6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to announce the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General assenting to a Bill, but before reading it I desire to make a statement in consequence of a point which was raised the last time a message from the Governor-General was received here by the Minister for Defence in his capacity of Leader of the Senate. The message on that occasion was handed to me direct by the Clerk, and the Leader of the Senate called attention to the fact that that course waa. not in accordance with the practice, these messages being generally handed to the President by the Minister of the Crown who was in charge of the business- for the time being. The matter came, to me as a surprise, because. I had never considered it before. I did not know who had originally received the messages. . I always assumed that they had been intrusted to the Minister in charge of the business by the GovernorGeneral for presentation to the Senate. And I always considered that it was no business- of mine, or even of the Senate, what channel the GovernorGeneral chose to use as a medium of communication with this branch of the Legislature. However, the matter having been raised, I inquired into what is the practice. I find that no precedent can be obtained from the British practice, as all Bills there are assented to openly in the House of Lords by Commissioners authorized for the purpose, or, on some rare occasions, by the Sovereign in person. The practice in the Australian States seems to vary as to both the method of presenting the Bills . and the manner in which the assent is notified. In more than one State the aide-de-camp to the Governor attends in the chamber, and presents to the Speaker a message from the Governor notifying the Royal assent. In some States the entry in the journals shows that the message notifying assent is presented through a Minister. In some States the Bills are presented to the Governor by the Clerk of . the Parliaments, and,’ although it is not the practice, that is’ the procedure provided by the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives. In other States the President or Speaker presents the Bills. Bills passed by the Commonwealth Parliament are presented either by the President or by the Speaker, according to the House in which they were initiated. The official secretary to the GovernorGeneral forwards to the Clerk of each’ House His Excellency’s message intimating that he has given the Royal assent. In the House of Representatives the Clerk ‘hands the message direct to the Speaker. . On the. other hand, messages recommending appropriation are, with rare exceptions, receivedl by the Clerk through the Minister and handed to the Speaker. That, so far as I have been able to ascertain, is the practice in other Parliaments. The practice laid down by our
Standing Orders is set out in standing orders 372, 373, 374, 375, and 376. I need not weary the Senate by reading these standing orders. The official way in which it should be done is that the messenger from the Governor-General should convey the message to the Bar of the Senate, that the message should be received there by the Clerk,- and that it should by him be handed direct to the President, who would immediately read it to the Senate. However, I suppose to save time, and to get rid, as far as possible, of tedious’ formalities, the Governor-General adopts anothersystem, which seems to be in accordance . with common sense, and that is that the official Secretary forwards the Governor-General’s message direct to the Clerk. Personally, I see no reason why a Minister of the Crown should ‘intervene between the Clerk and . the President of the Senate. It appears to me that when a communication is addressed to the Clerk officially for the Senate, it is his duty to hand it to the chief officer of the Senate, and that it is the business of the chief officer to communicate it to the Senate. For that reason, I propose, in future, to follow the practice which was followed on the last occasion, and which is to be followed on this occasion; and to adhere to the practice unless otherwise directed by the Senate by specific resolution. The Clerk, when he receives a message, will hand it to me, whereupon I will at once communicate it to the Senate.
– I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Thursday next.
My reason for taking this course is that the arrangements for an amalgamation between the Liberal and ‘ the National parties have been arrived at. I ask the Senate to adjourn until Thursday next. A statement of all matters, including the policy, will be made on that date.
– Can you tell us the names of the Ministers ?
– On that date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Yesterday I handed to you, sir, a motionwhich was ruled out of order. To-day I submitted to you a somewhat similar motion, which, I feel certain, had it been called on, would have been considered perfectly in order. The motion was for the purpose of calling public attention to the question of unemployment, and the dire distress which exists at the present time in consequence, not only within the metropolitan area, hut throughout the State of Victoria. Honorable senators, probably, will avail themselves of the opportunity of dealing with th© unemployed question as affecting their respective States. If they follow me - and I hope that they will - I trust that the tale they will tell in respect to the condition of the workers in the other five States of the Union will not be so sad as that which applies to Victoria. The other night, on the motion for adjournment, ‘ I called attention to this matter, but the Government were apparently so much concerned and worried about holding on to their own jobs that they could not, under those trying circumstances, be expected to give any time or consideration to the question of finding jobs for unfortunate men who have been seeking them for months and months in,at least, tha metropolitan area of Melbourne! There is not a union connected with the Trades Hall of Melbourne - an institution with which I and other members of our party have been connected for many long years - which has not a larger number of unemployed men on its lists than it has had at any other period, so far as I can remember. That particularly applies to men in the building and allied trades. It is not a question affecting a few, but thousands of men. Some of the unemployed have been outspoken in their condemnation of’ the way in which things have been mismanaged, not only in the Commonwealth, but in the States, municipalities, and shires. I suppose that we may now safely hold an inquest upon some of those who filled positions in the last Hughes Government, as they have probably lost such positions for life. One has only to go round this building to note the worried expressions on their, faces because they have lost their jobs. Although’ they still retain a safe parliamentary job they have a more worried look than have the poor fellows outside who have no jobs at all, and do not know where to find one. Some of these men seem to be absolutely indifferent to the sufferings of men, women, and children in different parts of Australia. The building trade is almost at a standstill in Melbourne. According to those competent to express an opinion, it is in a worse condition to-day than it has been in for the last thirty odd years. As I said the other night, there are from 1,000 to 1,400 carpenters alone out of work, and when the carpenter is out of work, so is the bricklayer, the plasterer, the painter, and a ‘hundred and one others. In my own line, the printing line, and in almost every sphere of industry the condition of things to-day is very bad, and unless the Government can be awakened to a sense of their responsibility it must become worse, and the distress that exists must be intensified. Resolutions have been passed by organizations of various trades, and those who are in charge of the unemployed have so far been able to stay their hands. We must stand for constitutional rights, but we have our duties to perform, and we should always remember that hungry men are angry men.
– So should we be in the circumstances.
