9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of tie Prime Minister been drawn to a complaint by the. General Manager of the Commonwealth Shipping Line, Mr. H. B. Larkin, regarding the competition of Japanese boats in the carriage of Australian wool to the world’s markets? Can the Government do anything to ensure that this trade, which comes from the wealthy section of the Australian people, is given to ships manned by white men receiving adequate wages ?
-. - I have read is the press some comment of the kind, but I have not received any direct communication on the subject from Mr. Larkin or the Commonwealth Shipping Board. If any representations are made by Mr. Larkin or the board, the Government will consider whether action can be taken.
– Is it a fact that the
Commonwealth Government has decided to grant £5,000 as compensation or gratuity to the blacklegs who were employed on the Sydney waterfront during the– industrial dispute of 1917 ? If so, was there any obligation upon the Commonwealth to pay that money ? Will the Prime Minister explain the reasons for the Government’s’ action ?
– The Governmenthas not agreed to make any payments to blacklegs, but has agreed to make am amount of £5,000 available to certain persons who during a critical period of the late war came to the assistance of the Commonwealth by enabling transports to be loaded. They rendered services which were imperative in the interests of the whole nation. The Government is under no. legal obligation to those men, but has a very considerable moral obligation to them. By a recent decision of the Arbitration Court, they are precluded from continuing in the employment they had enjoyed since 1917, and in the circumstances the Government was justified in recognizing the great services they rendered at a time of national necessity.
– When will this House be afforded an opportunity of discussing the matter and deciding whether or not it approves of the payment of public money to persons of that class?
– The honorable member ought. to be sufficiently familiar with the procedure of the House to know that that opportunity will arise when the Supplementary Estimates are under consideration..
Relief Expedition : Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
– I have received from the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) an intimation that he proposes to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “The regrettable delay of the Government in sending relief to the white women in the handsofthe blacks in the Northern Territory.”
Five honorable members having risen in theirplaces,
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn’.
I did not submit this motion yesterday because I was not able to give the Prime Minister sufficient notice of it, and, with that unfailing courtesy which distinguishes the Opposition, I thought it only right that he should have an opportunity to obtain any information that might assist him to rebut my charges. The motion arises out of statements made in the House by the Prime. Minister and the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) and other statements by the owners of the Huddersfield, which were published in yesterday’s newspapers. Rumours that a couple of white women were in the hands of the blacks in the Northern Territory took definite shape on the 18th July, when the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) brought before the House certain facts that had been communicated to him by a person in Darwin. The Prime Minister promised that immediate action would be taken to investigate the statements, and if it was thought that they possibly had some foundation in fact, an expedition for the rescue of. the unfortunate women would be organized at once.
At the moment when the Government came to the conclusion that the rumours were sufficiently credible to be worthy of investigation, it became its duty in the interests of humanity to move with promptitude, and to employ all the resources of civilization at its command to effect a rescue. But no one who has studied events during the last eight weeks can come to any other conclusion than that ‘the Government has shown indifference and a leisurely selfconfidence that must meet with . general scorn and disapprobation. On . a former occasion I said that if the unfortunate prisoners had been women who enjoyed some social distinction Ministers would have moved withnall possible rapidity to their rescue. I shall not repeat that statement to-day, because it may seem to some honorable member improper and unjustified; but I do believe that if an S.O.S. call had come across the sea from some vessel in distress that the lives of human beings were in jeopardy, the survey ship Geranium, which is equipped with a seaplane, wireless, and a motor boat, would not have been allowed to linger on the edge of the Barrier Beef, nor H.M.A.S. Brisbane to remain in the harbour of Rabaul. Either or both boats would have been dispatched with the utmost promptitude to the point of danger. The Government took no such action in regard to the women who are believed to be in the hands of the blacks. The Prime Minister communicated with the Department of Home and Territories, presumably because- the Northern Territory is under the control of that department, to the officials of which might be left . any action that was necessary to uphold the good name and the credit of the Commonwealth as a country that studies the welfare of its people. The Minister for Home and Territories communicated with the Administrator of the Northern Territory on the 18th July, but on 1st August the honorable member for the Northern Territory asked in the House if it were true that the Huddersfield, which had been chosen to convey the relief expedition, was still lying in the harbour at Darwin, and, if so, whether the Minister did not think that that was a tragic state of affairs and a reflection upon the Administration. Iri replying, the Minister, representing the Minister for Home and Territories, informed the House that the departure of the Huddersfield - is being seriously delayed on account of there not being a certificated mate available in Darwin for the vessel. This position has arisen through the master,’ Captain Lawson, refusing to take command, necessitating the appointment of the mate, who holds a master’s certificate, as master. No. other certificated mate is available, and the Administrator has requested permission for the vessel, to be allowed to proceed on her voyage without a certificated mate on the understanding that a competent able seaman who knows the coast well acts in that position.
Although this was a matter of life and death, the Administration had to adhere to formalities and observe the law with the utmost rigidity ! It could not sweep the law aside and allow the ship to put to sea without a certificated mate, although there was in the crew an able seaman who had navigated a small auxiliary vessel from Darwin to Singapore and back, a distance of S,000 miles, and was pell acquainted with the Northern Territory coast ! The Huddersfield did not put to sea until the 5th August, and six days after her departure’ she was still within 200 miles of Darwin. Everybody knows thai; ‘ the Geranium could have travelled from the Barrier Reef across the Gulf of Carpentaria to the vicinity of Borroloola in a very few days.
This tragedy has brought to light some facts in connexion with the administration of the Northern Territory. The Huddersfield, ie associated in a mail contract with the JohnAlee. The latter was originally a Government vessel, but because it was found unsuitable the Government sold it to the Boucaut Bay Oil Company for approximately £800, a third of the purchase price paid for it by the Commonwealth. Then, without any advertisement or other public notification, the Government granted to the owners of this 40-ton auxiliary schooner a subsidy of £1,000 - per annum, although it had sold’ the vessel, look, stock, and barrel to the company for £800.
In the end, the Huddersfield proceeded leisurely on its course, and I read in yesterday’s newspaper a statement by the ‘owners that lie delay was due to the action of the unions in Darwin. By that statement the owners tried to hide their own default. Only at the last moment has that excuse been advanced. The Assistant Minister said that the delay was wholly due to the fact that the captain had refused to take command ; that, therefore, the mate was being appointed master; and that a mate to take his place had to be found. Even after the crew was organized, the ship could still not proceed to sea because the Government had to enroll special constables to accompany the expedition. I do not blame the Assistant Minister for these excuses; he only conveyed to the House information that had been supplied to him by the Home and Territories Department, which, no doubt, relied upon the statements received from the Administrator at Darwin. It appears that the special constables were not sworn in until the 31st July. A further excuse offered was that the vessel had not adequate supplies, and that the Administration must incur immense expense in order to fit her for sea. It must not be forgotten that the vessel is one which has been engaged to assist in carrying out a mail COn tract for which the Commonwealth has agreed to pay £6,000. The newspapers also published yesterday a statement by a Mr. Serenkoff, an official of Aw Northern Territory, that the members of the- crew are inexperienced, and that the captain of the Huddersfield is not acquainted with the reefs and currents along the northern coast. To comply with the conditions set out in the advertisement in the Commonwealth Gazette, calling for tenders for the mail contract, this vessel should have a normal speed of 7 knots per hour. It now appears from statements published in the press that, with her auxiliary power, she could attain that speed only if she had the wind and tide to help her along, but without that assistance she could not travel faster than 5-J knots an hour. This vessel was chartered to serve a big portion of the coast of the Northern Territory. It was to travel to Borroloola, the Roper River, the Macarthur River, and along the western shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and yet one of the excuses for its not proceeding more promptly to the place where the women are held captive is that the skipper has no knowledge of the coast.
Although this vessel was to have started on the relief expedition on the 1st August she remained in the waters of Port Darwin rendering no coastal service, having neither crew, equipment, nor qualifications. We have to pay for that kind of service. Senator Pearce stated that a telegram had been sent to the Administr:i tor asking him to arrange with the skipper of the John Alee to take a wireless operator to the Huddersfield. That was two months after the first intimation had been received that the two women were in the hands of the blacks. The Prime Minister then said that the Government were endeavouring to send a wireless operator to Elcho Island, so that communications with the relief party could be established. As two months had elapsed since the first notification was received, was it proper that the John Alee, a vessel as slow as the Huddersfield, should be dispatched to Elcho Island with wireless appliances. A vessel such as the John Alee would take a month to reach that spot. If the Haven or the * Geranium* had been dispatched in place_ of the / ohn Alee, wireless .communication would have been established within two or three days. What has happened in the past cannot be remedied, although it is a matter for regret, but it is the duty of the Government now to take effective action. I urge this House to instruct the Government to dispatch the Geranium or the Raven to Elcho Island, so that wireless communication can be established with the relief party. The John Alee is a slow vessel, practically at the mercy of wind and tide, and with no better means of propulsion than the Huddersfield. The help of the Navy Department should be called in to assist the expedition in every possible way. The naval officers know these waters, and, if they are too shallow to prevent big ships from going close inshore, these can lie off the land and assist the expedition by using seaplanes and motor boats.
– I am sure that the House desires that such action shall be taken as will ensure that if these women are in the hands of the blacks, they shall be rescued at the earliest possible moment; but I am entirely at a loss to understand why. the adjournment of the House has been moved to discuss the subject this morning. I have listened very carefully to what the honorable member has said, but on analysis his remarks are seen to contain only the suggestion that the Geranium should be sent to Elcho Island to establish wireless communication with the relief expedition there. How does he imagine that that will contribute to or assist in the saving of these unfortunate women? It can make no difference so far as their rescue is concerned whether there is wireless communication or not. The only reason for placing wireless facilities there would be to enable information to be received from the expedition as early as possible, and so relieve the anxiety respecting these women that must be felt by the whole community.
The honorable member for Bourke not only suggested that there had been undue delay by the Government, but he raised the question whether the Huddersfield is or is not a suitable vessel for the service which her owners have contracted to give.
