7th Parliament · 2nd Session
ThePresident (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
SenatorFOLL. - Have the Government yet received any reply to the representations made to the Imperial Government in connexion with the sentences which were passed upon certain sailors of H.M.A.S. Australia?
– No reply has yet been received from the Imperial authorities. As honorable senators are probably aware, a second communication was forwarded to them bythe Government.
– Has the Leader of the Government in. the Senate seen a statement to the effect that, since leaving Australia, Professor Lefroy has discovered a means of exterminating the blow-fly pest? Is it the intention of the Government to secure this gentleman’s services in connexion with the Bureau of Science and; Industry ?
– I have seen the paragraph referred to, but Ican only say at present that, beyond that newspaper intimation, the Government knows nothing of the matter. It will be submitted for the consideration of the Bureau of Science and Industry.
Deposit of Rubbish
SenatorMcDOUGALL. - I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if he has any reply to the question I put some time ago on the subject of the deposit of rubbish alongside the wool stores at Wentworth Park?
– I have been supplied by the Central Wool Committee with the following answer to the question submitted by Senator McDougall on the 17th of this month : -
Recently permission was given by the New South Wales State Wool Committee to the contractors who are making excavations for a building on a site close to Wentworth Park to deposit portion of the soil removed within the boundary fence of the Wentworth Park sheds. The soil, which is’ suitable for top-dressing, and similar to that spread in another part of the parkusedas a children’s playground, was to be utilized for the purpose of filling in holes or depressions in the ground in close proximity to the sheds.
When the requirements of the New South Wales State Wool Committee were satisfied, the carter engaged deposited the earth immediately outside portion of the fence surrounding the sheds, for which the State Wool Committee was not responsible.
The cartage contractor is now engaged in removing this soil, which is probably the rubbish referred to by Senator McDougall.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate if he is prepared to-day to make a statement as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the present strike, and, if not to-day, when we may expect such a statement?
– I am not in a position to-day to make a statement, for the reason that, so far as we are informed, the various branches of the Seamen’s Union have not yet finalized their action. ‘ The Government deem it advisable to wait until that has been done before they make any further pronouncement on the subject.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911. - Orders of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and other documents, in connexion with further variations of awards in the following cases: -
Australian Letter Carriers’ Association. (Dated 10th June, 1919.)
Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia. (Dated 25th June, 1919.)
General Division Officers Union of the Trade and Customs Departmen of Aus tralia. (Dated 6th June, 1919.)
Audit Act 1901-1917. - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year1918-19 - Dated 16th July,1919 (two). “Defence Act 1903-1918. - Regulations amended. Statutory Rules 1919, Nos. 155, 156, 157, 158, 168.
Excise Act 1901-1918. - Regulations amended. -Statutory Rules 1919, No. 186.
League of. Nations. - Draft Agreement presented to the Plenary Inter-Allied Conference of 14th February, 1919. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
Norfolk Island. - Ordinances of 1919.
No. 1. - Appeal.
No. 2.- Affidavits.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory Crown Lands Act 1890 (South Australia). - Plan of Reserve for Water Conservation and Police Purposes at Anthony’s Lagoon, Northern Territory.
Northern Territory - Ordinance No. 9 of 1919. Justices’ Appeal.
Postmaster-General’s Department. - Eighth Annual Report, 1917-1918.
Public Service Act 1902-1918.-
Promotion of G, Sinden, PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
Regulations amended. -Statutory Rules 1919, No. 164.
Return to Order of the Senate of 26th June, 1919-
Rent paid by Commonwealth Departments in Melbourne.
War Precautions Act 1914-1918. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1919, Nos. 166, 167, 176.
War Service Homes Act 1918. - Agreement between War Service Homes Commissioner and Commonwealth Bank of Australia relating to purchase of land, erection of dwelling-houses, &c.
Wool: Report relating to the activities of the Central Wool Committee for the wool season 1918-1919, together with annexes thereto.
Delay in Settlement of Claims.
Senator -NEEDHAM (for Senator Lt.Colonel O’Loghlin) asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Has the attention of the Minister been called to the statement made at the Congress of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ League in Adelaide on 16th July, 1919, that the widows and dependants of deceased soldiers had been unable to obtain a settlement of their estates for several months, and will he see that these settlements are expedited?
– In the majority of cases the military estates of deceased soldiers have been adjusted. . Everything possible is being done, and will be done, to expedite the settlement of the remainder.
Increase in Price of Gas.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The price of gas is regulated by State enactment, and the matter has been brought under the notice of the State Government.
Remissions of Sentences and Fines : War Precautions Act
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government, in connexion with the Peace Celebrations, to remit all fines and sentences incurred by members of the Australian Imperial Forces either overseasor in Australia?
– No ; but the question of the remission of portion of the sentences of penal servitude, imprisonment, and detention awarded by courts martial is now under consideration.
asked the Acting
Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Have blankets, flannels, or other goods held by the Defence Department been, or are they going to be, made available at cost price to organizationswho wish to purchase them for distribution in urgent cases?
– A quantity of flannel and blankets has already been made available for free distribution in certain cases of distress. Existing instructions provide that blankets and other woollen goods no longer suitable for the use of troops may be made available free of charge to charitable organizations, and blankets and other articles in excess of military requirements may be made available at cheap rates to hospitals, charitable organizations, and influenza relief committees ; other applications ‘are dealtwith on their merits.
Preference to Returned Soldiers
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it the policy of theDepartment to discharge from his employment the father of a dead soldier for the purpose of replacing himthe father - by a soldier or soldier’s wife?
– The policy is to . give first preference to returned soldiers. Experience has, however, shown that this policy, where it involves displacing exist’ ing employees, may be the means of inflicting great and unmerited hardship. The Government are now considering the possibility of meeting such cases without violating their general policy.
Forfeiture of Cigarettes
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing thePrime Minister, upon notice -
– It is not considered desirable to’ disclose the nature of reports of Public Service inspectors in such matters.
Bill read a third time. .
In Committee (Consideration of report presented toSenate on 16th. July, 1919, vide page 10697):
Senator GIVENS (Queensland) (3.20].- It will be within the recollection of honorable senators that a short time ago Senator Pratten raised the question, which is one of importance, -whether the rights of senators have not been imperilled, by a departure, from our usual practice which was made whilst the war was in progress. As honorable senators are aware, while the war continued we departed from the custom which had been previously observed of laving at least one session of Parliament during each year, the result being that we had only one session during the life of each Parliament. That is to say, there was no prorogation at the end of each year. Instead, we merely adjourned until a date to be fixed. The consequence was that certain of our Standing Orders prohibited honorable senators from exercising their ordinary rights in regard to questions which had been ‘dealt with by “the Senate during any debate of the previous year. Thus an honorable senator might be required to wait for three years before he could refer to any matter which had been dealt with by the Senate. “When this question was referred to the Standing Orders Committee it was fully considered by the members of that body, and they have decided to establish, as nearly . as practicable, the position which would have existed if a session of Parliament had been held during each year. The proposed standing order will permit of any question - no matter how long . a ‘session may last - which has been dealt with six months previously, being revived, so long as the sessionhas lasted for a little more than a calendar year. The reason why a. period of fifteen months has been inserted . in the proposed new standing order is that we have already had experience of a session of that duration, and if a Tariff measure be introduced during the present session, it is quite possible that we may have a repetition of that experience.
– That is not a matter for me to deal with. Honorable senators may rest assured that the new proposal fully safeguards their rights without permitting any undue licence. Therefore, I move -
That the following new standing order be adopted’: - 416a. Where a session of Parliament has continued for more than fifteen months, standing orders Nos. 133, 413, 414, and 416 shall not apply to any subject or matter thathas transpired or been dealt withmore than six months previously. ‘
– As Idirected attention to this matter some little time ago, I wish to say thatthe proposal which has now been submitted, and which represents the outcome of the consideration given to this question by the Standing Orders Committee, meets the case which I submitted to the Seriate. It safeguards the rights and privileges of honorable senators, and I very heartily support, its adoption. This supplementary standing order is designed to meet the exceptional circumstances which have arisen since the commencement of the war.
– I wish to draw attention to the necessity for printing a new edition of our Standing Orders, in order that it may be placed in the hands of honorable senators. Our present copies are things of rags and tatters. When one attempts to handle them the leaves fly all over the Chamber. The attention of the press should be especially directed to this matter with a view to showing how we economize in paper and printing. It should be a standing proof to the press that this is a very economical Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.. .
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 17th July, vide page 10810).
Clause 2 -
After section nineteen of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - “ 19a. Any person who, or the master, owner, agents, and charterers of any ship which damages or destroys any lighthouse or marine mark shall be liable to pay the Commonwealth the cost of repairing, re- placing, or reinstating the lighthouse or marine mark. .
Upon which SenatorFairbairn had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ who”, first occurring, line 3, down to and including the word “ which”, line 5, be left out.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– When this measure was under consideration a fortnight ago, some little doubt was expressed as to the wisdom of placing the whole of the liability, for any damage done to our lighthouses or marine marks upon the shoulders either of the ship-owner, charterer, or agent of a vessel. It was thought that the clause was too rigid, inthat it assumed guilt on the part of one of these individuals, even in the’ event of a vessel being blown upon a lighthouse or marine mark by a storm. To meet the wishes which were then expressed by honorable senators, I have decided to strike out proposed new section 19a and to substitute for it a provision which will spare any of the individuals mentioned where he does not contribute by neglect to the destruction of a lighthouse or marine mark. The new provision effectually provides for this.
– Will the amendment leave paragraph 19b operative?
– Yes. If a man through neglect or wickedness destroys a lighthouse or marine mark he will be liable to the Commonwealth for the damage which he does. I therefore move-
That proposed new section 19a be left out, and that’ the following provision be inserted in lieu thereof : - “ 19a. If any lighthouse or marine mark is damaged or destroyed by any person or ship the person, or master, owner, agent, or . character of the ship, as the case may be, shall be liable to pay to the Commonwealth the cost of repairing or replacing the lighthouse or marine mark unless he proves that the damage or destruction of the lighthouse or marine mark was not’ caused through wilfulness, negligence, misconduct, or want of skill.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Debate resumed from 27th June (vide page 10223), on motion by Senator Millen -
That the paper be printed.
– At last an opportunity is available to me to make a few remarks upon the Ministerial statement. On the whole, I approve fairly well of the actions of the Government, but there are two matters upon which I should like to say something. We have been told that the Lord loveth those whom He chasteneth, and if, in the course of my observations, I chasten members of the Government, they will know . it is because I love them so sincerely. The subjects to which I desire to direct attention are those relating to economy with efficiency in the administration of the affairs of this country, and profiteering. These are questions which may be dealt with at great length, but I do not propose to occupymuch time. The question of economy with efficiency in the administration of our public affairs should engage the serious attention of every man in public life. It is a most serious problem, affecting as it does our manifold obligations. Our soldiers’ pensions are mounting ‘ up. No obligation should be more sacred to the people of this country, but if we do not economize sufficiently in our administration I am afraid that, with a drought threatening the producing interests of the Commonwealth, our financial position will be most unsatisfactory. We shall be short of money. There appears to be a feeling among my friends opposite that taxation can always be shifted on to the shoulders of those who are supposed to be best able to bear it, meaning, of course, those people with the larger incomes; but I emphasize the fact ‘ they are already tremendously taxed. A friend of mine told me the other day - and he made no secret of it - that in his case taxation represented 12 per cent. of his income. It will be seen, therefore, that a man with about £2,000 or £3,000 a year is better off than many men with £10,000.
– What does a man want with £10,000 a year, anyhow?
– He may not want to spend it on himself. I do not think that there is any vulgar display of extravagance in this country, such . as, perhaps, prevailed in some quarters prior to the war; but it must not be forgotten that a man with £10,000 a year income often has very many and pressing obligations. Possibly he may want a portion of the money to reduce his debts, and while taxation is bearing so heavily on the shoulders of such people, they will, not be able to do much in the way of reducing their financial obligations. I do not say that taxation on the higher incomes should be reduced; but I want to caution people, particularly our friends of the Opposition, that the limit of taxation ‘on the higher incomes has been almost reached. Not much more money can be obtained from that source.
– Taxation on the higher incomes reaches only 60 per cent. in Great Britain.
– But in the case I have quoted 72 per cent. of a man’s incomehas been . taken. ‘Senator Mulcahy. - There must be something peculiar about his position.
– There are not many cases in Australia in which taxation represents 72 per cent. of the income.
– There are a good many.
– Then it would be interesting if the honorable senator would furnish - the Senate with particulars of them.
– If the honorable senator will allow me, I shall explain the position. In the case of a man engaged in the ‘ pastoral industry, his lambs, which do not representactual cash, may have been valued at a certain figure, and die next year, with the result that his net income will have been so much reduced that he will find himself mulcted in taxation to the extent of 72 per cent. I know this is an absolute fact in some cases, and that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has been placed in possession of the figures.
– Will the honorable senator indicate what is the net income upon which 72 per cent. has been taken ? Is it very large ?
– Yes, it is large; I suppose about £10,000 a year. In the case to which I refer the taxpayer’s income has been cut down to about £2,800. I do not suggest that £2,800 is not sufficient for a man to live upon; but the facte indicate that thereis not much room for further taxation on the higher incomes. The real position of those who are supposed to be well off, is not always better than that of those who get £2,000 or £3,000 a year, because, although their incomes may be larger, they have contracted certain obligations, quite apart from taxation exactions of the Government, which must be met.
– You are speaking, I presume, of State and Federal taxation ?
– Yes ; and of municipal taxation also. I refer to all forms of taxation levied upon persons with large incomes.
I have had prepared a table setting out in some detail the extent of our obligations. Commonwealth war pensions, on ‘ 27th June, 1919, amounted to £5,234,812, paid to 192,019 returned soldiers. The old-age and invalid pensions; on 31st December, 1918, represented an expenditure of £4,000,000, paid to 95,432 pensioners; and the maternity bonus, at the end of last year, amounted to £643,000, paid in respect of 126,888 babies. The Commonwealth also paid to benevolent asylums £59,060 for 2,788 inmates. These figures make up a total of £9,916,872 paid in respect of 448,128 persons. Of course we cannot look to any saving in respect of some of these amounts.
– We should be ableto make a saving in connexion with the maternity allowance.
– I am coming to that. If old-age pensioners were rightly paid the pensions which they received three or four years ago, they are logically entitled now to an increased pension, owing to the increased cost of living. I understand that the Government are at present considering whether the state of the Commonwealth finances justifies an increase in the old-age pension. I really believe that the maternity allowance should not be paid in the case of persons in receipt of an income above a certain amount. I never could be convinced that a man in receipt of a small income should be compelled by taxation to contribute towards thisassistance to another man in receipt of a very much larger income. Idirect the attention of Ministers to the advisability of reviewing the present system under which maternity allowances are paid, and to see whether something might not be saved in that way which could be used to increase the rate of the old-age pension.
– I would prefer that the money saved in that way should be spent on baby or maternity clinics.
– Ithink that such clinics should be provided for, but it does seem to me ridiculous that the maternity allowance should be paid, as it is, to people who are really well off.
– To 99 per cent.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that 99 per cent. of the people who receive the maternity allowance are well off ?
– No; that the application for the allowance is made in respect of 99 per cent. of the babies who are born.