– I agree with the honorable senator. I hold with the late Cardinal Manning that a starving man has a right to his neighbour’s bread. There is no earthly reason why any man, woman, or child in this Commonwealth should be in want of sustenance, and yet there are many who are in want. If rumour be correct, Mr. Poynton is no longer Treasurer of the Commonwealth, but when the newspapers were thundering forth every day that all non-productive works should be stopped in every part of the- Commonwealth, and that seemed to be a popular cry, the Government yielded to that cry of newspaperdom, and the Treasurer said that it was anticipated that a saving of £740,000 would be made by not proceeding with certain works for which provision had been made. We know that big works undertaken by the Commonwealth are nearing completion. Iti is said that the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway will be open for traffic by the end of the year, and that it may be completed by the end of June. What will that mean ? It will mean that the army of the unemployed will be added to by many hundreds. What will it mean when a number of other works are completed? When representatives of the unemployed waited recently upon the Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes told them that there was no money available for public works. Is Australia insolvent? We boast that we have unlimited resources, and I ask whether Australia is so poor a country that a sufficient amount of money cannot be raised to proceed with’ necessary works, which, though they may not be reproductive to-day, will be reproductive in the years to come. I say that we can never make progress in Australia unless we proceed on lines different from those which we have followed in the past.
– Hear, hear! Instead of cramming people into Melbourne and Sydney and other big cities we should send them into the country.
– I agree with the statement that most of the big cities of Australia are overcrowded.
– Owing to the rotten policy which the honorable senator has always favoured.
– No, I have never been a party to the overcrowding of any city or town. I believe in open spaces for the people, and not in the congestion of the big cities.
– There is plenty of room in Australia, but the people will not leave the pavements.
– I am surprised and pained to hear that statement from a member of our party. He says that the people will not leave the pavements. My God, sir, many of these men who are now unemployed have walked until they have not a boot to their feet in search of work for months and months past. If Senator Stewart thinks that these men will not leave the pavements let him accompany some of them morning after morning in their hopeless search for work.
– But they will not, leave Melbourne.
– They will leave Melbourne; but things are as bad in certain lines in the country as they are in the metropolitan area.
– A thousand have just offered to go to Great Britain.
– The members of the deputation who waited the other day upon’ the Prime Minister said to him, “ If you will not do anything for us, will you permit us to leave Australia?” The Prime Minister said in reply that no one of military age would be allowed to leave Australia. I think that that remark was altogether uncalled for in view of the fact that it was decided on the 28th October that there should be no conscription of the manhood of Australia. Every man of military age to-day in Australia has a right to be considered a free man. Instead of that, the Prime Minister say_s that even if jobs are available outside Australia, no man of military age should be allowed to leave Australia. Therefore men have ito choose between economic conscription and starvation. But what is the position of the men who have passed the military age ? Many df them have sons and relatives at the front. Many of them have lost sons and relatives, and when these men wait on the Prime Minister, they are told that .there is no money available for any work. In effect the Prime Minister assures them that if filings are bad, he cannot help it. I say that this condition of affairs will have to be altered. Men are not going to starve in this land of plenty, and a Government which ignores the just claims of citizens ought not to be kept in office. The unemployed are doing all that they can do legitimately to rivet public attention on the ever increasing army of unemployed in Australia. I ask the Government ‘ whether they are prepared to say that there is no money available with which to do anything* for these men, and that they do not intend to raise money for other than war purposes. During the progress of this war things will be bad, and the longer it continues the worse they will become. After the war, I believe that they will be worse still for a time. In order that they may not be made worse day by day, it will be wise for the incoming Government to look well ahead.
Otherwise there will be chaos in Australia. We need to make adequate provision for our returned soldiers. I speak with some knowledge of the difficulty that is being experienced in finding suitable employment , to-day for many of those who have returned from the front. I speak as a member of the War Council. Many schemes have been mentioned, but they were all in skyland. I want them to be put into concrete form. There are resources in Australia that have not been tapped, and which would yield millions of money annually.
– With a genuine Tariff.
– As a Protectionist, I do not think that a genuine Tariff would yield as much revenue as we are collecting to-day. But I am referring to the source of all wealth, and the Government can easily apply a system of taxation to that source of wealth which would produce millions of money annually, whilst at the same time stimulating industry and promoting employment. I refer to a tax on land values. There Is no form of taxation that is more equitable or scientific in its application. But there are other sources of wealth which may be exploited by the Government. The difficulties are not insurmountable if they wish’ to do the right thing at the right time. Let an effort be made now when men are clamouring for work. I ask the Government not to treat this matter light-heartedly. I appeal to them as erstwhile members of the Labour party. I cannot believe that, because they have been separated from, us for a few weeks, they have lost all sympathy with, the class to which they rightly belong. I cannot believe that they are absolutely callous to the sufferings that are being experienced at the present time. I ask Senator Millen - who, judging by his facial expression, is to be one of the new team - to for-‘’ get his sudden elevation.
– Do not prophecy.
– If he is to be a Minister, and I would not mind betting tEat he is, because he has been working very hard for weeks past, I ask him to remember the men who are unemployed today. I will guarantee that the business managers of the Liberal party have recently had the time of their lives. They have been working overtime almost every night - a most unusual thing with them. They have been seriously worried for weeks past. Long before Christmas their negotiations began. But now that their job is ended, now that they can feel at peace with themselves, because they have decided that it will take six Liberals and five Ministerialists to win the war, I ask them not to forget the fellows ‘who have no jobs at all, and whose one concern is to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. These men ask, not for charity, but for justice. I hope that the days when men had to go cap in hand, pleading for that which is their right, have gone by. I make this appeal to the Government which is to be, to honorable senators on the Ministerial side of the Chamber, and to one honorable senator at least upon the other side, and I hope that it will not pass unheeded. If Senator Millen is not one of the new Ministers he is the Leader of his party in this Chamber, and I appeal to him to help me and others to endeavour to solve the unemployed difficulty, or, at least, to find work for the thousands of men out of work to-day, and whose wives and children are consequently suffering dire distress.
– The announcement by the Leader of the Government that the managers, or parties, have come to an agreement, will be hailed with satisfaction from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. If there was one thing calculated to bring our public life into contempt, it was the spectacle of members of Parliament posing before the community as men of great national spirit, anxious to sacrifice themselves on the nation’s altar, squabbling day after day, and week after week, for some party advantage in the Cabinet that they were trying to form. The last month or six weeks has been one of the most painful periods in Australia’s history, and I receive with pleasure the announcement that an agreement has been arrived at.
– The “rats” have joined the “fats.”
– I do not want to say anything disrespectful of either of the parties concerned. I hope the announcement of the Government’s policy next week will be in keeping with the professions we have heard, and not with what has been the practice of the negotiating parties for the past six weeks. I hope we shall have a really National party. When that party is preparing its policy, I advise them to secure a copy of the Hansard containing the report of Senator Findley’s speech in regard to unemployment, and to realize that the question is serious, and can scarcely -wait, even for so-called “ National “ Governments. I trust that in the interval the newly-formed Government, if it is formed, will take the earliest opportunity of considering the employment of its people here as a growing and grave national question.
