7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of what has occurred in the Senate in connexion with the operation of the new standing order limiting the time of speeches, will you, sir, call the Standing Orders Committee together with a view to reconsidering tfhat standing order?
– I think it might be regarded as disrespectful to the Senate if I were to call the Standing Orders Committee together to reconsider a matter so recently decided by the Senate after full discussion.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence, in view of a movement on the part of the people of Launceston to provide a recreation and sports ground for the recreation of the inmates of the Hornsey Military Hospital, at Launceston, under the supervision of the hospital authorities, and in view of the fact that the movement is somewhat impeded by doubts as to the duration of the tenure of that establishment, can he say whether it is intended by the Department to vacate the hospital soon, or is it likely to have a permanent tenure?
– Senator Keating gave me notice of his intention to ask this question, and I have ascertained from Surgeon-General Cuscaden that the Hornsey Military Hospital, at Launceston, will be our permanent military hospital for the north of Tasmania, and may be expected to continue for several years.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs give any information as to whether the quarantine restrictions hitherto existing between Tasmania and the mainland have been, or are to be, removed ?
– I shall try to secure a reply to the honorable senator’s question before the adjournment to-day.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act 1902-1918 - Promotions of T. O’Callaghan, Attorney-General’s Department, and W. J. Neilsen, Prime Minister’s Department.
Tuberculosis Casesin New South Wales - Welcome to Returned Sailors and Soldiers
– Has the Acting Minister for Defence yet received a reply to the question I asked the other day as to the number of soldiers in New South Wales suffering from tuberculosis ?
– On the 20th August, the honorable senator asked-
What is the total number of invalid soldiers suffering from tuberculosis in the State of New South Wales at present -
Number of convalescent cases?
Number of curable cases?
Number of incurable cases?
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information, received from the military authorities in New South Wales : -
It may be stated, in explanation of the classification adopted by the Military Commandant, that it is not possible exactly to state how many in group 3 are curable.
– In view of the fact that our sailors and soldiers have been returning in small detachments, separated by considerable periods of time, and the public of Australia has had no fitting opportunity to give them a welcome commensurate with their services, will the Government consider the advisableness of deciding that, on the 9 th November next, in commemoration of the sinking of the Emden by the Sydney, a public welcome shall be given to returned men of the Australian Naval Forces, and that, on the 25th April next, arrangements shall be made for a general welcome throughout the whole of Australia to returned members of the Australian Imperial Force?
– Does the honorable senator mean .that the, returned men shall be assembled in one spot for the purpose of such a welcome?
-I mean that, so far as the State capitals are concerned, an opportunity should be given to the general public to give our returned sailors and soldiers such a welcome as I think is due to them.
–! shall place the honorable senator’s suggestion before Cabinet, and invite its consideration of it.
Use of Transports to carry Civilian Passengers.
- I _ ask the Minister representing the Minister in charge of shipping whether he cam inform the Senate if, in the event of troopships taking returned soldiers from Melbourne to Tasmania, he will arrange with the Controller of Shipping to enable civilian passengers, if accommodation is available for them, to secure berths oil those troopships?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question, to give me an opportunity of consulting the Controller of Shipping.
– The Minister may be able to supply the information later in the day.
– I shall try to do so.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether he has observed that, on his return to South Africa, the Prime Minister of that Dominion- made an announcement to the effect that a certain amount of the indemnity to be paid by Germany is to be given to South Africa, and will be applied by the authorities of that Dominion to the payment of war pensions and other war obligations? Is the Minister in a position to make a similar announcement, with or without stating the amount, with regard to Australia’s participation in any indemnity paid by Germany?
– I am not in a position to make any definite statement. I suggest that, until the exact details of the arrangement arrived at are available to the Parliament* of Australia, it would be idle to speculate on the lines indicated in the honorable senator’s question.
– I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) whether, in view of the present unfavorable seasonal outlook, the Wheat Board will take into consideration the advisability of hesitating to close with any offers for the unsold balance of wheat until it is seen whether we are going to have a normal season or not?
– The matter will be given consideration at a meeting of the Wheat Board to-day. Action has already been taken, and in view of the doubtful seasonal prospects we have declined a recent offer by Great Britain for 500,000 tons of wheat.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– A report to that effect was noticed in the press. The report itself established ownership, and gave all particulars likely to be available. No inquiry is, therefore, necessary.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to make available the usual grant for rifle associations and district rifle unions in connexion with their annual prize meetings?
– This matter will be considered in connexion with the Estimates for 1919-20, now being prepared.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answer is -
There is no general prohibition against the shipping of flour, but the available shipping space is strictly limited.
Permits for exports of bran and pollard are granted in exceptional cases only, the reasons for this action being insufficient supplies for local requirements.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information desired by the honorable senator, and will furnish him with a reply as soon as possible.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– This matter has received careful consideration, but as the question of producing the papers in these cases is analogous to the production of papers relating to prosecutions for offences against Commonwealth laws, and as it is against the public interest to produce papers in such prosecutions, it is not considered advisable to lay upon the table the papers referred to by the honorable senator.
Debate resumed from 21st August (vide page 11783), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– When the debate was adjourned yesterday I was dealing with the world’s supply and requirements of sugar. I mentioned the fact that the yield for the year ended 30th June, 1904, was between 13,000,000 and 14,000,000 short tons of sugar. That increased during the next ten years to 20,000,000 short tons, and yet the world’s requirements were not over supplied. As compared with the year before the outbreak of war there was a reduction in the output of sugar in the principal producing countries of the world of no less a quantity than 2,000,000 tons. Toarrive at the exact shortage, allowance has to be made for the normal increase in consumption of over 500,000 tons annually which should have taken place. If that were allowed for there would be a shortage of, not 2,000,000, but over 5,000,000 tons. It is difficult to see how that shortage is going to be made up for some time to come, and, consequently, it should be in the interests of the sugar consumers in Australia - domestic and manufacturing - that the cane and beet sugar industries should be encouraged in every way by the Commonwealth and State Governments. There is nothing in either industry to make the cane and beet sugar industries hostile to each other. On the mainland of the United States of America, and on theisland territories, the production is at present 1,250,000 tons of cane sugar and 750,000 tons of beet sugar. Australia has practically the same climatic conditions as the United States of America, and there is no reason why the cane and beet-sugar industries should notflourish side by side here. In 1911, when the Fisher Government were in office, a Royal Commission on the sugar industry, of which I was a member, was appointed, and in a minority report I presented on that occasion with reference to the beet-sugar industry I stated -
All that need be said concerning the sugarbeet industry in Victoria is that it should be encouraged as far as possible. In present circumstances, it is not likely that the sugar requirements of Australia will be met by the production of cane sugar in New South Wales and Queensland for several years to come. I have no sympathy with the suggestion that, on political grounds, the Victorian beet-sugar industry should be sacrificed to the cane-sugar interests. It must be admitted, however, that the evidence did not disclose any earnest desire on the part of Victorian farmers to extend the cultivation of sugar beets.
W!hat I stated then I stand by now. It is to the interest of Australia that, so far as possible, the Commonwealth should be self-supporting and self-contained. During the period of the war, although sugar, unlike wool and wheat, has not brought large sums of money into Australia, it has saved the Commonwealth from being forced to send abroad very large sums. Those amounts would have totalled approximately £40,000,000 had we been compelled to buythe whole of our sugar supplies overseas. Taking the estimated production of this year into account, Australia will have produced from 1914 to 1919, inclusive, 1,300,000 tons of sugar. But for that grand total of production the price of sugar would have been very much higher than the figure at which it has been quoted in Java during the years of the war, for the reason that had we been compelled to secure 1,300,000 tons from outside sources that quantity would have more than equalled the surplus of sugar stocks stated to have existed in Java last year. If Australia had been a buyer to that huge extent our people would have been forced to pay whatever price the Java producers cared to ask; and, owing to shipping difficulties, there can be no doubt that consumers in Australia would have been rationed in just the same manner as the people of almost every other country in the world.
The Melbourne Herald recently published what it described as a grocer’s bill for one week during the month of July, 1919. The prices paid in thatperiod were compared with those paid by householders in the month of July immediately prior to the outbreak of war. The very first item in this comparative statement is 6 lbs. of sugar, which cost, in July, 1914, 1s. 7d.; and in July, 1919,1s. 9d. The difference amounts to only 2d. in the retail price upon a quantity of 6 lbs. The next item relates to the purchase of two tins of jam. These, I presume, would be what are known as 2-lb. tins, which really contain only 27 ozs. The price for the two tins in 1914 was ls. 5d., and in 1919, 2s. In July, 1914, 3 lbs. of oatmeal cost only 8d.; in July of this year the same quantity cost1s. 4½d. - a rise in the retail price of no less than 100 per cent. A parcel of 3 lbs. of soap cost 10½d. in 1914 and ls. 6d. in July last. One lb. of candles, which could be purchased for 7d. five years ago, cost1s. 6d. this year.
– Local production, too!
– That is just the point. The retail price of Victorian products has advanced, in certain instances, by more than 100 per cent.
– The prices advanced proportionately to the organization of the Rings and Combines.
– And at the same time the price of a Queensland product has only been allowed to advance by about 12½ per cent. I am making no complaint concerning the price of sugar, but it appears strange that although some of the products of Victoria have risen in price 100 per cent., very little by way of complaint is heard; while, at the same time, there has been constant outcry against the comparatively slight advance in the price of a Queensland product.
– Which product is supposed to be controlled by the biggest Combine in the land.
– Supposed to be ! With regard to that Combine I shall quote from this same report certain expressions which I employed in 1912. Since that time I have seen no reason to change my views -
The evidence reveals that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company occupies a commanding position in the industry, secured by steadily pursuing for a long course of years a policy which has won for it the confidence and good-will of practically the whole of those with whom it has had business dealings. There is nothing to indicate that any one of the company’s transactions have been in the slightest degree of a predatory character. Amicable relations subsist between the company on the one hand and the manufacturers of raw and the purchasers of refined on the other. That the company earns large profits, both within and without the Commonwealth, appears to be entirely due to the volume of its business, the command of adequate capital, the complete utilization of by-products, thorough organization, able administration, and high efficiency in every department.
Any business in regard to which those statements may be truthfully made should be encouraged in every possible way, and should be permitted to earn reasonable profits. It must be borne in mind that the transactions of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are very large, not only in the Commonwealth, but beyond the shores of Australia. It should be remembered, too, that most of the profits which the company earns outside of the Commonwealth come into Australia and are spent here. During the past four years the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has refined and placed upon the markets of Australia about 1,000,000 tons of sugar - an average of 250,000 tons a year. In addition, it has a refinery in New Zealand ; it has six sugar mills in Queensland, three in New South Wales, and, I believe, three in Fiji.
