bills would be passed to force this Government to face the big question of finance. The defence question is coupled with the financial one. Our national income is now about £21,000,000, and our defence commitments about £5,500,000, and likely to increase shortly to about £6,000,000. Our opponents declare that the naval and military expenditure of the country should be provided by direct taxation.
– Hear, hear! What does it come from?
– What did it come from during the late Government’s term of office? So far as direct taxation is concerned, we have at present only one tax, namely, the land tax. That tax, in the year of its greatest productivity, yielded not more than £1,400,000.
– Is the honorable member in favour of that tax?
– I have already declared my policy. If I had my way, I would allow the States to deal with the question of land taxation - I would abolish the Federal land tax, but I would put something practical in its place. I would levy on the honorable member who interjected, on the late Prime Minister, the present Prime Minister, the late Minister of Defence, the present Minister of Defence, and on everybody else, for the defence of thisCommonwealth. My policy in this connexion is quite clear. Their object in imposing this form of direct taxation was to provide all the money that was required for the defence of Australia,but during the last year of the term of office of the Fisher Govern ment the money collected from this source totalled only £1,400,000. During the same period our commitments for defence aggregated £5,500,000, and we paid from indirect taxation - through the Customs House - practically £4,000,000. To my mind, it does not rest with honorable members opposite to suggest that we should he roasted because the Government have not forecasted the way in which the financial position is to be met.
-Would the honorable member increase the taxation on kerosene and tea ?
– No; I would put taxation on the honorable member.. I would make every member of this Parliament pay his fair share of the taxation of this Conrrnonwealth.Unfortunately, at the present time the Imperial authorities and the Commonwealth appear to be out of line in regard to the question of the defence of the Pacific. I think there is a pressing necessity for an early Imperial Conference with the Dominions in regard to the policing of the Pacific. Since the last Conference was held, aerial craft have become a potent wing in the matter of defence. In my judgment, aerial defence promises to occupy a foremost place in the warfare between nations in the future. There is one branch of our local Defence Forces which I am inclined to think has been rather overlooked - I refer to the horse and the rifle. The South African war may be said to have been finally settled by the horseman and his rifle. I hope that when the Estimates are presented for our consideration we shall find that generous provision has been made for the voluntary services which are rendered to Australia by its riflemen. These men make an annual sacrifice of at least £15 per head in order that they may be in a condition of preparedness to defend their country. Whilst everybody else seems to be wondering what they can get out of our defence system, these men are interested only in what they can put into it. Twice since I have been a member of this Parliament I have raised the question of horse-breeding for military purposes. Up to the present time we have done nothing in the direction of standardization in connexion with the breeding of horses throughout the Commonwealth. The light horse industry is at a low ebb.
– The honorable member should make a note of the prices that are being realized.
– In regard to the class of horses which are required for defence purposes, I say unhesitatingly that we need to introduce new blood. We have done nothing to develop the stamp of horses that is required for remounts, gunnel’s, and chargers in this country. It is true that there is an indiscriminate kind of breeding going on, but that breeding is unprofitable, and, to a great extent, the horses produced are unsuitable for defence requirements. Surely it is right that we should do something in the direction of typifying the class of horses that are needed for defence purposes. Each stock-raiser throughout the country would then be in a position to raise one, two, three, or more horses of the requisite type. I am aware that a Committee was appointedto investigate this question, and that that body recommended that a breeding farm should be established to raise the class of horses required. Personally, I am not in favour of the adoption of that course. I think that much better results would be achieved if everybody who wished to do so were encouraged to breed, if necessary, even one horse of the right stamp. A standard price shouldbe fixed for their purchase. When we look at the prices that are paid by other nations for good sires, we must come to the conclusion that Australia has never yet paid a decent price for a sire. The German and French Governments pay up to £30,000 for a good sire for defence purposes, whereas any decent horse who proves himself in Australia is quickly bought by a foreign country.
– The honorable member should come to my electorate. I would show him that he is in error.
– The price at which light horses can be bought in Australia to-day is almost less than the cost of the service of the sire. I have practical knowledge of this matter, and it is high time that Parliament did something to raise an industry which is at such a low ebb. The prices ruling for this class of stock to-day, together with motor traffic, promise almost to utterly destroy the light-horse industry. Consequently, I hope that early steps will be taken in the direction I have indicated.
– Horses are dearer now than ever they were.
– That is a sample of the knowledge of my honorable friend. I come now to the storm-centre of Australian life - to the industrial question which honorable members opposite make the study of their lives. I think that this question occupies a pre-eminent position in their minds.
– Deservedly so.
– Deservedly so; if it be rightly handled. The great deciding questions, so far as the industrial situation is concerned, is the question of unionism, and the question of preference to unionists, a principle which our friends opposite seek to graft upon Australian life. I think that the best that could have been said for their case was said by the honorable member for Bendigo. That honorable member, in what we must all admit was a very thoughtful speech, and one of his first addresses in this House, put the case as well as I think it could be put for those who believe in the doctrine of preference to unionists. He said that the result of experience had proved that labour could be best controlled through unions, and, that being so, preference should be given to unionists in order to secure the better control of labour. My answer to that is that, if you cannot induce workers to voluntarily enter unions, and if the majority of the workers of Australia at the present time are not members of unions, they should not be asked to bend the knee to the minority who are. If we follow the doctrine laid down by the honorable member for Bendigo to its logical conclusion, we shall find that it involves the subordination of justice to expediency. I will admit that there is a great deal of expediency in having men in unions, but if men do not desire to join them, why should we compel them to do so, or offer them a special bait to induce them to do so by laying down the doctrine that, unless they consent to join a union, their chance to secure employment shall be second to that of a member of a union? Each man has a right to his own convictions upon industrial as well as upon other questions. You might as well ask a man to surrender his religious convictions as ask him to surrender his political convictions. Our honorable friends opposite urge that, if a man does not believe in the principle of unionism, he must wait his turn for employment until all unionists have been supplied with employment. To graft this system on to Australian life in conjunction with the day-labour system is to give the entire manipulation - and I use the word “ manipulation “ advisedly - of the industrial situation into the hands of the Political Labour party. The question of the cost of living is closely associated with the industrial question. There are two things in connexion with the industrial situation which cannot operate at the same time. We cannot simultaneously increase the cost of production and lower the cost of living. Australia has rightly devoted a great deal of time to the improvement of the conditions of the worker ; but if we are to grapple with the question of the cost of living, we shall have to call a halt in one or other of these factors in the situation, and must do something tangible in the direction of reducing the cost of living. It is impossible to increase wages and reduce the cost of production at the same time.
Mr.Fenton. - The cost of production is cheaper to-day than it has ever previously been in the world’s history.
– I do not agree with that statement. On the industrial question, our honorable friends opposite have committed themselves to a degree of Socialism. I have nothing to say against Socialism rightly applied, but I think it is high time that Australia was given a fair, open, and honest declaration as to how far our opponents agree with the doctrines of international Socialism. They should be game to let us know where they stand in this matter. I have said before, and I now repeat, that, in my humble judgment, our opponents have never been game to face the question of preference to unionists in their Conferences, and to establish it as a plank in their platform. We look in vain for it in their State or Federal platforms. The late Minister of Home Affairs is the man who practically forced upon the Federal Labour party the acceptance of the doctrine of preference to unionists, and I understand that he had a warm time in the Caucus over it.
– We had preference to unionists thirty years ago.
– Then why do not my honorable friends opposite put it on their platform ? The honorable member for Bourke said the other night that, if they were all of his way of thinking, they would vote against preference to unionists.
– The honorable member should try to quote the honorable member for Bourke correctly.
– I now come to the matter of electoral reform. A Royal Commission was appointed to investigate the conduct of the last elections, and to make suggestions for electoral reform. So far, we have not had the report of the
Commission; but I regret to say that an honorable member of this House, and a member of the Royal Commission-
– Now, be fair!
– My honorable friend will get it fairly. I regret that an honorable member of this House, and a member of the Royal Commission, should have quoted in this chamber from the uncorrected proofs of the evidence given before the Commission.
– The Prime Minister did that.
– I know all about the Prime Minister.
– The Prime Minister was responsible for it.
