9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Senate met at 3 p.m.
The Deputy appointed by the GovernorGeneral, the Right Hon. Isaac Alfred Isaacs, P.O., a Justice of the High Court of Australia, having been announced by the Usher of the Black Rod, entered the
Chamber and, taking his seat on the dias, said -
Gentlemen of the Senate,
His Excellency the Governor-General, not thinking fit to be present in person at this time, has been pleased to cause Letters Patent to issue under the Great Seal of the Commonwealth constituting me his Deputy to administer the oath or affirmation of allegiance to honorable senators, as will more fully appear from the Letters Patent which will now be read.
Letters Patent read by the Clerk.
The Clerk produced the returns to writs issued for the election of members to serve in the Senate from and after the 1st July, 1923.
The following honorable senators made and subscribed the oath of allegiance: -
Charles Stephen McHugh.
James Vincent O’Loghlin.
Western AustraliaEdward Needham,
The Deputy having retired,
– I desire to remind the Senate that, under our Standing Orders, the time has now arrived when we should proceed to the election of a President. I move -
That Senator the Honorable ThomasGivens do take the Chair of this Senate as President.
– I second the motion.
– I submit myself to the pleasure of the Senate.
– It is my pleasing duty to move -
That Senator Stephen Barker do take the Chair of this Senate as President.
Senator Givens has occupied that position for many years, and our party is thoroughly satisfied with him. I regret very much that Senator J. D. Millen does not intend to offer himself as a candidate for the position. Had he done so, this party would not have made it a party contest; our votes would have been recorded in his favour. As a meeting of the Government party has decided otherwise, we intend showing our thorough satisfaction with the late President by nominating Senator Barker against him. I inform new senators that Senator Barker for ten years was a member of this Senate, playing an active part on Committees and in other directions. He is thoroughly acquainted with the whole of the procedure of this Senate, and I am quite confident that, if elected to the high position of President, he will do absolute justice to it.
– I second the proposition submitted by Senator Gardiner.
– I submit myself to the pleasure of the Senate.
– In accordance with the Standing Orders, ballot-papers will be distributed to honorable senators, each of whom will mark upon the paper handed to him the name of the candidate for whom he desires to vote. 4 ballot having been taken -
– I have to announce the result of the ballot as follows: - Senator Givens, 21 votes.; Senator Barker, 12 votes. As Senator Givens has secured a majority of the votes of the whole of the members present, he is elected to the position of President.
The PRESIDENT ELECT being taken out of his place by Senator Pearce and Senator Glasgow and conducted to the Chair, said -
T desire, most sincerely, to thank honorable senators for the very great compliment they have paid me in electing me to the high and honorable position of President of the Senate for the fifth time in succession. I need hardly say that whilst I occupy this position I shall know no part.’. I shall strive, to the utmost of my ability, to uphold the honour and dignity of the Senate, and to see that every honorable senator is accorded full and fair opportunity to express his opinions ‘ in debate. In the discharge of my duty T shall endeavour to be thoroughly impartial, and wherever possible, will interpret the Standing Orders in the direction of extending, rather than limiting, the liberties of individual members of this Chamber, and shall at all times protect to the utmost the rights and privileges of the minority. 1 again thank honorable senators for the very high compliment they have paid mc, which I very much appreciate.
.- I desire to extend to you, sir, on behalf of those honorable senators who sit on this side, our congratulations on the honour that has been conferred upon you by your election to the high office of President of the Senate. It is indeed a. great honour. The Senate is elected by the whole of the people of Australia; it is, therefore, a representative Chamber, and to be elected as its President is as great an honour as any man can hope to obtain in Australia. I believe that, as in the past, you will do all in your power to uphold the dignity of this Chamber and to maintain its position in the Constitution, and that, as hitherto, you will always be quite impartial. I congratulate you most heartily upon your reelection.
– Following the traditions of the Senate, I also congratulate you, sir, upon your re-election as President. I hope that, in future, you’ will fill the position in a manner worthy of such a high office.
– I understand that His Excellency the Governor-General will be glad to receive the President and members of the Senate at about 4 o’clock. Arrangements have been made for conveyances to leave the steps of Parliament House at a quarter to 4. All honorable senators axe invited to accompany the
President to be presented to His Excellency.
– In accordance with the announcement made by the Leader of the Senate, I desire to inform honorable senators that at a quarter to 4 o’clock I shall proceed to Government House to present myself, as the choice of the Senate, to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, and I hope that as many members, as can make it convenient to do so, will accompany me. I am quite sure that His Excellency would like to see as many as possible. Especially do I appeal to the new senators whom His Excellency has not yet had an opportunity of meeting. I am sure that His Excellency will be very pleased, as I also shall be, if they accompany me. I shall resume the Chair at 5 o’clock.
Sitting suspended from S.S5 to 5p.m.
The Senate having reassembled,
– I desire to announce to the Senate that, accompanied by honorable senators, I presented myself to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral as the choice of the Senate for the position of President of this Chamber. His Excellency was pleased to extend to me his congratulations.
The President read prayers.
Senator John D. Millen brought up the report of the Joint Committee on Publio Accounts on the expenditure upon Air Services.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Cancellation dated 20th June, 1923, of the transfer of an amount approved by the Governor-General in Council on the 10th May, 1923.
Defence - Statement showing names and ages of officers retired with compensation who would reach the retiring age within the next five years.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for postal purposes at Merrylands, New SouthWales.
Railways Act- By-laws- No. 25- No. 26.
Statement of approximate receipts and expenditure of Consolidated Revenue Fund for year 1922-23.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired at Orange, New South Wales.
Bill presented by Senator Pearce, and read a. first time.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether, in view of the dispute, if I may use that word, which has been going on between the Government and the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League of Australia, the Ministry will hand over to the Association the making of all appointments to the Public Service and elsewhere, and so prevent a recurrence of the spectacle we have witnessed during the last fortnight?