– I regret that, through a little oversight, the motion lodged by Senator Findley yesterday for the adjournment of the Senate to discuss the unemployment question was not quite in order. Possibly it was your duty, sir, to point out the discrepancy, but I was very much surprised that Senator Gould should have risen in his place to protest, while men faced with the responsibility of providing a living for their wives and families were waiting for something to be done in the present grave emergency. These men have been self-restrained and very patient for many months. The position has not just arisen, because, for the last five or six months, many of them have brought home very little from which to eke out an existence. You, sir, as one who has known what it was to “hump Matilda” out back looking for a crust, as I and others in this chamber have done, have possibly forgotten what it meant to the home if the money was not coming in week after week. Even with continuity of employment a man’s credit was limited, and, at the best, with sickness or unemployment in the family, one was often very near the starvation line. The unemployed, numbering about 2,000, according to the building and allied trades of Melbourne, approached this Chamber asking for consideration of the question in their dire need. They asked for bread. The Senate gave them - a standing order. There is about as much nutriment in it as in Senator Gould’s sympathy. That honorable senator should go down in Australian history with the designation of “ ghoulish Gould,” because, rather than allow the Senate to discuss such an urgent matter, involving the health, and possibly the lives, of many of our citizens, he allowed a little informality or technicality to stand between them and some possible redress. There should be no necessity to arouse an agitation over this question; but it seems futile to bring it before the Government as it is now constituted, or not constituted. Like Mahomet’s coffin, the Government is in suspense, and we do not know whether the honorable members representing it in this Chamber will go up to Heaven or come down to earth.. If they get that dull thud which we expect they will, they will deserve it for turning a deaf ear to the cry of the workless, whilst themselves shuffling and intriguing for the emoluments of office, and for the gaining of some party advantage. Surely those who want work should be able to look to the Government of their country for assistance in that direction, particularly when commercial and industrial affairs are so dislocated through the worldwide war now raging. Whilst we take pride in the fact that we are doing better, little and all as it is, for our own soldiers than has been done for the soldiers of other countries engaged in this titanic, struggle, we should not forget that we, or the Government, owe an obligation to our industrial soldiers - those who fall in the industrial arena, or who, for the time being, cannot find enough to keep their wives and families in the decency and comfort that should be the lot of every citizen in a Commonwealth such as ours. If the Government would only be as careful in the administration of war affairs as it evidently is in saving money to the disadvantage of the workless, we might have a different tale to unfold from that unfolded by the Prime Minister to the deputation of unemployed the day before yesterday. I should very much like an inventory of the hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of material lying in our Ordnance and other stores which has not, been, and possibly may never be, used. I should like to know whether the Government have even attempted to save money in order to cope with a position such as is now arising. The Prime Minister, very callously, I thought, told the deputation that the Government could not spare money, or that there was no money available, for public works in Australia. When Mr. Tunaley, one of the leaders of the union, mentioned . the desire for labourers and other workers in the Old Country, he was met with the rebuke, “ Did he want Australians to go to England to lick up the cream that the soldiers of England had left when they went to fight?” Yet, in answer to a question in the House of Representatives yesterday, the Prime Minister changed his tune, for there he said, a It is an urgent Imperial necessity that men should go from Australia to England to take the vacant places in navvying and other labouring work.” To some people it might appear to be. a way out of the difficulty to send workmen Home, and, as ohe honorable senator interjected when Senator Findley was talking, give them a fine time; but honorable senators should remember that thou- sands of men who are out of employment at present have sons at the front, and in many instances are mourning lost ones. In such circumstances surely it is due to the Government to keep these men in Australia to preserve our economic position. It is bad enough to have men traversing this country from end to end looking for work, but still worse to tell them that there is work to be done in Great Britain at soldiers’ pay, which, I presume, would be the case, thus leaving their families here dependent upon them. This is not a courageous position to take up. We know also that those who adopt, this attitude have not raised a finger to stop the rapacious landlords from fleecing dependants of soldiers, as they have been doing right from the outbreak of the war. We have been told that we should not bring this matter of unemployment before the Senate,- and yesterday a little informality prevented this course being adopted; but the gentlemen who take up this attitude would soon exert themselves to insure thorough ventilation of any grievance with regard to the poor struggling ship-owners, the shareholders in business concerns, the investors in war loans, or the speculators and food exploiters of Australia if they were being unduly hampered in any way, or if they were not enjoying immunity from taxation. The Government, who have come down with this “ win-the-war “ cry, but which truly is a “ win-the-seats “ cry, should realize that no nation can expect to get recruits if eligible sons, fear that the parents left at home will have the struggle for life made harder for them when they have gone. This knowledge that there may be difficulty’ about keeping the family pot boiling is one of the greatest deterrents to recruiting in any country, and I maintain that the obligation is on the Government to evolve some method whereby employment may be found for those who at present are without work. These men have been played with like battledore and shuttlecock, from the Stait to the Federal Parliaments, and back again. Roughly speaking, the ratio of. employment in the Commonwealth and State Governments is about one to fifty . but the wealth of this country has as yet been barely touched. I notice from a return recently published that a considerable sum -of money is available for the State Governments, and it should be the duty of the Commonwealth to see that pressure is brought to bear on Victoria and some of the other States to take up some of that money which has been earmarked for them to be used in reproductive works. Surely the Government have no desire to see the establishment of the iniquitous system of soup kitchens in the near future, but inevitably that condition of affairs will come about unless something is done to provide employment for those at present seeking work, and for our soldiers when they return at the termination of the war, which we hope will bt very soon. No doubt, when our men do return, many crocodile tears will be shed over the fact that soup kitchens may have to be established, and I am afraid the men will get very thin soup at that. According to the return to which I have already referred, dealing with the borrowings of the Commonwealth Government in London for the States, under agreement of 6th November, 1915, Victoria was to receive £1,720,000, but up to date has oi.l v called up £650,000 of that amount. The Commonwealth Ministry, therefore, should impress upon the State Government the necessity for utilizing this money on reproductive works, for the presence of a large number of Unemployed in a community is always a menace to its stability. We, as a Labour party, were built up on the fact that we were reaching out for the socialization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. Unfortunately, we have not yet attained thai objective, and those who seceded from the party a ‘little while ago and formed a new Government are thwarting us. If we had attained our object there would be no necessity tb-day for this appeal, and our workers would be getting a full reward for their labour.