In reply to the suggestion of delay, I shall give the House the actual facts. Let us see, first, exactly how much information we have respecting the probability of white women being in the hands of the blacks. Dr. Wade was proceeding round the coast onan oil investigation, and at three points his native servant, Sambo, went ashore, and met natives of Arnhem Land. From them he received information that there had been a wreckon that coast, and that certain survivors who had come ashore had been attacked at night by the blacks, the white men being killed, and two women taken captive . Dr. Wade returned to Darwin, and reported the incident,and the news was sent to the press of our capital cities. It has been suggested that this information has been confirmed by different persons, but examination has shown only that the same statement has been repeated by persons who heard the rumour either in Darwin or at Elcho Island. There has been no separate statement confirming the information that was received. It has been said by Mr. Zakarow, of Elcho Island, that Constable Green had knowledge of this incident, and reported it to the Administrator some twelve months ago. Constables Green and McNamara, accompanied by black trackers, made the first search, after certain wreckage had been found along the coast. I have here a report by Constable McNamara, who was the senior. It reads -
I have the honour to report for your information that whenat Cape Wilberforce with M. C Green on the 2nd of May, 1924, diligent inquiries were made by myself and M. C. Green for the wrecked steamer Douglas Mawson and survivors, but failed to hear anything from the natives of the wreck or survivors. The boy “ Banaka “ referred to was interviewed by me, and he told me that the natives on Melville Island had two rifles, and he volunteered to come along with us to show us where the natives were. At that time the native “ Banaka “ knew nothing of a wreck or white people ‘being in the vicinity. I deny the statements of E. P. Zakarow in this matter, and I further state that everything possible was -done by myself and M. C. Green to bring the matter to a successful issue.
The boy Banaka referred to made no statement to Constable Green, who at no time stated to the Administrator that he had received this information, or had any such knowledge. That point should be clearly understood, because the impression is abroad that there is cumulative evidence that these unfortunate women are in the hands of the -blacks. These rumours were current, and were telegraphed to the capital cities, where they appeared in the press. The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), on the same dayas the honorable member forthe Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) asked a question in this House respecting this matter, sent a telegram about it to the Administrator. That telegram, which was dispatched before that honorable member asked his question, reads -
Press telegram this morning reports statements alleged to have been made by members crew auxiliary ketch Maskce as to the wreckage of boat believed to be Douglas Mawson, murder of white men, and capture of white women by natives. Minister desires fullest information possible respecting matter. Please telegraph.
– What is the date of that telegram?
– It is dated 18th July, the day the statement appeared in the press, and the day on which thehonorable member for the Northern Territory asked a question in this House. On the same day the Administrator of the Northern Territory wired -
Ellis newspaper) correspondent arrived overland from Borroloola, informed me rumour there that two white women, survivors from Douglas Mawson, are withblacks on coast, but no report from Borroloola police is to hand. Doctor Wade returned last night, informed me that at three points on coast 50 miles apart he, through interpreter, learned from natives that several moons ago big ship lost in gulf. Boat with survivors reached point south Cape Arnhem, locally known as Port Bradshaw, all men speared toy blacks, two women, one elderly, one young, taken by blacks, and are still with tribe. Also that natives saw search party sent from Darwin, and threatened spear women if they made any signs. I have wired Normanton to ask if such, passengers were on Mawson, and am taking steps organize expedition by land and sea to search; my means are limited. Strong south-east winds in gulf now beyond power of Maskee to meet. Am negotiating for Huddersfield. Your urgent just received after this telegram written.
He further wired -
Re expedition Arnhem Land, Boucaut Co.’s terms for Huddersfield, Pat, and two launches, twenty pounds per day. Owing to necessity for survey and overhaul Huddersfield not ready until 2Sth. Bough .scheme for expedition as follows: - One party on Pat to Goyder River on west flank of country to be searched. Huddersfield with* second party along coast as depot ship covering north and east, two launches conveying parties from her supplies, etcetera. Third party from Roper River .police station -to close up from south. Rendezvous for all parties to be arranged. Am inquiring as to possibility of rescue of women if there through negotiation, and will wire further on this point. It is considered that strong parties are necessary. I have only five police available. Will Minister authorize me enlist volunteers at police rate of pay and swear them in as temporary constables. I also ask authority for all expenditure that may be necessary.”
On the 19th, the Minister wired the Administrator as follows: -
Your telegram 18th re expedition Arnhem Land blacks, Minister authorizes you enlist volunteers at police rate of pay, and swear them in as temporary constables, and you are authorized to incur all necessary expenditure.
These telegrams disclose that on the very day that the report was current in Melbourne and other capital cities that these women were captive, the Minister for Home and Territories telegraphed to the Administrator of the Northern Territory and asked whether there was any foundation for it. The ‘ reply he received from the Administrator was a request for power to take the steps necessary to ascertain whether it was true. The Minister immediately, by telegraph, authorized the incurring of any necessary expense. He could not have done more at that time. The gentleman who is in charge of the relief expedition was one of the principal police officers in Queensland at one time, and has spent a great part of his life in the northern part of that state. He has had a very close association with .the blacks and understands them, and is in every way suited to organize and conduct the expedition. It has been suggested that the Geranium or a cruiser should have been sent to the locality immediately, but honorable members must surely recognize that the sailors on a cruiser would not have been such an effective relief party as the men who were sent on the Huddersfield. The point at issue seems to be whether it would have been more reasonable to send the Geranium or some other first-class vessel than to send the Huddersfield. I suggest that any vessel that was sent would have had to take a relief expedition on board, for the sailors would not have been able to do the work. For those reasons I think that the Government took the wiser course in sending the Huddersfield. It must be apparent to honorable members that . any vessel that had been commissioned for the purpose would have had to be equipped properly. No ship would have had accommodation immediately available for horses, and horses were necessary for the expedition. The Huddersfield had to be altered to- accommodate horses, and similar alterations would have been necessary to any other ship. The first information that the women were supposed to be captive reached the Minister on the 18th- July, and he was informed on that very date that a relief expedition would leave Darwin on the 28th July. That allowed ten days for recruiting the members of the expedition and fitting the ship for it. The ship did not leave Darwin on the 28th July, and the Minister telegraphed for the reasons for the delay. The Administrator replied that the delay arose in consequence of difficulties with the crew and the fact that the master of the vessel would not take her to sea, and that there was no other person available with a mate’s certificate to take control. -The vessel actually left Darwin on the 5th August. [Standing Orders suspended; extension of time granted.’] The Administrator outlined the position ‘ very clearly in his report. He said that he visited the vessel prior to the first date that was fixed for her sailing, namely, the 28tE July, and formed the opinion that it was improbable that she would sail on that date. His report proceeds -
I commented on the slowness of the work and the quantity of timber in the hold, but was assured by Mr. Serennikoff that it would all be out in good time for the erection of the horse stalls, and that the ship would undoubtedly be fully ready for sea on the 23th July.
The first paragraph of the Government Secretary’s report shows that, eventually, the Works Director had to move part of this timber himself, and, therefore, was unable to complete the horse stalls until the 29th July.
On the 28th July the Government Secretary informed me that the Huddersfield would *ot leave until the 1st August owing to her engines not being ready.
On the 29th July the Government Secretary informed me that the ship would leave with a party on board on Thursday, 31st July.
On Wednesday, 30th July, the Government Secretary informed me that Serennikoff had assured him the ship would leave to-morrow.
At 12 noon on Thursday, 31st July, the Government Secretary advised me, by telephone, that the ship would not leave until Saturday, 2nd August, owing to union trouble with the crew.
On the same day at 3.30 p.m. (i.e., 31st July), Mr. Serennikoff called on me and stated that the reasons for delay were - Captain Lawson refused to take the ship to sea - the assistant engineer had left - the union had caused trouble with the chief engineer. He hoped to get the former captain and send the ship away on 2nd August.
On the 1st August, at 12.30 p.m., the Govern ment Secretary called on me with Mr. Serennikoff, and explained that Captain Lawson had left the ship and that the mate would take command, and that thus there would be no certificated mate, without which the ship could not go to sea. Whereupon, I telegraphed to you for permission for the ship to sail without a certificated mate.
On the 4th August it was announced that the ship would sail at 6 p.m.
The ship actually got away on the 5th August. Clearly, therefore, the delay occurred because of difficulties with the chief engineer, the unions, and the master. It has been suggested that the Administrator would have ‘been justified in sending the ship to sea notwithstanding that its complement of officers and men did not comply with the provisions of the Navigation Act, for the need for sending her was imperative ; but the Administrator could not have followed that course. Let honorable members who think that that ought to have been done visualize for a moment what- would have been the Administrator’s position had the ship met with disaster through not having her proper complement of officers and nien. The Administrator very properly telegraphed to the Home and Territories Department that representations be made to the Minister for Trade and Customs, who administers the Navigation Act, ask- . ing him to abrogate temporarily the provisions of the act, and such permission * was given immediately. The delay which arose from Navigation Act difficulties did nob extend beyond a day at the outside. Honorable members opposite are not justified in these circumstances in accusing the Government of callous brutality and of having no desire to help these women. The delays that occurred were consequent upon the actions of the unions and the men who were required to man the vessel. In a matter of this character, which possibly involves the life and safety of two women, it would be much better not to introduce party politics, and to discuss the. facts calmly.
The Huddersfield actually left Darwin on the’ 5th August. The impression appears to be abroad in some quarters that the party is still on its way to the locality in which t”he women are supposed to be held captive, but that is not the fact. The rescue party arrived at Elcho Island on the 18th August, and on the 21st August one bushman and several natives left the island for the mainland and tried, without success, to negotiate with the natives who are said to ‘be holding these women. The party returned on the 30th August, and reported that it was unable to locate the captives. Another party left the ship the next day, and is now ashore trying to find the women, lt has been suggested that the Government should send to the locality a rescue party of great strength to demonstrate its . intention to. save these unfortunate women, but if that were done there can be no doubt that they would be murdered, if they are still alive. I remind honorable members of a significant sentence in one of the telegrams that I have read. It states that when the natives saw the first search party of two police constables and two black trackers that was sent out from Darwin soon after the wreckage was found, they threatened to spear the. women if they made any sign of their presence. There is just as much confirmation of that statement as of the statement that the women are really in the hands of the natives. I feel sure that if we sent a strong rescue force to the locality the women would be killed if they are still alive, and unless something of that sort is to be done the Government can do nothing more now than it has already done.
It is useless to talk about sending the Geranium or a cruiser to the locality.
– It would not have been useless three or four weeks ago.
– It would have been useloss at any time, for the sailors could not have gone ashore and tracked the women. Trained bushmen are required for that work. If any unnecessary delay occurred in despatching the Huddersfield to the locality, it was caused by circumstances over which the Government had no control.
