8th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk announced the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker. Mr. Deputy Speaker took the chair at 2.31 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister consult with Mr. Justice Higgins with a view to the retention of his services in the Arbitration Court? I understand that he is reluctant to abandon that work, and it will be a great loss to Australia if he leaves the Bench.
– I do not know of the reluctance of Mr. Justice Higgins to abandon his work, but I know that he has more than once definitely stated his intention to resign, and reminded me of the fact the other day. I shall consider the matter, but at present I do not see that I should confer with him on the subject. I take it that he is now clearing up his work preparatory to putting into effect his declared intention to resign the presidency of the Arbitration Court.
Mr.GRE GORY. - The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Worksis a Committee created by an Act. of Parliament, and is the servant, not of the Government, but of Parliament. This House refers matters to it for investigation, and it is the Committee’s duty to report direct to the Parliament. Last year, among the references to the Committee were two for the investigation of proposals to continue the railway north from Oodnadatta and southwards from the Northern Territory. The references were to the whole Committee, but,so that the investigations might be made as economically as possible, the Committee decided that the work should be done by a sectional Committee. The Act prescribes that a sectional Committee shall consist of not less than three members. There are, however, difficulties in the way of getting three members to go on this journey. Personally, Ishould much like to make an investigation of the country that the railway would traverse,andIthink,notwithstanding the criticism about the cost of the proposed inquiry, that it would be of great advantage to this Parliament to know much more of the interior and northern parts of the continent. However, owing to engagements in connexion with the Tariff, itis impossible for me to go. What I wish to ask now, though I am in doubt as to whom I should address the question, is whether Parliament will withdraw these references, should it be thought undesirable to carry out the investigations, or ask the members of the existing Committee to tender their resignations, so that other members may be appointed who would give effect to the instructions of Parliament? I do not know if the Acting Prime Minister can tell us what the Government desirein this matter, but I think that one of those courses should be taken. Any investigation that is made must be made during the winter months. Motor oars have been purchased for the work, and, fuel and food supplies have been sent along the track. If the Committee is to make the investigations this year it must start within the next few months.
– The Government - and, I take it, the Parliament - desires that these investigations shall be proceeded with. Apparently the Committee, after asking for a vote to provide for the proposed expedition, is now on strike. It is rather a pity that members of the Committee did not, before they incurred all this expense, say that they would not make the investigation. I do not know any details about the matter beyond those that the honorable member has given me. The position is that the House has instructed the Committee to make these investigations.
Mr.NICHOLLS. -Recently a person sent a telegram containing the statement that she was prepared to sell a house at a certain price-I think£40-but the official who forwarded her communication to the neighbouring.Post Office made a mistake of£20 in transmitting the amount mentioned in it, in consequence of which the seller of the house lost that sum. The Postmaster-General’s Department was informed of the error, and the Deputy PostmasterGeneral for New South Wales admitted it to be the fault of a depart mental official, but he said that the Department could not, under any circumstances, compensate the person who had been damaged. I ask the PostmasterGeneral if he will give the assurance that in cases of thiskind the Postal Department, and- not the senders of telegrams, shall bear anylossthat may be caused by the mistakes of departmental officials.
– Whatever is the liability of the Department under the Post and Telegraph Act we shall accept it.
Mr. GREGORY presented the report and minutes of evidence of the Committee of Public Works upon the proposed erection of an additional trunk telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne.
Ordered to be printed.
– I lay upon the table the following paper: -
Mail Service to Europe-Agreement, dated 27th April, 1921, between the Honorable G. H. Wise, . Postmaster-General for the Commonwealth, and the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited, for the Conveyance of Mails between Great Britain’ and Australia;
Ordered to be printed.
.- (By leave.)- The present contract with the Orient Steam-ship Company Limited was entered into on the 15th November, 1907, and provided for a fortnightly mail service between Australia and Great Britain, which alternating with a fortnightly service entered into between the British Government and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, gave us a regular weekly mail service. The Orient Steam-ship Company Limited gave us twenty-four calendar mon ths notice of their intention to terminate the contract, which will expire oh the 18th September, 1921.In view of the approaching termination of the present agreement, negotiations were entered into by the Government with representatives of the Orient Steam-ship Company Limited. The latter stated that, in their opinion, it was desirable to treat the immediate future as a transitional period, and that it would be unwise for the Commonwealth Government to enter into commitments of an onerous and far-reaching character at the present level of prices, whilst the same reason, combined with the uncertainty as to future revenue, would make such commitments wholly unacceptable to the company. They therefore proposed an arrangement of a temporary nature, whichwould cover the transitional period referred to, and which could be terminated by either party giving twelve calendar months’ notice at any time. Their proposal provided for thirteen despatches per annum each way at four-weekly intervals (which was the most frequent service they could give with the vessels at their disposal), and was based generally on the terms and conditions of the present contract. The. result of the negotiations was that an arrangement has been entered into under which the Orient Steam-ship Company Limited have agreed to continue to carry mails under the terms of the present contract subject to the following alterations: -
Articles of agreement on the lines of the present contract amended to carry out the aforesaid alterations - omitting or modifying such conditions as the altered circumstances render inoperative or inappropriate, as, for instance, the clauses relating to the building ofnew ships, the option of the Postmaster-General to purchase the steamers, &c. - have been entered into, and I now lay them upon the table of the House, and move -
That the document be printed.
The agreement is the best we can secure at the present time, and will provide for a regular fortnightly service (for there is little doubt but that the alternate fourweekly P. andO Service will be arranged), and being terminable on short notice, will enable the Commonwealth Government, as soon as the opportunity arises, to make provision for a service of greater frequency and travelling speed. It is subject to the approval of Parliament, and to-morrow I shall move accordingly.
-When the PostmasterGeneral submits his motion to-morrow, for the ratification of the mail contract agreement, will he state the departmental view as to whether Australia would be at a disadvantage if there were no contract of the kind ?
– Has it been decided that the Outer Harbor, in South Australia, shall be one of the ports of call under the renewed Imperial mail contract?
– The PostmasterGeneral has just indicated that.
– I was not clear whether it had been definitely announced that the Outer Harbor was to continue to be a port of call.
– There is the same provision in that respect as in the present contract.
– Is the Treasurer in a position to make a statement regarding the promised cash payment by the Commonwealth of one-third cash in respect of the war gratuity bonds?
– I hope to be able to make a definite statement to the House by Wednesday next.
– Is it the final de cision of the Government to do no shipbuilding outside the Commonwealth Yards, or is there any hope of the yard belonging to the State Government of New South Wales being given a contract later to build one of the larger vessels?
-So far as I know the decision of the Government is that the remaining ships to be built in pursuance of the programme laid down several years ago shall be built in our own yards, and I regret to have to say that we cannot undertake to keep the State ship-building yards going also.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Navy been called to the action of a highly paid official in calling his subordinate officer “ a blanky liar” at the Cockatoo Island inquiry, when that subordinate officer was giving evidence on oath ? Has the Minister suspended that highly paid official? If not does the Minister desire this incident to be taken as a precedent for highly paid officers to insult their subordinates?
– Speaking on the spur of the moment I question whether I have authority to deal with any witnessappearing before a Royal Commission, but in order that I may give a considered reply, I ask the honorable member to give notice of the question.
Arr angementWith South Australian Government.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Repatriation whether, under the arrangement made by the Commonwealth with the South Australian Government for the building of War Service Homes, the men who are not covered by the State Act will have to wait until that Act is amended before houses are built or purchased for them.
– The agreement made between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government under which the State, in order to prevent the duplication of expense, has undertaken the construction of War Service Homes in that State, includes an arrangement that all the applicants who are not to-day covered by the State Act, but are beneficiaries under the War Service
Homes Act, may submit their applications, which will be examined and, if in order, approved and ready to be acted upon as soon as the State Act is amended to bring it into line with the Commonwealth Act.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral make an investigation into the housing accommodation of the allowance postmasters and postmistresses? Does he know that a great number of the persons so employed are living in houses which are most unsuitable for human habitation?
– The Department does not provide housing accommodation for the employees indicated by the honorable member.
– It does provide the premises, and the Postmaster-General knows it.
– With a view to economy .
– I will listen to this.
– With a, view to effecting considerable economy, and also with the object of having the work done expeditiously and well, will the Leader of the Government assure this House that the Government do not intend to proceed in the matter of the election of delegates to the Convention for the amendment of the Constitution, but that they will allow that duty to devolve upon the proper authority - this Parliament - thereby insuring the thorough and expeditious completion of the task?
– I can promise to take into consideration any matter intended to effect economy. But I cannot promise that the; undemocratic proposal which the honorable member now makes will be agreed to, even in the interests of economy.
– This is the first time the Treasurer has admitted that this Parliament is not democratic.
– No one has contended that the Constitution is democratic. A compromise between the various States resulted in the Constitution of the Federal Legislature. No one will pretend, for instance, that the Senate is based upon a democratic franchise. Its basis is upon - a State franchise. I am afraid I cannot promise that what the honorable member asks will be done.
– In view of the invasion of this country by a mass of disloyal and pernicious literature, and in view of the fact that the Minister for Trade and Customs, in order to protect the country, has appointed certain persons to the duty of guarding the morals of the community, is the Acting Prime Minister of opinion that the persons so appointed are sufficiently qualified to be employed for the purpose of protecting Australia from such literature ? And will he, in order to see that our -people are properly safeguarded, read such imported literature himself?
– I will not do so.
– In view of the fact that the country’ has not been sufficiently protected by any prohibitions that may have been made, upon the importation of disloyal and pernicious literature, and having regard to the further fact that there are large numbers of disloyal persons in the community, will the Minister take the necessary precaution to furnish an assurance that every person in Australia, before expressing _ or writing an opinion, shall first obtain the indorsement of the Acting Prime Minister, or of such persons as he may appoint for such duty, in order that the views so expressed by those disloyalists shall be made to sound or read properly loyal . and, therefore, innocuous?
– I shall answer that question when it has been placed upon the notice-paper. Incidentally, I defy the honorable member to transpose all those words of his upon paper.
Statements of Senator Elliott. ,
– Has the Assistant Minister for Defence read a report of the utterances of Senator Elliott in another place yesterday when he made a serious allegation to the effect that the British troops ran away in the battle of Amiens? If so, what action is it proposed to take regarding these statements of this unpatriotic gentleman?
– I have not read the speeches of Senator Elliott, and I have nothing whatever to do with what another individual does or says in another place. I do not intend, therefore, to take any such action as the honorable member indicates.
Fees Paid to Messrs. Kirkpatrick
– Will the Assistant Minister for Repatriation make inquiries and inform this- House of the total amount claimed by Messrs. Kirkpatrick for fees in connexion with plans for the construction of War Service Homes ? And will he state specifically the total sum paid to that firm of architects for such plans ?
– No contract exists, nor has any ever been made between the Commonwealth and Messrs. Kirkpatrick for the supply of architectural plans in connexion with War Service Homes. But an arrangement was entered into with the firm in question when the Commonwealth banking authorities were given the task of erecting homes. If the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper I shall endeavour to obtain the information required.
– Have any arrangements been made for a report of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference, to which the Prime Minister is now on his way, to be made available to this Parliament?
– No arrangements have been made, so far as I am aware. It is rather too early yet to talk about a subject of that kind.
– It will be too late after the Conference is over.
– Does the honorable member refer to a report of the subjects to be discussed?
– No, but to a report of the Conference proceedings.
– The question of furnishing such a report will be for the Conference itself to determine, and, indeed, to decide how far the proceedings shall be reported and published at all. It will not be a matter for any single delegate to the Conference to decide.
– Surely we can ask for a copy of the report ?
– We may ask, but such a request is one which might well be left to be determined in the same manner as hitherto. I have yet to learn that the proceedings of a confidential Imperial Cabinet can all be published. Such reports as are published we shall be entitled to receive no doubt.
– This House is about to enter, in Committee, upon the consideration of the individual items in the Tariff schedule. I understand that previous rulings which have been given from the Chair regarding the rights of honorable members in the matter of moving amendments have been reviewed. In view of that position, I wish to know whether, before the Committee comes to the stage of item-by-item consideration, it would not be wise if honorable members were informed exactly of their rights and privileges in this respect.
– It would not be competent for me, at the present stage, to refer to what may be done in Committee. When the question indicated by the honorable member arises during the discussion in Committee upon the Tariff schedule, item by item, the Chairman of Committees will then, no doubt, make known his ruling in the matter. It will be for the Committee thereupon to accept or dissent from his ruling and, by its vote, to determine whether such decision shall stand.
Appointment of Board
– I understand that a Board or Commission has been appointed, or arranged for, with respect to the management of Cockatoo Island Dock Yard. Is the Acting Prime Minister in a position to announce the names of the members of that body ?
– I suggest that the honorable member put his question upon the notice-paper. I do not quite know what has been done, but I understand that steps have been taken to shape up a Board for the future management of the concern.
– The members have been appointed, I believe.
– I will procure the information if the question is placed upon the business-paper.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Appeals Against Injustices
asked the Acting Prime Minister, . upon notice-
In view of the serious allegationsbeing made concerning injustices to officers andmen while serving in the. A.I.F., does the Government intend taking action to meet the situation?
– The procedure for review of decisions by higher authority in any case in which a member of the A.I.F. might feel wronged was provided in the Act and Regulations under which the A.I.F. served, and could have been exercised at the time. The Government are of opinion that, in view of the lapse of time and the dispersal of the A.I.F., it is not practicable to review these decisions now.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Does the Government propose to introduce legislation to deal with the question of bank exchange in arriving at the value for duty of imports from theUnited States?
– This matter is receiving consideration.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has he any announcement to make with regard to the appointment of Deputy Presidents of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court?
– Not at present.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Minister consider the advisability of suspending compulsory drill until each trainee is fully equipped with a uniform?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the favorable report by Messrs. Smith and Baker, of the New South Wales Technological Department, upon the suitability, from laboratory tests, of the North-Coast softwoods for mechanical paper pulp making, the Bureau of Science and Industry will arrange for the collection and transport of the more common of these woods and their manufacture into paper pulp at the Forests Products Laboratory in Western Australia?1
– So far, the investigations have been confined to those classes of timbers of which there are vast quantities spread over a wide area. I will, however, bring the honorable member’s suggestion under the notice of -the Director of the Institute; and, if the limited funds available for this purpose enable it to be done, I will be glad to make arrangements to have the timbers referred to by the honorable member tested as to their suitability for paper making.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will consider the advisability of amending the Old-age and Invalid Pensions
Act so as to enable a man and his wife, who have mutually agreed to separate without having any judgment of a Court or a deed of separation, to draw the old-age or invalid pension?
– The Commissioner already has power under the Act to ignore the income and property of a claimant’s husband or wife in these cases if he considers it equitable, and to decide the application in the light of the claimant’s circumstances only. This amendment was made by section 9 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1912.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will consider the question of having a certain amount of money placed upon the Estimates for the purpose of refunding to all co-operative societies trading under the Rochdale system all amounts paid by such societies under the War-time Profits Act?
– The war-time profits tax was paid by the societies referred to in respect of the year 1915-16 only. When the amending Act was passed exempting these societies from the tax, the question of making the exemption retrospective was carefully considered, and it was decided that it should apply only to the year then current and future years. I see no reason for now reversing this decision.
– There does not seem to be much hope of these people getting a refund.
– I am afraid not.
– On the 20th April the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following question : -
Will the Prime Minister provide the following information: -
The amount of wheat gristed into flour for the years 1917, 1918, 1919, and 1920, for the respective States of the Commonwealth?
The prices charged per bushel for such wheat during the above years?
The Prime Minister intimated that the information would be furnished as soon as available, and I now desire to inform the honorable member that ‘the quantity of wheat gristed into flour by the four States associated with the wheat scheme is as follows: - New South Wales - 1917, 18,529,000 bushels; 1918, 19,896,000 bushels; 1919, 20,667,000 bushels; 1920, 9,932,000 bushels. Victoria - 1917, 16,274,000 bushels; 1918, 17,442,000 bushels; 1919, 16,733,000 bushels; 1920, 14,158,000 bushels. Western Australia- 1917, 4,739,000 bushels; 1918, 6,091,000 bushels; 1919, 6,814,000 bushels; 1920, 5,516,000 bushels. South Australia- 1916- 17, 5,101,000 bushels; 1917-18, 6,621,000 bushels; 1918-19, 6,760,000 bushels; 1919-20, 6,702,000 bushels. The South Australian returns have been obtained by the South Australian Wheat Harvest Board from the State Statistician, whose records relate to financial years, and not to calendar years. The prices charged for wheat per bushel for the years 1917, 1918, 1919, and 1920 were:- Local consumption price - 1917, 4s. 9d.; 1918, 4s. 9d.; 1919, 4s. 9d. to 5s. 6d.; 1920, 6s. 6d. to, 7s.8d. Price for flour for export - 1917, 5s. 4½d. to 7s.; 1918, 6s. to 6s. 4½d.; 1919, 6s. 4½d. to 8s. 7½d.; 1920, 8s. 7½d. to 16s.
– On the 29th April the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked -
Whether the Prime Minister will institute inquiries concerning the over weight of bags of wheat, according to the standards adopted, at Port Pirie, consigned per s.s. Roserie, 28th March last, wherein a whole truck load was found to be over weight, some bags to the excess of 13 lbs.; also per ship Manicia, on 20th inst. ?
I have now received information from the South Australian Wheat Harvest Board to the effect that the average weight per bag of the Roserie shipment was 176.2 lbs., and the highest average of any one truck load was 185.4 lbs. per bag. The average weight of the Manicia shipment was 176.1 lbs. per bag. Three bags only weighed 200 lbs. .
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal).
Anzac Day : Paymentof Wages - Oldage, Invalid, and Military Pensions - Munition Workers - Ex- Warrant Officer Little - War Service Homes - Employment of Returned Soldiers - War Gratuity Act - Basic Wage: “The Next Step” - Australian Coat-of Arms- Immigration Officer : Captain T. Rees - Postal and Telephonic Services - Trade with Germany - Duplication of Federal and State Taxation and Electoral Machinery - Arbitration Court: Mr. Justice Higgins - Income Tax Anomalies - Industrial Position : Reduction of Wages.
Question - That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Ways and Means - proposed.
– The merit of holding a holiday on Anzac Day is beyond debate, but the whole community should be treated alike. Although the Government, on the recent celebration of the day, gave its servants a holiday on full pay, the onlyproper method by which a holiday could be given, many large employers of labour gave their workmen a forced holiday without pay. The Government could not justify the holding of a pageant except by paying the men who took the day off in order to assist in it, and when they announced their intention to do this, I asked the Prime Minister if he could manage to get the Employers Federation and the Chambers of Manufactures to show their loyalty by paying the employees to whom they would be giving the day off. There are many large manufacturing establishments in the Melbourne Ports electorate who displayed their loyalty by closing their establishments, but; unfortunately, their workmen drew no pay for the day, although I am certain that, at the end of the year, the profits of these firms would not be affected if they had chosen to pay their employee£ for their lost time. According to a letter 1 have received, the Dunlop Rubber Company gave their employees a forced holiday without pay. I think the Government, either by moral suasion, or by legislation, should take steps to prevent flag-waggers from putting their men off on Anzac Day without paying them. The occasion is one that can only be fitly commemorated by men who are “not losing their wages through not working on the day. In most cases, the soldiers who took part in the public proceedings were paid; but I am led to believe that many private employers did not pay their men. I should like the Government to take into consideration the desirableness of making it compulsory that employees who are granted a holiday on Anzac Day shall receive payment for it. The War Precautions Act, during the war, was used against me, and many other- supporters of the principles of the Labour party, and if any part of it is in operation next year advantage might be taken of it to compel employers - who in war time waved the flag to some purpose in the shape of larger dividends and increased bank accounts - to pay their men for Anzac Day. It would be better, however, to introduce special legislation on the subject.
