8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
South Australian Branch
– The Government is calling for applications from persons willing to fill positions in the South Australian branch of the War Service Homes Department, and an expenditure of between £5,000 and £6,000 is contemplated. As in that State there is already efficient and cheap provision for the- build-‘ ing of soldiers’ homes, I ask the Prime Minister to look into the matter with a view of preventing the waste of public money by the creation of a new and unnecessary Department.
– The facts of the case are not known to me, but I shall look into the matter.
– One of the oldest and longest established ironmongery firms in Melbourne has decided to close, because the rental of its premises has been increased 60 per cent. In view of the continual raising of rents, I ask the Prime Minister if he will take action to prevent unjust increases?
– I do not know of any action that is within the ambit of the Commonwealth authority. Increases of rent per se are beyond the power of any Legislature to prevent, they being due to the depreciation of money, the appreciation of goods, the increase of costs of production, and other economic causes with which the honorable gentleman, in common with every other citizen, must be familiar. The increasing of rents is a phase of the phenomenon of high prices which confronts the whole world. There are, however, increases which do not come within that category, and are unjust; and I regret that I know of nothing that the Commonwealth qua Commonwealth can do to prevent them.
– Will the Prime Minister introduce a Bill to amend the Public Accounts Act so that the Labour, party may be given the same representation on the Committee as it has had during pre’vious Parliaments?
– I assume that the honorable member’s question arises out of the remarks made by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), when I moved last week for the appointment of certain members to the Committee. The matter is a difficult one to deal with, because regard must be had to the representation from the Senate. 1 understand that in previous Parliaments the Ministerial and the Labour party have each had three representatives from this House, and that the Ministerial party has had two representatives from the Senate, while the Labour party has been represented by one senator. Last week, it was stated on behalf of the Labour party that, as its strength in this House was increased at the elections by two, its representation on the Accounts Committee should not be decreased, a contention that I quite appreciate. I would remind the honorable member, however, that if the parties in Parliament are to be represented on the Committee in proportion to their numerical strength, there must be a representative to every eleven or twelve members. The Country party would thus be entitled to one representative on the Committee, the Ministerial party to three representatives, because its membership numbers thirty-eight, and the Labour party , to two representatives. If the membership of the Committee were increased to ten, seven members being drawn from this House and three from the Senate, there would be the possibility of a deadlock.
– And the balance between the two Houses would be disturbed.
– To meet the honorable gentleman, I am willing to do this: If the motion that I have moved is passed, I shall, before the House adjourns for the visit of the Prince of Wales, bring in a Bill increasing the membership of tha Committee by one, and giving the additional representative to the Labour party, and, personally, I shall support it. I cannot guarantee to do more than that.
– On what basis will the trade unions of the Commonwealth be represented at the proposed industrial convention to be called together by the Prime Minister?
– There will be an equal number of representatives of organized labour and of organized employers respectively. The Trades Halls throughout Australia have been asked to nominate five representatives in each State, leaving the unattached unions, such as the Australian Workers Union, to nominate another representative. That will mean that each State will- nominate six representatives of the employers and six representatives of organized labour.
– On what date is the conference expected to meet?
– That will depend, to a large extent, upon the expedition with which the parties nominate their representatives. The Government are ready to make a start at any time, but we cannot do anything until the parties have submitted their nominations.
Report of Royal Commission
– When will the report of the Royal Commissioner who inquired into the administration of the Northern Territory be available? Will members be supplied with copies of the evidence at as early a date as possible?
– I have not yet seen the report.
Payment of Non-Clerical Staff
– Will you, Mr. Speaker, apply to the non-clerical staff employed in and about this House the provisions of the award recently made in the Arbitration Court by Mr. Justice Powers, and which is applicable to the non-clerical staff in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department?
– It has already been decided to readjust the rates of pay of the non-clerical employees of the House on the lines of the recent award referred to. The matter is under the consideration of the President and myself at the present moment, with a view to ascertaining the terms and scope of the award and its bearing upon the character of the work done by the officers employed in connexion with this House.
– Has the Prime Minister made arrangements yet with the wheat-growing States for the continuance of the present Wheat Pool in order to deal with the next guaranteed harvest ?
– No arrangement has been made.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer if it is the intention of the Government to issue 5s. notes, and, if so, will such issue be in addition to the present issue, or will notes of a value corresponding to the new issue be retired ?
– No definite decision has yet been arrived at, but I - and I am sure the whole of the Government - will be very averse from increasing the note issue.
– As there is still considerable misapprehension as to who are eligible to obtain tweed from the Geelong Woollen Mills and the Anzac Tweed Trust, will the Assistant Minister for Defence cause information to be circulated so that the persons entitled to the concession will be able to take advantage of it?
Dismissal of Returned Soldiers at Victoria Barracks, Sydney.
– I have received from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) an intimation that it is his intention to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely. “ the dismissal of returned soldiers at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, while civilians and girls are still employed.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- Honor* able members will agree that the retention of returned soldiers’ in employment, particularly in Government institutions, is preferable to the retention of civilians who were only temporarily employed during the war, and some of whose appointments are of quite recent date. A number of returned soldiers at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, have been dismissed, but within, the last couple of weeks at least fifty others have been notified that their services will be dispensed with from the end of the present month. The permanent area sergeant-majors have been brought in to take the places of the dismissed men. That is quite in accordance with the instructions issued by the Min_ister for Defence (.Senator Pearce) ; but’ girls are still employed to keep the ledgers up to date; and, if it is the desire of the Department to close up the branch in which these men have been engaged, their services could be transferred to the Pay Branch, which is an outstanding instance of the injustice being done to the returned soldiers. The officer in charge has not seen active service, and of all the officers employed only one has been to the Front. These officers have endeavoured to weed out returned soldiers from time to time, until to-day very few are employed in the Pay Branch, which is staffed by civilians and girls. I think about 400 persons are employed, of whom very few are returned soldiers. Recently the case of a man named Woodrow was brought under my notice. He is :a married man with three children, and was employed as a clerk at £3 4s. per week. When he asked to be paid a living wage, the officer in charge insulted him by saying that he was better dressed than was the officer controlling his section. No officer has >a right to speak to any man in that way. Woodrow’s life was made unbearable in that section, and he was transferred to another branch, but there the persecution continued, until he was compelled to sever his connexion with the Department. Returned soldiers have been dealt with in a most unjust manner, and it is time that effect was given to the instructions issued by the Minister for Defence. Only last Friday the Minister repeated the instruction, over his own signature, that, all other things being equal, returned soldiers should receive preference in employment. The Department is flouting that instruction.
– Are not a number of the women employed in the Department sisters of returned soldiers or widows of deceased soldiers?
– That question was gone into yesterday, and it was estimated that of the girls employed not more than 10 per cent, are dependants or relations of soldiers.
– I know quite a number.
– A number of the girls employed are relations of the officers employing them. As a matter of fact, those who have the administration are shutting their eyes to the instructions issued by the Minister. I had an interview with two returned men yesterday, one of them with one leg, and in receipt of the magnificent pension of 22s. 6d. per week. On that pension he cannot live, and he has been employed as a clerk, but his services cease to-morrow.
– They do not get the same pay as the girls?
– Some of the girls get almost as much as the soldiers do. No one better than soldiers themselves know how to deal with these departmental matters, and I protest that they have a prior claim to employment.
– I take it that the honorable mem’ber for Parkes (Mr. Marr), as a new member, is not aware that, as a matter of courtesy, the Minister concerned is always informed when there is an intention to move the adjournment of the House on any question. On the present occasion it was not until the House was actually meeting that I was made. aware of what he intended to do, and naturally I- cannot be supposed to have all the material here on which to answer the charges he has made. The honorable member admits that the instructions given by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) are in keeping with the accepted policy in regard to returned soldiers, . namely, that where there is temporary employment which they can satisfactorily carry out, they shall be employed in preference to temporary employees who have not been soldiers. I know, however, that the work of the pay office in Sydney, far from being so unsatisfactory as the honorable member endeavours to make out-
– I did not refer to the pay office.
– I understood the honorable member to say that even a wharf labourer could do the work of that office satisfactorily.
– I did not say that.
– In my opinion, the work of the staff in the pay office in Sydney will compare favorably with the work of any pay staff in the Commonwealth Service. However, I shall make it my business to see that inquiry i3 made as to why the instructions of the Minister have not been carried out, if it is fact that they have been ignored. It must be understood that all returned soldiers are not fit to go into a pay office and take up the duties of temporary clerks who have been years at the work. The pay office is a very important branch of the Service, and experts are necessary in dealing with the pay-sheets and so forth. It would be ridiculous to employ men in such positions simply because they are returned soldiers.
– That is what caused the chaos before.
– Are there not a number of men who could take on the job if they were given the chance?
– As 1 had no notice that this motion was to he submitted I am not prepared with full information, and can say no more just now in reply to the charges.
.- I hope that returned soldiers will not continue to be employed whether there is work for them to do or not. In my opinion, it is time the staff at the Victoria Barracks was greatly reduced. No doubt, it is a hardship to men to he discharged, but this class of work must gradually diminish as time goes on. I quite agree that where there is work to be done returned men should have preference, but it would be going too far to take away employment from widows and other dependants of soldiers.
– That is not alleged.
– Then there is no complaint on that score. I have visited the Repatriation and other branches of the Defence Department, and am quite con vinced that the , number of employees should be reduced. We are spending a vast amount of money on our military business, and the country cannot stand the expenditure. I hope that the Minister, while doing justice to the men, will see that the public, who have to pay, are given a fair deal.
..- It has never been claimed by the returned men that they should he retained in employment when there is not plenty of work for them to do. They desire positions in which they can do useful work for the public and make a living for themselves. I must say, however, that some of the returned soldiers are finding positions, which they are quite capable of filling, occupied’ by men who did not go to the Front; this applies, not only to the Pay Office in Sydney, but very widely throughout the Department. Good men have been pushed out into inferior outlying billets that they do not desire, while other men, who returned early or stayed at home altogether, enjoy the plums of the Service. This is what is hurting the feelings of the soldiers. I do not say that all men. in the best military positions, or all the men who stayed at home, are not worthy to fill them; but we do know of good men being pushed out to make room for others with less forcible claims. No doubt, much the same thing is occurring in other Departments in New South Wales. No one doubts the good intentions of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), but we know that the administration of the Department is not so thorough as we would like it. I am glad to hear from the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) that inquiry will be made. As a returned man himself, he knows what the soldiers are, and he will not see them injured in favour of other’s who stayed at home, in some cases, simply to obtain the billets left open. There is no desire that good men who stayed at home for special reasons should be turned out of their places, but returned men who are thoroughly qualified should not be made ito stand down for others who did not “ take the job on “ at the Front.
.- I am glad that this question has been raised, because it is time the public knew how our returned soldiers are being treated. My experience in Melbourne is that, not only returned soldiers, but their dependants, and the dependants of fallen men, are not getting a square deal. I do not say that this treatment is wilful, but it must have come under the notice of other honorable members that, for example, pensions are snipped down and living allowances taken away. I am confident that this is not what the public desire, nor that women who lost their breadwinners at the Front should be deprived of their chances for work. The Government and the people ‘ of Australia are pledged to preference to returned soldiers, but no one can say that the higher-paid posts are offered to them. The arrangements for filling these posts are, most of them, “ cut and dried.” Even in the profession which I have left for seven years some returned men are not given the fair show that they should have. Brief as have been the days in this Chamber of the Assistant Minister as such, he has already impressed honorable members as a man of honest convictions, who will give the soldier a square deal. I think the honorable member responsible for this motion may feel assured that his desires will be given effect to.
.- The case referred to “by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) is not the only matter of the kind requiring urgent attention. I fear that the promises made to our men when they enlisted have not been fulfilled in many directions. Some of those who gave their word are faithfully abiding thereby, and that applies more generally to the commercial community, I think, than to the various Government Departments. I propose to read a letter, which describes a grievous injustice to a returned soldier who, before his enlistment, served in the Railway Department of Western Australia. He has written on several occasions to the authorities; and the letter before me is a copy of a. communication to the Prime Minister -
Believing you have the welfare of the exsoldiers at heart, and acting on the report of a statement by you, to the effect that if any returned man had a grievance against the Commonwealth Government you would personally try and adjust it, I respectfully wish to place my case before you.
I joined the staff of the Accounts Branch, Department of Home Affairs, Kalgoorlie, on the 7th April, 1915, as a temporary clerk at 14s. per day, which was subsequently increased* to £270 per annum, under “G3” regulations of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta Railway Act, as from 1st July, 1016. Having enlisted for service in the A.I.F.. I applied for, and was granted, leave of absence for this purpose as from 17th November, 1916. I returned to Australia in November, 1918, after having served in France with the ! 6th Battalion, and being twice wounded; and during April, 1919, I reported to the Clerk in Charge, Accounts Branch, Department of Works and Railways, Perth, submitting an application for reinstatement in the service. The intervening period between November, 191S, and April, 1919, was spent in No. S A.G-. Hospital, Fremantle.
In June, 1919, I was asked if I were willing to accept the ruling rate for temporary clerks, viz., 12s. 6d. per day. This I agreed to accept, at the same time pointing out my position as compared with that of two other clerks who, with myself, were engaged with the Accounts Branch, Kalgoorlie, at similar rates of pay. These two officers (owing to some physical disability they were unable to enlist in the A.I.F.) were, on the completion of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta Railway, taken over by the Commonwealth Railways at their existing rates of pay, and, to all intents and purposes, are now permanent officers of the Railway Department, whilst I, on return from active service, am engaged as a temporary clerk at 12s. 6d. per day, which was reduced to 12s. per day as from 1st January, 1920.
– Order! So far as I have been able to follow the contents of the document, it does not appear to me that its contents come within the scope of the motion, which specifically refers to the cases of returned . soldiers at Victoria Barracks, Sydney. Unless the particulars being quoted by the honorable member refer to the same subject, he will not be in order in proceeding.
– I thought it possible that this man, whose case I am bringing forward, might conceivably be given an adequate position in the Sydney barracks rather than that he should continue to suffer an injustice in Western Australia.
-If the honorable member can connect his subject in the manner which he now indicates he may proceed.
– It is manifest that this man, who had done no wrong, and who, in the service of his country, had twice sustained wounds, has been denied a position which he held before his enlistment, and has been offered another at a considerably lower salary. I was thinking that possibly .there might be positions held by those who should not be holding them to-day, but which should be occupied by returned men such as the individual whose case I have brought forward.
– Order ! Upon looking more closely into the motion, I am satisfied that the honorable member is not in order in reading his letter. The motion refers to the dismissal of returned soldiers at Victoria Barracks, Sydney. I understand that the case of the person in Western Australia is not in any way linked therewith.
– And I think, too, that the honorable member for Swan will find that the case in question has been already dealt with.
– I am very glad to hear that, and, of course, Mr. Speaker, I bow to your decision.
.- I do not propose to give unqualified support to the object which the mover of this motion has in view. I support the general principle that full consideration should be given to the just claims of returned soldiers; but, from two points of view, this motion is open to criticism. In the first place, I sincerely hope there will be a gradual - and not too gradual - reduction in the staffs of the various barracks connected with our military services’. I trust there will be .such substantial reductions in expenditure upon military affairs, and at a very early date, as will indicate a real intention on the part of the Government to give effect to the stated ideals of those distinguished gentlemen who sat around the table at the Peace Conference. But in any case there are some words employed in the motion which make me wonder, rather, whether the age of chivalry has not passed away. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) is complaining, apparently, that girls are occupying positions in Victoria Barracks which, in his view, should be held by returned soldiers. I cannot support a proposal to have young women turned out of employment for returned soldiers or any other persons.
– Not even if those returned soldiers are married men?
– No. Many of these women are themselves the dependants of returned soldiers. They were invited, and, indeed, in many cases pressed, to take on this work during the currency of the war, and they, no doubt, have their own serious responsibilities and duties to perform in regard to the maintenance of tha families of which they are units. Already there is a disposition to regard as intruders women who have qualified for positions and have been doing their work (well, when some mere man wants the position which they are filling.
– He is a bit beyond a mere man this time.
– That is something which I do not admit.
– Of course, you would not.
– So far as I understand it, I do not admit it, at all events. T. cannot join in any request for preference to returned soldiers, or to any one alse, as against women who are doing their work well. They should get, at least, equal consideration with any other section of the community. Short of that, of course, I would be very sorry to think that any person should be discharged from his or her position, and that any returned soldier, in particular, should be unjustly treated. I merely rise for the purpose of uttering a general protest against putting into practice the simple scheme which some people appear to have in their minds, namely, of repatriating returned men by thrusting somebody else out of a situation.’ Our responsibilities in regard to repatriation should be quite different. There are any number of avenues of employment. Some of our patriotic employers might very easily open up some of those avenues which they closed when their employees went to the war. There might be an examination of conscience as to whether they have kept faith with the promises they made with such unction and eloquence that their employees would find their positions open for them on their return ; and when we are busy holding public inquiries and commissions we might also institute an inquiry as to how many of these employers have and have not kept faith with the men who went away from their establishments. Many instances have come under my notice in which the promise has not been kept. Moreover, generally, on the declaration that we ought to dismiss girls in order to make room for returned soldiers, I do not think that the latter, as a rule, would welcome employment on such’ ignoble terms.
– If this is the only way in which honorable members can discover a means of repatriating our soldiers, it shows that there is a great poverty of ideas among them. I have heard very little from honorable members opposite, especially the returned men among them, in the shape of an attack upon the Government for not proceeding with a proper scheme of repatriation. I am not permitted to discuss that phase ofthe question upon this motion, but there are avenues of employment which they should insist upon having opened up.
In the earlier portion of the war applications were received from thirty or forty clerks in the Victoria Barracks, who were anxious to go to the Front, tout were not allowed to do so. One of those men worried me for two years and three months to get him permission to go. I appealed to Senator Gardiner when he was Assistant Minister for Defence, and when the facts were put beforehim, he said, “I think we ought to let him go.” However,the Department declared that they could not spare him. He was in some special line, although he told me that any clerk could do the work he was performing. Eventually he got away, and was unfortunate enough to be killed after having been in the trenches for eleven days. Dozens of the clerks left the Service and got away to the Front; others were not allowed to go because they were permanent men. Later on, in 1918, when there was an outcry against men holding positions at the Victoria Barracks who were not returned soldiers, these men had to defend themselves by pointing out that they were notallowed to go when they wished to do so, and that if they had been allowed to go, they could have secured commissions, whereas at this time they would be required to enlist as privates. They said, “We were kept back for our country’s good, now we shall stay here for our country’s good.” These men were harassed. One man was so worried that he left the Barracks, and it was fortunate for him that he did, because he is now earning a salary of £500 a year.
I deny the correctness of the statement made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) that the returned soldier is more likely to understand the requirements and difficulties of his comrades and deal with them. As a matter of fact, the returned soldiers employed in the various Government Departments do not treat their comrades and the dependants of soldiers as well as do those who did not go to the Front. I have heard that complaint voiced by hundreds of returned soldiers. I have been at the Defence Department, and seen mothers and returned men waiting to be attended to, but the returned men behind the counters have not taken the slightest notice of them. On one occasionI had to wait for three-quarters of an hour until I secured the attention of the man who was behind the counter. When he asked me to tell him what my business was, I said, “ Will you please tell Mr. So-and-So that Mr. Mathews wishes to see him ? “ He said at once, “ I am sorry to have kept you waiting. I did not know it was you.” The point is that this man had no right to keep any one waiting. But the men in these positions know that they cannot be removed from them, and they do not care how they treat their comrades or the dependants of their fellow soldiers.
– No one said that they would give better treatment to returned soldiers. My claim was that no one understands the soldier better than he does himself.
– I took the honorable member’s remarks to mean that the returned soldier understood how to deal with his fellows better than others did, and if that is the case, judging by the way in which the average returned soldier in a Government Department treats his fellows, it is anything but fair treatment that he metes out to them. The men employed in the various barracks at the outbreak of war, especially those in Sydney, endeavoured to get away, and I will not be one to say now that they ought to be discharged to find places for returned soldiers. It is the duty of the Government to see that soldiers are placed in positions where they can earn a decent living, and instead of coming forward with a petty case, involving the dismissal of girls in order to provide such employment, honorable members opposite who are returned, men should insist on the Government discharging their duty.
