7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., andread prayers.
– On the 8 th August Senator O’Keefe asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister the following questions: -
Will he lay on the table of the Senate a return showing-
The names of officials who went from Australia directly or indirectly connected with, employed by, or attached to, the Prime Minister on his last visit to Europe.
The total costs charged, or to be charged, to Australia in connexion with such officials, including their salaries, from the date of their leaving Australia till their return.
The total amount charged, or to ho charged, to Australia for the expenses of the Prime Minister on the same visit to ‘Europe, from the date of his leaving Australia until his return, and the dates of his leaving and probable return.
Similar information in connexion with the visit of the Minister for the Navy and officials connected with, or employed by, or attached to, his staff.
Similar information in connexion with the visit of the Minister for Defence and the officials connected with, or employed by, or attached to, his staff?
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
Sir Robert Garran, Mr. P. Deane, Mr. W. E. Corrigan, and Mr. L. Dumas.
£2,750. The Prime Minister left Australia on 26th April, 1018, and returned to Melbourne on 30th August, 1919. 4. (a) Messrs. J. Latham and R. Mungovan.
The total costs charged, or to be charged, to Australia in connexion with these officials, includingtheir salaries, from the date of their leaving Australia till their return, amounts to £3,151.
The total amount charged, or to be charged, to Australiaforthe expenses of the Minister for the Navy on the same visit to Europe, . from the date of his leaving . Australia until his return, is £1,750. The Minister for the Navy left Australia on 25th April, 1918, and returned on 30th August, 1919. 5. (a) Messrs. T. W. Smith and G. King,
£1,100, based on the assumption that the officials mentioned return on 30th November, 1919.
No information is yet available as to the total amount charged, or to be charged, to Australia for the expenses of the Minister for Defence on the same visit to Europe, from the date of his leaving Australia until his return. The Minister for Defence left Australia on 25th January, 1919, and it is anticipated ho will return about the end of November, . 1919.
The above information is approximately correct; but, until final adjustments are made, it is impossible to give a more detailed statement.
The following papers were presented : - Defence: Permanent Naval and Military Officers receiving £400 a year and over on 1st August, 1914, and on 1st August, 1919. - Return.
Defence Act 1903-19118. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1919, Nos. 214, 218, 220, 221, 222.
Deceased Soldiers’ Estates Act 1918-Regula- tions amended- Statutory Rules 1919- -No. 223.
Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1916.- Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1919, Nos. 192, 193, 209, 210, 226, and 227.
– In view of the numerous public rumours that there is to bo an early dissolution of the Parliament, I ask the Acting Leader of the Senate whether he will now, or at his earliest possible convenience, give honorable senators an intimation of the legislation the Government intend to proceed with between the present time and the rumoured dissolution ?
– I am not in a position to give the information now, but I am having inquiries made, and will make it available at the earliest. possible opportunity.
Agreement to PurchaseChop.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1 and 2. When the last sugar-purchase agreement; was drawn up, steps were taken to ascertain the growers’ views, and if it be determined : to continue any such arrangement in the future similar steps will be taken. 3 and 4. The Commonwealth Government sugar account has been treated throughout as ‘ a running account. There was a small profit during the year 1917-18, but it is not -possible to say, at the moment, how much. There was also a profit on imported sugar, which willbe used as a ‘set-off against any loss that may be experienced on importedsugar in the future.
Appointment OF CHIEF justice.
asked the Minister representing ‘ the Attorney-General, upon notice - la it the intention of the Government to appoint a new Chief Justice of the High Court before or after the forthcoming elections?
– The honorable senator’s question is somewhat premature. “When the office of Chief Justice becomes vacant, an appointment will be made.
PREFERENCE to Returned Sommers.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to discharge permanent hands in the Public Service or in the Military to make positions for returned soldiers I
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is “ No.”
– I move -
That during the remainder of the present session, Government business, unless otherwise ordered, take precedence of all other business on the notice-paper, except questions and formal motions.
I do not know that there is anything unique in the motion-. We are rapidly reaching the end of the session, and it is the usual practice, providing that no abuse is made of that practice, to give a Government full scope to- complete its legislative programme. The object of my motion is not to rob honorable senators of all further opportunities of discussing private business.
– Will you promise that there shall be no all-night sittings?
– If the honorable senator will undertake to co-operate. I will promise that we shall cease our daily activities earlier during the next fortnight or so than during any similar period in the past. I trust that honorable senators will see the necessity for co-operating with the Government in a genuine desire to conclude at the earliest possible moment the business- of the session.
: - This motion provides the first, intimation that the session is nearing its- conclusion. There have been persistent rumours and- intimations in the press with regard to’ what is about to happen ; but we have heard nothing from the Government. Probably, there is to be a general election. Whether that occurs in December or later does not worry me. I have faced the music before. I have come back to this Chamber when there appeared to be fewer chances of doing so than there are to-day. I am quite ready to face the music again; but there are several very important items standing in my name upon the notice-paper. It was my desire to secure the opinion of the Government on one matter in particular; I refer to my notice of motion having to do with returned soldiers. However, I shall not be afforded an opportunity to introduce such a debate. There is one other matter which T hoped to discuss ; I refer to my notice of motion dealing with the creation by the- Government . of a tribunal in opposition to its own laws. The Government, instead of upholding its Arbitration Act, and standing behind the Arbitration Court, has constituted a body absolutely opposed to freedom of action in the direction of arbitration. I take this opportunity to enter my protest against the closing- of the session so early, thus shutting down discussion upon motions such as I have placed upon the noticepaper.
– I gave notice of a motion some time ago with regard to a subject which I look upon as being of- tremendous importance to the future development of Australia. The motion of Senator Russell has provided as great an element of surprise for honorable senators on this side as for those sitting opposite-
– Still, you have had the advantage of discussion in Caucus, which we have not had.
– The honorable senator attends the meetings of his own Caucus party, and has plentiful opportunities there of discussing various matters. I am free to inform Mm that our Caucus discussions get us no further forward, so far as debates upon our notices of motion are concerned, than if we had not the privilege of attending the meetings of Ministerial supporters. That is my complaint to-day. With regard to my motion dealing with, the construction of a railway in the Northern Territory, 1 have been most anxious to place my views before the Senate and the country, particularly in view of the fact that an offer was recently made to the Government for the construction of such a line. The debate would have afforded a splendid opportunity for Parliament and the people to ascertain exactly where the Government stood with respect to that offer. I do not propose to anticipate any legislation, but I believe that in the near future a motion by Senator Gardiner will be disposed of in a manner rather contrary to that which he had intended. I hope the Government will give me, as well as other honorable senators, an opportunity to present certain items of business. I have’ a special claim with regard to my motion, because I had placed it upon the notice-paper for the 4th September last. It stood alone upon the notice-paper for that day. Unfortunately, however, the Senate did not sit then; there was an adjournment for a week over that date. Thus, through no fault of my own, my motion has been relegated to a place on the notice-paper where it is most likely to be shut out altogether.
– In the rearrangement of private business following upon an adjournment such as that of last month, should not the various notices of motion automatically take order upon the notice-paper according to their, previous precedence ?
– That is not the practice. Honorable senators are given an opportunity to place their notices forward to any date which they may consider advantageous. It would be reasonable, however, if private business were automatically ordered, as Senator Ferricks suggests. I ask the Government to afford me an opportunity, if it be possible, to state my case with regard to’ the construction of a railway in the Northern Territory.
– I have listened to the views expressed by honorable senators with regard to the proposal of the Government to monopolize, the remaining hours of the session. After having heard those arguments in support of petty theories and propositions, I feel that they pale into insignificance when placed beside the matters to which my name is attached upon the notice-paper. I realize, of course, that in ordinary parliamentary procedure a time must come when the guillotine has to be applied. But I desire to refer particularly to one motion which I have already discussed, and which deals with the people who produce Australia’s daily bread. Unless due attention is paid to our primary producers the time may arrive when they will all drift into the cities, and leave it to some one else to grow our wheat. I have already called attention to that possibility. Senator Russell, I hope, will afford me a chance to raise my voice again on behalf of that much neglected section of our people who are engaged in the production of our daily bread. There is another motion upon the businesspaper in my name which I do not desire to see disposed of unceremoniously - I allude to my proposal in regard to the granting of self-government to Ireland. The motion submitted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council constitutes a novel way of doing an injustice to my country. But realizing that the time must come when all motions, however important they may be, will have to go by the board, I support the proposal of the Minister, on the understanding that an opportunity will be afforded the Senate to discuss the two important matters to which I have referred.
– I have listened attentively to the remarks of honorable senators in regard to their own particular business. I recognise that the business brought forward by each honorable senator is to him the most important that appears upon the notice-paper. I have had a proposal on the business-paper for several months. How long it has been there I cannot precisely say.
– The honorable senator has never gone on with it, although he has had the chance to do so.
– Is Senator Guthrie in order in making that statement?
– All interjections are disorderly.
– By the exercise of wise foresight, I had that motion on the business-paper for Thursday evening last. ‘ But what happened? The
Government, in order that a caucus of the Ministerial party might be held, set aside our parliamentary business and adjourned over that day. If the session is to terminate as quickly as Ministers desire, concessions must be made by both sides of the Chamber. WhenSenator Lynch brought forward his motion affirming that Home Rule should be granted to Ireland, an old parliamentary hand told me that there was going to be a dissolution. I replied, “ I do not think so.” His answer was, “ There is nothing surer when Senator Lynch brings forward his proposal in order to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of his countrymen.”
– Your friend was a kind of political barometer.
– Yes. If the Government will grant me an hour in which to have my motion discussed, I am prepared to say all that I desire to say upon it in fifteen minutes, and then to address myself to the proposal submitted by Senator Lynch. I invite the Government to afford him an opportunity of bringing forward that motion. Of course, I recognise that the press comments and public rumours which have been circulating for days past as to the proximity of a general election must be very near the truth. A general election will apparently take place about the 13 th December. Recognising that if we are to rush through the Estimates, and to pass a measure altering the method of election to this Chamber-
– And if we are to deal with the Budget.
– The Budget and the Estimates will naturally be subjects for prolonged discussion, because the Government, having curtailed out right to speak-
– Limitation of debate obtains in every Parliament in the world.
– But the Government were mean enough, and their supporters backed them up in their meanness, to make me the scapegoat inregard to the limitation of debate here.
– I voted with the honorable senator.
– Senator Guthrie was a shining example of disinterestedness in that matter. Fortunately our right to discuss the Budget has not been limited to any great extent. I say to honorable senators opposite, “ Let us finish the session by making mutual concessions in order that we may face the electors with good will.” Even if honorable senators who are obliged to go before the electors do not secure re-election, they will continue to hold their seats in this Chamber until next June. The Estimates can be. easily discussed in detail by that time. I ask the Government to give Senator Lynch an opportunity to have his motion debated, and I shall then be glad to tell him how nearly defeated was the question on the last occasion that ‘he brought it forward, and who saved him from defeat.
– The object of the motion which I have submitted is not to deprive honorable senators of any of their rights, but merely to give precedence to Government business. There is ample Government business to occupy our attention during the next few weeks. Offhand, I am not prepared to say what opportunity will be afforded private members of having their business discussed before the close of the session. Obviously that must depend upon the progress we make.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1st October (vide page 12827), on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Senate approves the Treaty made at Versailles on the 28th June, 1919, between His Majesty the King and the President of the French Republic, whereby, in case the stipulations relating to the left bank of the Rhine, contained in the Treaty of Peace with Germany signed at Versailles the 28th day of June, 1919, by the British Empire, the French Republic, and the United States of America, among other Powers, may not at first provide adequate security and protection to France, Great Britain agrees to come immediately to her assistance in the event of any unprovoked movement of aggression against her being made by Germany.
– It is a useless but an interesting speculation whether, . had an open Treaty been in force for the protection of France from German aggression prior to the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, the recent war would ever have occurred. It. is interesting also to speculate whether, had the war never occurred, the German menace would have passed from the ambit of the world’s dangers. It will be within the memory of even the present generation’ that we have not always been friends with France. We certainLy Tier at one time an- enemy of Russia, and it was almost the universal belief of our fellow-countrymen. Even in my time, war with Russia has been, thought to be inevitable. War is never inevitable! but is brought about by the pressure of circumstances at the time, and bad .open diplomacy not been the order’ of the day, and had the German nation, known that she would have to face practically the whole of the English-speaking races, the recent tragic conflict would not have occurred. The Senate is asked to approve a defensive Treaty between Britain, America, and France for the purpose of assisting the latter in the event of German aggression. The full text of the Treaty is not before the Senate, but we have, the’ sense of it in the motion we are asked to affirm. It really means that this young nation of Australia shall be a party to the agreement, and I believe that if we approve . it we shall be in honour bound to give effect to it. The Treaty has been framed for the protection of France. The genesis of the matter, so far as I can see, is that France is the bulwark of the world.’ s freedom. France is the country that suffered the full shock of the ‘German invasion and aggression., which left ner weak, bleeding and exhausted until the League of Nations can fructify and become powerful enough to prevent further’ war, France rightly says to her Allies that she must have some protection. As a. result o( that request the plenipotentiaries of the English-speaking races, including the United” States of America, Canada, and Australia agree that, supplementary to die Peace Treaty we have- just ratified, there shall be a defensive’ Treaty t’o preserve France, for the present at - ali events, from the risk of further aggression or revenge. I’ have seen something of the devastation that was caused by the German invasion of some of those fair provinces of .France. I have been able, on the spot, to realize the supreme sacrifices’ France made in order to bring the conflict to a successful conclusion. I have seen women and children garnering the French crops, and I have also seen notices on the closed shutters of. shops to the effect, that the proprietors were away at the war. Throughout the length and breadth of the country there was evidence of the determination of the French to avoid defeat. France was the bulwark of the Allied cause, the- keystone of the Allied arch. Because of what I have seen, and of the sacrifices France has made, I believe it right and proper for this agreement, to be. a corollary of the Peace Treaty we have just ratified. As a representative of the State of New South Wales I wish to support its ratification in this Chamber, because I feel’ that we are in honour bound, in the case of German aggression, to go to the assistance of France if that should be necessary before the League of Nations is established. I hope this Treaty will also be ratified by the United States of’ America, as there will then .be practically an alliance, for defence, between, the Anglo-Saxon races of the world and’ glorious France..
Reference has been made during the debate to Australia’s national problems. These great world-wide problems .which have been tumbling in upon us during the last few months in consequence of the war, have undoubtedly .lifted Australia to the standing of a nation.. Although we are a young nation, our legislative enactments in connexion- with the world’s’ politics have given us a new; standing, an, d, compelled us to shoulder new obligations. I am not in sympathy with those who, speak of cutting the painter. I believe, that Australia- will do well to be satisfied with the racial, sentimental and blood ties that exist between us and our kinsmen over the seas. We should be satisfied to be under the sheltering wing of th’e British Navy. It is ridiculous, to suggest severance. I agree with Kipling when, in speaking, of the King’s Dominions overseas, he said, that “children are we in our mother’s house, but mistress in our own.” I am an Imperialist, and one who will always support Australia’s present connexion with the Empire. We are part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and it is d’angerous1 to talk of severance, in view of the altering conditions throughout’ the world.
Reference has been made to our Australian Navy, and1, my honorable friends opposite seem to think that all credit is due to them for the introduction of. compulsory military training and the creation of a Navy. I remind them, however, that a process of education had to be followed before such measures could be placed on our statute-book. Ten or fifteen years ago, before such legislation was introduced into this Parliament, many of us were advocating Australian national sentiments and Australian ideals. I remember that, years before the Labour party attempted to place legislation upon the statute-book- for - the establishment of an Australian Navy, I was -proud to announce from a public platform that I believed that in the evolution of national ideals, -and that we should consider the construction of our own naval vessels by our own workmen. I repudiate any suggestion that my honorable friends opposite can legitimately claim sole credit for giving effect to these ideals. It was a matter of education amongst all sections of the community in the years preceding the enactment of legislation crystallizing our national ideals. I believe, too, that as a result of our discussion in connexion with the Peace Treaty and the Anglo-French agreement, now under consideration!, weshall proceed further in this direction. -I have always stood for Australia being a sulf supporting and self-contained nation. I believe this to be our destiny, and one which has been advanced very rapidly -as -the result of the lessons of the war.
– Do you think a policy ofFree Tradewill tend to make Australia . more self-contained ?
– I do not intend to . enter into a discussion of the policy of Free Trade now, but I suggest that my honorable friend might let his imagination have a little play, and I remind him that Macaulay, very many years ago, suggested that it was not an impossibility for the British race ultimately to dominate the world from under the Southern Cross, though . it . may he very many years indeed before Macaulay’s mythical New Zealander stands . on London Bridge and views the ruins of St. Pauls. I hope while I am in this Chamber, both with, voice and vote, to encourage the sentiment that keeps the British race intact and also to do something for the development of this continent in the Southern Seas..
Something has been said, about the brotherhood of man, a very fine senti ment indeed, and one which we should all like to encourage. We all believe in the golden rule, but I am afraid that, as practical men, we must realize that human nature still contains a good deal of the old Adam, and that it has not been altered very much as a result of the war. It appears to me that the increase of population in the respective countries of the world will very largely determine the position of all nations in the future. East has swept the West before, and as there are indications of race suicide among the Western peoples, it is very likely indeed that, even within a generation, our national outlook will be very radically changed. I . remind honorable senators that the nations in the eastern part of Europe are adding to their population at a rate almost double that of the increase of population in the western portion. Taking the Slavs altogether, not only the Russians, but the Poles, Czechs, Magyars, and the people of the Balkan States, there is approximately a population of 200,000,000. increasing so rapidly that within a generation their numbers will be almost doubled. We know also that of late years there has been a diminution in the rate of increase among the people of western Europe, so we may reasonably assume that the next world’s cataclysm will be a clash of arms between the Teutons and Slavs, who by that time will number, not 200,000,000, but 400,000,000. In recent years the natural increase of ‘population in Germany has been slowing up; France has been practically stationary; and ‘the natural increase of the population in England is . not what it -was : ten years ago. Therefore, it” seemsto . me “that, with peace apparently assured for another generation, world conditions may be completely changed even in our time. Consequently, I do not regard this Treaty for the protection of France as anything more than a declaration to the world that the Anglo-Saxon race will not again camouflage its position so far as France is concerned, but that, under certain definite circumstances, it will stand by that country, which so much -deserves our sympathy and protection.
– Do you think this Treaty is before us because the League . of Nations is a? yet in embryo?
– That is so. If we consider the lands dominated by the
Pacific Ocean, which, after all, covers nearly one half of the world’s area, we shall find that future events will probably move in a direction that possibly can be foreseen. Under the Peace Treaty we are called upon to take control of territory, some of it over 1,000 miles from our coast, and to exercise a mandate over many Pacific islands which are contiguous to the Dutch Empire to the north. Thus we approach closer to the clash of East and West. . In the former, again, the increase of population is going on rapidly, and it seems to me desirable that there should be a federation of the people in the western States of America, the western States of the lusty Dominion of Canada, New Zealand, and the Commonwealth of Australia, who have similar ideals and are living under similar social conditions!. The motion for the ratification of the Anglo-French Treaty leads one inevitably into world’s politics. Never before, in this Parliament, have we been able legitimately to say that we were a factor in world affairs, but the war and the Peace Treaty brought to Australia responsibilities which must be faced. Senator Gardiner has mentioned that over 80 per cent, of the people of Australia are Australian-born. I would remind the Senate that 97 per cent, of the people of Australia are also of AngloSaxon and Celtic descent. Our people are, in fact, more British than are the people of England itself. I am proud of that fact, and it is one of the reasons why we should enact legislation here in the direction of keepingthe race pure. But we must not lose sight of ‘the fact that so far we are only 5,000,000 of people inhabiting a continent, and that we have not more than a fraction over one person to every square mile of this country. In view of our responsibilities, one of our broad policies should certainly be to welcome to this country in every way suitable immigrants to help us develop our continent and bear our load of debt. We should welcome them not only for these reasons, but also because every healthy person who comes here will add tj our national strength. I have never been backward in supporting, in every possible way, the policy of Australia for Australians, but I say that we should add to that policy the policy of Australians for Australia.
