12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
Standing Orders suspended.
. - I propose to read a brief statement to the House on the subject of preference to returned soldiers in Commonwealth employment, and in order to afford honorable members an opportunity to discuss the matter I shall conclude with a motion.
Since the announcement was made in the House last week on the question of preference to returned soldiers, representations have been made to the Government on behalf of the returned soldiers’ organizations in Australia by the federal president, Captain Dyett. As I then pointed out, the Government had no intention whatever of abolishing preference to ex-soldiers in Commonwealth employment. The Government’s main object was to protect returned soldiers from exploitation, and therefore stipulated that contractors for government work should give first preference to returned soldiers who are members of unions. Nonunionists are not covered by arbitration awards, and may be employed by contractors at less than award rates. Our desire was to safeguard the conditions of returned soldiers. Preference to unionists is protection to the workers. This party has always stood, and will continue to stand, for the principle of preference to unionists. The president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League, Captain Dyett, who came to Canberra to interview me on the matter, assured me that practically all the ex-soldiers who are offering for Commonwealth employment are unionists. There is, however, he declared, a sentiment surrounding the question of preference that he did not desire to have disturbed. Nor does the Government wish, in any way, to interfere with that sentiment. Captain Dyett added that his policy has always been to advise working soldiers to join the union connected with their occupation. In view of the assurance that practically all the returned men who are offering for Commonwealth employment are unionists, the Government has agreed to Captain Dyett’s earnest appeal to retain the soldiers’ preference clause intact. The conditions in contracts will, therefore, be that preference shall be given, first to returned sailors and soldiers, and, secondly, to members of trade unions. This will also apply to employment and dismissals in the Public Service. A proposed new clause, stating that in the carrying out of work under contract unnaturalized aliens shall not be employed except in cases where British labour is not available, will be inserted. It is pitiful to see returned soldiers carrytheir swags along roads on the construction of which gangs of foreigners have been engaged. Captain Dyett, who has always put the case for returned soldiers in a fair and reasonable way, expressed his appreciation of the sympathetic attitude shown by the Government towards the many representations made on behalf of ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force. Despite what has been said by others, the Government will continue to administer sympathetically the laws as they affect the men who have suffered the hardships of war. I move -
That the statementbe printed.
Honorable members of all parties have heard, with a great deal of interest, the statement made by the Prime Minister. I congratulate the people of Australia, particularly the returned soldiers and their friends, upon the retreat of the Government from a position which it was no longer able to defend. It was not a willing retreat. The speeches of the Prime Minister and the honorable members for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), Indi (Mr. Jones), Cook (Mr. C. Riley), and Adelaide (Mr. Yates), on Friday last, must be regarded as expressing the real views of the ministerial party, namely that a member of a trade union deserves more from his country than a man who has risked his life to defend it. Those expressions of the views of honorable members opposite should not be forgotten. The merit of the policy of preference to unionists does not enter into this matter even remotely ; it is quite irrelevant. The matter tit issue i3 whether in respect of employment under the Commonwealth - and employment under the Commonwealth sets a standard for other employment throughout Australia - any policy should take precedence over the principle of preference to returned soldiers. No other policy should take precedence; preference to returned soldiers should not be conditional upon membership of any organization, industrial, political, or religious. The Prime Minister stated that the object of the Government’s virtual abolition of preference to returned soldiers was to safeguard their interests. How were they to be safeguarded? By giving to them no preference as returned soldiers unless they were also unionists. The first obligation of any able-bodied man is to defend his country, his people, and his family, in time of danger, and the first obligation of any country to men who have recognized that duty is to treat them fairly. All previous Australian administrations during and since the war have treated them fairly. It is little enough to give to returned soldiers preference in government employment, and to apply that rule also when circumstances render retrenchment necessary. Unfortunately at the present time the application of that principle to retrenchment is, perhaps, of more practical importance than its application to new appointments. The Government deliberately repudiated the principle of preference to returned soldiers in relation to both new appointments and retrenchment. On the 8th April the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) asked whether the Government’s policy of preference to returned soldiers applied in cases of retrenchment as well as in connexion with new appointments, and the Prime Minister replied -
The action of the Government in this respect is governed by the provisions of the Public Service Act. Preference to returned soldiers is provided for only in regard to new appointments.
That was an indication of the Government’s willingness to whittle away the preference to returned soldiers. Lately honorable members have learned that on the 17th April a notification was addressed by the Secretary of the Postal
Department to the Deputy Directors of Postal Services that the policy of the Government was preference to unionists, and was to be observed in connexion with dismissals or retrenchment. There was no mention of returned soldiers at all.The policy of preference in relation to dismissals was entirely ignored. On Wednesday last the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) gave this answer to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) -
In view of the distress through widespread unemployment, the question of distribution of labour has given the Government serious concern. The final instructions issued to the department are as follows: -
In carrying out the work under this contract preference shall be given - other things being equal - firstly, to returned soldiers and sailors with satisfactory service, who are members of trades unions, and, secondly, to members of trade unions.
The result would be that returned soldiers who are not trade unionists would be left out with the mob, no preference being extended to them at all. Preference on government works and contracts is most important - unfortunately so in one sense - to returned soldiers. There are too many returned men whose careers were interrupted by the war. They were deprived of the opportunity of training themselves, and developing their abilities, and they are now in the ranks of unskilled workers. It is important to them that they should receive preference on government works and contracts. Mention was made by the Prime Minister last week of preference to foreigners, and to the situation existing on the waterfront in the capital cities. In Melbourne there are about 360 returned soldiers in the Waterside Workers Union, whereas there are 500 returned soldiers among the volunteers. The situation on the waterfront is not associated with the returned soldier issue at all; it turns on entirely different matters. But nevertheless it remains true that there are more returned soldiers among the volunteers than in the union. The Government’s change of policy in regard to preference was a deliberate and callous breach, not only of a national obligation, but also of a definite promise made on behalf of the people of Australia to the men who went to the war. It is unnecessary to quote that promise. Its infringement has been greeted by a storm of indignation throughout the whole Commonwealth. Protests have come from all sections of the community, irrespective of their political affiliation. The ‘.Returned Soldiers’ League is solid on this issue. The League, as we know, contains many supporters of the Labour party, and a large number of trade unionists, but members of the league are unanimous on this matter. Nor has the Government secured anything . like the solid support of the trade unionists for its proposed change of policy. The Nationalist party under successive leaders, first the right honoraide member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and afterwards Mr. Bruce, was responsible for introducing and administering the system of preference to returned soldiers.
– The principle of preference to returned soldiers was adopted before the Country party came into existence. Even so, the Country party has always supported it, and I believe that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) also supports it.
– I do, of course.
– The party which I lead declines to stand by and see this policy of preference repudiated or whittled away. Accordingly with the support of every Nationalist in the House, and also the members of the Country party, I addressed to the Prime Minister this morning the following letter -
My Dear Prime Minister, -
I wish to inform you that this afternoon I shall give notice that to-morrow I will move the following motion : -
That by reason of its departure from the policy of preference to returned soliders the Government has merited the censure of tin’s House.
It is not now- necessary to proceed with that motion, but I hope that the Governhas learnt the lesson which these events should have taught it. During the recent election campaign the Government, particularly through the mouth of the Treasurer, made sheafs of promises to the returned soldiers. Not one of those promises has been carried out. The most important was that the Labour party, if returned to power, would provide every partially incapacitated returned soldier with a. position in the Public Service.
Honorable members have heard the Prime Minister repudiate that promise, saying that it was made only by a political campaign director, and did not bind the Government. It is becoming clearer than, ever that those promises were made only for the purpose of catching votes. The Government has shown that it is willing to injure the interests of returned soldiers. It has made itself suspect, and it will be carefully watched on these matters in the future. The demand, to which the Government yielded, and its action was angrily defended and justified by the Prime Minister and his supporters on Friday, came in the first place from the militant extremists among trade unionists. They do not represent the mind, the will, or the loyalty of the people of Australia. As the Government ha3 now, under pressure, ‘withdrawn its new policy I will not proceed with the motion of which I proposed to give notice. But I warn the Government, anc! I inform the people of Australia, that the Nationalist and Country parties, and, I think, every honorable member on this side of the House, will be active and vigorous in insisting on the obligation of honour which the nation owes to its returned soldiers.
.- I also congratulate the Government on its retreat.
– That is the worst thing that has happened to us yet.
– The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) with his record should not interject during a discussion on this subject. He would be much better during a retreat, I have no doubt.
– He has a better reputa-tion than the honorable member as a unionist.
– I put patriotism before unionism. It is immaterial to me how the soldiers have won this victory; it is sufficient that they have won it. If my own side had taken away this preference, I would have opposed it as hotly as I have opposed the Government. I stand or fall by the principle of preference to returned soldiers. I always have done so, without going so far as did the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), who opposed preference, and sought to pose as a “ dinkum “ digger, when we know how he masqueraded as a soldier.
– The honorable member threw up his hands to the Turks.
– I request honorable members to allow the speaker to proceed without interruption. I ask the honorable member for Balaclava, however, not to express himself in language calculated to provoke other honorable members to interject.
– I will oppose any party that attempts to take away preference to returned soldiers. Those honorable members who were in the House on Friday heard the impassioned speech of the Prime Minister, and that of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones), defending the withdrawal of preference. The honorable member for Indi must be in an unfortunate position because, according to the Melbourne press, he has now committed himself in support of preference to returned soldiers, though on Friday he placed himself behind the Government in its change of policy. Those who heard the honorable member’s speech on Friday will have no doubt in that regard. I hope that he will make his position very clear if he has an opportunity of speaking to-day.
It was not only the representations of the president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, Captain Dyett, to the Prime Minister which brought about the decision which has just been announced. The following statement indicates the steps which the returned soldiers themselves took -
Auditorium, Collins-street, Thursday Night, 8th May, at 8 p.m.
Returned men! This may not affect you personally now, but it will later. It is a trial of strength. If the immoderate element holding a pistol at the head of the Government wins out, Australian Imperial Force prestige will be lowered forall time.
Flushed with victory, we are to be paid in full for old war-time hostility and bitterness. Having gauged the strength of the Australian Imperial Force to-day, an effort will be made to withdraw all soldiers’ rights - preference, war service homes, separate hospitals for military patients - everything the soldier receives that is not available to those who skulked during the war.
Economy proposals are maturing, and unless the returned man gives a display of strength, it is he who is going to suffer. The reduction of pensions, the closing of Caulfield Hospital on the score of expense and on an excuse of equal treatment at the Melbourne Hospital, are likely happenings. The whole repatriation structure is being undermined, and the anti-soldier element is stopping at nothing to put, as one speaker has openly declared, “ the returned man in his place.”
Attend the meeting - induce others to do so - join with old comrades - and support promiment Australian Imperial Force speakers present. It’s vital to the old Australian Imperial Force and to the welfare of returned men in the future.
In my opinion, the steps that were taken to bring together the returned men throughout Australia in protest meetings, had more to do with the Government’s reversal of policy than the personal representations of Captain Dyett, good as they undoubtedly were and though the interview took three days.
The Prime Minister has said that the Government intends to safeguard the interests of returned soldiers. How did it intend to safeguard them? I draw attention to the following letter which appeared in the Melbourne Herald yesterday
To the Editor.
Sir, - Mr. Scullin, in his remarks on preference to returned soldiers, says that as long as a soldier joins the union he can get preference, but he doesn’t say how many unions he must belong to!
I have been a member of the Builders Labourers Union for five years, and their union representative for four years. I am also the president of the Hastings branch of the Australian Labour party. Surely that ought to be enough for any returned soldier to belong to keep his job! But somehow it isn’t. I was told the other day that if I didn’t take a ticket out in the Australian Workers Union I would have to be put off, and notwithstanding the fact that I had already taken out my membership ticket in the Builders Labourers Union, which cost me 18s. 6d.
As I am a married man with a wife and have five children all under the age of ten, I had to take out this other ticket, which cost me another 25s. I got into communication with the secretary of the Australian Workers Union re transfer from the Builders Labourers Union to the Australian Workers Union, and he said he would try and arrange a transfer.
The Australian Workers Union ticket, which I procured, expires on 1st September, 1930, after which 1 will have to take out another ticket for 25s., which makes three tickets in one year. - Yours, &c,
President of the Hastings Branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia.
That is all the safeguarding that . the returned men can expect. Only yesterday a destitute digger who could not get work came to me and told me that he had gone to the Trades Hall with the object of joining a union. He was not acceptable, he said, evidently because he did not first remove his digger’s badge. 1 question the accuracy of the statement made to the Prime Minister by the federal president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League to the effect that most of the men applying for work in government departments are unionists. The Prime Minister stated in the House on Friday last that about SO per cent, of the returned men were unionists. The Assistant Minister in the Senate, Senator Barnes, stated that 95 per cent, of them were unionists. Evidently any statement in this connexion is acceptable to the Government if it will enable them to salve their conscience.
I started the inquiry into this subject by asking the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), upon notice, on the l3t May -
Whether the “ preference to returned soldiers “ clause in works and railways contracts has been deleted or amended, and whether a clause or instruction relating to the supply of labour from the Trades Hall has been substituted therefor?
It is strange that all the newspapers of the Commonwealth which reported the reply to this question attributed it to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons), although all honorable members know that the Prime Minister answered it. I do not know whether the reply was attributed to the Postmaster-General by a mere slip.
– I am glad to know it was a mistake.
– The honorable member was suspicious.
– One is naturally suspicious in cases of this kind, especially when one has to deal with gentlemen like the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley).
I hold in my hand a copy of a circular sent out to the Deputy Directors of Posts and Telegraphs headed “ Preference to Unionists “. It reads -
An intimation has been received from the Prime Minister that in regard to the retention of officers in periods of retrenchment, the policy of the Government is preference to unionists.
This intimation might be specially noted, and perhaps you will kindly arrange for the policy to be applied when dispensing with the services of temporary or exempt employees.
It is dated the 17th April. It will be seen therefore that the reversal of the preference to soldiers policy was made most insidiously. At first no one knew anything about it except the unfortunate non-unionist returned soldiers who were discharged. Many questions have been asked in this House about the reason for the dismissal of returned soldiers with families from the Postmaster-General’s Department, but the replies given were, in most instances, vague. The circular from which I have just quoted was signed by the Secretary of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and countersigned by the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs of Victoria. I direct attention to the following extract from the Melbourne SunPictorial on the 1st May last : -
No instructions have been given b)’ the Government to him about the deletion of preference to returned soldiers, the DeputyDirector of Postal Services (Mr. Westhoven) said yesterday. Mr. Westhoven said the Public Service Act provided that preference should be given to returned soldiers, and the act had not been amended.
That is very strange, seeing that the circular to which I have referred was dated the 17th April.
I hope that the Government will make it clear that it intends to evacuate completely the field of hostility and bitterness to returned soldiers, notwithstanding that these men are anathema to some supporters of the Ministry. I trust that it will carry out in its entirety the policy which has just been announced, and so give every ex-service man the fullest possible opportunity to repatriate himself.
It is not necessary for me to dilate at great length upon this subject, but honorable members opposite must know that many men of immature years who went to the war had no opportunity of serving an apprenticeship to any trade or calling, and came back to join the ranks of unskilled workers. All of these men are to some extent scarred by the war ; but many men came back to their homes suffering from wounds or impaired health, and they deserve the most sympathetic treatment that can be meted out to them.
The principle of preference to returned soldiers was placed in the Public Service Act in 1022. A straight-out preference without any qualifications whatever was granted. This policy has been given effect by every Nationalist government since that time, and, in fact, by every government in Australia.
– Including Labour governments.
– That is so. But the present Commonwealth Government, flushed by its victory at the poll in November last, set out immediately after it assumed office to destroy our democratic defence system, and stop assisted migration from Great Britain. Then it threw out suggestions with the object of ascertaining public opinion on the proposal to nominate an Australianborn Governor-General. It next tried,’ in the insidious fashion that I have described, to abolish the policy of preference to returned soldiers. The speeches delivered on Friday last by the Prime Minister and some of his supporters showed to what lengths the Government was prepared to go. The most serious part of the whole business was, not that preference was to be taken away in regard to new work, for, unfortunately very few jobs are to be had at present, for the Government is faced with very serious financial difficulties which I, in common with other honorable members, would like to help it to solve. The most serious aspect of this subject was that the circular, from which I have quoted, showed that returned men already in employment were to be dismissed unless they were unionists. This shows the scandalous attitude which the Government was prepared to adopt. I am glad for the sake of the soldiers that the Government has seen fit to change its policy, although I cannot say that I congratulate it very heartily on its action.