.- There is considerable disorganization throughout the community in the matter of dealing with returned soldiers and unemployment generally, and unless the Federal and State Governments devise some scheme whereby unemployment will diminish, we shall always have trouble. On all sides there is the lack of organization, and grievances are multiplying without any redress. In spite of the very gallant utterances of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), I cannot agree with him. On one occasion, when Sir John O’Shanassy, an old Victorian politician, had made out a very good case of what he was going to do with the young men of the country, and some one had pertinently interjected, “What about the young women ?” he said, “ I would marry them to the young men.” Upon the issue as to whether a man or a woman should get a position, I believe that the man who will be the bread-winner of some future family should be given the opportunity of securing it. The Federal Government, the State Governments, and private employers are employing women to-day because they are cheaper, and returned soldiers and others have to wait for positions.
– Let them pay the same wage for all, and we shall see the difference.
– The party on this side stands for equal pay for the sexes for equal work. If that rule were enforced in Government Departments and private employment, there would be more male employees than female. I do not wish to be regarded as ungallant, but I have very strong feelings upon this subject. Any morning one can see armies of young women coming into the streets of Melbourne, not only to work in factories, hut also to take their places in all the commercial nouses. I do not wish to deny them the opportunity of getting a living, but as long as women are employed to such an extent, there will always be a large number of men out of employment.
– A lot of the men are too mean to marry.
– A lot of them find it too expensive to marry. However, I have no desire to enter into a domestic discus sion at this stage. I am not here to deprive womenfolk of employment, but if we expect our young men, including many of our returned soldiers, to take upon themselves the responsibility of the head of a home, we must find employment for them. That being so, although it may seem unchivalrous, I shall be prepared, in order to bring about that desirable state of affairs, to vote every time for the man when the question at issue is whether a returned soldier, instead of a young woman, shall be employed.
.- I was very glad to hear the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) point out that there is another phase to this question, and that it is not the desire of returned soldiers that men employed in the Defence Department who, being over the age, were unable to enlist, should be displaced. I have in mind a case which occurred here, and which may be similar to cases that’ have arisen in Sydney. A man who was in business here during the early part of the war was asked by a Defence officer to give up his business in order to take charge of the inspection of coach work and of coaches and the waggons in the Department. He did so, but has been told that his services are to be dispensed with to-morrow. He is over fifty-nine years of age, and was for years in the engineers corps. He tried twice to enlist, but was rejected because of his age. Two of his sons went to the Front; one has returned crippled, and the other, after going right through the war, has also returned. This man has to stand down.
– That is not a fair deal.
– It is not, and I am glad that honorable members opposite support my view. I have written to the Department concerning .this matter, because I stand for a fair deal for every man, whether he is a returned soldier or not.
– But the honorable member does not wish men who did not volunteer to be retained in the Department in place of returned soldiers.
– No, I have never said that I do. Where the Department refused to permit an employee to enlist on the ground that his services here were* indispensable, the responsibility for his failure to enlist must rest upon the Department itself. I am glad that this question has been raised, so as to let it be known that the returned soldiers are out for a fair thing, and do not ask that employees of the Department who were not eligible because of their age shall be displaced by returned men.
.- I am in hearty accord with the object which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) has in view in submitting this motion to the House. We cannot do too much for our returned boys. During the election campaign I promised, other things being equal - and I intend to uphold that promise if possible in this House - to support the dismissal of all temporary employees in Commonwealth Departments who were eligible, and did not enlist, where returned men are available to take their places. There are scores of eligibles occupying Government positions - “ cold footers,” you may term them if you please - who should give way to men who fought and bled for the country. Our boys have done their share in defending the Empire, and it remains now for the Government of the Commonwealth, and also for the State Governments, to do their part. I feel convinced that a searching inquiry throughout the various Commonwealth Departments would lead to employment being found for quite a number of returned soldiers who are justifiably entitled to preference as against those who did not enlist.
As to the question of unemployment to which reference has been made by honorable members of the Labour party, I would point out that there is plenty of employment for the “ cold footers “ or eligibles if they are prepared to go into the rural districts. It is at present almost impossible to obtain a man to work on a farm. It is not the question of wages so much as the easier conditions, shorter hours, and lighter work of city billets that stands in theway. All things being equal, I hold that preference of employment should be given to the returned boys, and I shall at all times vote in that direction. I hope that the Government will be guided largely by the wisdom of the views that have been expressed during this debate. If they neglect the advice that has been so ably tendered to them, they must expect further trouble. If we see to it that, other things being equal, our returned boys are given preference of employment in all the Government Departments, we shall only be carrying out the promise that most of us made during the election campaign.
.- There are only one or two points raised during the debate to which I desire to refer.I would not for one moment be in favour of clearing out of the Government Departments, irrespective of his qualifications, every man who had not been to the war, in order to find employment for returned soldiers. Every one knows that some of the women employed in Government Departments are largely dependent upon their income for the maintenance of their homes, and we do not want to sweep them out with a rough broom. We do not wish to turn them all out of the Service. Whilst it is admitted by honorable members that a reduction in the present staff of the Defence Department is absolutely necessary, I hold that those who have not been to the war should bethe first to be dismissed. In the Sydney office, almost without exception, however, it is the returned soldier who is put off, while men who did not volunteer, and girls, are retained. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), it would appear from his remarks, is more or less in favour of the employment of women. While I consider that every man and woman has the right to live, and should have an opportunity to earn a livelihood, I hold that a large Department like that of Defence, which has been built up by the war, should, other things being equal, employ soldiers instead of civilians to do its work. I shall not press the matter further, but, seeing these men have been advised that they are to cease duty to-morrow, I would ask the Minister to stay their dismissal pending an inquiry.
Question resolved in the negative.
Second Furlough Period
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– It is proposed to introduce a Bill at an early date which will provide for the granting to officers of the Commonwealth Public Service a second period of furlough. Until this legislation is enacted, payment in lieu of such furlough cannot be allowed.
Mr.FENTON (for Mr. Mahon) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Have any payments been made during the currency of the late war, or since its termination, to persons in Western Australia from what is known as the Secret Service Fund, or from any fund the detailed disbursements from which are not disclosed to Parliament?
If any such payments have been made, does he feel free to inform the House -
the total amount so distributed;
whether the recipients were military officers, members of the police force, or private individuals;
through what channel the disbursements were made, and whether the usual vouchers have been, or will be, submitted to the Auditor-General?
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, with a view to the economic development of the north and north-west of Australia, the Government would favorably consider the advisability of offering a bonus or special grant to anyperson who could successfully demonstrate that the tide could be economically and efficiently utilized for the purpose of generating electricity for motive power on a large scale?
– The matter will receive consideration.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr. BURCHELL (for Mr. Austin
Chapman) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
With reference to the promised increase of military pay, is it a fact that four officers and ten warrant and non-commissioned officers were, on Friday, the 16th April, paid at a rate varying from 5s. to 10s. less than they were paid the previous fortnight’s pay at Duntroon ?
– No information is at present available, but the matter is being investigated.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the fact that many soldiers are debarred from many military concessions owing to their having been convicted of some military offence, some of which were of a very trivial nature, will the Minister grant a general amnesty to those soldiers who were convicted for purely military offences?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Soldiers returned under sentences awarded before 18th July, 1919, for purely military offences, have the whole of the unexpired portion of their sentences remitted on disembarkation in their Military District in Australia. Cases of sentences awarded after that date are reviewed by a Sentences Revisory Committee, and many remissions have been granted, including a number of remissions of the whole of the unexpired portion. A very large number of sentences are remitted on embarkation in England. It is not proposed to grant further leniency. Every case where the sentence is not wholly remitted receives very careful individual consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiry will be made, and information furnished to -the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Expenditure - Theatrical Entertainments
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What amount, if any, do the Government propose to spend in entertaining and preparing for the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
It is not possible, at this stage, to estimate the sum which it will be necessary to appropriate. The officer appointed to organize the tour of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has been granted funds to meet initial requirements, and to cover the cost of those entertainments approved by the Government. The Government intend that all that is fitting will be done towards the reception and entertainment of His Royal Highness. It is not intended, however, to permit any extravagance. The Government are relying upon the loyalty and enthusiasm of the people to make the reception and welcome to His Royal Highness al] that it should be.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honor able member’s questions areas follow : - 1 and 2. The Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the Government of the State of Victoria, has arranged for but one theatrical entertainment. Any other arrangements for such performances have been left in the hands of the State authorities.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
-The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Remittances may be made to Germany provided the money remitted is not -
Austrian, Bulgarian or Turkish national, or
remitted in contravention of the Trad ing with the Enemy Act 1914-1916, or Treaty of Peace Act.
Commonwealth War Loans
asked the Acting Trea surer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the total amount paid in old-age pensions from the 1st January, 1920, to the 31st March, 1920?
– Including invalid pensions, the expenditure was £1,374,392.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to have the proposed Convention for the amendment of the Federal Constitution elected on the system of proportional representation?
– The method of electing representatives to the proposed Convention will be decided by the Parliament when the Bill authorizing the Convention is before it.
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
– Amending Public Service legislation will be introduced as soon as possible, but I am unable at present to give any definite information asto when such legislation will be brought before the House.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the l5th April, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) asked me a question relating, inter alia, to the treatment of officers of the Commonwealth Bank in the matter of payment of part salary in addition to military pay whilst on active service as compared with the treatment of Commonwealth public servants who enlisted for active service. I then promised to have inquiries made in the matter. I, have now ascertained that half bank salary, in addition to military pay, was granted to those officers who were in the service of the Commonwealth Bank at the outbreak of war, and who enlisted after August, 1914, and that part bank salary to a lesser degree was paid to those who joined the bank after the outbreak of war and proceeded on active service. At a Conference between the Commonwealth and State Governments in 1914, it was decided that officers of the Public Service who were members of the Australian Imperial Force should be granted military pay only. I would point out that officers of the Commonwealth Bank, not being members of the Public Service, were outside the scope of the decision arrived at by the Conference.
Imperial Contract: Production of Papers
– On the 22nd April, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) asked me a question in regard to the Australian wool clips. I then promised to obtain certain information for the honorable member. I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following particulars: -
– On the15th April, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) asked -
Whether instructions will be given for -
In reply to inquiries, I have obtained the following information : -
Australian service. I have no official information when these steamers will again take up the service, but understand that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company hopes to resume the monthly running to Australia from July, 1920. The Orient contract has less than two years to run, and the question of arranging a fresh contract on its expiration in 1921 is now receiving consideration. A decision in the matter will be expedited as much as possible.
– On 23rd April the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following reply: - 1 to 4. The practice of the Service in 1907 was to require an officer to work through the grades of his class up to the value of his position. The Public Service Commissioner advises that this matter was settled some years ago, and cannot now be re-opened.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay upon the Library table the papers in connexion with the closing of the Tanunda Club?
– It is not considered desirable to do so.
Election of ConstitutionalConvention.
Debate resumed from 22nd April (vide page 1455), on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that as early as practicable a Constitutional Convention should be summoned for the purpose of considering the need, substance, and form of any amendment of section 51 of the Constitution, and that such Convention shall -
consist of ten (10) representatives of each State, elected on the existing Federal franchise, according to the principle of proportional representation ;
hold meetings at such times and places as it may think fit;
submit within twelve months to the Governor-General the draft of any amendments adopted by such Convention.
That any such amendments so adopted shall be a proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution, and shall be dealt with in accordance with section 128 of the Constitution for passage by Parliament and submission to the electors.
That an Enabling Bill to give effect to the foregoing should be introduced to Parliament as early as practicable.
– I wish to add a few words to my remarks upon the motion of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who asks that a Convention be appointed to consider the need for and the substance and the form of an amendment of section 51 of the Constitu tion. I do not know what hope there is of getting that provision amended, but I am prepared to vote for the calling together of a Convention, because, undoubtedly, Australia is too large to remain divided into only six States. Its area is greater than that of England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal put together. If all those countries were superimposed upon this continent there would be a considerable area unoccupied. My feeling is that if the Convention would assist me, and those who, like me, favour the making of a new State in the middle of Queensland, we should be glad to have it, though I fear that at the present time our public is so much distracted by industrial troubles, the high price of goods, and the general disturbances consequent upon the war, that it is doubtful that there will be the interest taken in the proposed Convention that it should provoke, and it would be unfortunate if there should be a lack of interest in the work the Convention might do, and that must be done at some time, though it may be at a remote period. The honorable member asks for the amendment of section 51, which sets out the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. We have repeatedly appealed to ‘ the electors to agree to an amendment of that section so that this Parliament may have more power to deal with matters affecting trade and commerce. foreign combinations, and conciliation and arbitration. We proposed to increase the industrial power of the Commonwealth by giving it authority to deal with disputes on railways, and also to get power to legislate in regard to Trusts and Combines and the nationalization of monopolies. We appealed’ to the people in 1911 and in 1913, and the appeal that was to have been made in 1915 was postponed until 1919. On each occasion those proposals were rejected by the people, though in different States and in different numbers, and such is the peculiarity of public opinion that people who are prepared in one year to vote in favour of a certain alteration will in the following year vote against it. Therefore, I see very little hope of a majority of people in a majority of the States voting to give the Commonwealth the additional powers that are being sought.
I ask honorable members who ar© proposing that a Convention shall invite lie people to give the Commonwealth Parliament plenary powers how they expect to get a majority of the people in the majority of the States to give their consent when the people have, on so many occasions, refused to give this Parliament only portion of the powers that are to be asked for.-
I shall support the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) in his endeavour to have summoned a Convention composed of ten delegates from each State. I favour the proposal made by the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Earle Page) to secure representation on the basis of community of interest as far as possible. I am not in favour of the suggestion made by the Acting Premier of Queensland (Mr. Fihelly) that the delegates to the Convention shall be elected on a population basis. If that were done, it would mean that the States of New South Wales and’ Victoria would have the overwhelming preponderance of power in the Convention, and the result of the deliberations of a body thus composed would almost certainly be rejected bv the people. On the other hand, if we can arrive at some method whereby the integrity of the States can be protected, giving ten representatives to each State, and so dividing the States as to insure that the people m the country will be given their due power and influence in the Convention, there will be more likelihood of the Bill evolved by the Convention being accepted by the people. But I do not propose to wait until the people have adopted such a Bill. I shall join with the ‘honorable member for Cowper- in an endeavour to have a new State created in the northern part of New South Wales. This Parliament already has power to take such action with the consent of the State concerned. Chapter VI. of the Constitution deals with new States, and section 121 provides that this Parliament “ mav admit to the Commonwealth or establish new States.” I assume the section’ to mean that if the residents of the Northern Rivers District of New South Wales, for instance, could induce the ‘ State Parliament to give them authority to create a new State, this Parliament could grant them representation. But section 124 says -
A new State may be formed by separation of ‘.’ territory from’ a. State, but only with the consent of the Parliament thereof, and a new State may be formed by the union of two or more States or parts of States, but only with the consent of the Parliaments of the States affected.
Section 123 provides -
The Parliament of the Commonwealth may, with the consent of the Parliament of a State, and the approval of the majority of the electors of the State voting upon the question, increase, diminish, or otherwise alter th limits of the State, upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed on, and may,’ with the like consent, make provision respecting the effect and operation of any increase or diminution or alteration of territory in relation to any State affected.
As has been said by the honorable member for ‘Cowper, certain States still have non-elective Houses of Parliament. It is not certain how the Legislative Council in Queensland would vote on the ques-tion of the creation of new States in Queensland - one in the north, another in the centre, and the south to remain under the present Legislature. Although the Queensland Parliament has power to divide the State into new provinces, and although a number of men in that Parliament are pledged to the creation of new States, yet it is a singular fact that many of them when they get into power, became apathetic in regard to that matter.. The late Mr. Kidston was such a one. I have no wish to say anything derogatory to the deceased gentleman, because he was a splendid parliamentarian. Unhappily, we never say that a politician is a statesman until he is dead. But the deceased gentleman was a statesman, and much of the legislation he introduced into Queensland has proved very beneficial. He, when a private member, was in favour of the creation of a separate State in Central Queensland, but when he became Premier, he appeared not to like the prospect of being shorn of some of his importance by the division of the State, and during his term of office nothing was done to further the movement that was started for that purpose. .The movement was very active in Queensland in 1892; indeed, a Bill was actually introduced- into the Legislative Assembly by Sir_ Samuel Griffith “. to provide for the division of the Colony of Queensland into provinces, aud for the better government of the Colony, as so ‘divided.” The preamble read-‘
Whereas it would be ‘ for the general benefit of .’the people of Queensland that the local affairs “of the southern, .central, and northern divisions there.of should be .administered by the people.- of those, divisions respectively, that the ‘general.- affairs of the . whole colony should continue to be governed and administered by a general Parliament and a general Government : And whereas for that purpose it is desirable that the colony should be divided into provinces, and that provision should be made for the future constitution of other provinces to form part of the said colony : Be it therefore enacted by the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly of Queeusland in Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows : -
This Bill provided for the creation of a Senate by the cutting up of Queensland into three provinces. The measure was brought forward by Sir Samuel Griffith on the 23rd June, 1892, and it is most interesting to note the striking resemblance between its clauses and the sections of the Federal Constitution. The powers of the proposed General Assembly of Queensland, as set forth in Part V. of the Bill, bear a remarkable resemblance to those contained in section 51 of our Constitution, providing evidence of the very important part played by Sir Samuel Griffith as a member of the Federal Convention. Indeed, paragraphs were apparently taken from the Queensland Bill and embodied whole and without alteration in section 51 of the Constitution. For example, the Bill refers to the “ Regulation of Trade and Commerce with other countries, and among the several provinces.” Practically the only difference between it and the corresponding paragraph of section 51 is the substitution of “States” for “Provinces.”
The paragraphs in section 51 relating to quarantine, sea fisheries, census and statistics, currency, coinage and legal tender, banking and the issue of paper money, weights and measures, bills of exchange and promissory notes, insolvency, copyrights and patents of inventions, designs and trade marks, naturalization and aliens, following one another in that order, were apparently taken bodily from the Bill and placed in section 51 of the Constitution.
Some honorable members are anxious to acquire for the Commonwealth the whole of the powers now possessed by the States, with a view to re-issuing some of them to provincial legislatures or councils. One honorable member has suggested, by interjection, that control of education ought to be taken from -the States. Honorable members may be interested to know that the powers which Sir Samuel Griffith and his Government proposed in- 1892 should be retained by the provinces of Queens land included : ‘ ‘ The management and sale of the public lands within the province, and of all minerals therein; the registration of titles to lands; education ; the establishment, maintenance, and management of public and reformatory prisons; the establishment, maintenance, and management of hospitals, asylums, charities, and eleemosynary institutions; local works and undertakings, including the construction and management of railways; municipal institutions; licences for trading and other purposes in order to raise revenue for provincial, local, or municipal purposes; the administration of justice in the province, including the constitution, maintenance, and organization of provincial courts,, both of civil and criminal jurisdiction, and including procedure of civil matters in those courts; the imposition of punishment by fine, penalty, or imprisonment for enforcing any law of the province made in relation to any matter coming within any of the classes ‘of subjects within the powers of the Legislature of the province ; and the appropriation of the provincial revenue to any purpose whatsoever.” The provincial Legislatures were to be allowed to raise money “ by any mode or system of taxation except customs or excise.”
I shall help the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) and the Government to have a Convention appointed, believing that the discussion of matters which are to some extent influencing the public mind at the present time, and which will, no doubt, influence it -to a greater extent later on, when the troubles which have arisen in consequence of the war have been settled, will assist the honorable member for Cowper and myself in our endeavour to get new States created in Queensland, and at least one new State in New South Wales.
– New States all round.