I support with the greatest pleasure the motion now before the Senate, for the moral effect it will have in committing us to stand by the French nation in the event of any possible German aggression. I support it because, in giving it effect, we shall be doing only what is due to the glorious French nation, without whose aid we could not have had the satisfactory finish we have had to the war. I support the motion with my eyes fully open to the fact that our ratification of the Treaty will mean that we shall be in honour bound to join in any possible war which would bring it into operation.
– Will the honorable senator go so far as to say that it should be followed up even to the adoption of conscription ?
– The question of conscription is, with my honorable friends on the other side, a regular “King Charles’ head.” We cannot discuss European politics, the Budget, Supply, our soldiers, or anything else, but they bring up the question of conscription.
– I asked the honorable senator for his opinion.
– The question of conscription has nothing whatever to do with the issue.
– Then the honorable senator would not go to the length of adopting conscription?
– Senator Ferricks knows, as well as I do that under the present law we are unable to send any man abroad to fight, unless he volunteers to go. I support this motion because of our moral and practical obligations to France. I do not think that we shall ever be called upon to send a single soldier abroad in connexion withthe Treaty which we are now asked to ratify. I agree with the statement of, I think, Senator Bakhap, that had this open diplomacy and determination of the British race been existent in connexion with our European obligations before the war, that struggle might never have occurred. I do say that the time has come for us to state where we stand, and I for one stand for the proposal that should there be any spirit of revenge left in Germany when she is strong enough to attack France again, we shall back France, even for our own safety’s sake.
I do not think ‘that the spirit of revenge in Germany will- last A’ery long. I “was one who believed, many years ago, in spite of the hot-air talk of German Socialists, that they would follow the Kaiser even to war. That opinion has been borne out by the history of the war. But the German people, I believe, have been shrived. Germany has found that war does not pay. The effects of the military and autocratic education of the nation may diminish, and will, I believe, gradually die away, and we may find a new Germany, to whom we can extend the hand of brotherhood. The history of Germany has taught us that we may, when the effects of the education of the Bismarckian era have had time to diminish and die away, find in the German people a nation influenced by music, literature, and the fine arts. I do not look upon the Treaty in any other way than as a safeguard for the peace of the world, and for that reason I have very much pleasure in giving it my support.
.- The subject dealt with by the motion before the Senate is very closely allied to that dealt with in the motion which was previously under discussion. Stripped of unnecessary verbiage, the motion now before us simply asks that the nation shall ratify what has already been done by the responsible representatives of America and of Great Britain to secure the future safety of France. It is as well that honorable senators should bear in mind that the Treaty has already been signed which guarantees to the French nation the voluntary and unstinted help of the two great Englishspeaking nations of the world, Great Britain and America. The signature of the British Empire through its responsible representatives has already been appended to the document, and I am sorry to think that in this Chamber there should have been rumblings of discontent, and even the expression of a desire to go back upon that deliberately expressed will of the British nation when its representatives said that it would go to the help of France if its help were needed as the result of an unprovoked attack by Germany.
We had better face the situation as it is. We have here had expression of dissent of what has been done, but I am hopeful that when this motion goes to a vote the opposition to it will be so insignificant that the result will proclaim to the world that the heart of Australia still beats in unison with that’ of other sections of the English-speaking race throughout the world, and that we shall stand by France in the future as we have done in the past.
I was pleased, and pained, to hear Senator Gardiner speak on this motion. I am always pleased to listen to the honorable senator. I was rather pained to think that he sounded a note which could have no other meaning, than that, if ever France were attacked in the future in an unprovoked way as she was in the past, Australia would fold its arms and allow her to be again trodden down, and that the manhood of Australia would not go to the rescue of that great country.
– The honorable senator’s understanding is oblique.
– I say that is what was conveyed by the terms of the amendment which the honorable senator indicated that it was his intention to propose, but from which he subsequently receded. It is well for the honorable senator that he did recede from it. The fact is that the honorable senator’s remarks from the time he indicated his intention to submit an amendment until the time he intimated its withdrawal, were so true and so strong, that they actually convinced the honorable senator_himself that he was wrong. He supplies a unique example in this Parliament of a man who, as he proceeded with his speech, convinced, not his opponents, but himself, that he was wrong. The purpose of debate in a deliberative assembly is by the expression of one’s views to change the opinion of other people who dissent from those views, and there is bright hope for this Parliament when we find an honorable senator, who started out by saying “No,” speaking so effectively that he convinced himself that he was wrong, and ended by saying “Yes.” There is hope that in this Parliament we may reach the . elysium of sweet reasonableness when a man of the type of Senator Gardiner can actually convince himself, in the course of a speech, that he is wrong, as he did in speaking to this motion.
What does the motion ask us to do ? It asks that Australia, as a nation of one of the English-speaking races throughout the world, shall stand to her guns in the future as she has done in the past. It has to be remenibered that the position is amply safeguarded so far as this country is concerned. We shall not be asked to give effect to this Treaty except in the case of an unprovoked attack by Germany upon France, such as was the attack on the 4th August, 1914. That attack was delivered not only upon France, but upon the freedom loving people throughout the world, and because of that Australia sprang instinctively to the aid of France on that occasion. The motion now under consideration merely means that Australia will stand in the future as she did in the past, and will aid gallant France in the fight, not only for the freedom of that country, but the freedom enjoyed by people throughout the world, including Australia.
-Under the voluntary system.
– Go to Russia. Go to your own country.
– This is my country. The honorable senator is an immigrant.
– I am the immigrant, and I brought a manly frame here, which is more than the interjector can claim.
– Order! These recriminations . are highly objectionable.
SenatorLYNCH. - I had the choice of the world before coming here, but this interjector . had no choice. I could go north or south, or to any point of the compass, but I came to this country . long before the interjector had ceased to wear knickerbockers.
The question is, what is Australia going to do in the future if the events of the recent past are re-staged ? I say that there -should be no vestige of doubt in the mind of any true Australian as to what this country . should do in the future if an unprovoked attack were delivered against France. What is the alternative to the motion? It means that if an unprovoked attack is delivered against France, Australia is to be asked, as has been suggested here, to stand aside, and let that overpowering juggernaut press forward upon the fair lands of . France, and not only rob France of her freedom . and establish the German standard there, but also establish it close to Australia. I want Senator Gardiner to take stock of the. position which Australia will occupy if our people are foolish enough to entertain the views from which, I am glad to say, the honorable senator backed down. Here in the southernseas we have an outpost of the French nation in New Caledonia , a place that I . know fairly well . In the New Hebrides also the French tricolour is established, and in the Loyalty Islands, in the Melanesian Group. So that if an unprovoked attack on France by Germany should succeed, it would mean that the . German standard would once more he re-established in the southern seas, in New Caledonia, in the Loyalty Islands, and in the New Hebrides, at our very door. I ask Senator Gardiner, and any other person in this chamber who still looks at this matter in a one-eyed, crosseyed, and squint-eyed way, to say what this country would do if an unprovoked attack upon France byGermany succeeded, and the German standard once more floated in these Australian seas. Australian hearts would again beat true if we were asked once more to go to the aid of France. Senator Gardiner said : he pinned his . faith to the united Labour party in Germany.
SenatorGardiner. - : Are you deliberately misrepresenting one ?
SenatorLYNCH: - I am not; but, if I am misrepresenting the honorable senator, I apologize.
– I said I pinned my faith to the preservation of peace through the united Labour parties of the world.
– The united Labour party of Germany ! I took a note of your utterance at the time.
– That is not correct.
– All right, then; I accept it. Of course, the records will show.
– I will immediately secure for the honorable senator an uncorrected proof of my remarks, if he desires.
– Then let it rest at that.
– But do not misrepresent me.
– I am not deliberately misrepresenting the honorable senator. The- records, no doubt, will show. Nevertheless, I made- a special note at the time of what the honorable senator said.
Senator Bakhap remarked how even the victorious nations should extract salutany lessons from the events of the immediate past ; not only for their own future guidance, but also to consolidate those forces which are aiming at the- creation and . perpetuation of freedom the wide world, over. France- had got herself into low waters prior- to. the war. She had rendered herself, in two ways, peculiarly open to aggression by invading hosts. She had done so as the outcome of causes which never should have arisen, as the result of deeds and! practices which should not have been countenanced in any civilized community. France, by reason of the blindness manifested by her statesmen, sought to raise class against class. She took action particularly against that class of which I am proud to be a member, namely, the- Roman Catholic Church. I. refer to that period when Viviani said to the world when he was carrying on his God-ignoring policy, “ We have put out the lights of Heaven.” I” speak of the days when those associations which were connected with my creed were openly insulted, flouted, disbanded’, and’ banished. But the time soon came when the same Viviani had to take back those terrible- words, in thought, if not in actual deed. France owed her vulnerability to- attack, first, to the baneful policy of her people in countenancing race suicide - for that was mainly responsible for France’s unhappy situation. But her helplessness, was due also to this other evil, namely, that’ she endeavoured to raise strife between sections of her people which should have) dwelt in- peace and amity.. When war- came, those religious associations which had been disbanded and banished were, begged to return, to the aid of France. The Act which abolished the- communities, ‘in question was struck off the statute-books of the Republic. France saw visions of her end; she realized her dreadful plight.. She deserves to learn a lesson from her bitter experiences; and so do we. Although we have been the victors, we need to manifest, not a boastful, spirit,, but a spirit animated by pure and undefiled righteousness- in treating with the susceptibilities of our late enemies, however inhuman they may have shown themselves while we fought them. It ill-behoves us to be boastful. We should respect the rights of other people. It was the denial of the rights of others which caused the dogs of war to be loosed upon humanity.
Turning aside from the fact that we, as well as France, need to extract a burning . lesson from the days that are past, I can see the glimmerings of light emanating from the League of Nations. It is reason which has raised man from the animal level, which has placed him upon that plane where he is described by Shakspeare as “the paragon of animals.” It is only in the exercise of reason that there is hope for the human race. The League of Nations would never have come into existence but for the exercise of human reason.
– Order! This matter appears to be quite relevant to the previous motion, but not at all to this.
– I propose to get astride of my subject now, sir. I desire to refer to the prospects of war as they are indicatedin the motion now before the Senate. Will there be future wars? Although I attach much importance to the strong possibility of reason supplanting brute force, I still think that war is not avoidable, and for this reason:. So long as- there is implanted in human nature the predatory instinct, and so long as that is supported by the. desire for aggression, we shall have wars, notwithstanding the powerful agencies now being brought into being in order to keep wars in check. Circumstances to-day warrant us in holding out the hope- that we have arrived, if not at the beginning of the Millennium, then, at the. approach thereto, though it may be long and tortuous. The great war now ended- was a dreadfully destructive war. . But there have been even more destructive wars in the past. I have been reading of those terrible onslaughts in the days when the forces of darkness, the hosts of barbarism, were arrayed against all that stood for light and hope in the world; when Belisarius defended Rome against the Huns under Attila;: when 15,000,000 human beings were sacrificed. We regard the great war just concluded as having created horrible carnage, in that some 7,000,000 fighting men were slain. It is certain that there were no lessons learned from that other terrible experience of the distant past. Even in the days of Julius Caesar civilization had not been established on a high plane. As Pliny the younger tells us, when the great Roman Empire was at its height young women would parade themselves bearing jewels and adornments valued at a quarter of a million sterling of our present currency. Yet there was not a hospital within the confines of that opulent Empire. We have marched forward since those days, to the times of Barbarossa; forward again to the period of Alfred the Great, and on, once more, to this present period of President Wilson. We have experienced <the reviving influence of the nineteenth century of progressBut what effect have all these alternating periods and influences produced in persuading mankind to adopt the standards of reason in preference to the standards of might? We have been at deadly grips with the German Power. But what were the circumstances about a hundred years ago? The great grandfathers of those soldiers who behaved in fiendish fashion during the five years just ended were linked as comrades in arms with our British great-grandsires. What a tremendous change has meanwhile occurred! Why were the forbears of the Germans of to-day the martial comrades of our own great grandfathers? What is at the base of the change which set the posterity of aforetime comrades at each other’s ‘ throats? The change lies in the prosperity, the opulence, of Germany throughout the years prior to the great struggle which has just ended. That prosperity came to Germany by ill-gotten means. It was a change in the very hearts of the German people. It was a change which gave unchecked sway to the predatory instincts of an opulent race. We need to guard and be guarded against the danger of opulence, the peril of worldly success. We need to be chastened in this our hour of victory.
It is only right that we should hold out the undertaking to gallant France that if she be provoked and again attacked, Australia will respond as she did before, with a brave heart and good will, ready to see that the unprovoked assailant shall be once more brought to the ground. France, with her million and more of dead, has made far greater sacrifices than Australia. We have not even to record a chapter of the long story of irreparable damage such as was done to the glorious lands of France. We have not visualized the sufferings of that country. Had our Australian areas been devastated we could feel with France. But we cannot feel, as France has felt, what it means to sacrifice our lands and wealth and our people. France made those sacrifices to keep the beacon of humanity still burning bright the world over.
– And to keep our White Australia policy for us.
– Of course, the larger includes the less. Everything which has stood for the highest human ideals is wrapped up in our victory, is set down within the articles of the Treaty of Peace. We would be wanting in all sense of honour ; we would be false to the ideals for which 60,000 Australians gave their lives, if we were tq leave France to fight alone the cowardly bully which might descend upon her without just cause. As for Germany, it is the same Germanystill. It was an unlimited Autocracy previously - it is now a hybrid Democracy. We have heard a good deal about the Socialists and the Labour forces of Germany. Let me tell “honorable senators that throughout the war the Labour and Socialist forces of Germany set an example of national unity to the Labour and Socialist forces upon the Allied side. I am sorry their example was not copied in this country. Yet V Vorwaerts, the leading Socialist journal in Germany, stated the other day that the only hope of that powerful nation lay in the appointment of a dictator. I repeat that Germany is merely a hybrid Democracy, and that she still nourishes the idea of barbarous aggression upon surrounding nations. She has no desire to enlarge the area of human freedom. The hybrid Democracy which she possesses is not the brand of Democracy that we look upon with favour. We want a pure Democracy, not one which exclaims, “Let a dictator come.” Democracy, if it is to be worth anything as a world force, needs to be what Mazzini, the Italian patriot, described it as being, namely, “The progress of all, through, all, under the leadership of the wisest and best.” Democracy ought never to, and can never, prosper under any other conditions. I hope that Australia willstand four square to any act of aggression on the part of Germany against France. The terms of the resolution are apt. They ask Australia to say “ Amen “ to what Britain and America have done to safeguard that gallant land of France. I support the motion with all the strength of which I am capable, believing that Australia will sustain her good name without which neither a nation nor an individual can count for much. To those who have sounded a. discordant note during this debate, I say “Beware!” I appeal to them to remember where they stand. I ask them to carry the motion, to stand fast to our old. position, and to see that France is maintained inviolable against all attacks from her ancient enemy. This result can best be achieved by honorable senators carrying the motion unanimously.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.. - In moving -
That this Bill he now read a second time, I think most honorable senators are familiar with the reasons that underlie it. Nauru is an island over which Australia has not such a complete mandate as she has over other Pacific Islands. The mandate over This island has been given to the British Empire. Nauru is a very valuable possession from the stand-point of its phosphatic products, which are essential to the welfare of Australia and New Zealand, and are more than ordinarily useful to Great Britain. The island is to be held under a joint mandate by Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. Under this agreement an experiment is to be tried there somewhat upon the lines of State Socialism, that is to say, the island is to be administered for the purposes of use and not for the purposes of profit.
It is to be administered by an Administrator, who, for the first five years, will be appointed by Australia. He will have power to issue Ordinances, particularly in regard to police protection, and the education of the children there. Work in connexion with the phosphatic deposits will be controlled by three Commissioners, one of whom will be appointed by New Zealand, one by Great Britain, and one by Australia. These Commissioners will be free from any interference by the Government in the management and control of the island- They will, therefore, have an opportunity to develop it on the most scientific lines. Under the agreement, Australia will receive 42 per cent, of the phosphatic deposits, Great Britain an equal proportion, and New Zealand 16 per cent. At present the island is under the control of the Pacific Phosphatic Company, but all its rights and privileges have practically passed to the British Government. The. company has a claim for compensation in respect to these rights - a claim which will be paid by the three countries I have mentioned. When the total amount of that compensation has been determined Australia will be called upon to pay 42 per cent, of it, Great Britain will be required to contribute an equal sum, and New Zealand will pay 16 per cent.
– The company is a British company, I understand?
– It is a British company now, but it was not always so. I understand that, upon the outbreak of the war, the control of the company was for all practical purposes in the hands of Germans. But during the period covered by the war, half of the shares of the company were sold, and the prices which were realized for them- will provide a basis for determining the amount of compensation due to the company, because the market value of the shares is well known.
– Can the Minister tell us the amount which was put into the enterprise by the company?
– No; but I understand that the value of the shares of the company was well under £3,000,000. The Government will see that there is no exploitation of the people of this country. Whilst it is wise to work, the phosphatic deposits for purposes of use, and not for purposes of profit, the three Governments concerned in the mandate owe a duty to their people in the matter of seeing- that they do not give- too much for the rights to which I have alluded..
– The island will have a- competitor in Ocean Island, which is near by ?
– The working of the phosphatic deposits will be very largely a socialistic experiment, and I hope that its success will not be jeopardized by exorbitant amounts being paid, by way of compensation, to the Pacific Phosphatic Company. We intend to see that the rights of the people of Australia are protected.
– What is the value of the phosphatic deposits there?
– I would not care to venture an estimate. It is very difficult to. say what is the value of those deposits, but they represent many millions sterling.
– The Minister is referring to, the phosphates in sight ?
– Yes; to. the natural phosphatic deposits.
– If any party to the agreement does not draw its allotted quota of phosphates from the island, what becomes of the balance ?
– If Australia did not draw within 5,000 tons of her share of phosphates during any specified period, New Zealand and. Great Britain would have first claim upon the balance of her quota at. the cost of production. If neither of them required that balance, it would be sold in the open market, and the money would afterwards be distributed amongst, the three contracting parties proportionately to the shares held by them.
– Within what time ?
– Five years is the first period fixed.. Subsequently, the period, is to be determined, by the Governments concerned. A. Board of Commissioners is to be appointed, and each Commissioner is: to hold office during, the pleasure of his Government, and no longer. If the three Governments are unable to agree upon the matter, a majority of them is empowered to fix the remuneration of the Commissioners.
– Cannot the Minister give us some statistics regarding the financial side of this matter ?
– I havenot been able to get. any statistical information, but I have seen certain newspaper articles in regard to- the value of the Nauru Island phosphatic deposits. Most of the writers, however, have possessed the imagination of a Pacific Island novelist.
– Did not . Australian soldiers capture the island ?
– They were in possession of it during- the period of the war; but to-day the island becomes a Possession of the British Empire.
– What dividends did the Pacific Phosphatic Company pay?
– I cannot say. I take it, however, that the arbitrators appointed to determine the compensation to be paid by the three parties to the agreement will be competent men, who will investigate the whole of the facts. If I were handling the matter, I would not be influenced by what the company had paid in dividends. I would go deeper into the matter than that. That will be done by competent men appointed by the Government, who will have to arrive at a definite conclusion. After an arrangement has been made it will have to be ratified by the respective Governments. I believe it to be to the advantage of the company to retain possession of their interests, but I am glad the Government have viewed the matter broadly.
– Have you an estimate of the output of superphosphates ?
-I have not a re-‘ liable estimate, but it can be considerably increased. The output will1 be regulated not by the quantity available, which is practically unlimited, but by. the require - ments in different countries.