– What did those . refineries cost?
– In the evidence given before the Royal Commission in 1912, the company set down the cost of its refineries at ?1,600,000. That was the cost of its refineries in Australia, of which there are four, namely, one in Brisbane, one in Sydney, one in Melbourne, and one in Adelaide. Western Australia is supplied from Adelaide, and Tasmania is supplied chiefly from Sydney. The company refines in Australia and New Zealand some 300,000 tons of sugar yearly; and at its twelve mills in Australia and Fiji it turns out in a normal year about 150,000 tons of sugar. From these figures, it will be seen that the company does a very large business indeed, and that if it obtains anything like a reasonable profit on its turnover, its profit in the aggregate will be a big one.
– May I ask the honorable senator to repeat the cost of the refineries ?
– That information is contained in the minority report of the Commission which investigated this industry in 1912. That report states -
The refining business is carried on by two companies. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is much the larger concern, having refineries at Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Auckland. The last-named was beyond the scope of the Commission’s inquiry. The capital outlay on the company’s refineries in Australia was ?1,401,110, and the refineries now stand in the company’s books at a value of ?1,163,404.
Complaint has been made by fruit-growers that the prices of fruit for preserving purposes in Australia have been depreciated by the high price of sugar. Quite a number of jam manufacturers were examined upon this point by the Royal Commission in 1912. The evidence of the whole of them was to the effect that the price of sugar had practically nothing to do -with the price of fruit - that the price of fruit was controlled by the law of supply and demand. It has also been contended that under Federation the fruit-growers have suffered an injustice. I propose to quote the testimony of a few witnesses upon these two points. Mr. Henry Jones, of Hobart, in giving evidence, said -
We have contracts to buy at a certain price, and we have carted fruit round to the back of the factory and tipped it out; but we have not destroyed any fruit for over ten years; before that) we often destroyed it. The greatest depression in the jam trade in Australia was in 1899.
That was before Federation -
During the last ten years, the Tasmanian fruit-grower has not had the low prices to contend with that he had years before.
According to this gentleman’s testimony, therefore, the fruit industry and the jam industry in Tasmania have been in a more flourishing condition under Federation than they ever were previously. Mr. T. B. Robson, fruit-grower and fruit preserver, of Hectorville, South Australia, stated -
The price varied every season according to the crops.
Mr. W. Peacock, jam manufacturer, South Yarra, Victoria, stated -
Every year there will be a variation in price. Some fruits will go up and some down.
Mr. John Tully, fruitgrower, Doncaster, Victoria, said ;
Supply and demand is a natural law that you can never get over; it affects plums as well as anything else.
Mr. George Wright, managing director, Taylor Brothers Limited, Sydney, said -
In my opinion the price of fruit is purely a matter of supply and demand.
Notwithstanding the complaint last year that, owing to the increase in the price of sugar from £24 to £26 per ton, the export trade would suffer severely, the fact remains that the price received by the fruit-growers of Victoria, and other States, during the past season was higher than it has been for a great many years. That was due partly to the very good market there was for our export trade, and also to the fact that, in certain classes of fruit, there was a comparative failure in ‘the crop. It has been argued that there should be an extension of the Government’s activities in regard to the fixing of prices, and it has been said that the Queensland Government are taking action in that direction. They have been encouraged to do so, we are informed, by the success which has attended the State meat shops in Queensland. But there is one thing about those shops which, perhaps, may not be known to honorable senators, and to tho public generally, namely, that there has been a strike in connexion with every State meat shop in Queensland, and that had it not been for the butchers’ shops, conducted by private enterprise, there would have been a meat famine in quite a number of centres.
– Is not that what the honorable senator would expect? Will not the Meat Combine seek to harass the Government all that they possibly can by creating strikes?
– I cannot see how the Meat Combine had anything to do with bringing those men out on strike As a matter of fact, the employees in the Queensland State meat shops struck, so they said, because the Labour Government did not pay them as well as they thought they ought to be paid.
– What the honorable senator has just saidin regard to a meat famine certainly has no application to Brisbane. His statement in that connexion is very wide of the mark.
– I do not see what relevance this matter has to the Bill under consideration.
– As more than a passing reference was made to the activities of the Queensland Government in the meat trade, I thought that I would be in order in incidentally referring to it. It has also to be remembered that the whole of the meat for the State butchers’ shops in Queensland is obtained from the meat companies. It is all frozen meat, and none of it is derived from the stations which are owned by the Government. In regard to profiteering, which is alleged to be rampant throughout the Commonwealth
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) proposed -
That a further extension of time be granted to the honorable senator.
– There can be no further extension of time without the suspension of the standing order.
– The incident that just occurred only serves to accentuate–
– Order! The honorable senator cannot be allowed to pursue that matter.
– I beg your pardon, Mr. President. You interrupted me before you knew what I was going to say.
– I am aware that the honorable senator intended to make some statement concerning the new standing order.
– I know you are a close observer of the Standing Orders, Mr. President, but I was not aware that you were a mind reader. I admit that I was going to say something about the new standing order, which you now tell me I would have no right to say. I may, however, be permitted to express the hope that, inthe very near future, there will be a reconsideration of the procedure of thisSenate, making it possible for an extension of time to be allowed in the case of interesting and instructive speeches, such as we have had during the debate upon this Bill, so that further useful information may be disseminated amongst honorable senators. On three occasions during this debate it has been necessary to ask for an extension of time in order to allow honorable senators speaking greater opportunity to deal with the various matters affected by the Bill. I should like to have had more information from the honorable senator who just resumed his seat, because we all know that Senator Craw ford lias made a special study of, and is intimately associated with, the sugar industry in Queensland. We know also that Senator Pratten has made a close study of the various subjects dealt with in the Bill, and yet in the course of his speech he was able only to refer to one of the four or five questions with which the measure deals. We have heard a great deal about wheat; a most interesting subject; but we have heard little or nothing about other commodities which it is proposed further to control. One very interesting subject is the wool industry of Australia. I do not profess to have made a close study of that industry, because the State I represent exports only a small quantity of wool. Naturally, the larger States, and particularly New South Wales and Queensland, are more directly interested in the subject. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that some startling statements have been made, not only about the operations of the Wheat Pools, but in connexion also with the wool industry. I should like the Minister, either in the course of his reply or during the passage of the measure in Committee, to give some further information bearing on the, statements made in another branch of *his Legislature, and in the press, regarding the transactions in wool. A little while ago a pamphlet was circulated by Messrs. John Bridges and Company, of Sydney, making certain statements with respect to Sir Owen Cox, one of the officials of the State Wool Committee, who, it is alleged, has allowed private interests to interfere with his public duties as a member of that Committee. Some pretty damaging statements were contained in Mie pamphlet.
– Did you read his answer.
– Wait a moment. I am not suggesting that the statements were true or false, but they were circulated among members of this Parliament, and on the 16th June extensive quotations were made from them by members in another place,’ particularly by Mr. Blakeley. On the 30th June, an answering pamphlet was issued by the Overseas Central Committee, and circulated among Federal and Stait© members.
– One of the reasons for my not replying was that Sir Owen Cox was never a member of the State
Wool Committee. Therefore, the charges made by Bridges and Company are a private matter, and Sir Owen Cox can answer for himself.
– I take it that it is within the province of the Minister to give some information concerning this matter.
– I can answer at once. Sir Owen Cox was never a member of the Wool Committee.
– The pamphlet issued ‘by the Overseas Central Committee states, “ Sir Owen Cox is not, and never was, chairman of the wool administration.” It does not say he was not a member of the Committee, and, in view of ;the statements contained in the pamphlet issued by Bridges and Company as well as in the pamphlet issued by the Overseas Central Committee, the Minister might think it incumbent upon him to give some information, because this matter affects the general public, and particularly those interested in the wool business. The statement was made in the press and by members of Parliament, particularly during the discussion of ‘this Bill in another place, that the fellmongering industry of Australia had been very much injured, if not practically ruined, for the time being because of the sacrifice of public interests to private profits by certain companies or firms which have been granted some sort of control. This is rather a startling statement. It is said that the fellmongering industry has been seriously injured as the result of the action of some persons to whom the Federal Government have given control of the sale and export of wool.
– Autocratic control.
– Yes; and it is stated that that control has been exercised by persons pecuniarily interested in the business, for their own benefit, and to the detriment of the fellmongering industry. If these statements are true, it is time that the public of Australia knew it. I ask the Minister to tell honorable senators whether there is any foundation of fact for them. If there is, there should certainly be an inquiry by a Royal Commission into the whole of the management of the Wool Pool.
– I am certainly not going to attempt to follow up all the scandal uttered outside. If the honorable senator will bring a. specific case under notice I shall deal with it.
– That is the kind of reply which is too often given in the Senate, and, indeed, in every legislative oh amber.
– Has the honorable senator no responsibility as a public man to inquire into the accuracy of such statements before he repeats them? I have inquired into them.
– If the Minister has inquired into them he should give the public of Australia the benefit of the conclusion at which he hae arrived. He asks for specific statements, and what could be more specific than the statements which appear in the pamphlet issued by John Bridges and Company?
– One of them is a specific lie. It is said that Sir Owen Cox was a member of the Wool Committee, and he never was a member of it.
– The Minister says that now, and to that extent justifies the making of the charge.
– I am not objecting to that, but I object to the repetition of cock and bull stories without inquiry as to their truth.
– I am asking whether the Minister will, later on, in his reply to this debate, answer the statements which have been made? In discussing the Bill, honorable senators have dealt chiefly with the question of wheat. Surely, in view of the evidence given before a Royal Commission in Sydney recently, and the statements made by responsible Ministers in the New South Wales Parliament following the publication of that evidence, the Minister will agree that it would be only a fair thing for the Federal Government to appoint a Royal Commission, consisting of a Supreme Court Judge, to inquire into the whole of the transactions under the Wheat Pool, and the action taken by State Wheat Boards, firms, and individuals given any control in connexion with the sale and export of wheat.
– They were notgiven control by the Federal Government. There was the exercise of purely State functions, over which we have no power. The honorable senator should read the Constitution.
– Does the Minister say that the Commonwealth Govern ment have no power to appoint a Royal Commission consisting of a Supreme Court Judge to inquire into the matters brought out in evidence at the recent inquiry by a Royal Commission in Sydney?
– What was brought out ? Only bald accusations were made.
– I do not say that we have not the power to appoint a Royal Commission, but it is not the business of the Commonwealth Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the exercise by State authorities of State functions.