– A fine Yarra-bank speech !
I do not intend to make “ a Yarra-bank speech,” as Senator Guthrie sneeringly interjected when Senator McKissock resumed his seat, but I want to bring under the notice of the Government the position with regard to the carpenters in this State. If any Minister should be sympathetic towards these men, it is the Minister for Defence, who has been a carpenter himself. I am not saying for a moment that he is not sympathetic, and I am not criticising or carping in any way at some of the things, which the Government have done in this matter. I am here as a supplicant to the Government to consider the serious state of the building trades in Victoria. . Figures have already been given. There is a large number of men out of work, especially in the carpentering and allied building trades.’ The Minister for Defence, no doubt, must have a certain amount of sympathy with these unfortunate men, because, if some persons could have their way, he would be a carpenter out of a job at the present time.
– Hear, hear!
– However, that is by the way. I think that there are various spheres in which some of these unemployed men could be employed. It is all very well for those who have no responsibility to shoulder to get up and criticise any Government or individual for not obtaining work for other people. But surely there must be available some means of giving employment to this large number of skilled artisans, who certainly do “ not belong to the professional unemployed - for instance, in the building of nouses for returned soldiers under the repatriation scheme. Surely some work can be found in connexion with ship building. Some of these men who are out of work may not be expert shipwrights, but they are skilled carpenters, who would be able to do some work in the .building of ships at Cockatoo Island and other ship-yards.
– Then the demarcation question would arise.
– If such a question arose, it would not be the fault of these men. “We could not blame the Government if other men were to raise an objection under a demarcation scheme. I do not believe that some of the residents of this city recognise the poverty which exists in the ranks of the carpenters. I have personal friends whom I have known since boyhood - men who aTe skilled in a particular trade - who do not carry their heart on their sleeve, or like to cry poverty. I am aware, from personal experience, that some of these men, whose integrity I do not doubt for a moment, are in dire straits. In to-day’s issue of the Melbourne Argus we saw a letter from a .man who .has nothing very much to worry about financially, sneering at the position of the - Australian carpenters. The ‘ writer of the letter is Mr. Ernest E. Keep, who, I understand, is associated with the Chamber of Manufactures or the Employers’ Federation. Amongst other things, he says-
One can imagine that there will be quite a rush on the part of unemployed carpenters to get the nomination from the Trades Hall, which will entitle them to free passage, as civilians, to England in transports at the public expense.
Later he writes -
Further, the Australian taxpayer is entitled to ‘ ask whether these patriot carpenters are to be brought back at the public expense, or pay for their own return passages out of what they earn in England.
I think that Mr. Keep must have written this letter without having given due consideration to the question. Knowing some of the carpenters as I do, I do not ,believe that they are anxious to leave their wives and children, and go away to another land. I do not think that there will be 1,000 men very anxious to go to Great Britain if they can get work in Australia. I do not believe that the men want to go away and sever matrimonial ties. Yet we have this cheap sarcasm from a gentleman who, no doubt, has never felt the pinch of poverty - who does not know what it is to be unemployed, or to suffer financial embarrassment. In the columns of the daily press we see letters designed to inflame the public mind against persons who, unfortunately, are in a dire position. The Minister for Defence’ must know the calibre of these men better than I do, for he has worked as a carpenter. He must recognise that they do not belong to what may be known as the body of professional unemployed, if such a body does exist, as is sometimes alleged in the press. I am speaking on behalf of a body of skilled artisans who do not like to make their grievances known to the public, “or to go cap in hand to members of Parliament, or Ministries, or charitable institutions. They’ desire, as far as possible, to
Slave the right to work, so that they may he able to obtain bread and butter for themselves and their wives and children. I know the financial stringency which exists at the present time. I am aware that, as regards money resources, the con- ditions are very hard ; but seeing that, so far, about £76,000,000 has been raised in the Commonwealth by way of war loan, surely it is possible to obtain a little more money by some means or other in order to afford employment to these men, who are essential to the community, in the construction of public works. I suggest to the Minister for Defence that possibly there may be some means available to provide work for the men. I do not desire to criticise the Government, or attempt to make political capital out of this matter. I know that they are not callous and absolutely bitter against these unemployed artisans as a body. Some persons say that it may be a means of economic conscription, but that is a matter of opinion. At any rate, I ask the Government to reconsider the position, and see if they cannot obtain money from some source with the view to retaining the services of these men in the Commonwealth. We heard the other day that some carpenters refused to go to Samarai, where two or three men were needed to put up wireless telegraph works, and there was a great outcry in the press that the men were asking too much for their labour. As one who has been to Samarai, and understands the conditions in Papua, slightly at any rate. I venture to say that it is worth considerably more to work in our tropical possessions than on the mainland. I know what happened to some friends of mine - carpenters, builders, and labourers - who went up to work at Woodlark Island, which has been known as the white man’s grave. One man, who went there robust and in the prime of life, has never been the same since he contracted malarial fever. One or two men died at the island. Another died on the passage back from malarial fever contracted at the island. Yet, because these men would not accept a certain remuneration per day, and would not go to Samarai, we are told that they did not want work : that they were looking for work and praying to God that they would not get it. The public of Australia, I venture to say, do not know the climatic conditions in Papua. The wage demanded may appear to be excessive to a person sitting down in a cool climate, but it is not so regarded by those who understand the working- conditions in Papua. I ask the Government to do something to alleviate the sufferings of this deserving body of men. They are not men who are crying for the sake of crying. The position of many of them is very serious indeed. Some of my personal friends are practically at their wits’ end to try to make ends meet. I hope that the Government will be able to continue the policy of constructing public works, and’ will not stop expenditure in every direction. I also desire, on this occasion, to bring under the notice of the Minister of Defence a grievance which the members of the Australian Letter-carriers Association are suffering from. I have always understood that the Labour party believe in allowing public employees freedom of political thought and freedom of political action. The members of the Lettercarriers Association complain that a recent regulation prohibits them from standing for municipal office. Provided that it does not interfere with a man’s work, I do not think it is fair that he should be debarred from standing for a municipal position simply because he happens to work for the Commonwealth.