– I have never attempted to discuss a question which has been submitted to this House in such ah unsatisfactory manner as the present one. We. have heard in, all States, of the Commonwealth of the mythical person known as “ the rich uncle from Fiji,” who usually operates on innocent young men from, the country. The rich uncle from Fiji has appeared in this chamber undisguised and unashamed. This Parliament is asked to put its name to an agreement on a very vague proposition, with the ultimate object of supplying farmers with superphosphates at a reasonable price. We have had a bald statement submitted to us by the Minister to the effect that the island of Nauru, which has an area of about 5,000 acres, contains large de- posits of phosphatic rock of which our farmers are. in need. In going through life most of us have had wild-cat mining propositions submitted to us, and have been told that certain gold-bearing reefs could produce 10, 20, or 30 ozs. to the ton. We have also been told that under more favorable conditions, and with the aid of, say, a cyanide plant, the same reef would produce, perhaps, double the quantity. When such glowing accounts of mining propositions have been submitted to me, I have not been prepared to invest even 5s. in the undertakings.
– The quantity of phosphatic rock exported in 1914 was 90,000 tons, but that is not the full export capacity of the island.
– Let us get down to business, and say that the island is capable of producing 100,000 . tons annually. I take it that the value of the material when landed in Australia, and when in a condition suitable for retailing to the farmer, is worth, approximately, £2 per ton. We must remember that before the . phosphatic material is . ready for the farmer, nearly the whole of the expenditure in connexion with it is upon the labour employed in raising it. I know that labour on the island is cheap, because for many months 1 ‘have worked amongst such men as are engaged there. The labour is cheap when measured . by the remuneration the labourers receive, but dear when compared with thework they do. Let us consider the real facts in connexion with this so-called valuable acquisition we are to have as a result ‘of the war. Let us say that the annual output is 10,000 tons above the output of 1914, and take . 100,000 tons as a working basis. If the island produces 100,000 tons at £2 a ton, the production of one. year would be worth £200,000. We are informed that the output can be materially increased. But who has not heard also that “the output of a wild-cat mine could be materially increased ?
– The manager of the company estimates the value of the deposit at £375,000,000, but I refrained from quoting that figure, as I had no means of checking it. Moreover, the representative of the company is an interested party, and I did not wish to quote any figures that could not be substantiated.
– I realize the difficult position in which the Minister is placed, and I sympathize with him in having to perform the arduous duties now cast upon him. His task is a difficult one, and I am not complaining because he did not give us more information. I am looking at the proposal from a business stand-point,because we, as representatives of the people, are asked to sanction the Government expending money for carrying on these operations. We are told that the work has been carried on by a private company, and that there are unlimited prospects. We know that the world’s demand for this particular commodity has never been fully met, and that the quantities that could be used if brought within reach of the people are so enormous that I am inclined to think that this German-British company, which has been conducting operations on the island for many years, has reached its full output. I think we are safe in assuming that it has practically reached the limit of its possibilities.
– SenatorSenior shakes his head, but there is nothing in that. Are we not safe in assuming that a well-organized private . company, which has been making huge profits, reached its full capacity when it produced 90,000 tons a year ? We have no right . to let our imaginations run wild and say what the island could produce when under the control of the British Government, the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand, and the Government of the Commonwealth .
– Does the honorable senator know anything aboutthe harbor difficulties at Nauru?
– Willthey have vanished when the island is under the joint control of the Governments I have mentioned ?
– The difficulties could be removed.
– By the expenditure of more money ?
– That is the whole business, and I appeal strongly to the Senate to consider its obligations in this matter.
– Have you any idea what the island is like?
– I have not; but within twenty-four hours I could introduce to honorable senators a gentleman who has worked on the island, and who is fully conversant with the method of raising the material. He is in possession of a fund of information which he would be glad to give to honorable senators should they desire it. We are informed that there are large deposits of phosphatic rock on the island, and that the material would be very valuable to Australia. I concede all that. We have to remember, however, that a private company keen on making profits, and on obtaining the best results, has not yetreached an annual output of 100,000 tons. . We are business men placed in the responsible position of handling public money. If we were asked, as private individuals, to contribute towards such an undertaking, I think I am safe in saying that we would all turn down the proposal submitted to us by the Minister.
– Why were Great Britain and New Zealand so anxious to get a footing on the island ?
– I. am just as much at a loss to understand that matter as the honor.able senator is. I am here to watch the people’s interests, and when a proposition such as this is brought before us, and one in which an expenditure of £3,000,000 is involved, I become very suspicious. I want to know what is being done with the people’s money, when every shilling is needed. This proposition is put before us for investigation, and I do not think there is an honorable senator in this chamber, if he is a business man, who would be prepared to take up even a id. share in the venture. My information in regard to the island is that it was purchased at the beginning of the war for £500,000. The Minister has stated that £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 have been put into it; but my informant, who is a highly intelligent man, contradicted the statement that appeared in the press.
– The company would be doing good business in selling, apparently.
– Of course it would. If the island was purchased for £500,000 a few years ago, are we going to bind ourselves to accept a 42 per cent, share in it on a payment of £3,000,000 ?
– They cannot make us do that.
– That is the position. If we support the passage of this Bill, the next step will be to vote the money. If we agree to the purchase, we dare not refuse to vote the money, because we are agreeing to the acquisition of the island at a fair valuation. We are not told what the valuation is, and would be . ratifying the agreement on the understanding that we were to take over “the island at a fair price. What is a fair valuation? Will it be upon the value of the deposits or upon the value of the shares ?
– On the value of the material.
– I am surprisedat business men like Senator Mulcahy advocating such a proposal when he knows nothing about it.
– How do you know I am supporting the venture?
– I am just as sure that the honorable senator will support it as I am that the sun will rise to-morrow morning. I know that from past experience. Let us look at the proposition and face it squarely. We are binding ourselves to take a 42 per cent, share, the value of which has not been stated. I objectto that.
– That is not the proposition, quite:
– Then I fail to understand what is. The mandate for the island is given to the British Empire -not to Australia, although we had as good a . claim to it as we had to other islands - and -the value of the company’s property is to be taken over at an unstated amount.
– By ‘whom ?
– By the three contracting parties in this proportion - Great Britain, 42 per cent.; Australia, 42 per cent.; and New Zealand, 16 per cent.
– It has not been taken over by Australia yet.
SenatorFairbairn. - But it will be if the Bill is passed.
– It was stated, in evidence before the Royal Commission, that the island ‘ was valued at £375,000,000.
– That is something we did not know before. It appears, now, that if the island is to be taken over at a fair value, and we pass this Bill, we make ourselves liable for the expenditure of, perhaps, £375,000,000. I have not the slightest doubt - -
– I am not saying that that information is accurate.
– The sum mentioned would about pay our war debt.
– I have met a number of people who have conceived the idea of paying their debts by a win in one of Tattersalls sweeps, but I venture to say that, as a people, we cannot expect to pay our debts by taking risks and gambling in prospective values. We must pay them by giving serious attention to affairs in our own country.
– In other words, you do not want the island to be taken over at an inflated value?
– I do not want it to be taken over by Australia at all; because, so far as I oan see, it is merely an attempt on the part of the company to foist a proposition on Australia at an exorbitant price.
– What about the British Government taking it over?
– What do I care if the British Government take it over?
– If it is no good, it does not matter much whether we take it over or not.
– The point I am trying to make is that, as the island is only 5,000 acres in extent, it could have been included in the mandate to Australia; and I may tell honorable senators that I am rather suspicious when people com© to me and offer me, for nothing, something which they claim to be of some value. If it is such a wonderfully good concern, why is an interest in it offered to Australia? If, as has been stated, there is phosphatic rock in the island to the,value of £375,000,000, let the company work it, and as Australia is the nearest market, our farmers would get the benefit.
– But we may get a royalty out of the production?
-I am concerned with the position of the farmer. What could be wrong with the company working the deposits, and allowing the Australian farmer to buy from them ?
– You appear to have turned a somersault. I thought you were a believer in State Socialism ?
– Honorable senators who have known me for any length of time, know what I believe in. I do not believe in any wild-cat scheme, even of a communistic nature.
– You will get into trouble if you go on talking like this.
– If the Government representing the people of Australia have millions of pounds to put into a productive concern, why not put it into Broken Hill? We know that is a good venture.
– Why not the Blythe River iron deposits?
– I am sure any honorable senator representing Tasmania could make out a better proposition for the Blythe River iron deposits than has been made out by the Minister for Nauru Island ; but if any such proposal were made here, he would get the cold shoulder, and be asked, “If it is such a good thing, why do you not develop the deposit yourselves?” The Cobar “copper mines are a much better proposition, but I know how that proposal would, be viewed by the Government, though the annual returns of people in the same business show that success would be absolutely certain, and there would be the additional satisfaction that we would be employing our own people in our own country.
Here is an island .of 5,000 acres which, it is said, is rich in phosphatic rock, and the company want to throw it at us. I simply decline to be a party to an agreement of that kind. I refuse to be taken down by any confidence trick. I would not put one shilling of my own money into it, and as this is a proposal affecting the people’s money, I am going to raise my voice in protest against the Bill. Time passes very quickly. It will be no good coming here two or three years hence and confessing that a mistake was made about the productivity or value of Nauru Island. Senator Senior suggested that hitherto some difficulty in regard to harbor facilities has prevented a sufficient quantity of the phosphatic rock being marketed. But the real truth is, the material is of such poor value that after providing for the labour of getting it on board ship, bringing it to Australia, unloading it in. Australian ports and treating it in privately-owned concerns - because that is what will have to be done - the farmer will not be benefited, and if the Government make a few shillings per ton out of the business, that is as much as can be expected.
– Are you aware that we obtain pyrites from Spain for the manufacture of sulphuric acid to treat phosphatic rock ? This material could be obtained from Cobar, and the same argument might he applied to obtaining pyrites from Spain as the honorable senator is applying to Nauru Island in regard to phosphatic rock.
– But in the case of Nauru Island the cost of production is so great that by the time the product reaches its final destination, there will not be much profit in it for the Government. Honorable senators surely realize that.
– Quite right.
– We are asked to put an unknown amount of money into the venture. Will our share be £1,000,000?
– How is the bargain to be made with the company ?
– That is a matter about which the Senate should have some information. I refuse to trust this Government - I would not trust even a Labour Government-in regard to a proposition that has been put forward so indefinitely. It has not been placed before honorable senators in a business-like way at all. The huge and allegedly valuable deposit has apparently excited the avarice of individuals, and the Government hope by the simple process of. entering into this agreement to make money out of it. But no young farmers of this country are going to be’ taken down bv confidence men, even in this Parliament, declaring that they have a certain rich uncle in Fiji with an island containing valuable phosphatic material which can be made available to them.
– Will the cost of superphosphates be reduced to the farmer ?
– I question very much if by entering into’ this agreement the Government will be able to reduce their cost. Let us measure the scheme from this aspect. Who is going to manage the concern ? There is to be the Administrator appointed by the Commonwealth Government for a period of five- years. Then there will be three Commissioners, one appointed by New Zealand, another by Great Britain, and a third by the Commonwealth.. I presume that it will also be necessary to. have a staff to look after them and do the work. How then is it possible to expect any return? Who will be the first Commissioner ? I assume that the Government will, look, for a man with some knowledge of island conditions, and in this respect I may say that I am worth about £5,000 a year if they will only offer me the post. Honorable senators can see that I am getting in early. I have had twelve months’ experience in the Fiji Islands, and I have heard a good deal about Nauru. Island.
– Do you anticipate’ being out of a job?
– It is just as well to be prepared. I would not- ask. any man to work down there under £5,000 a year, because he has to cut himself off from all’ civilization and suffer many discomforts. The Commissioners, also, must receive a; reasonable salary to compensate them for the inconvenience of living on the island. Then a large amount will be required’ for travelling expenses. Possibly the Commissioners will meet once a year in London, then in Auckland or Wellington, and perhaps Melbourne or Sydney. It is absolute nonsense to ex:pect that, in face of all this probable expenditure, the farmers of Australia can look for cheaper artificial manure from the island. This proposal has not been put before us in a practical manner; but, like everything else that has been submitted of late, we are asked to “ trust the. Government,” which, so far as this Ministry are concerned, is a Government of one man. I have no ill-will or venom; towards him; but I point out, in regard to all departmental expenditure, that Parliament insists that the fullest details shall be supplied, and without this information concerning Nauru Island we have no right to move one step in. the direction of accepting this proposition. I feel very suspicious when the- Minister comes down and tells us that the Government have a rich uncle in Fiji, who owns an island called Nauru, and. that, if we accept the Government scheme, the farmers of this country will get cheap artificial manure.
– Mr. King, the manager of the island, made the statement as to its value; hut I did not think it good enough to quote authoritatively.
– I want to be perfectly fair to the Minister. It was the manager, and not the Minister, who made that statement. I am definitely opposed to the scheme, because I do not believe in good things that are thrown at anybody If the Government have millions of money to put into good things, there are plenty of opportunities here in Melbourne, and elsewhere in Australia, from which they may expect - to get a much better return. Anybody with a personal knowledge of this continent could present propositions for the expenditure of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 that would prove much mOr.e profitable than the proposal now before the Senate. No parliamentarian should pledge this country to the expenditure of one shilling in regard to this venture. Possibly this is one of the dying efforts of a Government simply grasping at something, and pretending that the proposal is a good business deal. A rich company, it appears, purchased this island for £500,000, and, in taking it over, we are asked to pay 42 per cent, as our share. There ‘might possibly be a stipulation as to an amount which we would not exceed. If we said that we would not pay more than £250,000, we should be doing one reasonable thing to prevent Australia being exploited. I say this without any antiGovernment feeling. There is not one man in this Chamber who would involve his family in an investment on the conditions upon which we are asked to involve Australia in this investment. Why should we be asked to do this?
– If we do not, Britain will take the lot.
– Then I heartily say, if Britain will take the lot, Jet Britain have it. There would be one Commissioner less and one Director less to pay. I would rather see Britain have the island or the private company have it than permit Australia to put money into a concern about which we have no information.
I know that Senator Pratten is a shrewd, keen business man, and if he said to me, “ There is so much tin in the islands in the north-west, and if you put so much money into .a proposition there you can reckon upon an output of so many thousand tons of tin a year, estimated at so much. Although we have been working the proposition for years, we have never yet passed such a figure, but if you put your money into the proposition you can double it.” I would have the knowledge that the honorable senator is a business man who puts his own money into business with advantage; but if he told me that if I put my money into this concern it would be doubled, I would say to him, “ You are a business man, and I am surprised that you should want me to share your profits. Why do you not pui; the money into this proposition yourself ?” The Government submit this proposition to Parliament without telling us how much we will have to pay. It is of no use for us to say that if the amount runs to £3,000,000 we shall be able to back out. We can do no such thing. Great Britain will have passed a similar agreement. New’ Zealand will have been led into the passing of a similar agreement, and we will not be able to break our word. We are asked to undertake to pay 42 per cent, of .the cost of taking over this proposition, no matter what amount that will involve. It will be ‘bad enough .’if it amounts to £500,000, because, when we estimate the labour cost of producing the material at that distance away, the shipping cost of bringing it here, and the cost of treating it when it is brought here, I cannot be persuaded that there is any big profit .in the business. If there .is no big profit, .then there will be no cheap fertilizer for the farmer. That is the position, .and we should carefully consider, first of all, what proposal of a business nature has been put before us. We may all agree that the island is rich in phosphates. I am accepting- without question the value of the phosphatic rock; but I think that we should look into the proposal. We might appoint a Select Committee to visit the island.
– What would the President say about the expenses of the Committee ?
– If the Senate expressed a desire to obtain information about this island, the President would have to realize that he was President of the Senate, and not an individual exercising a personal control over expenditure which the Senate deems necessary. If Ave sent a Select Committee to inquire into this proposition, that might involve an expenditure of about £100. But, to my mind, it would be money well spent before we went into a concern of this kind. Would Britain think any less of the Australian Parliament if we said that before we put money into this proposition we should like to look at it? Would the farmers think less of us? We are practically promising the farmers cheaper fertilizer. That is the bait, the bit of red flannel that is used as bait to induce the fish to jump at the hook. We invite the farmer to believe that there is fertilizer at hand and cheap. But, in my opinion, it is too far away and will have to be handled too many times before the Australian farmer gets it, to make it possible to supply it to him at a price much below that for which he can obtain fertilizer under existing conditions.
Why we should be .asked to enter into a business arrangement of this kind I do not know, and I am at a loss to understand, also, why the supporters of the Government should be prepared to back up this proposition on the statement made by the representative of the Government in the Senate, or by the member of the Government who had. charge of this Bill in another place. As members of the Senate, we are called upon to make ourselves acquainted with matters with which we are asked to deal by legislation. When a business proposal is made, we should deal with it in a businesslike way, and the .test for a business man of a proposal of this kind is whether he would put into the proposition his own and his children’s future and capital. If honorable senators apply this test to the proposition now before the Senate, I venture to say there will not be any of the money of the people of Australia put into it. The proposition itself is cumbersome, unwieldy, and unworkable. One thing which makes me suspicious about it is that when we were given a mandate over other Pacific Islands we were not given a mandate over Nauru Island.
– That is not difficult to understand. It’ is because Britain was drawing supplies of phosphates from Nauru Island.
– If the proposition were worthless, Britain would not be so keen about getting a share in it.
– I will concede to Senator de Largie that Britain is very keen on getting a share in anything that is valuable. That is the view I have always taken of Britain. But we have the Minister’s statement that before the war the preponderance of shares in this Pacific company was held by Germans. I want to say that, so far as Britain is concerned, her people had very little opportunity of knowing much about the island during the war, or of the people concerned in it. It is a common thing for certain people to believe that whatever Britain does is right, because she is Britain. That is analogous to the child-like confidence. which the boy has in his father. But there is sometimes a rebellious child, who thinks that it is possible that the “old man” may make a mistake, and there is the child who, when he reaches manhood, makes up his mind that he will no longer reside in his parents’ home, but will make a home for himself. If Britain has gone into this proposition on good evidence, let us have it. What if the whole thing should turn out to be a huge swindle, and that a few men will make a lot of money out of it? If we look into the history of the Marconi swindle in Great Britain, we shall find that men holding very high positions in that country did not stand a very close examination concerning the money they were taking out of that company.
– Yes, they did. There was an inquiry, and they came out of it fairly well. It is only fair to say that.
– If Senator Thomas thinks they came out of it so well, I am glad that he is so easily satisfied.
– Lord Halsbury said so, and he investigated the matter.
– It was only proved that leading men in England had invested money in the company.
– I am glad that my honorable friends are so easily satisfied. I say that the Lord Chief Justice of England did not come out of it very well.
– Lord Halsbury was a political opponent of the chairman of the company, and he said that the leading men connected with the matter came out of it very well.
– In view of the way in which Mr. Lloyd George got his share, I say that, as a public man, in my opinion, even he did not come out of it very well.
– Lord Halsbury said he did.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Shannon). - This conversation across the chamber is not in order.
– I was beginning to wonder whether the interjectors would be given a proof copy of their interjections to correct. Judging by the way in which interjections appear on my proof-sheets, I think they ought to be. I have had handed to me by Senator Maughan a publication in which there appears a list of the directors of this company, and they includesome of the most distinguished men in British finance.
– The honorable senator should name them.
– I intend to give their names. We have not much information on this matter, and this may be regarded as valuable information on the subject -
The setting up of an industry on Ocean Island was an undertaking with heavy expenditure, attended by all disabilities of inexperience, and made more difficult by the extreme remoteness of the island. But the years of risk passed, the enterprise has prospered, and the great fertilizer dug and blasted from the coral rock has gone, and is going, to the ends of the earth, revitalizing over-used and impoverished agricultural land.
That sounds almost like a good selling prospectus. There is a foot-note giving the following list of directors: -
The Eight Hon. the Lord Balfour of Burleigh, K.T., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., chairman; John Ewart, deputy chairman; Bernard P. Balding; Geo. W. H. Bowen; Alwin B. Dickinson, managing director; Gilbert W. Fox; Walter R. Hay; A. Norman Rickett; the Right Hon. the Lord Southborough, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O. : Hermann Voss, managing director.