– Is it not better that we should spend money on increasing the population than upon killing it?
-There is not the slightest doubt that it is, and I can answer the honorable senator’s question without notice.
The Federal and State Governments draw taxation from the same well, and I come now to consider the payments which have been made by the State Governments. For general hospitals the States contributed £666,589 for the accommodation of 476,279 people treated in those hospitals. That was in’ 1916, the latest year for which I could obtain the figures dealing with this matter. To benevolent institutions the States contributed £256,616 for sheltering 7,258 people. The amount of State relief for neglected children was £535,419 for the care of, I was surprised to see, 32,381 neglected children in the Commonwealth.
For hospitals for the insane the States contributed £688,000 to institutions dealing with 17,000 insane people of our population. For the protection of aboriginals the States contributed £97,000 in respect of 6,777 aboriginals. These. figures make a total of £2,243,624 paid in respect of 539,698 people. The total of the figures for both Commonwealth and States amounts to no less than £12,160,496, and this amount is paid in respect of 987,826 persons; so that nearly one in every five of the population is in receipt of some contribution from the Governments of the States or the Commonwealth.
We have to pay some £15,000,000’ a year in the shape of interest on war loans. It is obvious from thesefigures that we need to be very careful how we spend our money, but I very much regret to say that I seenoattempt on the part of the Government to really reduce public expenditure. They seem to go on increasing the staffs of public: departments and establishing duplicatedepartments, and in spending money as if the public purse had no bottom to it. I was very much surprised the other day to find that there has been an increase of 396 officers in the Public Service. I believe that such an increase is notjustified. We should for some time to come keep the Public Serviceat least at no more than its present strength. Some honorable senators may say that it would be cruel to reduceourdepartmental staffs, but the fact is that if we do not reduce them now, when bad times come upon us, as assuredly they will before long, we may suddenly have to turn people out of the Government Departments at a time when it will be difficult for them to obtain employment outside, and in that way we should be doing them a gross injustice.
There is one way in which I think a great saving in public expenditure might be made, and that is by the amalgamation of State and Commonwealth Departments. There are several sets of Departments which might well be amalgamated. Thefirst I shall mention are the Electoral Departments. There have been several Premiers’ Conferences at which this matter has been discussed. At the Premiers’
Conference held in Melbourne in March, 1914, it was resolved -
That the proposals of the Commonwealth Government relating to electoral reform be referred to the Governments of the States for early consideration and decision.
That was a,bout five and a half years ago.
– It is only .fair to say that our Bill has been prepared, and is ready for that co-operation.
– I do not care who is at fault, I wish to see the amalgamation take place.. At the Premiers’ Conference he.ld in Sydney in May, 1915, it was resolved -
That steps be taken to secure electoral roll uniformity between the Commonwealth and the States.
At another Premiers’ Conference, held in Adelaide in 1916, it was resolved -
That the electoral officers having recommended that it was practicable and advisable to achieve uniformity in regard to State and Commonwealth electoral rolls, the respective States be invited to take the necessary steps to give effect to the recommendation.
– It is becoming a hardy- annual.
– That is so. It astonishes me that, instead of amalgamating some of the State and Commonwealth Departments, the Government go on duplicating Departments. I have taken out some figures to show what this duplication of the Electoral Departments involves in the matter of expenditure. I find that for the year 1916-17 their total -cost was £168,1.21, of which amount the Commonwealth spent £113,190-
– Is that for electoral staffs?
– That was for the electoral staffs, exclusive altogether of election expenses. The Commonwealth Electoral Department dealt with 2,776,440 electors, and, to get their names on the roll, spent £113,190. The State Electoral Departments enrolled 2,806,239 electors at a cost of only £54,931.
– To what year do :thos6 figures refer?
– To 1916-17.
– The honorable senator should remember that there were two referendums.
– Their cost is not included in the figures I have given.
– The rolls have to be prepared before a referendum is taken.
– I have taken the figures which I have quoted from the Commonwealth Year-Book. I believe that the expenses of elections are not included in those figures.
– Tasmania must be excluded, because there the Commonwealth roll is taken.
– I understand that that has been done only’ recently, and since 1918-17.
– No; that has been -done for the last ten years.
– I see that the amount for the Tasmanian State Electoral Department was £2,614.
– The honorable senator should deduct that amount from the amount of Commonwealth expenditure quoted.
– That would be a mere nothing, as the Commonwealth expenditure was nearly three times that of the States. The Electoral Department is one in which. a very considerable saving might be made by amalgamation.
I come now to consider the amalgamation of the taxing Departments of the Commonwealth and the States, which has been promised year in and. year out for a long while. “We have had various State Conferences dealing with this matter. At the Conference held at Adelaide in May, 1916, it was resolved -
That the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the several States shall direct their leading taxation officers to meet at an early date to prepare a uniform scheme for income tax (rates excepted), land tax (rates excepted), probate duties (rates excepted). The Conference re-affirms the desirability of uniform valuations for Commonwealth and State purposes being adopted as early as practicable, and that the necessary legislation and administrative steps in that direction be taken by the States.
That resolution was arrived at more than two years ago, but, apparently, we are no nearer an amalgamation of the Commonwealth and State Taxation Departments. This’ is a matter which requires the immediate attention of the Government, who should see whether this amalgamation may not shortly be brought about. It would not only do away with an enormous amount of expense, but it would obviate a tremendous irritation of the taxpayers, who have now to send in two schedules in respect of each tax imposed, and honorable senators know the great difficulty with which many are faced in making up those schedules.
I have taken out some figures to show what might be saved in this direction. I find that the expense of collection in Victoria, in 1917-18, of income tax, land tax, and probate duties, amounted to £40,445.
– All of which is a duplication of Federal work.
– Yes; all of which is an absolute duplication. In New South Wales there is no State land tax; but against that there is an enorm!ous income tax to collect. For 1916-17 the cost of the collection of taxes amounted to £23,022; in Queensland, in 1916-17, the sum totalled £13,890 ; in South Australia the cost amounted to £18,260 for the year 1917-18; and, in Western Australia for 1914-15 - the latest year ‘ for which I could secure figures - the expenditure was £16,183. In Tasmania for the same year the sum of £7,931 was expended; and the total cost of all the State collections amounted to £119,731. Durn ing 1917-18 the Commonwealth had to spend £276,772 in the collection of its taxes. I am aware, of course, that it had the war-time profits tax to deal ‘with, and that was a complex subject to handle.
Uniformity in regard to such matters as these will never be secured so long as we have Premiers’ Conferences which meet and part as did the last’ one. The influenza epidemic broke out, and the various State delegates scattered’ in no time. On every occasion State Ministers say they must stick up for their own States, and that they cannot do anything, while the Commonwealth representatives reply that they must stand by the Commonwealth. Then comes the deadlock. I suggest that State and Federal authorities refer the whole project to a Commission to be appointed somewhat on the lines of the Murray Waters Commission.
– I think there is a Commission with respect to electoral matters now.
– I am not sure about that; but I am convinced that a permanent Commission would solve our duplication difficulties and bring about economical amalgamations. The Commission could investigate the functions of both State and Federal taxation authorities. During the last election campaign I promised that I would do my utmost to bring about this much-desired reform. We wish for efficiency and economy, and we do and say all we can, realizing that there is a great deal to be done; but we get mighty little results.
– If the various Governments desired to bring about these economies they could do so within a month.
– Every Government wants to retain its own civil servants.
– That is the trouble. Nevertheless, I hope something will soon be done. I- trust also that we may be able to bring about uniformity of land valuation.
– For municipal pur poses, too?
– Why not? The Federal Government have a system of improved as well as of unimproved valuation. Municipalities make improved valuations.’ The Commonwealth valuation would really cover the whole field. New Zealand has one comprehensive land valuation, as against four in Australia. Much inconvenience and a vast amount of expenditure could be done away with by economical amalgamations . in this respect.
– Why should not the Commonwealth accept the land valuations of local authorities?
– I do not propose to go into those points. I do not care which way uniformity is brought about so long as it secures economy. We have four land valuations to trouble us to-day. People under Victorian law haveto concern themselves about unimproved values. Then there is a Federal Department, dealing with both improved. and unimproved values; while, besides those, there is a valuation for probate. I realize that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has no time to attend to details of this character, and I do not expect that the energetic Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) will have any greater opportunities after his return. Some months ago we learned that a Premiers’ Conference had been called. There was an excellent luncheon provided for the delegates, no doubt, who made some agreeable speeches to one another; and then they disagreed; and soon after all scattered back to their homes, and nothing was done. The farce continues from year to year. If the Government means business, let it refer this subject to a Board.
– Use the word “ Governments,” not “ Government.” We are particularly anxious to do something.
– But all the other Governments have, said the same; and every candidate at election, time promises to use his best endeavours to effect certain very obvious economies. Some people say it is the Government officials themselves “who kill such projects. One of the best reports coming under my notice emanated from the heads of various Departments, and if the Bill which those officials drafted had been framed and passed, it would have given satisfaction all round.
– But we have an Act on the statute-book tO’day for that purpose.
– The trouble is that the needed reform never gets further.
– We cannot compel the States to act.
– If the Government would refer the matter, say, to the Public Accounts Committee, that body would be in a position to continually examine (the whole subject, and bring about something definite.
– The States would reply that that was a Federal body, and ihat; they would not accept its recommendations.
– I do not think the ^States would say that. I trust the Government will, at any rate, give the matter very earnest attention. To-day we are up against a dead-end. Surely some way out can be found. Neither the Commonwealth nor the States Governments are prepared to delegate their powers. Tremendous and unnecessary expenditure, therefore, continues.
– Should we not set our own house in order first?
– We are given to understand that the Commonwealth Parliament’ has already actually passed measures, so far as electoral matters are concerned, which were framed in order to give effect to economy.
– But I refer to economy generally.
– This is merely one item of economy in regard to which I am particularly anxious. I quite agree with the honorable senator that the greatest disregarders of economy are the Federal Government themselves. The extravagances of the States are as nothing compared with those of the Commonwealth.
We have two Police Departments in existence to-day - Commonwealth and State. Surely such an absurdity should be clone away with. We have two Savings Bank institutions throughout the land. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) indicated that a saving of £60,000 per annum. could be secured in doing away with duplication there. That is just one of a number of subjects that require most careful consideration, with a view to bringing about far greater economy. Apparently, we are now about to witness duplication in regard to scientific and industrial research. We are told that what is intended is co-operation; but it cannot be denied that it means the inauguration of still another Department. I do not object to co-ordination; but for two independent bodies to be going over the same ground, thus doubling costs to the general public, appears to be the height of folly.
With regard to the scheme for the housing of our returned soldiers, I strongly object to the proposal to ignore the splendid machinery provided by the various State Savings Banks. I believe that in all the States the Credit Foncier system is existent. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) said it was the intention of the Repatriation Department to use the State Savings Banks’ machinery, and an agreement was actually arrived at. I know that in Melbourne arrangements were made for the extension of the State. Savings Bank premises in order to take the two top floors in an adjoining building. A hole was actually knocked through the wall, and workmen began on the job of making doors; and that is just how far the matter went. In conversation with a. friend who possesses excellent qualifications for knowing what he is talking about,” I was recently informed that it is obvious that the cost of administering the War Service Homes Act must be greater under the Commonwealth Bank than if the administration were iu the hands of the State Savings Banks. The latter institutions have branches in all the principal towns and districts throughout the Commonweal th, by medium of which payments could be collected with little expenditure. The Commonwealth Bank, however, is represented only by post-offices, except in a few of the very large centres. Imagine a lady postal official in some country district being required to attend to a difficult and technical matter such as the soldiers’ housing scheme!
– The Minister himself argued at one stage that the State Savings Banks were the proper institutions to be employed, in this regard.
– That is so. In Victoria and New South Wales there are long-established organizations in the State Savings Banks which have carried on the business of Credit Foncier loans on cottages upon lines similar to those of the old building societies. The new’ scheme could be administered by those organizations with expedition, and on proved lines, with certainty of success, because of their long experience. The Commonwealth. Bank has no such organization nor experience of this class of work. The staff to be organized must include experts to deal with valuations, buildings, accounts, title deeds, and the like, in addition to a staff of clerks ; and although the State Savings Banks would require addi tional clerks, and a few valuators, the expert supervision in every department would be in the hands of the existing staffs. Extra office accommodation would be necessary, but in regard to the State institutions, that would be limited, because the work would be largely done in the existing offices already devoted to the same class of work. Here, however, we. are about to build ur> a new machine : we are about to start an entirely new Department. ‘ In Victoria, which would represent approximately one- third of the business done in Australia, the extra expenditure likely to- result from giving the administration to the Commonwealth Bank instead of the State Savings Banks would include extra cost of expert officers and premises, £2,500 a year; extra cost of collecting repayments, say, 150 men, on an average commission of £30 a year; or twenty-five men on salary of £180 a year - £4,500. This would make a total of £7,000 annually. As Victoria represents a third of the whole, this for all Australia would be , equal to £21,000 a year; and although the maximum expense would not be reached for two or three years, it would then continue for, .say, ten years, until all building was completed, and the number of payments began to be considerably diminished by the number of loans paid off by successful men. Assuming that the cost continued in full for ten years, the total extra cost would be £210,000. This is, of course, a very rough estimate, but probably a very conservative one. It may be added that the employment of postmasters or local agents on commission to collect arrears and to deal with difficult cases would ia all probability be found impracticable, as the local interest and daily personal contact with the soldier tenants or purchasers would render the local representative quite unsuitable for this class of work. I think that this matter ought to be reconsidered by the Ministry with a new to seeing whether they cannot adopt the common-sense method of dealing with the people who have had this’ work in hand for many years. There is no need to glorify the Commonwealth Bank. We all recognise that it has come to stay. But before very long, by reason directly of the enormous increase in our expenditure, and indirectly of the tremendous losses which will have to be borne, we shall be faced with an extremely, difficult financial problem. But the chief point we have to remember is that the people of the Commonwealth and the States ire the same taxpayers. I wonder what would be thought of me if I put two managers on one station? Would not the Minister think that I was a lunatic? The same principle applies to all these matters. In my opinion, £50,000 per annum may be saved on the Electoral Departments, a further £200,000 on the Taxation Departments, £10,000 on the Commonwealth Police Force, and about £60,000 in connexion with the Savings Banks. The last-mentioned sum might very easily be saved if the Savings. Banks of the country were amalgamated, and my figures are based on the estimate given some time ago by Mr. Watt. Upon the Science and Industries Institute we might very well save £20,000 a year, and also knock out the £500,000 which it is proposed to spend upon a new university.
– The statement that half-a-million pounds would be annually spent upon science and industry was never made. What Mr. Hughes said was that if Australia were to spend £500,000 a year upon an Institute for Science and Industry, it might pay handsomely.
– I am quite willing to encourage science and industry, but I contend that we ought to achieve our purpose by grafting our operations on those of the States. The idea of appointing separate ‘‘bodies to investigate diseases of stock, various pests, &c, suggests to me that we are starting at the wrong end. If we merely appointed a committee to look into, this question it would be a common-sense* act.
– Has not the honorable senator read what is being done in reference to the blow-fly?
– They have a cure for that pest now.
– I hope that a remedy has been found, because the blowfly is one of the greatest pests with which we have to contend. We have been told that two cures have been discovered locally for the pest. If so, they are a long time in demonstrating their efficacy.
