9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The House met at 3 p.m. pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General.
The Clerk read the proclamation.
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A.Watt) took the chair, and read prayers.
The Usher of the Black Rod, being announced, was admitted, and delivered the message that His Excellency the Governor-General desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber.
Mr. Speaker and honorable members attended accordingly, and having returned,
Mr. J. FRANCIS made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral district of Moreton.
The Clerk informed the House that he had received the return to the writ issued for the election of a memberfor the Northern Territory, indorsed with a certificate of the election of Harold George Nelson, Esquire.
The Clerk also laid on the table a copy of a petition by John Alfred Porter against the return of Mr. Harold George Nelson as member for the Northern Territory, and read the order of the High Court dismissing the application for an order extending the time for service of the petition.
NEW GUINEA BILL (Formal).
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave he given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend section 14 of the New Guinea Act 1920.
Bill presentedand read a first time.
Sitting suspended from.3.32 to4.30 p.m.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received the report of the Board regarding the deportation of the Irish envoys, and, if so, in view of the fact that these envoys have British passports, will he, before deciding on deportation, make provision for them to be tried by a jury?
– I have not yet received the report of the Board which was appointed to try certain persons in this country.When I do receive the report, the Government will consider what action shall be taken with regard to it.
-Is the Prime Minister prepared to lay on the table the last balance-sheet or other documents showing the present financial position of the Expropriation Board in the mandated Territory of German New Guinea?
– I shall look intothe position and see what the state of the accounts is at the moment. I shall see that the information is laid on the table as soon as possible.
Mr.SCULLIN.- Will the Minister for Defence lay on the table the file of papers in connexion with the sale of the Government Woollen Mills at Geelong, together with the last balance-sheet of that institution ?
– The last balancesheet is ready for the House, and will be laid on the table at once. The file I shall have placed at the honorable member’s disposal. I think it will be available next Wednesday.
– In view of the proposed limitation of the session, and the important business of the Imperial Conference, will the Prime Minister give the House an early opportunity to discuss the business he intends to bring before that Conference?
– The agenda-paper of the Imperial Conference will be placed before the House, and every opportunity given for the fullest discussion.
– At an early date?
– As soon as it is possible.
– I hope that the Minister, like myself, regards this as a matter of urgency. The honorable gentleman has stated that he is prepared to lay the agenda-paper before the House for discussion at the earliest moment. That seems to me indefinite, and I should like him to say whether he will be prepared to have the discussion within two or three weeks, or a month, so that we may have ample time to deal with the matter, rather than have such importantbusiness left to the last days of the session.
– I regard the honorable gentleman’s question as of sufficient urgency to be answered at once. Ample opportunity will be given to honorable members to consider the agenda-paper of the Imperial Conference. The Government will choose the time when it is possible to put it before the House, but I give my assurance that there will be ample time to discuss it before the close of thesession.
– In view of the fact that the representatives of the States at the recent Premiers’ Conference did not come to an agreement with regard to the Hay-Port Augusta line as a portion of the uniform gauge proposals, will the Prime Minister sympathetically consider the advisability of making sufficient funds available to the New South Wales Government for the completion of the CondobolinBroken Hill line?
– May I point out, in the first place, that this is a question of policy which the Government cannot deal with by way of answers to questions. In the second place, it is desirable in the interests of honorable members themselves, whose questions are all of the greatest importance, that opportunity should be given to the Government to supply them with the fullest information available. Unless a question is so urgent that even the delay of a day is impossible, the Government must ask that it be placed on the notice-paper, when it will receive the consideration that I am sure every question deserves.
– I desire to know whether the action of one section of the Government party in calling before it yesterday the Chairman of the Tariff Board, and interrogating him with regard to certain matters, notably the remission of duty on 500 tons of sulphur, has the approval of the Minister for Trade and Customs. Will the honorable gentleman also tell us the nature of the replies of the Chairman of the Tariff Board ?
– Yes, the visit of the official to the Treasury had my approval, and if the honorable member, or any other honorable member, desires the information, I shall be glad to send an official over to give it to him.
– Will the Prime Minister make available to the Labour party for its Caucus meeting on Thursday next the Secretary of Defence (Mr. Trumble) and any other officers whose attendance may be desired by the party?
– It seems to me a rather extraordinary procedure that Government officers should be sent to any party meeting, but if the Government can render assistance to any member who desires the services of an officer we shall be glad to do so, if such officer is available.
– Will the Prime Minister explain to the House the duties and peculiarmeanderings of Mr. Percy Hunter?
- Mr. Percy Hunter is the
Director of Immigration; he has been on a visit to Australia, and has returned to London to continue the discharge of his duties.
– I ask the Prime Minister what is the status of Mr. Alexander Russell in the Prime Minister’s Department, who appointed him, what salary does he receive, and who pays him ?
– Mr. Alexander Russell is not in the Prime Minister’s Department, he does not receive any official salary, and he has no Government duties at all.
– If Mr. Alexander Russell has not received any Government appointment, receives no salary, and has no duties, what is he doing in the office of the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department with a desk at his disposal ?
- Mr. Alexander Russell has no official duties or status, and be visits the Department only on occasions when I ask him to come there to attend to my own private affairs. He is there purely for my convenience, and his duties and payment have nothing to do with the Government.
Address - in-Reply .
– I have to report that the House this day attended his Excellency the GovernorGeneral in the Senate chamber, where His Excellency was pleased to make a Speech to both Houses of Parliament, of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy. As honorable members have copies of the Speech in their hands, I presume that they do not desire me formally to read it.
Motion (by Mr.Bruce) proposed -
That a Committee consisting of Mr. J. Francis. Mr. Paterson, and the mover,be appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to both Houses of the Parliament, and that the Committee do report this day.
– I may be taking an unprecedented course in speaking at this stage, but I do not think that the task of preparing the Address-in-Reply would be adequately carried out by the two honorable members mentioned, and I suggest that the honorable members forWakefield (Mr. Richard Poster) and Barker (Mr. M. D. Cameron) would be more competent to deal with the matter. They could deal effectively with the need for carrying out the North-South railway, which means so much to the advancement and development of Australia, and could speak of the neglect of the Government to honour the contract made by the Commonwealth with the State of South Australia.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing any feature of the Governor-General’s Speech at this stage.
– I am merely suggesting that the task could be more adequately carried out by the two honorable gentlemen whose names I have suggested, because I think it is the only way in which they can explain their position in regard to the Government’s proposals.
