8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers,
Control of Export
– I ask the Minis ter representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, in view of the many protests throughout the Commonwealth against the proposed increased price of butter, and consequential announcements of the intention of organized bodies to abstain from using butter, and the inability of. the Government to fix the price, will the Minister, in the administration of the Butter Agreement Act, make provision for the retention within Australia of a quantity of butter for local consumption, not necessarily based on current demands, but on the normal annual consumption in preceding years?
– The Butter Agreement provides for the export only of surplus Australian butter. Although those controlling the Butter Fool have no power to regulate the local price of butter, there is power under the Agreement to prevent the export of other than surplus butter. There is power to secure’ an embargo against the exportation of < butter required for local consumption. The basis of the contract is that no butter shall be exported but surplus butter, and I take it that one of the objects of the Butter Agreement is to see that producers shall contribute only their proportion, not only for sale in Great Britain, but also for use in Australia.
– I should like some assurance that butter will not be exported as surplus butter merely because of its restricted use in the Commonwealth.
The following papers were presented : -
Declaration of Accession by the SerbCroatSlovene State to certain Treaties and Agreements. - Signed at Paris, 5th December, 1919.
Declaration modifying Agreement of 10th September, 1019, between the Allied and Associated Powers with regard to the Italian Reparation Payments. - Signed at Paris, 8th December, 1919.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he is in a position to make any statement with regard to subscriptions to the Second Peace Loan. Has he observed in the press the tribute paid by his colleague the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to subscribers to the loan, and, in particular, to Western Australia? Is Western Australia the only State which has contributed its quota? Have not the State of Tasmania, and possibly other States, also contributed their quotas?
– A statement was made to the Senate by my colleague, Senator Millen, on the subject of the Second Peace Loan on Wednesday.
– I am referring to the statement made by the Treasurer yes-
– In regard to the second part of the honorable senator’s question, let me say that the statement made by the Treasurer was not that Western Australia was the only State that had contributed its quota, but that it was the first State to do so.
– I think that I read in the Age that it was the only State that had done so.
– The Treasurer’s statement was that Western Australia was the first State to contribute its quota.
– Are subscriptions still being received?
– Yes. I shall ask the Treasurer whether he will make any statement as to other States that have contributed their quota.
Wool Position in Relation to Cloth Manufacture.
– I have received from Senator J. F. Guthrie an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment ofthe Senate until, 10 a.m. to-morrow for the purpose of discussing a definite, matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The wool position in relation to cloth manufacture in the Commonwealth.”
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 10 a.m. to-morrow.
Four honorable senators having risen in their places in support of the motion,
– I wish to make an explanation in connexion with the debate which previously took place in this Chamber in relation to the cost of clothing and the cost of wool. Senator Pratten, in his remarks, stated that I was pleading for the wool-grower. I should have nothing to apologize for if I were, but, as a matter of fact, I realize that the wool-growers generally have done very well out of the Wool Pool, which, to my mind, has been a splendid thing for
Australia. It has been fair to all, and most ably administered by Sir John Higgins, the Central and State Wool Committees, and experts and Government appraisers. I consider it to be one of the most magnificently organized and executed examples of business machinery that we have had any knowledge of.
My main desire is to protect returned soldiers and the general public from the profiteers, some of whom, at least, are to be found amongst manufacturers and merchants. If any honorable senator tries, in any of the capital cities of the Commonwealth, to buy tweed, costing from 6s. to 7s. per yard to manufacture, or to purchase a suit of clothing containing 10s. worth of wool, he will soon discover that he will be charged an exorbitant price. The cost of wool contained in a suit of clothes is really infinitesimal. If you go to a tailor or shopkeeper and ask him why clothing is so dear, the reply will be, “ Look at the price of wool,” I want to assure honorable senators that the average quantity of greasy wool in an all-wool suit of clothes is 7 lbs., and the price which Australian woollenmanufacturers have paid for their wool for nearly four years past has averaged 14.23d. per lb. Seven pounds of wool at that price represents 8s. 3¾d., that is the average value of the woo] contained in a suit of clothes made for the people of Australia.
– Was that before 1914, or since?
– That is since the wool control was established, and since the rise of 55 per cent. above prewar prices. If the wool were increased in value now by a further 50 per cent. that would represent an increase in the costof wool in a suit of clothes of only 4s.1¼d., and it would cost no more to make the suit of clothes.
For nearly four years Australian woolgrowers have been selling their wool at a price 55 per cent. above the pre-war average. I say that it is unfair for the general public to blame, as they do to a large extent, those engaged in the primary industry of wool-growing in this country for the present exorbitant cost of clothing.
SenatorFoll. - I do not think that it is the general public, but rather the manufacturers, who blame the woolgrowers.
– The manufacturers blame the wool-growers, and I am’ sorry to say that some of the general public also blame them. They blame the wool-grower for the increased cost of wool, which, it can be proved, has practically nothing to do with the present exorbitant cost of clothing. I direct attention to the fact that whilst the price of wool is .55 per cent, above the pre-war average, the price of cotton, which is the greatest competitor of wool, has for years been 500 per cent, above the pre-war average. Practically every commodity has increased in price in far greater ratio than wool. The price at which Australian wool-growers have willingly sold the product of our great Australian primary industry to the Imperial Government has been lower proportionately than the price of any other raw commodity.
Senator Pratten made out a very good case on Wednesday for some of his friends in New South Wales who happen to be using a quantity - I will not say what quantity - of high-class merino wool. I do not wish to make any sweeping charges against the woollen manufacturers of Australia as a whole. I have found on investigation, for instance, that one Sydney mill, at any rate, has earmarked some merino wool in the grease at 60d. per lb. ; but, so far as I can learn from officials whom I have interviewed, though they have earmarked it, they have not taken that wooL
– They have agreed to take it.
– I accept the honorable senator’s assurance that the firm to which I refer has agreed to take that wool. I know that some manufacturers in Australia have been turning out very high-class goods, made from fine wools, which, to-day, are dear the world over. I frankly admit that many of the manufacturers have been playing the game, and have been selling at reasonable profit, but there are others of whom the reverse may be said, and whose profits are, in my opinion, exorbitant.
I have desired all through, in dealing with this matter, to refer to averages, and not extremes. If one mill is taking an infinitesimal quantity of merino wool at an extreme price, it may not unfairly be referred to as the exception which proves the rule.
– I said 60 per cent., in one case.
– I wish to deal entirely with averages, and to be very careful, because I consider this matter of momentous importance to the- Government, who should make every possible effort to see that returned soldiers, and the public generally, are supplied with far cheaper clothing than they can obtain at the present time. I have not the slightest doubt that the increased cost of living, and, amongst other things, the exorbitant price of clothing, is largely responsible for the present industrial unrest and feverish discontent of the community. We cannot blame the people, because to charge them the prices which they are being charged for a suit of clothes is nothing less than daylight robbery. To prove that Australian manufacturers as a whole are not using expensive wool, I propose to quote, word for word, from the very able and exhaustive report which has just been furnished by the Central Wool Committee, upon the operations of the Wool, Pool in all the States since its establishment. That report states: -
Commonwealth woollen manufacturers are engaged mainly in the manufacture of woollens as distinct from worsteds, for which high-grade wools are required; therefore, their purchases are practically confined to the medium and lower grade wools, the values of which are below the average value of the total clip.
That is conclusive proof, which cannot be denied, and the extreme case quoted by Senator Pratten is therefore the exception which proves the rule.
– I did not quote an extreme case.
– At any rate, I have quoted from the official report of the Central Wool Committee, which has only just been made available, and I have quoted from that document word for word. I have never for a moment insinuated that Australian manufacturers are turning out an inferior article. I know perfectly well that they are turning out tweeds, blankets, and flannels which are second to none in the world. Of course, they have enjoyed tremendous advantages. They have received the whole of their supplies at the absurdly low price of 14.23d. per lb., whereas the manufacturers in other parts of the world have been paying upon an average 300 per cent, above that price for their
As regards the Federal Woollen Mills, and the cost of the Weeds issued to returned soldiers, I say frankly that these mills area splendid institution, and are splendidly managed. I do not dispute the figures of the manager, as supplied to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), because I know that they are true. He would have no object in returning any other figures. I wish to place upon record my opinion that the management of these mills is very efficient indeed. But if the wool which the manager is now using is costing 55 per cent. above appraisement prices,I can hardly understand why that is so, because it means that he must be using practically merino wool. As a matter of fact, every grade of wool, from 50’s downwards, is selling now for very considerably less than the appraisement prices. As our soldiers are complaining of the increased price which. is to be charged to them for tweeds, I suggest that if the manager of the mills finds it necessary to increase the cost of those materials, he should use one count stronger wool. If he will use counts which are known all over the world as 46-50, or even 44-46, those wools are so- plentiful and cheap that he can turn out tweeds at a lower cost than our returned soldiers have been charged for them up to date. I admire the tweeds which have been made in the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, and the wonderful value that is represented in them for 6s. 6d. and 7s. 6d. per yard. But. I have received a great many letters from returned soldiers, complaining of this particular matter, and I give the Minister my assurance, as an expert, that tweeds equal to anything in the world can be manufactured from the counts of wool which I have described.