– The honorable member has certainly concealed his pleasure.
– No doubt. Probably, had the Government persisted in its attitude, the Attorney-General might not have had an opportunity of taking his anticipated trip to the other side of the world. I have no doubt thathad the Government persisted in the deletion of the preference clause, it would soon have been swept out of office and not returned to power for many years to come, despite the fact that at the last election it did obtain an opportunity for exercising a little brief authority in respect of industrial matters. The Attorney-General has rather lost sight of that point, and I am hoping that he and the other Ministers who are soon to visit the other side of the world will, while on their travels, obtain a more imperial view than they hold at present. I congratulate the returned soldiers on their fine effort in bringing the Government to its knees on this issue.
– Every man and woman who loves this country will rejoice at the decision of the Government. I shall not criticize its action beyond saying that I am heartily glad that it has undone to-day what it did last Friday. Ministers now realize that they misinterpreted the feeling of the people of Australia. There are some things than cannot he done. The late Government did not realize that, and it passed away. Honorable members opposite smile at that, but had the party in power persisted in its declared course there would have been an end to its term also.
We have now brushed that issue aside. It has gone, and we have to face the future. But something of good has come out of the events of the last few days. No institution is now more firmly entrenched in the national and industrial life of this country than preference to returned soldiers. The battle has been fought. It has been a short one, but the victory has been decisive. I wish to place on record, so that there may be no misunderstanding, just what has happened and what is now the position. Let me give a brief record of the circumstances that led to the adoption of preference to returned soldiers. On the 12th May, 1015, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Andrew Fisher promulgated a regulation providing for preference in temporary employment under the Public Service Act to members of a trade union or an industrial organization. On the15th December, 1915, when I was myself Prime Minister, that regulation was amended by adding -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this regulation, preference for temporary employment shall be given to sailors and soldiers who have served abroad with satisfactory record in the naval or military forces of the Commonwealth.
The principle of preference to returned soldiers was established by a Labour Government of which I was the head, supported by a party of which several of the Ministers in the present Government were members. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan), the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Anstey) were members of that party, and that regulation was put into force after eighteen months of war, when the party had an overwhelming majority in both Houses. It had the approval not only of the political side, but also of the industrial side of the Labour movement. It is well known that many great industrial organizations heartily approved it. On the 24th July, 1918, it was repealed, and another regulation substituted setting out in detail the order of preference, which was as follows : -
The principle of preference to returned soldiers was deliberately provided for by a Labour Government in a regulation having the force of law, and it superseded the regulation that provided for preference to unionists. It was never questioned, being supported whole heartedly by every member of the Labour party. I ask my friends opposite to recall those days. If they consult Hansard they will find that not one voice was raised against it. Preference was given to returned soldiers because they were fighting for Australia. The preference was absolute and unconditional. It was not the result of a bargain, enforced by a turbulent and arrogant soldiery upon the civilian populace; it was an unsought pledge given by the people, who wished to show its gratitude and admiration for the men who were fighting for them. As an inducement to men to enlist, it was wholly inadequate. What man in his senses would have left the comforts, security, and prospects of civil life to rush into the inferno of war merely because he had been promised preference in regard to temporary employment in the Public Service of the Commonwealth? But the pledge was something. The returned soldier realized that, although wholly inadequate, it was offered by the people of Australia as an outward and visible sign of their gratitude to him. The preference was definite and unconditional. He was told that if he had the good fortune to come back in a condition to work he would have preference over others who had stayed at home and entrenched themselves snugly in civil positions; he was promised this preference because he was a soldier. This promise of preference was made to all men of military age and sound physique, but many turned their backs upon it. It did not appeal to them. This promise of preference was not loosely made to serve the needs of the moment; it was a solemn pledge, given on behalf of the people of this country in a great crisis by a Labour Government, who deliberately gave the soldier preference over the unionist, and it has been the law of the land for the last fifteen years. It was not questioned until the other day; and immediately, from one end of the country to the other, the response to the proposed change was, “ We will have none of it.” That which was foolishly, and wrongly, done, has been undone; and as the Government has had the courage to retrace its steps it has shown itself worthy of our confidence. I think more of Ministers because they have had the courage to retract what was an illconceived decision, than I should have done had they persisted in following a wrong course, and I believe that my feelings will be shared by the people of this country. We shall now be able to push ahead with the work that lies before us.
The proposal of the Government was concerned with the question of unemployment. How would it have helped to solve the unemployed problem? If returned soldiers had been dismissed to make way for other persons, there would still have been the same number of persons seeking employment. What we need in this country is a policy that will provide work for all willing hands. In this hour of extremity, let us not make the soldier the scapegoat for our incapacity. We have to face this problem ; and those who fought for Australia have the best right in this hour of extremity to give advice, and to be regarded as men who will support any government which honestly does its utmost to find a solution of the problems that confront us.
.- I quite agree with what the Government has done. I have always stood for preference to returned soldiers. I did not believe that the action which the Government took the other day would affect prejudicially one genuine returned soldier; nor do I think that what it has done today will have any effect. I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that it is a question, not of finding a job here and there for returned soldiers, but of providing work for the thousands of men who are out of employment in Australia. Honorable members opposite talk of their friendship and affection for the returned soldiers. They have a short memory. Only six months ago, when this Ministry assumed office, one of the first actions of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons) was to find the money necessary to retain in their employment the 1,300 returned soldiers who had been given notice of dismissal by the last Government. Those men are still being employed.
– They are not ; they have been dismissed.
– The returned soldiers know on which side of this House their friends sit. The Government realized, however, that because of the influence which is wielded by the mighty press of this country, and of the sentiment that can be imported into a question of this character, there was the possibility that many unfortunate people would be deluded into holding a false belief.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has spoken of the honorable member for Ballarat having masqueraded as a soldier. Let me remind that honorable member that I enlisted when I was 44 years of age. I fought against conscription abroad, but I placed myself in the hands of the military authorities. I used neither social nor political influence, but went wherever I was sent. I fought against the political parties that were in power in Australia. I spent three months on the western front, and on the Belgian frontier. It ill-became the honorable member for Balaclava to say one derogatory word respecting my record as a soldier. What is his record? When he enlisted he was a young man, in the prime of life. Did he join the infantry? No. He used social influence to obtain entry to the Air Force. Did he go to the western front? He did not. He piloted his aeroplane over the heads of a few unfortunate Arabs; and he had not sufficient brains to prevent it from striking a telegraph post. Some poor old Arabs captured him, and took him over to Turkey, and the Turks looked after him very well. At one time, while riding in a railway train, there was an accident, and, either in a magic carpet or by some other means, the honorable gentleman escaped. The influence that this individual was able to exert was so remarkable that, three days after his escape from the Turks, the German high command received news of it, and on the following day signed the Armistice! He returned to Australia as Captain White; but by the use of the social influence of the Women’s National League he became LieutenantColonel White. He did not win that promotion on the battlefield.
Then we have the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), who never heard a shot fired, yet now poses as the friend of returned soldiers. He obtained therank of naval commander, although he never saw a ship and had nothing to do with the navy. When he returned to-
Australia he was Naval Commander Latham. That title was affixed over the saloon which he occupied on the voyage out. He strutted through the legislative chambers in Melbourne in his naval uniform, and wearing a sword, both of which had been given to him in Paris. He secured this position because it enabled him to become an advocate for soldiers, and earn good money from them.
Then we have the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). He believed in the tie that binds us to the Mother Country; yet he did a lot of thinking before he enlisted. At last, however, in 1917, he made up his mind that he would go. He joined the infantry - brave man ! But he commenced to think a lot more when he reached London, and his cogitations led him to “ pull the strings “ and be drafted to another corps with which he would not be taken near the firing line. He was sent to Paris, where he was deputed to collect from the soldiers souvenirs that on some future date might find a place in the War Museum at Canberra. After he had secured a sufficient number, we find him in Cairo writing a book detailing his experiences as a “ dinkum “ soldier and a member of the Australian Imperial Force.
These are the three principal members of the Opposition who have taken it upon themselves to fight on behalf of returned soldiers. There is in this country a good deal of hypocrisy in regard to the returned soldier question.
– I rise to order. I object to the use of the word “ hyprocisy “ in relation to honorable members, including the Leader of the Opposition and myself.
– I understood the statement of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) to refer, not to any honorable member of this House, but to certain sentiments that have been expressed outside Parliament. But so that there may be no doubt upon the matter, I ask the honorable member for Ballarat whether his reference was to any honorable member.
– My remark was general in its application, but if the honorable member for Balaclava takes it to refer to him, I am prepared to withdraw it. When the present Government took office scores of returned soldiers had received notification of eviction from war service homes. Again and again the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) had asked in vain of the previous Ministry that the ejectment notices should be withdrawn. One of the first acts of the present Minister in charge of war service homes (Mr. Parker Moloney) was to cancel every order for ejectment. This Government has given practical help to returned soldiers, and it is protecting them when it asks them to join trade unions. God forbid that we should go back 100 years in the industrial history of the world, to the days when there were no unions to protect the workers against exploitation by unscrupulous employers. I am proud to be associated with a party that has always fought for a fair deal for returned soldiers. I congratulate the Government on the announcement that it has made to-day. I do not say that the Prime Minister’s statement of policy on Friday last was not right, but we are not going to furnish our opponents with a weapon with which to injure us at the next elections. We do not intend to be misrepresented as we have been in the past. I am prepared to fight an election at any time on this issue. I fought the Nationalists in the Ballarat constituency on th ex conscription issue; I have fought them and other socalled loyalists in support of the principles of the Labour party, and generally have been victorious. I am prepared to fight again on those issues. The Labour party is the only friend that the returned soldiers in Australia have.
.- Last Friday I understood from the Prime Minister and his supporters that they had come to an irrevocable decision that preference to unionists was the, end-all and beall of industrial life in Australia, and that the returned soldiers could go to the wall. They have since seen the light, and it is such a dazzling light that they are temporarily blinded to what will happen to them later. Although the Government has backed down, its attempt to deprive returned soldiers of their preference will not be forgotten. We know what would have happened if the Labour party had not been suddenly arrested in its mad career. Its attitude during the war kept it from the treasury benches for thirteen years. Labour has been in office about six months, but apparently the leaders of the party have already forgotten the lesson represented by those thirteen years of exile. For the Government’s change of attitude, the returned soldiers’ league is entitled to full credit. That is the organization upon which we rely to protect the returned soldiers against insidious attacks by their enemies. The abolition of preference in connexion with government contracts was merely the introduction of the thin edge of the wedge, and doubtless the Government hoped that it would pass unnoticed.
I do not propose to follow the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) in analysing the quality of the military service rendered by other honorable members. It is sufficient for me that they enlisted and reached the other side, because there they were not altogether free to order their own lives. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that preference to unionists was initiated by the Fisher Government, but later the policy was changed. He did not explain that that change was brought about by public opinion which forced the then Labour Government of 1915 to substitute preference to returned soldiers for preference to unionists. The right honorable gentleman was head of the Government at that time, and inferentially he admitted this afternoon that the change of policy was forced upon him. When the first effective preference to returned soldiers was given the right honorable gentleman was still in office, but as head of a Nationalist Government. The Labour party had split into two sections; one was for the war and the other was against it. The latter section is well represented on the treasury bench to-day. Those who openly expressed disapproval of the war and did all they possibly could to sabotage the soldiers at the front are prominent amongst the supporters of the present Government. I referred on Friday last to the Labour conference held in Perth on the 20th June, 1918, and I propose to put its resolution onrecord. At that time the Allies were in a critical posi tion. The German push had started in March, 1918; the counter attack by the Allies did not commence till the 8th August. The intervening months were the blackest in the war. During the dark clays of June a Labour conference was held at Perth, and amongst those present were the then Premier of Queensland, Mr. Ryan; Mr. O’Loughlin. M.L.A., the president of the Western Australian branch of the Australian Labour party; Mr. Collier, who was then Leader of the Opposition in the Western Australian Parliament, and has again been restored to that position by his deposition from the premiership; Mr. Tudor, then Leader of the Opposition in this House; Mr. Arthur Rae, now a Labour member of the Senate; Mr. Barnes, an Assistant Minister in the present Commonwealth Cabinet; yourself, Mr. Speaker; Mr. Scullin, the present Prime Minister; Messrs. Holloway and Curtin, now members of this House; Mr. O’Keefe, formerly a representative of Tasmania in this Parliament; and Mr. Blackburn, a prominent Labour legislator in Victoria.
– The honorable member said on Friday last that the present Treasurer attended the conference.
– No; the present Treasurer held the home fort in Queensland while his leader, Mr. Ryan, went to Western Australia. I ask the House to remember how critical was the position at the front when the following resolution, drafted by Messrs. Ryan, Rae, Blackburn, Makin, Cameron, and Long, was carried : -
Those of us who were at the front had sent out S.O.S. signals for reinforcements, and we were wondering “ Will they never come?” The help we received from our alleged friends in the Labour movement is expressed by the resolution of the Perth Labour conference. They have not altered their views since. If Australia were in dire straits to-morrow they would do the same. The second paragraph of the resolution was -
We were in the fight up to our necks: were we to say that things were getting too hot for us and desert our posts? We had a much higher notion of what was due to the credit of Australia than to let down our mates. The third part of the resolution was -
As a result of that attitudeLabour was out of office in the Commonwealth for thirteen years, largely because of the votes of the soldiers and their friends. During all that time the party nursed its hatred of the soldiers, and now it is seeking revenge. Some of those who were prominent at the Perth conference in 1918 are members of the ministerial party to-day. We are told that 80 per cent. of the returned soldiers are members of trade unions. Wonderful flowers grow on dung hills ; the sweet ambergris is the vomit of sick whales. I doubt that 80 per cent. of returned soldiers are trade unionists; but if they are, what has the Government done for them? The sentiments expressed by its supporters on Friday last were identical with those which were published in the Labour Call on the 14th January, 1915. There can be no denial of the fact that that journal was the official organ of the Victorian Political Labour Council, because when it was suppressed during the war the Perth conference and the Australian Labour party in Sydney carried resolutions condemning the action of the then Government. These were its sentiments towards the soldiers-
Ye are the sordid killers
Who murder for a fee:
Ye prop like rotten pillars,
Trade’s lust and treachery.
Hog-souled and dirty handed
Ye sell yourselves for gain,
And stand for ever branded
Red felons after Cain.
Ye are the “ fools and flunkeys,”
Ye die to serve the great;
The rooks and gilded monkeys
Who eat the fat of state.
Ye fell in alien places,
On foreign wastes ye lie;
Stiff limbed, with putrid faces
Turned stinking to the sky.
– That was written 30 years ago.
– Why was it republished in 1915?
– I rise to a point of order. It is well known that that poem refers to the Boer war, and that the writer was dealt with unjustly. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) is wilfully misrepresenting the attitude of the Labour party by suggesting that the poem was written in reference to the war of 1914-18.
– What is the honorable member’s point of order?
– The honorable member has misrepresented the position.
– A point of order cannot be based on the ground that the remarks of a speaker contain misrepresentation. If a statement is objected to as incorrect or is regarded as a misrepresentation, it is competent for a subsequent speaker to correct it when his turn comes to address the Chair.