I wish now to draw the attention of the Government to .an important matter relating to invalid and old-age pensions. There is in existence at the present time a most remarkable regulation dealing with invalid pensions. The man who rears a largo family does a service to the community, and the cost should be a community charge. If he has, amongst his family, an invalid son or daughter, that iii valid, after reaching the age of sixteen years, may in certain circumstances claim an invalid pension; but I know of many instances where men bear the whole cost of the maintenance of such children. In pre-w.ar days the Department had a method of calculating the cost of keeping a family of four or five, and if the earnings pf the father of an invalid child were in excess of that amount the invalid could not obtain the pension.’
These invalids may be crippled or suffering from tuberculosis, and quite unable to earn a living.
– I have- two cases of the kind.
– I have dozens of them’. Sufferers from tuberculosis make a particularly pathetic appeal to me.
-! - If these invalid children leave home they can get the invalid pension without trouble, but if they remain at home they are denied it.
– Exactly. If the father of an invalid son ordered him out of the house, that son, as soon as he left home, could get the pension. But if it is desired that such an invalid , shall remain in his own home, in order that he may receive the very best attention, the pension is not forthcoming. The maintenance of such cases should be a community charge. Where a man is maintaining an invalid child, there is no reason why that child should not receive the full invalid pension, since the payment of it would help to make his life, perhaps, a little more tolerable than it is. In any event, the payment of an invalid pension is not likely to be of long duration in any one case, and I am, therefore, at a loss to account for the attitude of the Department. I do not blame the officials. I have endeavoured to induce the Treasurer to reframe the regulation, with due regard to the present-day purchasing power of the sovereign, in determining what is necessary to maintain .a family. I think that the whole regulation should be wiped out, and that a re-.assessment of what is necessary should be made. I am surprised that this matter has not been taken up more vigorously by the press, and that the newspapers have not endeavoured to show the Government what is their duty in this direction. I have no desire to attack the Treasurer, but would urge him, in preparing the Estimates for the comingfinancial year, to’ provide for the payment of pensions^ to invalids living in their own homes. If these people were turned out of doors by their parents, and told a friendly policeman that they had no homes, and were crippled or suffering from some disease which made it impossible for them to earn their own living, they would either be granted an invalid pension or would be placed in a home.
That, however, is a very roundabout way of securing help, and there should be no necessity for it. Invalids who are maintained by their parents should have the additional assistance which a pension would afford them.
There is another question to which I desire to refer. Those who fall by the wayside in fighting under our present economic system, and find it necessary on becoming aged to enter a benevolent institution, cannot obtain an old-age pension while they remain there. Inmates who got the pension before entering the asylum are made an allowance of 2s. per week; the rest of the pension goes to the institution itself.
– That is the result of an arrangement made with the State Governments.
– That is not the point. What I wish to emphasize is that, while a section of the inmates of charitable institutions receives 2s. per week, there is another section which gets nothing at all. It is absurd that two men who have given equally of their strength to the community, and who are equally deserving of consideration, should be Sup.jected to this differential treatment. Until the last two or three years I used to visit various benevolent institutions, hut - I do not know whether it is that I am reaching the stage at which most men cannot look after themselves - I find that I cannot continue the practice.
– Why does not the State Government do something for these old people?
– That is not the question. My point is that while some inmates of benevolent institutions are al-, lowed 2s. per week others are not.
– We do better for our old people in Western Australia.
– A Labour Government that was in power in Western Australia did the ‘fair thing by these old people.
– It does not matter to me by whom it is done. I am only urging that the Victorian State Government should take similar action.
– My point is that, under certain circumstances, some men and women are allowed this 2s. per week, while others are refused.. No Government or Treasurer has a. right to take advantage of a technicality to evade, a payment of the kind to the poor pensioners in our public institutions. There are many heart-rending cases of various sorts among the old-age and invalid pensioners; and surely they might be given a paltry sum of this kind with which to buy a few luxuries. The individual members of the Government must have had cases of the kind brought under their notice by their constituents, and certainly the time has arrived when the whole matter should he reconsidered and new regulations drawn up in order that justice may be done. If necessary, I shall move the adjournment of the House in order to more emphatically draw1 the attention of the Treasurer to the position.
.- I support the remarks made by the honorablemember for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) in reference to the pensioner inmates of our public institutions. It is most unjust that these men and womenshould be deprived of this paltry 2s. a~ week. Those who entered the institutions prior- to the passing of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act are denied this payment, with the result that many have left institutions for a few months or so, applied for an old-age pension, and,, on it being granted, have re-entered and claimed the allowance. This is not the first occasion on which I have referred to the matter, but the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has, so far, not seen his way clear to grant any relief. These inmates do not ask for any favour, but simply for justice; and, once again, 1 lodge my protest against the attitude- of the authorities.
.- I. desire to supplement the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) and the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. - Bayley). If there are any in the community deserving of our most favorable consideration they are those to whom reference has been made. I am hopeful that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook:) will see- his way to make provision, particularly for those who are so unfortunate as to- suffer from complaints of a tubercular character. Surely some relief might be given to the oldage and invalid pensioners who are- inmates of our public institutions. I drew attention to this subject last “grievance day,” and at every opportunity I shall raise my voice on behalf of these persons, for they are suffering great hardship because of the unsympathetic attitude of those in authority. In many ways the administration of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act might be improved, but, unfortunately, the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), apparently, does not appreciate the advantage that would accrue to the pensioners if the present disabilities were removed.
I rose more particularly to draw attention to the case of ex-Warrant OfficerF. H. Little, late of the Australian Imperial Force. I mentioned the matter last year, when I stated that this officer had been the victim of a conspiracy.
– I think there ought to be a few Ministers present to hear these remarks.
– Ministers are ex tremely busy receiving deputations, some representative of the Labour party.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
-Iregret that the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) is not present, because the case with which I am dealing specially concerns his Department, by which this ex-warrant officer has been subjected to great injustice. Little was intrusted with certain responsibilities when with the Forces in Alexandria, and was, as I say, the victim of a conspiracy on the part of certain native and Greek contractors for billeting ofmen. Little made repeated complaints of the inferior food supplied by these contractors, and threatened the cancellation of contract. They then charged him with having endeavoured to secure certain consideration from them, alleging that he had complained because of their refusal.
General Boyle, an Imperial officer, reviewed the evidence of an inquiry conducted by Major C. S. Cunningham, but found that there was insufficient evidence on which to come to a decision, and recommended that Little be returned to his unit without prejudice. Yet later, he was sent back to Australia, and discharged without a further investigation, and with a most unsatisfactory discharge.
He is suffering to this day, because of the conspiracy of natives in Alexandria whose evidence was contradictory, and could not be substantiated. As he did not get a clean discharge, he bears the stigma of unfaithfulness to duty while abroad. I understand that Major C. S. Cunningham noted upon a document in connexion with this case that the evidence of the native contractors was most contradictory. Not only has ex-Warrant Officer Little suffered in reputation through not getting a clean discharge, but he has had to submit to a reduction of his war gratuity. In the usual course he would have received £128 9s. 6d., but he has been paid ‘only £47 15s. 6d. Had he not enlisted and gone abroad, and thus become the victim of the conspiracy to which I have alluded, he would now hold a higher position in the Defence Department than that which he fills. It is strange that the Department, if it thinks him guilty of the wrong-doing charged against him, employs him in any capacity, even though it be a lower one than that in which he was employed before he left Australia. I ask that an inquiry be made to give an opportunity for Little to prove his innocence, and the Department to establish a case against him. Thisis a summary of the facts. Little embarked on 20th October, 1914, and arrived in Egypt on 3rd December following. He was recommended for commissioned rank about November, 1915, and returned to Australia on18th July, 1916. He was not sent back for misconduct - as letter 82036 of the Defence Department’s correspondence will show - nor was he sent back at his own request. He was under medical treatment for about three months before he left Egypt, and was ill on. the voyage home, and for two years after he got back to Australia. He received a pension, which was stopped in May, 1918. He was in a military hospital in Melbourne for about five months after his return, and subsequently was treated by a specialist in Sydney. When he thought himself sufficiently strong he applied to be reinstated in his position in the Defence Department, but was refused. His first request on getting back to Australia was to be allowed to re-enlist, but that was refused point blank. He was told that the state of his health would not permit of his being re-enlisted, but he endeavoured to keep this information from the authorities until he had got redress for the reckless way - to put it mildly - in which he had been treated. He has never had an opportunity to remove the suspicion that has been cast upon him by the affair in Alexandria. During his civil and military life he has never been guilty of a crime, nor of any act unbecoming a soldier. He served two periods in. the South African war, and in his discharge his character was described as exemplary. He says that he was wrongfully treated as a member of the A.I.F., and that the manner of his discharge has done him grave injustice. He declares that Major Cunningham’s references to the case exonerate him. Last year I endeavoured to get the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) to give favorable consideration to the case, but after conferring with the departmental heads - who, I understand, have great influence with him, and at times too much - he announced that the case could not be afforded that inquiry desired by Little. Many other men have suffered injustice because of the autocratic methods of the heads of the Defence Department. If Ministers will not act, Parliament should take this matter into its hands, and order investigations, so that those aggrieved by ill-treatment may establish their innocence. If I thought that a motion having as its object the setting up of a tribunal for the purpose would be discussed, I would give, notice of it. But as I know that it would not, I intend to take every opportunity which may present itself for the voicing of grievances to solicit the sympathy of members and the public, until a feeling of indignation sweeps through the land, and a public inquiry is demanded. The request is not unreasonable. A man should be given an opportunity of vindicating his character before his fellow citizens, and obtaining his just dues in regard to the war gratuity and appointments in the Government Departments. A returned soldier should be treated on his merits like any other citizen, and if a charge has been made against him which is operating to his detriment, he should be afforded an opportunity of establishing his innocence.
– How does he show the discrepancy to which the honorable member has referred?
– He was paid the gratuity only up to the time of his return to Australia instead of until the time of the Declaration of Peace. He was returned to Australia without any charge being made against him, and his discharge was endorsed “services no longer required.”
– Such a discharge carries no gratuity.
– It is unfortunate that he should be under this disability because of a conspiracy worked up against him by native contractors, who could not substantiate their charges, and whose evidence was, in the opinion of the officer who held the inquiry, contradictory and unreliable. When he was given his discharge he pointed out to the Defence Department that it might work to his detriment in obtaining employment in future, but he was not given a reasonable opportunity to secure justice. His fears have been confirmed by the fact of his having been deprived of portion of his gratuity, and being under a disability in regard to appointment in the Government Service. I am pleased that there are in this House, and in another place, members who are prepared to support the claim for an inquiry into the treatment of soldiers who allege that they have been wrongfully accused. I am pleasedthat there is in Parliament such a person as Senator Elliott, who has already been very outspoken concerning the grievances amongst returned soldiers, and I hope that as a result of representations by him and other parliamentarians who are in sympathy with those who have been harshly treated by the Defence Department, we shall be able, ultimately, to secure justice for them.
.- I rise to support the remarks made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) regarding the amounts paid to old-age pensioners in institutions. I am fully aware of the facts of these cases, and I know that the officers administering the old-age and invalid pensions are not responsible for the present state of things. The policy they adopt is the outcome of the decision of the State Premiers in Conference. At the time a Liberal Government was in power in New South Wales, and the Liberals have not the same sympathy for the workers as has a Labour Government. They contended that the payment of old-age pensions was, a liability of the Commonwealth, and that if a State maintained a pensioner the pension should be paid to the institution instead of to the individual. It was arranged that out of the total pension 2s. per week only should be paid to the pensioner, and that the balance should go to the State institution. I, like many others, thought that a very mean action. But the Commonwealth Government acquiesced in the proposal of the State Premiers. Hardship is experienced also by unfortunate persons who are suffering from tuberculosis or miners’ diseases. I know of men of between fifty and sixty years of age who, because of having worked in sewerage tunnels, were so helpless that they were compelled to enter institutions. The disease which they contracted required a lot of attention, and it was not safe for them to live with their families in the small houses which they are compelled to occupy on account of the high rents. Once a person has entered an institution he is debarred from getting an old-age pension. Many of these inmates of the institutions have no homes, and I have advised them to leave the institution during the warm weather and sleep in the Domain. They could then go to the Pensions Office and fill in an application, stating their residence as “ The palace called the Domain.” In this way they may qualify for their pension. When cases of this kind come under my notice, I go to the Pension Office, fill in the forms, and do not leave until the registrar has assured me that everything is in order. Unfortunately, when the pensioner returns to the institution, the State, in its avarice, takes all the pension except 2s. per week. That allowance of 2s. was fixed when the pension was 12s 6d., and it is still the same although the pension has been increased to 15s. The State Governments have not shown a liberal spirit. Many of the old pensioners have said to me, . “ They might have given us half-a-crown, Jack.” I agree with them, and sometimes I give them a little help from my own pocket. However, I exonerate the officers in the Pensions Department from all responsibility for this parsimonious policy. I have given some attention to the case of a pensioner who Las now reached the age of seventy-six years. Being a Scotsman, he in his younger days saved sufficient money to buy for himself an annuity of £30. When he applied for his old-age pension the Department deducted the amount of the annuity, leaving the old fellow a pension of only £4 per annum. The wealthy people in our midst are for ever preaching thrift to the workers, and the reward of this old man for his foresight and thrift was a reduction of his pension to £4. That was not the worst; the Department further capitalized the annuity and claimed the right to deduct a further £9, so that he now does not receive a threepenny bit from the pension scheme. That instance ought to make Ministers think when they draw their own salaries. When I get my cheque at the end of each month, I wonder how the old fellows who get nothing are faring. I feel a good deal of sympathy for all these cases, because I have always made it a practice through life to imagine myself in the position of others less fortunate than I. I know of a German, eighty-five years of age, who until a few years ago worked honestly for his living. He was brought to Australia by the Queensland Government about fifty years ago as an instructor in the making of bread in the northern part of the State, where the heat has a detrimental effect upon the yeast. For many years he worked for the Government,but, unfortunately, he contracted rheumatism, and in ten years spent every penny he had put by for a rainy day in trying to relieve his pain and agony. The fine spirit of the man is shown by the fact that he was a trade unionist all his life; and if it were not for the brotherly love that exists between unionists he would not have been able to live when illness overtook him.
To-day I asked a question of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) regarding silver coinage, and received a very unsatisfactory answer. As the Treasurer is not in the chamber now I shall take another opportunity of speaking upon this subject.
.- I regret that only the Minister for the Navy is present in the Chamber. The present opportunity is practically the sole chance of private members to make known to Ministers grievances arising in their constituencies, and it is a shame that they should not be present on grievance day. They have three clear days in each week, as well as two additional mornings, in which to deal with departmental affairs; and I maintain that their place is in this House to-day.
I desire first to make some remarks regarding old-age and invalid pensions, concerning which I concur with the views of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). It is all very well for the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) to say that the State authorities should deal with invalids who cannot secure their pensions because their parents are earning incomes which, under the Act, preclude the granting of the pension.
– Your State ought to look after these people.
– That does not ease the situation of ‘the unsatisfied pensioner. We have in the Victorian Government an individual - I refer to the Treasurer, Mr. McPherson - who has done, his best to wipe out the compassionate allowance. There are cases in my constituency wherein parents have had to practically order an invalid son from their home in order to put him in a position, to receive the invalid pension. I have specifically complained to the Department, and have been told that a calculation has been made that it costs only £26 a year to maintain the father of a family. That is absurd. No parent could hope to live nowadays upon such a sum. However, upon that basis the Department holds that a father, if he’ is earning a certain wage, is in a position to support his invalid child. I know of a man who is between thirty and forty years Old. and who, because his widowed mother has a small income, is not entitled to the invalid pension. As a consequence, he has had to go away from her home and live in a hut in a condition of semistarvation. Only by such means has he been able to qualify to receive the invalid pension. With respect to inmates of benevolent institutions, if those who applied f 09 a pension prior to their admittance can receive 2s. a week from the Treasurer, the least we should do is to give 2s. also to those who made application after their admittance.
Much has been said in this Chamber in support of an increase in the general rate of pension. Honorable members on both sides have spoken strongly, and appeals have been made for an addition of at least 5s. per week; so far, however, their .pleadings have been in vain. It is almost impossible for old folk to maintain themselves nowadays on 15s. a week. -I know of hundreds of cases in the city of Melbourne where old-age pensioners are required to pay as much as 8s. weekly out of their pension for their rooms. With the balance they cannot hope to purchase even one square, meal a day. We owe so much to our pioneers, and we are always talking about our debt to them; yet we continue to allow; them to go on to the end of their days in what is not less than abject misery. If honorable members cannot appeal successfully to the Treasurer for an increase of the pension rates by 5s. all round, I ask that he will grant a bonus of 5s. weekly to those pensioners who have no homes of their own and have to pay rent, and whose circumstances are absolutely necessitous. These people would represent, I estimate from careful inquiry, about 20 per cent, of the total number of recipients of the pension. Upon that basis the payment of a bonus of 5s., as I have just indicated, would involve about £180,000 a year. If the Treasurer would only grant that increase for the coming winter months it would mean the difference between poverty and comparative comfort to very many old people.
I jim sorry that neither the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) nor the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) is present. Had the former been in the chamber I would have supported the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) even more strongly than I intend to do in his demand for the holding of an inquiry into the circumstances of those returned soldiers and officers who consider that they have just grievances, and who desire a reconsideration of the sentences imposed on them while on active service. I am aware that a gentleman in another place - a gallant brigadier-general - has been making a similar appeal. However, I do not attach much importance to any appeal that Senator Elliott may make. I remember how utterly inconsistent br* has been during the past twelve, mon tha.
I recall that when a certain reverend gentleman wrote a play, which was presented in Bendigo, in which he referred to British troops having run away at Amiens, the loyal people of that city convened a public meeting of protest. Senator Elliott was invited to speak in support of the fact that the British soldiers did not run away. The honorable senator made a very strong speech and bitterly denounced the reverend gentleman for daring to suggest that British troops had run away at Amiens. If honorable members care to examine the Hansard, reports of about two weeks ago they will find that in another place Senator Elliott quoted from a report which he had submitted to his commanding officer, in which he bitterly complained of the conduct of British soldiers who had run away from the enemy. In the circumstances I do not put too much faith in anything that Senator Elliott may say in support of the grievances of returned men. But there are many grievances, and none has a stronger case than the individual referred to by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Here was a warrant officer who refused to take bribes from native contractors in Egypt.’ For so refusing he was tried, but he was found not guilty, and was ordered back to his unit, without any prejudice attaching to him. Immediately thereafter, however, he was ordered back to Australia, and his papers were marked, “ Services no longer required.” Do they want only thieves in the Army? This warrant officer was honestly performing his duty; but for doing so he was stigmatized as unworthy to continue to be -a non-commissioned officer in the Australian Imperial Force. He was sent home in disgrace, and was not permitted even to re-enlist. Every citizen, moreover, looked upon him with suspicion; and, undoubtedly, he felt his position keenly.
