8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. Bamford to act as a Temporary Chairman when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
Mr. FOWLER presented the second General Report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts.
Ordered to he printed.
Mr. McWILLIAMS presented an interimreport of the Select Committee on the sea carriage of goods.
Read, and ordered to be printed.
– Last week, in reply to a question asked by mo, the Minister for the Navy said that itwas the endeavour of his Department to let the wholesale coal merchants have as much coal as possible. I donot doubt that; but I remind him that at the present time there is probably not 1 cwt; of coal in many large districts. A firm which last May supplied 600 tons of coal to householders, has now only 20 tons of coal with which to furnish three of the largest depots. Is it not possible to give the people some relief? Winter is nearly on us, and if they cannot got coal very soon it will not be of much use to them.
– I very much regret these troubles, but they are inseparable from the circumstances in which we are placed. We have not got coal enough to go round, and therefore we cannot make it go round. The Coal Board consists of practical men who know the requirements of the public as few others can. The Navy is not controlling the distribution of coal, notwithstanding a statement in the newspapers criticising its management.
– I do not reflect on the Coal Board in any way.
– The members of the Coal Board are business men of the highest typo, the Chairman being the President of the Economy Commission. They are doing their best with a difficult situation. I am inquiring whether steps cannot be taken to entirely divest the Navy Board of all responsibility in this matter. Now that the Commonwealth control of shipping has ended, there seems to be noreason why the Commonwealth should concern itself with the distribution of coal within a State, that being rather the function of the State authorities. My feeling is that we should let tho State Governments look after this, matter.
– Then the people are likely . to fall between two stools, and get no coalatall.
– It is said that; the people of Victoria are preventedfrom getting coal because of the Commonwealth control of distribution; but I think that when our control has ceased, it will not be any easier to get coal. My view is that, as tho Commonwealth has ceased to control the shipping, and is no longer interested to any extent in procuring coal for transport, the State Governments should assume responsibility for the distribution of coal to their people.
– The States have not got ships ; but the Commonwealth has
– Answers to questions may notbe debated. I would ask theright honorable gentlemannot to reply to a series of questions asked by way of interjection. Such a course involves the
House in an irregular debate. If honorable members desire additional information, the proper course is for them to rise in their places and ask for it.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) has referred to a matter which is quite distinct from that with which I am now dealing. I shall make a more considered statement in the course of a day or two in regard to the whole subject. We shall be very glad to help the States, but I do not see why we should continue to take the sole responsibility for the distribution of the coal within the. States now that the shipping control has been released. I shall bring these matters under the notice of the Coal Board, and I hope sincerely that relief may soon be given. I know what it is to be pinched for firing in winter.
– In view of the threatened shortage of wheat in the coming season, will the Government take steps to prevent its export, so as to obviate the soaring of prices next season?
– So far as I can recall the circumstances as detailed at the last meeting of the Wheat Board, the facts are thatthere is comparatively little, if any, wheat available for export. An arrangement has been made with the Government of New South Wales to supply the shortage there, which is very considerable, and the shortage in Queensland, which, whileperhaps not quite so acute, is also considerable. That leaves the body which has control of the whole of the wheatsupply in Australia with little or no surplus. I think that is the position,but the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) will perhapsbe able to correct me if I am wrong.
– We have a little left, but we are not endeavouring to get rid of it. We are holding it temporarily.
– The point is that we have very little.
– That is so.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether the Government intend to hold an official inquiry into the dissatisfaction existing in Papua?
– No. I have not the slighest intention of directing an inquiry to be held. I know of no reason for an inquiry.
– In view of the fact that there were 600 resignations from the Public ‘Service of the Commonwealth in 1917-18, 900 resignations in 1918-19, and over 1,600 during the first nine months of 1919-20, are the Government prepared to take steps to prevent this alarming exodus from the Service by providing for a living wage for public servants?
– It is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill to amend the Public Service Act, and the whole question of the Public Service can be properly and carefully considered when that measure is before us. It is unfortunately true that a considerable number of persons in Australia who live on what may be termed a fixed wage have been most hardly hit by the depreciation in the value of money, and, since we expect, very properly, that our public servants, in seeking for redress, shall not have recourse to strikes or other methods opposed to the law, it is only right that this Parliament should see to it that their salaries are adequate. I appreciate tho motive of the honorable member’s question. I am in sympathy with the object he has in view, and shall do everything in my power to give the Parliament an early opportunity of dealing with the whole question.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the promoters of the Oil Refinery Company submitted to the Government any figures showing the approximate cost of the establishment of a refinery in Australia, the expected production of refined oil, and the anticipated profits on the sale and distribution of that oil? If so, will the House be given the benefit of that information before we resume the consideration of the Oil Agreement Bill?
– That information, and all matters incidental thereto, can be dealt with during the debate on the Bill, which is now first on the business-paper.
Assistance to Farmers
– In view of the very great distress amongst settlers in the drought-stricken areas of New South Wales - and the drought is not confined to that State - and having regard, also to the fact that the New South Wales Government have advanced £1,000,000 to relieve the distress, will the Acting Treasurer consider the desirableness and urgency of that assistance being supplemented by the Commonwealth?
– I am afraid that the honorable member is submitting a very large proposition. There are State Governments other than the Government of New South Wales which I fear will be in the same predicament. If the honorable member will let me know exactly what he proposes, and what is being done in New South Wales, I shall be glad to consider the matter.
– It was stated in March last that there was some £23,000,000 owing to the British Government for which bonds had not been issued, and that immediate payment of a sum of £9,000,000, paid out by the British Government, was asked for, though it was not easy to meet the demand. In view of the statement which the Prime Minister made at the Commonwealth Bank in New South Wales, that we. had something like £100,000,000 surplus credits in England- including some £40,000,000 in one lump already owing, and immediate credits authorized and accruing in the next few months on the extra wool sales, and so forth - is there any way to meet those obligations out of the surplus credits, and, if so, what necessity was there to send a representative to meet obligations which we had money to meet?
– The honorable member’s question no doubt relates to a very important matter, and he has put it in a very simple and unintelligible way. I will content myself by saying thatI do not think so.
– I should like to address to the Acting Treasurer (Sir
Joseph Cook) a “ simple and unintelligible” question, to which I ask him to reply in the same manner. I wish to know whether the honorable gentleman is aware of any surplus credits to Australia in the banks in England? If he knows of any, to what extent do they exist? Is the question “ simple,” and also the other thing?
– The question is perfectly simple.
– And also?
– The honorable member has had his answerquite three or four times.
– From whom?
– The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) has gone to London-
– I want an answer from you.
– The Treasurer has gone to London to deal with this matter, which is not so simple as the honorable member’s question would make it appear.
– Will the Prime Minister make available Commonwealth ships for the purpose of conveying coal from Newcastle to States which require it, in view of the need for supplies?
– I will see how many vessels can be made available for the purpose, and see that they are put on to the trade.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General a question in regard to mail contractors in the several States. Scarcely a day passes that I do not get a letter from a mail contractor, whose Contract dates over two or three years, at the beginning of which fodder was about one-third its present price. Under the circumstances many of the contractors are not able to carry on, and I wish to know whether the PostmasterGeneral proposes to give them any relief?
– We have already given very considerable relief to mail contractors, but if there is any very special case we are prepared to give it further consideration on its merits.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation to an advertisement in last night’s Herald, informing returned soldiers and their dependants that gratuity forms may be “ filled for them by a returned soldier at moderate rates.” If it is necessary to obtain assistance in filling up these forms, why should not they be simplified, so that the men themselves may fill them up?
– I take it that this is a matter for the Treasury. I understand an answer was given to a question yesterday to the effect that arrangements have been made in the Department to assist the men in filling up the forms.
Australian Consumption - Guarantee
– Certain members of this House, and certain people of Australia, desire that sufficient wheat shall be held to meet the consumption of the Commonwealth. Will the Prime Minister take steps to induce the Wheat Pool to pay for the wheat that it has already received, and ordered for Australia’s requirements, at about half the world’s parity? In the meantime, wheat producers are receiving only about 5s. per bushel in cash, and the money is required for development work. If the wheat is purchased, it ought to be paid for.
– I do not know exactly to what wheat, the honorable member refers. Does he mean the wheat that was sold to Britain?
– I mean, for instance, the wheat sold to meet the requirements of Victoria and New South Wales.
– All I have to say is that this is the business of the Wheat Board, and has nothing to do with me. The Wheat Board sold the wheat ;. let the Wheat Board get the money.
– Seeing that the New South Wales Government have increased the guarantee to the wheat-growers of the State to 7s. 6d. per bushel for next season’s wheat, will the Commonwealth Government increase the Federal guarantee to that amount, so that growers in other States may be placed on the same level?
– That is the same question the honorable member asked me yesterday, and the answer I give him now is the answer I gave then, and it is quite a proper one. A different answerevery day would never do. I said yesterday that the policy of the Government had been already announced, and I desire to say, in addition, and without prejudice, that the New South Wales Government no doubt - since the honorable member says so - have given this guarantee. The honorable member, however, does not say where the money is to come from; and I have no doubt that, ultimately, we shall find somebody coming along and asking us for money - that is what they all do. Whatever my honorable friend the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) may be, he. is not a bottomless pit; and the long and short of it is that we must cut our clothes according to our cloth. We have no money; but I give the honorable member free permission to try his powers of persuasion, in any way he likes, on the Acting Treasurer. The honorable member is a powerful man, and if he can get the Treasurer to agree, there will be no opposition from me.
Marketing of Oversea Products
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The future marketing, oversea, of Australian surplus products, including wool, wheat, meat, butter, &c.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I regret that the forms of the House limit the discussion of a subject of so wide a character to a very limited time. First of all, I shall briefly refresh the minds of honorable members as to the conditions under which the Commonwealth Government took charge during the war period of the sale of Australian products. There is no question that is to-day concerning the mind of the man on the land more than does the matter of the policy to be pursued in the future in regard to the disposal of our surplus products. Soon after the outbreak of war we learned how dependent we were on British shipping, and the supremacy of the British Navy to see us through our difficulties. We could only carry on an overseas trade to the extent that Great Britain was able to make shipping available for us. The war struck us also in a year of drought, when we were compelled to import fodder and grain from America, which was done by an arrangement effected by the State Governments. Meanwhile the Commonwealth Government had taken the supreme power in this Parliament to do anything necessary to control the whole of the resources of the Commonwealth for the prosecution of the war. The year of drought was followed by a record harvest of 162,224,000 bushels of -wheat, which had never before or has never since been approached; but by this time, as the shipping difficulty had become very acute, the Commonwealth Government put forward proposals for the exclusive control of shipping. Later on there was a collaboration between the Federal Government and the Governments of the wheat-producing States, which ultimately formed the nucleus of the present Wheat Pool, and became the basis upon which the whole of our Australian products nave been controlled. The two outstanding figures in that movement were the then Minister for Agriculture in Victoria, the Hon. Fred Hagelthorn, and the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Following upon the formation of this Pool, the Prime Minister called .upon the agents who had previously controlled the purchase, shipment, and sale abroad of Australian wheat to give up their private operations and devote their experience and organization to the task of enabling the Commonwealth Government to operate the newly formed Pool with success.. These agents very magnanimously came to our aid. Without their experience it would have been absolutely impossible, at that stage, for any of the Australian Governments to carry on such a Pool, and I think that the country must not be altogether unmindful of, and ought to generously acknowledge, the fact that they surrendered their businesses in a truly rightful spirit, and came to the aid of the Commonwealth Government, devoting the best of their brains and their services to the necessities of the Commonwealth and the States.