– I agree with the honorable member for Swan, that new States all round should be created, but I fear that the Convention may try to do so much that it will fail. It may take us fifty years to reach that stage of public opinion, at which some honorable members aim, when the States will consent’, to the Federal Parliament taking the map and cutting the Commonwealth into thirty-one or more provinces, as suggested’ by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). .;
– Would the honorable member be in favour of drawing a line from east to west, constituting a tropical State, with special representation and legislation?
– I cannot say that I would. If the honorable member has in mind the idea of allowing, or passing, legislation which would promote the introduction of Eastern races - -
– I did not say that.
– Then why a line from east to west, unless the honorable member can see a difference in climate, and wishes legislation to meet the difference?
– I mean peculiar legislation for the treatment of such country.
– The honorable member might by interjection indicate what he means.
– We require suitable labour straightway. I never advocated anything else.
– Australia has a great problem to solve, and, to my mind, many years must pass before we are able to settle an area like the Northern Territory . Britishers, and the descendants of Britishers, in trying to settle and develop that enormous area, have undertaken! a stupendous task. In Queensland is is amazing to see men going out into the northern parts, away from all the comforts of civilization that we enjoy in these southern cities.
– And they take their wives and children with them.
– That is so; and it is curious that men who were born in the tropical or sub-tropical parts of Australia have no desire to live in a place like Melbourne. In the northern parts some declare they enjoy better health and work better, and they even go so far as to say that they prefer the summer months there to those of the winter. It would, in my opinion, be a dangerous experiment to introduce coloured labour. It would be better for us to continue on our present lines, even If we have to leave the Northern Territory empty.
– That is not the only alternative.
– It is, pretty nearly.
– An alternative may be suggested by the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden). It might be shown what could be done by better housing in the northern parts, by a better knowledge of hygiene and of the proper foods for such a climate. Reforms in these directions would make a great difference to the health and comfort of the people there; but I do not see anything inviting in the idea of cutting Australia by a line from east to west, just below the hotter portions of the continent. I am, however, quite in favour of giving to those people in Australia who consider that they are in a position to govern themselves an opportunity of establishing new States, with their own Parliaments, and the powers that are now possessed under existing Constitutions. When some of my friends insist that the Commonwealth Parliament ought to have what we might term domestic powers, I point out that in Queensland at present there are large majorities in the Legislative Assembly, and also in the nominee Legislative Council, representing the Labour party. That Parliament is now endeavouring to cope with the problem which is causing people in the south so much trouble - the problem of profiteering. The Queensland Parliament has passed an AntiProfiteering Act, and, as it is now being administered, we shall soon know what success it may have.
May I point out, in support of the contention of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and myself in favour of new States, that there is now a continual process of centralization because of the presence of Parliaments in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. This may be seen from & glance at the census figures. According to the census of 1901, there were 110,580 people in the northern division of Queensland, and, in 1911, these had increased to only 119,279. In Central Queensland, where I would like to see a new State, there were 64,192 people in 1901, and only 72,543 in 1911. In South Queensland, in 1901, there were 328,120 people, and, in 1911, 412,221. Out of a total increase of 100,000people in the ten years, no fewer than 85,000 are accounted for by Southern Queensland.
– Can you tell what proportion of the 85,000 people is in Brisbane and suburbs?
– I regret I cannot give the figures, but there would be a greater proportion of increase there than; in the country districts. Some country towns of
New South Wales are absolutely being depleted of population. I should like to place on record some comparative figures dealing with areas. The area of Queensland itself is 668,497 square miles, and there are three great divisions that almost shape themselves naturally into different States, geographically, and, perhaps, to some extent, climatically. In Northern Queensland, there are 250,237 square miles; in Central Queensland, 208,980; and in Southern Queensland, 209,275.
– What is the area of Victoria ?
– The area of Victoria is 87,884 square miles. My own electorate of Capricornia is about the same area as Victoria, and I believe that the Federal constituency of Maranoa is about twice as large as this State.
– It is nearly as large as New South Wales.
– Tasmania, with an area of 26,215 square miles, has had a local Parliament for fifty -three years, at the beginning of which period the population was 75,000. Queensland received separation from New South Wales on the 10th December, 1859, when the population of the State was 28,000. These figures ought to weigh with honorable members, who may be afraid that the 72,000 people in Central Queensland may not have the intelligence or experience to govern themselves. The educational record of Central Queensland - the successes of the Queensland students at the Universities in Queensland, Victoria, and other States - show that mentally and physically-
– Can you say anything of the spiritual side?
– I think that spiritually Queensland compares very favorably, while politically it is about the most democratic State of the Commonwealth. I have been informed by travellers in Queensland that they consider the people there the most sociable in Australia.
I hope this discussion will assist those who desire the creation of new States. I am not so much concerned about this Parliament receiving many additional domestic powers; indeed, I think that we find ourselves too frequently considering domestic questions of the States to the exclusion of many national matters which ought to receive our attention.
– Would not the programme as put forward by the Australian Labour movement meet the position ?
– It might not, for the reason that the programme outlined by the honorable member himself the other day is of such a far-reaching character, that the people of Australia may not be inclined to include it in any proposed alteration of the Constitution. It might be the means of wasting years of our labour, when we could be doing good work in the creation of new States with the powers we already possess. We are, as I say, occupied in the discussion of State domestic questions when we ought to be considering national questions arising out of the war. What is to be our position in the world? What opinions have we on foreign relations?, What is our position with regard to Treaties with other nations? Are we permitted to make our own Treaties? No; London has too much influence. However, I shall not go into these questions, but merely say that we ought not to be so keen about getting domestic powers for this Parliament as about availing ourselves of the power we have, under section 51 of the Constitution, to create new States. We should indicate by a resolution of both Houses of this Parliament that we are prepared, if the States are, to agree to the creation of new States within their territories in order that important areas concerned may be developed and the whole of Australia correspondingly benefited.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for _ Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman) upon having brought forward this highlyimportant subject. A paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s speech dealt with the same matter, but the honorable member for Eden-Monaro regarded it as somewhat ambiguous. It was sufficient, at any rate, to show that the Government had in mind the creation of a Convention for such purposes as the honorable member himself desires consideration upon. I am quite in accord with the principle set out by the honorable member; but I move to amend his motion as follows : -
That, in clause 1, the words, “a Constitututional Convention should be summoned “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ legislative provision should be made for the summoning of a Convention”; and that the words, “ Section 51 of “ be left out.
That, in sub-paragraph (a), all the words after the words “ consist of “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ an equal number of representatives of each State.”
That clause 3 be left out.
There is no doubt that the time has arrived when the Constitution should be. amended. It was framed twenty years ago by the ablest statesmen then in Australia, and it has performed magnificent service; but it has faults which are too numerous to be referred to in detail, as suggested in the motion. The only way in which we can hope to satisfactorily amend the Constitution is by summoning a Convention and placing the whole of the Constitution before it so that the delegates may report upon any suggested alterations.
Mr.Riley -Why should not this Parliament place a Constitution before the country ?
– It will be a waste of time and money to call together a Convention .
– Honorable members know full well that if this Parliament were to propose amendments to the Constitution the matter would be made one of party, and would be fought on party lines.
– Then a Convention would not be elected on party lines?
– I have not suggested that a Convention should be elected. At present we have six States, all jealous of their own State rights; and they are exercising those rights to the detriment of Australia. The six State Governments are the members of the Federation which adopted the original Constitution. One of the sections of the Constitution sets out, in effect, that all the States are to have equal rights. There were to be no hindrances in the matter of trade across the boundaries; there was to be free trade between the States. We find that that section has been interpreted very much according to the desires of certain States. Within three months of the out break of the war New South Wales, which had a surplus supply of wheat, prohibited export to the neighbouring States which were urgently in need. When, about six months later,. Queensland was experiencing somewhat of a drought, and owners desired to send their stock into New South Wales for agist ment, the Queensland State authorities insisted upon the payment of a tax of 10s. per head, by way of guarantee that those cattle would be returned into Queensland. The inspection duties on fruit sent to Western Australia are equivalent to a very high import duty. Instances such as these show that we have not free trade across the boundaries; and such a state of affairs is not for the good of Australia. By altering the Constitution so as to givethe Commonwealth Government supreme power, State boundaries would be virtually done away with. The Australian Government then would speak with one voice, and would legislate on national affairs instead of having to participate, as at present, in domestic arrangements.
I am very much in favour of the scheme suggested by the Australian Labour party. At present, we find in the six States that there is a great tendency to centralization, which is one of the severest curses afflicting this young country. It is only by cutting up the huge States into a number of smaller States, and by giving each section control of its own domestic arrangements, that we can hope to overcome the evils of the present process of centralization. The populations of all the capital cities are rapidly increasing, while rural populations are decreasing. This is simply due to the fact that a majority of the people have congregated in the cities, and have exercised the preponderance of power in the management of States, and, inso doing, have legislated for the benefit of the cities as against the country. The effect of splitting up the States, on the principle proposed by the Australian Labour party, would be to make each unit self-centred. We would then find - using the illustration of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) - that a port such as Portland would be put to the use for which nature intended it, and that the people of that neighbourhood would no longer be compelled to deal with Port Melbourne in the matter of the export of their produce.
All honorable members must admit the urgent necessity for amending the Constitution, and it is undoubtedly better that that amendment should be made by evolution rather than by revolution. When the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) employed that phrase, in the course of debate upon this motion last week, the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) queried the soundness of the expression; and when reference was made to the condition of affairs in Northern Europe, the honorable member was inclined to scoff. If he had had a little recent personal experience such as must have been calculated to bring under his notice the horrors of the war - let alone those of civil warfare - the honorable member for Barrier would now be much more inclined to favour the alteration of our Constitution by evolution rather than by revolution. An honorable member stated last week that the Commonwealth Government should accept the responsibility of passing legislation to adopt various necessary amendments to the Constitution, but this point was evidently overlooked, namely, that, in the first place, the consent of the State Parliaments must be secured. Those Parliaments are already very jealous of their rights.
Mr.Fenton. - There is no need to consult them at all. Consult the people.
– They have been consulted on several occasions, and they have turned down the propositions put before them. At this stage, I ask leave to continue my remarks upon a future occasion.
Leave, gran ted; debate adjourned.
. - I move -
My purpose is that the circumstances appertaining to the mining industry, as carried on at Broken Hill, may be thoroughly investigated, not only in the terms of the motion - that is, in respect to wagesand conditions of employment - but more particularly as regards the health of employees, and the causes which are undermining health. This latter factor is directly responsible for the great industrial upheaval which has established a record in the history of Australian industry, and which is now in its twelfth month. Broken Hill miners have been forced into their present position owing to the conditions under which they have had to work, owing to the poisoning of their systems by the lead which they are mining, to the phthisis from which their occupation makes them suffer, and to the terrible death-rate among the infant children of those who are engaged in the industry, as borne out by the statistics I brought under the notice of honorable members on the last occasion on which I referred . to this subject. The Commonwealth Statistician has shown that Broken Hill has the largest infantile death-rate in the Commonwealth, and his figures are only in harmony with the findings of such an eminent authority on industrial or occupational diseases as is Sir Thomas Oliver. I have the evidence of at least eight medical gentlemen in Broken Hill, culled from the report of the proceedings of a Royal Commission held in 1914, and also opinions given by them at a later date, proving absolutely that they speak with no uncertain voice in favour of the contention of the men as to the effect of their occupation upon them. The strike is now in its twelfth month, and the men of Broken Hill and their wives and children have put up one of the hardest battles ever fought in industrial warfare in Australia, for the sole object of protecting their lives from the exactions of the mining companies, all of whose actions go to show that their only care is to pile up dividends without any thought of the effects of the industry upon the health of those employed by them-. A manifesto’ issued by the Coal and Shale Miners Federation of Australia, the official organization of the miners, sets out the objects for which the men are fighting, as follows: -
The Broken Hill miners have been fighting for eleven months for the following conditions, in order to protect their healths and lives: -
A six-hour shift bank to bank, because the unhealthy nature of the work demands it, it being better to shorten the work-day than shorten their lives.
Five days per week, because it is. essential for them to have two days in every week on the surface in the fresh air and sunshine out of these subterranean hells in order to build up the resisting powers of their constitutions for the other five work-days.
The abolition of night shift,i.e., between the hours of 12 p.m. midnight and 8 a.m., for the same purpose.
The abolition of the contract system, because the continued cutting of the contract price by the setting foreman compels the miner to take risks in order to earn enough to exist upon that he would not take working under the day-wage system; further, the speeding up and overstrain under contract wears out the miner and weakens his resisting power to the diseases incidental to the mining industry in Broken Hill..
Compensation on the basis of full pay for time lost as a result of accident or occupational diseases, because any industry should pay adequately for the human wrecks it creates or close down. These mines produce dividends at the rate of £1,500,000 per year, therefore they should pay on the basis requested, and not as at present on the basis of half-pay in the cases of accident or leading, and nothing in the event of the victim having contracted miners’ phthisis or any of the other diseases common to the mining industry at Broken Hill. ‘ The reduction of the lifestandard of the toiler and his family to half-pay when he meets with an accident or his health has broken through no fault of his own is a brutal and inhuman act. These men protest against their families and themselves being made subjects of whole or partial charity when they meet with an accident or their healths are ruined in one of the best paying industries in the Commonwealth.
These claims were placed before the mining companies, and after the strike had proceeded for a few months, the miners’ delegates met the representatives of the employers in conference in Melbourne from the 23rd September to the 26th September, 1919. The manifesto of the Coal and Shale Miners Federation shows that the result of the conference was as follows: -
Theminers’ representatives at the Melbourne Conference told the directors that they believed the industry could well afford to concede the conditions demanded and that they, the directors, had not given the matter of health honest consideration in accordance with their fabulous profits. Further, due to the complications of the industry, the Arbitration Court was not competent enough to deal with the matter; also that it was too limited in its scope to inquire into the profits, rebates, and sales, &c, of the companies’ operations to see if their mines could financially stand the burden of the log requested by the miners, and if not the whole, log, how much of it, in accordance with their profits.
The miners’ representatives then asked the mining directors to co-operate with them in approaching the Federal Government with a view of getting them to appoint aRoyal Commission of Inquiry into the Mining Industry at Broken Hill, such inquiry to be representative of the mining companies, Miners Union and the public, and to make a full and comprehensive inquiry into all aspects of the industry, such as the companies’ profits, rebates, sales, and allowances, &c, also the health of the miners and the conditions of work in the mines, the inquiry, as a result of its investigation, to have power to fix wages, hours and conditions in accordance with its finding. The Commission to have all such powers as the Supreme Court of New South Wales for conducting the inquiry, and to be open to the general public and the press.
The mining directors point-blank refused to co-operate as desired. Both Mr. Courtney and Mr. W. L. Baillieu admitted that the Federal Arbitration Court, due to the limitations of its powers and scope, could not inquire into the health of the miners, the conditions of work, or into the companies’ profits.
When the conference was discussing the possibility of a tentative agreement, with a view of an immediate resumption of work at Broken Hill, Mr. Willis, general secretary, asked Mr. Baillieu whether, in the event of the miners at Broken Hill resuming work under the existing conditions and agreeing to refer the matter of a tentative agreement to the Federal Arbitration Court,the mining companies would agree to co-operate with the miners’ representatives in approaching the Federal Government to appoint aRoyal Commission of Inquiry into the companies’ operations and profits as suggested, Mr. Baillieu replied, “No,” and further said on no account would they agree to an investigation into their profits and affairs on the lines mentioned.
I have put forward the claims submitted by the men to the companies, and shown the attitude of the companies towards the men’s request. I shall now proceed to quote the testimony of medical men in Broken Hill with regard to the claims the men put forward. I quote first from the Barrier Daily Truth, which reports an interview with Dr. Burnell, acting medical superintendent of the Broken Hill and District Hospital, as follows: - “ My mission, doctor,” said Truth’s representative, “ is to secure your views on the important public matter of occupational disease. Firstly, as to the prevalence and dangers of lead poison.” “Well,” said Dr. Burnell, “I have had a good deal to do with that question, and must say emphatically that lead poisoning follows mining work in Broken Hill. So far as my knowledge goes, there is a difference in the lead poisoning of recent years compared with such disease in years past. Acute leading was prevalent to a large degree in the early days, but chronic leading was rare. To-day the position is reversed. There are but few cases of acute lead poisoning here now. Practically the whole of the cases now are of a chronic nature; that is to say, they are cases from which there is less hope of recovery.”
How is that accounted for, doctor? “ The reason is that in the early days of carbonate-ore mining the disease used to attack men very suddenly, and would cripple them up, thereby compelling them to seek treatment before the disease had time to become chronic, before it would generate diseases of the kidneys, for instance, which are undoubtedly very prevalent in Broken Hill. Then, again, those men in many instances left the mines and were restored to health. At the present time the disease develops more slowly, and the kidneys and heart are already affected so badly that when men become laid up, lead poisoning is not the only malady.”
You agree there with Dr. Sir Thomas Oliver, who pointed out in his work on occupational diseases that lead poisoning produces a multiplicity of complications, particularly in the kidneys? “ Yes,” replied Dr. Burnell, “ and those conclusions arrived at by the authority you quote have been supported by practical demonstration. I have found here that in nearly all cases of lead poisoning that I have come in contact with the kidneys have also been affected. I offer that as a possible explanation of the abnormal prevalence of kidney diseases in Broken Hill. Lead also affects the blood vessels, and through them the heart.”
To what extent does the disease exist? “ That I am not in a position to say,” Dr. Burnell replied, “ as I have only to deal with the cases which actually come before me, and their condition generally leaves no room for doubt. To give an idea of the prevalence ‘ of the disease, I would need to examine the thousands of men I have never seen. As I said before, the men I do examine are generally chronically poisoned. To what extent others may be affected I do’ not know. I am right up to the hilt, though - as a result of the cases I know of- with those whose arguments are on the side of the contention that lead poisoning is prevalent and disastrous. “ But,” continued the doctor, “ there is the disease of pneumonia that I regard, too, with particular importance in Broken Hill.”
You connect that with the mining industry, doctor ? “ Certainly I must. Take, for instance, the number of cases we have had of pneumonia in the hospital when the mines were working, and you will find that the miners, proportionately, overwhelmingly outnumbered the others. Then, again, the death-rate of those affected falls heavily upon miners, while amongst the others - I mean those working in the town, or women - it is much lighter. These facts are sufficient in themselves. If a town-worker gets pneumonia, his chance of recovery is good, but it goes hard indeed with a miner, and too often he succumbs because he is not in a fit condition to resist it. That is my reason for being emphatic on the point of pneumonia in Broken Hill being very largely an occupational disease.”
That medical gentleman traces diseases of the heart and kidneys and lead poisoning directly to the fact that the men are working in lead mines. Further than that, he says that pneumonia is an industrial disease in Broken Hill, and that it is more fatal to the men working on the mines, hy reason of their occupation, than it is to any other section of the public. The Barrier Daily Truth also reports an interview with Dr. Birks, surgeon superintendent of the Broken Hill and District Hospital, as follows: -
In reply to a question by a representative of Barrier Daily Truth, Dr. Birks, surgeon superintendent of the hospital, stated: “I could not say how many of the Broken Hill miners are afflicted with lead poisoning, but there is a large proportion. Many of the men who come in through accidents have been found to be suffering from lead.”
How long do you think a man could work in Broken Hill with a fair chance of escaping?
Dr. Birks : “ I think not more than four years, -without a year or so spell away. No man is safe for long in the lead mines - that is, the average work-place in Broken Hill, the sulphide stopes, which are much slower in poisoning men than in the carbonates, which are quick.”
If lead poisoning is so “slow” that it will take four years to bring about death, honorable members can appreciate what the condition of the men must have been when carbonates were being freely mined in Broken Hill. “A great many people,” said Dr. Birks, “ are more afraid of dust than lead in these mines. But I hold the opinion that lead poisoning is, the thing to be feared here. No man who becomes affected with lead is the same again - that is, he will always be more liable to be again poisoned. The best thing that such a man can do, is to leave the mines altogether.”