– The. words I have quoted were written during the Great European War of 19141-1918, and were published in 1915. According to them, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) is himself one of “ the sordid killers who murder for a fee.” This is not a matter of preference to unionists or nonunionists, but of preference to soldiers. Over on the other side we did not care whether or not a man was a unionist. When there was a “ hop-over,” we did not give preference to unionists for the job. The only preferencewe ever got over there was preference for a short cut to the hereafter. Unionists and nonunion ists fought side by side in the common love of their country, while others at home in Australia lurked like cotton-tail rabbits in their holes. Those are the very same persons who are now trying to take away from the returned soldiers preference of employment. Of all that large number of Labour members sitting opposite only about four saw service at the war; yet to look at them there seem to be many hale and fit men among them, and they were probably fitter fifteen years ago. The Government has at last awakened to the fact that the returned soldiers are just as keen on preference as ever. Why have meetings of protest been held throughout Australia during the last week-end? Why has the Federal President of the Returned Soldiers League come here to place his representations before the Government? It is because there is a universal desire throughout Australia that the sacred promise given to the soldiers when they were fighting on the other side of the world shall be honoured by successive governments. This Government sought to repudiate the promise. The Prime Minister has recently been making a great deal of the fact that Australia does not repudiate her debts, and Mr. Fenton also had something to say on this point. Yet the Labour Government, though it has been in power for only six months, deliberately sought to repudiate the promise given on behalf of the people of Australia to the soldiers who fought for them overseas. That the Government failed does not alter the fact that it made the attempt, and the people of Australia will not forget it. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that some credit must be given to the Government for retracing its steps, but I do not think that any credit is due to the members of the Government because the people of Australia succeeded in knocking some sense into their fat heads.
– The honorable member must not apply offensive terms to Ministers of the Crown, or other honorable members of this House.
– I understand that the most offensive epithet one can apply to a unionist is to call him a “ scab.” A scab, I believe, is a man who shares all the privileges of unionism, and takes none of its responsibilities. Yet there were thousands who stayed behind in Australia and scabbed on their mates who were fighting overseas. Those men overseas were fighting, not only for themselves, but for those who stayed behind as well. They asked for help, and that help was denied them. Those who stayed behind did even worse than that; they not only refused to go to the help of their comrades, but they sought to prevent any one else from going. They tried to prevent those who were just reaching military age from going to the assistance of those who were fighting for their country. That is what we have to thank the Labour party for. Members of that party at the Perth Conference, scabbed on their comrades as they did during the 1917 strike in New South Wales, when they refused to load the ships with foodstuffs that were urgently needed overseas. They failed to do their duty on the fighting front, but if they had stood up to their duty on the economic front it would not have been so bad. However, they let us down even there. It is claimed that 80 per cent, of the returned soldiers are unionists. Doe3 not that make the position even worse? The Labour party would be prepared to sacrifice the remaining 20 per cent, for the crowd of “ coldfooters “ who stayed behind in Australia. The returned soldiers fought to keep the “cold-footers” in their jobs. Now they are so firmly dug into the available jobs that the returned soldier has no chance at all.
The Labour party has abolished compulsory military training, and Australia must depend for its defence on the voluntary system. What chance is there of getting men to serve overseas of their own free will when they realize that the promises of governments are worthless statements to be repudiated when it suits them. Men can be fooled once, but they will not be fooled twice in the same way. In regard to this change of policy, the voice may have been that of Scullin, but the hand was that of the Labour movement - the same movement that let us down during the war, and that would do the same again if it could. I have no doubt that the man behind this movement is Mr. J. Garden, who practically ran the last Labour Easter conference, and who is in such close association with Moscow, which he has visited several times.
– He enlisted during the last war.
– I do not know whether he did or not; but I know that he is now in control of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales. If the Government had succeeded in this endeavour, what might have we expected next? It would probably have whittled down pension benefits to returned soldiers, advancing the economic situation as an excuse; and other benefits which would probably be reduced or abolished would be medical treatment for sick or injured soldiers. The Government tried to take away preference of employment, and, as the right honorable member forNorth Sydney pointed out, it made no effort whatever to provide any further employment in which returned soldiers could participate. In last December, the Sydney Sun published a very fine piece of verse, which ran as follows : -
The Dead who live in memory
Are sacred names to-day;
Every one a magic song
That never dies away -
Every name a steady flame
On an altar set;
But what of all the living men -
The deathless pride of living men -
Who starve when we forget?
O, there is peace at Anzac Cove
And on the Flanders Plain!
Quiet envied by the soul
That’s here by hunger slain;
Dead, they live enriched with love,
Never scorned and poor.
God’s they were that died as men,
Brothers to these other men,
Starving at the door.
The living have no Cenotaph,
Nor crosses row on row!
Scars of body, mind, and soul -
Are all they have to show -
Yet for them the battleflags
Never have been furled;
Workless men and starving men,
Loveless, lost, forgotten men,
Men who saved a world.
These are the men whom the Government was prepared to sacrifice. I cannot congratulate it upon having reversed its decision, because it was forced to do so partly by public opinion throughout Australia, but particularly by the influence of the returned men.
.- I do not intend to add very much to what I said on Friday on this subject, for I made my position clear then. It has been said that the Government intended to take away from the returned soldier one of the biggest recognitions of their service, namely, preference in employment; but the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) and other honorable members opposite have misrepresented the position. They know very well that it was not proposed to take away preference.
– It was proposed to qualify it.
– I grant that; and rightly so, in my opinion.
– The union was to have come first.
– And a political party.
– There was nothing about a political party in it. Let me remind honorable members of the reason for the adoption of this principle in the first place. The former Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, made it very clear. The position was that the men who went overseas to fight were promised that upon their return the positions which they left would be available to them. But they found, when they came back, that their work was being done, in very many instances, by women. Numerous business houses in Australia showed clearly that they were not prepared to honour the promises that they made, that the men who went away would be given employment on their return. It was necessary, therefore, to compel them to do so. Under the conditions which then prevailed, I think it was reasonable to do it. But it is also reasonable that returned men should join the union covering their calling. I have been a trade unionist for many years, and I defy any honorable member to show that this country has not benefited through the activities of trade unions.
– That is very doubtful.
– It is only doubtful to the interests which the honorable member represents. If the views that he holds were given effect, Australia would soon drift back into the bad old days of the past, for the trade unions would lose their influence in industry. With reasonable men, there is no doubt whatever that the trade unions of Australia have been of immense value to our manual workers, who should get down on their bended knees and thank trade unionism for all the benefits it has bestowed upon them. It is idiotic for honorable members to try to burke this fact.
I was a factory worker for many years, and know that the trade union to which I belonged did a great deal to improve the conditions in that industry. Very few, even of the thousands of unemployed in our midst to-day, would like to be left to the mercy of the master classes, who see in the present industrial situation a possible opportunity of breaking down the prevailing wages and working conditions. So long as the trade union movement stands in the way, these conditions will be retained for the workers. The trade union movement is, to-day, maintaining chose conditions for the benefit of the returned soldier, and it is giving him a preference.
If the returned soldiers were left to the mercies of the so-called patriots of the war period, they would soon find out who their friends are. No one can deny that pounds, shillings and pence and not patriotism is the main consideration in ;t 11 commercial enterprises.
– Not at all.
– I should be glad of an opportunity to try them out. If it were possible to gather all the maimed and suffering ex-service men of Australia into a regiment, I should like to march them into these business houses and ask the management if it w.as prepared to say “ You are the first men that we will employ”. We know very well they would not employ these inefficient men, except under conditions which would result in their exploitation.
– Most business houses give preference to returned men.
– That is a general statement which gets us nowhere. The undeniable fact is that private enterprise had to be compelled by the example set by the Government to grant preference to returned men. I have always pleaded with all the eloquence of which I am capable that the men who are the wreckage of the war should bc given every possible consideration. They made great sacrifices and their service should be recognized and recompensed.
Only last week-end I was brought face to face with the plight to which one returned man and his dependants have been brought. I was in Adelaide only on Sunday and Monday, and I investigated this case on Sunday. The man enlisted when he was eighteen, so that he is now about 32. He is not suffering from tuberculosis or any complaint which presents a particular problem; he was battered by a high-explosive shell. His wound was slaved and appeared to heal, but now, after the lapse of years, it is affecting his whole nervous system. For six years he was engaged as a linesman, but in consequence of his wounds, he is now. unable to climb ladders and perform other work which formerly offered no difficulties to him. He appealed to the Pensions Entitlement Appeal Board, but on the evidence of medical practitioners he was declared to be suffering from neurasthenia, which was said to be not the result of war service. It must surely be apparent to everybody that a man of his age should not suffer from that complaint. The fact that ho is suffering from it should have been put down, without any question, to his war service. However, he was refused a pension, notwithstanding that he had sacrificed himself for his country.
– The honorable member’s party would not give him preference in government employment.
– That is not so. We would give him preference, but we would say to him, “ Old man, you must join the union covering your calling. You would not have had time for men in the Australian Imperial Force who failed to stand in with their comrades, and you should stand in with your comrades to-day.” Honorable members opposite know very well that legal practitioners, medical practitioners, accountants, architects, and men of every profession, must join the organization covering their profession, or they would quickly hear about it. If business men do not abide by the decision of their organizations, their supplies are very soon cut off. Softgoodsmen and hardwaremen have to become members of their respective associations, or they get into trouble. There is not a man who has not obtained a thousand times more from a trade union than he has put into it.
The returned man to whom I have referred failed to get a pension. I asked him “ Did not an officer of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League Association plead your cause?” he said “ One of them was there, but I don’t suppose he said eight words. I wish I had had some one like you to speak for me.” Every one knows that the odds are against the returned men who appear before the Entitlement Appeal Board. Very few men who go before the board are able to put their case in such a way as to get a satisfactory result. It happened that in this instance Mr. Dalziel, who usually conducts the cases, could not be present, and he sent some one else to take his place.
The wife of this man was very much hurt because her husband’s claim was rejected. She showed me a nicely-framed diploma, which measured about 24 inches by 18 inches, signed by Mr. A. S. Blackburn, V.C., President of the South Australian Branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, and Mr. A. Fearby ,the secretary of it, which indicated that she had rendered excellent service as a singer for patriotic causes during the war. Yet she now has to stand by and see her husband’s just claims for consideration rejected.
– The honorable member’s Government is in power; it should do something.
– It is necessary first to get an amendment of the Repatriation Act. I should like to see how far honorable members opposite would go in that direction.
– Is the man a unionist ?
– I did not ask him. I had no desire to throw a spanner into the works.
– The honorable member’s party has done that.
– It has done nothing of the kind. It merely said that preference should be given to returned soldiers who were unionists. I do not propose to follow the example of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) in discussing this subject, but will merely say that, after all, it was necessary for some people to stay at home to keep the wheels of industry going. We know how the representatives of big business conducted their enterprises during the war years. They paid so little attention to the public welfare that Parliament had to pass a War Times Profit Tax Act. However, that is past history.
I regret that the opposition to the policy which the Government endeavoured to initiate was designed to make party capital. I hope that the policy which the Government endeavoured to apply will ultimately be adopted.
– The Government has gone back on it.
– I admit that it has; principally because of the howling of honorable members like the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and others.
– The honorable member did not know that it was loaded.
– I suggest that the honorable member is disappointed that it did not go off as he expected. I do not condemn the Government for placing on record the fact that preference to unionists is the policy of the Labour party, and that it is a just, fair and proper policy to adopt throughout Australia. That policy has been affirmed to some extent by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), because although they stand for honoring the promise made to returned soldiers, they would still advise all the returned soldiers to join the union concerned with the industry in which they are engaged. Those honorable members do not deny the justice of our claim that all those engaged in industry, and benefiting as a result of trade unionism should stand up to their responsibilities by being part of that movement. On Friday last I referred to some remarks of the late Prime Minister. What was his attitude when he was asked to do something for the returned soldiers? In 1919, when this House was discussing the Income Tax Bill, Mr. Charlton, then honorable member for Hunter, moved -
That the following new clause be added: - “A. Notwithstanding anything in any act to the contrary, returned soldiers, sailors, nurses, doctors, war workers, and others who were accepted for war service abroad shall be exempt from taxation on incomes derived from personal exertion.
Mr. Charlton went on to say
I trust that this proposal will not be considered on party lines, and that it will not be said that it is brought forward for political purposes on the eve of an election. When the war commenced, I pointed out the groat debt we would have to carry in consequence of the war, and said that the finances of the country would need re-adjustment. I said that men who had gone abroad to defend the liberties of those who remained behind should not be asked to pay for the debt incurred in meeting the cost of the war.
– Does the honorable member propose to include also in this exemption the dependants of those who have died, and fathers whose sons have been killed?
Mr. CHARLTON. The Acting Treasurer ridicules my suggestion, but let me put the position before him. The income tax was imposed for the purpose of providing interest and sinking fund on our war debt, which was incurred by paying for the services of the gallant nien who went abroad for the purpose of defending this country. I am asking that those men, on their return, should not be called on to pay back the very money which’ we borrowed for the purpose of paying them for their services.
Mr. Bruce, then honorable member for Flinders, replied - [ shall oppose the amendment. It suggests the continuance ,of a concession given to the soldier while he was engaged on active service. To grant the exemption after he has resumed his citizenship would be a grave mistake, and, from my knowledge of the soldier, it is something he does not desire. This amendment would place the soldier in a special privileged class, by exempting him from a liability which is placed upon every citizen in the community who is in receipt of a certain income.
Mr. Bruce said that there should be no preference to returned soldiers when it came to the question of paying interest on war loans, that he should be on the same footing as were those who stayed at home and profiteered at the expense of the families of the soldiers. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) has referred to cold-footers on this side of the House, but let me remind him that there were cold-footers on that side of the House, who, during the war,- dug their talons deep into the finances of this country, while others were overseas protecting their interests. We do not hear one word about the profiteers from honorable members opposite, although we are paying, in interest on war loans, £17,000,000 every year to those who stayed at home and profiteered during this nation’s greatest crisis. Mr. Bruce further stated -
If the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is honest he will not take the soldier in. Experience of the soldier shows that he does not at all love the person who fawns upon him and tries to get, as he would say, on his “ right side.” The only person the soldier has the slightest respect for in the world is the strong man who does his work well, the man who makes the soldier do a soldier’s duty, and who does his own. A provision such as this, which is to give something to the soldier over and above what is given to all the other people who have also done their duty during the war, will not be welcomed by him, and certainly will not create any enthusiasm on his part.
Mr. Bruce was opposed to giving returned soldiers any concession in regard to the income tax. He preferred to place upon them disabilities such as that which now operates in South Australia. In that
State the reduction in the income tax exemption to £100 applies, not only to the returned soldier, but to single women including any of his sisters. On Friday last, I said that I doubted the sincerity of honorable members opposite in their attitude towards the action of the Government, and judging by the chagrin which has been evinced by them since the Government has announced its change of policy, I am fairly convinced that my statement was justified. When the opposition gets an opportunity to talk about preference to returned soldiers, it introduces into the discussion a lot of clap trap about cold footers and white flaggers But what did the Nationalist party do for me when I returned from the war?
– It gave the honorable member the privilege of a special committee.
– Had I been a wealthy person and able to take my case into court it would have cost the then Government not £200, but £2,000, because I was as good a soldier as any other man, within the limits of my capacity and the orders that I received. I went to the war at 46 years of age, and when I returned I was opposed by a non-soldier Nationalist candidate two years my junior. I was defeated at the elections, and although I had done no harm to the community, the honorable member for North Sydney (Sir Granville Ryrie) saw fit to slander me. An inquiry was instituted as the outcome of questions subsequently asked in this Parliament, and as a result I obtained £200. Surely that was not proper compensation for the action of the Nationalist party in making a political rag of me, and wiping me round the floor merely for political purposes. When I was in the army I asked a favour of no man. As a matter of fact the man alongside me did not know who I was. I have never asked for preference. If the policy of my party could not return me to Parliament I was content to be outside of it. I stand for the policy of my party. Preference to unionists is not an affront upon returned soldiers. I dare say that every member of this House is in some way connected with returned soldiers. One of my nephews went to the war and ho now lies at Mouquet Farm. The Government’s attitude, as outlined last Friday, constituted no attack upon the returned soldier. Every man, whether soldier or civilian, has a duty to perform as a citizen of that section of the community to which he belongs, and if he wishes to enjoy the wages and conditions operating in the industrial field of this country he should join the trade union movement. The Government has seen fit to alter its policy, but on the merits of the case I consider that it would have been quite justified in standing to its original intention.
– The honorable member did not care about the idea of taking a vote upon this issue.