The regulation is as follows: - _ 73a. No officer, except with the express permission of the Governor-General, after report by the Commissioner, shall -
The secretary to the association says in his covering letter -
This regulation is debarring postmen working in a municipal district in which they reside from taking up the position of alderman or shire councillor simply because the Public Service Commissioner will not grant the necessary permission to such officers of the Public Service, whereas he, the Commissioner, permits other officials to contest such elections and to hold office when elected.
– They can if the Commissioner consents.
– Yes; but the members of the association complain that a distinction is made between higher officials and lower officials. I hope ‘that, so long as it does not interfere with the performance of their duties, lettercarriers will be allowed an’ opportunity to stand for municipal and civic honours if their townspeople think that they areworthy of them. There were several. other matters which I intended to discuss, but I shall not delay the Senate longer. I rose principally to urge the Ministry to find a means for raising revenue and to evolve a scheme for giving work to the unemployed carpenters.
– There are one, or two phases of this very important question of unemployment which appeal to me. I know, from reading and observation, that the position in Victoria is very grave, and,, comparatively speaking, it is just as serious in the other States. Prior to Christmas, I was told in Brisbane, on the best of authority, that there were then over 400 carpenters out of work. Both Commonwealth and State works in the building line have been curbed, and I suppose that it is owing to the general unsettlement following the continuation of the war that there has been a big temporary cessation now in private building, with the result that all the allied trades have suffered accordingly. We often hear that after the termination of the war there will be a great influx: of population to Australia, lt was reported in this morning’s press that Mr. Fisher, in reading a paper before the Royal Colonial Institute in London, expressed the belief that Australia offered such splendid opportunities that there would be a great migration of British people to it; and even here we hear that opinion expressed very freely. I have no doubt that after * the war is concluded, supposing that trade and progress here assume at once the pre-war , conditions, of whichI have some doubt, there may be a great influx of population from abroad; but I am not so optimistic on the point as not to admit that that belief is open to grave doubt. For this reason : We have only to remember that for the last two and a half years there has been great destruction going on throughout Europe. Many cities have been razed to the ground. The destruction continues, and if the war lasts much longer many of the cities of Europe will practically have to be rebuilt. In that case’ there will be a shortage of artisans, particularly, all over the world, and instead of there being a rush of artisans to Australia I am very much afraid that’ the inducements offering on the Continent of Europe in the rebuilding of the cities that have been destroyed during the war will bring about the opposite effect, and may lead to artisans going from Australia to Europe/ The grave existing state of affairs in the Commonwealth is a very bad ‘advertisement for Australia. Military reasons are often emphatically stressed in this Chamber, and it can scarcely be considered a good thing for military reasons that the Central Powers should learn that the condition of affairs <in Australia is as bad as the newspaper reports which we read only last night would lead people to believe. We have learned that an application is being made for men to fill 1,000 vacancies as labourers for Great Britain. We have just been told that that number could be found in New South Wales alone, and that that State, could, if necessary, provide another. 1,000 labourers for Great Britain. There has been a suggestion made that the Commonwealth could, if required, increase the number of labourers available to 5,000. ‘ The Central Powers learning these things might be excused for believing that this boasted Australia of ours cannot after all be in such a good position as we claim that it is. The fact that we have so many artisans, particularly in the building trade, at ,present out of employment in Australia increases the danger that they may be induced after the war to go to Great Britain and elsewhere, and be lost to the Commonwealth at a time when they will be most required here. We read gibes in the press to the effect that men will rush to take advantage of a free trip to Great Britain. In this connexion I ask honorable senators to remember that for many years past every State in the Commonwealth has been offering liberal inducements to the people of Great Britain and of the northern part of Europe to come out to Australia as immigrants. Each State has offered these people a free trip to Australia, and, when they arrive here, facilities for land inspection and land settlement which are denied to the Australian-born. Some of the States of the Commonwealth have been very grave offenders in this respect, and none more so, as .you, sir, are aware, than the State of Queensland. They have reserved choice tracts of agricultural country. These tracts have been cut up into blocks under the group system, and reserved principally for Germans, who,, when they come out to Queensland, are given special facilities for inspecting the land and settling upon it. Their goods, chattels, and accoutrements, as ‘ well as their; families, are carried free of railway and other expenses, whilst the Australianborn residents-‘ of the State have to shift for themselves. A cheap gibe and sneer is used against the unemployed of the cities when it is said that they will not go into the country. What is a man to do who goes into the country looking for work ? He cannot get a bit of land in Australia. That may appear to be a sweeping assertion, but I say that, particularly in Queensland and Western Australia, which States have the greatest area of Crown lands, it is impossible for a man to go out from any of the cities and select a block of land in any locality in which he can expect to make a living. Land in such localities is not available. There are Crown lands in Queensland, in Western Australia, and in Tasmania, but they are not available for settlement. I invite any one who thinks that they are to try the experiment. He will find that he must go out into the wilds to obtain a block of land from the Crown as the only alternative to the purchase of private land from the owners at exorbitant prices, running, as honorable senators are aware, up to £20 and £30 an acre. This aspect of the question has a serious bearing upon the proposals of the Commonwealth and State Governments outlined in connexion with the repatriation scheme. I am a little sceptical as to the amount of direct land settlement of a permanent nature which may be expected to result from the repatriation scheme unless very much more definite proposals are outlined than those which have already been made. As a novelty to a man who ha$ had no experience of land settlement, the prospect of taking up land is very alluring. After the newchum settler, even though he should be an Australian new-chum settler, has been on his block of land for six, nine, or twelve months, he will find the novelty wear off. It has been my experience amongst personal friends that of four who settle upon the land in this way only “two are likely to remain on the land. Some do, of course, settle permanently, and particularly those who have had previous farming experience, or who have been brought up in the country; but I think it is unduly optimistic to believe that after our soldiers return from the war they will settle upon blocks of land in the country in great numbers and will turn out to be permanent and successful settlers. I have grave doubts of the utility, from a land settlement point of view, of our repatriation scheme. The Queensland Government have outlined certain definite steps which are to be taken, and it is time that the other State Governments followed on their lines, and did something of a practical nature. They should know what they want and what they are going to do. It is time that the Federal Government took action upon some well-considered plan. A plan should have been sufficiently considered by this time, when we know that the matter has . been under consideration for the last two and a half years. Unfortunately, apart from -the consideration of the question, it appears to me that nothing practical has been done, and when our soldiers come back from the war the present acute position in regard to the unemployed will be considerably intensified.
– That must be so, because employers have promised to reemploy those who went to the front, and all who are re-employed must displace others.
