7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Seamen’s Strike - Wharf Labourers’ Dispute
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he can give honorable senators any information concerning the reported settlement of the seamen’s strike, and whether, regarding the present industrial position in Australia, there are indications of any further trouble?
– The statement that has appeared in the press, that the seamen’s strike has been happily terminated’, is-, I am glad to say, quite correct. Although the conditions under which the seamen have agreed to resume work have been published in the press, perhaps honorable senators would like me to repeat them. The arrangement arrived at was that, as the first condition of settlement,the men should man the ships. On behalf of. the Government, I undertook that the moment the unions concerned had passed a resolution to man the ships, summonses would issue convening a conference for. Monday next. The unionists have returned to work, ships are being manned in every State, and. consequently summonses convening a conference for Monday next have been issued. The other conditions were that matters agreed to at the conference were to be carried to the Arbitration Courtto be filed and registered there.With regard to matters not settled’, the unionists, having the right to proceed further with their claims, or abandon them, have elected to waive them. They will waive any points not settled at the conference. The agreement arrived at at the conference will be retrospective in effect, and both sides have agreed to abide by the decision of the conference.
SenatorKeating. - What is the significance of the waiving of the points/?
– I am surprised that a lawyer should raise that question.
– Does it mean that the seamen have agreed to abandon them altogether ?
– Absolutely. They have the right to proceed further with them in the Arbitration Court, as any other litigant would have, or to abandon them, and they have elected to waive them, or abandon them altogether. At the same time, I consider that they are entitled, at the end of the conference, if they still wish to go further with claims which have not been agreed upon there, to take them into Court. In my view, they will be still free, at the conclusion of the conference, to do what other litigants can do - abandon their claims, or go into Court with them for further consideration.
There are two other conditions to which I should like to refer, though they are not set out in the written agreement. One as based upon the promise given by me, on behalf of the Government, that the. Conference will not be a mere formal gathering, but will represent a bona fide effort to examine the claims of the men, with a view to their determination on their merits. The other undertaking is that the men will not be asked to complete the complement of any ship on which non-union labour is employed. I have stated the whole of the arrangements made with the men.
With regard to the second question, whether other industrial troubles are brewing, honorable senators are aware of the long standing desire of the wharf labourers for a readjustment of the conditions under which they are employed. I ‘am now engaged in negotiations with the wharf labourers, the ship-owners, and the loyalist wharf labourers, with very considerable hope that this difficulty, which has beenso long standing, may be adjusted to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– In view of the developments just indicatedby the Leader of the Government in the Senate, will the honorable senator say whether he is now in a position to place uponthe table of the Senate a copy of the report of Mr. Dethridge, as Royal Commissioner appointed to inquire into matters connected with the wharf labourers’ dispute?
– Senator Keating will sympathize with me when I say that, as negotiations are now going on in connexion with the matters covered by the report to which he refers, it is desirable that its publication should be withheld until those negotiations are terminated.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether, as chairman of the conference convened for Monday next, he will see to it that witnesses representative of other industries than those to which he has referred, which are not to-day enjoying fair conditions, shall be called to give evidence before any settlement of the rates and conditions of the seamen is arrived at. I refer to farming, mining, dairying, and many other industries, though I cannot elaborate the matter in asking a question. I wish to know whether the honorable senator will call witnesses representing these industries before him, in order that he may acquaint himself with the conditions prevailing in them?
– The conference agreed upon is not a conference for the discussion of all industrial ills and problems, but merely a conference between members of theSeamen’s Union and representatives of employers in the shipping industry. The conference will be limited to that.
– But the award will very much affect the industries to which I have referred.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act 1901-1917. - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council, Financial Year 1918-19- dated 19th August, 1919.
Public Service Act 1902-1918. - Promotions, Department of the Treasury -
Supplies to Wool Scouring Works, Geelong
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Paymentof Canadian Troops
Senator McDOUGALL (for Senator
Barnes) asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to each question is “ No.”
Tender for Construction
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Will the Government take into consideration the advisableness of the immediate construction of the North-South Railway in considering the tender submitted by Messrs. Timms and Kidman for the construction of that line?
– A report is being obtained from the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and full consideration will be given to the offer.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– I am in receipt of a report from General Ramaciotti to the effect that he is not aware, and has never reported, nor has it been reported to him by his inspectors, that any horses are missing or unaccounted for.
Closing of Hotels, Fremantle - Meat Supplies - Treatment of Prisoners - Payment to British Government for Supplies - W. J. Connell’s Improved Crutch
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What has he determined in connexion with the protest submitted to him against the present methods of closing hotels in Fremantle during the time that troopships are in that port?
– The answer is -
The Military Commandant has now been authorized to use his discretion in regard to the closing of hotels in both Fremantle and Perth during the period of shore leave of troops on returning transports. The Commandant will report, for the information of the Acting Minister for Defence, at frequent intervals the action taken by him under this authority, and the conduct of the troops during the periods that the hotels are allowed to remain open.
Hotels will only be closed during the various periods of shore leave in Perth and Fremantle for such hours as the Commandant finds necessary in the interests of the health, good order, and discipline of the troops on leave.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
-The answers are -
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Senator McDOUGALL (for Senator Barnes) asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice-
What was the amount of money paid to the British Government by Australia for supplies of all kinds, to Australian Forces abroad?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished upon receipt.
Senator McDOUGALL (for Senator Gardiner) asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The matter covers too much ground to be presented in the form of answers to these questions. I will lay the information upon the table of the Senate.
Debate resumed from 22nd August (vide page 11876), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– Honorable senators must be aware of the need for this measure. I consider it of very great importance, but I desire to see a longer extension of the moratorium than that provided for in the Bill, so that people may recover from the effects of the war. This is one of the most essential and important Bills, in relation to the welfare of Australia that has come before the Senate during the history of this Parliament. We are told that in the interests of the future of our country, we must work hard and produce more than ever. But our workers and producers cannot do that if they are overwhelmed by the calling in of their borrowed money. In view of the importance of the measure I was sorry that it received such scaptexplanation by the Minister in charge when he presented it to the Senate last week. However, I read the debate following upon the introduction of the Moratorium Bill in another place, and was thus enabled to glean furtherinformation regarding the intentions of the Government. We were informed in the Senate that this measure was intended simply to extend the regulations having to do with the moratorium; that the first portion had to do with, general borrowing, and the second part with borrowing in relation f- soldiers. If we simply required legislation to protect the individual, the Bill as it stands might be right enough; but this measure is for the protection of a class, and not an individual. It is necessary that producers and workers who have been compelled to seek the aid of financial institutions should be safeguarded. The producer and the working man were Bailed upon, not as volunteers to go to the Front, but as volunteers to put their money into, the various war loans. They had to borrow from the banks at the rate of 6 per cent., and even higher, in order to buy war loan bonds which are returning them interest at the rate of’ 4^ an(i 5 per cent. only. If the Government were now to say that in a few months’ time the various financial institutions which advanced all this money would be free to charge when, how, and what rate of interest they wished upon the money they have lent, evil times would fall upon those people- who were compelled to borrow and put their money into the war loans. It is the duty of this Parliament to prevent that. I would like to see an extension of the -period of protection for at least six months, or a year, longer than the term set forth in the Bill. The Government might well take steps to- amalgamate financial institutions in order to insure that fair play shall be given all round. I refer to those mortgaging companies whose management, consider it their sole duty to obtain the return of dividends to shareholders. No matter how the individual borrower may be crushed, the mortgage company must pay high dividends. It is probable, of course, that numbers of the institutions which have advanced money now require it back again. The banks to-day are charging 7 per cent., and up to 1 and 8 per cent, on overdrafts; individuals are lucky, indeed, to find their requirements met, even’ at that rate. The banks will not touch a straight-out mortgage offer; the wouldb0 mortgagor, therefore, often has to go to a financial institution of a different character, and frequently he is compelled to pay unduly heavily for accommodation. When that unhappy day arrives, when their present measure of protection is removed, borrowers will be in the hands of the institutions which have advanced them money; and unless the period of “ cover” is extended for a much longer term than the Bill proposes, the borrowing producer will find himself playing the part of an eternal debtor. I have been speaking with some of our small producers, and they have indicated that, rather than- shoulder the tremendous burden which is looming ahead, they may be forced to go out on the roads ana enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. . They will “ put Matilda up,” and will leave their holdings to the rabbits by day arndt the mosquitoes by night. As for the man who has done his duty to his country and to his Creator, and has taken upon himself the burden of a family, he will le borne down by worries, and will find himself counting the days for which his protection remains, just as a man counts the remaining hairs of his head when he begins to . get into the “ sere and yellow.” If the provisions of the Bill are not extended, I feel confident that production* will be- stifled. The measure provides for hard, cases being dealt with by the Court, but heaven help any poor devil who may have to go to a Court for assistance. He might as well give up the struggle at once. I am reminded of an experience of some friends of mine in this Parliament. Although they got the verdict ia a Court case, they were deprived of the results because of some rotten State law. Any small man who goes into Court has an uphill battle to fight. He might get justice in the1 end, but the procedure is very tedious and costly, and he might very well accept the advice given by a very well-known lawyer in New South Wales, who, upon learning that a friend of his had been threatened with an action with respect to- .the ownership of an overcoat, said to him - “ Take my advice, and give him the overcoat.” I may give some practical illustrations of the position ia which some men are finding themselves. I know of a returned soldier who paid a deposit of £75 on a property valued by the seller at £600. He applied to the Repatriation Department, and the departmental valuer estimated the value at- £200, so it was impossible for that returned soldier to place the mortgage with the Repatriation Department. He had either to forfeit his £75 deposit, or accept liability for a property valued by the Repatriation Department at £200, but which some land shark had sold tohim for £600. This Bill will not assist men in that position, and I think some provision- should be made for them.
Land agents may be doing a fair and illegitimate business according to the law im one particular .State, but what may be regarded as good business in one State may be looked upon as sharp practice in another. The blame really rests upon the people who refused to give the Commonwealth Government authority to deal with these matters. * I feel confident, however, that the Government would be perfectly safe in introducing legislation along the lines of regulations made under Ihe W.ar Precautions Act, and that the people will eventually give them full authority in this direction.. There is never a unanimous expression of opinion !>y the Judges in any -appeal to the High Court, and on almost every occa«ion when an appeal is made to the Privy Council, the majority decisions of the High Court have been upset. We ha.ve six -different company laws in Australia. It is time the people of Australia gave power to the Commonwealth ‘Government to deal with all national matters. Look at the huge burden the ‘5,000,000 people 5n this country have to bear. Next year We shall have to find £25,000;00Q- as interest on money .borrowed for war, repatriation, and war pensions, and other purposes. I am waiting with interest for the financial statement to ascertain how *he ‘Government propose to raise the money. I ‘de- not think very much more can be expected from direct taxation ; and 1 do not know whether- the Government expect to get more revenue through the Customs, ‘but they must endeavour to get it ‘from that source which, at present, is not feeling too severely the pinch of taxation. They must look to those people who are wasteful, for more revenue, and also find out some means of reducing the 00St of Government, not by discharging <civil -servants, or cutting down salaries. - I shall never be a party to that method - -but, by .finding the square pegs in the -round holes; the occupations in which six men are employed doing the work of one main, thus cutting down our expenditure.
Last week one honorable senator opposite indicated how hundreds of thousands a year could he saved to the taxpayer. If the Government had the time and inclination to continue along the path of financial reform, I have no doubt that wit taxpayers could be relieved of nearly one-half their present burdens. No.body desires that the Government should attempt to secure economy by the reduc tion of wages. It has been demonstrated, by the seamen’s strike, that our seeamen. have been poorly paid, even in comparison with the countries of cheap labour. The ‘Scandinavian seamen were better paid.
– I remind the honorable senator that .that matter hardly comes within the scope of this Bill.
– I am very sorry, Mr. President, but I read the report of the debate in the other House, and found that very wide scope was there given, to the discussion of this Bill. .If I am out of order, I shall reserve any remarks om this phase .of the question f or another occasion.. But I contend that as this Bill bears more .on the financial situation than any other I know of, I would be in order if I could show how money may he saved to this country. We”know that for every primary producer, there .are at least three men living upon his industry, .but who do nothing .for it. One may go into any rural town, and find hosts of land agents and jobbers at work. If .that business were nationalized, one man would be able to do the whole of the work, and the primary producers would be relieved of some portion of their burden. One may go into- any city in Australia, . and find the same conditions prevailing. In the suburb where I am living there are twelve business places, and out of that number three are land agents, who are all making money ; some of them, :in ‘fact, have retired on their means. All that tends to make primary producers suffer, and the business I have mentioned should be placed on a satisfactory basis so that it would not be necessary to have so much competition. The same applies to the distribution of necessary commodities ; hut I cannot deal with that aspect of the question just now, in view -of the President’s ruling. Producers must be protected, and this measure willi safeguard .them to some extent until the time specified in the Bill expires. But when the financial flood-gates are open we shall find the position completely changed, and ‘borrowers will ‘be compelled to raise -money for business purposes at exorbitant rates, or to suffer foreclosures to satisfy the demands of financial institutions. It may be that the Bill will be tested and found to be invalid, but if that is so, I am sure the people of this country will be behind the Government.
There was a case the other day in which a borrower was charged interest at the rate of 250 per cent., but in this case a widow was the lender, and not the borrower. What was the result? The lender merely heard all the Judge had to say, and was immediately let loose to again prey upon honest people. I know of another case in which a young man paid a deposit on some land, but was £35 short, and the financial institution with which he was negotiating charged him no less than £9 as interest for a loan of £35. It was one of the big Australian financial institutions that has branches all over the country, and although this legislation was in force, the New South Wales Mont de Piete - that was the institution concerned, and I am not afraid to mention the name - charged approximately 25 per cent, interest on the loan. When we hear of such cases under the regulations that have been in operation, and which were instituted by the Labour Government, we are justified in seeing that the people are properly protected from those who care not whom they crush.
The estimate given by a Minister in another place was that when the moratorium regulations expired the amount called up would be approximately £100,000,000. I have been endeavouring to ascertain from competent financial authorities if that estimate is anywhere near the mark, and have been assured that the amount mentioned will not cover one-fifth or one-quarter, of the money likely to be called up. The sum mentioned appears to be only a conjecture of the Government. According to
Knibbs. our private wealth is £1, 760^000,000, and the estimated value of land and improvements £1,106,000,000. If these figures are correct, and can be taken as a fair indication of Australia’s wealth, the Minister is allowing for only 10 per cent, of the mortgages to be called up. If these huge payments have to be met, businesses, in many instances, will be absolutely paralyzed, and money will not be available for carrying on commercial undertakings, or to assist in starting new businesses. There is every indication oi the country being faced with a huge financial avalanche during the nextfew years. 1 regret the Government are not allowing borrowers sufficient time to recover from the financial strain caused by the war. Many borrowers have invested in various war loans, and it is unfair to those who have done their duty by assisting the Government in subscribing to weir loans to be unnecessarily hampered.
Money is obtainable more cheaply in Great Britain than in Australia, and we cannot look to British investors to place their money in Australia if they can secure better terms in Great Britain. We must endeavour to conserve our own resources by unanimous effort, and it will be a fatal day when the financial flood-gates are opened and the financial institutions of the Commonwealth are allowed to do just as they like. I hope the Government will listen to reason, and will extend the times for repayments beyond those stipulated in the measure.