– Let me inform the honorable member that the Labour party was not born yesterday. It came into power at a time of turmoil. I remember its birth in South Australia and its subsequent difficulties. We were told that it was barbarous to strike and that we should get representation in Parliament and alter the law. We took the capitalists at their word, but so soon as we began to make headway they started to ridicule us. They asked us what we knew about finance. They said, when Gregor McGregor was returned to Parliament, that he had been cracking stones at 2s. 6d. per yard, while wearing bowyangs round his legs. They asked what did he know about making laws. Notwithstanding ridicule and opposition, we have the numbers. From that very small beginning we grew rapidly; and at one time or another Labour has governed every State in the Commonwealth. The whole of our legislative and administrative acts redound to our credit and have benefited the Commonwealth. I agree that the trade union movement lends its support to only one political party; but it is necessary to finish politically what we began industrially. Logically no argument can be advanced against that, despite the activities of our opponents in the columns of the press. Last Friday a debate on this matter was initiated by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), and the attitude of the Government was stated in the reply given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin). Other speakers were the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the honorable, member for Balaclava (Mr. White), and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). Their speeches were reported in the Adelaide Advertiser; but one may search in vain in the columns of that newspaper to ascertain whether the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley), or the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) spoke. This and other newspapers are the medium through which our friends opposite disseminate their political propaganda. If we who siton this side had not a good case, why were not our speeches published? I should not care if my remarks were published verbatim; nor would the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). But not a word of what we said appeared. That is how honorable members opposite build up their forces with the assistance of the press, big and little, throughout Australia. During the last election campaign press paragraphs were sent all over Australia attacking me with respect to what I was alleged to have said about the farmer. The representatives of the press were told to publish my remarks in such a way that it would appear that I was ridiculing the farmer. That story was given a great deal of credence; but when a similar attempt was made on another occasion I was able to expose it on the floor of this House and to prevent the inaccuracy from being repeated. To-morrow morning the newspapers will have big headlines declaring “ Government climbs down “, “ Ignominious retreat by Government “, “ Returned soldiers affronted”. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) will be eulogized as high panjandrums of military strategy. But something that I halve said will probably be torn from its context and rendered of no value, so that I may be placed in an awkward position. It is no wonder that honorable members opposite can sometimes achieve victory when they indulge in such tactics. I have always said that “ Labour in politics “ is a wonderful organization, because it has won its victories from the soap-box and the street corner, while its opponents have had the advantages of their press and the millions of pounds that at all times they have at their disposal, whether the war be waged overseas against a foreign enemy or against the workers and the conditions which they enjoy. Despite the power of the press, and the advantage in regard to education that the majority of honorable members who sit opposite have in comparison with those who sit on this side, we n re able to win with the hard logic of facts.
– Having won, why use against the soldier the power thus obtained ?
– We are using it not against the soldier but for his protection. He is still foolish enough to believe what the press tells him as to what this preference means to him. But if he joins the ranks of the trade unions and obtains the benefit of the preference that is given to trade unionism, he will have a double security instead of the weak reed upon which he is depending at the present time.
– We are going to watch his interests.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) should maintain silence. On Friday I gave the specific case of a returned soldier postal employee who fulfilled to the letter every requirement of a law that was passed especially for his benefit and that of Other returned soldiers; yet he was fired out of the department and advised by the late Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) to apply for tin invalid pension. To-day he is employed by an insurance company as an inspector. Whenever I return home at the week-end I come across further instances of the necessity for a close investigation into the treatment that is meted out to returned soldiers. The people need to be awakened to the fact that payments are being made in millions where they should tie withheld, and in other cases are being withheld where they should be made. Let us make a start with the wreckage of humanity who aro entitled to some consideration. Not one of the 25,000 men with whom I marched the other day wants anything; they are all well and happy. Look after the poor devil who is so racked with pain that he is not able even to get out to see his pals in arch. Give him what he would have earned.
– What happens if he is not a trade unionist?
– If he is broken in health, he is not able to take part in the industrial life of this country. That sort of “guff” carries no weight. We will deal with the fit and well soldier fairly and justly, if we are allowed to do so, and prove to him that we are his friends, not his foes, as honorable members opposite would lead him to believe that we are. We have facts on our side, as well as the desire to deal fairly by him. Whenever I have the opportunity I shall make my voice heard until the last man whose health is affected because of his war experiences has received an adequate pension. The honorable member for Brisbane said on Friday that the number of returned soldiers is becoming fewer, that they are dying off rapidly. What does that mean? Does it not mean that their lives have been shortened by what they went through ? The honorable member for Brisbane also said that returned soldiers are prematurely old. Yet honorable members opposite say that the only responsibility we owe to them is to give them preference if they can get a job.
– That is not .the only responsibility.
– Our first and greatest responsibility is to the war-racked man. We must act, more generously towards him, and must not allow the medical fraternity to say that neurasthenia or other causes of broken health would have manifested themselves even if these men had not gone to the front. When honorable members opposite have been instrumental in seeing that every claim by returned soldiers is given the recognition that the facts warrant, they will have reason to take up the attitude that they have adopted to-day. They have endeavoured to force war upon us, on an issue on which we will not fight, and they are annoyed because we decline, to accept the challenge. No matter what they do they will not prevent us from enforcing, as far as possible, that which is right and just, nor from seeing that every man who has the protection of a trade union stands up to his responsibilities and helps to keep his union virile and strong. It has been contended that the existence of trade unions enables their secretaries to be kept in good jobs, and that they assist only one political party. I admit that they assist one political party.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Norman Makin). Standing Order 119 lays upon me the obligation of calling upon Orders of the Day two hours after the hour fixed for the meeting of the House. I suggest that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) ask leave to continue his remarks on another occasion.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– On a point of order, may I ask why the procedure to-day differs from that which has been followed when the adjournment of the House has been moved? In such cases it has been the practice to call on “ Questions upon Notice “ at the expiration of two hours after the meeting of the House.
– I fear that the practice hitherto adopted has been somewhat irregular. Standing Order 119 reads -
I f all Motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House the debate thereupon shall be interrupted, and unless the House otherwise order, the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation; but if there should be no Order of the Day, the discussion on Motions may be continued. The consideration of Motions may be resumed after the Orders of the Day are disposed of.
The Chair thus has no alternative but to call on Orders of the Day. “ Questions upon Notice” comes under “Business of the Day “.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to with the concurrence of an absolute majority of the members of the House -
That the Standing Ordersbe suspended to enable Questions upon Notice to be answered.
Use of Victorianstateparliamen t Buildings.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to the question asked on the 11th August, 1920, by the honorable member for Melbourne, and the reply thereto by the ex-Treasurer, will he, in order to bring the information up to date, inform the House -
What was the estimated value of the parliamentary buildings and grounds lent to the Commonwealth Government by the State Government of Victoria?
For what period were they occupied by the Commonwealth Government?
What would have been the totalcost to the Commonwealth if a rental of 5 per cent. on the estimated value of the buildings had been charged?
What was the amountof money granted to the State Government by the Commonwealth in respect of the use of these buildings, and what was the date of such grant?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions areas follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, uponnotice -
– The Commonwealth Statistician and Actuary has advised, in respect of the year 1929 : -
Re-EmploymentofSuspended Officer - Use of Official Mechanics for Private Work.
asked the Postmaster-General. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr. ELDRIDGE (through Mr. C Riley) asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.FORDE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922- 1929-
Duration - From 14th September, 1922.
Cotton Bounty Act No. 51 of 1926-
Duration - Five years from 16th August, 1926.
Wine Export Bounty Act 1924-1928. - £1,001,707. Duration- 1st September, 1924, to 31st August, 1930.
Sulphur Bounty Act No. 21 of 1923.- £143,724. Duration - From 13th September, 1923.
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act No. 7 of 1920-
Duration - For ten years from 1st January, 1927.
Shale Oil Bounty Act 1917-1923.-
Duration - From 1st September, 1917 to 31st August, 1929, on which latter date the act expired.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.FORDE.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the total value of hides and skins imported into Australia during each of the past three years?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Of the estimated savings of £50,000 under the proposals of the Government in connexion with the abolition of the Development and Migration Commission, what amount is represented by developmental activities and migration costs respectively?
– The total estimated savings are in administration, and are divided approximately evenly between the two organizations.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 30th April the honorable member forWimmera (Mr. Stewart) brought under notice a press report of a debate in the Victorian Legislative Council regarding the reported refusal of the London County Council to purchase Australian meat. I informed the honorable member chat a cablegram had been despatched to the High Commissioner asking that full inquiries be made. I am now in receipt of advice from the High Commissioner which indicates that he had already taken the matter up with the chairman of the council. The council’s chief officer for supplies stated that the council was anxious to obtain Australian frozen beef. The council explained that it had gone to considerable trouble to obtain meat of the quality required, but that that supplied last year was unsuitable. The matter is being pursued by the High Commissioner.
– On the 25th March the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following question, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 2nd May, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), through the honorable member for Gippsland, asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On 2nd May the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following question, upon notice -
Whether a reasonable percentage of aeroplanes and parts (excluding engines, instruments and wheels) of Australian manufacture could be included in tenders for the Defence Department ?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
It is the policy of the Defence Department in connexion with the purchase of aircraft for theRoyal Australian Air Force and the Civil
Aviation Branch, to obtain locallymanufactured aircraft and items of aircraft equipment whenever practicable. Every encouragement and assistance has been given to interest local manufacturers to produce aircraft components to the exacting requirements of Air Force specifications. Practically the whole of the Air Force needs in aircraft standard fittings (including nuts, bolts, fork-ends, washers, pins, &c. ), stream-line wires, air screws, dopes and paint, aircraft tires, shock absorbers, metal tubings, batteries and dry cells, radiators, tanks, plywood and photographic supplies arc now obtained in Australia. In addition, all aircraft of the preliminary training type required by the Royal Australian Air Force are being manufactured locally, and 32 such aircraft are under construction in Melbourne by the Larkin Aircraft Supply Company.
Enlistment of National Regiments
– On the 6th December, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following question, upon notice -
Does lie (the Minister) propose in the new defence enlistment scheme to permit the enrolment of non-Australian battalions, called “ national regiments.”
I am how in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
The matter has now been fully considered, and it has been decided not to include the enrolment of non-Australian battalions under the new defence enlistment scheme.
Mr. LACEY, as Chairman, brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed construction of a federal highway within the Federal Capital Territory, and moved -
That the report bc printed.
.- Honorable members receive many printed papers which are of slight interest. For instance, I have received printed reports by the Public Works Committee on the Hurstville and Brunswick automatic telephone exchanges. The chairman of the two Standing Committees moves that reports be printed, regardless of the tremendous expense involved. Surely these matters could be referred to the Printing Committee. To-day I received three ordinances, relating to New Guinea and Norfolk Island. Some honorable members might be interested in these documents, but I do not regard their distribution as necessary. In printing the evidence of the Public Works Committee we are not practising that economy which is necessary at the present time. Documents of purely local interest should bc referred to the Printing Committee before the House agrees to an expenditure which may be quite unnecessary.
.- On several occasions I have mentioned the subject raised by the honorable member for Corangamite. Copies of many of such documents as are now printed might bo made available by the roneo process to those honorable members who require them. On other occasions I have referred to the reports on proposed automatic telephone exchanges. Seldom, if ever, does any now feature arise in connexion with these proposals. The Postal Department understands thoroughly the telephone business, and by this time the Works Committee also is fully seised of all the particulars of automatic exchanges. Unless there was some special point to which the Chairman desired to call attention, a substantial saving could be effected by refraining from printing many of these reports. The honorable member for Corangamite is mistaken, however, in suggesting that honorable members should not bo furnished with copies of the ordinances relating to the territories over which the Commonwealth has control. These ordinances are the only means by which honorable members are able to exercise any degree of supervision over the government of these territories.
– Does the honorable member read them?
– I glance through every ordinance that is sent to me, and all regulations except those under the Defence Act, which I receive in another capacity, and which are too .numerous to bc checked in the ordinary way. I regard the perusal of ordinances, particularly those relating to territories which, have not a representative system of government, as an important duty of honorable members. Many of the ordinances are more or less formal, and only occasionally do they involve a matter of principle, but I hope there will be na restriction on the circulation of them o» regulations made under acts of parliament. In regard to the committees, however, whilst I value highly the work they do, I suggest that often typewritten copies of their reports would meet all requirements.
– The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) apply to much of the matter that is printed, but not to the reports of the Public Works Committee. Honorable members have a right to know the reasons for recommending expenditure on roads, buildings, and other public works. For instance, [ do not know what need exists for the proposed federal highway through the Federal Capital Territory, and I want to read the report of the committee to ascertain if the expense is justified. The Public “Works Committee has fully justified its existence, and its investigations have saved a good deal of money to the Commonwealth.
– That is not questioned.
– How are we to get the value of the committee’s work unless we read its reports?
.- I hope that the Government will not listen to the representations of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) regarding the printing of ordinances and regulations, particularly those applying to New Guinea, North and Central Australia, and the Federal Capital Territory, which at present is not fully represented in this Parliament. The House is entitled to know what is being done by regulation and ordinance, and it we are not furnished with copies of these we are not able to do an important part of the work which we are elected to carry out. I agree, however, that the printing of evidence in regard to such standardized works as automatic telephone exchanges is wasteful, and 1 hope that the committee will recommend its discontinuance. The matters dealt with by other committees are important, and yet their reports are never accompanied by printed evidence. Their example might be profitably followed by the Public Works Committee, for whose work I, as a former member of it, have a very high regard. If any honorable member, after perusing a report of a committee, were not satisfied, he could have access to the evidence by applying to the chairman or the secretary of the committee, and thus obtain all the information he desired.
.- The matter raised by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) has been the subject of comment in this House on several occasions, but no action has been taken. As a member of the Public Works Committee for eight years, I know that often the evidence it takes is worth printing and forms an important record. For instance, very few members read the committee’s report on the National War Memorial when it was presented; butwhen the project was subsequently discussed in the House the report was in general demand. It is difficult to discriminate between the reports that should be printed and those that should not. The Printing Committee should consider carefully, before disallowing the printing of any of these reports. So far as automatic telephone exchanges are concerned the report of the committee would be ample for all purposes.
– Can the committee refuse to have the report printed after the House has authorized the work to be done ?
– It is too late to refuse now; but in regard to future reports a certain amount of judgment might be exercised. It would be unwise to pass a motion that no reports whatever be printed, because in many cases the evidence is of great importance, and should be placed on record.
.- The Public Works Committee has definite duties to perform under the Public Works Committee Act. The committee has already given consideration to this matter of expenditure on printing. We saved a considerable sum on the printing of our last annual report, because we did not go over the work done by the committee in past years, but confined the report to the year strictly under review. I remind honorable members that all the evidence submitted by witnesses to the committee is printed, and witnesses are supplied with a copy of that evidence in proof form. The metal from which those proofs are printed is kept intact by the printer, and the report is subsequently printed off that metal. Therefore, no great saving would be effected by refraining from printing the evidence in the committee’s report.
Inquiries into automatic telephone exchanges have been mentioned this afternoon. So many of these have been held in the past, and the evidence in all of them is so similar, that it is possible, I think, to effect some economy, especially in the direction of reducing the amount of evidence taken. The committee should deal only with the financial side of the proposal, the question of site, and the need for the establishment of the exchange. I believe that in future that procedure will be followed. In the inquiry into the proposed federal highway, however, an issue of much greater importance is involved. Honorable members, no doubt, read in the press that the Public Works Committe was inquiring into something which had been already finished, and probably the public, reading those reports, believed it to be true. As a matter of fact, when the Public Works Committee began this inquiry, contracts had been let for the foundations and earthworks, but the question of a permanent sealing coat for the road had not been settled, and that is the most important feature of modern road construction when roads have to bear fast-moving motor traffic. During the course of that inquiry evidence was taken from the best engineers of the Commonwealth, and this evidence will be of great value to municipal and shire engineers. Only recently I received an inquiry from my own electorate for a copy of this evidence. Efforts were made during the course of the inquiry to determine the best material for sealing road surfaces, and it was learned that in the very near future tar may be used for this purpose with just as good effect as bitumen is used to-day. This is of great importance in view of the fact that tar can be made in Australia, whereas bitumen has to be imported. We recognize that the summary of evidence made by the committee is not always the most valuable part of its reports, because technical evidence is frequently given by experts and engineers, and this evidence is of the greatest value to other engineers throughout Australia. We believe that all the evidence given in connexion with the federal highway inquiry should be printed. Economies can be effected in regard to other inquiries, but in this case we should make it possible for the information in the hands of the committee to be availed of by shire and municipal engineers throughout the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 1st May (vide page 1374).