– Even worsted ?
– Yes. In regard to the action of the Government I must again plead that they shall not sell khaki cloth to the public at 15s. per yard, when they admit that it costs them only from 6s. 2d. to 7s. 2½d. per yard, as will be seen by reference to Hansard, page 7135. The Department have been issuing tweeds to the soldiers at from.6s. 6d. to 7s. 6d. per yard. That is quite true. But the Minister must know that the capacity of the mills is totally inadequate to supply the returned soldiers who are desirous of obtaining suit lengths.. They have not been able to supply more than one-third of the demands of the soldiers in that direction. Consequently, I hold that if there is a surplus of this khaki cloth the Government should make it available, first and foremost, to returned soldiers, and soldiers who have not been able to get the tweed, and that, instead of charging 15s. a yard for it, which represents an excessive profit, they should sell it to them at cost price, plus the cost of distribution and overhead charges which would represent, at the very most, 10s. per yard. I congratulate the Minister upon the management of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, and the wonderful balance-sheet which it has just issued, which shows that a net profit was made for the year of £22,000 odd, and that this profit was not made upon the manufacture of tweeds which were issued to returned soldiers at 6s. 6d. and 7s. 6d. per yard. But I gather from the official report of the management that the Minister for Defence stated, on the 4th August last - as is recorded in Hansard, page 3776 - that 70 per cent, of the mill’s total output for the year comprised these very tweeds. So that if the Government did not make some of their profit out of these tweeds they must have made a. thumping profit upon the remaining 30 per cent. of their output.
– We only commenced to issue these tweeds since the year which is dealt with in that report.
– The Minister will see that my statement is confirmed by the report which appears in Hansard.
– My statement was. absolutely correct. The tweeds were not issued during the year in which the profit was made.
– I now wish to read a letter which I received this morning from a returned soldier, who says -
The statement of Senator Pearce, in reply to your representations, that the Department was selling , the cloth at cost price, plus overhead charges, is not borne out by facts, as follows: -
I attach hereto copy of the official “ Priced Vocabulary of Military Clothing and Necessaries,” issued this month, and to be in force for 1920-1921. Upon page 24 of this you will see that -“ Cloth - khaki, woollen, 18 ozs.. per yard,” is to be supplied at6s. 8d. per yard. That seems that all overhead charges are covered by this figure.
Other items in the official “ Priced Vocabulary of Military Clothing and Necessaries” are as follow: -
Cloth - blue, 25 ozs., 56 inches wide, 7s. per yard; 20 ozs., 56 inches wide, 5s. 8d. per yard; 11 ozs., 56 inches wide, 4s. 9d. per yard. Drab mixture - 14 ozs., 56 inches wide, 4s. 6d. per yard; 18 ozs., 56 inches wide, 7s. 7d. per yard. For civilian suits - 16 ozs., 56 inches wide, 5s. per yard. Khaki - woollen, 18 ozs., 56 inches wide, 6s. 3d. per yard. Cloth, khaki, W.P. - 25 ozs., 56 inches wide, 9s.1d. per yard; 18 ozs., 56 inches wide, 5s.11d. per yard.
Of course, 25 ozs. per yard is an exceedingly heavy material.
– But none of those materials are the same as the tweeds which we are issuing to the soldiers. They are all intended for uniforms.
-No ; it states here that they are “for civilian suits,” and they are issued to returned men.
– They are not the equal of the tweeds that we are selling to the soldiers.
– With all due deference to the Minister, I maintain
– The honorable senator wants to get at the truth, surely.
– Then may I tell him that the materials, the prices of which he has been quoting, are not the equal of the tweed that we are issuing in suit lengths to returned soldiers generally?
– Then the description given in the priced vocabulary is very misleading, because the weights of those materials are heavier than are the weightsof the tweeds which the Government are issuing.
– They are not of the same quality cloth at all.
– I think that the khaki cloth is wonderfully good. It is equal to the tweeds which are being issued.
In regard to the extension of the woollen industry, I desire to explain my position. I am strongly in favour of the extension of our manufacturing industries in Australia, and I admit that most of our manufacturers have been “ playing the game.” Unfortunately, however, some of them have not done so. But Senator Pratten has read into certain remarks which I made meanings which I did not . intend to convey. He stated that the woollen manufacturers were making a profit of from 16 per cent. to 18 per cent., whereas the report of the Fair Prices’ Commission, a copy of which I have here, conclusively proves the accuracy of my statement, that the average profit for the whole of Australia - that is, of some mills which are splendidly managed, and of others which are badly managed - has been 33 per cent., whilst some of the mills have made a profit of more than 70 per cent. I ask honorable senators whether a profit of 70 per cent. is a fair thing ? I hold that it is a contributing factor to the high cost of clothing.
– But those exorbitant profits by unscrupulous manufacturers tend to increase the average of the profit made by manufacturers generally.
– Yes. The Bureau of Commerce and Industry has just issued a pamphlet advocating the extension of the woollen industry in Australia - a project which has my wholehearted support. We produce the. best and cheapest wool in the world, and yet we are importing a large quantity of wearing apparel. I am confident that the great scheme put forward by the Bureau can be carried out, and certainly the sooner we commence to manufacture what I may term our “breadandbutter lines of clothing in this country, the better it will be for all concerned. In the prospectus relating to the scheme to whichI have referred it is stated -
During the years 1915, 1916, and 1917, the existing woollen mills of Australia made a total net profit of £1,197,000 upon a total capital of £1,144,000.
– Who said that?
– The prospectus of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. It was in yesterday’s papers, but I knew of it before, because the exact figures were brought out by the Commission which inquired into the matter eighteen months ago.
– Those profits extend over three years?
– And average what the Inter-State Commission said?
– Yes. The figures I have given are for the whole lot, some mills being badly managed, and some well managed. Do not these facts show that Senator Pratten’s remark of the day before yesterday, that they were making only normal profits of 16 and 18 per cent., was entirely wrong?
– I was speaking of certain manufacturers.
– I was speaking all through on the averages. I wish to deal with the whole average f or Australia. It is only right that the public and honorable senators should know that there are some manufacturers who are obviously not “ playing the game.” The Central Wool Committee - one of the ablest Committees of business men that have ever been got together in this country or any other - made a unanimous report, dated 16th April, 1920, on the most extraordinary, and, I think, most immoral, contract entered into by the Government for the sale of 10,600 bales of wool ex the Pool, just prior to its closing, to the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, of Sydney, a matter about which I shall probably have a good deal to say at no far distant date. Although this report was presented to the Government on 16th April, it was not made available to Parliament until 13th August, a delay of four months. I should have thought that it would be laid on the table, and made available to honorable senators and members of another place at once.
– If it was laid on the table, it was made available as a matter of course.
– It was never presented to Parliament until I asked for it. I do not know why the Government kept it locked up for such a long period. It is of such tremendous importance that I ask the Government to have it printed
– It is printed.
– Then I urge honorable senators to read it carefully. It shows that the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, of
Sydney, did not keep their word with the Central Wool Committee. They did not produce balance-sheets when called upon to do so. They refused to discloss the stocks of wool and tops and noils which they had on hand on 30th June, a thing that all other manufacturers readily and honorably did. That contract, entered into on 12th March, 1920, gave the company, which defied properly constituted authority, and fought the Government, preferential treatment equivalent to a present of £99,000. The report states that the rate of interest earned on capital invested in this business by the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, on wools obtained by the contract, works out at 303.2 per cent. net profit. The foregoing are facts which prove that all in the trade are not making the modest profits claimed by Senator Pratten.
I ask the Government whether a certain manufacturer in Geelong accepted a contract for the supply of material to the Defence Department for the use of our soldiers, which, upon examination, was found to be adulterated and/or undersized or under weight; also if any fine was inflicted during the war period, and, if so, how much? If this crime was committed, why were the guilty person or persons let off with a fine?