– Blow-fly oil.
– I have tried hundreds of these so-called cures. The economies which I have outlined represent a total saving of £340,000 annually. Of course, we cannot save this amount by the holding of Premiers’ Conferences. What we require to devise is a practical way of insuring that these economies shall be effected, and to that end I would suggest the appointment of a joint Federal and State Commission to investigate the matter. At the present time we have pretty well reached a dead-end. This saving of £340,000 annually represents 5 per cent, on nearly £6,500,000. Surely that is an amount which is worth saving. Then we know that the “ meat axe,” as Mr. Watt has designated it, might be effectively used in many other directions. I have been horrified to note the great increase which has taken place in the number of officers employed by the Commonwealth. According to the Acting Public Service Commissioner’s report, 396 ‘extra officers were employed last year.
– Those were temporary officers.
– The report states that “ the permanent staff was increased by 396 men.” I think that is most unfair. There is a drought hanging over Australia, and we are faced with an enormous expenditure upon pensions, in addition to an annual payment of £15,000,000 for interest on loans, so that presently we shall be up against financial chaos.
– Might not .that increase in the number of officers represent merely a change from temporary to permanent officers?
– In order to satisfy the honorable senator on that point, I will read the following newspaper extract : -
How the Commonwealth Public Service grows may be judged from a statement in the annual report by Mr. W. B. Edwards, the Acting Public Service Commissioner, who states that in the financial year ended 30th June, 1918, the personnel of the permanent staff was increased by 390 officers, 1,740 new appointments having been made, and the service of 1,353 officers terminated. The expenditure on salaries was larger by f 123,905 than for the previous fiscal year.
Actually our Service continues to grow and grow year after year. During the war the people did not mind what the Government spent; but if such an increase had taken place prior to the war, half the populace would have been up in arms against such wasteful expenditure. This particular matter requires careful investigation, otherwise we may be compelled to do a grave injustice to our public servants later on. For the sake of the Public Service itself, nothing of that kind should betolerated. Then we might very well dispense with our police force. We did very well without it prior to its creation.
– How many members does it contain?
– I do not know; I have not seen one man myself.
– I have heard of one member of the Commonwealth Police Force who has been inquiring about me.
– I am very glad ‘ to hear that the police’ are of some use to the community. We have instances of extravagance on every hand. On the St. Kilda-road, for example, there are tremendous buildings which have been erected in connexion with the Defence Depart- i ment, and which will not be required after December next.
– To what buildings does the honorable senator refer?
– To the enormous buildings at the back of the Victoria Barracks.
– I am ashamed of the conditions under which some of the men work there. The accommodation in summer time is frightful.
– But are we going to continue that enormous staff?
– No charge of extravagance can be preferred against the Government in regard to those buildings. The accommodation provided is terrible.
– The buildings with which I am most familiar are in every way excellent. But it must be remembered that the last of our soldiers are now on their way back to Australia, and within a comparatively brief period they will be restored to civil life.
– There is only one justification for keeping the men employed in those buildings to-day, and that is the fact that demobilization is proceeding rapidly. Most of those buildings have been built in such a way as to permit of them, being taken to pieces.
– That may be so. But repatriation will also be a temporary affair. I hope that all our men will find employment before many years have passed. But, notwithstanding the immense buildings to which I have referred, the Commonwealth is now erecting a new structure for repatriation purposes on the St. Kilda-road at a cost of £46,000.
– It is a great shame, seeing that we are to remove to Canberra so soon.
– I do not think Hi at’ we shall remove to Canberra in our day.
– I do..
– When our Constitution was adopted, we entered into a compact, and I suppose that we shall have to honour it when the proper time comes. Seeing that both our defence and repatriation schemes are of a temporary character, the buildings already in existence at the back of the Victoria Barracks ought surely to have been sufficient for all requirements. In connexion, with repatriation, we have one building at Jolimont, another in King-street, and a third on the St. Kilda-road, the result being that the poor returned soldier will never be able to find the particular building he is looking for.
– I understand that a large part of the building in King-street is occupied free of rent. The owner has given it from patriotic motives. Does the honorable senator want anything cheaper than that?
– I was not growling so much about its costliness as about the method of the Department in referring returned nien from one building to another.
– The honorable senator’s complaint is that the buildings are too scattered?
– Yes. In my judgment, the structure now being erected on St. Kilda-road, at a cost of £46,000, might well have been dispensed with. We are, however, so accustomed to . dealing with millions, and to floating large loans, that we appear to have lost all touch with ordinary economical methods. I hope the Government will give consideration to this matter, and see what can be done, because it is causing much irritation, and unless we economize, by” saving every shilling possible, we shall not be able to do justice to our returned soldiers. We have not an enormous amount of reserve power in regard to direct taxation. That well has been baled out long ago.
– The price of the war stock proves that.
– Yes, quite n plainly.
The only other matter I desire to refer 1.0 is the question of profiteering, which is a most complicated problem. When we ask, “ Who are the profiteers ?” nobody seems able to supply an answer ; but undoubtedly prices are high.
– You can tell that by the weekly bills.
– Quite right; and the only consolation we have is that in Australia we are ‘better off than any other part of the world.
– That is not much consolation.
– I agree with the honorable senator that prices for various commodities are abnormally high, and that we ought to do our best to see how profiteering may be checked. On this subject I do not quite exonerate my honorable friends opposite, as I think that, if we deal with this question in a practical way, some relief may be afforded to the people. I noticed the other day that the Victorian Government secured tenders for various commodities to be supplied to their institutions at what I regard as quite reasonable prices. A 4-lb. loaf of bread, for instance, is to be supplied at 5.16d. That appears to be reasonable.
– But the consumer in the average household does not get’ bread at that rate.
– That is why I believe that if the Labour leaders were to exert their energies in the direction of establishing co-operative stores they
Mould confer an immense benefit on the people they represent.
– Where we have established co-operative stores the profiteers are trying to kill them.
– If other traders attempt to destroy co-operative enterprises, they can do so only by underselling; -and that in itself would be an immense direct benefit to the consumers.
– Would you like to see a co-operative Commonwealth established?
– We may some clay reach that state of affairs.
– Would you help us?
– I am helping in every way; but the trouble is, as Mr. Lawson, the Premier of Victoria, found out the other day, that the Trades Hall people decline to meet employers, in order to discuss these affairs. Why cannot we have things comfortable as we go along, whether we are moving in the direction of a co-operative Commonwealth or not? That is my way of looking at it. In the tenders for supplying the Victorian Government institutions, the following offers were accepted: - Butter, ls. 7d. per lb.; cheese, Hid. per lb.; oatmeal, 31s. per cwt. ; and meat (mutton, beef, and certain kinds of lamb), which, I suppose, is the heaviest item in the average workman’s home, 5.82d. per lb.
– We ought to get it for less than that. The cool chambers are full of it.
– We will never get it for less than that in Australia. In the old days, when the whole country was under meat and wool, everything was cheaper, and the position was quite different.
I have quoted these prices to show that if the ordinary purchasers would combine, and if the Labour leaders, in and out of Parliament, would support a move for co-operative stores, the consumers ought to be able to do as well in the matter of buying as the Victorian Government.
– Are you in favour of co-operative establishments purchasing under the same conditions? I am with you if you are. Buying is the most difficult problem with co-operative institutions.
– Well, the Victorian Government have obtained the prices I have quoted, and I understand the commodities are excellent in quality. I know that the milk supplied to a hospital with which I am connected is second to none in quality.
.- What about other goods?
– I notice, that the Government ordered an inquiry into the prices of a number of other commodities, and that, with the expiration of the War Precautions Act, authority devolves upon ‘ the State Governments to take action. I would like to see something done to establish co-operative institutions, which, I think, would be much better than price fixing. Irealize, of course, that the chief difficulty is in the distribution. A great many consumers cannot very well call and pay cash; but co-operative establishments would confer a direct benefit upon a large number of people who could call for their provisions and pay cash over the counter. The whole position bristles with difficulties. Only the other day I was instrumental in getting the embargo on the exportation of hides removed, and directly this was done the price of leather rose 9d. a lb., while the price of boots used by working men increased by 2s. 6d. a pair. That does not seem to be fair, and I make this statement in the hope that the tanners and bootmakers may be able to show why the increases were made when, as a matter of fact, they would not be handling the hides’ in respect of which higher prices were charged for two or three months.
– How can they be stopped from increasing prices?
– (The honorable senator is asking me a most difficult question.
– The tanners say that they will have to go out of business . because the Americans are buying up all the hides.
– It cannot be argued that the alternative - cutting off the little extra profit gained by the man on the land- should be adopted. I am for the man on the land every time. I want to keep him “there, and I want also to do what I can to induce other men to get out of the towns and on to the land.
– While hides have gone up in price, rabbit skins are now bringing Is. If you fixed the price of rabbit skins at 6d., where would the howl come from ?
– From the rabbiters, of course; and I hope they would make a big row, too.
We are all agreed, I think, that the primary producer should have enough to enable him to live decently. He has hardly had enough in the past. Certainly, he has not been on a par with’ the man living in the towns. A great deal of the best country is under the plough now, and in Victoria there is not one single man who owns 1,000 head of cattle, so the price of hides is not a squatters’ question by any means. It concerns the small farmer, and if we are going to keep men on the land we shall certainly have to pay them higher prices than in the past. Coal, which is essential for all industrial enterprises, is, I understand, 17s. a ton at the pit’s mouth, Newcastle; but when I looked at my bill the other day I found that I was charged £2 3s. per ton delivered for good Jumbunna coal, though I do not think the coal merchants are malting a great deal of money. The same, I believe, can be said of the butchers; and I have been told that many grocers have gone out of business. There is a big margin between the ‘ prices obtained by the primary producers and the prices paid by the consumers. If any honorable senator looks in Tuesday night’s Herald, he will find quotations for mutton ‘down to about 5d. on the hoof ;. and yet, -when, supplied to the householder, it is from.lOd. to la. The Government ought to appoint a Commission to make a thorough examination of the whole problem, which is causing. more unrest than any other question to-day. Everybody is feeling the pinch. My sympathies go out most to those people, such as bank clerks and others with families, drawing a. salary of about £450 a year. They can see no prospect of relief by direct action, and they are the men who feel the pinch most. The cost of distribution at present is enormous.
– There are too many distributers and not enough producers.
– A working man told me the other day. that in a small street in which he lives, in Malvern, there are no fewer than nine different milk-cart deliveries, while only one boy distributes the Argus, the Age, and the Herald. I said to him, of course, that there was only one quality of the Argus, only one quality of the Age, and but one quality of the Herald, while there were different qualities in milk and meat supplies. I think that if our tradespeople looked into .this matter it is possible that, by some . method of co-operation, they could bring down the cost of distribution to the consumers. In the old days:, whenevery industry was carried on by the cottage system, the working people were contented. When the day of the factory arrived, because of the difficulty of providing for an immense multitude of people tinder conditions of modern civilization, the factory hand, was employed under conditions that were not hygienic, and feeling himself to be merely a cog in machinery, he naturally became discontented. We desire that the working people should again, be made contented. I was very much disappointed that the offer of Mr. Lawson, the Premier of Victoria, for a round table conference, at which matters might be talked, over, was not accepted. An opportunity should be given, to see where we are drifting, and how the conditions of the life of the people might be made more bearable. I am cer.tain that 99 pel’ cent, of employers think and feel as I do on these matters, and are prepared to- do their very best to lighten the load of the working people, and make their lives better worth living.
I have taken up a good deal of the time of the Senate, but I express the hope that Ministers will not treat what I have said in a perfunctory way, because I have given the matters with which I have dealt some study. T hope at least that the Government will do something to bring about the amalgamation of certain Departments of the Public Service, and that they will not create new Departments.
– I have used up all my paper in noting the honorable senator’s suggestions.
– I am glad that the Minister has taken voluminous notes of what I have had to say. He will do me the credit of having studied these matters, and I trust that the Government will make a determined effort to secure economy of administration with efficiency, and will do something to put an end to profiteering.
– I feel that, in speaking to the motion, I shall be, to , some extent, flogging a dead horse. Five weeks ago to-day a very important and interesting statement was made in -this Chamber in order to publish to Australia generally the policy of the Government, and their intentions in regard, to most important legislation during the present session. That statement has naturally been overshadowed by occurrences which have since taken place, and which have grown more serious every day. It is doubtful whether the general public, in the circumstances, remember many of the matters which it was promised would be put before this Parliament for beneficial enactment during the present session. I am doubtful whether’ anything which one may say now on the Ministerial statement will have very much interest either for honorable senators or for their constituents, if the latter should ever learn what is said here, for. I may say confidentially that not many people are addicted to the reading of Hansard. I aim afraid that those who do read it do so only for the purpose of discovering stumbling blocks with which to embarrass members of this Parliament at’ some future date.
After an absence of nine years from this distinguished Chamber, I might be forgiven some retrospection, and some anxiety to show that I have not failed to keep myself in touch with public occurrences during that time, but I promise honorable senators that I do not intend to inflict upon them -an accumulation of experiences extending over nine years. 1 have to thank many honorable senators, some old friends, and you, Mr. President, amongst them., for the welcome extended to me upon returning to this Chamber. I congratulate you, sir, upon the. position which you occupy so worthily to-day. Naturally, after such an absence one misses the faces of old friends. Some have gone the way of all flesh, and others have gone the way of most politicians.
With these preliminary remarks, I wish now to say a word or two> upon some important matters referred to in the Ministerial statement. One which strikes me as of first importance is referred to in the earlier part of the statement, the reference to which was probably prepared by the Minister for Repatriation. I find, the statement made -
With no lessons to be drawn from experience either here or abroad, a Department of Repatriation has been established.
I wish to say with regard to the Minister who has assumed one of the most responsible and difficult positions to be found in Australia to-day that, though not destitute of ambition, I would not for ten times the salary exchange my position as a private senator for that held by the Minister for Repatriation. If there is one thing of greater importance than another at this time, it is the administration of the Department which he has undertaken. The Government are quite right in directing attention to the fact that he has taken charge of a Department in which he has virtually to create methods and ideals. My sympathy goes out to him, and to other members of the Government, who, without previous training, have had to discharge the very serious and important duties inseparable from Commonwealth administration in connexion with, the war during the last five years. We are all, I suppose, most prone to criticise, and find fault, but the work which the Minister “for Repatriation must face in- connexion with the serious and difficult task before him should bespeak for him every sympathy.
One may ask, “ What is the best policy to adopt with regard to our returned soldiers?” The question is a most difficult one to answer. Our soldiers have done their duty nobly, and have made a name in history for Australia which it will never lose. They have come back to us covered with glory; but many, unfortunately, will never be the men they were before they went to the Front, and, unfortunately, many of those who went to the Front will never return. The first thing of which our returned soldiers should be seised - and. the man is an enemy to Australia who would instill any other idea into their minds - is that the public of Australia, irrespective of political or religious creeds, have the most kindly feeling towards them, and the most sincere intention to do what is right by them. It is very regrettable that, from time to time, one should see evidence of a deliberate intention to instill the cursed spirit of discontent, which is the ruin of Australia, into the minds of our returned soldiers. That is a feeling which the Minister for Repatriation will find it very difficult to combat. In the circumstances, . I am not surprised to learn that he is not in the best of health, because of the work which he has been called upon to do.