.- I take this opportunity of bringing under the notice of the Ministry an instance in which a good deal of economy could be exercised. Prior to the opening of the last session no fewer than twelve highlypaid officials entered the Library of this building, walked around it, and looked at the tables and the chairs to see what the Governor-General would have to do when he attended there to await the presentation of Mr. Speaker. If one aidedecamp had come and asked our Librarian, who has had probably thirty years’ experience of similar functions, he could have seen all that was required to be seen, and there would then have been no necessity for sending along the Admiral of the Fleet and, I believe, also, the Commandant, as well as ten other highlypaid officials. The Ministry cannot be blamed for this ridiculous expenditure, but now that their attention has been drawn to the waste of money I hope that they will realize that an aide-de-camp could quite easily consult the Librarian as to whether the Governor-General’schair has been placed in. a proper position.
– This discussion is quite irregular. It will be necessary for any honorable member who addresses himself to the motion to keep strictly to itsterms.
.- While we are preparing an AddressinReply to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral’s speech, it is surely competent for us to point out that in our opinion a good deal of the flummery and ceremonial attached to the opening of Parliament should be abolished. We should intimate to him clearly that all this flaunting and ceremony in the streets should be done away with. Fancy us, a democratic community, having our Governor-General drawn through the streets in a State carriage with uniformed postillions in powdered wigs and with outriders on prancing, fiery steeds !
– The honorable member’s remarks are not apposite to the motion.
– My desire is that we should convey to His Excellency the Governor-General our opinion that all this kind of thing should he done away with, and in order that the House may know exactly what it is asked to agree to it is necessary for me to explain exactly what has happened. My remarks, therefore, are in the ambit of. the motion.
– The honorable member will find they are not.
– If you, sir, say they are not, I am afraid I cannot overcome such an obstacle; but I only want to say in conclusion that while yesterday a deputation representing thousands of unemployed and starving citizens waited on the Acting Premier of Victoria-
– Order !
– To-day all this flummery is flaunted in the face of the people.
– The honorable member is out of order.
.- The Governor-General, in his Speech, addresses honorable members of this House, and the Address-in-Reply, which we propose to present to him, should reflect the opinions of honorable members of this House. The Government proposes to appoint two honorable gentlemen to express its views, but the whole of this House, and not merely the Government, should do that. This ques tion may not have been raised in previous Parliaments; the excuse for raising it now is that we are endeavouring to improve upon the parliamentary procedure of the past. The amendment proposes the names of two other honorable gentlemen, who, we think, can better express to His Excellency the views of members of this House. I am becoming tired of formalities in which everything is prepared in advance, and I desire, if possible, to present to His Excellency an Address-in-Reply which will reflect the opinion of the whole of this House, which is composed, not merely of the Government, but also of an Opposition and athird party. At present we do not know what are the opinions of the third party. All we know is that the two honorable gentlemen who have been named have been chosen by the Government to express the views of the Government. Obviously, they cannot express the views of other honorable members. I hope the opinion of the House will be tested on the subject, and that, in future, the House as a whole will have an opportunity of replying to the Governor-General’s Speech.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to raise a point of order. I do not wish to reflect upon your action, Mr. Speaker, but I would point out that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) moved an amendment, which you have not put to the vote.
– I haveno amendment.
– It was moved and seconded, and I submit that we ought to be given an opportunity of voting upon it.
– The honorable member for Adelaide alluded to his intention to move an amendment, but he did not move it, did not hand it to the Chair, and it was not seconded. The motion has been properly put, and finalized, and the question cannot be re-opened.
Mr. SPEAKER (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. Bayley, Mr. Cook, Sir Neville Howse, Mr. Makin, and Mr. Watkins, to act as temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Commonwealth Bank of Australia - Aggregate balancesheet at 31st December, 1922, and statement of the liabilities and assets of the Note Issue Department at 31st December, 1922; together with the Auditor-General’s reports thereon.
Elections and Referendums - Statistical returns in relation to the Senate elections; 1922; the general elections for the House of Representatives, 1922; together with summaries of elections and referendums 1903-1922.
Elections, 1922 -
Statistical returns showing the voting within each Subdivision in relation to the Senate elections, 1922, and the general elections for the House of Representatives, 1922, viz.: -
New South Wales.
Statistical returns showing the voting within each Subdivision in relation to the general election for the House of Representatives, 1922, for the Northern Territory.
High Commissioner of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom - Report for the year 1922.
League of Nations - Third Assembly - Report of the Australian Delegates, September, 1922.
Northern Territory - Report of Administrator for year ended 30th June, 1922.
Taxation -Royal Commission on -
Fifth and Final Report, with Appendices.
Public Service Act - EighteenthReport on the Public Service, by the Acting Commissioner.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act -
Determinations, and variations of Determinations, by the Arbitrator,&c. -
No. 3. of 1923 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
No. 4 of 1923 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union
No. 5 of 1923 - Australian Telegraphists’ Union.
Audit Act -
Transfers of amounts approved by the GovernorGeneral in Council - Financial Year 1922-23-
Dated 7th March, 1923.
Dated 27th March, 1923.
Dated 10th May, 1923.
Dated 6th June, 1923.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, Nos. 44, 45, 47, 53.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act -
Regulations(Imports) - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 37.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, Nos. 46, 58.
Customs Act -
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, Nos. 55, 59.
Proclamations relating to the prohibition of the exportation of leather -
Of certain qualities (dated 21st March, 1923).
Except under certain conditions (dated 16th May, 1923). Proclamation relating to the prohibition of the exportation (except under certain conditions ) of -
Certain birds and the plumage, skins, and eggs thereof (dated 29th March, 1923).
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations (Meat Export) - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 36.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - StatutoryRules 1923, Nos. 30, 31, 39, 40, 41, 43, 57, 67, 68.
Excise Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 38.
High Court Procedure Act-Rule of Court - Rule re Sittings- Dated 10th May, 1923.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1923, No.13.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Barmera, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Kelvin Grove, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Upper Macedon, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Woodville Park, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Meteorological Service - Report by the Commonwealth Meteorologist for the year 1921-1922.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, Nos. 32, 42, 52.
New Guinea Act -
Ordinances of 1923 -
No. 5 - Treasury.
No. 6 - Mining.
No. 7- Supply (No. 5) 1922-23.
No. 8 - Post and Telegraph.
No. 9 - Public Service.