So far the Australian Wheat Pool has controlled five harvests, the total amount of wheat handled being 503,216,000 bushels, or, in round figures, 13,500,000 tons. There has been distributed from the Pool £100,000,000. Its operations have been twofold in character ; first, to provide for the whole of the requirements of Australia, and then to market and sell the surplus overseas. Australia’s home consumption is 31,200,000 bushels of wheat. To have collective handling, selling, and management of its wheat was a novel experience for Australia; but, regarding it as something which the emergencies of the war rendered necessary, I think that, on the whole, it was an excellent conception on the part of the two gentlemen primarily responsible for it. I regret that ‘one of them, the Hon. Fred Hagelthorn, has been turned out of public life in this country. No man gave his best to the services of his fellows more generously than did he, who was the central figure in the foundation of the Australian Wheat Pool. I knew him very well many years ago. He comes from the district in which I live. I know that he gave thoroughly bond fide service to the country in this matter. He kept politics out of it, and put his best into the work as a good Australian.
At this stage, eighteen months after the signing of the armistice, we have to consider our future policy. I quite agree with the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) that it is of the utmost importance to the farming, commercial, and financial communities that they should know at once the policy of the Government with regard to the future control of Australian wheat. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) gave us a statement the other day as to the parities on the other side of the world, but made no reference to the quantities of wheat raised in other countries, and in order that the matter may be viewed in its proper perspective, I desire to place on record the average production for five years of the chief wheat-growing countries of the world. They are as follow : -
Russia, 817,000,000 bushels.
United States of America, 685,000,000 bushels.
India, 350,000,000 bushels.
France, 317.000,000 bushels.
Austria-Hungary, 232,000,000 bushels.
Canada, 197,000,000 bushels.
Italy, 188,000,000 bushels.
Germany, 152,000,000 bushels.
Argentina, 148,000,000 bushels.
Australia, 91,000,000 bushels.
If Russia recovers her soul and undertakes the development of her wheat belts she can supply as much wheat as all the other countries combined. Russia is the great factor in wheat production. That country and the United States of America, between . them, produce nearly half of the world’s wheat supply. I come now to the point in which the wheat-growers are vitally concerned. What are the proposals for the future marketing of wheat? I do not necessarily mean the proposals of the present Government, because, primarily, this is not a function of the Commonwealth Government. The Wheat Pool was a war activity, well conceived and well controlled, although there may have been defects in administrative details. But taking it by and large the great Australian Wheat Pool, handling 503,216,000 bushels, and distributing approximately £100,000,000, has done a mighty service to this country. It was our paramount duty to keep the industries of the country going in spite of the war. We had no precedent in history to guide us as to the control of primary products in time of war without shipping, and those who make administrative details a ground for the condemnation, of individuals or Governments do .not look at a big question in a true light. I can see only three reasons why the Government should have anything further to do with the Australian Wheat Pool - (1) the condition of the world’s shipping; (2) the announcement by the Imperial Government of their intention to handle wheat for a further year; and (3) the obligations which the Commonwealth and States have entered into in regard to guaranteeing the next harvest. The question of guarantees which has been twice asked by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Lavelle) is of no consequence to the Australian grower to-day. The world’s price to-day is a sufficient inducement to any farmer to grow wheat night and day. What the guarantee may be is practically beside the question. Wheat is worth 12s. 6d. f.o.b., as a minimum for supply to the islands and ships’ holds, and if it could be sold to other countries it would be worth more. Therefore, the question of existing guarantees, or of the guarantee given by the State Government of New South Wales, is of no importance. The latter, in my judgment, will not be as good a stimulus as is the world’s parity. The guarantee given, by the Commonwealth is the only factor that compels it to remain in the Wheat Pool. In time of peace the handling of agriculture is primarily the responsibility of the States, and the Commonwealth. Government, therefore, would be well advised to drop out of the management of the Australian Wheat Pool.
– The honorable member is advocating the middleman’s cause.
– I do not want that sort of cheap nonsense from the honorable member. I have no interest in this coontry except in land. I have not a brass farthing invested in any business in Australia. Why, then, should I be interested in the middleman? Cheap clap-trap, like the interjection which came from the honorable member, has won for some men in this House a recognition that otherwise they would never have got.
I come now to one phase of the question in which the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) is interested. He stated in the House a few days ago that the Prime Minister had been responsible for the sale of a large quantity of Australian wheat without any authority from the Board, and at an unauthorized price. The answer of the Prime Minister spoke for itself, but there is a very sharp and serious conflict between the testimonies of the two gentlemen, and the farmers will not be content to allow the facts to remain in dispute in that way. The Prime Minister made a clear and definite statement, and appeared to have the records of the Wheat Pool to justify his defence, but this is a matter which the two honorable gentlemen must thresh out between them. The honorable member for Echuca charged the Prime Minister with having made a bargain that represented a loss to the Australian wheat-grower of many millions of pounds. I pointed out the other day that he himself (Mr. Hill) was a party to a bargain for the sale of the home requirements of wheat at 7s. 8d. per bushel. In round figures the annual home consumption is 31,200,000 bushels. Eleven months of the year had to be provided for, representing approximately 28,000,000 bushels. The Prime Minister said that had the honorable member for Echuca been content to wait until the Wheat Board had ascertained what the world’s parity was at that time, the Australian wheat-grower could have obtained that parity. The world’s parity was found by cable to be Ss. 4¾d. f . o.b., and the difference between that and the fixed price of 7s. 8d., after allowing¾d. for the expenses f.o.b., represented a loss to the Australian producer through the Board’s arrangement by refusing the Prime Minister’s offer of, roughly, £933,000. No authority had been given to the farmers’ representatives on the Wheat Board to sell wheat for twelve months at any price below the world’s parity. That parity to-day is 12s. 6d. per bushel, so that on the home consumption of 28,000,000 bushels for the eleven months the primary producers sustained a loss of £7,000,000. When it is not necessary to continue the Australian Wheat Board, why should anybody desire to retain control ox the fanners’ business? The Government proposals in regard to the future have not yet been announced. Some farmers have submitted a proposal to the Prime Minister which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) in supporting it described as a proposal for a “ voluntary compulsory pool.” The term is an apt one. The pool is to be voluntary for those who want it, and compulsory for those who do not. To-day, when the war is over, arewe to continue a policy that will abrogate the principle of private contract, and destroy the right of private property in goods, so that those goods may bo made the subject of pool handling against the will of those who own them ? The statement has recently been made in Great Britain (by the Financial Secretary that that country made a profit of £150,000,000 out of Australian primary products, apart from wool, and I think that the Australian producer to-day feels that the sooner he can get control of his own business the better. I do not blame any individual member of the Government, nor any individual member of the Australian Wheat Board, for what has happened. No one can be a prophet in these days. When the Prime Minister sold our wheat to the British Government, I thought that the transaction was an excellent one, and I thought the same thing of the arrangement for the sale of our wool. At the time the con tracts were excellent. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) thought that by selling our wheat at 7s. 8d. he was doing a good thing for the Australian farmers.
– It was the best I could get.
– On to-day’s parity there is a loss of £7,000,000. What right has any one to gamble with the property of other persons? Dealing in wheat has always been pure gambling. In ordinary times, about the month of August, the buyers and exporters of wheat . start to “ spec “ charter vessels, and to “ spec “ in wheat, the object being to so organize the shipping of the world as to get it to our ports just when the wheat arrives there from the harvest fields. Is any one prepared to-day to say what will be the price of our coming wheat crop in the world’s markets? The whole business of wheat dealing is highly technical, and success in it comes only with perfect world-wide shipping arrangements and a thorough knowledge of conditions. Did I think a compulsory pool in the interests of the farmers, I would give the proposal the fullest consideration; but in their zeal for co-operation some men are advancing to the very threshold of Socialism. They seek to use the organization of the Government and its financial resources for the handling of the wheat, but the experiment is a dangerous one, because, while this Government may have at heart the welfare of the producer, tomorrow there may be in power another Government which will think more of some other section of the community, and will operate the Pool in a manner that will not benefit the producer.
I come now to the Wool Pool. When war broke out, the Government called to its aid the best brains in Australia having the necessary technical knowledge, to help it in handling the Australian wool clip, and we are under a debt of gratitude to those who for so long have voluntarily served as members of the Central Wool Committee. That ‘Committee handled two-thirds of the 1915-16 clip, and it has handled the four following clips. Altogether, it has dealt with 6,851,485 bales of wool, and has distributed to our growers £150,000,000. The members of the Committee have made no charge for their services and experience, and the wool-growers and the community generally should be grateful to them. The Committee’s work will terminateon the 30th June next, and it has been estimated that before that time another 200,000 bales of wool will be appraised and handled. When the wool control has ceased, it will be for the country to determine how our wool is to be marketed. Yesterday, I asked a question without notice, to which I received a captious answer from the Prime Minister. There has appeared in the London and Australian newspapers a crude outline of a scheme for the control of future clips. If it does not contain the .proposals of the Government, I regret that it has appeared, because its publication will prejudice those real proposals when they do appear. From the statement to which I refer, it would seem that the co-operation of the British Government is desired in an endeavour to sell a certain standard of wool at more than its present market value. I and all other wool-growers want to get the world’s price for wool. In my opinion there is a real and grave danger of a collapse in wool. I have been watching the position carefully, and I arn afraid that, owing to the accumulation of stocks on. the other side, and the high prices that have prevailed, there may be a fall in values when the new clip arrives.
– For goodness’ sake, do not start calamity howling!
– I think that a member should be allowed to express his views without being subjected to an interjection of that kind. It is difficult for the Governments concerned to maintain the stability of the market, and for that reason I am sorry that the proposals to which I have referred were given publicity. I attach no blame to the Prime Minister for the occurrence, but it is a misfortune for the Australian growers and for those on the other side with whom they hive to make arrangements. I hope that within the next few months Australia will again be the great selling market of the world, and that we shall again have here, as in the past, international competition which will give us legitimate prices for our wool. For five years the Government have taken off the shoulders of private individuals the responsibility for financing, transporting, and marketing our great primary products, and the only fear I have to-day is that private enterprise may not be able to secure sufficient shipping, or to make adequate financial arrangements for the marketing of those products.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have grave fears in regard to that matter. But for them, I would say that the control of both wheat and wool will be best left to private enterprise.
– I do not know that the growers of wool and of wheat will thank the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) for having moved the adjournment this afternoon. He has certainly not expressed the views of the majority of the growers. Representatives of the wool-growers, small and big, have been meeting in Melbourne for the last fortnight to consider how wool should be sold in the future. They will give full consideration to the suggestions of the Prime Minister, which are not suggestions of this House, and will endeavour to ascertain from every grower in Australia what his opinion upon them is. Should the growers decide that that is advisable in the interests of the Commonwealth and in their own interests, the suggestions may be adopted. But they are only suggestions, and are not being forced on the growers. If those who are considering these matters want the assistance of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) or myself, they will, doubtless, ask for it. When I interjected that the honorable member was advocating the cause of the middleman, I did not wish to offend him, though I must insist that his speech was in the interests of the middlemen. The war has changed many things, systems .and views, and we should take advantage of any changes that may help us. We believe that the wheat of Australia can with great advantage be pooled. It has been sold to the Australian consumer at 7s. Sd. per bushel. Of that 7s. Sd., the grower has received 5s. I would remind the Prime Minister that, while credits have been built up in Loddon, credits are also built up on the farms, and we cannot endure the position too long.