Message reported recommending appropriation for the purposes of an amendment to this bill.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of an amendment to be moved by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs to the Wine Export Bounty Bill, 1930.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
Clause 4 - ( 1 . ) For the purposes of this Act there shall be a Trust Account, known as the Wine Export Encouragement Account, which shall be kept in the books of the Treasury. (4.) The bounty payable under this act shall be payable from moneys standing to the credit of the Trust Account established in pursuance of this section.
– I move -
That after sub-clause 4 the following subclause be inserted - “ (4a.) There shall also be payable from the moneys standing to the credit of the Trust Account the amount by which the drawback payable under the Excise Act 1901-1923 upon spirit used for fortifying Australian wine exported during the period specified in section five of this Act exceeds the amount of drawback which would have been payable thereon at the rates of excise duty in force immediately prior to the thirteenth day of March one thousand nine hundred and thirty.”
This amendment has reference to those matters discussed last week by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) in his second-reading speech on this bill. I then promised that when the bill was in committee the necessary amendments would be introduced, setting out clearly from what fund the drawback would be paid. This amendment will ensure that the portion of the drawback representing the increase in the excise duty of 5s. a gallon will come out of the trust account. The amount of this drawback will be approximately1s.1d. a gallon of wine, in addition to the present drawback of1s. 3d. a gallon which will come out of revenue. The1s.1d. represents the amount of additional duty paid on the fortifying spirit by reason of the 5s. a gallon increase in excise imposed on the 13th March. The total sum of 2s. 4d. a gallon represents the full drawback on each gallon of wine for all the spirit used in fortifying it. The amendment is not controversial, and has been drafted after consultation with the Attorney-General’s Department.
.- I am glad that the Acting Minister has seen fit to accept the advice offered last week, and that he is taking this opportunity of rectifying an omission in the bill as it formerly stood. This amendment to clause 4 will, it appears to me, have the effect of enabling the Government to do what I suggested, namely, to withdraw from the Trust Account the amount of drawback which properly belongs to that particular part of the excise charge. It will safeguard the revenue to the extent of £108,000 per annum if 2,000,000 gallons of wine are exported, and if 3,000,000 gallons are exported the saving will be approximately £162,000. This does not involve going back on the bargainwhich the Government made with representatives of the wine industry, because every penny of the 5s. additional excise will be returned to the industry, part of it in the shape of bounty, and the remainder in the shape of additional drawback. The amount which will be paid out of the trust fund in bounty will represent about 62 per cent. of the total, and the amount paid out in drawback about 38 per cent.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause consequentially amended.
.- Sub-clause 5 of the clause reads -
If the amount standing to the credit of the Trust Account is at any time insufficient to pay any bounty payable under this act, the amount of the deficiency shall be payable into the Trust Account from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly.
Many statutes passed by this Parliament provide that certain payments shall be made out of Consolidated Revenue without an annual appropriation, such as the salaries of judges ofthe High Court and the like. This is necessary in some cases, and in other cases it is convenient. But it is questionable whether it is desirable that we should agree that any deficiency in the trust account created by this act should be paid out of consolidated revenue without a special appropriation. It. is not contemplated that there will be a deficiency; consequently, if one occurs a situation will arise which Parliament should be invited to examine. I suggest that the paragraph be omitted. This would not interfere with the working of the act, but would merely make it necessary for the Government to ask Parliament to make a special appropriation to meet the case. If the clause is passed as drafted, it will mean that Parliament, will not have an opportunity when the annual Estimates are under consideration of dealing with the matter. If the Acting Minister isnot willing to accept my suggestion, I trust that he will explain the reasons which have led him to move to insert the provision in the bill. It seems to me that if there is deficiency in the trust account an amount should be specially appropriatedto meet it. The provision of the bounty will not be affected if this sub-clause is omitted, for that is dealt with in sub-clause 3.
– The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) is both interesting and important. It is, of course, impossible to say whether there will or will not be a deficiency in the trust account. That will depend upon the quantity of wine exported.
– If there is an export of 4,000,000 gallons of wine in any year, there will be a deficiency in the fund of £120,000 in respect to that vear.
– If thereshould be a 4,000,000-gallon export, it is quite true that there may be a deficiency, and if there is it will be met out of Consolidated Revenue. But the amount provided for the purpose will be shown in the supplementary Estimates, and Parliament will have an opportunity of considering it.
– That is just the point. It will not appear in the annual Estimates, andI submit that it. should do so.
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition that any deficiency that may have to be provided out of Consolidated Revenue will appear on the supplementary Estimates. Nothing will be done behind the back of Parliament.
– My point is that unless sub-clause 5 is omitted or amended in some way the amount that may be provided to make up a deficiency in the trust account will not appear in a. specific item in the Estimates.
– The Leader of the Opposition could discuss the subject on any supply bill or in the budget debate.
– The honorable gentleman evidently wants an assurance that any deficiency will be provided for in the general Estimates.
– I want a good deal more than that.
– It is impossible to say what amount, if any, will need to be taken from Consolidated Revenue for the purposes of this sub-clause, but if any amount is taken for that purpose it will appear in the estimates of expenditure.
.- If any stability is to be given to the wine industry through the passing of this bill, there must be some certainty that funds will be available to pay the bounty and also the drawback to which wine exporters may be entitled. If it appears that the arrangements for providing a fund for this purpose are inadequate, the industry will be in a difficult position. In any case it will be some time before a trust fund can be built up. It will be necessary to appropriate some amount to provide a working fund until the excise payments begin to come in. If this initial amount is provided out of Consolidated Revenue the Treasury will be recouped ultimately. Apart from this initial need for Treasury support a further liability may occur later. In certain years our export of wine has been so great that an excise duty of 5s., as provided for in this bill, would not have been sufficient to provide bounty and drawback at the rates now specified. There is considerable difference of opinion as to the quantity of wine that we are likely to export in the next few years. The Australian Viticultural Hand-book states that in 1927 we exported 4,248,000 gallons of wine to England. We know that our exports were considerably swollen that year because wine-makers rushed every possible gallon of wine on to the market in order to obtain bounty at a higher rate than would have been available some little time later. If we were to export, say, 3,100,000 gallons of wine in any one year, it would take practically the whole of the additional 5s. excise payments on the wine consumed in Australia to provide the bounty without the drawback. If the new scheme is as successful as many of us hope it will be we shall probably be exporting more than 3,000,000 gallons of wine annually before the end of the five year period. If it stimulates export until it reaches 4,000,000 gallons, the increased bounty will have completely overcome the difficulties of over-production, and the industry will have less claim upon the Treasurer for assistance. I therefore move the following amendment: -
That at theend of sub-clause 5 the following proviso be added - Provided that the bounty under this net shall not be payable upon more than 4,000,000 gallons of wine exported in any one calendar year.
That amendment, if carried, would have the effect of safeguarding the Treasury from incurring more than a certain loss. The loss on 4,000,000 gallons would depend upon how much wine was consumed in Australia and the amount of excise paid into the trust account, but so far as I can estimate from available figures, the export of 4,000,000 gallons would involve the Treasury in a payment of £120,000. That should be the maximum that the industry could ask for each year. I have placed the figure of 4,000,000 gallons in the amendment, because it represents approximately not only the largest quantity exported in one year, but also the largest estimated quantity for which it is at present necessary to find a market. If that limitation is placed in the bill, it will not only safeguard the Treasury, but will also have some effect in discouraging new planting. Clause 6 provides that the bounty is not payable on wine made from grapes planted after 1928. That provision was inserted to check the rapid expansion which took place when the industry first received generous assistance at the hands of the Commonwealth Government. It would also be some security to the industry to have the taxpayers’ liability clearly defined in the bill. By checking new and indiscriminate planting, the industry will be saved from the danger of reversals of policy such as that which took place a few years ago when the calls for funds with which to pay the old bounty began to alarm the late Treasurer, and led to the sudden reduction of the bounty, which, quite apart from the loss of that assistance, had a most disorganizing effect upon the wine industry as a whole. To-day the industry needs stability even more than it needs financial assistance. It needs to know exactly where it stands, and how long the financial assistance now being given is to last. The amendment is in no way intended to reflect any criticism upon the bill as a whole. This legislation is based on sound lines, but it would be strengthened and safeguarded by the incorporation of the amendment that I have moved.
– I am quite certain that if the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) were consulted he would be only too glad to adopt the proposed amendment because, if passed, it would set a limit of about £120,000 upon the amount to come out of the Consolidated Revenue, after the trust fund had been exhausted. Taking the local consumption of sweet wines at 4,250,000 gallons per annum the payment of 5s. per gallon by way of excise duty into the trust fund would suffice to pay a bounty of ls. 9d. per gallon on about 2,600,000 gallons. The bounty on any wine in excess of that quantity would have to come out of Consolidated Revenue. An export of 3,000,000 gallons would enable a bounty of ls. 6.4d. to be paid instead of ls. 9d., without recourse to the Consolidated Revenue. It would therefore have been much wiser for the Government to fix the bounty at ls. 6d. instead of ls. 9d. Again, if our export is increased to 4,000,000 gallons, as provided for in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), we would be able to pay a bounty of only ls. l.Sd. instead of ls. 9d. from the trust account. In that case a substantial shortage of £120,000 would accrue. I support the amendment, because its main object is to limit the burden on the Treasury.
– An amount is voted in the Estimates each year for each bounty. The appropriation provided for in this bill is really double-barrelled, because it includes the amount to be paid, not only out of Consolidated Revenue, but also out of the trust fund. If the trust fund were not provided in the bill, we could, as in the last bill, easily insert a short clause, making the bounty payable out of Consolidated Revenue. Under the bill the department will, at the beginning of each financial year, be able to examine the trust account, and make an approximate estimate of the amount, if any, it will be necessary to take from Consolidated Revenue in order to pay the bounty, and that amount can be shown in the Estimates. If the fund is overdrawn, there will be an opportunity of discussing the subject when the supplementary Estimates are brought down. A limitation of 4,000,000 gallons, as suggested in the amendment, is not workable, because any quantity exported in excess of that would be outside the limitation of the bounty. If the trust account showed a deficiency, it would, of course, be within the power of the Government to increase the excise duty.
The object of the honorable member for Wakefield is evidently to prevent any further plantings of grapes that would intensify the over-production problem, and the parlous condition of the industry; but let me inform him that steps are now being taken by the Government with a view to attaining the very object of the amendment. The Government is negotiating with the State Governments concerned with a view to the introduction of legislation having as its object the regulation of the planting of further areas with vines. One reason for introducing this measure is the fact that after the war, at least three State Governments settled large numbers of returned soldiers on the land growing grapes for which there was no market, and the chief justification for the payment of a bounty was to remove the surplus production of wine from the Australian market to the London market. If this over-production were allowed to continue, and greatly increased acreages were put under crop, this problem would be intensified, but by cooperating with the States we hope to place the industry on a sound basis. In that way, the object of the amendment moved by the honorable member for
Wakefield will be achieved. I would remind him that there is in this bill a provision which was in the act. It reads -
Provided that no bounty shall be payable in respect of wine that is not shown, to the satisfaction of the Minister, to be the product of areas planted with vines on or before the 31st day of March, 1928.
So far as practicable, the Government will ensure that that provision is observed. I trust that in view of my explanation, the honorable member will withdraw his amendment.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
The rate of bounty payable under this act shall be one shilling and ninepence per gallon :
Provided that, in the case of fortified wine in respect of which bounty has been paid or is payable under the Wine Export Bounty Act 1924-1028, the rate of bounty payable under this act shall be ninepence per gallon:
.- At the second-reading stage,I pointed out that there was a flaw in the bill, it being possible for wine-makers exporting wine to Canada to claim 9d. more than the bounty to which they were entitled. I understand that the first proviso to clause 6 has been designed with the idea of covering the period between the date when the bounty is to commence, that is, the 12th March, and the date when the bill is actually passed. That will be a period of possibly two months, during which the old rate of bounty may be paid on wine exported. The proviso is designed to enable the difference between the old and the new rate of bounty to be paid, so as to make the total payment1s. 9d. a gallon. On the present wording of the clause it would be possible for an exporter of wine to Canada to claim an additional 9d. a gallon with respect to wine on which he had already paid, or was to be paid,1s. 9d. a gallon under the old act. Replying to criticism that I made last week in this connexion, the Minister pointed out that the amount involved would be only about £50 at the most, that only two firms were engaged in exporting to Canada, and that they had intimated that they would not seek to take advantage of this flaw in the bill. It appears to me, however, that we should endeavour to make our legis lation as flawless as possible, and should not put ourselves in the position of having to trust to the honour of certain firms to refrain from taking, advantage of any flaws in it. I, therefore, move-
That the following words be added after the word “gallon,” second occurring-
Provided further that in no case shall the total bounty exceed1s.9d. per gallon.
The amendment, if made, will remedy what is undoubtedly a flaw in the clause, and I hope that the Minister will accept it.
– Only two firms export wine to Canada, and I have received from each a written guarantee that it will not make any claim under this provision. In any case, only the small amount of £50 is involved; consequently the revenues of the Commonwealth are amply safeguarded. But I have no objection to accepting the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) if he will agree to its being amended so as to read -
Provided further that in no case shall the total bounty payable under this or any other act exceed1s. 9d. per gallon.
– That will satisfy me.
Amendment amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 - (1.) No bounty shall be payable unless the Minister is satisfied that -
.- Sometimes purchasers of grapes are not in a position to pay cash on delivery. I wish to place them in the same position that they would occupy were they in a position to pay cash. I, therefore, move -
That in paragraph (a) the following words be added after the word “ amount,” second occurring: -
Provided that if such price or amount is not paid in full on delivery of the grapesby the grower to the purchaser from him, or to some person on behalf of such purchaser, the price or amount may be paid by equal quarterly payments, with interest on unpaid balances outstanding at 6 per centum from the date of such delivery of the grapes to date of payment.
I do not think that this would have the effect - I hope that it would not - of leading all purchasers to pay in quarterly instalments.I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
– I am sorry that I cannot accept the amendment. I consider that without it satisfactory arrangements can be made between the seller and the purchaser of grapes as to the manner in which payments shall be made. This is too dangerous a provision to insert in the bill. It is quite unnecessary, and would make the measure top-heavy and intricate. The clause gives the Minister a discretionary power which is justified, and which should be allowed. It provides that no bountyshall be payable unless the Minister is satisfied that the grower of any grapes used in the production of wine or the fortifying spirit contained in wine in inspect of which the bounty is claimed, has received or will receive for those grapes a price or an amount which, in his opinion, is reasonable. Various methods are employed by the winemaker to meet the special requirements ofthose with whom he has dealings. It would not bo wise to lay down a hard and fast rule in a bill of this character.
Sittingsuspended from6.15 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
.- The amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) would compel the Minister to withhold the bounty from any wine-maker who had not, within twelve months, paid the fixed price for the grapes he had used. At present the fixing of prices for grapes and the date by which the money shall be paid are within the discretion of the Minister. The Acting Minister has assured the committee that every precaution will be taken to ensure fair treatment of the growers. I support his attitude, because I cannot imagine anything more dangerous under present conditions than a rigid provision which would make more difficult the financing of the processing of grapes. The primary need of the grower to-day is some assurance that all his grapes will be purchased. It is very difficult for any firm to arrange additional finance; nearly every honorable member must have had experience of business concerns which can hardly arrange for even the normal finance which they have been accustomed to obtain from various institutions. This year, in order to put the normal quantity of wine on the market, more finance will be needed than was required last year, and all wine-makers may not beable to pay the full fixed price for grapes until the wine has been finally marketed, possibly overseas. In those circumstances, it may be difficult for some of the smaller wineries and co-operative organizations to finance their grape purchases within eighteen months, let alone twelve months. If financial conditions improve it will be competent for the Minister, under the powers conferred by this measure, to insist on cash being paid within twelve months of the receipt of the grapes.I hope the committee will leave this matter in the discretion of the Minister.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 - (5.) Every person who claims the bounty payable ou fortified wine under this Act shall, in making such claims, certify to the Minister the conditions of employment and the rates of wages paid to any labour employed by him.
