7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Offer of Australian Troops
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if he hasan answer to the question I asked a few days ago as to the date on which acontingent of Australian troops was offered to the Imperial authorities?
– An offer was made on the 3rd August, 1914, at which date an outbreak of warbetween Great Britain and Germany was believed to be imminent. War broke out between Great Britain and Germany on the following day.
Refusal to ship Wool - Skin Wool.
– Has the Leader of the Senate any information to supply in answer to the somewhat extensive series of questions I put to him some time ago in regard to the Wool Pool?
– On the 14th August, the honorable senator asked the following questions: -
The following replies have been furnished by the Central Wool Committee: -
– I ask the Leader of theSenate if replies have yet been received to the questions I asked about skin wool and sugar ?
– No reply has been received regarding sugar. The honorable senator asked the following questions on Sth August: -
The following replies have been furnished by the Central “ Wool Committee : - 1
The following papers were presented : -
Repatriation Department. - Report on the Organization and Activities of the Department over the period 8th April, 1918, to 30th June, 1919.
Wool: Correspondence between Central Wool Committee and Overseas Central Shipping Committee relating to shipment of wool; and other documents.
DEPORTATION of Italians.
– I wish to ask toe Leader of the Senate a question in connexion with a matter upon which I asked for information yesterday. Before putting my question I wish to know whether I shall be in order in making a statement to make my question clear?
– I am unable to say until I hear the honorable senator’s statement.
– Yesterday, I asked a question with regard to the deportation of certain people from Kalgoorlie by returned soldiers. The Minister’s reply was to the effect that I had been asked to give information on the 15th of the month, and had not supplied it. In view of that answer, I now ask if the Government have no means of obtaining information of disturbances in any part of the Commonwealth except such as may be supplied to them by members of the Senate?
– I dare say that the Government could obtain information upon very many matters. The disturbance to which the honorable senator drew attention seemed to me one which required the attention of the local State authorities, whose duty it is to maintain law within the borders of their State. I asked the honorable senator to supply particulars of the case to which he referred, in order that I might see if it were incumbent upon the Commonwealth Government to make any inquiries at all.
– Arising out of the answer to my question, I ask the Leader of the Senate whether, if information is supplied to him that certain people were driven out of any town or city in the Commonwealth by a threat of violence, the Commonwealth Government will take steps to restore order and provide for the security of the lives of Australian citizens, no matter what their nationality ?
– The honorable senator must be aware that the Commonwealth Government have no authority at all to interfere with the internal order of a State unless requested to do so by the Government of that State.
– Arising out of questions put by Senator Gardiner in connexion with the Kalgoorlie disturbances, I ask the Leader of the Senate if he remembers that Senator Gardiner is one of those who most bitterly opposed the Commonwealth Government having a Police Force of their own ?
Question not answered.
– I desire to intimate that I have received a letter from Lady Fraser, expressing her grateful acknowledgment and deep appreciation of the Senate’s action in passing a motion of sympathy and condolence with her in reference to the death of her late husband, Sir Simon Fraser. The letter will be placed amongst the records of the Senate.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to restore the grants to rifle associations on a pre-war basis?
– This question is at present under consideration in connexion with the Budget proposals.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and the honorable senator will be informed as early as possible.
Superannuation - Case of D. J. O’Leary - Pay fob Holidays - Accrued Rights of Transferred Officers.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
As the question of Public Service superannuation is receiving the attention of the Government, will the Government consider the advisability of submitting the matter to the Public Accounts Committee for inquiry and report?
– It is not considered that any advantage would result from the adoption of the course suggested.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– I have already informed the honorable senator that the transfer of Mr. O’Leary to Albany was made in the best interests of the Department, and considerable economy was effected thereby.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– On the Sth August, Senator Mulcahy asked the following questions: -
I stated that inquiry would be instituted and replies furnished. The answers are -
Services of Mr. Justice Bevan
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Erection of Houses of Parliament
asked the Minister representing the Minister for “Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for “Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In connexion with the quarantine detention of passengers and vessels voyaging from mainland States to Tasmania -
To what extent have the Federal Department of Quarantine and the State Department of Tasmania respectively -
been charged with the responsibility of administration.
borne the expense of administration.
levied, collected, and appropriated the quarantine charges on the passengers and shipping concerned?
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Treaty between Great Britain and Japan.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Report on Remount Section.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Is it a fact that the report discloses a loss unaccounted for of at least 1,S00 remounts? If the Minister will not give us the information we shall supply our reasons for asking the question.
Question not answered.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Debate resumed from 20th August (vide page 11606), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I wish to compliment honorable senators who have already discussed this Bill on the tone of their speeches and the absence of any display of temper. This is the first debate that ha3 taken place since the new standing order to limit speeches has been adopted, and I believe the discussion has been the most interesting we have had for some time.
– One Bill dealing with five important industries, and no opportunity of touching the majority of them!
– I regret that Senator Gardiner should complain,because his speech was a moderate one, and one that will raise him in the estimation of honorable senators, if for no other reason than his change of view on the price of wheat question. The discussion of this measure has shown that honorable senators are taking a more active interest in the primary industries of Australia than previously. It must he admitted that we have not done as much for the primary producers as we ought to have done, and notwithstanding the uproar concerning profiteering, the producers in general have not been receiving afair remuneration for their labours.
– Has not the woolgrower been making good money?
– Apart from the wool-growers, our primary producers have not been receiving an adequate return.
– What about the wheat-growers ?
– I am surprised at Senator Guthrie making such a statement, because if he knew the state oi affairs in Western Australia he would realize that it was altogether unjustified.
– They have been doing better than ever during recent years.
– The honorable senator is entirely wrong, as men in Western Australia who have gone on the laud during recent years have had an exceedingly hard time.
– Many of them are living in Perth the whole time.
– If Senator Guthrie intends making remarks of that nature in regard to the wheat-growers of Western Australia, I am sorry for his want of intelligence. The wheat producers of the Commonwealth, and particularly those in Western Australia, are poorly paid workers. One has only to investigate the prevailing conditions to come to that conclusion. Weare much in advance of other countries in our industrial legislation, and wages for most workers are good; but the conditions of some of our rural workers and producers are deplorable. To prove my statement, I shall read some extracts from a report of the Inter-State Commission into a number of industries, and shall refer in the first instance to dairying. This Bill deals with butter and other commodities, and after I have read some quotations, I am sure Senator Guthrie will reverse his opinion.
– I was not referring to dairying, but to the wool and wheat producers. Do not misrepresent me.
– Very well; I will come to the wheat conditions later. The report of the Inter-State Commission states -
A witness deputed by the Victorian Farmers Union, comprising 6,000 members, put the matter from the two points of view - under the average conditions, the cost of producing milk, and the return obtained from it. He showed that a man working sixty hours per week would earn only 26s. 6d. per week during nine months of the year.
– They earned more than that.
– Quite true; they should have received more. It will be found that, in connexion with the wheat-growing industry, the same observation can be made, and that the producers do not receive the return to which they are entitled. In many instances they have worked two days for themselves and the remaining five for the consumers of ‘ Australia. The report continues -
The next gave . the actual results of his own working with two brothers as his partners. The earnings of each per hour were as follow in the years mentioned : -
This witness, judging by the way his figures were submitted, carried on his farm on expert lines,, but on a small scale, and 8 miles from the butter factory. It is stated that at no period since dairying was established has the production of butter given a return of 9d. per hour for the labour required to produce it, taken over a period of three consecutive years, and that during “ recent years the number of farms that were formerly used as dairy farms which are now used for other purposes is astonishing.” The cause of this process of elimination is put down to the general better conditions in other callings, in most of which 1s. 2d. per hour is assured without risk, and with no Sunday labour. The evidence showed that the dairy farmer has to have good land, artificial feeding, best of herds, and to work hard to obtain a fair return on his outlay and make a reasonable living. In a large number of cases, even after living a strenuous life, the result was said to be quite inadequate as an incentive to gointo the industry.
That quotation should provide sufficient proof that the workers on our farms have not received justice. I trust that Senator Needham and others who have been crying out for cheap wheat will realize that Australia has not done fairly by her farming community or by her butter producers.
– I am asking for cheaper food.
– It is impossible to supply cheaper food in Australia without imposing sweating ‘ conditions ‘ upon the producers.
– Abolish the middleman.
– That will not suffice. Even when you deliver your wheat or your butter to the Government, and it is disposed of by the Government through a Government Pool, there is not sufficient money in those industries to pay the wages which the employees desire, and, at the same time, to avoid sweating the producers. Senator Needham must take his share of the responsibility for that sweating ; he is always crying out for cheap food. Our Tariff prevents machinery from being landed here at a lower cost to the farmer.
– We can make our own machinery.
– That is true; but machinery made in Australia cannot be purchased by the farmer more cheaply than imported machinery. We have an Arbitration Court which has fixed the rates of wages to be paid to agricultural machinery makers. I do not advocate anything in the nature of levelling down. My ideal is that the wheat-grower out back, and the butter producer, should enjoy nearly as possible the same conditions of life as are permissible to workers in the cities. The men out back should be able to earn equally good pay with the city wage-earner. All our actions in the past have been in the nature of placing imposts upon the wheat-grower. There will have to be an end of that practice.
I desire to address a few words to those who are always crying out for cheap food and cheap household necessities, and who demand at the same time high rates of wages. We cannot have cheap food and clothing, and at the same time pay or receive high wages all round. To any one desiring information regarding the prices of staple commodities throughout the period of Australian settlement I strongly recommend a new work published by Sir T. A. Coghlan, formerly Agent-General for New South Wales in London. His book, consisting of four volumes, entitled Labour and Industry in Australia, presents a remarkable picture of the conditions existing from the early settlement of Australia to recent days. The author is a statistician of eminence, and the matter contained within his important publication may be accepted without hesitation. He relates that in 1839 the price of wheat in New South Wales was 20s. a bushel. At one period the price dropped to 13s., but during the same year it advanced to 30s. If the people of those days were able to pay such a price for wheat and live in reasonable comfort, is it not fair to suggest that the people of to-day would not be overcharged if called upon to pay at least 25 per cent of that amount?
– You are probably quoting a drought year.
– I admit that I have chosen the highest price over a series of early years.
– What was the price of bread at that time?
– For a 4-lb. loaf the price was 2s. 8d. Possibly that might be regarded as profiteering to-day. Sir Timothy Coghlan does not say whether or not the cry of profiteering was raised in 1839. During the past four or five years of war conditions, the price of bread in Australia did not go above 9d. for a 4-lb. loaf ; and it has not been higher for many years in this country. Our ideas of value are altogether out of proportion nowadays. Why should we insist that the price of bread should be so low. while at the same time the cost of almost everything else is extraordinarily high ? Why, one has to pay more for a pot of beer than for a loaf of bread; and will any sensible person maintain that the loaf is not of infinitely more value than the beer? Unquestionably prices show that today these commodities in Australia are ridiculously cheap. In the year 1S40 the minimum price of wheat was 7s. 6d. per bushel, and the maximum price 15s. per bushel. In 1841 the average price was 7a. 4d. per bushel. If we could obtain that price to-day how joyous would our wheat-growers be? In 1850 the price of wheat again rushed up, and in 1853 it stood at 9s. per bushel. In Melbourne, during that year, its price was 15s. per bushel. In 1854 the price of wheat in this city was 20s. per bushel, whilst in Adelaide in 1855 it stood at 15s. 6d. per bushel. In 1856 the price of wheat in Adelaide was 8s. per bushel, in 1858 it was 16s. 8d., and in 1859 it was 9s. per bushel. These figures show that in those years very high prices ruled for this staple commodity all over Australia.
– Will the honorable senator bring his figures up to the day when machinery was introduced into the operations of the wheat farmer 1
– I do not know that machinery has done very much to cheapen production. The use of machinery necessitates the employment of more skilled labour. A wheat farm to-day is more like a machine shop than a farm. To be a competent farmer to-day one has to be an engineer equal in ability to any engineer working in our cities. He needs not merely the capacity to use one very intricate machine, but to work quite a number of them. He must also be able to effect his own repairs to these implements. Consequently a modern wheat farmer requires to be both a skilled engineer and a mechanic.
– Most of our young farmers learn to do all these things.
– Yes. To be an up-to-date wheat farmer one needs to be a mechanic, an artisan, an agriculturist, a veterinary surgeon - in short a thoroughly competent all-round man. He may not unfairly be called the modern Jack-of-all-trades, a title which was once conferred upon the sea-faring man. We require to do a good deal before we can put our primary producers upon a proper basis, and we shall not achieve our objective if we keep our minds concentrated on the ridiculous cry of profiteering so far as farm products are concerned. If we imagine for a moment that we can do justice to the farming community, and at the same time obtain cheap commodities,
Ave shall find that we are expecting the impossible. We must be prepared to pay a fair price for our commodities if justice is to be done to this great basic industry. Unless we are willing to give the farmer better treatment than he has hitherto received, Australia has a bad time ahead of her, and we shall certainly be unable to meet our financial obligations. We all know what this war has meant to us from a financial stand-point. To appreciate this fact one needs only to note the thousands of men who have returned from the Front permanently incapacitated, and for the remainder of their live3 will have to be maintained by the nation. Everybody is aware, too, of the depopulation of the country districts which has been proceeding for years. There has been a steady and continual drift towards our cities. Unless this evil be checked, the crash must come sooner or later, and when it comes everybody will blame the “other fellow.” The Free Trader will blame the Protectionist, and the Protectionist -will blame the Free Trader. But no shibboleths will shield any of us if Ave fail to do our best to right the grievances under which our primary industries are labouring to-day. Only yesterday, Senator Gardiner referred to the prices of wheat in the Old Country and elsewhere. Like him, I have been endeavouring to solve this problem of prices, but I’ confess that I have not succeeded. My own view is that the figures which he quoted are too vague to warrant any great reliance being placed upon them. I have obtained certain figures from Hazell’ is Annual, but these also are not sufficiently authentic to satisfy me. Although I intend placing them upon record in Ilansard, I ask honorable senators not to place too much reliance upon them, because, obviously, they must be affected to a very great extent by the question of freight. Living as we do at such a great distance from
– We are not any farther away now than we were before the war.