– The answer is, obviously, no.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1923-24.
Main Roads Development Bill 1923.
The President laid on the table his warrant appointing the following senators as a Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications : - Senators Glasgow, Guthrie, McDougall, E. D. Millen, Needham, O’Loghlin, and Payne.
– In view of the attenuated nature of the notice-paper, the Bankruptcy Bill, which has been on the stocks for a long time, being the only measure listed for discussion, will the Leader of the Government outline to the Senate the order of business for this prospectively short session, so that we may be able to give the required attention to the Bills to be dealt with? Will the Minister submit a statement either now or in the immediate future?
– I am afraid that I could not, at this juncture, make any statement which would be of much value to honorable senators, because I do not know how long the debate on the Addresa-in-Reply will occupy the attention of the Senate. Before the debate terminates, however, I hope to have an opportunity of informing honorable senators of the programme that will be submitted to the Senate. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech indicates, in general terms, the legislation that will be introduced, but at present I am not able to suggest the order in which the Bills will be submitted.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Compensation to Retired Officers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he lay upon the table of the Senate a return showing in detail -
The amount of compensation paid to individuals who would reach the retiring age within the next five years?
The names and ages of such?.
The amount saved, by their retirement and the appointment of other officers in their places?
– The answers to the honorable, senator’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed from 13th June (vide page 35), on motion by Senator Guthrie -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Opening Speech be agreed to: -
ToHis Excellency the Governor-General.
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
. Having regard to the unfortunate position in which the Government have deliberately placed this Senate, I do not- feel disposed to discuss the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech at any great length. The session opened three weeks ago,, when the House of Representatives met and proceeded to dispose of the AddressinReply. The Government intentionally slighted this Senate by so arranging their business that the opening of the session did not coincide with the swearing-in of honorable senators elected in December last.
– The necessity for passing a Supply Bill made it imperative that Parliament should meet before the date on which new senators could take their seats.
– Supply could have been arranged for before the last recess, or, if necessary, Parliament could have been called together a month ago to pass Supply only. What is the position to-day? In this branch of the Commonwealth Legislature, which takes precedence in all matters,honorablesenators fresh from their constituencies and representing the whole of the electors of Australia, are sworn in as though they were filling so many casual vacancies. It is part of the programme of the Labour party to abolish the Senate, and no one will work more gladly to achieve that object than I shall do when the opportunity is afforded to do so; but while I remain a member of this Senate, holding myself responsible to the electors of the State of New South Wales, I shall not, without questioning it, permit any. indignity to be placed upon this Chamber. It is true that every Government has overlooked the Senate, but the present Government is apparently laying itself out to slight this branch of the Legislature.
I leave for a moment the Government’s action in commencing this session within a fortnight of the time when the newlydelected senators could have been sworn in, and when they could have discussed the Government’s programme, as set out in the Governor-General’s Speech, and the remarks made by the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, while they were still fresh in their minds. The Government’s failure to appreciate the position of the Senate, as laid down in the Constitution, is also evidenced by the fact that they are seeking to transfer functions possessed by the Senate to a body which is not only irresponsible, but is also not recognised by the Federal Constitution. In recent years a practice has grown up of making agreements between the Federal and State authori ties. In this Senate we represent the people of the States. Surely a proposal to change the financial arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth shouldbe a matter for our considerationFederal Ministers meet State Ministers in conference and discuss the proposals in every detail, while we, the elected representatives of the States, sent here with the deliberate object of looking after State interests, are not even told in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech what they are.
– All we are expected to do is to give the proposals the rubber stamp of indorsement!
– The present Government may not have been the first to adopt this policy, but they are going further than merely following a bad precedent in this respect.
– The honorable senator’s party would indorse that attitude by abolishing the Senate.
– I have no doubt that the electors’ unfortunate lack of keen attention to their responsibilities, as displayed three years ago, has materially contributed to the present deplorable condition of affairs. I have nothing harsh to say about the electors; they made amends at the last election, but no doubttheir action of three years ago was responsible for much that has since taken place. I appeal to each honorable senator to ask himself, quite apart from party considerations, whether he is satisfied with the trend of affairs during the last few years. If any honorable senator is satisfied with what is being done, all I can say is that he is the judge of his own conduct, but I am not satisfied, and I shall continue to voice my disapproval of any Government that disregards this Senate, and calls upon an outside body, which is in no respect responsible to the people of Australia to exercise functions that properly belong to the Senate. I have no doubt that the representatives of New South Wales at the Conference between Commonwealth Ministers and State Ministers fairly represented the views of the governing body in their State at the present time, but honorable senators elected to this Senate voice the opinions of the people of Australia, and the sooner we realize this Chamber’s true position as set rut in the Constitution the better it will be for the welfare of the people of Australia. I do not know what form the secret arrangement in regard to the finances will take.
– The honorable senator will surely admit that the -State Governments are concerned in this matter.
– Yes ; but I do not admit the right of any Commonwealth Government to make arrangements with the State authorities, while keeping a properly constituted Legislative Chamber unaware of what is occurring.
– Whatever was done will need to be ratified, by us.
– But there is no occasion for the holding of secret conferences, which undermine the status of the Senate. If all these arrangements can be made by Conferences of Federal and State Ministers, without calling upon the Senate to exercise its functions, it is a ‘big step towards one objective of the Labour party, namely, the abolition of this Chamber. I would abolish the Senate because, as a matter of principle, I do not believe in the bicameral system of legislation. I hold that we do not need more than one House of legislature. But while the present system continues, and I remain a member of this Senate, I shall not overlook, without questioning it, any slight imposed by the Government upon the Senate. Our Constitution having been modelled, to a great extent, on that of the United States of America, we can fairly compare our Chamber with the “Senate of the United States. If we follow in the footsteps of the American Senate, and assert our right to exercise a power and influence such as that House exercises in the government of the country, then, instead of being a Chamber which, as Senator Duncan suggests, is merely required to put the rubber stamp of its indorsement on agreements into which the Government have secretly entered, we shall be looked upon with respect by all sections of the community, and shall be capable of properly defending the interests of the people ve are sent here to represent. I feel disposed to test the feeling of honorable senators by submitting an amendment to ascertain whether they approved o) the Government’s action in regard to these arrangements with the States. I have decided not to do so, but I put this question in the forefront of my remarks, and ask honorable senators whether we are really doing justice to the duties which the electors sent us here to carry out, if we permit the Government to treat us in this way. I do not think we are, and thus I enter my most emphatic protest against the action of the Government in making the swearing in of the newly elected senators merely a casual occurrence, thus robbing this branch of the- Legislature of its rightful position on such an occasion as this. I hope that this transgression on the part of the Government will be the last in this respect.