– The Government were in charge of the Wheat Pool, and it was their duty to keep a grip upon all transactions connected with it. In the exercise of that duty they should let the people of Australia know everything that has been done iia connexion with the sale of wheat. ‘Statements are being made broadcast throughout Australia suggesting that certain people have made large sums of money out of the business, and it is the duty of the Federal Government to make a proper inquiry into those statements.
– Does the honorable senator think it a manly thing to make such statements concerning people at a distance, who have just undergone an investigation?
– It is of no use for Senator de Largie to make an interjection of that kind. I am not saying am.ytn.ing unmanly about anybody. I say that, in view of what has transpired recently in Sydney, it is the business of the Government to have a full inquiry made into all transactions in connexion with the Wheat Pool.
– Has not a Royal Commission inquired into the matter?
– It has, and certain allegations have been made since evidence was given before the Royal Commission to which the honorable senator refers.
– What are they?
– ‘The honorable senator’s leader has said that those who made the charges proved nothing.
– I did pot say so.
– What is it that is stirring honorable senators on the other side so much?
– Senator O’Keefe’s insinuations.
– I am not making any insinuations. Surely I am within my right in saying what I have said ? I have not gone further than other honorable senators have gone hundreds of times in this chamber. It is somewhat remarkable that an honorable senator cannot make statements of general public interest without being subjected to interjections suggesting that he is after somebody’s scalp. That is not my purpose in asking the Minister whether the Government, in order to satisfy the people of Australia, will have a full inquiry into these matters.
– Into Federal action, yes; but not into action by the State authorities.
– Action by the Federal and State authorities in these matters has been so hopelessly intermixed that it wouldbe impossible to have an inquiry into Federal action without at the same time inquiring into action by the State authorities. The Minister knows the evidence submitted recently in Sydney in connexion with wheat transactions, and I remind him that some complaint was made also in Adelaide only a little time ago, which showed that the people of South Australia are not satisfied that everything in connexion with theWheat Pool hasbeen as it should be. I do not draw inferences against any individual, but I do say it would give satisfaction to the public . if a full inquiry were made into all these matters.
There should be an inquiry also into the control of the metal industry of the Commonwealth. Practically the whole of the transactions in connexion with our base metals have been in the hands of a Committee since the outbreak of the war. I know hundreds of individuals in Tasmania who have been adversely affected by the way in which the business has been managed, and they complain thai they have not had a fair deal from the Committee in charge of it.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to get support from one honorable senator on the other side..
– Can the honorable senator prove the charges that are made! That is the point.
-I want an inquiry to discover whether the complaints made have amy justification.
– Let the honorable senator say what the charge is, and I shall get an answer to it for him. The trouble is that the honorable senator will not state a specific charge. He is merely repeating remarks which have been made to him, or rumours which he has heard. It is of no use to tell me that John Brown has made a charge. Let him say definitely what is the charge made by John Brown, and I will get an answer for him.
– The Minister knows very well that I have stated a charge in connexion withthe Wool Pool.
– And I am going to answer it.
– The Minister knows also that charges have been made in connexion with the management of the Wheat Pool, and it is not necessary for me to repeat them. I am asking that, in view of the charges made, the Government shall appoint a Royal Commission to investigate them. In connexion with the metal industry, I think it should be possible for the Government to issue a clear and simple statement covering all the transactions in metals during the last two or three years, showing the Committee in control of the purchase of metals in Australia, the prices at which metals have been sold, to whom they have been sold, and where they have been sold, and what deductions, if any, have been made for reduction and smelting charges. I have been brought into intimate association during the last few months, in my own State - which is a metal-producing State - with numbers of men who are getting their living in the mining industry as individuals or as members of small co-operative companies mining for tin.
– If the honorable senator asks for any specific information with respect to metals, I shall undertake to supply it; but I remind him that the Bill has nothing to do with metals.
– I am aware of that.
– Then why introduce the subject of metals?
– I say that in my view metals should have been dealt with in this Bill It is said that, in connexion with tie sale of metals in Australia, commissions have been paid to those who have had control of their sale.
– ‘Senator Russell has taken the point that metals are not dealt with in the Bill, and I must sustain it.
– I shall not trespass any further on those lines. The difficulty is that it is not so much what is in this Bill as what is left out of it that would give room for profitable discussion. I should like to he entitled to say something about the fruit industry, which is of great importance to the State I represent, but that is not dealt with in this Bill. The measure seeks to extend the operations of the Government under the War Precautions Act in respect to certain commodities for a certain time, but there are a number of matters not dealt with in this Bill, the management of which, in my opinion, the Government should control. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that it is indeed a great pity that a number of other provisions, that might reasonably have been included in this measure, have been omitted.
– I am glad that metals have been omitted. .
– Senator Pratten has shown by his interjections that a number of men who considered they had reasonable grievances in connexion with metal transactions during the” last few years will now be placed in a better position.
– Those grievances will expire by effluxion of time. “
– Yes, and it would be very interesting if the whole of those transactions were brought to light. Those who have earned their living in raising metals know more about them than I do. I am sorry if my remarks cause anger amongst honorable senators opposite.
– There is no anger. We want you to make a definite charge.
– We want you to come to the point, and make definite charges.
– There is a lot of truth in what I am saving, and the supporters of the Government know that their leaders have been very inactive. It is the duty of the Government to have these matters publicly inquired into.
.- Senator O ‘Keefe said that he was sorry there had been a display of anger on this side of the chamber, but it is easy for him, under the privileges of this Cham ber to oast innuendoes at those in official positions, and it was on that account that I interjected, and asked him to make a definite charge.
– You will not allow an honorable senator the opportunity of expressing his opinion or of exercising his rights.
– If Senator, O’Keefe has a definite charge to make he should bring it forward in a ,proper form,’ to give the Minister a chance to reply.
– I was not making any charges; I was merely asking for information, and I believe I shall get some from the Minister.
– Information can always be obtained from Ministers, but it is the continual circulation of innuendoes concerning public men that is so injurious. Recently a pamphlet was issued to the people of Australia on the wool question, but it had nothing whatever to do with the Wool Board. The broad question before us at the present juncture is one of great importance to the people of Australia. The various Pools dealt with in the Bill were established for the benefit of the primary producers, and in spite of a good deal of criticism, and statements brought forward from both sides of the Senate, we all realize that the Pools have been of great benefit to the primary producers, as well as to the whole of the people of Australia. If it had not been for the action of the Government in taking in hand the purchase and distribution of many primary products, as well as the advancing of money to the producers, we would have all been in a ver*y precarious position. As legislators we have to view the question broadly, and consider it, not only from the present, but from the future stand-point. I have listened to nearly all the speeches on this Bill, and despite the pettifogging charges laid against the various Boards and Pools, I frankly admit that these have been of great benefit to the producers of Australia, and have saved many from absolute ruin. What would have become of the wheat-growers of Australia if the Government had not taken in hand the purchase and sale of their wheat? In view of the ravages by mice and weevil the great bulk of it would have been sold for chicken food, and in many cases farmers would not have been able to keep sufficient on hand for seed purposes. What would have been the position of our
Australian people if the Government had not taken the matter in hand and arranged with the Imperial authorities to purchase our wheat at a reasonable rate? Notwithstanding the mistakes that have been made,, the wheat-growing industry would have been practically ruined.
The same applies to oar dairying industry, which is one of our most important industries at the present time. As a result of an increased production of dairy produce, and the establishment of a Pool to handle it, many thousands of families have been considerably helped, and in some instances actually saved. Many of the Pools were established on the spur of the moment as an absolute necessity, and the Government are to be complimented on the way they have handled those colossal transactions. Mistakes were only natural in controlling such huge undertakings under abnormal conditions, and we know that even the Senate, in all its wisdom, makes mistakes.
Frequent reference has bean made to the actions of combines and profiteers, but the war has brought it home to the people of Australia, and almost every other nation engaged in the great world conflict, that private enterprise up to the time of the war had more or less strangled itself. Owing to keen competition numerous firms were driven into combination for their own protection. Combines have been one of the greatest blessings we have had during the present age, in spite of all that honorable senators opposite may Say. Combines are an absolute necessity, not only for handling large quantities, but for producing at a cheap rate.
– Every man on this side admits there are good combines if properly controlled.
– We have combines growing up all around us, and we must not overlook the combination of labour which has been organized to protect itself against other combinations. With commercial combines on one hand and a combination of labour on the other the consumer is at the mercy of both, and that is one of the features we have to face. In the United States of America there are examples of combinations of. capital and labour which work harmoniously, but which have been the means of shifting the burden on to the consumer. When such a state of affairs exists it is the duty of the Government to step in and control the prices charged on both sides. The public is absolutely at the mercy of combines, and Parliament provides the only machinery we have for the protection of the people. Instead of senators in this chamber, and people outside, objecting to governmental control, they should support the Government and give them the necessary powers of control. It is on this account that I intend to support the passage of this Bill. Our very existence is at stake, and the Government will have to secure additional powers to enable them to deal with these important problems.’ At present, the shipping industry of Australia is in idleness because the seamen have certain grievances. The interests of the people have been absolutely throttled. We are at the mercy of the employees. Whether they are using their powers rightly or wrongly, I may not now discuss; but my point is that the very circumstances governing industrial affairs in Australia to-day are forcing the Government to expand its activities in regard to the control of commodities on behalf of the people. The necessity for Government control is growing every day more urgent. When the war broke out, Commonwealth control was instituted in relation to certain commodities, for the national welfare. Upon the declaration of war all classes in the community were called upon to make sacrifices, and the response was magnificent. If we could only put into our social, industrial and commercial life to-day that same spirit in the cause of the nation, if we could only answer the call as we did when Germany was menacing our existence, if we could only draw employers and employees together in the spirit in which they joined forces in those dark days, there would be nothing to fear for our future. It is the lack of the sense of public duty, of public obligation, which has brought about many of our industrial troubles in these latter times. Unless the spirit of citizenship is fostered and expanded we are bound to suffer. Our burdens, as the outcome of the war, are huge enough, surely, to bring all classes of the people to their senses.
Australia’s wool industry was controlled at an early stage, and for everybody concerned in wool production the operations of the Pool have proved satisfactory. The pastoralists are content, and the prices which they have received have been very good. Australian manufacturers of woollen material, however, have not responded as they should have done. They received concessions which outside manufacturers were not granted. The Australian industry was given concessions, during the period of the war, amountingto £29,315 14s.1d. That was the outcome of Government control. But local manufacturers failed to give corresponding concessions to the people. Business orders to-day are so huge that manufacturers are refusing further orders, even for six months ahead. The prices which they are charging for some of their productions are extortionate. Our Government woollen mills are turning out as good a material as may he seen anywhere in Australia. Any one who has inspected the materials of which our soldiers’ and sailors’ uniforms are made, and who has been at the same time familiar with the price at which those materials have been furnished to the Government, must realize the unsatisfactory conduct of private manufacturers. The material produced in Government factories at 5s. 6d. to 7s. 6d. peryard cannot be beaten for quality; but if any one bought such goods inFlinders-lane, or elsewhere, he would be charged 17s. 6d. to £1 a yard.