No. 10 - Prisons.
No. 11 - Standard Time.
No. 12 - Wreck and Salvage.
No. 13 - Native Labour.
No. 14 - New Guinea Antiquities.
No. 15 - Suppression of Leprosy.
No. 16 - Pharmacy and Poisons.
No. 17- Supply (No. 6) 1922-23.
No. 18 - Judiciary.
No. 19 - Criminal Code Amendment.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinances of 1923 -
No.2 - Fugitive Offenders (Jurisdiction ) .
No. 3 - Melanesian Mission Lands.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and
Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1923 -
No. 4 - Venereal Diseases.
No. 5 - Crown Lands.
No. 6 - Aboriginals.
No. 7 - Crown Lands.
Papua Act -
Ordinances of 1922 -
No. 15 - Aliens.
No. 16 - Land.
No. 17 - WarMeasures Repeal.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations
Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, Nos. 14, 15, 23, 48, 49, 51.
Public Service Act -
Appointments and Promotions - Department of -
Home and Territories -
H. J. Petrie.
Prime Minister -
E. L. Frith and J. Brady.
Trade and Customs -
I. M. Cowlishaw.
Quarantine Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 18.
Railways Act - By-laws Nos. 23, 24.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Leases Ordinance 1918-19 - Regulation. Ordinances of 1923-
No. 1 - Rates.
No. 2 - Trespass on Commonwealth Lands.
No. 3 - Traffic.
Treaties of Peace (Austria and Bulgaria) Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, Nos. 61, 62, 64, 65.
Treaty of Peace (Germany). Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1923. Nos. 60, 63.
War Service Homes Act -
Land acquired under, in-
New South Wales at - Barraba, Orange (2), Richmond, Waratah.
Mr. BAYLEY brought up the third general report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
Ordered to be printed.
The Committee appointed to prepare the Address-in-Reply having presented the proposed Address, which was read by the Clerk,
.- I move -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’sSpeech be agreed to: -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to Our Most Gracious Sovereign and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
I desire to express my thanks for the very cordial reception that honorable members have extended to me. I take it to be a demonstration of kindness to a new member breaking the ice in making his maiden speech. Being both a new and a young member, I approach this subject with a great deal of diffidence and trepidation. That I should be asked to move this motion, I regard, not as a personal compliment, but as a tribute to the great and important electorate thatI have the honour to represent.
A perusal of the reference to proposed legislation in the Governor-General’s Speech shows that the session promises to bo one of great moment to Australia. The subject which appears to me to be of outstanding importance is that of the Imperial Conference. The announcement that the Prime Minister proposes to represent Australia at that Conference has given universal satisfaction in Australia. The chief subject to be dealt with at the Conference will be defence. The time has come when Australia, together with the other partners in the great commonwealth of nations called the British Empire, must seriously face this question. Australia must be prepared to play her part, and do her share as a partner. We must all realize that times have changed, and that methods which were serviceable yesterday will certainly not be adequate for the contests of to-morrow. We, in Australia, cannot defend ourselves. It is certain that 5,000,000 people cannot hope to hold this country, particularly in a time of world crisis, without support from outside. To my mind, the only way in which we can hope to defend Australia and keep it for ourselves is by a well-thought-out and well-considered scheme of Imperial naval and military defence. Britain should be made to understand thatAustralia believes that the different portions of the Empire must stand or fall together. I believe in the League of Nations, and I am hopeful that it may some day be able to insure the peace of the world, but to-day it cannot do so. Until theday comes when our hopes in this direction are realized we must be prepared to play our part and make certain that we are well equipped to protect ourselves. Wrapped up in this problem is the important question of migration. Only by bringing people to Australia can we hope adequately to defend this country. We need population, not only for the defence, but for the development of Australia. Some critics urge that the introduction of population will create a surplus of labour and result ultimately in serious and widespread unemployment, with all its attendant horrors. This is a proved fallacy. Much the same cry was raised when labour-saving machinery was applied to production, and I am satisfied that no one in the labour world to-day would say that the introduction of machinery has had that result. But it is obvious that, hand and hand with migration, there must be some well-considered plan for the development of Australia. There must be a nation-wide stocktaking of our resources, and consideration given to the possibility of their expansion. Such a course would permit of the preparation of some comprehensive plan to absorb the added populationfrom year to year. No sane Government would induce people to come to Australia if it did not know what it was going to do with them. When we regard the vastness of this continent and consider its productivity, and when we remember our proximity to countries with teeming millions of people, we must realize that our only chance of keeping Australia white, or, perhaps, of keeping it at all, lies in the direction of a great access of population. I trust, however, that the people to be introduced under the scheme now in operation will be of the right type, and not comprise a large proportion of those who, instead of settling upon the land and becoming useful producers, will gravitate to the cities. With increased population and a correspondingly increased production, we shall be faced with the problem of finding an outlet for our products. I believe the solution of this difficulty will be found in -some well-thought-out reciprocal policy on all economic questions, and particularly a scheme for the development of trade within the Empire. Such a policy will enable us satisfactorily to dispose of our primary products, such as wheat, wool, beef, butter, and cotton, to mention only a few of them, as well as our manufactured articles. Australia willingly and ungrudgingly -played her part as a component part of the Empire during the recent war, and would do so again if necessity arose. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to suggest that in some such Empire development scheme this country is entitled to better consideration. We all know that quite recently important contracts for the supply of beef for the British Army went to America. Britain must be told, in no uncertain’ voice, at the approaching Imperial Conference, that the prosperity of the Empire is wrapped up in the progress of the Empire as a whole.
I desire now to refer to the operations of the Commonwealth Bank. We all have watched with great pleasure the progress made by that institution under tho able administration of the Governor, the late Sir Denison Miller, and, I feel sure that I am voicing the sentiments of every member of this House when I say that we all deeply regret his untimely death. The proposed reorganization of the Bank and the appointment of a Board of Directors will, I believe, enable the Bank more truly to discharge its functions as a national Bank. I believe an extension of its activities to the primary producers is essential to the prosperity of the country. At this point I desire to stress the claims of my own State, with its special and peculiar tropical interests, for representation on the Board.