– This has nothing to do with me. It relates to the wheat of Victorian farmers. I am not a Victorian farmer.
– The parity price today i3 about 14s. 6d. f.o.b. When I dealt with this subject last week, I said I was not speaking acrimoniously; but I want the House to understand to-day that 14s. 6d. wheat is being sold to Australian bread-eaters at 7s. Sd. per bushel, and that we have not yet been paid for it. What we are now asking is that we should have the handling of our own wheat. After five years’ experience in the co-operative handling of wheat-
– And we have paid for the experience.
– We have paid for experience. We have the necessary machinery. We have weaned the middleman, and we find that we can do without him. We are, therefore, asking, not that the Government, but that the fanners themselves should control their own products.
– Hear, hear !
– The Prime Minister has acclaimed that proposal, and I think he believes in it. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), however, has suggested that we should be given our “five bob” per bushel, and allowed to get back to the old channels. If we broke off so suddenly, we should be at once thrown into the hands of the middlemen We desire to take a referendum of the farmers, to ascertain whether they are agreeable so to pool their interests that, while protecting, as the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has suggested, the necessary consumption of the Australian people, they would, at the same time,’ be able to secure the highest price for their products. I cannot conceive of any honorable member objecting to such organization on the part of the farmers. We are in an era of organization. We find the merchants in their various linos of trade organized to protect their own interests. The workers are also organized for the same purpose. Why should not the producers organize to protect their interests?
– -W,ho objects to that?
– The honorable member suggested that when we got away from the Pool, for which we have paid, we should return to the old channels. As a matter of fact, we desire to avoid the eld channels. We want to get into modern channels.
– We will give you a chance to prove yourselves.
– We are told that those responsible for the conduct of the wheat handling in the past have given great service. They have done legitimate business, but they are, nevertheless, middlemen, and middlemen, we have been told, are parasites. If we did without the parasites we should be able to reach the consumer with our products far more cheaply than before. I do not use the term offensively. I think the Prime Minister has used it more than once.
– Did the honorable member speak of Pharisees?
– No! The term “ Pharisees “ might be applied in other directions. We feel that there can be no reasonable objection to our proposal unless this parasitical influence is to outweigh us and prevail with the House. What we are asking is that when the farmers themselves agree to pool their interests legal sanction shall be given to the scheme. Our desire is that the farmers shall control their own interests, while at the same time protecting the food interests of the Commonwealth.
– No legal sanction is necessary if the farmers can be got together.
– There are many parasites who will try to bring influence to bear, and from what I have heard to-day they will succeed in some directions.
In Western Australia we require butter from this State ; New South Wales and Queensland need chaff from Western Australia ; and Victoria and several other States require coal from New South Wales. The devising of some means for this necessary interchange of commodities between the several States is allimportant, and should receive the first attention of the House. I have asked on previous occasions that something should be done in this direction, and have been told, of course, that “ the matter is being looked into.” I recognise the difficulty in the way of “obtaining the requisite shipping. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) today asked the Prime Minister to arrange for the utilization of Commonwealth steamers in carrying coal to the several States, and the right honorable gentleman promised to look into that matter. I hope that when he does he will also arrange for three or four additional steamers to be placed on the Inter-State trade for the carriage of produce, so as to prevent sheep and- cattle starving in. the drought-stricken States, and to keep up the necessary dairy herds there. There will he further opportunity to deal with this subject after the referendum of the farmers of Australia has been taken. By that vote we shall ascertain what is the intention of the farmers with regard to their products, and pending their decision I shall say no more on the subject.
– I. do not intend to occupy the attention of the House for many minutes, since I should like to have from the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) a pronouncement in regard to the wheat question, and also with regard to wool, if he is in a position to enlighten us on the subject to-day. Under existing conditions, I should be well pleased if we could at once get back into the old channels. The Prime Minister has given the wheat farmers a guarantee, but the situation to-day is such that it matters very little whether our wheat is pooled or not. We are in the happy position that our wheat is wanted, and wanted at a big price, by other countries, and I hope that the price, when obtained, will go into the pockets of the wheat-growers themselves. I am not going to speak for South Australia, because at this juncture the State Government should speak for its own people. I desire, however, to tell the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) that his views with regard to co-operation are by no means approved in South Australia. I cannot understand why honorable members of the Country party, who believe in freedom, of contract, and recognise that efficient handling is necessary to bring about economy, should advocate compulsory co-operation, which would cut off all the spurs of private enterprise, by which alone the value of co-operation can be tested. In South Australia we have a farmers’ organization that handles more than one-half of the wheat ‘grown in that State in normal times. It is a magnificent co-operative organization, but I would not give two straws for it if it were compulsory that all wheat should be handled by it. That would be no better than Government control. “No impetus would be given to good work, and the organization would drift into a lethargic state, to the detriment of the farmers. I speak with thirty-five years’ experience of this matter, arid while I approve of the organization of farmers, I contend that the value of such cooperative efforts should be tested side by side with private . enterprise.
– Why was .pooling not made optional during the war?
– I wish my honorable friend were a little more logical, because I have not the time to set him right. In South Australia we have bad a very painful experience ofthe handling of the grain of the country by amateurs. That experience has not been confined to my State. The handling of the wheat of Victoria has been better than that of any other State, because the management has been in the hands of, not a farmer, but a big business man with a good grip of big things. It is due to that reason that Victorian wheat scrip has been worth a great deal more than the wheat scrip of the other States. The honorable member for Swan has talked in a child-like and simple way about the middleman. We should not forget that in speaking .about the middlemen we are talking about private enterprise, which has made this country, and the Empire as a whole, what it is to-day.
In South Australia the much-abused middlemen - abused by simpletons who do not think - have throughout set the price of wheat, even against our own farmers’ organization. If this compulsory wheat pool which honorable members of the Country party advocate - if this stupid thing without any reason behind it - were brought into existence, men with brains would give up wheat-growing. They would not be prepared to grow wheat to be handled by amateurs who know nothing about the business. Wheat is the most risky and most difficult of all products to handle. Experience has taught us that.
– The same thing was said in regard to banking, but the Commonwealth Bank has been a success.
– I wish my honorable friend would compare like with like.
– Perhaps my honorable friend thinks that, after -all, this is a conflict between two sets of middlemen.
– I really cannot reckon up my honorable friends of the Country party.
– We can reckon you up.
– My honorable friends of the Country party in this matter represent only the men who do not think for themselves.
– I shall hardly be expected to cover the whole of the ground traversed by my honorable friend, the member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), or deal with all the points raised by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), and touched on in such an effective fashion by my honorable friend, the member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster). I do not propose for one moment to resurrect the debate - unhappily, I was unable to take part in it - in which the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) last Friday discussed the question of the Wheat Pool. I am content to let my work in connexion with the Wheat Pool speak for itself. I look back on the five years or so in which I was connected with the Wheat Board with mixed feelings. I am sure the Pool did great work. I am equally sure that it involved very strenuous labour. I want no more of it. If this table were piled to the ceiling with jewels precious beyond price, and I were asked to do that work again for five years for those jewels, I would not do it. So far as I am concerned, then, the position is vacant. Applicants who clamour for selection need fear no rivalry from me. When members rise in this House and say they think that the Government, now the war is over, should no longer control these pools, I am very heartily in accord with them. Not only because my reason prompts [ me in that direction, but also because I know very well that if the Government has anything to do with the business, I shall be given the job - and I am mot going to take it.
Honorable members talk about managing the wheat business either by cooperative or other means, as if it was the simplest thing in the world. They talk as if men capable of running this great wheat business of Australia, or any other great businesses, were plentiful ; and men who, although they have failed dismally in transactions one-millionth part of its magnitude, push themselves forward with perfect assurance. If the farmers of this country think that in that way lies salvation, the case is simple; all that has to be done is to convert those concerned to that opinion ; let them place the business in such hands, and put up with the consequences. I have been censured because I would not compel the farmers to put their wheat into the hands of men who said they were more competent to manage the farmers’ business than were the farmers themselves. If there is to be compulsion, it can only be compulsion exercised by those constitutional authorities which the people have deliberately elected to represent them; and as, by general consent, it is agreed that this is undesirable, the matter settles itself, for I, at any rate, will be mo party to compelling men to hand over their own businesses to the hands of other men. It appears to me that there is only one of two courses - indeed, there is only one course - open. If those concerned believe in co-operation - as certainly I do - lot them convert their people. There are many virtues in co-operation, but I do not quite understand what is meant by a “ voluntary compulsory “ pool. I remember on one occasion going down to a wharf in. Sydney and seeing a gentleman fished out of the water with a boathook. I said to one of my friends in the union, “How did he get into the water, Bill?” and Bill replied, “We put him there because he would not join the b- union.” In fact, what the growers say to me is, “ They will not come into our co-operative society - you jolly well make ‘em.” I am not going to do that. I must not be held for one moment to censure tho6& who say that the co-operative movement is the way in which the farmers can best find salvation. I believe that it is, and I am ready, as a citizen, as well as Prime Minister, to- advocate co-operation along with any man in the country. But I will not compel people to co-operate. I will show that co-operation will pay them, and that the middleman is no friend of theirs, and cannot be; I will show all that, but I will not by law compel people to join a co-operative union.
Now I wish to say a word, as to the marketing of our products. My honorable friend, the member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) as well as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), though in different degrees, express the same doubt as to the possibility of marketing our products. Now, there are grave reasons for the doubt that disturbs their minds - grave reasons. It is true, as both those honorable gentlemen said, that, while wheat is now, say, 12s. 6d. f.o.b., there is ample inducement to the grower. But it is one thing to grow wheat, and another thing to get it to the place where it can be sold. “When we speak of affairs resuming their normal channels - going back to pre-war conditions - we overlook completely the fact that the world is still in convulsions, that for all practical purposes - and this applies to wool as well as to wheat - there are only one or two effective buyers ; that is to say, only one or two buyers who have money. I ask the wool and wheatgrowers of Australia, as sensible, hardheaded, business men, whether they would go to a market where there was only one buyer. If they do, what must be the result?
There is division of opinion as to the best way to market wool. I feel very strongly that the future of Australia - indeed, the present welfare of Australia. - depends on the wheat and wool-grower getting the full market price for their products. Recently I ventured to give my advice, for what it was worth, to the representatives of the wool-growers. I made it perfectly clear that it was only advice - that it was my own opinion - and that if they rejected it there was an end of the matter. My suggestions did not depend on compulsion, they had nothing to do with compulsion. Speaking now, after having had something like a fortnight to consider still further the matter, and having had the advantage of reading those lucubrations which appeared in the press, and which, for want of a better term, may be alluded to as criticisms. I still say that, if the wool-grower goes into the market without a plan, he is going to come out shorn.
I noticed to-day in the newspapers two or three significant paragraphs. One was an extract, I think, from the Manchester Guardian - though I may be wrong; another was from Yorkshire, and another was the opinion of Sir Arthur Goldfinch All these critics were against my proposal, a proposal which, in its essence, is one to sell Australian wool in Australia. “Why were they against my proposal? Because it was a bacl thing for Australia? Not at all. It was because it was a bad thing for them and the interests they stand for. I ask the growers, whether, if they had anything to sell, they would take it into the house of the only buyer, and say to him, “ There is my product ; what will you give me for it?” That, in effect, is what would be the result if they send their wool to London. I say to the Australian grower that there is no compulsion; he may do as he pleases. If he likes to go and deliver himself, bound hand and foot, into a market manipulated by conflicting interests, let him do it. My proposal has nothing to do with the Government, qua Government. It does not depend upon or involve compulsion. But if they will act as sensible men, they will say, “ The world must have this wool. Let those who want it come to Australia, and buy it in open competition.”