.- This clause contains six long sub-clauses relating to conditions of employment and rates of wages. I have no objection to a simple provision that a person receiving the bounty must comply with the industrial conditions fixed by the Commonwealth or State Arbitration Court, hut the procedure outlined in the clause is too cumbersome. It provides, amongst other things, that the Minister may make application to the chief judge or a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a declaration of what are fair wages and conditions for labour employed in the manufacture of fortified wine and fortifying spirit, and the production of grapes. The Minister will not have time to attend to these matters, and it will be necessary to set up a staff for the purpose. Why should the Minister have to interfere in industrial matters? Surely those associated with the industry can be trusted to take the initiative to secure fair and reasonable conditions.
– I propose to submit ari amendment which I understand is acceptable to the ActingMinister. The bill protects the manufacturer and exporter by guaranteeing a bounty of ls. 9d. a gallon, and the grape-grower by assuring to him prices fixed by the Government, but it fails to provide for the worker in the vineyards. The majority of the employers are, I believe, decent, and willing to pay a fair wage for a fair day’s work, and my amendment will protect them against unscrupulous employers who might seek to exploit the labour market. I move -
That sub-clause 5 be omitted and the following inserted in lieu thereof: - “ (5.) Every person who claims the bounty payable on fortified wine under this Act shall, in making such claims, furnish to the Minister such evidence as the Minister requires as to the conditions of employment observed, and the rates of wages paid, in respect of any labour employed in the manufacture of the fortified wine on which the bounty is claimed and in the production of grapes, and in the manufacture of fortifying spirit, used in the manufacture of that fortified wine.”
The bounty is payable to the exporter, who possibly may not employ any labour ; he may only buy wine from the makers. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that those who do the work in the vineyards shall have fair wages and conditions.
– Sub-clause 5 is at least practicable because it relates only to the labour employed by the exporter who receives the bounty, whether that labour be employed in the winery, the distillery, or in the vineyard- The amendment seeks to cover not only the labour employed by the receiver of the bounty, but also labour employed by the winemaker, the grower from whom he purchases his grapes, and the distiller of the fortifying spirit. Although the amendment has been moved with the best possible intentions, it is quite impracticable to make the exporter responsible for the conditions of labour employed in vineyards, wineries, and distilleries over which he has no control. This might result in the winemaker refusing to buy grapes if he could not satisfactorily account for the conditions under which they were grown.
– Could he not insist on obtaining a certificate from the grower?
– If he is overloaded with these hampering requirements he may restrict his purchases to the products of certain vineyards whose labour conditions are well known to him.
– I support the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) in his opposition to this amendment, which could not, in my opinion, be satisfactorily operated. If it were carried, its effect would be to compel the wine-makers to police the industrial legislation under which the grape-growers and spiritmakers were employing labour. I do not like to see the committee running the risk of putting something into the bill which might be quite unworkable, and might lead to the perpetration of injustice. If the amendment becomes part of the measure, it would be quite possible for a wine-maker, who had bought grapes at the stipulated price on an understanding that he would be paid the bounty, to have his claim disallowed on the ground of some infringement of industrial regulations by a grape-grower, even though that infringement did not become known until months after the deal was made. No doubt the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) is desirous of serving some good purpose by proposing this amendment, but he must see that it might possibly do more harm than good. As a matter of fact, I have never liked this provision in bounty bills at all. I am not opposed to it on the ground that it seeks to insure the payment of fair wages to employees, but because it duplicates the machinery for the enforcement of wages awards. There arc unions, and union officials whose duty it is to see that fair working conditions are observed; and there is no reason why we should insert provisions in a bounty bill to the same end. So far as I know, no action has ever been taken under a provision of this kind. I cannot see why any distinction should be made between employees working under ordinary awards, and those working in industries subject to bounty payments.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) has been wrongly informed if he believes that the workers in this industry enjoy adequate industrial protection. Such protection is not possible, because the Commonwealth Arbitration Court cannot make a common rule, and the unions are unable to cite every one of the growers. The award under which these workers are operating is worse, in many respects, than the timber-workers award issued by Judge Lukin. Only a little while ago an award was made by Judge Dethridge, compelling employees to notify the employers in writing that they were members of the organization concerned. That does not apply in this case, but it shows how the awards are being manipulated in the interests of the employers. No difficulty should be experienced in operating this provision if it is agreed to. It is only necessary for grape-growers to keep a wages book, which would be signed by employees. It would then be the duty of wine-makers to inspect such books, and satisfy themselves before buying the grapes that labour conditions had been properly observed.
– Does the honorable member desire to turn the Ministry into an industrial tribunal?
– I do not, but workers, such as fruit pickers, are not adequately protected by any industrial legislation to-day, and we should do what we can for them. There are no State tribunals for such workers, because Nationalist governments have taken them away. This industry enjoys no State awards at the present time. Some of the workers have the benefit of a federal award, but where State awards previously applied, to rural industries, they have now been cancelled. The policy of this Government is to protect the workers in an industry at the same time that it confers protection or benefits on the industry itself. I should be loth to support any measure designed to give assistance out of Consolidated Revenue, to an industry if the workers in that industry were not properly protected.
The principle has already been agreed to by past Parliaments, and this is simply an amplification of it. The amendment is in conformity with the policy of our party, and of the Government. Honorable members opposite are trying to conceal their hostility to anything designed for the benefit of the workers by pretending that they are merely averse to the duplication of machinery for the enforcement of awards. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) said that the Labour party had not the courage to stand up to its convictions, but he himself lacks the courage to say outright that he does not wish the interests of the workers to be protected. That, however, is his real reason, for objecting to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones).
.- It has been very interesting to hear the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) condemning the Opposition for supporting the proposals of the Government. Presumably, the present Labour Government has some knowledge of Labour principles, and some conception of Labour policy. The Government, under the guidance of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), who understands Labour principles from beginning to end, drafted this bill. The Opposition is supporting the bill as drafted by the Government, and submitted to the House. Then, if you please, the honorable member for Werriwa rises in his place, and says that an amendment now put forward for the first time by a private member is the only true-blue expression of Labour policy. The honorable member for Werriwa suggests that the Opposition, in supporting the Government’s own measure, has allied itself with all the powers of darkness, and has made itself the declared enemy of the workers. Surely the honorable member has gone a little too far in his enthusiasm for opposing the Opposition. It is generally supposed by many persons that the business of the Opposition is always to oppose the Government. The present Opposition has not adopted that attitude ; it has dealt with all Government proposals on their merits, and has assisted the Government in many instances. The honorable member for Werriwa evidently thinks it to be the function of a supporter of the Government always to oppose the Opposition, even when the Opposition is supporting a government proposal.
Putting aside the entirely irrelevant party material which the honorable member for Werriwa, contrary to his usual practice, has introduced into the debate, let us consider the Government’s proposal on its merits. This proposal, as distinct from that of the honorable member for Indi, follows well established lines in relation to the payment of bounties by the Commonwealth. The clause as it stands in the bill is substantially the same as others which have been adopted by this House on previous occasions. The purpose of the clause is to make a claimant for a bounty responsible for fair wages and conditions! A claimant for a bounty must certify to the Minister as to conditions of employment, and rates of wages paid to any labour employed by him in respect of any period covered by the act as specified by the Minister. I have not gone into the matter beyond 1922, but such a clause is to be found in all the bounty bills passed since that timeSimilar clauses have been in all the bounty measures passed since 1922, and possibly earlier than that. If the amendment of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) is accepted, claimants for the bounty will be made responsible hot only for the wages paid and conditions observed by them, but for the wages and conditions observed in the manufacture of fortified wine, and also in the production of the grapes used for making the fortified spirit used in the wine. Is it worth while to make the claimants responsible for three sets of working conditions ? We have had no evidence that there has been any sweating in this industry. If it could be established that sweating wages had been paid I would agree that there is something to be said for the amendment; but that has not been advanced. The honorable member for Werriwa said that some employers who are not bound by arbitration court awards might pay sweating wages, but I have not heard of anything like that happening.
– The last award made in this industry was for a sweating wage. The judge said that the industry was not able to pay the basic wage.
– I decline to accept the statement that an arbitration court has awarded a sweating wage. When the last inquiry was made the judge looked into every aspect of the industry and made an award which he considered fair and equitable. Does the honorable member suggest that if a court awards a wage below what is considered to be a living wage the Minister should have power to force claimants for the bounty to pay higher wages ?
– That is not suggested.
– If the Minister were given that power it would mean that he would be able to over-ride arbitration awards. If that is proposed the whole matter requires examination from quite a different standpoint. This clause is r”* intended to confer upon the Minister ‘ power to prescribe other than arbitratirates and conditions. It appears to m» that the amendment seeks to make provision for meeting an evil which does not exist. We have had a wine bounty act in force since 1924 and up to the present there has been no complaint that sweating wages have been paid. Honorable members opposite, no doubt, looked into that aspect of the subject when they were in opposition, and if there had been any Sweating they would have brought it under the notice of the Government of the day.
Possibly the mover of the amendment thinks that if the amendment is agreed to it could be made to apply to family labour. This may be advanced as a means of forcing vignerons to pay their children arbitration court wages.
– If they did, the children would pay the money back.
– That is so. It is not worth while trying to deal with the question of family employment as a sort of side line to a bounty bill. It would be quite useless to try by this means to force the farming community to pay arbitration court wages to their children. If the amendment is agreed to the cost of administering this act will be increased unnecessarily and for 110 good result. I therefore ask honorable members to reject the proposal.
. -^-1 have listened with interest to the speeches for and against this amendment; I have also discussed the subject with the honorable member for Indi. The amendment has been drafted by the Parliamentary draftsman, and I have decided to accept it, for I do not think that ii will do any harm and it may do a great deal of good. By inserting it in the bill we shall insure that all sections of the industry will get a fair deal. The clause as it stands does not provide that the Minister may refuse to pay the bounty to persons engaged in the production of grapes who do not pay a fair and reasonable wage. It has to be remembered that the exporter will get the bounty. In many cases he will be the wine-maker; but in some other cases he will buy the wine from the wine-maker who in turn will buy the grapes from the grapegrower. The grape-grower may therefore escape the obligation of paying a fair wage to his workers. I do not think any honorable member would object to the payment of a fair wage to the men engaged in picking the grapes. The Minister has a right to some kind of an assurance that reasonable conditions have been observed in. all branches of the industry. It has been suggested that the Minister may not consider that the current Arbitration Court award for the industry is fair and reasonable, and may prescribe a higher wage. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I shall accept the existing awards as fair and reasonable, for they have been made after hearing evidence from employers and employees. In most instances the activities of the wine making industry are covered by Arbitration Court awards. The workers in South Australia are working under a State award and those in Victoria under ti federal award; the workers of New South Wales have no award at present. It would not be fair to give the wine-makers of New South Wales an advantage over those of the other two States. Some wine exporters have only a small office and a very small staff. lt may even happen that an exporter
I employs only a typist. In such cases it is essential that an assurance should bc given that a fair and reasonable wage has been paid by the wine-maker and the grape grower. The interests of the workers should certainly be safeguarded.
– Does the ActingMinister suggest that sweating wages have been paid in. the past?
– Frequent complaints have been made to that effect.
– Give us the particulars.
– Sweating wages have been paid frequently in the past. Some instances of the kind have been put before us in this House. One exporter, in particular, who has received large sums by way of bounty, is notorious for having in the past refused to pay award rates to his employees. He went further and refused to employ members of unions.
– The bill as it stands covers that. It states “ Labour employed by him “.
– The word “ him “ would include the exporter. The man I have in mind is the wine-maker, who in some instances sells to an exporter who may employ no one except, perhaps, a clerk and a typist. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that the Minister should not have the power to make application to a judge of the Arbitration Court to determine what is a fair and reasonable rate of wage.
– There is no need for it.
– In New South Wales, and also in Queensland, the rural award has been wiped out, and no award is operating in this industry. If the Minister is not satisfied that a fair and reasonable rate of wage is being paid in the industry he will have power, under this legislation, to refer the matter to a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. That is a fair provision, and is contained in other Bounty Acts relating to sulphur, cotton, and power alcohol. Section 10 of the Cotton Bounty Act of 1926 gives the Minister power to make application to the Chief Judge or a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation for a declaration as to what, wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable for labour employed in the manufacture of cotton yarn. I do not see anything wrong in that provision.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has evidently for.gotton that.
– I drew a distinction between the bill and the amendment.
– The bill is in conformity with that provision, but the amendment is not.
– The exporter is the man to whom the bounty will be paid. He is probably only an agent. I want to get at the man from whom the exporter buys wine. The Minister is to be trusted to use this power with discretion, and in die best interests of those engaged in the industry. The amendment reads -
Every person who claims the bounty payable on fort iii ed wine under this act shall, in milking such claims, furnish to the Minister such evidence as the Minister requires as to tin; conditions of employment observed, and the rates of wages paid, in respect of any labour employed in thu manufacture of thu fortified wine on which the bounty is claimed aud in thu production of grapes, and in the manufacture of fortifying spirit used in the manufacture of that fortified wine.
The amendment goes just as far as Clause 11 of the bill, because that clause gives the Minister power to make application to a judge of the Arbitration Court for a declaration as to wages and conditions of employment not only in the manufacture of fortified wine, but also in the production of grapes and in the manufacture of fortifying spirit used in the manufacture of fortified wine.
– Is not that provision quite sufficient?
– No, because the Minister will exercise the power under clause 14 only in special circumstances such its when no award is operating and the rate of pay is not fair and reasonable. An exporter, before he gets the bounty, will have to satisfy the Minister that the wine upon which bounty is paid has been produced by persons who have paid a fair and reasonable rate of wage. That provision will be a deterrent against the employment of sweated labour in the industry. In that case it would bc too late for the Minister to make application to a judge of the Arbitration Court to determine a fair and reasonable rate of wage. Such a declaration would apply only to the future. The responsibility will rest upon the man who receives the bounty to provide whatever evidence the Minister thinks necessary to ensure that a fair and reasonable rate of wage has been paid in the industry. I do not think that it is the wish of honorable members that any section of people engaged in the industry should bc underpaid. If it is a good thing to fix the price to be paid to the grape-grower for his product, why should it not be a good thing to protect the workers in the industry from exploitation ? All that we are asking is that the mau who receives the bounty shall, if required, supply evidence that a reasonable wage has been paid in the manufacture of the wine that he exports.
.- I am greatly pleased that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the Opposition generally have agreed to a Labour principle being incorporated in the legislation now before us, but at the same time I wish that the Minister had stuck to the bill. I question very much the wisdom of inserting in acts of Parliament conditions relating to wages and employment. There are two parties in every parliament, and it. is not wise to place in the hands of any government the power to interfere with the wages and conditions operating in any industry. I fear that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) will be quite unworkable. As I stated in my second-rending speech the bill covers more details than it will be possible for the department to police, particularly in regard to the wages and conditions of employment operating in the grapegrowing industry. In some cases the direct exporter of the wine may make his own wine and even grow his own grapes. Many small fanners, especially in South Australia, grow grapes and some sell up to five loads to the wine-makers. If we place upon the wine-maker the onus of deciding under what conditions those grapes have been grown, we shall inflict a tremendous hardship upon him. It is not wise legislation, and I am sorry that the Minister is not sticking to the bill. I shall not support the amendment.