It has been suggested by honorable members opposite that it is perfectly ridiculous and absurd to have a vessel of the class of the Huddersfield on the coast of the Northern Territory, and that the work which that vessel was to do should be performed by a ship of a much better type. It has even been said that the Government has made an extraordinary departure from the usual order of things in permitting a vessel like the Huddersfield to be used for this work. The facts are entirely contrary to that view. The service that the Huddersfield was to render has always been given by vessels of a similar class. Her route would be from Borroloola to the Roper River, and Elcho Island, and to other small settlements on the coast, not one of which has a population of more than 100 people. The purpose of the service is to maintain some slight connexion between those people and outside civilization. Many vessels have been employed in this service. The first was the Moruya, which was purchased for the purpose for £16,000 by a Labour Government in 1912. The ship ran for some time, but its coal consumption was so enormous that no. room could be found on it for cargo.’ She was sold in 1914 for £6,000, which entailed a loss of £10,000 in addition to the loss incurred in running. There has since been a similar experience from year to year in connexion with this service. In 1913-14 the loss amounted to £19,000 ; in 1914-15, it was £10.300; in 1915-16, £6,600; in 1916-17, £5,600; in 1917-18, £6,300; and in 1918-19, £13,200. The Government has entered into the present contract for a service at £6,000, and the reference made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition to the John Alee, and the price paid for it, apparently contained the suggestion that it was improper to sell this boat to the Boucaut Bay Company.
The fact is that it was offered to the company with a limit of price of £750, which sum was eventually paid for it. The service was being conducted at a loss, not of £5,000, but of a very much greater sum. This company is responsible for the service, and it is being paid a.subsidy of £6,000 for the two ships engaged. The fitness of the Huddersfield for the work it is doing was discussed on the Estimates of the Home and Territories Department, and has nothing to do with the subject under discussion. I instance this merely because the honorable member referred to it in his speech.
The real issue is whether the Government improperly delayed the taking of action to try to rescue these unfortunate women. I say that it did nothing of the sort. I have given the facts, and I have shown that the Government pursued the natural and obvious course. I remind honorable members opposite that, although they talk about what should have been done, they have made no practical suggestion. The Acting Leader of the Opposition had nothing to suggest except that everything would be right if we sent a cruiser or gunboat to the locality with wireless apparatus. I have tried- to show that that would have no good effect. I have endeavoured to point out that, ever since the announcement was made1 that the women were in the hands of the natives, Ministers have been subjected to questions, and at all times they have acquainted the House fully of the action they have taken. I suggest to the honorable member that if he had had definite views and suggestions to make as to what the Government ought to do, I, being a reasonably approachable man, would have gladly listened to any suggestions from him. If these had been of a useful nature the Government would not have hesitated to adopt them. The fact is that no practical suggestion has come from the other side of tha chamber ‘ as to what should be done. All we have had is criticism, and, at times, it would almost appear there has’ been an attempt to extract political capital out of this unfortunate incident. I am sure that the House will not entertain the motion. Honorable members will agree that in all the circumstances the wisest course has been taken, and that the Government has in no way been dilatory in the line of action it has pursued, if, in fact, the women are in the sorry plight in which they are said to be..
.- The Prime Minister has replied merely in the general terms that he usually employs whenever his actions are commented upon By honorable members on this side of the House, for he has stated that the motion has been submitted purely for political purposes. In a case such as this, that is a most unworthy suggestion. That the Opposition has delayed taking action until now is due to the fact that it did not wish to have the suggestion advanced that it was trying to make political capital out of the unfortunate’ experience of the women said to be suffering amongst the blacks. I regret that we have had to submit the motion. The fact that at least two months had elapsed before we decided to launch such a motion shows that we did not wish to make political capital out of the matter. The Prime Minister, instead of facing the issue raised by the Acting Leader of the Opposition, has attempted to draw a herring across the trail. In the first place, he said that there was no proof that the women were in the hands of the blacks. That is perfectly true; but there is strong circumstantial! evidence pointing in that direction, and it is so strong that the Government has. equipped , a vessel and sent it to the locality. The absence of proof is a poor excuse to advance for the delay of the Government, although it might be a good excuse for taking no action.
– I have not put that forward as an excuse for delay.
– One-third of the Prime Minister’s speech consisted of excuse for the delay on the part of the Government. If it were not an excuse, he usedidle words, and. there was no need to take up the time of the House to stress the matter. If there is no evidence, or if the evidence is slight, as to the women being held” prisoners- by the natives, why take any action ? If, however, there was sufficient evidence to warrant action, it should have been immediate.
– Action was taken immediately the matter became known..
– The telegrams and letters that have been read make up a very sorry story of delay while the lives and honour of women are at stake.Up to the 1 9th July the steps taken by the Government left nothing to be desired.
– The telegram to the Administrator instructing him to. send out a relief party was dispatched the very day the news arrived.
– Within two days of the statement being made in this House certain arrangements had been come to for the swearing in of special police, &c., and up to that stage the Government’s course of action left no room for criticism. But its subsequent inaction and the time occupied, after the receipt of the first message-, until the Huddersfield left Port Darwin afford proof of shocking and unnecessary delay. Let us consider the excuse of the Prime Minister. The first matter he touched on was the suggestion of the Acting Leader of the Opposition that the Government should have sent the Geranium to the locality with wireless equipment. The Prime Minister contended that the provision of wireless communication could have nothing to do with the ‘ relief expedition, but I claim that it could have had much to do with it. Why is it that we heard only yesterday that a boat is, after all, to be dispatched with wireless, a month after the Huddersfield sailed ? I am under the impression that if a warship equipped with wireless had been in the vicinity a field wireless apparatus could have been sent with the expeditionary party into the interior, so that it could have kept in communication with the base party on the coast. It is- of some importance, although not essential, to relieve the anxiety of the public. The main consideration-, however, is the rescue, as quickly as possible, of the unfortunate women. The second excuse of the Prime Minister was even more paltry than the first. There was a speedy war vessel in the vicinity, and we want to know why it was not at once dispatched to the scene. There is no doubt that its commander has a master’s certificate. The excuse about union trouble reached us only yesterday. This is the first time in the last two months that we have heard of that matter; but even if there were union trouble - and the Prime Minister has refused to tell us why the master declined to sail - there would have been no hindrance to the dispatch of one of the war boats in the vicinity. The Prime Minister endeavoured to ‘mitigate: the
Government’s offence by saying that sailors would be useless in such an expedition. I cannot agree with him. Naval men, under the guidance of bushmen, would have been most useful as members of a relief party. It .would not have been necessary to send them out with glittering bayonets and all the panoply of war. I do not suggest that a demonstration of force would have been advisable. But many of our sailors are good bushmen, and they would doubtless have added to the strength of the expedition. What a paltry excuse to say that sailors are useless”, and that bushmen only should be sent ! That statement justifies the criticism of this party that the delay has been unwarranted. The most .sordid part of the story is found in the telegrams that were sent in negotiating as to the price that the owners of the Huddersfield were to be paid. The vessel was subsidized by the Government to the extent of £5,000 a year to go on any voyage required, but on its first voyage, one for the relief of these suffering women, its owners claimed to be paid £20 a day extra. It would be impossible to find stronger condemnation of the action of the Government than is contained in the correspondence read this morning. We have frequently heard the gibe that we desire to make political capital out of every action of the Ministry, but that will not prevent members of this party from trying to do their duty. The idea of equipping the boat with wireless occurred to the Government one month after the vessel had sailed, and two months after news had “been received that the women were in the hands of the blacks. The suggestion of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), that a war-boat equipped with wireless should have been sent, was not an idle or useless suggestion. With a wireless plant on the seashore, and field wireless with the relief party, continuous communication could have been maintained. Wireless would have been of great assistance in the event of the rescue party meeting with hostile savages. ‘The action taken by the Opposition has been delayed because we did not wish to interfere with the plans of the Government, or t© fight on the floor of this House about such an unfortunate occurrence. The good name of Australia is at stake. We have been shamed in the eyes of the world.
Nearly two months have gone by since news was received that these two women were in the hands of the blacks, and nearly a month was allowed to elapse before a boat was dispatched from the nearest point, although there were Australian war-boats in the vicinity.
– Only one month elapsed from the receipt of the report until the arrival of the boat on the spot.
– That interjection -by the Treasurer is a “Confession of failure.
– It illustrates the misstatements that are made by honorable members opposite. The honorable member said that over a month elapsed before the boat was dispatched.
– I said that “two months had elapsed since the first message was received, and that nearly a month passed before a boat left the nearest point. The Huddersfield did not leave until the 5th August, although the news was received om the 18th July. That is nearly a month. No statement has been made as to why the master of the boat refused to sail. The Government stresses the union difficulty, but says nothing about the master’s action.
– After listening to the remarks of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr, Anstey), and to the reply of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), .one can only come to the conclusion that there was no unnecessary delay in dispatching the expedition. One would think from the remarks that have been ‘made that the boat had not yetreached its destination, and that no efforts had been made to test the allegation that the women were held captive by the natives. The boat arrived at its destination a month ago. The peace expedition left on the 19th August, and, after being in touch with the natives, returned on 30th August. Had the whole British Navy been sent nothing more could have been done. A display of force might have done considerable harm. The Huddersfield is to-day at Elcho Island, and it is only 50. miles across Arnhem Bay to the mainland, which can be reached in a few hours. The peace expedition returned ‘with the information that it could find no trace of the missing women. All honorable members ;are anxious for the .safety of the women. If it is possible to rescue them, it is our -duty -to restore them to their kindred. The department has not delayed in sending the expedition. The Minister gave full authority to the Administrator of the Northern Territory, who is on the spot, and has had experience of the natives. It is unfortunate that in a debate of this kind an attempt should be made to secure a political advantage.
– The honorable member is trying to whitewash the Government.
– If members of the Opposition were anxious to assist the Government, why did they not make some suggestions a month ago? Had they done so, their suggestions would hare been well received.
– Why was the suggestion of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) not well received ?
– The Prime Minister has stated facts, and honorable members opposite do not like facts. His” statements conflict with the allegations made by members of the Opposition, and show that the Government has taken all action that was possible. It is easy for members of the Opposition to say what ought to have been done. They gave similar advice during the war. Talk is cheap.
– They did more than talk during the war, for they organized an expeditionary force and sent it overseas.
– Yes, and those who did it are now on this side of the House. An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory. The Government has taken the only practical course open to it. It is nineteen days since the peace expedition returned, after having been in touch with the tribe for a fortnight. What more could have been done? I ask honorable members to be fair to a department that has done its best. They must admit that the object of sending the expedition was to get in touch with the natives. The expedition achieved that object. Since the 30th August, when the peace expedition returned, an armed expedition has been sent. I agree with the Prime Minister that while wireless equipment might relieve our worries in Melbourne, it would not help the expedition.
– The Huddersfield was specially equipped with wireless for this expedition, but the. wireless operator refused to sail.
– TheH udders field, after all, is only a base from which to; work. It cannot go farther than Elcho Island, but it has a motor boat that, within a few hours, can cross Arnhem Bay.
– Men-of-war also have motor boats.
– I caution the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), whose interjections are too frequent.
– Considerable experience is necessary in the handling of wireless. Wireless apparatus cannot be carried by a land expedition unless special means of transport are provided. That is a subject about which I know something. If the women are to be rescued, the business must be handled tactfully. I would agree to force being used if I thought that by its means we could rescue the women, but I do not believe for a moment that a show of force would do any good.