– That is so, and we were suffering the same disadvantage before the war that we are suffering now. Our wheat-growers had then, as they have now, to pay the highest rates of freight for their wheat paid by any wheatgrowers in the world. We know that owing to the enormous losses suffered by the British mercantile fleet it was impossible for ships to be sent here, in view of the urgency of bringing food to Great Britain and the Continent, and the fact that supplies might be obtained more quickly by sending vessels across the Atlantic instead of sending them all the way out to Australia. I have been unable to get satisfactory figures with respect to the rates of freight, and without them prices quoted for wheat are calcu lated to mislead, and honorable senators should be wary about attaching too much importance to them. I have taken out some figures which I wish to put on record. It is claimed that the British wheatgrowers have been receiving from 6s. to 9s. 6d. per bushel, and the French wheatgrowers from 7s. 3d. to 8s. 3d. per bushel. The price went up in France, in some instances, to as high as 15s. per bushel. That was the maximum price reached, and the price in France went down as low as 7s. 3d. per bushel. The Italian farmers, in 1917, were guaranteed by the Government 9s. 4d. per bushel, and in 1918, 9s. per bushel, whilst it is claimed by one authority that in 1919 they were guaranteed 16s. per bushel. In the United States of America, in 1914, 1915, and 1916, the prices varied from 4s. 2d. per bushel to as much as 13s. 3d. per bushel. In 1918 and 1919 the prices varied between 9s. 2d. and 9s. 7d. per bushel. In New Zealand the Government guaranteed the farmers 6s. per bushel for wheat, but in Australia, unfortunately, the prices during the whole of the war period have varied from 4s. to 4s. 9d. per bushel. I have said that the rates of freight must be taken to modify the whole of these prices. I give the figures for what they are worth, and honorable senators will come to their own conclusions upon them. On the face of these figures there is clearly some room for improvement in the prices offered to wheat-growers in Australia, as our prices are ridiculously low, and result in sweating.
I should like to give some figures showing the average rates of freight during the five years ending 1914. Senator Gardiner said that we laboured under the same disadvantages in regard to freight prior to the war that we have had to contend against since the war. I say that we have been under greater disadvantages since than before the war. This can be readily understood when we consider the reduced shipping available during the war and the urgency to make the most of it, and so prevent starvation in Great Britain and at the Front. I have taken out the figures with respect to rates of freight on the basis of the rate per bushel landed at Liverpool. I find that from
Russia the rate of freight was 2Jd. per bushel, from the United States 2fd., from India, Bombay, 5d., from the Argentine 4½d., and from Australia 8d. per bushel.
– Those are the average rates.
– Yes; the aver-, age rates for the five years ending 1914. It will be seen that the Australian producer had to pay twice the rate of freight paid by the producer in the Argentine, which is a great competitor of ours in the markets of the Old Country in wheat and meat. It is clear that from the freight stand-point our farmers are at a tremendous disadvantage. As their wheat has to be carried further than that of farmers in other countries, and at a greater cost, they must necessarily accept less for it than is obtained by wheat-growers in other parts of the world. They are in competition with wheat-growers in India, Egypt, Russia, and other countries in which labour is cheap. The price obtained by the Australian wheat-grower must be very much improved if he is not to be allowed to sink into the same hopeless position as the farmers of the cheap labour countries with whom he has to compete.
In to-day’s Argus I find some evidence with regard to prices submitted at the inquiry by the State Royal Commission appointed in Victoria as the result of the outcry against profiteering. They took this evidence yesterday from Mr. Crowe, who is an expert upon commodities supplied by farmers, such as butter, meat, and cheese: -
Australia has been supplied with beef at 5Jd. a lb., which, after allowing for charges for carriage to London, would be worth 11¾d. at the fixed price in England? - Yes. Just 100 per cent. more. In other words, the people are getting meat cheaper than in England. Meat is cheaper here than in any other part of the world.
That is a most significant statement when taken in conjunction with figures which I supplied last week with respect to the price of bread. Those figures were beyond dispute, as they were supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Knibbs. He makes the statement that during the war period the highest price charged here for bread was only 4£d. per 2-lb. loaf; the lowest price was 3Jd. That is the cheapest loaf that I have any knowledge of in any country during the war. To-day we have evidence that cannot be questioned, that in Australia we have also the cheapest meat obtainable in any part of the world. In the report of the proceedings of the Victorian Royal Commission, to which I have referred, I find also the following statement : -
The chairman, quoting from figures supplied by witness (Mr. Crowe) as to the price of meat on the Smithfield (England) market, and ths relative f.o.b. Australian equivalent, said that from 1909 to 1913 there had been a steady increase in the approximate Australian equivalent of from 2d. to nearly 3d. per lb. There had been a steeper rise during the Avar years, and a very sharp rise in 1918 to ls. 0¼d. per lb.
This shows that the price went up in a greater degree in England than, perhaps, in any other country.
– The question I asked Avas what was the price of Australian meat in England as compared with the price of the same meat here.
– I have just quoted for the honorable senator the statement that Australian meat Avas selling in London at ls. per lb., and in Australia at 5d. per lb. I think I have made that clear.
– I am adopting the honorable senator’s advice not to depend too much upon figures.
– In how many places can meat he obtained for 5d. per lb., and what sort of meat Will it be?
– I might go
Avith the honorable senator, after the sitting has concluded, and examine the retail prices of meat in the shops. I have quoted the statement of a witness, who is an expert in this line of business, and if Senator O’Keefe wishes to dispute that statement, I hope that he will rise in his place and do so rather than interject.
– The witness has given the price for one place only.
– We could not expect him to speak for the whole of the States. He has spoken for the State in which Senator O’Keefe and myself are living at the present time, and we should know something about prices here, and when the Royal Commission collects evidence in other States, witnesses living there will speak for those States. I make the following quotation from the evidence of the same witness in regard to cheese and butter prices: -
Referring to the butter industry, witness (Mr. Crowe) said that it cost a good deal more to produce a lb. of butter in the winter than it did in the spring. It did not matter how cows were fed in the winter, they would not give the same flow of milk as they did in the spring. Under the contract with the Imperial Government, the f.o.b. price for Australian butter was 175s. per cwt., less 2 per cent, commission, and Cs. 4d. freezing expenses. The London fixed price in 19,17 waB 252s. per cwt., which was equal to 2s. 3d. per lb. The people who were clamouring for cheap butter would want it for 6d. per lb. if the price was reduced to ls. They forgot that those engaged in the industry were getting very poor returns for their labour. In regard to cheese, the price to the local consumer was less than the local parity -of the world’s prices.
So that, not only in the matter of bread and meat, but also in the matter of butter and cheese, we in Australia are enjoying these good things at lower prices than they can be obtained for elsewhere. In the face of this evidence, I say that the cry of profiteering is one of the most humbugging cries that I have heard in Australia for years.
I should like to address myself now to another aspect of the question. In regard to wheat-growing, I prefer to confine my remarks, as far as possible, to the experience in my own State of Western Australia, as I know something of the conditions that obtain there. Other honorable senators representing that State will know of the establishment of an institution known as the Industrial Assistance Board. This was established owing to the decision of the State Government to give assistance to new settlers by providing them with money, food, clothing, machinery, seed wheat, and so on, after the very severe drought in 1914. The Industrial Assistance Board furnishes these things to the settlers. They advance so much per day to settlers, and inspectors supervise the work of the farm to see that the money advanced is spent in ft proper manner. The amount, advanced to married men is 9s. per day.
Senn tor de Largie.
For single men the advance was 5s. per day. The crops grown by fanners who received this assistance were taken and sold by the Government, and, as a result of five* or six years’ operations, according to evidence given by the President of the Board, these men were hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt to the Government. Notwithstanding the low rate of wages paid, the industry could not be made to pay. The men who received thisassistance were a good type of citizen. When things became bad on the goldfields, they did not hang around waiting for something to turn up, but went out into the forests and tackled work on thesefarms in order to establish homes for themselves. Will any honorable senatorsay that their reward was sufficient?
– The condition of the seamen is a paradise compared with theirs.
– The seamen, mechanics, artisans, and town labourers generally, are really living in a paradise in comparison with the conditions of the men to whom I have referred. We never hear any cry about cheap coal. We hear only the cry for cheap bread, cheap meat, and such commodities as are produced by the farmers.
– We are asking for cheap boots to-day.
– But you want to get them at the expense of the primary producers.
– We must remember that a farmer ‘has to pay the same price for the commodities he needs as those in the towns, and he does not get the same remuneration. . He is a very fortunate farm labourer, indeed, who can command 9s. or 10s. per day. The industry will not stand any more. In the towns all workmen get higher wages than that. In Melbourne, after a strike that had lasted for some weeks, the builders’ labourers went back to work recently on a minimum wage of 13s. per day. A farm labourer must be a very superior workman to get 9s. or 10s.
– He must know a good deal, and be an able-bodied man.
– He must be a “ tip-top “ workman. How can we expect men to continue production unless we are prepared to do the right thing by them ? Their only remedy is to raise the price of the commodities which they produce. If middlemen are taking more than their fair share, we must endeavour, if possible, to rectify the position. But middlemen have their uses. There must always be some middlemen to handle articles betwen the producer and the consumer, and although we may eliminate a number, it will be impossible to absolutely abolish all of them. We must see that the producer gets a fair return for hie labour.
– The larger the profits and the less the losses, the better for all concom &d
– Undoubtedly. If we can produce and distribute more cheaply than at present, the nation will gain enormously. If the producer cannot be insured a fair profit for his capital and labour, he will get out of the business. That has been the result in Western Australia, where 600 farms have been abandoned in recent years. Young men who went on the land some years ago were delighted at the opportunity to abandon their farms, and go to the war, showing
– Their patriotism.
– Much more than that. Their action also showed that there was not very much to detain them, and now when they are coming back they are taking good care to leave farming severely alone. I would like to ask those who are always advocating Communism and Socialism why it is we never have any proposal to nationalize the farms of Australia? The continental Socialists have always dodged this issue also. I remember reading the reports of several Conferences of continental Socialists, and have noted that whenever the position of the agriculturists came up for discussion, the opinion generally expressed was that no Government should interfere with their industry, lt must be left to the individualists. In other words, the Socialists advocated individualism in primary production, but Socialism for everything else.
– They have regard for the sacredness of the home in the country.
– -Well, some of these farmers’ homes are wretched hovels, almost unfit for human habitation, so poor is the return to producers in some areas. But I think the real explanation of the attitude of Socialists towards farming may be found in the fact that people in all countries have become accustomed to cheapness in the price of the necessaries of life, and that, -as an occupation, farming is somewhat too strenuous to be socialized. What has been done in Australia in that direction ? No action was taken during the whole of the time that I was associated with the Official Labour party. I cannot remember a single instance, at any of the Conferences or elsewhere - and I can assure honorable senators that some wild and woolly propositions are made at these Conferences - of a definite move for the nationalization of the farming industry.
– But you supported the preamble of the party, which stands for the nationalization of production.
– Did that include farming?
– It did, and you know it.
– If that is Senator Needham’s interpretation of the policy of the Labour party I can charge him with being more negligent than I, because I have parted from it and have no further responsibility for its policy, whereas he is a member of the party and, therefore, I am entitled to ask what he is doing to bring about the nationalization of the farming industry. It is only so much camouflage to include this in the preamble of the party and to do nothing. But Senator Needham knows quite well that it is utterly impossible.
There is, I believe, a necessity for a continuation of the pool system, which has been so beneficial to the farmers of this country, and I think we may give credit, in connexion with this matter, to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who is the only Federal politician who has ever done anything to lighten the burdens of the wheat-growers of Australia.
– Does the honorable senator say that the position of the farmers is a result of the Prime Minister’s intervention.
– Senator Ferricks must be responsible for his own interpretation of what I have said. What has Senator Ferricks ever done to benefit the farmers? Absolutely nothing. I have never heard him open his mouth in this chamber, or elsewhere, with the object of saying anything to help them ; but 1 have heard him decrying the operation of the wheat-pools, and suggesting that wheat, paid for by the British Government, should be confiscated, and given away for practically nothing. He and other honorable senators opposite shut their eyes to all that has been done in the interests1 of the farmers.
– If what has been done by the Prime Minister during the last four years is the best he can do, then it is” not very much.
– It is the best that ha6 yet been done by any political party, and credit is due to the Prime Minister. But more is necessary to further improve the lot of our primary producers, and there should be less talk about profiteering and sweating of the farmers.
– I have listened with interest to the debate, which seems to promise, so far as the Committee state is concerned, a considerable amount of discussion upon the various matters that have been referred to by honorable senators in regard to the administration of the various pools, and with a view to avoiding, in future, some of the errors alleged to have been made. This is not a measure, as one honorable senator said, to validate any agreement that has been entered into, nor is it a Bill to extend existing legislation with regard to certain pools. Its object is to enable the Government to complete contracts and obligations entered into.
– And to carry on existing agreements.
– That is what I have said. The Commonwealth Government, during the period of the war, entered into certain contracts and obligations, some with the Imperial Government, one with the State of Queensland, and one with certain companies in the Commonwealth. These contracts and obligations were entered into by the Commonwealth Government to enable the Go vernment aand the people of the Commonwealth to more effectively and efficiently prosecute the war so far as their part was concerned. Now we are approaching a period of peace, and because those contracts and obligations extend in point of time up to a definite date - which date may be during the time of peace, and not during the time of war - the Government have come to Parliament to ask for legislation to enable them to complete the contracts and obligations already entered into. In other words, they are asking power to carry on, as if the war still continued, until the contracts have been completed.
– Is not that validating the agreements f
– They do not require validating. If we have the power to pass this legislation, and do pass it, we put the Commonwealth Government in the position of fulfilling its obligations. There is no doubt whatever as to the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to carry on these obligations. They are extraordinary obligations and contracts, and ones which would not have been entered into in times of profound peace. As soon as the war period ceased the question would arise as to whether the contracts and obligations were still binding upon the Commonwealth, and if they were is the Commonwealth Government in a position to carry them out. The Commonwealth in this regard is like a contractor or party to a contract who enters into an agreement with other parties to do certain things when circumstances intervene to prevent his fulfilment of his obligations. The circumstances in this case which intervene are the cessation of hostilities, and the question arises in connexion with this Bill as to whether or not this Parliament is competent to legislate to give to the Commonwealth powers which it may exercise during the period between the termination of the war - whenever that may be - and the termination of these agreements, according to their terms. That is the whole question from the constitutional and legal point of view. Can we as a Parliament by legislation endow the Commonwealth Government with extraordinary powers for the period intervening between the termination of the war and the termination of the several contracts entered into according to the respec- tive dates agreed upon? The dates are specified in the preamble, and the contracts for the commodities mentioned in the Bill terminate respectively as follows: - Dairy produce, 31st August, 1920; wool, 30th June, 1920; flax, 31st December, 1920; and, as regards the State of Queensland and the sugar contracts, the date of termination is that of the sugar season of 1919. Before any of these dates have arrived we will undoubtedly be in a period of peace, and the question is, can we bv this enactment enable the Commonwealth to do during that period the things we knew could be done only in relation to war ? For my own part, despite the certificate given by several eminent legal gentlemen consulted by thi* Commonwealth Government, I consider this a matter of very considerable doubt. The opinions given by the eminent legal gentlemen referred to in this Chamber and in another place are very terse, and no reason has been furnished to the Government upon which the joint and several opinions have been based. These legal advisers have not furnished grounds for their opinions, or if they have the Government have not thought it fit to communicate them to Parliament. We have just the simple statement that these gentlemen are prepared to certify that, in their opinion, the proposed legislation is within the constitutional competence of the Federal Parliament. So far as the constitutional competence of the Federal Parliament to pass this measure is concerned, it rests mainly upon two subdivisions or paragraphs of section 51 of the Constitution, which enumerates in thirty-nine articles, as they have been called, the subjects with respect to which the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to legislate for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth. Article 6 reads1 -
The naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States, and the control of the forces to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth.