.- The remarks of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) in respect to the industry in New South Wales have really nothing to do with the amendment, because clause 1 deals with the power of the Minister to apply to the court for an award. The fact is rather overlooked that the dealer is the only person whowill be affected by this amendment. There are two classes concerned, the wine-maker and the dealer. The winemaker is covered by sub-clause 5 as it stands. Therefore the amendment is aimed really at the dealer. A large proportion of the wine which is exported is controlled by persons who neither grow grapes nor make wine. They are purely dealers. They buy and blend the wine, and in that way are of great assistance to the small and unattached wine-makers. It is very necessary to protect those dealers, some of whom are doing a large and reputable business. If they are left unprotected they will go out of business, and the larger wine-makers will obtain a monoply which will be used by them to the disadvantage of the growers. It would be impossible for the dealer to ascertain from those from whom he purchases wine whether all the conditions of the award have been complied with. It is altogether too much to expect a dealer to satisfy himself that not only the small wine-maker, but also the maker of the fortifying spirit used in the wine, has complied with the conditions set out in the amendment. If it should turn out subsequently that either the wine or the spirit-maker have not complied with the conditions, then the dealer who had bought in good faith would be liable to be deprived of the bounty. Such a happening would have a reactionary effect upon the makers, because the dealers would not take the risk of dealing with wine-makers unless their reputation was entirely above suspicion. The awards themselves provide penalties for non-compliance with conditions of labour. In those circumstances I do not think that there is any necessity for the Unworkable proposal of the honorable member for Indi, and I hope that the Minister will stick to the bill.
.- I approach the discussion of a bounty bill with a good deal of trepidation in the presence of the number of honorable members who have had large experience in connexion with legislation such as this. Let me say in the first place that as the committee accepted sub-clause 1 of clause 14 it must, to be consistent, accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones). The purpose of the amendment is to bring sub-clause 5 into conformity with subclause 1. The latter provides that the
Minister may make application to the Arbitration Court for a determination of wages and conditions of employment in respect of persons employed in the manufacture of fortified wine, in the production of grapes, and in the manufacture of fortifying spirit. The amendment proposes to confer upon the Minister the power to call for particulars of the rates of wages paid, and the conditions of labour observed, in all those branches of the industry. In its present form, subclause 5 is not so comprehensive as subclause 1 ; and since the committee has accepted sub-clause 1 it must agree to the amendment. Moreover, as it now stands sub-clause 5 will not enable the principle that has already been adopted in sub-clause 1 to be given effect, because only the claimant for the bounty will be called upon to certify to the Minister, as to the rates of wages paid and the conditions of labour observed. That being so, what would be the use of the power given to the Minister by sub-clause 1, to have determined the rates of wages and conditions of employment paid and observed by persons with whom the applicant for the bounty may deal? It would be farcical to give to the Minister the power to prescribe those rates and conditions, if the certificate that he called for related only to the wages paid and the conditions observed by the applicant for the bounty. When the applicant for the bounty had given his certificate, the matter would be concluded, because apparently the Minister would be bound by the certificate and could not question its accuracy. The institution of proceedings for false information might be a lengthy and tedious process. It is better that power should reside in the Minister to test the accuracy of the certificate supplied, and to probe the matter thoroughly. In the circumstances, I submit that the amendment will make sub-clause 5 entirely consistent with subclause 1, and that it is necessary that it should be agreed to in order to operate the principle that the committee has already adopted by its acceptance of subclause 1.
.- The acceptance by the Minister of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) proves that lie knows more about cotton and peanuts than he does about wine and trade and commerce generally, and that he is prepared to load up the wine industry with all sorts of eye-washing obstructions which he was careful to keep out of the measure relating to the cotton industry, in which he is so much more directly interested. Any person who has visited a large winery and has seen grapes being brought in by hundreds of growers and tipped straight into the crushers, will realize .what a tremendous undertaking it would be to police a provision such as this. The bill, as drafted, gives the Minister power to apply to the court for an award governing any locality, State, or section of the industry, which to-day may not be protected. The honorable gentleman has explained that in South Australia and Victoria, but not in New South Wales, there are awards covering the industry. The policing of awards is best left to the industrial authorities. There is a Minister for Industry, who certainly is as well able to look after these details, as is an overworked Minister for Trade and Customs. If there are any sections of the industry that are not governed by awards to-day, they can be brought under awards of the court, as a result of action taken by the Minister. If the amendment passes this committee, I hope that elsewhere the bill will be restored to its original state. It will then be more equitable and workable ; it will give wage-earners ample protection; and it will not cause any hindrance to the recovery of the wine industry which is the most important thing for the wage earner in the industry as well as for the growers and winemakers.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has stated that no provision such as this has been made in the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill to safeguard the interests of the workers. I refer him to sub-clause 4 of. clause 13 of that measure which reads -
Every person who claims the bounty payable on seed cotton or lint under this act shall undertake to observe any determinations as to the conditions of employment and the rates of wages paid to any labour employed by him, and he shall, if required by the Minister, certify to the Minister as to the conditions of employment and the rates of wages paid to any labour employed by him in respect of any period, covered by this act, which is specified by the Minister.
Under that measure, also, the Minister will have power to seek from a judge or any other Commonwealth authority a determination as to what are fair and reasonable rates of wages and conditions of employment in the industry. Subclause 5 of clause 14 of this bill reads -
Every person who claims the bounty payable on fortified wine under this act shall, in making such claims, certify to the Minister the conditions of employment and the rates of wages paid to any labour employed by him.
– The provisions in the ‘ two measures are identical.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. The man who receives the bounty may have bought the wine from other people. In the cotton industry, negotiations will take place with a board representative of the growers, and the department will thus deal at first hand with the people who receive the bounty, and distribute it among the growers. In this case, however, the man who receives the bounty may employ only one person, and it will be necessary to call upon him to furnish to the Minister a certificate that reasonable rates of wages have been paid to those who have been engaged in the production of the wine. The worker under the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill will be amply safeguarded, and by the acceptance of this amendment a similar safeguard will be afforded in the case of the worker in the wine industry. There can be no objection to safeguarding the interests of the grape-pickers, seeing that the grapegrower is to receive a fixed price for his product and the exporter a bounty on the wine that he exports. No democratic Parliament could refuse to a big section of the people, who are on the bottom strata of society, the right to a fair deal, when the taxpayers are providing the money for a bounty to support the industry. I am surprised that there should be any opposition to the amendment.
.- One point has been overlooked by honorable members generally; that is, that the Federal Arbitration Court is absolutely hobbled, inthat it has no power to make a common rule. I know from bitter experience, gained from a life-long association with the Australian Workers Union, how difficult it is to cover all employers by an award of the Arbitration Court. It took eight or nine months, on one occasion, to bring certain employers in Western Australia within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Where an employer does not employ unionists he is not cited; and if he should be, he can appeal to the court not to include him in its award, because he does not employ any person who is a member of the claimant union. Only recently an appeal from South Australia to the Arbitration Court, against the finding of a magistrate in a claim for wages, succeeded ou the ground that an award cannot be made to apply to persons who are not members of the claimant organization. I should like the Minister to tell mc how it is proposed to stretch the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court so as to make it possible for a judge of that court to proclaim a common rule. It cannot be done. The only way in which the worker can be protected in this case is along the lines proposed by the amendment. If the bounty is withheld, these employers will do the fair thing. The great majority of employers of labour play the game; but there is a section which is a menace to all others. They are out to get the most they can, and to do the least for it. They are represented in this chamber by the freetrade section, who want as much as they can get for as little as they can give. There is only one way to bring them to the scratch, and that is to decline to pay them the bounty unless they do the fair thing by their employees.
.- The amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) appears to be the result of an afterthought by the Minister. Why it should have been moved I cannot understand. Nearly all the bounty acts contain provisions similar to clause 14, and they have been found sufficient to safeguard the men working in the various industries concerned. It would be very difficult for a wine-maker to ascertain whether all the conditions set forth in the amendment had been car ried out. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) said that the growers should keep proper sets of books which would furnish evidence of the wages paid and the hours worked by their employees. If the honorable member were engaged in growing grapes he would have very little time to keep a set of books for the purposes of this legislation. The industry is carried on by small families and farmers working in cooperation and insistence upon these conditions would unnecessarily complicate their work.
– The honorable member does not think we shall interfere with a farmer who is employing his own sons?
– This amendment will give power to do that, and the law may not always be administered by a sensible Minister. The Government would be well advised to abandon the amendment and rely on the clause as drafted, which has been found sufficient to protect the workers in other bountyfed industries.
– This Parliament has already paid in bounties £1,800,000 to the wine industry, and I am surprised that honorable members should be quibbling over the protection of the workers. If we are generous enough to assist the industry by means of a bounty, it is our duty to see that the workers employed by those who receive this assistance are fairly protected.
– Would the honorable member insert in the bill a provision that the grape-growers should receive the basic wage?
– I would insert a provision in every bounty bill that every man who produces wealth shall receive the basic wage. I hope that the Minister will adhere to the amendment. The division will show who are the friends of the workers.
.- I do not claim to be an authority on the wine industry, but those who have Ultimate knowledge of it are unanimous in opposing the. amendment. I suppose the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) is as anxious as any of his colleagues to protect the workers, but he, like honorable members on this side of the chamber, is against the proposal of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones). The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) referred to the inability of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to make a common rule, and the need for a provision of this character to prevent the exploitation of the workers by unscrupulous employers. I- remind the honorable member that certain non-unionists employed under wages board determinations in Victoria are receiving higher rates of wages than those awarded by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That is so in the metal working industry. Judge Beeby has made a new award which makes slight alterations by way of increases and reductions, and the quarterly adjustment in accordance with the cost of living has reduced the basic wage. In consequence of the ruling of the High Court that awards of the Arbitration Court apply only to unionists, nonunionists will receive between 4’s. and 5s. a week more than their fellow-workers who are governed by the award. What is the use of further government interference with industry by embarassing provisions such as that proposed by the honorable member for Indi? We are all conscious of the depression through which Australia is passing, and the statement of Mr. Bruce that the cost of production must come down is very pertinent to the existing condition.;. Labour members misrepresented that as a proposal to reduce wages, and on that electioneering cry were returned to power. When I spoke on the Arbitration Bill in the last Parliament I said that wages might come down, not because of, any action on the part of the employers, but because of the pressure of economic clr.sumstances The people of Australia are commencing to realize that wages cannot be entirely based on the cost of living; they must be governed to some extent by the money circulating in an industry. We cannot take more out of an industry than it produces. Honorable members opposite have told us that the wine industry has been experiencing difficult times ; and yet they are trying by restrictive provisions to embarrass further those who are engaged in it. Many returned soldiers have been put on the land by various governments to grow grapes for the wine industry. They have experienced hardships, and we should embarrass them as little as possible. The amendment should be withdrawn so that the winemakers may have a chance to conduct their industry profitably.
.- In view of the wide scope of the inquiry which the Minister may make in regard to the conditions of labour under which grapes, fortifying spirit, and fortified wine, are produced, and his all-embracing authority to decide whether the wages and conditions are fair, I ask the honorable gentleman in charge of the bill whether he will undertake to insure that the growers shall receive at least the basic wage.
– I have no desire to prevent the workers from receiving adequate remuneration for their services; but the provisions of the bill do not protect them to any extent. The Minister is left to decide what is fair and reasonable remuneration for those engaged in the industry. Why does not the bill definitely provide that they shall be paid the basie wage?
– I have stated that I shall accept the award rates, and in two of the three States they are already operating.
– The honorable gentleman appears to have overlooked the fact that, in New South Wales and Queensland, no arbitration award applies to casual labour in the wine industry, and the decision as to what are fair and reasonable wages and conditions will be left to the Minister. He should not have that discretion. Every trader should be as free as possible of interference by persons outside his industry. Our legislation gives too much power to the Minister, the Taxation Commissioner, or some other government official to decide what men shall do. We are too ready to make Ministers and officials partners in other people’s business. Half the commercial enterprises in the metropolitan cities cannot be carried on without consultation with a sleeping partner in the person of the Commissioner of Taxation. I object to the indefiniteness of the bill. The worker is entitled to fair and reasonable conditions, especially in view of the fact that the Commonwealth has paid £1,300,000 to the industry by way of bounty. I appreciate the view of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) that in a complicated and difficult industry like wine-making we shall considerably hamper the man on the land, unaccustomed as he is to business methods and bookkeeping, by imposing upon him too many restrictions. In New South Wales and Queensland where no arbitration awards govern this industry, it will be competent for a Minister to withhold payment of the bounty unless he personally is satisfied with the conditions prevailing in every phase of the industry, from the growing of the grapes to the production of the wine. The bounty, of course, is provided by the consumer, but no one appears to be in the least concerned about him. He is at the base of the pyramid, but the only right he possesses is the right to pay. Wine is far too dear in Australia, and one effect of this increase in the bounty will be to make it dearer still. For a small bottle of porphyry, sauterne or hock one has to pay 2s. 6d. or 2s. 9d., and give something more to the man who brings it in. Now it is proposed to make another increase in the bounty, an increase which, however small, may prove to be the straw which breaks the camel’s back. The consumption of light wines, already too small, will be still further reduced.
– This will not affect light wines, only sweet wines.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Anyway, it will have the effect of increasing the price of wine which is already too dear. An industry which has received £1,250,000 in the form of bounties from the Commonwealth Government should be able to furnish the public with a good article at a more reasonable price.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones). When speaking on this subject the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) took exception to the statement of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court could not protect rural workers because it had no power to make a common rule. The honorable member for Balaclava said that non-unionists working under conditions laid down by wages boards were earning more than unionists working under awards of the Federal Arbitration Court. That is one of those half-truths deliberately intended to deceive honorable members of this House.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– Very well, I withdraw it. In the metal trade the position in regard to the Arbitration Court and wages boards is this : Under the Arbitration Court award employees have two alternatives before them. They may be engaged on a weekly basis at a fixed wage, or they may sign on for piece work at a rate which usually returns a higher wage than the weekly rate, and which will be higher than would be obtained under the wages board determination. Under the Arbitration Court award an employee must receive a full day’s wages once he begins work even though he does not work a whole day, but under the wages board determination it is competent for an employer to bring an employee on to the job, work him for one or two hours, and then send him home, and pay him only for the time actually worked. Under the Arbitration Court award an employer must pay his employees a full week’s wages even though a holiday occurs during the week, but under the Factories and Shops Act, unless the time wages clause operates, an employee is paid only for the time worked, computed on an hourly basis, whether or not it has been sufficient to enable him to earn the minimum wage for the week. It is evident, therefore, that upon a fair comparison of the two systems, the advantage, from the point of view of the employee, lies with the Arbitration Court. It is only reasonable that the Minister should have the right to inquire whether reasonable labour conditions are being observed before he agrees to pay a bounty in respect of an industry receiving government assistance. In the industry we are now considering the Minister would have power, before sanctioning the payment of a bounty on wine intended to be exported, to order a grower to pay his employees a proper wage. Surely if this country is to commit itself to the payment of a bounty on exported wine, Parliament should have the right to dictate the terms and conditions under which persons in that industry are employed.
– They are already safeguarded.
– They are not safeguarded, and the honorable member knows it.
– They have a federal award.
– The federal award does not protect the workers in this industry, unless the employers for whom they are working are cited individually as parties to the award, and the employees themselves are members of the organization referred to in the award. It is surely proper that the Government, having taken steps to ensure that the growers shall receive a profitable price for their grapes, and that the wine exporter shall receive an adequate return, should also take steps to ensure that persons employed in the industry shall not be exploited. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill), said that there was already too much Government interference with business, but he does not protest against interference when it takes the form of helping the growers or manufacturers. It is only wrong when the Government seeks to protect the workers.
– I said that I wanted to see a provision for their protection inserted in the bill, instead of leaving the matter in the hands of the Minister.
– Well, we are putting it into the bill now. The honorable member for Warringah protests that he wants to see the workers protected, but in the same breath he condemns Government interference with business. How can we ensure that the workers shall be protected unless some one is appointed whose responsibility it is to attend to the matter? I hope the committee will agree to this amendment in spite of the opposition which has come from the other side of the House.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause furtheramended consequentially, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 15 agreed to.
A return setting forth -
the names of all persons to whom bounties are paid under this act;
the amounts of all such bounties, and
such other particulars as are prescribed, shall be prepared in the month of July in each year, and shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within thirty days after its preparation if the Parliament is then sitting, and, if not, then within thirty days after the next meeting thereof.