– No one las suggested force.
– I am pleased at that. Members of the Opposition suggest peaceful negotiation with the natives, but that course has alreadybeen followed. Iam certain that every honorable member hopes that the second expedition will be successful, and that, if the women are held captive, it will bring them back to civilization.
– I expected the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to say that if the effort made by the Government was regarded as insufficient he would be prepared to do whatever was thought necessary ; but all he did was to give a list of excuses, and to say that everything that could be done had been done. He sheltered himself behind the fact that the Minister for Home and Ter- ritories (Senator Pearce) gave a free hand to the Administrator of the Northern Territory. Surely the. Minister should take the responsibility of giving directions. If he had understood his job he would have given instructions for the fastest vessel available to be placed at the disposal of the Administrator. All he said in reply to the Administrator’s telegram was that he concurred in the action suggested, and authorized the Administrator to incur the necessary expense. He acted merely like a public servant, when he should have directed and instructed his officers.
– He telegraphed, “ Spare no expense.” Was not that a direction to the Administrator?
– N. If the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) was a real Minister, instead of being merely an echo of his officers–
– That is not parliamentary.
– If I was the Minister for the Navy, and there were two white women in the hands of savages in the Northern Territory, I would place a fast man-of-war at the disposal of the Minister for Home and Territories. Vessels belonging to the Navy are running up and down the coast, and all their crews have to do is to paint them and clean buttons. The Minister for Defence has offered no suggestion. All the suggestions have come from members on this side.
– Why did not the honorable member suggest that the union should get busy on the Huddersfield?
– We were first told that the captain refused to sail; then, that a crew could not be obtained; and later, that the wireless operator would not sail. These things suggest that the ship is regarded as unseaworthy. We know that she can sail at only one knot an hour, and it would appear that the crew had a serious objection to putting to sea in her. The Huddersfield was chartered by the Government, and she lay for four months at Darwin drawing Government subsidy to the amount of £1,700 for doing nothing. Then, when she was called upon to perform the first service asked of her, theowners demanded a special arrangement for that service, and the Government agreed to pay for it at the rate of £20 per day.
– The honorable member knows that his statement is incorrect.
– I do not know that it is incorrect. If inquiry is made, it will be found to be correct. I am not going to make any references to the owners of the ship. I put such considerations out of my mind. The question is not one of expense, but of the necessity for doing everything possible to rescue the unfortunate women who are said to be in the hands of the blacks. If Mrs. Bruce, Mrs. Page, or my own wife were believed to be in the hands of the blacks, do honorable members think that we should be satisfied with the efforts at rescue which have been made?
– What more could the Government do?
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) tried to tell the honorable gentleman, and I have tried to tell him, what the Government might have done. It should not have waited for a ship to be fitted out for the expedition when it had at its command a warship that was within a few hours’ sail of the point it was desired to reach.
– The warship could not carry horses without being fitted up for the purpose.
– The honorable member is talking within a rigid time limit, which makes interjections even more than usually disorderly.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that the relief force might have been taken to the point desired much sooner than it was. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has said that the ship carrying the relief force had to be fitted up in order that it might carry horses, but I do not know that horses were necessary to the expedition. The natives who are said to have captured the women were living on the coast. They may be up in the mountains now. We do not know where they are. Honorable members opposite may laugh, but if two white women are in the hands of savages it is not a laughing matter. They must have been captured on the coast, and we do not know where they are now. These natives have murdered a number of white men, but the Government has taken no action against them.
– How does the honorable member know that they have murdered white men?
– We do know it.
– No, we do not.
– We do, if we are to judge by the statements which have appeared in the press. Surely honorable members do not doubt statements made by Dr. Wade, who was within 50 miles of the place where it is believed the Douglas Mawson was wrecked, and who heard the same story from natives in three different places. Even if those statements were untrue, the Government would not be justified in taking no action.
This wouldnot be the first time that natives in that part of the Northern Territory have murdered white men. Why should they go unpunished for such deeds. The Government took no action against the natives for the murder of white men, and the action which it has taken for the rescue of the two women who are in the hands of the blacks, is action of which it should be ashamed. The honorable member for Parkes. (Mr. Marr) has said that wireless equipment would be of no use in connexion with the expedition, because there would be no means for its transport. We know that pack horses are sometimes used for the transport of wireless equipment. The honorable member, who puts himself forward as a wireless expert, says this cannot be done. God help our wireless experts if the honorable member is: one. I believe that honorable members opposite are convinced in their hearts that more might have been done, but in their loyalty to the Prime Minister they will support him in this matter at the expense it may be of’ the speedy rescue of the two women who are in the hands of the blacks.
.- Some of the statements made by the last speaker, though not relevant to. the question, should not be allowed to go unchallenged or unanswered. His statement that the Huddersfield was lying at Port Darwin for four months, and drawing subsidy, is absolutely inaccurate.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– TheHuddersfielddid not arrive at Port Darwin until about the 9th July.
– She was drawing subsidy while she was there.
– No subsidy whatever has been drawn in respect of the Huddersfield up to the present time, and no money has been received’ on her behalf except under the special contract for the expedition in which she’ is now engaged. These facts were previously brought under the notice of theHouse, and it is astounding that such misstatements as the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) has been guilty of, should be repeated in order to level against the Government accusations which are quite unworthy. Listening to the debate, one is led to wonder whether the interest of honorable members opposite in the saf ety of. these women, who are said to be in the hands of the blacks, is as real as it would appear to be. It is necessary, not only, to ascertain if these women are amongst the natives, but, if they are, to rescue them, and to get them alive. The critics of the Government in this matter do not appear to have reflected that carelessly considered methods or hasty decisions might have the very result that we all wish to avoid. Personally, I grieve to say that I have very grave doubts as to whether these women are alive at all. But if they are alive, it is of the utmost importance, even at the expense of a little further delay, that only those steps should be taken which will add nothing to the risk of their being destroyed by the natives.
– This is not a case of delay being dangerous.
– In this case, as the honorable member reminds me, delay is not dangerous, but perhaps the reverse. I remind honorable members that if these women are still alive they have already been in the hands of the natives for a very considerable time. I submit without any callousness or indifference, for I feel as hotly and as strongly on the matter as any honorable member opposite, that a few weeks extra delay, if by such delay we are able to take greater precautions to secure the rescue of these women alive will be not only justified but absolutely necessary. Honorable members have talked a lot about not requiring an expedition of force. It is very probable that the natives would not understand what a gunboat was if they saw one, but what other purpose would’ there be in sending a gunboat to the point desired unless it were to carry an expedition there ?
– The more speedy transport of the expedition.
– Darwin was the nearest place at which the people best fitted to carry out such an expedition were to be found. The whole- matter was placed in the hands of persons experienced in the kind of expedition to be undertaken,. To have carried out the business in any other way than that adopted by the Government would almost have invited the death of these unfortunate women. I say that because, if’ unfortunately, as the result of some misjudgment or unforeseen circumstances in connexion with the expedition, it may eventually be found that the women are already dead, or may be killed by the natives while the expedition is out to save them, I am perfectly convinced that, in spite of the facts brought forward, honorable members opposite, will find in their death, the basis for another charge against the Government. Therefore, I say here and now that whilst the heart of every one in Australia must be throbbing with, anxiety about these women, we must be prepared for even worse than i3 now anticipated, if they are ever found. These are aspects of the matter which should not be lost sight of. They should prevent any but the most seriously considered action being taken. The references to personal interest should never have been dragged into this matter. The main thing, is to try to- save the women, and to save them alive. The Government has done its duty.. If it had taken any steps which might have led to the death of the women, through reprisals on the part of the natives, it would have been deserving of condemnation. Whatever may be the outcome of the action taken, I believe the Government has justified itself in the eyes, not only of honorable members, but of the people of Australia as a whole. There are grave obstacles in the way of a successful result from the expedition. It has been out a month, and has seen no trace of the women. The only foundation for the belief that they are alive in the hands of the blacks is the statement made by one native, yet honorable members opposite say that there is ample evidence that the men who were on the Douglas Mawson have been murdered, and that the women are now among the natives. We are asked why we should not take notice of Dr. Wade’s statement, but I again remind honorable members that the whole story rests upon the statement of one native. That is all the evidence we have that the men of the Douglas Mawson were murdered, or that the women axe still alive.
– Is that enough upon which to take action ?
– Of course it is, and action has been taken, and in the proper way. If the facts are examined, it will be Been how they have been distorted in speeches which have been made this morning. One statement was that it took nearly a month for the Huddersfield to leave Darwin. There is a good deal of difference between eighteen days and a month, so that statement was not fair. In a month the boat was on the spot,, and the expedition was out. The statement to which I have taken exception is no more worthy of serious consideration by tha House than is the statement that the Huddersfield was lying for four months at Darwin, drawing a big subsidy foi doing nothing.
– Will she not be paid for the time she wag lying at Darwin ?
– I have said that no subsidy has been drawn by the Huddersfield. The honorable member may deny it as much as he likes, but I have stated the fact. The attack made upon the Government is utterly unworthy and most unfair. In my view, it would, have been not only unwise, but absolutely wrong, of the Government to have taken any other action than it did, or to have made any other preparations than it did make. We must await patiently the development! of the expedition, and hope that it will be successful. In regard to the suggestion that the party should have been equipped with wireless, I feel sure that the ‘honorable member for Parkes was correct when he said that if the administration had waited to furnish such equipment to all branches of the expedition so that they could, keep in touch with each other and with Darwin, considerable delay and expense which would have been involved, would have provided a further excuse for attacking the Government. Taking into ; account all the circumstances, the.- well known character of the natives,, and their method’s of dealing with captives, the Government has done all that could be expected of it, and has fully justified the confidence of the people.
– I do not consider that the Government has taken adequate steps to rescue the women who are in the hands of the blacks. The offer of the Queensland Government to- assist in relief measures was rejected’ by the Commonwealth Government, . although the people most likely to have- been of practical assistance in rescuing the- women are the residents of Burketown and Normanton on the north-west coast of Queensland. I quote this paragraph from the Melbourne Herald of the 17th September: -
Interesting sidelights on the Federal Government’s delay in its efforts to rescue the captives were afforded by Mr. Synott. He said his firm, which was agent at Burketown for John Burke Ltd., charterers of the illfated Douglas Mawson, could have obtained the loan of a suitable boat.
As a matter of fact, a resident there, Mr. J. Murray, who owned a 30-ton motor boat, would have placed hisboat at the disposal of the expedition.