I shall now quote the opinion of Dr. Steven, as set out in the company-owned paper, which interviewed him, asking him his views with regard to a statement made by the chairman of the Broken Hill mining companies’ representatives at the September conference where his investigations were “ pooh-poohed “ - in effect, it was said that they were absolutely foolish and silly. The Barrier Miner reports an interview with Dr. Steven, as follows: -
To-day a Miner reporter sought an interview with Dr. Steven, who conducted the examinations referred to by Mr. Emery, and asked him whether he considered the men examined by him were typical of the miners of Broken Hill.
Dr. Steven replied, “I cannot say that. How could I say whether they were typical of Broken Hill? I can say, ‘however, that I found the condition of the men examined very bad.”
Could you say that the cases of the men examined were typical cases?- “I cannot say that,” replied Dr. Steven. “I can say that I found all the cases very similar, but whether they were typical of Broken Hill is another matter. From my experience here I would say that of the miners who have worked in the Broken Hill mines from 15 to 20 years, a very large percentage of them are suffering from lung deterioration; and a very much larger percentage of them suffer from plumbism than the mining companies are prepared to admit. My examination of the miners at the A.M.A. office some time ago showed that 78 per cent. of those examined were suffering from slight lung consolidation to advanced phthisis. From ray experience of other miners I should say that approximately 70 per cent. of the miners who have worked for 15 years underground in Broken Hill will undoubtedly show lung deterioration. I am prepared to state that before any tribunal, and can prove it by taking miners haphazardly. I think from the size of my practice I am in a fair position to judge of the condition of health of the miners. We cannot minimize it, and it is just as well to face it first as last. I could bring men” here in dozens, and if any one guessed at their ages they would make them ten years older than they are. My percentages of the miners affected have been borne out by the fact that no man whom I reported as suffering from lead has ‘been rejected by the medical referees appointed under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. That is a fair criterion as to the correctness of my diagnoses.”
You state that from your experience you would say that of the miners who have worked in the Broken Hill mines for from 15 to 20 years, a much larger percentage of them suffer from plumbism than the mining companies are prepared to admit. Can you give (a) the percentage suffering from lung deterioration; (b) the percentage suffering from plumbism? -“I say that 70 per cent. are suffering from lung deterioration and 25 per cent. from plumbism.”
I do not propose to read the whole of this interview, since it is a lengthy one, but in answer to a question that some may be inclined to put, as to whether the health of the men had been impaired whilst working elsewhere, I shall read that part of it which covers the point: -
Did you ascertain in the course of your examination whether the men examined had worked elsewhere than at Broken Hill, and, if so, do you know the condition of their lungs when they began to work underground here? - “ Very few indeed of the 178 men examined had worked elsewhere than “Broken Hill.”
When you say that you can bring dozens of men who have prematurely aged ten years, can you give any idea howlong, they have worked here, and how long elsewhere, and at what occupation?” I makea practice of asking every man whom I consider to be below par how longhe has worked in the mines here, andIin variablytakeanoteofitifIfindhehas workedelsewhere.Theanswertothatques- tionisgiveninmyanswertotheprevious question.”
Can you say from your general experience what percentage of the men in Broken Hill have worked here for from 12 to 20 years? - “I could not say.”
Can you say what is the average time worked here by the bulk of the miners? - “ The average could be worked out by reference to my certificates. At the time I made a note of the time worked in the Broken Hill mines by every man examined.”
Do the periods shown in your certificates represent the time worked in Broken Hill, or do they include time worked elsewhere? - “The periods shown in my certificates represent the time each man examined worked in the Broken Hill mines, and do not include time worked by the men elsewhere.”
There are cases among the certificates where the period worked is set down as eighteen months, three, four, five, six, and seven years. Do you know whether the condition in which you found such men was due to industrial diseases contracted at work on the mines of Broken Hill? - “ I have every reason to believe that the condition of those men was caused directly from working in the mines of Broken Hill.”
In conclusion Dr. Steven said: - “I very much regret the necessity of giving this interview. When Mr. Courtney, the chairman of the conference held in Melbourne recently between representatives of the mining companies and the A.M.A., said that my reports were unbelievable, I simply must defend myself. I am prepared to back any statement I have made up to the hilt. I hold no brief for either the miners or the mine-owners, but I certainly think it is quite time that all parties should realize the serious condition of the health of the miners in Broken Hill. The manager of the Miner, in a letter to me, says he is only desirous of obtaining this information for the public benefit, and not for the purpose of helping one side or the other. I have willingly given this interview for the same purpose.”
– Has not this matter already been exhaustively investigated?
– It has not.
– Is there not a Commission already dealing with the matter?
– There is a technical Commission at work. In the Barrier Daily Truth of 19th instant, reference is made to the work done by Dr. Southwood, the medical referee appointed under the Workmen’s Compensation Act of New South Wales, and to whom allusion was made by Dr. Stevenin the interview that I have just quoted. The paragraph is as follows: -
During the brief few months that Dr.; Southwood has been the certifying surgeon he has examined 169 men for lead-poisoning, and certificates have been given to fifty men, because they are totally incapacitated from following their occupation. . Those suffering from- lead-poisoning who can still work at all arerefused a certificate,because, the law distinctly lays that down.
Dr. Burnell, in referring to these cases, said, some months ago, that he never told a man whom he examined that he was free from lead-poisoning. The point is that no doctor can give a man a certificate till he is no longer able to earn a living - till he is a complete wreck to all intents and purposes. This is the law.
Many men who are unable to work have been examined for lead, believing that this was the cause of their health being wrecked, but on examination the chief cause has been found to be lung affection. These men cannot get certificates.
Now, fifty men have been found in the last few months to have been wrecked by the insidious poison that lurks in every stope in Broken Hill. Dr. Southwood has discovered it by an analysis of their blood.
That is the medical testimony. I now propose to read a list of some of the cases examined by Dr. Steven a few months ago-
Miner for four years: Moist breathing, with pronounced rales on both sides.
Burton: Whole of the lobe of the left lung loud crepitancy, sound in left side (since dead) .
Age 30: Liver contracted, stomach dilated.
Here is a tragedy: Flattening on the right side of thechest and dullness. Breath sounds impure. Heart mitral murmurs. Stomach diluted. Albumen present (advanced stage of lead poisoning).
Again: Blue line on the gums; lungs fairly good: liver tender and slightly contracted; systolic murmur in the heart.
Another: Lungs, flattening in the right apex; slight crepitancy in both sides; heart sounds very indistinct; liver slightly enlarged; dilated stomach.
Ago 35: Consolidation over both apexes.
Age 32, miner for five years: Consolidation over the right lung.
Again: Prolonged expiration both sides; suffering from lead poisoning; enlarged liver; unsteady movements, shaky arms, back weak; distinct blue line on the gums.
Ago 33: Consolidation over the right apex.
Miner six years, age 31 : Left lung, moist rales and consolidated; increased vocal resonance.
Canavan, age 32: Cavity over the right apex (since dead).
Age 40: Consolidation over both apexes. Lead poisoning.
Age 24: Right lung, apex consolidated.
Age 25: Crepitant rales in the right apex.
Miner for two years: Flattening of the right apex.
Age 43: Tubular breathing, with crepitant rales on the right side; consolidation; whole right lung contracted.
Miner nine years, age 31: Crepitant Tales on the right lung ; lead poisoning.
Miner seven years, age 29: Consolidated right apex.
Miner for seven years: Right lung consolidated; lead poisoning:
Age 34: Consolidation of the right, lung; lead poisoning.
Age 31 : Crepitant rales on both sides.
Miner 13 years: Right lung consolidated.
Age 29 : Crepitant rales over both lungs.
Age 32: Consolidation of the left apex.
Miner 5 years, age 29 : Apex of the right lung consolidated; moist rales.
Miner 10 years: Loud broncliitic rales all over both lungs.
Age 30-: Consolidation of the right apex.
Age 40: Consolidation of the left lung.
Age 35 : Consolidation of the right side.
Age 45: Consolidation of both apexes; crepitant rales in the right lung.
Jordan: Left apex dull; crepitant rales; tubular breathing at the base; right lung bronchial at the apex; lead poisoning (since dead).
Miner four years: Lead poisoning.
Miner four and a half years, age 28: Consolidation of the right side.
Age 43: Right lung, cavity at the apex, marked consolidation: tubular breathing.
Age 45: Consolidation of both apexes.
Age 38: Right lung consolidated, moist rales.
Age 43: Consolidation of the right side.
Age 41:Consolidation of the right lung; lead poisoning.
Age 33 : Consolidation over the right apex ; moist rales; lead poisoning.
Miner, seven years, age 30: Consolidation over the right lung.
Miner seven years: Both apexes consolidated.
Miner five years, age 35: Consolidation over the right side.
Age 29: Consolidation over the left apex.
Miner five years, age 24: Consolidations in the right side.
Age 32 : Consolidation of both lungs.
Miner five years: Both lungs slightly consolidated.
Age 34: Consolidation of the right side; lead poisoning.
Age 35: Consolidation of both sides; crepitant rales on the left, tubular on the right.
Age 28: Consolidation on the right side.
Age 34: Consolidation over the right apex; lead poisoning.
Theodore: Consolidation over the left apex, cavity in the right (since dead).
Miner seven years: Lead poisoning, bad.
Age 33 : Consolidation of both apexes.
Miner four years: Consolidation of both sides.
Miner seven years : Cavity in the right apex.
Miner four years.: Moist breathing, with rales on both sides.
In the Barrier Daily Truth of the 13th instant the following list appeared: -
The following members of the A.M.A. have died during the past fortnight from dread occupational, diseases, and another has been sent to a reception home for the insane: -
March 28, 1920- Death.- Mr. A. Soper, died ofminers’ phthisis (miners’ consumption). Certificateof death states that Mr. Soper died of miners’ phthisis.
March 28, 1920- Death.- Mr. “ Jack “ Sampson, died from plumbism (lead poisoning). Certificate of death states that Mr. Sampson died from plumbism.
April 2, 1920 - Death. - Mr. David Duggan, died from plumbism (lead poisoning). Mr. Duggan’s death certificate showed that he died from plumbism.
April 4, 1920- Death- Mr. William Staker, died from plumbism (lead poisoning). Mr. Staker’s death certificate shows that he died from plumbism.
March 29, 1920 - Insane. - Mr.- was sent to the Parkside (S.A.) Mental Hospital. This man had been an inmate of the local hospital for three weeks prior to the above date. Medical certificate stated lead poisoning had affected his brain.
The mining companies and Mr. Emery take a lot of convincing on this subject.
All the above members who have died from plumbism have been granted certificates under the Workmen’s Compensation Act by Dr. Southwood, the certifying surgeon appointed by the New South Wales Government.
I propose now to show the way in which the Broken Hill mining companies treat the relatives of deceased miners who are without some powerful influence to fight their cause when they are called upon to pay compensation under the Workmen’s Compensation Act of New South Wales. The following is from the Barrier Daily Truth of 17th instant: -
In the District Court yesterday afternoon before Judge Bevan, three cases were mentioned in which claims were made under the Workmen’s Compensation Act:- Eustella Myrtle Winkler and children v. South Mining Company; Muriel Ann Hawkes and children v. North Mining Company; and Eliza Jane Grose and child v. North Mining Company.
Mr. J. E. Edwards, who appeared for the mining companies in each case, said that £500 had been paid into Court in each case.
Mr. W. P. Blackmore (representing Mrs. Hawkes and Mrs. Winkler), and Mr. Justin McCarthy . (representing Mrs. Grose) applied for costs’ up to the time of the amounts being paid into Court.
Mr. Edwards only wanted costs allowed up to the time of the notice of withdrawal of objective.
Costs, as asked for by Mr. Blackmore, were granted.
These wealthy corporations having forced the widows and children of the men to obtain legal assistance, having fought them to the very door of the Court before intimating their willingness to give them a penny, have at the last moment tried to get out of paying the costs to which these unfortunate people have been put. They have tried to rob the dead men and their widows and orphans of costs they have been forced to incur in fighting them, Here is yet another case, as reported in the Age of 22nd instant: -
Broken Hill. - Judge Bevan presided at the District Court on Wednesday, when Mary Ann Scollard proceeded against the Broken Hill
Proprietary Company, under the provisions of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, claiming £500 as compensation in respect of the death of her husband, John Scollard, from lead poisoning. Plaintiff gave evidence that her husband worked practically his whole life in the Proprietary mine, and was in a bad state of health since 1900. He was admitted to hospital in 1907 suffering from lead poisoning, and he was in the habit of missing shifts frequently because of failing health. He died on 11th July, after being treated for pneumonia.
Dr. Steven stated that he had issued a certificate of death stating that Scollard’s death was due to lead poisoning, accelerated by pneumonia.
Judge Bevan said: - I am sorry the claim has to fail. When a man has suffered for many years from lead poisoning, his system becomes so deteriorated that, although he may not die from lead poisoning or its sequel, his resistance becomes so much lessened that, as a result, he dies from something which is not a sequel to lead poisoning. That position does not seem to be dealt with in any way by the Act, and I can only follow the Act. I find in favour of respondents, and decline to make an order.
That is the kind of thing that the widows and children of miners whose health has been destroyed have had to face. Is it to be wondered at that there has been a strike at Broken Hill which has lasted for twelve’ months, and that the wives have stuck nobly to their husbands, notwithstanding the hardships that that has involved? In 1914 a Royal Commission was appointed in New South Wales to investigate the condition of things at Broken Hill, and the following figures, taken from Exhibit 78 attached to its report, show the risks of accident which the miners have to run, apart from the risk of diseases such as phthisis, pneumonia, lead-poisoning, and other occupational diseases : -
No man could draw accident pay unless he had been so seriously injured as to be at least three days incapacitated. For the first six months of 1914 the average. membership was 7,402 ; the number of accidents, 505; and the number of fatal accidents, 7. In the last speech that I made on this subject, I pointed out that since 1893, when the New South Wales Government began to tabulate statistics regarding accidents and fatalities in mines, the Broken Hill companies had killed 400 men straight out, and the figures I have given above show that thousands of accidents have occurred, requiring union members to pay out of their own pockets many thousands of pounds for the support of the injured. God knows how many have been killed by lead-poisoning, miners’ phthisis, and disguised lead-poisoning in the shape of kidney disease and other kindred diseases. The other side of the picture can be seen by a glance at the share-list of Messrs. Joseph Palmer and Sons.
– What has all this to do with the Commonwealth Parliament?
– Are we not here to look after the lives and health and interests of the people of Australia?
– Only regarding matters within our jurisdiction; this is a State matter.
– It is a Commonwealth matter. According to the share-list to which I have referred the dividends which have been paid by the Broken Hill mining companies are these : - Amalgamated Zinc, £882,500 ; British Broken Hill, £826,000; Broken Hill Proprietary, £10,945,750; Broken Hill Block 10, £1,585,000; Broken Hill Block 14, £606,500; Broken Hill Junction, £81,750; Junction “North Broken Hill, £162,700; Broken Hill South, £2,535,000; North Broken Hill Mining Company, £1,912,940; Sulphide Corporation, £2,937,245; Zinc Corporation, £1,566,650 ; or a total of £24,042,035. The total value of the properties owned by these companies is, on the present value of their shares, £16,607,000. Besides what has been paid away in dividends, profits have been made and concealed by taking up shares in other companies. The Broken Hill Proprietary had paid- in dividends up to the 31st May, 1913, £9,232,000; in bonuses, £1,120,000; and in shares of other companies, £1,744,000; a total of “£.12,096,000. That was be fore that company floated the steel works at Newcastle, which have brought in further profits, and in regard to which there has been a further concealment of profits. The mining companies have shares in the Associated Smelters at Port Pirie. No account is given of the profits from that concern. They have also shares in the Electrolytic Zinc Works, at Risdon, in Tasmania. The directors of ‘these companies are persons, who, while piling up millions in dividends, have treated their employees in the way I have described. Their dividends have been made at the expense of the health of the employees, and they refuse, even in the event of the men returning to work, to consent to any investigation into their profits, or earnings, or the manner of the distribution of those profits. Between 1914 and June, 1918, the North Broken Hill Company paid £750,000 in dividends. It has kept the mine development well ahead, has paid for new plant, and has accumulated surplus liquid assets amounting to £426,982. I get that information from the Timberman and Ironmaster of 30th September, 1918. According to the issue of that journal of the 29th October, 1918, the profits of the Broken Hill South Mining Company have been for 1914, £241,838; for 1915, £300,160; for 1916, £466,458; for 1917, £418,877; and for the first six months of 1918, £165,291. The dividends in that period have totalled £860.000; £138,677 has been written off; and the reserves are now £781,470. By no stretch of the imagination can it be claimed for these companies that they are unable to meet the demands of the men for better working conditions. The dividends, I might truthfully say, have been wrung out of the corpses of the miners and of their children.. To-day the companies rely for success on a publicity campaign. By the interlocking of directorates, the directors of the mining companies are connected with most of the big interests of Australia, including the press. They are attempting to turn public opinion against the miners of Broken Hill, in order that they may be allowed a free hand to continue the murderous exploitation of those whom they employ. The men have asked for a six-hours day, for a week of five, days; and for the abolition of the night shift. The offer made by the companies, at a recent conference, was a week of forty-six hours for tradesmen employed on the surface, and of forty-four hours for the continuous process workers in the mills and the miners on day shift. That is, the miners on day shift are offered the same hours they are working at present. The company say that very few men work on night shift, and, therefore, the concession to those who are so employed amounts, on their own showing, to very little. They say thatthose on night shift will be employed only in driving, rising, and winze sinking or development work, while the breaking of ore and stoping will be discontinued on night shift. The contract system is to be retained. The men are still to be at the mercy of the underground foreman, who fixes the price at so much per ton on the ground. If they do not like the foreman’s price they can go up the shaft and look for work elsewhere; or, if they are forced to accept that price, in order to earn bread for their wives and children, they have to skimp the protecting devices underground in order to make a living. While the contract system continues, it is impossible for the men to safeguard themselves in regard to the ground overhead, as they have to test it with long bars in order to assure themselves that it is safe before they commence work. Every minute they lose in testing the ground overhead means so much out of their fortnightly pay envelope. The claims of the men have not been, met in any way. This motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the conditions at present prevailing at Broken Hill accords with the requestof the men from the very commencement of the dispute. They desire appointed a tribunal which will bo capable of inquiring into every phase of the employment in the mines, with full power to investigate in open Court and let the public know the conditions actually existing in, those mines. We are satisfied that when the people know the exact state of affairs in Broken Hill they will insist upon giving the miners what they are justly entitled to, and will not consent to them and their wives and children being sacrificed any longer on the altar of dividends.
– I second the motion.
Opposition Members. - Let us take a vote.
. - This motion raises a most important question, which should receive the consideration of all honorable members. I should have liked time to peruse the findings and evidence of the Royal Commission appointed, by the New South Wales Parliament to investigate this subject. By his quotations from the report of the Commission, the mover of the motion has demonstrated that already a very full inquiry into the conditions of mining at Broken Hill has been made.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to hear the honorable member for Melbourne say “Hear, hear!” Evidently he is acquainted with the work done by the State Royal Commission, and is well satisfied that the inquiry was full, and that all necessary evidence was obtained. His remark and the speech of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) have demonstrated that the appointment of another Royal Commission is quite unnecessary. What good will be done by holding another inquiry? What fresh evidence would it produce?
– Evidently the honorable member was not listening when I was speaking.
– I listened most attentively, and I commend the honorable member for the case he made out on behalf of the men at Broken Hill. I am now arguing as to the utility of any further inquiry. I ask honorable members whether a good case has been made out for the appointment of another Commission, involving further expense?
– What further evidence “ beyond that obtained by the New South Wales Commission could be elicited ?
– To mention but one instance, the facts concerning the enormous infantile death-rate at Broken Hill, as quoted by the Commonwealth Statistician. That information was not available when the New South Wales Royal Commission reported.