The State Governments are, to the best of their ability, assisting in- the work of repatriation, and I am proud to be able to say, from actual experience, that the State of Tasmania, in proportion to its size, has accomplished more practical good in the matter of the settlement of returned soldiers than has any other State of the Commonwealth. I am also proud to say, for the glory of that small State, that, not merely proportionately, but actually, the largest number of Victoria Crosses won by our soldiers in the
Avar were gained by soldiers from Tasmania. Tasmanian soldiers have ten Victoria Crosses to their credit.
– That is only luck.
– It is something more than luck. If the honorable senator would put the letter “ p “ before the word “luck” he would be more nearly right. I have said that my sympathies go out to the Minister for Repatriation; and, so far as any honorable senator can do so, it is his duty to make the work of the administration of that Department as easy as it can possibly be made.
We are right in the middle of possibly the worst industrial crisis with which Australia has yet been faced. iSo far as one can see, there is no way .out of the difficulty without recourse . to some very serious action indeed. I am one who complained a few weeks ago of the passivity and inaction of the Government. We were told then that there was a possibility of a peaceful termination of the struggle. We have been told so several times since. We have been told, also, that if it could not be ended peacefully, then it must be ended in some other way. The Acting Prime Minister. (Mr. Watt) made a statement some two months ago, to the effect that he was not going to permit this flouting of the law of the country - a law enacted by a democratic Parliament elected on the broadest franchise on earth, and ‘passed intentionally to benefit the working man; The Acting Prime Minister said that he would not allow that law to be flouted, and the industries of Australia to be held up. I desire to learn from some member of the Government what the Acting Prime Minister intended by his statement. I want to know what was behind it, and what was behind; the statement made by Senator Millen a fortnight ago, and at the same time by his colleague in another place. We were informed that if a peaceful settlement could not be brought about, something else would be done. What is going to be done? Is it not time that we knew what is going to be done? In my journeys through Tasmania shortly before coming over here, I passed through the apple land of Tasmania, in the Huon district. Driving along the roads in that district I saw magnificent apple trees, the branches of which were loaded to the ground with the finest fruit to be seen in any country in the world. That fruit is absolutely rotting to-day. In the various ports on the coast qf Tasmania - Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, ‘Burnie, and
Stanley - thousands of tons of splendid food are rotting, in this twentieth century.
– Why not eat it?
– We have not enough people in Tasmania to eat it. I wish we had. It is rotting there at the present time, and apparently it is likely to remain there. I have not come into this Parliament to be a party man; but I must tell the truth, and will say that the Government have not shown strength in handling this question. When I talk on this subject I am reminded by some other senators that I must tread lightly, and should speak in a whisper; but this industrial struggle has now been going on for weeks and weeks, and we are just where we were when the Actin 2 Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) made a certain statement about eight weeks ago. Immeasurable loss and mischief have mounted up ever since; and when will the trouble end? The Arbitration Court has been flouted. I remember the frequent use of the expression, some years ago in this Chamber, that Wages Boards were a failure because of “the lack of sympathetic treatment.” No one can fairly charge Mr. Justice Higgins with being unsympathetic towards the working man. He has had to bear blame from the employing classes on the ground that he has been more than fair to the working classes. To-day we find two sections of the community - the extreme Conservatives, and the seamen themselves - united in telling us that arbitration has been a failure. If it is going to be a permanent failure, will any one suggest that there can ever be a cessation of industrial strife? Will the granting of all the seamen’s demands settle things ? Unquestionably not ! Recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) determined to settle a threatening position in regard to coal in New South’ Wales. He did so by giving the men everything that was asked for. What is the consequence ? It was stated - whether truthfully or not - that- Mr:- Hughes had sent a Judge to Newcastle in order to give the miners everything they asked for. It is a fact that the judge gave the miners everything that was wanted ; and before the* award had expired, another demand was made.
– What the Judge gave -them was only fair.
– I am not saying whether it- was fair or not; but the matter should have been settled, according to the laws of the land. If those are not right laws, the people should put representatives into Parliament who will make right laws.
– But how can you make a man work when he will not?
– What is the logical outcome of such a query? Do not try to settle anything at’ all; just let everything take its course! I listened to interesting statements made in the Senate when the Arbitration Bill was being discussed. It .was going to put an end to all strikes. Within seven years, and. in the course of one year, there were 536 strikes in Australia; and the Arbitration Court was sitting all the while. Are we to do nothing? When we enact fair laws, let us have the courage to enforce them. )If Walsh deserved to be gaoled .at a certain juncture he deserved to be put into prison six weeks earlier. Why was he not imprisoned then? If the Rotomahana and the Wainui .could be. provided with crews at a certain time, why could not crews have been placed on board those ships at an earlier date; and why cannot other boats be provided with crews to-day ? 1 am satisfied that crews can be found for a good many other boats if the Government desire to find them, and have the courage to try to do so. But we are told to speak with bated breath, and to walk silently, and not to do this or that, in case we bring the miners out. What right have they to come out without a grievance?
– Is it not “a fact that Admiral Clarkson said that the reason why . boats could not be sent to Tasmania was that coal could not be found for them?
– That is quite correct ; but why could he not find the coal? There is plenty of coal .at grass. There is over 1,000,000 tons at Newcastle. Does the honorable senator tell me that it is impossible to get that coal to Melbourne?
– Certainly not.
– Of course, it is not; and if the Rotomahana could be manned, others could have been despatched also. I admit that I am speaking somewhat vehemently, but it is because the strike is strangling little Tasmania.
– Strangling big Australia as well. :Sena.tor O’Keefe. - And the position has been made a lot worse because of Admiral Clarkson.
– Nonsense !
– I am not going to be so unfair as to say that the situation has been anything but most difficult. I know that there are serious circumstances to be faced, and serious things to be done; but, in my opinion, the sooner those serious things are faced and done, the better for Australia. And they are not being faced at this time. I am doubly sorry for the ill-luck which has overtaken the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), whom I regarded as a man full of courage and particularly fitted to meet a crisis such as this. It is most unfortunate that he should be ill.
– You are talking in absolute ignorance. Do not try to separate one Minister from the others. The Acting Prime Minister has not been as much out of harness as you are trying to represent. ‘ Do not make any mistake about that.
– All I know is that he is kid aside by sickness at the present juncture.
– You infer that if he had been here things would have been different. I assure you that they would not.
– I call upon Ministers to face each his own responsibilities.
– They are doing that; and the Acting Prime Minister will not commend you for attacking his colleagues in his absence. ‘
– When I called attention to the state of affairs some weeks ago in this Chamber, I was asked if I could suggest a better course of action. It is not my duty to suggest what should be done. It is not for me, but for our administrators, to handle the situation. But, however bold their actions may be, I promise that I will support them in the interests of the future of Australia ; for this accursed condition of things must not be allowed to. continue.
Among the important matters with which, we understand, we are to deal this session is a Tariff Bill - designed, firstly, to insure the preservation of those manufacturing enterprises inaugurated during the war, which are already being subjected to fierce competition; secondly, the encouragement of new undertakings which are basic, and upon which our national safety depends; thirdly, the extension and diversification of existing industries; and, generally, the development of Australian production and manufacture.
Among the members of the present Government there are those who have already experienced the task of forcing a Tariff measure through Parliament. It is a most important and exceedingly difficult duty; and, in any circumstance, the passage of another Tariff Bill is a matter which will require considerable time. I have always been a Protectionist, but what I call a “ sane Protectionist.” If we are to deal .with a Tariff measure this year, we will be wise to single out certain of the more important industries, and confine our attention. to those. But we shall not be able to deal with the Tariff at all unless we get to the subject pretty quickly. The Government have not yet informed us exactly what is their intention ; and there is no sign of a Bill being presented as yet.
– Did the honorable senator ever see a Tariff measure before it was brought down to Parliament? The usual procedure will be followed in this case.
– It does not look as if the Government were in a very great hurry, seeing that we have done nothing for the past five weeks.
– We will get the Tariff with the Budget; and it will operate for three or four years, as did the last Tariff, which was introduced with out any opportunity being given to discuss any item of it.
– Which again emphasizes the importance of the subject itself-
– We shall have no more chance of discussing the items of this Tariff than we had of discussing the Tariff introduced some three or four years ago.
– Is the honorable senator speaking for the Government, or for a. new Government?
– I am not speaking for the Government. But I am speaking; protestingly.
– Why not postpone the elections next year, in order that we may have more time to deal with the subject?
– Since the subject of elections has been introduced, I shall deal with that, following upon reference to the same matter in the Ministerial statement. There, it is notified that Ave are to have a Bill in relation to the method of voting at elections for the Senate. I understand there is some uncertainty regarding the nature of the principle which we are to be asked toadopt. Probably it will originate here in. order to enable this Chamber to first express its views in regard to the method which should obtain in respect to the election of its members. This question should not be made a party one. Although I am an anti-Labour man, I would sincerely like to see a larger number of honorable senators upon the opposite side of the Chamber. The Senate would be strengthened if it did not contain quite the present number of Ministerial followers.
– We have not half enough.
– A strong Government such as the present one, because of the number of their supporters, must have a greater degree of responsibility cast upon them than a weak Government. I have felt this ever since I re-entered the Senate. What ought to be- done is this. We should first decide the principle of election that we intend to adopt, and then provide efficient machinery to give effect to it.1 Under the present system of electing members . for- the Senate - a -system which is supposed to be a democratic one - a majority of the electors may return not merely a. majority of the senators, but the’ whole of them, provided that the block vote on a particular side is sufficiently strong. That result is not always accomplished, for at the Senate elections in 1914, on the occasion of a double dissolution, the smaller proportion of the. electors secured the return of the greater number of senators.
– That is not correct.
– I am speaking of the elections in Tasmania in 1914.
– I thought the honorable senator was speaking of Australia.
– I was taking the Senate elections in Tasmania in 1914 as a concrete example. On that occasion 236,000 votes upon the one side captured’ only two seats in this Chamber, whereas 234,000 votes on the other side secured four seats. That is an actual fact, and it shows that the existing law does not always make provision for the majority vote being effective under our so-called democratic system. Personally, I do not regard the existing system as a democratic one. A. democratic elective system, to my mind, is one that will insure a Parliament which will reflect fairly all important sections of political opinion in the State.
In the other branch of the Legislature a man cannot represent a constituency under any circumstances unless he has more than half the voters in that constituency behind him. That is a vast, improvement upon the system which obtained previously, when men wore rejected owing to the operation of the split vote, but I take it that the Parliament of the country should be a reflex of the electors outside, and should not merely represent a majority of them, a majority which may at times be a very small one.
– The honorable senator’s party’ does not take up that stand.
-There is no party in Australia except the. Labour party. Its methods compel party measures to be adopted .by the .other side, because that is the only way in which wo can fight it.
– The honorable senator is only joking.
– I was never more serious in my life, and I make the statement as one who has been as long in politics as has Senator O’Keefe. All the evils which may be attributed to the Liberal party have been weapons forced upon them because of the methods adopted by the other side.
– They have taken up the weapons of the Labour party, and, . therefore, they are a party.
– There should be no party ‘ in this Chamber. Every, man should be here to join with the other in doing his best for Australia.
– The honorable senator should tell that to the members of his own party at the next Caucus meeting.
– I have always done so. I believe in the proportional system of voting, because, in my opinion, it provides for a democratic representation in Parliament. I do not call a system which permits of the representation of only one class of people a democratic one. But whatever principle we may adopt, for goodness’ sake let us provide the machinery to give effect to it. This can be done. There is- nothing to stop it. It can be done as simply as possible by means of the preferential method of voting.
– Why, the next election would be upon us before the votes cast at the previous election were counted.
-The honorable senator has been misinformed.
– The counting was not finished in a fortnight in Tasmania.
– As a matter of fact, the electors knew fairly well the results of the polling within forty-eight hours of the election.
– The complete figures were not available within a fortnight.
– The final determination of the election may have taken that time, but’ the ‘candidates who were successful knew their position early enough. I wish to point out to Senator McDougall the results that were recently achieved under that method of election in Tasmania. Had we adopted the so-called democratic method under which a simple majority may return the whole of the members, there would not have been a single Labour man returned to the Tasmanian Parliament at the last elections.
– Oh, yes, there would.
– If so, it would be by accident. In every one of the five-group constituencies, there was a substantial majority against Labour at the last election in Tasmania. Although I am an anti-Labour man, I recognise that that would have been a very unfair result.
– Senator McDougall does not understand the system.
– For the information of the honorable senator, I may say that Tasmania is divided into five constituencies, whose boundaries are coterminous with those of the electoral divisions which return members to this Parliament. Each of these divisions returns six members to ‘the State Parliament under what is known as the Hare system of voting.
– Under the block system the Labour party would not have obtained a single seat at the last Tasmanian elections.
– Would not Lyons and Becker have obtained seats? Why, they topped the poll.
– But under the proportional system of voting.
– -I recognise that this is a somewhat difficult system with which to deal. But the Hare system of voting does bring about a definite relation of representation to the strength of different parties. As a matter of fact, on the occasion to which I refer, it worked rather kindly to the weaker body, because the Labour party, which won thirteen seats, was really entitled to only twelve seats. I shall be very pleased at a later stage to explain more fully to honorable senators the working of the Hare system in Tasmania.
– We have all received a book in regard to that matter.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator has read the book.
– I have read it from cover to. cover, and the more I have read of it the less I like the Hare system.
– During the course of this debate, some honorable senators referred to the high cost of living and to profiteering. They said, quite properly, that the question of what constitutes profiteering is a very difficult and complex one. I have spent most of my life in the softgoods business-
– Yes, if profiteering is regarded as making money out of my business. Whenever I could make a profit, I have felt justified in doing so. But, under present circumstances, it is very difficult to say to what extent excessive profits are being made V- the various wholesalers and retailers of Australia. One thing which has struck me in passing through the streets of Melbourne is the high prices charged by the tailoring trade as compared with the prices being charged in Hobart to-day. Either the prices charged in the shops in Bourke and Collins streets are too high, or there is some reason for them which I do not understand.
– What about rentals ?
– Rentals never yet prevented successful competition. I have seen a sac suit quoted at £10 10s. at a shop in Bourke-street which was certainly not a first-class establishment. That fact suggests to me that there is a tendency to exact higher prices than are justifiable. But when one goes from shop to shop, and finds that certain classes of goods - for example,” cotton goods - are invariably high in price, and learns that in some cases calicoes are costing three or four times as much as they did fifteen or twenty years ago’, he begins to seek for some other reason for high prices than that- of excessive profits. In a great many cases’, the cost of the material has gone up, and to make a living a tradesman must sell at a profit. If he cannot buy at a price low enough to enable him to do this, he must get home on the consumer in some other “way.