Had it not been that we were under the impression that the Federal Government was moving more “swiftly,” said Mr. Synott,
Burketown would have sent an expedition long ago. There were many volunteers, and the party would have comprised experienced bushmen. It was their intention to pick up some blacks from the McArthurRiver, which is near the scene of the tragedy. Normanton residents also were ready to send a rescue party. It was then heard that a Government boat was being sent from Darwin, so Normanton and Burketown residents did not like to interfere.”
Mr. Synott proceeded to explain the methods that would have been adopted by such a rescue party, and showed that he and those associated with him are admirable bushmen. I condemn the Commonwealth Government for not having accepted the Queensland Government’s offer to render assistance. The people living on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria know how to act in emergencies of this kind, and I believe that a party of horsemen could have ridden from the Burketown district to the scene of the tragedy as quickly as a party from Darwin could reach it.
– The honorable member does not know anything about the geography of that portion of Australia.
– The honorable member has not been in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and I am pitting against his statements the testimony of a man who lived in the Gulf country for years, and understands the natives. The Commonwealth Government spurned the offer of the Labour Government of Queensland.
– Order ! “Rot” is not a parliamentary expression.
– Some of the most experienced bushmen in Australia are to be found in the Gulf country, and they were prepared to organize search parties. Whenever there is even a hint that human life is at stake it is the duty of the Government to act promptly. Had the Commonwealth kept in touch with the Queensland Government and the people of Burketown, prompter and more effectivemeasures might have been adopted. For the delay that has occurred I blame the Minister for Home and Territories. Darwin is a long way from Borroloola.
– It is closer than Burketown.
– Mr. Synott, who knows more about the Gulf country than does the Treasurer, has said that a party could have been organized at Burketown, and sent to the scene of the tragedy more expeditiously than was the expedition from Darwin. Would a 30-ton motor boat have taken longer to travel from Burketown to Borroloola than the Huddersfield has taken to reach there from Darwin? The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) said that it is uncertain that the women are in the hands of the blacks, but even the remotest possibility of such a thing should stir the Government to prompt action: Even if Darwin is nearer than Borroloola to Burketown, there was an offer to dispatch a body of bushmen from the lastnamed place, and there is no reason why two parties should not have approached the scene of the tragedy from opposite directions.
– When was an offer made to send a party from Burketown?
– I cannot state the date.
– No offer to render assistance was received from the Queensland Government.
– A statement to that effect was published, and the honorable memberfor Capricornia (Mr. Forde) mentioned such an offer some weeks ago.
– The Queensland Government did not communicate with us until the 5th September, and by that time the Darwin expedition was on the scene.
– I place more reliance upon the statements of Mr. Synott regarding the value of an expedition from Burketown than upon the assertions of those who are prompting the Treasurer. I am convinced that the Government has not- done all that was possible to rescue these unfortunate women.
– I desire to review briefly several of the statements that have been made regarding the alleged actions and offers of various persons and Governments, and to supplement the facts which were furnished by the Prime Minister.
– When a matter of such importance is being discussed, it is desirable that more than three Government supporters should be in the chamber. I call for a quorum.
– I am not concerned with the number of Government supporters present; but, my attention having been directed to the matter, I am concerned in seeing that there is a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– The action of the Opposition this morning has produced an unexpected, and from their point of view, unwelcome, result inasmuch as an opportunity has been afforded the Prime Minister to put before the House and the public a considered and consecutive resume of the measures taken to rescue these unfortunate women, who are said to be in the hands of the blacks, and to disabuse the public mind of the statements, promulgated by honorable members opposite and certain newspapers, that the Government has in this matter been lax and indifferent. The creation of that misapprehension has been rendered possible only by the half facts and sinister suggestions which have emanated from the critics of the Government; but, when the whole of the circumstances are disclosed, it is found that the real reason for delay was the action, not of the Government, but of certain unionists, who deserted their ship. When, on the one hand, we hear the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) saying that the Government should have disregarded all considerations of the seaworthiness of the Huddersfield, and rushed it to the scene of the disaster, and on the other hand his supporters declare that the men would not man the boat because it was not seaworthy, the public will understand the motives that have actuated the Opposition in making these charges. However, my main concern is the reputation of Australia abroad. The people of small countries do not ap preciate the huge distances in Australia, and when such happenings as this are telegraphed to other parts of the world, it is believed that the places where they have occurred are within easy reach, and can be quickly dealt with to everybody’s satisfaction.
– Would the Treasurer like the Government’s actions broadcasted to the world?
– Yes, and also the replies to the criticisms and insinuations of delay that have been levelled at the Government by the Opposition. Apparently, honorable members opposite forget that the search party has already been on the scene of operations for one month. They speak glibly of what has been done and what has been left undone, but they are ignorant of the facts. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said that two months had elapsed since the first intimation was received of these women being in the hands of the blacks, and that nothing had been done to effect their rescue. He perhaps does not know that the Huddersfield arrived at her present position at the base of operations on the 18th August, and that the rescue party reported back on the 31st August, respecting what had been done. As a result of telegrams and the Administrator’s report being read in this House this morning, the public will know that the late arrival of the Huddersfield at Elcho Island was entirely due to the action of the unionists at Darwin. These men knew the circumstances of the case, and that it was possible that white women were in the hands of the blacks: They knew also that the vessel was slow, and yet they deliberately held it up for five days longer than was necessary.
– I rise to a point of order. Is it within the province of the Minister to make an assertion that is offensive to the members of the Labour party? I understand that he has already been told that such a statement is untrue, and yet he deliberately repeats it.
– The honorable member for East Sydney, as an old parliamentarian, knows that such remarks are not unparliamentary. I have not heard the Treasurer use any unparliamentary expressions since he commenced to speak.
-I shall prove in a fewmoments that the statement to which the honorable member objects is perfectly true. It has been suggested that a more expeditions means should have been adopted in dispatching the search party. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.Fenton) said that it should have set out from Burketown by land, as that was a much better startingpoint than Darwin. The Administrator considered whether the expedition should start out by land from Darwin, but he concluded that the distance to be traversed was too great. Burketown is farther from Elcho Island by land than is Darwin. The position then was that some boat had to be requisitioned and fitted upto carry a certain number of horses as well as the relief party. On the l8th July the report respecting these two women appeared in the metropolitan press throughout Australia, and on the same day the Minister for Home and Territories wired to the Administrator of the Northern Territory forconfirmation of it. The report was confirmed, and the next day the Minister gave instructionstothe Administrator to fit out a relief expedition, and to incur whatever expensewas necessary. The Huddersfield was on the spot,a boat which the honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) had suggested wassuitable for the mail Services. ‘The Administrator discussed the position with the company ‘controlling that vessel. He was informed that the boat would be ready inside of ten days. It was to leave on the 28th July, which allowed a reasonable time in which to have the boat properly fitted with the necessary equipment ‘and wireless. Why did it not leave on that date? I find that on the 31st July the Administrator wired the Minister as follows : -
Finding Huddersfield was not leaving to-day, I made inquiries, with result Serennikoff called this afternoon, stated reasons for delay were Captain Lawson refuses take ship to sea. Second engineer has left. Union is causing trouble with chief engineer. He hopes to get former captainand send ship on Saturday. This most vexatious, as in belief ship would leave to-day special constables were sworn in and placed on pay this morning. Only yesterday Serennikoff assured Government secretary ship would sail to-day. Serennikoff’s statement verbal, but says will supply in writing to-morrow.
To overcome the difficulty respecting the captain, the Navigation Department was wired to obtain a permit for the boat to sail without a mate, and the Minister sent the following wire to the Administrator: -
Your urgent wire Minister for Trade and Customs concurs Huddersfield sailing without mate, provided youare satisfied that no risk will be incurred by crew of vessel. Has engineer trouble been settled?
Then, on the 4th August, the Minister dispatched this wire to the Administrator at Darwin: -
Yours 2nd August, desertion engineer, Huddersfield. Minister directs me inform you that furtherdelay must not be tolerated. If vessel cannot leave to-day, he desires you give immediate and serious consideration to question of sending party overland, and also to question of whether party could not safely be limited to ten armed men.
– Onwhatdate was the union trouble settled?
– It continued the whole time. The Administrator, in his report, says -
On the 31st July, Mr. Serennikoff called on me and stated that the reasons for delay were - that Captain Lawson refused to take the ship to sea - the assistant engineer had left - the union has caused trouble with the chiefengineer. He hoped to get the former captain and send the ship away on 2nd August.
The labour trouble delayed the boat from the 28th J uly to the 5th August, and yet honorable members opposite say that delay was due to Government inaction. The Government’s attitude from the time that the Douglas Mawson was lost has been one of intense sympathy and concern for any persons that may have survived. The vessel was lost in March, 1923, and as soon as it was reported missing the Navigation and Meteorological Departments placed the whole of their resources at the disposal of the Queensland Government, so that investigations could be pursued on both land and sea. Parties were organized, and a complete search was made, but no sign of the Douglas Mawson was then found. Nothing further was heard until the beginning of this year. .
– We have heard all this before.
– Honorable members, unfortunately, refuse to consider this inf ormation. I am repeating it so that the public may know exactly what has beendone.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Mann) rising to speak,
– It is not usual to call on the mover of a substantive motion to close the debate when any other honorable member desires to speak. As the honorable member for Macquarie rose to speak at the same time as the Acting Leader of the Opposition, I call upon him to continue the debate.
Motion (by Mr. Mahony) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Division called for, but there being no tellers on the side of the “ Noes,” the question was resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the House do now adjourn - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 1.5 to 2.20 p.m.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made and replies furnished in due course.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– These claims are provided for in the bill which it is intended to introduce in a few days’ time to amend the Superannuation Act.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained-.
Compulsory Retirements from Postal Stokes Branch.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the Library the papers relating to the compulsory retirement by the Public Service Boardof storemen Warne and Strawbridge, Postal Stores Branch?’
– I understand that these officers have not yet been retired, but I am having further inquiries made, and will advise the honorable member further at an early date.
Bill returned from Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until
Tuesday next, at 3 o’clock p.m.
The following papers were laid on the table : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 50 of 1924 - Commonwealth Telegraph Traffic and Supervisory Officers’ Association.
Australian Dairy Produce on British Markets - Reports, dated 9th July, 1924, by the Commonwealth Dairy Expert (Mr. M. A. O’Callaghan).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at -
Gladstone, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Kimba, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1924 -
No.18 - Darwin Pound.
No. 19 - Fisheries.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired at Penshurst, New South Wales.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, whichhas been investigated by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on PublicWorks, and onwhich the committee has reported the result of its investigations, viz.: - The erection of a building at Canberra for departmental secretariats, including provision for an automatic telephone exchange and post office.