– I know what the Prime Minister did, and it is for him, and not for me, to explain his action. I think that the report of the Royal Commission should have gone through the proper channel. It should have been presented to the Governor-General, and every member of this House should have had it in hand before any quotations were made from it. It is an entirely different matter to quote from a newspaper report. On the subject of electoral reform, I think the time has arrived when honorable members on both sides might fairly take the Democracy into their confidence, and give them the advantage of the principle of preferential voting. Honorable members of both parties ride into this Chamber on that principle, and immediately they get here they discard it. If the principle of preferential voting is good enough for the selection of the candidates of a political party, it is good enough for the Australian Democracy. I declare emphatically that, in my opinion, the pre-selection of candidates under the party system is a prostitution of Democracy.
– Is that the reason it was adopted for the selection of your candidates for the Senate?
– On this question, I do not desire to speak as a partisan. Australia was created a Democracy - for what reason? The conception of a Democracy is that there shall exist a condition of affairs under which the people may get a test or a count of heads on any great issue at any particular time. The original plan of those who created the Democracy of Australia, and gave equality of franchise, was that the majority might guide and direct the destinies of the country. But there has sprung up an acute party system, under which a section segregates itself, and then, by an attempt at democratic manipulation, by a well-trained and well-driven system, blocks and thwarts the community in any endeavours to get an expression of the opinion of the majority. I hope that the time will not be long delayed when the Australian people will be given the opportunity of getting in the best possible “way such an expression of opinion. No system is perfect, and the most effective method of getting the filtered opinion of the Australian people is to be found in the principle of preferential voting. It is said by the opponents of this system that it “would make for disintegration in connexion with organizations. I think that at the present moment there is an overorganization of political units in the country. “We are too highly organized.
– Speak for your own party; we are not.
– I mean that we ‘are too highly organized with regard to the acute party system. The honorable member must admit that there are many questions raised by the Liberal party in the House which he would like to see find a place in the statute-book, but he is not game to vote for the proposals. Why ? The reason is that he has delivered himself over body and soul, if I may use the term, to a system. Let us face the matter fairly and squarely. From the opposite side of the chamber the other night we had a speech from one of Australia’s most brilliant men. I refer to the honorable member for West Sydney - a man who “has a bit of good mental tissue, who can see things brightly, but who saw fit to classify this party and refer to us as men who cannot see the light, and so forth. Imagine that brilliant man shackled and “hobbled to the doctrine laid down by Mr. -J. 0. Watson, the ex-Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, the ex-leader of the Labour party, and to-day the most central figure in the Labour movement! “Speaking of Labour’s representation in politics, Mr. Watson laid down clearly that they did not want politicians, but delegates. He said, and I remember his -clear words -
A movement that wanted parliamentarians to run it was not worthy of the name. Parliamentarians should not be their patrons. They should cease to look round for moneyed men to run for seats if they wanted men to obey their biddings and behests. We should pay every penny of a candidate’s expenses, and refuse to allow a candidate to pay a penny. Until we got men to do that we would never get men to do what the Conference desired, and to obey o.ur biddings.
Imagine that bright genius, the ex- AttorneyGeneral, in the fetters of such a movement! It is high time that we put an end to this system, and gave Australians an opportunity of serving Australia, and not slavishly serving but one section of the community. There is another matter I feel it my duty to refer to, and it has been raised here more by taunt than by anything else, and that is the question of the Tariff. My hopes have not been realized in this regard. With the wisdom of the appointments to the Inter-State Commission I am in accord ; with the . delegation to that body of the overhauling of the Tariff and the investigation of the’ trade and commerce of the country I am perfectly in accord also. But I was hopeful that by a system of investigating what might be called associate or group interests, the House would long since have been in possession of sufficient material to deal with pressing matters by means of a Tariff. The Inter-State Commission is doing good work. Some of the disclosures being made are valuable. It is well that Australia should be thoroughly posted on the long list of commodities with which the nation deals, with as much dependable and accurate information as it is possible to gain. I recognise that no individual member of this Parliament is sufficiently well posted to be able to say exactly what measure of protection is necessary in order to set up and maintain sound industries.
– When do you think the Commission will report?
– I have already asked here whether the House could do anything in the way of hurrying on the Commission in any direction,. and the answer given to me was that the House was not in a position to move the Commission so far as the Tariff was concerned. I regret it. I propose now to conclude my speech, and my only disappointment is that the three honorable members cannot rise at one time and answer me.
.- There is one thing that we have reason to be proud of to-night, and that is that of the members opposite who are supposed to have some responsibility in this country, to owe some obligation to their electorates, and to be able to expound here what they propose to do during this session, one has at last risen in his place to endeavour to espouse the cause of the great Liberal movement. While I do not want to take up much time in dilating on his efforts, I do say that it is rather interesting to find that nearly every subject he took up he dropped as suddenly as he took it up, without leaving any material effect on the members of the House. He told us, first of all, that he intended to deal with the Northern Territory. What did he do? He entered into a discussion .with regard to cattle raising, and what did he say on that topic? He said that the time had come when we must stop spaying cattle. He does not know that in the Northern Territory spaying is applicable to other females besides those in the cattle family. He should have been thoroughly seized of the fact that he would have to eradicate that inclination in the Territory before he could bring about the cure he proposed. Ho did not tell us that every available mile of country in the Territory that is capable of raising cattle is already monopolized by the cattle kings and their subordinates.
– Forty square miles, some of them have,
– They measure the country in the Territory by hundreds of miles. When my honorable friend opposite spoke about expanding the great production of cattle and sheep he ought to have been able to show us where the opportunity lies for the expansion, and what is likely to be the result, but he merely satisfied himself by saying that the whole cure is to put a stop to the spaying of female cattle. That is very enlightening, and no doubt will be a tip for the men who are .trying to breed stock.
– Could we not stock up Scaddan’s leases to start with?
– I am not going to answer any tarradiddles from the honorable member. There was another matter with which the honorable member for Wannon dealt, and that . was the national bank. He welcomed the national bank, he supposed that some day it would be an institution which would* be of advantage to Australia, but he said it suffered from a malady which I never knew a bank to suffer from before. He described the malady by a common term, which is used in relation to quack medicines, that is, “ constipation,” brought about by obstruction. If he had recommended a remedy for thatmalady, and advised a course of pink pills, or bile beans, or something of that kind, one would have understood what he was referring to. But that is the kind of” thing we get from this budding statesman who comes from a country district of Victoria to teach other people. The honorable member has another wonderful proposal for raising money to defray the expenses of this great Commonwealth. Heis not iti favour of this Parliament retaining the power of land taxation. He would hand back the whole of that powerto the States, and then he would put a tax on me and Ministers and exMinistersof this Parliament. Any intelligent person who knows how much those men have left to pay taxes with will understand how far the money so raised would go towards making good the deficiency which the present Government will have at theend of the financial year. Those honorable members do not possess between them as much as the Government gave away to Teesdale Smith as a present to show how thorough they are in their policy of killing day labour and introducing the contract system. Was there ever such an impotent effort made to discuss a great vital question of finance?
– Have you not enough brains to understand that I spoke of income tax?
– It is always the habit of a man who has lost the power of concentration of thought to imagine that the other fellow is minus brains, and, consequently, the honorable member is trying to make out that the fault is with me, and not with him. Another matter to which the honorable member referred was preference to unionists, and he is wrath at the attitude of the Labour party in advocating that principle. The honorable member says that if this preference continues, Australia will be ruined; in other words, the policy upon which, for the last half century or more, the great -organizations of labour have built themselves up will, unless it is obviated or avoided, ruin the country. My honorable friend did not refer, to the butchers; he did not remind us that when there were two or three butchers who had independ ence enough to say they would give the people the meat they were hungering for, immediately they attempted to open their doors they were told by the master butchers, “No. These people will have to starve, but you must do our bidding.” Never has a trade union done so much harm as the master butchers did, in order to show their domination over the minor suppliers in that trade. But honorable members, blind to the infirmities on their own side, are for ever casting reflections on trade unions and the Labour party. As an honorable member interjects, the master butchers worked, as we had. an illustration of them working the other day when the scales of a master butcher were found to be l£ ounces out of balance in half a pound. That is the way they work points; they work a spring balance in order to get an extra penny out of every pound of meat they sell. If that is what the honorable member refers to, he may well say that the master butchers worked. The master butchers in Sydney went to work to assist themselves to greater profits. They bled the people to an. alarming extent, and the meat they sold was more likely to produce indigestion than any meat sold in this country either before or since. The honorable member for “Wannon recommends a reduction in prices to bring about reduced cost of living - a reduction of wages, he necessarily recommends.