When the Bill is in Committee I intend to move that the word “’ February,” in the first line of the sliding scale. in regulation 13, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word ‘ ‘ July ‘ ‘ . That would give the borrower a little more time in which to adjust his finan cial affairs. When the Bill was being discussed in another place, the Government were asked to extend the time of repayment by twelve months, but they refused. I hope, however, they will be prepared to grant an extension of at least six months. Finance is the backbone of every industry, especially in a young country like Australia! We are the richest country in the world in agricultural, pastoral, and mineral wealth, and can produce much more than we require We should conserve our own interests-, by producing locally all the articles we wear and the food we consume. I believe that we shall in due time be able to meet all our liabilities, but if something is not done in the direction I have indicated, financial chaos will certainly be brought about in this country. Times out of number the Government have been asked to assist Australian industries, and they have usually responded to the request in a very small way by providing for a bonus or something of that sort. I shall not trespass further on those lines, but will conclude by saying that I intend to support the second reading of the Bill, and when we get into Committee I shall ask honorable senators to extend the operation of its provisions until July instead of January.
. -I shall be very brief in referring to this measure. I feel sure there is a feeling amongst honorable senators that the principles of the Bill are worthy of general approbation. For my own part, I heartily approve of the principles of the moratorium regulations and of the proposal under this Bill to extend their operation for a certain period. We must all. realize that, as Senator McDougall has pointed out, it is not possible for people who to a certain extent were in financial hobbles before and during the war, to extricate themselves from their difficulties immediately on its termination. They must be afforded an opportunity to put themselves right financially. I was very much interested to hear Senator McDougall indicate his intention to propose in Committee a still further extension of the operation of the moratorium regulations beyond that which the Bill provides for. I would ask the Minister in charge of the measure to give earnest, and, if possible, favorable consideration to the suggestion contained in Senator McDougall’s announcement.
There are two classes of extensions of the operation of the moratorium regulations provided for. One comprises what might be called extensions absolute; that is to say, extensions by the Bill for fixed periods. In the other class are the extensions for which, in individual cases, application is to be made to a tribunal. The whole of the circumstances have to be set out, and it will be for the tribunal to determine whether in all the circumstances the extension applied for in each case should be granted. If the Minister could see his way to provide for absolute extensions to be further extendible upon application to a proper tribunal, such as is already provided for under several of the moratorium regulations, that would, I think, be an improvement of the measure. So much for the general purpose and provisions of the Bill.
This measure is, in a sense, in the same class as the Commercial Activities Bill, which we have had under consideration. It is to enable us to “clear up,” so to speak, after the war. This is a Bill to enable individuals who were placed in extraordinary financial relation when the war came upon us, or, perhaps, during the war, to clear up their financial affairs. The purpose of the Commercial
Activities Bill is to enable the Commonwealth Government, as a Government, to clear up certain transactions and complete certain contracts entered into during the war, and for the purposes of the war. In speaking on the Commercial Activities Bill, I referred to the questionableness of its constitutional validity. I referred to the circumstances which, in my opinion, raised a question as to the competence of this Parliament to pass the Bill as a valid exercise of its legislative power in regard to defence. What I said on that point concerning the Commercial Activities Bill applies with equal force to the Bill now under consideration. If we have the power to pass this Bill, it rests upon the provision in the Constitution which intrusts to this Parliament legislative power in regard to defence and matters incidental to the exercise of that power. Ourpower in this regard is provided for by paragraphs vi. and xxxix. of section 51 of the Constitution. From what was said in connexion with the Commercial Activities Bill, we know that there has been a test case in the High Court of the Commonwealth to. determine what exactly are the limitations of the powers of this Parliament in the exercise of the legislative jurisdiction conferred upon it by the constitutional provision which I have mentioned. In the case of Farey v. Burvett, five Justices of the High Court took one view, and two another view, as Senator McDougall stated. Five Justices of the High Court held that the power in relation to the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth embraced such a matter as the fixing of the price of bread in various parts of the Commonwealth during a period of war. Two Justices of the High Court held that the power given to this Parliament to legislate with regard to naval and military defence had a very much narrower signification. Five Justices of the Court held the view that we have ample and extended powers to organize all our forces, of whatever character, during a period of war, for the prosecution of the war. Two Justices of the Court held that our defence power extends to the maintenance and equipment of the naval and military arms of our Defence Force and everything ancillary to such maintenance and equipment.
– As a matter of law, the decision of the five Justices holds good.
– Exactly ; but I am merely mentioning the fact to show that a difference of opinion on the question exists in that ultimate tribunal - the High Court.
I wish to point out ‘that the particular case in connexion with which that division of opinion m the High Court was disclosed arose under a legislative measure passed during an undoubted period of war. Further, it was a legislative measure that was to have operation during the period of - war. Yet there was a difference of opinion of five to two amongst the Justices of the High Court as to the legislative competence of this Parliament .and of the power of the Commonwealth Government - the Executive and the Governor-General - to bring that legislation: into valid operation. “We are passing this Bill during a period which technically may be considered a period of war, hut which, in fact, is a period of armistice. So that in that respect eur case is weaker than- it was when the matter was previously considered by the High Court. We are also passing this measure to have operation during what will not be a period, of war, but will be an undoubted period of peace. In that further respect our case for the validity of this exercise of our legislative power is weaker still.
– Is it not further weakened by the fact that the Peace Treaty has been definitely signed?
– At any rate, we are passing this legislation during a period which is not undoubtedly a period of war, and we propose that it shall operate during a period which will he undoubtedly a period of peace. So that, whatever arguments may have assailed the competence of this Parliament to pass the legislation which was impeached in the case of Farey v. Burvett would apply with much greater force to legislation of the character here and now before us.
– Does the honorable senator not think that the relief which the passing of this legislation will give justifies the risk in passing it ?
– I am not speaking as to that. I have said that I intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill, but it is advisable that we should legislate with our eyes open. With Senator Lynch I am prepared to take the risk of passing this measure, but I shall’ not hide from myself the fact that there is doubt a» to its constitutionality. I have said that I believe every member of the: Senate approves of the principles of the moratorium regulations- and realizes the desir>ableness, if not the necessity, of extending the operation pf those regulations ‘beyond the actual, termination- of the war whenever that may he determined to haveoccurred. I have said that doubts aroseas to the validity of legislation passed! under auspices much more favorable to» its constitutionality, and as doubts existed in respect of that legislation, equal, if not greater, doubts may exist with regard to* the validity of this particular - measure,, should it be. passed, and the competence of this Parliament to pass it.
I might say that the passing of this5 Bill would be an exercise of our undoubted power if the several States of theCommonwealth in whose province legislation of this kind’ exclusively lies in times* of peace had, under paragraph xxxvii. of* section 51 of the Constitution, referred! the matter to this Parliament. In the covering words of section 51 -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for thepeace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to-
Paragraph xxxvii. of the section reads -
Matters referred to the Parliament of theCommonwealth hy the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States, but so -that1 tlielaw shall extend only to States by whose Parliaments the matter is referred, or which afterwards adopt the law.
If any. of the Parliaments of the- States: had referred this matter to us there would1 be no room for doubt as to the- validity of our legislation, so far as it would affect the particular States whose- Parliamentsreferred it to us, or the whole of theStates, if the whole of the State Parliaments had referred the matter to us.
– Would it requirean Act of a State Parliament to refer it* to this Parliament?
– I do not knowthat, it would, but I presume that that _ would be the procedure that would he adopted by a State Parliament. I am not sure that any matters have so far been referred by State Parliaments to this Parliament. We have had the State Parliaments of Western Australia and South
Australia passing legislation in aid, so to speak, of legislation by this Parliament in regard to the construction of the Kaligoorlie to Port Augusta railway.
– A resolution of both houses of a State Parliament, referring a matter to this Parliament, would be held to be valid.
-Whether or not any State Parliament has exercised the power under paragraph xxxvii. of section 51 of the Constitution, I cannot, for the moment, say with certainty, but it is quite possible that a resolution passed by both Houses of a State Parliament would be regarded as a valid exercise of that power. It does not appear that the State Parliaments have been consulted in this matter. Perhaps it was not convenient for the Government to consult them. It might not have been possible to induce the Parliaments of all the States to refer the matter to this Parliament in sufficient time, but that is one of the ways in which our legislation on these matters might have been put beyond all possible doubt as to its validity. In view of the fact that the moratorium regulations have been operative for some considerable time, the Government might have reverted to the possibility of the termination of the war some day or another, and they might, some considerable time ago, have entered upon negotiations with the State Governments with a view to having this matter referred to this Parliament by the State Parliaments that we might legislate for the whole of the Commonwealth in a matter of such general moment. With my eyes open to all the possibilities in regard to the testing of the validity of this legislation, I am prepared to take the risk, and will vote for the second reading; and, if its validity can be upheld, no one will be more pleased than myself.
– Apparently there is a consensus of opinion that the principle underlying this Bill is that of necessity. I must, howver, maintain the position which I have previously taken up respecting the competency of the Federal Parliament to pass legislation of this kind. I regret that the easy course open to the Federal Administration was not availed of. The Government could have secured from the various State authorities an amplification or confirmation of its doubtful powers. If this measure is as necessary as it is generally regarded, no one can doubt that the State Parliaments would have granted the application of the Federal Government. I am sorry, therefore, that, instead of straining the powers of the Commonwealth Constitution, the Government did not approach the State authorities.
The war ended, so far as actual fighting was concerned, nearly a year ago. It is not as though the conclusion of peace had promptly followed the signing of the Armistice. It is not as though the ratification of the peace terms has been completed. Throughout this year, with the contingency always in view that legislation of this character would probably be necessary, the Federal Government could have approached the State Parliaments and Governments; but it preferred to stretch the powers which it doubtfully possesses. Why could it not have entered into friendly consultation with the States?
– The StateGovernments are anxious for this legislation, I think.
– I shall not take that for granted, but I believe that if the Commonwealth Government had made advances a ready response would have been met with. There is a greater chance of the validity of this legislation being challenged than, perhaps, there is in respect to any of the other measures which the Federal Legislature has passed upon the strength of its war powers. There is a constant undesirable, though, possibly, unconscious, tendency on the part of the National Government and Parliament to strain their powers at the expense of the reserved constitutional powers of the States.
In regard to the measure itself, honorable senators appear to be almost of one mind. I am not so sure, however, that the Bill is necessary, and that it will be of such all-round benefit as some honorable senators evidently consider it will be. Senator McDougall remarked that it was at present practically impossible to obtain money on mortgage. Why is that so? It is because that is a rather undesirable form of investment in view of the fact that money can be so profitably employed in other directions? That form of investment is being further discouraged, because, by our legislation, mortgagees are being compelled to lend money on terms which are 40 and 50 per cent, worse than they could secure for it in the open market. Is there not many a property-owner who would be prepared to pay the ruling rate of interest if an opportunity to do so were given him ? The money market is very much confused to-day by the existence of legislation of this description; and, while we may think it necessary and desirable to extend consideration to mortgagors, we may at the same time be hindering those who would take up accommodation at present rates of interest. I will not vote in opposition to the measure, but must express my regret that its validity has not been put- beyond question by the Government applying to the State Parliaments for confirmation of its doubtful powers.
– With respect to the desirableness or otherwise of the Commonwealth Government approaching the State Governments in the manner ;ind for the purpose suggested by Senator Bakhap, my view is that the Commonwealth authorities have adopted the only possible course. I invite Senator Bakhap to consider the difficulty of passing a similar measure through all of the six State Parliaments.. The honorable senator must appreciate that time was too limited to permit the Federal Government to adopt that course of action. The State Parliaments would have required to be assured of exactly what the Federal authority proposed. It would have been necessary for the Commonwealth Government to submit a specific measure to all the State Parliaments; thus there could have been no amendment of that measure when it was introduced into the Federal Legislature.
The Government have consulted . eminent lawyers, who have unanimously decided that this Bill comes within the powers of this Parliament. I must admit that Senator Keating’s exposition of the law has had the effect, in my mind, at any rate, of somewhat shaking that opinion ; but the view, nevertheless, has I teen expressed that this measure is a proper exercise of the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. I do not believe any State Government will challenge this legislation.
– Some mortgagee affected by it might challenge it.
– I do not think that is at all likely. The Bill seeks merely to extend a contract which the Federal authority had absolute power to make; and that appears to me to govern the legality of our position.
Senator McDougall said banks were charging 6 per cent, for money advanced to’ borrowers who desired to invest in war loan bonds.
– Up to 7 J per cent.
– The honorable senator is in error. In regard to the last loan, one could borrow from a bank at 4 per cent., and buy war loan bonds at 5 per cent.
– That had regard to a period of eighteen months.
– I was referring to a man who secured an overdraft in order to put that money into a war loan; and I said that the banks charged up to 1 per cent, on that overdraft. I was not referring to special borrowing in regard to war loans.
– I can assure the honorable senator that if such a borrower had gone, to the banking authorities, and had sought a loan to invest the money in war stock, he would have secured an advance at 4 per cent. The banks have behaved in a very liberal manner.
– The banks took the bonds for security, and allowed the borrower money at 4 per cent. ; and that is the procedure in regard to the Peace loan.
– Those terms are liberal.
Another point raised by Senator McDougall was that one could not secure money from banks with which to take up a mortgage. Banking institutions have never made mortgage business their special affair. Money for mortgaging purposes nearly always comes from private sources, or from a few companies which do no other form of business.
I am of opinion that this measure, on the whole, will meet the necessities of the case. The sudden termination of the war may have put borrowers in a very awkward, position. In the schedules it is provided that a borrower, if he be hard pressed, can go before a Court, and ex- plain his position. I am sorry that many people to-day are in a most unfortunate position with respect to their borrowings. I hope that in all such cases, if they are compelled to go to Court, leniency will be extended to them. If their position is examined by a stipendiary magistrate, the cost should not be large, and in all instances, I feel sure they will receive sympathetic treatment.
– A borrower cannot hope to secure much relief under that provision.
– Relief of that nature is specifically set out in the schedules to the Bill. I understand that a borrower may go before a stipendiary magistrate and get an extension of his mortgage term, and also have the rate of interest reviewed. We can surely thrash this matter out in Committee. It seems to me that in cases of hardship, and I know there are many, it is possible for a mortgagor to get considerable relief.
– But the mortgagee will not allow the matter to be decided by a stipendiary magistrate. He will appeal to the High Court.
– No man who has had experience would care to go before the High Court if he could have a matter settled by a stipendiary magistrate. I know of one company which has had six cases before various Courts, and the procedure before the High Court was more expensive than that of the other five Courts put together. I feel sure that all these details may be settled in Committee, and a fair measure of relief be insured for certain classes of people, like those engaged in the fruit-growing industry in Tasmania.
– They are covered. Any person whose product has not been saleable is provided for. If a farmer who has had wheat in a Pool has not received substantial payments, he is exempted from rent, and is liable only for interest on back rents.
– We must see that full justice is done in all cases of hardship, because we know that people who borrowed money before the war may, through no fault of their own, find themselves in a tight corner afterwards. They ought to be amply protected.
– In reply to the matter mentioned by Senator Keating, I may say that during the progress of the measure through the House of Representatives, an amendment was inserted giving discretionary power to the Court to extend the moratorium protection for another twelve months in certain cases. I desire to insert an amendment, known as regulation 201, in the Bill now before the Senate, to bring it into conformity with the House of Representatives’ amendment. It provides, among other things -
Notwithstanding anything contained in these regulations any Court may, upon the application of the mortgagor or purchaser made not less than one month before the date to which the payment of -
the principal money secured by a mortgage, or
the purchase money (or any instalment thereof) payable under an agreement, has been postponed under these regulations ( in this regulation referred to as “ the prescribed date for payment”), make an order, on such terms and conditions (if any) as the Court thinks fit, extending the date for payment of the principal money, purchase money, or instalment, as the case may be, for a further period of not more than twelve months, and may fix the intervals of time and rate at which interest is payable during such further period.