The decision to establish the Seat of Government at Canberra with the inception of the next Parliament, early in 1926, and to erect permanent, instead of the suggested provisional, administrative offices, for the design of which a competition is to be held, has necessitated an alteration in the arrangements proposed for the accommodation of officials. The permanent office building will not be ready for, possibly, three years after Parliament is transferred, but provision must be made for the representation of departments as soon as the Seat of Government is established. The original scheme has accordingly been reviewed, and it is now proposed to transfer, in the early stages, a section only, or a secretariat, of each department, involving altogether about 160 officers. The building scheme which the Public “Works Committee has just examined and recommended is designed to house these officials at Canberra, and at the same time to provide for an automatic telephone exchange and post office, both of which must be ready when Parliament meets there. The estimated cost of the building is £39,000, but the various engineering services and equipment for the telephone exchange will make the total estimated expenditure £96,140. Of the whole expenditure, the post office and telephone exchange account for about £65,000. The building which has been designed in keeping with the provisional Parliament House will rely for its effect on its general proportions, rather than upon any elaborate architectural treatment. It is to be erected in the governmental area south of Parliament House, and within easy distance of it. This location is suitable for telephone development in the early stages of settlement at Canberra, and is also convenient for postal purposes. When the main central administrations are moved to Canberra, they will again absorb the secretariats, and that portion of the building that was occupied by them will then be available for other purposes. It is anticipated that there will be a demand for such accommodation, and that no difficulty will arise in its economic use. It could, for example, conveniently house the Canberra Commission, the Public Service Board, the overflow from the permanent administrative building, or it could be used in other ways. One of the suggested later uses of the building is to afford offices for members of Parliament, and I believe that, in viewof the remarks of the Minister for Works and Railways when the proposalwas last before the House, some concern has been felt by members of the Public Works Committee lest the Government might, at a later date, interpret the approval of the House to erect this building as giving authority to provide a second similar building, in due course, on a corresponding scale, so that sufficient offices might be provided for all members. The Government has no such intentions, and, should the proposal to erect another building at an estimated cost of over £25,000 be put forward, it undertakes that the matter will first be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation in the prescribed manner. The erection of the building recommended by the Works Committeeinitsreportisan urgent matter, and I hope that the House will pass the usual resolution so as to permit the work to proceed at once. This building will probably be required in the position in which it is proposed that it shall be erected, even after Canberra has grown to such an extent that a big general post office is necessary.
– What is the estimated cost of the telephone exchange?
– The post office and the telephone exchange together will absorb £65,000. The work is urgent if the building is to be completed when the provisional Parliament House is ready for occupation in 1926. It is estimated that the erection of the building will occupy about sixteen months.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to encourage and improve the meat industry of Australia.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
In committee (Consideration of Gover nor-General’s Deputy’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Audit Act.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Dr. Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 18th September (vide page 4536) on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Any attempt, however slight, to relieve the people employed in the dairying industry will be welcomed by honorable members on both sides of the House, but to what extent this measure is likely to overcome the difficulties confronting the industry it is difficult at the moment to say. The bill has been presented in an unsatisfactory manner. The subsidiary proposal, which we have been told is to follow this bill, should be in the hands of honorable members before they are asked to proceed with this discussion. I have been impressed during the debate by the lack of enthusiasm on the part of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) seemed to damn the bill with faint praise. I suppose he felt in duty bound to express the hope that the measure would do some good to the industry.
– I said that I was in favour of what the bill contained. My criticism had relation to what was not in it.
– The honorable member gave us the impression that he thought there was very- little in the measure, and I quite agree with him. Since honorable members on this side of the House have not been enthusiastic about the bill, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) likened us to a man who, after nominating a horse, had the nomination declared’ informal. If I may pursue the simile, it seemes to me that the Government has entered a horse and its supporters have so little confidence in it that they will not back the animal. The honorable member for Gippsland hinted! that he had an amended scheme up his sleeve. This has been referred1 to as the Paterson scheme, and the. honorable member evidently realizes that the present bill wall be of little use as it stands. Having spent seventeen years of my life on a dairy farm, I claim to know something of the hardships of the. people struggling in that industry, and I shall do everything I can to improve their lot. Any time spent by Parliament in endeavouring to evolve a plan to assist the industry will be well occupied. It is unfortunate that the amendment in favour of an immediate inquiry into the whole industry, suggested yesterday by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), was ruled out of order. There should be a full inquiry into the conditions of dairying. Those engaged in it are anxious for an investigation. Its desperate position is due to. many influences. Long ago the producers submitted a proposition to the Government for a thorough investigation:, but the Prime Minister (Mr.. Bruce) has failed to tell the people why he rejected it. Many of the difficulties are apparent. For instance, the returned soldier section of the dairy farmers in many districts have been placed on land for which the Government paid too high a price, and an inquiry might lead to a. remedy being found for that. It is certainly necessary to consider the best way to market dairy produce both locally and abroad. It is only possible to diagnose the trouble by holding the searching; inquiry for. which the dairymen have asked. Instead of granting that inquiry, the Prime Minister has brought forward this bill, which affects only butter for export, and, therefore, deals with only one-third of the butter produced in Australia. It has been suggested that the bill will have some effect on the other two-thirds, which is consumed locally, but I am unable to see how it can. I do not consider that I am using language too strong when I say that the Government has “ fallen down on the job.” The honorable member for Gippsland’ (Mr. Paterson) said, in effect,” If this bill is not going to do very much good, it will not, at all events, do very much harm.”
– I said I. commended the bill for what was in it.
– And condemned it for what was not in it. The Government has not yet brought forward the subsidiary bill, in the absence of which honorable members are seriously hampered in forming their opinions. It is impossible, for instance, to say how the scheme will be financed until the subsidiary bill is presented. The only thing that throws any light on the problem is a hint dropped by the Prime Minister in his second-reading speech, when he suggested that a levy of1/8d. a lb. would be made on the butter affected . The two bills should have been presented simultaneously. Before discussing the bill, I wish to refer to a statement made by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) yesterday, when he criticized the action taken by the Labour Government of Queensland to assist the dairying industry. My reply to him - and I regard it as a very forcible reply - is that the Queensland Government is the only government in Australia that has met the wishes of the butter producers. It has put into operation a stabilization scheme that will go a very long way to remove the dairymen’s difficulties. The Treasurer glibly passed over that achievement, and tried to make it appear that this bill will help the dairymen, and that it stands high above anything the Queensland Government has done. The fact is that the most enthusiastic supporter of the Government does not expect the bill to do much to remedy the evils under which dairymen are labouring. It has been said that the scheme is largely experimental, and that there is very grave doubt that it will provide any relief in respect to even the one third of the butter that is exported. I respect the opinions of those engaged in the industry who say that the bill will do something, however little to relieve the position, and, in the hope that we may be able to mould it into some useful, formin committee, I believe that honorable members on both sides will accept it. We have not yet been told what action has been taken to ascertain the opinions of the dairymen.
– I took such action.I held meetings last week in various- parts of my electorate..
– Did the dairymen approve of the scheme in its present, or in its original, form?
– They approved of the last proposal submitted,, but not the tentative one suggested originally.
– Did they approve of this bill ?
– The contents of the bill were not known to them.
– That is a very important aspect of the matter. Has the Government consulted the dairymen, whose opinions are the only opinions that matter? It appears to have taken no steps to find out whether its proposals are approved by them. An important question, from the point of view of the men in the industry, is, how will the scheme be financed ? Some people approach the consideration of this matter with the preconceived idea that the dairyman is not already burdened with many taxes and other imposts. As a matter of fact, his present burden is a very heavy one, and the Government has not treated the House fairly in not disclosing the financial arrangements it intends to make. In order that honorable members may form some idea of the burdens that at present fall on the shoulders of those engaged in the industry, I shall place a few facts and figures, before the House. A licence-fee of 6d. per cow is levied in Victoria, and, taking this as an average, we can arrive at some idea of the total levy in this direction. The number of dairy cows in the Commonwealth in 1920-21 was 2,056,000, in 1921-2 it was 2,343,000, and in 1922-3. it was 2,390,000. For each of those years respectively the fee of 6d. per cow amounted to £51,425, £58,575, and £59,750. The average of the three years was £56,583 a year. Under the provisions of the Dairy Produce Act of Victoria, a tax of1d. is imposed on every 100 lb. of butter manufactured. The average of that tax for the three years was £9,862 a year. On cheese the tax imposed is1/2d. per 100 lb., and for the three yearsit amounted to an average of £828 a year. That, however; is not all. Under the regulations covering the export of butter it is compulsory for butter exporters to pay1d. per box as a grading fee. That charge appears to be very small, but in the aggregates it is a formidableimpost. . Then there is a halfpenny tax per boxto cover the cost of the Commonwealth Dairy Council, a meeting of which costs £350. The fees collected under thesetwo headings amounted respectively in 1921 to £9,475 and £4,737, in 1922 to £5,876 and £2,938, and in 1923 to £4,869 and £2,434. The average of the first was £6,740, and of the second £3,370 a year. A summary of the taxes will show to what extent the industry is affected by them. The various items are £56,583, £9,852, £828, £6,740 and £3,370, making a total of £77,373.
– The further impost of one-eighth of a penny, will aggregate a similar amount.
– I have endeavoured to work out what the impost of one-eighth of a penny will amount to on one- third of the butter produced. The quantity of butter exported in the year 192.1-2 was 127,000,000 lb. An impost of one-eighth of a penny per lb. on that would produce £66,280. On the butter ex-ported in 1922-3 the impost would be £.41,133, and on the butter exported last year would he £34,125. The average for the three years would he £47,179.
– What does the Government propose to do. with that money?
– The levy will amount to approximately. £50,000 a year, and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr.. Scullin) pertinently asks what the Government proposes to do with that money. The House should be told what it is wanted for. I have shown that with licence-fees and other charges the industry is already bearing a burden of about £80,000 a year, and the Government proposes to impose upon it a further levy of £50,000 a year. I put in a plea for those who are engaged in the dairying industry. I wish to shield them from any unnecessary fresh imposition, “because the burden which they are already bearing is great enough. I should like to know how many share farmers engaged in dairying know anything at all about the levy which it is contemplated making under the subsidiary bill yet to be introduced. No doubt, we shall be told that much of the revenue derived from the levy will go towards paying the expenses of the proposed board. I should like to know how many members there will be on the board. I have previously said in this House that the Government has indulged in the appointment of so many boards that it will go down in history as the Wooden Government: I am not a believer in the appointment of large unwieldy boards. I prefer a small practical board composed of experts. There may be some men doing fairly well in this industry whose land is freehold, and who can command the services of grown-up members of their families; but this matter should be looked at from the view-point of the sharefarmer and those who are struggling in the industry, and have to pay high rents, and must employ labour. The additional burden which would be imposed upon such a nian to meet the expenses of an unwieldy board cannot be turned lightly aside. It is due to the House and the country that the Government should say what it proposes to do with the £50,000 a year which is to be raised by a levy of Jd. a lb. on the butter produced in this country. Quite a number of articles has appeared in the press sympathizing with the lot of those engaged in the dairying industry. When I entered the chamber last night, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) was quoting some statements by Mrs. Glencross. T have a statement before me which is worth quoting, though I do not know whether the paragraph in which it appears was the one quoted by the honorable member for Gippsland. Honorable members are aware that Mrs. Glencross was a member of the High Cost of Living Commission appointed by the Victorian Government, and I have before me a letter which appeared in the local newspapers directing attention to her experiences in the Colac district.