– No, I did not.
– Ah! Here is an admission from a farmers’ representative. I say the honorable member argued thar, in order to lower the cost of living, it would be necessary to reduce the cost of commodities and the wages paid to the producers, and he says, “ No, I did not.” So he is not prepared to reduce the wages of the man on the land, but he is prepared to reduce the price of his commodity. And this is a representative of a farming district in Victoria! This i3 an honorable member who knows so much that he is prepared to teach every man on this side something about political economy; yet he tells the producers to decrease the value of their product, but to continue increasing the rate of wages. Let me tell my honorable friend in all sincerity that the countries where wages are highest, and necessarily the prices for produce are highest, are the most prosperous countries in the world to-day. And they will ever be so, because there is a bigger margin left for the worker and a bigger margin for the producer. When I hear my honorable friend and the member for Riverina talking about what they are going to do with regard to restricting the increase of wages to the rural worker, I tell them that the best men they have had in this country are the men who have put wages up throughout all industries, because, as wages have gone up, so, in greater proportion, have the values of the stock and produce of the man on the land been raised. Those honorable members ought to go down on their knees to the organizers of labour for the work they have done to raise wages, and for the benefits that the producer enjoys they ought to bless the Labour movement. I have nothing further to say about my juvenile friend, the honorable member for Wannon. He will learn better by-and-by. A few more lessons like he is getting in this Parliament to-night will broaden his knowledge, and enable him to come to common-sense conclusions on questions of importance, before he attempts to lecture men who have been in this House for many years. I wish now to just deal casually with other speeches delivered by members on the Government side, and I desire, first, to refer to the honorable member for Riverina. There are men whom one feels it is necessary to call attention to.
– Oan you tell the House on which side I part my hair?
– The parting in the honorable member’s hair is something like his policy - it is invisible. The honorable member thought it worth his while the other day to stand on the floor of the House and lecture members about decorum, about the manner of conducting business, the waste of time, and the necessity for avoiding repetition in political speeches. Yet we never get anything but repetition from the honorable member every time he speaks on any material question. Every time the honorable member rises is an occasion for repeating what his family have done, how they got their wealth, and how they fatten their sheep. “ I pay £11,500 in land tax,” he says, which, if it means anything, means that the honorable member has control of land worth half-a-million sterling. A nian who, every time he speaks, placards us as to what bis family are doing, as to the price they get for their sheep, and as to what wealth they are making, has no room to talk about repetition on the part of other honorable members. The same remark applies to the honorable member for Parkes, who makes it his business to come into the chamber and sit awhile, waiting his opportunity, and then, when the opportunity arises, get up and repeat over and over again those nauseous doctrines of his anent the policy and history of the Labour party. He never makes a speech without using the same language every time, and without dealing out the same arguments every time, lecturing the Labour party, and saying that he, above all men, is able to define their policy and tell them the straight course to take. But last night I was rather surprised to hear the honorable member deviate a little. At times even an honorable member opposite cannot resist telling the truth. So he was compelled by his convictions to do for us what we are trying to do, that is, to prove that there has never been a bigger set of bunglers of public affairs in Australia than the men with whom he is associated on the Ministerial benches. But the honorable member, after telling us that his party had bungled public affairs ; that they had made inroads into the Liberal policy; that they had broken one of the tenets of the Liberal faith which is to call for tenders for public works, still sits on the Government side; and, though knowing all that they have done *o the injury of the people of Australia, he humbly tells us that he has to follow the bidding of the Liberal Caucus. The honorable member for Wannon has told us that the Labour party are as ono man, that we are delegates, and so forth : but there is not among members of the Labour party in regard to the Labour movement the same amount of humility as can be seen on the Government benches in this Chamber. Tied, as they are, it is only by the strongest effort that any one on the Government side dare rise to speak in the House. Delegates ! Better to. be dele- gates than dummies. Now they are ashamed of what they did a short twelve months ago, when they went into all parts of Australia and told the people, not the truth, but stories - told them that the Liberal party had a policy, and that if they were put into power they would put that policy into effect. The people would see it grow more quickly even than the two blades of grass the honorable member for Wannon expects to grow through the passage of the Bureau of Agriculture Bill. Within two years, the success of the party would be so emblazoned on the records that the humblest of men would be ableto read and understand the magnificent work done by them. But where are they to-day who came in to purify things and! restore constitutional government ? Dumb; and they are dumb because they have no policy to expound, nothing to put forward to their credit. All they can talk about is a lot of platitudes in condemnation of the party in Opposition, who, in their three years of office, did more than could be done by the Liberal party if they were in power for halfacentury.
– More damage !
– This is the usual thing we hear from highly intelligent and educated honorable members of a superior party. We hear them say, in general terms, “You have done more damage”; yet, when we ask them to explain what they mean, they cannot do so, or, if they can, dare not.
– The majority of the electors thought so.
– They did not.
– Then, why are you in Opposition ?
– Because the people of Calare did not see the honorable member as they should have done. Had they seen and heard him, he would never have been in the House. Instead, they took a portrait of the honorable member that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, showing him in a philosophical attitude, with his cheek resting on his hand, and they thought that here was a very highly intellectual and promising man. They accepted the picture then, but now they see the man. When the honorable member next appears before the deluded electors of Calare, that picture will need to be verified by something more than the honorable member has done while in thisChamber. Before I pass on to the more important question, I wish to have a word or two to say on the speech delivered by the real Leader of the Liberal party, the honorable member for Flinders. We have the peculiar spectacle of a party, practically rent in twain in their own Caucus room, trying to appear a solid body before the public. We can see this by the loving way in which the honorable member for Parkes referred to the Treasurer, and by the destructive criticism he applied to the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General. Honorable members can see without spectacles the tendency of the mind that was at once trying to allay the popularity of one section of his party and to raise the popularity of another. We find to-day that the honorable member for Flinders is “ the man behind the gun.” He is the man with a mask - this cold-blooded political assassin who would rob the people of this country of the liberty they have won by their efforts in the past.
– Is the honorable member in order in referring to the AttorneyGeneral as an “ assassin “ ?
– I did not do so.
– Then it was as a “ cold-blooded political assassin.”
– That is right.
– I must ask the honorable member for Gwydir to withdraw those words.
– Surely, they are not unparliamentary ?
– It has been ruled so several times.
– I never heard it so ruled. However, if I am not allowed to say that, I think it.
– I withdraw the words, Mr. Speaker. I have described this gentleman, and I do not need to repeat the description, because, when I have said a thing, I mean it. This gentleman would rob the people of this country of every political liberty, privilege, and right that they have acquired after many years of strenuous organization and battle.
– Shocking !
– It is shocking, and the honorable member ought to be ashamed to be associated with him. The other night the Attorney-General was charged by an honorable member on this side with having committed offences against the Statutes of his country by cutting down old-age pensions, by robbing the railway men of their privileges, doing away with increments, and in a number of other ways.
– Robbing them of their political rights.
– And taking away their political rights and privileges. The honorable member for Bourke categorically named those offences ; and will honorable members believe that this leader of the sanctified party opposite sat in the corner and denied them in cold blood? There is supposed to be some honour in public life, especially in the men selected for high positions in the Government; and can any one dream of a greater offence than for a Minister to deny that which is true in every particular in order to save his face from the shame that should come over it? This was the gentleman who brought about the “ Irvine blight” in Victoria, from which it suffered for some years, and from which it did not recover until others followed him, and every one of those Acts of Parliament, by which he robbed the people of their rights and privileges, was rescinded and removed from the statute-book of the State. This is another proof and condemnation of the injustice which that gentleman did to the people of this freedomloving community. This is the man who is prepared to sit on the Government benches and openly deny what is the fact, and to such we are asked to commit the destinies of this young nation. How, in the face of this record, can the people of Australia follow him in the enunciation of a policy which is misleading and deceiving to those who have trusted him and placed him in the position he is today?
– The honorable member’s whole stock-in-trade is abuse!