Senator Needham, in the course of his remarks upon this measure, said he was here in the interests of cheaper food supplies to the people- Control of our foodstuffs is another project upon which the Commonwealth Government might well enter. We cannot secure improved conditions in all directions, and at the same time sustain the cry for cheap food. The producer desires as much as he can get for his product. He wishes to be left alone, and to secure a good return for his labours. The man whom he employs wants as high a wage as he can possibly secure; and thus the conflict between the interests of the producer and those of the consumer is always raging. The only authority capable of fairly and adequately handling and controlling the foodstuffs of the people generally is the Commonwealth Government.
One of the Combines which is continually abused by honorable senators opposite is the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I have no association with that company; I hold no brief for it. I am not a shareholder, and I know none of its shareholders. What I do know, however, is the extent of the influence which that company has had upon
Queensland. I am familiar with the sugar districts of that State, and I will repeat now what I said when I was a member of the party opposite. . I am prepared to concede all that may be said by way of accusation against the company ; but with all that thrown upon the balance against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, I emphasize that its activities have been highly beneficial, both to the sugar-growers of Queensland and to the people of Australia.
– Particularly to the Colonial Sugar Refining people of Australia.
– To the whole of the people.
– Could not that company have provided sugar a little more cheaply, and still have made very big profits?
– The company has been a benefactor to the people, because it has always supplied a cheaper sugar than wecould have secured had we been compelled to draw from overseas sources. That is a fact, no matter what the dividends of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company may be.
– It is not due to any merit on the part of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but to the fact that Northern Australia is adapted to sugar-cane growing.
– The company has undoubtedly given cheap sugar to Australia.
– And in the early days of Queensland it provided that sugar wilh the aid of cheap black labour.
– Even in those circumstances, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was providing sugar more cheaply than we could have secured it had the company not been in existence. Whatever may be one’s objections to the methods of that Combine, it has furnished an important lesson. Combines are a necessity. They are an unquestioned factor in cheapening the price of staple commodities. Even when I was a member of the Labour party, I could never understand the attitude of my associates in railing against Combines.
– I once heard a great speech by the President, in this Chamber, against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It was full of facts and figures which convinced me that the company has done very well indeed.
– I am prepared to concede that. I am willing to grant all that has Deen said in opposition to the company; and still I repeat that it has proved of great benefit to the people. I am conversant with its activities. I have often been through its mills. No one can travel through the sugar districts of Queensland without coming to the conclusion that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has exerted a highly beneficial influence.
– The same may be said of every other successful company, namely, that in making its own profits, and securing its own position, it has directly or indirectly benefited the community.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has never declared wonderful dividends. In recent years, at any rate, 8 per cent. Has been about the average. We are apt to overlook the huge turn-over of this concern. The very magnitude of its operations has permitted it, upon a slight margin of profit, to return dividends amounting to about 8 per cent. If other and far smaller concerns were to operate on so fine a margin of profit, they would probably be compelled to cease activities.
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has assisted to place thousands of farmers upon their feet, and I still say that, despite everything which may he urged against it, that company has been a bene-‘ factor to the State of Queensland. My honorable friends opposite are always inveighing against Combines. Now, instead of fighting Combines, I desire to control them. My own conviction is that, no matter what political party may be in power, we shall be driven to adopt that course. To enable this to .be done, it is absolutely essential that this Parliament should obtain greater constitutional powers. A good deal has been said about the sugar industry and about the way in which it has been bolstered up. Some of the fruit-growers have been making a great, noise in this connexion, and quite recently in Victoria an association was formed with .the object of arousing the people of Australia to the manner in which the sugar industry has been coddled. I think that .Senator Crawford, in his very excellent address - andI freely acknowledge that there is nobody in this Chamber who is better qualified to place the real position of the sugar industry before the ‘people - has given a most convincing reply to these charges. Since they settled their contracts with the fruit-growers, the jam makers of the Commonwealth have been using the fruit-growers and the general public as instruments with which to attack the sugar industry. In my opinion, that industry is the only one which has yielded a profit as the result of Government control of it.
– But the Government have to hand back that profit to the company.
– Nothing of the kind. I do not know exactly what the profit amounts to–
– Approximately £500,000.
– I have here a balancesheet - taken from the Southern Grocer - of the Cockatoo Preserves Limited, which I .propose to quote in order that the fruitgrowers may learn that it is not the sugar industry which has been making enormous profits. The jam manufacturers themselves have been doing extremely well. The letter to which I allude is written by Mr. G. BC. Pritchard, the secretary of the Australian Sugar Producers Association Limited, amd it is because of its direct answer, to the charges made against the sugar industry that I intend to read it. It is as follow?: -
The directors of the Cockatoo Preserves Limited, in their half-yearly report, state that the result of the six months’ trading, 31st March, has been the best in the history of the company.
Last year it was reported that the sales had increased 100 per cent, over those of the corresponding period of 1917, and it is pleasing to report that the deliveries of the .past six months -have again increased over 100 per cent, (being fourfold those of the same period of 1917).
I hope that Senator Pratten had both ears open to that statement.
The prospects for the second six months of the year look very bright indeed, and the directors feel confident that the annual balancesheet (which will be issued next October) will prove equal to highest expectations. Dividends paid for the last six years have not been under 12 per cent.
– Does the honorable senator know what the shares are worth?
– I do not, but I know that 12 per cent, is a fair dividend.
The paid-up capital of the company is £66,709. The No. 1 and No. 2 factories have been working at high pressure, and large quantities of jam have been manufactured from fresh fruits. Owing to the increased trade no British Imperial orders were manufactured during the six months.
Actually this jam company had to refuse Imperial orders ‘because its trade was so brisk.
– They could not get ships to carry their orders.
– The letter continues : - *
Nearly two million tins of canned fruits have been packed during the season. To cope with the increasing business it has been necessary to extend the buildings and put in additional plant to the value of £6,000. The usual interim dividend of 5 per cent, for the six months was declared.
The riotous prosperity disclosed by this balance-sheet is itself a good and all-sufficing answer to the squeal which is being put up by the southern manufacturers and their friends against the Australian sugar industry. The results of the operations of Cockatoo Preserves Limited may be taken as typical of the prosperity which these southern gentlemen are enjoying owing to their having had the privilege of using such extremely cheap sugar in Australia.
In view of the foregoing balance-sheet, it is difficult to conceive a more blatant or colossal piece of impudence than the attack which it is proposed to make upon the Australian sugar industry.
– Although I may be reasonably proud of having been a pioneer in the great jam amd fruit preserving industry of Australia, I may tell the honorable senator that I am not at present interested in it, either directly or indirectly.
– I did not know of Senator Pratten’s relation to the jam industry, but I do know that he has always spoken upon it as if he knew what he was talking about. The letter which I have read supplies a convincing answer to the attack which has been made on the Australian! sugar industry.
– I thought it was the fruit-growers who were squealing most.
– The jam manufacturers, after having completed their contracts with the fruit-growers, are using them and inducing them to squeal. Next year I hope that the fruit-growers will demand some of the profits which the jam manufacturers are making. I am in favour of the Bill, amd I think that the demand for the control of Combines will prove to be a growing one. I believe that it will be forced upon our attention, whether we like it or not, and consequently I trust that the Government will be successful in their endeavours to complete the contracts into which they have already entered. I am in favour of extending their powers of control, not merely to our primary industries, but also to other industries, so long as such extension is likely to prove beneficial to the nation.
– I regret that Senator O’Keefe is absent from the chamber, because I think that we ought to have a rarer atmosphere in this - chamber than is likely to be created by some of the statements which have been made during the course of this debate. I take no exception: to any honorable senator making a charge, providing that he formulates a definite one. I have no objection to supplying any honorable senator with any information: that he may desire. Since I have been a member of this Chamber I have never declined to furnish an honorable senator with information without asking the purpose for which he desired it. But the practice of saying that there is suchandsuch a rumour afloat somewhere in South Australia in regard to the Wheat Pool, thus re-affirming idle tittle-tattle, without giving Ministers an opportunity pf answering a specific accusation, is reprehensible in the extreme. Nevertheless, certain serious charges have been made which warrant a reply. I allude especially to the dispute about wool-dumping in Sydney. The first charge was that, as Chairman of the Wool Board, Sir Owen Cox did certain things. But Sir Owen Cox was never associated with the Wool Board except as an ordinary trader. But there was a Board which was organized by what is known as the wool-dumping companies. In the old days it was a practice to take away wool bales packed or dumped rather loosely. The shipping companies, recognising that this method could be improved upon, established companies for doubling dumping bales in order to save space. But the wool-grower and the wool-seller had nothing to do with the dumping. Indeed, some of the men would not countenance the double dumping. After the shipping companies had established a number of these dumping plants, when- the wool came in John Bridges and Company established a similar plant for the purpose, they alleged, of assisting in the rapid handling of the wool. The shippers themselves, after charging .a shipping rate for wool, always allowed 3s. per bale for dumping, but probably the shipping companies saved 6s. or 7a. per bale in shipping space. Personally I object to restrictions in any shape or form. But the shippers said, “We will do our own dumping and take the 3s. per bale.” As a. result, a dispute arose, and they declined to cany the wool dumped by John Bridges .and Company. Now, if John Bridges and Company have a right to do this thing, then Senator Gardiner, Senator O’Keefe, or anybody else has an equal right to participate in this good thing - this dumping of wool at 3s. per bale. The dispute has not yet been decided.
– Did not John Bridges and Company establish their plant with the encouragement of the Central Wool Board?
– They say that, but I have no confirmation of the statement. The parties have agreed to submit this matter to the Shipping Controller in Great Britain for decision. There is no insinuation of wrong-doing; it is an ordinary trade dispute. I protest against the suggestion that I’ am keeping anything in the dark. If Senator O’Keefe, or any other honorable senator, wants information, it can be obtained by an inquiry on the floor of the Senate.
– Did I ever say you kept anything in the dark?
– No; but insinuations of that kind have- been made.
– I made no insinuation against you.
– I did not say that the honorable senator did, but I object to this repetition of rumours. I ask honorable senators not to repeat any tattle. If they want information, I shall be glad to furnish it in connexion with any Department over which I have any control.
– I was referring to newspaper reports.