The power to legislate in regard to these matters is given to the Federal Parliament under section 51, article 6, of our Constitution. Article 39 reads -
Matters incidental to the execution of any power vested by this Constitution in the Parliament or in either House thereof, or in the
Government of the Commonwealth, or in the Federal Judicature, or in any Department or office of the Commonwealth.
There is the expressed power to legislate in regard to the military and naval defence of the Commonwealth, and the incidental power’ to legislate in respect of matters incidental to any power vested in the Commonwealth Parliament, or in either House thereof. Some time ago the construction of these provisions of the Constitution came up for consideration by the High Court of the Commonwealth in the case of Farey v. Burvett, when an individual was prosecuted for an alleged breach of one of the regulations under the War Precautions Act. By the amending War Precautions Act it was provided, amongst other things, that regulations might be issued for the purpose of fixing prices, and in the execution of the authority thus given under that Act the Governor-General, on the advice of his Ministers, fixed the prices of certain commodities in the populous areas of the Commonwealth. One vendor of bread - I do not know whether he was a baker or a middleman - sold bread at a price above that fixed by the regulations. He Avas successfully prosecuted, and an appeal was taken to the High Court, when the validity of the legislation and the regulations under the Act mentioned was questioned. The validity of the legislation rested directly, according to the contention of the Commonwealth authorities, upon the two provisions of the Constitution to which I have referred, and incidentally upon other sections of the Constitution, such as 68, which vests the command of Naval and Military Forces in the Governor-General, section 119, which provides that the Commonwealth shall protect every State against invasion and violence, and section 114, which says that a State shall not, without the consent of the Commonwealth, raise or maintain any Naval or Military Force. The sections I have quoted show that the exclusive authority in relation to defence is with the Commonwealth. It was contended that it was in exercise of its defence powers that the regulations were framed, to enable the Commonwealth to more effectively and efficiently prosecute its part in the “war. In the course of a very interesting argument a good many matters were presented to influence the Court in denning exactly, if it could, what were the restrictions, if any, upon the Commonwealth under the provisions of section 51 (vi) and (xxxix) of the Constitution. But there was a difference of opinion, in the Court, which consisted of seven Judges. The Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Barton, Mr. Justice Isaacs, Mr. Justice Higgins, and Mr. Justice Powers held that the War Precautions Act was a valid exercise of the defence powers of the Commonwealth in a period of war, and they also held that the regulation questioned was valid. On the other hand, Mr. Justice Duffy and Mr. Justice Bich held that the legislation was invalid, and that, even if the Act were valid, this regulation tinder it was invalid, or beyond the competence of the Federal Parliament or the Governor-General.
Chief Justice Griffith, in the early part of his judgment, said that it was beyond dispute that the Commonwealth could not fix prices in times of peace. I merely mention this matter incidentally because during the course of this discussion honorable senators opposite have asked if this Bill can fix the .price of wool, flax, dairy produce, and the other commodities mentioned in the preamble, why cannot it fix the price of other commodities which are of vital necessity to the community.
– The answer is very simple. It is because the Government do not believe in protecting the poorer section of the community.
– The answer is very simple, but it is not what the honorable senator has stated. It is that the High Court has stated, in effect, unanimously, that no body questions, or can question, the inability of the Federal Parliament to fix prices in times of peace. That is stated very clearly at the very beginning of the judgment.
In the course of argument, Sir William Irvine and Mr. Mann, both now occupying judicial positions, were asked by the Chief Justice -
Does not the power (defence) include the power which all sovereign nations have to defend themselves by all means?
And that is the keynote to his subsequent judgment, from which I shall quote. For the information of Senator Grant, and to correct the impression which he entertains, I shall now quote the statement of Mr. Justice Griffith -
The first question, then, is, What is the nature of the power conferred-? It is contended by the appellant that the word “ defence,” as there used, must bear a single and uniform meaning at all times, in the sense that an act which is not authorized to be done in time of peace cannot be authorized in time of war, and that any wider meaning of the word is excluded by the context. No one disputes that an attempt by the Commonwealth Parliament to fix the price of food in time of peace would be a trespass on’ the reserved powers of the States. It is contended that it is, therefore, equally a trespass in time of war.
That is the position. The appellant urged that in time of peace the Commonwealth Parliament could not regulate prices, and, in consequence, he contended, in time of war it could not do so. The Chief Justice said that no one disputed that the Commonwealth. Parliament could not do so in time of peace; but, in time of war, “Yes.” The Chief Justice proceeded then to give the reasons. Later, he said of this power -
It includes preparation for war in time of peace, and any such action in time of war as may conduce to the successful prosecution of the war and defeat of the enemy.
Further, in the course of the same remarks, he said, “ One test, however, must always be applied,” that is, as to whether a piece of legislation during a period of war is a proper exercise of the defence power -
One test, however, must always be applied, namely, Can the measure in question conduce to the efficiency of the Forces of the Empire, or is the connexion of cause and effect between the measure and the desired efficiency so remote that one cannot reasonably be regarded as affecting the other?
He held that the Court must enter into that inquiry in determining whether or not a piece of legislation is a valid exercise of the power of defence. Further, the Chief Justice remarked -
In making the inquiry, the Court cannot shut its eyes to the fact that what could not rationally be regarded as a measure of defence in time of peace may be- obviously a measure of defence in time of war.
That is to say, a piece of legislation which in time of peace cannot be rationally re- garded as an exercise of the defence power of the Commonwealth Parliament, may be obviously a defence measure in time of war. The Chief Justice then cites, as an instance, that a law passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in time of profound peace, to prohibit the accumulation of foodstuffs, could not be regarded as substantially an exercise of the defence power, but that in time of war that same action on the part of any individual might well be made a capital offence.
That is the distinction upon which the Commonwealth Judiciary has gone in determining the validity or otherwise of a piece of legislation in its application to the war.
Mr. Justice Barton gave a very long, interesting, and learned judgment to the same effect as that of the Chief Justice. Senator Bakhap, in the course of his remarks last evening, referred to other means of doing what the Commonwealth Government is proposing to do now. It has been made abundantly clear, both by precedent and analogy, in these judgments, especially in that of Mr. Justice Barton, that upon the Parliament applying itself to legislation of this character, in aid, so to speak, of the direct action in the prosecution of the war, if the legislation which it passes is a substantial exercise of the defence power, it must be left to the Parliament entirely to choose the particular means. Mr. Justice Barton quotes a decision of Chief Justice Marshall, of the American Judiciary, in The United States versus Fisher, wherein that Judge says -
Where various systems might be adopted for that purpose, it might be said with respect to each that it was not necessary, because the end might be obtained by other means. Congress must possess the choice of means, and must be empowered to use any means which are, in fact, conducive to the exercise of a power granted by the Constitution.
Mr. Justice Barton deals with paragraph xxxix. of section 51 of the Constitution, and states that the word “ incidental “ gives at least as ample scope as the expression “ necessary and proper “ in a corresponding provision of the United States Constitution.
In these various judgments the whole of the Justices concerned are at one upon the point that the Court itself cannot enter into an analysis of what may be called the antecedent facts on which the Government and Parliament deemed it advisable to pass the legislation in question. If the enactment is of such a character that it can be conceivably regarded as an effort to organize the forces of the nation - material, mental, economic, financial or otherwise - for the purpose of overcoming the enemy, and preserving the nation itself - if the legislation is substantially the exercise of a power of that character, then it is not for the Court to ascertain whether it is calculated to be effective or likely to be useful, or what are the particular circumstances in which it originated.
It has been pointed out by the different Judges that “ defence “ has not the limited significance which we have been accustomed in the past to associate with it. War to-day is a war not merely of armies and fleets, but of country against country, and of the resources of one nation against those of another; and it may be carried on not alone by armies and navies, but by financial operations, economic pressure, and other means. Those Judges who upheld the validity of our War Precautions legislation were unanimously of opinion that the Commonwealth, under our Constitution, has the power to utilize every means for ite own preservation, and to employ every means at its disposal - using the term “ means “ in the widest possible sense - for the purpose of overcoming the enemy. . In Mr. Justice Barton’s judgment I direct special attention to one sentence which practically sums up his attitude, and that also of the other Judges agreeing with him upon “this matter -
If an activity belongs solely to a State in time of peace, it does not follow that it is not a means of defence for Commonwealth hands in time .of war. .
That is the position which we took up when we passed our War Precautions legislation. There were activities which were solely State activities in time of peace; but, because they were such in time of peace - as Mr. Justice Bartonsays - it did not follow of necessity that they were not a means of defence for Commonwealth hands in time of war.
I will turn now to the judgments given by the dissenting Justices. The Chief Justice and one or more of the five Judges who upheld the legislation and the regulations, likened the Commonwealth power of defence to that of the “United Kingdom, and of the King of England. They held that we had plenary power, absolute and complete, and that it was in all respects identical with the power enjoyed and exercised by the Government of the United Kingdom. Mr. Justice Duffy and Mr. Justice Bich dissented emphatically from that point of view, and pointed out that the Imperial Parliament is bound by no written Constitution at all, and that it may legislate generally upon any subject and in any way it chooses, and may designate a subject or a piece of legislation by whatever name it desires. In all respects it is unfettered and uncontrolled. The dissenting Justices stated -
It is said for the respondent that the word “defence” of itself includes all such things as may be done either under the authority of the Parliament of Great Britain or under the Royal Prerogative for the purposes of the defence of the Realm, and that the epithets “military” and “naval” do not limit the meaning of the word “ defence.” The inference, of course, is that as the Parliament of Great Britain might enact that no food should be cooked, and that no person should wear any clothes in England during the period of the war, or that an infant should be blown from the mouth of a cannon every day during the same period, the Parliament of the Commonwealth might make similar enactments for Australia. In our opinion, the epithets “military” and “naval” do limit the meaning of the word “defence”; but assuming that they do not, the fault of the argument lies in a misapprehension of the powers and practice of the Imperial Parliament. If it is meant to suggest that that Parliament has power to legislate only in specific departments, as our own Parliament has, and that it could make these enactments only because it has power to legislate for the purposes of the defence of the Realm, it is, of course,’ a misstatement of the facts. The British Parliament has power to legislate in any manner about anything; it can make any enactment, and label it with any name it chooses, however inappropriate to the real tenor of the enactment, while the validity of every enactment of the Commonwealth Parliament must be established by referring it to some particular department of legislation.
These two Justices, Mr. Justice Duffy and Mr. Justice Rich, held that the words “ naval and military defence of the Opmmonwealth,” contained in paragraph vi. of section 51 of the Constitution, meant defence as confined to naval and military operations and matters incidental thereto. They are very clear and emphatic upon that point. They affirm that the use of the words “naval and military” limit the function of the Federal authorities to defending the Commonwealth by naval and military forces, and enable it incidentally to make all provision ancillary to naval and military defence.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator agrees with that view, but, if so, does he hold that the States, in relinquishing their defence rights, relinquished only a portion of them?
– That is the question which presented itself to my mind when I read the judgment. But a little later I shall draw attention to the way in which these two Justices adverted to the responsibilities and the authority of the States. In support of the position taken up by them, Mr. Justice Duffy and Mr. Justice Rich point out that wherever it is necessary to go beyond the express and limited power of defence provided for in paragraph vi. of section 51 of our Constitution, the framers of that charter of government, after the most exhaustive consideration, made the requisite provision for it. For example, paragraph xxxii. of that section empowers this Parliament to legislate regarding -
The control of railways with respect to transport for the naval and military purposes of the Commonwealth.
If it be held that paragraph vi. of section 51 of the Constitution includes all the things which five Justices held that it did include where is the necessity, it is asked, for paragraph xxxii.? Mr. Justice Duffy and Mr. Justice Rich, therefore, held that the very existence of paragraph xxxii. side by side with paragraph vi. of section 51 showed that the words contained in the latter paragraph have a limited signification.
– The adoption of that view would eliminate aerial warfare.
– Aerial warfare is usually associated either with the naval or military arm of a nation’s defence. I propose now to read another paragraph from the judgment of these gentlemen, which will be found on page 465 of the report of this particular case. They say-
In these circumstances, what meaning should he attributed to the words “the Naval and Military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States” in section 51 (vi) of the Constitution? We venture to think that they extend to the raising, training, and equipment of Naval find Military Forces, to the maintenance, control, and use of such Forces, to the supply of arms, ammunition, and other things necessary for Naval and Military operations, to all matters strictly ancillary to those purposes, and to nothing more. This, in our opinion, is their natural meaning, and to extend it would be to paralyze the States during war-time as completely as if there had been no reserve powers, to subject them at all times to an irritating and embarrassing usurpation of their ordinary functions. The defence of “the States would be the defence which King Stork extended to the frogs who invoked his assistance.
They are very emphatic in taking this narrower view of the defence power of the Commonwealth. Further on there is a very striking passage in their judgment, which will be found upon pages 467 and 46S. It reads-
Finally, we were pressed not to withhold from the Commonwealth a power so conducive to the effective conduct of a war in which we were engaged, as we firmly believe, on the side of honour and righteousness. Such an appeal is ill-made to Judges, who are sworn to administer the law without fear, favour, or affection, and whose fundamental duty is to interpret the law as they understand it, not to strain it this way or that way at the bidding of expediency. But, in our opinion, the respondent has wholly failed to show that the power to fix the price of bread in Melbourne and its suburbs at the present time is, in any sense, conducive to the defence of the Commonwealth, or has any relation whatever to the progress of the war. If we are wrong, and such a power bo necessary now, or if it becomes necessary in the future, it can be exercised by the State, or delegated by the State to the Commonwealth. It is a gross and pernicious error to suppose that, in the conduct of the present war, the interests of the State and the Commonwealth are diverse; they are identical, and the people of Australia will, no doubt, be as willing to protect and forward those interests through their State Legislatures as through the Commonwealth Parliament.
Had Senator Millen been present when the concluding paragraph of that judgment was read by Mr. Justice Duffy, he would have been disposed to interject, as he did last night when Senator Bakhap was speaking, that the Justices were unduly optimistic.