– When is the honorable senator coming to the Nauru proposition ? He is referring to Ocean Island.
– I have quoted the names of the board of directors of the Ocean Island Company. The publication was given to me to read to the Senate, as honorable senators have seen, and I had no opportunity to do more than hastily glance at it. I take it that Ocean Island is a neighbouring island to Nauru Island, and that the directors of this Pacific Company are practically the same as the financiers connected with the Nauru Island proposition.
– Does the honorable senator think they are?
– I do. I assumed that, these were the directors of the Nauru Island Company, but it seems that they are concerned with the neighbouring Ocean Island.
– Two hundred and fifty thousand tons was got out of Ocean Island last year.
– The position is that we are asked to buy out this British company, which has control of a proposition which was in the hands of Germans before the war. The predominating vote was a German vote, and now we are to buy those voters out. Cannot the Senate say that it prefers to send a commission to ascertain the value of the island, and to learn the extent of the phosphatic deposits, before pledging the Parliament and people to so huge an investment ?
– If those are the directors, they will not lose much if wo buy them out.
– Suppose they are not the directors, though I believe they are. I am absolutely opposed to investment in concerns that I know nothing about. If the Government had first placed before Parliament the information to which the Parliament is entitled there might have been some reason for asking us to pledge the people’s money. But would the Federal Parliament invest public capital in the Kalgoorlie mines? It would not put any of the money of the Australian people into the tin-fields of the Northern Territory; it would not invest the people’s money in the copper-fields of New South Wales or the silver mines of Broken Hill. Why, then, should this new proposition be offered to us ? We are asked to go into this trading venture blindfolded. Under the Constitution we are not permitted to trade. I am aware that the Constitution is about to be altered. Let us investigate the value of these phosphatic deposits while proceeding with the alteration of the Constitution. To-day we would not be permitted to sell to the farmer one shilling’s worth of the phosphates from Nauru Island. The terms of the Constitution are such that the Federal Government cannot enter into trade.
– I do not think that is correct.
– My reason for making the statement arises from a recollection of the great pleasure displayed by the managers of the Commonwealth clothing and- harness factories when it was announced that, under the War Precautions Regulations, they were free to sell ‘their products.
– It has been laid down by the High Court that if an industry is a genuinely Government concern it may sell its surplus or waste.
– Nevertheless, my statement holds good - that a Federal concern is not ordinarily permitted to enter into trade.
– Such a concern is permitted to sell its surplus. That was laid down by Mr. Deakin when he was Attorney-General.
– The effect of Senator Russell’s interjection is that a Federal concern has not the right to trade in ordinary circumstances.
– Has the Commonwealth the right to import sugar if it desires to do so ?
– But it does so.
– It does so by provision of the War Precautions Regulations, and under agreement with the Queensland Government, which saw an opportunity to provide our people with cheap sugar. Surely we should arrive at some decision upon whether we hav:j the right to trade before we pledge hundreds of -thousands of pounds belonging to the people to a trading concern. The whole proposal is questionable, and I am endeavouring to persuade honorable senators to adopt a cautious attitude. Members of the Government, other than Mr. Hughes and Sir Joseph Cook, know no more about this business than I do. The proposition itself is not fascinating, even as a mining gamble. If the speculation had to do with some Australian field - for instance, the Blythe River iron deposits, or tin-fields, or shale prospects elsewhere - :I would favour joining with the Federal Government in the venture. But simply because some one has said that there is a huge and valuable deposit upon this island, I am not going to accept that statement; and I shall not vote to grant an unknown sum of money belonging to the people of Australia for this proposition.
– The Tasmanian shale venture would be started to-morrow if the Commonwealth Government were to give the Tasmanian Government an order.
– Hear, hear ; but when we are asked to vote a very large sum upon a very doubtful proposition , we should be excessively cautious. Nauru Island is an unknown proposition. Its prospects have not been investigated on our behalf. What can be the good of investigating the deposits after we have committed ourselves to purchase them? I have raised my voice against the whole project on the ground that it is the most wildly speculative gambling proposition ever placed before the Federal Parliament. Even if we looked upon it in the most favorable light, it could not be expected to give the farmer cheaper fertilizers; it could never insure the people any great return for their outlay. There is no chance, under the proposed form of control of the island, of the farmer being supplied ‘with phosphates at a lower ‘price.
– T-hat does not say much for Government control.
– It certainly does .not say much :for Government control of this character. It ds a very ‘loose form -of control. It is a gamble in which we cannot hope to make much, and may lose a lot. I could quite understand people who have been in ‘the .habit of accepting company promoters’ advertisements falling for this project, people who have listened to ‘the -tales of confidence men. who have given ear to the story of the rich uncle from .Fiji. But I cannot see how such allurements can be expected to win results in this Parliament as they have done in the parks of Sydney. This is the first appearance in the Federal legislature, at any rate, of the confidence proposition; and I hope it will be the last.
– I cannot understand the attitude adopted by Senator -Gardiner. His criticisms are directly opposed to the principles of the party of which he is so prominent a member. Had Senator Gardiner listened to his own speech being delivered by some honorable senator on this side he would have been fervent in his; denunciations. He would have declared that the honorable senator uttering such views was seeking to bolster up private enterprise against a scheme for nationalization. Here we find Senator Gardiner actually barracking for all he is worth in the interests of private enterprise. Fertilizers are a very necessary commodity. Australia is much more of an agricultural than a manufacturing country. The fact that agriculture is our greatest industry should provide one of the strongest arguments for our purchase and control of portion of the Nauru Island phosphatic deposits. In the past, Australian farmers have secured their phosphate supplies chiefly from Christmas and Ocean Islands. I understand that both in quality and quantity the Nauru Island deposits are superior. Owing to the price which the Australian farmer has been compelled to pay for his fertilizers he has not been able to make wheatgrowing pay. I believe that now, however, there aregood prospects of securing fertilizer supplies at much cheaper rates. If that should be the case, it would provide a great incentive for- the- expansion of Australia’s production. If the advice of Senator Gardiner were taken, however, the means of expanding production would be withheld from the farming community. If I did not. know Senator Gardiner so well as I do,. I would charge him with being; . an advocate for some private concern.
– Do you know the value of that rock f . o.b. ?
– We have been paying, in Western Australia, for the commodity delivered in . that State, approximately £6 per ton.
– The rock from the island was quoted at 30s. before the war, and £2 during the war.
– My quotation was not for the rock in its raw state; 1 do not know the cost of its treatment. I do know, however, that prices to-day in Australia are altogether too high, and that now we are given an opportunity to secure greater supplies of the raw material. Senator Gardiner argued in a highly illogical manner. He asked, why does Great Britain desire to retain a share in the product of this island ? Senator Gardiner adopted, the attitude that the whole proposition was worthless. He pointed out that this island is the one spot in the whole of the Pacific in regard to which Britain insisted upon, securing a share. To me, that very circumstance is an argument that the island constitutes a valuable asset. Had it been worthless in the estimation of the Imperial authorities, they would not have bargained about getting a percentage of the phosphatic deposits there. There is another phase of this matter of which we cannot afford to lose sight. Throughout the war, whenever the question of an indemnity was mentioned, we were asked, “How is it possible for the Allies to secure an indemnity from Germany without trading with Germany, and so, perhaps, helping German trade, and to some extent injuring the trade of our Allies? “ I admit that the question was a difficult one to answer. We were repeatedly told that Germany could not pay an indemnity unless we traded with her. She had not sufficient gold to enable her to do so. The only way in which she can pay is by the Allies taking from her whatever she has in the way of fertilizers, or coal, or raw materials which they require. Here is an opportunity for Australia to secure fertilizers.
– They will not come to us in the form of an indemnitv. We shall have to pay for them.
– We shall have to pay only for the rights of the private company which has been working those deposits. We are not called upon to pay anything for the island itself. We are expected to compensate the private company for whatever works we take over from it. Surely that is a reasonable proposition. That course has been followed in every country - in Alsace-Lorraine, in Poland, and elsewhere. So that we are merely following a well-known rule, which is a fair one. This is a means of getting an indemnity from the enemy without enriching him. The fact that Nauru comprises only a small area may. not make it any the less valuable. Many small areas in the world have proved to be the very richest from the point of view of mineral wealth. The little islands of Britain were wealthier than the whole continent of Europe some years ago, by reason of their great coal resources. Indeed, Britain to-day can still hold her own very well with Europe. It is not a question of the area embraced by
Nauru Island, but of the depth of the phosphatic deposits there. Senator Gar. diner has referred to the small output of the island, which totals only 100,000 tons annually. But that is a very big shipping proposition, especially in such an outoftheway place, where shipping facilities are probably of the crudest. That may be the explanation of the small output. Unless such heavy material as phosphates can be handled with up-to-date machinery, and unless proper facilities exist for shipping, there are few places in the Pacific Islands from which even 100,000 tons could be despatched annually.
– Two hundred and fifty thousand tons a year is the output from Ocean Island. .
– The sat]ie company which controls Ocean Island hashitherto controlled Nauru Island.
– We should not be of two minds in regard to this agreement. It is our duty to take over Nauru Island. Regarding the amount of compensation to be paid to the company, that is a matter which has to be determined by the Government. We cannot reasonably suppose that they are going to’ pay an exorbitant price.
– It can reasonably be supposed that we are fools if we give them permission to do that.
– Surely we must give the Government authority to spend money; it is part and parcel of the functions of Government. Phosphates ‘are the one mineral in regard to which there is great difficulty in arriving at a proper valuation. The matter needs to be thoroughly gone into by competent men. In the case of most minerals, we are able to give a rough-and-ready valuation ; but I would not attempt to do that in connexion with the phosphatic deposits of this island. Under the agreement, there is a prospect of the price of fertilizers in Australia being reduced. We need these fertilizers in order to help along our agricultural operations. Our light soils require the application of a tremendous quantity of fertilizers, and if we can get a cheaper supply by taking over Nauru Island, the agreement will have my blessing.
– Why does the honorable senator think that we shall be able to get fertilizers more cheaply ?
– Because we shall be handling a larger quantity. By reason of possessing a larger capital than was possessed by the private company which has hitherto operated the deposits there, we ought to be able to land these phosphatic fertilizers in Australia more cheaply than they have been landed hitherto, and if we can eliminate the profit of the middleman, we shall be able to give the farmers the benefit of it. The valuation of the works is a matter which we cannot fix by debate here; that is a matter for another mode of settlement.
– I hope that the Minister will not misunderstand me when I say that the speech in which he moved the second reading of this Bill was most disappointing. I quite understand the disabilities which he is labouring under at the present time.
– I do not want any apologist for my speech. I deliberately refrained from quoting figures which were not authentic. I have already told the honorable senator that there are no official statistics available in regard to the phosphatic deposits at Nauru Island.
– I thank the Minister for his remarks, but I was about to allude to the deficiencies in his secondreading speech. As representatives of the people, we are entitled to know approximately the expenditure to which this Bill will commit the Commonwealth. We are entitled to know what return we are likely to get for that expenditure. We are, further, entitled to be told something about the trade possibilities in connexion with this enterprise, and about the advantages which . such a purchase will bestow upon Australia. I quite understand the pressure of Ministerial work to which the present Vice-President of the Executive Council is at present subjected. But I do not consider it my duty to vote blindly for this agreement. I desire to know something more about it. Every man who has any knowledge of the Pacific Islands has heard from time to time of this Eldorado. Every seafaring man knows that there are phosphatic deposits at Nauru, and that until the outbreak of war they were owned by the Germans. The merest tyro knew that at Ocean Island, which is hard by, a private company has been working phosphatic deposits for some time, and he was equally aware that close to the coast of Australia there are other islands upon which similar deposits are to be found. One of these is Christmas Island. I do not profess to know very much about the island of Nauru. I have learned a little during the course of this debate; but I want to get down to “tin-tacks”, and to see precisely where the Commonwealth money is to go. For that reason, I intend to recapitulate what I have gathered during the course of this discussion.
– What is the meaning of this new term “ tin tacks “ ?
– Shall I “substitute “hard facts”?
– The “ tin tacks “ in this case are that the British Empire has accepted a mandate over the island, and we now have to compensate the private company which has been working the phosphatic deposits there.
– I understandthat the Island of Nauru was owned largely by Germans prior to the war, and that a private company, known as the Pacific Phosphate Company, had a lease from the German Empire under which it was enabled to work these deposits. This company is identical with the company working the deposits on Ocean Island, no great distance away. I further understand that the capital of the company that owns and works the deposits on Nauru is £500,000; but as to now .much of the capital is water and how much is solid, I do not know. At all events, the nominal paid-up capital is the amount I have mentioned.
– Liquid and solid.
– Yes. I also understand, from the information given by the -Minister in his second-reading speech, that during the war all the German shares in the Pacific Phosphate Company were absolutely sold.
– Some were sold in London; I do not know under what conditions.
– Was the value of- the Pacific Phosphate Company’s interests based on the price obtained for the shares that were sold, or on a sum of £3,000,000?
– Much less than £3,000,000.
– Will the Minister say over £2,000,000?
– Then, as the sum of £3,000,000 has been mentioned, I must base my calculations on that figure.
– I gave that as an indication, and said that £3,000,000 was above the maximum.
– Very well, we can say, as far as proof can be adduced as to the market value of the recently sold shares, that the Pacific Phosphate Company’s Nauru interests can be capitalized at approximately £2,500,000. Under this Bill we are asked to buy out the interests of this company.
– No; we have taken over the island, and now have to compensate the company.
– We are asked to enter into an agreement with Great Britain and New Zealand, and, if we do, we shall have to compensate the company. If we do not ratify the agreement, no Commonwealth capital expenditure will be involved.
– We would . still be partly responsible.
– I am endeavouring to secure information, and to ascertain the value of the agreement to Australia. We have also to consider why the island of Nauru was excluded from the mandate given to Australia over other islands in the Pacific. I do not profess to know anything about the matter; but it seems that special influence has been at work, and that influence may be one of several factors controlling the situation. Probably the Colonial Office regarded the island as extremely valuable, and refused to give Australia the whole of it, and the apportionment set out in the Bill was therefore agreed to. On the other hand, it may be that the Pacific Phosphate Company, as mentioned by Senator Gardiner, is now exclusively an English concern, and controlled by English directors, who have influenced the British Government to obtain substantial compensation. I am not suggesting that such is the case; but merely mention these points as possible .factors governing the position. I fail to see any real or just reason why the mandate over Nauru was not given exclusively to Australia, as was the case with the mandate for other islands. Let us endeavour to visualize the financial aspect of - this proposition. If we give £3,000,000 as compensation to the Pacific Phosphate Company for its rights in Nauru, on a basis of 5 per cent., we shall be undertaking a liability of £150,000 per year. We have heard that the quantity of phosphates exported from the island has been in the vicinity of 100,000 tons per annum. The export price before the outbreak of war was 30s. per ton, and since then £2 per ton. The interest alone on the compensation to be paid would, on these figures, amount to 30s. per ton if only 100,000 tons were exported.
– What is the freight ?
– I am not dealing with that aspect of the question, but with the f.o.b. value of the phosphate. Further, we are committed to the cost of administration of the island and to the fees to be paid to the three representatives of the signatories to the agreement. Under these circumstances, the f.o.b. cost of the phosphate shipped to Australia would be nearly double the rate charged before the war. If the compensation is fixed at, say, £2,500,000, we shall be compelled to provide 42 per cent, of this amount, which is over £1,000,000. Before the Senate agrees . to a proposition of this nature we should at least be satisfied that we are to have a return on our expenditure, and that we are also likely to be able to confer some benefit on the users of the material. I am not at all satisfied on either of these two points. I am sorry that further information is not available, and in view of the tone of the debate I ask the Minister whether he cannot adjourn the discussion until a pro forma balance-sheet can be submitted.
– I can supply the figures that are available, but I am not prepared to take the responsibility for their accuracy.
– I am speaking entirely from memory, but I believe we have been told that during 1914 approximately 90,000 tons of phosphate, valued at about 30s. per ton, were exported from the island. I do not think that the price averaged £2 per ton. On the basis of an annual export of 90,000 tons at £2 per ton the return would be £180,000 per annum, but we may be asked to jointly pay £150,000 in interest.
– A quantity of the material that has been coming to Australia has been shipped from Ocean Island, and as the Government would have a monopoly over supplies from Nauru the market would improve.
– On the other hand, it may be said that portion of the 90,000 tons did not come to Australia. If the Minister can assure me that the 90,000 tons exported from Nauru came to Australia, and that a considerable quantity was also received from Ocean Island, the cost would be reduced, and the average margins correspondingly increased. We should have some figures before us showing the total requirements of Australia. Surely the Customs figures are available?
– Our requirementsare approximately 250,000 tons per annum.
– Now we are obtaining some, information. I am sure the Minister will realize that my criticisms are fair.
– Your figures are sound; but I do not care to compare them with those submitted by the company.
– We have to remember that in the past supplies have been received from Christmas Island and Ocean Island, and if any abnormal expenditure were involved in connexion with the Nauru proposition we would not be able to work that deposit at a profit.
– We would also have to contend with French and Japanese competition.
– Yes. The whole matter seems to hinge upon the amount of compensation that the Pacific Phosphate Company expect to receive. We should be supplied with the amount of capital actually invested, the value of the company’s interests, and the money it has spent, before we should be asked to commit ourselves to the payment of compensation which the enterprise may not ‘ be able to stand. There is an old adage, “ Well bought is half sold,” and we should remember that.
– The compensation to be paid is to be decided by arbitrators..
– I do not wish to give away my rights to arbitrators. If the Minister will say that the compensation recommended by the arbitrators shall be subject to the ratification of Par- liament before it is paid I am prepared to support the Bill.
– That is so.
– But the Bill does not provide that. Wo are called upon to ratify the purchase of the Pacific Phosphate Company’s interests’ in Nauru and to abide by the award of the arbitrators.
– This Bill authorizes the appointment of arbitrators, but its provisions will not become law until their workhas been completed.
– No, but if the good-will of the Pacific. Phosphate Company’s business is valued at an enormous sum - we have been told that the company’s manager estimates the value of the deposit at. £375,000,000- surely Australia will not be asked to pay a large amount on which we- would have no hope of receiving interest. If the Minister will accept an amendment whereby Parliament will have the opportunity of confirming the compensation fixed by the arbitrators, I shall be satisfied. I do not wish to impose upon an industry, which is necessary in the farmers’ interests, a heavy burden by overcapitalizing at the outset. That means failure. I willnot approve of any scheme which risks over-capitalization for possibly British “ boodleiers.” On the authority ofthe Minister we are asked to ratify an agreement that might mean the expenditure of £2,000,000. In spite of the apologia of my honorable friend, Senator de Largie, I fully agree with the remark made by other honorable ‘senators that we should know something about the proposal, so that we may go into it with our eyes absolutely open. I suggest that the Minister allow the adjournment of the debate’ in order that further information may be obtained.
– In my reply I will furnish the. information.
– I feel sure that the Minister will accept my remarks in the proper spirit and my assurance that I want to do my level best for Australia. This proposition may be good or otherwise, but I cannot give my vote for a bald proposal. So far no ‘ figures have been presented to the Senate, and we have heard nothing but “expectations.” As placed . before us, the proposal is worse than a mining prospectus, because the latter usually gives the probable tonnage, costs, profits, and so on. I am not prepared to vote away good Commonwealth money, ‘which might ultimately get undeservedly into the pockets of shareholders in a private -company.