I shall not go through the GovernorGeneral’s Speech in detail. This is a favorable opportunity for me to express my regret at the loss of so many old friends with whom I have been associated in this Senate for many years, and to record in Hansard my keen appreciation of the sportsmanlike manner in which I was treated by all honorable senators supporting the Government when I was the only senator sitting in opposition. The strength of the Opposition has been increased as the result of the last election, but as an Opposition we shall endeavour to bring to bear on the business of this Senate the same sportsmanlike spirit, and shall try to play the game. I hope that we shall be a real Opposition, criticising any legislation brought forward in such a way that it will not be considered in a party spirit, but in the interests of the people in the States we all represent.
The speed at which we travel in Parliament is such that the last post passed a fortnight ago appears to be miles back. I can only speak of the remarks of Senator Guthrie from the slight recollection I have of what he said at that far-distant date when he moved the motion for the adoption of the- Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. I complained six months ago that the Government had treated Parliament to an opening Speech which had nothing in it; but they have certainly opened the Parliament on this occasion in a most autocratic manner, saying that we must put through an immense amount of legislation before the 25th August next, in order that the Prime Minister may go to Great Britain. The consideration of the measures placed before us in the Governor-General’s
Speech would take up several mouths, but the Government insist upon our disposing of their programme, or most of it, in a few weeks. Senator Guthrie very ably put the case for the Government when commenting on their programme, and he dealt very candidly with the sale of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills. No one could take exception to the honorable senator’s remarks, but are honorable senators generally satisfied with the whole transaction ? I can quite understand that those who object to the Government having anything to do with any business that in their opinion can better be undertaken by private enterprise, or object to any Government interference whatever in private production, concur in the sale of the Commonwealth Woollen. Mills. But although they may take up that attitude, they would not readily consent to the Government’s action in deliberately making a bad bargain in the sale of a most valuable asset under conditions entirely unsatisfactory, and such as no private individual would tolerate in his own business. These mills were established as part and parcel of our defence system. If the Government had continued to work them as they had been worked from 1915 until the date of their sale, they would have been a most profitable portion of the machinery that represents the defence organization of Australia. It is certainly an essential in the training of soldiers that they should be properly clothed. In 1911 the Labour party, of which Mr. Fisher was then the Leader, realized the importance for defence purposes of having woollen mills to provide clothing for cur soldiers. The mills stood the test, not only of peace but of war conditions. In 1920 we realized that we had builded .better than we knew. The woollen mills were established, a most excellent manager was obtained to conduct the business, a most excellent site was presented to the Commonwealth Government - the best site, it was considered, that could be procured in the Commonwealth. Mr. Smail, who waa appointed manager, was permitted to travel where he liked in Australia in order to obtain the best site for the location of the mills. He finally decided that they should be established at Geelong. The selling of those mills, and the handing over of the freehold to a private company, cannot be honestly defended. The site was a magnificent gift. No conditions were imposed in black and white,, but the Victorian Harbor Trust Commissioners, who transferred the site to us,, never dreamt that as soon as they had proved successful the woollen mills, together with the site, would be handed over to a private company. We have not dealt fairly with the authority which made the gift of theland to us. I do not know that I would* be using too strong a term if I said that it was dishonest dealing. The valuers for the Government said that the value of the mills was £267,000. I believe that they were worth a great deal more than that. The mills were equipped with the most up-to-date machinery that could be obtained. When Mr. Smail was appointed, he was immediately placed on the pay-roll of the Commonwealth. He was given letters of introduction throughout Great Britain to enable him to inspect the woollen mills which were established in that country, and was authorized to order the best possible plant for the production of the materials he would have to turn out. At considerable expense to the Commonwealth, that gentleman did his work excellently, and established those mills in a way which gave satisfaction to every one. It was well into 1915 before: the first lot of material was turned out. Apart altogether from the actual saving: on the materials supplied to the soldiers, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the mills had saved the Commonwealth from £3,000,000 to £4,000,000. In addition, they provided the soldiers with clothing which was appreciated by all. Any man who has made himself acquainted with the supplying of goods for the needs of an army knows that it is during a time of war that the “crook”’ contractor makes money, because orders have to be carried out quickly, and inspection must necessarily be very limited. I do not want any one to think I imagine that all the material for our soldiers was supplied by these mills; but having these mills we were able to tell the owners of others, when they wanted to increase their- prices, at exactly what price per yard the material could be produced. We did not fix a starvation price for the owners of other mills.
– We were very liberal.
– Having taken control of the other mills, permitting the owners only to manufacture under licence from the Government when they were not manufacturing for us, it would have been unfair had we been other than liberal to them. Liberal though we were, they did not make half that which they would have made had they been able to prove their claim regarding the cost at which they were producing the material. We had a powerful check over costs by reason of the fact that we- had a mill which was toning out material, and a clothing factory which was making up that material. Each year from 1915 to 1922 the factory became more successful, and was able to disclose a larger profit. Why should there have been such sudden haste on the part of the Government to get rid of it? I think that I have seen in the press the statement that £100,000 was the profit on the last two years’ working - £47,000 for one year and £53,000 for the other. Those Huge profits were made despite the fact that the amount written off for depreciation of both machinery and buildings was very considerable. Will any one who knows anything about building say that these splendidly constructed brick buildings, built according to the specifications of the Government architect, with every provision for durability and stability, were not in 1923 worth double the sum which they cost to erect? I would defy any contractor to build for £160,000 in 1923 a mill which in 1914 cost £80,000 to erect. That is a moderate estimate. The .cost o>f the buildings themselves would be 100 per cent, greater to-day than it was ten years ago. The newness is not worn off the machinery; rather have the few years, during which it has run perfected it.