If this Bill be passed, the question which will arise is whether our power to legislate in t!he direction outlined therein will not cease the moment we pass from war to peace. Our competence to pass this legislation may not be questioned now, but the validity of the Act may be challenged directly we enter upon the period of peace. Obviously, before any of the dates specified in the preamble of this measure, we shall have entered that period, and the question will then arise whether this legislation did not lapse on the transition from war to peace.
– That is the point which will probably be tested.
– The judgments which I have read of Justices of the High Court show that the doubt as to the validity of the legislation proposed in this Bill is very much greater than was that as to the legislation which was challenged in the case of Farey v. Burvett. That legislation was enacted during and for a period of war. We are now approaching a period of peace, when the doubts which then existed will be considerably strengthened. For that reason, I think that the Bill is one the constitutional validity of which is very much open to question. When we arrive at the peace period,- it may not unreasonably be argued that the Commonwealth Government when it entered into the contracts outlined in the preamble of this measure, did so with their eyes wide open. They must have entered into them with a full realization of the constitutional limitation of their own powers. Suppose that the contracts had been made between individuals or companies - between “private persons,” using the term in its widest sense, so as to include corporate bodies. If private individuals or corporations entered into contracts which would bind them up to 31st December, 1920, and if, when making those contracts, they were conscious of the fact that, eighteen months before the date specified, through some circumstance over which they could exercise no control, their power to fulfil them would disappear, might it not be argued that they had entered into such contracts without due regard to their capacity to carry them out, and, as a result, might they not be justly cast in damages? Undoubtedly the Commonwealth can fulfil the contracts into which it has entered by co-operation with the several State Governments. If the State Parliaments choose to authorize this Parliament to legislate in regard to the matters enumerated in this Bill, no question as to the validity of our legislation can arise.
Does the Commonwealth stand in the position, with regard to these contracts, of a guarantor for the State Governments for such period of the term of the contracts as may be covered by a period of peace? That is a question which may be argued in the Courts hereafter. At any rate, so far as the United Kingdom and the State of Queensland are concerned, the agreements they have with the Commonwealth Government are operative, and terminate on the dates fixed in those agreements. If the Commonwealth Government is not in a position to fulfil those agreements, the United Kingdom and the State of Queensland may, as the other parties to the respective contracts, call upon the Commonwealth. Government to equip itself with power to fulfil the contracts. Failing the Commonwealth doing so, it may be found that we are unable, notwithstanding this legislation, to carry out those contracts.
The view I take of the position is that the validity of this legislation, if it- is passed, will be extremely doubtful, but we know that it is the best that the Government can offer at the present time. There has been no delegation of authority from the several State Parliaments. I question very much whether it had been asked for, but if it had been obtained, or were forthcoming unsolicited, there would be no doubt whatever of the validity of the legislation we are asked to pass. We are approaching the particular time when we shall pass from a state of war to a state of peace, and, as honorable senators who have spoken before me have said, our contracts are sacred and binding things.
Whether they were entered into by the Commonwealth Government adverting or not adverting to the possible termination of its powers before the termination of the periods set out in the contracts, I do not know. But, so far as Australia is concerned, it is our bounden duty and obligation to see that our contracts are fulfilled. If the Federal Government can fulfil them by the passage of this legislation, all the better, because it will be so much easier for one authority, such as the Federal Government, to represent Australia in these matters. It will be the more easy, because hitherto, during the period of the war, the Government have been associated with these contracts and with the various Pools and other commercial organizations dealing with the particular commodities referred to in the preamble to this Bill. In every respect it is. highly desirable that the Commonwealth Government should be the party to complete these contracts. In so far as this legislation will enable them to do so, I support the second reading of this Bill. I sincerely hope that if it is put to the test it will be upheld as a valid exercise of the powers of this Parliament, but, for the reasons that I have given, I must say that T have considerable doubt as to what will be its fate should it come to the test of an appeal to the High Court.
There is one other aspect of the question to which I might refer before I sit down. Looking through the Bill, it occurs to me that it is quite possible that it may be regarded as consisting of severable parts. Some of the parts, should they come before the High Court for determination, may be held to be a valid exercise of the .powers of this Parliament, whereas some other of the parts may be held to be invalid. I do not think it is at all likely that the whole measure will be called in question and the whole of this legislation determined to be invalid. With these qualifications, I am supporting the second reading of the Bill, and I hope to give the measure and the amendments which have been notified the fairest and fullest consideration in Committee.
– Whilst giving a general support to this measure, I think that the Govern- ment, in characteristic fashion, have dealt very unfairly with a number of industries equally deserving of consideration with those for which the Senate is asked to pass this legislation. I refer, for instance, to industries affected by the increase in the cost of timber, galvanized iron, clothing, house rent, and the increase in the cost of commodities generally. I remember that during the Spanish-American war, when the Americans obtained possession of Cuba, the very first act of the American commander at Havana was to fix the prices of commodities at the prices ruling on his arrival. The Commonwealth Government have only limited powers delegated to them by the various States under the section of the Constitution known as the “ Thirty-nine Articles.” It was in order to extend those powers that this Parliament, almost without comment, and practically without opposition, clothed the Government of the day with every power that it asked for under the Crimes Act, several amendments of the Defence Act, and the War Precautions Act. They were granted all the powers necessary to secure the adequate defence of Australia. In the exercise of those powers a considerable number of Committees were appointed, and, no doubt with the approval of the Government, they entered into various contracts. I take this measure to be intended to enable those Committees, such as the Central Wool Committee and the Committee controlling the Wheat Pool, to give effect to the contracts into which they entered, irrespective of whether the Peace Treaty is ratified or not. I cannot see that this Parliament could do otherwise than give those Committees this necessary power. I am, therefore, not prepared to vote against the second Heading of this Bill, although I have very grave doubts as to whether, when Peace is signed, it will stand the test of an appeal to the High Court.
My main objection is that the Government have not gone far enough. When war was declared there was nothing to prevent them fixing the prices of various commodities at the rates ruling at that time. I have no doubt that if they could have foreseen the enormous rise that has taken place in the prices of commodities they would have done so. The men who, perhaps for lack of a better term, are known as “ profiteers “ did not increase the prices of the commodities in which they deal by leaps and bounds, but on a steadily-increasing scale, with the result that to-day the prices of various articles have been vastly increased from those which prevailed in 1913. This has occurred, not because production has decreased in a ratio corresponding to the increase of prices, but simply because certain men were in possession of stocks of various commodities, and have increased their prices as they thought fit.
I enter my protest against the failure of the Government in this matter, and against their partiality in selecting three or four industries for the specially favoured treatment proposed by this Bill. The Government could have dealt with clothing, house rents, galvanized iron, timber, and all commodities required in connexion with building operations. If they had done so, the result would have been of immense advantage, especially to our returned soldiers, many of whom will presently commence the long and tedious operation - extending, . it may be, over thirty-seven years - of paying for the houses that are to be erected for them. If this matter had been attended to by the Government a returned soldier might have been protected in the case of a house valued at £500 to the extent of at least £100. However, the Government have not been prepared to take any risk in that direction. We are not yet officially at peace, since the Peace Treaty has not been ratified, and there is, therefore, nothing to prevent the Government, if they so desired, dealing with matters of this description. They have given no indication that it is their intention to do so. They are prepared to deal with the wool industry, which is the most important, and certainly the. wealthiest, industry in the Commonwealth. They are prepared to use all their powers, and to appropriate a few to which they are not entitled, in order to assist those- concerned in that in*dustry, in the wheat industry, and the others referred to in the Bill; but they are not prepared to take any steps whatever in the way I have mentioned for the benefit of returned soldiers or of the community at large. Every one to-day, and especially the poorer sections of the community, are suffering most acutely from the extortionate rents demanded by landlords in the Commonwealth. This is due largely to the high cost of land and the high cost of building materials, and this indicates a direction in which the Government should take action before the Peace Treaty is ratified. I hope that they will accept this suggestion, and will not be content to extend the powers of the “War Precautions Act merely for the protection of the few industries referred to in this Bill. Except that I admit that contracts entered into must be honoured, I believe that, on the whole, now that Peace is at hand, it would be better if all the regulations under the War Precautions Act were allowed to go by the board, and commercial affairs were restored to pre-war conditions.
– Sugar is the only commodity mentioned in this Bill concerning which I have an intimate knowledge. At the same time; I have been very keenly interested in the Government activities with respect to wheat, wool, and dairy produce. I have been struck, as, no doubt, every honorable senator must have been, with the magnitude of these transactions, and also with the measure of success achieved, especially when we take into account the very great difficulties arising in connexion with freight and other matters, due to our remoteness from the overseas markets. Sugar in this, and also in many other countries, has, perhaps, engaged a greater share of political attention than any other industry, the reason being, I believe, in part, because the world’s supplies are derived partly from beet and partly from cane. This has brought the product of white-labour countries into direct competition with that of coloured-labour nations. In addition to that, there was for a number of years, a determined effort on the part of the beet-sugar producing ‘countries of Europe to destroy the cane-sugar industry of Great Britain. The last serious attempt in this direction was made by Germany’ in 1896, when the German import duty was in creased to £20 per ton, and the Excise duty to £10 per ton. Very soon afterwards the example set by Germany was followed by both France and Austria. The result was a large increase in the production of beet sugar, and, as a consequence, a rapid fall in sugar prices throughout the world; the lowest point ever known, about 6s. per cwt. for 88 per cent, beet sugar f.o.b. Hamburg, being reached in 1903. If it had not been for the action taken by the United States of America in imposing a countervailing duty upon bounty-fed sugar, and the adoption of the Brussels Convention, which came into operation in September, 1903, there cam be no doubt that the cane-sugar industry of the world would have been practically destroyed, and all countries outside of Germany and Austria would have experienced a sugar famine during the recent war. Sugar is peculiar in the respect that for almost every other footstuff there is some fairly acceptable substitute, but for sugar there is none. As soon as war was declared, Great Britain took action to secure supplies of sugar, and within a few months had purchased no less than 1,000,000 tons at double the price ruling prior to the war. In Australia the price for the three years preceding the war was not £14 per ton, as has been stated during this debate; the average during that term was £16 0s. 6d., if we take into account the bounty paid to growers of sugar cane. Owing to a very heavy yield in Java, which is our nearest competitor, there was a fall in the Australian market, early in July, 1914, of £1 per ton.
Notwithstanding the very sharp and big rise in sugar prices throughout the world at the beginning of the war, the price-fixing tribunals established by the southern ‘States refused toe allow any increase in Australian sugar, so that this commodity was sold at a lower price than that ruling in other countries. The transactions of the Imperial Sugar Commission are set out in a report of the Imperial War Cabinet for 1917, and for the information of honorable senators I should like to quote briefly from that document -
The Sugar Commission is also dissimilar from the meats and fats organizations. As the Royal Commission on the Sugar Supply, it was established, as has been stated, long before the Ministry came into being. In the early part of 1016, the Commission arranged to buy for France, and later for other Allies. In September, 1917, at the suggestion of Mr. Hoover, an international sugar committee was established in New York, to centralize the purchase and allocation of Cuban and American raw sugars. The Royal Commission sent two delegates to represent them on this committee, and thus the co-ordination of Allied purchases was effectively completed. The expenditure of the Sugar Commission to 1st October, 1917, exceeded £120,000,000.
In Australia there has been until recently a full supply of sugar both for domestic and manufacturing purposes. In that we have been very fortunate, because in other countries it has been found necessary to rigidly control consumption. This is what was done in Great Britain -
The whole of the domestic consumption of sugar has now been brought under the most rigid control by the system of registration of all dealers, combined with the registration of each individual consumer, by means of sugar cards, with one selected retailer - the first instance of universal rationing in England. The amount allowed to each individual is no more than i lb. per week. Its use in- sweets and other manufactures has been limited to 25 per cent, of the normal quantity.
Sugar may only be used for cooking in hotels, restaurants, clubs, or boarding houses on an average of one-seventh of an ounce per lunch or dinner. Residents may, in addition, obtain a further 6 ozs. of sugar per week for their individual use. The amount that may be used in’ cakes made for sale is limited to 15 per cent, of their total weight, in biscuits to 15 per cent, and in buns to 10 per cent., while scones must be made entirely without sugar.
In the case of sugar, prices are controlled throughout. The Sugar Commission imports sugar on Government account, and regulates prices to wholesalers and retailers on the basis of costs of production and handling. No Statutory Order has been issued fixing prices, but the Commission holding a monopoly in this article is enabled, by the threat of withholding supplies, to compel the dealers to conform to its regulation’s. The prices to the consumer on 1st January, 1918, and for some time previous, were: Loaf sugar, 6½d. per lb.; white granulated, 5)d. per lb. ; ordinary brown, 5Jd. per lb. Lists of prices which the public ought to pay for sugar are officially issued, and charges in excess of these can be reported- for investigation.
I am not in a position to say what- the wholesale price was up to the 1st January, 1918, when these retail prices were charged, but I know that last year the wholesale price of sugar in England was increased to £57 15s. per ton, and there was a corresponding increase in the retail price. It will be noticed, in the prices I have quoted, that white granulated sugar was sold in Great Britain at 5fd., and ordinary brown at 5£d. - the difference being only Jd. per lb. That really represents the difference between the actual value of white and brown sugar, and if the practice of using brown sugar instead of white were’ generally adopted in Australia, the only saving, therefore, would be £d. per lb. I doubt very much whether the people, as has been suggested, are prepared to substitute brown sugar for white for that consideration.
– They would require to use more.
-That is so. They would require to use more, because brown sugar contains about 96 per cent, of pure sugar, while the refined product contains about 99.9 per cent., so that any saving in actual cost would be counterbalanced by the larger quantity that would be required.
In 1915 the Commonwealth assumed control over sugar, and, after negotiations with the Queensland Government, arranged to ‘ purchase the whole of the Queensland output at £18 per ton. That rate ruled for both the 1915 and 1916 crops, but the price of refined sugar during the greater part of the period was the same as now, £29 5s. per ton. Buying at £18 per ton and selling at £29 5s., less the usual discounts, of course, enabled the Commonwealth Government to make a profit on the sugar business, after providing for the loss incurred on sugar imported from foreign countries, of about £500,000. In the Estimates for 1916-17 and 1917-18, the amount carried to Consolidated Revenue, as a result of the Government’s transactions in sugar over that period, amounted to over £450,000. Against that, of course, has to be set the very substantial loss incurred by the Commonwealth owing to a disastrous cyclone which occurred in Queensland last year. Under the arrangement made with Queensland, the Government of that State, by proclamation, takes possession, as agent for the Commonwealth Government, of all sugar immediately it is made, and, owing to the shipping strike in 1917, -which lasted for eleven weeks, not a single bag of sugar was shipped from Port Mackay during that period. Consequently, there was a large accumulation of sugar there, and when a cyclone occurred in January, 1918, approximately 10,000 tons were totally destroyed, and another 10,000 tons required re-treatment before it could be shipped. The sugar belonged to the Commonwealth Government, and the whole of the loss incurred had to be borne by them.