I think I have proved conclusively that the Australian wool-growers, whilst doing well, have been supplying the manufacturers with raw wool at an extraordinarily low price ; that the increase, if any, in the value of wool now, as compared with the appraisement period, is little, if any, justification for any increase in the price of clothing, and that clothing generally, to the people of Australia, should be cheaper instead of dearer. I know it is not entirely due to themanufacturers, but is due largely to Flinderslane, where the merchants have been proved to be making 100 per cent. net profit on Australian tweeds, whatever they have been making on imported, or whatever they have been making altogether. We Australian citizens, if we go into a shop and ask for Australian tweed, cannot get it, or nine times out of ten the seller will not tell us whether it is Australian tweed or otherwise. I have asked shopkeepers in my own town to give me tweed made by the Albion or other Australian mills, and they have shown me stuff and will not tell me where it is made. They say the Flinders-lane people will not tell them where it comes from. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the majority of the Australian tweeds have been sold as imported. The manufacturers in other parts of the world naturally have to charge a very high price, because they are paying 300 per cent, more for the raw product, plus, say, 3d. per lb. freight, in,surance, and loss of interest, heavy freight back to this country, and a protective duty of 35 per cent- on top of it all. Naturally, therefore, imported tweeds are about 30s. per yard, but it is a crime and an imposition on the public of this country that Australian tweeds and Australian clothing should be at anything like the ,price they are. I ask the Government to make the khaki cloth which they possess, and which they admit has cost them from’ 6s. 2d. to 7s. 2Jd. per yard, available to the returned soldiers who are not able to get a suit length of these tweeds. I ask them also to take into serious consideration my suggestion that they should try to cheapen, rather than to increase, the” price of tweeds.
.’ - I am in rather an unfortunate position in regard to the motion. I believe that Senator Guthrie did notify the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Millen) about 10.45 that he intended to move it.
– I tried to find you earlier.
– Senator Millen was called away, and I received no notice that Senator Guthrie intended to bring this question forward. I am, therefore, not armed with any facts. The honorable senator has also introduced new issues today, which have nothing to do with the question that he raised the other day, and I am at a great disadvantage, in consequence, in replying to them. I draw attention to some of the statements he has made. He says his main desire is to protect the soldiers and the public from the profiteer. That is a desire which is not peculiar to himself. I think every member of this Chamber shares it. but I suggest to him the unwisdom of creating, by his statements here, the impression in the minds of the soldiers that they are the subject of profiteering, without making clear exactly what he means. I emphatically deny that there is any profiteering on the soldiers in regard to the cloth which is being offered to them by the Defence Department. A statement like that, if it is meant to apply to the cloth being supplied to the soldiers, is absolutely inaccurate.
– I did mot insinuate that. I said the tweeds were very good at the ‘money.
– If the honorable senator’s statement was not intended to mean that, I do not see why he differentiates between the soldier and the general public, because, as regards the other supply of cloth for private manufacturers, the soldier is one of the general public. Already some people are industriously trying outside to create the impression in the minds of the soldiers that they are being profiteered upon in regard to the supply of cloth. It is most unfair that that statement should be brought in in the way adopted by Senator Guthrie, to add fuel to the flame outside, and to further among the soldiers an entirely inaccurate impression.
– I thought I made it clear that I applauded the Government for issuing to the returned soldiers tweeds which were of such splendid quality at from 6s. 6d. to 7s. 6d.
– The honorable senator did say so later on; but the trouble is that the particular statement to which I have referred will go out in the press, while its subsequent qualification will probably not go out.
– Then blame the press, not him.
– I think it might have been put in a different way, because, in relation to the other cloth, the soldier is a member of the general public. There is only one case in which the soldier is specifically dealt with as a soldier, and that is by the Department in providing these suit lengths.
– Why not let him have that knaki at cost price?
– I shall come to that question in ‘ due time. Another statement made by the honorable senator was that the Government should make every effort to provide the public with cheaper clothing. What Government? Obviously, the public will get the impression that the Commonwealth Government is meant, and that we have the power to do it. The honorable senator knows quite well that the Commonwealth Government have absolutely no power in regard to the regulation of the price of tweed, except that made in its own mills.
We know that profiteering exists in the community, and we know also that it is the ca”use of a great deal of unrest. But why make a statement which would lead the public outside to believe that we ‘have the power to prevent it in this particular case, that we are not exercising it, and that Senator Guthrie is calling upon us to exercise it? I think those statements might well be qualified, and it might be pointed out to the public that they have a remedy through the State Parliament, over which they have just as much control as they have over the Commonwealth Parliament. As a matter of fact, Senator Guthrie knows that, in Victoria, and some of the other States, the State Parliaments and Governments have created machinery to deal with profiteering. In Victoria, the State which Senator Guthrie represents, the particular industry in question has been before, the Fair Prices Commission.
– Yes, and that is the only recommendation which the Government’ have scrapped.
– I am only pointing out that it is not a question for which the Commonwealth Parliament or Government is responsible. It is not their responsibility that the recommendation of the Fair Prices Commission of Victoria has not been put into force. It is the responsibility of the State Government, and when a discussion of this kind is initiated, it might well be pointed out that the industry has been investigated, and recommendations made, and the responsibility laid on the right shoulders, which are not the shoulders of the Commonwealth Government.
Senator Guthrie also’ said that if wool was purchased by the manager of the Commonwealth Defence Mills at 55 per cent, above appraised prices, he could not understand it, and suggested that if the manager found it necessary to increase the price he should use 46-50 wool, which is a technical term that I do not understand.
– It is a stronger grade of wool.
– I shall have that suggestion brought under the notice of the manager, because the object of the Department, in making this offer to the returned soldiers, was not to make a profit. We thought we were conferring a benefit on them.
– So you did - that is quite admitted.
– That is the only object we. have in view. If we can give them an equal article at a lower price, certainly we shall do it. We have no object iri doing anything else. If the honorable senator’s suggestion is practical, and will result in a cheaper cloth, we shall have no hesitation in putting it into force.
I come now to the question of the khaki cloth which is being sold to the general public. Perhaps the best answer to any criticism of that is the way in which the public have rushed it at 15s. per yard. They are getting a cloth, of which they could not purchase the equal anywhere else at 25s. a yard.
– Two wrongs do not make a right.
– But there . is somebody also who has a right to consideration here besides the returned soldier, and that is the general taxpayer. This country has loaded itself with somewhere approaching 300 million pounds of debt over the war. There is a certain surplus,- not only of khaki cloth, but of a number of other things, which are being disposed of in order to save something out of the wreck. We are making special provision for the returned soldier, and at a rate far below that which would be charged to the general public, in the shape of the tweed that we are supplying from the Defence Mills. We consider, also, that the general taxpayers have a right to some consideration, and we axe giving to them, or to such of them as wish to purchase it, a cloth at nearly 100 per cent, cheaper than they can get it outside. For both the returned soldiers and the general taxpayers we are saving an enormous sum of money as a result of the sale of this cloth. But I dispute Senator Guthrie’s statement that we are making 100 per cent, profit on the transaction; and I contend, also, that the Commonwealth Government have just as much right as a private firm to take into consideration the fact that in this factory a large sum of money has been invested, and that for two jews some portion of it, at all events, has beenlying idle. As the guardians of the public purse, we should give consideration to the question of earning interest upon the capital invested.
– The cloth was primarily intended for the soldier.
– Yes; but not as an individual. I may point out that the general public have shown , their appreciation of what we have done, as we have realized about £30,000 from the sale of the cloth. Arrangements are now being made to sell the cloth in- the other States also, and we have no doubt that the public will take the whole of it at the prices fixed.
Senator Guthrie this morning quoted a letter which he has received concerning the vocabulary prices. No doubt this letter came from one of those who are trying to stir up this agitation in order to persuade the returned soldiers that they are not getting a fair deal even in regard’ to the cloth which we are supplying from the Geelong Woollen Mills.
– It was a letter from an officer of the Defence Department.
– The vocabulary pi-ices, quoted by Senator Guthrie, .have nothing to do with the tweed we are now supplying to returned soldiers and the general public. We have provided that officers of the Citizen Forces may, if they wish, instead of getting their uniforms in the ordinary way through the clothing factory, obtain the material at vocabulary rates, and have it made up by their own tailors, and at their own cost. This vocabulary rate, therefore, is the quoted price at which the various qualities of cloth for uniforms,- overcoats, &c., may be obtained by the officers, and in addition it quotes the price of the cloth, which we undertake to give to every returned soldier for his suit. But this material is nothing like the same in quality ae the cloth we are now supplying to returned soldiers and the public in suit lengths.
– It is splendid cloth, nevertheless, and very cheap.
– I am glad to have this admission from Senator Guthrie, because the Defence Department has been criticised by certain people for what they term the inferior quality of the cloth supplied. It is, therefore, very gratifying to have this testimony from an expert like Senator Guthrie that we have been doing the fair thing by the returned soldiers; but I repeat that the cloth referred to in the vocabulary pricesis not nearly so good in quality as that which we are supplying at from 6s. to> 9s. per yard from the Defence factory.
– Are you> going to continue supplying it at that price?
– We are going tocontinue doing business on the same rati* of cost. We do not. intend to allow a single additional penny profit to be made on the cloth. On the other hand, if Senator Guthrie’s suggestion can be given effect to, and if by using other wools we can turn out good quality cloth at the same or even at a lower cost, I shall give instructions for this to be done. 1 do not propose to follow Senator Guthrie in his criticism of manufacturers generally, for it seems to me that I would be beating the air. A discussion on that aspect of his speech would lead us nowhere. If the Government had power to deal with that subject it might be profitable to follow the matter up.