The Government hurriedly called for tenders for the purchase of the mill. The highest” tender received was about £130,000. One might argue that if £130,000 were the highest price we could get for the mill, that was the value of it. Nothing of the kind. I venture to assert that one of the reasons why there were not more tenders was the enormous value of the plant. Judging it on its production over a series of years, it looked to be a proposition worth half a million pounds or more. A number of people in this country imagine that Government control of business is not as economical and successful as private control. Yet this con- cern made a profit of £47,000 in one year ! Is it not conceivable, then, that the reason for the non-receipt of more tenders was that the people who would have been likely to tender considered that the mill would” not be allowed to pass out of the hands of the ‘Government under about £500,000 ? It possessed .goodwill, as a going concern. It was blessed with everything that promised success to any one who took it in hand.
Senator Guthrie played an active part in organizing the company that purchased this mill.
– No, I did not.
– I withdraw the word “ active.” I can assure the honorable senator that, although I shall notspare him, T shall not hit below the belt. The honorable senator played his part, with others, in forming a company to purchase this mill.
– The whole thing was canvassed. T was asked to take shares in the company to prevent the whole scheme going . “ bung.” I consented to do so, and I took up a very small number of shares. That was all’ I had to do with the flotation of the company.
– I quite understand that Senator Guthrie, perhaps, was actuated by the highest motives. I appreciate his motives. My impression is that the ‘honorable senator said he was of the opinion that private persons who already owned mills might purchase this mill and allow it to lie idle, thus throwing a number of people out of employment.
– That was quite a possibility.
– I suppose the honorable senator does not realize what a sinister suggestion that is in regard to our present private capitalistic system. It means that a magnificently-equipped mill might have been bought by people whose sole desire was to make profits.
– It very nearly was so bought.
– The magnificent machinery would have been allowed to rust, and the willing employees prevented from getting employment, because these people were out to make greater profits from the other mills that they owned. That fact is well worthy of consideration, particularly by that section of this
Senate and of the community outside this Senate, whichsays it will have nothing to do with Government enterprise. Measured by waste, measured by loss, measured by the standard of . honorable conduct, the present system of production for profit has failed miserably. One would think that no civilizedcommunity would permit a capitalistic concern to purchase such a magnificent plant and allow it to lie idle merely in order that its profits in another direction might continue. That was a real danger. However, a company was formed to purchase the mill, and they tendered £130,000. That price was not accepted. Tenders were called again, and arrangements were ultimately made for the sale of the mill to this company for £155,000. The original conditions stipulated that a certain deposit should he made and certain annual instalments paid. When the final arrangement was arrived at between the Government and the company, those conditions, which had been submitted publicly to the other tenderers in Australia., were considerably altered in favour of this new company. Was this good business? Was it fair that after a company had made its best offer, the Government should enter into negotiations and give the company something better by modifying the terms extending the period, and reducing the annual ‘ payment ? To my mind, the transaction has quite a sinister aspect. It cannot be said that the Government have thrown defence to the winds altogether. I know they have made such an awful “ hash “ of Defence administration that we cannot expect anything like a reasonable return for the expenditure of . public money in that direction, but if they intended to continue this pretence of providing for Australian defence, they should have retained the Geelong Woollen Mill. There was no occasion for taste in the disposal of this property. Just prior to the rising of the Senate in March last, I asked Senator Pearce if he would advise the probable purchasers of the mill that -when the Labour Government came into power again, we would take it back. I have no doubt that it was my sixth sense that prompted me to put the question to the Minister. For some reason or other I felt that this valuable concern was about to be handed over to private enterprise, and that the interests of the people of this country were to be sacrificed. I say now, after having had time to consider my remarks upon that occasion, that when we do get back to office we shall take that mill back or put a better one in its place. We shall have no hesitation in resuming it at the price given for it by the syndicate, and I am not so sure that we shall be particular about making an allowance’ for depreciation if . we get back to power quickly.
– It might be outofdate then.
– It will only be three years hence.
– And three years pass very quickly to members of this Chamber, especially if they are due to face the electors at the end of that term. What is behind the proposal ? Why were the Government and their supporters so anxious to get rid of this valuable property ?
– In order to get back to constitutional government.
– Yes. I think that, with 5,000,000. of people - and it will be a day or two before we number . 10,000,000 in Australia- if one of the functions of government is to defend this country, then for the present we must, where possible, maintain all these wealth-producing concerns that enable us to produce profitably those articles that are so essential to the defence of Australia. In my judgment, the clothing of our soldiers is essentially a Government function, quite as essential, in fact, as the manufacture of munitions.
– It is just as essential as the manufacture of -small arms. I do not know whether the Government propose to sell the Small Arms Factory, too.
Senator -GARDINER.- I agree with the honorable senator, and I repeat that inwar time the clothing of our soldiers is just as important as is the put ting of a rifle in his hands. We are told that the Government have got rid of this mill because of a principle. Certain members of the Ministry and a number of their supporters hold that it is not the function of a Government to produce anything.
I suppose, if they -were in State politics “.they would be prepared to sell the railways. If they believe that the Government should not produce anything, why <lo they not declare also that it is not -the function of government to carry letters, and allow private enterprise to do she work? Why, also, do they not say that it is not the function of the Government to control steamers, and by the disposal of that asset allow the big shipping companies to fleece our producers by imposing any charges they choose on the carriage of our primary products?