– How would other citizens know that anything unworthy had happened while he was away?
– I know that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie did pretty good work as complaints officer when meeting returning transports in “Western Australia. It was my pleasure to meet him in that capacity when I was returning home, and he did good work in investigating the complaints of those on board. But nobody knows better than does the honorable member that every officer who returned - on my transport or on any other - and whose papers were marked, “Services no longer required,” was in the unenviable position of being only too well aware that everybody on the ship was cognisant of the fact. - Mr. Foley. - It was not right that any one should have known.
– I say that it was only right. One of the matters I have complained about is that if a private did anything wrong he was thrown into the “ clink “; he was severely punished. But no officer was thrown into the “clink,” no matter what might have been the nature of his crime. All that happened in his case was that his papers were marked, “ Services no longer required.” He was permitted to come back home, in full uniform, and to participate in all the privileges available to an officer on board ship. Nevertheless, all on the transport knew that he had been sent back either because he was guilty of some wrong-doing or because he was incompetent. And I repeat that it was only right that that should be known. In connexion with the case of ex- Warrant-Officer Little, the honorable member for Hindmarsh has clearly explained that at his trial he was acquitted. No evidence was adduced to show that he had done any wrong, and he was returned without prejudice to his unit. Yet he was .sent back home under a stigma, and was not permitted to reenlist,* at a time when the cry was going up all over the land that men could not be obtained to go to the Front, and when we . were asked to confiscate by conscription the lives of our remaining young manhood. I do not hesitate to say, referring to the case of Little, that some of the native contractors in Egypt were in league with certain officers in the Australian Imperial Force. It was because Little offended these people that he was sent back in disgrace, ruined in the eyes of his fellow-Australians. After his return he demanded an inquiry, but all the satisfaction that could be secured from the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) was that no such inquiry could be granted because similar requests for investigations would be altogether too numerous. Were there, then, so many of our officers sent back with their papers marked, “ Services no longer required “ ? Were these not among the men, and the type of men, who were praised as the bravest in the world?
– In Western Australia, no one could examine a man’s history sheet unless he secured permission to do so through myself; and, during the whole of the war, there were not half-a-dozen history sheets in regard to which requests were made for perusal.
– The fact remains that not an individual in the Australian Imperial Force was sent home with the stigma, “ Services no longer required,” but that his follow-citizens, and, at any rate, his intimate friends, knew of it. And, even if no one knew of the circumstances, the man himself would be all too unhappily aware of his disgrace. If he had been unfairly treated, surely he should have the right to secure vindication, if only in his own conscience, and in respect solely to his own good opinion of himself. I strongly join with other honorable members in demanding full inquiry into all these cases. I could fill a sack with cases of favoritism, due not to political influence, but to social influence. On one occasion a general came to a battalion and found a private there who was looked upon as fit only to take care of the sanitary depot. Within four days that private was made a lieutenant. Another man who was in the “ clink “ as a private was immediately released, and within a few days made a lieutenant. Senator Elliott has talked about General White. It is well known that when General White commanded the 1st Division he would not give a commission to a private unless he could prove that he had attended one of the public schools of Australia. It is also well known that all that those who attended the officers’ training school had to do was to learn how to manicure their nails or clean their teeth. We do not want a repetition of that kind of thing in another war. We must be free from the Imperial crowd who were running the last war. I hope that if ever Australian troops engage inanother conflict they will be commanded by Australian officers, and will be absolutely free of the British Army Act.
– In every instance it was not the application of the Army Act that was the cause of the trouble.
– The cause of the trouble was that we leaned too much on, and had too much to do with, English officers. , We did not depend enough on Australians. When the Defence Bill comes before this House I will have a good deal more to say on this matter in order to demonstrate why a full commission should be appointed to inquire into the absolute injustices from which many of our good men, and also officers, suffered.
When the Government were anxious to have conscription adopted, they spread broadcast among the soldiers in France and England pamphlets in which they stated their intention to spend from £50,000,000 to £80,000,000 on them upon their return to Australia. Yet to-day they have practically ceased to build homes for these men. Land has been acquired in Ballarat for months past, and every week inspired paragraphs appear in the press to the effect that it is the intention of the War Service Homes Department to call for tenders forthe building of homes there, to let contracts, and to commence building operations, but so far not one home has been built in Ballarat. The same remarks apply to every inland city in Victoria. I have not heard of one soldier’s home being built at Geelong or Bendigo; I know that not one has been built in Ballarat, and I want to know if the Government have come to the determination to build no further homes. There are soldiers in Ballarat who relied on the promises of the Ministry, and believed that they would carry them out. They thought that they would be able to acquire homes on cheap terms, but although monthafter month these paragraphs appear in the press announcing that it is the intention of the Department to build homes for them, so far nothing has been done. I hope that the Honorary Minister will be able to explain why soldiers’ homes are not being built in the inland cities of Victoria.
The Government have apparently cut off the living allowance paid to widows who have lost their sons at the war. A month or two ago I sent a letter to the Repatriation Department in reference to the case of a widow who had lost her son. at the war and who was getting a pension of £1 a week plus a living allowance of 30s. a week, but was informed by the Department that her living allowance would no longer be paid. In the letter making this announcement the Commissioner, who is paid £1,500 a year, pointed out to the widow that her daughter, who was earning 30s. a week, ought to contribute towards the support of the family. Had the boy lived, or had he not gone to the war, the mother would not have had to apply to any one for assistance. What was the promise made before these boys enlisted ? They were told that their dependants would never want, yet this mother is told by the Repatriation Department that a sickly daughter, who has intermittent work, should pay out of an occasional 30s. a week, which is hardly sufficient to keep herself, portion of the cost of maintaining her mother and a younger sister. And when one writes to the Minister to complain, he does not even get a civil answer. I am sick and tired of writing letters to the Repatriation Department complaining about the treatment of many of those unfortunates who gave their all in what they believed was the best interests of their country. I hope that the Government will take action to see that insolent letters are not sent to widowed mothers of our deceased soldiers in the terms of the communication to which I have just drawn attention.
– I have had a similar case brought under my notice. A regulation was issued last year bearing on that matter, and cutting out the allowance.
Mr.McGRATH.- But there is no regulation cutting out the allowance paid to the Commissioner, who draws £1,500 a year, and administers the regulations in such a harsh way.
Another matter for complaint is the employment of lady doctors to examine returned soldiers. One lady doctor, who recently examined a returned soldier in the Ballarat district, told him that he either ought not to have a pension, or that it ought to be reduced. In any case, she informed him that the Government had determined not to continue for very long the payment of pensions such as that which he was drawing. I want to know if the Government have issued instructions to these people that pensions are to be reduced all round. It looks very much as if this has been done when we find pensions being reduced and allowances cut off, promises broken, and doctors telling returned soldiers that the Government do not intend to pay pensions for ever.
– The Government have appointed special doctors for the purpose of examining returned soldiers.
– Yes. In the Ballarat constituency there were two or three medical men who had been to the war and knew what the soldiers had suffered, but evidently they were too sympathetic for this Government, because they were ignominiously dismissed, and other doctors were chosen for the purpose of examining returned soldiers every six or twelve months. I protest strongly against this, and I hope that upon the Estimates, or upon the consideration of the Defence Bill, or perhaps upon some Ministerial statement, I will have the opportunity of submitting a concrete motion dealing with the matters to which I have now drawn attention.
.- In the Indi constituency I have met a number of persons who have not been treated fairly in regard to the matter of invalid pensions. I do not hold the Minister to blame. The trouble lies in the Act.
– And in the regulations framed under the Act.
– That is so.I know an invalid who is living at a farmhouse practically as company for the people there. He does a little work, but next to nothing, and for this he receives a few shillings a week and his food. He made an application for an invalid pension,but owing to the fact that he was receiving these few shillings a week and his food the Department estimated that he was in receipt of a contribution of something like £1 a week, which under the regulations would prevent him from drawing a pension. If the Act, or the regulations, prevent the payment of a pension in a case like this, I think the Act should be amended or the regulations altered. A pension would be a god -send to some invalids who receive a few shillings a week for the services they can render. Under the Act, or the regulations, as at present drawn up, they are debarred from participating in a benevolence which they are perfectly justified in receiving if they wish to draw the invalid pension.
I think that, on the whole, the returned soldiers in my constituency have been fairly treated. Of course, there are odd cases to the contrary, in which the fault can be attributed to the Local Repatriation Committee; but in many instances the trouble can be traced to some other cause apart from the Local Committees or the Minister for Repatriation. However, I have a complaint to lodge in regard to the Post Office, which should receive the support of honorable members. Quite a number of returned, soldiers are temporarily engaged in various post-offices,, but it, is only a matter of time when their services will be dispensed with to make room for permanent officers. In one town in my electorate, a young man who gave his best during the war, in which his only brother was killed, has been employed in the local post-office. He has married in the town and he has no desire to leave it. He has recommendations, so far as qualifications and character are concerned, second to none, and the residents of the town have petitioned the Postmaster-General not to remove him from the district. Yet, although he has given the very best of satisfaction in the work upon which he has been engaged, he has received notice that his employment must terminate. At least, he has been offered a temporary appointment in Melbourne for a few months, but at the end of that period he will have to go. In cases where a soldier has given good service to his country, and entire satisfaction to the postal authorities, employment should be found for him in some other Department if it cannot be provided in the Post Office.
– The Public Service Act prevents that being done. That is the trouble.
– If an amendment of the Public Service Act is necessary to meet such a case, I think the House would pass the Bill in about ten minutes. There was a time when we did not know which way the war was going, when we said that we would give anything for men to enlist ; and while I have the honour of occupying a seat in this House, my whole-hearted sympathy will be for the soldier. That should be the attitude of every honorable member. We know what these boys have done for us. Nothing is too good ^ for them now they have returned. We should give them the best we have.
– And do not forget the mean pension given to the children of the men who gave their lives at the Front -
– Yes. Probably the whole scheme . of pensions should be revised. Possibly some men are receiving pensions who are not entitled to them, and where if that is clearly shown to be the case they should be discontinued. I have just been interviewed by a young friend, whose paltry pension was cut off a little time ago. With the object of having the departmental decision reviewed I used what little influence I possessed with the Minister, knowing that the young man was thoroughly honorable, trustworthy, and deserving of a pension, and after a lapse -of two or three months the Department has just announced that it has decided to review his case. No pension should be discontinued until the fullest inquiry has shown the wisdom of such a course. The administration is only exposed to criticismand suspicion when pensions are cut off and later on renewed. “With regard to the question of War Service Homes, I have heard complaint made by some honorable members that no soldiers’ homes have been erected in their constituency. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), for instance, has said that no War Service Homes have been built in his electorate. There may be a good reason for that. The honorable member’s electorate is somewhat congested, and I do not think it would be wise to build soldiers’ homes there. There are many rural- . towns, however, in which they might well be built. The valuations made on behalf of the Department in many country towns are of an imperfect character. I claim to know as well as any man the value of land and town buildings in the north:east of this State, and I know of a house in my electorate which was offered to the Department as a home for a soldier at a very reasonable rate, but the application in respect of it was turned down.” The officer who was sent up to make the valuation did not even look over the building. There was no one at home when he called, and without making any inspection of the interior he left and turned down the application. Reliable and trustworthy men in the town support my view that the price at which the building was offered was very reasonable. I endeavoured to have the matter reopened, but after a lapse of two months the applicant was informed that the original decision of the Department would be adhered to. While there are occasionally cases of this kind, I do not wish it to be understood that I am condemning the work of the Repatriation Commission as a whole. I should be sorry to do anything of the kind, because I believe that the Department has done wonderful work. There are, however, a few matters which need to be “ screwed up.” As the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has said, there may be in the Department some official who slightly oversteps the mark. If such an official were dismissed and a capable returned soldier employed in his stead, as might appropriately be done, many causes of complaint would be removed and much greater satisfaction obtained. These are matters to which the Minister should attend since he is too often, blamed for the mistakes of officials.
.- I wish to offer a few observations in regard to the position of the great army of defenceless men and women usually referred to as invalid and old-age pensioners. Some considerable time ago the pension rate was increased to 15s. per week in the belief that that would be sufficient to supply pensioners- with the ordinary comforts of life. Since then, however, conditions have so materially changed and the .cost of living has so increased that much hardship is suffered by this deserving section of the community. I asked the. Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) some time ago whether he would consider the desirableness of increasing the invalid and old-age pensions to £1 per week. His reply was that it was impossible to grant an increase, inasmuch as the Government were face to , face with grave financial difficulties. Every one recognises that the Government are confronted with” huge financial obligations, but it is not justified for that reason in shirking its responsibilities so far as invalid and oldage pensions are concerned. One of its first duties is to see that the old men and women who practically pioneered our country are cared for in their days of adversity. I have repeatedly come into contact with quite a number of old-age pensioners, and recently ascertained from two or three of them what they were able to purchase with their pension of 15s. per week. One old man gave me a statement showing that for rent he pays 5s. per week, and that his other items of weekly expenditure are - as follows : - Four loaves of bread, 2s. ; 3 lbs of meat 2s. ; 2 lbs. of sugar, at 6d. per lb., and a quarter lb. of tea at 2s., ls. (3d. ; vegetables, ls.; clothing, 2s.; and tobacco, ls. 6d. In that way he spends his weekly pension of 15s. No one will say that in respect of any one of these items he is guilty of extravagance. If an honorable member were asked to live on such rations he would strongly object. Those who know the prices ruling for vegetables will not say that ls. per week is too much for an old man or an old woman to spend on such . a necessary article of diet. Then, again, 2s. per week is a very scanty allowance for clothing, and 2s. a week for meat is still scantier. These people, however, have to exist on such rations, while the Government express the view that the pension is ample to enable them to secure ordinary conditions of comfort. Much has been said of what is likely to be done for our invalid and old-age pensioners, and during the last twelve months their claims have, been strongly agitated. The Government should at once consider the advisability of freeing our old-age pensioners from rent payments. If they can build homes for soldiers - and I am very pleased that the Government have entered upon a gigantic scheme for housing our returned men - they should be able to concentrate a little attention on the welfare of these old people who have blazed the track for us, and provide them with free homes. They should also enable them to secure a greater degree of comfort. A pensioner is allowed nothing for medicine or medical attendance. In the event of illness he has to depend for relief upon the charity of others.
During the last two or three years large sums of money have been spent, and recklessly’ spent, I venture to say, by the Government, but no consideration has been given these old people. Military officials have been granted increases,, and quite recently we ourselves accepted a very fair increase in our allowance, although.’ we knew at the time that there were tens of thousands of old men and women in this country badly in need of an increase in their pensions. A fair amount of money has also been spent in sending abroad parliamentary representatives attended by quite an army of officials. Millions of pounds have likewise been spent on naval and military defence; but no further consideration has been given to these old people, who so richly deserve better treatment. The time is not far distant when we shall have a vote on this question, and the Government may rest assured that the old men and women of Australia will then, for once in their lives, score a victory. If we are permitted to take a vote, then, however much opposed the Ministry may be to an increase in the invalid and oldage pension rates, a majority of honorable members will be found voting for an increase.
– Is the honorable member quite fair iri suggesting that the Treasurer is opposed to an increase ?
– T lie Treasurer informed me quite recently that the Government could not increase invalid and old-age pension rates, because they were face to face with financial difficulties. The suggested increase, it was said, would involve an additional expenditure of some hundreds of thousands of pounds. Consideration of cost did not influence the Government when they were improving our military and naval conditions, and appointing military officials to high positions, nor were they prevented by such a consideration from sending round the country an army of officials, and particularly of military officers. Such a consideration has weighed with them only when the claims of invalid and old-age pensioners have been brought forward. War pensions have been increased during the last year or two, and the people to whom I refer are equally entitled to an increase. I do not object to the increase in soldiers’ pensions. I have, indeed, repeatedly voted for such an increase, knowing the work that our soldiers did for us. But we must not lose sight of the fact that thousands of old men now drawing the old-age pension were just as anxious as any young man to enlist, and would willingly have gone to the Front had their age permitted them to do so. Merely because they were unable to go they were not placed on the same footing as are soldiers in the matter of pensions. There is really no difference between the old-‘ age pensioner and the soldier, so far as this matter is concerned, and there should be no difference in the pensions paid to them. Then, again, where a man who applies for a pension is living apart from his wife, or where a woman is living apart from her husband because, for some reason or another, they are unable to agree, the application is refused. An old man is told that because he is living apart from his wife he is not entitled to a pension. The Treasurer said, to-day that the Commissioner was allowed to use his own discretion, but I have ample proof of what I say. I may mention a case in which a man, because his wife left him,. was denied a pension.
– Why did she leave him?
– -I never inquire into these delicate questions; it is an old saying that .the older a man and his wife grow the more they love one another ; but, at the same time, there are cases in which love turns to hatred, and they have to separate. The case to which I refer is stated in the following: - relative to the case of Mr. Wm. R. Dunstan, of Dunmore-street, Penrith, I have to say that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act provides that in the case of husband and wife, except where they are living apart pursuant to any decree, judgment, order, or deed of separation, the income and property of each shall be deemed to be possessed by both in equal shares.
In the case under notice, the claimant is living apart from his wife. In the absence of any legal separation, ‘however, the latter’s circumstances must be taken into account in determining his pension claim.
If, however, a deed of separation is executed between claimant and wife and forwarded to this office, the circumstances of the case will be immediately reviewed. A declaration in the matter would not be sufficient to comply with the law.
Unless there is a legal document there is no hope of a pension. In this case the wife has been living apart from her husband for twenty years, and she may be dead; at any rate, he does not know where she is, and it is impossible for him to get an order from a Court.
I have repeatedly asked the Treasurer to favorably consider the granting of temporary pensions to partially incapacitated men and women, but the idea has been rejected. I know scores of cases in which people have been temporarily incapacitated for, perhaps, three years, and yet they are entitled to no relief under the Act. If the Medical Referee agreed to give a certificate of total incapacity, a pension could be granted, but not otherwise. My suggestion is that in such cases a temporary pension should be granted for the currency of the incapacity, the pension to cease on the person’s recovery. If such a person should be unfortunate enough to become again incapacitated temporarily, the pension, I submit, should be renewed until he recovers. At present a person may be quite incapacitated for years, and yet be quite shut cut from the benefits of the Act. Such cases are not isolated, for they come under my notice practically every day. Another case I have in my mind is one in which a man applied for an invalid pension for his daughter. In a communication he says -
I am writing you to see if you can help me in regard to an application made by my daughter, – for an invalid pension, which has been rejected by the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, Sydney (date of rejection of claim, 27th April, 1921). The reason given for said rejection is on the ground that she is not permanently incapacitated for work. My daughter is suffering from dislocated hip and also curvature of the spine, for which she has to wear body supports. Her right leg is 3 inches shorter than her left. Further, she was an inmate of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Sydney, for two years, and for many months of that time was placed in plaster casts, and was finally discharged as incurable by doctors such as the following: - Dr. Clubbe, Dr. Wade, and the late Dr. Kelty. Since that time (1911) she has been under many other doctors, the latest who saw her being Dr. P. L. O’Halloran, during this year, who says she cannot work while wearing the supports for curvature of spine without great discomfort to her and also danger to her health.