I was pleased to notice in His Excellency’s Speech that the Government propose to concentrate on the construction of the first section of the North-South railway line by the continuation of the existing railway as far as Daly Waters. I hope that the line will be deviated from that point into Queensland, which is the natural outlet for the Northern Territory. No less than four-fifths of the population of Aust, -aiia is centred on the eastern sea-board.” If the line be deviated, as I suggest, through western Queensland, it will traverse some of the best grazing lands in the whole of Australia. Such a scheme will, in my opinion, go a long way towards solving the problem of - Northern Territory development, lt should be remembered also that the Public Works Committee recently concluded an exhaustive investigation into the merits of the rival routes, and came to the conclusion that the time was not opportune for the construction of an expensive line connecting the Northern Territory with South Australia. While on this question of railways I would like to say that,- in my opinion, the present time is not favorable for altering the whole of the railway systems of the Commonwealth to a uniform gauge connecting the capital cities. I believe that the new proposals, as outlined by the Prime Minister, will serve the needs of Australia for the time being, and at the same time open up for development a large area of new country. I am personally acquainted with a great portion of the country to be traversed by the Kyogle-Beaudesert-Brisbane line. This railway will be almost, entirely, developmental, and will’ serve an immense area of undeveloped land.
I am exceedingly pleased that in connexion with Canungra, Beaudesert, and other saw-mills and timber areas in Queensland, the Government have been bold enough to declare for the disposal of the mills. They have taken the only reasonable course open to them. I trust, however, that there will be no undue delay in finalizing the tenders, and that shortly we shall hear that the wheels of - industry in those areas have been set. in motion again.
I wish now to refer to a question of vital importance, not only to my own State, but to the whole of Australia, namely, the position of the sugar industry, which ranks amongst the largest of our primary-producing interests. The Prime Minister, when speaking recently in Brisbane on this matter, said -
Economically, the sugar industry is of even greater importance to the nation than a superficial examination of trade statistics would indie te. For it should always be remembered that, if S..ar were not produced in Australia, from £5.00(1,000 to £6,000,000 would have to be remitted each year to foreign countries, which buy in return scarcely any of our goods. During the Government-control period just expiring, over £47,000,000 was thus kept and spent in Australia in respect of the locallygrown tonnage.
I’he naliim.ll or political significance of the industry is even more arresting to the mind. In t/,ls regard rue. sugar industry stands in a unique position in Australia - for it is the sole industry of any magnitude ut ali that has been successfully carried on in those bar North coastal lands that are or such strategic importance to the White Australia policy.
Looking at the map observers will notice that the Northern Territory .is practically in the same latitude as Cairns, innisfail, Mossman, Herbert River, and other very large closelysettled sugar districts. Yet the Territory’s white population is lower than it was thirty years ugo, and the problem of developing it seems as difficult of solution as ever. On the other hand, the sugar districts mentioned have witnessed constant substantial increases in farms, commerce, and population.
The Prime Minister’s statement is, I think, sufficient justification for the claims by the growers of Queensland that the industry should be stabilized. I also remind honorable members that the 1912 and 1920 Royal Commissions recognised the obvious fact that the continuance of the sugar industry” waa bound up with the very existence of Australia as a nation. The policy of the Government as announced recently in Brisbane is far from satisfactory to the people of Queensland, and I earnestly request them to reconsider their proposals with a view to extending the embargo on the importation of sugar for a period of at least five years, or, as an alternative, that adequate Tariff protection be given to insure the preservation of the industry. Stability is essential for its progress.
It is very gratifying to know that there has been a wonderful increase in the production of cotton in Australia. I desire to express my gratification at the announcement that the Government intend to enter into a joint agreement with the States to encourage this new and important industry by a guarantee, and by otherwise .safeguarding it. I can speak on. this question in the light of knowledge and experience, gained in my own electorate, where, despite a very severe drought, through which we have just passed, cotton of the highest grade has been produced in large quantities. This industry, I predict, is destined to bring about a great change in the land settlement policy of Australia.
I express my gratification at the announcement made in His Excellency’s Speech that the Government will introduce a measure to liberalize and increase old-age and invalid pensions. I am pleased also to observe that it is proposed to introduce, in the interests of the returned soldiers, a Bill to amend certain provisions of the War Service Homes Act, In conclusion, I have only to say that 1 appreciate very much the new policy which the Government has adopted of- taking the people into its confidence in respect, to all national questions. It is imperative that the public should be given the fullest information concerning all matters that affect the national wellbeing.
– In rising to second the motion moved so ably by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis), I desire to say that I also take it as a compliment to my electorate that I have been selected by the Government to discharge this duty. I remember that when we mci here, not very long ago, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) twitted the Government in a witty and sarcastic speech, declaring that His Excellency’s Speech at the opening of the first session contained but very little. That charge cannot be laid against the Speech which we are now considering. It may well be said of it that it is full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running oven.
One important matter in His Excellency’s Speech to which I should like to refer is the statement that the Government intend to take steps for the abolition of dual income taxation. At the present time the Commonwealth collects taxation indirectly through the Customs, and directly from the individual by levying, as do the States, a graduated income tax. .With the right hand the Commonwealth takes toll from the individual, while, with the left it pays back some of that toll in the shape of the per capita grant to the States. The public, . no doubt, is fully conscious of any extortion that is practised by the right hand, but is equally forgetful of any benefit handed out by the left. One is reminded that the Government in the past has at least been carrying out the scriptural injunction, “ Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” The Commonwealth Government has been incurring the odium of collecting a certain amount of revenue which the State Governments have had the privilege of expending. By the abolition of dual taxation, we shall adhere to the principle that the Government which collects taxation should spend it - that any money spent by a Government must be collected by that Government. The duplication of taxation is indefensible. We have at the present time an army of Federal and an army of State tax gatherers, both operating in the same field, and it cannot be denied that if the people are tired of the waste which this duplication .involves, they are still more tired of having to fill in separate schedules based on different methods of assessment. The practice has to cease. Much has been said regarding the necessity of abolishing this duplication of taxation. It has been spoken about from many platforms, and it is gratifying to know that to-day the proposal is getting beyond the oratorical stage and is being raised into, the more rarefied atmosphere of action. Simplicity is a merit in mechanism, and it is equally meritorious in respect of taxation methods. The abolition of this duplication will naturally involve, on the part of the Commonwealth, the giving up of the power to levy income tax on individuals which the States have so long held. The Commonwealth will retain the whole of the Customs revenue, part of which it now hands over to the States under the per capita agreement, and will cease to impose income tax on individuals. It will confine itself to the collection of income tax from companies at the source, by means of a flat rate. The flat-rate system is carried out successfully to-day in New South Wales. . A certain degree of criticism has been levelled against the flat-rate method of collecting income tax. It has been said that, as compared with1 the scientific method of income tax collection, operated by the Commonwealth to-day, it is unjust in its incidence; hut, although on the surface there may be an appearance of injustice, in actual fact there is little, if any. I was informed to-day by an accountant of many years’ experience that he does not know of one case of a small holder of shares in a company which will he taxed under the flat-rate system now proposed, whose income is low enough to be exempt from taxation under the present system. Doubtlesss. the scheme will involve an increase of income taxation on the part of the State Governments in order that they may recoup themselves what they will give up by the abolition of the per capita grant. But even if the State Governments should increase their income taxation to an amount equal to the income tax at present levied by both the State and Federal authorities, the individual income taxpayer will at least be able to rejoice in the fact that he will receive only one assessment, and will so be spared much trouble and harassment. Another point worthy of notice is that while this scheme will, not involve any increase in the cost of collection to the States, it will be an immense saving to the Commonwealth. It will be just as easy for the States, should they have to increase their income taxation, to send out an assessment for, say, £10 instead of £5, or for £20 instead of £10. It will cost no more in paper, ink, stamps, or effort than it costs now to send out a claim for the smaller amount.