If they are so strongly opposed to public trading as a Government function, why do they not get rid of Nauru Island, whence phosphates are being obtained for Australian producers ?
– We cannot do that.
– Why ? I am not an extravagant man, but if the Government brought down a proposal for the payment of a bonus of £2,000,000 to a private concern to take over Nauru Island, I would vote for it at once, and so save any further expenditure of public money on that venture Nauru is one of the earliest swindles that can be charged against the late Government. It is going to cost Australia thousands of pounds for many years. Nauru was purchased for £3,500,000 by the Governments of Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, Great Britain and Australia being each responsible for 42 per cent., and New Zealand for 16 per cent, of the purchase money. It is now being worked in competition with other phosphate deposits, and, notwithstanding that Commonwealth vessels are lying idle, ships controlled by private enterprise are being employed to transport the raw material to Australia, to be delivered to private enterprise concerns, that charge the Australian farmer practically what they like for the product. The Government, it appears, cannot go the whole distance and decide to manufacture superphosphates as well as provide the raw material. They salve their conscience by saying, “ We will go half way in a public enterprise, and half way in a private enterprise.” Owing to the extremely high overhead charges and interest on capital cost, Nauru Island must be a losing concern for a great many years. The Government should get rid of the island. The Assistant Minister (Senator
Crawford) has just said that they cannot do that. I say that the Government of a sovereign State can do what the people desire them to do; and the sooner they get rid of Nauru Island the better it will be for all concerned. We should cast off this make-believe and pretence that by continuing our share in the administration of Nauru Island the producers of Australia are going to get cheap phosphates.
– But was it not better to assume control of the island than t.r allow the old company to continue?
– Not a bit better. I have taken good care that honorable senators should know the history of Nauru. Before the war, the phosphate deposits were being worked, by a German company, and at the outbreak of hostilities our troops captured the island. The shareholders of the old German company sold their holdings to a wealthy British company, headed by Lord Balfour, and subsequently good Australian, British, and New Zealand money was paid to enable the Governments mentioned to asume control. They paid a princely price. So satisfied was the company with the deal that one of its managers received a bonus of £50,000. Senator Lynch has just suggested that it was good business for the Government to take it over. I say no.
– I am not justifying the present position:
– It has not been a good deal, and we have been most unfortunate from the very beginning.
– I think the price of the rock is now very near the pre-war level.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. The price is considerably in excess of pre-war cost.
– I think it is coming down to the pre-war level.
– It is questionable if it can be produced profitably at the pre-war price, because from answers to questions which I have asked in this Chamber we know that freight is from 20s. to 25s. per ton, and overhead charges about 30s., plus interest on purchase price to get rid of the German shareholders. I have no doubt that the British shareholders who bought out the German company were good enough to hand over to their German “pals” some share of the loot which they got from the Governments of Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. How can we expect Nauru Island to be worked profitably under the administration of three commissioners and with joint responsibility for medical attendance, education, and control, not only of the natives but of the Chinese coolies, who have been introduced ? I do not want to be the first to throw mud at Commonwealth administration, but I am amazed when I think of all that has happened in connexion with Nauru. During the first year of our administration an influenza epidemic wiped out about 25 per cent, of the Nauruan population. We complain sometimes of criticism that has been levelled at our administration of the Mandated Territories, and I want to say emphatically, so as to mislead no one, that I believe the loss of Nauruan population from influenza was inevitable. At that time influenza ran its course through Australia, and even here the mortality rate was unfortunately very high. If honorable senators peruse the report which was laid on the table of the Senate the other night, they will realize that the outlook is very black. That report states that of the Nauruan population men, women, and children, about one in eight or nine is afflicted with the dread disease of leprosy. It seems as if the ill-luck with which we commence d our asminis- t ration is going to follow us right through. I do not hold the Government responsible for that, but I do charge them with the responsibility of introducing ‘Chinese labour.
– Was not the disease there before we took over the administration?
– I cannot say; but my point is that the introduction of Chinese coolies has not resulted in the production of cheap phosphates for Australian farmers. I should imagine that in our own Mandated Territories there i3 an simple supply of native labour for the production of phosphatic rock at Nauru. And, assuming that 500 or 1,000 men are required to work the deposits, is it not possible to get first class white Australian labour ? But, of course, we shall be met with the argument that they could not do the work so cheaply as Chinese coolies. If that is the test, I should let the whole concern go to the Chinese or Nauruans. Personally, I do not want cheap phosphatic rock if it means such a heavy toll in human lives. So long as we remain in control of the Mandated Territories we have a definite responsibility for the people whom, we employ there. It so happens that, in my earlier life, I worked for . a time in association with coloured labour, and I can say definitely that, because of the greater output and the satisfactory manner in which the work is done, the employment of able-bodied white labourers is a sound economic proposition. Since we have taken over Nauru the importation of Chinese coolies equals the total of the Nauruan male population. I object to this influx of coloured labour from other countries, with its attendant danger of the introduction of foreign diseases. I want to make myself quite clear. I am not blaming the imported coolies for the introduction of disease; but we must realize that everything we do in connexion with the Mandated Territories is subjected to the keenest criticism of those who have been dispossessed. We should be prepared to face the facts, and have all complaints ventilated in this Parliament. In this matter I intend to get ahead of the critics by saying that I regret the introduction of coolie labour to Nauru, and I believe that the Government should take drastic action to save the native population from the fate which appears to be rapidly overtaking it. One of the remedies I suggest is to cease the employment of the present class of labour, and to see that all the necessary work is done, by good white Australians.
– We should have to consult other Governments as well.
– Of course, and I suggest that the work be done by white labour, at a good wage. Probably the cost would be great, but it would be a more business-like proceeding than employing coloured labour. Why should we work the phosphate deposits with cheap Chinese labour when the Government refuse to continue the operation of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, which, with white labour, have been showing a profit every year? There is a member of the Nationalist party in South Australia who believes in black labour. I refer to the Premier, Sir Henry Barwell, and perhaps . he has been able to persuade other members of the Nationalist party to share his view.