The Bill provides for an extension of moratorium protection up to July, 1920., but it is within the power of the Court to give further protection, in hard cases, for another twelve months. The matter referred to by Senator Fairbairn is dealt with in the Bill. When there was difficulty in regard to shipping, it was possible for a wheat-grower to get into financial straits, although he had a good crop. The same remark applies to the fruit-growers of Tasmania. If it can be shown that any fruit-grower has been unable to meet his liabilities, even in respect of rent, because of war conditions and shortage of shipping, he cannot be ejected during the period of moratorium protection. We have been reasonably successful in making payments for wheat, and very few cases of wheat-growers will come under this special provision of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2’ agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “the War Precautions (Active Service Moratorium) Regulations “ means the regulations set forth in the Second Schedule to this Act, being
Statutory Rules 1916 No. 163, as amended by Statutory Rules 1916 No. 283, by Statutory Rules 1917 No. 271, by Statutory Rules. 1018 Nos. 81, 238 and 314, and by Statutory Rules 1919 Nos. 112, 128, 173 and “the War Precautions (Moratorium) Regulations” means the regulations set forth in the First Schedule to this Act, being Statutory Rules 1916 No. 284, as amended by the following Statutory Rules, namely: - Statutory Rules 1916 No. 324; Statutory Rules 1917 Nos. 13, 76 and 253; Statutory Rules 1918 No’s.28 and 191; and Statutory Rules 1919 Nos. 36, 140, 1.72 and “the prescribed date” means the thirtyfirst day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty.
Motion (by Senator Russell) agreed to-
That after the word “ and “, line 13, the figures “201” be inserted; and after the word “ and “, line 24, the figures “ 202 “ be inserted.
.- I should like to know if there is any serious objection to the word “ one” being inserted after the word “ twenty “ in the last line of the clause. The Bill has been introduced to assist mortgagors over the disturbed condition into which the world has thrown them. I have considerable sympathy with the remarks made by Senator McDougall, and think that an extension of the moratorium for another twelve months would be acceptable.
– Hard cases may get now an extension for twelve months..
– Unless the Minister can advance some serious objection to an extension of the main provisions,. I do not think any harm would be done by agreeing to the amendment. There is provision, of course, for mortgagees receiving 6’ per cent. on borrowed money, but I can imagine a case in which a mortgagor would find himself in a serious position if compelled to meet his liability, or renew his mortgage within twelve months after the declaration of Peace. It will be a considerable time before the financial affairs of the world get back to normal.
– The financial position will not become normal while the Government are offering big loans.
– No ; it will be a considerable time before we approach normal conditions again, and I see no reason why the provisions of the Bill should not be extended for another twelve months. I move -
That after the word “ twenty “, line 27, the word “ one “ be inserted.
. - I hope the honorable senator will not press his amendment, although as a private individual I may have no objection to an extension of time. After all is said and done, there is nothing sudden about the Bill, because when the moratorium was brought into operation, no one anticipated that the war would last so long, and there has been ample notice, since the signing of the Armistice, for mortgagors to make their arrangements. This matter has not been lightly decided. It was felt that we could not throw a proposal like that now made amongst the financial institutions after the strain of the war. Although the mortgagor himself has not been individually consulted by the Government, I think every genuine hard case will be provided for. There must be some terminating point. It might be a good argument to say that a community should have two years within which to settle down, but, as a matter of fact, it is possible now for hard cases to enjoy this protection for two years. Indeed, we have had practically since November last to prepare; so that in some cases there will be nearly three years’ grace. It must be remembered also that lenders are not always wealthy men, and that an extension of the period might mean an injustice to them. I feel confident that those who have had . a close experience of the abnormal times, will welcome any attempt to get back to normal at the earliest possible moment. There are, of course, sharpers in every community, and I have no doubt that an odd person here and there will attempt to increase the interest rates against a man who is not able to meet his liabilities. Harsh cases will be dealt with in a sympathetic manner. I ask honorable senators to realize that mortgages are with . some people perpetual, and that all the mortgages will not be falling due on the same day. Moreover, the banks will be able to accommodate borrowers by granting an extension of time. Judging by the recent returns for exports, it is clear that there is a fair amount of money in Australia. Honorable senators must also realize that there are two sides to the case, and, reviewing all the circumstances, the Government consider that they have arrived at a happy medium. It must not be overlooked that lenders have been awaiting their money for a long period.
– But they have been getting a good rate of interest.
– The rate is that fixed in the mortgage, or 6 per cent., whichever is the higher, and I do not think people will be able to say that lenders have bean profiteering, if they are to be judged by the interest charged. To all practical purposes the war is over, and seeing that all interests have been considered in detail by the Government, and that every effort has been made to protect the weaker members of the community, I ask honorable senators to pass the clause in its present form, unless it is their desire to extend mortgages indefinitely. The Senate should accept a fair compromise, because if we extend the time of repayment for another six months, there is every probability of a request being made for still another six months, and so on. In fact, some would like an indefinite extension.
– It is just as well for us to be clear on this matter. The Minister said the rate of interest was 6 per cent., or the original amount set out in the mortgage, whichever is the higher. That is quite correct for £2,000 or over, but for amounts of £2,000 or under it is the original amount in the mortgage, or 6 per cent., whichever is the lower. Millions of this money was borrowed before the war at something like 4 per cent., and those borrowers have been enjoying under the moratorium regulations a low rate of interest, and are now to be allowed to continue for another ten months below the market rate. Senator Earle might take it into considerationthat very often people who lend money are themselves borrowers, and may be greatly inconvenienced in not being able to recover from a more wealthy borrower.
– That would he covered. A borrower who borrows to lend to another can obtain an extension.
– He might have to appeal to the Court for protection himself. The proposal of the Government should beallowed to stand, as it appears to me to be a fair and generous one.
– I am entirely in agreement with the statement made by the Minister.I do not look upon this Bill as an important one so far as commercial interests are concerned, because practically all the money borrowed since the moratorium regulations came into force has been borrowed by the borrowers contracting themselves out of the provisions of the moratorium. As Senator Fairbairn has stated, the Bill affects, so far as business interests are concerned, only the amounts owing when the regulations came into force. It seems unfair to the lenders that borrowers should go on paying a low rate of interest indefinitely, and the happy medium suggested by the Government has my hearty support. It is a reasonable proposition, and, considering that the regulations were introduced for war purposes, I think it should be accepted. We shall all be happier when we get back to pre-war conditions. The Bill provides that special consideration shall be given in harsh cases for an extension up to twelve months. The moratorium regulations have been applying to borrowers for a long time, and they have had ample notice of the date of their termination. I believe the Bill will have general support, and will be favorably viewed by the lenders, if not by some borrowers. It is time some finality was reached. I support the remarks made by the Minister, and if the amendment of Senator Earle is put to a vote, I shall oppose it for the reasons given.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Earle, because I believe that the time has not been sufficiently extended. Although the great international conflict has ceased, we are on the verge of an economic war. It has been said that certain mortgagees will not raise the interest to borrowers, but every one knows that, as soon as the opportunity presents itself, interest rates will be increased, because lenders do not advance money for the benefit of their health. I want the Government to control this business as they have done during the war, as that would considerably benefit a large section of the community.
– The proposal of Senator Earle is to extend the provisions of the moratorium regulations until 1921, and that means an” additional twelve months. I would like the Minister to inform the Committee whether, in view of that proposal, and -reading it in conjunction with clause 4, there i6 any latent power retained in the clause for an indefinite extension of the moratorium period.
– There is an extension of twelve months in harsh cases.
– For instance, there may be a harsh case in Tasmania, or one in Western Australia- more likely in the latter. If a Court there, in the goodness of its heart, recognised that an extension of time was- justified, say until the early part of July of next year, is there power in clause 4 to warrant the Government issuing a. proclamation granting an extension to a similar case in Tasmania ?
– Clause 4 is not under discussion at present, and the honorable senator is therefore not in order in referring to it.
– I am discussing it only in its important bearing on Senator Earle’s proposal. If there is any power for an extension of the moratorium period in clause 4, it goes a long way towards meeting Senator Earle’s point; and I therefore ask the Minister whether it is possible to have an extension in the circumstances I have mentioned.
– I find a little difficulty in answering Senator Lynch’s query off-hand. It is always hard when people are called upon to pay debts, but there mUst be fair play in matters of this sort. Many mortgagees have gent without their money - in seme cases for five years - and if there has been abuse under these regulations, which were necessary during the period of the war, there has been more abuse on the part of the borrowers than on the part of the lenders. Many borrowers have taken undue advantage of the moratorium provisions. The Bill extends the moratorium for an additional twelve months, and leaves it to the discretion of the Court to make an extension up to two years in certain cases. A mortgagor, perhaps, may have, lent his money on a few houses, to a man who has, perhaps, more than himself, for five years at a rate of interest that was, perhaps, acceptable during the war period, and we are now going to say that the wealthier of the two shall have the benefit of an extension up to two years. Such benefits could be further extended until we were inviting the community to actually repudiate their debts. There is a fair limit, and I do not see that it should be extended in the manner suggested by Senator Earle, seeing that discretionary power is provided. We have endeavoured to be absolutely fair in this regard, and as far as our limited knowledge goes, we have taken into, consideration various circumstances, and have tried to be just to all parties. We suspended the mortgage provisions during the period of the war, and now the war is over we are being asked to extend them almost interminably, which is veering towards repudiation. I am anxious to give fair play to all concerned.
– Will one case be sufficient to warrant a general extension of the moratorium regulations?
– Certainly not.. If a case has been extended by the Court, this Act will remain in operation until the last case is cleared up. In connexion with the soldiers, we have to remember that several hundred may remain in England for some time after demobilization has been completed. The Government will issue a proclamation saying that the war is over, and the Act will cease to operate, but the soldiers’ interests must be watched. We have also to remember that soldiers’ dependants have to be protected, and during the war period many benefits have been conferred upon soldiers and their dependants by the regulations. The Government have already agreed to an ^extension of time in the House of Representatives, and it is asking a little too much to expect that they will consent to a further extension. I therefore ask honorable senators to. be content with the compromise to which the Government have agreed.
.- I intend to support the amendment. The Minister has suggested that honorable senators should be actuated by the spirit of British fair play in dealing with the lenders of money; but I believe that they should be equally influenced by that spirit in dealing with the borrowers of money. In a great many cases, the borrower is a man who has sought the lender in a struggle to pay off indebtedness on his home; whilst, as a rule, the lender is a man possessed of surplus cash, which he invests at a good rate of interest. I know of a number of cases in which men have raised mortgages upon their homes for the purpose of taking up war bonds. Before the moratorium was proclaimed, and soon after that, a number of men took out mortgages on their little properties with a view to the purchase of war bonds, fully believing that the principal would not be called up until such time as the war bonds were liquidated.
– If the moratorium is to be extended until we have liquidated our war bonds, we might as well extend it in perpetuity.
– That would ba a very just thing to do in many cases, though I quite realize that it would not be practicable. The fact remains that if the mortgagee closes down in the cases to which I have referred, it will be necessary for the borrowers to sell their war bands, at a time, it may be, when the market is not so good as it is at present. As <a result, because of their patriotic action in mortgaging their property to lend money to the Government, these mortgagors will be very great sufferers. I admit that it is not possible to continue the moratorium for ever, but I support the amendment, because it. will extend its operation till a later date than that provided for in the Bill.
.- No valid reason has been advanced why the moratorium should not. be extended for the very moderate period of twelve months. In submitting my amendment, T am not making any attack upon those who lend money at interest. I look upon mortgagees as very useful individuals in our commercial and industrial life. It is not my intention to classify them all as Shylocks who must have their full pound of flesh. The moratorium was agreed to to prevent financial disorganization, and possible ruin, to many persons who were committed to certain loans during an abnormal condition of the financial market owing to the war. If it is agreed that the principle of the moratorium is good, I want to know what harm there can be in extending it until a period at which we may reasonably conclude that we shall have returned to normal conditions.
– Could not the Parliament of any State extend the operation of the moratorium for as long as it pleased ?
– We are dealing with this matter now 0 in the National Parliament in connexion with a Bill which will apply to the whole of the Commonwealth. We should not do only half the work, and leave some State Legislature to complete it. As to the validity of the Bill, I say that if it is within the jurisdiction of this Parliament to continue the operation of the moratorium till 1920, it is equally within its jurisdiction to continue it till 1921.
– It does not at all fellow that that is so.
– The period of extension matters not. We have the jurisdiction to make the extension, or we have not.
– Who will say that war conditions will continue to exist ten or fifteen years hence 1
– I say advisedly that war conditions will be operative in 1921, and possibly long after that year.
– The honorable senator said that the period of extension did not matter.
– I did not assume that the Minister would accept that state.ment literally. There will of course be a period when it will not be reasonable to advance as an excuse for this kind of legislation that war conditions are still operative. But I say that there can be no doubt in the mind of any honorable senator that war conditions will be operative for the next two years, and will very seriously affect the financial conditions in the Commonwealth. Those who have lent money will suffer no injustice, since they will receive 6 per cent, on their money.
SenatorFairbairn. - No; only 4 per cent.
– That may be so in the case of small loans, but all lenders will receive interest on the money they have lent. I remind honorable senators that those who took up the first war loan are receiving only4½ per cent., and they are offered only 5 per cent. for further Government loans. There are many instances in which the mortgagors borrowing from private lenders have security that is absolutely sound, but not at its face value, and lenders would to-day probably not lend upon the same security at less than 7, 8, or 9 per cent. The mortgagees who have invested their money upon this sound security will receive their interest regularly, and if they were to force the mortgagors to renew their loans, it is possible that the latter would have to pay double the interest they are paying now, and that would mean absolute ruin in many cases. In view of the fact that the extension of the operation of the measure would do no injustice to any one, and might mean absolute financial salvation for a number of people, I shall press my amendment to a division.
– The Minister has put the case very well to the Committee, and the Government, knowing the circumstances much better than we do, have, I believe, struck a happy medium. I think the extension of the operation of the moratorium regulations to 31st July next is a very fair proposal. I direct the attention of. Senator Earle and other honorable senators to the fact that hundreds, if not thousands, of persons have invested their money at a low fixed rate of interest. It has been pointed out by Senator Fairbairn that before the war took place a number of these investments were made at a very low rate of interest, and quite a large number of persons, including widows and children, are dependent upon incomes derived from those investments. Although their incomes are fixed, the cost of living has been going up, and in this way many persons of the middle class are to-dayin more straitened circumstances than are the working classes, of whom we hear so much. If these people are called upon to renew their mortgages, Senator Earle says that they may be charged 8 or 9 per cent., but we know that 6 and7 are the ruling rates of interest at the present time.
SenatorFoll. - We cannot get money at that rate.
– Money can be obtained in Melbourne at the present time at 5 per cent. Any amount of money can be borrowed here at the present time at 6½ per cent. It is of no use to pretend that the harpies and sharps of society are going to ruin the poor mortgagor. Senator Earle and other honorable senators who bring sentiment into the consideration of the matter should recognise the position of small investors dependent upon fixed incomes derived from money lent at a low rate of interest. I consider that the extension of the operation of the moratorium regulations to the 31st July next will be satisfactory. If it is then found that things are in a very bad way, the Government may feel called upon to propose a further extension.
SenatorFoll. - If investors could not secure a higher rate of interest, what advantage would they have in calling in existing mortgages?
– I think that a very fair compromise has been agreed to by the Government. To further extend the operation of the moratorium regulations would, I think, be very unjust to the people to whom I have referred, who have no means of increasing incomes derived from the lending of money at low rates of interest. I shall vote against the amendment and against any proposal for a further extension than the Bill provides for. In my view, considering the confused conditions of financial affairs at the present time, the Government are proposing to legislate quite far enough ahead in this matter.
– Since I have expressed doubt regarding: the validity of legislation of this character, I would be inconsistent if I were to support an amendment calculated to project the operation of this measure into a period when war conditions will be no longer existing. I shall not argue the merits of the measure; I am concerned only regarding its validity. If the Bill is essential in the interests of a large body of producers, what authority can be so cognisant of and sympathetic with the situation of those people as the Parliament of the State in which they are domiciled? I again express regret that the Commonwealth Government did not first consult the State Governments and Parliaments.