It has been said that the British Government might not agree to hold off while we sold our wool here; and that argument was nut forward as a reason against my proposal. I think that those who put -it forward did so with the fervent hope that the British Government would not hold off, so that we might be compelled to send all the wool Home.
My last advice to the wool-grower of
Australia is to sell his wool here in Australia. Make buyers come to this country and buy in open market, at auction, and thus insure the world’s price, whatever it is. If you watch the market - and I say this deliberately - do not be.surprised to see from now to the 30th June the beginning of a downward curve. Who will be responsible for that curve? The prospective buyers - the mem who want to create a panic in Australia by creating the impression in the mind of the grower that the market is going to break, and thus causing the wool to be rushed Home, where it would all be in the hands of one buyer. The whole world is clamouring for wool. But in the whole world there are only two, or at most three, effective buyers of wool. The rest of the world will have to use one of those buyers as middleman, and purchase its wool from him. I say, “ Sell direct - sell in this place, in Australia - and sell for the best price you oan get; the Government will not interfere at all.” But the Government will do this, if it is desired - and I am addressing the wool-growers of Australia through honorable members here - the Governmentwill request the British Government to do what it ought to do, namely,refrain from selling the wool it now has while we are selling the new clip. That is a perfectly fair and legitimate request. Britain had our wool during all the war for very much less than, in some cases for only one-third of, the true value; and we have not received one penny-piece of the excess prices. Nor can we get any account of how much is owing to us. There is not an indication as to whether it is £1,000,000 or £50,000,000. I maintain that this is neither business nor fair play, I say to the wool-growers of Australia, “ Make up your minds to sell your wool in Australia. Notify the world that you will sell your wool in Australia, and whatever the world may say before you have made that notifcation once you have made it, it must fall in with your resolution. Request the British Government to keep off the sales, and there is an end of the matter.”
.- Time is passing, and the position is becoming somewhat acute. It is quite time some announcement was made as to the policy of the Government with regard to the intervening period ‘between war restrictions and normal conditions of trade. There has been too much secrecy. I do not like the idea of getting from some outside journal information as to the proposals of the Government with regard to Australia’s products. About a month ago, during my absence in “Western Australia, a letter was forwarded to me by a member of the Legislative Council in that State asking me if it was true that the Commonwealth Government proposed to take £10,000,000 of the woolgrowers money for the purpose of helping to pay Australia’s debt to Great Bri- tain. If I had received that letter I would not have taken much notice of it other than to reply at once, saying there was no truth in the suggestion; but as I was absent my typist sent the communication to the office of the Prime Minister, and that Department furnished a reply saying that there was not a word of truth in the statement. Apparently that reply from the Prime Minister’s Department was quite wrong, because we now see in the press that the Prime
Minister has made a suggestion on the lines set out in the letter forwarded to me from Western Australia, and we know perfectly well what a suggestion from the Prime Minister means. At the last moment we shall probably find ourselves confronted with a proposal from the Government to take certain measures. In fact, many measures are taken by the Prime Minister without consulting Parliament. While I am always ready to submit to any action taken by this Parliament, if the majority decide that it shall be done, I am not content that the Prime Minister, or any one else, should issue instructions restricting the trade of the country, unless what he does has the approval of Parliament. The other day I asked a question with regard to the action of the Australian Metal Exchange in refusing a permit to export some old horse-shoes as ballast. Certain people who export sandal-wood have been accustomed to buy up old horse-shoes and ship them as ballast. They wished to do so again, but this metal exchange, which has no statutory authority, abrogated the duties of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and refused to grant a permit for the export of these goods. There are many instances in which the Government have taken powers under the War Precautions Act which prejudice our trade. This Parliament has been fooled. When we agreed to extend the operation of that Act until three months after the proclamation of peace, we were led to believe that it would cease to operate three months after peace was signed with Germany, but we are still controlled by it. We are getting close up to the end of the financial year, and we ought to have some clear indication as to what action the Government propose to ask Parliament to take in regard to the future control of our products. Something must be done to enable us to bridge over the intervening period until we get back to normal conditions. According to a member of the Wool Committee who has just come over from Western Australia we have been travelling on a very dangerous road, and have now come to a precipice down which it is necessary to make a very gradual descent. The object of this gentleman’s visit to Melbourne was to ask that certain control should be exercised by the Commonwealth in connexion with the wool export for next year, in order to enable the woolgrowers to get back to the normal conditions which existed prior to the outbreak of war. I am not anxious to see a proposition sprung on them as a surprise, and I object most strongly to the secrecy which is being observed in these negotiations. The products we are dealing with are not the property of a few. They belong to the people, and surely no harm can result from giving the negotiations the fullest publicity, because the more we know of them the more we can make inquiries from those who have a better knowledge of the conditions than ourselves, and the more good we are likely to do for the general producer.
According to the preamble of the Victorian Statute which created the Wheat Pool, an agreement had been arrived at between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Ministers of Agriculture of the four wheat-producing States to pay the producer the world’s parity; but the farmers have not received the world’s parity. In the early stages of the war, when the wharf labourers went out on strike, demanding cheaper wheat for our people here, the Commonwealth Government reduced the price to 4s. 9d. per bushel,when the world’s parity was 5s. 3d. per bushel; in other words, the producers were robbed to quieten a section of the people. There seems to be extraordinary difficulty in arriving at what is the world’s parity. The other day, on almost unimpeachable authority, I was told that the price of wheat in the Argentine Republic is 13s. 6d. per bushel, and that the producers there have 5,000,000 tons of wheat and maize they anticipate getting away to Europe. They have no difficulty in securing freight.
– Our trouble is that we cannot get the shipping. Admiral Clarkson says that he has tried his best, but cannot get charters.
Mr.McWilliams. - Then how is it that Dreyfus and Company can get shipping?
– The trouble is that in dealing with products such as wheat, there are people who have made a life study of the business, and understand the whole of its ramifications. They can make their charters years ahead. Vessels may be north of Russia or south of America, but all their movements are known to those in control of these busi nesses, and they are able to make all necessary arrangements months, if not years, ahead.
– Did they know the movements of these vessels during the last four or five years ?
– No. But Mr. Clement Giles made the statement here that 1,000,000 tons of shipping was offered to the Commonwealth Government in the early stages of the war, and the offer was not accepted. However, I am not reflecting on the Government. I am sure they want to get rid of this control of commodities. The life of a member of Parliament who has tried to do his duty conscientiously during the last four or five years has been a most strenuous one. I shall be glad when all these difficulties are taken off my shoulders. I know what it means to Ministers when honorable members come to them with complaints from this person and that company, and so on.
– And “ getting it in the neck “ every day from the press.
– I know the difficulties of Ministers. My only hit back at the Minister for the Navy is that he is allowing his Government to continue to carry on the system adopted during the war. I want to get out of it.
– It is not so easy to get out of it.
– I know it is not easy to do so, butthe Prime Minister seems only too ready to lead the Government into many curious and devious paths. I spoke just now about the world’s parity. We ought to give the farmer the world’s parity for what he produces. If we find that the price is too high for the general consumer, the people as a whole should still pay the world’s parity to the producer, and dispose of the commodity to the consumer at a lower price. Any man will sell his labour or his goods in the best market he can obtain. It is only fair that the producer should get the best market price for his goods; but if it should be found that this would mean a hardship to the workers generally, let the community pay the difference if they are anxious to supply the people with a cheaper loaf.
– What would the honorable member do if the world’s parity for wheat was so low that it would notpay the farmer to grow it?
– When the world parity for wheat was low, the farmer had no option. He had to take it.
– I would give him a fair price all through.
– The honorable member has been a long time in this Parliament, and the price of wheat has often, been very low, but we have not heard any proposition from that source on the lines which the honorable member now advocates.
– This Parliament could only control the matter under the War Precautions Act.
– The Labour Government was in power when the War Precautions Act was operating. The National Federation recently issued a booklet in regard to the price of wheat in order to show how well the Government had safeguarded the interests of the farmers, and in that publication the claim was made that, between June, 1919, and October, 1919, the world’s parity for wheat was only 2s. 9d. per bushel. As the farmers of Australia were being paid 5s. 6d. per bushel, they must have been getting 2s. 9d. per bushel more than the world’s parity. We ought to have the truth about these matters. It was an injustice to the people generally if, when the world’s parity for wheat was only 2s. 9d. per bushel - I do not believe it - the farmer was receiving 5s. 6d. per bushel.
– I think it is a misstatement. To what year do those figures apply?
– The year 1919.
– The statement is surely wrong.
– The circular states that from June till October the London price varied from 10s. 3d. to 9s.1d., and that the approximate average price was 9s. 9d. Freight and other charges accounted for 7s., leaving a net price of 2s. 9d. It is remarkable if in less than one year theworld’s parity has jumped from 2s. 9d. to 12s. 6d. per bushel.
– The honorable members time has expired.
– In conclusion, I contend that more publicity should be given to these transactions, and that the primary producer should get the world’s parity for his goods.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to pay all the employees of the Commonwealth for the holidays they receive during the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales?
– An announcement regarding this matter will shortly be made.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Will he supply the following information : -
The quantity of coal purchased in Great Britain and New Zealand during this financial year for naval purposes?
The price paid per ton at the place of purchase?
The total cost per ton when landed?
The places of discharge in Australia?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he inform the House what is the number of officials in the Commonwealth and Defence service severally for the financial year ending 30th June, 1919, who received annually in salaries and allowances (a) above £600 up to £750; (6) above £750 up to £1,000; (c) above £1,000 up to £1,250; (d) above £1,250 up to £1,500; (c) above £1,500 up to £2,000; (f) above £2,000 up to £3,000; (g) above £3,000 and upwards?
– The information asked for by the honorable member will be laid on the table of the House as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the statement in the daily press that the advice of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada will be sought before Great Britain renews her alliance with Japan, whether Parliament will bc made aware of the terms and conditions of such alliance, or will they be kept secret?
– The alliance, if renewed, will be between Great Britain and Japan. I am unable to say whether the terms will be made public.
asked the Acting Trea surer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. For the past twelve months there has been no restriction on the exportation of refined or native platinum from the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister in charge of shipbuilding, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the honorable member will be informed as soon as possible.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request : -
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1917-18.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1918-19.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1917-18.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1918-19.
Sugar Purchase Bill.
The following papers were presented : -
Taxation - Increases of Wealth (War) - Memoranda submitted by the Board of Inland Revenue to the Select Committee of the House of Commons. (Paper presented to the British Parliament.)
Customs Act - Proclamation prohibiting Exportation (except under certain conditions) of meat. (Dated 27th April, 1920.)
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Victoria Park, Western Australia - For Repatriation purposes.
Public Service Act - Appointment of A. S. Robertson, Department of Works and Railways.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, at -
Newtown, Geelong, Victoria.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.
.- I move -
That all the words after the word “ That “ be omitted, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “ this House do now resolve that the Government be requested to increase the parliamentary allowance of members to a sum. not exceeding £ 1,000 per annum.”