Another feature of His Excellency’s Speech which commends itself to thinking men is the promise that provision will be made for compulsory sinking funds, for loan redemption purposes, on the part of both the State and Federal authorities. This is but prudent finance. Great strides are apparently to be made in the near future towards doing away with duplication, and I hope the effort will also embrace joint electoral rolls.
Mention has been made of cotton, and the fact that the Government have made arrangements with the States to do something to encourage its growth in Australia. The world shortage of wool and the prospect of good prices for wool being obtained for quite a number of years offer probably the best insurance we could have against any considerable drop in the price of cotton. The value of the one sympathetically helps to raise the value of the other, .and I hope we shall see in the growing of cotton the establishment of another great Australian industry.
The House will welcome he assurance that it is to have placed before it the agenda for both the Empire and the Economic Conferences, at which we expect to be represented by the Prime Minister. We must realize that Australia’s defence and future safety are inseparably connected with those beneficent tfes which bind Australia, loosely, yet firmly, to the Motherland, and that it would be wise to defer until the return of the Prime Minister from the Imperial Con-“ ference any expenditure on defence which this Parliament in its wisdom might consider it advisable to make. Mention of the Economic Conference gives rise to the hope that, in future, sentiment may go hand in hand with trade, and that preferential trade within the Empire may soon be established. That which has been described as “ the crimson thread of kinship,” and the knowledge of common sacrifices made, should surely be more potent factors in determining the course of future trade relations than any consideration affecting British capital invested in; foreign countries.
I am glad that we are to ‘be fully represented at the League of Nations. I agree with every word uttered in regard to this subject by the mover of the motion. It is our duty as a nation to do all that we can to deprecate any attempt that may be made to belittle the League of NTations. Despite its present limitations, it is to-day the hope of the civilized woil’3. Its weakness at the moment lies apparently in the fact that some great nations are holding aloof from it; but I hope the time will soon come when it will be a league of all the nations. Looking back at the history of the world’s quarrels, we find that they began between individuals - between Cain and Abel - and that thereafter we had families, then clans, then small nations, and, later still, larger and larger combinations fighting against each other. Law has sufficed to restrain, to a great extent at any rate, fighting between man and man, family and family, clan and clan - as in the case of the Wars of the Roses - and to-day there is very little warfare carried on between small nations. The tendency has been for small groups to join forces and to make war upon a larger scale. Surely, if law in the past has sufficed, step by step, to make it more and more difficult for war to be carried on as between individuals, as between families, clans, and small States, it should not be impossible in the future for international law to supplant force in the larger sphere of world-wide warfare. Lord Robert Cecil is regarded as being, perhaps, one of the greatest exponents of the League of Nations. He has done much to build up its constitution, and is particularly optimistic as to its future. “We in Australia can only hope that his optimism will be justified, an-J that the League will yet become a mighty instrument for the prevention .of war. We have in this Parliament a new member’ who is an eloquent and able exponent of the League of Nations; and I may be permitted to express the hope that during the session we shall have the pleasure of listening to him- on the subject.
A measure is proposed for the liberalizing of old-age pensions. In the present system there are many anomalies which need rectification, and one which appeals particularly to me lies in the fact that an old man, who is capable of doing a little work intermittently, and is thereby made- to feel that he is still a useful member of society, is penalized to some extent if he earns something in that way. To penalize a man who thus raises his income a little above the standard laid down as the limit, means that, we destroy incentive and do something to paralyze energy.
I am particularly pleased to note that, a Royal Commission is to be appointed to inquire into certain phases of the War Service Homes scandals. This proposal, I am sure, must be appreciated by every lover of clean administration. If unsavoury facts are elicited, and justice is meted out without fear or favour, it will redound to the credit of the Government ; if, on the other hand, nothing amiss is found, all the better for Australia’s reputation for commercial morality. Whichever may be the result, such an inquiry will, at least, allay any possible suspicion that there is something tei hide.