If the validity of this measure is taken for granted, I am of opinion that its operation will not be harsh. An applicant for extended consideration may go before a Court of law. There, no doubt, a sympathetic hearing would be given, and such relief as might be possible would bo granted. It is hot unlikely that by 31st July, 1920, the validity of this piece of legislation may have been challenged. If, thereafter, it were held competent for the Commonwealth Parliament to project the period of protection of mortgagors for a still further term, I would not be inconsistent in revising my present views and voting for such extension.
Question - That the word “ one “ proposed to be added be added (Senator Earle’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 7 agreed to.
First Schedule -
– I move -
That the word “February” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ July.”
I desire solely to make a test of this proposed amendment. If the Committee does not see fit to agree to it, it will be of no use for me to move subsequent amendments. It makes a great deal of difference to-day whether an individual desires to borrow or to lend. A friend of mine called on an agent with whom he had been doing business previously, and asked the rate of interest. The reply was, “7 or 7½ per cent. to you.” The client said, “I want to lend this time, not borrow.” The reply was, That is quite a different matter. I can only give you 6 per cent.” I feel sure that so soon as the period of protection is ended a floodtide of trouble and depression will sweep over the country. The man. of humble means who has borrowed to put money into the various war loans is bound to be a severe loser. Personally, I do not think this is a valid measure, and I look forward to one or other of the States testing its validity .
Schedule agreed to.
Second schedule, preamble, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 22nd August, vide page 11875) :
Clause 1 (Short title).
.- A portion of the Bill which precedes this clause has an important bearing on the discussions relating to the measure. I understand that it is customary to deal with the preamble at the close of the Committee stage rather than at the beginning. In the preamble various agreements are mentioned. One particularly is the agreement made in connexion with the sale of wool, and another is an agreement set out as having been made-
– Order! The honorable senator cannot discuss the preamble of the Bill until it is before the Committee.
– But the agreements to which I refer have a very weighty hearing upon some of the other clauses of the Bill.
– I cannot allow a discussion regarding the preamble, on the title of the Bill. There will be ample opportunity for discussing these matters at a later stage.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Parts).
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to a statement he made in reply to an interjection during his second-reading speech - that there was no agreement yet with the State authorities regarding our wheat. I also wish to know the exact terms upon which our wool, clip has been sold. The Minister has said that only the surplus wool has been disposed of, but I should like further information, because the wool agreement with the British Government has an important bearing upon some aspects of administration by the Central Wool Committee.
– Order! The honorable member will have an opportunity of discussing that matter under clause 9.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ the prescribed date “ means….. in the part of this Act relating to flax, the 31st day of December, One thousand nine hundred and twenty; ….
– It is very desirable, I think to extend the period of control relating to the flax industry, which, at present, is in its initial stages. The particulars given to us the other day by the Minister were informative, because while some honorable senators may have an intimate knowledge of many agricultural industries, very few are competent to express an opinion about flax. I, for one, am not, and I should like to see the Government exercise a paternal control over this industry for the next ten years at least, because, after the speech made by the Minister during the. second reading of the Bill, I am much impressed with its possibilities. I trust the Minister will see his way clear to agree to an extension of control for another ten years.
– Do you know what the growers wish in connexion with this matter ?
– No. Very few honorable senators have any knowledge of the flax industry at all. I believe it would be advantageous for the Government to control this industry for a further period, and I move -
That the word “ twenty “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ thirty “.
– I would have no objection to an extension of the period of control, because I feel satisfied that, if, properly developed, there is a great future for the flax industry; but the legal advice tendered to the Government with respect to this measure is that Parliament has no authority to extend what were the war powers of the Government beyond the time necessary for the fulfilment of -certain contracts; that is to say, we can only complete contracts originated during the period of the war. The British Govern»ment have contracted to purchase the output of the flax-growers in Australia for the “next two years. Personally, I would’ be in favour of the Government exercising control over this industry for all time, provided there were reasonable adjustments in regard to prices. I shall do what I can to benefit the industry, but, as I have pointed out, it is not possible to extend Government control under this Bill. We cannot compel the British Government to contract for a greater period. Apart altogether from this Bill, I believe something will be done in connexion with flax growing, because the British -.Government are anxious to develop it’. Already they have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to encourage the industry within the Empire. It is one of the special subjects at present being studied in England, and I believe important developments will take place in Australia.’ In view of what I have said, I ask the honorable senator not to press his amendment.
– I am sorry to learn that it is not possible to amend the Bill in the direction indicated, because, after having listened to the Minister’s second-reading speech, I am most optimistic about the future of the industry, though I am dubious about the future control. Those responsible for the government of the industry will be wise if they so safeguard it as to prevent its control getting into the hands of a comparatively few men, as has happened in regard to other industries.
– I should like to know if the whole of the war regulations and statutory rules mentioned in this clause are included in the schedules that we shall have to deal with.
– Yes, they are all included.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 -
– Before moving the amendment of which I have given notice, I should like to say that, in spite of all we hear about the desire of the primary producers belonging to the dairy industry, for the continuance of Government control, I notice from time to time paragraphs in various newspapers of the different States to the effect that the butter and cheese producers are looking askance at what we propose under this Bill. They do not object to co-operative selling, and they have no objection to being organized, but they strongly object, many of them, to unnecessary interference by the Government. They object to a domination, sometimes an arbitrary domination they fear, by the Minister in charge of the Dairy Pool, and at a later stage, when we are dealing with some of the regulations, I shall endeavour by suggestion, and, if necessary, by amendment, to obtain for those engaged in the dairying industry absolute control of their own products. In their trade papers, from time to time, there is evidence that they are much concerned over this Bill, which gives the Government the right to sell their propertyat any price they choose, and also gives the Minister power to override any decisions of the Advisory Committee. I have a cartoon here with these words at the foot of it-
Pass your butter over to me, and I will do the selling. You will be permitted to advise me, but I must have the power to reject that advice.
– What are you quoting?
– From the Farmer and Settler newspaper, published in Sydney; and I am also referring to resolutions passed at meetings of primary producers in New South Wales and Queensland in connexion with their objection to Ministerial dominance. There may be clauses under which this matter can be discussed more fully; I merely wish now to draw the Minister’s attention to the matter. There is a difference of opinion on the clause under discussion, and I hope that the Bill will emerge from Parliament embodying the least possible Ministerial control, and with the maximum control left in the hands of the men who are being organized under this measure. I move -
That in sub-clause 2 the words “and in particular for repealing, altering, or adding to any of the War Precautions (Dairy Produce Pool) Regulations “ be left out.
It is not often, so far as my limited experience goes, that regulations are included in a Bill when it is brought before Parliament. It is the exception rather than the rule to have regulations presented and dealt with as is suggested in this measure.
– They are laid on the. table of the Senate.
– That is quite a different matter. The Bill is one of twenty-six pages, incorporating regulations under which it is proposed to act, and, consequently, these regulations will constitute a part of an Act of Parliament. This clause gives the Government power to repeal, alter, or add to, any of the regulations comprised in the Bill ; but it does not say that the regulations shall be in accordance with the principles of the Bill, nor does it say that regulations inconsistent with the principle of the Bill shall not be framed. The clause gives the Government the power to alter, repeal, or add to any regulation, or, in other words, to interfere as they like with the principles passed by Parliament.
– It is explained in the next clause.
– Only so far as may be necessary for the purpose of completing contracts. The clause gives the Minister wider powers than have been given under any other Act of Parliament that does not include the regulations. Various Pools have been in existence for some time, and the regulations have been altered as the circumstances demanded. If there is anything to repeal or alter, and if the principles embodied in the measure are to be vitally affected, adjustment should be made by introducing an amending Bill, as is done in other instances. If we need to amend the Defence Act an amending Defence Bill is introduced, and, in the same way, if we have to amend our Income Tax Act, an amending measure is brought down. This measure deals with millions of pounds worth of primary products, and is just as important as any other Bill. I do not want to give the Minister power carte blanche, and that is what it means.
– I am afraid the honorable senator has overlooked the point by suggesting that amendments should come- down in the form of a Bill. “We have been legally advised that if Peace be signed before the Bill is passed, we have no power to do as he suggests, and, therefore, it would be impossible to carry out the policy he indicates. I might have explained the position earlier for the information of honorable senators. We must have power to frame regulations, because it is not possible to do all that is necessary by means of an Act of Parliament. If we encounter any difficulty,, we shall have no power to amend the Act.
Improvements have been made in con-; trolling the Pool, as a result of experience gained, and frequently regulations have been amended when necessary for the more effective control of this colossal work. It would be ridiculous to hamper the Government in the manner suggested, because we would not have power to amend the Act. There has been no domination, and it is idle for Senator Pratten to talk about Government domination, because, when ships were not available, and stocks of butter were accumulating, the producers were almost pleading with the Government to handle their produce. There has never been any domination on the part of the Government; but there was a period when the butter producers had difficulty in finding a market for their produce, and asked for our assistance. We are merely co-operative agents, and have been endeavouring to organize in the interests of the producers. I am a strong believer in collective dealing, and the Pools were established to benefit both producer and consumer. Discretionary power has been given to the Government, and the next sub-clause will make my meaning clear. It reads -
If regulations are framed which are not essential to the completion of contracts, they will, be decidedly illegal. I ask Senator Pratten not to press his amendment, as it will not help us very much.
– I think the Minister has missed my point. We have a Bill to pass, discuss, or amend, as the Senate thinks fit. In sub-clause 2 of clause 4, the Government have the power to repeal, alter, or add to the regulations, and if there is anything else they wish to do under the cover of regulations they have the power, before the Act expires, to do practically what they like, whether it is’ contrary to the principles of the Bill or not.
– Only within certain limitations.
– In view of the Minister’s statement, I shall be satisfied if all the words after “ not inconsistent with this Act “ are struck out.
– That is covered in the next clause.
– In sub-clause 2 of clause 4 it is specifically stated that power is to be given to the Government to repeal, alter, or add to any of the War
Precautions (Dairy Produce Pool) Regulations. In effect.it is assumed, whether the regulations are consistent with the Act or not, that the Government shall have power to frame regulations in order to carry out their contract with the British Government.
– The whole of the Bill must be read together. I have already quoted sub-clause 3 of clause 4.
– That is all the Bill does. During the war period the handling of products has been largely in the hands of official dictators, who have recommended the Minister to make regulations from time to time, and some of those regulations have interfered with the best interests of the community. Will the Minister state, in connexion with the power that he proposes to reserve, if any alteration in principle is intended in connexion with any of the regulations we shall be called upon to discuss?
– Only to meet such difficulties as may be caused by altered conditions over which we have no control.
– It is not the intention of the Government to fundamentally alter the regulations?
– Then I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
.- It is not the intention? of the Government, in asking for this power, to alter the principle in any shape or form. We do not intend to use the powers conferred on us by this Bill for one day after the contracts have been completed.
– You will not have the power.
– No; the power will terminate on the completion of the contracts. Certain undertakings will be terminated on the completion of the contracts, but, personally, I am in favour of extending some of the arrangements, and I hope to have the opportunity of fighting for their extension. Judging by the recent developments and statements made in New South Wales, it appears that any one who intends opposing the Wheat Pool will have a very bad time. This Bill is intended merely to continue the operation of the War Precautions Regulations to enable us to wind up affairs. I say deliberately, on behalf of the Government, that there is no intention to introduce into it any new principle.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Continuance of War Precautions (Wool) Regulations and War Precautions (Sheepskins) Regulations).
– Before we can adequately discuss the position as regards wool, it should be clarified so far as the contract that has been made with the British Government for the sale of out clip is concerned. The time for dealing with the matter on -the second reading of this measure was limited. I propose to make a few remarks in connexion with the contract with the British Government as soon as the Minister in charge of the Bill has specifically set out what the exact position under that contract is.
– Tha honorable senator has given notice of an amendment upon the clause. Does he intend to move it ?
– Not yet. I wish first to hear the Minister on the question of wool generally. Will the honorable senator tell the Committee exactly what the contract means? There seems to be some doubt about the matter. In one of the newspapers this morning it 19 stated that the surplus only has been sold to the British Government, and, in his speech on the second reading of the Bill, the Minister said -
The British Government has purchased only the surplus. They have no control over our local supplies of wool.
Very important principles are involved in connexion with the effect upon some of the secondary industries manufacturing wool, and I should like the Minister to clarify the position before the discussion of this clause proceeds.
– There is no such thing as a written contract existing between the Commonwealth and the British Government for the purchase of the Australian wool clip. Everything has been done by a series of cablegrams. Briefly put, the matter is not difficult to understand. I repeat what I said on the second reading of the Bill. The British Government have purchased the whole of the Australian wool clip, less Commonwealth requirements, on identical lines as regards terms, conditions, and valuation as for the previous season. That is easily understandable. It is to say, that the Commonwealth Government determine what is the surplus, and we have absolute control of any wool required for any purpose within the Commonwealth without interference hy any outside authority.
– What about wool for export?
– Wool for export is controlled by the Australian Wool Committee, but that control is exercised in full co-operation with the British Government. The reason for this is that, during the period of the war, we were engaged in more than actual fighting with our enemies. We were at war in matters of trade, and in connexion with the disposal of raw materials. The Australian Wool Committee, in the matter of sales of wool overseas, never make a sale without the fullest co-operation of the British Government. I consider that that was a very wise policy to adopt during tb period of the war. In connexion with wool required in Australia, the Government are entirely free to do just as they please. There was, of course, a parity established in connexion with sales of wool in Australia. Wool is sold at a parity of 15½d. per lb. on a greasy basis. This applies to all supplies of wool for Australia., subject to certain exceptions, , and also to wool on sheepskins. The Government have full control over all wool that may he used for any purpose within the borders of Australia.
– Would the Minister consider wool required for wool tops for export in an industry built up by a bounty given by this Parliament years ago as included in local requirements?
– Yes, it would he.
– So that the arrangement made with the British Government would not affect the manufacture of wool tops for export?
– I am glad to have that assurance from .the honorable senator.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will permit me to make the matter more clear. He asks whether the Australian Government are quite free in regard to supplies of wool for wool tops.
– Has the British Government any control over that wool?
– Not in respect of the wool supplied for wool tops, but there is co-operation with the British Government, introduced in connexion with the export of wool during the period of the war. Honorable senators will understand that wool is one of the most valuable raw materials in the world, and we conferred or co-operated with the British Government to secure that we should not export wool from Australia during the period of the war to countries to which, in the interests of the Empire, it should not be sent. I trust that during the period of reconstruction after the war there will continue to be the fullest co-operation with the Imperial authorities in regard to these matters’, because, not only are British markets involved, but Australian interests are involved in connexion with some markets. We have in this matter acted in co-operation with the Imperial authorities, and agreed upon a mutual policy with them.
– The Minister will pardon me if I say that the position is not yet quite clear to me. I understand that the Government reserve all requirements of wool for the secondary industries in connexion with this clip. The position is very clear so far as it affects manufacturers of tweeds, but it is not clear as it affects manufacturers of wool tops. A large quantity of the wool tops manufactured in Australia is exported. The wool top industry has been built up by reason of the bounty passed by this Parliament in 1907. It has cost this country £70,000 in bounties to build up that industry. I want to know from the Minister whether this is to be considered a secondary industry for which wool was to be reserved for the purpose of manufacture and export from Australia, as it had been exported before ? In other words, have the British “Government control of the export of wool tops from Australia, or do the Commonwealth Government control it?
– Wool required for any purpose, whether it be the manufacture of a tam-‘o-shanter or. of wool tops, within the borders of Australia is within the complete and absolute control of the Commonwealth Government. I have pointed out that for various reasons connected with the war it was agreed that there should be control of the export of wool tops, so as to preserve a wool parity, because we did not desire to put people in other parts of the world on a better footing in this regard than Great Britain during the recent heroic struggle in which that country has been engaged. There are many things which I might say on that subject, but I shall not refer to them at this stage. I say that within the borders of Australia the powers of the Commonwealth Government in the matter of supplies of wool for local requirements are unlimited, but in the matter of overseas trade we act in co-operation with Great Britain, so that other, countries shall not secure an advantage as against Great Britain and Australia.