– It is a good subject to ventila’te, at all- events.
– As we have no power to deal with the matter, no good can be done by further, discussing it at this stage. But the Government are interested in the Wool Tops Agreement, and in connexion with this matter I remind Senator Guthrie that, on a previous occasion, Senator Pratten delivered a speech on this question, and if the honorable senator intends, as he suggests, to> raise this subject on a future date, I recommend him, as a fair-minded man who wishes to have both sides of the ‘subject stated, to read Senator Pratten’s remarks to see if- he has an adequate reply to them.
– Do you insinuate that the Central Wool Committee have not been acting fairly? Have yon read their report?
– I do not insinuate that, but I point out to the honorablesenator .that the agreement which was subsequently entered into, and which benow criticises, was drawn up by the Central Wool Committee themselves. This, is an Historical fact which cannot be evaded. The Central “Wool Committee did not sign it, but nevertheless it was the agreement which members of that body drew up. It is all very well now for the honorable senator to come along and say. that, because the firm mentioned made a profit, the agreement should not have been entered into. There is another aspect to this question, and that is this: As the result of the quarrel between the Central Wool Committee and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company a very important industry was held up for over twelve months, a large number of men were thrown out of employment, and a great quantity of wealth was lost to this country. This aspect of the subject must be taken into consideration.
Senator Guthrie also raised another question. He asks whether some of the cloth manufacturers in Geelong supplied adulterated cloth to the Defence Department, and were fined. On this question hp cannot, of course, expect “ me to supply an answer offhand. All I can say is that I have no recollection of the case he mentions. If he wishes to get information, I suggest that he place a question on the notice-paper. I have nothing to hide.
– I know that.
– On the spur of the moment I cannot answer his question.
I repeat that, so far as Senator Guthrie’s suggestion is concerned, I shall give an instruction to see what- can be done, because it is the one desire of the Department to sell good quality cloth to returned soldiers at the cheapest possible price.
– I am sure .that an overwhelmingly important subject, such as this is, profits by any intelligent discussion that can be applied to. it, and I am glad that Senator J. F. Guthrie has moved the adjournment of the Senate to deal with this problem, which so seriously concerns, not only the primary producers and secondary industries, but also the consuming public. Practically the . debate originated as the result of three statements that were made. The first statement concerned . the Commonwealth Woollen Mills. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce1) has dealt with that. The second statement made by Senator Guthrie was that Australian tweeds should be made ‘available at a cheaper rate ‘ than they were during the wool control period, because they are bought from the manufacturers at a lower price. The third statement was that Australian tweeds are all made of crossbred wools. I am glad that Senator Guthrie has freely admitted that, so far as the operations of the Central Wool Committee are concerned, the Australian manufacturers are paying a higher price now .than three months ago. That statement, I think, has been conclusively proved, not only by the figures which I furnished to the Senate on Wednesday, but also in the course of this debate by information as to the operations of the Commonwealth Woollen Factory itself. Senator Guthrie, however, has somewhat grudgingly admitted that Australian manufacturers use merino wools.
– A small proportion.
– I draw the attention of honorable senators who, unlike Senator Guthrie, are not experts in wool, to the fact that merino wools, which make smooth tweeds, have become rather fashionable of late, and that even in the Senate to-day a good proportion of the suits worn by honorable senators is made of cloth from merino wool.
In his opening remarks to-day, Senator Guthrie used language which bears the construction that I am opposed to the wool-growers of Australia getting as much as they possibly can for their products. In answer to this implication, I direct his attention to the remarks which I made when speaking previously on this matter. I then wished the primary producers good luck in their effort to get all they can for their products. But this is not a question of depriving the woolgrowers of the highest market prices. As I see it, the question is one of the relationship of the wool-growers to the secondary industries ‘ that are being developed in this country.
I am glad the admission has been made by Senator Guthrie that most of the tweed manufacturers are “ playing the game.” This is obvious from the fact that the average profit .on the capital employed in the industry is from 30 to 33 per cent. In some cases excessive profits, even up to 70 per cent., have been registered, but in arriving at the average profit it must be admitted that some manufacturers are not getting anything like 30 or 33 per cent. upon the capital invested.
– They can get 8 per cent. on their investment in the latest French loan.
– They can get 8½ per cent., because the loan prospectus contains a provision requiring the French Government to pay back, over a period of twenty-five years, £110 for every £100 invested in the loan.
In the consideration of this wool problem, I think we should also understand something about the cost of the raw material from which the suitings are made. My honorable friend, Senator Guthrie, said - and I do not altogether disagree with his figures with regard to the cost of greasy wool in suit lengths - that the cost was, approximately, 10s. per suit.
– That is a liberal allowance.
– I would point out to him, however, that greasy wool has to be scoured, and perhaps I am approximately right when I say that-
– You are quite right. The average for a suit length is about 7 lbs. of greasy wool.
– And, therefore, if the average cost of the greasy wool in a suit length is 10s., we get a price of about1s. 5d. per lb. in the grease. This wool, as I have said, has to be scoured, and I am sure my honorable friend will admit that in the scouring process wool loses about 50 per cent. in weight. Consequently scoured wool, which loses 50 per cent. in weight, is double the price of greasy wool. If manufacturers pay 2s., 3s., 4s., or even 5s. a lb. for greasy wool, scoured wool will cost double that price. There is a further loss in tops of another 10 per cent., and if a manufacturer is giving 5s. per lb. for merino wool, the cost of that wool in tops will be 12s. 6d. per lb. before he starts to manufacture the worsteds. A good deal has been said concerning the cost of a suit of clothes.
– Does it require 7 lbs. of treated wool to make a suit of clothes?
– Seven pounds of greasy wool.
– Then the honorable senator’s argument is of little value.
– I am arguing that the price per lb. paid for greasy wool has to be doubled when the scouring process is completed, and that there is a further increase of 10 per cent. when it is made into tops. I am showing that it requires 2 lbs. of greasy wool at, say, 5s., to make 1 lb. of scoured wool, and, consequently, 1 lb. of scoured wool will cost 10s. per lb. I wish to repeat that if a manufacturer wants to get 1 lb. of scoured merino wool he has to purchase 2 lbs. of greasy wool, and if he gives 5s. per lb. for greasy wool, 1 lb. of scoured merino wool will cost him 10s. If he wishes to turn 1 lb. of scoured wool into tops there is a further loss of 10 to 15 per cent., and consequently 1 lb. of scoured merino wool made into tops costs approximately 12s. 6d. per lb.
– The honorable senator’s arguments are absolutely ridiculous, if I may say so.
– I think I have fairly stated the position, and I am going to stand by what I have said.
– But I understand that only 7 lbs. of greasy wool is required.
– I am referring to the basic cost per lb. of the wool the manufacturers use, and I am not dealing with the point that 7 lbs. of greasy wool are required for a suit of clothes. If a manufacturer pays 5s. per lb. for greasy merino wool, and in the process of scouring he loses 50 per cent., it naturally follows that 1 lb. of scoured merino wool costs him 10s.
– But it is only 3½ lbs.
– If 3 lbs. of scoured merino tops at 12s. 6d. per lb. is required to make a suit of good tweed, the cost of the material will be 37s. 6d.
In regard to the manufacture of clothes generally, it may be said that we are suffering from the somewhat elementary development of our tweed manufactories. In the forty different factories in the Commonwealth, we are manufacturing only about one-third of Australia’s need, and, consequently, we have to import the remaining two-thirds. Therefore, after the material leaves the factory there is ©very temptation for the wholesale and retail distributors, as Senator Guthrie stated, to sell the Colonial-made tweed at the same price as the imported article. As a matter of fact, I think honorablesenators will find, if they investigate the matter by obtaining information from their friends in the trade who do cutting up, that thousands of yards of Colonial tweed is cut up and sold as imported material. That is not the fault of the tweed manufacturers, because, as I have said on several occasions, during the war the Colonial tweeds sold by reputable manufacturers averaged from 6s. 6d. to 12s. 6d. per yard. Therefore, if it takes 3£ yards to make a suit of clothes, it is obvious that the material does not cost, wholesale, more than from about 20s. to 403. What does occur after this cloth leaves the reputable factory is, perhaps, another matter.
– Everybody has a “cut” at it.
– Yes; and I am strongly of ‘the opinion that in some cases this cloth has been sold at double the price it has cost the distributor. Obviously the remedy is to immediately and rapidly extend the colonial tweed-making industry, because if we supply only onethird, and the remaining two-thirds have to be made up from abroad, we are at the mercy of the man across the water. If we manufacture the whole of our requirements there would be sufficient competition to bring prices back to a reasonable point, and if they did not come back the manufacturers themselves should be controlled by Profiteering Commissions or Committees.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Would T be in order in moving for an extension of time?