.- This clause is in substantially the same form as similar provisions that appear in other bounty acts; but the bounty provided for in this measure is different from ordinary bounties, inasmuch as bounties are usually provided out of Consolidated Revenue, whereas in this case a special trust fund is being established out of which the bounty will be paid. It is important therefore that the annual returns to be laid before Parliament shall contain certain information not specifically provided for in this clause. I therefore move -
That after paragraph (b) the following be inserted - “(c) the amount standing to the credit of the Trust Account constituted under this act;
As the clause is drafted, it is only necessary to set forth the names of the persons to whom bounties are paid, and the amounts of such bounties. It seems to me that we are entitled to know also, each year, the amount standing to the credit of the trust fund. It would not be difficult to obtain this information, for it would be known to the Treasury, which will keep the account. This information will be of interest to all who are engaged in the industry. Sub-clause 5 of clause 4 provides that if the amount standing to the credit of the trust account is at any time insufficient to pay the bounty the deficiency shall be provided out of Consolidated Revenue. We have the right therefore to know what amounts are provided from time to time out of revenue. Those figures will be easily obtainable from the Treasury. It is provided in sub-clause 6 of clause 4 that any surplus in the trust account, after the claims for bounties and drawback have been met, may “ be applied in the prescribed manner in the marketing overseas and the encouragement of the export of Australian wines.” I ask that provision shall be made to include in the annual returns a statement showing the precise purposes to which any such surplus shall have been applied, and the amounts applied to each of such purposes. This information also will be easily available. I desire the present provision “(c) such other particulars as are prescribed “ to be retained. My amendment will not entail any real additional work, and will ensure that useful and, in fact, necessary information will be made available to the public.
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia- Acting Minister for Trade and Customs) [9.55]. - The Government has no objection to supplying the fullest possible information in regard to the trust account. I had intended to provide by regulation for the supplying of the information desired by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), but I am prepared to accept his amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 17 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- This afternoon the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), in the course of his remarks, impugned the veracity of certain statements circulated by the Country party. The honorable member looked hard at me as though he regarded me as being responsible for the statements. I had no chance of dealing with the matter after he spoke, and so am taking this opportunity of doing so. I took the trouble to refer to the Hansard in which the remarks of the honorable mem ber, to which objection was taken, were reported. I found that the official report compared exactly with the report published in the Country party’s Bulletin. The words attributed to the honorable member, which appeared in the Bulletin were as follow : -
I know now that many farmers spend a good portion of their time sitting down; some of them merely sit and watch their crops growing. In that district one cannot get into a showground unless he starts early, because of the multitude of motor cars which clutter the ground. There are no backboard buggies now, or, if there are, they are among the exhibits; there are not even Chevrolets. Each fanner now aspires to aRolls-Royce or a Sunbeam. Farming is now comparatively simple because, with the aid of superphosphates, farmers are getting from ten to twelve times more out of their land than they did before scientific methods came to their aid.
The quotation was taken from page 6078 of Hansard, Vol. 119. If there is any blame attachable to anybody, it appears to me that the honorable member is responsible for it. He was detailing a conversation he had had with a farmer who had an impediment in his speech. The fact that the conversation had concluded is shown by inverted commas. The honorable member then proceeded to make the following comment: -
I know now that many farmers spend a good portion of their time sitting down; some of them merely sit and watch their crops growing. One cannot get into a showground unless he starts early because of the multitude of motor ears which clutter the ground. There are no buckboard buggies now, or if there are, they are among the exhibits. They are not even Chevrolets. Each farmer now aspires to aRolls-Royce or a Sunbeam. Farming is comparatively simple, because, with the aid of superphosphates, farmers are getting from ten to twelve times more out of their land than they did before scientific methods came to their aid.
– What is the date of that?
– -The 13th June, 1928. I raise this question now because the honorable member in his speechthis afternoon reiterated the charge that the statement made was not in accordance with his statement in Hansard, otherwise I would not have resurrected this corpse from the grave and exposed it to view.
– I have no objection to the Leader of the Country Party correcting his statement, because I am not afraid of hearing my remarks quoted against me. He will realize that this afternoon I referred to thepublic press. I did not know of the existence of the brochure issued by the Country party. On the 20th MarchI raised this question in this House, and I pointed out that I had received from Western Australia and Queensland newspapers containing a paragraph setting out various remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) and myself. What that press said was -
Here are the views of Mr. Yates, M.H.R. for Adelaide, on practical farming - “ I know now that many farmers spend a good portion of their time sitting down. Fanning is comparatively simple.”
If Mr. Yates really meant what he said, he mustbe superlatively simple.
This afternoon I referred, not to the official organ of the Country party, but to the country press.
– Surely the honorable member does not impute wrong motives to the Country party?
– I withdraw any imputation against the Country party itself, but not against the Country party press, for distorting my statement, and then suggesting that I must be superlatively simple.
– The honorable member’s remarks were not distorted.
– Even those who do not farm can see a hole through a ladder, and some day we shall ascertain the amount of work that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) puts in on his farm. He reaps, he garners, he banks, and he yelps the loudest when we ask Australia to help itself.
Mr.JONES (Indi) [10.6]. - I wish to refer briefly to some unsought publicity that came my way in last evening’s Melbourne Herald as a result of a letter writtenby me to Mr. Joyce, the State secretary of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. The press paragraph was to the effect that I had given an assurance to the State executive of the league that I would press the Prime Minister for a withdrawal of the Commonwealth Government’s decision to abolish absolute preference to returned soldiers on the Commonwealth Government works. I did send a telegram to the Prime Minister suggesting the serious re consideration of the question of preference to returned soldiers, and I make no apology for having done so. The Government subsequently saw fit to alter its policy, and I am very pleased with the decision arrived at; but if appearances betray feelings I suggest that some of those who spoke from the Opposition side this afternoon felt considerably annoyed with the Government’s decision.
– It is not in order for the honorable member at this juncture to review a previous debate.
– Before reading my letter to Mr. Joyce, I shall quote the Herald of the 2nd May. In reporting the speech of the honorable member for Brisbane (Colonel Cameron), it said -
Personally, I have always urged the returned men to become unionists.
The Age of the 3rd May reported the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) as follows: -
The bulk of the returned men were unionists, and he himself had advised every soldier to become a unionist.
My letter to Mr. Joyce, upon which this unsought publicity was given, reads -
In reply to your telegram which awaited me on arrival home this evening I have suggested to the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) the serious reconsideration of the question of preference to returned soldiers. At the same time I would like to see the league follow the advice of both Colonel Cameron and Mr. Hughes, and urge returned men to become unionists, for the unionists will have to fight, not only to maintain the workers’ present standard of living, but also to curtail a practice all too common in vogue to-day of preference to foreigners.
-i rise to order ! When I spoke just now I did not seek to re-open the debate on the question of preference to returned soldiers, although I was previously shut out from the discussion this afternoon. I wish to know whether the honorable member for Indi is in order in making reference to that subject and re-opening the whole question.
– I have warned the honorable member for Indi that he may not review the debate which took place earlier in the sitting. At present he is making a personal explanation in respect of certain references to him which have appeared in the press. He has intimated that the letter that he sent to Mr. Joyce was the basis of these. I shall certainly call him to order if he attempts to re-open the earlier debate. I shall not allow any honorable member to contravene the rules of debate or disregard the proper procedure of the House.
– My letter continues -
During the last election campaign I never before saw so many Australian men wearing the returned soldier’s badge tramping the roads looking for work, whilst at the sama time working on those roads were numbers of foreigners.
.- 1 rise to refer to the necessity for making some provision for the housing of the unemployed in New South Wales. The Commonwealth Government is now considering a proposal to allow some military material, such as tents and other equipment, belonging to the Defence Department to be used for this purpose, and I understand that some finality has now been reached. According to the statement of the Minister for Defence last week the proposal is that the State Government should be responsible for the policing of the material and its return to the Defence Department. I wish to bring under the notice of the Government the position at Port Kembla. I shall not go into the details of the distress there because a similar position unfortunately exists in most of the large cities of Australia. Last week-end I was at the South Coast, and I saw there persons actually scraping holes in the sand and covering them with pieces of wood for sleeping purposes. There are dozens of such cases. In addition many families were camping in the bush. The municipal council at Port Kembla is prepared to take the responsibility of policing and returning any equipment supplied to it by the Defence Department. There is a good dry area at Port Kembla where the tents can be erected. The members of the citizens’ committee will do everything in their power to assist the unfortunate unemployed to carry on through the winter months. The council is prepared to provide proper sanitation and water conveniences. The closing down of the iron and steel works has thrown out of employment a large number of men who have no friends on the South Coast. They came originally from distant parts and now have no homes to which they can return. I ask the Govern ment to give favorable consideration to the request of the municipal council of Port Kembla.
– I was certainly interested in the remarks of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) in regard to misstatements alleged to have been made in the Country party press. I should be glad to know whether that party is responsible for other publications in the country press of Australia. I understand that there is a weekly circular sent from Canberra by a representative of the Country party to all the country newspapers. Any large metropolitan newspaper would refuse to publish most of the information contained in that circular. No party with any sense of honour or decency would deliberately allow its representative to communicate to the country newspapers halftruths and distortions about the Labour Government and party, which must really stir every honorable member to the very heart. I am satisfied that such a party would not allow to go out, officially at any rate, the false statements that are constantly being made in country newspapers, and that are issued by some person who officially acts for the Country party.
– What are these false statements?
– The weekly circular that goes out, professedly for the Country party, is full of false statements.
– That is not true.
– I did not know that the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) intended to raise this matter to-night. I shall take an opportunity at a later stage to read to the House some of the statements to which I have referred. I believe that both the right honorable member for Cowper and the House generally will appreciate how much damage they are doing to an honorable and decent party such as the Country party. I am sure that that party will not father such vile concoctions and such absolute falsehoods.
– I again ask whether the honorable member is in order?
– I ask the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) not to impugn the honour of any party, or of any honorable member of this House. Does he do that?
– I have not said anything offensive to either the Country party or any member of it. If this is an attempt to suppress me, by raising points of order, I shall know how to protect myself.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be prevented from exercising the rights that he is privileged to enjoy. I shall see that the protection that he receives is as great as that which is accorded to any honorable member of this House. The honorable member may now proceed with his speech, if he desires to do so.
– I would not make a mis-statement to either you, sir, or to this House. You may not have heard the words that I used; but if to-morrow you will read carefully the Hansard report of what I have said, you will find that I have used no words that can be regarded as offensive to either the Country party or any member of it. My references have been to the vile creature outside of this House who, apparently, is employed by this honorable and decent party. I am sure that when that party realizes the nature of the material that he is supplying to country newspapers, it will immediately repudiate him. In saying that I am not saying anything against either the honour or the decency of the Country party, but rather showing how sensitive it is of its honour and decency. The right honorable member for Cowper holds such a position in this House and this country that I am confident he will be the first to repudiate the utterly distorted and lying statements that are sent to the country press in my constituency. I know that as soon as I furnish him with proof that my charges are well based, he will dismiss this vile person who uses his pen to slander the Labour party and its members. I have such confidence in the high integrity of the Country party and its leaders that I know that when these statements are placed before them they will see that this man is no longer employed to slander me and the members of my party. I shall see that this matter is brought forward on a future occasion, of which the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) will be given due notice. He will then have the opportunity to repudiate, if he should so de sire, the words that have been written, and also to do the right thing towards this creature who uses his pen to disseminate lies and gall.
.- On different occasions I have asked questions in relation to retrenchment in the Defence Department, but so far the only answer that I have received is that a general statement of policy will be made at some future date. Now that the Government has declared itself in the matter of preference to returned soldiers, will the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) hasten his decision in this matter?
One of the questions that I have asked relates to the rumoured retrenchment of 200 sergeant-majors in the Australian Instructional Corps. I sought to ascertain whether they could not replace clerical men in the Defence Department, who could be transferred to other Government departments. I also sought information respecting from forty to sixty naval officers whom it is believed the Government intends to dismiss. Many of those officers are graduates of the Jervis Bay Naval College, of which we are justly proud, and some rank as high as Lieutenant-Commander. They have hanging over them the fear that at any time they will be dismissed. I have, therefore, asked whether they will be given compensation equal to one month’s pay for’ every year of service, as was done in the case of officers who were retrenched in 1921. These questions have not been answered. I think it is only fair to this fine body of men, most of whom are service men, that this longdeferred statement be made without delay, and I hope that the Government will adhere to the principle which to-day it said it intended to observe, by keeping these men in employment in preference to non-returned soldiers.
.- I agree to some extent with the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), and trust that when there is any retrenchment as many as possible of the Instructional Corps will be retained, particularly those men who went abroad. If there are to be any dismissals, I hope that those affected will be the graduates of Duntroon College, who, to-day, hold in the army a rank superior to that held by men who have had actual experience of war. Men, who on the battlefield cose to the rank of major, have been reduced to the rank of sergeant-major, and to-day have to salute the latest recruit from Duntroon College, who is their superior so far as rank and pay are con.cerned I trust that every consideration will be given to the men who are doing the real work in the army to-day. In the event of war we shall have to rely upon our experienced sergeant-majors; therefore they are the men who should be given every consideration.
’ 10.25]. - -For some days the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) lias been making representations to the Defence Department on the subject of shelter for the. unemployed. We have also been receiving requests from other honorable members, as well as from State Premiers. I am writing to the State Premiers to-morrow, on behalf of the Government, giving an outline of what we can do at the present time.
The Commonwealth Government is prepared to assist the State Governments in dealing with unemployment, so far as it can do so, by the loan of equipment and stores under certain conditions. The State Governments will have to accept responsibility for the return in good order and condition of all equipment, &c, loaned, and for the replacement of articles that may be lost or damaged. Camp equipment, kettles, trestles, and cooking utensils will be made available. There is only a limited number of tents that can be loaned, and in any case tents would not be suitable for the housing of unemployed in the winter-time, as great damage involving heavy expenditure would result if they were generally loaned. In special circumstances, such as those obtaining at Port Kembla, where no other shelter is available, tents may be provided. It is the desire of the Government to place whatever equipment it has under the control of the State Governments. Where the State Governments cannot supervise its distribution and return we shall give consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), that the local councils should accept the responsibility. Experience has shown that drill-halls are unsuitable for the housing of unemployed ; they lack the necessary sanitary and ablution conveniences, and most of them are situated in closely-settled areas, generally right on the streets, and arc without proper sitting or recreational facilities. There are, however, some drill-halls in outlying places, and those which are not leased or in use will bc made available through the State or municipal authorities. The departmental officers have advised the Government that agricultural showgrounds in the Various cities and towns are most suitable for the housing of unemployed, and can provide very decent accommodation with all sanitary conveniences. One of the requests made is that the Government shall provide blankets. Only a limited number can be made available, but those will be issued free to the State or municipal authorities for distribution to those who require them. In regard to clothing, the Government of the Commonwealth can offer some relief from surplus stocks in the Defence Department. There are in the ordnance stores in the various States 10,300 greatcoats, 40,800 jackets, and 11,500 pairs of boots, most of which will require repairing before issue. The value of these in their present condition is approximately £33,000. Fortunately, this clothing is distributed throughout the States in almost the correct ratio to population. The Defence Department objects to the issue of khaki clothing; therefore, the jackets will be dyed blue by the Commonwealth, free of cost to the States. The Government suggests that each State Government should appoint a central authority to deal directly with the base military commandant in each State in regard to taking over all equipment and arranging for its distribution and subsequent return and adjustments. In special circumstances tents will be provided, but the number available is very limited. The drill-halls that will be available in suitable localities also are few. I shall write to-morrow to the Premiers giving detailed information regarding what the Commonwealth Government is prepared to do, and I suggest that honorable members should communicate with the State authorities. Already I have received letters asking for assistance in this form from the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia.
– Will the people of Port Kembla hare to apply to the State Government?
– The Commonwealth Government will prefer to hold the State Governments responsible for the distribution and collection of material, but where they cannot supervise the work, we shall deal with the local authorities.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 May 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300507_reps_12_124/>.