– This matter is of great importance to Australia. I am not here to criticise harshly the administration of the Wool Pool, but I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that four interests are concerned in connexion with the administration of the Pool. One interest is that of the wool-growers, which, of course, is predominant. Another is the interest of the financiers and brokers. A further interest is that of the secondary industries connected with wool ; and a fourth is the interest of the country. I want to say that, so far as I have been able to ascertain, the wool-growers are reasonably satisfied with the scheme. Although they know that very much higher prices are being obtained on the world’s parity for Australian wool to-day, a number of them are not hypercritical in connexion with this matter, as they prefer a stabilized price to violent fluctuations. They say that it is better that they should get a reasonably good price, and prevent violent fluctuations, than that the industry should be up in the skies today and down in the depths to-morrow.
– Most of them would like to get skyprices.
– There is a good deal of criticism with regard to the price paid for our wool as compared with the world’s parity to-daybut I am not aware that there is any general feeling amongst the wool-growers of Australia that the Government have not made a reasonably good deal, on the whole. I do not think that the agents and brokers have very, much to complain about, because, from their balance-sheets, it is clear that they are doing better now than they ever did before.
– What about the consumer ? How is he getting on ?
– From the standpoint of the country, I want to say that one of the dangers of the continuance of the present arrangement is that, previous to the war, somewhere about 85 per cent. of the wool clip of Australia was sold, distributed, and financed through Sydney and Melbourne. Undoubtedly, Sydney and Melbourne were the centres of the world’s wool control. There is a danger which has to be guarded against, and it is that the centre of wool distribution under these continued pooling arrangements may be shifted from Sydney and Melbourne to London. That is a danger to the country.
– How could it occur?
– It is being done now. I trust that those in charge of our operations will insure that we revert to pre-war conditions so that Melbourne and Sydney may resume their dominating position in relation to the wool sales of the world.
In connexion with our tweed manufacturing industry, it is an unhappy fact that not more than one-third of the total of the woollen goods used in Australia is made in this country.
– Whose fault is that ?
– I shall not apportion the blame. We are paying very dearly for the primitive development of Australian woollen manufacture. I have no fault to find with the treatment of tweed manufacturers by the Central Wool Committee. But I have heard what I deem to be unfair criticisms expressed in this Chamber witS regard to those manufacturers. Certain honorable senators have quoted from a report of the Inter-State Commission, dealing with the so-called abnormal profits of the tweed manufacturers. No one, however, has been fair enough to draw attention to the fact that the tweed mills have been working throughout the war at double and even treble shifts. No one has pointed out that the prices at which manufacturers have supplied their goods have been limited by the Defence Department. Although those manufacturers’ profits upon capital have apparently abnormally increased, their profits upon turnover have increased but little. We have heard much about profiteering. I have taken the trouble to secure samples of locallymanufactured tweeds, and I have ascertained the prices actually charged by the factories to the warehouses. Those prices vary. For some of the cloths the quotation is as high as 10s. 6d. per yard, while for others the price is only 6s. 6d. About 3$ yards are necessary for the making of a suit of clothes for an average man; thus, the material represents a cost of between £1 and 35s. for the very best tweed that Australia can produce. Yet imported suitings, similar to these Australian samples, are sold by warehouses at very little less than 30s. to 35s. per yard. Owing to the very high prices for wool and tops, and for everything else in connexion with the industry in England, British materials cost the Australian wholesaler three or four times as much as Australian tweeds. We are paying a toll because we have not’ sufficient local factories to produce our own requirements, amounting to, approximately, £2 2s. upon every suit ‘of clothes we wear.
– Why are we short of manufacturers?
– That question is calculated to raise a fiscal controversy. In fairness to our tweed manufacturers it must be emphasized that it is almost wholly due to the manufacturer abroad that we have to pay such high prices for our clothing.
– Do the warehouses raise the prices of Australian tweed to a level with that of the imported goods?
– I shall not go into that further than to say that I think it reasonable to assume that the low prices of Australian tweeds are averaged up a bit. I repudiate the allegation that there is profiteering in connexion with Australian woollen manufactures. I have indicated that we are compelled to pay a toll to the European manufacturers.
– And to the middleman in Australia who handles our tweeds between factory and .public.
– Exactly ; but it is not the tweed manufacturer who is getting the profit. If we were producing all our materials to-day, our suits would average between two and three guineas less.
– You should preface that statement by saying that, if we manufactured our machinery, such a position- would not exist.
– With respect to that matter I shall have something to say later. I feel strongly that unfair criticism has been launched against our local manufacturers, and that no one has been fair enough to point out all the facts. Machinery to-day costs three and four times as much as before the war. Prices are only 40 per cent, higher, while material and wages have advanced by 40 per cent. Further, the factories have been working two and three shifts daily, and, at the same time, prices have been regulated by the Defence Department.
– Senator Pratten might have continued his argument and explained just where these great differences in prices occur. The Australian manufacturer gets his wool at 13d. per lb. - 2d. a lb. less than the price at which the wool is put on the English market - and only 7 lbs. 3 ozs. of wool are required for the manufacture of an allwool suit. Our returned soldiers are furnished with an outfit for 30s. I am speaking on the authority of the manager of the Commonwealth mills at Geelong.
– Is that wool scoured or greasy?
– I take it that it is in its unscoured state. If a suit oan be turned out for 30s. - an all-wool suit, with the necessary extras - what is the reason for the great difference in prices mentioned by Senator Pratten? The honorable senator has come here today as an apologist for the manufacturer.
– No apologies are required.
– He has placed himself under an obligation to explain where the great difference occurs. There is much profiteering in regard to woollen materials to-day. Senator Pratten has stated only half the case. He should give us the whole of the facts.
– Is that 30s. outfit for returned soldiers a uniform or a civilian suit?
– It is an ordinary suit of clothes, which any civilian might be glad to wear. No man could desire anything better, so far as the quality of the material is concerned. I saw a suit displayed in a window in Bourkestreet yesterday; it was marked at £14 14s. The material could not possibly have_ been purer or better than that contained in the suits provided by the Government for returned soldiers at a total cost of 30s. Some one must be “ getting at “ the public. It is only fair that Senator Pratten, if he knows the facts, should expose the profiteers. We hear too many allegations about profiteering to-day, and too little truth. If the manufacturers are in the grip of the wholesale houses, and dare not sell their cloth to tailors at less than a certain price, then we ought to know it; and if an exposure is made, we ought to be well on the way towards remedying this evil of profiteering. What I have said with regard to the wool dip pretty well covers the whole position. There is no doubt whatever that the primary producer himself is doing a fair thing by the country. In the case of the wool-grower, he is providing at a reasonable rate the raw material for the manufacture of the cloth; but the manufacturer has not been sufficiently progressive. He is employing antiquated machinery. It is years since we passed a Tariff giving manufacturers high protective duties ; and when the war came, and the shipping difficulty became acute, the opportunity occurred for them to secure the whole of the Australian market for themselves. With wool available at 2d. per lb. less than overseas, it is not a question of more protection at all. The Government mills are turning out blue serge cloth at a maximum price of a little over 7s. per yard.
– I think I mentioned that the range, in private manufacturers’ charges, was from 6s. 6d. to 10s. per yard.
– The price I have quoted for Government cloth is the maximum, so there is a difference of 2s. 6d. per yard. I hope the Government will take steps to extend their operations.
– They cannot do it unless the Constitution is altered.
– If the honorable senator will look into the position, he will find that the Government have power, so far as the woollen mills are concerned, to extend operations. I am. reminded of the time when Mr. Deakin was Attorney-General in, I believe, the first Commonwealth Government. He had submitted to him a question in connexion with the manufacture of iron, and his opinion was that if the Government required any commodity for their own use, the Constitution clearly gave them power to engage in its production, and to market any surplus. If the Constitution is read with common sense there is nothing to prevent the Government selling all their surplus stock not needed for our returned boys. I think they have had a sale’ of blankets - why not surplus woollens? It will be seen, therefore, that the Government have power to extend the manufacture of woollen materials; and if they do so they will confer an undoubted good upon the community. The manufacturers hitherto have had every opportunity to improve their position.
– They could not get the machinery.
– Does Senator Pratten think that a miserable excuse like that will hold good ?
– I am talking about the period of the war. ‘
– It is a mere subterfuge to say that the manufacturers could not get the machinery. If they had had enterprise and foresight, they could have done so years ago, but they have been content to move along in a slip-shod manner with obsolete machinery. We have heard a good deal about . profiteering, and in my opinion the Government should take the shortest cut possible to deal with the matter.
– I do not quite share Senator de Largie’s pessimistic view concerning the manufacturing industry; but I think the Government should exercise what power they possess to deal with the increase in prices, f we take Senator Pratten’s statement as correct, that the price of cloth turned out by the Australian private manufacturer ranges from 6s. to 10s. 6d. per yard, then the cost for sufficient cloth for an ordinary suit of clothes would be, at the outside, about 30s. And if we take Senator .de Largie’s statement as correct, that the cost of the unscoured wool for a suit of clothes is about 10s., and if we assume that the Australian manufacturer is doing his bit of profiteering, the difference between the cost of the raw material and the manufactured cloth is but a small proportion of the immense margin between the cost of the manufactured cloth and the price of a suit of clothes.
– We have gone one step in the direction of finding out who are the profiteers.
– Exactly. There must be enormous profiteering on the part of the middlemen, because, according to the statement o’f the manufacturers, they are getting only a fair return on their capital, although if they had taken time by the forelock and had obtained a better class of machinery years ago, they would have been in a better position to-day. It appears that they are only getting a small proportion of the added cost of material for a suit of clothes. Who is getting the balance? Only a small proportion of the increase is due to the added cost of labour. All the evidence points to the conclusion that an enormous proportion of the margin goes to the warehousemen or middlemen.
– And across the water.
– How much gees in rent?
– We know, of course, that warehousemen pay very heavy rents, but they do not stock clothing only. They warehouse a large number of other commodities. There is no doubt that a great deal of profiteering is done by the middlemen. It is the duty of the Government to discover who is dividing up the difference between 30s., the cost of cloth from the manufacturer, and the £9 9s., or £10 10s., or £12 12s. which a tailor asks for a suit of clothes to-day. When they have discovered the profiteers they should deal with them. If the Government have not the power, it is their duty to ask for an alteration of the Constitution to give them the control which the States possess and do not use. It is clear that the Australian manufacturers referred to by Senator de Largie are profiteering, and are asking for more than a reasonable return on their capital outlay. If they are receiving only 30s. at the outside for sufficient of the very best class of cloth necessary to make a suit, the tailors in every city in Australia, and in many large towns, are asking from £7 7s. to £10 103. for the finished article.
– The materials used in a suit made of Australian tweed, although good, are not the best.
– I do not ‘ say they are.
– At all events, they are made of pure wool.
– Not the best; it is not superfine material.
– All the arguments used on this particular question show the immediate necessity of altering our Constitution to enable the Commonwealth Government to do what the State Governments will not do, although they have the power. The State Governments are not doing anything to prevent profiteering.
– Largely because they have Legislative Councils comprised of representatives of the profiteering class. The arguments used and statements made this afternoon show conclusively that there is an absolute necessity for an alteration of the Constitution to give the Federal Parliament greater powers. No one questions Senator de Largie’s statement, or his quotation of Mi”. Deakin’s opinion, that the Commonwealth Parliament has absolute power to manufacture its own requirements.
– .That is only an opinion, and has never been tested.
– The Commonwealth Government has unlimited power to manufacture goods for their own requirements.
Sitting suspended from 639 to 8 p.m.
– Before moving an amendment I propose making the position a little clearer in connexion with the manufacture of tweeds. The information concerns tweed manufacturers solely, and has nothing to do with warehousemen, tailors, or middlemen. Colonial-made tweeds have advanced in price only to the extent of 40 per cent. since the outbreak of war, whilst the advance in the price of wool and wages hasalso been approximately 40 per cent. The prices of colonial-made tweeds sold wholesale in Sydney to-day range from 6s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. per yard, and approximately 3½ yards are required to make a suit of clothes.Consequently, the wholesale cost of cloth for a suit made from Australian manufactured tweeds ranges from £1 for the lower quality to 35s. for the very best. That is a rise of about 40 per cent. on pre-war prices, which ranged from 14s. for anything now selling at 20s., and about 25s. for the quality now selling at 35s. Therefore, the rise in the price of colonial tweeds sufficient to make a suit of clothes is about 6s. for the lower grade and 10s. for the higher grade. Whatever the price of a suit of clothes may be at the present time, it is not the fault of the local manufacturer, because the extent of his profiteering ranges from 6s. to 10s. per suit, and as a set-off against that advance it must be remembered that his raw material and wages bill has advanced 40 per cent. His plant has also been working two or three shifts per day, and the wear and tear has consequently been greater, whilst the price of textile machinery is three or four times greater than before the war. That is the position from the manufacturer’s stand-point. I am unable to follow the matter up to the man who completes a suit of clothes, and probably some of the additional cost is caused by the extra price of trimmings. The fundamental cause of the increase in price is because we make only one-third of the cloth we use, and import the other two-thirds. There has also been a general increase in the cost of tailoring, and a considerable increase in the price charged for trimmings. I am not sure whether the whole of the cost of making clothes is not based upon the price of imported cloth, which is not 6s. for the lower grade and 10s. for the higher grade, but ranges from £3 to £5 per suit. Ourtweed manufacturing industry has not yet developed to the point where we can supply all our requirements. If all our cloth were made in Australia, and supplied at the prices
I have quoted, we could not only clothe ourselves, but do it at nearly half the prices at present charged.
– It is to be regretted that Senator Pratten is so reticent that he will not supply the information the Committee desire. . His apologia on behalf of the manufacturers does not throw any light on the subject, and, instead of telling us the price obtained per yard by the manufacturers, he should have explained why there is such a wide margin between the price charged by the manufacturer and thatasked by the retailer of the completed article. We have been told that the manufacturer gets his raw material at a lower price than any other manufacturer in the world. We are supplying the industry with wool at 13d. per lb. - it cannot be obtained elsewhere at anything like that price - and fully 90 per cent. of the raw material is composed of wool supplied at a very low cost. It would be interesting if Senator Pratten, or some other honorable senator, would enlighten the Committee and explain the difference in prices. If the consumers are not to derive some benefit it would be better to send our wool overseas and sell it at a higher price, because the producers and the Government would both benefit. If Senator Pratten wishes to throw any light on the subject he should supply the information repeatedly asked for.
– Senator Pratten has submitted samples of Australian tweeds, and quoted prices charged by the manufacturers, and to-morrow I will show honorable senators a pair of trousers made from some tweed that came straight from the mill, whose prices were quoted by Senator Pratten, to the shop, for which I was charged 35s.
– You secured them at a cheap price.
– According to the figures quoted they should have been 15s. instead of 35s.
SenatorReid. - The tailors could not sell at the lower price and pay union wages.
– Wages have not gone up 40 per cent. There is not a firm which has raised the wages of its employees to that extent. There is not one award by the Arbitration Court which has increased wages 40 per cent. during the period of the war. On the contrary, men have been struggling for five years without being able to secure any redress. Many of them have not received a penny by way of additional wages. It is ridiculous for honorable senators to suggest that wages have been increased by 40 per cent.
– There has recently been a heavy award in the clothing trade.
– The men engaged in the clothing trade in Melbourne have not had an advance in their wages for two years.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong. There has been an award applicable to the whole of Australia within the past month. I had” it extended to our Commonwealth factory within the last week.
– I do not know what sort of wages the Government pay, seeing that they can produce a suit of clothes for our soldiers for 30s. - a suit which is good enough for anything. As a matter of fact, I nave ascertained that the contract price from the factory in Bourke-street is 29s. 6d. I also obtained full particulars from the Defence Department, and I learn that out of that amount about 6s. is allowed for workmen’s wages. I repeat that there has been no increase of 40 per cent. , in the wages of any employees in Australia.