– That cannot be done under our Standing Orders.
– We have had a very illuminating discussion on a very debatable subject, and I was very pleased indeed to hear Senator J. F. Guthrie express his opinion as to who is responsible for the tremendous increase in the price of cloth. I think the honorable senator’s remarks have practically disproved the assertion that it is the price of wool that is responsible for the exorbitant prices charged for a suit of clothes.
– I think most people understood that.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. What Senator Guthrie has said is correct, and it is well known that when purchasers of suits grumble at the cost their attention Ls always directed to the price of wool.
– It is only ignorant people who do not know that wool has been sold in Australia at ls. 2d. per lb.
– Senator Guthrie’s remarks have further clarified the position. All my life I have been up against the Bradford buyers, who, I admit, are the most able business men in the world ; and I dare say if I were “ playing the game “ on the other side I would say that it was the enormous price I had to pay for the raw product that made prices so high. We have read in the Bradford Observer that it is the enormous sums of money Australians are making which causes the price of cloth to be so high. A most illuminating cable as to a statement in the Yorkshire Post was quoted the other day, to the effectthat although the price of wool had fallen, ‘ the public must not expect to obtain cloth at a cheaper price. That gave the whole show away. The fact that only 7 lbs. of greasy wool are required to make a suit of clothes has very little effect on the prices of suits, which range from £8 8s. to £21, according to the establishment in which they are purchased. We have been told that there is a loss of from 50 to 60 per cent, in weight in the scouring process; but that has very little to do with the enormous price charged for clothes.
I -agree with Senator Pratten that the way out of the difficulty is to encourage our local industries. Quite recently I decided to purchase two merino undershirts,, and I informed my wife of my intention at the breakfast table. She, however, thought that I would forget my responsibility in that direction, and purchased three Australian-made merino undershirts, for which she paid Ils. each. On this occasion I happened to remember, and visited a Collins-street haberdashery establishment, where I purchased two, and for which I was charged 55s. each.
– The honorable senator was paying for purchasing in Obi-, lias-street.
– My wife evidently knew better, and did her business in Chapel-street. The undershirts I purchased were imported, but the garments bought in Chapel-street were of local manufacture, and were, in my opinion, - superior to tie imported article. That is sufficient to show that we should manufacture more here.
I was pleased to learn that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) and Senator Guthrie agree that the Department is doing all in its power for returned soldiers, because every honorable senator is desirous that those men who have done so much for Australia should be properly, treated. I. agree with the contention of the Minister for Defence that the Department is justified in [making profit to cover interest on the capital expenditure. The Minister has pointed out that our interest bill is .increasing from year to year, and it is only fair to the taxpayers that such an industry as this should be allowed to make ‘ a fair and legitimate profit. Nothing has been said which shows that the Government are making anything beyond a fair profit in connexion with the manufacture of tweeds. I am very pleased that we have had this discussion.- It has been illuminating, and should clear up many misconceptions! in. the minds of the general public.
.- We are indebted to Senator 3. F. Guthrie for having brought this matter before the Senate in the interests of the general public. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has explained that we have no power to control prices, but the members of the National Parliament of Australia are justified at any time in giving information of such, a character as may lead those controlling State affairs to take necessary action. I assume that Senator Guthrie has been actuated’ by a desire to remove the impression which certainly exists amongst the public that’ the increased cost of. clothing is due to the increase in the price of wool. I can understand why the general public should be under that impression when they are confronted with enormous increases in the prices of com modities at a time when they might reasonably have expected that prices would fall to some extent.
I am confident that Senator Guthrie did not intend that his remarks should apply to the whole of the manufacturers in the woollen industry in Australia.
– I said that they did not.
– As applied to certain woollen manufacturers, the honorable senator’s remarks are more than justified, because some of them have shown no scruple in extorting exorbitant profits from the consuming public. I have been personally interested in the woollen manufacturing industry. I can mention what has taken place in connexion with the manufacture of flannel, which is an article absolutely essential to the health of the community, and especially of the aged. Prior to the war period pure wool flannel, that made a reputation for itself, was produced in Australia, and sold to the retailer at Hid. per yard. During the war period the price of the article was increased to ls. 9d. per yard, which amply- repaid the manufacturer for the additional cost of wool and the addi.tional cost of labour in manufacturing, but at. the same time at least 25 per cent, of the quality was taken out of the article produced. These matters should be ventilated in order that manufacturers may learn that it is unwise to. continue operations of that kind. With regard to the manufacture of tweeds an even more glaring instance has come under my notice. Tweeds which are produced .at a cost of 22½d. per yard have been increased in price to as much as 4s. 6d. per yard, whilst at least 50 per cent, of the quality of the article has been withdrawn at the same time. I - speak now of dress material.
– Not of local manufacture ?
– I did not kn’ow that dress material was manufactured in Australia.
– Yes, it is. If we follow up our investigations on this sub- jet and consider the price charged for blankets, we shall find that the increase in price to the consumer is out of all proportion to the increased cost of wool and the increased cost of production. Less, than a fortnight ago I had an opportunity of making an inquiry at a certain. establishment in- Melbourne as to the reason why a considerable ‘increase had taken place in the price of cashmere hosiery. I was immediately met with the reply that it was because of the increase in the cost of wool. I was told that the appraisement of wool having ceased, the price had gone up to the London, parity, and the retailers were compelled to charge the public from ls. to ls. 6d. per pair more for cashmere hosiery than they had charged in the previous week. The thing is absurd, because a few pence more would cover the increased cost of the raw material. On making inquiries as to the cost of another article for which I paid 29s. 6d. two weeks previously, I “discovered that the price was raised to 35s. 9d. at the same establishment, and I was met with the same reply when I inquired the reason for the increased cost.
I listened with interest to the statewent made by the Minister for Defence, and I indorse what he said with regard to the attitude of the Government in respect to supplies to returned soldiers. I am sure that Senator Guthrie appreciates the work done by the Government in this connexion. But the very fact that the Commonwealth Woollen Mills are able to produce, without losing money, tweeds good enough for any man to wear at from 6s. to 7s. per .yard proves conclusively that injustice has been perpetrated upon -the general public when, such enormous prices are charged for Australian tweeds by retailers throughout the Commonwealth. I do not suggest that the fault lies entirely with the retailer. I have in mind an instance which can be verified of tweed manufactured at a mill which’ Senator ‘ Pratten knows well, at 6s. 6d. per yard, being sold by the wholesale merchants to retailers at 13s. 6d. per yard, and in Tasmania I handled the same tweed on a retail shop counter, and was asked 21s. per yard for it.
– The honor- able senator was lucky in riot being asked more.
– This tweed can be produced at a profit at 6s. 6d. per yard, and vet the unfortunate consumer is eventually charged 21b. per yard for it.
– The trouble is that the manufacturers are not allowed to supply the retailers. They must supply the ‘ wholesale houses for fear that if they do not they may be boycotted.
– The manufacturers are engaged in such a large way that it is essential to’ their undertakings that they shall have efficient distributing agencies. I am confident that, no matter what system is adopted for manufacturing, an army of distributors must be engaged.
– A man purchases sufficient cloth at 6s. 6d. per yard to make a suit of clothes,’ and if he takes it to a tailor to-day, what will the. suit cost him when it is model
– It should cost him £5 at the most.
– There is no reason why, during the war period and to-day, a real wool suit of Australian tweed should not be purchased at anything from £5 10s. to £6 10s.
– A good tailor will charge that much for making a suit.
– My honorable friend may patronize a very expensive tailor. My answer to Senator Bakhap is that if a man supplies cloth at .6s. 6d. per yard to a tailor, that suit.should cost him, when made, from £5 to £5 5s. I speak of a tailor who knows his business, and not of tailors, who charge 100 per cent. profit on the cost of their work.
– Then the cost of the raw material is only a minor factor in the total cost of a suit.
– Exactly. The honorable senator should not, however, forget that a number of accessories are necessary in the making of a suit. These, for the most part, have to be imported, and he is aware that imported goods, especially cotton goods, are at very high prices at present.
– I think the honorable senator will find that the workman gets £2 for merely sewing a coat together.
– Tailors in business, though not in a large way, will charge from £3 10s. to £4 and £4 10s. for the making of a suit, and, including material, making, and accessories, a man should be able to obtain a good suit’ of Australian tweed for £6 10s.
Senator Pratten, in an illuminating and interesting speech, confined his remarks chiefly to the price of scoured’ merino wool, to which Senator Guthrie’s- remarks did not apply. I feel sure that Senator Pratten will admit that not one suit out of twenty used by the average Australian would be made out of scoured merino wool.
-I stated the other day that one factory in Sydney used 60 per cent. of merino wool.