– No fear !
– We have been told that the mills at Geelong were disposed of because the Ministry did not believe in Government trading enterprises. There is less justification for continuing the phosphate fields than there was for retaining the Woollen Mills. Those mills played a most important part in our scheme of defence, but that cannot be said of the phosphate deposits. I admit that phosphates are most valuable to the primary producers, but I am not prepared to be a party to obtaining cheap phosphates for the farmers if it means sacrificing principles which the Labour party holds dear. .
– What would you do?
– Wait only another three years! The Labour party will then commence by undoing many of the mistakes that honorable senators opposite have permitted the Government to make.
If the Geelong mills, profitable and satisfactorily managed as they have been, can be sacrificed for a mere percentage of their value, why are the Government keeping Nauru going? I know it is only a small island. When the Nauru Island Agreement Bill was before us I tried to make the Senate realize the danger in the proposal, but the woollen mills meant more than Nauru Island to men like Senators Newland, Lynch, Findley, Grant, and myself, who helped to bring the establishment into existence. Senator Pearce played a chief part in their inauguration, and no one knows better than he how during the war they justified the expenditure incurred. To me it is no small matter that these mills have been sacrificed. They represent an experiment in defence legislation that was made by the Labour party, and the people of Australia obtained a good return from the outset. The balancesheets speak eloquently of the business acumen displayed by the Labour Government at that time. That quality was also clearly shown in connexion with the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, which, I understand., the present Government intend to sacrifice.
– It is not for sale.
– Not for sale, but for destruction. There is a stronger private enterprise “pull” against the Commonwealth Bank than there was against the woollen mills. Once honorable senators opposite put all their influence behind the party in power, whose principle it is to eliminate Government enterprises, whether they are profitable or not. I fear to think what will happen to the Commonwealth Bank. Judging by an announcement made at Christmas time last year, the system of management is to be altered, and a Board of five is to be appointed. Since that announcement was made we have unfortunately lost the splendid services of Sir Denison Miller, who did invaluable work in lifting the Bank to its present proud position in the financial world. He was a great man, who did a great work well. The Bank has now reached a position when it should have its operations extended, not for the purpose of crushing out of existence other banking institutions, but for expanding its business as other banks are doing. In a very brief period, owing to the advantageous position it occupies, it would naturally capture practically the whole of the banking business of Australia, to the great profit of the people. Supporters of the Government do not object to Government ships being employed for the purpose of bringing immigrants to Australia. By what better means could Australia . be made productive than by using the Commonwealth Bank to help in the development of this country by land settlement ?
– Government is finance.
– Yes ; and finance is government. The ideals of the old Labour party of 1910 are the ideals of the party to-day.
– You have added a few trifles since then.
– A good many things have been added since that time.
– In spite of you and other sensible men.
– As one who has participated for thirty years in the actual government of the Labour party in New South Wales, I do not hesitate to say that I have never seen my party in a better light than at the last conference. Senator Guthrie said he had a mind to attack us on the matter of the ballot-boxes with sliding panels, but I would remind honorable senators that the conference was clearly out to clean up anything of a corrupt nature. It threw its doors open to the press, and removed from the executive every man who had had anything whatever to do with improper practices. That is a thing which the Nationalists have not yet done. Somebody stated on one occasion that the Labour party had lost its soul. I maintain that the Nationalist party has not possessed a soul in the same sense as the Labour party has.
– There have been no corrupt practices in our party such as have been revealed in Labour circles.
-What about the Ready incident in this Chamber ?
– Yes. I wonder whether the Nationalist party could find as many men in its conference prepared to take action to clean up corrupt practices within its ranks, such as the Parkhill scandal in connexion with the North Sydney seat, in the other House. The Nationalists have not got one man on their side prepared to lift a finger by way of protest against that discreditable proceeding. I might also refer to the corruption whereby Mr. Livingston was cheated out of his seat for Barker.
– The same kind of thing could be mentioned in regard to the Nationalists in Queensland.
– I do not mind our opponents finding all the fault they can with us. In common with the rest of the community the Labour party is not free from individuals who are prepared to do what is unfair, but before the Nationalists attack us about corrupt practices they should see that their own house is in order.
– We have not attacked you; you are defending yourself.
– As I previously said, the Labour party never showed to greater advantage than when, at the recent conference in Sydney, it admitted the press in order to let the people know just what had happened. It is true that somebody had ballot-boxes that it would be possible to fake, but there was no evidence that such ballot-boxes had been used. The fact that the Labour party was prepared to place the whole matter under the public gaze shows that the party has not slumped. The Labour party is trying to do the work it set out to perform. We shall get rid of any man found guilty of an action that will not bear the light of day.
I place the disposal of the woollen mills on exactly the same footing as the wheat sales that occurred a short time ago, when certain people were sold huge quantities of wheat. They did not have to pay any deposit. As soon as they obtained the grain, they sold it to the Allies, and made fortunes out of the transaction.
– That is true patriotism.
– Tha t is the principle tolerated by honorable senators on the other side. There was a deposit insisted upon in connexion with the sale of the woollen mills, but it was so small that the syndicate who purchased it could have recouped themselves to the extent of the deposit as soon as they had set the mill going. They were practically presented with the mills. Of course, we shall be told that all the people comprising the syndicate are honorable men. That is possibly true; but I am not attacking them personally. I am attacking the principle of disposing of a profitable Government undertaking. It is commonly understood that private enterprise is out to make money, and the people in pursuit of wealth do not, as a rule, pause to see if there is anything wrong with the way in which they are making it. The Labour party has been fighting so long in the public interests that once our opponents find an opening for criticism . of anything we have done, they eagerly take advantage of it. When a person is in the habit of getting drunk, his neighbours become used to the spectacle, and do not take much notice of it; but if Senator Pearce or myself became intoxicated, we would probably lose our seats. In the same way, the press were only too pleased to make full use of the allegation about faked ballot-boxes, because it provided them with scare headlines for a public ever on the alert for sensational news items. The proceedings of the last Labour Conference show that our party is honest, and determined that its affairs shall be conducted on ‘straightforward lines.