– We ought to be fair to one another in these matters. It has been stated that the Government should have appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into wheat matters in New South Wales, but I point out that this Government have no power to inquire into what are properly State functions. The Commonwealth might as well be asked to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the best method of growing potatoes in Victoria, or of sugar in Queensland. The Australian Wheat Board controls only overseas sales. It is not responsible for the handling, collection, stacking, and preservation of the” wheat. That is distinctly a State function, over which I, as chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, have no control whatever. My responsibility begins when the wheat is delivered at the ship’s side for overseas sales. If I were to tell Mr. Grahame, the Minister in New South Wales; Mr. Peake, the Premier of South Australia; or any other State Minister how to stack wheat, I would be asked to mind my own business.
– Was it not your duty, when the State Board was selling wheat and giving an overseas option, to inquire into the matter?
– I shall deal with that matter in a moment. By virtue of its constitution, the Australian Wheat Board is limited in the same way as the Commonwealth Government. The Board is not dominated by the Commonwealth, but is controlled by the States and the Commonwealth, and the State Boards have their distinct functions in just the same way as the State Parliaments have.
I have been asked about the Georgeson contract. I am not going to offer any criticism of that matter. The subject of oversea shipping came up in connexion with losses from mice and weevil, and it was a debatable question whether we should utilize shipping’ fpr inferior wheat instead of reserving it for f.a.q. grade, so we called a conference of accountants connected with the State Wheat Boards, to see if we could arrive at a common basis for action. In connexion with this matter, Mr. Grahame sent me the following telegram, dated 3rd February, 1919 :-
Be accountant’s report - method pooling inferior wheat. Is there yet any decision in this matter? Please let me know by to-morrow certain, as we are under negotiations regarding large sale Japan.
The New SouthWales Minister also sent the following cover letter, dated 6th February, 1919 : -
I have to acknowledge receipt of your telegram of the 4th inst., stating that the replies of the other States in connexion with the above matter have not yet been received.
In view of the delay that has occurred, and the evident reluctance of the other States to come to a decision in regard to “the report of the Committee’ of Accountants which was given to them on the 20th December, and considered at the last meeting of the Australian Wheat Board on the 21st ult., I feel that, in the interests of the New South Wales growers, the time has now arrived for definite action on my part.
As you are aware, the State of New South Wales is more vitally interested in this matter than the other States owing to her heavy stocks of inferior wheat. Efforts to sell this wheat have been much hampered by the system of pooling objected to, and which places any State having the largest quantity of inferior wheat at an unfair disadvantage.
I would remind you that during the last sixteen months, and ever since the Conference held in September, 1917, when the matter was considered, I have objected to the proposed method of pooling, and have always held that no motion was passed which would give authority for such a method. A close examination of the verbatim report of the Conference proves this to be the case.
This matter has lately been given the most careful consideration by me, and I have now to inform you officially that I cannot accept or be bound by the method which has been condemned by the Committee of Accountants. I also desire to give notice that all future export sales of inferior wheat will be made without reference to the Australian Wheat Board, and that all such sales since the inception of the Pool will be treated in the New South Wales account, as on the same basis as local sales.
It was the original intention of the Board only to handle matters in connexion with the export of f.a.q. wheat, and as no method of pooling inferior wheat has been devised - acceptable to all the States - I now contend that only f.a.q. can come under its control.
I replied as follows : -
Your letter of 6th February noted. Am waiting replies from Victoria and South Australia.
Following upon that telegram, I sent this letter to Mr. Grahame, under date 13th February, 1919:-
With reference to my telegram to you of 10th inst., I beg to inform you that the States of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia have declined to approve of the adoption of the accountants’ report on the question of the overseas sales of inferior wheat. Before the next meeting of the Wheat Board, a conference of officers will be held as previously arranged. Mr. Pitt will submit to this Conference a proposal which, while affording substan tial concessions to all States exporting inferior wheat, would retain the general principles of this scheme. As regards the penultimate paragraph of your letter of 4th inst., I can only say that unless and until the Board agrees upon an alteration of the present system, the right of any State to make overseas sales of wheat cannot be recognised.
– You claim to have that power ?
– Yes, when the wheat comes into our possession for oversea shipment, but we have no power to take wheat under the control of the State Boards. The first we heard of this sale officially was on the 25th February, 1919.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– I have two additional letters to read from the correspondence between the Central Office of the AustralianWheat Board and the State Wheat Office In Sydney, dealing with the Georgeson contract. The Australian Wheat Board received an invoice from the New South Wales office, which indicated that a sale had been made. It was noted, and the following letter was sent to the Secretary of the State Wheat Board on the subject: - 20th February, 1919.
To the Secretary, State Wheat Office, Sydney.
We note your invoices of 21st and 22nd January, 1919, to Mr. George Georgeson, and that you show shipments per Mitsuki Maru, as forming portion of contract for 50,000 tons. Please explain this, as we know nothing of such a contract. We presume the shipments referred to form part of contract for 50,000 bags, dated 23rd October, 1918. If so, the price is 4s. 9d. per bushel, and not 4s. 5d., as shown on your invoices.
In reply, we received the following letter : -
State Wheat Office,
Sydney, 25th February, 1919.
Invoices. -In reply to your communication of 20th inst., I beg to state that the invoices of 21st and 22nd January for Mr. George Georgeson of shipments per s.s. Mitsuki Maru, do not refer to the contract for 50,000 bags for 4s. 9d., but to a subsequent sale. I am directed to inform you that the Minister (Mr. Grahame) will make an explanation at the next meeting of the Wheat Board regarding New South Wales export sales of inferior
To the Secretary, Australian Wheat Board,
Equitable Buildings, Collins-street, Melbourne.
I then endeavoured to call a meeting of the Australian Wheat Board at the earliest possible moment, but owing to the fact that influenza was raging throughout Australia at the time it was found impossible to get the members together for a considerable time. The correspondence I have read explains the action taken by .the Australian Wheat Board. I believe that sales of wheat were made by the New South Wales Wheat Board which should not have been made except through the Australian Wheat Board. There was no power under its Constitution to enable the Australian Wheat. Board to prevent such sales, but we effectively dealt with the matter under the Customs powers exercised by the Federal Government. A conference took place between the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), and I can say now unhesitatingly, on- the part of the Government, that, in future, there will be a prohibition of the export of wheat or flour from Australia, unless the sale has received the approval of the Australian- Wheat Board.
– Since when has that arrangement been made?
– Since we learned i>f the 6ale of wheat in Sydney to which t have referred. The arrangement was made as a result of that sale. In future, 10 similar sale can be made because the *heat, or flour sold under those conditions will not be exported.
– A good many shipments, on account of the Georgeson contract, have since been made without the Consent of the Australian Wheat Board.
– -We have not interfered with the Georgeson contract. We decided that it would be better, in all the circumstances, to allow that contract p be completed. A State Government is not in the same position as a private individual, and although the contract in question was one which we might not approve of, it was not considered desirable, h/ refusing to permit it to be completed, tj raise a difficulty between the Common.wealth Government and the Government o; New South Wales. That contract will b> completed, but no contract of the kind vail be permitted in future unless it has tie full approval of the Australian Wheat Board. If it has not the ap proval of the Australian Wheat Board, we shall not allow the wheat or flour contracted for to be exported.
– That practically gives the Government and the Australian Wheat Board control of the matter.
– Yes; it gives us absolute control. I have explained that the matter could not be dealt with by the Australian Wheat Board under its constitution, and it was necessary to exercise the Customs power of the Commonwealth Government to effectively deal with it.
In connexion with the constant requests made for information as to the operations of the Australian Wheat Board, I appear to have reached a dead end. I have endeavoured by the use of every means to give the Senate and the public of Australia the fullest possible information without reserve, excepting only such confidential communications in regard to shipping as it was considered should be kept secret owing to war conditions, and at the dictation of the Imperial Government. I have here a tabulated list of quantities of wheat, which accounts, so far as we know, for every grain of wheat in Australia). We have, not, of course, been able to check the quantity of wheat eaten by mice or destroyed by weevils. I have.also a full statement of cash receipts and disbursements. There is a record of all receipts and all expenses. There is only one item of information missing from this statement, and it refers to contracts which have been entered into in respect of wheat which has not yet been delivered, and for which payment has not been received. I made a statement on this subject to the Senate only a few days ago. These reports in complete form have been handed to the press of Australia every week. since my connexion’ with the Wheat Board. I am unable to compel their publication in full by the newspapers. The reports have often been condensed by the newspapers, but that is not my fault. I make the statement also that any member of the community interested in the matter may have a full statement of the same kind sent to him week by week.
– Are not these statements published fully in the trade journals ?
– I believe they are; but I wish to make it clear that they are open1 to any ‘person interested. I do not wish to put the Commonwealth to the expense of sending these statements to people who will not read them, but any one concerned in the matter has only to make application to have them sent to him every week.
– They have been published every month in the trade journals.
– That is so. I know that as a private member of the Senate I received all kinds of papers, and often wondered at the waste of printing. On that account, I have no desire to send out reports which will be consigned to the waste-paper basket; but, upon request, any person interested in this matter will be supplied with these statements.
It was not competent for me yesterday, under the Standing Orders, to make a reply to the very serious statements made by Senator Pratten, and I desire, therefore, at a later stage to place on official record the statement which I gave to the press in reply to; Senator Pratten, and which I was prevented from making here under the Standing Orders.
Some complimentary references have been made to the operation of the Pools, although honorable senators are in some cases disturbed in their minds with regard to individual cases, and I wish to say that before this Bill leaves the Senate I shall be prepared to meet any challenge in regard to any particular action. I do not claim that the administration of the Pools has been perfect. In the conditions under which we have been living it would have been wonderful if it had been so. Not the least of the difficulties which have had to be contended against has been the tremendous work thrown upon members of the Government. Let me say quite candidly that we have not had a sufficient number of Ministers to do the work of Australia during the war period. I make no secret of that. I feel that I have personally done all that was humanly possible for me to do, but on thousands of occasions I wished for more time than was at my disposal to look into different matters.
– Ministers had the remedy for that in their own hands.
– I admit that, but it is not wise for Ministers to air personal grievances. If the functions of government in the hands of Federal Ministers are in future to be extended, as they were during the period of the war, it will be impossible’ for them to continue to undertake the details of administration as they had to do during the war, and they must be given time for the consideration of questions of policy.
– Ministers had six months of recess.
– I can say that during the six months of the recess I never put in a day of less than thirteen or fourteen working hours, and I have had to give up the bulk of the week-ends to the study of Bills which have to come before the Senate. The same thing may be said of other members o’f the Government. I do not make any excuse on this account. I accept full responsibility for all the transactions of the Departments in my charge. I am prepared to defend them, and to give some explanation of what may be regarded as blunders on the part of those Departments.