– I agree with the suggestion that the remedy for the present condition of affairs is the extension of the woollen industry. It should be the duty of public men to urge as strongly as possible the expansion of all our industries. It must take some years before we can hope that the expansion in this industry will be sufficient to supply the whole of the needs of the people of Australia, but the ventilation of a matter of this kind may be useful in bringing about a remedy for the exorbitant prices at present charged. I hope that the time is not far distant when, in the matter of woollen clothing, we shall ourselves be able to supply all that is required in Australia. I am very pleased that Senator Guthrie introduced this matter. Where honorable senators have good reason to believe that undue profiteering is carried on by any section of the community, they should not hesitate to protest against it. We want to do all that we can to let the people of Australia see that we are anxious to legislate for the common weal, and not for any particular section of the community.
– In reply, I desire very briefly to explain to honorable senators who are not familiar with the technicalities of this trade, a few very simple facts. When speaking this morning, I dealt only with the average prices of wool. Senator Pratten immediately made a suggestion which was based on the assumption that the price of scoured merino wool was 10s. per lb. Such a price is an unheard-of thing in Australia. I have here the official values of the Australian wool clip during the past three and a-half years, and the highest price for “ scoured wool 80’s and upwards, extra super-combing fleece, choicest style, regular length and absolutely free “ - there is not more than 800 bales of this wool in the world - is 48d. per lb. That is the highest price that any grower with the most perfect wool can obtain. Now, the average quantity of wool in a suit of clothes the world over is 7 lbs. It takes 7 lbs. of greasy wool to make a suit of clothes, or, roughly, 3½ lbs. of scoured wool. Now, the average price at which Australian manufacturers have been getting their wool for three and a-half years is 14¼d. per lb. It is manifest, therefore, that the average value of the wool contained in a suit of clothes is 8s. 2¾d. The material in a suit of clothes manufactured out of the choicest known wool in the world would cost only three and a-half times 48d., or 14s. When, therefore, Senator Pratten says that some manufacturers are using wool which cost them 10s. per lb., my reply is that such a thing is not possible.
– The honorable senator will admit that some manufacturers are buying merino wools at 5s. per lb. in the grease?
– Then will the honorable senator tell me what greasy merino wools at 5s. per lb. would be worth in the scoured state?
– Greasy wools bringing that price would yield from 57 to 60 per cent. of scoured wool.
– Would the scoured article be worth 10s. per lb.?
– It would be worth less than 9s. per lb. Senator Pratten is citing an extreme case of a few pounds of wool which were sold recently, whereas I am dealing with the average price of wool for the past three and a-half years. Obviously, it is fairer to deal with average prices than with the prices paid in extreme cases. I have never seen a suit of clothes which was made entirely out of the highest quality of wool known in the world. But such a suit would contain only . 14s. worth of wool.
– The honorable senator in his illustration was referring to appraised prices during the period of the wool control, whilst I was referring to the world’s parity.
– I will use Senator Pratten’s own illustration. If a lb. of wool were purchased at 5s. in the grease, or 9s. in the scoured state, ‘that wool would not be used to make a suit of clothes. It would be used in the manufacture of billiard cloths, or for dress suitings, or for mixing with silk.
– I can show the honorable senator an invoice relating to a lot of that class of wool.
– I have seen it. But surely Senator Pratten must know that that class of wool is blended with other wools, which has the effect of reducing their price by onehalf. I think it is only right that I should tell honorable senators the absolute facts in connexion with this matter, so that, in the future, when their tailor says to them, “You must pay these exorbitant prices for clothing on account of the high cost of wool,” they will know that his statement is based upon an absolute fallacy. I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Proposed Parliamentary Visit
SenatorFOLL (for Senator Wilson) asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate -
-The answer to the honorable senator’s question is : -
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with amendments.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the message being at once considered, and all consequent action taken.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That the message be considered in Committee forthwith.
Clause 7 -
The salary of the Arbitrator shall be pounds a year.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. -
After “ be “ insert “ Two thousand,” and after “ year,” insert “ and the ConsolidatedRevenue Fund is, to the necessary extent, hereby appropriated accordingly.
.- The amendments made in this Bill by the other branch of. the Legislature are mainly drafting amendments. None of them is of great importance. The first amendment deals with that of the salary of the Arbitrator. Honorable senators will recollect that when the Bill was previously before us we were obliged to leave a blank in clause 7, because, had the salary of the Arbitrator been set out there, the measure could not have been originated in this Chamber. At the time, however, I intimated that the salary which the Government proposed to pay the Arbitrator was £2,000 a year. The blank has now been filled by the House of Representatives inserting the words “ Two thousand.” The second portion of the amendment merely sets out that that amount shall be appropriated from the Consolidated Revenue. I, therefore, move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 13 (Arbitrator to act according to equity and good conscience) .
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - At the end of the clause add the following subclauses: -
.- This amendment provides for the appointment of assessors on the application of an organization or at the will of the Arbitrator. It further provides that one of the assessors should be a person nominated by an organization and the other a person nominated either by the Minister or the Governor-General in Council. This provision was advocated here by some honorable senators who thought it would be well if the Arbitrator were assisted in certain cases by a. person representing the organization concerned in the dispute who would have a special knowledge of the conditions obtaining in that particular Department and also by a person representing either the Minister or the Department interested. The amendment will give effect to that desire, and I, therefore, move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– Iwas one of those who advocated the insertion in the Bill of a provision of this character when the measure was previously under consideration in this Chamber. But I would point out that sub-clause 2of the amendment provides that the Arbitrator “ may, without such request, appoint an assessor or assessors,” whereas sub-clause 3 sets out that “ one of the asessors “ shall be a person nominated by the organization, &c. It seems to me that there is an inconsistency there.
.- The amendment provides, in the first place, that an assessor may be appointed by the Arbitrator at the request of an organization. But the Arbitrator may feel that he ought to have the assistance of assessors even in the absence of such a request. Reading the two sub-clauses together, it is obvious that there will be at least two assessors appointed in any case in which it is necessary to appoint assessors at all. It may be, however, that the Arbitrator may wish to appoint four assessors in a particular case. At any rate, the amendment establishes the equality of the representation of both parties to any dispute.
– Should we not simply say, “ appoint assessors to advise him,” instead of “an assessor or assessors “ ? He would not have only one.
– It appears to me, as a layman, that there is no necessity to say “ appoint an assessor or assessors.”
– What if there is a vacancy ?
– That is a point. If there were a vacancy, only one assessor would need to be appointed. I think the wording had better be left as it is.
– Theamendment is very badly drafted in other respects than the one to which Senator Elliott has drawn attention. It would appear, on reading the proposed new sub-clause 2, that there is an obligation thrown upon the Arbitrator to appoint an assessor or assessors when requested to do so by the organization, or by the Commissioner, or by the Minister. Does it mean that if all three ask him he must appoint an assessor in respect of each request, or does it mean that he shall appoint one at the request of the organization, and another at the request of the Commissioner or the Minister ?
– Does not the word “or” show that it is alternative?
– But the word “or” appears both before “the Minister” and “the Commissioner.” The wording is certainly ambiguous. It may mean that he can appoint two or three. Then it is provided that the Arbitrator “may, without such request, appoint an assessor or assessors.” I take it that the object is to provide that, when there is no request from the organization,the Commissioner, or the Minister, the Arbitrator may appoint a single assessor of his own volition. If that is the case, Senator Elliott very pertinently asks the object of the provision in proposed new sub-clause 3, that “one of the assessors shall be a person nominated by the organization.” Those words could not apply where only one assessor had been appointed. What will be the functions and duties of the assessor or assessors ? It is provided that “ the assessor or assessors shall discharge such duties as are directed by the Arbitrator, or as are prescribed.” I take it that some duties will be assigned to assessors by regulations under this Act whenever they are appointed. Those will be the duties prescribed. But if the Arbitrator resents the appointment of an assessor or. assessors, will it be competent for him to cut down their functions under this clause? What if he reduces their duties to an absolute minimum ? Will that be the scope of their functions, and will the regulations prescribing theirduties have no force or effect? It may be argued that that is the meaning of the amendment. It may be said that their duties are first of all prescribed, but that, apart from prescription, they are as directed by the Arbitrator. If he gives no direction, he can limit their functions within the narrowest possible scope, and the regulations will have no application at all. The Minister might well have the amendment reviewed and redrafted before the Committee is asked to assent to it. The word “ or “ is used frequently in the proposed new sub-clause 2. I do not think we can take it in one line as having an alternative sense, and in another line as having a conjunctive sense. I believe the amendment was inserted in another place after some discussion. There may be a case in which the Arbitrator looks upon the assessor or assessors as de trop, and we may be giving him power to limit their duties within the barest possible confines. I know that is not the object of the amendment, but, as it stands, that will be the effect of it. It may be possible to meet the object of the movers of the amendment in another place as to the appointment of an assessor or assessors by applying the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act, which, I believe, directs that the singular and plural shall be interchangeable. That may obviate using the phrase “ an assessor or assessors.” I think, under the Acts Interpretation Act, the singular imports the plural, but I do not know whether the converse applies.