– With sliding panels in the ballot-boxes.
– I have already admitted that such boxes were discovered ; but if at the church the honorable senator attends, a shilling or two were stolen from the plate, he would not contend that the principle for which the church was established was wrong; and so it is with any other institution. I am not belittling the seriousness of the incident of the ballot-boxes, but the “ mouthful “ our opponents make of it creates the impression that that is the only means by which they hope to be able to bring discredit upon us. The press is constantly publishing reports that we have altered our constitution so as to admit the “ red “ element to our movement. There has been no alteration of one word or line of the Labour party’s constitution for the purpose of admitting any section. If honorable senators opposite were sincere, they would welcome the fact that the “ reds “ had joined the Labour party, because any member of the extreme section who joins the Labour movement pledges himself to the platform of that organization, which functions on constitutional lines.
– Mr. Theodore, himself, denounced the “ red “ objective.
– I have denounced it myself. If I aimed at the elimination of the “red” objective, I would fight from, cover, and not wave a red flag for any one to fire at. I have no doubt that Mr. Theodore would adopt the same theory. The result of the election held in Queensland a few weeks ago was highly satisfactory to Mr. Theodore and the Labour movement throughout Australia.
– There was also an election in December last.
– That is so; but it is worth noting the marvellous change of public opinion between December and May. One can quite understand it. In December the great leader, Mr. Hughes, said to the people of Queensland, “The sugar agreement is all right, and you can rest assured that it will be renewed.” That promise greatly influenced the election. The election over, honorable senators opposite had no further use for Mr. Hughes, and they butchered him as they now propose to butcher the sugar agreement. The Queensland people awakened and rubbed their eyes, and in the rub, both the Country and the Nationalist parties, at the last Queensland State elections, received the most severe drubbing they had ever experienced. The Theodore Govern ment, which had held . office for eight years, was then’ returned with a majority of fourteen, when just previously it had carried on by a proxy vote. It. is a record unrivalled in the history of Australia.
– Because the State Government “ gerrymandered “ the electorates and faked the rolls!
-We used not to take notice of such interjections two years ago, but if the honorable senator will examine the figures he will find that in December last the Labour party were in a minority by 38,000 votes, whereas in May of this year they had a majority of from 8,000 to 10,000 votes. All the faked rolls imaginable will not alter these figures. I merely refer to the Queensland elections to show the rapid change which took place in public opinion. In December, after the Federal elections, the Nationalist members said, “ Wait until Theodore goes out.” Mr. Theodore took these men at their word, and went before the electors in May instead of in October, and we know theresult.
– It shows the value of personality in leadership.
– Unquestionably. I shall not detract from the tribute due to Mr. Theodore as a great leader of men; but if the interjection of the honorable senator is true, what will happen to the Nationalist party now that they have substituted Mr. Bruce for Mr. Hughes ?
The Labour party in this Senate is sufficiently strong to constitute an Opposition. We shall help the Government to legislate for the good of the community, but shall strongly oppose any iniquitous measures. I noticed a statement in the press that this Government intended to work in a machine-like fashion, but the time has passed when Ministers could decide in Cabinet as to what form the legislation should take, regardless of the Opposition If the Government intend shortly to adjourn to enable Mr. Bruce to visit Great Britain, rather than rush Bills through indiscriminately they should bring one or two important measures before Parliament, and ask members to consider them fairly and justly. To avoid opposition, the Government should continue the practice of the last three years, and allow honorable senators to state their views on any measures before the Senate.
-brockman. - That has not always been the case “by a long shot.
– We have opposed the Government at times, as Senators Drake-Brockman and Duncan assert.
– Why not mention my name ?
– When attacking Senator Pearce, I would like Senator Wilson to join with this side and be his old self once again; if not, it will devolve upon me to turn up Hansard and quote his earlier references to ‘Senator Pearce. If the Prime Minister wishes to proceed to England by the 25th of next month, it is only fair that both Houses of Parliament should have an opportunity of discussing one or two important measures. The Labour party will meet the Government as far as possible on legitimate legislation, but as soon as they commence to unduly cram and rush measures through this Senate, opposition will be rife. For a. long time proper consideration has not been given to the legislation of this country. Towards the close of the session Bills have been flung at the Chamber, and the Standing Orders have been suspended, to enable them to be rushed through. That practice has to end.
Why should the Prime Minister go to England? Are the conditions in Australia so serious that the Prime Minister cannot allow any of his colleagues to guide the destinies of this country during his absence ? If so, the Prime Minister should not go abroad. I know that an important Defence Conference is to be held in England, but are not the affairs of Australia more important? I heard the Prime Minister speak for the first time at the Sydney Show. He spoke with a good deal of optimism, and told the producers that no matter how bad the conditions might be, those in the future would be better. Increased production can result only from the earnest consideration of the affairs of this country, and not from a promise of good things to come. Important as the Defence Conference may be, the business of Australia has first claim. It is certainly very good of the Prime Minister to promise to let Parliament know the nature of his important duties in England before he leaves these shores. Honorable senators who have taken their seats in this Chamber to-day have no idea of the seriousness of the position of this country. Our indebtedness is growing each year. Although a surplus will be shown this year, there is an increasing public debt. Since the war ended, nearly five years ago, each year has shown an increasing public debt. Australia is certainly in a much better position than is any other nation to recover from the war burden, and to relieve the producers of this country from the load of taxation. It is impossible to right the affairs of Australia if the Government insist on a few hurried weeks of session, necessitating the rushing through of measures without consideration, so as to enable the Prime Minister to attend the Defence Conference. Of what immediate importance is the Conference to Australia ? Surely the Government are cognisant of our needs for defence? After the experience of the war the Government should have an accurate knowledge of what Great Britain requires from Australia in the event of war. If we have to rely on the Prime Minister gathering this information from Great Britain, it is a very sad state of affairs. There is no good reason wiry Mr. Bruce should leave Australia at present, but there are hundreds of good reasons why he should remain here.