– In the face of that statement the Government would not ap- point a Minister representing Tasmania when an opportunity to make an appointment ‘occurred!
-I should like to
Bee Senator O’Keefe appointed as a Minister, because we are all wiser after experience of Ministerial office. No doubt his opportunity will come within reasonable time, and I wish him good luck when it does. He has generally been very fair, and when his turn comes to act as a Minister of the Crown I expect to be equally fair to him.
We have been told that Australian wheat farmers have been greatly disappointed when they have read of the guarantees given to wheat-growers by the Governments of the United States of America, Canada, and Great Britain. I have always considered that the Australian Government did not get quite as much for Australian wheat from Great Britain as possibly we ought to have received. I may have been biased in that view by my connexion with the Wheat Pool. But I ask honorable senators what power we had to compel the Imperial Government to give us a higher price than they offered for our wheat. We had to sell our wheal at the price offered, or hold it, and wc could not afford to hold it. Reference has been made to the London parity, anc I want to say that we were selling wheat as low as 4s. per bushel to France at om period in 1916-17, when it was being sol< locally for 4s. 9d. per bushel, or 9d. over the London parity. If the wheat farmer wants the London parity for his wheat all the time, and believes that the price should change with every fluctuation of the Loudon market, he must consider the fairness of a request that he should return to the local consumer the 9d. per bushel above the London parity whichwe extracted from him at the time to which I have referred. I say that we tried to do justice to the local consumer, and secure for the wheat farmer the London parity if possible. The price guaranteed by the United States of America has been quoted, but we should have the whole story. I could give Australian wheat farmers a guarantee of the same price as was guaranteed by the United States of America if this Parliament would consent to do what was done in America, namely, vote thousands of millions of dollars to make up the loss, or, in other words, give a direct subsidy to the wheat farmers as was done in Canada and the United States. I believe that in Great Britain, in trying to maintain cheap foodstuffs during the war, no less than £1,080,000 was paid directly by the Imperial Treasurer. Are we prepared to do that in the interests of wheat-growers? We had to deal in wheat under the worst commercial conditions that ever existed in the history of the world.
Senator Gardiner referred to profiteering by the Commonwealth steam-ships purchased by Mr. Hughes. We all agree now that that was a very wise purchase. Those vessels were not purchased for the carriage of wheat alone. Mr. Hughes, on his first visit to England, sold 200,000 tons of wheat to France. This was in 1917, and the wheat was taken to France by the Commonwealth steamers. The French ports were disorganized, and, as a consequence, there were long delays. The steamers further, had to go many miles but of their way to dodge submarines, and all this added to the expense and the i nsurance charged. Our ships were employed for twenty-two months in conveyi ng wheat to France, and the cost involved was not met by the farmers, but by the wheat purchasers in France, who obtained s upplies at a fair price.
– What was the freight?
– About 120s. per ton. Our ships were a mere drop in the ocean compared with the world’s available shipping. The British Government subsequently requisitioned all British shiping, and, feelingthat we were in the war as one people, we fell in with the arrangement. Although our ships were not requisitioned, we complied with the principle of common control during the whole period in regard to conditions and freights. We did not determine the freights. It has been said that we made profits out of the farmer. The freights obtained enabled us to make a very reasonable profit; but the bulk of that was made in back loading. What could be done with the ships? At the time of the 1917 strike, a vessel returning from GreatBritain was offered and accepted a cargo of coal for Port Said, at a freight of £6 per ton. Could we refuse it? Seeing that a big strike was in progress, those controlling shipping suggested that the vessel should carry a cargo of coal from Colombo to Australia, or a cargo from Colombo to San Francisco. We knew very well that if the boat came here she would not be unloaded, and we therefore arranged that she should be despatched with a full cargo from Colombo to San Francisco, at a freight rate of 90s. per ton. When the vessel reached San Francisco, and had completed her discharge, she proceeded to Vancouver, and from there returned to Australia. I think we made approximately £60 per ton profit on the round trip, and that, and other such profits have gone into the shipping business.
SenatorKeating. - Was that one of the Commonwealth vessels?
– It was the Yankadilla, one of the ships of the Commonwealth Fleet.
– Such profits were not made at the expense of the farmers.
– No. Our boats have been used principally in carrying wheat from Australia to France.
Questions have been asked as to why there is an embargo on the exportation of flour to certain countries, including Egypt, and why private individuals have not been allowed to charter freight. If private individuals had been allowed to charter, the States would have wanted to do likewise, and the competition for space would have made rates very high. For that reason, freight arrangements were put into the hands of the Commonwealth chartering agents. There were hundreds of cases where private individuals endeavoured to secure freight, and when permission was refused we were subsequently able to secure space at about half the rates previously quoted. We requisitioned vessels, I think quite legally, but a case has been brought against us for £50,000 for requisitioning two Finnish boats, which we did with the full consent of the Russian authorities.
It has been said that certain woollen manufacturers could not obtain supplies of wool in Australia, but I have records to show that our fellmongering industry has never done so well before. Not. only has the industry been kept going at its fullest capacity, but new works have been erected ‘in various parts of the Commonwealth, and double the quantity of skins has been treated since the inception of the Pool.
– That, is very valuable information, and will remove a lot of misunderstanding.
– Senator Ferricks was anxious to know details of our agreement with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. We purchase raw sugar of 94 per cent, net titre at £21 per ton, but the average strength of the sugar is 96 per cent, net titre, which is higher than that stipulated in the contract, and, therefore, there is an added cost of 8s. lid., making the total cost of raw sugar f.o.b. £21 8s. lid. per ton. The Government recoups the company for the actual cost of freight, £1 12s. 8d., which includes marine insurance, harbor dues, exchange, sacks, wharfage, and landing charges. The refining charge of £1 7s. 6d. per ton includes wages, coal, charcoal, water, delivery of refined sugar in towns, cartage, lighterage, and fire insurance. The cost of packages is lis. per ton. The selling charge is 7s. per ton, and includes salaries and contributions to staff and wage- earners’ provident funds, office rents and rates, exchange on refined sugar, remittances and charges, as well as taxes. Over and above that, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company receive a managing charge of £1 per ton to cover the use of the company’s services and its capital, and provide interest thereon.
In order to officially place on record in Hansard my answer to Senator Pratten’s statement, I wish to read that reply as it appeared in to-day’s press.
– Are the figures in that statement your own, or have they been supplied by the State Wheat Boards ?
– The figures were compiled by the accountants of the Wheat Boards in the different States, who met in conference, but I accept full Ministerial responsibility for their accuracy. The press statement is as follows : -
He (‘Senator Russell) regarded it as imperative to’ place on record the real facts on account of the pessimistic note that had been struck by Senator Pratten, and the unsteadying effect it would have on the value of wheat scrip to the farmer. ‘ The rail freights, Senator Russell explained, were assumed by Senator Pratten to have been omitted from the expenditure shown as having been met by the various Pools. Everybody could, of course, recognise that the Railways Commissioners were not philanthropists, and they* insisted upon prompt cash for wheat transport. Senator Pratten has based his deduction on the assumption that railage had still to be added. This would only be the case where wheat had still to be hauled. These erroneous assumptions made Senator Pratten’s figures valueless. Senator Pratten had stated that of the balance of the 1915-16 wheat 3,821,000 bushels were represented by dust and ashes. This was entirely erroneous. This wheat was now being treated, and in some cases without treatment was being accepted by the British Wheat Commission as f.a.q. wheat. There was, of course, some loss, which would not be ascertainable until the stacks were cleaned up. Senator Pratten had further stated that the South Australian 1916-17 Pool showed a loss of 4,000,000 bushels. He (Senator Russell) was not clear as to where Senator Pratten ‘had got his data, as he was not in a position to say what the outturn would ultimately prove to be, or what proportion of the loss would be chargeable to the British Government. The losses were not likely to be anything like as heavy as Senator Pratten had estimated. On the South Australian 1917-18 Pool Senator Pratten claimed that the loss would be 2,000,000 bushels. There would be no loss on the 1917-18 Pool, apart from slight damage by .weevil. There was every reason to believe that this would be more than compensated for by the gain in weight. For example, 3,000,000 bushels had been shipped from South Australia, and only 10 per cent, had required treatment. Of this 10 per cent, the loss had been less than 1 per cent._
The estimated loss in New South Wales was given by Senator Pratten at 6,000,000 bushels. There had been no such admission by the New South Wales authorities, and it was confidently believed that the loss would not approximate anything like that figure. On the New South Wales 1917-18 Pool the loss was estimated by Senator Pratten at 3,000,000 bushels through weevil. This was ridiculous as the following statement issued by th< Wheat Board on 11th August of this yeal would show. The total amount received “into the Pool, Senator Russell said, was shown a-. 33^715,000 bushels. Shipments representee 10,752,000 bushels, and the deliveries to mil lers 20,522,000 bushels. The millers’ stocks were 785,000 bushels, or a total of 32,059,000 bushels. The balance to be accounted for was 1,656,000 bushels, whereas Senator Pratten had said that 3,000,000 bushels had been lost. The shippers had substantial quantities in hand, which could only be determined by the cleanup.
The Victorian loss was given by Senator Pratten at 4,000,000 bushels through weevil. This was absolutely wrong - no such loss had taken place. The known gain in weight on the 1915-16 Pool was shown as being 725,000 bushels on the deliveries made here. Senator Pratten stated that from £1,000,000 to £2,000,000 was still owing to the growers. Senator Pratten had overlooked the fact that on the 1915-16 Pool a payment of 4s. 9d. per bushel had been made in Victoria and New South Wales, and 4s. 7£d. in South Australia and Western Australia. Not only had rail freight been deducted, but also handling charges and substantial dockages. The rail freight appeared to have confused Senator Pratten. This was the only varying charge made against growers, and it was adjusted as soon as possible, so that all growers might be placed on an equality for future payments. For the 1915-16 Pool an adjustment had been - made on the third advance, which, was ls., less rail freight and handling. For the 1916-17 and 1917-13 Pools the adjustments had not yet been made. For the 1918-19 Pool a substantial advance, which was considered to be at the time the approximate value of the wheat, was made. The rail freight was adjusted in the first advance, except in the case of New South Wales, where the State Government had pledged itself to make an advance of 4s. net, irrespective of rail charges to the seaboard. Financial statistics were issued weekly by the Australian Wheat Board on receipt of advices from the States, Senator Russell continued, and they were on a cash basis. Therefore they could not reflect the true position of the individual Pools as a profit and loss account would. They showed all ‘ the cash expenditure to date. For example, all the rail freight paid was included, and also the bank interest. Of course, future expenses were not shown, nor rebates to country mills for rail freight. On the other hand, the expenditure of a capital nature on items such as iron and timber was included. Their value could not be stated until the time came for realization. Some States had extensive plants, and they were also included. As he had endeavoured to show by interjection while Senator Pratten was speaking, the moneys Senator Pratten considered still owing to growers were practically covered by all the dockages made on delivery. On the New South Wales 1916-17 crop it was well known dockages were very heavy, owing to rauch of the wheat being pinched by the weather, and this fully covered the amount the senator stated was still owing. It was the intention of the State Boards to make public the position as regards the losses as soon as could bc done with some degree of real accuracy.. Hitherto it would have been futile to attempt to do so, and any statement would have been liable to be most misleading. The general effect of the mouse plague on the 1917 crop was well known; but until the stacks were within a reasonable distance of being cleaned up it was incapable of being estimated or even approximated. There must be some disappearance, and there must be some loss through damage; but ill-considered statements did not help to throw the faintest glimmer of light on a very difficult question.