I have lived a few years, and I know how this question of the cost of living is affecting the community. I was one of a rather large family, and remember, away ‘ back in 1S65 or 1866, being one of ten or twelve that sat round my father’s table. My father was a mechanic. He was paid, I believe, about 14s. a day, which is about the present rate of pay for that class of workman; and he had to feed, on an average, ten children, as well as himself and my mother. At that time, bread was 6d. per 2-lb. loaf, flour was up to £20 a ton, and meat was nearly as dear as it is at the present time. Many a time I went to the butcher’s for beef or rump steak, and had to pay lid. and ls. a lb. for it. Ready-made clothing, also, was about as high as at present, and the quality was not so good. Notwithstanding the size of our family, I do not remember ever going to bed hungry; and although I was pretty hard on clothes, I was generally dressed well enough to go to school and earn some commendation for respectable appearance. Things are totally different to-day; and incidental to the present strike, I may mention that in mv earlier life I was brought into contact with sailors, and know that the wages of an able seaman was about £4 a month, while an ordinary seaman got from £3 to £3 10s. per month. Wages paid to the’ crew on the Tasmanian Steam Navigation Company boats in 1860 ranged from £5 to £6 per month.’ Sailors then had to live on salt junk and hard biscuits. They are not doing it to-day. I am not saying that the seamen have not legitimate grievances. Their conditions are hard ; but yesterday I saw four miserable “ cabbies “ sitting out in the cold, biting rain on the cab rank alongside Parliament House, and I felt then that their conditions are just as hard as those of the seamen. By all means, let us try to improve the conditions of our working people; but let everything for the benefit of ‘those who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow be done on common. sense lines, and in a manner fair to everybody, else. We are faced with enormous financial difficulties in the Commonwealth.. I did not quite agree with Senator Fairbairn’s remarks concerning the proportion . of taxation paid by men with larger incomes, because the position of Australia’ demands that the men who can pay shall pay, whoever may be the Treasurer, and whatever section commands the government of this country.
– I agree with you there.
– We shall have to look for the money where it may be found.
– I agree; but I say that there is -not much left in the higher incomes.
– We have not yet reached the stage of British taxation. In the Old Country, a man with an income of £40,000 a year has to pay £22,000 in income tax alone, quite apart from any local rating, which I know is as high as 12s. 6d. in the £1, on the annual value, in some districts.
– Still, a man with £40,000 a year is not obliged to give up his motor cars and champagne.
– I know that; but that amount’ of taxation is a fair “ blister “ on a man’s annual income. I forget how many people there are in Great Britain with incomes up. to £100,000 a year; but I know that they are all called upon to pay 66§ per cent, taxation on that income.
– There is a fair bit left. ‘
– I would like to have what is left myself ; but my point is that it cannot be said that the Government are not taxing wealth in Great Britain.’ ‘
– Can anybody say that wealth is not being taxed in Australia ?
– We are trying to do that. Though it may not be popular to say it, I think we are approaching the time when we shall not be able to exempt any person in Australia from some kind of taxation. If we demand our rights as citizens, we must assume our responsibilities as such.
Our fine, stalwart men have coane home again. If they protected the wealth of the landholder and the capitalist, they also preserved the rights and liberties of all citizens. This has been done at a cost of over £300,000,000, and every one in Australia must now be called upon to bear his fair share of the burden. If this is .done, no one will have the right to complain if the man at the top is .paying, even more ‘than his fair share, which he will do, under a proper system of graduated taxation .
.- Taking advantage of the debate on the Ministerial statement, I wish to discuss a number of matters referred to in that document, and express my regret- that some items to which I shall refer have not been included. Speaking generally, I indorse the opinions of speakers who have preceded me to the extent that I. consider the statement in the main satisfactory, and that the Government have reason to be proud of their achievements, during the past few years. When criticism is being hurled at the Government from all quarters, I suggest that the critics should bear in mind the strenuous times through which we have passed. -
– We have won the war., anyway.
– Yes, we have won the war, and the part played by Australia is being appreciated every day ‘ by other parts of the Empire, as well as our Allies.
– You mean . that Australia did her share in winning the war.
– Yes. I am not speaking in- a narrow sense. I mean that we have reason to rejoice that we have emerged victoriously from the war, and to be proud of the part Australia took in the conflict.
I commend the Government for the repeal of a large number of regulations made under the War Precautions Act. I rejoice in the fact that peace has been proclaimed, and that in the future this Parliament will be in a better position to voice the opinions of the people than during the past four years. Honorable senators will now feel under less restraint than during war time, when possibly the free expression of their views might have led to international complications. During the war honorable senators were almost obliged to indorse practically everything that the Government did, but for the future, speaking for myself, I shall feel free to criticise the Government, when necessary, in connexion with measures which I do not agree with.
The first and most important question dealt with in the Ministerial statementis that of repatriation. The Government may be congratulated upon what has been achieved to date; but we must not lose sight of the fact that there are pin-pricks in the administration of the Department, and that a large number of men are not quite satisfied. Many complaints have come under my notice, and although in some cases misunderstanding has arisen through men expecting what they are not entitled to, in a great many cases they have genuine grievances. The Department would be well advised to appoint a complaints officer in each State, as was done by the Defence Department some time ago. such officer to be free from official direction, with authority to inquire into al’l grievances and suggest the remedy. It is provided in the regulations that if a man was not in business prior to enlistment, he cannot now obtain monetary assistance from the Department to enable him to enter into business on his own account. I brought this matter under Senator Millen’s notice some time ago, and the Minister pointed out then that it was not possible to make every man a shopkeeper on his own account; but during the war a large number of men have had practical experience in the control of businesses overseas, managing, farms and similar concerns, and they are now in a position to carry on a business on their own ‘account. A number of cases have been brought under my notice by Local Committees. They are what- may be regarded as first-class propositions, and there is no doubt that if money were forthcoming, the men for whom, they are intended would be successful. At present,- however, it is not possible for the men to obtain monetary assistance. There are other returned soldiers who are willing to put up a portion . of the money themselves.
Many a mam who has been careful during a period of service, and has saved £200 or £300, and also a fair amount of his deferred pay, is prepared to put up a certain amount if the Government will help to the extent of £1 for £1. If the scope of the Act were enlarged to provide for these cases, men would be assisted to become prosperous citizens, and the fact that the Department was interested in the venture would in itself be a safeguard .against unwise speculation by the soldier, because the staff of departmental experts would be able to make all the necessary inquiries, to be satisfied that the proposition was a genuine one, and safe from a repatriation point of view. I commend these suggestions to the Minister in the hope that he will be able to assist men who can submit good propositions, and who are desirous of starting in business for themselves, but who cannot get the assistance they require at present, because of the wording of the Act.
I desire for a few minutes to deal with the housing scheme for returned soldiers. In this connexion I intend to quote some important statements from reports of the Inter-State Commission. The information contained in these reports is so valuable that I should like a copy of them, if that were possible, to be placed in every home in Australia. So far as Queens-, land is concerned, the housing scheme has not yet made a great deal of headway. I understand that this is mainly due to some hitch that occurred between’ the Commonwealth Government and the State Savings Bank. The fact remains that although the War Service Homes Bill was passed by. this Parliament at the end of last year, we are now well advanced in the present year, and it was only the other day that we received invitations from the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to attend the laying of the foundation stone of the first house to-be erected under the Government scheme. In view of the shortage of house accommodation, and the impatience of many returned soldiers to secure homes, I urge the Government to push on with this work as fast as possible.
I was approached a little time ago by Messrs.. James Campbell and- Sons, of
Brisbane, a large firm of master builders, on the subject of the purchase of material within Australia for the erection of soldiers’ homes. > Although the letter 1 received from this firm is fairly long, I propose to quote it for the information of honorable senators. It is as follows: -
We understand it is the intention of the Federal Housing Commissioner to go past Australian merchants for materials required for the erection of the homes for returned soldiers, under the new scheme. In Queensland alone it is announced that from 2,000 to 2,500 houses per year will be required, and if the merchants of Queensland are deprived of the business that will come from the erection of these homes, it will be a very serious thing for them and their employees. It seems nothing less than cruel that while we are deprived of portion of our hard-earned profits tq provide taxes and contributions to war loans and patriotic funds, when the Government has an opportunity to lighten the burden caused by the depression that has existed, since the outbreak of war, in the Wardware trade, by distributing their business to merchants, it should take the opposite course and contribute to the .continuance of the depression by placing the orders in other countries.
We know that a good deal is made of the argument that the material will be brought out in Common.wealth Government ships free of freight, and will be admitted into the Commonwealth free of duty; but we are at a loss to understand where the saving is going to come in, because the steamship line will then lose the freight and the Customs Department the duty. If it is desired that the soldiers should be provided with their materials at practically oversea cost, then an arrangement could be made for a drawback of duty by the Customs, and a remission of freight by the steamship line. It is a. matter quite easy of solution if it is desirable that these items should not be included in the cost of the soldiers’ homes, but while wishing to give the soldier every advantage, we are at a loss to understand why this is necessary.
We know that the merchants of this State and a number of the Southern States, whose views have been conveyed to us, regard this intention as an injustice, and we shall be glad if you will, in the interests of the prosperity of Queensland at least, do all in your power to induce the Acting Prime Minister and the Minister for Repatriation to instruct that all materials required for these homes shall be procured through merchants operating in the States where the buildings are to be erected.
We are quite sure that the merchants would be willing to supply any material required for these soldiers’ homes at specially low rates. The items that will .be particularly affected by any decision to buy overseas would be galvanized roofing iron, builders’ ironmongery, gas and electric light fittings, and paints.
We shall be glad to hear from you at an earlydate on this matter, and hope that we may have your influence and that of an)’ of your friends whom you can interest in this matter.
Yours faithfully, for James Campbell & Sons Ltd.,
ID. Bell, Director.
When I was in Brisbane recently, a number of members of the Master Builders Association interviewed me in regard to the large amount of work to be done in Queensland in connexion with the building of soldiers’ homes. I pointed out to these gentlemen that while I did not desire that any firms should make undue profits out of the erection ‘of soldiers’ homes, I felt that in view of their experience in the business, and the machinery and facilities they possessed, the Government would do well, at any rate, to have some consultation with them, and to see whether they were not in a position to submit a proposition which could be accepted. If they make a proposal which is not sound, and there is evidence that they desire to make huge profits out of the erection of soldiers’ homes, the Government will be in no way bound, and can turn down their proposal. These firms have a large number of employees, the building of houses is their special business, and the Government would do well to consult them and see whether they may not be of material assistance in this matter. So far as I know, none of these firms has yet been consulted. I understand that it is the intention of the Government to let con- tracts to contractors who are returned soldiers, and, if that is not possible, to build the homes themselves, on the daylabour system. If the Government policy of preference to returned soldiers is the obstacle in the way of securing the assistance of established building firms, that might be overcome by making it a condition of any contract with them that they shall give preference to returned soldiers. The Government inspectors could easily see that that policy was carried out. These established firms might erect soldiers’ homes more cheaply than the Government could erect them under the day-labour system. When- I cite our experience in connexion with the transcontinental railway, and some of the work done at Canberra, it will be ad mitted that Government work under’ the day-labour system has not been very satisfactory. I hope that we shall have no similar experience in connexion with the erection of soldiers’ homes.
The principal matter to which Campbell and Sons direct attention is- that the Government are going overseas for the timber required for the erection of soldiers’ homes. We hear everywhere that we should support our own industries, and it is somewhat inconsistent that the Government should propose to go overseas for the timber required for soldiers’ homes.
– I think that statement is inaccurate. I understand that it is the policy of the Government to use Australian material as far as possible.
– I sincerely hope that Senator Pratten’s statement is correct, and that the Government will not go overseas for these materials. I remind the honorable senator, however, that the tightest Ring in Australia at the present time is the Timber Ring, and if the Government desire to obtain Australian timbers at a reasonable cost they must first break down that Ring. If they propose to do so by importing material for soldiers’ homes from overseas, I should like to say that, in my opinion, that is the wrong way to go about the business. Surely there are other means which the Government might adopt.
– They might erect their own saw-mills.
– That might not be. an altogether undesirable thing to do. I am , not so much concerned with the method they adopt as. with seeing that Australian timbers shall, as far as possible, be used in. the construction of soldiers’ homes. I propose to make a quotation from the report of the Inter-State Commission, which will show that it is a very mild statement to say merely that there is a Timber Ring in Australia. One of their reports goes to prove that the supply of timber for Australia at the present time is practically in the hands of a few persons. They can put their heads together and increase the price of timber at any time they think fit, and without justification. That is one of the things which the
Housing Commissioner will find himself up against; but I hope that the Government will not go overseas for timber as a means of reducing the price of timber in Australia for building purposes.
– There is no more justification for going overseas for timber than there is for going overseas for hats, boots, and the products of other protected industries.
– I hope to deal with that matter also before I sit down. I believe that that practice might be prevented by legislation; but” the Government, unfortunately. have not the power under our Constitution to deal effectively with it at present. They should secure the constitutional .power to regulate profits, and that would be found to be an effective means to reduce prices.
I wish to quote from the Interestate Commission’s report to show the position so far as the supply of bricks is concerned. The Government are up against a serious proposition if they intend to purchase bricks for soldiers’ homes from the present proprietary brickyards. My quotation refers principally to New South Wales, and should be of interest to Senator Pratten. I find that the Inter-State Commissioners say -
The brickmakers of Sydney (except the State brickworks) are associated in a “holding company,” the Metropolitan Brick Company, by an agreement of a stringent character. The whole of the output is virtually pooled by a system of agreed proportions of the total being manufactured by each brick master. Any excess or deficiency is adjusted from time to time in the distribution of tlie proceeds of all sales. A committee named in the agreement fixes prices and governs the Combine. No minutes are kept of meetings, an unprecedented feature which the president explained by saying that the whole thing’ works so .harmoniously, that no record of any kind is necessary.
– An honorable understanding.
– Just so. That will show what the Housing Commissioner will have .to face. We are told that “ The president said that no member had ever broken the rules.” I suppose that he meant by that that the members knew what the consequence would he if they did break the rules - that their supplies would be cut off; that they would be boycotted in some way, and prevented from carrying on their business successfully. The. quotation continues -
The Combine rigorously enforces the condition that a builder must take all his supplies or none from members. A witness gave evidence that while building a large business place in the ci’ty he needed black face-bricks. He found that another builder operating near-by was obtaining them from a Arm in the Combine. On ringing up to place an order he was asked where he was getting his other bricks, and was then referred to the Metropolitan Brick Company (the “holding company” for the Combine). The latter company asked the same question, and the answer was “ the State Brickworks.” It was then discovered that the Combine had no black facebricks for sale, and, though the person giving this answer claimed to have been misunderstood, the occurrence is an illustration of the condition frankly admitted.
The price of common bricks rose from 45s. per 1,000 in 1014 to 50s. in February, 1917, at which figure it remained stationary UP to the time when evidence was given, though the present president of the association, popularly known as the Brick Combine, forecasted a further rise at the beginning of this1 year (1910). This rise has since been announced in the press, and amounts to 2s. 6d. per thousand. The number of bricks ordinarily used in a brick cottage of four rooms and kitchen, &c, is said to be about 35,000,. and, therefore, the added burden on this account since 1914 would be £13 2s. 6d.