– Every returned soldier re-employed must displace another wealth-producer. It is all a question of wealth production after ‘all, and it is urgently necessary that the Federal Government should announce a policy in this matter in co-operation with the State Governments. We want to make lands accessible to the people to prevent them congregating in the cities. I believe that the only way in which we can make land accessible to, the people is by the imposition of a genuine land tax, and not a fleabite land tax. Side by side with a real land tax there should be imposed an Australian Tariff to aid wealth production. It is only by increasing our production of wealth that the wage-earners of Australia can hope to be able to regain their prewar conditions. This must strongly ap- peal to honorable senators when they recognise the aeroplane heights to which the markets for foodstuffs have gone, and the exorbitant prices charged for the necessaries of life to-day. One wonders how a man can continue to feed, clothe, and look after his family on 8s., 9s., or 10s. a day. We know that it has to be done, and we know what the task must be, but when we consider, further, that the men earning these wages are often only intermittently employed, and must suffer a consequent reduction in their yearly income, our wonder that they can live and rear their children in the circumstances becomes amazement. The Government have taken no practical steps to regulate the markets for foodstuffs. The two outstanding necessities, if we are to relieve the cities of the charge of draining the country, are the imposition of a substantial land tax and the passing of a strong Protective Tariff. We have, however, to consider what is necessary to meet the present acute situation. No one will advocate that national works of an ornamental or unproductive nature should be undertaken, but while the Federal Government have territories of their own they can build railways, which are never a loss to Australia. They may not return a profit, or even interest, on the cost of their construction for many years; but I hold that though a railway may not pay interest on the cost of its construction for ten or twelve years, it is a good asset to the country all the same. My idea is that the Federal Government should undertake the construction of railways in Federal territories. I know that amongst the praters of false economy there will be a howl that I would advise the Government to spend a few more millions on the construction of more desert railways. The sneering remark will be made, “ What is a- million or a few million? “
– There is no “ desert railway.”
– I agree with Senator Needham that we have no desert railway. We have been told that the centre of Australia is a desert, but only by those who are anti-Australians, the old Conservative crowd who had ‘no desire to see Australia progress on democratic lines. My reply to those who say that the National Government would - not be warranted in building a. north -and south railway from Oodnadatta to the Northern Territory is that we are spending, I suppose, £1,250,000 a week, and perhaps more, on the war. If we continue that expenditure, we shall have nothing of practical utility at the end of it. We shall have no valuable asset for it. Most of the money thus expended is being blown away on the other side of the world. When the East- West railway was projected at an estimated cost- of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000, a howl waa raised in certain quarters that Australia!, would never be able to stand such an expenditure. Yet our expenditure upon the* war* exceeds that amount in the short space of a few weeks. If the Government built national railways, although themoney might not be directly returned for a few years, the land settlement that would follow would be an indirect return, to the Commonwealth almost from the inception of the works. I do not like it togo out to the world that Australia is in such a bad way as she really is from an industrial stand-point. Of course, no’ man can tate a company or private individual to task for not embarking on building operations ‘in’ time of war. The present position is merely another proof of the patriotism of certain gentlemen who, at the first sign of personal inconvenience, securely button up. their pockets. That, in conjunction, with the closing down of public works by the State and Federal Governments, is. responsible for the .present acute position. If we are going to send tradesmen to the other side of the world, our position at the> end of the war will be very much worse than it is now. We know that an invitation has . been extended to these men to return to Great Britain from whencemany of them were attracted here as immigrants. With the assurance that work” will be awaiting them on their arrival in: the Old Country, they will certainly staythere both during and after the war. They are not likely to give Australia a good name, and they will be a bad advertisement for us. It appears to me that the Government do not grip the situation. We are told that with the infusion of some Conservative blood into the Government there will be a further cessation of public works. They are going to reduce hands. Of course, they do not put it ia these words. . They say that they are going to jealously guard expenditure, and topractice rigid economy. In other words, they are going to sack men wholesale. I. cannot acquit either the present or the incoming Government of being influenced by no ulterior motives. Conscription was defeated on the 28th October, and yet the conscriptionists here are not prepared to accept the popular verdict. Only to-day a letter was published in the Melbourne Argus, signed by Arthur’ Robinson, who is an Honorary Minister of the Peacock Government, who was formerly a member of the House of Representatives, and who is also a pillar of strength to the Tory party in Victoria. He writes to the effect that the Federal Liberal party has been guilty of cowardice in not boldly proclaiming that they believe in conscription. He charges them with hiding the expression of their true opinions for fear of losing their seats. That is the true Conservative doctrine. ‘What would be the result if the Liberal party had the courage to do what Mr. Robinson says they should do ? There would be a wholesale and further sacking of men. Other people may call it what they like, but I have no’ hesitation in describing it as economic conscription. Having had experience of the lengths to which the Government and the Defence Department have gone during recent months, I am not prepared to acquit them of the suspicion that it is not true they did not know of the request that 1,000 labourers should be sent to Great Britain until recently.’ We know that the Prime Minister is accustomed to withhold information which’ should be the property of the people. For example, he held up for some days the message inviting Australia to send a delegate to the Imperial Conference. Similarly the subjects to be discussed at that gathering have not been divulged by him. My belief is that the Prime Minister knew a couple of months ago of the request for 1,000 labourers - navvies, railway men and others - to be sent to Great Britain, and that the sacking of men started in advance. Prior to publicity being given to that request, men were discharged from the Naval Base and from railway construction works in New South Wales. This leads me to think that this request has been kept up the sleeve of the Government for some time. We realize the seriousness of the situation, because we come into contact with those who are suffering. At the present time, there is most acute suffering in Brisbane. House rents there have risen to such heights that no individual who is in receipt of less than 50s. per week all the year round can afford to rent a habitable cottage. The rents for these buildings range from 16s. to 20s. per week. In Brisbane, two or three families have to combine to rent a cottage, and four or five persons are obliged to sleep in Une one room, thus reproducing the worst conditions to be found in other parts of the” world.
– That occurred before this Government came into power.
– The honorable senator, I suppose, has known it for years.