– The seamen’s wages have gone up by 70 or 80 per cent. since the war started.
– And did not they deserve the increase? We all know that profiteering is rampant in our midst. Senator Pratten himself admits it. Nobody doubts where that profiteering is going on. It is the individual who does no work at all, and who never sees the goods which he sells - the man who, perhaps, has a typewriter and a clerk - who is the profiteer. The indent agents are the excrescences on the social system of this and other countries. They are the men who are profiteering. There is only one way in which to overcome this evil, namely, by organization, by preventing six men from doing the work which could be accomplished by one. A little while ago Senator Millen spoke of seeing six shops in one short street all doing the same class of business. Why, in the street in which I live there are nineteen bakers’ carts every morning, notwithstanding that all the customers there could well be supplied by one. It is idle for Senator Pratten to tell us that the woollen manufacturers have not made a lot of money out of the war. They have, and they have admitted it. Anybody who chooses to read the report of the Inter-State Commission’s inquiry will see that. They have told that body what their profits have been, and also what their profits would have been if they had not watered their stock.
– The importers’ profits have been bigger than those of the Australian manufacturers.
– The price of the locally manufactured article has been raised to the level of that of the imported article.
– Who has done that? Certainly not the manufacturer.
– We are at the commencement of a great trade war. We know that there are men who are busily engaged in forming organizations with a view to keeping British articles off markets that they have held for years. These men are settling the prices to be charged for the different commodities, and are informing those interested in the trade that if they do not join the Combine they will be sorry - that means they will be crushed. Our manufacturers are therefore falling into line. Werequire some strong Government measure to grapple with the whole situation. We cannot get that in Australia to-day, because we have a divided Government. The people who own the woollen mills and who have sent their samples here have made enormous profits during the war. That fact is upon record. Yet the increased cost of the raw materials in a suit of clothes as compared with pre-war days is only1s. 9d. If anybody is to get an increased profit, I should like to see the wool-grower get it.
– Will Senator Pratten guarantee that any of us can get’ a suit of clothes at the prices marked on the samples which he has produced ?
– No. I know that those mills turn out good material. But it is idle for us to waste time in discussing this matter. We have to wait till the “ Government “ comes back. He will be here next Saturday. He is going to fight the profiteers.
– He is going to shoot them.
– Why waste time in worrying as to who are the profiteers. He will find them. Profiteering is .going on all over the world, and it must be stopped. It ought to be stopped in Australia sooner than anywhere else, but, unfortunately, we have not the constitutional power to enable us _ to deal with it at present.
– There has been a good deal of wild talk during this debate, and much of it has been due to the fact that some honorable senators did not know what they were talking about. Anybody who ch 00663 to turn up the official reports of the Inter-State Commission’s inquiries will learn that, since the outbreak of war, the clothing factories in Australia have been fully occupied. Before the war the mills were not constantly employed, and the turnover of the mill-owners - at any rate, so- far as tweeds were concerned - was not commensurate with their outlay. But as soon as the Government took possession of the mills, and began to manufacture flannels for our soldiers, those mills were kept fully employed, and mw of them paid a dividend, which they had not paid before. When the Government had accumulated sufficient supplies, the mills were returned to the manufacturers. Senator Pratten has produced samples of various materials of local manufacture. Certainly there is nothing extortionate about the prices of those materials. But from the stand-point of quality these Australian goods cannot be compared with the imported articles.
– They are better.
– They are not so good. There is more wool in them, but they lack the stiffening which is characteristic of the imported articles.
– They do not contain the worsted.
– We make as good worsted as is manufactured in any part of the world. But if these goods were put before a. customer in a shop, in ninetynine cases out of one hundred he would prefer the imported article, in spite of its higher price.
– Which will wear the better?
– The two articles cannot be compared. The local cloth when made up into a suit bags at the knees and elbows, the collar of the coat wears down, and the suit goes to pieces.
– That does not matter to the working man.
– Working men are much more particular about their dress than are a good many of the so-called “ dressy “ people.
– Not when going to work.
– For wear at work a man usually buys “ slops.” The manufacturer who produces the material which has been shown here this evening does so at a fail- figure. From the stand-point of texture and price his product compares favorably with the material which is produced at the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, at Geelong. At those mills, which possess up-to-date machinery, and are run by a capable manager, the price of the cloth manufactured varies from 10s. 6d. to 6s. 6d. per yard. But if one goes to a wholesale house, he will find that be has to pay from 15s. 6d. to 22s. 6d. fr yard for it. That is the price which t’ e tailor has to pay. Every honorable senator knows that in most little townships th-pro is a tailor who is not in a position to carry any stock of cloth. He has to depend on the wholesale houses in the city tosupply him with up-to-date patterns, which, by the way, are a rather expensive item. The purchaser of a suit of clothes from him selects the material he desires from amongst those patterns, and ‘ the tailor then sends to the wholesale house for it. He has to run a long line of credit with a wholesale house, because the majority of his customers for suits do not pay him until they are compelled to do so. Tailors have to oblige their customers, and the wholesale houses have then to stand behind them and keep them going. I can speak with twenty years’ experience of the business, and if I told honorable senators how tailors are bled by the’.r customers, they would not have so much to say about the high prices charged for suits at the present time. Customers who pay their tailors have to make good the debts of those who do not pay them. If all the tailor’s customers paid for their suits he could supply them much more cheaply. Honorable senators may smile, but the item of bad debts is a- very serious item in the clothing business. If I were to tell honorable senators the number of nien who went to the Front with debts owing to their tailors, they would be astonished. These men joined the ranks of our soldiers,, and could not be followed up, and many thousands of pounds owing to tailors in Australia by men who went to the Front will never be recovered. I have asked merchants why they charged me such high prices for goods, and they have been unable to give a satisfactory answer. There is a big margin between the mill price and the price of the wholesale house. I may inform honorable senators that the woollen mills of Australia, by being able to get all the wool they require in this country at the price fixed, have received a gift of no less than £29,315 14s. Id. That should have been a b.’.g encouragement to them to carry on and produce a good article.
Very high prices are charged to day for imported woollen goods/ and yet honorable senators call it profiteering when they are asked to pay £10 10s. or £12 12s. for a suit. One merchant showed me his bills of lading, his landing and warehouse charges, and proved that he was not so well off as in pre-war days, because of the. high prices charged for imported material. What the English manufacturers of woollen goods are doing I do not know.
– The fact is that some are not manufacturing at the present time at all.
– Many of the wholesale houses in charging such high prices as they do for imported goods cannot be accused of deliberate profiteering. They will show you the goods, and you can take them at the 1)11-ce they quote or leave them. Some houses are two years behind in their orders, and yet the warehouses in the Old Country will not accept fresh orders from them. I do not say there is not some profiteering going on, but it is nob anything like what honorable senators would have us believe when they talk of suits costing them from £10 10s. to £14 14s. On almost every shipment of imported woollen goods there has been a rise of 2s. or 3s. per yard since the war began, and many in the trade would be only too glad to see prices brought down to the rates which prevailed under normal conditions before the war. Local manufacturers of woollen goods have been getting their wool at the flat rate of ls. 1½d. per lb. I agree that the wool-growers have been doing exceedingly well, but T will admit that as a class, in view of the fact that, under other conditions they night have obtained a great deal more for their wool, because there has been a world’s demand for it, they have, speaking broadly and generally, been very patriotic in their dealings with the Wool Pool. They have shown a patriotic spirit in making no complaint about a flat rate of ls. 3£d. per lb. for their wool when they know that in other countries wool has been fetching a very much higher price.
I will say in answer to Senator Bakhap that the worsted turned out at the Government mills for naval officers’ suits is a very good material of blue serge with a guaranteed indigo dye. The mill manager told me that he allowed for his percentage on those goods. They are the best of cloth, weighing 16 ozs. to the yard, and are sold at lis. 6d. per yard. Imported material no better in quality is sold in many places in Melbourne at from 27s 6d. to 30s. per yard. There are very few of the public or members of the Senate who could tell the difference between, imported and locally-made woollen goods. I can speak as an employer, a maker, and a traveller in the business, when I say that the average customer when he sees a decent piece of cloth takes it without any reason for his choice. He will usually pick the best piece from a bundle of patterns, although he has no technical knowledge of their quality. No one is more anxious than I am to assist local manufacturers of woollen goods. I should like to see up-to- date machinery introduced, and a bigger market for our products. If our local manufacturers and the wholesale people would come together with a desire to bolster up Australian industry, an impetus would be given to the trade which would keep it on its feet. I am in a position to inform honorable senators that in one of our mills last week they refused an order for 600 pieces of cloth because they were full up for the next twelve months, and they would not even entertain an order for the delivery of those goods six months hence.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– A curious discussion, characteristic of the times, has been tacked on to the consideration of clause 6 of the Bill. I am reminded by the remarks, that have been made of a statement attributed to Mr. Lloyd George, and published in the press within the last week or so, to the effect that every one is blaming every one else for the evils of the times. In my view it particularly concerns legislators in times like the present that, in good Australian vernacular, they should “ keep their blocks.” I am not, perhaps, personally qualified to deal technically with the subject that has been discussed on .this clause, but I have lately made some investigations under the auspices of Senator Mulcahy, who is an expert in the clothing trade, and has been associated with it in a very large way for nearly forty years. Quite recently the honorable senator and I went to the Commonwealth Clothing Factory, and I saw there very much that I admired. The system seemed to be excellent, and was easily understood by me as an outsider knowing no more of the trade than the price he has to pay for a suit of clothes. I obtained much information which throws light on the alleged profiteering. The manager of the factory stated that he made allowance for this, that, and the other in the ordinary commercial sense, and yet was able to provide for our soldiers a suit of ready-made standardized clothes at a cost of 27s. 6d. over all, plus, I think, ls. lOd. for a travelling cap. The soldier on entering into civilian life is thus able to secure a suit which, in the circumstances, may be regarded as a very good one, and at a very reasonable price. It is made of all wool, and as Senator Mulcahy, as an expert, acknowledged, is very well finished. But honorable senators should remember that these suits are ready-made, standardized suits made in certain sizes. They will find at the Factory fifty, sixty, or seventy folds of cloth, and a machine cutting from them fifty, sixty, or seventy pairs of trousers all of one size. Honorable senators do not purchase suits made in that way. That is not the kind of suit that the working man likes to wear. I am a working man, and I say that there is no one more particular regarding the Pt and set of a suit of clothes than is the hard-working man who has a few pounds in his pocket. Honorable senators do not wear these standardized suits.
– I draw the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that wo are dealing with sheep skins.
– I claim the same latitude as has been extended to other members of the Committee. They have been discussing clothes.
– Exactly; but I want to get the Bill through.
– Probably we shall have to wear sheepskins before it is all over. An honorable senator who wants a suit of clothes does not buy a standardized outfit. If he prefers a ready-made suit he can be accommodated in many an establishment at a price not greatly exceeding the quotation for the output of the Commonwealth Factory. Those soldier suits have not all been made in the Commonwealth Factory. There are other factories, which have been provided with the cloth and have turned out large orders. What does an honorable senator do when he requires a new suit? He goes to some place in the city which is paying a high rental, and he is met by an obsequious and courtly gentleman, who is adorned with a tape hanging over his shoulder. He is ushered into a cosy little room with plate-glass mirrors all round. That luxurious sort of thing has to be paid for, and the honorable senator makes his contribution when he buys his suit. Does he expect to get all those extras for nothing ? There is nothing ready made about this place of business. A tape is run over the honorable senator’s Apollo-like form. The measurements are carefully set down upon a card or in a book. The cloth which he has chosen is not cut in any wholesale fashion, but is fashioned individually by a highly-paid person, who probably receives a salary in excess of that earned by the honorable senator himself. There is nothing wholesale about the putting together of this suit. It involves an individual operation from beginning to end. I dispute the assertion that any one pays £12 12s. for a suit of the same quality as the returned soldier’s 27s. 6d. ready-made. The man who pays £12 12s. is buying’ an imported material, and there is no locally-made cloth like it. In Bourke-street one may purchase a dress suit for £14 14s., but the cloth in that suit was not made in Australia. How do we know that profiteering is going on? I do not expect any one to run a business at a loss, whether it be a butcher’s shop, a tailoring establishment, a lolly shop, or an out-back farm. I like to see people making reasonable profits. I am up against this socalled profiteering business in any general sense. I object to the “ cornering “ of any commodity, but I like to know that the people of Australia are making good profits, no matter what may be their walk of life., Because an individual makes a profit should. I be fool enough to join in the outcry of “profiteer” and “villain ” 1 If I were to start a business tomorrow, and were to have so little regard for profit making as to land myself in the Bankruptcy Court, would I deserve anybody’s sympathy? Would I get it?’ But if I were to make a profit, should I not object to being denounced as a villain ? There is a shortage of most valuable and necessary commodities throughout the world. The Premier of Italy, the other day, told the Italian people that they could not expect cheap articles of food, seeing that 1,250,000 acres of the soil of Italy had gone out of cultivation since the outbreak of the war.
What does the returned soldier very often do as soon as possible after receiving his civilian issue? He sells it; then he proceeds to a tailoring establishment, where he is measured, for an individual suit, for which he pays with the money secured from the bartering of his standard suit. All this wild talk with respect to our being charged £10 10s. and £12 12s. for a suit similar to the 30s. Commonwealth Factory ready-made is so much nonsense. The suit supplied to the returned soldier, although admirable in itself, is not very much cheaper than any similar ready-to-wear suit purchasable in any city in Australia. Let us discuss the whole matter, then, without frothing at the mouth about profiteering.
– We are all profiteers. The trouble today is that prices for commodities generally can be fixed to the advantage of the manufacturer and producer, but that, at the same time, wages are not automatically raised. After listening to some honorable senators, one might be excused for arriving at the conclusion that profiteers will be hard to find in Australia. According to some of those honorable senators who have spoken to-day, everything in the world of trade and commerce is fair and legitimate. When we buy things we are not really adding to the hoards of ‘the profiteers, but are merely paying the true value for every article we purchase! I have inspected the samples of tweeds which Senator Pratten has shown to the Committee. There is no better woollen material in the world than that manufactured from our Aus.tralian wool. The price which it commands in the American market proves that. In Australia, however, Ave are prone to depreciate the value of our own products. We say, or we hear, that the cloth produced in the Commonwealth is not- fit for making into suits, even for working men. I have been in the trade for thirty or forty years. I have known something of woollen materials since I was about twelve years old. I have had to do with all classes of wool and tweeds, imported and locally manufactured. Honorable senators will be surprised, perhaps, to know that the Albion Woollen Mills turned out material from our own wool which was sold in Flinders-lane, not as colonial cloth, but as the best West of England and the best French material. Of course, it was charged for accordingly, and the people unsuspectingly paid. Victorian whisky has been sold in a Brisbane club as the best imported spirits, and those who drank it, no doubt, smacked their lips over this excellent imported liquor.
I have witnessed the process of manufacture in our Commonwealth Woollen Mills. Some of the tweeds turned out from our own grown wool are equal to anything imported, and the cost was only 5s. 9d. per yard. The cost of some of the material from which the samples on the table of the Senate were cut would be about 10s. 6d. per yard. After the addition of 25 per cent. by the wholesaler, a tailor should be able to turn out a suit for from £4 5s. to £4 10s., and make a satisfactory profit. Suits cut by £12aweek tailors are not made for working men. They are “built” for people who do no work. The ordinary cutter does not make a higher salary than an honorable senator. He is usually paid from £5 to £6 a week. In the Commonwealth Factory that is the prevailing wage for cutters.
– But every soldier is not measured for his suit.
– Measurement is not . everything. The materials from which the samples shown by Senator Pratten were cut can be turned into suits for £4 10s., and the tailor can make a good profit.