The Deputy Commissioner of Pensions holds that this girl is not totally incapacitated, in spite of the fact that, after two years in the Sydney Hospital, she was discharged as incurable, and that three eminent doctors have indorsed that view. I have known several cases in which a number of doctors have issued certificates of total incapacity, but the Government Medical Referee has point-blank refused to give a certificate to that effect. He holds that the patients may be cured in any period up to ten or fifteen years, and his conscience would not allow him to declare them totally incapacitated. I make my suggestion, so that people who become ill and unable to work for any period, it may be up to fifteen years, may be able to live. Ever since I entered this Chamber I have fought consistently for the claims of invalid and old-age pensioners; and I hope, in the near future, that instead of 15s. a week, they will receive at least £1 per week. All other sections of the community, from the lowest to the highest paid, have had their incomes increased; and there seems no valid reason why these poor people should not also have their position improved. Their living conditions are practically intolerable. The landlord has no more consideration for an old-age or invalid pensioner than he has for anybody else, nor has the grocer, the butcher, or the baker; and if a pensioner cannot pay he must go out in the cold, and do without food. We all know that no man or woman can have reasonable comfort on 15s. per week, and I trust that the Treasurer will reconsider his attitude, and grant a pension sufficient to meet the circumstances of the times.
– The last speaker (Mr. Nicholls) has asked for favorable consideration for invalid and old-age pensioners, and I am sure that in this House his appeal has fallen on sympathetic ears. Few of us would like to be charged with not endeavouring to do our utmost to aid those who, through adverse circumstances, are compelled to accept these pensions.
I should like to say a word or two in regard to the necessary proof of incapacity. When I was first elected to this Parliament, some of my work had direct association with applications for invalid pensions -a thorny subject, in regard to which it is extremely difficult to lay down hard-and-fast rules. However, I join withthe honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) in requesting the Treasurer, if it be practicable, to arrange so that the medical referee may be empowered to recognise temporary incapacity over a term of years during which an invalid maybe unable to earn any money.
– Why not suggest that such certificate should apply to incapacity for six months and over ?
– The question of the period is arguable from many points of view. If the applicant is a wageearner, and unable to earn, it should be practicable for us, as a Parliament, to devise ways and means of dealing with such a case.
– Would it not be wise to suggest that, in the event of incapacity lasting for a longer period than twelve months, and of a pension then being granted, the pension should be retrospective from the commencement of the incapacity ?
– I am now merely supporting the principle suggested by the honorable member himself. He was, I think, . the first to advocate the recognition of incapacity over a period, and I give the honorable member credit for bringing the matter before the House.
During the debate this afternoon reference has been made to pensioners in State institutions. Honorable members who have been here for a number of years know how this question has been ventilated from time to time, and how, when amending Bills have been before us, attempts have been made to give these pensioners the full benefit of the Act. There are in my electorate a number of old men and women who are living in State institutions, and who draw only a portion of the pension.
– They draw 2s. , I believe.
– That isall they get in actual cash. When the honorable member for Grey . (Mr. Poynton) was Treasurer, we endeavoured to induce him to “ split the difference” with the States.
– The States would not agree to that.
– I think there is some truth in that; I know that in my own State there was some question whether the State Government was willing to meet the Commonwealth in this regard. I remind honorable members and the Government that the proposed increased payment to old-age pensioners in State institutions does not involve a very heavy expenditure. I suppose that throughout the whole of Australia there are not more than 4,000 or 5,000 who would come within the scope of the reform, and, at most, theliability would pot be more than1s. or 2s. per head.
– It would be a decreasing amount.
– That is so, and I think that the request now made is reasonable. It may not bepossible during this session to pass an amending Bill, but I suggest that, in the meantime, the Government raise the issue with the StateGovernments in order that we may bein a position to definitely deal with the matter later on. We cannot do anything without the co-operation of the States, and I, therefore, suggest that preliminary arrangements be made with a view to finalizing at the earliest possible moment what is, after all, only a small matter.
There is one point I have not heard referred to this afternoon. Under the War Gratuity Act, as administered by the Central Gratuity Board and the various State Boards, it is becoming extremely difficult to prove dependency. , Numerous cases have been brought under my notice where personswho are recognised as dependants by the Repatriation Department and by the Defence Department, are not so recognised by the Gratuity Boards which operate under the Treasurer. There is room for improvement in the administration of the War Gratuities Act in this respect. I have had much to do with the Central Board, and its officers have always given fair consideration to my recommendations ; but in innumerable cases of this kind I have been unable to secure finality. A case that comes tomy mind now was brought under my notice by a man whom I knew well in France, and before the war, who lives just outside my electorate. He wrote to me from Wokalup about a gratuity application on behalf of his sister. It appears that he and his brother went to the war and the brother was killed.They had been maintaining an orphan sister, a girl who is now sixteen or seventeen years of age. Neither could declare her to be wholly and solely dependent on him, yet she was dependent on both. No gratuity has been issued in respect of the brother who lost his life, and nothing has been done for the sister.
-Is that not the fault of the Act?
– It may be, but I cannot get a definite statement from the officials which would show it to be so. Parliament is, of course, responsible for the legislation that it passes.
– Speaking from memory, I do not think that a sister may claim as a dependant.
– I think that a, sister can obtain a gratuity if dependence is clearly proved. In thiscase, the objection of the officials seems to be that the sister was not , wholly dependent on the brother who was killed.
– But some discretion is left to those who administer the Act.
– The point. I wish to make is that dependency which is recognised by the Repatriation and Defence Departments is not recognised by the War Gratuity Boards, Central or State; and as all these Departments are under the Commonwealth Government, the administration should be uniform in this respect.
– I think there must be something wrong, because the nearest relative, without proving dependency, can obtain the gratuity of a soldier who has been killed. I know of many cases in which that has happened.
– I wish that in deserving cases that were so. I have had other cases in addition to that which. I have just mentioned.
I wish now to say a word or two about the munition workers. Quite a number of us who know the work done by the munition workers have spoken strongly here on their behalf ; and about twelve months ago it was promised that a Conference should be called which would represent all the political sections here, and that by it a tribunal would be created before which the munition workers could place their grievances. Because of sickness, the absence of Ministers, and other reasons, there has been unavoidable delay in assembling the Conference, but the munition workers have been more than patient, and should receive a definite and tangible reward. I ask only for an impartial tribunal to settle their grievances, and their associations have agreed to this. They have declared that they will accept the verdict of an independent tribunal, whether in their favour or against them. In fairness to them, we should take immediate action to have the primary Conference called in order that such a tribunal may bo established. There is no statutory authority for the payment of pensions to munition workers, and it is to the credit of the Government that they have granted to thorn compassionate allowances. Many munition workers, however, are unaware of what is being done, and if the tribunal to which I refer were set up, they would have an opportunity of stating and getting a settlement of their claims for consideration. I urge the Government to deal with this matter as soon as possible.
– It seems to me that every member of the House is in favour’ of increasing the old-age and invalid pensions; and I believe that if there were an informal meeting of members of all parties, we could decide on a plan of action here which would quickly improve the position of our pensioners. I do not know if what I suggest would be contrary to the Standing Orders. Surely when members are all of one mind effect should be given to their wishes. I suggest that something should be done to meet the rightful claims of some of the finest men and women in Australia, who laid the foundation of this country’s success. Other members of the community are receiving increases to make up for the high cost of living, yet these most deserving persona are being neglected by us. The time for talk has passed, and action is long overdue. Speaking for myself - and I am sure that in this matter I could speak for my party too - I am willing to co-operate heartily in any endeavour to increase the pensions of the aged and infirm.
There are some very hard cases - mention has been made of several this afternoon -in which persons who should be helped cannot obtain invalid pensions. That prevention is better than cure is an old and true saying, and I am glad that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) have said that something should be done for invalids who. are only temporarily incapacitated and whom proper treatment and rest would wholly or partly restore to health. Some pitiable cases have come before me recently in which, the bread-winners having been taken away, their widows have had to struggle to earn a pittance for their families. In a typical case which I put before the authorities as strongly as I could, a lady is steadily declining in health, but cannot get help from the Government which would allow her to take the necessary rest. Unfortunately, the medical man certifies that she is not permanently incapacitated. Persons such as she, who with timely assistance might be restored to their normal health, will eventually, if not helped-, become a permanent burden upon us, and whatever the state of the finances, it is poor economy to deprive them of assistance. As for the aged, and infirm, is this National Parliament going to be so contemptibly mean as to refuse the needed help ?
I have on previous occasions spoken of the way in which medical men are, by their reports, helping to cut down war pensions. I quote the case of a man in my constituency with a wife and six chilrren. He was medically examined upon his return from the war, and for a consider- . able time received a pension. From time to time he has been in the militaryhospital, and attended to by the doctors. Some time ago the military doctor declared that this man was not permanently incapacitated, and his pension ceased. Although he is weak in body the man has tried to earn his living, and has fallen down at his work through weakness. In some occupations he has been a danger to his fellow employees on that account. After such a collapse he returns homo, and has a consultation with his wife. They have the six bairns to support, and because they require attention the wife cannot go to work, whilst the -man is unable to continue at his employment. Yet the Defence authorities say that that man is not permanently incapacitated. If the Government run away in that fashion from their responsibilities they are quickly forgetting their promises to the men who fought at the Front. I am sure that every honorable member could quote instances of dire distress in the community because of re: turned ‘soldiers, who are physically incapable of carrying on their ordinary avocations, and have families dependent upon them, being unable to receive any assistance from the Government. Even although the medical testimony be that a man is not permanently incapacitated, surely if he is unable to work at his usual calling he should be helped, having regard to the assistance he rendered to the country in its time of storm and stress.
I desire to call, attention to the improper discrimination amongst Government servants in the administration of the basic wage. I have been requested to ‘ question the Leader of - the Government as to why the child endowment is given to certain Commonwealth employees and denied to others. The reply I have received is that permanent employees who have children under a certain age dependent upon them receive an extra 5s. per week for each child, but a workman employed in the Cordite Factory, the “Woollen Mills, the Clothing Factory, or the Saddlery Factory- all Commonwealth industrial undertakings - is not entitled to receive the endowment. That policy of discrimination is distinctly unfair. The mere fact that a man -is a temporary employee is not sufficient reason for .denying him the endowment part of the basic wage. On the contrary it is all the more reason why he should receive, that consideration. The discrimination is not relished by those who suffer by it, or even by those in the same establishments who are receiving endowments. Some of the clerks in these factories, because they belong to the permanent section of the Service, are entitled to the child endowment, but other men working in the’ same .building are denied it. .That is unjust. No doubt it is a money saving’ device, hut it is so mean that the Government might well be charged with trying to dodge their responsibilities. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), when announcing to the House_the intentions of the Government in “regard to the basic wage, said that whilst they were not prepared to grant the wage of £5 16s. per week recommended by the Commission, they intended, to fix a basic wage, for Commonwealth employees, and so set an example for private employers. Yet many thousands of Commonwealth Government employees are not enjoying the endowment. What has become of the Government boast that they would set an example to private employers.? Even Mr. Piddington, although he stated in a supplementary report that the Commonwealth could not afford to pay a basic wage of £5 16s. per week all. round, was a_ party to the unanimous recommendation of the Commission, after taking exhaustive evidence, that on account of the high cost of rent., clothing, groceries, and other necessaries £5 16s. per week was the minimum wage upon which a man with a wife and three children could eke out an ordinary .existence. I do not suppose there -was ever a Commission that -was so unanimous on any point, or that ever made such an exhaustive inquiry into the general conditions of the working classes of Australia.’ The Government decided not to abide by the dercision pf the Commission, but .to run away from their pre-election promise by creating a lower basic ‘ wage for Com,- . monwealth ‘ employees, namely, .£4 per week, and 5s. per week for each dependant child. Even that promise has not been honoured, for thousands of employees in the Commonwealth Service are. denied the endowment. This is just one more instance of promises made by the Government before an election, and adroitly evaded afterwards.
The honorable .member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) called attention to the mean way in which some employers treated their employees in connexion with Anzac holiday. I know that when a holiday -has’ been declared and the doors of an establishment are closed for the day, many employees, if they are not paid for the compulsory holiday, are unable to meet their weekly obligations. , Yet that lias occurred in the Government Printing Office, where a large number of men are employed in the printing of the documents and reports of this Parliament. The Commonwealth cannot evade its responsibility ato those men, because, although the establishment is controlled by the Victorian Government, the men are to. a large extent . employees of the Commonwealth. The permanent employees received full .pay . for Anzac holiday, men who served in the war. and were’ employed as temporary hands also received the holiday and . full pay, and, after agitation, the’ same concession was extended to the men who had fought in the South African war. But the fathers of some of the lads who fell at the Front did not receive payment for the holiday. These nasty distinctions are creating bad feelings in the hearts of many people. My idea of the Australian workman is that he will respond to fair treatment. I worked in the Government Printing Office for seven years, and I know many of the employees and..the work they do. It is not unusual for a man who has worked .all day to be required to continue through the night in supplying the requirements of this Parliament. When a holiday is declared, especially on Anzac Day, the Commonwealth Government should advise the State Government that they are prepared to take their share cif the cost of giving the employees a holiday on full pay. If the Government give fair treatment to those men it will be reciprocated, but treat them in a niggardly way and they will not give the same service as they otherwise would.
Reverting to the basic wage, I notice that Mr. Piddington in his pamphlet, The Next Step, lays down certain principles which, if acted upon, would allow of « the basic wage being paid. I admit that he points out the difficulties, but he has based his argument on figures compiled by Mr. Knibbs, which I make bold to say are not reliable in this application. For instance, Mr. Knibbs has founded his statistics of the income of the Commonwealth upon the value of goods as produced at the factory. ‘ The value of goods as they leave the factory, or primary products as they leave the soil, is, at the most, the wholesale value. How many people purchase their goods at manufacturers’ or wholesale prices? The bulk of tho people have to pay profit, not only to. the manufacturer and wholesaler, but also to the retailer, and they have to pay the cost of distribution also. When all those additional costs are added there is involved an increase of at least 60 per cent. That is why I maintain that the figures employed as a basis by Messrs. Knibbs and Piddington are altogether misleading. While the Prime Minister was’ conducting his election campaign he intimated that if the basic wage was to be conferred on the community by .the Federal Parliament it would be essential for the people to agree to the proposed amendments of the Constitution whichwere being submitted by way of referendum. I am given to understand that Mr. Piddington, when ho learned of. that statement, wrote to Mr. Hughes and wanted to know if it was correct. He took the stand that unless he and his fellow-members of the Commission were to have the power to recommend a basic wage, and that such recommendation’ would be put into effect, he would not undertake to carry on. Evidently Mr. Piddington received some sort of ‘ assurance from the ‘Prime Minister^ whereupon he entered upon his investigations. In his pamphlet, Mr. Piddington states that since the Arbitration Court has the constitutional right to fix what isknown as a living wage there can be no constitutional authority to prevent the fixing of a basic wage, and that it can, therefore, be fixed by the Arbitration Court. The Prime Minister stated that the Government could not go outside and say to every private employer, “ This is to be the legal basic wage to be paid throughout the Commonwealth,” but that the Government could give a lead in that direction in respect of their own employees. I complain, however, that in the payment of the basic wage to public servants there has been a discrimination which is not only unfair but iniquitous. Mr. Piddington says -
It is the minimal duty of employers to provide out of the products of industry such an amount as will enable all employees and their families to live according to current human standards of reasonable comfort.
From this it follows: -
Unfortunately, Mr. Piddington subsequently makes reference to what has been done for the Public Service-; and from that reference one would think that the whole of the Public Service, whether temporarily or permanently employed, was receiving the basic wage.
– Does Mr. Piddington say what is to be done when an industry is unable to pay the basic wage?
– We can never legislate for the individual, nor for individual industries. We should take industry as a whole. I believe that industry cannot pay quite the full amount of £5 16s. per week, but I am pretty certain that, generally speaking, it can come very near to doing so. The public at large have to pay all the profits of every party. Some favoured folk are able to go to a wholesale house and secure the benefit of wholesale prices. Some wealthy families are able to buy at wholesale rates by purchasing in large quantities. The ordinary wage-earner, however, has to pay the full profits of the manufacturer, the wholesaler, the agent, the distributor, and the retailer. And it is upon the total sum of those profits that the decision should be madewhether industry generally can pay the basic wage. If Messrs. Knibbs and Piddington were to have regard for all those costs, I guarantee that the industries of this country would be found to be able to pay the basic wage of £5 16s.
– Would the payment of the basic wage generally increase the cost of living?
– It should not do so if we could control those who put up the price of everything every time their own interests are threatened or involved. Wages costs in relation to an industry are but a small part of the general cost. Some years ago the Sydney Morning Herald- an organ of conservative folk - stated that when a manufacturer is compelled under a wage award to pay so much to his employees, involving, perhaps, an increase of 5 per cent., the added price which he puts upon his goods to the public is generally between 10 and 20 per cent.
The Prime Minister said at Bendigo that there was no greater incentive to the building up of Bolshevism in our community than the eternal increases in the cost of living. Mr. Hughes proceeded -
Now, once it is admitted that it is in the interests of the community that such a wage shouldbe paid as will enable a man to marry andbring up children in decent, wholesome conditions - and that point has been settled long ago - it seems obvious that we must devise better machinery for insuring the payment of such a wage than at present exists. Means mustbe found which will insure that the minimum wageshall be adjusted automatically, or almost automatically, with the cost of living, so that within the limits of the minimum wage at least the sovereign shall always purchase the same amount of the necessaries of life. The Government is, therefore, appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into the cost of living in relation to the minimum or basic wage. The Commission will be fully clothed with power to ascertain what is a fair basic wage, and how much the purchasing power of the sovereign has been depreciated during the war; also how the basic wage may be adjusted to the present purchasing power of the sovereign, and the best means, when once so adjusted, of automatically adjusting itself to the rise and fall of the sovereign.
The Commission was appointed, and eventually it furnished a report. Even before that document was laid on the table of the House, the Government began to run away from it, and their followers, of course, did the same. That was due entirely to a startling statement which was- based upon altogether wrong premises. If the Government intend to do as they said they would, namely, to set an example to private employers, why do they not confer the basic wage on all their employees - permanent and temporary?
I desire to refer briefly now to the Australian coat-of-arms. I have in my hand a publication of the Bank of New South Wales, which bears what is, I presume, its coat-of-arms. This is supposed to represent an emu and a kangaroo. The kangaroo has its tail away up in the vicinity of its ears, at ail angle even more peculiar than the tail of a tom cat on a roof-top on a wintry night, while the ears themselves are long enough to be those of a donkey. I believe in the Australian coat-of-arms, and I believe that the depiction of the emu and kangaroo, together with a spray of wattle, forms an entirely suitable crest for our country. About the year 1912, when the Commonwealth coatofarms was introduced, its first presentation to the public was made by way of a sketch published in the daily press. I asked the then Prime Minister (Mr. Andrew Fisher) whether this picture was a true representation of the coat-of-arms the Commonwealth had adopted, and he said it was. Then I told him, as I said the other day, that it appeared to me as if the kangaroo and emu were up a wattle tree. I am told that if we in Australia require a coat-of-arms we must apply to a College of Heralds on the other side of the world, and they will prepare one for us.