The Government announces its intention to co-operate with the States in immigration schemes for land settlement. As one who is on the land, I should like to say that there are four necessities for successful land settlement) - four necessities apart from hard work. These are : cheap money, reduced Tariff burdens on the staple necessaries of primary production, cheaper freights, and more markets. In “Victoria many returned soldiers in the dairying districts are putting up a tremendous struggle against a heavy interest load. I mention this because I wish the Government, in any financial arrangements they may make for soldier settlement, to do the utmost in the way of making available cheap money to ‘ the States for that purpose, on condition that the. States themselves make further sacrifices in interest to the soldier. -I realize that the conditions laid down for soldier settlement are entirely a matter for the States ; but I take the opportunity to mention the Commonwealth’s obligation to provide cheap money, because there seems to me to be a very intimate connexion between the success or failure of our soldier settlement and the success or failure of our future immigration schemes .for land settlement. If ° there should be any general exodus of soldiers from their ‘ blocks, that would do more to hurt our immigration schemes than anything else could. It would immediately be sa d, “ If your own diggers cannot make good, what is the use of now chums trying?” ‘ Cheaper freights arc particularly necessary, more necessary, perhaps, to-day, than ever before. “We in Australia are handicapped, as compared with’ Canada or the Argentine, in sending our goods to Great Brita’n, owing to the fact that we are separated by 12,000 miles of water. Canada arid the’ Argentine are much nearer to Britain than we are. We cannot hope to have freights as low as theirs, so far as Great Britain is concerned; and I am particularly glad that the. Government announce their intent;on to do something in the direction of subsidizing shipments to the East. We have a geographical advantage over Canada and the Argentine, so far as China and India are concerned. We are much nearer to those Eastern ports than either of those two countries; yet, at the present t:me, we find that the freight from Australia is infinitely higher than those ruling from the more distant places. Under such conditions it is impossible for Australia to do business to any extent with the East. Many factors contribute to cause high freights, and, possibly, not the least is the hig’h port charges. It may surprise honorable members, as it certainly surprised mV to learn recently, that, if a ship of 9,000 tons net spends three, days at each of the principal Australian ports - Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane - it pays something over £2,000 in port dues. These charges must have a very considerable effect on freights. High freights have had a great deal to do with the enormous difficulties of the fruit industry, in which a large proportion of our returned soldiers are engaged. The Treasurer’s statement made some little time ago iu regard to the large losses on the Fruit Pools was sad reading, but we have to realize from that statement that, even had nothing whatever been paid for the fruit, there still would have been a great loss. This proves that any spoon-feeding has really been given to the secondary end of the industry, and not to the grower. Had the grower provided the fruit to the canning factories for nothing, the whole of the price obtained would still have been insufficient to meet the demands of this secondary end. There is an urgent ne-d for new markets, and the scheme for subsidizing ships seems to open up prospects in that direction. In China and India there are immense populations. It has been said that the people of China are too poor to purchase Australian fruit; but the population there is given as between 400,000,000 and 600.000.000, or something like thirty-four people to the square mile; and, even assuming tha only 5 per cent, of this population are sufficiently well-to-do to purchase our products, there is still an immense market. Mr. H. Louey Pang, in an address he gave recently on the prospects of an Australian fruit trade in China, said that the Chinese have not yet learnt the art of fruit cultivation, and that Australian apples and oranges bring high prices there. He also said that Hong Kong alone, in 1921-22, imported 1,000 tons of sultanas, and China, as a whole, imported £1 000,000 worth of fresh fruit, of which Australia supplied only £3,000 worth. These figures show the- immense possibilities ahead of this proposed shipping subsidy for the East. It appears that Canada and the Argentine are already subsidizing steamers which go to those markets, so that Australia only proposes to do what is already being done in other parts of the world. An effort will, no doubt, be made to place before the Ministry a schedule of rates at which Australia could hope to successfully do business with the East. To my mind, it is of no use to subsidize services to the East - to send boats, even with the greatest regularity - if the question of freights is not first settled. In calling for tenders fer such services, freights must be predetermined, and the subsidies based on them. This would make it possible to do business on a successful basis with the East. While such services will, no doubt, occasion loss for the first year or two, regular dependable arrivals of Australian produce, carried in refrigerated space, will gradually build up a regular demand. That this view is shared by prominent exporters is proved by the fact that recently seven or eight exporting firms in this city have appointed a joint agent, at a large salary, to endeavour to open up markets there. This shows that these reputable exporting firms have great faith in the future Eastern trade.
It is pleasing to learn that the Government propose to put the Commonwealth Line of Shipping under a non-political Board, that annual balance-sheets are to be placed before. Parliament, and that the value of those ships is to be written down to something like present-day levels. It is difficult to realize what it means to attempt to make a profit on ships which cost in the vicinity of £100 a ton. The Moreton Bay, the fine model of which honorable members have seen in the Queen’s Hall, cost the Government something like £1,250,000, or £100 a ton. These figures, of themselves, do not, perhaps, convey much, but when we know that that one ship represents, in interest alone at 5 per cent., over £62,000 per annum, or practically £200 a day, wo. realize the stupendous cost. The only possible way in which we can hope to show even a bookkeeping profit is by writing down the value of these ships.
I am glad that the Government are endeavouring to improve outback postal facilities, and to provide telephonic communication as far as possible. 1 hope that the Government will turn a deaf ear to the advocates of penny postage, which, in my opinion, would mean the curtailment of outback facilities.
– Tell that to your Minister, Mr. Gibson !
– No one to-day, not even the honorable member who interjects, has any quarrel whatever with a flat rate of postage - the rate of postage is the same for 1 mile as for 1.000 miles. The principle involved is that sufficient profit must be made on the short-distance postage to cover the loss on the longdistance postage;, and it is but the application of the same principle to say that the rate must be sufficiently high to give in the densely-populated areas a profit sufficiently large to cover the inevitable loss of providing the necessary services outback.
Brief mention was made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech of a Bill having reference to the Tariff Board. I hope that the Government propose to place on that Board a direct representative of primary production. I cast no reflection upon the present personnel of the Board, but I believe that better balanced recommendations would come to the Government if, on the Board, there were a direct representative of primary production.
I will not weary the House further, but will conclude by expressing the hope that this session will be remarkable not so much for battles of wits between parties as for the evidence of a desire to achieve something for the good of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at half-past two o’clock.