– Is that the argument of the honorable member for Wannon? We heard the honorable member for Parkes yesterday talk about “vulgar abuse,” but that sanctified, supercilious, superior person is always talking about some one else’s deficiencies. He happened to be “ born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” or God knows what he would have been to-day! As it is, he has not made much advantage of the “ silver spoon”; and, consequently, he has little justice on his side when he looks down on those who have struggled from the ruck and tried to make use of their opportunities for the benefit of their country. However, let me give the honorable member for Wannon a few phrases used by his great leader, the present Prime Minister. The first I have here is, “ You are an excellent judge of dirt!” Then we have “ vulgar and splenetic language,” “hogwash,” and “you bully.” The Prime Minister excelled himself when, as though he were looking in a looking-glass, he said, “ You dirty rat !” He refers to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition as the “ Poo Bah of Parliament.”
– That is complimentary !
– It was not meant in a complimentary sense. The next phrase is “A re-hash of the old tripe.” That is the sanctified, clarified, intellectual, classical, academical way in which the Prime Minister deals with members on this side of the House. The honorable member for Wannon should not forget that those who throw stones should have regard to the glass houses in which they live. However, I was dealing with the honorable member for Flinders, who does require dealing with
– What is the matter with him?
– “ What’s the matter with him? He’s”- not- “ all right.” The Attorney-General evidently thinks that the people of Victoria have forgotten the coercion law he placed on the statutebook of Victoria. That was worse than any coercion law passed by any civilized community in Christendom - worse than any that has been passed even in the despotic country of Russia. This is the man to whom we are asked to trust the destinies of this great country - to trust the liberties of the people and the prospects and prosperity of the nation. In view of the Attorney-General’s history, would the Opposition be justified in remaining silent? Would it be justified in uttering no protest or in failing to tear the mask from his face, so that the people may see that, instead of being the man he represents himself to be, he is in reality a coercionist who will never he able to wipe out the record that he made when Premier of Victoria. This great man has set himself up to tell us upon what questions we shall be sent to the country. We are to go before our masters, the electors, and to take their verdict- on what? On a couple of cowardly and makeshift Bills which are really characteristic of the man. Remembering his experience of days gone by, the Attorney-General is too big a cur to bring down some tangible, effective measure of reform. He wants to secure power, and he hopes to come back with a majority of his party in this House as well as in the Senate, not to pass the Postal Restoration Bill, and that hollow mockery, the Government Preference Abolition Bill, but to put the political thumb-screw on the people, and to bring them to their knees as he did the people of this State some years ago. The honorable gentleman tells us that he is going to reintroduce these two Bills. The Government are not prepared to go on with the Electoral Bill which they originally introduced. They desire rather to obtain the verdict of the people under false pretences. Are they ready to go on with the Electoral Bill under which they sought to undermine the secrecy of the ballot, and to take away at one fell swoop the liberties that we now enjoy? If the Attorney-General has the courage to put that measure on his electioneering platform, well and good. But is he prepared to do so ? Is he prepared to tell the people straight out what he and his party want to do, and not what they pretend that they desire to do ? Is he prepared to say, “ We; desire to rob the people of the secrecy of the ballot; to abolish Saturday as a polling day; to make every elector sign his name on the back of his ballot-paper, so that he may be marked out for penalties and punishments bv the men for whom they have to work to obtain a living? “ The honorable gentleman by that Bill would have brought the men and women of this country under the ban of their employers. “Under it employers would have been able to learn how every man and woman voted, and knowing that, to do that which was done in Australia in days gone by. Even with manhood suffrage a station-owner was able at one time to discover how his hands voted, and although, perhaps, only a few voted against the principles favoured by him, the whole lot were sacked to make sure that no guilty one escaped.
That has been done time and again, and the penalty has been paid by those who have fought for the principles of Labour. It is this that the Ministerial party wish to do to-day. The cloven hoof shows itself under the garb of their vaunted purity. They would undermine the Democracy of this country, rob every citizen of his liberty, and put him, from an industrial stand-point, in purgatory.
– Will the people of Gwydir believe all this?
– My presence here is an answer to the honorable member’s inquiry. When he has been returned as often as .1 have been by my constituents he will be justified in asking such a question.
– It certainly “licks” me.
– A lot of things “lick” the honorable member. If he went to Gwydir the people would not need to hear him; they would need only to look at him. They are good judges of cattle, and when my honorable friend began to talk about cattle raising on the plains of my electorate, and sought to teach them about the breeding and the fattening of cattle and sheep, he would meet with a cool reception. He would need a bath in the artesian bore, when he would leave the district cleaner than when he entered.
– The honorable member for Flinders began his address by referring to the famous contract which has been so largely under the limelight during this debate. He talked about the spreading of poison, and endeavoured to show that the Labour party, by their statements in regard to the contract for a section of the transcontinental railway, were trying to poison the minds of the people against the Liberal party. He declared that we had no justification for speaking of a side-door entrance to the Department. Nor were we justified* according to him, in referring to a secret conference between the Minister and his officers and the contractor. The Liberal party came into power to purify politics; but they have not been able to place at our door any charge calculated to bring a blush to the faces of our supporters. When men of the type of honorable members opposite find themselves in a corner their only defence is to say, “ You’re another.”
That is the attitude they have taken up during this debate, and they have sought so to escape from the nightmare of their own maladministration. The honorable member, for Flinders referred* to the question of the Teesdale Smith contract for only a few moments, and then dropped it. He dropped it more quickly than he is prepared to drop the Marconi retainer. He says that he does not know whether that retainer has been renewed, but that if it has been he is going to stick to it. He is prepared to stick to a retainer from a large company which has litigation with the Commonwealth, although as AttorneyGeneral he should be the chief law adviser and guide of the National Parliament, and ready to give the best of his intellect in defence of the interests of the Commonwealth. But what does he do - this man who talks about the blemishes on our party? He refuses to give up his retainer from the Marconi Company, and to do the work attaching to the onerous and responsible office now filled by him. Instead of giving up his retainer he sticks to it, and hands over the defence of Commonwealth interests in the Marconi litigation to an honorable colleague on whose shoulders the work should not be placed. He does not hesitate to do so, although he would refuse to appear with that honorable gentleman in the Courts of this country. The honorable member for Angas, who is now acting for the Attorney-General, so far as the Marconi litigation is concerned, is good enough to have transferred to him the duties which the Attorney-General himself should discharge in this respect, but he is not good enough to appear with the Attorney-General for a plaintiff or defendant in the Courts of Australia. The Attorney-General has just entered the chamber. It is not my fault that he has been absent. Ministers are not here often enough. The Attorney-General, I repeat, dropped this question of the Teesdale Smith contract like a hotpotato. Subtlety is one of his chief characteristics. Doubtless it carries him through with his Court work, because the subtlety of the lawyer is like the subtlety of the devil. Not desiring that this strong-smelling contract shall be further discussed, he adroitly turns the discussion into another channel, and indulges in a bit of special pleading in respect of something that he is not prepared to explain. He told the people that the Labour party appealed to the electors on the last occasion by means of the referenda to give this Parliament power to protect the community under the wonderful industrial and economic changes that are now. taking place. We are not to-day in the position in which our friends who framed the Constitution found themselves. In those days there were no trusts in existence; there was no great octopus getting its tentacles round the avenues of production and distribution. Since these great economic changes have come about, since the whole face of industrialism has changed, since the phases of production have been varied by the introduction of machinery, and the means of distribution have been improved by the organization of both land and sea carriage, the whole situation has been revolutionized. Are we to remain where we were, or are we to advance with the necessities of the times ? Are we to say that the laws that were good before these great changes took place are good enough to-day ? The man who takes up that attitude is not true to his obligations as a Federal legislator, and does not understand his responsibilities to the people. We of the Labour party saw the necessity for increasing the powers of the Commonwealth so as to be able to protect, not only the producers, but the consumers, from the machinations of these gigantic trusts and combines, and we proposed to introduce laws to do so. The Attorney-General admitted the other night that he agreed with us on the main principles of our proposals in this direction. He seeks now to get away from that admission by a purely legal quibble, which is only worthy of a man who has been brought up in a Law Court. He says he could not vote for the principle that he believed in because it was not put in the language with