– How can you say that I am wrong?
– I do not intend to debate the matter at this stage. I have read the statement so that it may be officially recorded, and I shall have an opportunity of answering criticism when the Bill is in Committee. It is my responsible duty, however, to correct at the earliest possible moment what I believe to be the misleading statements of iSenator Pratten. In doing so I have no desire other than to arrive at the real truth of the whole matter. If, in the course of Commitee debate, Senator Pratten should be able to prove that my figures in rebuttal are not accurate, I shall be just as ready to accept his correction as I am anxious at the present moment to give the farmers the truth, the whole truth.’, and nothing but the truth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– In discussing this clause I desire to say some of the things which the new standing order prevented me from uttering in the course of my secondreading remarks.
– We offered to give you half an hour extra, but you would not take it.
– This Bill has been described by the Minister as “ five Bills in one.” Within the period allotted by the new standing order, no member of this Chamber could have been expected to present all his views upon even one of the five features of the Bill. Senator Crawford gave a most interesting address in which he confined himself almost entirely to the topic of sugar. He received an extension of time, and even then was cut off in the middle of an important statement. Honorable senators, therefore, should not be impatient if I now take advantage of the opportunity to speak for a quarter of an hour in Committee.
– Is this quite fair?
– It is not quite fair, but I place the responsibility for the unfairness of the’ position upon the shoulders of the Minister. He availed himself of the opportunity, under cover of the new standing order, to introduce a measure which he himself admitted was five Bills in one. He held the Bill back until such time as the Senate would be forced to consider it under the limitation of the new standing order. That is an unpleasant fact, which will take a lot of explaining away. Even at this stage I am to be permitted to speak for only a quarter of an hour. I hope, therefore, that I shall not be interrupted.
– You can have as many quarters of an hour as you like.
– I thank the honorable senator for his reminder. The only thing that surprises me with respect to Senator Poll is that since he ‘has been in this Chamber he has not appointed himself either President or Chairman of Committees. He always strikes me as regarding himself as a personality of such importance that he must set himself up in control of the business of the Senate, and must tell every one how to conduct that business.
– I thought you might be glad to know that you may speak for more than one quarter of an hour.
– I shall be obliged if Senator Foll will allow me to occupy this particular quarter of an hour without further interruption.
The Committee has now to consider the short title of the Bill, although .we have not been given sufficient time to debate the subject-matter of the Bill itself. Senator Crawford and Senator Pratten required extensions of time to permit them each to deal with merely one phase of this important measure; and even then they were not able to present the whole of their arguments. They found themselves handicapped by having to keep one eye on their notes and the other on the clock. I trust that in my efforts at this stage the Minister will not accuse me of obstruction. I am battling for the last remnants of the right of honorable senators to express their views fully and adequately. What is the short title of this Bill?
– Can you put it any more briefly ?
– It might be more descriptive. When we read the short title we should be informed of the subject-matter of the measure itself. Clause 1 states -
This Act may be cited as the Commercial Activities Act 1919.
It would probably be more correctly entitled “ The Commercial Activities Bill 1919 with respect to one or two commercial activities of the people of the Commonwealth.”
– That would be no improvement.
– It might be cited as “ The Commercial Activities Bill in relation to the primary production of the country.”
– That would be no better, either.
– Or “with regard to the pooling of the primary products of Australia in the matter of wheat, wool, dairy produce, sugar, and flax.”
– What commercial activities are we to. engage in during 1919 ? My objection to the short title is that there should have been no Bill at all. Neither a short title nor a long title, nor any single clause dealing with these subjects, should have been introduced. Senator Bakhap pointed out that the only thing which constitutionally justifies the introduction of this measure is that it seeks to empower the completion of certain contracts which have already been entered into. If there have been contracts entered into, there are already powers under which the Government may carry out these contracts, and there is noneed to ask .Parliament to pass a Bill as to which there is a doubt concerning our constitutional powers.
– I am of that same opinion.
– If the object of this Bill is to carry on commercial activities in relation to the contracts into which we have already entered-
– Order! The honorable senator is discussing the whole scope of the Bill.
– I assure you, sir, that when I set out to discuss the whole measure I shall base my remarks upon a much wider foundation than the short title. I have only another five minutes in which I may be permitted to speak upon this occasion; but if the Chairman cares to dispute the orderliness of my conduct, I do not mind occupying those remaining five minutes in combating his ruling.
– Order ! I am here only to carry out the Standing Orders.
– Quite so, and not to follow the example of the President, and check me at every turn.
– Order ! The honorable senator knows that he is not in order in making references of that character.
-Then, if the truth is to be told, when either you, Mr. Chairman, or the President happen to be in occupancy of the chair I shall never be in order. I do not mind telling you that I fully realize that. I assure you that, if I were to proceed as I now propose to do, and were to discuss the whole scope of this measure under cover of consideration of. the short title, and that if you were to rule me out of order–
– The honorable senator would have his remedy if I should be compelled to rule him out of order.
– Yes; that remedy would be for you, sir, to appeal to the President.
– The honorable senator will be quite in orderin dealing with the title of the Bill in the course of his remarks upon clause 1, but he cannot make a second-reading speech. If he persists in his endeavour to do so, I shall have to rule him out of order.
– I do not wish my position in the Committee to be the same as it has become in the Senate, namely, that the President, who apparently imagines he is a schoolmaster, endeavours to catch me slipping in the use or utterance of some word, and tries to make me employ it with an emphasis which he deems to be correct, or to use it in some other sense from that which I had designed. I intend to assert my rights in Committee, and the sooner the necessity for that course is forced upon me the better. I am just in the humour to have it out here and now.
– In the circumstances, then, it may be wise to report progress.
– Yes, for the next time I “go out”it will be a case of “ wigs on the green”; and I am free to express my satisfaction that should such occasion arise there will, at any rate, be a fairly powerful party in occupancy of thechair. It would be scarcely fair if the Chairman at such an unhappy time chanced to be of the build of, say, Senator Needham.
Seriously, however, I desire to address myself to the short title of this Bill. How is the title of any measure decided upon ? Is it not by using the phrase which will most briefly and best describe the subject-matter of the Bill itself? I repeat that I will be in order in discussing the whole Bill while basing my remarks upon the short title. If the Chairman is of opinion that such is not the case, I shall be instantly prepared to contest his ruling. I invite him to say “No.” What will follow? My dissent fromhis ruling will be placed before the President. The President - one may be quite certain - will uphold the ruling of the Chairman; and that attitude, in turn, will be supported by the majority of honorable senators. Nevertheless, I will be right, and the Chairman, and the President, and the majority of honorable senators will be wrong. If we are to discuss the short title, surely we will be in order in endeavouring to ascertain how the short title is decided upon. The basic motive is thatthe short title shall be descriptive of the measure. This short title does not accurately describe the Bill, and there is not a clause within its pages which I may not review when dealing with the short title itself. If you, Mr. Chairman, rule that I am not entitled to proceed in that manner, I shall certainly dissent from your ruling. Then, what will happen? We will go through the farce of witnessing your appeal to the President. That is to say, the appeal will go from a biased Chairman to a more biased President, whereupon the President will appeal to be backed up in his attitude to a still more biased Senate; and, thereupon-
– Play the game! That is not fair.
– If the honorable senator says it is not fair, it must be high time for me to resume my seat. It would be useless to proceed further.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I desire to say that it possesses the disqualification associated with the last measure we were considering, in that it really consists of two Bills. It relates to the extension of the general moratorium, with which most honorable senators are familiar, and also to the special moratorium in the cases of men who have been engaged on active service. Everybody recognises that during the period of war a condition of things arose which was disconcerting to most men, and which particularly affected obligations of a financial character. It was necessary to insure that our business community should not be harassed by financial obligations falling upon them at a time when such happenings would have resulted _ in general chaos. When the moratorium regulations were introduced, it was decided that they should be terminated either upon the ratification of peace or three months thereafter. Now it is recognised that it would be unwise to make all mortgages fall due upon one particular date. That would probably produce financial chaos.. Consequently, it has been decided to establish a graduated schedule, which will enable these debts to be honorably met, and which will, indeed, facilitate their payment. The dates suggested in the general moratorium upon which the principal sum secured by mortgage shall become due for repayment are as follows: - For the period before the 1st January, 1915, February, 1920; for the period between 1st January and 31st December, 1915, both dates inclusive, March, 1920; for the period between 1st January and 31st December, 1S16, both dates inclusive, April, 1920; for the period between 1st January and 31st December, 1917, both dates inclusive, May, 1920; for the period between 1st January and 31st December, 1918, both dates inclusive, June, 1920; for the period between 1st January, 1919, and the date of the termination of the war, as declared by proclamation, both dates inclusive, July, 1920.
– That will spread the whole of the liabilities incurred during the war over a period of six months.
Senator -RUSSELL. - Yes; subject to such orders as may be made by the Courts.
– Does the Bill provide for appeals?
– Yes. The Bill simply says that the Courts shall decide, from the stand-point of good conscience, what is a fair thing during the war period.
– What Courts?
– In- cases in which the amount involved is over £2,000, either the High Court or the Supreme Court of a State. Cases in which lesser amounts are involved may be decided by a District Court, a County Court, or a Local Court presided over by a stipendiary magistrate. These are the principles underlying the general moratorium. In regard to the protection of those who have been engaged on active service and their dependants, the Bill extends even to the hire-purchase system, under which the great majority of our working people purchase furniture. Such persons are protected to the extent of £100 in regard to their personal belongings. Again, there are many men who, while they may have been in possession of valuable assets during the war period, were not able to realize upon them owing to the lack of transport. This measure will prevent such men being driven through the Courts. The Bill is very technical, and I do not propose to attempt to explain its provisions in legal phraseology. Any explanation that may be desired will be forthcoming in Committee.