– As it would be well to have the amendment reviewed, I ask leave to move -
That the consideration of the amendment be postponed until after the consideration of the remaining amendments.
Motion agreed to; amendment postponed.
Clause 14 -
. . the Arbitrator shall have power as regards any claim … of which he has cognisance……
Bouse of Representatives’ Amendment. - After “ question,” line 5, insert “ and to give an interpretation of any determination “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is an improvement on the Bill, because very often the question of the interpretation of an award comes up. It is obvious that the Arbitrator is the best person to give an interpretation of any determination. As a matter of . procedure it is done in the Arbitration Court now.
– It is a good amendment.
– Yes, and I think we can well agree to it.
Motion agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After “ affirmation “ insert “ such evidence, unless otherwise ordered by the Arbitrator for reasons affecting the public interest, to be taken in public”.
.- 1 move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
These words are being inserted because it was thought by some people that there might be a disposition on the part of the Arbitrator to hear cases in camera, and that it would be advisable to make sure that they were heard in public, unless there was good reason to the contrary.
Motion agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After paragraph (e) insert the following proviso: - “ Provided that before any common rule is so declared, the Arbitrator shall, by notification published in the Gazette and in such other publications, if any, as the Arbitrator directs specifying the matter in relation to which it is proposed to declare a common rule, make known that all persons and organizations interested and desirous of being heard may, on or before a day named, appear or be represented before the Arbitrator; and the Arbitrator shall, in manner prescribed, hear all such persons and organizations so appearing or represented; and”.
.- I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The clause gives power to the Arbitrator to make an award of his Court a common rule, and as that common rule might affect a number of other organizations, and even other Departments, it is felt that notice should be issued in the way set out, so that all parties interested and concerned shall have an opportunity of, if they so desire, appearing before the Court to give reasons for or against the granting of the common rule, or to ask for its variation in certain directions.
Motion agreed to.
Remaining amendments in clause 14 agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. -
After clause 14 insert the following clause: - “14a. The Arbitrator may refer any claim or application submitted to him under this Act, or any matter arising out of the claim or application, to a person authorized by the Governor-General in that behalf, for investigation and report, and may delegate to that person such of his powers (other than the power to determine the claim or application) as he deems desirable; and the Arbitrator may, on the report, with or without hearing further evidence or argument, or both, determine the claim or application.”’
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– This is a very necessary amendment, because it might often happen when cases come before the Arbitrator, that it may be necessary to have a report on some special branch of the Service. For instance, the question of the health of the employees might be raised, and as a case in point I may quote the claim made by the telegraphists and telephonists, that the hours of duty affect the health of the operators. Thus it might be advisable for the Arbitrator to obtain a report from a medical officer on this particular point. The amendment widens the powers of the Arbitrator, and, I think, is a very desirable one.
– It seems to me that, in the circumstances mentioned by the Minister, it will be necessary for the person, in this case the physician, to be authorized by the Governor-General, and that a statutory rule should be issued giving him authority to report.
.- No. This would be done by Order in Council. It it a very simple matter. Any Minister may sign an Order, and there are weekly meetings of the Executive Council right throughout the year. It is desirable to give the person some status, and that is why the amendment has been submitted. It is not thought that the authority will be required on many occasions.
– I take it that the deputy to be authorized by the GovernorGeneral may be assisted by assessors in the same manner as the Arbitrator himself.
– If the Arbitrator thought fit to delegate that power, yes ; but he will not be the Arbitrator. He will report to the Arbitrator.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 13 (Arbitrator to act according to equity and good conscience).
Postponed House of Representatives’ Amendment. - At the end of the clause add the following sub-clauses : - “ (2) The Arbitrator shall, at the request of the organization which has submitted a claim or application, or of the Commissioner, or of the Minister of any Department of State who has submitted an application or who is affected by the claim or application of the organization, and may, without such request, appoint an assessor or assessors to advise him in relation to the claim or application, and the assessor . or assessors shall discharge such duties as are directed by the Arbitrator or as are prescribed. “ (3) One of the assessors shall be a person nominated by the organization, and the other a person nominated jointly by the Commissioner and the Minister of each Department of State affected by the claim or application, or, in default of such nomination, appointed by the Governor-General.”
– I understand the honorable the Minister intends to submit an amendment, and as already he has a motion before the Chair, that the House of Representatives’ amendment be agreed to, it will be necessary for him to ask leave to withdraw it.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– We have given consideration to the criticism against the proposed new sub-clauses. Sub-clause 2 appears to be faulty in construction, and, therefore, I move -
That the amendment be agreed to with the following amendment, viz. : - Leave out “ an assessor or assessors to advise him in relation to the claim or application, and the assessor or assessors”, insert “two assessors to advise him in relation to the claim or application and the assessors “.
The proposed new sub-clause will then be the same as a similar section in the principal Act.
– Is it intended to make it compulsory for the Arbitrator to appoint two assessors?
– The purpose of the amendment is to make the position quite clear. It was pointed out that with the clause in its original form there might be more than two assessors, and it is desirable to obviate this. Proposed sub-clause 3, as received from the House of Representatives, provides for the manner of their appointment, one to be nominated by the organization, and the other nominated jointly by the Commissioner and the Minister of each Department affected by the claim or application. Senator Benny raised the question of the retention of the words “or as are prescribed “ at the end of proposed subclause 2; and I would point out that in many cases, instead of loading up Acts of Parliament with indications as to the nature of certain duties to be performed, power is taken to prescribe them by regulation, and so it is possible thus to condense Acts of Parliament. Moreover, the retention of these words obviates the necessity of continually amending Acts, because procedure may vary, and it is not desirable that the Arbitrator, when he appoints assessors, should on every occasion be obliged to set out their particular duties. There are certain duties that will be common to all, and they will be as prescribed. We want to retain the power to prescribe such duties as will appertain to all assessors when appointed, leaving any special duties to be indicated by the Arbitrator.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 9th September, vide page 4346) :
Clause 2 -
Section 4 of the principal Act is amended - (a) by inserting in, the definition of “ employer “ after the word “ industry,” the words “ and includes a club.”
– I move -
That paragraph(a) be left out.
Clubs hardly come within the category of the industries referred to. They are more or less friendly associations of members, and, as a rule, pay higher wages than award rates, so it is a matter of indifference to them whether they come within the Arbitration Act or not. Their employees are quite satisfied, but if they are included in the Bill, and are dragged before the Courts unnecessarily, it is quite possible that it will be a source of considerable litigation.
– I trust that, for sentimental reasons, the Senate will not destroy the principle embodied in the Bill. During my second-reading speech, I said that I understood there had been no complaints from men employed in clubs. It must be remembered that this is a comprehensive measure, framed to secure industrial peace. It may be said that clubs are not run for profit, but that is little satisfaction to an employee who may be receiving 5 s. or 10s. per week when he ought to be receiving £4. If the amendment is carried, it will be the means of granting a privilege, and other exemptions will be sought. We must deal with an amendment of this character in a proper manner, and not allow ourselves to be influenced by sentimental considerations. The employees in clubs receiving good wages, and working under satisfactory conditions, will not be affected. If we were to exempt clubs from the provisions of our Arbitration Act, there would also be some justification for exempting them from the provisions of our licensing laws. If that were done, what a good time they would have. Clubs have been included in the definition, but not because it is thought that there is anything unsatisfactory in the manner in which they are conducted. What is the difference between a waiter who is employed at a club and one who works at a coffee palace? The honorable senators who have approached me on this matter have all stated that clubs pay higher wages than they are compelled to pay under Wages Board awards; and if such is the case this measure cannot affect them in the slightest degree. I ask honorable senators not to agree to grant exemptions of this character.
– But you have specially mentioned clubs in the Bill.
– They are men tioned in the definition clause. If the clubs are to be granted special privileges as regards wages, why should they not be granted concessions in regard to liquor laws?
– You will be undoing what you are trying to do.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to say that the clubs are paying more than award rates?
– I understand they are.
– Then how will it affect them?
– I do not think it will.
SenatorFoll. - It will compel club employees to join an organization.
– It will not do anything of the kind. The provision will not affect such institutions as the Melbourne Club, or the Australian Club, as they demand the best class of men,, and are prepared to pay high wages ; but even if they are doing that, why should they be exempted?
– Why not include domestic servants?
– They are covered, as far as employment in the hotels and public institutions are concerned, but not when employed in private homes.
– A club is a private home.
– Not altogether.
– It is, to many.
– It may be to some; but can the Victorian Club in Bourke-street, or the Celtic Club, be regarded as a private home?