which he would have chosen to clothe it! That is the type of men we have to deal with on the other side who say they believe in the referenda. He tells the people, through Hansard, that, although he believes in the regulation of trusts and combines, the extension of the- Federal power over trade and commerce, and the restriction of the powers of corporations, regarding all these as necessary for the well-being of the country, he could not vote with the Labour party because he was afraid they would not be able to administer those increased powers in a proper or intelligent way. Fancy a man believing in a prin- ciple of that kind and refusing to give effect to his convictions because of the party that happened, for the time being, to be the sponsor for those great reforms 1 That is the Attorney-General who isafraid to face the music to-night. He slinks away from this chamber when he is under discussion as only a man ashamed of his position would do. He goes to these wonderful hen conventions, the meetings of the Women’s National and other Leagues, and prates about what the Labour party are doing and not doing, to try to mislead the electors regarding our attitude towards trusts and combines, and the referenda generally. In his high, cold, calculating - and, I would almost say, blood-curdling manner - he puts these things before the people, and then, when he is called upon to defend himself here, he is not in this chamber to do it. He gets away because he is ashamed of his past, and, I believe, even more ashamed of his present. We should expect from the Prime Minister, at any rate, some definite pronouncement of policy when he rises to speak on a question of this character; but, during the 1 hour 35 minutes that he took to address the House, practically all he could say was, “ You slanderer; you slanderer; you slanderer!” That was all that we could get from the man who is supposed to be the leading citizen of this great Commonwealth. Here is a gentleman who tries to defend himself against the charge of having only a few months ago in this House slandered the electors. It was stated in this House and in the press, without any reservation, that at the last election the people of Australia acted corruptly, and the inference was that the Labour party was to be blamed for that. If was alleged that double voting was common, that thousands of votes were cast that should not have been cast, and that one person had voted nineteen times. But when an inquiry was forced on the party opposite, and they were asked for the proofs of their statements, it was found that there was not an atom of truth in their slanders. The reports of the scrutineers show that if there had been any personation it was not the Labour party, but men associated with the party opposite, who were responsible. I looked through the returns for my electorate, and I found that in places where Labour had no scrutineer to protect its interests, and the polling booths were sufficiently close together for a man to go from one to another, double voting - I do not say personation - took place. The Labour party could not be held responsible for that; the responsibility must lie with the party opposite and their associates. Before we had adult suffrage and the secret ballot, the pages of history were stained with the records of the misdeeds of the party to which the honorable member for Flinders belongs. I refer to the malpractice at elections. Before the Labour partycame into existence, members of the Liberal party, the predecessors of the honorable member and his associates, were charged with wholesale personation, and committed to the gaols of the country for the offence. No one personates merely for fun, because personation renders an offender liable not merely to a fine, but to a term of imprisonment. An intelligent Labourite would not personate merely to givea candidate a vote, risking his liberty for no personal profit. Those who can bring about personation, if there is any, are the men with money to buy personation, the men who can make it worth while to personate, paying for the risk that is taken. The Labour party have no money for that kind of thing; the other side is the only party which can supply ammunition for that work. Yet the members of the party opposite, the Attorney-General among them, had the temerity, a few months ago, to heap abuse on the heads of the innocent electors of this country, charging them with corrupt conduct at the election. No greater slander was ever uttered about any people. One might have thought that when it had been proved, by the report of the scrutineers and by the report of the Select Committee of the Senate, that these statements were a lie and a slander, those responsible for them would apologize to the people whom they had insulted. They had not the manliness to do the right thing, and they stand condemned in the eyes of all self-respecting men. The Prime Minister had something to say about the Teesdale Smith contract. The matter has been fairly well discussed, and I shall not say much about it. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs might have been expected to show that he had exercised the care and vigilance required of a responsible Minister, who proposes to change the policy of the country, and is intrusted with the spending of public money. But I never heard a more humiliating and abject speech than his, either in this or other Legislative Chambers. The Minister craved for mercy and for sympathy. What sympathy can you extend to a man who says that his reputation is dear to him, and tries to clear himself from the charges hurled against him by sheltering behind his officers, who cannot appear here to defend themselves? A Minister who does that plays a coward’s part.
Colonel Ryrie. - The Assistant Minister said several times,” I take the full responsibility.”
– He made that remark once or twice, but only that it should appear in print. Honorable members opposite always talk with two voices. The honorable member for Flinders rarely makes a speech which has not saving clauses, either at the beginning or at the end. Although he is credited with conciseness and definiteness, his speeches, read coolly, are found never to contain a definite announcement. All through his speech the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs said, “Why do you blame me? Blame the officer whom you appointed.” The officer to whom he referred is the man who was in charge of the first survey of the route. He was appointed by a previous Government, and left as a legacy to the Labour Government. He exclaimed, “ Why did you allow this man to remain on the scene to tempt me and make me fall, so that I would be humiliated by accepting his advice? What could I do but act on the advice of my officer ? ‘ ‘ Now, there might be some excuse for the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs accepting the advice of his officer in regard to a matter of departmental routine, but there was absolutely no justification for himsheltering himself behind that officer when dealing with a matter of public policy. Yet that is what the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs did. Let me come to the key of this question by inquiring: Who is to blame for what has happened? Who opened the door to it? Obviously the Minister who changed the policy which had been pursued from one of day labour to one of contract. If the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs had not departed from the policy of this country - in obedience to his masters, the Employers Union, who find the money with which his party fight at the general elections - this position could not have arisen. Had no contract been entered into, there could have been no mistake as to its terms. No matter how he may appeal for mercy, he is the Minister who reversed the policy that had hitherto been followed, and, therefore, he alone is responsible. Fancy the action of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs being defended by the Attorney-General! I would like to hear that honorable gentleman in a Court if he held a brief for the other side. I would like to see the brand of mercy that he would extend to little Willie. Would he have dealt with his action as gingerly and as tenderly as he did yesterdays Not he. He would have had little Willie in hobbles or in irons before one could say “ Jack Robinson.” Yet, in this House, he is prepared to uphold the conduct of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs in letting this contract under which the Commonwealth is being robbed - deliberately -plundered - of at least £30,000. I say that under this contract the Government are making a present of £30,000 to a member of a privileged class. Had a Labour Government entered into a contract under which my honorable friends thought that a Labour supporter would net. the sum of £10,000, they would have set this House on fire with their denunciations, and there would not have been enough black type in the newspaper offices to have broadcasted the news throughout Australia. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, without testing the character of the country which this section of the line will traverse, let a contract without tender at 7s. lOd. a yard for work which has been done by day labour on the same railway at from 2s. to 4s. per cubic yard. I repeat that rock cutting on this railway has been done by day labour for 4s. per cubic yard. When I say that I am referring to solid rock, and not to so-called “ silicate of sandstone,” which is the description of the formation of this country which was given to the Minister by one of his officers. Now there is no such thing as silicate of sandstone. Silicate is sand, so that obviously there can be no silicate of sandstone. Any man who knows the A B C of geology knows that such a thing could exist only in the fevered mind of an over-worked officer of the Commonwealth Service. It was perfectly within the power of the Minister to ascertain what had been the cost of excavating material from these cuttings by day labour. Earth cuttings, such as will have to be dealt with on this particular section of the line, have been done, and done well, by day labour at from ls. lid. to 2s. 4d. per cubic yard. Yet the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, without inviting any tenders, accepted an offer by Mr. Teesdale Smith, under which that gentleman is to be paid 4s. 6d. per cubic yard for removing the soft earth one and a half chains from the cuttings, and an additional 2 s. 6d. per cubic yard for depositing the material in an embankment which he must have formed under any circumstances, because he could not possibly have blown the material away. Not only is Mr. Smith receiving a fabulous price for his. work, but the Government are actually paying him on the measurement of the material deposited in the embankment, and not on the measurement of the excavation in the cuttings.
– I was not clear on that point before. I understand, however, that what the honorable member says is correct.