I will deal now with another important building commodity, namely, Marseilles tiles. The information obtained by the Commission clearly demonstrates -that the tile, manufacturers have made a big harvest since the outbreak of the war, when the importation of overseas tiles practically ceased. The document continues -
The principal manufacturers of roofing tiles in Victoria are’ combined in an association, which has a very close control of at least GO per cent, of the trade. The association fixes prices for the supply of tiles, and its method of working is to give prices for roofing, which ‘ include the fixing of the tiles by the suppliers. While not absolutely refusing to sell tiles to builders to be fixed on .roofs by the purchaser, the association makes the price so high (£20 per thousand) as to be admittedly” prohibitive. Two reasons are given in justification of the association’s action in keeping not only the supply but the work of fixing of roofing tiles in their own hands, the one which is most emphasized being that they prefer to do the fixing in order that they may be sure that the work is satisfactorily carried out. (One witness stated that it is usual to give a two years’ guarantee that the roof will be weatherproof.) The second reason is a frank avowal that the fixing insures a certain amount of added profit. Some, at least, of the competing companies outside the association sell their tiles outright,- and do not quote any prices for fixing. A witness representing one such company said that his charge is £18 per thousand at the yard. In Sydney the manufacturers sell the whole of their tiles outright, but take uo part in the fixing.
In order to provide a safeguard against breaches of the rules fixing the prices of tiles, the association requires members who measure up roofs for the purpose of tendering to furnish the association with a copy of their measurements. More than one member may measure up a job, and in that way the association obtains a check by comparison.
I take it that the reason for that procedure would be to insure that a builder could not possibly obtain more tiles than were to be actually used upon the job in hand. There would be no chance of his getting enough to undertake another job -
It would appear from the minutes that this precaution against breaches of the rules is carefully observed, as there are frequent entries showing that reports of measurements are submitted to -the meeting, a proportion only of which are passed. In one instance, for example, forty-four reports of measurements were dealt with, and thirty -four passed; the balance, according to the secretary’s evidence, would have been held over for investigation. Each member deposits £100, and the association has power to impose penalties in cases of breaches of the rules.
One important company, which is a member of the association, is located at Ballarat, but competes in the metropolitan area,, and explains its capacity for that competition by two facts, namely, .that it has an advantage in .the clay, inasmuch as it is using slimes that have already been treated by mining operations, and the material is therefore in a partly prepared state; and also as its manufactures are delivered at the Spencer-street Railway Station it is better situated in supplying many of the suburbs than are some of the suburban manufacturers.
A resolution of the association, passed in July, 1016, provides that -the minimum rates for Ballarat within a 5-mile radius of:th Post Office shall be the same as Melbourne for private work only; all Government work to be at country rate. So far as the private work is concerned, .it was explained in evidence that this resolution was passed to protect the Ballarat company, and give it the control of busit nesa within the area where it is located. With regard to Government work, the reason for the provision was said to be that Government contracts are often much larger than .those of private individuals, and it was thought reasonable that the Melbourne manufacturers should have the opportunity of competing. The effect, however, is that if the Government desired any tile-roofing to be done within the Ballarat area, even though the work were done by the local company, the price would be raised by adding to it the cost of freight from Melbourne, which on the scale adopted by the association is 17s. 6d. per square, or nearly 30 per cent, addition to the standard price at the present time. Witnesses questioned on this subject protested that there was no intention to penalize the Government, but that is obviously the result, and although they further stated that there was practically no Government work of the kind going on at Ballarat, it is clear that the terms of the resolution were intended to have some meaning.
While, as stated above, the association only controls about 60 per cent, of the trade, the members comprise owners of all the old-established businesses. Several new companies have been formed within the last few years to manufacture tiles outside the association, and there is some evidence that their competition takes the form of making a slight reduction in prices. Owing to the present demand, however, this competition has had no effect in checking the output of any of the association companies, or causing them to lower their prices.
The dearness of galvanized iron .has led to a great demand for tiles. Before the war these were either imported from Marseilles and’ sold on the wharf at £12 per 1,000, or else were made locally and sold at £11. The selling price of French tiles increased in 1915 to £15 5s, in 1916 to £22 5s., and in 1917 to £24 10s. per 1,000, at which price importing ceased, as no business could be continued.
The report proceeds - and I emphasize this -
Local tiles rose during the war from £11 to £18 10s. None of the witnesses examined could give any reason for an advance of 50 per cent., at any rate, in the case of businesses whose plants were installed before the war. The pressure of demand, however, was so great that several new yards were opened, two of them on a large scale, and these new businesses had to incur great additional expense in installing machinery. It was. mentioned in the Tariff Report on Slate Slabs, Tiles, &c., that the local tile industry before the war was already so prosperous .that none of the tile manufacturers opposed the then suggested reduction of duty.
That local manufacturers raised their prices by 50 per cent, because of the opportunities afforded by the war conditions indicates a clear case of profiteering at the expense of the general community. Building material generally has so in- , creased that it has become almost impossible to erect a house; and there has been this additional factor, that- rentals have increased considerably. If the Government are compelled to buy their materials from Combines of the nature mentioned in the report, and at the prices indicated, homes for our soldiers will cost a disproportionately high figure. When, in a few years, competition has again reduced prices to about normal, houses for soldiers will be built more cheaply, and thus the parties who purchased during the present period of abnormally high prices - that is to say, in the early stages of the scheme - will have been penalized.
– When the Public Works Committee recommended the erection of houses at Lithgow, the brick and tile makers immediately put up their prices, because the Government was coming in.
– That is so. The Government should take strong action. Otherwise our soldiers, and the public generally, will be forced to pay considerably more than a fair amount for their homes.
– How do you know that the Government are not taking steps?
– I am not saying that they are or are not. I am endeavouring to point OUt the position, and to warn the Government.
– The Government knows these things and will be cautious, I presume.
– I consider it is the duty of honorable senators, if they can ascertain facts which affect the public, to make them known to the Government, and generally.
So far as the Timber Merchants Association in Victoria is concerned, the report states : -
Competition between members is kept in check by the rule which provides that no branch yards shall be opened without the consent of the association; and, further, that branch yards shall not be sold or transferred apart from the main business, as they carry no rights to membership. .
It appears, then, that competition has virtually ceased. In former times the public benefited by healthy competition; but now various manufactures and industries are getting into the hands of unscrupulous parties, banded together in Combines, for the purpose of forcing up prices.
I trust that the Government will not merely confine attention to ‘ the housing of returned soldiers, but will go in for a housing scheme by which the community generally may benefit. The report indicates that the British Government are adopting a scheme to benefit the community generally, not merely from the housing point of view, but with the object also of reducing high rentals. I will quote further -
In June, 1918, the British Minister of Reconstruction issued an interesting report upon housing conditions in England and Wales. This report was prepared by a Sectional Committee (of which the Marquis of Salisbury was chairman), known as the Advisory Housing Panel.
And these are the recommendations of that Committee in regard to housing -
That the State should provide the whole cost of building, and should own the houses for a period to be fixed, say five years, at the end of which prices may be expected to have attained a normal level. This period is referred to as the transitional period.
During this period the local authority will act as agents of the State, and will be responsible, subject to the approval of the District Commissioner hereafter described, for building and managing the houses and collecting the rents.
At the end. of the transitional period the ownership of the houses will be transferred to the local authorities at a figure to be arrived at by deducting from the original cost such a percentage as represents the fall in price of materials and labour, together with a fair allowance for depreciation.
I now propose to address myself to the Institute of Science and Industries. Honorable senators will recollect that when the Bill authorizing the establishment of the institute was under review here, a number of honorable senators, upon this side of the Chamber did their best to prevent it becoming law hurriedly. Our efforts were fairly successful, because when Parliament adjourned ‘just before Christmas, the” Bill was still on the business-paper of the House of Representatives. But despite the fact -that the measure has not yet become law, the Government have appointed a secretary at a large salary, also various members of the Board, , and have taken large office premises in Danks’ Buildings; indeed, they have done everything that would have been done >ha$ ‘the Bill .been placed upon the statute-book. I ta&e it that (large sums tff money are being disbursed : for the upeeg of this institute, although upon the motion for the second reading of the Appropriation (Works and ^Buildings) Bill in this ‘Chamber ‘last -year the Minister for Repatriation .assured Senator Fairbairn that nothing would be done in , the direction of .expending .money which might be appropriated for the purpose until the Bill had finally become law. I find upon reference to *Mansard Chat Senator Fairbairn, speaking in this Chamber on the 17*h October last year, said -
Among these -voluminous items I see one for -£3,000 for an Institute of Science and Industry. It occurs to me ‘f/hat that expenditure is entirely illegal. I have carefully read section 51 of the Constitution, and can see in it no power delegated -to the Commonwealth by the States which would bring this proposal within the -four corners of the law.
When replying, Senator Millen .stated -
Even if the Senate passes this amount, it cannot possibly be expended until the Bill authorizing the Government to ‘proceed with the creation of a Science Institute shall have been finally approved.
Seeing that the Bill has not yet been passed by another place, I would like to know who is going to pay the moneys which have already been expended in connexion with the institute if .the Bill be finally rejected ? The Government have absolutely flouted the will of Parliament in this matter.
– I suppose that Ministers will pay that money out of their own salaries.
– I suppose that they will .not. .But in view of the definite assurance given by Senator Millen, the “Government are surely overriding the rights of Parliament -when they take action of the character I have suggested.
I now wish to deal with the vexed question of the high cost of living. I recognise that it is not possible for the Government under our present limited constitutional powers to effectively deal with this question, .and I therefore ‘hope that on the first -available opportunity they will ask the people of Australia- ito endow them with larger powers. The people are looking to the Government to dead -with this question an the future. There is no ,doubt that ‘profiteering .is being practised, -and the reports of the .Inter-State Coin.mass.On dearly ‘demonstrate that there are –a number of unscrupulous traders in this community who ‘are, ito some extent .at least, responsible foa’ the industrial unrest that obtains here. I admit that various industrial troubles must also share a degree of responsibility for :tlie high east of -commodities. The seamen’s strike, for example, has been the means of raising the prices mt goods, because articles which were previously carried by sea have now to fee (transported by rail, and have to pay, perhaps, four times the freight that they formerly .paid. This is one of the -reasons why the cost of living is on the upward grade.. Nevertheless, it .is manifest that profiteering is going on, and this -I shall clearly demonstrate before I resume my seat. If the Government -wish to .retain the .confidence of -the electors they must endeavour to secure -the constitutional powers necessary to -enable them to effectively ‘deal with this matter. One item -which is .almost as important as that of foodstuffs is the item of clothing. The exorbitant prices which are being charged for quite a number of articles of everyday -use are responsible for a considerable amount of the discontent which exists amongst the Tank and file of the community. Upon page 7 of the Inter-State Commission’s report, No. 11, dealing with clothing, I find the following: -
It wa-e urged by importers that an appreciable contributing cause to the increased cost of clothing .and of materials for its manufacture is (lie heavier actual burden of Customs dirties paid by the consumer since the war. As the .average import values of clothing and piece goods, &c, have increased nearly 100 per cent, since 1914, the *ad valorem duties have involved heavier amounts being paid on “the same .articles. Whilst war conditions render the amount now levied much in excess of that necessary for the protection of local industry, such excess may be fairly -considered as necessary indirect .taxation to meet the financial emergency -arising .out of the war. It .does, however, constitute a heavy addition to the cost .to the consumer of all imported goods which are .dutiable according to value.
In spite of this, the Customs duties which have been levied during the past .four years have not increased to anything ‘like the .extent that the cost of . commodities has increased. Where there may have been a 5 per cent. or 10 per cent. increase in Customs duties, the manufacturers have increased the prices of their goods by 15 per cent., and even more. The figures quoted by the Commission, comparing the prices which ruled in 1914 with those which obtained at the time it conducted its inquiry, clearly demonstrate this fact.
– What duties have been imposed on articles since the outbreak of the war ?
– I am not in a position to say. I do not think there have been any. But that is the cry which has been raised.
– The manufacturers have had the benefit of almost prohibitive Protection on account of the lack of shipping.
– They have practically had prohibition during that period. The manufacturers have taken advantage of the consumer, but have failed to supply him with a better article. They have taken advantage of the conditions which have obtained, not to benefit the people of Australia, but merely to exploit ‘ them. As the price- fixing regulations have now been swept aside,, and it is apparent that the States cannot deal effectively with this particular question, I hope that the Government will take action to limit the profits made by these various enterprises. If Ministers will only seek the powers that are required by them, I think the people will readily grant them. Upon page 10 of the Inter-State Commission’s report on clothing, some very valuable information is given as to how this condition of affairs may be overcome.
– Has the honorable senator read the Commission’s report On boots ?
– The manufacturers of boots have also had a pretty good time during the war, because the importation of boots has been practically prohibited.
– But the adoption of the recommendation of the Commission would have the effect of increasing the price of the poor man’s boots, whilst reducing the cost of the £3 3s. boots.
– Then I hope that the Government will not adopt that recommendation. But there are many other recommendations made by the Commission which might be adopted with very great advantage. The Inter-State Commission in its report on clothing says -
If it is desired by the Government to take action for the regulation of the prices of clothing, then, in the opinion of the Commission, the conditions now existing in the various branches of the trade justify the following detailed suggestions: -
Locally manufactured goods. - Prices to be controlled by prescribing the following maximum percentages to be added to “prime cost,” representing actual cost of materials and wages - (a.) Tweeds and serges, 30 per cent.
Blankets and flannels, 25’ per cent.
Hosiery and knitted goods, 20 per cent.
Felt hats,221/2 per cent.
Wholesale distributing warehouses. - Prices to be controlled by prescribing a maximum of 221/2 per cent, to be added to cost landed in warehouse of all materials for clothing and of all articles of clothing. 3.Retail distributors. - Prices to be controlled by prescribing a maximum of 331/3 per cent. to be. added to cost landed in warehouse or shop of all material for clothing and of all articles of clothing.
That in regard to wholesale and retail distributors such limitations of gross profit shall not apply to businesses in connexion with which the total moneys actually employed in the business do not exceed £5,000.
That re-sales be restricted with a view to the prevention of transactions which do not bring the goods nearer to the consumer.
The following suggestion, which is not directly- related to control of prices, is also submitted: -
That in the public interest, action be taken to bring about the compulsory keeping by all traders of prescribed trading accounts, profit and loss statements, and balance-sheets.
The last paragraph was inserted by the Inter-State Commission, because, during the examination of certain witnesses, they were unable to obtain accurate information as to the actual profits made in some businesses. In the earlier stages of the war, a large number of traders were even profiteering at the expense of the Red Cross Societies and hard-working mothers or sisters of soldiers engaged in knitting socks and mufflers for the men- at the Front. Exorbitant prices were being charged for skeined wool. I brought this matter under the- notice of. the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) soon after my election to the Senate, and he pointed out that just prior to my representations’ this subject had been mentioned to the Government, and that the Defence Department, through the High Commissioner in London, had made an arrangement with the Imperial Government for the export to Australia of a certain quantity of wool at a moderate , price. No doubt as a result of that action, Red Cross Societies throughout Australia were materially benefited.
– Would the honorable senator be surprised to know that I invited every patriotic society in Australia to give me an order for wool to be imported without profit, and I -did not get one single request? The cure for profiteering is not easy.
– I cannot understand the attitude of the societies with respect to the Minister’s offer, unless the traders who had been supplying wool got wind of the movement, and reduced their prices.
– The real trouble in Australia was the absence of machinery. We could not get.it.