– To whom else could we apply ?
– But the trouble is that they do not know how to depict a kangaroo or an emu,’ having seen neither.
– There is nothing wrong with the representation of the kangaroo or the emu on the parliamentary notepaper.
– I submit that there are better kangaroos and emus on other letter-heads. The Commonwealth Bank has been very successful in depicting its kangaroo and emu in natural positions. The kangaroo, the emu, and the wattle tree are certainly emblematic of Australia, but in our coat-of-arms the wattle tree is only a branch; and, as a matter of fact, we all know that kangaroos and emus keep on the ground and are not likely to be discovered up a tree.
– I do not see anything wrong with the coat-of-arms.
– It is a ridiculous depiction of a kangaroo or an emu which should not be tolerated by any Australian with an artistic eye Let us have a coatofarms to which no exception can be taken. I do not wish to use note-paper bearing a coat-of-arms which is perfectly ridiculous.
– The statue on the front of this building is enough to give the honorable member a turn.
– It is an abortion.
– If the honorable member says that the coat-of-arms on this paper is all right, and yet regards the statue as an abortion, I am afraid his artistic sense has depreciated very much.
There is a consensus of opinion that our invalid and old-age pensioners are treated disgracefully. It would be quite an easy matter for all parties to get together during the tea adjournment and pass a resolution to submit to this House, demanding- that these deserving people should be treated properly. If we are not prepared to do this, then let us stop all this humbugging talk.
.- I wish to bring before the House a case of individual hardship affecting a matter of great moment to Australia. A little more than twelve months ago Captain T. Rees, a returned soldier of Mudgee, a man with very unusual qualifications, forwarded to me an application for a position in connexion with the immigration policy of the Commonwealth. On the 9th July, 1920, I wrote informing him that I had brought his case before the right authorities. On the 12th October, 1920, Mr. R. J. Cohen, a representative of the Mudgee Guardian, wrote to me as follows : -
Some time ago Captain T. Rees, of Mudgee, wrote to you offering his services as an immigration officer, but he has not beard anything from you since you wrote - him on the 9th July. Captain Rees, who has been residing in this district for three or four years, is a gentleman well fitted to act as an immigration agent in England. He is a member of one of the best-known Welsh families, his family being well known right throughout South Wales. He has been a military man, and has a great reputation as an organizer. He has been successfully conducting a farm in this district, and he knows the conditions of Australia thoroughly. He recognises that the people that we want here are men of the farming class, and he is confidentthat if he is appointed agent it will be the means of persuading a large number of good immigrants to come to Australia. He is a very able and intelligent man, of good appearance and personality, and if the Federal Immigration Department want a man in every way suitable as an agent, they should not hesitate to secure his services.
Our paper, the Mudgee Guardian, has much pleasure in recommending him as an ideal man for the position.
Trusting you will do your very best in the matter.
On the 14th October, 1920, I acknowledged the receipt of that letter, and informed him that I would put the matter again before the Prime Minister’s Department. On the 18th October, I received the following letter, signed by Senator Russell: -
I desire to acknowledge the receipt of the letter addressed to you by Mr. P.J. Cohen, of the Mudgee Guardian, Perry-street, Mudgee, dated 12th October, with regard to the application of Captain T.Rees, of Mudgee, for an appointment in connexion with the proposed immigration organization, and to inform you that Captain Bees’ qualifications will receive consideration when steps are being taken to constitute the organization.
I ask the Minister at the table to make a special note of the date of that letter. On the 23rd November, Mr. Cohen again wrote to me as follows: -
I have written you previously with regard to CaptainRees, pointing out to you his great qualifications as an immigration officer in England. Just now, when immigration is a burning question, of course, there is no need for me to point out to you the great advantage of obtaining the services of men holding the high qualifications of CaptainRees. To show you his ability, I will just let you know some of the positions he has held. Probably through reading the list of positions which he has held, you may arrive at the conclusion that he is purely a military man; but such is not the case. He is a born organizer. He has been farming very successfully, on a small scale, in Mudgee, and he feels that he could do great work as an immigration officer, as he knows Wales so well, and knows the stamp of immigrant that we want here; so I trust that the Department that deals with immigration will be sure to secure his services.
Captain Rees has held the following positions : -
I have picked out three of the most prominent positions he has filled from a long list that accompanies this letter -
Served in the South African war as ordnance officer of Grand Base Depot, the Docks, Cape Town - specially mentioned in dispatches by Lord Kitchener for organization and system introduced into the working of the docks.
Officer specially detailed by War Office to compile the defence scheme (as far as ordnance services were concerned) for Cardiff, Swansea, and Mil ford Haven defences. Passed a course in police force routine, and qualified for the position of Chief Constable of a county.
On the 3rd December, Mr. Cohen again wrote as follows : -
Thanks very much for what you have done for CaptainRees. Captain Rees appreciates your kindness very much, and so do I. CaptainRees will be very pleased to submit a scheme in connexion with immigration. This proposal refers to Wales, which place hehas a thorough knowledge of, and if the Immigration Department is desirous of securing his scheme, if you would let us know, he would submit same straight away. Sometimes, of course, good schemes emanate from sources quite outside the Department.
On the 10th December, 1920, I wrote to Mr. Cohen, informing him that if Captain Rees sent along his scheme I would indorse it and submit it to the Prime Minister. This, Captain Rees did, and I indorsed his scheme and sent it to the Prime Minister. On the 3rd January of this year I wrote again, stating that at the very first opportunity I would bring the matter under the personal notice of the Prime Minister, which I did. On the 20th January of this year I received the following letter from Mr. Cohen: -
In regard to the matter of having Captain Rees appointed immigration officer, I would be pleased if you would let me know if anything further has been done with reference to this matter.
I replied that both matters had been placed in proper form before the Prime Minister, but on the 22nd February I received the following letter from Mr. Cohen: -
Re Captain Rees. Please do not think I am bothering you, but Government officials are likely to overlook these things, and as Captain Rees is such a good man, it would be a pity if he was not appointed immigration officer.
On the 25th February, I acknowledged that letter as follows: -
Yours of 22nd inst. re case of CaptainRees. I have put the matter before Mr. Hughes a couple of times, but so far can get no satisfaction. Have mentioned it to one of the other Ministers, but without effect. Have not yet lost all hope, and expect sooner or later to arrive somewhere in the matter.
On the 1st March, I received the following letter from Senator Russell, on behalf of the Prime Minister: -
I desire to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 28th February, forwarding a communication from Mr. P. J. Cohen of the Mudgee
Guardian, Perry-street, Mudgee, urging the appointment of Captain Rees as an immigration officer, and ‘to inform you that Captain Rees’ qualifications have been noted for consideration in connexion with vacancies in the Immigration Branch.
Then, on the 10th March, I received the following : -
Prime Minister’s Department,
Melbourne, 10th March, 1921.
Dear Sir, - With reference to your letter of the 28th February, enclosing a communication from Mr. R. J. Cohen, regarding the qualification of Captain Rees for appointment to the position of Immigration Officer, I desire to inform you that there is no record of an application having been received from Captain Bees for any such position.
I may mention that applications were invited for the positions of Immigration Officers in all States except Victoria, and for one officer for the Central Administration, on the 16th December. The closing dates for these positions were 23rd and 30th December respectively.
After nearly twelve months of _ solid agitation on behalf of this nian, after his original application, as the documents which I hold in my hands prove, had been’ sent in, brought specially under, the notice of Ministers on three or four occasions, and mentioned to the present Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) in this chamber one evening, I received this letter, months after the date on which applications closed, saying that there was no record in the Department of any application having been received. It seems to me that we could not have stronger proof of lax administration. I do not blame the Acting Prime Minister for overlooking the matter. I’ mentioned it to him in the chamber one evening, and put before him a letter, which I presume lie passed on in the usual way to his departmental officers. Here was a capable man, well qualified for the office which he was seeking, a returned soldier, who I believe could have, done excellent work for Australia, and yet, after putting, in nearly twelve months’ solid work on his behalf, I am told that no record of his application can be found in. the Department.
– Does the honorable member say that the application came to me f
– No. I say that I mentioned the matter to the Acting Prime
Minister, and gave the right honorable gentleman, while he was in the House, a letter relating to it. The application was sent in the ordinary way to the Prime Minister’s Department. ‘ I read most of -the correspondence relating to this matter before the right honorable gentleman entered the Chamber, and it shows that from May of last year to the present time there has been a consecutive effort to secure recognition for this man. He deserves recognition at the hands of the State. He is a man of proved capacity in dealing with a subject of vast importance to Australia, and yet, after all this effort on his behalf, the Department states no record of an application from him can be found. I ask the Minister to take special notice of this case, and to endeavour to see that justice is done to this man. I hope that not only will something be done for him, but that, in future, the Administration will be more careful to see that business methods are adopted in the various Departments. How can we expect the country to carry on under a system of administration such as that disclosed by this correspondence? There must be some one in the Prime Minister’s Department who should get into trouble over this case, and there are a few such men in all the Departments. Until some of them are brought to book, we shall not be able to put the’ affairs of Australia on a proper footing. As an example of lax administration, I -do not think this case could be surpassed. I. again ask the Minister to look into it, and to see that there is no recurrence of such, incidents in- any Department of the Com-, monwealth.
– I want to ascertain what possibility there is of a Bill to amend’ the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act being introduced at an early date. Those of us who have a constructive policy arenot content with destructive criticism - we want to submit concrete proposals.. The only excuse offered by the Government for not increasing invalid and oldage pensions is that they have not themoney. If there is one thing more than another which we are entitled to ask theGovernment to undertake, it is the introduction of an amending Bill providing for an increase in the pension rates. Old-age and invalid pensionsare a matter of right, and not of.” charity, and those who receive them are as much entitled to consideration as are Judges and other highly-paid public officials who receive pensions on retirement. Many officials who are eligible for Public Service pensions have never in the discharge of their duties to be exposed to adverse weather conditions. They do not know what it is to be out in hail and snow. They do not know what hard times “ mean. Many of them, undoubtedly, have done goodservice, and, notwithstanding the financial stringency, have received increased salaries. Why should we not increase the invalid and old-age pension rate ? The demand for an increase is favoured, not only in this House, but in the country, and I think we ought to have at once from the Government a statement of what they intend to do in the matter. Private members have no opportunity to introduce legislation since the time usually devoted to private members’ business has been taken away from us. But the Government should certainly bring in an amending Bill. There are many anomalies in the existing law. I object, for instance, to the method of payment, and have urged on many occasions that it should be altered. Under the present system a pensioner has to go once a fortnight to the nearest post-office for his money. Many pensioners have to travel long distances to reach a post-office, and those who are physically unfit to undertake such journeys have to appoint a substitute who will, not infrequently, demand a commission for collecting their pensions. I suggest that it would be better if the amount due to an invalid or old-age pensioner every fortnight were paid into his credit at the nearest Savings Bank. There are Savings Banks all over the country, and this would be the most convenient course to adopt. It would, amongst other things, rid some old people with a weakness of the temptation which they at present feel to spend too readily money that is placed in their hands. I do notsee why these old folks should be obliged to go to a post-office, perhaps miles away from their homes for their pensions, when the money could be readily placed to their credit in the Saving Banks. Another anomaly relates to the claims of married persons who are living apart. If a man is; living apart from his wife, or a female applicant is living apart from her husband, unless there has been a judicial separation, the claim for a pension is refused. Both these are matters that should be dealt with in an amending Bill, and I ask the Minister to say here and now whether we shall be given an opportunity this session to discuss and passsuch a measure.
I well remember the introduction of the original Bill. I was chairman of the Old-age Pensions Commission, whose report was responsible for the introduction of the pension, and I can say that the original rate of 10s. per week was fixed upon as representing just about the amount which could then be paid. It was regarded also as being the minimum amount on which it was possible to keep body and soul together. Ten shillings in those days would purchase far more than a pound will purchase to-day, and since we are all agreed that invalid and old-age pensions are desirable, why should we not make them sufficient to enable the recipients, instead of being half starved, to live according to a reasonable standard of comfort? I have some knowledge of the cost of the necessaries of life, and do not hesitate to say that it is impossible to live with any degree of comfort on 15s. per week. The position might be improved if some of the present stringent regulations under the Act were relaxed. For instance, pensioners might well be allowed to earn a little more than is permitted at the present time. I refuse to believe that this country is not rich enough to be able to deal fairly with the aged and infirm. At least three-fourths of the members of this House are in favour of the pension rate being increased, and a determined effort therefore should be made to secure an increase. I ask the Government to take note of warning signals. What would happen if an honorable member proposed to add to some motion before the House certain words providing that old-age and invalid pensions should be increased ?
– The amendment would be ruled out of order.
– Such an amendment might be moved, and if it were everybody knows how I, and, indeed, three-fourths of the House would vote; I ask the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), who has listened to the whole of this debate, to give us an assurance to-night that an amending Bill will shortly be brought down.
– In connexion with the motion now before the Chair we can find a way of forcing the hands of the Government. At any rate, I shall find a way to enable the House to express its opinion on this subject.
– Very well; the honorable member was responsible for the recent crisis, and I warn the Government that he may bring about another.
– I shall.
– I urge the Government to take this question into its serious consideration. I agree with those who say that some people who are in receipt of pensions ought not to receive them, and that others who are denied pensions should be getting them. Much of the present trouble is due to stupid regulations. Pensioners receive sympathetic treatment at the hands of those administering the law, but the Deputy Commissioners cannot go outside the four corners of the Act and the regulations made under it. Many of these old folks have blazed the track for us; they have made our paths easy, and we should see that they receive reasonable consideration. They should not be asked to seek relief from hunger by tightening their belts nor to go poorly clothed.
– If I “put the acid” on the Government to-night in regard to increasing the invalid and old-age pension rates will the honorable member vote, with me?
– The honorable member knows how I have always voted on this question.
I desire now to call attention to the need of drastic improvements in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The Department is going from bad to worse-. Services are being cut out and conveniences reduced- Is there an honorable member, who will say that the telephone service is satisfactory? My experience is that it is very bad and such as to conduce to the use of profane language. I urge the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise), who, no doubt, is doing his best, but who must be judged by results, to endeavour to bring about some improvement. The charges of the Department are higher, I suppose, than they have ever been, whereas the conveniences and services rendered by it are less than before.
I now wish to ask the Government when it is proposed to open up trade relations with Germany? I have had questions on the notice-paper on the subject, and I have received side-tracking replies. It seems to me stupid for us to be the only country in the world, in a sort of spirit of vengeance, to refuse to trade with our former enemies. After all, we wish to sell our wheat, wool, and other primary products, and we cannot expect to do that unless we establish trade relations in every possible direction.
– The opening up of trade relations- with Germany is pending now.
– The trouble is that it is always “ pending.”
– Not as matters stand to-day.
– Possibly the honorable member may have some inside information.
– Do you not think that what has taken place this week is a better sign?
– Yes ; but three months ago Britain and America were trading with Germany, and the Americans, who are noted as keen business men, have even arranged a fund of £100,000,000 to enable business to be established with quick despatch. I cannot understand why we stand out, isolated, as it were, especially as we know that German goods, repacked in Britain, are coming here.
– If we can sell Germany our wheat, why not our other products?
– That is what I desire to know. Why not follow the lead of Great Britain?
– Because we have “ Billy “ Hughes at the head of affairs.
– I do not think that is the reason. I urge the Government to quit the foolish policy they have been following. There is an old saying that you should not “ cut off your nose to spite your face”; and again I ask why we should continue our present attitude when we have such a fine lead from Britain and America? The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) and the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) point to what has taken place this week ; but I wish to see trade relations opened up at once.
Then I have to ask the Government what has become of the promises made to prevent the duplication of State and Commonwealth activities? We were told that we were to have one Department of Taxation and one electoral roll.
– We have one electoral roll in South Australia, and it was used at the last election.
SirJoseph Cook. - South Australia is the only State where we have been able to institute one electoral roll.
– It is a curious confession of incompetence on the part of the Government to say that they can institute one electoral roll in South Australia and not in the other States.
– Why is it a confession of incompetence?
– The Government ought to be able to make arrangements for one electoral roll in every State.
– Is there any means by which we can compel the State Governments, against their will, to come into the scheme?
– The States are anxious to come into the scheme.
– They will not say so.
– They are not anxious to come in - quite the contrary.
– They do “say so.” The New South Wales Government have been in conference with the Commonwealth Government to try to arrange for one collection of income tax.
– The New South Wales Government will have nothing to do with that scheme.
– Then why did they go into conference? What the Treasurer probably means is that the States will have nothing to do with the scheme in the way in which he desires. We have discussed this question so long that it looks as if it were going to be eternal. If the Treasurer is anxious for money, there is one way in which he can get it, and that is by preventing needless expenditure.
– This proposition would not save the Commonwealth anything, though it would save the States much.
– I am tired of the repeated statement that it is the States that will save by one taxation collection. After all, the taxpayers are one and the same in both cases.
– That is another question. The Commonwealth Government are anxious to do this for the States, and the States will not let us do it.
– Will the Treasurer help to “ wipe out “ the States ?
– Yes; that is as “ simple as pie.”
– This may be an amusing matter for the Treasurer, but it is not for my unfortunate constituents’, who are heavily taxed, and in throes of trouble owing to the depreciation of their stock. It is terrible to have two Electoral Departments with two rolls, and two Departments of Taxation.
– We have had an inquiry, with Mr. Ashton and Mr. Ewing representing the Commonwealth, and Mr. Weldon representing the States, and Mr. Weldon said that the amalgamation should not be made. We have offered to collect the income tax for the States for one-third of what it is costing them today.
– It is a terrible confession on the part of the Government when they say that they cannot get over this duplication.
– It is time to amend the Constitution.
– It is. When are we going to have any effort made to amend the Constitution? We, cannot go on increasing taxation indefinitely. One Parliament and one Government is quite enough for this country; and if we were to stop all the present duplication, we could save millions. If we were to ask the people of the country whether there should be fourteen Government Houses, fourteen Parliament Houses, and seven Governors, there would be only one answer, and that strongly in favour of doing away with the unnecessary expenditure.
– Are there fourteen Government Houses?
– There is generally a country residence in each State for the Governor. Who will deny that the taxation burden is becoming unbearable? What is causing the immense depreciation in country properties and products of all kinds? It is the excessive taxation. If we tax a farmer £50 or £60 a year unnecessarily, we at once reduce the capital value of his land by atleast £1,000; and the burden is becomingtoo heavy. We must have money to pay pensions, provide for our returned soldiers, and meet other current obligations, and there is no reason for all the present duplication. Why not meet the representatives of the States at a round-table conference, and discuss these matters?
– The trouble is that some people would lose their jobs?
– Unless some change is made I fancy a number of members of Parliament will “ lose their jobs,” because the people will not endure the present conditions much longer.