– I must congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) on his great business ability. There is no doubt he would be invaluable on any board of a private company, because this afternoon he put his case in a thoroughly business-like manner. I remind him, however, that there are two ways of looking at a business proposition. One has to be careful not to be taken in by optimistic statements. We know that distant fields look green, and sometimes the buyer of distant fields looks greener. On the other hand, one has to be careful not to miss any of the good things going. If the Nauru Island proposal is a good thing, then we want Australia to have 42 per cent, of it. That is the position. I am at a special disadvantage in discussing this Bill, because I was unable to hear the Minister’s statement in moving the second reading, so I am not able to say whether I regard it as a good or a bad bargain. In any case, I do not think the Senate is a proper body to form an opinion on this point, and before . I resume my seat I intend to make a suggestion which I hope will safeguard Parliament from coming to an unwise decision. I understand this island was taken from the Germans, and that an agreement has been made . between Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand to share in its management. There must be an administrator, and commissioners with probably large salaries, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, and there must be compensation to the Pacific Phosphate Company, which own Nauru and Ocean Islands. So far as I have heard, nobody as yet has told us how much of the Pacific Phosphate Company’s capital is invested in Nauru and how much in Ocean Island, but I have no doubt they will endeavour to prove that nearly all their capital is in Nauru and none in Ocean Island.
– You are overlooking the fact that the Pacific PhosphateCompany do not own the island. They own only a portion of it.
– I should think the other portion is not worth owning. The property is to be taken at a fair valuation. This is provided in Article 7 of the agreement, which states -
Any right, title, or interest which the Pacific Phosphate Company or any other person may have in the said deposits, land, buildings, plant, and equipment (so far as that right, title, and interest is not dealt with by the Treaty of Peace) 6hall be converted into a claim for compensation at a fair valuation.
The provision is very vague. Who is to settle what is a fair valuation of the deposits? We are told that the island contains enormous deposits of phosphatic rock, but on the other hand it has been stated that the company have not shipped more than 100,000 tons per annum from the island. I agree with Senator Gardiner that 100,000 tons is a fair estimate of the shipping capacity. We are also informed that the superphosphate is worth £2 per ton f.o.b., or about £200,000 per annum on the total shipments, and as Senator Pratten hat pointed out, if we have to pay interest on anything like £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 there will be very little left for the Commonwealth out of the proceeds of phosphatic rock production. All these matters should be looked into carefully, and the Senate, as I have said, is not a competent body for this task. We are, I think, dealing with this matter apart from political bias altogether. We are considering it more as the Board of directors of a private company. But still we are not the proper persons to determine whether it is a good bargain or not. Neither are the Ministers, because they have to administer their departments, attend Parliament, and be present at numerous other functions. What prospect is there of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) giving the matter personal attention during the next three months? This is a one man job, and a very good man is needed to do it well. I presume the Government will join with the Governments of Great Britain and New Zealand in appointing someone to go into the details. I now make a suggestion which I hope will be accepted. In my opinion the Public Works Committee, the members of which have ample time, and are assisted by an admirable secretary, should be asked to consider the details of the proposal. I understand that any expenditure over £20,000 on any public undertaking must be referred to that body, and if this matter were handed over to them we would have a report brought up on business lines. As a Commonwealth we cannot afford to lose any more money. We are just about up to our neck in debt now, but if we indulge in . reckless expenditure, we shall, in my opinion, come to the end of our finances. We ought to make a good, shrewd business bargain, and we can do it. I hope the Minister will have this matter referred ito the Public Works Committee, because members of that body have all the necessary machinery for a searching inquiry, and are accustomed to an examination of such proposals as this. The Minister must see that the criticism this afternoon has been quite pertinent, and that before we are asked to commit ourselves, we are entitled to a good deal’ more information than has been given to us. I realize the difficulty in which the Minister is placed. He is absolutely unaided in conducting the business of this Chamber at present. His task is certainly a herculean one, and it is my desire to help him.
– The discussion initiated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) has proved most valuable, and the facts given by Senator Pratten justify the Senate in making a careful study of the situation before accepting the proposal. I find that the total requirements of the Commonwealth last year in phosphate rock was about 190,000 tons.
– No. That was all that could be obtained, owing to the shipping difficulties.
– The latest issue of the Commonwealth Tear Book contains the information that our phosphatic rock is obtained chiefly from Ocean and Nauru Islands. There are some small deposits in South Australia, but they represent only a fraction of the Commonwealth requirements. I find that the imports of phosphatic rock for 1912 amounted to 1,963,640 cwt; for 1913, 3,200,648 cwt; for 1914-15, 3,464,547 cwt.; for 1915-16, 3,813,788 cwt; and for 1916-17, the last year for which the imports are recorded, 3,556,561 Cwt. The imports for 1916-17 were valued at £444,9S4. The total requirements for the Commonwealth in phosphatic rock from all sources outside Australia would appear to be something over 190,000 tons per annum. Seeing that the output of this island is in the neighbourhood of 90,000 tons or 100,000 tons per annum, and that the total requirement of the Commonwealth for phosphatic rock is only about double that output, it naturally follows that the conclusion come to by Senator Pratten is correct, and this would mean loading the output of Nauru Island to the extent of something like 15s. per ton. Senator Pratten has said that the interest upon the capital invested in this proposition, including water and solid substances, is about £.150,000 per annum, and taking the total requirements of the Commonwealth as double the output of the island, that output would be loaded to the extent of about 15s. per ton for interest alone. The whole matter boils down to the question of what we are going to pay these people, and if we are going to pay too much for our whistle, I shall certainly object. I heartily agree with . Senator Pratten that we should not allow ourselves to be the medium whereby British or any other type of “ boodleiers “ are to be encouraged by action on the part of this Parliament, which is the custodian of the people’s well-being.
If the capital of this company, including fluid, is in the neighbourhood of £2,500,000 or £3,000,000, it is clear that it has been vastly appreciated, and that those who got in on the ground floor must have done very well out of the proposition. We are not going to allow the producers of this countryengaged in cereal production to be overloaded with any extra burden if we can help it. What are we to do in this matter ? If we accept this proposition at its full market value, plus the water in the concern, we shall load the users of superphosphates in this country with a charge which they should not be called upon to bear. Everything depends upon the amount we are to give this company. I can quite realize the advantage of having a source of supply of phosphatic rock in competition with the supplies of the Ocean Island and Christmas Island companies. It would be a valuable check upon them if we had an independent source of supply, which, apparently, Nauru Island would furnish.
– If we took Nauru Island, we should probably have to take Ocean Island later and work both together.
– Possibly so. I see in this proposition an opportunity to secure a source of supply which could be used in competition with the companies occupying the other islands. We shall have no competition with those monopolies if we do not ratify this proposal The company, apparently, does not care whether we ratify it or not. They are on a good wicket no matter what comes or goes when their capital has appreciated to something in the neighbourhood of five times its original amount, even including water. I repeat that there is a chance of securing for the Commonwealth an independent source of supply of this necessary basis of superphosphates, and it cannot be secured if we turn down this Bill.
There is a great temptation to vote against the Bill; but there is areason why we should be careful about doing so. I repeat again that everything hinges on what we are to pay the company, and the suggestion has been made that we should pay on the basis of a fair pre-war value with all the water squeezed out of the proposition. If we can get our payment down to that,we shall have done something to safeguard the interests of those in Australia who are vitally concerned about fertilizers. It was my intention to submit a proposition along those lines when the opportunity arises; but if in the meantime the Minister is able to furnish honorable senators with further information as to the real interest of the company in the concern, it will be highly valued by honorable senators. I am not going to vote for this measure in the dark, and if I do vote for it, it will be with the special proviso that the company shall be paid only a fair value, and that will mean the fair pre-war value of the proposition, with all the water squeezed out of it.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
– I am in an awkward dilemma with regard to this Bill. When first we received detailed information concerning the Nauru Island agreement and the working of its deposits, I was inclined to think that Australia had secured an excellent business proposition. So far as the terms of the agreement between the Imperial Government, the New Zealand Government, and the Commonwealth
Government are concerned, our representatives managed to secure a very good, bargain. The more we hear about the proposition itself however, the less . it looks like a good business scheme, and the more it appears to be a speculation. I read with considerable interest the debates in another place. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) addressed himself to the principles of the Bill, and to the detailed provisions of the agreement embodied in its schedule. The general attitude in another place toward the proposition was friendly, but it appears to me that the Government has failed to provide necessary information. Other honorable senators, in addressing themselves to this measure, have dealt in some detail with the possible cost of carrying on the enterprise and with the possible profit. Senator Russell has been asked to furnish figures so that approximate calculations may be made, both as to the possible benefit and the probable cost. The Minister has only been able to say, however, that he will furnish certain information at . a later stage, when closing the debate; but he added that he would not be able to vouch, for the accuracy of his figures. They will be the statistics which have been placed before the public, apparently, by promoters of the enterprise. Glancing through the debates upon the measure elsewhere, I have noted that the estimates of the resources of Nauru Island reveal a great disparity. They range from a matter of 80,000,000 or 90,000,000 tons to 400,000,000 tons and more.
Honorable senators are faced with another phase of the subject upon which we can gain no information at the present stage; I refer to what it will cost the three Governments to dispossess the present holders.
– Who is responsible for the estimates of the phosphatic deposits ?
– The manager of the company.
– I am not in a position to say definitely. Some of the estimates have been furnished by parties who have worked the deposits. One of the estimates presented by the Prime Minister consisted of figures furnished by a Western Australian investigator who visited the island in August. If this were an ordinary mining proposition, one which was:about to be entered into by. a private company, and if that company were in viting the public to become shareholders, one of its first activities would be- to secure competent men to provide adequate estimates of the extent of the deposits
SenatorFoll. - A purchaser’s valuation.
– Exactly. The Commonwealth authorities recently secured an option in connexion with the Blythe River iron deposits in Tasmania. Estimates had already been made of the quantity of iron on that field, but it did not take the Commonwealth Government long to . appoint its own experts to furnish an approximate estimate of the extent of the deposits. The result of their investigations was that the Commonwealth Government decided not to proceed with its option. Here we are being asked to embark upon an enterprise practically blindfolded. No effort has been made to secure approximate estimates of the phosphatic deposits upon the island . Even if these estimates were provided there is the further element of doubt which has been referred, to by Senators Pratten and Fairbairn, that is, with respect to the amount which we may have to pay the present holders of the rights for dispossessing them. The agreement states that a fair valuation’ is to be made. What is meant by that? , The valuation may be arrived at by agreement between the three parties concerned and the present holders. If they are unable to agree, how is the fair valuation to be determined? References have been made to an . arbitrator ; but it is not expressly provided in the agreement that resort shall be had to arbitration in the event of disagreement between the three Governments and the vendors. With all theseuncertainties confronting us, we are asked to pass the Bill. I had not the opportunity of listening to the Minister (Senator Russell) when introducing the measure, but I take it that he had command of no information other than the Prime Minister was able to supply in another place. I listened with interest and surprise to an interjected remark of the Minister this afternoon, however. It appeared to imply that there is nothing final about this measure.
– It is undoubtedly final.
– The Minister implied that if the Bill were passed it would still remain for this Parliament, after a fair valuation had been arrived at, to review the whole position.
– No; I was referring to the amount of money to be voted by this Parliament. It is quite clear that the agreement’ will be final; but there is: an understanding with regard to the maximum amount of payment, and there is provision for arbitration between the British Government and the Commonwealth authorities.
– That is not expressed here, and for very obvious reasons. But we should distinctly understand that if we pass this Bill, and a “ fair valuation “ is subsequently arrived at by agreement, or by valuation, or by assessment by a Judge or any other tribunal, it will be our responsibility to vote that amount. We shall have no alternative but to vote the sum after having passed this measure. We shall have ratified the agreement. Clause 3 says -
The agreement made between His Majesty’s Government in London, His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, and His Majesty s Government of the Dominion of New Zealand in relation to the Island of Nauru (a copy of which agreement is set forth in the schedule to this Act) is approved.
– The agreement is the Bill.
– By passing the Bill this Parliament will have solemnly approved of the agreement entered into and signed by Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Hughes, and Mr. Massey.
– What will be the position if we reject the Bill? Would we not lose considerable prospective advantage to the Commonwealth ?
– That is possible; and that is why I find myself in such a dilemma. When we first received details of this agreement I thought the Commonwealth Government had secured a tremendous asset, and it is quite possible that .it has done so. I know what feelings of regret would be held by any one who had been concerned in rejecting the agreement if it were subsequently found that Australia had lost thereby a valuable asset. That is why I am in such a dilemma. We have not sufficient information.
– We cannot alter a word of the agreement.
– The agreement is before us for our ratification or rejection ; and one of its clauses is to the effect that, so far as the present holders are concerned, they shall not be treated as though they were enemy subjects. The island belonged to Germany, but the phosphatic resources of the island were held by .a company under a long lease. It was a British company, with a few German shareholders. The latter were dealt with according to the usual practice during the course of the war. But it was because the company was a British one that the three Governments concerned rightly agreed not to deal with it as though its shareholders were German nationals. The rights of the shareholders are not to be acquired as though they were the rights of enemies. It is provided, rather, that a claim shall be entered for compensation, and that it shall be met by a payment arrived at on a “fair valuation.” We are tied to a “ fair valuation,” no matter how that may be decided upon. And, if we ratify this agreement, we shall be called upon later to agree to the appropriation of the necessary money. We shall be confronted by the fact that, having ratified the agreement, the amount of the valuation must be paid.
– No matter what may be the valuation.
– It is to be regarded as a “fair valuation.” It is because of all these uncertainties that I find it impossible to deal at any length with the merits of the Bill itself. There are certain attractions about the proposition, and certain disadvantages. During the course of the speech either of Senator Lynch or Senator Fairbairn I interjected” that if we did acquire an interest in the working of the phosphatic deposits of Nauru Island, we should probably find that we would need also to acquire a controlling interest in the deposits of Ocean Island.
– That island is adjacent to Nauru Island.
– It is about 160 miles distant, I understand. I gather’ that a good deal of expenditure is incurred in the shipment of these phosphatic deposits from Nauru Island. The weather conditions which obtain there make their shipment a not very easy matter. But it so happens that the very conditions which at times render the shipment of these fertilizers almost impossible from Nauru Island are ‘the conditions most favorable to their shipment from OceanIsland. ‘So that to work the deposits of Nauru Island advantageously we should! need to acquire control over the deposits of Ocean Island. We .should then be able to carry on operations all the year round.
– The same company holds interests in the deposits of both islands.
– Yes. But apart from the industrial operations which would be carried on, we agree to institute a system of administration, and Senator Pratten did not take into account the cost of that administration when he was discussing the question of charges. We should also need, to make an allowance for the interest which will have to be paid upon the amount of compensation granted to the company at Nauru Island. That island covers an area of only 5,000 or 6,000 acres, so that the cost of whatever administration we may set up there will be altogether disproportionate to the population and area of the place. Our proportion of that cost will be a charge against the working of these deposits.
I come now to another aspect of the matter, which also places me somewhat in a dilemma. It is a question of whether we can ratify this agreement. If the agreement is beyond the constitutional competence of the Commonwealth Government, nothing that the Prime Minister may do in the way of signing it, or that this Parliament may do by purporting to ratify it, can make it legal. I have considerable doubt as to whether the Commonwealth is competent constitutionally to enter into the agreement.
– To become a vendor of the phosphates.
– Or to work them. Article 9 of the agreement provides -
The deposits shall lie worked and sold under the direction, management, and control of the Commissioners, subject to the terms of this agreement.
It is true that the Commissioners are not to be interfered with hy the Parliaments of the countries which are parties to the agreement, but they are nevertheless to be the agents for tha Commonwealth, New Zealand, and Imperial Governments. They are to be the agents of those Governments in working and selling these deposits. Article 9 further says -
It shall bo the duty of the Commissioners to dispose of thu phosphates for the purpose of the agricultural requirements of the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, so far as those requirements extend.
Then paragraph 2 of Article 11 sets out -
Any phosphates not required by the three Governments may be sold by the Commissioners at the best price obtainable.
All the other provisions incidental to the selling of these fertilizers in the open markets of the world are embodied in the agreement. Now, I doubt very much whether the Commonwealth is competent to enter into operations of that character. It cannot enter into them singly, and I question whether it can enter into them in conjunction with the Imperial Government and New Zealand. The Commonwealth is an artificial creation. Before it existed there were six separate colonies here, each sovereign and independent under the Crown. The Federation is a partnership between those colonies for certain definite and limited purposes. Our Constitution is the schedule to an Imperial enactment, which declares that we have formed ourselves into a constitutional partnership for certain specific purposes under the name of a Commonwealth with a Parliament and Executive, and with all the other machinery appropriate to a selfgoverning community in relation to these specified matters. But the powers of the Commonwealth in respect to trade and commerce are very limited.
– Does not the same remark apply to our shipping ventures?
– It may apply to certain features of our shipping. If our shipping carries more than exports from the Commonwealth and imports to it, probably the same argument does apply. If it carried on operations between the Philippines and Japan-
– It has done that.
– It may have; I cannot say. But we all know that our trade and commerce powers are limited. This fact has been so obvious, and has been felt so stringently, that efforts have been repeatedly made to extend our powers in that direction by means of amendment of the Constitution.
– The honorable senator was opposed to that course.
– That . has nothing whatever to do with the argument which I am advancing, and I am not going to be drawn off the track by an irrelevant interjection on the part of the Government Whip. The position of the Commonwealth is that we have always proceeded upon the assumption that as a Commonwealth it cannot trade. It cannot enter into manufacture or production, but any State may do so. The Imperial Government may do so, and so, too, may the New Zealand Government; but we have always proceeded upon the assumption which I have stated, though there has been no ruling by the High Court to that effect. In the early days of the Commonwealth Parliament, however, a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the question of the desirableness or otherwise of the grantingof a bonus to encourage the manufacture of iron and steel. Upon that occasion there was a movement towards the nationalization of the iron and steel industry. The Right Honorable C. C. Kingston was the Chairman of the Commission, and the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was a member of it. I think that Mr. Hughes was one of those who very strongly supported the nationalization of the industry in preference to granting it protection or offering it a bounty.
– Is the honorable senator quite sure it was Mr. Hughes who took that view ? I rather think it was Mr. Watson.
– It may have been. Early in the history of that Commission an opinion was obtained from the then Attorney-General (the Honorable Alfred Deakin) upon the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to embark upon the industry. That opinion has been! deferred to ever since, and, as it is a brief one, I propose to read it. It will be found in the form of Appendix E, upon page 184 of the Commission’s report. It reads -
Opinion of the Honorable the AttorneyGeneral re Establishment of Ironworks by the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth of Australia. Attorney-General’s Department.
Melbourne, 18th July, 1903.
Dear Mr. Kingston,
You ask for my opinion, for the information of the Bonus Commission, as to the powers, if any, of the Commonwealth to establish ironworks.
In my opinion, no such power is included in the express gift of legislative power to the Federal Parliament.
The trade and commerce power, vast though it is, does not appear to extend to production and manufacture, which are not commerce. Commerce only begins where production and manufacture ends. (See Kidd versu6 Pearson, 128 U.S. 1, 20.)
Moreover, the fact that the trade and commerce power is limited to external and InterState trade and commerce indicates that the power which the States undoubtedly possess to undertake Government industries within their own limits is not shared by the Commonwealth under this sub-section.
Under sub-sections 1, 2, and 3, taken together (trade and commerce, taxation, and bounties), the authority of the Commonwealth over industrial development is of the largest; but, though it allows of control, regulation, and guidance, it in no respect points to direct establishment of management of any industries.
Nor can I find in any other part of the Constitution any express authority for the course suggested.
The implied powers of legislation remain to be determined, but include (under sub-section 3 of section 51) matters “incidental” to the exercise of the powers.
The manufacture of iron may be incidental to the execution of many such powers, e.g., defence or the construction of railways, ‘iiic Commonwealth might clearly undertake the manufacture of any goods for its own use; and probably if it did so, and it were incidentally advantageous to the interests of the economical working of the undertaking that it should also manufacture for other consumers, such manufacture would also come within its implied powers. Except as above, it does not appear that any power to establish and conduct manufactures can be implied from the Constitution.