The moving of this amendment devolves upon me as “ the father of the House,” I being the oldest member with a record unbroken. I think that the honorable members who constitute my family will be almost unanimously in favour of the Amendment. There may be a few recalcitrant members, but their opposition, even if it may not be quite ignored, need not be regarded as serious. In fact, I do not anticipate any opposition from any section of the House, because I have received assurances of sympathy from many honorable members on both sides. It must be acknowledged that while the price of every article has risen to other people members of Parliament have not been left unaffected. We are suffering as people outside are suffering, and in many ways. For instance, there has been an enormous increase in our election expenses. During the last election campaign we had to pay higher prices for halls, advertising, and accommodation. Whereas at one time I could stay at a decent hotel for 10s. per day, I must now pay 14s. or 15s. per day for the same accommodation. These extra burdens are being felt by honorable members. The payment of members ceases on the day that Parliament is dissolved, and they getnothing until again elected. That is grossly unfair, as I have said before in this Chamber. The position is bad, and it is becoming worse. What is being done elsewhere? In Queensland, recently, the allowance to members of Parliament was increased from £300 to £500. That is an indication that we should get more. A State member is better off at £500 per annum than a Commonwealth member at £600 per annum. I, for instance, represent a Commonwealth electorate in which there are eight and a half State electorates, the
State representatives of which draw £4,250 for doing what I do for £600 per annum, and I say advisedly that I do as much as the whole of them. Other members of this Parliament whose electorates contain a number of State electorates know that that is not an exaggerated statement. In New South Wales the parliamentary emolument was recently increased from £300 to £500, and I understand that there has been an increase in Western Australia. In view of these facts, we are justified in asking for more than we are now getting. It is only a week or two since the Prime Minister, speaking from his place in this House, complained of the inadequacy of the travelling allowances given to Ministers. From its inception, the remuneration of this Parliament has been on mean. arid miserable lines, no regard being paid to the dignity of the institution. I could name several members who, having retired from Parliament, or having failed to secure re-election, have had to look for a job. I know one man - a good party man, who occupied a seat here for many years - who had to accept the position of night watchman. This state of things is disgraceful, and lowering to the dignity of the National Parliament. Members should have an opportunity to accumulate little savings, but how is that possible out of the present allowance, with families to be reared and educated, and, in the many cases where men come from other States, with two homes to keep up? The *Argus, commenting on the remarks of the Prime Minister, said that if members had to rely for their living on their parliamentary allowance, God help Australia. That is the sort of comment to be expected from a Conservative organ like the Argus. What brought about payment of members? Some thirty years ago, when many of those who are now listening to me were schoolboys, the great maritime and shearers’ strikes occurred. The newspapers of that day - they were practically all Conservative then - said to the workers, “Why do you not elect men to Parliament who will ventilate your grievances? If you do that, there will be open and public discussion, and your ills may be remedied.” This advice was taken, and we who belonged to the Democracy returned members to fight its battles in Parliament. But the men who could best represent us were poor: men like Andrew Dawson and Andrew Fisher, who were working for & daily wage, and had families to maintain. To enable them to live while performing their parliamentary duties payment of members was instituted. Our example was followed in Great Britain. At one time the British unions subscribed sums to pay their representatives in the House of Commons, but this placed too great a strain on the unions, and it was considered unjust to tax them for their representation, with the result that the House of Commons, then possibly the most Conservative institution in the world, resolved that its members should be paid. The right of Democracy to representation so that its sentiments could be voiced in Parliament was not fully admitted until payment of members was instituted. No doubt to-morrow morning I, and those who may support the motion, will be vilified in the press, and a section of this House will be called on by the newspapers and by the Taxpayers Association to nail the flag of economy to the mast and kill this proposal. Members, however, should not be fearful. The man who fears to do what he knows to be Tight, fair, just, and reasonable, ought not to be here. The Commonwealth Parliament has cost the country nothing. Prior to Federation, gold was minted in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth, but after the union of the States the Commonwealth was permitted to issue its own silver and’ bronze also. The silver we got coined for us in England, and imported it, paying for it the current price of the metal plus the expense of coining it. As for a long time silver was worth .only about 2s. an ounce, and silver coinage had a face value of 5s. 6d. an ounce, this arrangement was very profitable to us, but during the past twelve months the price of silver having risen to between 5s. and 6s. an ounce, the position now is not so good.
– In London they have taken steps to meet the increase in the cost of silver by increasing the alloys.
– According to the Commonwealth Tear-Book, our profit on the coinage of silver was £334,338 in 1916-17, and on the coinage of bronze in the same year £19,938, a total of £354,276. In 1917-18 the .profit from the coining of silver was £209,952, and from the coining of bronze £19,426, a total of £229,378. In this year the Commonwealth Parliament cost £270,568, but of that amount £26,893 was the cost of the Governor-General’s establishment, so that the net cost of this Parliament, including £87,000 for the expenses of an election, was £243,675, which amount, deducted from the profits on coinage which I have given, made a net profit for the year of £153,000. Moreover, in the year 1917-1S Parliament cost the people only 13.2d. per head, and I think that if the matter were submitted to the people there would be no difficulty in securing approval for ‘my proposition, seeing that it has cost so little to maintain a Parliament which has done such very good work. In the early days of Federation, when Tariffs were under consideration, members had only to put out their hand’ in the lobbies to get all the money they wanted. It is to the credit of our Parliament that the slur was never cast on any member, either directly or indirectly, that he had taken a bribe, or had accepted money for his vote. All honour to this Parliament that its members have not accepted the opportunity which was theirs to enrich themselves improperly. In other places we hear of Tammany practices and of money being spent freely to secure parliamentary votes. Money might have been taken by members of this Parliament, but no member of it has ever been accused of accepting improperly for his services even as much as the value of a postage stamp. I believe that the Government will give this matter their sympathetic consideration, and that my proposal will be carried. We may rest assured that if it is, the Government will give effect to it.
I have only, to say, in conclusion, that throughout the elections my attitude in regard to this matter has been well known. I have never hesitated to express from the public platforms in my electorate the opinion that the allowance which we receive by way of salary is too low. As far back as 1910 at an election meeting which I was conducting in one of the largest centres in the division, Captain Blank, who with his lady friends sat in the front seat, rose as soon as question time was reached and said, “Mr. Bamford, will you tell me why you voted to increase your own par- liamentary allowance from £400 to £600 per annum?” I replied, “ Captain Blank, I did not vote to increase my parliamentary allowance.” “ What i Do you mean to tell me that you did not vote for it?” asked my friend. “I do,” said I; “ I did not vote for it. As a matter of fact, no vote was taken. The proposition was carried on the voices. Further than that, let me tell you and the meeting that I was not in favour of £600 a year. What I wanted was an allowance of £1,000 a year. I am wanting it yet, and I hope to secure it.” At the last meeting that I held in connexion with the recent general election, I was asked whether I was in favour of the payment of members. My reply was, “ Certainly I am. If I were not in favour of it I would not be here, and what is more, were it not for the payment of members the other fellows ‘ would not be chasing me for my job.” I have never made any secret of my views on this question, and I do not intend to do so. I am voicing my sentiments to-day as publicly as it is possible for me to do.
.- I second the motion. The Constitution casts upon the Parliament the obligation of fixing the salaries of its members, and consequently the matter is one that must be submitted to discussion. I propose to submit a statement covering my experience as a member of this Parliament for thirteen years. The statement is as follows : -
Statement of Income as Parliamentary Salary for Thirteen Years - December, 1906, to December, 1919 - together with Expenditure in earning such Income.
In my thirteen years of political life, I have had to contest six elections, or an election on an average every two years. Two hundred and fifty pounds is the lowest amount on which I can conduct an election campaign. At the recent general election I spent the last penny on which I could lay my hands in fighting the seat, and my expenses on that occasion ran into £165. Friends had to assist with the balance. There are thirteen polling booths in the Cook electorate, and my friends demanded that at every polling booth there should be a motor car in attendance. Honorable members are aware that it is impossible to hire a car for less than £10 a day. I had thus in respect of that item alone to incur an expenditure of £130.
The Electoral Act provides that the election expenses of a candidate shall not exceed £100, but it is well that it should be said publicly that that provision is a piece of absolute hypocrisy. In a contested election no man could confine his expenses to £100. There is, as a matter of fact, what may be described as a “ catch “ in the Act itself, since the provision in regard to the maximum expenditure of £100 relates only to certain items, and does not cover such an item as the hiring. of motor cars.
– Would not such an item be a statutory expenditure?
– No. The provision as to expenses not exceeding £100 relates only to certain statutory items. Quite apart from those items, there are necessary expenses which, in my case, have brought my expenses up to the total I have given. Some years ago I interviewed the Chief Electoral Officer, and told him that it was impossible for me to run my election campaign on an outlay of £100. He then pointed out to me that the provision in the Electoral Act to which I have referred did not cover such items as expenditure for the use of motor cars to convey electors to the polling booth.
– Nor does it cover personal expenses.
– That is so.
– It does not cover the cost of motors used in conveying a candidate to the different parts of his electorate during an election campaign.
– There is nothing to prevent the use of motor cars on election day as long as the cars are free to any one who likes to enter them for the purpose of going to a polling booth. No person who has asked for a lift to a booth hasbeen refused in my case provided there has been room for him in the car.
I come now to the item of travelling expenses. On the average, we travel to and from Melbourne for six months in the year. Honorable members may easily work out for themselves what that involves. It costs about £3 a week for train expenses to Melbourne, and back to Sydney,as well as for hotel expenses while in Melbourne. The Federal Taxation Commissioner has recognised that £100 is a reasonable deduction to allow for travelling expenses in the assessment ofincome tax.
I need make no further reference to the items in the statement relating to Federal and State income tax, because honorable members are quite familiar with the subject.
As to the item of £50 a year for electorate expenses, I admit quite candidly, that I have had to spend money in what is known as pre-selection campaigns, which are quite apart from a general election. In many cases, Labour members have a pre-election campaign which is fought out probably more strenuously than is a general election. Then, again, the one referendum campaign, and two conscription campaigns referred to in the statement were quite independent of general elections. They do not relate to a referendum contested concurrently with a general election.
In thirteen years as arising out of my public duties I have been served with six writs for libel, have had seven prosecutions under the War Precautions Act, and have had to take part in a number of State elections. These expenses I have not included.
As this matter is to be publicly canvassed, let me say that I consider it necessary for an honorable member, in conducting an election campaign to make sure that he holds his seat. I have known seats that were considered to be safe for Labour to be won by the other side. My friend,. Mr. Yates, who represented Adelaide in the last Parliament had, for instance, a seat which looked as safe for Labour as my own. Where is he to-day? He thought he was absolutely safe; but he made a mistake. Many seats which have been held for Labour as strongly as my own, have because of some mistake, probably because of insufficient expenditure in respect of organizing work, been lost to us. I have always felt that, since I have given my life to a parliamentary career, I cannot take that risk.
It was put in the New South Wales Supreme Court not long ago by the presiding Judge, that a certain member should be able to earn a considerable amount apart from his parliamentary salary. I want it to be known throughout the length and breadth of Australia that if there is any work that I can do, in addition to my ordinary parliamentary duties, I am open to accept it. Every one knows that I am an industrious man, and that I can get through as much work as any man, in Parliament or out of it. If there is any work offering that I can do, I am ready to take it.
An Honorable Member. - If you have the time to attend to it.
– I have a word or two to say on that subject. My constituents expect me to be in Sydney every week. Representatives of New South Wales can beaT me out in the statement that there is not sufficient sitting room in the Commonwealth Offices, in Sydney, to provide for my constituents who come to interview me every Monday.
– It is the same with all of us.