– If domestic servants are organized,they can come under the provisions of this measure.
– Exactly, and it would be a pity if we denied them the right to organize. . I am a member of a club, and appreciate the facilities it provides, but I am not prepared to argue that it should be specially exempted.
– This is not a special exemption, but a special inclusion.
– No, it is not. This special definition is necessary because it has been ruled by the Court that clubs do not come under the provisions of the Act. We want to bring them in, so that the employees engaged in such insti tutions shall have the privileges possessed by others following similar occupations. A waiter may be employed at a club today, and working at an. hotel to-morrow. Where is the difference? If clubs are paying more, is there anything to fear? I do not think it is their desire to obtain labour at a cheaper rate than others. To me, this is a small matter; but I cannot understand why honorable senators desire to specially favour one section when action of a similar character has had disastrous results in the past. If honorable senators are sympathetically disposed towards clubs and the attractions they offer, they should also have some sympathy for those who are employed there.
– Will not this amendment mean that clubs will be cited before the Court in the event of a dispute ?
– Certainly, the same as any other employer. Surely honorable senators are not going to support the amendment on that ground.
– But they are not working for profit.
– Perhaps not, and if they are paying satisfactory wages they will not be affected. This will be the means of checking those who are endeavouring to sweat their employees.
– Sea captains receiving £400 per year have been in the Court
– Yes, and professional men in Government Departments.
– But the Minister is saying that if satisfactory wages are being paid the men will not go to Court.
– If a club pays a reasonable rate it will not be cited.
– But the clubs may be cited if the employees are dissatisfied.
– But what is a club?
– It is an institution which is not conducted for profit.
– Some of them may be called co-operative homes conducted on business lines, because one can meet one’s friends there. But what of the individual ? If all employers were good employers, there would be no need for arbitration, but, as there are disputes continually arising, provision has to be made to meet them. The gatekeeper at Flemington is an employee of a sporting club, but is that any reason why he shouldnot receive adequate remuneration for services rendered ? Personally, my feelings are very sympathetic towards clubs, and I believe that the opposition shown to the inclusion of such institutions is due largely to the fact that some honorable senators consider that these institutions would lose their dignity if treated as business concerns. At many leading clubs the turnover islarge, and palatable beverages and highly satisfactory cigars are available under conditions which very often do not obtain in other public institutions. But that is no reason why the clubs should not pay fair rates of wages. They should be subject to the law as are other institutions, and I ask honorable senators to view the matter in a common-sense way, and not to support the amendment for sentimental reasons.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) loses sight of the fact that clubs are not conducted for profit, and that they are in an entirely different category to ordinary hotels. The Minister has already stated that if the words proposed to be struck out are allowed to stand, clubs will not pay under award rates; but they cannot do that because it would be illegal.
– In South Australia the Adelaide Club is the only place where a person can obtain a drink after 6 p.m., but, of course, he has to be a member. That is a special exemption.
– Under our arbitration laws an employer is compelled to pay award rates, and even if it is an hotel or a combination of members forming a club, award rates have to be paid. If clubs are included, employees in clubs will be compelled to join some organization. If an industrial dispute occurs in the liquor trade the club employees - although the club may not be conducted for profit - will be dragged into a dispute.
– The honorable senator can build up all sorts of cases if he desires, but will he show me where the measure will be the means of compelling employees to join a union ?
– It brings them under the scope of the Bill.
– But it does not bring them into a union.
– It will bring them into any dispute that arises in connexion with the calling they may be following, and this point is recognised by the club employees. I believe a majority of them are not anxious to be covered in this way. The Minister must admit that there is a difference between a proprietary establishment conducted for profit and a club which is more or less a private home. I hope the amendment will be carried.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 -
After section 6 of the principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 6a.Noperson or organization bound by an award of the Court or entitled to the benefit of an award of the Court shall do anything in the nature of a lockout or strike, or continue any lockout or strike.
Penalty: One thousand pounds.”
.- I move -
That after section 6a the following new section be inserted: - “ 6b. The Court may on the application of any party to an award make -an order in the nature of a mandamus or injunction to compel compliance with the award or to restrain its breach under pain of fine not exceeding £100 or imprisonment not exceeding three months, and no person to whom such an order applies shall after written notice of the order be guilty of any contravention of the award by act or omission. In this section the term award includes ‘ order ‘.”
The object of this amendment is to give the Court additional power to secure the proper observance of any award: It would prevent a position which arose not long ago, when persons who were neither employers nor employees arranged to get men to go out on strike when they had no dispute with their employers as to wages or terms of employment. It seems to me that the time has arrived when we should strengthen the hands of the Court by conferring upon it the power to grant a mandamus or injunction to prevent that sort of thing. The principle of icy amendment is admitted in the proposed new section 6a submitted by the Government in this Bill, and, consequently, the Minister should have no objection to what I propose. The amendment, if agreed to, would give the Arbitration Court the same powers as are possessed ‘by an ordinary Court ‘ of Justice to enforce any order or judgment which it may give.
– I believe that Senator Elliott, on further consideration, will find that it is not possible to give effect to what he desires by the amendment he has proposed. His amendment is really an attempt to transfer judicial powers, the exercise of which is one of the functions of the High Court, to the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. On the best legal advice I csm get that is something which cannot be done, and the amendment, if agreed to, would be inoperative, since the power to enforce awards is a part of the judicial power of the Commonwealth within the meaning of section 71 of the Constitution. In the case of the Waterside Workers of Australia v. J. W. Alexander, reported in 25th Commonwealth Law Reports, the High Court decided that the power to enforce awards, being part of the judicial power of the Commonwealth within the meaning of section 71 of the Constitution, can only be exercised by the Courts mentioned in that section, and, consequently, that the constitution - of Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration, so far as enforcing provisions is concerned, was beyond the power of the Commonwealth Parliament. In view of that decision the proposed amendment appears to be beyond the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, unless it may be by an amendment of the Judiciary Act.
– Would not the power to enforce penalties also come under that decision? Yet the proposed new section submitted by the Government provides for the imposition of a penalty.
– If it does that is no reason for making the same mistake twice. Penalties can be enforced by other Courts. I am advised that the amendment, if agreed to, would be inoperative.
.- The explanation of the Minister was not quite clear to me Senator Elliott has in mind that some provision should be made in the Bill to insure that any award of the Arbitration Court shall be observed. Senator Russell has just stated that such a provision cannot be inserted in a Bill of this character, but should rather be an amendment of the Judiciary Act. Senator Elliott has reminded the Minister that the clause we are considering makes provision for a penalty of £1,000 upon any persons responsible for a lockout or strike. If it is competent for us to include such a provision in this Bill, then it appears to me that Senator Elliott’s amendment must be in order.
– The enforcement of a penalty is a different matter to the function exercised by a Court in granting a mandamus or injunction.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Our Standing Orders prevented me from concluding the remarks which I desired to make this morning concerning the controversy in respect of the Wool Tops Agreement, which was mentioned by Senator J. F. Guthrie. I do not agree with the harsh criticism which has been bestowed upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) by reason of the fact that the 10,000 odd bales of wool which have been purchased by the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company will be invoiced by the Central Wool Committee at a price equivalent to that which the” growers would have obtained for that wool if they sent it to London under the contract with the British Government. The extra manufacturing product will therefore remain in Australia, and u great deal of the money which it represents will find its way back to the pockets of our own people instead of going to manufacturers overseas. I would very much have liked to discuss in detail the question of the cost of clothing from the factory to the warehouse in relation to the weight of greasy wool used in its manufacture. Time, however, will npt permit of that being done to-day. Perhaps at a later date this matter will again crop up, and, if so, I shall then endeavour to make the position perfectly clear. So far as I can gather, the increase which has been made in the price of cloth by reputable tweed manufacturers since they were required to pay 50 per cent, more for their wool than they paid for it during the days of Government control represents about 25 per cent, or 30 per cent. This makes a difference so fur as the cost to the manufacturers is concerned of only 6s. 9d. per yard. Out of that sum the wool-grower is getting 4s. 3d. upon the cheaper sorts of tweeds. Upon the dearer sorts the -difference to the public is 12s. 3d. per yard, out of which the wool -grower gets 8s. 9d. per yard. It does seem to me, therefore, that the woolgrowers are not prejudiced in any way by the position which obtains to-day. They are getting exactly the same profit that they would derive if they shipped their wool abroad. There is a great want of -tact and a certain degree of gracelessness being exhibited in connexion with this matter, particularly by that section of the growers who so fiercely denounce the Wool Tops Agreement which has been entered into by the Prime Minister, seeing that their net returns are not interfered with in any way, and that their manufacturing profits - out of which the Commonwealth will get a large percentage - will be retained in Australia instead of being secured by people overseas. I merely mention this phase of the Wool Tops Agreement, and I hope that the question will be further discussed at a future date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at S.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200910_senate_8_93/>.