I should now like tosay a word or two about the reduction of military pensions. I do not know the details sufficiently to express a decided opinion, but if what I hear is true, an absolute wrong is being done. Will the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) explain why. it is that, without any reason being given, the pensions of soldiers’ widows have been cut down by one-half? It is extraordinary if such a step has been taken without very good cause. In many cases these unfortunate pensioners are unable to get along on their present allowance, and the matter ought to be investigated. It is idle to say that the Defence officials do. this sort of thing without direction from the Government, who must be held responsible.
– You know there is a Pensions Board?
– And to whom is that Board responsible?
– The Board was created in order to remove the matter from Ministerial control.
– But not to cut down pensions, which appears to have been done.
– Nobody seems to be responsible.
– All I know is that military pensions Lave been increased by £1,500,000 this year.
– Not soldiers’ pensions?
– I regret to have to mention these matters, because the Treasurer always seems to regard their discussion as a personal grievance.
– Not at all.
– I again ask who is responsible? To whom can we look in this House but the Ministry?
– Are pensions being reduced ?
– Can you cite concrete cases?
– I have put concrete cases before the Government. In one case the widow of a soldier, killed at the war, has had her pension of, probably, £2 a week cut down to £1.
– If that be so, the honorable member may be sure that she has had more than a corresponding amount in another way.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Some time ago the Treasurer promised, if I remember rightly, to consider the taxing of the profits of the man on the land - the grazier, the farmer, and the miner - on an average of several years; because, although they may make large profits in one year, their occupations are precarious, and over a series of years they are bound to make losses, to which the income taxation as now levied gives no consideration. Under the present system a grazier may make £1,000 in the first of a series of years, £2,000 in the next, £2,500 in the next and £2,500 in the next, or £8,000 in four years; but in the fifth year there may be a drought, and he may lose £3,000, so that his net income for the whole period of five years is only £5,000, or an average of £1,000 a year. Such a man, however, would be called upon to pay income tax amounting to £643 for the five years, whereas a city man earning £1,000 a year regularly, and thus in a much better position to save, because such a man can regulate his outgoings in accordance with his income - would in the same period pay only £228 in income tax, or just over one-third what the grazier would pay, although the incomes of the two would be the same. That is a dreadfully unfair arrangement, and I am surprised that it has not been altered.
– In the sixth year the grazier referred to would probably have a big overdraft.
– I understand that a member of this Parliament had to pay taxation on an assessment of £1 per head for some thousands of calves all of which he lost in a drought. No allowance was made for that loss, and he was therefore taxed on an income which was never received. lt is idle to say that we cannot change the system. A Commission whose expenses will probably amount to between £20,000 and £30,000 i3 now inquiring into the incidence of taxation, but better results could have been obtained by getting- the heads of the Taxation Departments, who are very capable men, to confer on the subject. In a week they could give us as much information as the Commission will obtain in twelve months, .and during the whole of the time that its inquiry is taking place the present injustice will continue. The system of which I complain is inequitable, unjust, and unfair, and the sooner we have an alteration of it the better. Why cannot we introduce business methods in the conduct of the affairs of the country? At the present time the main business before the House is the Tariff, but what advance will be made in the consideration of the schedule this week? I travelled over 500 miles between Tuesday and Wednesday to attend here, and must return ever 500 miles to my home to-morrow, and I shall have travelled over 1,000 miles this week to do nothing. Why could we not attend to the public business ^ continuously for a fortnight or three weeks on end, as we would deal with private business, and make some progress ? If we attacked it in that way, we could devote a day to the consideration of the old-age pensions, and another to the rearrangement of the income tax.
– I have been in Melbourne since February without seeing my family.
– Members from Western Australia and Queensland are in an even worse position than those who come here from New South Wales and South Australia, and I hope that next year Parliament will meet at Canberra, so that the Victorian representatives may have a taste of what we suffer.
– It will be true economy to hold the sittings of Parliament at Canberra.
– I say, God speed the day. The Treasurer knows that what I am complaining of cannot continue. We cannot proceed as we are now doing. Wages must come down, and they are coming down.
– Profits must come down first.
– Everyone who works should be well paid for his labour, and I would not have the effrontery to reduce the wages of a man who was earning £1 a day without first reducing my own salary. Everything must come down, or the economic machine will break. The curse of the country is the “ go-slow “ policy. It does not matter what a nian is paid so long as he earns his money.
– The employers are going slow by closing factories and mines.
– I understand that a certain body of men are ready to go back to work, but some persons in this city who are in authority over them will not allow them to do so.
– That is quite right.
– It is all wrong. If the men have decided by ballot that they will go back, why should a few persons in Melbourne ‘ prevent them from doing so? What must be the end if men insist on demanding a higher wage than their labour can earn? Nothing bat revolution and trouble.
– You will not let the woolgrowers sell their wool for any price they think fit. Why, then, should not men be prevented from selling their labour too low?
– If .a reduction of wages were accepted at Mount Lyell, the employers all over Australia would act on the precedent. The men have decided the matter for themselves.
– I understand that the men, having had all the facts and figures placed before them, realize that unless they accept a reduction, there will be no work for them to do, and, therefore, have decided by a majority to take lower wages. How can an industry continue if the men demand wages which make the cost of production more than the product is worth? No industry can continue under those conditions. A man cannot be paid 22s. 6<L if his labour earns only £1.
– The position would be different if gambling on the stock exchange, which influences the price of metals, were prevented.
– An industry is following the road to ruin if it attempts to pay more for production than the product is worth, and employers cannot pay higher wages than the labour of their workmen earns.
– The men do not get one-third or one-fourth of the value of what they produce..
– Why have these men voted to accept a reduction? They do not wish, to have their wages cut down, but they face the facts. They know that they must accept a reduction.
– What is your authority for your statements?
– What I. have read in the daily newspapers. .
– They are wrong.
– We all of us complain of the newspapers, but we know that their statements are not always untrue. I do not wish to labour this matter, because it is evident that an industrial enterprise must show a profit if it is to continue to pay wages, .and the country cannot afford to allow its industries to perish. It is argued that we should buy ships instead of building them, because in that way we can get them more cheaply. But if we give up shipbuilding there will be less work for miners and many classes of operatives, and fewer customers for the butter, meat, and other products of the farmers and graziers. The object of the Tariff is to increase our industries in order to increase employment, and to give a larger local market for our primary productions.
– Better that an industry should go than that the artisans it employed should starve.
– My con’tention is that the artisans are being driven into a corner by the agitator, and that this latter individual is behind the go-slow movement. What with all the duplications of Departments and the many Parliaments existing in Australia, heaped upon all these other considerations to which I have referred, we have about reached the end of our tether. We must have less humbug and more common sense. I am asked why I do not proceed to bring that about by ousting the present Government. No matter how bad I may think the Government, I am not prepared to go from bad to worse by putting in another Government drawn from the ranks of those who say, “Let industry perish,” and “pay the men more in wages than the goods which they produce will bring in the markets of the world.” I am sure that if we were to ask the people whether they think there should be an end to all the present stupid system of government they would almost unanimously reply in the affirmative. But we can remedy at once a part of the state of affairs existing to-day. We can put an end to the anomaly which compels the primary producers - the miners, the farmers, and the graziers - to pay virtually three times the amount of taxation that the city professional man has to pay.
– If the honorable member were to re-arrange the figures which he has cited upon the point, he would get the very opposite result. The whole foundation of his argument is fallacious.
– I do not admit that, and, in any case, my figures come direct from the Taxation Department, which admits the iniquity of the situation, but has to administer the law. This Parliament is stupid if it does not alter the present law. .
.- -I desire to call attention to a distinct anomaly existing in the treatment by two Commonwealth Departments of one particular matter. The Taxation Department, aided and abetted, no doubt, by the Treasurer, has seen fit to collect heavily in the form of taxes from winners of Tattersalls sweeps. Prom 1917 to 1920 the amount so collected was something like a quarter of a million sterling. No exception is taken by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to distributing Tattersalls prize money to the various fortunate winners. But when it comes to the conveyance of letters from individuals in the community who desire to purchase Tattersalls tickets, the PostmasterGeneral seeks to prevent such a thing by placing certain persons upon a proscribed list, as a result of which they may receive neither package nor letter through the post. The whole business touches the height of hypocrisy. On the one hand the Government accepts money in the form of a heavy tax from winners of sweeps, while, on the other, the Government regards Tattersalls sweeps as illegal and refuses to deliver correspondence having to do with the matter. I suggest that the Postmaster-General and the Treasurer arrive at a decision to remove the anomaly one way or the other. If the Postmaster-General were to agree to lift the ban upon the conveyance of letters the Taxation Department would have far greater scope of exploitation.
I have asked numbers of questions recently regarding the appointment of three Deputy Presidents to the Arbitration Court, and others concerning the resignation of Mr. Justice Higgins, and still more having to do with the basic wage. The Government should remove the impasse in which the unionists of this country find themselves through no fault of their own, but entirely owing to the inactivity of the Government. Ostensibly to help trade unionists, the Government amended the Arbitration Act; but,’ in its amended form, that Act now amounts to a hindrance. Unionists cannot secure redress of their, grievances. Previously they could go to the Arbitration Court and receive satisfaction, but that avenue for the maintenance of peace in industry has been closed foi* several months, and no govern- mental action has been taken to reopen it. An unfortunate incident occurred some months ago, in which His Honour Mr.Justice Higgins and the Prime Minister were involved. It arose from the passing of the Industrial Peace Act, which, by the way, has been availed of only once, namely, in regard to the coal and shale industry. Mr. Justice Higgins rightly adopted the attitude that that Statute overrode the provisions of the Arbitration Act, and he gave notice of his resignation from the Arbitration Bench. It will be a misfortune to Australia if Mr. Justice Higgins is permitted to resign. I believe there are no great difficulties in the way of retaining his services. If the
Government were to make known that the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act are to be applied only in times of crisis, and if Mr. Justice Higgins were officially notified to that effect, I understand that he would remain President of the Arbitration Court. Australia can illafford to lose the services of such a man, and I say that notwithstanding that I differ greatly from the President of the Court in relation to many of his pronouncements, and particularly over his Harvester judgment. I urge the Government to take all necessary steps to retain his services.
For a considerable time there has been an agitation concerning the basic wage. Much criticism followed the announcement of the finding of the Basic Wage Commission. The finding of the Commission has been attacked, from all angles, but no one -has pointed out where it is wrong or produced figures to shake it in the slightest. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has talked about a reduction in wages. For the past six years the workers of Australia have been chasing unsuccessfully the cost of living, and have not yet caught up to it. The Basic Wage Commission fixed the wage at an amount lower in some States and higher in others, but averaging £5 16s. a week. In no State have the workers achieved that rate nor are their wages likely to reach the cost of living for some months to come even if they remain as they are to-day. So far there has been no appreciable reduction in the cost of living, and it will be many months before any decrease eventuates which is likely to bring the workers into a state of mind that will induce them to contemplate a reduction in their wages. A very clever campaign was inaugurated about six months ago by the different organizations of employers. First of all the mine1 owners were put up to fight the case for the reduction in wages on the ground that there had been a depreciation in .the price of metals. At the outset the Mount Morgan mine in Queensland closed down, and the directors of that company stated that they were prepared to work their property if the workers would accept a reduction in wages. The men took a ballot, but by a large majority they declined to accept any reduction in their wages because they had not caught up to the cost of living as ascertained by the Basic Wage Commission. In Moonta, in South Australia, the same proposition was put up to the members of the Australian Workers Union and other unions. They were asked to take a ballot, but refused to do so. A ballot was certainly taken at the instigation of Mr. John Verran, who has been appointed a special guardian of the mine owners’ interests. He induced a number of people who had never worked in a mine to vote on the question of a reduction of wages, and a majority decided to accept a reduction, but as the members of the trade unions had refused to participate in the ballot it was of not avail. In Kalgoorlie and Boulder, in Western Australia, the same campaign is being brought into existence. Notwithstanding the fact that the members of the Australian Workers Union have recently been to the Arbitration Court and secured an award, the mine owners are asking them to take into consideration the advisability of accepting a reduction in wages. Again, the directors of the Mr Lyell Company, Tasmania, have recently served notice on all the members of unions in their employment that unless they are prepared to alter their working conditions and hours and accept whatever conditions the directors may impose upon them the mine must be closed down.
– What did the men say?
– At a specially convened meeting the whole of the workers engaged in and about that mine absolutely refused to accept the conditions of the directors.
– Is that what they said at the ballot?
– It is what they said by a show of hands at a specially convened meeting. A ballot has not yet been taken.
– Yes, ithas.
– The ballot was a later phase which I shall deal with in a moment or two. The point I am emphasizing is that the whole of the unions, including the Australian Workers Union, absolutely refused the conditionsaid down by the directors. After this meeting a conference was called at Melbourne. I attended the initial conference of the combined unions which resolved that no reduction of wages or extension of hours should be accepted. I had to leave for Sydney at the week end, but inthe meantime the directors met the combined unions and put forward certain propositions, which were subsequently considered at a meeting of the executive council of the Australian Workers Union held in Sydney on 30th April and the 1st and 2nd May. About 1,600 men are working in the Mr Lyell mine, and most of them are members of the Australian Workers Union. There were representatives of every State at the meeting of the executive council of the Australian Workers Union. The meeting took into consideration not merely the closing down of the Mr Lyell mine, but the possible effectupon the whole of the workers of Australia of accepting the proposition of the Mr Lyell directors, and after giving the matter careful and earnest consideration, resolved that in no circumstances would it accept a reduction of wages, an extension of hours, or any curtailment of the conditions the members’ of the Australian Workers Union were enjoying. The resolution of the executive council was duly conveyed to the members of the organisation at Mr Lyell, and to the directors of theMt. Lyell Company, and quite recently Mr. Grayndler, the general secretary of the union, and Mr. McDonald, M.L.C., representing the Tasmanian members of the union, met the Mr Lyell directors in conjunction with representatives from the combined unions whose members are engaged in or about the Mr Lyell mine. The Australian Workers Union was not the only organization which refused’ to accept the conditions offered by the directors ofthe Mr Lyell Company. The same stand was taken by the representatives of the combined unions, because it was realized that once a reduction of wages, an extension of hours, or a curtailment of conditions was accepted it would establish a precedent and bring immediate success to the employers’ campaign which, as I have said, has been in operation for the past six or eight months. It would lead to a fall of wages everywhere. In certain localities some workers may think that they can manage with 6d. a day less, or by working an extra hour per day more, because of the fact that their employers may be providing them with rations at cost price - at the Moonta and Wallaroo smelters for instance. But the question is not a local one, it is a national issue. The workers of Australia must remain solid and stick together, because as soon as the thin end of the wedge for a reduction in wages is inserted, it means an all-round reduction of wages throughout Australia.
– What is to happen to the industry that cannot pay the wages the men demand?
– The honorable member’s contention that men’s wages must necessarily be fixed by the condition of the industry in which they are engaged is fallacious. If that principle were followed we would have men working at starvation wages simply because the industries in which they are employed could not provide them with a wage which would enable them to live ina reasonable standard of comfort. If the price of copper falls to £40 per ton the honorable member for Eden-Monaro would not claim that the copper mines should be kept going by compelling the men to work at starvation wages.
– What would the honorable member do in the case of dairying if the product of the industry could not pay the wages demanded by the men?
– If an industry will not provide the workers engaged in it and those dependent upon them with a reasonable standard of comfort and decency, the workers should not be called upon to subsidize it. If an industry is essential to society as a whole, then the people as a whole should subsidize it, and not those employed in it. The directors of the Mr Lyell Company threatened to close down their mine if the men were not prepared to accept their conditions. They asked the unionists to guarantee an output ofso many hundredtons per week, to assist in getting more men to work in the mine, and to work longer hours, but the men have refused to accept any responsibility for the working of the mine. That responsibility is essentially with the directors. This company has made over £1,000,000 within the last three years, and this money has been invested in Broken Hill Proprietary stock, in the Electrolytic Zinc Works in Hobart, and in other ventures. While money has been hoarded and invested by the company in this way there has been no suggestion that the men, who have made these profits, should get “a cut” out of them, but immediately the price of copper falls to something close to the cost of production, the directors go to the workers and ask them to bear the brunt of it. Does the honorable member for Eden-Monaro say that that is fair? No fair-minded man can say it is. The environment of the workers at Mr Lyell is the nearest in Australia to what Milton, in Paradise Lost, has described as Hades.
– Does the honorable member think that we ought to close the mine?
– There is no need to close the mine. Under present conditions it can make handsome profits. No other mine can produce copper as cheaply. The company has made millions of profit, but does not talk of sharing some of those millions with the unfortunate slaves who have made them for it. When it finds itself in difficulties, it says, in effect, to the workers, “ For Heaven’s sake, accept a reduction in wages or an alteration in the hours of labour in order that the industry may be retained, and so that you may be able to buy bread.” It is rank hypocrisy.
I shall conclude my remarks with a reference to old-age and invalid pensions. Ninety per cent. of the members of this House, despite the wailings of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), are in favour of a substantial increase in the invalid and old-age pension rate. To-day we are making a maximum payment of 15s. per week. That allowance can be obtained only by those who are able to make out a substantial case to the Deputy Commissioner. Applicants who have a few acres of land or a few sheep have great difficulty in obtaining anything. If they do get anything, the amount is very small.
– Invalid and old- . age pensions represent an aggregate payment of £5,500,000 per annum.
– The question we have to consider is not what amount of money we spend in this way, but rather what is the position of the recipients. To-day invalid and old-age pensioners, unless helped by their friends, cannot live as human beings ought to do. Their present allowance is not sufficient to enable them to obtain proper food or the warm clothing so necessary to the aged. It is not sufficient to enable them to purchase bed-clothing or any of the simple luxuries which the old and infirm require. No matter what the total expenditure in this regard may be, we have a responsibility to the aged and infirm which must be met. We must give them at least £1 per week. Heaven knows that is little enough. I suggest to the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) that he set apart a day for the discussion of the question. If he does, I am sure that there will be such a unanimous expression of opinion in favour of an increase to £1 per week that he will agree to make the increase.
– I hope that the House will now allow the question to be put, as there is another urgent matter which I desire to bring forward.
Question resolved in the negative.
. - (By leave) - I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to approve the agreement made between :the West Australian Grain-growers’ Cooperative Elevators Limited and the Commonwealth of Australia varying and supplementing the agreement contained in the Schedule to the Westralian Farmers Agreement Act 1920.
In submitting this motion, I ought to explain that the matter has become just a little hurried owing to the possibility of the Senate rising to-morrow for some weeks. I want to have this Bill passed before another place adjourns. It is a measure to vary an agreement made some time ago with the Westralian farmers. Honorable members will recollect that last year we passed a Bill containing an agreement under which we proposed to assist a co-operative enterprise on the part of the farmers of Western Australia to build “silos for the storage of their wheat. As the agreement left the House, it provided that the whole scheme should involve an expenditure of £800,000. One of the stipulations was that the farmers themselves should subscribe 300,000 shares of £1 each, of which amount 10s. per share should be paid on application, and that we, on our part, should provide £550,006 for the complete scheme. It was provided that when the farmers had subscribed 300,000 shares, and had expended £100,000, we should begin to pay at the rate of £2 for £1 until the full amount had been exhausted or the scheme had been completed.