– The honorable member by his interjection showsthat that evidence is available now, at any rate, and can be acted upon without recourse to any further inquiry. I do not profess to be an authority on the constitutional aspect of this proposal, and I should like to hear the views of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan). It is the duty of every honorable member to give to the House the information he possesses regarding this subject, and I am astounded at honorable members opposite sitting silent -when- they might, by their speeches, have supported the mover of the motion, and convinced the House that a Commission was necessary. The House desires information’, but evidently members of the Opposition do not possess it; at any rate, they were nob prepared to give it when the honorable member for Barrier resumed his seat. Were they afraid to support the honorable member? Were they afraid to let what was in their minds go forth to the world ? If they were not, why did they remain silent?
– If the Assistant Minister will sit down. I will tell him.
– Why did not honorable members address themselves to the question before I rose for the purpose of seeking further information on the proposal? I appeal to the honorable member for West Sydney to give us his views on the constitutional aspect.
– I think lt is quite within the power of the Commonwealth to act.
– I should like to hear the honorable member state the reasons upon which he bases that opinion. His views would be received gratefully by honorable members on this side of the House. Has this House power to order such an inquiry as has been suggested ? Much as I value the opinion of the honorable member .for West Sydney, I am not prepared to accept it without hearing his reasons. If we have not the power to do what is proposed, would it not be futile to incur the expense of such a Commission?
What was the object of the honorable member for Barrier in making this motion? My opinion is that its purpose is to lift the responsibility off the shoulders of the New South Wales Government. Why should this House be saddled with the responsibility for an inquiry when a Labour Government is in office m New South Wales, and Has power to act in this matter? We would be charged with usurping the powers of the New South Wales .Parliament, and rightly so. Let the State Government do their duty. As a layman, I contend that it is the duty of the State Government to deal with this matter.
– The State Government did appoint a Royal Commission.
– And it is for the State Government to act on the evidence and report of that body. I may be doing the honorable member for Barrier an injustice, but it seems to me remarkable that he should ask this House to do something which the Labour Government in New South Wale3 have power to do, and should do. Has the honorable member no faith in the present State Government?
– This notice of motion was placed on the business-paper before the present Government came into power in New South Wales.
– If the honorable member for Barrier had any faith in the New South Wales Government, he would have withdrawn the notice of motion, or he could have postponed it. I think the honorable member would argue that the Government now in power in New South Wales would be more sympathetic towards him than would the Federal Government, and that, they would be likely to do more for the miners. If he is of that opinion, why does he not give them the opportunity ? We should wait, and watch the attitude of the State Government, who are in office with a majority.
– Plus Levy.
– I do not think the honorable member should be sarcastic regarding that gentleman, who apparently is very accommodating.. There is a Government in New South Wales representing the official Labour party.
– And renegades -do not forget them.
– I do not like to use such a. term. It is Said - though I do not say so, because I do not know - that that Parliament is constituted of extremists, men of the same political thought as the honorable member for the Barrier (Mr. Considine). Under the circumstances, it would be cruel and mean to deprive such a Parliament of an opportunity to show their ability in dealing with matters with which they promised to deal immediately, if they were returned to power.
– Five years ago, the honorable member would have killed himself rather than make a speech of this kind.
– Why should a gentleman so kind and courteous as the honorable member allow himself to get so vexed because, for the first time since Parliament met, I have risen to speak? Surely I am entitled to voice my opinion, especially in view of the fact that I always listen attentively to the honorable member who interjects. My only object is’ to obtain information in order to enable me to form an opinion as to whether the Labour Goverment of New South Wales should be prevented from doing its duty.
– You are depriving me of an opportunity to speak on the motion.
– If the honorable member assures me that he desires to follow me, I shall sit down. Only the other day, the honorable gentleman told us that he was not a Unificationist, but was desirous-
– Order !
– I only desire to say that the other day the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) said he did not desire to deprive the States of certain rights, and point out that if this Royal Commission’ he granted, we shall deprive New South Wales of rights of which the State is most jealous. Why was this most important question not made a leading one at the recent New South Wales election ?
– This is a question of the health of the miners of the Barrier and their wives and children. Has the New South Wales election any bearing on the welfare and health of these men and women?
– I am not in a position to say whether it has or not. As a matter of fact, I am concerned only with whether the Honorary Minister is in order, and speaking to the question before the Chair. It seems to me that the honorable gentleman is quite in order in arguing that this is not a question for the Federal Parliament to deal with, but for another authority, and he is in order in developing that line of argument.
– I wish to tell the honorable member ‘ for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) that I have as much sympathy as he has with suffering caused in any occupation, and that I have always shown my sympathy; but the honorable member who introduced this motion has asked for a Royal Commission, and it is with that request I have dealt, and not with the number of lives that are lost, and so forth.
– I support the motion. The health of the workers, not only of Broken Hill, but throughout Australia, is of paramount importance, especially when it is shown that the infantile mortality at the. Barrier is so very great. This latter fact is a serious menace to the future of Australia. If the Government are actuated by a desire to better the conditions of the workers, and give the infants of the Barrier a chance for life, I trust they will do their utmost to meet the circumstances, and not adopt tactics to prevent a vote being taken on the motion.
.- I intimated that I desired to say a few words on this motion, and I promise not to occupy much time. As one who has necessarily had to give a certain amount of attention, even to matters outside my own State, I cannot help remembering that, during the whole time I have been in this House, and for a considerably longer period, Broken Hill has been a kind of chronic open sore in many regards. It has been the centre ‘ of a great deal of political disturbance and unrest. We have had so many different statements regarding this condition of affairs, that I for one would like to have an inquiry that will get to the bottom of it. We have had, time and again, in this district serious strikes, and industrial troubles of a character even more serious than strikes - troubles which have been hushed up, but which I have reason to believe were of a somewhat grave nature. There is a condition of things in that locality which indicates something abnormal. Whether it is that the capitalist is the cruel ruthless tyrant so often portrayed, or whether there are influences at work that merely make the capitalist the stalking horse of their designs, I know not. But I am anxious, indeed, to have the situation investigated, and I believe that there are many people of the same mind as myself. We desire to know what is the matter with Broken Hill. If it is the case that the men are working there under conditions that are seriously detrimental to life and human happiness, nothing should be left undone to remedy the state of affairs. It has been suggested that the record of infantile mortality is sufficient to condemn Broken Hill in an industrial sense. It occurs to me, that in that arid part of Australia, infantile mortality may be due to conditions that have nothing to do with the mines - that the food of the children may be unsuitable, on account of the difficulty of obtaining supplies.
– It is the lead only.
– There may be other causes, and I am merely suggesting a possibility. I understand that while it is admitted that there is a considerable amount of disease following occupation in those mines, having regard to the fairly high percentage of miners affected, the management has done a great deal - indeed, it is claimed that they have done all in their power - to bring about the healthiest conditions under which the work can be carried on. There have been several inquiries into the question, and several undoubtedly earnest attempts made to improve the industrial conditions; but products of the mines are more necessary than ever to the industries of the world, and I do not think we can afford to create conditions that will mean the practical closing down of the work. It will be seen that there are difficulties in dealing with a question of this kind, difficulties that require a certain amount of discretion and common ‘ sense. To me, therefore, the question is one which resolves itself into what authority would best carry out an investigation of the kind proposed - would have the widest scope, and the most definite power to deal with the issues raised. The Commonwealth is not in such a position. Commonwealth powers, in regard to an inquiry such as I suggest, is practically limited, whereas the State Government and Parliament have practically unlimited power. The Labour Government in New South Wales, surely, might be expected to do all in its power to present the industrial side of the question.
– Is that Government in power, or in a position to do so ?
– Surely the present Government of New South Wales has sufficient power to move in a matter of this kind ; if it has not, it has no right to be there. I feel certain that if any kind of a case can be made out, an inquiry will be conceded by the State Parliament; and as such an inquiry would be more effective and more searching than any conducted by this Parliament, I prefer to see the matter left to the State. Accordingly, if the motion goes to a division, I shall vote in the way I have indicated.
– I regret that the motion has come up for consideration to-day.This is an impor tant question, and, personally, I should have liked more notice of its discussion.
– You. have had three weeks’ notice.
– But I did not know the motion was coming up for consideration to-day. I have been taking a little interest in the question lately, and have prepared some material of which I should have liked to make use, but, under the circumstances, it is not available. However, I listened with very great interest to a speech delivered some time ago by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), when he dealt principally with the health of the miners of BrokenHill. It seems to me that that is the principal phase we have to consider in discussing this question. All these other matters - hours of work, wages to be paid, and so on - in an industry of this kind very largely depend on the question of health. If the mining industry at Broken Hill is a very unheathy occupation, then, of course, the miners should work shorter hours, and be paid extra high wages. I made up my mind that I would do everything I could to assist to bring about a better state of affairs if such were possible. The question which honorable members have to determine today is whether or not it is necessary to appoint a Commission to inquire into the various matters indicated by the honorable member for Barrier. I intend to vote against the motion, not because I have not every sympathy with the men engaged in an industry of this kind, but because I think that, at the present time, such an. investigation is not necessary. Upon a visit to Broken Hill, at Easter, I became acquainted with a number of interesting things. I inquired very carefully into the subject of the health of the miners, and learned that the New South Wales Government had appointed a special technical Commission - a medical body - to inquire into this very matter.
– That Commission has not the powers which I am asking for in my motion
– I quite agree with that; but all these other points, especially the question of hours and wages, depend on the health of the men engaged; and,therefore, the Commission appointed by the Government of New South Wales goes to the very root of the matter.
– Has it done anything?
– Yes ; it has examined to date something like 1,000 miners. Its object is to subject every miner at Broken Hill to the most rigorous and exhaustive examination. Before the Commission began its labours, its members drew up a certain form for their guidance, which covered every possible aspect of investigation into the health of the miners. I would like to have shown honorable members one of those forms, which I brought back with me. It has only to be perused for one to be struck with the exhaustive nature of the inquiry. The Medical Commission is composed of men who are leaders in various branches of scientific research.
– What are the powers of the Commission?
– I will try to indicate them presently, but I desire to show just now the nature of the examination made in each instance by the Commission. The family history of the miner is investigated, also his industrial history. Then a close physical examination) is undertaken, concluding with an X-ray examination of his body. A most careful account is tabulated of all that- is done. The honorable member for Barrier asks what is the object of the Commission, and what are its powers. I understand that its object is to find out not only what the state of the health of the miners is at the present time, but also to ascertain how the industry affects their health. The Commission will make a report to the State Government, I understand, and will proffer certain recommendations regarding the conduct of the mining industry from the point of view of the health of those engaged.
– Is the honorable member sure that that comes within their qualifications ?
– I believe so. That is the object of this Medical Commission. Its members are to make their examinations, tabulate their results, and offer certain recommendations based, upon those results.
– Is this a Government Commission ?
– Subsidized by the employers.
– As for that phase of the subject, it was originally suggested that such a Commission should be appointed. The Premier of New South Wales thereupon’ instructed a medical man ‘ to furnish an estimate of the probable cost of the investigation. He re-‘ ported that, in his opinion, the cost of the Commission would be something like £15,000. Then, in his wisdom, the State Premier said he thought that was too much ; he was not prepared to go to that extent. Next, the mine-owners - being desirous that such an investigation should! be of the most thorough character possible^ - intimated that rather than minimize the scope of the Commission they would be prepared to bear half the expense. Their sole purpose was that it should be a thorough investigation.
– A. very good thing, too, and I ami glad to hear it.
– It spoke volumes for the bona fid.es of the management of the Broken Hill mines.
– Especially seeing that the managers opposed it.
– They accepted it, and it was because of their attitude, and of their practical proposition, that the Commission was given scope to do its work so thoroughly. Under the guidance of Dr. Edwards, who is one of the experts engaged upon the inquiry, I had an opportunity, while at Broken Hill, to look through the records so far tabulated. I was impressed with the thoroughness with which the work .is being done. I do not think the honorable member for Barrier would suggest that these medical experts are not thoroughly -in earnest and determined to do the best within their powers.
– Of course, I do not suggest that, any more than I suggest that the honorable member is not thoroughly in earnest.
– Where has this Medical Commission established its headquarters ?
– It is conducting its inquiries in the old Mechanics’ Institute at Broken Hill, where the very latest and best appliances have been installed. Everything necessary for the most thorough investigation has been provided. The paraphernalia includes an X-ray apparatus, which is one of the most up-to-date, if not the most efficient, instrument of its kind in the Commonwealth.
– Not one man can be examined for lead poisoning until the miners resume work.
– .That may or may not be the case, but it is for the experts to say. I am quite sure that if it be the case the Commission will continue its work in order to investigate that phase after the mines have been re-opened. One thing that impressed me was the bona fides of the mine managers.
-Ah, I thought so.
– Well, the honorable member is right. I was impressed not only with what is being done, but with the spirit and temper displayed by the managers.
– This is. letting the cat out of the bag.
– How long was the honorable, member in Broken Hill?
– Only three days, but I did the most I could with the time at my disposal, and I went there with the sincere desire-
– How many miners did the honorable member interview?
– I spoke with two or three of the miners themselves. One of these was a personal friend of the honorable member for Barrier, and the expression of opinion which T secured from him was this-
– Was he a “blue whisker “ ?
– His view was that the curse of modern unionism is the official unionist, and that if one took any half-dozen men from, the rank and file of the miners to-day, and brought them into conference with the representatives of the mine-owners, the trouble would be settled in half-an-hour.
– Certainly, it would be. The honorable member was there for only three days, and they settled him.
– They did’ not settle me. I had a very interesting time at the Barrier, and made as many inquiries as possible. I had not the opportunity, since. the mines were closed down, of going below; but I was conducted over the surface works of two of the principal mines. And, so far as a layman could see, I am, bound to state that everything possible is being done at Broken Hill in the interests and for the welfare of the men engaged in the industry.
– Then what does the honorable member suggest as the reason why the men are still standing out?
– With respect to that question, I will furnish the honorable member with an answer supplied to me by an experienced miner, when I put this question; “ Can you tell me what is the real grievance of the men who are out on strike to-day?” His reply was, “ They have got no grievance. It is these blasted scoundrels of leaders.”
– I guess he does not belong to the union.
– Yes, he does belong to the union.
– To which union?
– I will not mention names, but this man did not confine himself to generalities. He mentioned names.
– How many leaders are there in Broken Hill?
– I do not know. The question has been put by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), namely, “ What is wrong with Broken Hill?” One conclusion which I arrived at, as the result of my visit, is that one of the things wrong with Broken Hill is vicious leadership.
– The wonder is that there are any leaders at all. The ‘” bosses “ would like ‘to have none. I have been told by ‘ ‘ bosses ‘ ‘ in Australia that I would get no work here.
– I am going to give my reason for saying that one of the things wrong is vicious leadership. My reason for saying that, according to my view-point, some of the leadership in Broken Hill has been of a vicious character emanates from an opportunity of which I availed myself to attend a meeting on the Sunday evening which I spent at Broken Hill. This gathering was addressed by a master of arts from Adelaide, who was at the Barrier as the representative of the Workers Educational Association. He was there to conduct classes for the education of the miners. The burden of his address was this : He set out to prove to his audience- who were to be his pupils in the future, under the scheme which had been drafted by the Workers Educational Association - that they were abject slaves. He stressed that every wage-earner in the community is an abject slave - more a slave, indeed, than were the slaves under the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago.
– And in many respects they were far better off so long ago as that.
– The lecturer was laying down that statement ‘as a proposition; he did not attempt to prove it, but was simply asserting it. He said something to this effect : ‘* You miners are making certain demands upon your masters. What if you get all your demands conceded to you ? What better off are you ? You are none the less slaves. Of course, if you secure your demands, good luck to you; and if you do, it will be a better jumpingoff ground for the revolution which is nearer than most of ns imagine.” The one redeeming feature of the meeting was that, throughout the lecture - which extended over, perhaps, threequarters of an hour - the men did not indulge in the least applause. The significance of their attitude to me was that, as level-headed men, they felt that the lecturer was talking utter and absolute rot.
– Proving* that they could not be led by vicious leaders.
– No ; I am dealing only with the vicious character of the leadership.
– The lecturer was not even a member of a union at Broken Hill, and could not vote at any ballot connected with the trouble there.
– He was paid by the men.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– I should not have referred to the lecturer as a leader of the men; but he is certainly a would-be leader. His lecture -is a sample of the kind of stuff that is being fed to the miners at Broken Hill. 1 yield to no man in my desire to see better conditions of labour. I should like the conditions of labour at Broken Hill to be as good as it is possible to make them; hut I come back to the point that the health of the miners is the chief consideration. We should stay our hands until the Medical Commission has completed its labours.
– Or hurry on the work of that Commission.
– I can assure the honorable member that the members of the Commission are eager to do their work at the quickest possible rate. They have not been long engaged in their investigations, yet they have already examined 1,000 men.
– Quite so; but I am thinking of the question of treatment.
– The case must be diagnosed in order that the proper treatment may be applied. That is what the Medical Commission is trying to do.
– The results obtained from 1,000 examinations should give a fair average indication of the health of the whole of the miners.
– Not necessarily; because the conditions are so varied.
If, as we are told, this occupation is deadly, one would expect to find the men anxious to escape from it. But what are the facts? We find that men who have left Broken Hill, and have been absorbed elsewhere - who have found work in other cities - return to the Barrier immediately there is any prospect of the strike being settled and work being available. That, to my mind, is some evidence that mining operations at the Barrier are not as deadly as we have been led to understand.
– They cannot get regular work elsewhere.
– I am not expressing an opinion as to whether the occupation is healthy or unhealthy.
– Then, what is the honorable member trying to prove? “Mr. MAXWELL.- I am urging the House to hold its hand in regard to the appointment of a Royal Commission until we have before us the result of the labours of the Medical Commission that has already been appointed by the Government of New South Wales.
– The honorable member is trying to prevent the directors of the Broken Hill mines from’ dealing with these matters until the medical inquiry is over.
– Not at all. If I had the ear of the miners of Broken Hill, I would suggest that they return to work on the terms that have been proposed pending the report of the Medical Commission. My conviction is that if the men were left to determine the question for themselves, they would return to work on these terms, believing that when the results of the Medical Commission had been arrived at whatever was necessary would be done. I deprecate this constant girding at employers at Broken Hill. When I saw what had been done - and I think the honorable member for Barrier (Mr.
Considine) will admit that a very great deal has been done - to try to minimize the evils-
– Nothing has been done by the employers except that which has been forced out of them.
– Whether they have been forced to do these things or not, the point is that they have been done. Nowadays, there is no greater force than that of public opinion to induce employers to do the right thing. Whenever any body of industrialists come forward with a demand which, on the face of it, is just, public opinion immediately ranges itself behindthat demand, and makes it absolutely irresistible.
– Public opinion is behind the miners now.
– I disagree with the honorable member. I believe that public. opinion has not been correctly informed of the facts of the case. If we were to ask any man who takes a reasonably intelligent interest in these questions, what is the real point at issue between the employers and the miners at BrokenHill we should find that he was unable to tell us. I am convinced that whenever a demand that is just and reasonable is made, public opinion will compel those concerned to concede it. One has only to look at the Mines Act of New South Wales to see that every precaution that experience and consideration for the interests of the miner can suggest has been provided for in it.
– That statement shows how little the honorable member knows of the administration of the Act.
– In additionto the inspectors appointed by the Government, there are inspectors appointed by the men to go through the workings, to point out to those in authority where improvements can be effected, and to see that they are carried out. In these circumstances, it is difficult, in the light of our present knowledge, to say what more can be done in the interests of the miners. It has been said during this debate that now that a Labour Government is in power in New South Wales, if it is possible to further protect the interests of the miners at Broken Hill that protection will be forthcoming.
– What is the honorable member’s opinion in regard to the hours of labour in such an industry?
– That again is a question that hinges upon the character of the work. I should be guided by what the doctors had to say after they had made their examination of the men at the present time, as well as after they have been at work for some time. There is some force in the argument of the honorable member for Barrier that since the men have been out of the mines for nearly twelve months, their health, if there was any tendency to its impairment, might have been re-established. An examination to-day might not give as true a result of the effect of working in the mines upon the health of the men as would an examination after they had actually been at work for some time.
– That is shown by the medical testimony.