In 1916, an award was made by the Industrial Court of Queensland, whereby the wages of all workers engaged in the sugar industry were increased by about 50 per cent., and the sugar industry, as well as other industries, had to pay a great deal more than in pre-war times for everything used, ‘both in the growing of cane and the manufacture of sugar. Representations were accordingly made to the Commonwealth Government as to the necessity for increasing the price, and, as a result of the negotiations between the sugar producers and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) , it was agreed that the Commonwealth .Government should not in the future seek to make any profit out of sugar purchased in Australia. It was also agreed that the producers should be given all there was in the business when the selling price of refined sugar was £29 5s. per ton. In pursuance of that arrangement, the Commonwealth Government entered into an agreement with the State Government, and also -with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
I do not hold any brief for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but, being in possession of information in regard to the relations existing between that company and the industry as a whole, I think it is in the best interests of the sugar industry to place this information before honorable senators. I know that injustice is very often done to the whole industry because of the alleged sins of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. When speaking last night, Senator Ferricks said that the margin between the price paid by the refiners in Australia and that at which refined sugar was sold was double the European margin - I presume he referred to pre-war times - and treble the American margin. Senator Ferricks is quite wrong in that statement, and he must have fallen into the error so frequently made by those who have not an intimate knowledge of the business, of assuming that the first mark sugar, the price of which was regularly quoted in the Australian press alongside the price of 88 per cent, beet sugar, was really a refined sugar. The quotation did not refer to refined sugar, but to white sugar, produced as a result of a bleaching process, which does not command anything like the price of refined sugar either on the Continent, -in Great Britain, or in other markets of the world. In a little publication ‘ entitled 4. Short History of Sugar, Mr. George Martineau, CB., who is a recognised authority on the European sugar question, says -
The usual margin between the prices of raw and refined sugar in Germany was £3 10s. pelton. When the Cartel got to work, it rose to £10 10s. per ton, to fall again when the Convention came into force to the normal figure.
The mistake usually made in comparing the margin between the prices of raw and refined sugar in Australia and other countries is in assuming that in other countries the prices quoted are for raw and refined sugar side by side, that is to say, raw sugar delivered at the refining point. In Australia the price quoted for raw sugar is always for raw sugar f.o.b. at the port of shipment. In Australia, the refiners provide the bags in which the raw sugar is placed by the manufacturers, but that is not done in any other country in the world. The cost of sacks, freight, harbor dues, and wharfage in the Commonwealth may be set down as at least 30s. per ton, and if Ave add that amount to the £3 10s. per ton, the margin in Germany, we get a margin of £5 per ton. Allowance has also to be made for discount in Europe and in America, which, as a rule, is 2 per cent. The average discount here is 5 per cent., with a special ‘allowance on sugar used for manufacturing purposes. When allowance is made for freight charges, sacks, &c, and the difference in discount in Australia, as compared with those of European countries, we find that the margin is practically the same. According to recent quotations, under the latest arrangements made by the American Government with the refiners in the United States of America, there is a margin of £8 per ton between the price of raw and refined sugar. The refiners pay £34 per ton for sugar delivered atthe refining point, and they sell it for £42 per ton, less a discount of only 2 per cent. The discount amounts to 16s. 9d., so there is a net margin between the price of raw and refined sugar - that is sugar of the quality as the refiners purchase in Australia - of £7 3s. 3d. per ton after all allowances are made. In Australia, there is an apparent margin of £8 5s. per ton. Raw sugar of a net titre of 94 per cent. is purchased at port of shipment for £21 per ton, and the average strength of that sugar, instead of being 94 per cent., is actually 96 per cent., and the price paid is £21 8s. lid.
– That does not alter the fact that the price is £21 for 94 per cent. titre.
– No ; hut it disposes of the statement of the honorable senator that the margin allowed to refiners in Australia was double thatallowed in other countries. The honorable senator was speaking of the pre-war period when he told us that the margin was approximately £6 per ton on a selling price of £19; it was actually £5 17s. 6d. The charges for freight, wharfage, harbor dues were £1 12s.11d., and the cost of the sacks containing the sugar is included in that figure. The price was £23 1s.10d. per ton delivered at the refinery, but we have to add a refining charge of £1 7s. 6d. per- ton of raw sugar. The cost of packages amounts to27s. per ton.
– Can you explain why, in 1915, the refining charge was 30s., and now, with the increased cost of materials and labour, it is 27s. 6d.?
– I have not the 1915 agreement before me, but probably the explanation is that the refining charge of 30s. included packages. Under the latest agreement it is provided -
For the purposes of this Agreement, “refining expenses “ shall include all work done from mistoring to delivery to the trade, hut shall not include : -
freight, insurance, wharfage, and cartage charges on and in respect of refined products shipped to Western Australia, or between the refineries; or
the actual cost of tinning and packing syrup and treacle; or
the actual cost of packages in which refined sugar is contained.
The actual cost of such packages shall be ascertained from the books of the company, and shall be a separate allowance chargeable by the company to the Government.
Senator Ferricks has doubtless read the agreement, and has noted that provision is made for an audit by an official of the Commonwealth Government of the whole of the refining accounts in connexion with the business of refining the sugar on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. To this refining charge has to be added the cost of packages, the cost of freight to Western Australia, the selling charge of 7s. a ton, and the managing charge - to which the honorable senator made allusion last night - of £1 a ton. All of these charges amount to £3 7s. 6d., and bring up the cost to the refiner of £26 9s. 4d. Then, to that has to be added the difference- between the value of the refined product of a ton of 94 per cent, sugar and that of a sugar analyzing 99.9 per cent.
– The difference is made up in the syrups.
– This is not taking syrups into account. It is absurd to say that the syrups are, in the true sense of the word, by-products of the refining business, because in golden syrup there is no less than 70 per cent. of crystallizable sugar; and both golden syrup and treacle have to be subjected to a special process to prevent that sugar from crystallizing. All this information has been published already; the particulars have been given in another place, in reply to various questions, showing that the whole of the difference between the price paid for the raw sugar and the price obtained for the refined sugar is’ absorbed, in the first instance, by the freight on raw sugar to the refineries, by the cost of sacks supplied by the refineries to the mills to contain the raw sugar, by the actual cost of refining, by the cost of packages in which to put the refined sugar, by extra freight to Western Australia, by the selling charge of 7s. a ton, by the managing charge of £1 a ton, and by the waste in converting raw sugar into refined sugar. The £1 a ton that has been referred to as a managing charge is actually the profit - the amount which the Colonial Sugar Kenning Company receives to cover depreciation on its refining plants, and the profit which it makes out of the business of refining.
– - While it is treating sugar at 27s. 6d. a ton, the company has provided for depreciation and all those other factors.
– That is incorrect. The 27s. 6d. represents the money actually expended by the refinery in the work of refining, for wages, and for refinery supplies-
– And fuel.
– .That is so.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is paying its way, and on top of that it comes with £1 a ton managerial profit. You described it as a profit.
– Out of that comes what is required to cover depreciation, on the company’s refining plants and to yield the refineries a profit. The clear profit, as I understand it, is about 15s. a ton.
– Every labourer is worthy of his hire.
– I do not think the Colonial Sugar Refining Company can be expected to invest several millions of money in the refining business without looking for some return upon capital invested. When everything is taken into consideration, the refining margin in Australia in pre-war days was no greater than what it was in Germany in pre-war days, and the refining margin in Australia to-day is considerably less than what it is in America at present.
– Do not forget that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s capital came out of the industry.
– I do not think that is a correct statement. A great deal of the capital of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company came out of the shareholders’ pockets. Any one who has taken an interest in the affairs of the company must be aware that a good deal of the capital which the company is using today was undistributed profits which it had carried to reserve fund year by year, and which it has at various periods trans ferred from reserve fund to capital account
– It watered its stock from money which came out of the industry.
– No; unless the honorable senator’s definition of watering stock is very different from what I have always understood the watering of stock to mean. That process is the inflation of capital without the actual addition of money; that has not been done by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– It put into’ its capital its reserves created from profits.
– That is so. It must be borne in mind that the business from which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company sprang was established as long ago as 1S42.
– With what capital?
– I am not able at the moment to state. Until 1887, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was a proprietary concern, with unlimited liability. In that year it was formed into a limited liability company, and its accounts were first published in 1888. Any one acquainted with its history will know that there were many years in which the company paid no dividends, and that there were others during which it paid only very small dividends.
– Hear, hear ! Some people were ruined by it.
– In 1888, the company possessed paid-up capital amounting to £648,000. It had debentures amounting to £901,000, and reserves of £318,000. In 1855, the company’s capital had totalled £150,000, and it then held no reserves. As the volume of the company’s business increased, it became necessary for its capital also to be expanded. I cannot see any difference between a public company placing to reserve a reasonable amount each year, and using it in the business of the company, and a private individual doing the same thing. The question is, has the success of the company been due to the exploitation of the people, or the sugar-growers of Australia-
– Yes; undoubtedly to the exploitation of the growers.
– Or to the efficient manner in which the business of the company has been managed? I say, without hesitation, that the success of the company, and the commanding position which it occupies in Australia today, is entirely due to the very efficient manner in which it has been managed by the Knox family, father and son. There was a time when practically every mill in Queensland made a white sugar and sold it on the open market - which it was perfectly free to do. But every mill in turn discovered that it paid far better to make a raw sugar, to sell it to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and to allow that firm to refine it and place it on the market. In consequence, there is not one mill in Queensland which to-day is making a sugar for the open market.
Senator Ferricks said a good deal yesterday regarding the beneficent effect of the cane price legislation of the Ryan Government. I shall not say one word against the principle of that legislation. If the Act had been properly administered it undoubtedly would have proved advantageous to the sugar-growers of Queensland.
– Do you not admit that it has been?
– I certainly do not. I heard evidence tendered, upon oath, to the effect that while it had given the growers to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mills an increased price of ls. 6d. a ton for their cane, it had deprived them of 3s. a ton which they had previously received from the company; and, as a net result, they were ls. 6d. a ton worse off than before that legislation was introduced. In the Mackay district, before the growers can receive the award prices for their cane, a bank guarantee has to be signed to enable the co-operative mills to make the necessary payments. The mills in that district to-day are practically in a state of insolvency.
– Is it a fair thing for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to evade the operations of that Act?
– With reference to provision being made in the agreement between the Commonwealth and the
Queensland Government that no nev legislation would be passed affecting the sugar industry, and with respect to its application to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and its growers, a deputation of six growers journeyed to Melbourne last year and waited upon the Prime Minister. They told Mr. Hughes that tie growers for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mills in Queensland numbered 590, and that all but fourteen had signed the agreement with the company, and that they wished in their own interests for the protection of the Commonwealth Government. Whatever was done by the Prime Minister in that direction, then, was at the very earnest solicitation of those representatives of the growers for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mills.
– And you admit that those growers do not sell their cane to the mills, but that they sell it to a third party?
– That is so.
– To evade the operation of the Act.
– They have stated recently in open Court, upon oath, that, as the result of that agreement, they have been better off than if they had been carrying on under an award of the Prices Board.
– We have heard that tale before. That is why the Colonial Sugar Refining Company employs a dummy between the grower and the mill !
– The cane suppliers to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mills are as fine a body of farmers as can be found in any part of Australia, and they are more prosperous than the growers supplying any other mill with the sole exception of those growing for the Mulgrave Central Mill. As a large shareholder in the Mossman Central Mill, and as the largest grower in the district, I say that if the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would take the mill over at a reasonable valuation, I would be in favour of selling it to them, and of becoming a grower for them.
– No doubt the honorable senator would be.
– Senator Ferricks was himself a cane-grower for a short period, but I do not know that he made sufficient out of it during the twelve months that he was thus engaged to enable him to retire. I have been a sugargrower for twenty-five years. I have pulled through in spite of many adverse conditions, and I have not the reputation of being a person who would make a foolish bargain with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– The honorable senator’s contention is that the growers supplying the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mills do not want the Cane Prices Boards. Why, then, do the growers have to sell to a. third person - a dummy - instead of to the mill direct?
– I know that the growers for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mills have received a very much higher price during the past five or six years than I have received from a co-operative mill, for which I am a grower and supplier.
– So long as the honorable senator admits that he does not want the Regulation of the Cane Prices Act I am satisfied.
– Some complaint has been made by jam manufacturers and others in regard to the price of sugar in Australia. We heard a great deal during part of last year concerning the relatively cheap price of sugar in Java. It is true that for a while prices in Java were lower than they were in Australia. But that was entirely due to the shipping position. As is well known, a number of the Dutch ships which had been engaged in trade between the East and other countries were seized by America and the Allies, and thereafter all the other Dutch vessels went into hiding, in neutral ports - for the most part either in Java or China. As a result, the holders of Java sugar had no outlet whatever for that commodity. Consequently, a’ panic set in, and for a very brief period indeed sugar could be purchased in Java at a very much less price than it could be purchased for anywhere else in the world.
– For £10 per ton less.
– Certain qualities of Java sugar - not refined or white sugar - might have been bought at the low price indicated by the honorable senator.
– In Java. But what would have been the cost of shipping it ?
– I understand that it was practically impossible to get a ship to carry sugar from Java to any other country, because the only vessels which had been engaged in that trade had either been seized by America and the Allies, or had gone into hiding. But in August of last -year an arrangement was completed between the American Government, on the one hand, and the Dutch Government and the Java sugar-holders on the other, under which America, with the concurrence of the Allies, undertook not to interfere with any of the Dutch ships which were engaged in carrying eastern produce to the United States of America or to any Allied country. At the same time, an undertaking was given that America would pay full United States prices for any Java sugar delivered at refining points in those States. That price was £34 per ton, duty paid, for sugar of similar quality to that which was being sold in Australia at £21 per ton. Immediately there was a very sharp rise in the price of Java sugar, and that rise has continued steadily until to-day. While raw sugar in Australia produced by white labour is worth only £21 per ton, sugar of the -same quality produced by cheap coloured labour cannot be purchased in Java now for less than a figure slightly under £60 per ton.
– How does that come about? (Senator CRAWFORD. - It is due to the fact that there is a sugar shortage all over the world, amd that Java is practically able to command any price which the holders of sugar there like to ask for it.
– Does the honorable senator say that sugar to-day in Java is worth £60 per ton?
– No ; but I say that raw sugar in Java is worth slightly under £60 per ton to-day. I have here an extract from the London Times of 27th May last, dealing with the sugar position in Europe. It is really of a very informative character. It is a letter addressed to the editor of the journal I have mentioned and reads: -
to THE EDITOR of THE “ TIMES.”