The effect of that opinion is that no express power is given to the Commonwealth to enter the domain of production or manufacture. Nor is there any implied power in’ that connexion. There is an incidental power to do so in connexion with the exercise of any of the express powers of the Commonwealth, such as its power to undertake railway construction or its obligation regarding defence. To that extent, and to that extent only, has the Commonwealth any constitutional authority to invade the domain of manufacture or production. If I chose, I could quote reference after reference from the book of Professor Harrison Moore upon the Commonwealth of Australia, in which he affirms and reaffirms that manufacture and production precede trade and commerce. In other words, it is only when manufacture and production have ceased, that trade and commerce come into play, and consequently that the legislative authority of the Commonwealth can be exercised. So far as this agreement is concerned, it seems to me that if we enter into it and proceed to carry it out, we, as a Commonwealth, will be partners in a tripartite business arrangement for producing reck phosphate at the island of Nauru, and selling it in open market.
– Supposing all you say is correct, could not the Commonwealth mine phosphates there for the Northern Territory?
– Yes ; they would be able to do that; but they would probably be confined to that.
– Not according to Mr. Deakin’s opinion.
– They must be confined to that unless it were shown that the mining of phosphates was necessary for the proper exercise of powers expressed in the Constitution. It was only a suggestion of Mr. Deakin, that, in connexion with undertakings necessary to the exercise of such powers, there might be a disposal of surplus production; But the surplus production is not the important part of any output. When Mr. Deakin referred to the disposal of surplus production. I assume, and I suppose other honorable senators assume, that he was speaking of production, the chief portion of which was for Commonwealth use; but of which the surplus, for economic reasons, should be disposed of. If only a scintilla or fraction of the output were required for legitimate Commonwealth purposes, I think that a Court, assuming Mr. Deakin’s opinion to be correct, would consider that the Commonwealth was exceeding its constitutional powers by disposing of the remainder - the greater proposition - as surplus. If the Commonwealth used, say, only one-sixth of any production for its own requirements, and disposed of the remaining five-sixths, the Court would, I think, if following Mr. Deakin’s opinion, regard that as unconstitutional. These are circumstances, which we ought to consider, and furnish an additional reason why the Minister should contemplate the advisableness of having the questions arising out of this measure fully inquired into and reported upon before Parliament is asked to ratify this agreement. I do not like opposing the ratification of the agreement, because we may, by refusing to ratify it, lose a tremendous advantage.
– How long is it left open to us to ratify or withhold our ratification ?
– I take it that we have a reasonable time in which to exercise the power of ratification; that a reasonable time will be allowed.
– Do I understand that you doubt our competency even to ratify a commercial agreement of this nature?
– Certainly. If the agreement is beyond the constitutional competence of the Commonwealth, the Prime Minister’s signature does not give it validity.
– Could it not be regarded as an exercise of our war powers; as an agreement that has come about in consequence of the war?
– I think not.
– We have acquired the territory by conquest.
– We have not acquired the territory. There is a provision in the Constitution which I thought might have justified the agreement, but on looking at it again I find it does not. Section 122 of the Constitution reads -
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
– Was not Nauru occupied by members of the Australian Imperial Force?
– That is past history. The present position is that it is to be governed under a mandate, given, not to Australia nor to New Zealand, but to the British Empire. Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand are to act jointly in executing the mandate. They are to appoint Commissioners, and an Administrator, and to share in the obligations and in the profits of the transactions in the proportions of 42 per cent., 42 per cent., and 16 per cent.
– It must then be said that the Commonwealth has not the constitutional power to accept a mandate over any territory?
– That is not the position. I am dealing with the trade and commerce powers of the Commonwealth.
– This is, to all intents and purposes, a conquered country, over which we have been given a mandate.
-. - The fact that we have been given a mandate does not vest in us trade and commerce powers which we had not before. The proper course would be for us to clothe ourselves with the necessary powers to carry on production and sale in cases such as this.
– How would that apply operations in territories over which we have been given a mandate?
– It applies so far as our trade and commerce powers are concerned.
– If we struck oil in Papua, could we not sell it?
– That is a different matter. Papua is a territory of the Commonwealth, in respect of which we have exclusive and unitary power. So is the Northern Territory, although it is within, and Papua is outside, the Commonwealth. I could have dealt with these matters at some length by bringing to my aid the work of Professor Harrison Moore, who has dealt with the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Parliament over the various classes of territory under the control of the Commonwealth, including those which, under section 122 of the Constitution, may from time to time be surrendered by a State or be granted by the. Imperial Government. Professor Moore directs attention to the extent of the authority which this Parliament may exercise in respect of each class of territory.
SenatorBakhap. - The trainers of the Commonwealth could not have contemplated such a thing as a mandate; yet, nevertheless, the Commonwealth can accept mandates.
– We may accept a mandate; but we are now going beyond the acceptance of a mandate; we are being asked to ratify what the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in another place has called a business agreement. We might have a mandate over Nauru, and still allow private concerns to carry on their operations there.
– As we have a mandate over the island, have we not the right to exploit its resources?
– Not under our present constitutional powers.
– I cannot concede that.
– Possibly not. Senator Bakhap has said that the framers of the Constitution never contemplated the acceptance of mandates, and, that being so, our recourse regarding, this agreement, assuming my view to be correct, is to amend the Constitution, and to clothe ourselves with the necessary powers. The mere fact that we have accepted a mandate over the island, and that the mining of phosphates is a good business proposition, does not clothe us with the necessary mining powers.
– Although mandates are not referred to in the Constitution, surely it does not follow that we must amend the Constitution before we can accept a mandate?
– I do not say so. I am dealing with the proposal to ratify a business agreement. This Bill is not one for the ratification or acceptance of a mandate. No similar legislation has been submitted in connexion with variousother islands in the Pacific over which a mandate has been given to the Commonwealth.
– The Constitution cannot contain any prohibition against the Commonwealth engaging in trading enterprises in territory like Nauru, which has been given to us under a mandate.
– The Constitution gives us no power to trade.
– There is no prohibition to trade in a country over which we are given a mandate. That is the whole position.
– The Commonwealth is an artificial entity, brought into existence by an Imperial Act of Parliament, and it can exercise only the powers expressly and impliedly given to it.
– Your view is that we could not have powers under a mandate exceeding our powers under the Constitution ?
– Would the fact that the Commonwealth is to delegate to a Commission the functions of working and selling phosphatic rock render its action constitutional ?
– I think not. May I remind the honorable senator of the maxim, qui facit per alium facit per se - that whoever does anything through another does it himself?
– Could not the three Governments concerned buy the shares of the company, and trade as a company ?
– I do not know as to that. Apart from this agreement, it has often occurred to me to wonder what would happen if the Commonwealth were confronted with a position such as faced Disraeli when he purchased the shares of the Suez Canal Company. The State Governments, either individually or collectively, could do such a thing, but I do nob know that the Commonwealth Government could, under all circumstances, do it.
– Have you considered the position from the external point of view?
– In what relation?
– We have power to enter into treaties, and so on. Have you considered and dismissed that point?
– I have considered it in this regard : We have power to enter into foreign relations, subject to the Crown, but only to the limit of our own constitutional capacity.
I have mentioned these matters because I have felt it my duty to do so. It is quite possible that if we ratify this agreement, and if it were examined, it might be found that we were not competent to ratify it; that the agreement was null and void at its inception, because of the incompetence of the Commonwealth to make it. We might, of course, go on for years without anybody raising the question, and no one might ever raise it.
SenatorRussell. - Or we might amend the Constitution.
– Or even find that we had the right to make the agreement.
– Yes. On the other hand, we have to remember that there are competitors, and there will be competitors, with the Commonwealth and the two other Governments interested in relation to the output of phosphatic rock. If they chose to take action in the High Court of the Commonwealth, there would certainly be considerable doubt as to whether we were acting constitutionally or not.
– Supposing, in the meantime, the Constitution were amended?
– If the Constitution were amended before we proceeded to work under this agreement, no doubt that would enable us to carry out the agreement.
– I regard this agreement as one of the consequences of the war. If it were competent for us to do certain things under the War Precautions Act, action in regard to which has been projected into times of peace, is not the legality of an agreement like this, which has arisen out of the war, unimpugnable?
– No. The honorable senator is probably referring to the legislation relating to the moratorium and the various Pools which was passed by the Commonwealth during the period of war. The continuation of that legislation was due to the necessity to clear up what was done during the war. But by this agreement we are initiating a new enterprise altogether.
– This has arisen out of the war.
– One hundred thousand things may have arisen out of the war. The fact that this has arisen as a consequence of the war will not invest Parliament with further jurisdiction in relation to such an agreement. We have not jurisdiction to deal with these matters. Apparently we are going to ask the electors for an extension of Commonwealth powers, and this is one of the matters which I think ought not to be overlooked.
.- I am not very much troubled about the constitutional aspect of this question. In spite of all that Senator Keating has said, I think any difficulty in this connexion may be easily remedied if we go into the agreement with our eyes open. Several honorable senators appeared to be in some doubt as to whether or not they should vote for the Bill, but I know of nothing that will keen me from giving it my hearty support. In the first place I wish to emphasize that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in his negotiations with the Imperial Government, put up a magnificent fight so that Australia might share in the output of this island. Prom press reports it appeared that the Imperial Government wanted to retain possession of Nauru, but the Prime Minister fought strenuously on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– That is what the press reports indicate.
– And the press reports have been confirmed in the debate in another place.
– Why should Nauru and Rabaul be in a different category? Our right to Rabaul has never been contested.
– The British Government endeavoured to keep Nauru Island, but as a result of the representations made by our Prime Minister they agreed -eventually to work the island with Australia and New Zealand, which had also made considerable sacrifices in the war. The preamble of the agreement states -
Whereas a mandate for the Administration of the Island of Nauru has been conferred by the Allied and Associated Powers upon the British Empire, and such mandate will come into operation on the coming into force of the Treaty of Peace with Germany, and -
Whereas it is necessary to make provision for the exorcise of the said mandate and for the mining of the said phosphate deposits on the said island.
Our Prime Minister signed that agreement on behalf of his Government, believing it was absolutely necessary in the interests of this country that we should have some control over these phosphatic deposits, otherwise the Australian producers would be dependent upon some other power for their phosphatic manures.
SenatorFoll. - But we ought to know what we have to pay for it.
– That cry has been raised by some opponents of the proposal, but I regard it more as an appeal to -the gallery. I have every confidence in Lord Milner, who conducted negotiations on behalf of the British Government.
– Why do you not get down to facts?
– I am, and I want to make my facts quite clear without throwing about insinuations concerning other people. Lord Milner signed the agreement on behalf of the Imperial Government, Mr. Massey. on behalf of New Zealand, and Mr. Hughes on behalf of Australia. I understand that in his negotiations with Lord Milner the Prime Minister indicated how far he thought Australia was prepared to recompense the syndicate at present in possession of the phosphatic deposits. I also remind honorable senators that so far we have had no proof that the company want to sell. I do not know that they want to part with their property, and I do not know that the Government want to take it from them. In common with the Imperial and New Zealand Governments we have a mandate over the island, and if we dispossess the company we must, in accordance with British ideals of fair play, pay fair compensation for plant and goodwill. Nobody can object to that.
– We must either do that or confiscate the property.
– I am quite sure that the Prime Minister will see that Australia gets a fair deal from any syndicate, and I am equally sure, also, that the syndicate can expect a fair deal from the Commonwealth.
– But this matter will be in the hands of an arbitrator.
– I understand that an arbitrator may be appointed, but the agreement will have to come before our Government for ratification.
– Is that an official statement ?
– It is a common sense statement. Does the honorable senator think that the Commonwealth Government would accept the decision of an arbitrator if they thought they were not getting a fair deal? We have only to give the fair valuation, and I am quite willing to trust the Government in this matter.
– I take it that the Government will see that an arbitrator is appointed.
– There will probably be direct negotiations before the need for the appointment of an arbitrator arises.
– Those acquainted with arbitration methods know that propositions will be made from both sides before there will be any need to appoint an arbitrator. Japan and America have been paying 4s. per ton royalty for phosphatic rock, so it must be a great advantage to Australia to have such large deposits so close to our shores. According to the Customs statistics for 1917-18, the total imports of phosphatic rock had amounted to 182,153 tons, valued at £433,940. In that year New South Wales imported 539,600 cwt., Victoria 1,727,000 cwt., South Australia 919,000 cwt., Western Australia 450,000 cwt.
– Was that from all sources ?
– I understand it came from the Pacific and Christmas Islands. Nauru Island is only a little over 2,000 miles from Australia, so it is likely that phosphates can be obtained more cheaply from that source than from elsewhere. The value of the deposits on the island has been variously stated. One authority puts it down at £375,000,000, another at £430,000,000, and another at £450,000,000. These are, of course, estimates of private individuals. A former Governor of Queensland, the late Sir William McGregor, was one of the greatest authorities I know of in connexion with the Pacific Islands, and, for the information of honorable senators, I should like to read an extract from an article written by him just before he passed away -
One of the most important of the German islands is Nauru, or Pleasant Island. It lies half-a-mile south of the equator, and has an area of 3 square miles, and 1,538 inhabitants. It rises only 20 feet above sea-level. It has no harbor, is surrounded by a reef, and its lagoon is dry at low water. It is composed of coral lime, and is reported by Dr. Paul Hambruch to contain some 83,600,000 cubic metres of from 83 -per cent, to 90 per cent, tricalcium phosphate. It has shipping means to load 100 tons an hour. Another island, Angaur, contains a considerable quantity of phosphates.
The mandate has been signed by the Prime Minister on behalf of Australia, and I think we can assure him that this branch of the Legislature is taking a keen interest in the Nauru Island’ bargain. Some doubt has been expressed concerning the appointment of an Administrator and three Commissioners on the ground that the expenses thus entailed, together with interest on the amount of compensation to be paid, will prevent the Government from supplying phosphates to the Australian farmer as cheaply as this commodity can be obtained at present. I am sure that honorable senators are bearing in mind how very important it is that our farmers shall be supplied with superphosphates as cheaply as possible. When the three Governments takeover the control of Nauru Island, it is possible, as I have already said, that the syndicate may not be willing to sell out. If they are obliged to sell at a figure satisfactory to the three . Governments concerned, that may depreciate the value of the property which they have in Ocean Island, and as a result the Governments may be able to secure Ocean Island also at a reasonable price.
– That would meam doubling our stock in this business.
– I do not care so long as the result is to secure cheap superphosphates for the farmers of Australia. I am satisfied, in this matter, to ‘trust the three Governments concerned to make a good bargain and to secure the valuable deposits of this island for our people.
– In common with amajority of honorable senators who have spoken on this Bill, I am in considerable doubt as to how I should record my vote upon it. I was in doubt as to whether the arrangement proposed in this Bill would result in cheaper superphosphates for the farmers of Australia, and, after listening to Senator Keating on the constitutional point, I am now in considerable doubt as to whether we can constitutionally ratify the agreement included in the schedule. There are honorable senators who, like myself, are determined to assist the farmers of Australia in securing cheap superphosphates, but we are also determined that our people shall not be made parties to a particularly bad bargain. I am not so optimistic in this matter as is Senator Reid. If we have to pay anything like £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, as has been suggested, to the company working the deposits in Nauru Island, and are to pay for its administration a sum which I believe- will not be less than £20,000 per annum, it is possible that the expenses involved in securing these phosphatic deposits will so load the cost of the 200,000 tons of phosphates necessary to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth each year that the farmers of Australia will not be able to secure this commodity at a price less than they ‘are now paying for it.
Honorable senators must bear in mind that we have been importing large quantities of phosphates from Japan.
– The manufactured article.
– Yes, the manufactured article, ready to put into the land. There is one interesting feature about our imports of superphosphates from Japan which might be mentioned. I have been informed that when the Japanese bring one of their ships alongside a wharf in Australia to unload superphosphates, bags are available bear- ing’ different brands, and these bags are dumped into the hold of the ship and filled, and that is how the Australian farmer gets his superphosphates.
– You can have any drink out of the one bottle.
– Yes ; honorable senators may see that being done at the wharf when a Japanese boat is unloading superphosphates. The point I wish to make is that iE we are to load the price of superphosphates from Nauru Island with interest on the price to be paid to the company, and the cost of the administration of the island, it is possible that, we may be merely encouraging larger shipments of superphosphates from the cheap-labour country of Japan.
I am anxious we should not injure our chance of benefiting, the people of this country by rejecting this agreement, but I am. anxious also that the proposition should not be loaded to such an extent as to make it impossible to supply superphosphates from this island at a reasonable figure. I am sorry that ‘the Government have introduced this agreement in the way they have done. I carefully read the debate on the Bill in another place, and I do not see how the Government could expect this Parliament to accept such an agreement without information as to the quantity of superphosphate at Nauru Island.
– The only dispute on that point is as to the maximum supply. Some say that there is enough there to supply the world for 100 years.
– I have read all that. Since I knew that this matter was coming before Parliament, I have read up all I could about Nauru Island and Ocean Island. Nauru Island is a part of the world which appears merely as a speck on the map, and about which it is difficult to get any satisfactory information. Before a proposal of this kind was submitted to Parliament, some steps should have been taken to ascertain the value of this property, and how much, approximately, we should be called upon to pay for it. We have heard that the original capital of the company was £500,000, and some one has suggested that it was well watered even at that amount. If that be so, the people of Australia will look very simple in the eves of the world if they pay anything like £3,000,000 for an enterprise -originally capitalized ft £500,000.
– The British Government will have to pay their share.
– That will not make it any easier for us when the taxpayers of Australia ask us why we loaded then with an additional burden of interest of £150,000 a year.
– The honorable senator must think that the representatives of the Governments concerned are very soft.
– I do not want to appear soft myself. I do not intend to close my eyes and open my mouth and let this company give me what they please. I suggest that before the matter is finally dealt with, steps should be taken to ascertain the value of the deposits at Nauru Island.
– Why not refer the Bill to a Select Committee?
– I was going to suggest that. We have a Standing Committee on Accounts reviewing Commonwealth expenditure, and we have a Public Works Committee to which every work estimated to cost £25,000 and over has to be referred for consideration. That Committee spends much time and trouble in investigations, and I venture to think gives good advice to the Government on matters submitted to it. Here is one cf the biggest undertakings that Australia was ever asked to engage in, and there is .no suggestion that it should be referred to the Accounts Committee or to the Public Works Committee. My idea is that a committee of three experts should be sent to Nauru to investigate this proposal. One should be a financial expert able to get at the whole history of the company, to find out exactly how much money has been put into the proposition, and how this proposal is likely to pan out financially. Another should be a competent engineer, because I understand the company has established a very extensive plant and works at Nauru Island. The third expert should be an authority on phosphatic deposits; Such a committee of investigation would not take a great while to provide an authoritative opinion which would justify the Federal Parliament in agreeing to pay any amount deemed fair.
– Do you not think that the three Governments concerned will take just such measures of investigation before doing anything final?
– All that will be done. ^
– Just so! Our hands will have been tied behind our backs; the handkerchiefs will have been adjusted about our eyes, and the bolt will have been drawn. The inquest will follow. After we have agreed to the Bill and have ratified the agreement contained in the schedule there will be nothing for us but to pay up. There will be no right of review. I have no intention of discounting the probable value of the island deposits, but I. am in a difficulty regarding how I shall record my vote. We have not been supplied with adequate information. We know very little about Nauru.
– Do you not think there should be a parliamentary trip to the island?
-Yes. This Parliament is expected to blindly accept anything in the way of information which may be placed before it. If we were members of a business firm seeking to purchase a certain proposition from another firm, is it likely that we would agree to pay away good money untilwe had made all possible investigations?
SenatorFoll. - We should have been asked to ratify the particulars of the deal itself.