– The fact remains that the higher prices then being charged for wool induced the Government to. take action, otherwise the people concerned would not have made overtures to the Government.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– I attribute a great deal of the existing unrest to the fact that the cost of living, and the cost of clothing particularly, has increased out of all proportion to the advance in wages. In proof of this, I point out that, according to the Inter-State Commission’s report, the price of men’s all-wool undershirts increased from 36s. per dozen in 1914 to 84s. per dozen in 1918 ; woollen sweaters, from 48s. to 96s. ; cardigans, from 72s. to 130s. The report contains a long list of other articles of clothing which have similarly advanced in price. We cannot, therefore, blame altogether the labour market for the increase in the cost of living, and consequently we have to look for other reasons. I sincerely trust the Government will, at the earliest opportunity, endeavour to secure from the people those powers which will permit them to take some action to .check this damnable increase in the cost of articles of wear and the necessaries of life.
I want now to turn to the question involved in the transfer to Australia of German New Guinea under the terms of the Peace Treaty. I hope it will not prove another white elephant, as has been the case with the Northern Territory, where money is being poured out for very little return. I am indebted to Mr. H. N. Leach, whose article appears in the Brisbane Courier, for information and figures giving a comparison between German New Guinea and Java. These figures are of great importance, in view of the fact that in the near future Australia will take over an extensive area formerly under the administration of the German Government. I lay stress on the fact that, so far as New Guinea is concerned, the climatic conditions and geographical situation are practically identical, and that Java to-day is probably one of the most flourishing countries in the world. Under sane administration, the new territory should be equally as profitable. Mr. Leach states -
German New Guinea has an area of 74,200 square miles, while Java has only 50,000 square miles. Yet the population of Java is given at 36,000,000, including 76,000 white people and 563,000 Asiatics, while German New Guinea has about 500,000 natives, 500 Asiatics, and 1,000 whites. The exports -from Java are valued at £72,346,378, while from German New Guinea they are £604,340. Both countries are in the same latitude, have similar soils, climate, and natural conditions. Why, then, should not German New Guinea be developed into a prosperous condition equal to Java? It is only a matter of generalship ( in another word, intelligence ) that is called for.
The following table will explain the statistical relationship of the two countries at the present time: -
Particulars, are also given concerning the native problem, but I do not think it necessary to. enter into those details now. I have had communications from a number of men living in German New Guinea, who. point out that with a fair amount of capital expenditure there is no reason why returned soldiers should not become successful settlers.
– Especially remember the expenditure.
– Admittedly; but. I would point out to Senator de Largie that not only this Government, but former Governments, have poured money into the Northern Territory without getthing any return. That immense area is like a huge sink. If in German New Guinea there is a prospect of securing an adequate return, why not spend some money there?
– We beard something like that when the Northern Territory was about to- be taken over.
– But we had no opportunity, of comparing the conditions: there with those- of Java;
– Yes, we had. Tha Northern Territory is nearer to Java than New Guinea is.
– But we knew what the Northern Territory was- before it was taken over, and that South Australia was making- a. very good bargain with the Commonwealth. I remind the honorable senator that the Hon. Staniforth Smith, in his report upon Papua, pointed, out that many things that Australia is in need of can be produced there, so there should be. no need to go to the other side of the world for them. In one particular case, a returned soldier mentioned to me the question: of cocoanut plantations.. He said that although’ the proposition is not altogether a good one on the mainland, because of the longer period before a return can be expected, there are a great number of- small islands, situated round the coasts of Papua, where plantations can be developed at a lower cost:,, and which in a few years should’ show a consider stole profit. He says - 1’hc main point for consideration, is the difference between growing: cocoanut on the small! islands and on the mainland of Papua, islands: such as. the Torlesse Group and others! being specially suitable. Of recent years the Governor of Papua has, for some reason un’ known to the public, persistently refused to grant leases of these uninhabited islands, which are so suitable for cocoanut growing, and so well adapted to the “ small “ man with limited capital.
That definition should cover a soldier settler. The general opinion is that it would not take a great deal of capital to set a man going in the industry of cocoanut planting.
– How long would he have to wait for a return?
– I shall deal with that matter.
– ‘The islands to which the honorable senator is referring are uninhabited..
– That may be so ; but there is plenty of labour available on the mainland of New Guinea.
– That is the difficulty - the natives would have to be taken away from their homes.
– Apart. from* that, I am informed that applications for leases of these islands have been persistently turned down, by the Government in New Guinea. The> authorities in New Guinea would lose nothing by leasing these islands, and I fail to understand their action.
– The planters could do nothing, without native labour.
– That would be their own concern. If the Government granted’ the leases which -have been applied for; it would be their own look-out if those who took them up made a failure of the business they embarked upon. The writer of the letter proceeds -
It may be said, without fear of contradiction^, that our local Government does nothing to encourage the- small settler; returned) soldier, or otherwise,, and if. the matter is- left in. the hands of this Government, it is- safe to say that the returned soldier will receive no assistance whatever. Judge Murray personally informed me a few days ago that leases of the islands would, not be granted, under, any conditions! No reason was given. The general impression is that the- Government intends to plant these islands, and’ so> keep out the small’ settler-..
– asked how long it would be before- a settler could expect a return from a cocoanut plantation, and I find! tine following statement made on that subject: - ‘
These islands are specially suitable for small -settlers, being very much cheaper in upkeep than the mainland, and also they reach the bearing stage more quickly. I could plant and bring to the bearing stage in six years an island of 150 acres for £1,000, assisted by my earnings as a miner at Misima, where I am now working.
These men, and others in ‘New Guinea who desire to obtain leases of the islands, in order to plant cocoanuts upon them, would follow other occupations during the time the cocoanut palms were maturing; They would be earning their own sustenance, and the Government would <be at no expense on that account. I ask the Government to give consideration. to this proposal.
– Do not ask the men to go up there. I have been there, and the man who secures a return from a cocoanut plantation in eight or nine years is doing well.
– I am not asking that any one should go up there. I am referring to men who are already in New Guinea. I would not stand up in this chamber and suggest that a returned soldier should be sent either to Papua or to the Northern Territory.
– -It is purely a company proposition.
– ,What I am referring to is not a company proposition; but, even if it were, and the Government, by adopting it, could obtain revenue, why should they not do so?
– The only chance of success is through companies. It is too long for a man to have to wait eight or nine years for a return.
– The writer of the letter from which I have quoted said that he could get a return in six years, and in the meantime’ he would provide for his own sustenance. In Java the people are in a flourishing condition, and the exports of the country amount to millions every year- I fail to see why Papua should be regarded as a forlorn hope.
– The honorable senator cannot make a comparison beteen the natives of Jaya and the .natives of Papua.
– I remind the honorable senator that, in addition to the natives of Papua, there is up there a certain ; amount of Asiatic .labour avail-, able.
– In Papua?
– There is Asiatic labour being utilized at the present time in German New Guinea.
In the hand-book on New Guinea, published by the Hon. Staniforth Smith, there is a reference to cotton, which is a commodity used extensively in Australia at the present time. He reports generally that cotton-growing would be a paying proposition in that part of the world. If it were undertaken- it should serve to reduce the price of cotton in Australia at the present time. According to the report of the Inter-State Commission, this commodity is practically controlled by a large English Combine. The Inter-State Commission reports that the high cost in Australia is not due to the expense of produce tion, but merely because we are here com-* pletely in the hands of a large English Combine. In their report oh clothing, the Inter-State Commission say -
The supply and distribution of sewing cotton ure almost entirely in the hands of two great British groups of’ companies, one of which - the Coats group - is represented in Australia by the Central Agency Limited, and the other - the English Thread Company - by Richard Allenand Sons Proprietary Limited, Melbourne, and Direct Agencies Limited, Sydney.
The Central Agency - .the British company - is the distributing company for what is popularly known as the Coats Combine - an amalgamation of companies consisting of J. and P. Coats Limited, Clark and Company, Jonas Brook, Chadwick’s Limited, and Kerr’s Limited.
The English Thread Company originally consisted of fourteen firms, but other large firms were subsequently included.
Two of the constituent companies within the Coats amalgamation, viz., Chadwick’s and Kerr’s, are separately represented in Australia, the agency of the companies having been continued with the firms who were acting at the time their principals joined the group. This separate representation, however, does not imply any actual competition, for the prices are determined by the British head-quarters in Glasgow, and are kept uniform throughout. The English Thread Company, also, though it originally appeared to have been formed as a separate and competing group, has evidently become merged in the larger combination, as may be inferred from the fact that the super? intendent in Australia of the Central Agency is also the superintendent of the English Thread Company, and that all instructions regarding prices in Australia of both companies’ goods are issued through him. This powerful combination, which manufactures both inGreat Britain and in the United States, is represented all over theworld, and is everywhere dominant in the sewing cotton trade. The Australian superintendent said, “ There is always opposition, but I admit it is of a minor character.” In the household lines of sewing cottons, viz., 200 and 300 yard6-cord sewing cottons, the control by the Combine appears to be particularly rigid, though the lesser group, the English Thread Company, is permitted to sell its cottons at a small reduction of1s. to 2s. per gross below those of the Central Agency. The reason for the special attention given to these lines is no doubt partly because of the great volume of trade which they represent, and partly because, as they are found in every home, and must be distributed through retailers, competition may be more readily controlled. In the case of machine cottons and threads used only or chiefly by manufacturers, the possibility of these trade buyers, with their command of capital and knowledge of trading facilities, obtaining direct supplies from smaller competing manufacturers is obviously a consideration which affects the views of the company, and which is not present in the case of cottons, the principal sale of which is purely for household purposes.
Instances were given by- several witnesses of the manner in which the Central Agency uses its power to prevent the introduction and sale of cottons manufactured by producers outside the groups it controls.
One witness, a departmental manager in a large softgoods warehouse, said that, some years ago, when serving under another company, negotiations were entered into for supplies of British cottons by an independent manufacturer, and the Central Agency threatened to cut off supplies. The result was that the negotiations with the competing company were abandoned. The same witness said, that later on. when he was manager for Thomas Brown and Sons, of Brisbane, he took up a line of British cottons outside the Combine, with the result that the chief representative of the Central Agency interviewed him personally, and said that the company’s account would be liable to be closed unless the purchases of new cotton were discontinued. The same witness, who is now with a Melbourne company, stated that during the last two years samples have been forwarded from time to time from English manufacturers outside the Combines, but his company has been unable to entertain . their offers, in view of the attitude taken up by the Central Agency representative. The chief representative of the Central Agency, when questioned subsequently as . to the interview abovementioned, said, “ I do not remember that, and know nothing about it; it is most unlikely, and I deny it absolutely.”
An indent merchant deposed that during the last few months he had submitted samples of Japanese cottons to wholesale houses, and was told that the purchase could not be entertained, as, if the company bought any such cotton, it would be boycotted by the Central Agency. The wholesale witness just previously quoted said that he was one of those to whom the Japanese cottons in question were submitted, but he did not purchase, although the prices seemed very, favorable, partly because of the absence ‘of experience of Japanese cottons. “The governing factor in my mind,” he added, “ was that, if we touched those lines, the Central Agency would take care to make them unprofitable for us sooner or later. I based that opinion on my previous experience.”
The representative of another wholesalefirm said he also had been approached recently with regard to the purchase of Japanese cottons, but declined to take them up, chiefly for the reason that there would probably be conflict with the Central Agency. He continued, “ That opinion was based on experience obtained some twelve years ago, when my company took up another English line of cotton. The Central Agency made representations to induce the company to desist from importing outside English cottons, and it was intimated that supplies would probably be cut off.” Finally instructions were issued by the London office of the purchasing company not to send orders for the outside line of cotton.
The witness said that in this case the competing cotton was of British make, and a perfectly good article, at a satisfactory price.
There is a great deal in the report to the same effect, and it goes to show that in Australia we are absolutely in the grip of this English Combine.
– So is the whole world.
– That is no reason why we should continue to be so.
– ‘Surely the honorable senator does not propose to start a thread factory in Australia or in Papua?
– If this commodity can be grown in Papua I do not know why an industry for its manufacture should not be started here. That is the only way in which we can hope to break up the Combine.
– The Combine has been in existence for fifteen years.
– . Then the more shame to it, and the greater the reason why we should do something to try to break it up.
-It will be generations before we are making cotton thread in Australia.
– I do not see why Senator de Largie should take so pessimistic a view. I hope that cotton and a” good many other articles, which some people seem to think we have no hope of making here, will at no distant date be made in Australia. It should be apparent that we shall never be in a position to break up this English Combine unless we are able to replace their goods by goods made here.
– I hold no brief for the Cotton Combine, but is the honorable senator satisfied that they are charging exceptional prices for their goods now?
– I am absolutely satisfied as to that, because -the article to which the quotation . I have made refers, was selling at 2-Jd., and is now selling at 7d.
– ‘Ordinary calicoes, which are manufactured by thousands of firms, have been increased in price threefold.
– That may be due to the existence of the Combine
– The price of cotton in the United States used to be 4d. per lb., and it is now 7d. per lb.
– The United States is the home of Combines, and that may account for the rise in price. It may seem to honorable senators a big problem, and one with which Ave cannot deal at the present time; but I remind them that we have suitable land available for the cultivation of cotton, and every facility for carrying on the industry.’
– And numbers of people out of work.
– I fail to see why something should not be done. It is high time we vastly extended our Australian industries.
– The honorable senator did not help me when I advocated that same cause, in presenting the Science and Industry Bill.
– I raised no objection to scientific research, but simply asked for further information to insure that we would not be duplicating activities.
– Queensland has done practically nothing in the matter of cotton growing, and we could not duplicate “ nothing.”
– Although, to some extent, I was probably responsible for delaying the progress of the measure in question, I shall be very willing to ad; mit - if it proves ‘ an active asset to Australia, and a source of assistance to producers and manufacturers - that I was in the wrong. At the present time cottongrowing is being undertaken in Queensland.
– And has been in the Northern Territory for the past fifty years.
– And the two territories between them have not grown enough cotton to make a shirt.
– For the reason that the industry has received no encouragement whatever.
– Too many men have been afraid of the Combine.
– I will say nothing further upon that except that immediately a machine is invented which will reduce the cost of picking cotton, the industry will become a success in Northern Australia.
The report dealing with Papua refers to discoveries .of copper, gold, lead, mercury, zinc, and other minerals. I appeal to the Government to sanely administer that Territory so that it shall become wealth-producing rather than a burden on the taxpayers of Australia. I am aware that Papua is a most important defence consideration. But if it is going to be a mere sink for our money, then it will hardly.be worth our having.
I desire to deal briefly with the office of the High Commissioner in London. On account of that official being only a public servant, without executive authority, he possesses very limited powers. I suggest that the occupant of the position should be the possessor of a portfolio in the Commonwealth Ministry. Then the .Commissioner would be vested with authority to deal with all matters relative to Australia, and when an intricate question arose, it would not be necessary to send a Minister from Melbourne to London. The up-keep of the office of High Commissioner is costly, and although Mr. Fisher is performing his duties admirably, his position is both difficult and unsatisfactory.
Although! I shall be prepared, to. support a Tariff which will encourage Aus.tralian manufacturers, I would like to have some’ assurance that the new Tariff - will not be used by manufacturers to exploit the masses. If we are to afford pro.tection to various industries the people concerned therein must be prepared to give something in return.
– The cry for Protection is nothing but an appeal for Melbourne industries, to sweat the rest of Australia. Wait until the Tariff discussion begins, and honorable senators will see how the Victorian representatives will pull together.