– The advance by the Commonwealth was to be by way of loan ?
– Yes. The Westralian farmers now ask for a variation of this agreement. They want to confine themselves for the time being to the construction of the terminal silos, leaving the question of the construction of the country silos to be ~ considered later. The proposition, therefore, is very much reduced. Later on it may transpire that we shall expend the whole of this money in the construction of silos, but on a plan different from that which hitherto has been’ adopted. It is not at all clear that the country silos erected in New South Wales are a proved success, and I think the Westralian farmers are wise in contenting themselves for the time being with the construction of terminal silos. The variation they suggest may be shortly stated. They have already subscribed 240,000 shares. That means that they have already in hand £120,000. They suggest that they do not subscribe the remaining 60,000 shares for the time being, but that they proceed only with the erection of the terminal silos. I propose to agree to the modification, stipulating on our side for a pro rata reduction in our obligation. This means that they will proceed with their present share capital of £240,000, and that we reduce our obligation to them to £440,000. That is a strictly pro rata arrangement. We reduce our obligation from £550,000 to £440,000, and they reduce theirs from £300,000 to £240,000.
– Is this one method of economizing ?
– Incidentally it is, and I commend this co-operative concern for what I cannot help regarding as a wise and cautious view of the situation. ‘When they have erected their terminal silos the question of whether country silos are a success will have been tested, and they can proceed in a year or two’s time with more experience behind them, a greater amount of resources, and more information on the whole subject. I commend this proposal to the House. It relieves us of an obligation to the extent of £110,000, and it enables the farmers of Western Australia to proceed with a somewhat less .ambitious scheme.
.- Honorable members will recollect that in August last we passed a Bill containing an agreement controlling the erection of silos in Western Australia. I understand from the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) that the amending Bill which he seeks leave to introduce will not involve any further obligation upon the Commonwealth.
– It means a reduced obligation.
– It provides simply for a modification of the provisions of the existing arrangement.. That being so, I do not intend to debate the matter at this stage, but would ask the right honorable gentleman whether he proposes to pass the Bill through all its stages this evening, or to adjourn its consideration until to-morrow.
– I regret to say that I cannot proceed further to-night for the reason that one party to this agreement has neglected to affix to it the seal of .the corporation. I am endeavouring to get into touch with him, but it does not seem that I shall be able to do so to-night. Having obtained the leave of the House to introduce the Bill I shall go no further with it until to-morrow. I regret that this incidental step has been omitted, but it is as vital as it is incidental.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work: - Perth New General Post Office building under construction - Extension by two floors for the accommodation of the Taxation and other Government Departments; which said work was referred to the Public Works Committee, and the Committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries thereon.
On the 25th November last I submitted to this House a motion referring this work to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report, in accordance with the provision of the Public Works
Committee Act. I then pointed out that when the original contract for the erection of the Perth General Post Office was entered into in 1914 it was considered that the number of stories for which it provided would be adequate for the purposes of the Departments for some time to come. Experience, however, has shown that the building as then designed will not be adequate. It was suggested, first of all, that the State Government should occupy one of the two floors if we proceeded with the extension, but the State Government could not see its way to do so, and the idea was dropped. In the meantime, Commonwealth Departments in Western Australia grew to such an extent, especially the Taxation Department, that it was urged that two. stories should be added to accommodate them. At present the Commonwealth Departments are in various buildings scattered throughout Perth, and the two additional stories, it was urged, would accommodate them all in the one building. The matter was investigated very fully by the Public Works Committee, evidence being taken in Western Australia from the officers of the various Departments. The result is that the Committee unanimously approve of the work being proceeded with, and they show in their report exactly what the cost will be. The original contract price for the building was £232,700, and, though there have been various modifications, that, roughly, remains the price to-day. The addition of two stories will cost,, probably, another £50,000, but the general result Will be to provide more efficient and cheaper accommodation for the Departments than we have at present. As I have said, the Public Departments, including the Audit Department, the SubTreasury, the Taxation Department, and the Electoral Department are scattered all over Perth.
– That applies to every capital.
– That is so, and a very great saving could be made if a change were effected.
– Yesterday the Treasurer told us that he has no money.
– This contract will extend over two years, and the money for this year has been provided. The Public Works Committee report that it will be more economical, and certainly result in more efficiency, if this extension is carried out as recommended. The contract was originally let to Mr. Arnott, and it is proposed by the Committee that he be allowed to complete the building on a schedule basis. Mr. Arnott has all his- material and plant on the spot, with an organized staff, and the Committee is of opinion he ought to be allowed to carry out the work of adding these two stories on the terms mentioned. The building is now ready to receive the roof, but the contractor has stayed his hand, leaving the material lying idle, pending the decision of the House. It will be seen that the matter is urgent ; and there is the additional fact that there is a. tendency for rents, under the present leases of the Public Departments, to rise.
.- It must be admitted that this can be described as an urgent work, inasmuch as the building has been under construction for some years. I take it that we are all agreed that it is much more economical to house our own Public Servants in our own buildings; and in the present case it certainly will be much more economical to make available this additional space than allow the original contract to be completed. From the report of the Public Works Committee I gather that the contractor is now at the stage when he is able to put the roof in position; consequently, whatever this House does must be done promptly. It may be asked why should this contractor be given this job without the calling for tenders; but the answer is not difficult to find. The present contractor has all the necessary apparatus on the spot, and therefore, he is able to complete the job much cheaper than if a fresh tender were accepted, and fresh plant had to be installed. My view is that it is essential, as far as possible, to have all the Commonwealth offices in one building. In any capital city of Australia, if inquiries . are made for the Commonwealth offices, the inquirer finds that he has to go to different streets ; indeed, it is difficult for the average resident to find exactly where they are located. I notice that these additional stories mean an expenditure of another £50,000; but in Perth to-day the Commonwealth is *paying, according to the evidence before the Public Works Commit tee, £2,635 per annum in rents. That is a little more than five per cent, on the’ estimated cost of the additions, but at the present time we cannot borrow money under six per cent. There is, therefore, a slight loss after providing interest on the additional capital to be found, but it is hardly worth considering in view of the increased facilities afforded to the public. There is another advantage in having all our Departments under one roof. Very often, under such circumstances, the Departments can be worked with less labour than ‘if they are scattered all over the city. Each Department has its- own staff, of course, but there is certain work, quite apart from the staff,- and for which we have to rely on casual labour. With half a dozen separate buildings the cost of this labour has to be met in each build- ing, whereas where all are under one roof, the aggregate cost does not equal that néw incurred. Notwithstanding the fact that money is scarce I regard this as an urgent work. The Public Works Committee gave the matter very ‘ close attention, and the evidence shows justification for their finding. Believing that finally the proposed addition will tend to reduce the cost of administration, I shall offer no opposition to the motion.
.- Why is it that, seeing the original work was referred to the Public Works Committee, it is now found necessary to alter the design? Who were the architects who drew up the original plans?
– They were drawn up in 1914.
– Has the contractor completed the original contract? Mr. GROOM - Yes.
– And now it is desired to add two stories. Surely there is something wrong? When the contract was let, the Department ought to have foreseen how the business would grow.
– Since 1914, the Taxation Branch alone has grown to such an extent that it will probably require two of the floors. In 1914 there was practically no Taxation Department at all.
– Has building been going on all that time?
– Yes; the work was delayed by the war.
– That, of course, makes some difference. I fancy it will “cost something” to add these two stories; and no doubt the contractor will get ‘ ‘a fair cut,” seeing that no one pan compete with him.
– The contractor did not make a fortune out of the first contract !
– Of course, if the contractor has to build by schedule there is a safeguard. I agree that it is better to have all the Departments under the one roof.
– The Minister told us that the contractor is to do the work on a percentage basis.
– Even that is better than a contract basis, because we know exactly what the work will cost.
– It will be on a schedule basis. ,
– No contractor can compete with Mr. Arnott, and I regard the percentage basis as a safeguard. Speaking generally, I urge the Government to house all the Commonwealth Departments in Sydney in one central building, and not leave them scattered all over the city as at present.
– That has been recommended.
– Then I hope the recommendation will be carried out.
– In the case of Brisbane, the matter has already been referred to the Public Works Committee.
– There is great scope for saving in the same direction in Sydney. I ‘regard the present proposal as a step in the right direction, and I hope a similar policy will be carried out in other capital cities.
.- When’ the original plans were furnished for this Post Office at Perth, a good deal of opposition was raised to the project. Mr. King O’Malley, who ‘was then in charge of the Works Administration, purchased the site at a valuation,’? which I suppose has by now nearly doubled ; and he was much criticised for what I regard as his foresight as to the requirements of the City of Perth. When this building was projected the Government of Western Australia was asked to occupy a portion of it, but the Government refused. I do not know much of the rr en who composed the State Government, but I do not think that ‘it reflects the opinion of the people of Western Australia. They were asked by the Commonwealth Government to become tenants of the building which it is proposed to erect, but refused to do so, and put all the obstacles that they could raise in the way of the Commonwealth Government because at the time a Labour Government was in power here.
– And it was a Labour Government under Scaddan that was in power in Western Australia.
–At any rate, that Government had’ not a vision extending beyond its own features, whereas this Government saw further ahead. The Perth General Post Office would have been finished now had the State Government shown more foresight. Since that time, the Western Australian Government has agreed with the Commonwealth Government upon the amalgamation of Taxation Departments, and a floor of the new General Post Office is to be devoted to the accommodation of the Taxation officers. We are amply justified in voting for the completion of this structure. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) spoke of’ the contractor for the building. I understand that the contractor is satisfied that a schedule can be drawn up to which the Department can agree as showing the amount required to finish the building. Strangely enough, the calamity howlers in this Chamber all hail from Western Australia.’ They are perpetually crying economy; they talk it by the yard, and spin it out by the mile. Their utterances cast gloom on a community that has already sufficient to bear. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) should have thought twice before saying what he did the other day about our financial position, because,, above all things, a public man should be optimistic. That is the foundation of his .success. Now, however, the Western Australian members are pressing for Government expenditure in Perth, trying to obtain something of the kind that New South Wales members want to get done at Canberra. We wish to have the Commonwealth Parliament and the administrative offices of the Commonwealth put in the Federal Territory; and the Western Australian members wish to have the Commonwealth Departments of Perth housed in the one building. I agree with them that that should be done. It is not often that we get an opportunity to discuss matters of finance here. I am satisfied that this proposal is a sound one, because the money is to be usefully expended. There is no extravagance in spending money for a work which is necessary for the proper conduct of the business of the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, in to-morrow’s newspapers we shall probably read adverse criticism of this proposal, and the Taxpayers’ Association, the members of which are merely’ tax-dodgers, will object to it. About £200,000 has already been spent on the Perth General Post Office, and from this expenditure we get no direct return; but the proposed additions, which will cost £50,000, will give us a return. If the men at the head of this Administration had proper financial knowledge, a redemption fund would be provided to gradually extinguish the debt on the building. Unfortunately, that is not provided for, and nothing of the kind is to be expected until, with a change of Government, the party to which I belong w:ns the opportunity to show the people how its affairs should be financed.
Mr. FENTON (Maribyrnong) [9.231 .- I would have liked the Minister to tell us a little more about the resumed property on which the Perth General Post Office is being built. I understand that some years ago a Commonwealth Government acquired in Perth a very valuable property, which can be made an exceptionally , fine investment. There is, or was, a first-class hotel on the site, and I understand that a street was to be formed. Some of the citizens’ of Perth wish for expenditure on ornamentation there, but those who regard this as a business proposition consider that it would be better to create shop frontages.
– I could not go into the matter to which the honorable member is alluding, because ;t is irrelevant to the proposal, which is the sanctioning of the addition of two stories to the Perth General Post Office.
– I have no objection to the spending pf £50,000 on the proposed addition, but the Minister could have improved h:s case by foreshadowing the works that are to be carried out in the future to make the whole scheme revenueprod uc:ng.
– That would have been outside the scope of the reference to the Public Works Committee.
– I do not wish to introduce irrelevant matter. What I have seen of the Perth General Post Office makes me think that the structure is a very fine’ one, and although money is dear at the present time, it will be in the long run profitable to expend it in housing our officais in the manner proposed. Those who have travelled about the Commonwealth know how much time and -money is wasted by the present arrangement of having the Commonwealth Offices distributed all about the various capital cities. ‘ The sooner we have in each of the capitals buildings which will house all the Commonwealth servants there, the better it w:ll be for the public and for the Commonwealth Service, because.it will facilitate inter-departmental communication, and will convenience all who have business with Government Departments. I hope that this fine structure, which will adorn the wonderful city of Perth, may be completed soon. *
– I support the proposal, but ‘1 am sorry that it does not go further. It is not economical to build on an expensive site a build ng lower than the municipal regulations will allow the s’te to carry. That it is now proposed to add two stories to a five storied building proves my contention. It is a waste of public money to put a three or four storied building on an expensive site whch would carry a seven or eight storied building, and provide floor-space economically. Nowadays, when a big steam-ship company or any other enterprising business concern is erecting city offices, it generally builds as high as the municipal regulations will permit. If they do not wish to use the whole of the building they let portion until it is required for their own purposes. Here is an example of what occurs in connexion with the so-called economies of government. When the building was first planned, a five-storied structure was contemplated, but it had not been roofed when it became evident that upon . such a valuable site a building of such a character would not be economical. The proposal was made, therefore, to add two additional/stories. It is not economical to place a roof upon a low building, in such circumstances, and then, only a few years afterwards, to take it off and build the structure higher. There was a similar experience in connexion with the great railway station in Sydney. I believe that the additions to that structure have ‘cost twice as much as would have been the case had they been made when the station was originally built. If one were to investigate the erection of Commonwealth buildings throughout the States, and to ascertain the additional costs involved by tinkering W.th those build. nas because the first plans had not been on a sufficiently elaborate scale, an enormous waste of public money would be revealed. Perth is -a big and a growing city. I agree with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) that the public buildings of the Commonwealth should be erected by optimists who have faith in the future of Australia, and whose optimism would rapidly prove the best form of economy.
.- I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond). The reason why the Perth postoffice was not originally erected as is now proposed rests with that gang which is attached to the Commonwealth Public Works Branch, and which is now ‘trying to ruin Canberra. Perth can claim something possessed bv no other city which I have ever visited. Owing to the genius of Mr. King O ‘Malley, the General Post Office in Perth has been built on the best possible site. The two great points of meeting in any metropolis are its central railway station and General Post Office. 1 know of no city in Australia or Great Britain where there is a junction of those two centres such as in Perth. The land upon which the General Post Office has been reared has been secured practically for nothing. The money spent thereon is returning’ at present more than 5 per cent. ; when I was in Perth the return amounted to between 6 per cent, and 7 per cent. Ultimately, the General Post Office site will prove to have cost the Commonwealth nothing, and when the proper structure shall have been reared there will be a huge revenue returning 7£ per cent, upon the original cost of the land. The sum of £50,000 involved in the buildin? of two additional stories is an expenditure which 1 consider wise, but it jars upon my mind that the work should not be open to public tender. I understand that the difficulty in this respect is due to the fact that the contractor is already in possession of the situation.
I plead with the Government to throw open the designing of public buildings competitively to the architects of Australia, and not to let the work remain with that abomination of all centres, that little circle in the Works Department which tried to ruin one of the most bril liant geniuses who ever came to this country. I recall that the “ honorable member for the void,” Mr. Watt, sent a petty litt e official to block the recommendations of Mr. Commissioner blacket Upon the subject to which I am now alluding. There h no architect in Austral. a who can proceed along St. Kilda-road to-day without being horrified at that laughingstock which houses the Repatriation Department. That job came from that same cauldron of absurdity; and until the gang to which I am alluding is placed under proper control, Australia will never have fair play in the erection of her public buildings. The facts form almost as great an infamy as the giving out of the architectural work in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney, in which there was involved that family combine of Miller and Kirkpatrick.
– Order!’ The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the motion.
– I admit that, sir; but if the architects of Australia were given opportunities to submit competitive plans for our public buildings, this present absurdity would not have been occupying the attention of honorable members. The work proposed should have been performed in the first instance, and n saying that I do not blame the Government. lt is a shame that the architects of Australia should be ignored and all our great public works given over into’ the hands of one little individual who has never won, and could never win, an open architectural competition in this or any other country.
– There are as good architects in the Commonwealth Department as anywhere in Australia.
– I pr y that God will give the h” nor able number sense, for nature has nut endowed h.m with any. 1 wish Perth well ; but, speaking for a large body, namely, the architects of Australia, I trust that in future the Government will give them a chance, and, moreover, will seek the advice of the Institute of Architects throughout the States whenever important public works are contemplated.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister f-t Work3 and Railways) [9.401. - The Pe th Gener1 Post Office was originally designed to be constructed to the full height now intended, but the topmost stories, which will greatly add to the architectural effect of the structure, were not placed upon the building. Now, however, the additions are absolutely essential.
So far as our departmental officers are concerned, there are no better in Australia. The officer in charge of the architectural work is by nature a gentleman. He has proved his capacity in every way; and he has the confidence of the architects of the Commonwealth.
– What is his name?
– I refer to Mr. Murdoch.
– He never won a competition in his life.
– He is one of the most skilful men We have, and he has rendered invaluable service to the Commonwealth. I resent the cruel remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne, and it is only right that I should endeavour to defend public officials who have been attacked and have not the opportunity to reply. It is about time this kind of criticism was dropped. The work of Mr. Murdoch has come under the review of the Public Works Committee again and again. He has had to withstand the full force of the many probings of that body, and I leave it to the judgment of honorable members whether the attack of the honorable member . is either justifiable or worthy of himself.
– Did he ever win a competition ?
– Even assuming that, he did not, what has thai to do with the situation ? I might just as well infer that the honorable member for Melbourne is no good in his profession because he did not win a competition.
– As a matter of fact, I did.
– I congratulate the honorable member. If there are sixty medical students competing for a prize, am I to say that the fifty-nine who did net secure it are incompetent?
– Certainly not.
– The circumstances are analogous. The Commonwealth is fortunate in having such a gentleman in its employ as Mr. Murdoch.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means;
Consideration resumed f rem 11th May (vide page S308), on -motion by Mr.
That duties of Customs and duties of Excise (vide page 726), first item, be imposed.
.- When I secured permission last evening to resume my remarks to-day, I was referring to the fact that Japan was the only country which had beaten the American Tobacco Combine. I propose to show as briefly as possible how this was done. It was during the RussoJapanese war, when the latter nation desired to borrow money, and found that a tobacco ‘ monopoly was a great asset! The Japanese approached the American Combine, which, however, would have nothing to do with the proposal. Thereupon the Government of Japan imposed a 50 per cent. duty. Still, the Combine did not care. Therefore, the Japanese authorities, within a year, imposed a duty of 100 per cent.; and still the Combine was perfectly happy. Next year came 150 per cent., and ultimately with a Tariff at 250 per cent., which obliged the Combine to pay a duty of £25 on cigars valued at £10 f.o.b. Hamburg, the Americans recognised that they would have to come to terms with the Japanese Government. Accordingly they approached that Government, but were informed that the Government- wished them to remain in business in Japan. The Government pointed out that several fair offers had been made to the Combine which they were not prepared to accept, and they could do no more in the matter. The Combine realized that, in the circumstances, they could not continue to carry on business in Japan, and determined to cut out all operations there. As the result the Japanese Government were in a position to buy, for a mere song, the buildings of the Combine and what machinery it did not pay to remove. To-day the Japanese are facing, with success, the competition of American Tobacco Combines from Vladivostock in the North to Bombay in the South, and are providing a cigarette equal to what is produced in any other part of the world.