Dispute, in Coal Mining Industry - Tariff Board.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to briefly call attention to the position that obtains in the coal-mining industry. This is a matter that affects the whole of Australia, and if something is not done quickly the consequences may he serious. A dispute has been in existence in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales for six or seven weeks. I have placed the matter before the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) both by letter and by deputation, and endeavoured to prevail upon him to intervene in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth. He promised that he would give consideration to our request; but, up to the present, no action has been taken by- the Government. It is to the credit of the leaders of the men that, so far, they have confined the dispute to a certain area; but I do not know how long they will be able to control the position if some action is not taken to put in motion the machinery set up by this Parliament. The Commonwealth Parliament passed legislation for the settlement of industrial disputes, in which special recognition was given- to the peculiar circumstances of the coal-mining industry. I read in a recent article in the Age a statement that the miners are making certain demands. They are not making any demands; they are virtually locked out. I have no wish to hide the facts, and I shall briefly state the reasons that led up to the dispute. For some time prior to this question arising, there had been a good deal of feeling against the police magistrate in the district concerned. The shire council had lodged a prosecution against a man for allowing his cattle to stray in the streets of Cessnock. In consequence of a death in the family of the person accused, he was unable to attend the Court, and the prose- cuting officer asked the magistrate to ad- Burn the case. Despite the extraordinary circumstances which were responsible for the accused’s . absence, the magistrate refused to adjourn the case, and fined the nian in his absence. That action incensed the miners; and when he presided at the Police Court, they refused . to go to work. I do not contend for a moment that they did the right thing. I admit that they acted wrongly. Their proper course was to place their objections before the Justice Department of New South “Wales. But after having made the initial mistake they presented themselves for work, and the proprietors refused to permit them to go into the mines. As the miners are working under a Commonwealth award it is idle to say that the dispute is purely local, that it does not extend beyond the boundaries of one State, and that consequently the Commonwealth authority has no power to intervene. Although the men did wrong in the first instance, that is not sufficient justification for the refusal of the proprietors to allow them to work now and for the withholding of supplies of coal from the community. There has been a good ‘ deal of complaint by the proprietors about an undue number- of stoppages in the mines. The miners are endeavouring to discipline their forces, and have decided that in future any member of their organization who stops work without following the constitutional procedure shall be fined for a first offence, and for a second offence shall be expelled from the association. A union could not take any stronger disciplinary measures. But the proprietors say that, unless the men comply with the conditions which they have laid down, the mines shall not be worked. One of those conditions is that the proprietors shall have the right to victimize about eighty men whom they regard as extremists. No union of any standing will allow its members to be victimized in that way, and this Parliament should not permit its legislation to be flouted by the proprietors for purposes of victimization. The duty of the proprietors is to allow the miners to return to work under the award of the Tribunal created by this Parliament, and if they desire to propose any new conditions they should submit them to the Tribunal for consideration. They are no more justified in locking out the employees than the employees were in stopping work in the first instance. Two w 1’0nga do not make a right. The miners stopped work on one day and then presented themselves at the mines, and there is no reason why this country should suffer a shortage of coal simply in order that the proprietors may impose upon the men certain conditions.
– Did not the chairman of the Tribunal say that ths frequent stoppages of work for minor causes were becoming intolerable?
– Yes, but since then the union has taken the action I have already mentioned to discipline its * forces. Further than that no union could go. In regard to the charge of attempted victimization, honorable members may jump to the conclusion that there are in the union some 80 or 100 men who are such extremists that they wish to hold up the whole machinery. That is not the case. The trouble is that there are some men of ability who are prepared, from time to time, to exercise their talents on behalf of their fellowmen. Men of that class are not wanted by the employers, but I say that it is in the interests of the country that men of ability should have some scope to apply themselves to the betterment of the condition of their fellow-men. . The fact that some men do that does not justify the proprietors in. locking out their employees. I venture to say that if the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) were still Prime Minister, he, having a thorough knowledge of industrial conditions, would have settled the dispute three or four weeks ago. It is the duty of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to intervene and instruct the chairman of the Tribunal to take action. “Whilst I admit that the men should not have stopped work, I must also remind the House that it has been customary in the mining industry to allow men to resume their employment if they were not away for two days. The present dispute is nothing more or less than a lock-out. The employers have seized the chance which the men gave them, and the whole country is suffering in consequence. It is the duty of the Prime Minister to consider the welfare of the general public. The dispute can be settled very easily if the Government take the right steps now ; inaction by the Commonwealth Government will be an invitation to the men engaged in the industry to extend the trouble throughout the Commonwealth, rather than continue paying 15 per cent, of their wages to the men out on strike. If the trouble does extend industry will be held up everywhere, and the industrial life of the com.munity will be paralyzed. I call upon the Prime Minister to see that the legislation enacted by this Parliament is put into operation ; the proprietors should be told that if the men are prepared to work under’ the award of the Tribunal the mines should be thrown open to them.
– Do you say that the mine-owners have committed a breach of the award ?
– I do. Whatever proposals either party has to make should be placed before the Tribunal for consideration.
– In refusing to allow the men to go to work, except under certain conditions, are the mine-owners committing any breach of the award?
– Yes, they are imposing, new conditions.
– Then the award provides that the last man to be engaged shall be the first man .to be dismissed ?
– That, at any rate, his b°.en the custom in the industry. I recall to the minds of honorable members the 1910 trouble in the industry.
In the midst of my first campaign for election to this House I was called in to assist in settling the dispute. 1 had to go about the job in a tactful way, and it took Judge Scholes and myself two or three weeks to dispose of the trouble. The cause was similar to that in the present dispute; the proprietors wished to victimize about ten engine-drivers, and to that end held up the whole industry. Judge Scholes said to me, “ Charlton, you will never get this trouble settled.” I replied that I would; and I persevered until it was settled. The proprietors are now keeping the men locked out in order to enforce upon them new conditions, which properly should be referred to the Tribunal after work has been resumed. The whole Commonwealth should not continue to suffer on account of this dispute between the owners and the miners when there is constitutional machinery for its settlement.
.- I support the claim that has been made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). When the Industrial Disputes Act was passed, the coal-mining industry was treated as a special industry, and in addition to provision for a general tribunal there was provision for the appointment of subsidiary courts or boards to deal with disputes local in character. Now we are told that -:hf Federal authority cannot intervene in this crisis because the actual dispute has not extended beyond the borders of one State. The dispute is affecting all the States. When a shortage of coal occurs through the stoppage of a big coal-field like Maitland, ‘ every industry and every private consumer in several of the States is affected. The coal proprietors have an Inter-State federation , and so have the coal-miners, and it is idle to say that the dispute is not Inter-State simply because the stoppage of work has occurred in only one State. It is Federal in essence and in fact, and the Prime Minister would be well advised to take the matter in hand. I believe that a settlement could be effected if he would do so. The parties met in conference after the stoppage, and threshed out the whole question until they came’ to this stumbling block, the matter of the victimization of certain men. I have been reared in the coalmining industry, and I want to say that. although the members of a coal-miners’ union might give way in regard to wages and other conditions, they would never submit to the victimization of the men who speak in their interests from time to time.I believe that if a tribunal were set to work in connexion with this industry, to deal with what the Conference has failed to agree upon, a solution would be arrived at. I hope the Prime Minister will realize this, because if there is any extension of the trouble I am afraid it will become the most bitter fight that has ever occurred in Australia. I appeal to the honorable gentleman to try to restore harmony to the most important industry of the continent.