– A yard of earth, when removed from a cutting, will measure one and a third yards in the loose state, whereas a yard of rock taken from a cutting will measure one and a half yards in the loose state. In their anxiety to “ down “ the day-labour system, which has done so much for the Commonwealth, the Government have landed themselves in the most smellful contract that has ever been entered into in this country. The Attorney-General tried to burk the question by dealing with some ancient matter which he dealt with before the last referenda. He talked byandlarge upon matters which he was not able to define, and which he dared not give to the House, instead of dealing with this question, probably because he felt it was too strong for him to stand too near for too long a time. Let me show honorable members how the affairs of this Commonwealth are being run by the man behind whom the Honorary Minister has tried to shelter himself. I wish to show what his calculations in the past have been worth. In the early days of the history of this railway, he estimated that the cost of rails and fastenings for 1,063 miles of this railway atKalgoorlie and Port Augusta would amount to £1,012,000. The actual cost, at contract prices, is £1,431,523, or nearly £500,000 more than the estimate of this able and reliable officer upon whom the Honorary Minister depended. Dealing now with the cost of sleepers and ballast for the same mileage, the contracts already made for sleepers amount to £1,466,321. Mr. Deane’s estimate of the cost, vide his report of 20th September, 1911, was £1,038,000- showing a difference of £428,321 beyond his estimate of the cost. If we take the cost of platelaying for 1,063 miles, we shall find that Mr. Deane’s estimate of the cost in his report of the 20th September, 1911, was £153,000, whilst the cost on Mr. Deane’s specification and schedule would amount to £526,986. He was out inthis estimate only to the extent of £373,986. It is marvellous how the Commonwealth has continued to exist at all under such men as this. The cost of rollingstock already purchased and to be purchased, as per Mr. Deane’s information supplied to the Minister, is £441,436, and Mr. Deane’s estimate of the cost on the 20th September, 1911, was £315,000- showing a difference of £126,436. Now, if we take the whole thing, we shall find that the total cost of rails and fastenings, sleepers and ballast, platelaying and rollingstock, amount to £3,866,266; whilst Mr. Deane’s estimate on the 20th September, 1911, of the total cost was £2,518,000. It will be seen from these figures that this highly intelligent and experienced officer, who was discarded by one of the States because he was considered to be no longer up-to-date, stepped into this great spending Department, and submitted an estimate for this line, which will be exceeded by £1,348,266. This officer made an estimate of the cost of the railway, in order that it might be submitted to Parliament to induce, honorable members to vote for its construction. On his estimate, Parliament based its judgment and gave its vote, and yet we find, from the facts already before us, that the actual cost of the railway on present figures will be £1,348,266 more than the estimate of the cost made by the man who was in charge of the survey of the line, and who should have been able to calculate more nearly what the cost would amount to.
– Is the honorable member preparing estimates now?
– No; I am trying to show the Prime Minister how blind he has been during the arrangement of these tenders and contracts. 1 am trying to shed a little light on the dark places of the administration of the Department over which he presides. I am trying to put the case before the people of this country in a way which they will understand. The excuse of the Honorary Minister for the Teesdale Smith contract was that there were no other tenderers. But what do we find to-day? The Minister has had to produce a document, when it was demanded by honorable members on this side, who are the watchdogs of the people, ever on the alert for these smellful bones of the maladministration of the party opposite that are left lying about. When these watchdogs bark, Ministers run to the files of their Departments and unearth further information regarding these very questionable matters. I would ask the friends of the workers in this House what is the position? There was another contractor who approached the Minister on the 24th January, 1914, Thirteen days before the Government consulted with Mr. Teesdale Smith personally, Mr. Timms had already written to them that he had the necessary plant, indicating the plant he had, close at hand, and his willingness to come into competition with any one else for the construction of this work which the Government were prepared to hand over to contractors to be done at nearly double the amount it had been shown to cost under day labour in sections of the line already completed. This is the Government that was going to purify politics.
– And to have no preference.
– Yes; and to have no preference. We heard the honorable member for Flinders dilating on the question of preference to unionists the other night. To listen to the honorable gentleman, one would suppose that no man, however good a tradesman he may be, has a right to claim protection for the sacrifices he has made to bring about the prosperity of his own industry. One would have thought that it was a crime for a man to claim preference such as the Attorney-General gets in his profession every day in his life. It is right for the members of the high legal profession, but not for the industrial workers of the country. When the honorable gentleman talks of preference to unionists, let the people look at this contract. Preference to contractors is the policy of the party on the other side. Preference to contractors is more of a religion to them than preference to unionists amongst the mass of the people. Their preference is for the benefit of the individual monopolist and money-grubber of the community. Did the Attorney-General, and the other members of the Government, give preference to Mr. Teesdale Smith? Did they turn down the offer of Mr. Timms which was made thirteen days before Mr. Teesdale Smith appeared on the scene? Why did not that offer come before the public ? Why was it not brought before the Minister ? Why did the Minister have no more discretion than to accept, blindfold, what was offered by a man whom he had a right to suspect ?
– Because he has no business capacity.
– “Business capacity” ! Heavens alive! Would any man in this country hand over the destinies of a great spending Department to a man who, in addition to his natural infirmities - for which I do not blame him, because no man should be blamed for what he is not responsible for - has never had any contact with business, who has never had any reason to fight out his way to an understanding of matters? A man who would think of doing that in a private capacity would be fit for a lunatic asylum, and nowhere else. Yet the Prime Minister handed over this great spending Department to an incubating politician.
– He is a rubber stamp, pure and simple.
– He is not even that, because he wants to rub out the stamp.
– He is a blotting-pad, then.
- Mr. Timms, a contractor, was willing to do the work. The Prime Minister knows that Mr. Timms was approached for material and plant by Mr. Teesdale Smith. Honorable members opposite talk to the Labour party about their management of the affairs of this country, but they should look well at their own misdeeds up to now before they attempt to charge other persons with misdeeds. There is another matter to which I wish to refer briefly, and that is the survey of this railway. Does the Minister know that there has been a contract for a considerable sum let. recently to private surveyors without competition ? Does he know that some surveyors have been put on to survey this line, although it was supposed to have been surveyed in the first place, at rates which were not open to competition, and which have never been divulged to the country? Does he know that nearly £17,000 has been paid to these men in the past?
– Are you aware that the previous Government let the contract for the survey of the north-south line right through to Lawrence and Chalmers, without having any check on them whatever?
– I am not aware of what they did.
– I am giving you information.
– Even if the honorable member does, that does not justify the recent contract let for a re-survey.
– I am only pointing out that you have a very glass house.
– A peculiar position about the re-survey is that even when the firm have re-surveyed the line they have been paid without the work being tested by those who authorized the payment, and the payment, too, had to be re-adjusted by officers of the Department.
– They have not all been paid yet, I think.
– They are paid.
– Every time we have followed in your tracks we have gone wrong.
– You paid £2,000 for them doing nothing.
– It is not a bit of use for Ministers to cackle in the way they do about what we did. They have to answer for what they have done. At the last general election they had a chance to tell the electors what we did; and, by Heavens, they did not forget to tell them, when no one was listening who could contradict them, as to something we did not do.
– No !
– That is absolutely a fact, and is well known to the honorable member. When we look at this contract, we find that the only protection the Government had was in their power to impose a penalty on the contractor. What was the penalty? It was £5 a day. So that, if the contractor was three months behind with the work, he would have to pay a penalty of £390 ; and if six months behind, a penalty of £780.
– And £1,000 in addition.
– No. The solicitors maintain that that could not be recovered. Already the Government have given the contractor an excuse to avoid the penalty. Is it not a fact that in the first agreement the Government undertook to give Mr. Teesdale Smith a contract for 100,000 yards, not at one end only, but at the two ends, making a total of 200,000 yards?
– It is a fact, and, further, I tell the honorable member that 100,000 yards at each end is clearly stated in the contract. After they had given the contract for 200,000 yards, what happened? The Assistant Minister smelt a rat, as I told him the other day, and immediately, although he had sent over a paper to Mr. Teesdale Smith to get his signature, so as to secure the man, who was in a hurry, and the Government were in a bigger hurry to tie up the thing, he wired to Captain Saunders to get the paper if he could, and not to show Mr. Smith a certain paper which was referred to in the message. Here is the telegram -
Referring to my wire 25th inst., instructing you to present Teesdale Smith’s contract papers for his signature, please bring the document with you to Melbourne. Leave by first available train. Do not show at present document to Smith.
The reply of Captain Saunders reads -
Your telegram, I handed one copy agreement Smith, but have secured possession of same.