– They are to be seen standing along the passages, twenty or thirty at a time, waiting to interview me on public business. I am expected to be at the Commonwealth Offices, Sydney, every Monday morning, and I have to work very hard to attend to the business of my electorate. Every Monday evening, under the present sitting arrangements, I have to leave for Melbourne, in order to attend Parliament. Otherwise I have to leave Sydney for Melbourne every Tuesday night. Train travelling, as honorable members know, takes a good deal out of one. It takes a lot out of ‘ me. I am not at my full physical capacity the day after I have travelled from Melbourne to Sydney, or vice versa. The only work that a member of Parliament can take in hand, apart from his ordinary parliamentary duties, is that which can be done while he is sitting in the House. Even then he must neglect the examination of Bills and public documents.
In 1906, when I entered this House, I had a good position, which I could have retained for life if I had not turned my mind to parliamentary matters. In addition, I had a business 300 miles up country which returned me some income. but I found it impossible to manage it along with my parliamentary duties, and had to sell it. The other position I could not hold, because it was the policy of the Labour movement that no member of the party should occupy two paid positions. For a little time I waa on the Price Fixing Board, and by living on about a third of the ordinary expenses, I saved a little money; then, in the case of the little company matter I mentioned, 1 managed by working on Sundays and holidays to get together £600 or £700. If I had not made a few pounds from the sale of my business, and working as I have described, I should, with the little trouble that came upon me later 2 have been bankrupt, and unable to retain my seat in this Parliament. I tell young members, who have not had this experience, that if the breeze blows adversely, and they are compelled to face what I consider the ordinary responsibilities and emergencies of life, they will find there is no margin whatever in the parliamentary salary to carry them over.
On one occasion only, about ten years ago, has any offer of money been made to me in connexion with my public career. A man who had some dispute with the Customs Department as to the classification and duty of some goods he was importing, said that I could have half of the monetary result if I was successful in obtaining a decision in his favour. I immediately told him I could have nothing to do with his case. I am proud to say that I have never known in my experience in this Parliament even the breath of suspicion against any honorable member of improper conduct, for mone- tary reasons, in connexion with his public duties.
There are, of course, honorable members who are wealthy, and they do not feel the position as men like myself do; but I ask them to consider the items I have submitted, and say whether they could, without their private incomes, have done any better than myself. It is unpalatable that these matters should be canvassed in Parliament, but I think it my duty to make this statement before the House, the public, and the newspapers. Any one is at liberty to criticise it in any way they like; I only know that none will be able to show that my statement contains the slightest exaggeration.
.- I support the motion because I have found, during my brief experience in the House of some three years, that the allowance received by honorable members is insufficient. Those of us who come from other States, such as Queensland, feel this insufficiency in a very marked degree. It is necessary for such honorable members to maintain two homes, and travelling expenses are always heavy. Then, again, the election expenses, as already outlined, are a severe drain. I feel confident that it is not the wish of the people of Australia that their representatives should receive a salary which prevents them doing those things which they should be able to do as public men; it is not fitting that members of the Federal Parliament should, when travelling, have to consider every shilling. Unless we are willing to live beyond our means we find ourselves compelled at times to travel under conditions ill-becoming our position. Unless we are placed by the people of Australia in such circumstances as will enable us to act with dignity, nothing but harm can come. When I retired from the Education Department in Queensland in order to enter political life, I did so with the knowledge that that step would result in pecuniary loss; but even at that time I did not realize the extent to which the cost of living would increase, and the amount I received monthly, whilst small, was enough to enable me to pay my way. At present, however, I find it extremely difficult to do this. I speak thus plainly because, now the subject has been opened, I think it behoves every one to freely express his opinion. There is no man in the House who does not realize that the allowance is insufficient. There are amongst us men who are fortunate enough to be moneyed, or in business, and thus have their parliamentary allowance augmented ; but honorable members who had to throw over everything in order to enter political life, deserve special consideration at the hands of Parliament. I hope that each honorable member will speak as his heart dictates t and not as he may. think the people outside would like him to speak.
.- I feel a peculiar pleasure in following a young member, because of the fact that I speak with some thirty years’ parliamentary experience behind me. When I first entered Parliament I was worth £10,000, though possibly, if I died tomorrow, I should be found, with the aid of insurance money, worth ten thousand shillings. My first election cost me over £900 - we had a’ glorious time! I remember that somebody sent up a barrel of beer, and, knowing very little about politics, I thought that everybody ought to have a glass. However, an assistant of my opponent pointed out to me that I was breaking the law in allowing the barrel of beer to be in the lane beside the booth, and when I went round I found it- .
– Very nearly. I was saved, however, by the gentleman to whom I have referred knocking the end of the barrel in; and then there was a row! I owned thirty houses at the time, or a little subsequently, and not believing in landlordism, I made the tenants the owners, except in case of those in which I had only a life interest. I apportioned one-fourth of my income to help those not so well off as myself, and the proportion was frequently larger. If my parliamentary allowance were increased, it would enable me to extend more such help than I am able to do at the present time. I know that if I were to leave Parliament I could earn £1,000 a year or £1,500 a year, even at my advanced age, but I would rather be here at £200, or with only sufficient to buy bread and butter, and have the feeling that by my vote I could benefit the men, women, and children who >are to come after us. Believing in one man one billet, I gave up the practice of medicine many years ago except in the case of some old friends, who mistakingly think I am a born genius in the profession.
In the Public Service a man, so long as he has moderate abilities, and minds his p’s and q’s, has his remuneration increased by annual increments, without, as in our case, the necessity of appealing to constituents every three years. About forty-eight years ago some one, thinking that I had a fair seat in the saddle, tried to persuade me to join the mounted troopers ; and I often wonder what would have happened in that long interval, had I done so. Law-making should ‘be a profession, and one of the most important in the community, for bad laws mean suffering to the majority. If the salary be raised to the figure proposed I should like it to be provided that no member be allowed to carry on a private business. If a member had a business he might be allowed to visit it as an auditor, but he should be called upon to devote the best of his abilities, indeed the whole of them, to making fair and proper laws. I further suggest that each member should be attached to a separate Department of the Government, so that he could be sent by the Minister in charge to- any part of Australia to inquire into grievances and so forth. Had there been such a plan in operation in the Federal Parliament, the
Minister for Home and Territories, for instance, might have selected myself from this side, and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) from the other to make inquiries into the Northern Territory troubles with great advantage.
As to bribes, I do not know of any alleged case that can ‘be proved; but if there were bribery it might be suppressed by making death the penalty, for no punishment can be too severe for a member of Parliament who so degrades his noble position and trust - a position which should be the highest in the land, seeing that it is the only one to which men are elected by the sovereign people. I make the further suggestion that a portion of the increased salary should be ear-marked to provide a retiring allowance for any man who ceased to ‘be a member for health reasons or by force majeure - the people’s vote. If a portion of the salary were paid into an insurance company, a large sum could be apportioned to the indi- vidual who, in his pursuit of helping the country as a law-maker, has had to retire through ill-health or from force majeure. If the increase is granted, I shall have the pleasure of being able to help those who have not been as well placed as I am. If I were worth £1,000,000, I would not leave my children much money, because, with few exceptions, I have never seen children who have been left much wealth who have grown up a credit to their country or to their families. Recognising that the State should have everything, I hope to see the day when it will be the heir to all property over a certain amount.
.- -Even at the risk of becoming unpopular with my fellow members, I have to face my responsibilties, and speak exactly as I feel on a matter such as this. I must oppose the proposition submitted by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford). I have every sympathy with those honorable gentlemen who have been members of Parliament for a great number of years, and I see no reason why the honorable member for Herbert should become unpopular with his electors for having submitted his amendment. He is perfectly justified in advocating an increase in members’ salaries if he considers it necessary; and I am particularly pleased that, if the matter had to be brought forward at all, it should have been submitted by the oldest ‘ honorable member here. However, I am in a different position. I do not know as much about the cost of living at the Seat of Government as older honorable members know, but I hope to be able to live within my parliamentary allowance. If not, my only alternative will be to retire from politics. I have a great deal of sympathy for those honorable members who represent distant States, such as Queensland and Western Australia, and cannot get home at weekends - in fact, can scarcely get home at all during a session; but I feel that if I had to live at the Seat of Government, I would have no cause for complaint about the inadequacy of the present allowance. Being a young member, I am not in a position to counter the claim put forward that it is insufficient; but my objection to the present proposal is that it has come at the wrong time. Such a proposition should be brought forward before an election, and honestly submitted to the people. I do not question the honesty of honorable members who have spoken in support of the proposal to-day, but it would be a better ‘test of honorable members’ honesty of purpose if they would go before the people and claim that £600 a year is insufficient, and that the allowance should be at least £1,000 per annum. Let them stand or fall by that, and there would be no question as to their honesty. Every day we hear pleas put forward that we must economize, and undoubtedly one of the supreme necessities of to-day is economy in administration of public affairs. We also say that the people should economize in order to counter the high cost of living. But while we are continually preaching on these lines, claiming that the only way in which the high cost of ‘living may be reduced is by a reduction of expenditure on the part of the people, what will the public say if at the same time we advocate an increase in our allowance? I COuld not do it consistently, and I do not think that at the present time we are justified in asking that our allowance should be increased. If we, as legislators, are to retain the full confidence of the people - our success depends very largely upon it - we can only do so by submitting to them any questions that concern us personally before we propose to carry ‘them out, or, at any rate, before we decide to do so. I can only be persuade-d to support an increased allowance on the ground that there would be a corresponding reduction in the number of members; but this, I take it, cannot be brought about except through the people, after recommendations from the Federal Convention, which we are told is to meet next year. The honorable member for Herbert says that he represents a district covering eight and a-half State electorates. I believe that I could represent two- Tasmanian electorates in this House just as well as I represent one, and it might be a toss up between the representative of a neighbouring electorate and myself as to who should retain the combined seat.
– If the honorable member represented the whole of Tasmania he would not represent a larger electorate than some of those in other States.
– I can only speak for the State I know. Other honorable members who represent electorates in larger and more thickly-populated States can speak for the States they know. We find that little , more than half the members vote on important divisions in the House. In the circumstances, I am justified in saying that we could do the work just as well if we had only half the present number of members. I could only be persuaded to vote for an increased allowance if the number of members was also to be reduced, and it was made compulsory that a member must be in attendance in the House at all times, or forfeit his allowance. I hope that the matter will not be pressed to-day, and that we shall wait until the Federal Convention is held, and the amendments to the Constitution are submitted to the people. The question can then be honestly put before the electors. If I find from my experience of living at the Seat of Government that it i3 necessary to have an increased allowance, and if I am a candidate for election, I shall go before the people and advocate an increase.
.- I am pleased that this matter has been brought before the House, because I was anxious that honorable members should express their opinions upon it. There are several honorable members who are fortunate enough not to need to bother about what salary is paid to them., but 95 per cent, of us depend exclusively upon our allowance, and our time is taken up in such a way that we are practically prevented from following other businesses which might augment our incomes. In 1916, when I submitted myself for selection for the Darling seat, it cost me £76. The election which followed cost me £270. The 1917 conscription campaign co3t me another £S0. My other visits to the electorate during the two and a half years have cost me another £140. It was not until twelve months after I became a member of this House that I suddenly discovered from my cheque butts that it was a losing proposition for me. I am not at all given to spending money needlessly. Twelve months’ experience in the House of Representatives or the Senate makes a man very careful indeed. But notwithstanding how careful one might desire to bo, I cannot go into my electorate under a cost of £8 to £10 a week. That is what it generally’ costs men to go into the country electorates. The Darling electorate covers an area of about 53,000 square miles. My work in the electorate itself during the two and a half years, including the expense of preselection, cost me £566, apart from any expenses I incurred in visits to Melbourne during the same period. My total receipts during the period were £1,563, giving me a net income of £997 for the whole of last Parliament, and had it not been for a fortunate occurrence by which a syndicate in which I was interested drew £1,200 in a Tattersalls sweep, my share after taxes had been paid amounting to £350, I would not have been in a position to pay my election expenses. I I’.ad to go into debt to carry on the campaign, and I had not quite cleared that debt when the last election was held, and again I had to seek means other than my parliamentary allowance to fight the campaign.