Sir, - We are glad to notice in your issue of the 24th inst., under the heading “ Fear of Dearer Food,” that there is a growing concern about the prospect of dearer food later in the year. The removal of control from some articles has been followed by considerable, and, in some cases, serious rises in price, and the raising of the blockade will undoubtedly lead to greater demands, and aggravate the position of foodstuffs generally.
In April permission was given to import, without restriction, sugar for manufacturing purposes, with the result that contracts have been made at prices equivalent to £12 to £13 a ton over the prices of controlled sugar for grocery purposes, which are at present in this country at least1d. per lb., or nearly £10 a ton, lower than in any other country. What would, therefore, be the effect of the control on sugar being altogether removed? Yet we hear pressure is being brought to bear that this should happen.
The world’s production of sugar is something like 2,000,000 tons less than before the war, and all countries, with the exception of England and America, are short of stocks, and this position cannot possibly be improved until the autumn of next year. Therefore, were the control on sugar to be entirely removed, the inevitable result would be free buying with limited sellers, and a rise of considerably more than the present difference between the price in the United Kingdom and the world’s price. The extent of the possible rise in prices cannot be estimated, for there will be an opportunity for speculators to operate such as they have not had for many a year. The public will see in this nothing but profiteering, and it is for the Royal Commission on Sugar Supply to see that this does not happen.
The Commission have done well through a difficult time, and it would be a thousand pities were they to give up the control of sugar until the return to more normal conditions.
We are, yours faithfully,
Edwin Tate, Vice-Chairman. 21 Mincing lane, E.C., 3, May 26.
Henry Tate and Sons Limited conduct one of the largest sugar refineries in the United Kingdom. They say that manufacturers there are importing sugar at from £11 to £12 per ton above the controlled price, and that controlled price was, as I stated earlier in my speech, £57 15s. per ton. So that, when that letter was written, sugar was being imported from Europe into England at a price approximating £70 per ton.
– I do not know, but, according to that letter, people in England were getting it. Whilst the jam manufacturers and others of Great Britain are prepared to pay £70 per ton foT their sugar, the jam manufacturers of Australia complain (because they have been asked to pay from £24 to £26 per ton for it. They have been provided with sugar at a lower price than any other jam-exporting country in the world.
Capital has been made out of the fact that in New Zealand refined sugar has been selling at from £20 to, I think, £23 per ton. That circumstance was solely due to an arrangement which was made between the New Zealand Government and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company early in the war. The sugar in question is made from raw sugar, the product of coloured labour in Fiji. But New Zealand is not a jam-exporting country. The exports of jams and jellies from New Zealand’ during the war period have not amounted to 5 per cent. of the value of the jams and jellies exported from Australia, and, moreover, the bulk of these exports from New Zealand have gone on transports as part of the food supplies for Dominion troops. In the letter which I have just quoted, the statement is made that the sugarproduction of the world is 2,000,000 tons less than it was prior to the war.
– Then the honorable senator does not take seriously the bogey of over-production in Australia which forms a part of that agreement?
– I never did, because I knew that only on three occasions has Australia produced sufficient sugar to meet her own requirements, and upon no occasion has she produced sufficient to meet her needs for two years in succession. Upon the law of averages, we have no need to fear over-production. Nor was there any reason to fear an increase in the number of sugar mills in Queensland. The last mill erected there, with its equipment of tramways and other appliances, cost £500,000.
– That is because the mill has been put in the wrong place.
– That mill was ordered before the war. But its establishment has meant such an overcapitalization that it will be practically impossible, unless there is a big rise in the price of sugar, to make it pay.
– Then, speaking from the stand-point of a sugar-grower, the honorable senator does not think there would be any danger to Australian industries if manufacturers were allowed to import world sugar in bond for their export trade?
– In reply to the honorable senator’s question, I will say, and I think I may claim to be a representative of the Queensland sugar industry, that neither I nor anybody engaged in the industry in that State in normal times would have any objection whatever to manufacturers being allowed a rebate of the whole of the import duty on any sugar used in their export trade.
– And be allowed to import sugar if they wished ?
– We would have no objection to them being just as free to import it when we return to normal conditions as they were in the pre-war period.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Extension of time granted, on motion by Senator Foll.
– I hope I have satisfied Senator Pratten on the point he raised.
– The honorable senator knows that there has been no permission to import sugar under the agreement.
– Yes, I am aware that since the Government assumed control of the sugar business private importation has not been permitted. But I do not think that the manufacturers have any substantial grievance in that regard, because the Government have very materially assisted in securing profitable contracts for Australian manufacturers, and our exports of products of which sugar forms a part were very much greater dur ing the war than ever they were previously.
– Ten times greater.
– Our manufacturers were able to compete with the manufacturers of the world in the same lines of business, because they were getting sugar more cheaply.
– That is so. Not only were our exports of jams, jellies, and preserved fruits greatly increased during the war, but there was also a great increase in the quantity of condensed milk manufactured, and a substantial increase in the manufacture of confectionery and of biscuits for Australian consumption.
I was dealing with the sugar supplies of the world, and, as compared with the year before the war, they were stated to be 2,000,000 tons short. In that estimate of the Messrs. Tate - and I do not know any one more competent to estimate the position - they have entirely omitted to take into account the increase in the consumption of sugar which, under normal conditions, would have taken place during the past five years. For the year 1903-4 the sugar production of the whole world, beet and cane, amounted to 13,744,000 tons. For each of the years 1912-13, 1913-14, and 1914-15, the total production of sugar amounted to no less than over 20,000,000 tons. This showed an increased production, and consequently an average increased consumption,- of over 500,000 tons per annum. There was no reason to believe that that increase of consumption would not have continued but for the war, and, as a consequence, I think it may be fairly stated that now, instead of a shortage of 2,000,000 tons in the production of sugar, there is a shortage of 5,000,000 tons in the world’s requirements of sugar.
– For one year?
– Yes, a shortage of 5,000,000 tons per annum. I suggest that we are producing now 5,000,000 tons per annum less than it might fairly be estimated we require. As a consequence, I hold that the sugar producers of Australia should be encouraged in every possible way to increase production. There should be encouragement for the increased production of sugar, and not only in Queensland, but, if we are ever going to establish the beet sugar industry, in the other States also. As one engaged in the can sugar industry. I should like to see the beet sugar industry established in the other States, because the effect would be to give the whole of the States a direct interest as producers in the sugar industry, and that would help to stabilize the industry, and would very much assist those engaged in it at the present time to secure the measure of protection which, in my view, they deserve. I ask leave to continue my speech on the resumption of the debate.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.
.- I move-
That inasmuch as the good name and well-being of the British Empire arise from a recognition of the basic essentials that true liberty, good order, and national contentment should obtain throughout all its parts and established rule respond to the matured ideas and aspirations of its several peoples; and as any departure from these fundamentals in any particular part creates a blighted welfare and induces civil discord for that part as well as injuriously affecting the sister parts in the Empire structure : Therefore, the Senate is of opinion -
That the foregoing resolutions be transmitted by cable to the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Right Honorable Lloyd George.
The motion is very much the same in the wording, if not in actual substance, as one that has appeared on the noticepaper . of the Senate four times during the past fifteen years. As honorable senators will recall, the Senate has changed its political complexion completely during that period, but on this question it stands faithful and true. In the past, discussion on this issue has provoked more heat than light, although our experience in this Chamber would not lead’ one to that conclusion. Elsewhere, for some reason or another, whenever the question of Ireland’s claims to self-government was mentioned, some Englishmen, as Sydney Smith said, used to take leave of their senses. They could not approach it in a rational spirit. I am hoping that on the present occasion the Senate will again exhibit its attitude of sweet reasonableness, patriotism, and appreciation of the troubles which a sister nation within the circle of the Empire is experiencing.
The claim of Ireland for selfgovernment is no new one. It is firmly implanted in the soil of reason and equity, and, if I may say so, its roots strike into the deep, bank of antiquity as well. The claim was still old when Australia was in the undisturbed possession of aboriginal races. It was old even before Columbus “ pierced the veil of night,” and brought to light that huge continent which has been the arbiter of human destiny during the late war. The claim stands unimpaired in all its fulness, notwithstanding antagonistic influences. As for its merits, they will, I trust, be demonstrated later; but before I touch upon what naturally belongs to that part of the subject this evening - the grounds upon which I propose to ask honorable senators to support the motion - I have to indulge in a few necessary preliminaries.
There is a special reason for the introduction of this motion for the fourth time, without apology. That reason is its urgency, and the indisputable fact of its ever-widening significance like the waves on still water when disturbed in the centre. Ireland, as an integral part of the Empire, claims that measure of self-control which Australia enjoys and so jealously preserves; and there is good reason why honorable senators should address themselves to the subject without any lingering trace of prejudice in their minds. This claim for self-government has moved rapidly since first it was dealt with in this Chamber. Then it was confined, so to speak, only to a small family circle of domestic troubles in the Old Country. It was not what may be called the paramount question. But shortly afterwards it did become paramount in the opinion of the Imperial Government and the House of Commons. At a later date, it became one of inter-dominion concern, as evidenced bv the fact that one Dominion after another spontaneously expressed an opinion concerning a sister nation’s grievances. Canada passed a resolution in favour of granting Home Rule to Ireland; South Africa and many of the States of Australia adopted similar resolutions, and, lastly, the Commonwealth itself, not very long after this Parliament was established did the( same.
Subsequently, the importance of this question was realized further afield, and instead of being of inter-dominion concern, it became an inter-allied question. It aroused sympathetic interest in the United States of America, which, as I have said, has become the great arbiter of the world’s destiny, whose moral force eventually turned the tide of war in favour of the Allied cause, justifying the prediction of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George) that with America in the struggle, victory for the Allies was certain. We have had pronouncements upon Ireland’s claim to self-government from the American Congress, and delegates - about whose character and standing there has been much criticism by ignorant or designing men - appeared in Paris with authorrity to present a resolution carried by an overwhelming majority in the Senate of the United States of America, asking that the claim might be listened to at the Peace Conference. This claim is now of international importance. Congress has become convinced of the inherent justice of ‘the request that Ireland should Ve admitted into the councils of the nations of the world. So far as Irishmen individually are concerned, I admit that by reason of their peculiar characteristics they are prone to hold different opinions; but no matter where the scattered sons of Ireland be found - whether deep in the Canadian woods, on the broad veldt of South Africa, or the sun-baked plains of this our own dear land - the claim, persistent and consistent, for Ireland’s right to control her own affairs remains constant, and ever unites them in common feeling. As well might you try to stop the blades of grass from growing as they grow, as quench the love an Irishman has for his native land. This question, is the touchstone to an Irishman’s worth and manhood the world over. Only an Irishman unworthy of the name, and unworthy of his salt, will fail to feel his heart beat in unison to the throbbings of his native land. Only those who, as Napoleon said, have allowed their souls to be bronzed over by the enervating influence of social environment, or, worse still, have become unworthy, through material aggrandisement or for some other reason, fail to respond to the call on occasions like the present, to sustain the claim of their native land, or the land of their origin, to the freedom which we so fully enjoy in Australia.
– The right of independent nationhood.
– Senator Gardiner, I observe, appreciates the real position. Irishmen may be divided by distance as well as by creed; in politics they may be sundered as widely as the poles; but upon this issue they come together in a united demand. That being the case, it is time that those who hitherto have closed their ears to the pleadings of Ireland’s cause took stock of the position and be prepared to listen, if not to be convinced. With all my heart, I thank the British Democracy which Michael Davitt - peace to his ashes - spent the greater part of his life in seeking to convert, and for whose conversion he was mainly responsible, for the changed feeling upon this important subject. I am also prepared to extend the same gratitude to the friends of freedom in Australia who acted like- wise. It would be a most stultifying position for supposed advocates of freedom to enjoy its privileges here, and, at the same time, to withhold a similar measure of it from the kindred community of Ireland. The attitude of such people I could never understand; I can only describe it as incurable bigotry. And I have never met a real bigot yet who was not a blockhead.
When we analyze the position, we are satisfied that the claims of Ireland during the last 800 years for some substantial measure of self-government have never been properly considered. Time, we are told, is the great mediator. Time, we know, has healed many old estrangements. Time has been the means of righting many ancient wrongs. Time has been the solvent of many doubts and misunderstandings, or worse; but in the case of Ireland, time has never proved itself either a friend or an auxiliary. I could fill page after page of Hansard, not with opinions of Irishmen or Irish partisans, but with opinions of Englishmen who have shown such an independent mind, such impartiality, and such a true sense of what is best and safest and most creditable for the England of which they feel so proud, as would convince every honorable senator. I could place witness after witness in the box, not from Ireland, but from quarters where one would not usually look for them. I honour Scotsmen, and ever since coming to this country I have looked upon them as the friends of the Irish, because they were behind Gladstone in 1885, when he was prepared to give the Irish their longdenied rights. Welshmen, too, have proved the steadfast friends of my native country. So far as Englishmen are concerned, there has been remarkable indifference or “ stupidity,” as Mr. Asquith said, in handling this question over a long period of years. Gladstone, speaking at Hampstead Heath on 11th May, 1887, said-
There is no such record of failure in human affairs, go where 5’ou will to seek it. There in no such record of failure as in the treatment of Ireland by England for 700 years, during which time, I must say, there has hardly been 700 days - certainly not 700 weeks - of content and satisfaction. Every horror and every shame that could disgrace the relations be tween a strong country and a weak one is written upon almost every page of the history of our dealings with Ireland.
Although Gladstone delivered those utterances thirty-two years ago, they can be repeated to-day with emphasis.
– Conditions have been considerably improved since then.
– I do not wish to discuss domestic legislation, but to deal with the general attitude towards Ireland. I need go only amongst the ranks of Englishmen to produce unchallengeable evidence regarding the treatment which English rule has meted out to Irishmen. I could fill pages of Hansard with the spontaneous opinions of Englishmen. Mr. Mulhall, the renowned statistician, has given the following figures relating to the reign of the late Queen Victoria. These statistics were quoted by Mr. Gladstone in the House of Commons. Mr. Mulhall states that there died of famine during that period 1,225,000 people; and this during a time when Ireland produced more foodstuffs than her population of 8,000,000 could consume. The figures are - Died of famine, 1,225,000; persons evicted,. 3,368,000; number of emigrants, 4,186,000; or a total loss of population of 9,079,000 during the so-called glorious reign of Queen Victoria. What a dark and depressing reign it was for unhappy Ireland, when it took from her fair landscape more than 9,000,000 human beings. I put it to those who are not of Irish extraction what they would think of a system which was directly responsible for the disappearance of 9,000,000 of their countrymen?
– What about Scotland?