Hence the Assistant Minister cut down the work to one-half because, before Mr. Teesdale Smith signed the document, Captain Saunders got hold of it and brought it back to the Minister. When the Minister realized the type of man he was dealing with, he cut down the contract to 100,000 yards at one end only. That is how it came about that the document, as signed by Mr. Smith, was not signed on the 9th February, but was signed on the 18th April, after the work was commenced. It was signed after the Minister sent the telegram to Captain Saunders. How did Captain Saunders get the document ? Did he explain on his arrival here how he got back the document he gave to Mr. Teesdale Smith to sign? The Minister ordered the officer to bring it back here by the first train, but he did not tell us how the officer got back the document which he had parted with to Mr. Smith. I would not like to imply that he stole it, or to impute that he got Mr. Smith to hand it over to him docilely and in a kindly way, because I know that Mr. Smith would not part with a document of this kind unless his name was on it. Then, how did Captain Saunders get back the paper? If Mr. Smith would not part with the document without signing it, and the other man got it back before it was signed, I ask honorable members to use their own judgment as to how he did get it back. In order to escape the penalty of their misdeeds, the Government had to instruct the officer to do something different from that which they had instructed him to do in the first place. They desired to save their face with regard to the contract, which they realized would leave them with a burden that they would be unable to carry to the people of this country. No transaction in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament has been so indelibly marked with incapacity, with ignorance, and with a want of knowledge of business affairs as has this contract, entered into by the Liberal party. They will never get the penalty, because there are cuttings, and the Commonwealth Government have to make the waterways. Before they can make the waterways the contractor will be unable to proceed with the embankments, and, there being more than one culvert between the different embankments, he will claim that the whole thing has been voided by the Commonwealth not putting in the necessary waterways. Such is the case that stands to the credit of this purifying Ministry who declared that they would restore constitutional government.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to refer briefly in the first place to two paragraphs in His Excellency’s
Speech, in which reference is made to the impending retirement of our present GovernorGeneral. I am sure every honorable member in this House, as well as, I believe, every citizen of Australia, will reciprocate the remarks made by His Excellency, and re-echo the regrets he expresses in regard to his departure from Australia. My main reason for referring to this is the publicity that has been given to, and the comments made upon, the remarks I uttered, in regard to His Excellency’s resignation, at a meeting at Ballarat, on the 18th March. I was then referring to the persistent statements that had been made in reference to Lord Denman’s retirement, and I protested against the use that had been made of His Excellency’s name, and the attempt to ignore his discretion in the matter of granting a dissolution of Parliament. I used as an illustration the method that had been adopted in regard to yourself, sir. Honorable members will remember that I protested vigorously at the time against the use that the Government were making of the Speaker. The Prime Minister and other members of the Government were going about the country and saying what the Speaker would do in given circumstances. The same thing happened in regard to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, and, as I considered those statements a gratuitous piece of advice to His Excellency, if not an insult to his position, I protested against them. I was fortified in my protest by remarks which appeared in certain newspapers. Rumours were current that His Excellency’s retirement was not altogether due to the reasons assigned. The Darling Downs Gazette of 27th January, 1914, in announcing His Excellency’s retirement, used these words -
A Governor-General was wanted who would be able to deal with the situation less hampered by previous Ministerial associations.
The Toowoomba Chronicle, of the same date - a journal which is owned largely by Mr. Groom, the Minister of Trade and Customs - published the following remarks after a paragraph announcing His Excellency’s resignation : -
Baron Denman was appointed Governor- General in 1911. He has been principally remarkable for his sporting proclivities. Australians admire “ a sport,” but it is not a sufficient qualification for so responsible a post. The British Government should select more experienced statesmen as Governors.
I am sorry that the Minister of Trade and Customs is not here to either acknowledge or disclaim that comment, which appeared in his paper.
– Mr. Groom does not own the Darling Downs Gazette.
Mr.FINLAYSON.- The last quotation is from the Toowoomba Chronicle. The Darling Downs Gazette was even more insulting, because it suggested that His Excellency was “hampered by previous Ministerial associations.” I refer to this matter to-night, because my attention has been directed to a report of a banquet tendered to His Excellency in Sydney, when His Excellency referred to the persistent rumours in regard to his resignation. I was delighted to see - and I take this opportunity of expressing my personal pleasure - that he then said his relations with both Mr. Cook and Mr.Fisher had been of the most happy character, and there was no justification for the rumours that were in circulation. My principal object in mentioning this matter was to justify my own remarks on the public platform, and I am very glad that it is because of no difficulty with his Ministers that the resignation of Lord Denman has been brought about. Nevertheless, I hope that we have heard the last of these remarks in regard to what the Speaker will do and what the GovernorGeneral will do. There is still an echo of them, for there appeared in the Argus of the 17th April, in the course of a reference to the present debate, the following paragraph: -
There is no possibility of any defection from the Liberal ranks, so that in a full House the amendment will be defeated by the casting vote of the Speaker (Mr. Elliot Johnson).
I think that for your own protection, sir, it is about time that action was taken to prevent the press, Ministers, or private members saying what your actions will be.
Mr.King O’Malley. - Nobody takes any notice of the Argus.
Mr.FINLAYSON. - That may be so, but members have said the same thing, and they have no right to defame the GovernorGeneral or the Speaker by saying what either will or will not do. The remainder of the Speech, with the exception of the last paragraph - which is perhaps one of the most important, because it commends the Government to Divine guidance, of which they are said to be much, in need, as we all are - is principally remarkable for its barrenness. In looking through the Speech I have been struck as much by its sins of omission as by its sins of commission. The statement of Liberal policy put before us at the opening of the last Parliament contained twenty items, and during that Parliament certain measures were brought in, but in this latest Speech a very comfortable way is found of neglecting the previous Ministerial statement of policy, and also of omitting all reference to the work of last session, with one exception. I have a’ record of the work done last session, and it shows that there were two Appropriation Bills, five Supply Bills, and four’ Supplementary Appropriation Bills passed. The balance of the work done was largely formal. There were a few other measures carried, namely, the Norfolk Island Bill, the Pine CreekOodnadatta Railway Bill, and the’ Excise Tariff (Sugar) Bill, which was merely to remedy an omission on the part of the Minister. In no other respect was the work of last session at all commendable, and it is rendered worse, in comparison with previous records of Parliament, by the fact that so many important Bills which were brought up were either dropped suddenly, or disappeared, or were allowed to lapse. For instance, there was the Audit Bill, of which so much was said and so much expected. The Treasurer seemed to attach particular importance to that measure, but it was laid aside after a certain amount of work had been done. They could have got it through without any trouble.
– The Senate did not pass it.
– Why did the Government lay the Bill down simply because the Senate did not pass it? They were looking for, trouble with the Senate, as they are now, and this was an opportunity which they neglected to take. The Bill was lost because the Senate refused to ratify .a clause, which I said then, and I say now, was quite out of place in that measure. The Australian Notes Bill was also dropped. The Committee of Public Accounts Bill, a ‘ most important measure, calculated to be of considerable advantage to the country, was almost ignominiously left to look after itself in its passage through the Senate. ‘ Two other Bills were badly treated. One was the -Bureau of Agriculture Bill. We assisted the Government to get this measure through this House, but it lapsed after reaching the second-reading stage in the Senate, yet it was introduced by men who posed as being anxious to help the farmers and conserve their interests. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill was introduced by the Treasurer, but after the second-reading stage the Treasurer took fright, and the measure was allowed to lapse. Why have not the Government made some reference to these measures in the Governor-General’s Speech ? They are quite ignored. The Speech seems to have been built up and dictated by the Premiers’ Conference recently held in Melbourne. Note the hopeful tone of it, and how it is all in the future: - “Parliament should be given an early opportunity of considering the best means of expediting the despatch of urgent public business.” “It is intended to make a further effort to pass ‘ certain Bills ‘ in the short session now commencing.” “The report of the Conference of Premiers . will be submitted.” “It is expected that a satisfactory arrangement will be arrived at” regarding the question of the transfer of State debts. We are further told that, in respect to certain measures, action is to be taken “at an early date “ to give effect to the agreements arrived at at the Premiers’ Conference; that arrangements are to be made with the State Governments with regard to the Commonwealth Bank ; and that the question of the uniform railway gauge is to be referred to the Inter-State Commission. In regard to financing the railway gauge question Ministers are “confident ‘ ‘ that something can be done. In regard to co-operation in respect to immigration they ‘ ‘ hope ‘ ‘ to place a proposal before us. In regard to the financial issues of the Commonwealth it is intended “ later in the year “ to do something. In regard to the Tariff Ministers “ look forward with great hope.” And so on. This Governor-General’s Speech is particularly hopeful, and may be classed as an optimistic speech. All it proposes is something in the dim and distant future - as already said well during the course of this debate, not now, but later on it may be possible to do something. One wonders what reason exists for the present session. During the last two months or so we have been accustomed to hear all sorts of wild statements in regard to the summoning of the House. We have been told that certain things must be done. We have been advised from many platforms that it was absolutely necessary that the House should meet. The Prime Minister said at Cowra that the Government could not stay on with any sense of dignity under present conditions, that they had held their own in the last session, but it had been a pure battle of wits and only by the straining of the Standing Orders and such like methods were they able to hold on at all. At Sandringham the Prime Minister said -
I dare say we could keep on as we did last session, but there is no honour, no usefulness, in a position such as that.