.- I take the earliest opportunity of entering an emphatic protest against one section of this House being allowed the privilege of having the chairman of the Tariff Board at its Caucus for a conference in regard to Tariff matters. I was astounded when I read in the newspapers that this had occurred. When we realize that five Ministers and one Government Whip are members of the section of the House in question, it is quite apparent that a certain amount of influence must have been used to secure the attendance of a gentleman who is supposed to occupy a position in which he should exercise an absolutely independent judgment, and should not be interfered with in any way. What discussions took place I do not know, but when this fact is made known to the public, they will surely wonder that this Parliament should permit such a thing. I do not desire to impugn the integrity or the honesty of the chairman of the Tariff Board. I think that he is one of the most honest men we could have for the position. I claim, however, that when a section of the House which has a share in the so-called composite Ministry asks this officer to attend its Caucus meeting either to divulge information, or to be influenced in a certain direction, it. is unjustifiable conduct. The Government cannot exonerate themselves, because half of the Ministry were present at that particular Caucus meeting. If this practicecontinues the public will begin to lose confidence in the administration of a most important Board appointed to adjudicate, and hold the scales evenly be tween various sections of the community. On the precedent which has been established, members of the Labour party would be perfectly justified in asking the chairman of the Tariff Board, or even the whole of the Tariff Board, to come to their Caucus. Had the Labour party done what has just been done, there would have been a howl of indignation throughout the country. What has the government of the country come to when we find a most important officer being summoned to a Caucus meeting by a section of Parliament ?
– That is not correct.
– If this practice is persisted in the people will lose confidence in the Tariff Board. What has been done is utterly unjustifiable. The practice should cease at once if we are to have honest, straightforward, clean government in Australia.
– I listened very carefully to what the Leader of the Opposition said with regard to the coal situation. The honorable member has written to me with regard to it, and he also saw me on a deputation when I passed through Newcastle, about ten days ago. It is very desirable that the Government should not appear to be partisans in a dispute which is taking place in the coal-fields near Maitland. The Leader of the Opposition has shown very clearly where he stands, but the Government do not stand for one party or the other in the dispute. It is merely their task to see that the law is carried out, and, where it can beneficially do so, take any action to try to settle any disputes that may occur in the industrial sphere of Australia. However, the facts shouldbe put clearly, and I do not think the honorable member has done that. He has led the House to believe that some action has been taken in the Maitland district which should in the natural course result in the Tribunal, which has been established to deal with the coal industry, being invoked to try to settle a dispute or take some step in regard to it.
– I said that the men were working under an award of a Tribunal, and that the Commonwealth ought to see that the law was obeyed by requiring that either party desiring a change or variation in theaward should send its claim to the Tribunal for decision.
Mr.BRUCE. - What I have said relates to the impression that the honorable member left upon the House.
– No. I put my position very clearly.
– The portion at the present time is that there has been no breach of any award, and that there is no question which it is legitimately the function of the Tribunal to consider. Nothing of the sort has occurred. A dispute arose. The men went out. They then saw that they had made a mistake, and presented themselves for employment. The owners offered to take them back under the existing award and at the existing rates of pay. There was no variation of any award.
– New conditions were being imposed.
Mr.BRUCE.-I have said that there has been no breach of any award, and that when the men presented themselves for employment the owners said that they were prepared to take them back on the basis of the Tribunal’s award, and without any variation of it, but they also said that they were entitled to say whom they would employ.
– Thatis the sting.
– I think my friend will admit that I am stating the case perfectly fairly. I want to tell the House how the dispute arose, and what the present position is. I do not want it to be suggested that the Government have any leaning to one side or the other. It is no part of a Government’s function to concern itself in industrial disputes. It is a matter for the industry itself, and it is not the function of a Government to take sides in any dispute. The present M inistry have no intention of doing anything of that sort. The question is whetherit is desirable that a Government should take action and intervene in the present dispute. I am not conveying the suggestion that we should not intervene on the ground that the dispute has not extended beyond one State. That is a reason that might be advanced, but I am not advancing it. As the honorable member has pointed out, the coal-mining industry works under a Tribunal appointed under an Act passed by the Federal Parliament, but we consider that there has been rather too much interference by Governments in industrial matters.
– The action taken by Mr. Hughes saved the Commonwealth during the war.
– When industrial disputes are in progress, instead of allowing the ordinary Tribunals to follow their proper course, there has been a tendency to demand that the Government should intervene.I quite realize that on many occasions during the war certain action was from time to time taken which was absolutely necessary, and, indeed, imperative, for the safety of Australia; but we shall not get this country running on the best basis if, although we have proper machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes, as soon as a certain point is reached in any dispute there is to be a clamour for the Government to step in and settle it in a way which, as we have seen, is generally on a thoroughly unsound and uneconomic basis. The position in regard to the coalmining industry at the present time is very serious, not only for the district in which the mines are situated, but also for the State of New SouthWales and for Australia as a whole, and the Government are watching that position very closely. If it is necessary for them to take action, we shall take whatever step is required, but we must be convinced before we act that we can do something for the benefit of the Commonwealth.
– We only ask the honorable member to put the machinery of the law in motion, but apparently he will not do so.
– The honorable member’s interjection requires me to go over the whole ground again. There has been no breach of any award.
– Is not the imposition of new conditions a breach of an award?
– The position is exactly as I have stated it. There has been no breach of an award. I do not want to argue the question from a partisan standpoint, otherwise I would have to read the findings of Mr. Hibble in regard to the perpetual stoppages in this particular industry. All I wish to say is that the Government in this, as in every other industrial matter, are quite impartial, and stand neither for one side nor the other. We must allow the methods employed for the settlement of industrial questions in this country to take their ordinary course, because Government interference in such cases very often leads to the most disastrous results.
With regard to the point raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fen ton) that something has been done which might possibly lead to the influencing of the mind of the chairman of the Tariff Board, there is notthe slightest foundation for what the honorable member has been saying. All that has happened is that the chairman of the Tariff Board, Major Oakley, was asked by the Minister for Trade and Customs to see the Treasurer with re gard to certain matters. Those matters were discussed between the Treasurer and thechairman of the Tariff Board, but whether any other members intervened or not I do not know. I can only say to my friends opposite, as the Minister for Trade and Customs has already said, that if any honorable gentleman is desirous of obtaining information, and it is possible for us to place at his disposal an officer who can help him, we shall be only too pleased to do it. It is regrettable that an attitude should be adopted which suggests that the Tariff Board has become an object of suspicion. The Board is doing valuable work for Australia, and attempts ought not to be made to stultify its efforts bysuch suggestions as have been made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at6.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 June 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230613_reps_9_103/>.