– That is one of the disadvantages of having the Federal Parliament in Melbourne. Better legislation will be enacted- when the Federal Parliament meets at Canberra. I hope the Government will either turn the InterState Commission into a Tariff Commission or will appoint another Commission to insure that the Tariff is properly regulated, so that where an industry is granted protection, the manufacturers will not be afforded an opportunity to pile up prices upon the consumer. Prior to the war, Australian-made articles were kept just a few pence below the price of imported goods. When freights became scarcer and scarcer, and the cost of production in England had vastly increased so that the prices of such commodities as were imported here had vastly increased, Australian manufacturers , saw to it - wherever they could - that the prices of their wares still remained just a few pence below that of the imported article.
.- One cannot enter upon a discussion of the particulars contained in the Ministerial statement without making some reference to the glorious change which has recently taken place in Europe, whereby our Empire and Allies have returned to a condition of peace after the terrible holocaust of war. Probably in the history of the world there has been no such welcome change as has now come to the peoples of to-day. It is natural that one should take a retrospective view of the situation from which we have emerged in order to give due credit to those responsible for the wonderful transition. It is very- hard for the> average Australian, so far removed from the seat of war, to realize what this continent has escaped by a victory for theAllied arms. The conduct of the enemy has been such as to convince us that no people among the whole of the belligerent nations would have been forced into greater sacrifices than Australia had our arms been unsuccessful. Numbers of 23eople think that England, France, Italy, and other countries, being in closer conflict in this terrible struggle, would, have been the greater sufferers, but I want to bring home to the people of Australia the fact that not only would their worldly goods: have been confiscated - not only would they have suffered the same financial difficulties as the people of European Empires - but they would also have had to submit to what would inevitably have been tyrannical control and slavedom at the handsof the enemy. It would not have been so with other countries. Those which are more densely populated would offer little room for the German surplus population, but in sparsely-populated Australia therewas the great opportunity, which would” certainly have been embraced, for the settlement of the enemy’s surplus population. There is, therefore, little doubt that, as the result of defeat, Australia would have lost more than any of the other peoples engaged in the conflict. It has been advanced over and over againthat Australia did wonderfully well in the war. Credit should go to whom it i8 due. Australia did not do over well in the war. The 413,000 of Australia’s sons who went to the Front did well. They created for themselves a name which will never die: they made sacrifices which no man could” exceed. Over 50,000 of them will never return. Those men did well, but the credit due to them is not reflected upon the eligible man who was equally able togo, but refused to do anything for the defence of Australia. I strongly object to the credit due to the men who did the work and made the sacrifice being taken by those who have done nothing. I noticed in a Labour paper not long igo that considerable credit was taken on behalf of a union that had 1,000 members.
To prove their loyalty, patriotism, and self-sacrificing disposition, they said they had sent 400 of their members to the Front. But the other 600, at one of the most crucial periods in the war”, came out on strike on a matter which did not concern them, and in which they had no grievance. They came. out in support of a band of men who created a revolt in the New South “Wales Government Workshops in 1917, because there had been introduced into the workshops a card system, which was already operating in Australia in concerns owned and controlled by the Labour movement, and was even operating, here when I was a boy. Among those who, supported that strike was this very union which had. sent 400 men to the Front and had only 600 members left behind. To use the common phrase, those men, when they, went on strike., blacklegged on their comrades who were lightingfor the liberty, of the world. No credit is clue to that union, or to any such organization. No credit is due to the shirkersof Australia for what pur men did in this great, war. It mightcome home more forcibly if . I asked whether it would be any credit to , the eligible members of, the Melbourne Club if, outof a membership of, say, 500,100 went to the Front. No credit, would be due to the eligible members who remained behind. The credit is due tothose who went and did the work.I heard a very forcible speech , from Senator . Gardiner, the main trendof a part ofwhich was that in. the armisticetermsandthe termsof Peace, there was evidence of a desiretobeharsh, and even cruel, towards the enemy. It is, asingular thing that men widely read, whohave given consideration to all the incidents -of the war, should find it necessary to devote a, considerable portion of their time and energy to obtaining leniency for a nation which has been sp distinctly brutal . The , following quotation fromThrough theHindenburgLine, by , F. A. Mackenzie, may strengthen the statement I have already made -
I have seen many crimes of Germanyin this war. . I was in Belgium when her armies outraged, burned, and destroyed. I, heard from -the lipsof dying men flung from her decksthe -tale of howtheLusitamia had been sunk. Ihave helped at the Dutch frontier to receive British prisoners, wrecked and broken by the cruelty of their German captors. I have lived in the recovered cities of France, and learned from their people the nameless cruelties and bestialities inflicted on them. But never have I witnessed anything whichhas filled me with such cold rage as the killing by German airmen of our nurses,’ doctors and helpless men in Northern France.
This is not a thing which was perpetrated by drunken soldiers. It was not perpetrated by excited men . in the midst of war. It was methodically organized and carried out by the German nation. Yet we find public men, with great responsibilities, delivering speeches which, if they serve any purpose at all, can create only discontent within Australia with the conditions forced upon that nation by the Peace terms. No matter what, the Allies did to Germany, they could never be severe enough to meet the ends of common justice. I believe Germany will never pay the indemnity which the Allies have levied uponher, and am not looking forward with any great hope to the payment of that debt. But even if the indemnity were ten times as large, Germany could never redeem hername or compensate for the damage she has doneto the civilized, world.
I wish to make brief references to the discontent and disaffectionexistingin Australia to-day.. It isone of the unexplained factsthat social, and. industrial discontent and disturbance alwaysfollow a war. If any country in the whole world ought to realize theabsolutenecessity for its people to pull , together, toproduce,and build up its resources, it is Australia. There is. no othercountry in which unanimity . and, industryare necessary to thesame extent, and in which the absence of them will be so speedily felt. The opponents of. the Government, . and . some who seem, like . the Irishman,. to. beagainst every Government, make a point of creating discord and discontent. Go -where you like . at the -present -time, listen to the speeches, delivered,and you will hear on every hand the advocacy of a classconsciousness.You will hear the workers toldthat theymust recognise that they belong to one class, that there is another class which seeks to use and exploitthem. and that the only way in which they can bring about a better condition of affairs is to become class-conscious, and declare war on the class which is exploiting them. One of the prime factors in the furtherance of this class war at the’ present time is the cost of living,which has been referred to by every speaker in this debate. There is not the slightest doubt that good cause for complaint exists. The prices of scores of articles among the necessaries of life have risen out of all proportion. The production of such articles is not at allaffectedtoy war conditions, or by any conditions which might have been created subsequently by the war, and, therefore, we cannot see why these increases have taken place. There can be no just reason assigned for them, and I agree with those who say that an effort should certainly be made to check the unreasonable increases which have occurred in the prices of commodities in Australia, and thus bring home to those persons who are exploiting the public unreasonably - whoare profiteering - the fact that this practice will not be countenanced.
– By limiting their profits?
– Unless we are pre- pared to enter into competition with them, we can accomplish our purpose only by limiting their profits, or by taking the whole of those profits in excess of a certain sum by means of taxation. I hold that the correct way to prevent exploitation is for the Government themselves to produce those articles the price of which has been unreasonablyraised.
Then they would be in a position to say to their competitors, “You must either sell your articles at a certain price or we will do so.” But in the matter of the increased cost of living Australia occupies the best position of any country in the world. According to the latest statistics, there is only one other country which possesses almost equal advantages. I have been at some pains to obtain the increased cost of living in various countries from the end of 1914 up to different dates in 1918. I was unable to get returns to a uniform date. From these figures I gather that the increase in the cost of living in the United Kingdom up to November, 1918, was 133 per cent., in France up to May it was 132 per cent., in Italy to April it was 136 per cent., in Portugal to February it was 133 per cent., in the United State of America to June it was 59 per cent., in Canada to August it was 81 per cent., in Australia to June it was 32 per cent., and in New Zealand to July it was 39 per cent. Of course, some . people urge that because Australia is a producer of raw materials there can be no excuse for the increased cost of living. In this connexion it is worthy of note that in New Zealand the cost of living was 7 per cent higher than it was in Australia during 1918. In South Africa the increase in the cost . of living to June, 1918, was 32 per cent., in Germany to April of the same year it was 127 per cent., in Austria to December, 1917, it was 273 per cent., in Norway to August, 1918, it was 184 per cent., in Sweden to August of the same year it was 184 per cent., in Denmark to July, 1918, it was 97 per cent., in Holland to June, 1918, it was 87 per cent., and in Switzerland to June of that year it was 130 per cent. These figures show that, all the countries which I have enumerated were worse off from the stand-point of the increased cost of living during the period of the warthan was Australia. Now let us turn to the Commonwealth. It is natural that the opponents of the Government should expect that in the State of Queensland, where a Labour Government is in office, the increase in the cost of living would be less than that in any other State in Australia. That is a very justifiable assumption if the arguments advanced by some honorable senators upon the opposite side of the chamber are well founded. But first let us see how the purchasing power of the sovereign has declinedin the various cities of the Commonwealth. Taking the average of the years from 1901 to 1911, we find that the purchasing power of the sovereign has depreciated in Sydney by 14s. - that is to say, it cost £ 1 14s. to . purchase what could have been obtained for£ 1 in 1911- in Melbourne by l1s. 3d., Brisbane by 14s. 2d., Adelaide by 13s., Perth by 10s. 10d., and Hobart by 13s. 10d., an average for the entire Commonwealth of 12 s. 9d. In other words, the sovereign has depreciated in Brisbane by 2d. more than it depreciated in Sydney, and by ls. 5d. more than its average depreciation over the six capital cities of the Commonwealth. I do not suggest that the Queensland Government could have prevented this. But the fact remains that a Labour Government in Queensland failed to prevent it. Consequently it is scarcely fair for our opponents to affirm that the Commonwealth Government are entirely- responsible for the diminution of the purchasing power of the sovereign which ‘ has taken place -throughout Australia. We get similar results if we refer to Knibbs’ statistics, which show the average of the increased cost of living throughout Australia for the five years 1914 to 1919 inclusive. Taking 1,000 as an index number, and referring to five cities in each State, I find that New South Wales starts in 1914 at 1,165, and ends in 1919 at 1,734. That is an increase of 48.8 per cent. Victoria starts with 1,106, and ends with 1,566 - an increase of 41.7 per cent. Queensland starts with a weighted average of 1,082, and ends with 1,734 - an increase of 60.3 per cent. South Australia starts with an average of 1,247, and ends with 1,652 - an increase of 32.5 per cent. Western Australia starts with 1,412, and ends with 1,656 - an increase of 17.3 per cent.; whilst Tasmania starts with- 1,201, and ends with 1,693 - an increase of 41 per cent. The average for the whole of the Commonwealth starts at 1,164, and ends with 1,666 - an increase of 42.7 per cent. Yet the increase in the case of Queensland, where a Labour Government is in office, is 60.3 per cent. We find, therefore, in- all the comparisons which we institute, that the increased cost of living in Queensland during the period of the war was greater than the increased cost of living in any other State. These figures should be carefully considered by the workers of Australia. There is no doubt that the latter are roused almost to the point of rebellion by the representations which are continually being made to them to the effect that they are .being exploited to a greater extent than any other people in the world. They are assured that they are being robbed by profiteers,’ and that the Government are responsible for this. That is the argument of the peace disturbers from start to finish. ‘They tell their hearers that nothing short of a revolution will bring about an equitable settlement to the workers of this continent. It is well for the workers to know that, although nobody attempts to justify the increases which have taken place, in Queensland, where a Labour Government have been in. office for some years, the greatest increase has taken place. . I do not suggest that the Queensland Government are responsible for this. On the contrary, I hold that they could not avoid it. But it is certainly illogical for our opponents to urge that the Commonwealth Government are responsible for the increase which has taken place in. the cost of living. Such statements are calculated to. lead the workers of Australia into an entirely false position.
Now, I desire to further stress the unwise doctrine preached by those who endeavour to create a class consciousness. The individual who lays himself out to create between man and man a class war is an enemy of- the people. I have always recognised that there has been throughout history a war of the classes. But we are now reaching an age when such a condition of affairs, especially in a country like Australia, is absolutely unnecessary, and entirely unwise. I have long argued that much of the disagreement existing between employer and employed at the present time is in a large measure blamable to both sides. There is no doubt whatever that there is a class of employer who has not the redeeming features always to be found in a slave-owner ; the man who seeks to squeeze every ounce of profit from his employees, and who is absolutely indifferent as to their conditions of life. . On the other hand, there are employers who are ever solicitous of the welfare of their employees, and anxious always to treat them equitably as men. I know that the reading of extracts is rather tedious, but I should like to read extracts from a speech, oil this question, delivered by Mr, H. W. Gepp, nowgene- ralmanager of the Zinc ExtractionAssociation, andcarrying on extensive works in Hobart, Tasmania Mr. Gepp, although an Australian has had a very extensive training in America in the handling of large bodies of men and in the supervision of big works, and, therefore, words fromhim on the question which I am discussing will carry more weight and be more convincing than anything I could possibly say; Mr. Gepp has a very fair grasp of the conditions existing between employer and employee, and I believe he offers the only sound solution of the problem. Referring to industries employing large numbers of men, hesays-
An excellent idea is to adopt a definite line of organization as regards the relation of the various members of the staff to one another as soon as possible, So that all members know to whom they are responsible, and to whom to report. So as to avoid too much of “ red tape,” which a rigid organization sometimes gives rise to, it is advisable to form what is known as a “ general staff,” to which various members of the regular staff are appointed in view of their special knowledge.
At general staff meetings, which should be held about once a month if possible, at which the head official present presides, all members are equal, and everything is subject to free discussion. This scheme affords the head official’s the opportunity ‘of gaining a right appreciation of the whole job in such a way as to be generally beneficial.
One of the most interesting essentials of this kind of work is the development of the right spirit in the staff and men by the chief officials. Every effort should bemade to develop initiative in all those engaged on the job, from the officeboy upwards; and, further, to make every one intelligently understand, firstly, the purpose and intention of his work, and, secondly, how that work is done; e.g., if a man is attending a machine, time should be taken to teach him in the simplest possible way how that machine works, and get him interested in it; or, if a man is attending a set of sulphuric acid chambers, or electrolytic cells, devote time to teaching in as graphic language as possible, and explain by simple examples what is happening inside, for themore a man knows of thus details of his job, thebetter his work willbe,andthemoreinterestingwemakethe work to the men., the more will we remove that deadly monotony which is so soul-destroying andso bad inits effects upon efficiency.
Whyisthepresentpositionsoextremelydeplorable? It seems tobebecausetheemployer is totally ignorant of the attitude of mind of the employee, and the employee equally ignorant of the true standard of the employer. Further, they have no common ideas or ideals, and no common meeting ground. And who is, say in the case of a big company, the employer? The employee regards the employer as a bigfat man, who does not care how he gets more as long as he gets it. What is the actual casein a public company, where the shares are well distributed? The employer in these concerns consists of a large number of people, many of whom have only a small individual interest, whilst some are amongst the rich class.
The representatives of all these interests, thedirectors, are regarded by the average employeeas the sole owners of the concern, and it is generally considered that they are getting all the benefits. Of course, this is not the case by any means.
But, how does the employer regard his employee? In some instances, as a man who is trying to do as little work as possible for as much ashe can get. Doubtless this is sometimes true, but is it not more often an unreasoning protest against conditions which the worker does not appreciate?
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 July 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1919/19190730_SENATE_7_88/>.