To say that there is no profiteering is
Absurd. Mr. Hughes is evidently not of the opinion that profiteering does not exist. He recently stated that profiteering was responsible for Bolshevism. He also said he was going to deal with profiteers and Bolsheviks. If he deals with the profiteers he may find that they are the Bolsheviks. If he intends to shoot all the profiteers-
– There will be nobody left in Australia.
– The honorable senator will be left.
– No; I am out for profits.
– The honorable senator gets well paid for the work he does here. There are honorable senators who disparage Australian-made goods, and who prefer to praise imported manufactures. Until we change this attitude About our own goods, we shall not accomplish much. It is absurd to say we -cannot produce goods of a satisfactory quality from wool which the markets of the world are glad to get hold of. Prom the remarks of some honorable senators, one would think that we ought to be very careful before we talk about profiteering. Evidently there is an attempt to make it believed that there is not a great deal of profiteering going on at all; but when we look around and see the prices of various articles, and find that the sovereign has a purchasing power of only about 12s. now, it is evident that something is amiss. When I was in Sydney last week, I was informed that when the embargo was lifted off hides, they were purchased and repurchased for export, I believe to Germany; with the result that we shall be called upon to pay very much more for our boots in future. The sooner we realize the true position, the better it will be, so that something may be done to insure that the working man shall be able .to secure the full results of his labour, instead of being robbed, as at present.
– I desire to make one or two observations with regard to other subsidiary businesses connected with this, the greatest of our primary products. Tine fellmongering industry is wrapped up with the question of wool. Generally, it can he fairly said that, under this scheme, the wool-scourers have had more work than before, and that the present position is fairly satisfactory. But at Botany, unfortunately, a good many hundreds of men have been out of work, though I am’ glad to say that quite recently matters have .revived somewhat, and at present in this industry there is not much cause for complaint. I should like to remind the Minister that in his second-reading speech he stated that we were treating now about 75 per cent, of the sheepskins in Australia, as against 25 per cent, before the Wool and Skin Pool was created. I do not know where the Minister gets his figures from , but I am hopeful, in view of his pronouncement, that, if the figures were perhaps a bit exaggerated, the controllers of the Wool Pool will see to it that from now on at least 75 per cent, of the sheepskins will be fellmongered in Australia.
– If 1 said 75 per cent., I made an error. The’ figures were 25 per cent, prior to- the war, and 69 per cent, last year.
– That does not essentially touch my contention. I hope that those in charge of the administration of the Wool Pool will see to it that these figures are maintained, because, so far as I can ascertain, out of approximately 3.000,000 sheep slaughtered in New South Wales during the first eleven months of this statistical year, at least 1,250,000 skin3 were exported. I am not complaining even of these figures. I am just drawing the Minister’s attention to the fact that the administration of the Wool and Sheepskin Pool should be urged to give as much work as possible to the fellmongeries of Australia.
I have a much more serious complaint to make with respect to the position of the wool- top industry. There is a case before the Court in connexion with agreements and accounts, and as it is sub judice, one’s (remarks, even about the industry itself, must be governed by good taste. I should like to say, however, that whatever may be the rights or wrongs of the present dispute, it seems almost a tragedy for Australia and the development of our secondary industries, that at Botany to-day there are literally acres of the finest wool top-making machinery lying idle. We have had an interesting discussion on textiles, and have been convinced that had we been in a position to manufacture the whole of our woollens, the cost of living in Australia, so far as a suit of clothes is concerned, would have been materially reduced. ‘We are suffering now, owing to the somewhat elementary position of the industry, which uses only about 3 per cent, of the total wool clip. There are only twenty-four mills in Australia, when work might be found for seventy-two, and owing to the elementary position of the industry we are called upon to pay extortionate prices for our imported clothing. Consequently it is an added pity that this rapidly developing wool-top manufacturing industry has had such a set-back. I am not going into the merits of the administration of the wool scheme » by the Central Committee, but I . am going to say, more in sorrow than in anger, that one great blot on the administration is the present position of the wool-top industry. The following resolution was carried’ at a meeting of the executive council of the Chamber of Manufactures in Melbourne on the 21st July, and was forwarded to Senator Millen: -
That, in the opinion of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, it is a matter of vital national importance that the wool-scouring, top-manufacturing, and woolspinning industries should not only be preserved, but extended, by due provision in the Bill “ for an Act relating to the commercial activities carried on by the Commonwealth in time of war.”
I have bean through the Bill very carefully, and I do not see that we can alter the text to the extent of being able to come right into line with the resolution, with which I believe every honorable senator agrees; but I believe that, in the administration of the wool scheme, a great deal can be done to get over the impasse that exists in connexion with that industry. It will be remembered that in 1907 the Federal Parliament passed a Bill giving a bounty on the manufacture of wool tops for export. The bounty was paid for some years, and the industry, starting from nothing, in the seventh year of its existence was responsible for the manufacture of 3,635,000 lbs. of wool-tops, a result that fully justified the payment of tie bounty. A sum of, I believe” nearly £70,000 was paid by the Government to the various top manufacturers. I am sneaking now particularly of New South Wales, where, as I have said, there are acres of idle machinery, and where about 500 or 600 persons are out of work in consequence of the dispute. I would like to show the incidence of this dispute so far as it . affects not only the industry at Botany and the mon out of work there, but the wealth of Australia itself. In 1914-15 over 4,000,000 lbs. of wool tops were exported from New South Wales; in 1915-16 and 1916-17 nearly 5,000,000 lbs. were exported in each year; and in 1917-18 a little over 4,500,000 lbs. were exported. Owing to the unfortunate position which has arisen in connexion with the industry, only 2,200,000 lbs. were exported ‘in 1918-19. If this unfortunate dispute had not arisen, the exports from New South Wales last year and this year would have approximated nearly 10,000,000 lbs., instead of a little over 2,000,000 lbs. The manufacturer of wool tops adds, roughly, ls. per lb., in labour, and doubles the value of greasy wool. Although I shall be met with a reply that there are other factories manufacturing wool tops, I have been given to understand that another factory in Sydney operating in agreement with the Central Wool Committee is doing about .1,000,000 lbs. per year, and that the Yarraville mills, recently started, are also working in a comparatively small way. The largest factory, at Botany, which could practically treble the export of wool tops, is in a state of idleness, and it is regrettable that the capital invested, and the machinery erected, should not be fully employed.
– And the operatives have been locked out for months past.
– I do not wish to go. into the technical rights and wrongs, ‘ but to look at the matter from a broad national stand-point. I believe that if that industrial dispute continues it will mean a loss, in. the aggregate, of approximately £1,000,000 per annum to Australia.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I do not intend to go into the merits or demerits of the dispute in New South Wales, but the Government regret that such a well-equipped establishment should be lying idle. I have personally inspected the plant and machinery, and consider the whole undertaking to be a credit to Australia. In connexion with the f ellmongering industry, I wish to correct a previous statement, made in answer to Senator Pratten, by quoting the fol- l owing figu res : -
There is a drop in the export of sheepskins from 10,948,232 to 2,172, 176, as the percentage exported in 1917-18 was 27, and that treated locally 73. In 1913 we exported 74.5 per cent., and treated locally 25.4 per cent., showing that very material progress had been made. Whatever disputes may be in existence, there is not the slightest doubt that the Wool Pool has been of distinct benefit to the fellmongering industry of Australia.
– That is impossible if the factories are closed.
– Factories are being established all over Australia, and although there are two magnificent establishments in Victoria, the conditions obtaining here are apparently not acceptable in Sydney. I have a comparative statement of the product of fellmongering operations within the Commonwealth and appraised during the seasons 1917-18 and . 1918-19, which reads -
That is a complete answer, and shows the beneficial results derived from this industry.
– That is for scoured wool.
– I am dealing with the fellmongering industry.
– You are not speaking of wool tops?
– No. There are at least three firms working in cooperation, on a poundage basis. Owing to war conditions, the price of wool tops overseas was very high, and was controlled by Great Britain. The excess profits, instead of going to the fellmongering establishments or wool top manufacturers, have gone to the Commonwealth Pool and on to the producers. Despite any criticism to the contrary, the Wool Pool has been of great benefit to Australia.
.- I am glad to hear the pronouncement of the Minister that both he and the other members of the Cabinet regret that a dispute has arisen in Sydney in connexion with the wool-top industry. I wish to read one or two extracts from Hansard in connexion with the administration of the Wool Pool. On 6th December, 1916, the Prime Minister said -
All interests involved, including those of the manufacturer, scourer, and fellmonger, have been taken into consideration and safeguarded. It is the intention of the Government to retain from the clip a quantity of wool sufficient for the purposes of the Commonwealth, and also to send overseas as much scoured wool as possible in order that employment may be given to our own men’.
With that we all agree. On 14th December he said -
The idea is to have the treatment of the wool as far as possible to its ultimate form carried out in Australia.
On 15th December of the same year he stated -
There is no control vested in anybody but the
On 18th December, 1916, again quoting from Hansard, the Prime Minister said -
I saw the Chairman’ of the Board on Friday last, and discussed with him the various questions that had been raised here. I told him that the policy of the Government was to interfere as little as was absolutely necessary with the ordinary transaction of business, and he said that that would be attended to.
We all agree with the utterances of the Prime Minister. The industry in Sydney, now closed down, had an agreement with the Commonwealth Government whereby they would take two-thirds of the profits, and the industry one-third.
It was further agreed, that the one-third of the profits so retained by the manufacturers were to be expended in additional machinery. I wish to commend the Prime Minister for establishing the Pool during very dark days, and for his utterances which I have just quoted in connexion with its administration. The Prime Minister appointed a Committee, and was responsible for the organization of the Pool, mid wherever the Committee departed from the Prime Minister’s ideas they went wrong. If these industries are firmly established and work satisfactorily, it will mean increasing our wealth by at least £1,000,000 sterling per annum. We want to push on with the development of our textile industries, and in the manufacture of wool to,ps we must not lose sight of what is going on in Sydney, where 500 to 600 persons are out of work, and where valuable machinery is lying idle. I appeal to the Government to take this matter into consideration at a very early date. In, doing so I do not wish to say an unkind word about the past, but merely to put the position in the form of a business-like appeal. Seeing that the same principle is involved in the suggested amendment as was involved in a previous- amendment, I should like an assurance from the Minister in regard to the Butter Pool similar to that which he has given in regard to wool.
– I have already said that we intend to introduce no new principle, but merely to make any new regulations which may be deemed to be essential to enable present contracts to be completed.
– In consonance with the Bill ?
.- I move-
That the following new sub-clause bo added: - “ (4) Notwithstanding anything appearing to the contrary in any Act or regulation or agreement, all books, vouchers, and documents in the possession or under the control of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited, and Whiddon Brothers Limited, and relating to the purchase, manufacture, and/or sale of the sheepskins, wool, and wool tops referred to in any agreement made or to be made with the said companies by or on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, shall be produced to the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth, who shall inspect, audit, and examine such books, vouchers, and documents; and shall from time t© time prepare and sign a report for submission through the Treasurer to both Houses of the-Parliament. And the said companies shall facilitate in every way the checking by the said Auditor-General by a continuous audit of all calculations made by the said companies in ascertaining the net earnings of the companies for the purposes of any agreement. It shall ‘be the duty of the Auditor-General to decide what amounts should ‘bc credited and debited in order to ascertain the net earnings of the companies, and his decision shall be final and binding on both parties. The Auditor-General ‘may disallow any items, and such items shall bc omitted from the accounts. The Auditor-General may by writing under his hand appoint any person to exercise such powers and perform such duties of the Auditor-General under this. Act as he thinks fit.
The Auditor-General of the Commonwealth or. his officers shall inspect, audit, and examine the books, vouchers, and documents of all persons, firms, or companies having contracts with the Central Wool Committee.”
It will be recognised, I think, that the principle of shedding as much daylight as possible upon all transactions involving Government control is a very sound one. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has been good enough to assure us that in connexion with the sugar contract, all accounts are open to a full audit. The practice of having these, accounts submitted to the Auditor-General is undeniably a wise one. Without traversing the ground covered by the representations which have been made, I submit the amendment in the hope that the Minister will be able to accept it.
– Whilst the principle of submitting .accounts in connexion with Government activities to the Auditor-General is a perfectly sound one, the fact must not be lost sight of that this particular Department is a very big one, and that we cannot always get the type of commercial man that we require in it. The AuditorGeneral was very glad to relieve himself of the duty which would otherwise have been cast upon him, but it was essential that we should secure the services of a man with a knowledge of this particular business. The contract between the companies provides for an independent audit, and the conditions of such audit are very complete. They set out that -
In all contracts - past and present- ‘between the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving
Company Limited and Whiddon Brothers Limited, provisionhas been made for an independent auditor to inspect, examine books, audit accounts, and prepare balance-sheets and reports for submission to the Central Wool Committee. The appointment of the auditor - Mr. G. Mason Allard - has been confirmed by the Prime Minister, and no alteration can now tie made without committing breaches of agreements.
That Mr. G. Mason Allard is a suitable and proper person to conduct such work is confirmed by the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth, who is prepared to acknowledge Mr. Allard as the auditor for the before-mentioned companies, as stated in the following letter: -
Commonwealth of Australia.
Department of the Treasury,
Melbourne, 25th April,1918.
Memorandum for -
Prime Minister’s Department.
On the6th November last the late Trea surer addressed to the Prime Minister a Setter dealing with the audit of accounts of the firms who are manufacturing wool tops. A letter has now been received from the Auditor-General, in which he states he is prepared to formally appoint Mr. George Mason, Allard to act on his behalf in making Audits.
Mr. Allard will also be required to certify to statements and prepare reports for the Auditor-General.
The Auditor-General considers that the alternative course, namely, for one of the Audit Office staff to make inspections from time to time, would be inadvisable.
The Treasurer concurs in the appointment of Mr. Allard as suggested, if no objection is raised by the Central Wool Committee or by your Department. (Sgd.) C. J. Cerutty,
Therefore Senator Ferricks will see that Mr. Allard was really nominated and approved by the Auditor-General himself. Bat it is a condition of the contract that an independent auditor should be appointed, and it is undesirable to disregard that condition. T can give the Committee further information as to the method of Mr. Allard ‘s selection. This is how it was brought about. On the 2nd April, 1917, the Central Wool Committee approached the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, soliciting has assistance in the appointment of a highly-qualified accountant, and on the 20th idem, Mr. Denison Miller recommended Mr. G. Mason Allard for the position. Mr. Allard is a Fellow of the Australasian. Corporation of Public Accountants, a member of the general council of that body, and also a member of the New South. Wales State Council, and chairman of the examination committee. Mr. Allard attended a meeting of the Central Wool Committee on 3rd May, 1917. His credentials were such that the recommendation was approved by the Committee, and the appointment confirmed by the Prime Minister, the Hon. W. M. Hughes. The conditions embodied in the present contract cannot be altered. In the circumstances, I ask Senator Ferricks not to press his amendment.
.- While Mr. Mason Allard’s appointment was approved by the AuditorGeneral, I merely wish to point out that the placing of responsibility upon the Auditor-General did not mean placing responsibility upon him personally, but merely upon a member of his staff.
– The work of the Auditor-General’s staff has probably trebled during the past five years.
– It would be well to have all accounts in connexion with Government activities under Commonwealth control. I admit that the assumption of responsibility by the Auditor-General has removed a good deal of my objection to the procedure adopted on this occasion.