– On the face of it, that is a common-sense argument. According to the honorable member himself, it is impossible to make a satisfactory examination of the men until they are at work again. I am not sufficiently expert as to the nature of the work or as to its effect upon the men from a medical point of view. In other circumstances, I should have felt very much inclined to support the motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission, but since a Medical Commission is now sitting
– It has not the requisite power.
– It has the power to make recommendations, and effect would be given to the recommendations of such a body of experts.
– The honorable member would support a proposal to give effect to such recommendations ?
– Yes, I would heartily support any recommendations made by such a Commission, and I am satisfied that we should find public opinion strongly in favour of their adoption.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) on having brought this question before the House, and placed the facts from the point of view of his constituents clearly and fully before us. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), whose views I respect, states that a strike which has the force of public opinion behind it is bound to be successful. I have taken art in strikes in three continents, and ave never known a case in any part of the world where the capitalistic press has declared men on strike to be in the right.
– I said nothing about the capitalistic press.
– I defy honorable members opposite - “the wassers” - the men who were Labour men, as well as the “Never wassers” - the men who have never supported Labour - to- point to one case where the capitalistic press has supported a strike. Ninety-five per cent, of the press of Australia is anti-Labour, and has not on any occasion backed up the workers. Any advance made by the workers, either politically or .industrially, has been the result of their own efforts, and has been gained in spite of the press.
– Has the honorable member never known public opinion to prevail even against the press ?
– I have.
– Public opinion upset the conscription referendum.
– That is so. Public opinion was right then, and “ downed “ the press . I hope that the unfortunate dispute which still continues at Broken Hill will be settled, that some way out of the difficult position in which employers and employees are now in will be found. I am not one of those who use the term “master and man.”
– It is dying out.
– Yes, ‘and I am very glad of it. Mr. Molesworth, to whom reference has been made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), is a British M.A. It is the universities of Australia who are behind the Workers Educational Association. The Trades Hall folk have been denounced for not supporting this . movement in the way in which the Oxford Extension Lectures have been supported in the Old Country by trade unionists. Most of the unions have refused to join the association, and I understand that the Broken Hill unions have not joined it.
– They are not connected with it.
- Mr. Molesworth was not invited by the unionists to lecture at Broken Hill, and went there almost in spite of them. Some honorable members h’ave spoken as though union officials appointed themselves, instead of being elected, as they are, by the members of the unions. I was a financial member of a trade union at the age of seventeen. The organization was then just coming into existence, and admitted apprentices. I remained a member until the Arbitration Act prevented me from continuing in it, because I was no longer working at my trade. But I have my clearance, and it would be accepted by any branch of the Felt Hatters Union in any part of the world. It is not the officials who are to blame for industrial troubles, but very often the officials of the employers. During the recent seamen’s dispute, which affected Australia so much industrially, a ballot of the men was in favour of a strike. So, again, in the case of the marine engineers’ strike. In the latter case the executive advised the men to accept the terms offered, but the men refused to do so. The same thing has occurred at Broken Hill, and is occurring at the present time in Victoria.
Members opposite have become the apologists for the capitalists who support them, and, -therefore, oppose an inquiry into the conditions at Broken Hill. A Federal Commission is to be preferred to a State Commission, because it would have wider powers. It i3 only a rich company like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company that can defy the Federal Government. In fairness to the Broken Hill companies, I say that I think they would not hinder the making of a full and complete inquiry into the conditions that prevail. We have a right to such an inquiry. The honorable member for the Barrier (Mr. Considine) told us of the lives that had been lost, and, on the other hand, of the dividends that had been made at Broken Hill. He would have failed in his duty if he had not done so. When honorable members say that the Broken Hill trouble is due to extremists, who, as far as their numbers are concerned, do not count, my reply is that the honorable member would not have been elected to this Chamber if he did not represent the views of the majority. During the last Parliament he was constantly taunted with being the representative of a minority, but in December last, after the strike had been in existence for eight months, he was elected by a majority of the people of Broken Hill, which shows that he represents the-feelings of the majority of those living there. Then, again, only three or four weeks ago, the man who topped the poll was Mr. Brookfield, while a “ has-been “ was turned down.
– Brookfield denounced the Labour executive.
– At any rate, he topped the poll.
– But who was it tried to prevent him?
– There was no one like the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) for making trouble when he was on the Labour executive in New South Wales. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) and others who have been connected with the Labour movement know that he was the stormy petrel of the conferences there. I think that even Mr. Speaker knows a little about him. Whatever may be said about Mr. Brookfield’s politics and his disputes with the Labour executive, it must be admitted that he was the most extreme candidate who submitted himself for the representation of the district of Broken Hill in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and he topped the poll. That shows the feeling at Broken Hill. I spoke in the town once on a Saturday night, and the next day was present at a demonstration in support of the local hospital, which I visited, and the doctors’ admitted that the lead was a bad trouble. The Government would like this motion to be talked out, but I cannot allow the aspersions on trade unionism made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) to pass unanswered. They desire that trade unionism shall cease to exist in Australia.
– We have done as much as the honorable member for trade unionism.
– No. I have a record in regard to trade unionism which I can place against that of any man in this House. I am not one of those who became a unionist after trade unionism had begun to succeed. I have never used trade unionism. I am glad to have had this oppor- tunity to state the case of the unionists, so that it may appear in Hansard alongside the statements of those who have traduced trade unionism, who would make it appear that it is the officials and not the great body of unionists who decide these matters. Time after time the ‘Officials have smoothed over difficulties, as many honorable members opposite know. It is the rank and file who declare by ballot whether there shall ‘be a strike. However, as there is no1 chance of finishing the debate tonight, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– As in the Queen’s Hall during the dinner adjournment Sir Ross Smith is to give an account of his flight from England to Australia, I think that 1 shall consult the convenience of honorable members, and act in concurrence with the wishes of the Government, if I do not resume the chair until about 8.30. Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8.30 p.m.
Mr. SPEAKER announced that the receipt of messages from the Senate intimating that the following senators had been appointed members of Standing Committee* : - Public Works Committee - Senators Henderson, Needham, and Newland; Public Accounts Committee - Senators Crawford, Earle, and McDougall.
Bill returned from the Senate with the message that it has agreed to all but two of the amendments of the House of Representatives
Debate resumed from 28th April (vide page 1575), on motion by Sir Granville Ryrie -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- This Bill appears to be an attempt to deal with two altogether different funds by one measure and in the same way. In regard to the canteen funds this Parliament can do what it thinks fit, but in regard to the other fund, we should be bound by the trusts of the will which created it. There should have been two Bills to cover these two different matters, and the attempt to drag in the bequest of the late Sir Samuel McCaughey as a sort of afterthought under the wide powers of sub-clause b of clause 3 does not seem to be at all desirable. Very little objection can be taken to the provisions regarding the canteen funds except the old one that the Bill is merely a skeleton, and that many vital principles are left to regulations. It also introduces the undesirable system of referring to other Acts, in order to ascertain the meaning of words used in this Bill. For example, in the first clause one is referred to the “War Pensions Acts of 1914 and 1915, in order to get the interpretation which might just as well be embodied in the Bill itself, and thus made plain for every one to read. Regulations under measures of this sort should be confined to mere matters of detail, but under this proposal they are to be so wide that the principles of the Act will be laid, down, not by the Act itself, but by the regulations made under it. For instance, there is nothing in the Bill as to the manner of appointing State Committees. The honorable and gallant member who introduced the Bill told us that State Committees are to be appointed. But their powers will be very small; they would be only advisory bodies. There is no power in the Bill for the original trustees to appoint any substitutes in other States. That will mean that everything done under the Act will require to be sent to Melbourne to be confirmed by the trustees before any action can be taken. There is no power to delegate authority to the different Committees in the States.
We are told that the canteen balances are to be distributed within about six months. It reflects great credit upon those who managed the canteens that there is such a large sum available for distribution. These canteens are not’, mere drinking bars. They are general stores. At Liverpool Camp, at any rate, the establishment of canteens did away with the very objection- able system previously in vogue under which all classes of traders, some of whom were guilty 6”f very peculiar practices, were allowed into the camps. It is a matter for congratulation that the canteens not only paid their way, but repaid to the Treasury the whole of the moneys paid from time to time in order to set them going. But, judging from what was said by one honorable member, I doubt whether the advances made by some of the officers and men have been repaid. The canteen fund also provided money for the sports and recreations of the soldiers. On top of all that, there is a balance of £500,000 available for distribution. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) suggested that it might be better in the interests of those concerned if that amount were capitalized, but having regard to the fact that there may be from 30,000 to 50,000 claimants, and the average amount available for each may not be more than perhaps £10 to £15, it is better that the fund should be dealt with as a lump sum rather than that the payment should be spread over a number of years. The fact that the children are growing up, and in a few years will be earning their own living, seems to me to be an argument in favour of an immediate distribution of- the fund rather than of holding it in hand and distributing only the interest. No provision is made in the Bill itself that the amounts given under it shall not be taken into consideration by the Repatriation Department, or in connexion with pensions. The Minister has assured us that they will not be taken into consideration in that way, but it would have been very much preferable . to have it so stated in the Bill than to leave it to the” regulations which are afterwards to be framed.
When we come to the second object which the Minister tells us is intended to be covered, I find the Bill most un-. satisfactory. There seems to be no reason for dragging to Melbourne the management of the McCaughey fund, and although the Bill gives the trustees sufficient power to deal with the Canteens Fund, the McCaughey trust opens up a far larger field of discussion, and the powers given under the Bill do not seem to be sufficient, to cover the ground that needs to be covered under that devise.
It is very easy to criticise men; but, after all, we all take the conditions of the world as we find them, and if we leave the world, or our own small corner of it, a little better than we found it-
– Order !
– That is what the soldiers have done who created the Canteens Fund. I think we can also say that the man who created the other fund has left Australia better for his residence here, and for the work he did in it. According to his lights he was, I believe, a faithful steward of his wealth in his lifetime, and in his death he left, an example which we hope that many Australians will follow. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) talked about the Bulli Disaster Fund, and about the administration of that fund sealing up the fountains of generosity of the people of Australia; but I know of nothing more likely to seal up the fountains of generosity and benevolence than a speech like that to which we listened from the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) last night. The McCaughey fund consists of about £450.000, which is all to be invested. It is not to be distributed as the Canteens Fund is. The objects of the trust are set out in the will, and I suppose will be adhered to. There is £300.000 for pastoral, agricultural, ad technical education of soldiers’ c’ children ; £50,000 to provide in hospital . beds and cots for wives and children of soldiers; £50,000 for subsidies for ^ ilding funds of the Australian Imperial Force units; and £50,000 for special purposes to be’ determined by the executors of the will. These things are on another plane altogether from the canteen money, and the trustees appointed to administer the McCaughey fund will have to decide upon the whole policy required for carrying out the will.
– The trouble about the- McCaughey bequest is that it is not even mentioned in the Bill.
– That is so. It is to be drawn in by a sort of side wind by means of paragraph 6 of clause 3. None of the powers mentioned in the will are given by the Bill. The trustees whom we appoint may have to make arrangements in the States for the education of soldiers’ children in agri cultural or technical colleges, or on agricultural farms. They may have to originate training colleges of their own. They may have to build a wing of a hospital, instead of endowing other hospitals in different places. All these things need to be provided for. I think the clause dealing with the investment of the trust funds is not nearly wide enough, if the intention is to bring the McCaughey trust money into it. I would give the trustees power, not only to invest the money in Government securities or fixed deposits in banks, but also to invest in approved rent-producing freehold properties. I do not think any honorable member would confine himself, iri dealing with a large sum like this, merely to Government securities or banks’ fixed deposits. These powers ought certainly to be enlarged in order to give the trustees the right to make such investments, which, with proper supervision, will be just as safe and secure as the securities mentioned in the Bill itself, and which, moreover, will bring to the fund an increased amount of interest, and consequently place an increased annual revenue at the disposal of the trustees. I notice that there is no provision in the Bill to preserve the original trusts. Apparently, the Bill intends that the McCaughey money shall become part of the fund. Clause 3 provides that the fund shall consist of, first, the canteen moneys; and, secondly, any moneys transferred to the trustees which the Minister, by notice in the Gazette, directs shall form part of the fund. If the McCaughey money forms part of this fund, it seems to me that it will be applicable for the purposes for which the fund is created - purposes altogether different from those which the will had in view, and which are set out in the trusts of that document. The Bill as it comes before us does not contemplate so complicated an administration as is rendered necessary by the McCaughey trust. The Government would be well advised to let it go through without paragraph b of clause 3, making it refer only to the Can-* teens Fund, and to bring down a separate Bill to provide for the great benefaction of Sir Samuel McCaughey, in order to insure that the objects for which that , money was given are adequately provided for and properly carried out. Only in that way can the bequest by the late Sir Samuel McCaughey be satisfactorily dealt with.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
The President for the time being of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia;
Mrs. Alfred Deakin, of WalshStreet, South
Nicholas Colston Lockyer, Esquire, C.B.E.,
The Honorable George Swinburne;
Major-General Sir Cyril Brudenell Bingham
White, K.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O.;
Percy Whitton, Esquire, I.S.O.; and
Harold Percival Moorehead, Esquire, for merly a member of the Australian Imperial Force, shall be the trustees of the Fund. . . .
.- Earlier in the debate upon this Bill I objected to the large number of trustees whom it is proposed to appoint for the purpose of administering the fund. There are no less than seven of them. I fail to see the necessity for such a large body, especially as its duties will not be of the same character as those which will be discharged by the State Advisory Committees. The Trust will not be called upon to do any of the detail work ; its functions will be limited to the consideration of the recommendations by the State Committees. Where, then, is the need for a Trust consisting of seven members, especially when its duties can be more efficiently performed by three or four? I am of opinion that the measure was hurriedly drafted by one man, that proper consideration was not given to it, and that it has been submitted to this Chamber in a very immature form. I have no desire to differentiate between any of the persons whose names are set out in this clause, and I shall, therefore, content myself with moving -
That the word “ three “ be inserted before the word “ persons.”
– I ask the Committee to allow the personnel of the Trust to remain unaltered. We must not forget that these trustees are to act in an honorary capacity. If we seek to eliminate any of them, where shall we start? Anybody with experience of honorary committees knows that three members will often attend one meeting and three different members another meeting. It frequently happens that a quorum is obtained from certain members upon one day and a quorum from different members upon another day.
– Why is not some person from New South Wales to be appointed to the Trust?
– I have previously pointed out that any man who is considered suitable for this particular work will be of very much more value in his own Statethan he would be on the central Trust. It is almost imperative that all the members of the Trust shall reside permanently in Melbourne. If they were living in any State other than Victoria, they would have to be travelling constantly between the different capitals in order to do their work as it should be done. In such circumstances it would be only reasonable that they should ask to be reimbursed their expenses, and we do not desire to fritter away any of this fund in that way. I do not believe that any of the trustees whom it is proposed to appoint will exhibit the slightest partiality. They will simply act on the recommendations received from the State Advisory Committees.
– How are these Committees to be appointed?
– In deference to a request preferred by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), that some mention of these Committees should be made in the Bill, I have had a short clause drafted which will effect that object.
– It has not been circulated amongst honorable members.
– There are not many copies of it available at present, but at the proper time I will move for the insertion of a new clause, which will be known as 6a. In regard to the amendment of the honorable member for Darling, I again ask the Committee to allow the personnel of the central Trust to remain as it stands.
– I hope that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) will not proceed with his amendment. We have already been informed that these positions are honorary, and my experience of honorary bodies is that it is sometimes very difficult to obtain a quorum. It has been asked why there are not men and women appointed from other States besides Victoria; but if trustees have to be brought from a distance to Melbourne their expenses will have to be paid. For instance, if we had a representative from each State, the expenditure of a considerable amount of money would be involved ; and we must not forget that this is not our own money, but the money of the soldiers themselves; indeed, I do not know that we have any right to dictate as to how this fund shall be spent. Many of the men whose names are mentioned are personally and deeply interested in the disposal of these funds, and, therefore, I suggest the withdrawal of the amendment.
On two or three occasions - at any rate, on two occasions - it has been stated by the Government that it is their definite intention to have representatives of the soldiers on the different Boards and Committees; but the Government always select the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia as the body to send . the representatives. I do not object to a representative’ from that organization, but it seems to me that other organizations are deliberately ignored. As I have said previously, that organization is not the only one, nor can any member of it claim to represent the whole of the soldiers of Australia.
– Can you name a more representative association?
– No; but I can name other organizations that are just as representative. The claim is made that this is the largest organization; but the fact that it has a few more members than others does not entitle it to be the only one to send representatives to such bodies. If this were the first occasion on which this has happened we might overlook it; but I am convinced that this association is singled out because of its political activities. That is a paltry attitude on the part of the Government when the soldiers’ interests ought to be considered; but we find that political “pull” repeatedly. I know it is useless to move an amendment, so I shall satisfy myself with voicing my protest. The exercise of discrimination in the way I have indicated is due to the fact that the officers of the organization stand behind the Nationalist Government in polities.
.- I think that the number of trustees might, with much advantage, be increased. I am not new saying whether or not the persons named are the proper persons for the position; but, in view of the fact that they will have the distribution of such a large sum of money, I think there ought to be more of them. Of the total sum of nearly £1,000,000, these trustees will control the allocation of possibly £600,000.
– It may be more.
– I hope it may be, because it is very much to be desired that others may follow the example of the executors under the McCaughey will. The number of trustees should be at least seven. As I have said on a previous occasion, I take no exception to the persons named, but I think it would be very advisable to have the names of two ladies added, seeing that the greater proportion of the work will be that of dealing with the claims of widows, widowed mothers, and children.
– I hope the honorable member is not losing sight of the fact that the amendments that have been circulated mean the redrafting of the Bill since its introduction.
– I am glad that there is to be a Committee of three in each State. There can be no objection if the two ladies I suggest were selected from Victoria, though one might come from another State. The arrangements as to the Committees are left to regulations; but if we carry this clause in its present form, the trustees will be limited to seven, and an amending Bill would be required to add to the number. “Would it be possible to add to the number of trustees by regulation?
– No; a definite number is fixed by the clause, with power to fill vacancies that may occur.
– However that may be, I plead for the appointment of two ladies as additional trustees.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Duties of trustees).
.- This is a further indication of the haphazard manner in which the Bill has been treated. The clause states that the trustees shall receive and consider applications from the widows and orphans and from widowed mothers and other dependants of deceased soldiers. As a matter of fact, this work will fall upon the State Advisory Committees, which will make recommendations to the trustees for indorsement.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 10 agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 6a. (1) For the purposes of this Act there shall be for each State an Advisory Committee.
Each Advisory Committee shall be appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the trustees.
The trustees shall nominate one member of each Advisory Committee, and the member so nominated shall be the chairman of that Committee.
An Advisory Committee shall ad vise the trustees on matters referred to it by the trustees, and shall carry out such duties in relation to the granting of assistance and benefits under this Act as the trustees direct.”
– Why not stipulate the number to constitute each Advisory Committee ?
– The trustees will probably be in a better position to decide as to the number required, and, for that reason, we did not stipulate any particular number.
– I think it is advisable to provide that the number shall be not less than three, and that one at least shall be a woman. It must not be forgotten that the Advisory Committees will be dealing very largely with questions affecting widows and dependants of deceased soldiers.
– I accept the suggestion offered, and will amend sub-clause (1) of the proposed new clause to read -
Proposed new clause, by leave, amended accordingly.
– There are women in New South Wales who have done excellent practical work among the soldiers. I have in mind, in particular, the splendid services of Mrs. Willie Chisholm, who conducted the rest camp at Kantara. Her activities were a godsend, not only to our soldiers, but to the “Tommies” as well. She was not one of those who merely visited the troops in hospital, and earned a lot of credit for having done war work in that way. Day after day, year in and year out, she did the real toil herself. I have seen her with her sleeves rolled up cooking. She and her assistants would cook thousands of eggs a day. She and one of her chief helpers, whom I recall at this moment, namely, Miss McPhillamy, spent four years of the best period of their lives, slaving like general servants in an hotel. Women of that type are deserving of all praise and every consideration. Personally, I am of opinion that the State Committees will number about five, with two women appointed to each.