Debate (on motion by Senator McDougall) adjourned.
Ministerial Representation of Tasmania - Returned War Workers - Transport of Deceased Soldiers’ Belongings - Secret Treaty with Japan - Military Remounts - Sugar Importations.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I embrace this opportunity to refer to the statement which was made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) during the course of his speech in reply, upon (the motion for the second reading of the Commercial Activities Bill. The honorable gentleman, in that statement was good enough to confirm what I have affirmed several times at public meetings in Tasmania during the past few months. What he said relates to a matter of very great importance to that State. Ever since the inception of Federation, it has ‘been the custom for each State to be represented in the Cabinet, Seeing that there are only six States and that there are about twelve Ministers, obviously, each State should have at least one representative in the Ministry. Owing to the fact that Tasmania has had no representative in the Cabinet during the past eight months, it has not received that amount of consideration to which it is entitled. During the period in question, many matters of grave importance to Tasmania have been dealt with by Cabinet. This afternoon Senator Russell frankly confessed that there is a necessity for the appointment of more Ministers to enable them to cope with the multifarious duties of government, especially since the activities of the Commonwealth have been increased to such an enormous extent. His statement emphasizes the need for the Government immediately considering the position as they have been urged to consider it by the electors of Tasmania. ‘ The remedy is in the hands of Ministers themselves. Both in this Chamber and the other branch of the Legislature they h,ave quite a number of supporters from whom they could choose a worthy Ministerial representative of the State of Tasmania. In the Senate they have three followers who have had Ministerial experience either in the State or Federal arena. In another place they have four supporters, any one of whom would be able to discharge the onerous duties of Minister equally as well as do the majority of the present Ministers. This is a matter of vast importance to Tasmania, and I urge the Vice-President of the Executive Council to bring it before the Cabinet. I- quite agree with him that Ministers are only human, and that they have to work long hours. During the recent recess, I believe that some Ministers were called upon to give close attention to their duties daily for thirteen hours out of the twenty-four. This condition of affairs can be corrected if Ministers wish ‘ to correct it, and I submit that it is their duty to remedy the existing anomaly as soon as possible.
Senator FOLL (Queensland) [3.27).- I desire to refer to the position of various war workers who left Australia while the war was in progress, either as munition workers in England or in some other capacity, having been engaged by .the Imperial authorities through the Com monwealth Government. I brought this matter under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) theother day, when I pointed out that many of these men, upon their return to Australia,’ found themselves in a very difficult ‘ position by reason of the fact that they were unable to obtain any assistance from the Repatriation Department, because they had not been members of the Australian Imperial Force. As a matter of fact, while the recruiting campaign was in progress, quite a number of these men endeavoured to enlist, but were rejected owing to some minor physical defect. Thereupon they offered themselves as warworkers, and their services were eagerly accepted by the Australian Government on behalf of the Imperial authorities. The Minister for Repatriation asked me to bring before him some definite case of this kind. I have here a letter from one of these war-workers who resides in Gympie. For obvious reasons I withhold his name, though I shall be glad to sup ply it to the Minister privately, if he desires it. The writer says -
Chapple-lane, Gympie, 16.8.1919.
I am an Australian war worker. I served two years in England under agreement with the Commonwealth Government. We were treated disgracefully by the officers in charge of us at Australia House. We were put to work with a firm called Holloway Brothers, where we could only earn from £2 17 s. 9d. to £3 2s. 6d. per week, and it cost us from 30s. to 40s. per week to live, and pay 3s. 6d. per week for the huts we lived in, and they were not fit for pigs to live in, let alone human beings. We men petitioned our officers in charge for a transfer to better work, and were refused on the ground that a couple of our fellows did not play the game, so the rest of us would have to suffer for it. Then I returned to Australia to starve. I am home five weeks, and can get no work and no assistance. I have a wife and five children depending on me. I went to the Secretary of the Local Repatriation Committee, and was refused any assistance. I must state to you that the treatment we received on our return home could not be worse in Hun-land or any other country. I must state that I enlisted for the Australian Imperial Force, and failed owing to deficient vision, so I then enlisted as a war worker. I must state that the Government was very pleased of my services, and after doing my bit I can go to the devil, while a lot of cold-footed curs, that did nothing for this country, are sitting back in good billets laughing at us poor, starving beggars. Trusting your Government ot Repatriation Committee will assist me in some way,
I am, yours faithfully.
These men, by offering their services, felt that they were doing something to help Australia during the war, and I ask the Minister to place the matter which I have brought under his attention before the Cabinet, so that they may receive consideration. There are other cases similar to the one I have just referred to, of men who are suffering severe hardship as the result of having offered their services to their country. The statement that munition workers earned huge sums of money is not altogether correct, as I have shown by the letter which I have just read.
– I desire also to bring under the notice of the Minister a grave injustice which has been perpetrated upon the relations of some unfortunate soldiers whose bones are lying on Gallipoli or in Prance. Some of the men who enlisted in Australia were Englishmen, Scotchmen, or Irishmen whose parents reside in the Old Country. The case I have in mind is that of a young Londoner who enlisted in Australia and lost his life. When news came of his death, those intrusted with the management of his affairs found that, in Sydney, he had two trunks full of articles and curios which he had collected in different parts of the world. They ascertained that his father and mother live in England. They are poor people, his father being a gardener by occupation. We know what that means in the Old Country. The friends of the deceased soldier desired to send his belongings to the parents, but the Government have refused to bear the cost of transport. I do not think that any Minister, or even any of the military authorities, indorse this attitude. The misunderstanding seems to be due to some silly military regulation which cannot be overcome except by Ministerial direction. It is an outrage that these belongings cannot be sent back to the deceased soldier’s parents, especially in view of the fact that if the man had come through the war safely, and had married in England, the Government would have borne the cost of transporting his wife to Australia. Or again, if wounded he would have been brought back to this country at great expense and cared for here. Simply because be lost his life, the two chests which belonged to him cannot be returned to his parents. Under the military regulations there is not enough co-ordination between the different Departments, because we find that one Department contradicts another in the matter of discharges, pensions, Medical Board awards, and so on. People interested in these matters do not know where to go. I hope something will be done, becausethere are other similar cases. I believe the official answer is that any parcel exceeding 11 lbs. in weight must be paid for. This is ridiculous. It cannot be expected that the poor people who are looking after the affairs of this deceased soldier could defray the cost of transport. In other directions we have wasted millions of pounds, and, no doubt, many more millions will be spent. I feel confident that if the Minister looks into this matter he will instruct that something be done.
– I desire to make a complaint about the manner in which two sets of questions which I asked this week were answered; the reply from the Ministers being that the matters mentioned were of a confidential nature and secret. I say emphatically that neither of the questions should have been answered in that way. One question had reference to a communication from the Imperial Government regarding a secret treaty which Mr. Lansing, in America, declared had been made between Great Britain and Japan. I asked him when that secret treaty came into the hands of the Government, and what Government dealt with it. There ought to be nothing secret about the time such a communication came to hand. If a person holding Mr. Lansing’s position in America states that he is aware of a treaty which was entered into three years ago, surely there is no reason why the Government should make a secret of the time when the information came into their possession. More real danger may be apprehended from secrecy in international documents thanfrom legitimate publicity in respect of them. If the Australian Government received a copy of this secret treaty three years ago, there is no reason why this Parliament and the public of Australia should not know of it. But I can see the prospect of very grave danger if a treaty, supposed to have been in existence for three years, is being discussed in other countries, if the Australian Government, which are most interested in it, know nothing about it. I regret that Senator Millen is not in the chamber just at present, but I know an important en gagemeut claims his attention elsewhere. The other question to which I refer was asked of the Acting Minister for Defence, and it concerned the report of a Board presided over by Inspector-General Ramaciotti, appointed to inquire into and report upon the remount section of the Defence Department. The reply was that the information could not be made public because it affected Government policy. If the Government could prevent these things from being made public I would not mind their attempt at secrecy; but I know that when information comes to me on any matter, the whole world - that is, the world interested in it - knows all about it before I do. I do not expect the Government to give me information with reference to policy, but I maintain that if public money is being paid to a Board to investigate the administration of any public Department, there is no reason whatever for secrecy. In this case there is no justification for secrecy, as the question only asked whether or not the remount section of the Department for Defence was being administered economically. Such areport should have been furnished to the Senate. We must remember, also, that a large number of people are concernedin a report of that nature. I know departmental officers are to be trusted, and that they thoroughly understand their duty; but it is not possible to prevent men in the same branch of the Gov ernment service from discussing these matters, and occasionally discussions of this nature reach the ears of other people. I shall not alwaysbe satisfied with Ministerial statements to the effect that the laying of reports upon the table of the Senate would be a disclosure of policy. In this case my question concerned the management of our largest spending Department. Referring again to my first question’, I repeat that no secret would have been given away by the Minister stating whether it was the first, second, or third Hughes Government, or the Fisher Government that received and. considered the treaty referred to. I trust that we shall not get too many answers of this kind in future.
– On 7th August, Senator Pratten asked the followingquestions : -
How much sugar has been imported into the Commonwealth from1st July, 1918, to 80th June, 1919, and how much has been paid for it -
How much more has been ordered for the season, at what price, and from where?
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
2.In the public interest it is not considered advisable to give the information sought at the present time.
Senator O’Keefe’s references to the position of Tasmania in the Cabinet practically indorse my own views, so it is hardly necessary for me to say anything in reply to them. Concerning the war workers mentioned by Senator Foll, I may say that I have given a great deal of attention to their position, but it is impossible to lay down a general rule, because some munition workers occupied good positions, and were able to save a considerable amount of money.
– It would all depend upon the firms they were working for.
– That is so. Some were lucky, but many others appear to have had a bad time. The Government have been very liberal on the whole in regard to all applications, which, of course, must be considered on their merits. We have appointed a Munitions Committee in each State to deal with these cases, and if the honorable senator will furnish me with the particulars I shall forward them te the proper quarter for consideration. I am not familiar with one of the matters mentioned by Senator Gardiner, and do not know what the report contained, but I will see if it can be made available to honorable senators. I know of no reason for keeping back reports on departmental files unless a Minister desires details for the elaboration of Government policy. In those circumstances it would not be fair for private members to drag matters of policy from the Government in anticipation.
– I should be so pleased to find that the Minister had any policy that I would not attempt to drag it out of him.
– The public will understand that that is merely Senator Gardiner’s interpretation of what I have said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 August 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1919/19190822_senate_7_89/>.