– I know that Scotland has suffered; but during the period mentioned Scotland ascended the scale of prosperity, while Ireland slid down that scale. If I may digress, I wish to say that the position of Scotland is vastly different from that of Ireland. When the union between England and Scotland was effected, the circumstances differed from those surrounding the union of England and Ireland. Dicey, the leading Unionist, has said that when Scotland was bargaining with England, it was the keen hard bargaining of two independent States. But we know how, when Castlereagh was getting in his fine work, how our unfortunate country was treated, when gold was flowing so freely, and when, alas, that gold was accepted by alleged Irishmen, so-called, to their eternal shame. It was not then the case of two independent States bargaining, but of a sovereign State dealing with a subservient State, as Dicey has said, all the conditions necessary to insure Scottish advantage and Scottish prosperity being wholly absent in the case of Ireland. Beyond this, Scotland was allowed to keep her religion, and, moreover, it was established by law for her. I say more power to her.
In Ireland attempts have been made for centuries to exterminate those of the Irish race and the Irish religion, particularly in the time of Cromwell. Cromwell endeavoured to extirpate the Irish - to “ send them to hell or Connaught.” Therein lies the radical difference between the English and Scottish union and the union of Ireland and England. The best proof I can produce of the condition of Ireland in our own time is within easy reach. Let any honorable senator take up the latest Commonwealth Year-Book, and he will find the lesson painfully related regarding this same old land. Of the twentysix principal countries in Europe, the only one with a minus sign standing in front of it for the last thirty-five years is Ireland. “What does that indicate? That, of all those leading countries of the world, Ireland is the only one that has failed to keep its native population within its borders. Other countries, including frozen Finland, have increased their population, whilst Ireland has lost hers. Spain and Portugal, and other countries that have, for some reason, got into the back-wash of human progress, have increased their population, but the total of Ireland’3 people has receded. Even Serbia, that has been under the heel of oppression for years, has increased its population. “What does this imply? The cause is summed up in one word - misgovernment. There is only one redress for this evil, and that is that the people of that country should have the right, as we in Australia and those in other countries have, to govern themselves, and to shape their destinies according to their own ideals and aspirations. “When we study this question, we naturally ask if existing conditions are to be permitted to continue. I may be asked whether there has been any cooling of the feeling for Ireland because of what happened during the war. While I do not hold with the attitude adopted by Ireland - if it is correct that she did not put forth her best efforts for the Allied cause - I am bound to say that I can fully understand it. The reason for such an attitude is that Ireland, in her dealings with the British Government, has found that the plighted word of that Government and of the people of England has not been kept by England’s responsible mouthpieces.
– So she went over to Germany !
– No. The reply of the Irish prisoners of war in Germany to every appeal to betray the Allies, “that they were Irish first and British after, but never German,” is the answer to that. A debatable point has been raised concerning the number of Irishmen who fought for the Allied cause during the war. I am not prepared to say that our efforts have been below or above our full strength. I hold that it would have been better to place misunderstandings on one side and to put the full force of our national effort into the fight on the understanding that Ireland, having done all that she could, would receive just and generous treatment later on when the fight had been fought to a victorious end.
There is such a thing, however, as the recollection of old and rancorous wrongs. There is still the memory of promises made and dishonoured. When we enter upon a close study of events during the early days of the war, it must be admitted that there still remains to the credit of Ireland some justification for the misguided position which certain Irishmen have adopted. When the war broke out Mr. Redmond told the House of Commons and the world that the British Government could take the last soldier out of Ireland and could depend upon the Irish shores being held inviolate by Irishmen, as they had been during the American war, when Ireland was threatened with invasion. In September, 1914, a HomeRule Bill was passed, and with some degree of celerity. No sooner was it passed, however, than events began to happen which had a psychological effect in Ireland. The delay which occurred in respect to the signing of the measure for the emancipation of Ireland extended into a matter of weeks during a critical time. Recruits were being sought hurriedly in Ireland, and while that delay was still further extending, the call for recruits continued to be urgently made in the cause of the defence of the Empire. Meantime a Suspensory Act had been passed, making the Home Rule Act operative twelve months after its passage. But an Order in Council superseded this, and made the Act operative six months after the termination of the war. Then Irishmen began to say, “ We have been fooled before; we shall not be fooled again, at any rate, until you give us that which you have decided to grant us, namely, the right to control and to govern ourselves. Why do you not deliver the goods?”
There is no man who did so much as Mr. Redmond - peace to his ashes ! - to raise recruits in Ireland; and there is no man who was so much misunderstood in consequence. He offered to raise an Irish Division, and proposals were made to Lord Kitchener to utilize the volunteers from the north and the south of Ireland, to place them under a common course of training together, and so, perhaps, to overcome the ancient sores and prejudices which rankled on both sides. When that suggestion was placed before Lord Kitchener he turned it down. Indeed, he favoured the drafting of Irishmen, not into exclusively Irish regiments, but into English regiments, for the purpose - as he put it - of stiffening those British regiments. Thus, when the Irish were thwarted at every turn by the War Office authorities, and by Lord Kitchener himself, they sulked; and they said, “We are not to be given Home Rule. We are not to be permitted to form our own regiments. The British war authorities have turned down our proposal to give to the Allied cause as great a measure of concerted help as is in our power. It is a case of being once more deceived.” As I said, I am not going to declare that Ireland’s contribution to the war has been above or below what it should, and might have been. Certainly, calculations have demonstrated that nearly 1,000,000 Irishmen have fought on the Allied side throughout the British and Overseas armies.
When we analyze the amount of shuffling and tergiversation, and total lack of proper spirit which surrounded the spurning of Ireland’s special and distinctive war efforts, excuse can surelybe found for Ireland’s deficiency - if there were any. If it is true that Ireland did not do her full share towards the winning of this great war, my answer is that, at any rate, she did more than her share in previous wars.
– Hear, hear; always !
– Always. Wellington said, “at least half the soldiers under my command in the Peninsula War were Roman Catholics,” and “it is mainly through Roman Catholic soldiers that we owe our proud pre-eminence in our military position.” I need only quote Grattan’s utterance when he said that of the 80,000 seamen constituting the British Navy, 50,000 were Irishmen. That noble figure in Irish history proceeded then to eulogize the services which the downtrodden Catholics of Ireland had given to Britain’s cause. Froude, the English historian, said: “Strike the names of Irishmen out of our Public Service and we lose the heroes of our proudest exploits. We lose half the officers and half the privates who conquered India for us, and fought our battles in the Peninsula.”
– And are they now going to leave the Empire which they have helped to create?
– I hope not. If Senator Fairbairn cares to read this motion carefully, he will perceive that there is not within its phrases the slightest encouragement to those who might contemplate leaving the Empire. I am of opinion that the agreement of the Senate with this motion will have a steadying and sobering effect upon those who are out for something vastly different from what has been claimed in the British House of Commons through years past by the responsible mouthpieces of Ireland.
Ever since the Union was brought about in 1S00, what has been the keynote of the persistent demand for Irish selfgovernment? In season, and always, it has been the repeal of the Union. What did O’Connell fight for? What was it that Isaac Butt fought for? What was it that Parnell and his associates strove for? It was not for severance; it was not for. cleavage; but for the management of Ireland’s affairs by Irishmen according to their best lights in co-operation with the people of the big neighbouring island. Apart from its economic aspect, and aside altogether from the utter impossibility of the project, I dread the thought of severance from the Empire. The idea of an Irish Republic, or an independent Ireland, existing alongside England - -well, is it at all feasible? Every statesman at the Peace Conference recognised that the cause of Ireland was purely an internal matter. Therefore, were Ireland to strive now for severance, she would be forced to face the opposition of the League of Nations to begin with. How, then, could Irishmen hope to convert all those statesmen who sat round the Peace Conference table, and deliberated so long and earnestly on the cause of the small nations of the world ? Should Ireland claim independence, she would .alienate the sympathies’ of those leaders of the world who would otherwise be her friends. I firmly believe, also, that England would fight to her last man, and her last resource, rather than permit an independent power to establish itself near her shores. What would we in this Commonwealth do, for example, if there were some project for the creation of an independent nation close to our own shores? To borrow the phrase of Mr. Fisher, we would expend our last man and our last shilling in the effort to prevent an independent nation from establishing itself in contiguity to Australia’s boundaries. My grounds for pre- senting this motion are many. I could state them fully, and at considerable length, but will content myself with enunciating three only. They are: The inherent justice which sustains Ireland’s claim to Home Rule; the principle of mutual aid and mutual sympathy which operates in a freedom-loving and freedomcontrolled Commonwealth such as ours; and the factor of common prudence. With respect to ‘the inherent justice of Ireland’s claim, that, surely, speaks for itself. I need not elaborate it. Ireland’s right to self-government was once conceded - and that, under duress, when Henry Grattan’s volunteers, having the force of armed might, stood behind him in ‘his demand for the freedom which wad afterwards conceded, but was enjoyed for only eighteen years - namely, from 1782 to 1800. Ireland has never forgone that right. She claims it to-day, and will continue to maintain that right until the end of time, or for so long as Irishmen are to be found, no matter where. Love of freedom is the common property even of the slave, much more truly then of Irishmen - although in their unhappy country they have lived very much after the manner of serfs down the weary centuries. Ireland’s claim to self-government is based upon natural inherent justice. She had that right before it was stolen from her by deeds which Burke described as the darkest and foulest that ever the perverted mind of man could invent. Gladstone described those deeds as constituting the blackest and vilest blot on all the episodes of human happenings. In that effort to wrest self-government from Ireland, money was lavished without stint. The Irish enjoyed this blessing of freedom once, and they had a remarkably prosperous time during the period over which it extended. We wish to resurrect the claim to freedom. The united efforts of Irishmen will always be directed to that end. We are not a decadent nation. Far from it. The Irish race was an independent one long before these 800 years of semi-servitude began. The Irish race, at Tara, in its glorious Council, was in possession of a system of government that was older than the
English Witenagemot. The Irish people had their own language, their own laws and literatures, for centuries before any attempt was made to overrule or control them by the present dominant partner. The Irish people sent out its teachers, its writers, and bards the world over, and was rightly regarded as the Athens of “Western Europe, while yet Ireland controlled her own affairs. It is quite true that she had her wars and strifes, but so also had other countries. But, of course, whenever anything which is unbecoming happens to an Irishman it only needs to be about 50 per cent, less heinous than the offence of an ordinary citizen for it to be magnified into an offence 50 per cent, more heinous. So this claim of Ireland to control her own affairs existed long before the Union was effected. It has never been lost sight of through the weary, chequered course of centimes. It was contended for in the field of wordy warfare, in the councils of diplomacy, and many times on the stern field of arms. The chances are that it may yet be the subject of a similar appeal if men are not brought to their senses and made to realize that Ireland it not le33 entitled to this boon of selfgovernment than are the several small nationalities for whom the Allies fought the most galling war in history. If each and all of those small nationalities are to enjoy their freedom as the fruits of victory, why deny those fruits to Ireland, who sacrificed her sons in the common effort? I therefore ask the Senate to regard this claim as an inalienable and inherently just one - as a claim the concession of which possesses the qualities of natural justice.
The second ground upon which I base it is the principle of mutual aid and sympathy. Australia has a population of 5,000,000. Ireland has a population of a little over 4,000,000, although she did possess a population of 8,000,000 (before the famine time already referred to. Taking into consideration the fact that the Empire itself is a living organism, it must be manifest that not one portion of it can afford to remain silent whilst another portion is not free, happy, and pros perous, by reason of the want of that”power of self-control which those other parts are enjoying. How can Australia, with its jealously-guarded boon of selfgovernment, look complacently upon Ireland, which does not now possess that boon, although she held it centuries before white men set foot on Australia, and before Columbus trod American soil? -It is a boon which will be contended for as long as there is an Irishman in any part of the globe to keep it alive and aglow, until it is conceded in all its fullness. How can she selfishly enjoy her privileges while a sister nation, a member of the Empire organism, remains bound and fettered? Australia cannot, except in violation of the principle of mutual aid and sacrifice, refrain from shouting at the top of her voice that she is heartily in accord with Ireland’-s claim.
Coming to the last ground, it is the meanest of all. It is the ground of prudence, of policy, or expediency. If this question of Ireland’s claim to selfgovernment is further postponed - if it i3 still to be regarded as unsettled - it bodes ill for the security of the Empire itself. In this connexion, I propose to quote what Mr. Lloyd George recently said in the House of Commons, at a time when it was doubtful whether America would enter the war. He said -
I am certain of this : Nothing would help more in the present juncture to secure, I will not say the ready and enthusiastic aid, but the full measure of American assistance, than the determination of the British Parliament to tender to Ireland such n measure of selfgovernment as would satisfy reasonable American opinion; and I believe we are going to do it.
So that the British Prime Minister regarded as a condition precedent to gaining the good-will and hearty co-operation of America in the late war the granting of one thing alone - the concession of the claim which is outlined in this motion. What did Phillip Gibbs learn when in America recently? In travelling through that country, this famous war correspondent had his eyes and ears open, and this is what he wrote to his paper, Cbe London Chronicle -
In the crowds on Saint Patrick’s Day, I overheard many conversations which convinced me utterly that there will be no absolute friendship between England and America until Ireland’s desires have been granted, and I prayed to God that this may happen, to safeguard the peace of the world, which depends on America’s good-will.
That is what that famous war correspondent said, as a close observer of the trend of feeling in America. We cannot view the matter apart from the grounds of justice and fair play. A man who will not play the game is not entitled to be called an Englishman. As an independent member of the Empire of which Australia forms a part, this concession will have to be granted to Ireland in the interests of our own safety. Having reduced the matter to these limits, I do not wish to press the latter ground unduly, because I feel that of all dictators of duty, fear is the worst. We should approach, this question as men possessed of a due sense of responsibility and of the importance of the positions that we hold. We should approach it upon higher ground, and particularly those who have the granting of this concession should not be spurred to action by fear of what may happen, but rather by reason of its intrinsic qualities, its mirrored justice.
Before concluding, I desire to touch briefly upon the religious aspect of this question. For quite a number of years an industrious effort has been made to represent Ireland as a nation which would persecute for religion’s sake. As one who has studied Irish history as much as the opportunity has served in my work-a-day life, I have come to the conclusion that the man who says that the Irish people would penalize or persecute for religion’s sake is either hopelessly ignorant of the facts of the immediate or remote past, or deliberately blind to the teachings of the history of that country. It stands out in favour of Ireland’s reputation that ever since St. Patrick came to Tara and preached there to Laoghaire and his council-
– Was not St. Patrick a Scotchman?