– I am pleased that the suggestion has been accepted, and embodied in the proposed new clause, I desire to throw out the further suggestion that, in making the appointments, one of the women chosen should, if possible, represent that considerable section of the community which is composed of the working classes. Most of those who will seek help from this fund will be drawn from the Tanks of the working classes, and it will be wise to place upon the Committees women who are in actual touch with the working people, who are in sympathy with them, and know their difficulties and conditions of life generally.
.- The proposal of the Government, as now set forth, is a step in the right direction, but I am not quite sure that it goes far enough. Honorable members who come from the more remote States are rather anxious concerning the manner in which the work of the Advisory Committeesshall be done. We have had experience of the evil effects of centralization in Melbourne, not only in regard to the activities of different public administrations, but particularly concerning the work performed in connexion with our soldiers.
It is just possible that the trustees may take the view that they will be expected to keep a tight control of the purse. If that should be so, then, to a large extent, the work to be done under this measure will be seriously interfered with. I desire to make sure that a good deal of the actual allocation and distribution of the fund shall be intrusted to the State Committees. I do not like the name “ Advisory Committee.” because it suggests that these bodies will merely make recommendations to the central authority. If that is to be the practice, I can see considerable trouble in the matter of red-tape entanglements.
– The honorable member should not overlook the phrase, “ and shall carry out such duties in relation to the granting of assistance and benefits.”
– There is undoubtedly power given the trustees to delegate their work to the Committees; but will they do so? I would like to see them give to the Committees a considerable share of the actual administrative duties in matters of detail, and merely exercise general control themselves. In Western Australia, it has been too often the case that organizations have been created with solely advisory powers. They have had to remit to Melbourne matters upon which they are really more competent to form judgment than the central authority; and thus time is wasted. He gives twice who gives quickly. In the case of many of the people to be benefited by the fund, the celerity with which assistance may be granted will constitute no small feature of the benefits themselves.
.- It is evident that public opinion is turning, and that, before long, ladies will be occupying seatsin this House. If we can furnish some of these capable women with jobs outside, they may not be so anxious to get into this place, and put some honorable members out of a job. The decision of the Honorary Minister (Sir GranvilleRyrie) to place women upon the controlling bodies is wise. I hope the political aspect will not be allowed to interfere with the choice of ladies upon the various Committees. I would like to see representatives chosen who will be closely identified with the “digger” and his dependants. With all due respect to those ladies whose names have been mentioned, and against whom I have not a word to say, I am prepared to recommend one whom I have in mind who will put her heart and soul into the work. She is closely and sympathetically identified with the soldier and his dependants, and knows their requirements. I endeavour to be just to all, but I cannot dismiss from my mind the fact that I am a representative of the Working classes of my constituency, and I trust that the Honorary Minister will arrange that some persons associated with trades halls or industrial unions are appointed on the State Advisory Committees. Dr. Mary Booth is an able woman anxious to get into the limelight, but she cannot be regarded as a representative of the industrial section. It is no use denying the fact that lady members of such Committees would act sympathetically towards the members of their own sex. I know what has taken place in the State I represent, and I have experienced sleepless nights because of the treatment meted out to widows in connexion with the administration of certain funds in that State. If the Government adopt the suggestion it will be the means of removing a good deal of discontent and bringing about harmonious conditions which are so necessary in connexion with an important work of this character.
.- I hope the Trust will at an early date allot the sum of money to be distributed in each State, and if that procedure is adopted its work will be considerably reduced. I am in accord with the view expressed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) that the State Advisory Committees should be given a fairly free hand in distributing the money allotted to each State. It should not be a difficult matter to ascertain the number of applicants and the approximate liabilities, and then allot the money accordingly so that each State Advisory Committee would have its share available for disposal.
Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That Order of the Day No. 3- Judiciary Bill 1920 - be made an Order of the Day for tomorrow.
.- I desire to ascertain the reason for altering the order of the business on the noticepaper ?
– It is our intention to go on with the Estimates.
– If that is so, why has the order of business been presented in the form in which it appears on the notice-paper! The Judiciary Bill has appeared in its present position for the last two or three days, and now the Minister for “Works and Railways has moved that the second reading be postponed to enable the Estimates to be considered. He has not had the courtesy to give any valid reason, but apparently the Government are not ready to go on with the Bill.
– Yes, we are.
– Then why not proceed ?
– Because the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) announced that certain Bills and the Estimates were to be proceeded with.
– I know that it is convenient for the Government to proceed with the Estimates when they have no other business on hand, and that is apparently the position in which they now find themselves. I object to the order of business being altered in this way, and I trust the Minister will reconsider the matter. Is not the Minister prepared to move the second reading to-night?
– We are going on with the Estimates.
– The Government with their majority will doubtless be able to do as they desire, but a “more satisfactory reason should be given for altering the order of business. It is true that the Prime Minister stated that certain measures were to be dealt with, but that does not necessitate this procedure. The Judiciary Bill is a measure on which I think an amendment should be moved to enable the House to deal with the question of profiteering, which is a most pressing problem. On a measure such as the Judiciary Bill we shall be able to confer on the High Court or some other tribunal the necessary powers to deal with profiteering, and for that reason I trust the House will insist on the present order of business being adhered to. I intend to move an amendment for the withdrawal of the Bill to enable a more comprehensive measure to be introduced at the earliest possible moment. The urgency of dealing with profiteering” is of such importance that we must not lose any opportunity of doing all we can to enable the House to come to a decision. I oppose the motion, and take this opportunity of informing the Minister that when the second reading is moved it is my intention to submit an amendment.
– Order!’ The honorable member will not be entitled at this stage to deal with his proposed amendments of the Judiciary Bill.
– I am going to connect them with my reasons for not approving of the proposal to alter the order of business on the notice-paper.
– I do not think the honorable member will be in order in indicating the nature of the amendments he proposes to move to the Judiciary Bill.
– I am entitled to give the reasons why I do not want the order of business to be altered.
– That is so; but only within the limits before the Chair.
– I object to the alteration of the order of business because of the urgency of conferring upon the High Court of Australia and other Courts jurisdiction to deal with the question of profiteering, or at all events, to carry out investigations, and to enforce penalties which will be provided in measures, within the scope of the Constitution, requiring statistics to be given of the manufacturing cost of all goods produced in Australia and of the landed cost of all imported goods. I desire, also, to have conferred upon them, power to enforce penalties that will be provided in measures requiring statistics to be given of the profits made in the Inter-State shipping trade.
– The honorable member will not be in order in proceeding along those lines. The only question before the Chair is a motion to postpone a certain order of the day.
– I am showing why I object to its postponement.
– I am loth to interrupt the honorable member, but he is now referring to the Judiciary Bill, and indicating amendments thereto which he intends to move. As an old parliamentarian he must know that he is not in order in dealing with such matters on the motion now before the Chair.
– I have no desire to go beyond the Standing Orders in debating this question. I feel, however, that to discuss it intelligently I must give the reasons why I think the order of business on the notice-paper should not be departed from. It is of the utmost urgency that this House should take steps to pass measures that will enable us to effectively deal with profiteering under the powers contained in the Constitution. It is. of the utmost urgency that we should confer upon the High Court and other Courts jurisdiction to enforce the penalties provided by those measures and to carry out the investigations necessary in relation to them. I am certain that the people of Australia agree with me that this is a matter of extreme urgency. No one could have sat in the galleries during the last few days, and have listened to the talk that has been going on without coming to the conclusion that there is some justification for referring to the Parliament as “ a mere talking shop.” We are dealing with matters which do not affect the real interests of the people, which should be receiving our consideration. The Tariff, for instance, is before us. We know that there are complaints that locally manufactured goods are sold at prices higher than are justified by the cost of production, and we are told that this is due to the fact that a high Tariff has been introduced. By all means, then, let us exercise as soon as possible our power to call for statistics showing the cost of manufacturing goods, and confer on the Courts the jurisdiction to enforce such requirements. That is a matter of extreme urgency.
– Hear, hear!
– I am sure that my honorable friends of the Country party will agree with me, and I am glad to note that one of them, by interjection, has already done so. Measures of the sort to which I have referred, are of far greater urgency than the matters to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has referred. I am prepared to agree to the House meeting not only every Tuesday as an extra sitting day, but also on Mondays, in order to have such measures passed. They are the kind of measures for which the people of Australia are looking. The people are looking to this Parliament to do something to put down profiteering, but the Parliament is doing nothing. Not only is it doing nothing, but we have the Prime Minister telling us that we can do nothing - that the National Parliament is utterly helpless to do anything in connexion with the most important question that is affecting the minds of the people to-day. We can do something, and ought to do something. The matter is of urgency. It is within our power to do something, and surely honorable members are not going to agree to a proposal by the Ministry to alter the order of business on the notice-paper so that we may proceed with the consideration of the Estimates, in order to fill in time, when other questions of greater urgency await our attention. I for one enter my protest, and I propose to divide the House upon the question. I hope that other honorable members will take exception to the alteration of the order of business in this way. and that a majority will vote against it.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) will, of course, divide the House. He has been dividing it ever since he entered it.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– The Minister for the Navy had not spoken half-a-dozen words before he was subjected to a chorus of shouted interjections. I ask honorable members to cease the practice. Unless they do so, some other means to which I do not desire to resort will have to be adopted to secure the orderly conduct of business.
– I have a distinct recollection of the honorable member dividing the House a little while ago on the very question of the urgency of the Estimates, and the necessity for this House taking control , of the finances of the country. I think the honorable member made that the ground of a vote of censure on the Government. He wanted them to discuss nothing but the Estimates.
– That is not true. Show me in Hansard the report of such a statement made by me.
– I did not flay that the honorable member said it; I said he voted for it. He insisted that the one thing that this House must do was to restore its control over the finances of the country. He now ridicules the very idea of such a thing. The consideration of the Estimates, he says, is a waste of time. On the occasion to which I refer nothing was more urgent than the consideration of the Estimates. Now he tells us it is not urgent. A month later and it becomes of no urgency - it is the least urgent matter on the businesspaper - and the honorable . member will have nothing whatever_to do with the consideration of the finances or the Estimates before the House. Which of these attitudes is the correct one? Either the honorable member was playing a part then or he is playing one now. Then it was ‘ ‘ yes ‘ ‘ for the Estimates ; now it is “ no “ for the Estimates.
– He did not advocate that the Government should bring on the Estimates whenever they wanted to fill in time.
– That is an aerial torpedo.
– It is the sort of interjection that oDe expects from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). If there is in the Corner party one honorable member who ever since he has been in the House has been less of a Country member and more of a Labour member, it is the honorable member who now interjects.
– More honour to him !
– If it is an honour, then he cs entitled to it. The honorable member for Wimmera is certainly one of the best friends of the Opposition. He has, of course, the rightto make whatever interjection he pleases. I merely point to the fact that the consideration of the Estimates a month ago was, in the opinion of the honorable member for West Sydney, of the greatest possible urgency, whereas to-night it is of no consequence whatever. A complete change has come over the scene. The Government are doing merely what every other Government have done since responsible government was established. They are exercising their right to control their own business, and put their measures before Parliament in the order in which they think they should be considered.
– And we claim our right to dictate and tell the Government what they ought to do.
– No doubt, the dictators are on the other side ; but I sincerely hope that the Government have not reached the stage at which they may be dictated to as to the order in which Government business shall be done. They will certainly not allow the honorable member for West Sydney to take the conduct of the business of this House out. of th’eir hands.
Why does the honorable member propose to take this course? Does he for a moment imagine that, by anything which he may do with the Judiciary Bill, he will confer powers on this Parliament which are not in the Constitution to deal with the great question of profiteering. The honorable member knows better, in my judgment, and he is merely adopting this course as a means to upset the Government by a side wind.
– I think that means should be adopted to check profiteering.
– The honorable gentleman knows just how to deal with that question. Nobody else in the world knows how to deal with it; but, apparently, he does. He is the one man in all the world who can deal with it.
– He had the opportunity, but did not do so.
– The Queensland statute-book shows that.
– I should like to be allowed to make an interjection now and again.
– The Minister is putting up a “ stone-wall.”
– The honorable gentleman is “ stone-walling “ the Estimates.
– The honorable member for Darling is out of order.
– I know that.
– The honorable member must obey the call of the Chair to keep order.
– On a previous occasion the honorable member for West Sydney, in his efforts to upset the Goment, wanted to deal with the Estimates on the ground that their immediate consideration was urgent; and to-night, when the Government propose to proceed with the consideration of the Estimates, he adopts another course, and tries to upset the Government by taking the conduct of the business out of their hands.
– I invited the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) to leave the business-paper as it was.
– The Government believe that they are doing their duty in submitting the Estimates for the consideration of the House.
– I conceive that I am doing my duty in protesting against profiteering, and in asking that a stop shall be put to it.
– The honorable member keeps on saying “ profiteering,” and makes himself believe that the matter is twice as bad as it is, and that he is the one man born into the world to set it right. I wish that he could set it right. It is a pity that the honorable gentleman did not set it right when he had the power as Premier of Queensland,
– I tried, as far as possible, to do so.
– The honorable gentleman did, and he sent the cost of living in Queensland soaring up 60 or 70 per cent. He dislocatedthe finances of that State. His muddling hand has left Queensland in the throes of greater difficulties than exist in any other State in the group.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not discussing the question before the Chair.
– I think you are right, sir. I hope that the honorable member for West Sydney will not persist in this course of action. The Government cannot consent to what he proposes.
– I make up my mind before I start.
– I congratulate my honorable friend on having a mind to make up. May I say that the Government made up their mind from the start.
.- The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) has said that honorable members on this side moved a motion of censure on the Government for failing to bring on the consideration of the Estimates. We did no such thing. The motion referring to the consideration of the Estimates was submitted by a member of the Country party.
– Honorable members opposite voted for it, did they not?
– Yes, we did; but the only motion of censure that has so far been moved in this Parliament was one which I had the honour of moving, and it dealt with the very matter about which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has spoken to-night, namely the failure of the Government to deal with profiteering. It dealt also with their muddling of the finances, and the way in which they controlled the wheat and other Pools. Speaking from memory, those were the three heads on which my motion of censure was based. When the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) proposed that the House should go into Committee of Supply, the honorable member for West Sydney discussed, as he has done to-night, the power of the Commonwealth to deal with profiteeringunder the existing Constitution. We voted with honorable members in the Corner, as we naturally would, in order to shift the Government upon any consideration. I am perfectly frank in making that admission. The Government know it to be a fact.
– The honorable gentleman is always “ Frank.”
– I suppose that is why my parents christened me as they did. The Government last night made up the business-paper, and, as hasalways been done, informed the Clerk of the House of the order in which they intended to bring forward their ‘business to-day. What has happened to account for their desire to change that order? They got the Canteens Funds Bill through sooner than they expected-
– Because we helped them more than they expected.
– Yes; and have succeeded in making the Bill a- much better measure than it was when it was introduced.
– Get on to profiteering; that is what we want to prevent.
– The Minister for the Navy stated that when the honorable member for West Sydney was Premier of Queensland the cost of living soared in that State, but why will he not give us an opportunity to discover whether we have the power to deal with profiteering? There have been cases waiting for consideration by the High Court for months. The ex-member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has presented a petition against the continuance in this House of an honorable member who was returned by a majority of one vote. That case has been held over for months.’ But when the totalisator people were affected, the High Court was called together on the Monday and gave its decision on the Tuesday.
– I hope that the honorable gentleman does not suggest that the Government had anything to do with that?
– I do not; but the High Court could be moved to deal at once with the proposal to tax totalisator dividend? whilst it cannot be moved to consider the case of a humble citizen of the Commonwealth.
– Moved by whom?
– I do not say that it was moved by the Government to consider the totalisator tax.
– Nor by anybody on behalf of the Government.
– I admit that; but I am pointing out that, apparently, certain persons have a readier means of access to the High Court than have certain other persons.
– Order! The honorable member is departing from the question.
– What I have said might be a little off the track, but I am very gladthat I got it in. Only recently I told the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in connexion with arbitration matters, that organizations that are content to wait the convenience of the Court are allowed to wait, and organizations that go on strike secure a decision from the Court earlier than do law-abiding citizens. The Estimates are always useful to mark time; but I am very anxious that the Government shall see what powers they have to prevent profiteering. Under the War Precautions Act they had complete powers, and if they are sincere in their professed desire to reduce the high cost of living, which is affecting the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, they should at least try how far their existing powers will permit them to go in the prevention of profiteering. If they are held up by the Court, they may learn that their powers are not as extensive as they thought they were.
– Does the honorable member think that we have power to deal with these questions?
– The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Groom) introduced, during the absence from Australia of the Minister for the Navy, a Bill empowering this Parliament to regulate transactions in wheat, wool, sugar, butter, and flax for terms varying from six months to two or three years, and if we had power to deal with those commodities for a certain length of time, we have power to deal with other commodities for longer periods. It is for the Government to show that they are in earnest in preventing the people from being robbed by the profits levied by the number of persons who now handle the goods that are consumed. I believe that the Government can do more than’ has been done, and it is for them to do more.
.- I ask the Government which, in the interest of the country, is the more impor- - tant business - the consideration of Estimates which cover money most of which has been spent, or a Bill to give power to deal with the cost of living?
– The Estimates have to be put through.
– They will go through.
– Why not put them through to-night, and be done with them ?
– They are beingbrought forward to-night merely as a stop-gap. because the Government has no business to proceed with. I have seen Estimates like these passed in half-an-hour. I hope that the electors will mark what has happened to-night. Members are here ready to do business, and the country is clamouring for Parliament to pass certain legislation, yet the Government does nothing. The Prime Minister . (Mr. Hughes), when setting forth the manifesto of the Nationalist party at Bendigo, said that he would kill the profiteer. He did not say that he had not statutory power to do that.
– He said that he would kill him if he could catch him.
– The Nationalists are not trying to catch him;, they are trying to cover up his tracks. We have a right to demand the fulfilment of the Government’s promises Since they took office, the country has Suffered a great deal of damage. Bread has increased by 2d. a loaf, and the price of sugar has risen to 6d. per lb.
– Have the measures which we have passed for the benefit of our returned soldiers damaged the country ?
– I cannot permit the discussion to continue with the extremely wide range that is developing. This is not the Address-in-Reply debate, and the introduction of so many irrelevant subjects is quite irregular. The question before the Chair is whether Order of the Day No. 3 shall be postponed until to-morrow.
– I shall endeavour to comply with your ruling, Mr. Speaker. By not going on with the Bill set down for to-night, the Government is prolonging the life of the profiteer. In reply to the interjection of the Minister for the Navy, I say that the money that we are spending on repatriation is benefiting the profiteer. Last week, I was present at the opening of some war service homes. The timber, bricks, and other material in those buildings had cost hundreds of pounds more than they should have cost, because of the exactions of the profiteer.
– Because of the strikes, about which Labour members never say a word.
– I ask the honorable member for Wakefield not to interrupt. I must insist upon every member being heard without such continued interruption as is now taking place. Interjections often lead to the discussion of irrelevant subjects, and that causes me to intervene and call the member addressing the Chair to order. I hope that honorable members will assist the Chair by conserving for members their right to be heard with a reasonable amount of silence.
– We shall assist the soldiers’ if we prevent the profiteer from fleecing them. At present, they are paying 50 per cent, more for their homes than similar buildings would have cost before the war, and that notwitstanding the fact that we produce our own bricks and grow our own timber. It is for this reason that we desire that the power shall be given to the High Court, or some other authority, to deal with the profiteer. I am pleased that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has called the attention of the country to the fact that the Government is neglecting its duty by allowing the profiteer to continue in existence. Almost every item of foodstuffs and clothing has increased in price by nearly 50 per cent, since this Government was returned to power, and Ministers have done nothing to prevent it.
– John Storey said that he would deal with the profiteer in forty-eight hours if he were returned to power.