– That is so. Even the estimates of the quantity of the deposits vary sowidely as to be of little real value. I do not share the fear of Senator Gardiner that there is any underhand work going on. That is out of the question. But it is rather extraordinary, seeing that Nauruwas one of the first Possessions taken from the Germans, and that itwas an Australian forcewhich entered into possession of the island, that the Commonwealth should not have been granted greater control. I yield to no one in admiration for the -work of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and his colleague (Sir Joseph Cook)overseas; but it is rather strange that, Nauru having been taken from the Germans in September, 1914, by a small company from the cruiser Melbourne, the Australian Government’ should not be granted, as a matter of course, full control and authority over that former enemy Possession. Those sailors captured the island in the name of Australia.
– At the request of the British Government.
– It was a German Possession, . and Australian sailors took it away from its German holders in the name of Australia. One of the most powerful German wireless plants in the Southern Hemisphere had been erected on that island.
– The most powerful of all. They could speakwith Berlin.
– Did the Germans attach importance to the island from the military point of view or because of its phosphatic deposits?
– No doubt, Germany regarded the island entirely from the military view-point. It was an important link in the German scheme of world-wide aggression and conquest. But the Australian sailors from H.M.A.S. Melbourne settled all that. They took the island, itswireless plant, and its German settlers; and Australians have been in possession ever since. Why should we now be called upon to accept only partial rights ?
– For the reason that since we could not get the whole we took a part.
– That is obviously the case.
– The sovereignty would have remainedwith the British Empire no matter whether Australian or British sailors had landed at Nauru. We would not have been relieved of the necessity for paying for the right to take over those deposits.
– I cannot see why Nauru should be considered as a different proposition from German New Guinea.
– It was a British company which operated those deposits.
– There was, possibly, little of a British nature about the company. There was not much that could be considered British in certain British -named companies which were operating in Australia during the early stages of the war, before Mr. Hughes got to work upon them. We have been informed that there are sufficient quantities of phosphates on the island to supply all Australia’s requirements for a hundred years. That may be true, and we hope it is; but we have only the word of the vendors for that. We have only the report of the company whose agents are seeking to make the best possible sale of the company’s interests. For that reason, I am somewhat suspicious regarding the actual quantity of the deposits.
– In disposing of their rights upon that island, the company are rendering their Ocean Island dep’osit less valuable.
– I do not know that they are. They will probably work their deposits on Ocean Island at a much lower cost than the three Governments combined will be able to do at Nauru. Thus the company will be free to undercut the three Governments in the Australian market; and there is no doubt that if the Australian farmer can secure Ocean Island fertilizer more cheaply than the product of Nauru Island, he will buy Ocean Island phosphates.
– We have no guarantee that after the Governments have taken over the Nauru Island deposits the price of fertilizers in Australia will be less than to-day.
– -That is quite true. The price may be higher. We are given to understand that the quality of the Nauru deposits is very high. We have been informed that 100,000 tons can be shipped annually from the island. That quantity will not supply the requirements of Australia. The Governments will be required to ship a considerably greater amount if they are to meet their interest bill and the other costs attached to working the deposits.
It has been pointed out that shipping facilities at Nauru are very poor. A coral reef surrounds the island ; there is practically no harbor accommodation. Senator Keating has stated that during very severe storms even the ships’ moorings are carried away. I believe the climate is good; that is to say, it is very good when it is good, and very bad when it is bad. For weeks at a time during heavy weather ships have to put away from the island; and, of course, during that period all shipping operations are completely suspended. At Ocean Island, shipping facilities are said to be considerably better than at Nauru. One thing is certain, namely, that a rauch larger, quantitiy of phosphate has been shipped from Ocean Island than from Nauru, showing that better and cheaper working facilities obtain at the other island.
– May there not have been a prejudice against the German island?
– I do not think the Minister will seriously suggest that a dividend-hunting company is likely to be actuated by sentimental considerations.
– But when once their plant had been established there they would not be too ready to transfer it.
– I take it that the company has a plant at both islands. During the course of this debate some honorable senator remarked that we should require to pay very large salaries to induce men to live at Nauru Island, which is only 5 miles long by 3 miles wide.
– They might fall off it.
– If one went out at- night there, he would certainly be in danger of walking over the edge of it. I have estimated the cost of the establishment which it would be necessary to set up at Nauru Island at £20,000 a year. I take it that the Administrator would need a very considerable salary to induce him to live there. There is very little herbage on the island, very few flowers, and absolutely no animal life.
– But there is plenty of fishing.
– I am assured that the waters around the island teem with fish, which forms the staple food of the people there. The Administrator, I repeat, would require a very substantial salary, and so would the Commissioners. The Administrator, too, would immediately proceed to establish a big staff, such as no private company would dream of establishing. The members of his staff would expect to be granted holidays at intervals, and their passages would have to be paid from Nauru whenever they chose to take their leave.
– And the Administrator would be called His Excellency.
– No doubt. If the Government select an ornamental man for the position of Administrator, he will soon pile up the expenditure. On the other hand, if their choice falls upon a sensible grafter, he will save them a considerable sum. This afternoon Senator Gardiner suggested that he himself should be constituted the Emperor of Nauru. If the Government can find a thorough-going Administrator, such as the honorable senator would be, I am convinced that he would effect substantial savings. He would not require the members of his staff to touch their hats to him every morning when they entered his office. Then I suggest that the Commissioners should not be ornamental figure-heads, but that they should be appointed to discharge various other duties.
– I do not think that they would be resident there.
– If they are not going to be- resident there, it will be necessary to appoint other officials who will be, iu order that operations may be systematically carried on. The Government, will also need to employ an agent for the purpose of recruiting labour for the island, and to do this it will be necessary to keep steamers employed. Medical officers also will require to be appointed. If the Government do not select the right kind of administrator, there will be very few dividends to the farmers. My complaint against the Bill is that we know so very little about the conditions which obtain on the island. The company which has been operating the phosphatic deposits there employs a staff of about fifty hands. But if the Government are going to work those deposits, we must allow for an increase in the 6taff of at least 50 per cent. We shall also require to pay much higher salaries to our employees than have been paid by the company, and we shall need to treat them very differently from the way in which they have been treated. I am anxious that the Senate should have concrete facts put before it, so that we may be enabled to decide whether the expenditure upon this enterprise which we are asked to authorize is warranted. I trust that a commission of experts will be appointed to inquire into the matter, and in the meantime I suggest that the Bill should be hung up. It is hardly fair to expect us to vote upon it in the light of the meagre information which is before us. I have no desire to saddle the enterprise with a load which the people of Australia will have to bear, and which will not benefit the farmers by reducing the cost of their fertilizers. Upon the other hand, I do not- wish to prevent Australia from .participating in what may prove to be a very good bargain.
– I quite recognise that the position put before us by the Vice-President of the Exe cutive Council (Senator Russell) is rather an unsatisfactory one; but, while that is so, we must all acknowledge the splendid work which has been done by our Prime Minister in England. No man in the country is more capable of visualizing the conditions that obtained in the Old World and those which must obtain in the new, in regard to production. Recognising that there are only two sources from which wealth can be derived, the most exacting critic must admit that Mr. Hughes rendered Australia conspicuous service when he secured to her the right to have a voice in the working of the phosphatic deposits of Nauru Island. If our young country is ever to become a giant amongst the nations of the earth, its growth must be the result of the application of superphosphates to our soil. Unfortunately, owing to our geographical position, it will be many years before we can successfully compete with other countries in many lines of production. To increase the richness of our lands it is essential that we should secure a certain quantity of phosphates, and we should therefore arrive at some definite understanding in regard to our right to share in the deposits on Nauru Island. I understand that the Bill under discussion is to empower the Government to negotiate with a private company for certain phosphatic deposits on the island of Nauru, and- thus bring about a satisfactory settlement to all concerned. Although considerable doubt seems to exist in the minds of some honorable senators as to our constitutional right to act in this way, we have to remember that the representatives of the British Government, Mr. Massey as the representative of New Zealand, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) as the representative of the Commonwealth, considered the’ matter in all its aspects, and took into consideration what was reasonable compensation to pay to the company which was working the deposit. If we vote against the ratification of this agreement, we shall be preventing the Australian people, and particularly the farming community, from deriving any benefit under it. By opposing the passage of the Bill we would be doing a great injustice to the producers of this country.
– The mandate would still be in the hands of the British Empire.
– I admit that; but if we do not ratify the agreement, our opportunity of participating in the benefits that are likely to accrue will be gone. We have to remember that when the old land has to be made fertile, in order to produce more to assist in the liquidation of her debts, large supplies of phosphatic manure will be required. We can quite understand the great demand there will be foi’ such products, which are so essential to the farming community. As the supply decreases and the demand becomes greater, the price is also likely to increase. If Ave vote against this agreement, Ave shall be preventing producers, not only in this, but in other countries, from receiving supplies at a reasonable price. We cannot expect to liquidate our debt if we do not extend every consideration to our primary producers. It is a serious matter to record a vote on this measure; but I am prepared to take’ the risk of an unreasonable price being paid rather than prevent the farmers of this country from obtaining supplies at what
Ave hope Will be a reduced rate.
– -We would not be
WOrse off if we did not ratify the .agreement ?
– If this Bill is not passed, it may be said by the Governments of New Zealand and Great Britain that the people of the Commonwealth do not wish to participate in the arrangement.
– .Ve would have Christmas and Ocean Islands as other sources of supply.
– That is quite true; but we must take it into consideration that we cannot demand phosphates from those islands at the same price as we hope to obtain supplies from Nauru. Reference has been made to the working costs; but whether the operations are conducted by the Commonwealth or by a private company a staff will be necessary. If the agreement is ratified, I trust the Governments concerned will see that supplies are forwarded to Australia, so that the farmers may be able to obtain superphosphate at a reasonable price.
– I was somewhat impressed by the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition on this question, and was almost convinced that it would be my duty .to oppose the Bill. There was a great deal in what he said, and he led one to think that Ave were on the verge of buying a pig in a poke. But I have since taken the trouble to read the debates on this measure in another place, and may say, without any dis respect to the Minister in charge of the Bill, who, I know. has a lot to do, that a good deal more information was given by Ministers in another place than Avas submitted to the Senate. After reading the Prime Minister’s speech, I .am convinced that the proposal is a reasonable one. I do not know to what extent Ave are morally committed; but, undoubtedly, the Prime Minister secured the best terms possible. 1 believe there is a moral commitment that Ave shall purchase this material, and, although Ave have not as full information as Ave would like before committing ourselves, Ave are not doing anything new. Under the Lands Acquisition Act the Government are empowered to purchase land for railway purposes, and we do not know what it is likely to cost. For such purposes it may be necessary to purchase a valuable city property at a high price, but it is not the duty of Parliament to go into details. We fortify the Government with the right to purchase the land at a fair value. That is a position similar to that now before us.
– Any proposed works over £25,’000 in value have to go before the Public Works Committee.
– That is so; and I would like this proposal to be submitted to a parliamentary or other tribunal for consideration, and report, if that could be done. This proposition must be viewed from a commercial stand-point. We have to remember that the material which is at Nauru in ‘great abundance is essential to the agricultural producers of this country. It is the raw material for a large and important industry continually in operation. The Mount Lyell Mining Company purchase phosphatic rock from the Pacific Islands, which is worked up in conjunction with the sulphide raised from ite mines, and the resultant product is a phosphate of superior quality. I was particularly struck with the results obtained by the use of superphosphate in South Australia, where the difference between .crops grown with and without this product was very marked. We have npt been told definitely what compensation has to be paid to the company, and £3,000,000 is the only amount that has been mentioned.
– What I said was that, judging by the value of the shares sold in England, whether watered or otherwise, the amount would be considerably less than £3,000,000.
– I do not think the Government intend to pay that amount, but it has been the only sum mentioned in connexion with the transaction.
– As a matter of fact, we are not sure whether the company has a title.
– Whether they possess a title or not, they have been spending money on developmental work, and they have a moral right to compensation. I do not think the Commonwealth will overlook the company’s claim, whether it has a legal backing or not. The use of the phosphate product is absolutely essential if we are to have increased agricultural production. I can see no great danger in trusting the Commonwealth with the responsibility to see that Australia receives a fair deal under this arrangement. If we accept the responsibility we shall have control over a very large deposit, and be able to supply the markets of the world. Although there are phosphatic deposits on other islands, the supplies are diminishing. Search has been made on the mainland of Australia, and in Tasmania, for phosphatic deposits, but up to the present without success. I admit, with other honorable senators, that it would have been advantageous if we had been supplied with fuller information, but after mature consideration, it is my intention to support the Bill.
– This islet where countless flights of birds have sought sanctuary from the dawn of time, undisturbed by any sanitary inspector, is a standing illustration of the fact that the Germans did not always beat the Britisher in searching after what is necessary in the industries of civilized life. Nauru was a German possession, and the fact that phosphatic rock existed there in large quantities was unknown to the Germans. Its existence was discovered by the research of British scientists, and consequently we find the somewhat anomalous position of a British company operating satisfactorily in what was a German possession.
– The Minister informed us it was a German company.
– The rock was discovered by Britishers.
– Yes, but I am referring to the company.
– It is a large British company.
– I think one share more than half of the total belonged to the Germans.
– The capital employed, and the works, were essentially British, and the deposit was discovered by a British scientist. There are a large number of natives on the Island of Nauru, and there is also a native police force. It is a civilized community, although the island itself is a small one.
– There is also a king or chief.
– Yes, I have seen his portrait, although I was not particularly impressed by it. I believe he is recognised as the aboriginal chief of the country.
– Is there any chance of making another royal match?
– The making of matches is the principal industry down there, apart from the production of phosphates. I am not concerned about the actual value of the rock, although it is of great importance to the Australian farming community. I understand that very extensive operations have been undertaken on the island, and it is generally understood that the deposit is a’ very large one. I should like honorable senators to understand that this enterprise is not in the prospecting stage, if I may use the term in connexion with the excavation work necessary for the production of phosphates. It is an established business, and I do not know that we are going to undertake any particular hazard by an acceptance of this proposal. In any case, if it is going to be a failure it will be borne by other, people as well as ourselves. We will have partners in failure, as, I hope, in success. I am principally concerned, though, with the aspect put by my colleague, Senator Keating. It strikes me that had there been a large quantity of phosphates in bags ready for shipment as the property of the Germans, the acquisition by force of this German territory through the action of Commonwealth troops or sailors would not have rendered invalid the seizure of that phosphate as lawful spoils of war, and its disposal in Australia. And I am not going to admit that the acquisition of this company’s enterprise in Nauru, which has come to us in consequence of the war, necessitates any amendment of the Constitution1. A thousand and one pretexts have been discovered lately for the amendment of our Constitution, but if I searched for reasons with a magnifying glass I would look in vain. It is my intention to vote for this Bill, but at the same time I want to make it quite clear that I do not regard my vote on this measure as mortgaging my intention to vote for any proposed amendments of the Constitution.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
– No, but very soon they will be. I ask my colleague, Senator Keating, to bear in mind that the United States of America has a much less flexible Constitution than our own, and that as a result of the Spanish-American war, America acquired very much more important territory from Spain than that of Nauru which we are acquiring from the Germans. They paid Spain £4,500,000 for the Philippine Islands, and all the rights which the Spanish Government had therein, and immediately embarked in a good many enterprises of a semiindustrial character. I have been in Manila on many occasions, and have stayed at the Manila Hotel. There I have stretched my legs under Uncle Sam’s mahogany tables, and have drunk his beer scores of times. The American Government put $1,000,000 into that enterprise. By virtue of what clause in their Constitution did they do that? If it was competent for the United States to acquire the Philippine Islands by purchase after the Spanish- American war, and to pay Spain as an act of grace for her rights therein, is it not quite as competent for the Commonwealth Government, as an act of grace, to buy out this company at Nauru? In all probability under our more flexible Constitution it is quite competent for us to do this. I am going to vote for the Bill, believing that it will involve us in very little financial risk, and that the scheme will benefit the agricultural community of the Commonwealth ; but I want to make is quite clear that I am going to object to any construction of my vote as justifying subsequently any claim upon it in support of any proposed amendment of the Constitution.
– 1 may say that on the whole I am pleased with the general tone of the debate, for whilst in the earlier stages honorable senators were inclined to be a little rough upon me, I think that towards the. close there was a clearer recognition of the difficulties in presenting this measure to the Senate. Perhaps I limited myself a little too much in my second -reading speech, but during the fifteen years I have been in the Senate I never remember making a statement which I have had to withdraw. Statements concerning deposits on the island vary so much that I am reluctant to repeat them. One expert has said that there is sufficient phosphatic rock there to supply the whole world for a hundred years. He talks like a poet, and I am not prepared to accept his figures. I have carefully searched for definite statistics, but, so far, have not found a reliable authority apart from officials of the company, who have, no doubt, prepared figures in their own interests. I do not desire to reflect upon them, but I am not prepared to accept their view as the last word on this point.
– But it is a fact that the island has been pretty well bored.
– That is true; there is no question about the existence of large quantities of phosphatic rock there, but , there is no definite information as to whether the output will last for ten generations or twenty generations.
– The question is, whether it is going to pay.
– One of the lessons which we have learnt in Australia as a result of the war is that we must have the raw material .for our basic industries, and I remind Senator Pratten that phosphatic rock is the raw material for our largest and most important industry. We should not be dependent upon outside sources for it. I believe that this is a golden opportunity to obtain the control of phosphatic rock deposits, and even if, as a result of keen competition with private companies, the enterprise may not be too profitable at first, nobody can doubt that before we are very much older there will be a general consensus of opinion that by the acquisition of these deposits we did the right thing by Australia. From information which I have obtained I have no doubt that the profits of the company at Nauru Island have been very heavy, but I am not in a position, to give any details.
– Perhaps those figures were prepared in anticipation of the Commonwealth acquiring the deposits.
– We are in this position : A mandate over the island has been given to the British Empire, and we are partners in the enterprise. Senator Keating made it quite clear that, apart from this agreement, by the mandate we accept a third of the responsibility in regard to the island, and by virtue of the mandate we cannot allow it to remain idle. We cannot allow; any private venture . to control what is practically a monopoly. I was delighted with the manner in which Senator Keating dealt with the constitutional aspect of the question. I do not want to appear as a rival to my honorable friend in constitutional matters, but I have endeavoured to obtain the best advice available, and I may state that there are two sides to this question. Even Senator Keating admitted that no decision had been given by the High Court to the exclusion of the opposite view concerning the trading powers of the Commonwealth. I am advised that, as we have accepted a mandate over the island, as part of the British Empire, and have come into possession of this phosphatic rock, there is no law to prohibit the Commonwealth from disposing of property which has come into its possession. In the absence of a High Court decision on this point, it is doubtful what view that tribunal would take; but I have no doubt that the Commonwealth powers in regard to trading will before long be considerably extended.
– Do not be too sure of that.
– I feel certain that Australia has progressed too rapidly of late to be content with existing conditions, and that our Constitution must be amended in certain directions. I regret that I am not in a position to place any reliable figures before the Senate concerning Nauru Island. I read carefully the speech made by the Prime Minister, and in regard to this aspect he was particularly guarded. I point out, also, that the agreement is not going to be signed to-morrow.
– It has been signed already.
-Yes, but subject to certain limitations.
– What are they?
– I am not prepared at present to discuss the details. The honorable senator will understand that it is not desirable to disclose the intentions of the Governments towards the company, as the agreement might not be . finalized for many months. I take it that, before making any financial offer, the three Governments concerned will jointly take steps to have a proper business inspection of the property. Probably there will be a counter-offer from the company, and negotiations will then proceed in the usual way. Failing an agreement, I have no doubt that an arbitrator will be appointed by the Governments to determine the issue. I ask honorable senators not to think toomuch of the monetary aspect of this proposal. It is possible that in competition with Ocean Island there will be a little risk of a monetary loss for a while, but, at all events, there will be no risk of any monopoly exploiting the Australian farmer. The Government are out to sell the phosphatic rock at cost price, and it will be the duty of this Parliament to see that the overhead charges are not too heavy. Nauru is not a big island on which a number of public servants might be lost, and if it is found that too many are employed there, I do not think there will be any difficulty in, having the number reduced.