– I did not quote that; that will be fresh.
- Mrs. Glencross draws a very dismal picture of her actual experience of boys seven years of age working on dairy farms from halfpast 5 0’’ clock in the morning until it was time for them to go to school. I have heard people unthinkingly condemn those engaged in the dairying industry for working their children in that way, but honorable members must know that they would not think of doing so if they were not forced to it by circumstances. It was not necessary for Mrs. Glencross, or any one else, to tell us that that kind of thing is going on in the dairying industry. We know that it is going on throughout the country, because many stragglers could not otherwise make a living, and it is greatly to be regretted that the Government, though aware of the fact, has dilly-dallied with the matter for so long, and has now brought down a bill which proposes to deal only with the onethird of our. butter production which is exported. I cannot see how a man working on shares in this industry can make a living out of it, if he has to employ much outside help. We should not condemn the men who are forced to work their families in order to keep afloat; we should rather condemn the Government that looks on, and does nothing .to effectively stabilize the industry. The only way in which we can discover what is wrong with the dairying industry is to have a searching inquiry into it to ascertain the cause of the depression, what is wrong with the cost of land, what is wrong in connexion with the export and also with the local sale of butter. The facts can only be ascertained by the searching investigation which has been demanded by the people in the industry, and which has been turned down by the Prime Minister. Honorable members opposite, knowing that the man on the land cannot work up any enthusiasm for this measure, have told us that another proposal called the Paterson scheme is to be brought forward. We know the amendment which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr-‘. Paterson) intends to submit. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) last night told us that that proposal would be put forward, and that it would put members of the Opposition to the test. He said that members on the Government side would see what the members of the Opposition were going to do when that proposal was submitted.
-So we shall.
– The honorable member gave his whole case away when he made it plain that he does not know whether the Government intends to accept the so-called Paterson scheme proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland.
– We are going to find out.
– If honorable members of the Country party were sincere in the matter, before stating that another proposal was to be made, they would have ascertained the views of their Leader, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who is a member of the composite Government. The honorable member for Richmond, knowing that the men suffering in the dairying industry will not be enthusiastic concerning this bill, would lead them to believe that he was in favour of something which would benefit them but which was turned down. I tell the honorable member that if the amendment providing for the Paterson scheme is turned down, the blame will rest not upon honorable members on this side, but upon honorable members on the Ministerial side who constitute the majority in this House.
– If members of the Opposition support it, the proposal of the honorable member for Gippsland will be carried.
– The honorable member may get away with that in his own electorate, but he cannot do so here. He says that if we agree to the proposal it will be carried, but even though every honorable member on this side voted against it, it could still be carried if it had the support of the composite Government.
– Any one who votes against it must take the responsibility for doing so.
– The honorable member cannot escape from the position in which I have placed him. He believes that the scheme proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland will be of benefit to the dairy farmer, and if it is rejected the dairy farmers will ask him the simple question, “ Why was it not carried ?” The blame will rest, not upon the Opposition, which is in a minority in this House, but upon the Government that has the numbers behind it, and can carry the scheme if it pleases.
– The blame will fall upon those who vote against the scheme.
– If the Government does not accept it, it will be because the Leader of the Country party, to which the honorable member for Richmond belongs, as a member of the composite Government, will have refused to sanction it.
– We cannot anticipate what he will do.
– There is no alternative proposition before the House, and I must ask the honorable member to discuss the bill.
-I was showing the honorable member for Richmond the awkward position into which his own speech has forced him. All I have to say about the proposal of the honorable member for Gippsland, or any other proposal, is that if any scheme is submitted, no matter from what quarter, that I believe will benefit the men who are suffering in the dairying industry, I shall give it my whole-hearted support. But we should not be asked to waste the time of the House in considering an amendment if those responsible for it know that the Government will not accept it. If honorable members opposite believe that the amendment to be proposed in committee is necessary to help the people in the dairying industry, they should not leave it to a chance vote, but should persuade the Government to adopt it. Otherwise there will be no chance of the amendment being carried, but a few honorable members opposite will endeavour to gain kudos for having endeavoured to confer benefits upon the dairymen, although they know beforehand that their Government is against them. The subject is too big to be played with in that way. Honorable members on this side have a definite and concrete policy to ensure a fair deal for every worker, whether he be on the land, in the mine, or in the factory. All workers on the farm or elsewhere are entitled to a return for their labour that will enable them to support their wives and families under decent living conditions. If it be shown that any man engaged in wheat-growing, dairying or any other industry is not receiving sufficient to cover cost of production, plus a reasonable profit, the Labour party may be depended upon to do its duty. I know of no class of men who are more entitled to be called workers than are the dairy farmers.Even with the most up-to-date methods, no occupation is more constant and exacting, and it is the solemn duty of honorable members on all sides to do anything that will give relief to those engaged in milk production. I have not much faith in the proposals contained in the bill, but, for the sake of what may be effected in the bill in the committee stage, I shall support the second reading. At the same time I regret that the Government, although confronted with evidence of the desperate condition of the dairy farmers, has done nothing more than introduce experimental legislation, that may not produce any concrete benefits.
.- The problem presented fey the dairying industry should fee viewed broadly. A -detailed inquiry into the conditions of the industry would occupy aconsiderable length of time, and cause a delay which would notbe in the interests of the producers. Alreadythere has been plenty of inquiry; what is needed now is a scheme that will give prompt relief. Australia’s primary need is to increase the population on the land,but we cannot afford to increase thenumber of rural producers unless we are sure that the industries in which they engage will be profitable to them. This Parliament pro tects the secondaryindustries - I do not object to that policy -and by means of arbitration courts and wages boardsendeavours to insure to the employees a living wage. Nothing has been done to give benefits of thatkind to the dairymen, and if we accept the guidance of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), we shall not be able to legislate in a way that will give the relief that they need. In other countries, including Germany, when over-production caused industries to stagnate, legislation was passed for the protection of the producers. Whilst 2 congratulate the Prime Minister upon introducing this hill, I hope that the Government will be prepared to accept certain amendments to it. The right honorable gentleman emphasized the fact that if we are to retain possession of this continentan increase in our population is essential. We are always being warned against enlarging the population of the cities and towns, and the only way to get more people into the country is to guarantee to the primary producer a good living. A scheme for the regulation of the dairying industry was submitted to the Prime Minister some time ago by the interstate conference of dairymen, but upon investigation, I understand, was found to be unconstitutional. Of course, it would have been a waste of time to bring before the House any proposal that was not in accordance with the Constitution. I congratulate the honorable member for Gippsland upon the scheme he has evolved. He has given a great deal of consideration to it, and I am glad that it has been accepted by a very large number of people and a Victorian newspaper, The Countryman, but in justice to one of my constituents, Mr. E. L. Delroy, of Murgon, Queensland, I must mention that in 1922 he conceived an almost identical scheme. He forwarded it to the Treasurer, and in May last it was sent on to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and, later, to the Prime Minister. It had been previously approved by the local producers associations near Murgon, in the Wide Bay electorate. I do not say that the honorable member for Gippsland has pirated the ideasof Mr. Delroy; no doubt he has independently evolved his proposal, and possibly, the favorable consideration it has received in Victoria has influenced the New South Wales factories and dairymen and the Council of Agriculture in Queensland to endorse it, although it did not at first approve of Mr. Delroy’s scheme. Such an arrangement as the honorable member has suggested, would be of great benefit to the industry, which would be stabilized without the Commonwealth ‘Treasurer having to provide financial assistance. A similar policy was adopted in Germany for the salvation of the sugarbeet industry. When, on account of overproduction, the sugar could not be exported at a price profitable to the producer, an excise duty was imposed on the production of beet sugar, and the proceeds were applied to a bounty on exports. In that way the price ofbeet sugar used for local consumption was increased. If a similar course were adopted in Australia with the butter industry, and a levy of 1d. per lb. made on all butter produced, a fund would be constituted for granting a bounty on export in order to raise the price in the local market to the London parity. In other words, freight and other charges on exports would be covered by the bounty, and the producer would be assured of the same price in the local market as obtained in the British market. I cannot see any objection to such a scheme unless it be that voiced yesterday by the honorable member for Kooyong, who is not favorable to any proposal to increase the price of butter to the local consumer. But if it be fair to increase the price of secondary products to the consumers by imposing duties on imports in order to give to the manufacturers and also the workers in the secondary industries a living wage, why should we not also protect such a vitally important industry as dairying? If at any time the price to the dairy producer was considered fair and reasonable, the board could reduce or stop the bounty altogether. The figures relating to this industry show that it is of national importance. The- number of dairymen engaged in the industry in 1922 was- New South Wales, 20,658, Victoria, 15,130, and South Australia, 1,473; in 1921, Western Australia, 929, and Queensland, 21,695. In the latter case, the figures for 1922 were not available. The number of butter, cheese, and condensed milk factories in 1921-2 was - New South Wales, 183, Victoria 188, South Australia,, 46; and. in 1921,. Queensland, 134, Western Australia, 7, and Tasmania, 33. The value of the dairying industry in 1922-3 was - New South Wales, £12,914,000, Victoria, £13,765,580; and in 1921, Queensland, £7, 159, 891. In 1921-2,, the value of the dairying industry was, approximately, £44,000,000, showing how important it is to Australia. Honorable members should put aside political considerations and protect this industry in the same way as we protect secondary industries. We on this side, have never objected to giving the worker a fair living wage. In Queensland in 1921, these were 21,695 dairymen; the butter manufactured was 60,923,194 lb.; cheese, 15,200,527 lb.; condensed milk, 15,168,652 lb. The value of the industry was £7,259,891, and the number of dairy cows:, 554,208.. No doubt the figures for 1923-4 would show a considerable increase. Much has been said about improving dairy herds. When I was a member of the Queensland Parlia ment experimental farms were established throughout the length and breadth of the dairying portion of the state, and well-bred bulls were placed at the disposal of the dairy farmers-. 3 represent a large butter-producing district, and I was instrumental in establishing the first butter factory there. There are now a vast number of them in my electorate, although there was great difficulty in first establishing them. Great care was taken to obtain good herds. I admit that their quality could be improved, and I am pleased that the Prime Minister has agreed to assist in financing the scheme if the State Governments also do so; but it must be remembered that cattle in other parts of the world, say in Denmark, are stall fed and consequently yield better returns than ours.