– It seems to me that the audit provided in the contract is an audit as between the two parties to it. One of these parties is the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited, and the other is the Central Wool Committee. I understand that some time after the Wool Committee had entered into the contract with this company, the Auditor-General, by memorandum or letter, explicitly complained that he was not permittedto audit the accounts of the company in its relation to the Commonwealth. It was pointed out by Sir John Higgins, the Chairman of the Board, that the contract to which Senator Russell has referred provided for the appointment of an independent auditor as between the parties to it. That is all right. But where do the public, and where does this Parliament, come in? Does Mr. Allard report the result of his audit to Parliament? Have the public ever been furnished with any details by him? Nobody questions his qualifications. He holds a very high position ia his profession as an accountant in New South Wales. But Sir John Higgins, adopting the czar-like attitude which has characterized so many of his performances, practically said to the late Treasurer, Lord. Forrest, and to the Commonwealth Auditor-General, “ Stand back. I have arranged for an audit of the accounts as between the Central Wool Committee and F. W. Hughes and Company. Keep off the grass.” That was the attitude which he took up. He did succeed in getting an auditor appointed as between the Central Wool Committee and the otherparty to the contract. But what I apprehend Senator Ferricks is aiming at is that the accounts of this company in its relation to the ‘Central Wool Committee shall be audited by the Auditor-General and his staff, and that the result of such audits shall be reported to this Parliament, and through it, to the people of Australia. Unless some more substantial reason is advanced in opposition to the amendment, I feel disposed to support it, should Senator Ferricks press it to a division. Senator Bussell has shown us that an audit is provided for as between the two (parties to the contract. But that is root satisfactory to this Parliament. It should not be satisfactory either to this Parliament or to the public. I kuow that it was stated in another place that when Lord Forrest, as Treasurer, and Mr. Israel, as Auditor-General, proposed that the Auditor-General, through his Department, should examine and report upon these accounts, Sir John Higgrns prevented it, and pointed out. as Senator Russell has done to-night, that Mr. Allard is a very competent auditor, and he would not, therefore, permit Mr. Israel or Lord Forrest to interfere in the matter. There may have been some understanding arrived at since, but if that is still the state of affairs, I shall stand by the amendment submitted by Senator Ferricks, and will insist that the Commonwealth Government shall have these accounts investigated by the AuditorGeneral’s Department as accounts in which the Government and the people are directly involved. It matters little that Mr. Allard is a man possessing an intimate knowledge of the particular industry concerned, because it will not be pretended for a moment that he will personally examine the stock of the company, and investigate the entries in their books. He will leave that to his staff. I am prepared to admit that if the AuditorGeneral is charged with the duty of auditing theseaccounts, he probably will not perf orm the duty in person, but will nominate some member of his staff for the work. But it will not be contended that the staff at the command of the AuditorGeneral of the Commonwealth is not equal, in capacity for this particular work, to the staff employed by Mr. Allard or any other accountant in New South Wales. We should be given some more satisfactory explanation than that which we have had from the Minister in charge of this Bill before we agree to put this particular contract outside the class of enterprises in which the Commonwealth Government are interested, and in respect of which this Parliament and the public demand investigation by the accredited Auditor-General of the Commonwealth or his staff.
– I agree with all that Senator Keating has said, but I was discussing one question whilst he discussed a wider question. I asked Senator Ferricks what was the scope of his amendment, and he agreed that it referred to this particular contract. Senator Keating has spoken as if the responsibility of the AuditorGeneral were interfered with in some way or other. But that is not so. Provision is made for a special continuous audit of the accounts under the contract. I do not suppose that Mr. Allard will personally carry out the audit, but he will be responsible for the audit to the Auditor-General and to the Central Wool Committee.
– Have we ever had any of his reports?
– I am having inquiries made on the subject. I understand that the annual report and balancesheet have been laid on the table of the Senate. I hope to confirm that in a few minutes, or withdraw the statement if I find it inaccurate. The’Yarra Falls Company were supplied by the Central Wool Committee with an officer to audit their accounts. Ho was lent by the Commonwealth Audit Office. It is necessary to appoint an officer to carry out the audit of these accounts, but their reports all come into the central office, where a continuous audit of the whole of the accounts is carried out by the Auditor-General and his staff. The Auditor-General is alone responsible for the completed accounts on each of the different sections.
– I understand that the Auditor-General now takes responsibility for the appointment of Mr. Allard to audit the accounts of this company.
SenatorRUSSELL. - All the accounts of the different sections come in to the centre, and the Auditor-General has to give his certificate in connexion with them all.
– By the formal appointment ofMr. Allard in this case the Auditor-General accepts responsibility for his audit?
– Yes ; Mr. Allard has to report to the Auditor-General. The same practice is followed in connexion with the Wheat Pool. I have a good deal of sympathy with the suggestion that there should be direct control by the Auditor-General of all contracts throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth in which the Government are concerned, and there is not the slightest doubt that the accounts in this case will be controlled ultimately by the AuditorGeneral.
– Then, why not accept the amendment?
– Because that would involve an alteration of an existing contract.
. -I move -
That the following new sub-clause bo added : - “ (4.) The Government of the Commonwealth’ shall pay to the employees of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, Limited, and Whiddon Brothers Limited, twenty per cent. of the net earnings received from the said companies under agreements between the Government and the companies, the said twenty per cent. to be distributed amongst the employees in such sums and in such manner as committee of ten persons appointed by the employees may decide.”
I am given to understand that, owing to a lawsuit now before the Courts between the Government and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited there has been a closing down of the works of thecompany, and between 800and 900 hands have now been idle for a considerable time.
– A few of the hands are still working.
– I believe that very few are still working. It may be said that the proposal contained in my amendment is a very unusual one. That was the objection taken to a similar amendment moved in another place. Most of those who opposed the amendment in another place expressed sympathy with the object in view in submitting it. Under the agreement between the Central Wool Committee and the two companies referred to in my amendment, but for the lawsuit whichhas been entered upon, the Government, up to a very recent date, would have been entitled to profits amounting to £280,000. Twenty per cent. of that amount distributed, as I propose, amongst the employees of the company, would amount to something like £56,000. The big profits that have been made under the contracts with these companies are due to the fact that wool tops have been sold during the war at 6s. per lb., as against 2s. 6d. per lb., the price which they fetched before the war. A large number of the employees of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, who have been thrown out of employment, are girls, many of whom were earning very small wages, and it does not seem to me unreasonable to propose that the Government, as partners in a business which has earned such enormous profits, should recompense in some way employees of the company who have had to suffer, not because of any strike or labour trouble with which they can be charged, but merely because the Government and the company could not agree about the division of the profits. We have heard a good deal about profit-sharing, and if the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) believes in that principle I offer him, by my amendment, an ideal opportunity to put his views into practice.
– The Government, in this case, are the predominant partner.
– I have said that I understand that,up to a recent date, the Government were entitled to some £280,000 as their share of the profits under the contract, and as the result of what some people might call profiteering, since the profits were due to the fact that wool tops, selling at 2s. 6d. per lb. before the war, sold for 45s. per lb. during the war. No doubt we are all glad to find that the Government have made a profit at the expense of a foreign country. Senator Russell, with very good reason, no doubt, declined to enter into details in connexion with that phase of the question, and I shall not discuss it further. In all the circumstances I consider that the Government might very well show consideration to the employees of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company. A number of the employees were engaged in the fellmongering part of the business. I have no practical knowledge of the other work connected with flic making of wool tops, but in my. earlier years I had some practical knowledge of fellmongering. There are many pleasanter occupations. I know of no industry where the work is more disagreeable. If the Government regard my amendment unfavorably, on the ground that it is without precedent, I will not object to the Minister promising favorable consideration to the granting of an unemployment bonus to those who have been engaged in .an industry which was described as a form of war work. The grant might well be named a war bonus. The employees concerned were told at one stage that they were engaged in very useful war work.
– Ninety per cent, of their output, at least, went to Japan.
– At all events, the employees complained that they were not receiving adequate remuneration, and they were told that they were doing war work.
– By whom?
– By the Government, in conjunction with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company.
– Nothing of the sort ! That was a private concern.
– Did not the Government get the profits ?
– I deny that we did.
– Whether those employees were doing war work or not, the Government made the profits; and, seeing that profits were made, the em ployees have a right to share in them just as the farmers received a share of the profits made by the Government’s deal in cornsacks. I think I am right in stating that, some time ago, about £500,000 was divided among the cane-growers of Queensland. That was an amount of profit arising from the control and handling of sugar by the Commonwealth Government.
– No; that profitwent into the Consolidated Revenue.
– Did not the cane-growers, in one way or another, receive a large sum as their share out of the profits ?
– We made considerable donations in view of the cyclonicdisaster in Queensland.
– Hear, hear! My proposition amounts to the same thing inthe long run. That amount was divided because it emanated from profits made by the Commonwealth Government while in control of sugar. T ask the Minister tofavorably consider the amendment. Is itnot reasonable that the employees concerned should be gIVen the same consideration as the farmers in relation to the; Government’s profitable control and sale of cornsacks, and as the cane-growers with? regard to the Government’s profits out of the control and handling of sugar ?
– If it were not for the unhappy circumstance of a number of people being out of work. I would be inclined to> think that Senator O’Keefe, in presenting his amendment, intended to be humorous. No one could feel greater sympathy than I do when men are out of work. This, however, is a proposal to compensate certain employees for the reason that there is a dispute between the Commonwealth Government and the woo! top manufacturers. If compensation is to be granted to one set of individuals for such a reason. I know of people who have been thrown out of work by reason of a dispute existing between the seamen and the Commonwealth Government who arecontrolling shipping.
– Are the Government making profits out of ships? Is= the analogy at all fair?
– We did make some profit out of our control of shipping. There have been a number of requisitioned ships in regard to which some profit has been derived.
– Overseas ships?
– I have a clear recollection in regard to one overseas liner, at any rate. I refer to the Commonwealth vessel Cethana. She was sent to Tasmania to carry wheat, but a crew could not be secured. It has been said that because the Government were partners in relation to this wool top industry we were partners in the actual manufacturing business. Honorable senators may’ be interested to know that manufacturing was only incidental to the business. There was a natural monopoly’ in Japan iff regard, to wool tops, because that commodity could not be secured from any other part of the world.
– What about South Africa ? ;
– Could South Africa get freight? I had to provide fi eight from Australia to keep South Africa going with nitrates.
– Japan is manufacturing her own tops from .South African wool .
– Although our contract was begun upon the basis of a very nominal sum, it subsequently inci eased to over 100d. per lb. That was because of the natural monopoly arising from the war; and only one firm here had, at that stage, a really up-to-date plant.
Senator O’Keefe’s amendment makes reference to an amount of 20 per cent. The amount stated to be due to the Commonwealth Government for the twelve months ended 31st August, 1918, in regard to the operations of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, was £323,142 4s. 3d. Twenty per cent, of that amount is equal to £64,682 8s. lOd. The wages paid by the company for the twelve months in question totalled £63,151 18s. 9d. Therefore, the proposal of Senator O’Keefe would mean that for every £100 paid in wages to the employees a bonus of £102 would have to be granted.
– Well, make an offer. Give us something reasonable !
– The honorable senator’s proposition is not reasonable.
– I said I would accept a reduction.
– I should think the honorable senator would do so. In regard to Whiddon Brothers, the amount stated to be due to the Commonwealth Government for the twelve months ended 31st January, 1919, was £89,795 8s. 2d. Twenty per cent, of that sum totals £17,959 ls. 8d. The wages paid by the company for the twelve months indicated amount to £21,803 3s. 7d. Therefore, the proposal of Senator O’Keefe would mean that for every £100 paid in wages te. the employees a bonus of £82 7s. 4d. would have to be granted.
– Why does not the Minister say that he does not believe in the principle?
– I say it is impossible to apply it. Let us examine the circumstances which have caused hundreds of people to suffer during the seamen’s strike. Are those people to get no compensation ? What about the poor factory girls who sided neither with the Government nor with the seamen, but who, for lack of coal, have been out of work for weeks? They have been living largely upon Government subsidies. Are they not to receive a bonus for having been thrown out of work because the Government had a row with the seamen? What about the Colonial Ammunition Comp:,11 v’ s 800 or 900 employees who lost their employment? They were engaged in work controlled by the Government. Are we to compensate them ?
– Do the Government get any profit out of that industry?
– No.; because we do not allow the industry to make a profit.
– The action of the Government closed that factory down.
– The honorable senator will say that the action of the Government rendered the ships idle.
– No; that is a different matter.
– The Government are not prepared to accept the principle contained in the amendment, apart altogether from the impossibility of applying it in view of the magnitude of the sums involved. I believe in compensation, but I do not see the fairness of applying itto merely one section in an industry, as i« sought by the amendment.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - Make the principle part of the Government’s policy.
– I would do so if I had the power. I have always believed in the principle, and I hope the Government may some day take into consideration the question of compensation for sickness unemployment. I suggest that Senator O’Keefe wait till the Government win their case against the wool top firms before he offers proposals for cutting up the amount involved.
.- The point raised by Senator O’Keefe has not been adequately replied to by the Minister. The case mentioned by the honorable senator is not on all-fours with that ofthe Colonial Ammunition Company, the Inter-State shipping, or any other industry which the Government control, partially or otherwise. I understand that whatever is decided by the Court, there will be owing to the Government a rather large sum of money.
– I do not think that is so.
– I believe that under the first agreement the Government were getting two-thirds of the profits, and the proprietors, approximately, one-third, so the proportion received by the Government would represent a considerable sum of money. Hundreds of people were thrown out of work at Botany as the result of this unfortunate dispute, upon the merits of which I say nothing.
– Is it not a fact that in the first year each party was getting half the profits, and in the subsequent years the Government took two-thirds ?
– I am not sure about that.
– Why not apply the principle all round in the case of unemployment ?
– During the last twelve months therehas been a very great amount of unemployment in the neighbourhood of Botany, where the people who were employed in the wooltops industry live. Clergymen, benevolent officers, and others have told me that the distress is almost heartbreaking, and the State Government have been granting relief.
– So have the Commonwealth Government.
– How, and through whom ?
– Through the State.
– Has it been given to these particular people?
– We subsidize the States in respect of anybody who is out of work.
– There has been a very great amount of distress in the neighbourhood of Botany, Waterloo, and Alexandra, directly traceable to the closing of this establishment.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to prove that the Government are responsible?
– I am only saying that the State Government have been giving relief to a good many of these employees, and that the people have been a charge upon the benevolence of some of the citizens. And, inasmuch as the Government have been getting double the profit of the proprietors for a certain time, I agree with Senator O’Keefe that there is a certain moral responsibility on the part of the Government in respect of the employees.
– What is that moralresponsibility of the Government?
– To start the works again, and to come to an arrangement to subsidize the unfortunate people who have been thrown out of work on account of the dispute. That is the commonsense view of the matter. If we were not so unfortunate as to have this establishment 600 miles from Melbourne, the position would bedifferent. I venture to say that if what has occurred in Botany had occurred in Melbourne, under our noses, so to speak, so that deputations could come along to the Minister from day to day, the dispute would have been settled months ago. The Government do not realize what this means. I have been trying to restrain myself, and not to throw the blame upon anybody.
– I do not know what bhe honorable senator means, then, because he said there is a moral responsibility on the Government.
– I mean that the Government are making a profit out of this business, or they would be making a profit if the industry were operating at the present time. Whether the Government be right or wrong, it is a fact that 500 or 600 employees have been out of work for many months, and now, unfortunately, they are scattered to tho four winds of heaven. If this dispute had occurred in Melbourne it would not have lasted a month, but as it has occurred at Botany I feci it will continue until the end of the wool scheme. I come here as a representative of a State with big interests in jeopardy, and I appeal to the Government to try and find some way whereby the dispute can be settled and work started again. I have said more than once, and I repeat, that a good deal of sympathy should be evinced for the employees, who are in distress through no fault of their own, and I can only say that if both parties to the trouble were sensible, and displayed a little more of the milk of human kindness, it would have been settled in a way satisfactory to all parties and the country long ago.
– Inmoving -
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to state that, in reply to a question asked by Senator Gardiner to-day, I said I would lay on the table of the Senate papers relating to the invention of W. J. Connell. These will be laid on the table of the Library.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 August 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1919/19190827_senate_7_89/>.