– Not through Tattersalls again ?
– Unfortunately, something seems to have gone wrong with Tattersalls since then.. Two cases have come under my notice recently relating to members of .the Federal Legislature. One is that of a man who had been in State and Federal Parliaments for twenty-seven years, and in the other case the period of service has been twentyfive years, and had they not succeeded at the last election they would have had to seek employment at their former trades. That would have been a tragedy after they had given the best of their lives to the service of the State. I hope that at the end of twentyseven years, if my parliamentary career lasts so long, I shall not be in the same position as they occupied. I have not the slightest doubt that there will be columns of economy preached to honorable members by the “newspapers. “We, unfortunately, are not in the same position as are newspaper companies; we cannot without reference to anybody else increase our salaries by 100 per cent., as the newspaper proprietors have recently increased the price of newspapers. It may be truthfully said by them that, whereas printing paper cost from £11 to £13 a ton in 1914, to-day it costs £80 per ton, and that in order to keep their newspapers going the proprietors must increase the price. It may be that some of the fair-minded newspapers will point also to the enormous increase in the cost of living and of boot3 and wearing apparel. The cost of the suit of clothes I am wearing has increased over 100 per cent, in five years. Similar increases have taken place in the prices of all the things we consume and wear. I am mot at all concerned with what the press may say about me in this regard. There seems to be an unfortunate curse placed upon those who oppose increases in salaries. .So far as I can learn, there are left in the two branches of this Legislature only two of those who voted against the last increase in salary. It appears that the people do not regard with favour men who oppose legitimate increases in. the payment for services rendered. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) has declared that he i3 not yet in a position to say whether or not £600 per annum is sufficient. I am positive that within twelve months, irrespective of the fate of this motion, the honorable member will know definitely that this is .not a payable billet. My parliamentary position will not return me more than £270 per annum, but I was receiving £325 before I entered this House. Recently the jurymen in New South Wales asked for an increase from 8s. to £1 ls. per day. Everybody is asking for more pay. We are moving in. a vicious circle, and I hope that’ the Parliament of this Commonwealth will not ‘be at the tail end of the circle. I have in this House advocated the fair payment of the servants of the Commonwealth. As an official of the Australian Workers Union, and prior to becoming an official, I have always advocated fair payment for services. To-day I am advocating the same thing for my parliamentary colleagues and myself. I believe that the Commonwealth can afford to pay its members, and that it should do so. It is not right that any man should be merely existing; but a member who receives only £600 per annum, and has to travel between his State and Melbourne, and from his home to his electorate, cannot possibly do more than exist.
.- I ‘do not know whether I shall be regarded by honorable members as a prehistoric man. when I express the view that, in my opinion, there should be no payment of members at all. But I recognise that there cannot be proper representation of every class in the community, especially the industrial classes, unless there is payment of members. Neither can there be stable government unless every class in the community is properly represented in Parliament. If, therefore, we are to have payment of members, the pay -should not be skimped in any way, but should be ample to attract the best men. In the first place, it should be ample, in order to increase the competition for the position, thus attracting the best men to the National Parliament. Secondly, I believe that an increase of salary will bring about much more quickly the further subdivision of Australia into self-governing provinces. The present cost of Legislatures must be lessened; and I think that, by making adequate provision for the payment of members of this Parliament, we shall bring the people of Australia much more quickly to a right state of mind upon this question. My own position is that, before entering the House, I made up my mind as to the annual loss I could sustain, and I am willing to continue through this Parliament, and through any subsequent ones of which I may be a member, still bearing that loss. But I realize, from the short experience I have had in travelling between Melbourne and my own State, that there is no possibility of a member from other States, or even of a Victorian country representative, living within his present parliamentary salary. For that reason, I think it would be grossly unfair if I were to stand in the way of this proposal for no other reason than that I am a little more fortunately placed than are some of my fellow members, p
.- Like the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), I have been a member of this Parliament from its inception. During the last nineteen years I have given to the people of Australia the best service of which I was capable, and I am satislied that had I devoted the same amount of energy to private business, I would have been infinitely better off than _I am to-day. This is not, and cannot be made, a party question. Every member is at liberty to speak or vote as he chooses’ upon this amendment, and as far as I know, no arrangement of any sort has been made. Of course, the question cannot be settled by the carrying of the amendment, because an increase in salary can only be effected by passing an amending Bill. When that Bill is before the House, every honorable mem ber will have an opportunity to speak and vote according to his own views. The last increase in the parliamentary salary was made in 1907. From the beginning of January, 1910, until 31st December, 1919, there have been five elections and five referenda, three of them were held apart from the general elections - two on the conscription issue, and one, in 1911, in regard to a proposal to amend the Constitution. In addition, it has been my privilege to have ‘ travelled through four different States in connexion with four State general elections, and also in connexion with by-elections, and to visit all the other States of the Commonwealth in connexion with public matters. In 1917, when we had a Federal general election, a referendum on conscription, a by-election in Ta’smania, and another in Victoria. I travelled about 25,000 miles. I could not have done that had I not been a Minister of the Crown in previous years. I was out of pocket: but I bore the loss, because I believed that I was merely doing my duty.
-. - Can any honorable member be a true Australian unless he travels about the Commonwealth?
– I do not think he can.
– This is the only Australian Parliament in which the Leader of the Opposition does not receive a special payment..
– As a good unionist, I believe that I should be declared “black” by all other Leaders of Oppositions in Australia. Some honorable members, including those who have been in the House for many years, are under the impression that I do receive an allowance. All I can say is that, if I do, I do not know where it goes; it never reaches me. I realize that the interests of members from other States, and the Victorian country members, are in less fortunate positions than are those honorable members who represent Melbourne metropolitan electorates. But it is useless to say that we will vote a special allowance for some honorable members. The Constitution does not allow us to differentiate in the taxation of individuals, and I do not think it will permit us to differentiate between the payment of members of Parliament. Neither do we desire to do so. If £600 was a fair salary in 1907, and I believe it was, we are entitled to some increase to-day. I shall support this amendment, and if it is followed by a Bill I shall vote to increase the present salary.
– I regret exceedingly that I feel compelled to oppose this motion. My position can be put into a nutshell. I do not discuss the merits of the proposal, because I think that a great deal has been said by honorable members to justify an increase in the parliamentary allowance. But the case presents itself to me in this way. With a full knowledge of the facts, I offered my services to the country for £600 a year, and it would be a violation of the most elementary rules of honesty if, my offer having been accepted, I were, now that I am a member of the Parliament which has control of the country’s finances, to put my hands into the Treasury, and draw a larger amount.
– You need not take it.
– I should not take it, even if it were provided.
– Is it not a fact that your income from legal practice is probably double what you get as a member of Parliament?
– I shall answer the question as I answered a similar question when contesting the Fawkner seat. I said that, in the first year of my practice at the Bar, I made ninety guineas, and that last year I made - considerably more. From my point of view, it is almost indecent for members to discuss their private affairs here as some of them have done. This is a question’ of contract. Did. any member who is now objecting to the smallness of his allowance suggest, when from the public platform he solicited the suffrages of his constituents, that the remuneration was not sufficient ?
Several Honorable Members. - Yes.
– In any case, honorable members offered their services at the figure ruling. Moreover, one of the stock subjects of debate during the campaign was the high cost of living, so that candidates knew the facts, and, furthermore, many of the candidates had had the experience of living on £600 a year, and yet they deliberately offered to renew their engagement to the electors at that figure. Every nian must look at this matter from his own point of view, and satisfy his own conscience, and I say that my conscience will not permit me to vote for this motion.
– My conscience wants the higher salary.
– It is not a matter of wanting it. If we were going to the country, I would advocate an increase in the ‘ remuneration of honorable members. I do not know how those honorable members who are entirely dependent upon their parliamentary allowance, especially those who come from other States, can begin to live on £600 a year. Yet, knowing the facts, they offered to serve for that salary.
– Will the honorable member consider this point for a moment? Suppose he had been elected twenty years ago on a certain salary, and had given up his private practice to enter Parliament, and now found that he could not get back to .private practice?
– My answer to that is that an honorable member so placed should have told his constituents that he could not live on the salary paid to him, and that if it were not increased, he must retire. Had such a candidate retired, he would have found a dozen men ready to take his place.
– Of course he would ; wealthy men !
– That is what the employers say all the time, “ If you do not like the job, get out.”
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) spoke of the expense to which he was put in his pre-selection campaign, but were the parliamentary allowance increased to £1,000 a vear, his pre-selection expenses would be infinitely greater than they are at present. Apart from, the merits of the case, what determines my position is that I offered my services to the country at a certain figure, and that offer having been accepted, I cannot in reason or conscience go back on it.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) thinks it indecent on the part of certain honorable members to have talked of their private affairs as they have done. In my opinion, ‘ those who had the courage to do so deserve the admiration of the House, and I, for one, admire them. The honorable member has suggested dishonesty on the part of those who intend to vote for the amendment.
– No. I said that, from my point of view,- it would be dishonest to vote for it; that it was a matter of satisfying one’s own conscience.
– If the honorable member will permit me to say so, I have a very high opinion of his ability, and of his desire to serve the public, but had he during the electoral campaign told his constituents what his earnings are, and how he occupies his time - that he is one of the most successful criminal lawyers in the country, and earns a large part of his income by defeating the ends of justice - he would not have found a seat in this Chamber.
– That was cast up at me at almost every meeting.
– I have been in Parliament for a very long time. Before entering Parliament I was, as a journalist, more or less successful. Since entering Parliament I have not earned a penny by journalistic work, though I have often been asked why I do not write. I have given all my time to my public duties. There are some professions, like the law and journalism, that run in company with a parliamentary career. The delving to ascertain facts and figures which is necessary for parliamentary work often produces matter for an article or for a speech in the Law Courts. The honorable member will forgive me for pointing out to his constituents that he neglects his parliamentary duties. He was not present at the Caucus meeting of his party when the Repatriation Bill was being discussed, and when he entered the chamber he knew nothing whatever about it. We do not carry out our duties in that way; we devote all our time to them.
– Our lives.
– I told my constituents that I could not undertake to devote all my time to parliamentary work.
– You represent a lot of city people.
– The honorable member is calling my honesty in question. I say that I told my constituents exactly how matters stood with me.
– The honorable member has said that common honesty would dictate to us the carrying out of our bargain with the electors.
– I said that it would dictate to me a certain course.
– What is honest so far as the honorable member is concerned must be honest so far as others are concerned.
– What may be necessary to satisfy my conscience may not be necessary to satisfy the conscience of others.