– The producers rear too many “ dual-purpose” cattle.
– That was so. When the bill is in committee we should do everything possible to expedite its passage, so that the dairy producers may receive some immediate benefit,, instead of waiting nine or twelve months for assistance. Some scheme of stabilization should be introduced to prevent numbers of settlers engaged in. the industry from throwing up their holdings and flocking to the cities to find employment: There is room in Australia for a large number of people to be settled on the land. We should follow the example of other parts of the world whose governments assist the peopleto increase production-. Excise duties art imposed, and although the cost for local consumption is increased, the producers are. able to export their products andto make a comfortableliving. If this wen done in Australia, the cry would be raised that a burden was being placed on the consumer, but so long as the consumer ob tained butter at a. fair price,, say, equivalent to that which the British people paid, he would really have no complaint If settlers were forced to leave the dairying, industry, there would be less production, and prices would soar. The consumer would consequently have to pay much more for butter than would be the case if the industry had been protected as suggested.
Mr-.. F. McDonald. - Does not the honorable member believe that by following that prinicple the price of land would increase in’ proportion ?
– No, because in Queensland there are 400,000,000 acres of unalienated land available for settlement. That state has now about 800 miles more railways than any other state. The people there believe in decentralization. Railways have been constructed inland from the various ports along the coast, and there is a vast quantity of land available for dairying and agriculture combined. The Queensland Governmentmakes land available on perpetual lease, but no doubt a change of government would allow these leases to be converted into freehold. The price of freehold ranges from £1 to £2 per acre, and the settlers have 20 years in which to pay for the land. Advances are also made to enable them to improve their holdings. The establishment of some scheme of stabilization would not, therefore, much increase the price of land for some years. The object of the Queensland Government is to increase that state’s population by encouraging people to settle on Crown lands, and thus make a reasonable living. I admit that the position is different in Victoria, where many people, including returned soldiers, have settled on land costing £80 an acre. This price is exorbitant, and settlers will be ruined unless assistance is given to them. They have acquired the land and must pay for it. Unless we encourage people to come here to settle on the land, we shall not hold for all time this enormous territory against other parts of the world that have no dumping ground for their surplus population. We should endeavour to settle this country on the lines adopted by the United States et America, which country has a population of 112,000,000.
– The honorable member must not talk like that.
– I talk as I feel. If we fail to assist the producers, and thus throw many of them out of employment, the position, as far as the consumer is concerned, will be 150 times worse than it is now. Of _ what use would our wages boards be if the Japanese gained control of Australia 1 It should be remembered that it is not very many years since the Japanese said that the Commonwealth Government was adopting a dog in the manger policy in respect, to Australia in that it would neither utilize the country nor let others do so. We must settle our country districts if we are to retain possession of Australia. Not until Australia is supporting a big rural population can we hope to enjoy permanent success, happiness, contentment and safety.
.- In my earlier life I spent seven years organizing dairymen in Victoria, and although I worked with the object of encouraging co-operation, I also had a good deal to do with the export side of the industry. I feel therefore that I am qualified in some degree to speak on this bill. I consider that it will be of very little value to the dairymen of Australia. The mere establishment of control boards here and in London will not help them. Although the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) may deprecate reference to the quality of our dairy herds, I submit that we shall never have a nourishing dairying industry in Australia until our dairy herds are improved. The foundation of success is good herds. The people of Queensland may be satisfied with “ dual-purpose “ herds.
– I would welcome an improvement in the herds.
– I can assure the honorable member that it is necessary. Years ago we found it very difficult to get the dairymen of Victoria to improve their herds, for so many of them wanted to give as much attention to raising bull calves of good colour and type as to increasing the milk yield from their cows. It was only after a considerable time that they realized that if they were to make a success of dairying they must establish good dairy herds. The dairymen in Denmark at one time also gave considerable attention to the type of bull calf that they raised, but they soon came to see that their chief concern must be the establishment of herds which would yield larger milk returns. They learned their lesson so well’ that people who want an example to follow in improving the dairying industry cannot do better than copy the Danish practice. By breeding first class herds and entering whole-heartedly into a co-operative system of marketing their produce, the Danish producers have achieved wonderful success. The dairymen of Australia would be well advised to accept the advice given years ago to the Irish dairymen by Sir Horace Plunkett, to go to Denmark to see what was done there, and then return to their own country and do likewise. Although we in Australia do not consider that twenty acres is a large dairy farm, and a man with twenty acres in Denmark is regarded almost as a squatter, the principles that have been successful in Denmark would be equally successful in Australia. When comparing Denmark with Australia from a dairying stand-point it should be remembered that while Danish butter is marketed principally in Newcastle, Hull, Grimsby and the northern ports of England, out own Australian butter is disposed of in London, the south of England, and Wales. Australian butter competes more with Argentine, New Zealand and Siberian butter than with Danish butter. It can hardly be argued that Australia’s opportunities in the dairying industry are not infinitely greater than those of Denmark, for we have very far flung areas of land suitable for dairying purposes. I wish to refer to several illustrations given by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), in discussing the dairying industry yesterday in support of his contention that it is almost impossible, even under the most favorable Australian conditions, for dairying to be profitable. I do not agree with his view. He gave one illustration of a herd of 31 cows, which returned produce worth only £376, and anothor of a heard of 65 cows, the annual return from which was £873, and said that when working expenses were deducted from those returns the margin was so small that the industry was unprofitable. In contrast with those illustrations I quote the experience of Messrs. Vagg Brothers, who have a herd of 35 first class dairy cows in the honorable member’s own district, which returned in one year produce valued at £735. To put it in another way, a first class herd about half the size of one mentioned by the honorable member for Gippsland returned nearly the same amount of produce.
– I also gave an illustration of a herd which returned £250 net, the wags value of which was only 1s.4d.perhour.
– I regret that I did not catch the details of the third illustration the honorable member gave yesterday, but I understood him to quote his first illustration to show the return from a herd of poor cows, the second to show the return from a medium herd, and the third to indicate what could be done with a good herd. There is a great difference between the amountof labour required to attend to 65 cows for a return of £873, and the care of 35 cows for practically the same financial result. The honorable member for Gippsland also quoted a remarkable return from one cow, which, I understand, returned her owner £42 per annum. If we could bo improve our herds as to ensure higher returns from a lesser number of cows, the labour involved would be materially reduced, and the dairying industry substantially advanced. I am aware that it is very easy for one not directly engaged in the industry to give good advice as to how it should be carried on, but it is not so very long since I milked a cow myself, and I know the value of a good beast. The bill will not give relief to our dairymen. Honorable members probably are aware of the views expressed by Mr. O’Callaghan, the Commonwealth dairy expert, who returned recently from the Old Country.
– And we are about to lose his services.
-I have no doubt whatever that, if the Government acts sensibly in the choice of his successor, we shall get quite as good a man. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Cruiser Construction in Australia - Sydney. Waterfront Dispute.
– I have received the following letter from Sir John Monash: - 15th September, 1924.
Dear Mr. Bowden,
Last Friday evening Mr, Mahony, M.H.B., saw fit to make a violent attack upon me with reference to my report on the cruiser question.
He said, inter alia, as reported in the Argus - “ On that figure Sir John Monash based his estimate, but the £810,000 was actually the cost of the armament for both cruisers. That instance alone showed Sir John Monash’s complete ignorance of the subject.
If you willbe good enough to have a reference made to the cablegram in question sent by the Right Honorable Sir Joseph Cook to theRight Honorable S. M. Bruce from London on tho 12th August last, you will find that it begins as follows: -“ Your private telegram, August 8, following estimate supplied by Admiralty. Following figures for one vessel have been prepared by technical departments in Admiralty.” Then follow the details, together with the estimate of £810,000.
You will geethatMr. Mahony is quite wrong in charging me with having mode a blonder, and I think it is due -to me, and to the (confidence which the piiblio repose in my opinion, that a -categoric denial to Mr. Hrahony’b assertion should be made on line ifleor oi the House.
In compliance with this request, 1 confirm the statement of Sir John Monash, that the information upon which he made his report was contained in a cablegram’ -f roan Sir Joseph -Cook to the Prime Minister, dated the 12t’h day of August last, which stated : “ Following figures for one vessel have been prepared by technical departments to Admiralty, coot of armaments - then follow the details - is estimated at ?810,000.” I am , glad of fJh’is opportunity to express the appreciation of the Government of the public-spirited manner in which Sir John Monash, without thought of his own convenience, . is at all times willing to place . his very great abilities freely at -the service of ids country. I should sincerely regret if anything said in this House should lead . him to suppose that bis services were not appreciated.
.- I desire to -take -this opportunity of interring my emphatic protest against, and Stating my unqualified ihostdtitty to, the proposal of the Government as comfirmied to-day by the Prime Minister in answer to the question by the homecable member for Bailey (Mr. Mahony) with reference to the payment of ?5,000 to certain industrial nondescripts who rendered certain services during .an industrial dispute on the .Sydney waterfront. I hope that tboV House will have an opportunity to review that proposal, and that it will not be smnthered xrpin such a way as to make it impossible for honorable members to discuss it. It is outrageous that the public money should” be spent in this way. It would be far better .if the Government would give its attention to the requests of disabled returned Boldinrs for something in the nature of an adequate pension than to pay this money to individuals who proved themselves lacking in a proper sense of -loyalty to t&eiT fellow unionists in the -industrial dispute to which I have referred. There is no liability, either moral or legal, upon the Commonwealth to pay this gratuity, or in any way compensate the individuals mBntjoned, and I feel that I should be failing in my duty if I did net, at the earliest opportunity, pro-test against the action of the Government.
Mr.BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Mi-ahr- ter and -Minister for EsSbernal ABainf) &.V): - I take -exception to “the remarks which tfhe honorable ‘member -for HindraaTsh ;(M-r. Maitin) saiid he Tett c ompelled -to ma&e. He has described persons who Tendered a service to therr country :at a time of great industrial perfl as industrial ncmdescripte.
– It was a service %o the capitalists.
– It was an dlensive remark.
– I meant it to be.
-(TU. Hon. W. Watt). -The honorable member Jot Hindnrarsh must be silent.
– I am sure that the view expressed T)y the ‘honorable member ib ndt in accord wifii that off 1ih? great majority ‘of the- people, who appreciate t/he service that these ‘men rendered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at .4,6 .p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240919_reps_9_109/>.