– The Minister for the Navy, and all the followers of the Prime Minister, backed up his statement that it is the duty of the Government to kill the profiteer, but I have not heard of any funeral. Some of them said they would shoot him; but no one has been shot. I hope that the people will soon have another opportunity to declare their views. Now that the Prime Minister has entered the chamber, I would remind him of his Bendigo utterances. The Prime Minister said that- he was out to fight the profiteer tooth and claw. I now ask him to assist us to give the High Court power to deal with the profiteer.
– Who put the honorable member up to this?
– I was elected to this Parliament to fight the profiteers, and I am trying to do so. Unfortunately, they have too many supporters on the Government side, but the time will come when we shall have an opportunity of dealing with this problem.
– I rise to create a few more laughs on the Government benches by opposing the proposal of the Government to transfer to a lower position on the business-sheet an important measure like the Judiciary Bill by an amendment of which we might be able to deal with the question of’ profiteering which has been agitating the public mind almost -since the commencement of the war. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) has repeated the argument used by other members on the Government side that this Parliament has no power to do what is proposed.
The Judiciary. Bill provides an opportunity of getting the power. It is upon this very question of profiteering, and not upon the delay in dealing with the Estimates, that the party on this side made a motion of censure upon the Government. If at election time it was necessary to deal with profiteering, it is much more necessary to do so now. Every day the prices of commodities are rising. As the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has pointed, out, we have, in connexion with the Repatriation scheme, made provision for erecting soldiers’ homes, and each day that we delay dealing with the profiteer must mean the expenditure of more money for this purpose, because of the capitalistic interests continually raising the prices of building material. Perhaps the Government realize that by a specific amendment to the Judiciary Bill we could test whether Ministerialists were earnest in their assertions that they wished to deal with the profiteer. If the Government wish to prevent the masses of the people being pushed lower and lower down the economic scale on to and even below the bread line until something very serious happens, they must take some measures to cope with this problem. ‘ Here is their opportunity. We have heard speeches in regard to industrial unrest and the seething discontent in the rank and file of the Labour organizations. What but profiteering and the resultant high cost of living is responsible? Each day the wages of the workers diminish in purchasing power. As men sink lower in their economic status the discontent becomes greater, and unless conditions are improved this country must expect serious trouble. Even one of the lower animals will fight when it is hungry; will man do less? Honorable members on this side would be unfaithful to their election pledges, to the trust which the people reposed in them, and to the dictates of humanity and common justice if they did not make a protest against the action of the Government in cavalierly pushing into the background a measure that would enable them to do some of the things which they told the people they would do. I admit it would be impossible to provide in the Bill for the shooting of the profiteer, but it would be possible to embody in the measure sufficient power to check his depredations.
– Order! The honorable member must not discuss the Judiciary Bill, which is not beforethe House.
-If the Government wish the Opposition to give fair and reasonable consideration to the measures they bring forward, they should not play with us as they are attempting to do tonight.
.- It must be at once apparent to any honorable member that the only purpose that the Government desire to serve in changing the order of business is the wasting of time. Having been caught with no business ready to be proceeded with they are adopting the tactics often resorted to by Governments in the past of throwing on the table old Estimates, the votes in which have been almost exhausted. They ask honorable members to discuss the Estimates, not one line of which can be altered, because the money is already . spent. The thing is a sheer piece of humbug and sham, and it is about time the country realized what a humbugging sham and make-believe the present Government are. They came into power with a great flourish of trumpets. They were going to kill the profiteer. They were going to wipe out all those things that were oppressing the people, and make Australia safe for Democracy. Now comes the humbugging sham of it all, that they ask us to discuss Estimates when the money has all been spent, and propose to take away from us the opportunity of discussing the Judiciary Bill, under which we could give power to the High Court, by reinforcing it and extending its operations, to go into various businesses, investigate them thoroughly, make those conducting them produce their figures, and show their profits, and what it cost them to produce an article, what they are selling it to the consumer for, and what huge bank balances and profits they are building up for themselves. The Government make no attempt to do this, or to carry out their election pledges, or the platform which they asked the people of this country to give them a mandate to put into effect. They ask us to postpone the very measure under, which they might get the power to do the things which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said the Government would do. It is about time his sham and hypocrisy was exposed to the people. We should show the people that the Government have no intention to deal with profiteering except to bolster up and make more safe and secure the position of the robber and profiteer in Australia. The members of this House should not be caught with that humbug and sham on the part of the Government.
– Order! The honorable member is not entitled to use such language.
– The language may not be quite in accordance with parliamentary usage, but there is not the slightest doubt that the action of the Government in deliberately running away from the one measure on the businesspaper that could deal with profiteering is a clear proof that they are a Government of hypocrites and shams.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdrawthose expressions, which are quite unparliamentary.
– I withdraw them in deference to your instruction, sir. The only other way by which I can express my feelings towards the Government is to say that they are sitting on the Treasury bench under false pretences. They obtained a majority in the House by telling the people that they were going to deal with profiteering, and lift the great burden that was pressing the people down. We find them to-day neglecting to do this, and postponing the very measure that might give them power to do it. I hope the opportunity will be taken almost immediately of having a vote on this question, so that the people may know where the members of the House stand on it. I strongly support the view put forward by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan).
– I have yet to learn that the Judiciary Bill proposes to deal with profiteering, and I am a little surprised that the advent ofthe Labour Government in New South Wales should so soon be followed by the anxious demands of New South Wales members that this Parliament should deal with profiteering. I am also surprised that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), who did all he could only a few months ago to prevent this Parliament having the power to deal with profiteering, should be so concerned about the matter now.
– That is a good old gag.
– It is a good old gag, and a true old gag. But for the efforts of the honorable member for West Sydney and others of the Labour party who associated themselves with him in opposition to the referenda proposals, they would have been carried, and this Parliament would have had the power to deal with the profiteer without question. But because the proposals came from this side of the House they did their utmost to prevent this Parliament having the power which they now say it ought to ‘ have. They did mot do this because they believed that the proposals were ineffective to deal with profiteering, for many of them had already made every effort to secure the adoption of those amendments on previous occasions; but they turned their backs upon what they had done then, and on the last occasion they opposed those proposals which before they had declared to be necessary to give this Parliament power to do the things which they now say ought to be done.
– Is that the truth?
– It is. I do not recognise in the honorable member a very good judge of that quality..
– You must have been at Ananias’ school.
– Order ! Such suggestions are distinctly offensive. I ask honorable members not to interject across the chamber.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), at the earnest request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), yesterday outlined the business which Parliament was expected to do before it rose for the reception of the Prince. The time to have taken exception to those measures was then; but I did not hear any objection at the time. It has been suddenly discovered that the chance of having a full-dress debate upon the pet subject of the honorable member for West Sydney has been missed. I hope we shall be able to get on with the Estimates. I can still hear the protests of honorable members opposite that the Estimates come to us too late. I am also a little surprised at some of the members in the Ministerial corner, who scorn to consider so small a proposition as onesixth of the Commonwealth expenditure.
– Never mind the corner; it will take you all your time to mind yourself.
– There are still two months of the period covered by the Estimates to run, and the expenditure of thé Commonwealth is a pretty considerable sum.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! Again I ask honorable members to cease this loud conversation.
Honorable members again interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) is out of order.
– Who is making “ this ere row !’ ?
– Order ! I have several times asked honorable members to keep order, and they have consistently interrupted immediately after the House, has been called to order. Honorable members should have more regard for their own reputations and the dignity of the Chamber of which they are members, and uphold the Chair in its efforts to carry out the rules of debate as laid down by their own Standing Orders. I have no desire to proceed to extreme measures, but honorable members will force me to do so unless they abide by our Standing Orders and obey the call of the Chair.
– There still remain two months of the present financial year, and the expenditure for those months covers practically every Department of government. The criticisms, therefore, in which honorable members opposite are so anxious to indulge can be made just as effectively upon these Estimates as they can be in any other way. I hope that the resolution will be carried.
.- I remember that in pre-war days it was a privilege to hear the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) attacking.. Many a fight he has put up at our industrial conferences. I regret to say that since then he has gone over to the profiteers, and that, as a defender of the profiteers’ party, he is a dismal failure.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member is not in order in saying that I am a member of the profiteers’ party. T am not. I hold the same views in regard to profiteers that I have always held, though some honorable members opposite have changed their opinions.
– The only question before theChair is that the consideration of the Judiciary Bill be postponed until after the consideration of the Estimates, and I ask honorable members to confine themselves to that.
– It would be funny if it were not so pathetic to listen to the honorable member for Illawarra–
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to discuss the question that is before the Chair.
– When dealing with profiteering the honorable member for Illawarra stated that were it not for the honorable member for W.est Sydney (Mr. Ryan) and the Labour party generally succour would be given to the people of Australia.
– The Labour party generally are opposed to the honorable member for West Sydney.
– One can take witha grain of salt the protestations of thehonorable member. Despite his past record we now see him at the head of theenemy, leading the profiteers. Of course, I recognise that the Government occupy a very unhappy position. I can quite appreciate their uneasiness. Since the opening of this Parliament they havebeen defeated no less than four or five times, and they would have been beaten even more frequently but for the action of certain members of the Country party. I can readily understand, therefore, thai Ministers have very little time to devoteto the preparation of Bills. They are too busy. Only last week notice was given of their intention to deal with noless than seven measures. Mention was: made of an amendment of the Arbitration Act - a long-looked-for measure. Then, a Bill has been promised to finalize thesecret negotiations for dealing with:
Papuan oil. I will not discuss the merits of that question at this juncture. Another promised measure is an Indemnity Bill, which is not yet ready, and which has probably not even been drafted. There is also a Bill to authorize the creation of a Bureau of Science and Industry, which has been held over for the past two years. There is the much-mutilated Repatriation Bill, which has been forwarded from the Senate with the compliments of that branch of the Legislature. Perhaps the Government, after a whip of their party, do not feel that they are in a position to do very much. They may be anxious to avoid’ the consideration of any measure of a contentious character. Certainly they have done surprisingly little to give effect to the many pledges which they recently made to the people. Although the members of the Country party have saved the Government on many occasions, I have not the slightest doubt that the time will come - and probably before some honorable members expect it - when their small majority will disappear, and they will go out of office. It is because of their uneasiness that they are not ready to proceed with business, and that they now wish to put before us Estimates for the financial year which lias almost expired, much as a person throws a bone to a dog in order to keep its attention off something else.
.- There are two questions of paramount importance which should have engaged the attention of this House long ere this. These concern industrial unrest, and an amendment in the Arbitration Act, and profiteering, and the promised measure to deal with it. We doubted the sincerity of the Government when the appeal was made to the electors in December last, and that doubt has been justified by the attitude of the Government towards profiteering, especially since the elections. We find that they are prepared to place the promised measure lower down on the businesspaper, although it is a measure that would doubtless have some control over the present unjustifiable inflation of price’s. I represent a constituency composed almost entirely of members of the working community, and I can say that they are beginning to despair, owing to the circumstances of their life at the present time. They recognise that the present Government can offer them no hope for the future - that no attempt is being made to deal with those individuals who are reducing the life of the country to a dull, sordid, soulless existence. It is about time that we, as the custodians of the welfare of the people, recognised where our duty lies to those people who are suffering so much at the present time; but profiteering goes on, and the toll exacted by the barons of industry from the unprotected people is represented by big dividends. The interests of the great working community ought to be protected, and we on this side of the House, without any desire to embarrass the Government, are endeavouring to impress on them the necessity there is to deal with those people who are making such inroads on the welfare of the public.
– And deal with them at once.
– Exactly; indeed, they should have been dealt with long ago. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) generously offered to the Government to draft a Bill which would be within the existing powers under the Constitution, and enable them to deal with the profiteers, who are the greatest traitors any country could have. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in a speech made at a National Federation meeting in the Atheneum Hall, Melbourne, stated that the problem of the profiteer was a baffling one,; but no attempt has been made by the Government to solve the problem. On the contrary, there seems to be a systematic desire on the part of the Government to protect profiteers in their successful efforts at exploitation.
People may ask what is the cause of the industrial unrest; but it requires only the application of a little common sense to find it.
– The wonder is that there is so little.
– Under our economic circumstances, that is the wonder. I represent a working constituency, and as one who has worked at the bench, I have been subject to such hardships as are now being suffered by the people at large. It ill-becomes any honorable member to . do anything that will defer the day when something can be done to remove the disabilities created by the profiteer. The protest made by the honorable member for West Sydney and others is well justified. The Government will have tobe taught their duty; and we on this side would fail as representatives ifwe did notcall the attention of the country at large to the fact that little or nothing has been done to remove the conditions which allow the great commercial and financial interests to extract further profits from the community. I hope that honorable members opposite will see the necessity for immediate action, and will be able to say, when they are called upon to give an account of their stewardship, that they did all in their power to relieve the present situation as it affects the masses of the population. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) may argue that he has no power to deal with profiteering ; but the honorable member for West Sydney states that, to his knowledge, the difficulty can be overcome; and there is no reason why his assistance should not be accepted. There is no reasonable excuse for allowing this matter to remain in abeyance, and we ought to ascertain at once how far we can render the necessary assistance.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) is to be congratulated for having drawn the attention of the House and the country to the action of the Government in connexion with this matter. If ever there was a Government of which it could be said that they are doing nothing, and doing it well, it is this Government. It is really pitiable to seethe manner in which they are delaying business by bringing on the Estimates to deal with money which has already been spent.
– We are not so bad as the Government with which you were once associated. The Estimates then came on in the following year.
– I was never connected with any Government with which the Ministerfor Home and Territories also was not associated.
– I am referring to that Government.
– Then the Minister must accept his own share of condemnation. In any case, it is a poor excuse to point to the misdeeds of any other
Government, even if I were to admit the accuracy of the statement, in order to explain away the shortcomings of the present Government. In connexion with the introduction of the Judiciary Bill; I see important possibilities, to some of which the honorable member for West Sydney has referred. There is, first of all, the question of jurisdiction being given to the High Court todeal not only with profiteering, but with many other matters that are demanding urgent attention at the present time. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), when an honorable member of the Country party was speaking, referred to him as a Labour man having Labour sympathies. It is infinitely better for any honorable member there to express Labour sympathies than to be the friends of profiteers.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– The Minister did make use of that expression, though he denies it now, and I can assure him that people outside will not find fault with any honorable member of this House who expresses sympathy with the Labour movement and with people who are striving against the high cost of living. It has been said that this Parliament has no power to deal with profiteering, but in this connexion I refer honorable members to an article that appeared in the Age newspaper on Monday last. I presume the Age acted on good legal advice when it made the statement. Dealing with the Tariff issue, and in answer to complaints by those people who say that the new Tariff will increase the cost of living, and that this Parliamenthas no power to deal with the profiteers, the Age said -
The Commonwealth can, under its powers with regard to statistics, estimate the manufacturing costs so as to ascertain what is a fair margin of profit over and above cost of production.
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the motion before the Chair.
– I intend to do so. There is extensive power to deal with profiteering, and, according to the Age, the Government can, under its taxation powers, “ limit “ profits to a “ fair and reasonable level.”
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing generally the subject of profiteering, though he may incidentally refer to it if he can connect his remarks with the Judiciary Bill, consideration of which it is proposed to postpone till to-morrow.
– I intend to connect my remarks with -the Judiciary Bill, Mr. Speaker, but it would have been impossible to do so without making the quotation. “We were looking for this Judiciary Bill, so that we would be able to confer certain necessary powers on the Sigh Court.
– Sir John Quick made the same statement during the last election.
– That is so. I listened with interest to the speech made by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), who tonight was apologizing for the profiteers. I regret that he is not present now, so that I might reply to his remarks. There was a time when he held other views.
– He never did anything of the kind.
-I am putting my own interpretation on his speech. The honorable member for Illawarra, like the Minister, was at one time on this side of the House. We were lod to believe that they parted with the Labour party over the conscription issue; but it appears now that they have gone over to the other side on other questions as well, for we now find the honorable member for Illawarra apologizing for a number of things that were once anathema to him. He and the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) have, it appears, run away from their life-long principles. However, I will leave that aspect of the matter now, for the simple reason that the honorable member for Illawarra is not in the House. As regards the Judiciary Bill, I have every sympathy with what is proposed to be done; but there should be scope to deal with many other matters, including one in which I have a particular interest, to sec if something oau be done for many struggling settlers in my electorate. I desire to see jurisdiction given to the High Court in regard to the extension of the moratorium.
– Order ! I cannot permit the honorable member to proceed. He will not be in order in following up the line .of argument upon which he is now entering.
– I submit to your ruling, sir; but I am only endeavouring to show reasons why the Judiciary Bill should be brought forward for consideration; and if I may do so by pointing out how, through that measure, profiteering may be dealt with, surely J would be in order in pointing out, also, that the Judiciary Bill is. equally necessary to deal with another important subject.
– Order ! I have allowed a great deal more latitude than I should have done, and must accept my share of blame for not having prevented the development of this discussion at an earlier stage. I ask the honorable member now to concentrate his attention upon the question before the Chair, and so avoid dragging in extraneous and irrelevant subjects.
– I must confess that I was hoping that, by means of the Judiciary Bill, something would be done to give relief to unfortunate people who are carrying heavy mortgages to-day in drought-stricken areas.
– Order ! The honorable member is now disregarding my ruling, and is proceeding to discuss the Judiciary Bill, which is not before the House.
– I submit to your ruling, sir; but with all deference repeat that if, in connexion with the Judiciary Bill, I may touch upon its relevance to the subject of profiteering I should be permitted to mention also its relation to the matter of the extension of the moratorium. I marvel every day at the fact that many unfortunate people are able to live at all. They aTe only existing. The Government say they have no power to deal with profiteering. The honorable member for West Sydney has offered to draft a Bill. Why do not the Government accept that offer? If the honorable member should fail, the Government ought to be only too glad to have given him the opportunity to demonstrate his failure. The honorable member for West Sydney not only undertakes to draft the Bill, but will guarantee its validity before the Courts. That is both a fair offer and a fair challenge. The honorable member for Illawarra remarked to-night that honorable members on this side had prevented the taking of an affirmative vote in connexion with the last referendum, and that if a “Yes” vote had been recorded the Government would have done certain things by this time to stop profiteering. At a meeting of representatives of the Housewives Association, about a fortnight ago, the Prime Minister is reported to have used these words in answer to the question, ““What would have been done if the referendum was carried ?” “By this time,” said Mr. Hughes, “ we would have had a Commission appointed in order to make these inquiries.” It would appear that all the Government proposed was to add another to the list of Commissions which are merely tampering with the subject to-day. There is a body known as the Fair Prices Commission. Any one, upon reading the evidence given before it, must be convinced that it is only tinkering with profiteering and the cost of living. There is evidence every day to prove that profiteering is rampant; yet the Prime Minister said that what the Government would have done, had the people voted “Yes,” would have been to appoint a Commission.
Mr.Wise. - The Prime Minister never said such a thing, and the honorable member knows it.
– I am going upon thereport of the Prime Minister’s remarks. If the only outcome of the referendum was to have been the appointment of another Commission, nobody should be sorry now that the “ No “ vote succeeded. This House is to meet on Tuesday next. Why this extra day? It is a mere blind to make the people think we have something important in hand. Why should this House proceed with such a farce ? Why should honorable members be called upon to meet a day earlier, if the Government have no more important business to place before them than the consideration of Estimates, the money involved in which has been practically all spent? The opportunity to expose the Government as the friends of the profiteers has been too long allowed to pass. Of course, the Government will not deal with profiteering, for the reason that they would not have been back on the Treasury benches to-day but for the helpof the campaign funds provided by the profiteers. I trust even now that the
Government will recognise the seriousness of the position and attempt to provide relief for the struggling people, who look to this Parliament to conserve their interests against these profiteering enemies of the people.
.- I desire to add my protest to the action of the Government in “ side-tracking “ the Judiciary Bill. Nobody on this side of the House, of course, believes that the Government intend to do anything to interfere with the profits of those people who made it possible for the Government to get back to the Treasury benches. I ask leave to continue my remarks upon another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 April 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200429_reps_8_91/>.