– Then Senator Guthrie must know a good deal more about Brisbane than I do. My informant assures me that no individual getting less than 50s. ‘ a week regularly, can afford to rent a house there. A man who is endeavouring, under such condi-“ tions, to provide for his wife and children, must be living from hand to mouth, and we can well imagine that, when he is suddenly deprived of employment, his position becomes’ at once most acute. The so-called patriots who are so ready to inflate prices are not very liberal in the terms they extend . to men so situated. Business men in Brisbane, as in most of the other State capitals, are now developing an almost exclusively cash trade, which is a good thing when a man has the wherewithal to make his purchases, but a very bad thing when he has no money. It behoves the Government to rise to the occasion’, for, unless they take immediate action, the’ position will become more and more acute. I should like the incoming Government to come forward with a bold policy in this regard. ‘During the next few days, no doubt, they will be busily engaged in formulating their policy, and I would warn them that if, as I fear, they curtail public works, a very serious situation will arise. I hope, however, that they will do all in their power to ease the economic pressure. If they purport to be true to their name as a National Administration, this is one of the first questions they will tackle. No doubt, they will avail themselves of the assistance of the military censors in preventing reports from going abroad to the effect that Australia has reached such a position that we have thousands of strong, able-bodied unemployed men in every city in the Commonwealth ready to leave for Great Britain in order to obtain the means of subsistence. The failure ~of the Government to deal effectively with the unemployed problem will not be in the interests of Australia, nor in the interests of that loyalty of Australia to the Mother Country of which we have heard so much during the last two years from the gentlemen who now control the destinies of the Commonwealth .
. -I propose to make only a brief reference to the unemployed problem -which has occupied the attention of the Senate this afternoon, and concerning which many serious statements have been made. I do not know that the, trouble is so acute in Tasmania as it would appear tobe in Victoria, but I do know that if one of the pillars of the Liberal or Conservative party in Tasmania has his way, judging from a speech which he made last week, it will not be long before many workmen in Tasmania will either have to face the problem of unemployment or, as Senator Ferricks . said just now, be economically conscripted. Ex-Senator Dobson, who was well known for many years as a representative of Tasmania in this Chamber, when speaking last week on the question of recruiting, deliberately said that we ‘could not look for success in recruiting in Tasmania while so many men were employed on the public works of the State at 9s. a day. He went on to say that it would assist recruiting if some ofthese men were discharged from the Government. No doubt he had in his mind” the thought that such action would compel many of them to enlistThat was a serious statement to be made by any man who professes, as ex-Senator Dobson does, to be a leader of public thought in his own State. He is, as I have said, one of the pillars of the Conservative or Liberal party in Tasmania, and no doubt will be giving his unswerving support and allegiance to the incoming Fusion Government of the Commonwealth. While I do not know that the unemployed problem is so acute in Tasmania as it is in some other parts of the Commonwealth, it seems to me that if ex-Senator Dobson, and those who share his views, have their way, it very soon will be. I propose now to make a passing reference to the point relating to our Standing Orders to which you, Mr. President, referred this afternoon. It is a comparatively small matter, but’may have an important bearing on the procedure of the Senate. When referring to the message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, which you received a few days ago, and to your treatment of it, you, sir, called our attention to standing orders 372 to 376 inclusive. The procedure which you announced your intention of following is probably right, and in the interests of the Senate. It seems to me, however, that if we are to follow it standing orders 372 and 376 will have to be amended.
The PRESIDENT. Order! Any objection to a ruling of the President or the Chairman of Committees must be taken at the time it is given, and must be by way of a definite motion.
– I am not going to comment on your ruling, sir, but I thought that on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate I should be quite in order in suggesting a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee.
– On a motion for the adjournment of the Senate any matter, relevant or irrelevant, may be discussed; but it is disorderly to raise any question regarding a ruling of the Chairman of Committees or of the President except at the time it is given, and the objection to that ruling must be made in the proper form.
– I have no intention of reflecting on your ruling, or of commenting upon it. I had merely intended to suggest that the Standing Orders Committee should meet as early as possible and take into consideration the two standing orders which I have mentioned, and which appear to me to be inconsistent. Standing order 372 provides -
Whenever a message from the GovernorGeneral shall bc announced by the Usher of the Black Rod, the business before the Senate shall be immediately- suspended, and the bearer of the message shall be introduced to deliver the message at the bar, where it will be received by the Clerk, who will at once bear the same to the President.
You, Mr. President, would then announce the message to the Senate. Standing order 376, however, provides - -
– The honorable senator is under a misapprehension. The two standing orders which he has mentioned refer to messages of a totally different character.
– Both are messages from the Governor-General. Standing order 376 provides -
A message from . the Governor-General may be presented to the Senate by a Minister of the Crown at the bar, but not during a debate.
– The class of message there referred to is different from that covered by standing order 372. This is not the time at which such a matter can be discussed with advantage. The honorable senator is under a very natural misapprehension, but he must know that I cannot now enter upon a discussion of the question he has raised. Two different classes of messages are received from the Governor-General. Some, very properly, are transmitted direct to the Senate, and others come by way of a Minister of the Crown. The Standing Orders prescribe the proper method by which those messages shall be received.
– I accept your ruling, sir, but trust that when the Senate meets again there will be a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee to settle the question.
– The atmosphere of the Senate and the statement of the Leader of the Senate indicates that a change of Government is pending. There are two or three questions that the new Government might well consider. The Minister for Defence announced that an agreement had been entered into between the Liberal party and the National Labour party, and, in consequence, asked the Senate to adjourn till next Thursday. I presume in the meantime a new or Coalition Government will be formed. Yesterday, the Minister for Defence- told me, in answer to questions put by me, that an announcement would shortly be made as to whether the Prime Minister was going to London to represent Australia at the Imperial War Conference, and whether Parliament Would be given an opportunity to instruct him as to the questions to come before the Conference. That announcement was not made to-day, and I am wondering whether, before we adjourn, the Minister might not assure us that Parliament will be given the opportunity to instruct the Prime Minister as I suggest before he leaves for London. The matter is very important. I said a day or two ago that I know of no better man to represent Australia at the Conference than the Prime Minister. I qualify that by saying that he should receive instructions first. Between now and Thursday he may leave as a delegate, possibly accompanied by another gentleman of note; who may be included in the agreement referred ‘to by the Minister for Defence to-day. Whether one or two go, I would like the Minister to state whether or not Parliament will be given an opportunity of discussing the matter before they leave.
– Is that really a serious request?
– Extremely so.
– It is an impossible request.
– The honorable senator is not yet in a position to reply to my request as Leader of the Senate. I hope he does not suggest that I am treating the matter with levity. I have raised no objection to the Prime Minister going. The people desire to be represented at the Imperial Conference, and they also desire that the Prime Minister be instructed as- to the questions to be deliberated upon.