Yesterday I claimed that the most uptodate Tariffs in the world were these of the United States of America and Japan.
I would like to see either adopted en bloc, with perhaps a few additional items relating to matters in which the East would naturally differ from the West. The figures showing the protection afforded to the Japanese cigar maker are startling. The duty on a box of cigars weighing 1£ lbs. and worth 20s. on board shio before landing is 15s. under our Tariff. But that is not the actual amount of protection afforded to the local cigar maker. We must also deduct from this 15s. the duty charged on the imported leaf and the amount of excise duty, which two items equal 6s. 9d. on the lj lb. box. The net protection afforded to the local cigarmaker is therefore only 8s. 5d. on that box of cigars. On a box of cigars of the same value the Japanese cigar maker is protected by a duty of £3 lis., and on a box of cigars of the same weight worth ls. each on board ship before landing the protection afforded to him is £17 15s., the duty in Japan being 355 per cent, ad valorem.
– The Japanese must be Prohibitionists. 1
– As the Japanese Government have a monopoly of tobacco it comes in free so far as they are concerned. Otherwise the duty is to all intents and purposes prohibitive.
In discussing Protection we cannot have a better illustration than a box of matches. In Great Britain the women and children who are employed at match making, mostly in their homes, receive 2£d. for making a gross of match boxes, and they are obliged to find their own paste. In 1902 I visited Japan, and I wrote a small book describing my visit, in which I said -
In . the year 1902 Japan manufactured 328,806.090 grogs of matches at a cost of 8,608,571 yen. Beckoning one yen at 2s. - the actual value is 2s. 0½d.-this works out at a trifle over f of a penny (.635d.) per gross. In face of these figures, it seems that even Scandinavia must shortly surrender the business of match making absolutely to Japan.
What is the use of a duty of 100 per cent., or even 1,000 per cent., on matches when Japanese workers are prepared to make and fill a gross of matchboxes for a little over one halfpenny?
I am proud of the speech delivered yesterday by the Minister -for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene). I am sure it will be quoted a great deal in the future. The aftermath of the terrible war makes it absolutely necessary to have a real Tariff for Australia. . For twenty years the two walls of this chamber have rung with thespeeches of Protectionists, but in this twenty years we have not had a real uptodate Tariff. Even that which theMinister has brought in is not as perfect as either the United States’ or’ the Japanese Tariff. Australia must manufacture all its needs’. It is time we became proud of our country. We held our own in the most terrible ordeal a nation can undergo, but we are not manufacturing commodities as we should be doing. We are told that some wool and skins are to be burnt to get rid .of them.
– We are getting that wool made into twine. Did not I show the honorable member a sample?
– Yes, I have it with me, but it is an absolute infamy to think that all this splendid material should be* burnt. It is as big a crime as that of a man who burns a house, and the crime of arson is next to that of murder. Honorable members - have spoken of wool with weevils in it, and of decaying skins. Surely there is some way in which the Government could come to the assistance of the men who hold this wool or these skins. Surely they could be. collected in some way and stored in some centres instead of being destroyed when more than half the world is begging for wool.: Next to feeding people comes the. clothing of them. There are to-day millions oi people in Central Europe without proper clothing. Therefore, I pretest against the destruction of wool and hides. It is an infamy. The man who burns his wool is equally guilty with the man who burns down a house.
Honorable. members may remember how time after time I have spoken about the Anzac hand-woven tweeds which Senator Millen said could not possibly succeed as an industry”. I have pointed but how. some of the unfortunate soldiers had their pensions deducted from the paltry two guineas they were allowed. However, a change has come about. These men are now earning their £6 or .£7 per week, although Sergeant Sinclair, who fought the Minister for’ them. was ultimately compelled to leave the Service and start a mill of his own.
– Surely he was not compelled to leave the Service.
– He Was outed by the action of the. Minister. Honorable members will recollect how the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) was sold a gold brick, or, should I say, an attenuated pup. He brought up a report which had really been supplied under false pretences.
– Still, the honorable gentleman acted very well in the matter.
– But he has not publicly corrected those who “ sold him the pup,” nor has he told them that they ought to be ashamed of themselves. Our Govern men t factories should be extended. When the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was Treasurer, I submitted to him an offer by a manufacturer of this State to supply to the public cheap clothing on certain conditions; but the honorable member did not “ play the game.” At the time, certain factories which had contracted with the Defence Department to make clothes for our returned soldiers were being supplied by the Government with various tweeds at 4s. 6d. per yard. The tenders received for suits to be made from such tweeds ranged from 26s. 3d. to 30s. each. A local manufacturer placed in my hand an offer to supply factory-made suits to the general public for £2 2s., and tailor-made suits for £3, if the Government would undertake to let him have the same tweeds at the price at which it was being supplied to these factories. He was prepared to begin with an output of 500 suits per week, and to work up to an output of 1,000 suits weekly. The honorable member for Balaclava referred me to Senator Russell, who told me that the Defence Department could make a better arrangement. I urged it to do so without delay. Why should not the public have the same consideration in thisregard as is extended to our soldiers? If the Commonwealth Mills cannot turn out sufficient tweed to enable the public as well as our returned men to be supplied at these low rates we should extend them. The tweed is of excellent quality, and would command a market in any part of the world. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) showed me some splendid samples of cross-bred wool, which he informed me was being sold at 3d. per lb. Seven pounds of greasy wool will make a suit.
– I have heard that statementmade before, but as a matter of fact, 7 lbs, ofscouredwool are necessary.
– My informationis that 7 lbs. of greasy wool, or from 3½ to 4 lbs. of scoured wool, is all that is required. Seven pounds of wool at 3d. per lb. would represent a cost of only1s. 9d. in respect of the wool necessary tor a suit of clothes. I heard the splendid lecture delivered last week to members of both Houses by Senator Guthrie, and if the facts whichhe gave us were only put fully before the people, they would realize what huge profits are being made by the manufacturers, the Flinders-lane warehousemen, and thelarge retail sellers. I had submitted tome evidence that tweeds sold at a Geelongmall at prices ranging from 6s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. per yard were sent from Geelong to a Melbourne warehouse, and finally returned to Geelong, where they were retailed at prices ranging from £1 to 35s. per yard. The State Government, during the war, appointed a Pair Prices Commission, consisting of Sir James McCay, Mr. Charles Gray, and Mr. Hutchinson, but it had little or no power to deal with profiteeri ng. If it had been empowered to order the imprisonment of profiteers, it would have been able to do some good. It has been unjustly blamed, and I take this opportunity to extend to its members my meed of praise for the work done bythem. Where it was proved before the Commission that a grocer or tailor had overcharged an individual, the Commission could compel that grocer or tailor to make a refund, but it had no power to deal with wholesale robbery. How many people would be prepared to waste a day or two in giving evidence before the Commission concerning an overcharge of 3s. or 4s. in a grocery bill? The position would havebeen different if the Commonwealth or the State Government had followed the splendid example of Napoleon, who in 1812, provided that if any body of men came together for the purpose of unduly raising the prices of any goods, they should be punished by a fine of 20,000 francs, and, inaddition, be imprisonedfor six months. If the raisins of prices related to foodstuffs - to such commodities as wheat, flour, or wines - the punishment was doubled.
– There was an abundance of such laws in the Old Country as far back as the fifteenth century.
– I wish we had some of them in operation here to-day . Consider for a moment the Cotton Combine.
I hope that we shall protect the local manufacturer of thread, who is putting out a splendid article. With a duty of 10 per cent, on fancy cotton goods he will be able to compete with such firms as J. and P. Coats Limited. In a circular issued by the secretary of the Industrial Protectionist League, it is said that the Age, in its issue of 11th November, 1919, reported that -
The company of J. and P. Coats Limited, the firm which makes the thread that is used by weary and worn fingers in many . a humble dwelling, made last year a profit of £3,8!)9,38S. After the payment of the “ excess profits tax” - surely the impost is a tragic joke! - the holders of ordinary shares received a dividend of 40 per’ cent., while £2,200,288 was carried forward, making the reserve funds £11,000,000. It is understood that the ordinary shareholders are also receiving a share bonus of 100 per cent.
According to this circular it was further stated by the Age, in its issue of 13th November, 1919, that-
The directors of J. and P. Coats Limited are seeking the authority of the shareholders to capitalize £10.250,000 of the company’s reserves, thereby raising the total capital to £20.250.000. They point out that this scheme if adopted would not increase the earnings of thu country, but it “ would reduce the apparently high dividends which the public is adversely criticising.”
If the directors of this company ever go to the place where the wings are served out I hope they will have to carry that money in gold. If they do they will not fly far. The profits made by the company of recent years are as follows: -
These huge profits , were wrung during the war from nearly every human being on God’s earth. Why the British Government did not. follow the example set them by the elder Pitt, who, during the Napoleonic wars, impounded” a large amount of the capital of such companies, I cannot understand.
As I understand that the Minister (Mr. . Greene) desires that the general debate shall close this evening, I shall not delay the Committee any longer. I trust that the honorable gentleman will stand firmly by the duties for which .be has provided. If he does what, having regard to the splendid speech he made last night, one is constrained to believe he will do, he will have my sincere admiration.
.- While I can hardly go to the extent to which the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) is prepared to go in his support of this Tariff, I stand pledged to give reasonable protection to secondary industries, believing, as I do, that it is highly necessary for primary production to be followed by secondary production. Last night we heard a lecture on the Northern Territory, and were told that the chief industry in that great area, embracing as it does some 520,000 square miles, is pastoral. It was also stated that the pastoral industry may be followed up successfully by mining, and that to make both reasonably successful’ it is necessary to have a railway. I cannot see that Protection can give any great assistance to these three great interests for a considerable time to come. In Queensland, I understand, there are some 41^,000,000 acres of land, not more than 20,000,000 of which are alienated, while the population is smaller than that of Melbourne. There, again, we see the necessity for primary production, and the opening up of our great resources. In Australia we require at least another 5.000.000 people. To place those people, if they come here, in our cities would mean ruin, but picked, desirable settlers., with a knowledge of their business from an agricultural stand-point, placed on the land, would prove one of Australia’s greatest assets. There are some 500.000 acres of stations in New South Wales and part of Queensland that are now being subdivided for closer settlement. In view of that large scheme of settlement, and of the great acreage of the Northern Territory and Queensland, it is ‘ highly necessary that our settlers should be given all the assistance within our power. Included amongst those are 22.000 in soldier, settlements, who mainly produce butter, wheat, wool, and meat; and it is highly necessary that the producers of these commodities should be able to procure their tools of production at the most reasonable price, and provided with railways and roads. Here,, again, I fail to see how an excessive Tariff can be of much assistance for years to come.
The dairying industry has been a great benefit to Australia in the past, and we trust it may be even more beneficial in the future. For eight months during the sale of our butter to’ the Imperial Government, if I mistake not, the “amount received in return was some £10,000,000. That was without any assistance from the Tariff, as the world’s market very largely regulates the price of the product. The dairying industry is simply in its infancy, and as various byproducts are now under scientific investigation, it is one to which assistance might be given with great benefit to the country at large.. Another great industry is the woollen industry, which for many years prior to the war returned to Australia some £32,000,000 per annum. I fail to see why we are not converting more than 8$ per cent, of .this, our own wool, into manufactured goods. It is not Protection that this industry requires, but something quite apart from Protection. Our wool is taken Home and brought back manufactured; and hitherto we have been supplying Germany with wool for manufacture into clothing, while our own people have been practically idle. The woollen industry is probably one of the greatest in Australia, and if £32,000,000 worth or thereabouts, of our wool were converted into textiles here, that figure, would be increased ‘to over £70,000,000, while employment would be given to 140,000 workers, representing the sustenance of about 500,000 people. The food alone required for the Upkeep of that army of men and women would run to over £12,000,000 a year; and it is here that the farmer would benefit. But still I do not see that to this particular industry Protection can give any great assistance. There are- other industries, however, to which, no doubt, Protection is highly necessary. As a young country we -must develop our secondary industries along with the primary; and to that end there must certainly be fair and reasonable Protection, which I, as a member of the House, am prepared to extend. There are industries that the war has proved necessary to us, not only as a means -of employment, but as a source of defence. The war has brought to light many inventions that would not have been thought of for many years to come ; let us not lose sight of the valuable information thus given, but take, time by the forelock. I feel sure that honorable members in this corner will give all reasonable assistance to those industries that afford tangible proof of requiring it.
The primary producer, as I have already stated, depends largely on the world’s market for the sale of his produce. It is very different with the manufacturer, who has the advantage of Wages Board awards and Arbitration Court findings, and who. also has the happy knack of not only adding to his price the cost of any such findings, but a considerable amount in addition, while the unprotected consumer pays ‘ all the time. I am sure the Minister will keep his eye on this “aspect of the question. I am pleased-to hear that the Minister has in his mind the appointment of a scientific Board in order that moves of the kind indicated may be watched. If that is not done, there will be continual clamour for Protection, Protection, Protection, as in the past, and the helpless consumer will in all cases pay -the piper. The high wages awarded by Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts in certain industries are draining the country of farmers’ sons. We cannot possibly expect a farmer’s son to remain on the land, for 30s. to £2 per week and his keep, when he can get over double that pay in a manufacturing establishment, with shorter hours, better opportunities for recreation, and sports in every direction. If we get the flood of immigration which we hope and look for, and there is no wise supervision in order that the immigrants may be kept out of the cities and placed in their proper vocation in life, it will prove’ a greater menace than a benefit. We shall simply become a manufacturing community regulated by Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts, which must break down from their very artificiality, if from nothing else.
The Minister did not say straight out that this is really not a protective but a revenue Tariff, which he asks our assistance to push through because the Government requires’ the money, and then promise that at the earliest possible moment, when the finances allow, he will revise it; he believed that it would have a speedy passage. But that it is a revenue Tariff is proved by the fact that the Customs receipts for the year ending 31st March were £32,072,408, equal to a tax of 6s. 3d. per head of our population. Yet certain members of the House are continually crying down the profiteer as the cause of the high cost of living, though the demands of the Customs House are largely responsible for the cost.
– That is only another way of saying that the war is responsible.
– The war is not responsible for the squandering of money on Yass-Canberra ; it is not responsible for the building of the Commonwealth Bank at a cost of over £200,000, which might have been delayed for three or four years, when probably it would have cost £30,000 or £40,000 less.
– It has not cost us that amount.
– The war is not responsible for our increasing our own salaries by 66 per cent.; it is not responsible for the duplication of the Taxation Departments; it is not responsible for thousands of pounds squandered in a hundred and one directions to which I have not now time to refer.
We have 3,000,000 square miles of territory peopled by just over 5,000,000 people. The United States of America have a population of 111,000,000 on an area not as large as Australia. Our continent is fourteen times larger than Germany, which has a population of 68,000,000. We have twenty-seven times the area of Italy, which has a population of 36,000,000. Australia has an area equal to two-fifths of the whole area of South America, where there are 88,000,000 people. I have been a Protectionist all my life, and I dp not see. my way to alter my opinion now; but these facts prove to me, wrong as I may be, that the brains and intelligence of this House should be concentrated on the opening up and development of the great resources of this young continent, for otherwise we cannot possibly expect to hold it.
In regard to machinery I have quite a sheaf of information; but the honorable member for Dumpier (Mr. Gregory) has, in my honest opinion, pretty well covered that branch of the subject - though, perhaps a little on the low Tariff side - in one of the ablest speeches yet made on the Tariff. That honorable member gave the House the fullest information he could collect, after months of work, and presented a most comprehensive view of the position as it is to-day. Under the circumstances, I do not propose to traverse the same ground, but merely to refer to one or two items, particularly with reference to the machinery industry in Canada. Canadian workmen are higher paid than Australian. On the other hand, the Australian manufacturer secures his raw materials at prices equal to or even less than those of the Canadian manufacturer. With all these advantages in his favour, it would be reasonable to expect the Australian manufacturer, if he is efficient in his methods of production, and satisfied with a reasonable profit, to produce and sell the machines he manufactures at about the same price at which the Canadian manufacturer sells similar machines in Canada. The following table, showing the prices of representative farm machines in Canada and Australia, will not only indicate the disadvantage under which the Australian farmer labours, but also the advantage the Australian manufacturer has taken of the opportunity both distance and the Tariff have given him to feather his own nest:-
As a farmer who knows something about agricultural machinery, I hold the view that the difference between the price of reapers and binders in Canada and their price in Australia is excessive, and so with many other articles on this list. I hope, therefore, that members will not agree to every item without inquiry. We ought not to build up Combines in Australia to the advantage of a few individuals; our object should be to secure fair treatment for the whole of the community. The fact that the Tariff schedule, as a whole, is calculated to produce a magnificent revenue is not an argument for its acceptance, because if money is not obtained in this way it must be got from some other source, and it is for honorable members to determine whether there would be any gain in that.
Mr.G regory. - Let us tax luxuries more.
– I am prepared to put a prohibitive tax on luxuries, or, rather, I would make the tax on them similar to that on farming machinery, which is practically prohibitive. I am sure that honorable members will do their best to makethe Tariff as nearly scientific as is possible under the circumstances. I trust that the proposed Board will be in no sense political, and will be composed of independent, brainy men, who will do their duty honestly.
Item (ale and other beer, porter, cider, and perry, spirituous) agreed to.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon.J. M. Chanter) reported, the receipt of a letter from the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) tendering his resignation as a member of the Public Works Committee.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed - The House do now adjourn.
– There is a sub ject to which I should have referred when speaking on the grievance motionhad the Treasurer been present, but he was absent in theperformanceof duties elsewhere, and, of course, is not to be blamed for that. This afternoon I addressed to him a series of questions relating to silver coinage, but they did not appear on the notice paper exactly as I wrote them. Perhaps it would be better to give notice of them again in the form in which they were originally drafted. The coins to which I referred were, in my opinion, counterfeit, and they were obtained, not in one business place, but in two. They were part of some coinage got from the Imperial Government b ecause of the great demand for silver created by the return of our soldiers. There was not sufficient in Australia at the time to conduct ordinary business. I know that these coins came from the Imperial mint, and, if possible, I shall endeavour to get some like them. They were tested with acid, and proved to contain a certain quantity of zinc. Any person having to do with money would conclude, as I did, that they did not contain 90 per cent. of fine silver. The Treasurer was correct in his statement that the coinage of 1920 contained the right proportion of silver, because that money was coined in Australia, but the money to which I referred was not. coined here. I referred to it as “dated 1920,” but other words were used in printing my question which placed a different meaning on it. I make this explanation in justice to myself, to show that the questions were not frivolous and thatI knew what I was talking about.
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 May 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210512_reps_8_95/>.