The Attorney-General, on the 10th February, in Melbourne, at the Lord Mayor’s quarterly luncheon, said -
He for one would not enter upon another session with the parties in the state they were in at present. When the Government last year adopted the practice of applying the closure, and the unusual expedient of shelving motions of censure, it was with the knowledge that the position could not remain as it was, and that there must be a dissolution.
When Councillor Gardiner interjected, “ Does that mean a double dissolution? “ the Attorney-General replied, “Yes, certainly it does; the Government must rule or go out of office.” The honorable member for Lilley, speaking to his constituents at Gympie, said -
The Federal Parliament would meet on the 15th April for the express purpose of causing a double dissolution.
The Government Whip, speaking atMurwillumbah on the 7th February, said -
The Cook Government, when it took office, did so with the deliberate intention of appealing to the country, and they had made up their minds to create a double dissolution, which would come this year, but when he could not say.
So this Parliament has been summoned for a special purpose, and yet the Prime Minister closed his speech by saying that there would be no election until the rolls were ready. All sorts of wild statements have been made with regard to what was to be done. People in the country were invited to keep themselves quite ready for the tragical events that were to happen after the opening of this Parliament. We were promised the clash of arms, and such a critical series of divisions as the
Federal Parliament had never previously witnessed. We were induced to expect something more than usually exciting. But our hopes have been doomed to disappointment. With the exception of the censure amendment found necessary and the attack on theGovernment because of their maladministration, the session has opened serenely and calmly. There has been comparatively little trouble, and we have had a most hopeful and optimistic Governor-General’s Speech without any hint or suggestion that a dissolution is to be sought. Nothing but quiet prevails. Evidently the Government still intend to strain the Standing Orders until the time comes - not now, but later on - when a dissolution will be brought about to suit themselves. They are quite right, but I am disappointed that after the Government should have all the time been inviting the country to witness the spectacle they seem determined that it shall be arranged to suit themselves only in the presence of the spectators they themselves have chosen. There need be no hesitation in repeating the statement made here several times, that if the Government are anxious for a trial of strength let them bring forward some proposition worth fighting about, - something that would be an inducement to the electors to devote their active intelligence - and the Opposition are willing to accommodate them. In regard to the statement by the Prime Minister that not until the rolls are ready will an election take place, I do not wish to cover the ground so often covered before as to the administration of the Electoral Department. The whole of the charges as to roll-stuffing, double voting, impersonation, and other malpractices alleged during the last election, are more than anything else a reflection on the Commonwealth electoral officers.
– In what part of my speech was it that I said that not until the rolls were ready would there be an election?
– It was in the last sentence of the Prime Minister’s speech in reply to the Leader of the Opposition last week, and the note I have of the words is “ No election until the rolls are cleansed.”. It seemed to me a most remarkable statement if the cleansing that the Prime Minister desires is the kind of cleansing that has been found or suggested to be necessary in Queensland. Nothing could be more instructive or interesting than the statements that were brought out by the Electoral Commission during their visit to Queensland. I am sorry that the honorable member for Moreton is not here, because I do not like to make personal remarks in an honorable member’s absence.
– The honorable member has just made a very dirty insinuation about a man who was absent from the chamber; I mean my colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– And the statement made is without foundation. I know nothing about the quotation read.
Mr.FINLAYSON.- Did I not say that I was sorry the Minister of Trade and Customs was not here to either accept or disclaim the statement?
– I disclaim it absolutely. I know nothing whatever about it. The statement is about as accurate as many reports that are repeated by the honorable member.
– Does the Minister say that the statement is quite as accurate as many made by me? Does he mean my statement in regard to the maize moth?
– The Minister of Trade and Customs means the retailing of those contemptible rumours you spoke of about the Governor-General - rumours that nobody but the honorable member would retail.
– Surely the honorable member might have asked me first about the statement, when I would have given him the answer direct.
Mr.FINLAYSON.- As I have said, I regretted that the Minister of Trade and Customs was not present at the time.
– I have to tell the honorable member now, on the authority of Hansard, that he has misquoted me.
– Let me deal with the Minister of Trade and Customs first. I did not say that that gentleman wrote the paragraph, but simply that it appeared in the Toowoomba Chronicle, a paper that he controls.
– I have no control whatever over that paper.
– The innuendo was quite clear, and there was no mistaking it.
– I quoted the statement about Lord Denman as. having appeared in the Toowoomba Chronicle.
– The inference being that the quotation expressed my sentiments.
– I said that I was sorry the Minister of Trade and Customs was not here to either accept or disclaim the paragraph which appeared in a newspaper in which he is interested.
– If the honorable member did not mean what I have said, why did he quote the paragraph?
– I am sorry my time is taken up in explanations.
– I knew nothing about the paragraph.
– I did not say the Minister did.
– Then why did the honorable member quote it?
– Because it fortified me in my impression in regard to the retirement of the Governor-General.
– But the honorable member spoke of my “ accepting or disclaiming” it.
– Did the Minister of Trade and Customs feel it his duty to contradict the paragraph in the paper?
– I have nothing to do with the opinions of the paper.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs does not know what the opinion was I read.
– I have been informed of it.
– By whom?
– By my colleague, the Prime Minister.
– It would be much better if the Minister of Trade and Customs would read the paragraph, because he would then know what he is talking about.
– I know what I am talking about.
– Let the honorable member for Brisbane read the quotation again now that the Minister of Trade and Customs is here.
– I am not going over the ground again, because honorable members can read the paragraph in Hansard.
– I know what the para graph is, and it does not express my sentiments.
– I did not say it did.
– I have publicly expressed very different views.
– I hope the Minister of Trade and Customs will not leave the chamber for a moment, because I have two matters to which I particularly desire to direct his attention. Here is what the Prime Minister said in the final paragraph of his speech last Thursday -
With a clean roll and effective electoral machinery, let us consult the people in all those matters, and ask them to give one side or the other a definite mandate to do the people’s will. We have a right to ask this, and the people have a right to give it to us.
– That is not the quotation the honorable member made.
– The Prime Minister said there would be no election until the rolls are ready.
– Where does the honorable member find that?
– The words used were, “ With a clean roll.”
– What do those words mean ? As I said before, the note I took when the Prime Minister was speaking was, “ No election until the rolls are cleansed.” .
– That is not in my speech, nor anything like it.
– I quoted from Hansard.
– The honorable member did not, because that is not in Hansard.
– I am reading from Hansard, No. 2, page 114.
– And so am I.
– Is the Prime Minister’s copy different from mine? It is very remarkable if last year we should have two different copies of the Estimates, and this year two different copies of Hansard.
– The honorable member said that in my speech I stated that not until the rolls had been cleansed would there be an election ; and there is no such statement as that in Hansard.
– I will go back a little, and ask the Prime Minister if he has not made his position worse. He said last Thursday -
I desire to see, at the earliest possible moment, an effective programme of electoral reform put through, so that we may get the definite opinion of the people, once and for all, on those matters on which we are not getting it to-day.
Surely that means an election?
– Can the honorable member understand language at all?
– Evidently not.
– An “ effective programme of electoral reform “ is not in the Governor- General’s Speech this session .
– I am willing to admit that I am not so clever in the use of language, and in the altering of my statements, as the Prime Minister is; but we can draw our own conclusion, namely, that the Prime Minister, in the closing part of his speech, expressed a desire for an early appeal to the electors, but declared that a clean roll and effective machinery should precede that appeal. The insinuation, taking the honorable gentleman’s own language and argument, is that the rolls are now unclean.
– It is not an insinuation, but a direct statement; and I say, here and now, that the rolls are dirty.
– A man who makes that statement either does not know the facts or misrepresents them.
– Neither; it is the simple truth.
– The Prime Minister has at last committed himself to a definite statement, and he says now, if never before, that the rolls are unclean.
– I say that there are thousands of names on the rolls that should not be there.
– The position has been explained by the electoral officers in such a satisfactory manner that I decline to take up time by repeating what Mr. Oldham said before the Select Committee of the Senate. I ask leave to continue my speech at a later date
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at half -past 10 o’clock a.m.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 April 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140423_reps_5_73/>.