– He was good enough to be a Scotchman. That happened in the 4th century, when the rare phenomena was witnessed of a whole people being dragged from pagan ways and the worship of idols without the spilling of a drop of blood. That is a standing testimony to the pristine forbearance and the inherent tolerance of the Irish character. In my younger days I have moved about Ireland in the remote portions of the country, where men were driven on to waste patches of land to earn a precarious livelihood - patches of bog, rocky slopes, covered with clay, which they carried laboriously up the hillsides in order to build their homes. It has often been said by their traducers that the Irish are a lazy and improvident people. That is an absolute libel upon them. I did intend to quote the statement of Richard Cobden and of many other English authors who have given unsparing testimony to the characteristic industry of Irishmen. If time permitted, I could quote pages to show that this libel on Irishmen is one that never had even a substratum of truth. In reference to the religious aspect, I have seen in Ireland dwellings of one room, and that room had to suffice for all purposes. Upon its walls there would sometimes be pictures. Pictures of whom? Pictures of the Redeemer of mankind and His mother, Mary. What occupied the space between them? Pictures of the Protestant defenders and champions of Ireland - every one of them. Thus one would find side by side men like Grattan, Robert Emmet, Parnell, and others. I ask honorable senators to .cite the case of any other Catholic community which has put Protestants more in a place of honour. Yet we have been ,told that the Irish are a persecuting race. No fouler libel has ever been uttered. The records of Dublin and Belfast show over and over again that whenever Irishmen were given the choice they did not put their own co-religionists in the leading places. On the contrary, they put their own fellow Protestant countrymen in the leading places of trust- or preferment more than their numbers warranted. Since the unfortunate split amongst Christians in the British Isles, Irishmen have never on any occasion justified the foul libel that the Irish are a race who would persecute for the sake of religion.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
Extension of time granted, on motion by Senator de Largie.
– That makes three times to-day that the new standing order has been ignored.
– I thank honorable senators for their indulgence in allowing me an extra half -hour, though I do not expect to occupy all that time in completing what I have to say. In reference to the religious aspect of the question, when we consider what happened in Ireland a little more than a hundred years ago, it is sad, indeed, to think that the false libel on the Irish race to which I have referred should have done so much dishonorable duty. In 1782, when the Irish volunteers helped Grattan to secure the Irish Parliament there was not a single Catholic amongst them. They stood prepared to ask for Ireland the right that was granted under the leadership and guidance of Grattan. They were Protestant volunteers to a man, and with guns in their hands were successful in wringing from the British Government, under the leadership of Grattan, the same thing that is asked for in the terms of my motion. Where, then, is there ground for the suspicion of Protestants that there would be persecution by Irish Catholics ? There were no men then in Ireland of the type of Sir Edward Carson, nor men such as are to be found here and there in isolated places in this country. Carson would have been spurned with contempt in Protestant Ireland if he had lived then, and acted and spoken as he is doing today. And. if Irish Protestants contended for and trusted Catholics over 100 years ago, why inthe name of all that is rational should not their great grandchildren do the same to-day. Ireland, with Grattan at the head of the Protestant volunteers, spoke and acted nationally. Liberty was granted under duress to Protestant men with guns in their hands. Those Protestants trusted fully their Catholic fellowcountrymen, and if Protestants did so then, why should they not do so now ? What has brought about all the animosity and religious ill-feeling that has since been exhibited. There was no talk of Irish Catholic intolerance amongst the men who eventually wrung from the British Parliament that which it could no longer withhold. At that time Catholic Irishmen were impotent, they had no arms, no seat in Parliament, no votes, no place on grand juries, and their position was best described by an Englishman, who said that they were hewers of wood and drawers of water for other people in their own land. But they were sustained and supported by their Protestant fellow-countrymen, and won the right which, I hope, will shortly be won for Ireland again, and with the aid of a resolution of this Senate.
Ireland has passed along a sad and gloomy way. She has lost the prime of her population. Her people streamed anywhere, out of their own country, and most of them went to the United States of America. They have there built up a strong body of public opinion with which, I may say, the British people will have to reckon in the future if they are mindful of their own safety. Take my own case as an example. Of my own family I am the only one who came to this country, in the first instance. I am here for what I am worth, but there are three members of my family in America. Of my father’s generation six went to America and none came to Australia. The tide of emigration rolled incessantly from Ireland, and always towards the setting sun. The people who went to America brought with them the remembrances of countless grievances and bitter wrongs which they treasured up for years. They brought their memory of cruel deeds to that land under the western sunset. They watered those feelings of burning resentment and kept them ever fresh and vigorous. It was Byron who wrote of
The patient search and vigil long
Of him who treasures up a wrong, and it has come to fruition in the resolutions of the Congress of that great country, which say that Ireland must get Home Rule.
We, as the custodians of this country’s welfare, should take stock of our position, and ask ourselves whether those who stand in opposition to the proposal to grant self -government to Ireland are on the right track. To know that they are not on the- right track, we have only to look round the world. The inveterate opponents of Ireland’s claim to Home Rule in the past have changed their views on the subject. I can refer honorable senators to one in the person of Lord Northcliffe, who lately sent a special message to Captain Alcock, the Columbus of the air, who made the first successful flight from the American continent to Europe. This is the message that he
I rejoice at the good augury that you departed from and arrived at those two portions pf tho British Commonwealth, the happy and prosperous Dominion of Newfoundland and the future equally happy and prosperous Dominion of Ireland.
Lord Northcliffe, in that message, looked forward to the time when Ireland would be made a Dominion, and she cannot be made a Dominion until she is clothed with the power which Australia as a Dominion enjoys. There is an expression of the change of view of a man who was one of the most formidable opponents of Ireland’s aspirations. Representatives of English newspapers have week after week been sending reports to their journals, and all telling the same story, that something must be done to secure self-government for Ireland, if not for the good that may come of it to that country, then for the benefit and safety of the British people. I therefore say to those who still harbour hostility to this proposal : Why try to stem the tide? Look round the world, and you will see that standards are altering daily. Views are being altered in regard to this matter, and it is necessary that you should take stock of your position, and alter your views likewise.
The people of Ireland have borne their lot patiently. I may repeat that in fighting the Empire’s battles in the past, Ireland did more than her share. The blood of her sons was spilt liberally, whilst, as the records show, the blood of the sons of the predominant partner was spilt sparingly. In all British wars Ireland supplied the best and bravest of her race, and the claim she makes should not be ignored at this particular time.
The sun of prosperity has long shone over every part of the British Empire, with the exception of Ireland. The sun of happiness and prosperity has invariably gone from the horizon to the zenith, in every other part of the Empire, andhas never once been obscured. But the sun of justice to Ireland has proceeded from the nadir to the horizon, and back again. It has never appeared above the horizon to bring happiness, joy, and contentment to the people of that land. Great Britain has enjoyed a measure of prosperity beyond the dreams of her most ambitious sons, and Ireland has helped her to secure that prosperity. Britain has gone forward, and Ireland ever backwards, and. I ask honorable senators therefore to follow the advice of Lord Northcliffe, and do their share to secure to Ireland that belated measure of justice which he, in his wisdom, thinks should be given to her, not only in her own interest, but in the interest, safety, and prosperity of the Empire as well.
In leaving the motion now in the hands of the Senate, I appeal to honorable senators not to neglect their duty to vote for it, mindful of the responsibility that rests on their shoulders. Ireland to-day holds out her hands to each and every one of us asking for help. The eyes of the world are to-day more upon Ireland than they ever were before. I appeal to honorable senators to rise to the occasion, and with equal manhood and good spirit repeat the former action of this Chamber, and carry my motion by an overwhelming majority.
A word as to the possible consequence of granting self-government to Ireland. What harm can come to Great Britain by conceding this right? Ireland’s right ‘s no man’s wrong. Great Britain has a Navy which the late war has proved could starve into submission any country in Europe. A League of Nations has been formed and Covenant No. .10 of the articles of that League insures Great Britain against any trouble’ which might happen in Ireland. Under that Covenant No. 10 of the League of Nations, Great Britain could confidently look for assistance in the management of this internal question if it should assume such proportions as would render that necessary, though I am certain it never will. If Ireland should repudiate her part of the contract, 1 would repeat, in effect, the words of John Redmond, and say that the charter of liberty granted to her should be withdrawn if she were found ever to be faithless to her trust. As an Irishman, I would say to the British Government, take back your charter and let Ireland be reduced to the state of dependence and servility under which she previously suffered if she shows bad faith. That is my declaration as an Irishman should Ireland ever so far forget herself as to persecute for religion’s sake. Should such a thing occur, I would say with John Redmond, Take back your charter again, if, in the opinion of any impartial tribunal Ireland is shown to have dishonoured her charge.
Again leaving this matter now in the hands of the Senate, I hope that honorable senators will do their duty, and will feel that in doing it they will not only serve Ireland, serve the British Empire, serve the cause for which the Allies fought, serve this dear land of ours, Australia. We have here a country to defend and cherish. There is everything in this land that I desire. As an adopted son of Australia I shall never regret the hour I set foot on this land of freedom. As a youth in the Old Country, when I looked upon the Union Jack, I say, candidly, that I looked upon it as the emblem and badge of my servitude. But when I came to Australia, and wandered round the world in earning a livelihood, and again returned to this country, I looked upon the same Union Jack under the conditions prevailing here, not as a badge of servitude, but as a badge of freedom, and as a flag to safeguard and defend the destinies of mine and me. Having said so much as one who has lived under both conditions, I ask honorable senators who, with me, enjoy in this country the maximum of happiness and progress under the same Union Jack, to give a vote on my motion to secure for Ireland the freedom which we enjoy here.
– I rise with pleasure to second the motion submitted by Senator Lynch, and feel that I express the sentiments of honorable senators when I say that, in presenting the case of his country - his country and mine - he handled the subject ably and well. May I interpolate that to-day we have had a third example of the injustice of a certain standing order-
– Order ! In passing a reflection upon the new standing order, or any standing order, the honorable senator is reflecting upon the Senate which adopted it? Any reflection on the Senate is disorderly.
– I did not intend any reflection upon the Senate. I merely wanted to point out that we would have liked to listen to Senator Lynch for another hour, but the new standing order prevented him from speaking longer. I feel confident that the Senate, for the fourth time, will agree to the motion. It is my intention to support it ; but I would rather that it had gone further, and had suggested self-determination, which, as the President of the United States of America has pointed out, is the right of every nation. Senator Lynch referred to Ireland’s part in the war. I make no apology for the part played by Ireland. I am not concerned about any dispute as to whether or not Ireland took her part, either in proportion to her numbers or in any other way. I say that the blood of Irishmen, Englishmen, Scotchmen, Welshmen, and of every other nationality mingled freely on the battle-fields of France. I am only surprised that there were any Irishmen at all to fight in the great war that has just been determined - that great contest which Great Britain, in the words of Sir Edward Grey, entered upon for the purpose of protecting the rights of small nations. Is Ireland not a nation? Has she not always been a nation? Why should we to-day in this self-governing portion of the Empire be clamouring, pleading, and beseeching, as it were, with Great Britain to give to Ireland that right which Sir Edward Grey said was an issue in the late war? Senator Lynch spoke of the policy of Isaac Butt, Parnell, Redmond - God rest their souls, every one of them. He referred to the Redmonds - John and William - and I may say that if anything were wanting to prove Ireland’s sincerity so far as the Empire was concerned, it was the action of William Redmond in enlisting at his age, and dying while leading his men in France, thus offering himself as a supreme sacrifice on the altar of liberty. I go back again to the days of Parnell, and re-call the events of those stormy times in the House of Commons when Parnell was credited with the declaration that “England’s difficulty will be Ireland’s opportunity.” During the past five years when the whole civilized world was plunged in the abyss of war, when the prestige of Great Britain was at stake, and when England certainly was in difficulty, Ireland and Irishmen seized the opportunity. To do what? To save the prestige of Great Britain. Irishmen in Ireland, England, Australia, or elsewhere, volunteered and fought under the Empire’s flag. Australia’s contribution to the war of 490,000 men was one of the noblest and greatest of all the Allied nations. Moveover, it was a voluntary contribution, and included nien of Irish birth or Irish descent, irrespective of class or creed. And so, I say, the statement that England’s difficulty would be Ireland’s opportunity was answered, for when Enggland was in distress, Irishmen rallied to her banner, and helped her through her difficulty. It was fondly hoped that at the Peace Conference, where this question of self-determination was being considered, Ireland’s claim would be mentioned, but, strange to say, despite representations made to the Big Four, Ireland’s position as a small nation was not allowed to be presented. President Wilson himself, the author of the League of Nations-
– He declares that General Smuts was the author.
– Well, we will allow General Smuts to share the credit for that great covenant with President Wilson. He refused to meet the Irish delegation.
The attitude I have taken on the Irish question from the time I was able to think until to-day, has been that the people of Ireland should be allowed to govern themselves according to their own ideas. I am of that opinion to-day. Quite recently there was an election in Ireland, and the people voted for self- determination in accordance with the policy indorsed by President Wilson, Lloyd George, and Sir Edward Grey. As I have always been an exponent of that idea, I say we should assist the people of Ireland to get what they have asked for through the ballot-box. Senator Lynch, in the course of his very eloquent address, took us back to a stage in Irish history when Henry Grattan, one of Ireland’s greatest sons, figured prominently in her affairs. I think he mentioned something about Grattan’s volunteers. Since then there has been another band of volunteers - Carson’s men - and in connexion with’ the Home Rule measure referred to by Senator Lynch, the Suspensory Bill, it was mentioned that Sir Edward Carson had organized a band of . volunteers to fight the Home Rule principle to the very last ditch. Sir Edward Carson imported rifles from Germany so that if that suspensory measure were repealed he and his volunteers might step into the breach and fight. Whilst we remember with gratitude- and speak with pride of the Grattan volunteers we cannot speak with any sense of pride concerning Sir Edward Carson’s volunteers. That is the regrettable feature that presents itself at this juncture.
I feel sure that the good sense of this Senate and the good sense of every lover of liberty in this great Australia of ours will support the motion so ably moved by Senator Lynch. It is a pity that in this advanced age it should be necessary for the Senate to affirm the necessity of granting to Ireland that measure of justice so long denied. Senator Lynch has traversed the ground of Irish history with the ability of an Irishman, and has shown that in every walk of life the Irish have been tolerant. If I admired one portion of Senator Lynch’s speech more than another it is that in which he referred in beautiful language to the tolerance of the majority of the Irish race of the Roman Catholic faith of the opinions of others. I can remember seeing in Irish homes the very pictures Senator Lynch has spoken of - the holy pictures of the faith of Ireland side by side with those of the champions of its liberties.
I feel confident that there will be a unanimous vote on the motion. I sincerely hope that this will be the last time in the history of this National Parliament that we shall have to plead for common justice for a most important and integral part of our great Empire.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 August 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1919/19190821_senate_7_89/>.