After the allotment has been made to Australia and New Zealand, and to the United Kingdom, in the event of either not exercising its. full right, the other partners to the agreement have the Tight to accept the unlifted quantity of superphosphates allotted to the third partner at the cost price. In the event of there being a desire on the part of outside countries to purchase, the three Governments have the right to sell in the open market in the same way as any company, and the profits so derived will, probably, materially reduce the cost of the phosphates supplied to farmers in Australia. Prior to the war Great Britain imported 562,000 tons of phosphates per annum, but of that quantity she imported from the Pacific only about 50,’000 tons. If Great Britain, when she becomes a part owner of Nauru, can see her way to take the whole of her supplies of phosphates from Nauru Island, it is clear that the turnover of the island will be immediately doubled, and that will reduce the cost of production. I am informed that of the 5,600 acres which comprise Nauru Island, over 4,500 acres have been proved to contain phosphates. There can be no doubt that it is very rich in phosphatic deposits. I appeal to honorable senators not to miss this opportunity for Australia. It may not be open to us for very long, because Great Britain and New Zealand will not expect that Australia will make any unnecessary delay in dealing with the question. I ask honorable senators not to miss this opportunity to secure great benefits for Australian producers. In this business it is not a question of exploitation, but of the use of the forces of nature for the assistance of those engaged in production in this country.
Question - That the Bill be read a second time - put. The Senate divided
Ayes . . . .18
Noes . . . . 4
Majority . . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I regret to have to delay the Senate for a few minutes at this late hour, but I have already advised the Minister in charge of Government business that it is my intention to do so. I told him that I was’ moved to address honorable senators because of an occurrence reported in this evening’s newspaper. Yesterday, one sec- . tion of the loyalist workers on the waterside approached SenatorFairbairn and myself, and complained that in the vicinity of the building where a certain committee is inquiring into the claims of these men to be regarded as genuine loyalist workers, and quite close to where a gentleman, who, I think, is known as Mr. Cadden, and who is secretary to the Wharf Labourers Union, was sitting, they had been assailed in the most opprobrious terms by certain individuals who are members, of the Wharf Labourers Union, but whom Mr. Cadden professed to have no knowledge whatever of, although I understand they have been working on the wharfs for months past, whenever there has been waterside work available. These men addressed the men who came up here to complain to Senator Fairbairn and myself in terms so opprobrious that if any man applied them to me, he or I would perish. Senator Fairbairn has kindly consented, notwithstanding the distance of his residence from the Senate, to remain here to-night, and will be able to indorse what I am saying.
As a sequel to this, seven or eight loyalist workers were to-day assaulted by a mob of about 150 men in the vicinity of the wharfs, were grossly maltreated, and some of them had to be sent to the hospital to have their wounds dressed. Are we in a country where the Government, or Governments, have no power at all? I say with no bated breath that if a citizen cannot be protected in the pursuit of his lawful employment, the State for him has ceased to exist. It is nothing more than a taxextracting institution. His life, his liberty, his laudable objective, the pursuit of happiness, are not at all insured to him. For some time past I have noted a weakness, or flabbiness. on the part of the Government - I do not think it has applied to the general community - when properly appealed to in regard to this matter. We must remember that these loyalists are exactly of the type of the men who are rallying in hundreds of thousands to restore the equilibrium of the broken industrial order in the Old Country at the present time. The community forces are represented by these men, and those- community forces should have -been organized during the hold-up of our industries for months past by the seamen. For some reason, Governments in Australia appear to have become supine; and we therefore have the lamentable exhibition of seven or eight men assailed by a mob of 150, their limbs endangered, and their liberty to pursue their lawful occupation made of no account. It is time this Parliament and Government and people awakened to the fact that citizens who are called “loyalists” have been grossly assaulted because they are loyalists. What does the word. “ loyalist “ mean ? It applies to men who were loyal, at a time of community stress and turmoil, to the best interests of the community. These loyalists did what they could to keep the wheels of industry turning; and the fact that they were successful has actually been, in some namby-pamby, milk-and-water way, admitted even by the Government. I have protested on several occasions against the treatment which is being meted out to these men, and I tell not only the Commonwealth Government, but the employers’ associations of Australia also, that it is necessary for them to awaken to their duty; and that if they are worthy of the name of Governments and associations of employers, they should see that everything possible is done to accord fair play, I will not say to reward the loyalists, but, at least, to protect those who should be recognised as the cream of the community, seeing that they had the backbone, the courage, to come forward when the Government was in need of help.
– To what Government do you refer?
– I refer to the Commonwealth Government and to the State Governments, and to the employers’ associations - to all who are in positions of responsibility, and have, so far, shirked that responsibility to the loyalist workers.
Senator Millen was representing the Commonwealth Government at a time when I asked him whether a certain statement of his had been correctly reported in the press. He said he had been correctly reported. That is, he acknowledged that it was not the intention of the Government to reward the men who came to the assistance of the community at a time of turmoil and distress. That is a wrong attitude for the Government to adopt. We hold in highest regard the soldiers who fought for our liberties. We should extend similar consideration to those loyalist workers who toiled for our liberties at home.
– I do not think Senator Millen said just what you infer.’ He said that it was the purpose of the Government to reward not the organization, but individuals.
– The inference of Senator Millen’s acknowledgment of the accuracy of the press report was that he disclaimed any intention on the part of the Government to reward the loyalists.
– I think the honorable senator is wrong.
– .Whatever maybe the intentions of the Government, it should be made clear at the earliest possible moment that these men are to be not only rewarded, but also protected to the fullest extent and force of the Commonwealth authority. It is time this business was brought to a head. What have the Government done? They appointed a Commissioner, who reported on the situation at the waterside. Where is the report of Mr. Commissioner Dethridge? Why has not Parliament been taken into the Government’s confidence? The report has not yet seen the light of day, although it is a matter almost of common knowledge - certainly of common report - that the findings of the Commissioner were not satisfactory to the Government, in view of the fact that bc indicated a line of policy which would have placed the loyalist workers where they deserved to be placed, namely, upon a pedestal, from which they could have commanded the respect and admiration of the community. Why has this report been withheld? It is time Parliament was taken into the confidence of the Administration. We represent the nation; and if we do not stand for those community forces which are working for law and order, Parliament may as well cease to exist. I call upon the Government to searchingly investigate this latest brutal assault, and to accord to the loyalists the protection which is, at least, their due as citizens.
– I indorse all that Senator Bakhap has said. Loyalist representa- tives waited upon us yesterday, and today it is reported that they have been grossly ill-treated, after the manner which Senator Bakhap has described. I understandthat when these delegates attended at a building before the Commissioner, who is now making inquiries, the unionist secretary was seated in the room as though he were the Government of this country. He took the names of these men ; he wanted them actually to sign, a document which he held, as though they were his minions. We do not want any pinch-beck kaisers in this country. We are too free a people to stand for autocratic Government by unionist officials. The loyalists are not to be given fair play, it would seem.
– They are being thrown on the national rubbish heap.
SenatorFAIRBAIRN.- The treatment accorded to them will not encourage loyal-minded men in future to come to the assistance of the Government. I do not suggest that all unionists believe in, or would care to take part in, such aggressive tactics as have occurred to-day. I know, indeed, that many good unionists deplore such practices. But there is always a mob that will do anything so long as it has the numbers. There is always a gang which, so long as it outnumbers its victims by a hundred to one, will commit brutal assaults. I know from -my own experience. I have been hounded by these men. They always hunt in packs, like dingoes. I am aware that many of my unionist friends deplore this kind of thing as much as we do. I trust that a firm hand will be applied, and that those who . have taken part in assaults, and those who uphold such tactics, will be shown that they cannot continue to do so without meeting their due reward. We must not permit the loyalists to be ill-treated. They have stood behind law and order, and we should be loyal to them. I hope the Government will take serious and immediate steps to see that ample protection is afforded.
Senator GARDINER (New South Wales [10.37]. - I am surprised at Senator Bakhap and Senator Fairbairn having brought this matter before Parliament. It is an oldgrievance, a conflict between two sets of thought. So long as the one party is angered by the presence of the other there will continue to be spasmodic resort to fisticuffs.
– Let us have fair play. Let it be a case of man to man, and not of a hundred to one.
– I can understand the feelings of those who claim that their own side is always being brutally treated. I remember that in. the Tramway strike in Sydney in 1917, one of our men was foully murdered by a nationalist. The man who lost his life jumped on to a lorry to get his billhook, and at that moment an individual on another lorry went for him with a revolver and foully murdered him. Yet thatperson was not even brought to trial. I shall never forget the incident. As a unionist, I am prepared to meet the loyalists man to man. I am prepared to face the best of them whenever they care to come along. We do not want to hunt in crowds. If you are going to appeal to force-
– I am appealing to the law, and not to force. I am calling upon the Government to employ the forces of the law.
– I know what the honorable senator’s language infers. These troubles have to be handled very carefully.
– They have been handled too gingerly.
– It is easy for honorable senators to talk about how smoothly they would handle all these industrial troubles, but there are very real troubles existing to-day which must be most carefully and accurately handled. It is not a question of picking upon one quarrel outside of these precincts, and of making that the whole issue. It is a matter of understanding the circumstances surrounding the dispute from its beginnings. Senator Bakhap and SenatorFairbairn feel that the loyalists have assisted them, and that they should be kept in their occupations to-day. I recall certain happenings at the GovernorGeneral’s Conference in April last year, when the matter of these loyalists and of the unionists cropped up. A member of the Conference asked me how the trouble could be settled. I asked that the Government should find the loyalists other positions, so that the friction existing on the wharfs might no longer continue. The employers are neither improving their own situation nor assisting in maintaining good government when -they take up the quarrels of a minority against the rights of a majority. Now that the ships are coming .and going under’ normal conditions, the handful of non-unionists can no longer adequately carry on. It is the solid body of the regular unionists who must be employed to keep industry going. Here i6 a little party of non-unionists in a country where preference to unionists is virtually the law of the land. This small body should not be permitted to remain as a splinter in the flesh to cause all these annoyances. We have before us a very difficult problem to-day, and we shall not be making it any easier by insinuating that ill-treated non-unionists have been the victims of a scuffle. I have read of a certain unionist secretary who gave evidence in Court. The gentleman on the bench asked if it was a fact that there had been a certain number of fights in a week between unionists and non-unionists. The secretary replied, in effect - “Whether there were or were not so many fights conveys nothing. I have had twice as many fights in my own union.” There is a small non-unionist element in our midst to-day which is causing irritation and unrest.
– This small element has been attending before a Commissioner in order to have its rights examined, so that the splinter to which you refer may be removed from the flesh. Yet we see these loyalists attacked as they have been to-day.
– If men have been, assaulted, the force of the law is at their disposal. It is mot helping the situation that, before the assaulted men’ have taken advantage of the law, and have brought the offenders to Court, the whole affair .should be made the subject of a parliamentary debate, with consequent publicity. If Senator Bakhap had. said these men were refused redress by the Courts, that would be a different matter entirely.
– I say they have been assaulted.
– If I were assaulted I would promptly seek remedy at law.
– You just now issued a challenge which was by no means an appeal to the law.
– That was in reply to the taunt that we hunted in packs and were not game to take on our opponents man to- man. I throw that back into the teeth of the . man who uttered the remark j and I say that we are willing and ready to look after ourselves, man to man.
– I am not afraid to meet any man single-handed.
– ‘Shall I suggest that the President retire and permit us to settle the matter forthwith? If a man has been assaulted, he has his redress. Senator Bakhap has no right to come to Parliament seeking that redress here.
– These men came to us looking for redress.
– They had no right to do so.
– If they were not free to seek the aid of their representatives iri the National Parliament, what course was there open to them?
– There is the law. The Courts will hold the balance evenly. But what is the real trouble? It is this: that a few men are keeping alive a discontent which should have been permitted long ago to die out.
– You are quite sure that it is the minority which is doing this?
– I am perfectly sure of it.
– Some people will differ from you.
– While there were but a few ships coming and going, it was easy enough for a handful of loyalists to carry on ; but, now that normal conditions have been restored, the unionists in their large numbers are back at work, carrying on the activities of the country. It is clear that the two sections cannot work together iri harmony in- a country where the very votes of the people have decided for the principle of preference to unionists.
– You do not consider that there has ever been an appeal tq the people upon that principle?
– A Bill to prohibit preference to unionists was submitted to Parliament, and upon that measure a double dissolution was secured.
– The Government was not -returned upon that question; it was a mere side issue.
– If ever there was a result of which we should take cog- nisance it was the emphatic indorsement of the policy of preference to unionists. I appeal to honorable senators of the type of Senator Bakhap and Senator Fairbairn to cease introducing these petty squabbles to the arena of politics. Earlier in. my remarks I referred’ to the brutal and cold-blooded murder of one of our unionists, and to the fact that the murderer was never put upon his trial.
-. - Was not the murdered man making an attack upon the other?
– No. The Coroner’s jury declared that the act was a justifiable one.
– There you are !
– But effect was never given to the law of the land. No matter what the jury may have said, the fact remains that one man took the life of another, and should, therefore, have been placed upon his trial. That course- was not- followed merely because a National Government was in power. I have never spoken of this matter in Parliament, though I have never ceased to feel the injustice which was done on that occasion. I hope that the murderer will yet be placed upon his trial. Surely we have not. reached the time when foul murders can be committed without their authors being brought to book. This squabble between unionists and non-unionists, to which reference has been made by Senator Bakhap and SenatorFairbairn-
– Have not the socalled non-unionists the right to live?
– They certainly have the right to live, and they have the right to protection.
– That is all that we are asking the Government to assure them.
– Does the honorable senator want any special protection for them?
– I want only the same protection for them as is extended to other men.
– Then the honorable senator must first show that the forces of law have been appealed to in vain. Of course, I understand the tactics that are being pursued. An attempt is being made to stir up party feeling in readiness for the election.
– I desire that the right of free citizenship shall be extended to every man.
– If honorable senators opposite are going to adopt a new system let them make sure that they have a majority on their side.
– We are not looking for a majority, but. for right.
– If an injury has been inflicted upon any of these men it is their duty to take the course which is open to every citizen to obtain redress. But for honorable senators to place a onesided statement before this Chamber - a statement founded upon the mere assertions of these men-
– The account of the assault is in the press.
– What is the position ? Honorable senators must know that we are on the eve of a grave industrial trouble, which will cause the utmost concern to every thinking individual in the community.
– I thought that it was over.
– The honorable senator is too sensible to think that. He knows that the utmost care will be required to avert a similar catastrophe to that which has just occurred in England. With that knowledge in their possession honorable senators should not have dragged this question before the Senate, thereby seeking to apply a match to the worst possible industrial trouble..
. - We have had a lecture from the Leader of -the Opposition as to how we should comport ourselves when a clear and unmistakable breach of the law has taken place. While the honorable senator may find congenial company elsewhere, he cannot impose upon men who have been in the industrial field longer than he has.. He cannot impose upon -men like Senator Guthrie, Senator de Largie, and Senator Thomas, who were fighting industrial battles before he himself thought of entering Labour’s ranks.. The time was when I did not apologize for’ assaults upon blacklegs. But the position is vastly different to-day. Then we had something substantial to fight for. Then we had something substantial to fight against. But to-day the doors of the Arbitration Court are open wide to every union with a grievance. That tribunal is presided over by a Judge who has been assailed with the charge of partisanship, although his awards have been nothing more nor less than a charter of liberty to the worker in this country. Yet those awards have been torn to smithereens by the party to which Senator Gardiner is attached. Whose instrument is the Arbitration Court, and whose Judge is he who presides over it and who makes the awards that the wharf labourers have trampled in the dust? - none other than the workers. We, who are old unionists, and who are true to the Labour ideals, stand behind the loyalists of to-day, and say to those in the opposing ranks, “ Shame on you, who call yourselves Labourites.” Some of these self -same so-called Labourites were “ scabs” in 1890 and in 1893. They are the saviours of the Labour cause to-day ! Why, the wharf labourers “ scabbed” on me and took my job from me twenty-nine years ago. . Yet they have the hardihood to call themselves the exemplars of Labour. The truth is that these Johnny-come-latelys have no more regard for the cause of Labour than has a blackfellow in the interior. They now presume to tell us what we should do. If we uphold Labour laws they call us loyalists. It is very difficult to contain one’s self when he finds that these loyalists are being kicked in the streets of our cities. These men are upholding Labour’s most cherished and reasoned opinions today. We old battlers will stand up for them every day in the week, and all the year round. We will do so in the interests of those who are fighting most effectively for the cause of Labour. . We will do so in the interests, not only of the men who work by hand and brain in this country, but in the interests of those who have sacrificed much in the past in order to establish better industrial conditions for those who will come after them. We cannot submit to this abuse. The time has come when the moral sense of this community should be roused to action, and the law of the land invoked firmly and steadfastly to uphold it. if these men will not obey their own self-made laws, then the strong hand of the law will be made to take them by the scruff of the neck and compel them to respect them. I have heard these taunts and jeers thrown at us again and again by men who have never had a record for advancing Labour’s cause - who never spent an hour outside their own doors during the weary years when battlers of the kind I have mentioned were always abroad. They did nothing, while the real battlers for Labour had almost to be introduced to their wives and children on their return home after weary months of work in the cause they espoused. We shall get a verdict.
Thank heaven it is not the wharf labourers who “scabbed” on me, and took my job in 1890 and 1893, when we stood for Labour’s ideals, and there was something to fight for - to whom we appeal. We appeal not to that tribunal, but to the tribunal of the people, and from them we shall obtain a verdict. No matter how Senator Gardiner may fulminate, we will meet him, and all who stand with him, on open ground. We, who fought the battle of Labour, and had our necks in the collar before they thought of coming into the movement, are quite prepared to meet them. We will fight those who would justify these barbarous onslaughts on free citizens, who, not only in: their civic capacity, but in the desire to uphold Labour’s best ideals, are not to be trodden down in the streets as worms. They will not be so treated so far as I am concerned. We will fight Senator Gardiner if he wants to fight. The time has come when the other side of the picture should be presented, and we shall have ample opportunity to put it before the people.
– I regret that I have not seen the paragraph to which reference has been made, but I am sure that we are all anxious that law and order shall be maintained. It has been reported here to-night - and I assume the statement to be correct - that the incident in question took place at the entrance to one of our Commonwealth Courts of Inquiry. The Government had hoped that the inquiry would lead to a satisfactory settlement of the existing trouble, and I shall be sorry if anything has been done to accentuate the difficulty. A Commonwealth Commission has been appointed to inquire into the facts, and it is our duty to protect any witness who appears before that Commission.
– Is there a Commission of Inquiry?
– There is an inquiry going on as to who are the genuine loyalists.
– Shall we have the report of that Commission put before us, or will it be treated as the report by Mr. Dethridge has been treated ?
– I understand that the two unions concerned agreed that the Government were under an obligation to those who volunteered for war service, but were under no obligation to those who, after the trouble was over, came in merely because the Loyalist Union had proved successful.
I am sure that Senator Bakhap. had ‘ no desire to do an injustice to my absent colleague (Senator Milieu), but he certainly misrepresented what he said. I find that Senator Millen’s statement was as follows: -
In relation to the subject again introduced by Senator Bakhap, I repeat that the Government save a pledge, not to an association, but to individuals. It is immaterial to the Government whether any. of these individuals is a member of an association or not. A pledge was given to men who did certain things at a certain time. That pledge will be honoured.
– Hear, hear 1 I hopeso.
SenatorMILLEN. - But the Government does not intend that other persons, who came in afterwards, and enrolled in an association which had been formed by the men to whom the Government had given that pledge, shall reap where they have not sown.
Senator Bakhap is amongst those who’ have urged the abolition of the Commonwealth Police Force, and we have no power to order the State authorities to take action. I shall, however, bring the matter under the notice of the Government with the object of getting into touch with the State Government to in- sure the protection of all citizens and the maintenance of law and order.
– What about the report?
– I shall make inquiries in regard to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1919/19191002_senate_7_90/>.