– They have never said so.
– If the honorable senator had. been as close a student of public opinion as I have he would have seen the record.
– The people do not believe in giving the Prime Minister a blank cheque.
– Whether they are agreeable or not, it would not be wise of them to do so. The questions to be considered there are too far-reaching to permit the giving to the Prime Minister or any other delegate a blank cheque. The point is : Will the delegate or delegates go before next Thursday, and the announcement be made when they are on board ship ? I hope that does not occur. Between now and next Thursday afternoon it is evident that another Government will take charge of the destinies of Australia. In the interim, will the new Government consider the Tariff as a matter of policy? The Minister announced to-day that when we meet again the policy of the new Government will be announced. Surely the Tariff is worthy of consideration in the interim. It has - been stated in the newspapers that a Bill is to be introduced to validate the collection of duties that are at present operative, but I hope that, instead of that step being taken, Parliament will be given an opportunity to review the Tariff. Senator Blakey has spoken of the necessity for such action. No one can say that the incidence of the present Tariff is truly protective. Therefore . Parliament should deal with the Tariff. I do not know what will be the fiscal policy of the new Government, but it would be wrong to validate the present collection of duties without regard to their fiscal incidence. I feel sure that when we meet again on Thursday next the Minister for Defence, whatever changes may have taken place, will still occupy his present position, and I hope that he may then be able to announce that Parliament is to have an opportunity to review the Tariff. There is another matter to which I direct the honorable gentleman’s attention. Whilst the Prime Minister was in England, the honorable gentleman was present at a banquet given by the members of the Chamber of Commerce. At the invitation of the president of that body he agreed that an Industrial Commission should be sent to the United States of America, and called for applications from representatives in the various States of the trades concerned? Applications have been sent in, but .nothing further has been done. Time and again the Minister has been, questioned on the subject. Only last week I asked him if a determination had been come to, when his reply was that there had been no determination. I have heard it said that the Prime Minister looks with disfavour upon the proposed Commission, but the Minister for Defence might at least let us know the intentions of the Government with regard to it, and whether the prospective Government intends to send an Industrial Commission to America. If no Commission is to be sent, those who have applied for appointments should be’ informed. The secrecy that is being obt served is disgusting. I hope that the Minister in replying will deal with the matters to which I have referred.
– Senator Needham has asked me to enter the domain of prophecy, and to state, in regard to the three very important matters of which he has spoken, the policy of a Government not yet formed. I can only ask him’ to possess his soul in patience until Thursday next, when perhaps some of these matters will be dealt with. It is unusual to make statements of policy on behalf of a Government that is in process of change. ‘ Senator Blakey and others referred to a matter which affects questions of policy, but must appeal to our sympathies, and deserves the attention of every public man; I speak of the unemployment of a large number of tradesmen . in this city, and, I believe, elsewhere in the Commonwealth, My regret is that I see no means for relieving the present state of affairs. The facts have to be faced. None of those who have spoken on the subject has shown how work can be provided for’ the men connected with the building trades. As I know from bitter experience, it is those connected with the. building trades that first suffer when industrial depression comes about, because when times are bad people cease to build houses. For the Government to give employment to these men in the building trades it would be necessary that! it should erect houses or other buildings. This Government, however, can build only for the purposes of the administration with which it is intrusted. The conduct of the Post Office is part of its administration, but is it suggested that we should build post-offices whether they, are heeded or not ?
– A new post-office is badly needed at Port Adelaide.
– I understand that there is no unemployment at Adelaide. Parliament determines how much moneyshall be spent on post-offices, and no doubt the Postmaster-General is only i too happy to. get that .money spent. The same things may be said of the Department of Trade and Customs;- As for the Defence Department, we have erected a large number of buildings for the housing . of troops. Our position is that we have buildings for sale. We arenot able to fill them with men, -and we would be only too happy if we had toerect more buildings.
– A few more lighthouses are wanted.
– I dare say theMinister for Customs would be glad to spend money in that direction, but he can only spend money on the authorization of Parliament. Senator Blakey, whobrought this question forward, did make some suggestion as to how the position, could be relieved,, and spoke of building houses under the repatriation schemeThat is a matter which’ is being looked into. I know that for some time the Treasurer has been considering, whether, in connexion with war pensioners and invalid soldiers who will need attendance, it would not be a good thingfor his Department to erect buildings in each of the capital cities to house the men. I will see that Senator Blakey’s suggestion is brought under his notice. Thequestion of building ships was also referred to, but, unfortunately, we are the victims of circumstances. Honorable-‘ senators, no doubt, had in mind the building of iron and steel ships, but where are we to get the material for such work ? It is absolutely impossible to obtain it, because all material is commandeered as fast as it is made in the Old Country, and, unhappily, the steel industry in Australia has not’ yet reached that stage at which it is able to turn out the class of material required for ship-building.
– And the price is almost prohibitive.
– No. The price of steel turned out in Australia compares more than favorably with the existing prices in England; but at present the rollingmills do not roll the class of steel used for ship-building. As practical men, therefore, we must look fairly at the difficulties. It is no use talking vague generalities, and in that way raising the hopes of men who are unemployed. It is false kindness to do that.It is far better to tell the men what the position is, so that they may know the difficulties confronting the Government in dealing with this question. Senator Blakey pointed out that the State Governments arc larger employers of labour than is the Commonwealth Government, But the ‘State Governments have not unlimited money to spend. They can. only carry out such public works as are authorized, and for which money may be available; and, during the last two years, owing to the existence of the war and the stringency of the money market, all’ the States have had to reduce, their expenditure on public works, until, I suppose, to-day they are spending only about one-third of the amount disbursed in this way. three years ago. And is there any prospect of the position being relieved? I am afraid not. I regret as much as anybody that there should be so many victims of this economic result of the war.
– Not of the war alone.
– Our economic system is probably the cause ofmuch of the distress.
– We knew the cyclone would strike us, but did not take any precautions.
– Senator Stewart has frequently pointed out the defects in our economic system. Honorable senators will realize that, as the Government is in process of change, I cannot make any promise. Speaking for myself, I can -say that no man who has any heart at all can help feeling deep sympathy for those men, and especially the married men, who are seeking work and unable to find it. It is one of the saddest spectacles of our so-called civilization; and anything I can do to push on with works - if I am a member of the new Government - I shall be only too happy to do.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 February 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170215_senate_6_81/>.