– Twenty years ago, when I went to Darling Harbor to speak in favour of Federation, I was met by a howling mob, which threatened to throw me into the dust-bin; but, after a while, finding that I was not anxious to speak, they invited me to do so. A certain gentleman was then addressing a gathering from an opposite hotel. I was denounced as a “blackleg” for having voted for Federation, and when it was arranged that I should speak he told me to stick to the Bill. I replied, “No, I will explain my vote,” and I told the audience that I voted as a matter of conscience. To that the gentleman rejoined, “Mr. Higgs says that he has a conscience. What would be thought of an officer who, being told by his Commanding’ General to charge, excused himself on the ground that he had a conscience? Why, he would be shot immediately.” That, of course, was no argument, but I have never since then referred to any vote of mine as dictated by conscience.
This question is a most unpleasant one to have to talk about, but the public are not in a position to judge what salaryshould be paid to members. It is impossible for the public to know what is the work of a member of Parliament, the time occupied in dealing with his correspondence and in interviewing constituents. They can only trust members of Parliament- as the vast majority have always done - to do what they consider is a fair thing. I have never known a member of Parliament to be turned out of his position because he voted for an increased parliamentary salary. Those who intend to oppose this motion should place themselves in the position of those who give the whole of their time to their parliamentary duties. They should’ ask themselves whether they do not see a difference between the work done by the latter and those who are able, while attending to the work of Parliament, to carry on their professional duties. A public man, in my opinion, must devote himself wholly to his public work if he wants to make a success of it. If he tries to run a business at the same time, either his public work or his business must suffer. The one or the other must go. If he divides his attention between the two he is a failure, either as a public man or as a business man.
– I come to the discussion of this.question as one who, for the time being at any rate, is not pecuniarily interested. I speak, too, as one who has had almost as long an experience of parliamentary life as any member of this House. I have been chastened, as most men have, by that experience, and sometimes a little saddened by it. I am perfectly confident that what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has said is right in his case is right in mine. Had I given my energies to law, or to the making of money, I should have been a very wealthy man today. Nay, if to-morrow I walked out of this House, and turned my energies into some other channels, I could earn more money in one year than here in three, even occupying my present position.
So much by way of preface. I am a Minister, and the motion relates to the salaries of members. As most honorable members know, Ministers receive as members a salary of only £400 a year. Why that is so I have never been able to understand. The motion says, in effect, that the salai-y of members is inadequate. I quite agree with that. There is one principle that holds good the world over in relation to labour and everything else: if you want the best thing you must pay the best price. The price of a man’s labour and a man’s service differs from tin-e to time. It includes as the irreducible minimum the cost of subsistence. Six hundred pounds a year was considered a fair salary for members of Parliament in 1907. If that is so, it is certainly not a fair salary to-day.
Something has been said of the position of members who” devote their entire lives to the service of their country. Speaking for myself, I have found it a very thankless business. I see around me men who have been my friends and colleagues for many years, many of whom are as poor as, and some poorer than, myself. They have so slipped into the rut of political life that once they are driven out they are utterly undone. They are unfit for anything. 1 have seen men hang round the portals of this place when the public, fickleminded as it is, has rejected them, miserable beings, seeming, as it were, like those who were cast out of Eden. I have even known an ex-Federal Minister to be reduced to such straits that, walking down Bourke-street, I saw no man so miserably dressed or looking such an outcast. Such cases are, no doubt, exceptional; but I speak of the general rule. Why should the public expect those upon whose honesty and ability their welfare and the safety of the nation depends to work for less than a fair return for their services? What right have they to expect anything of the kind ? The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) said that he offered himself to the electors for £600 a year. I certainly did not. I consider myself under no obligation to work for the same salary now as in 1907 any more than I consider my messenger is for ever compelled to work for the salary paid him when he first entered upon his duties. He has a right to ask for more money when circumstances change, the cost of living increases, or his services become of more value. “
I have had a very long experience of public life, and, like the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), I have not known a man to be turned out of Parliament because he asked for more salary, and took it. I have, however, lived to see, both here and in the New South Wales Parliament, men who, having refused a higher salary, have later on come back and taken it. I remember there was in our old party one man who would not take the increased salary of £600 a year. He was the only member of the party rejected at the next election.
– And then he took it.
– That is so. I make no pretence whatever to work for nothing. I give to my country the very best that is in me. In return I expect fair payment for my services. But I do not get it. If I take up a job, I try to do it to the best of my ability. It is a striking tribute to Australian legislative institutions that, although they have been in existence now for at least half-a-century, it cannot be said that any instance of bribery or corruption on the part of a member of Parliament has ever been raised. In this Parliament, of which 1 have been a member, together with some of my honorable friends, for nineteen years, no man has ever sold his vote. No man has trafficked his influence for money. No man has profited by it. On the wisdom, foresight, and regular attendance of honorable members at this place depends the welfare of the people. If we say to the people outside, “ You shall not have a wide choice; that is to say, you shall not select any men you like but only men who are well-to-do,” then Democracy is a farce. If I were in the position of an ordinary honorable member, having to live on £600 a year, I do not think I would offer myself to the people upon the understanding that I should not be allowed any increase of salary. I am the Leader of the Government, and, knowing that I am the Leader, I speak in my capacity as a member of this Parliament, although I know what construction will be placed on my words. I agree with the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) that the press will denounce this proposal ; yet there is no writer who writes as he is told to write, but who seeks an increase in his own salary, and few, if any, who have not received one. These gentlemen, indeed, are now going to the Court to ask for more. Nor is there a journal in the country railing against profiteering that has not increased their prices by 50 per cent, or even 100 per cent. Amongst those who cry out for economy there is not one who does not demand his pound of flesh for what he sells. Economy with such people begins with the “ other fellow.” The labourer is worthy of his hire ; but it is the custom, of the press to belittle parliamentary institutions. Although the press, perhaps, does not realize it, it is by its persistent denunciation of Parliament doing the work of those who seek to overturn Parliament and substitute direct action. Some of those connected with the press of the country seek to propagate the idea, that directly a man becomes a member of- Parliament he becomes either a fool or a rogue - that there is no man outside Parliament so poor or so insignificant but that his counsel can be taken before one chosen of the people. We are those whom the people have deliberately chosen to rule over them. The salary paid is either a fair salary or is not ; let us take the proposal on its merits. If it is not a fair salary, let us raise it. I have heard from those who oppose the motion their reasons for doing so, and those reasons do not convince me : they do not appeal to me, because they do not approach the question from the proper, angle.
Like ray honorable friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), 1 have given my life to this business - my whole life. I did not take it up, and have never pursued it, as a pastime or a recreation - I did not enter Parliament to take my place in a debating society. I have, as I say, devoted ( my whole life to the service of my country. In turn, the people owe me something. When they have chosen me as their representative they have intrusted me with infinitely greater powers than that of deciding what is a fair salary for myself and my fellow-members. I do not intend to consider for a moment what the press happens to say. As everybody knows who reads the press, what it says to-day it unsays to-morrow; and it does not bother me. I lived for twenty-five years a member of a party that flourished despite the press; and now, although I am a member of a party that sometimes takes a great deal of notice of the press, I never do. I owe nothing to the press - the press has endeavoured persistently to pull me down. It has not succeeded, and it is little likely to affect me by its diatribes, whether on this or any other question. Perhaps I ought not to have said this; however, it will give the press a chance for an extra leader, and so to earn an honest penny. All I ask from the press, or anybody else, is a fair field and no favour.
I am not going to commit the Government; the matter has not been considered by us; but I am going to say what I think, and that is that an increase of salary is warranted by the circumstances. I am not going to commit myself to any particular amount, nor am I going to commit the Government; but I am, if the House approves the motion, going to bring this matter before the Cabinet, and I shall recommend that a Bill be brought down in order that the House may have an opportunity to express its opinion.
.- I suggest that when the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) places this matter before the Cabinet, in the event of the House carrying the amendment, he should also place before it a suggestion made by the Bulletin some time ago, to the effect that, given a salary of £1,000 a year, £250 of it should be withheld until a member is defeated, or dies. That is a proposal which, personally, I favour, and I think it will appeal to the common sense of every honorable member. I have not been very long a member, but long enough to have had some of my views dissipated in regard to the amount of salary received by honorable members. I do not base my support of the motion on the fact that I cannot live on the salary. If the salary were increased as proposed, I might at the end of my term be no better off than I should be if the salary remains as at present. That is one of my reasons for the suggestion I have just made to the Prime Minister.
Most of us have had experience of fighting for the particular people whose interests we believe in ; and, as honorable members know, members like myself generally fight with the gloves off, both inside and out of this House. In’ that respect I do not intend to alter my practice. What is the position of a member, if defeated, who fights for his class outside? I am not afraid to go before my electors, even if the motion be defeated, carrying the responsibility or odium of having voted to increase my salary. I am glad to see there are so many converts to direct action. There is no knowing where the movement will stop in Australia after the highest tribunal in the land has expressed itself in favour of the principle that those who work should determine the conditions under which they shall .work. I am glad, in harmony with my principles expressed outside, to cast my vote inside for the same policy; but I hope that when Cabinet decides to bring forward a Bill to raise the salaries of honorable members they will give close consideration to the aspect of the matter I have mentioned.
– The honorable member has given a new interpretation of direct action. I have not heard that any one has refused to come to this House to “ do the job “ unless his pay is raised. The proposition that honorable members should be more adequately paid than has been the case in the past is based on the same ground on which every section of workers in the community has secured the advances which have been given to them during the time the present salary of honorable members has been running in Australia. There is no considerable section of the community but has had an advance in some sort of ratio to the increased cost of living. Many people outside imagine that the position of a member of Parliament is a very remunerative one, but my experience is that it is worse paid than any position I occupied before I came here, and I think that has been the experience of most of us who have given up other work to take up the duties of a member of Parliament. The position of those who represent distant States has already been set out by honorable members who preceded me, and it is hardly necessary to elaborate the arguments put forward by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), but I am unwilling to give a silent vote. I have always said that there should be proper payment of members of Parliament. The country will get service from its representatives according to the amount paid to them. I believe that employers generally get service according to the amount they pay for it. It is almost impossible for an honorable member, upon the remuneration he gets to-day, to give the time he ought to devote to the work of Parliament and to procure the facilities that he ought to possess, seeing that his vote controls the destinies of the people of the* Commonwealth.
– I shall not occupy more than a few minutes. I desire to say frankly that those who have spoken in favour of an increase in salary have made out a good case. I recognise the sacrifices that are made, particularly by those who represent constituencies in other States, but during the last election campaign I was asked, the direct question whether I would vote for an increase in salary, and I replied I would not, unless the matter had previously been submitted to the people at a general election. At the same time I am in sympathy with much that has been said as to the fairness and meritorious character of the claim which has been made for increasing the allowance to honorable members, and I am sure the claim could ho justified on the public platform.
Honorable Members. - Question!
.- I would like to say a few words in support of the amendment, but as honorable members are apparently anxious to take a vote upon it at once, I am quite willing to resume my seat.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the alternative amendment made by the House of Representatives in this Bill.
Ministers’ Attendance in Either House.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had passed’ the following resolution, in which it asked the concurrence of the House of Representatives : -
That the Standing Orders Committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives be requested to consider the question of preparing Standing Orders providing that a Minister in either House may attend and explain and pilot through the other House any Bill of which he has had charge in his own House.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I feel justified in detaining the House fora moment, in order to ask if the Government have taken any steps yet to relieve the congestion in the Arbitration Court.
– A commission hasbeen issued to Mr. Justice Starke, who will act as Deputy President of the Court.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 6.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 May 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200513_reps_8_92/>.