Silting suspended from 6.30 to S p.m.
– The Government have been in office for five months. They have a great deal to their discredit and nothing to their credit. They have not sold the woollen mills; they have given them away. They are hurrying this session to a close so that the Prime Minister may go to England to participate in a Defence Conference, with possibly disastrous consequences to Australia, while he leaves untouched matters in Australia requiring his immediate attention. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that it is a mistake to put untrained, untried, and comparatively unknown men into positions of great responsibility in this country, and now one of these inexperienced men, as soon as he gets into such a position, proposes to hurry away so that he may deal overseas with matters that are-vague and uncertain, while leaving the realities of Australian public life to “ take care of themselves until his return. The Prime Minister is determined to close this
Parliament while it pleases him to remain away from Australia. I heard him addressing the primary producers at the Agricultural Show dinner in Sydney. I have neverbeen more disappointed than I was on that occasion. He told the producers to he “ hopeful “ and optimistic,” and to “ put the best face oh everything.”
– That was good sound advice.
– There was nothing in it. That was the trouble. He told them to be hopeful when they could see the earnings of a lifetime departing from them. Words count for nothing. Actions count for everything. That is why I prefer the Prime Minister to remain in Australia and face Australia’s difficulties fairly and honestly in the interests of all classes. I regret his decision to close this Parliament until it is his pleasure to return from England. I regret the fact that the seriousness of the present position is not being consideredby the Government. What promise is given in the Governor-General’s Speech that we shall have an opportunity to deal with the huge financial commitments of the Commonwealth? There is no common-sense proposal before us to deal with the heavy interest bill, which is steadily mounting up as each year goes by. Ministers who have shouldered the responsibilities of managing theaffairs of Australia propose to rest while their leader attends a Defence Conference on the other side of the world. They are a Ministry of Australians, and surely Australia should be their first consideration. I hope that this will be the last time that they will run away from the public duties which demand their attention in Australia. The serious work of administering the affairs of this country requires that they shall be at their posts in Australia, and not on the other side of the world.
In conclusion, I reiterate my complaint against the manner in which this session has commenced, and against the slight put upon the Senate through the opening of the session before the new senators could be sworn in. I trust that even at the eleventh hour the Government will see the error of their ways, and realize that the seriousness of the position in Australia requires that the Prime Minister shall remain here, and not go across the water to discuss defence and other problems in England.
– I welcome to the Senate the new senators elected at the last election, and trust that their service here will be interesting to themselves and of benefit to the country. With regard to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition as to the attitude the Opposition will take up towards the Government, I can only say that, if it adheres to the course of action he has outlined, the Government will have no cause for complaint. As honorable senators opposite were elected to oppose the Government, Ministers must naturally expect from them vigorous criticism of their administration and measures, but that sense of public duty which must animate all honorable senators should cause ‘ them in offering vigorous opposition, possibly for party purposes or party motives, not to lose sight of that which is above all party considerations, namely, the interests of the nation.
Senator Gardiner commenced his speech with a complaint as to the manner in which Parliament had been called together, and he endeavoured to make it appear that the Government had deliberately slighted the new senators. A very cursory examination of the facts will show that such an accusation is quite wide of the mark. The facts are that the financial year ends on the 30th June, that new senators could not take their seats before that date, that Supply had been exhausted, and that it was necessary to pass a new Supply Bill granting two months’ Supply before the end of the financial year,so that the Departments might meet the obligations that are cast upon any Government occupying the Treasury bench. It was not sufficient for another place to grant Supply; The Senate had also to pass the Supply Bill before it could become law. The Government were therefore forced to call Parliament together before the newlyelected senators could take their seats. At the same time they recognised theirduty towards the newly-elected senators by adjourning the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-
Most of the honorable senator’s speech was devoted to a revival of the question of the sale of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong. The Government not only had the authority of Parliament to sell those mills; we can also claim that the proposal received the indorsement of the people of Australia. The projected sale of the mills was before the people when the elections were being held. Tenders had been called, but the sale had not been effected when the election was in progress.
– But the Government that proposed to sell the mills was well beaten at that election.
– The party with which that Government was associated, together with another party which indorsed its attitude, is in possession of the Treasury bench to-day, and having a majority in both House’s, can claim that its action in selling these mills has received the indorsement of the people of Australia. I do not propose to go into the whole history of this matter, which has already been dealt with in previous debates in this Chamber. Prior to and during the war the mills were a success ; they were well managed, and they played a very important part in providing the clothing required by our troops during the war. The tremendous demand that arose through the war conditions, and the subsequent conditions arising out of the war, enabled the mills to show a large profit; but any one who looks at the matter impartially must
– Why reduce its output?
– Because there wa9 not the demand.
– There was.
– There was a demand for those naval and military purposes for which the mills were intended.
– There was a public demand for the output of the mill.
– I was Minister for Defence when the Commonwealth Woollen Mills were installed, and I know what was intended of them. It was certainly never intended that the plant should be utilized to supply cloth for private individuals, or that the mills should enter into competition with establishments that were supplying the public outside. Even in ‘ the days of the Labour Government, the ‘ operations of the mills at Geelong were limited to the meeting of departmental requirements only. During the war, when the demand increased enormously, our mills had to be extended, as had to be done with all other woollen mills in Australia; but when the war was over, that demand ceased, and in order to keep the whole of the plant employed, an arrangement was entered into with the Returned Soldiers’ Association, under which our mills were to provide cloth for sale to returned soldiers. That demand replaced what was lost owing to the cessation of the war, and enabled the mills to be carried on at a profit. For a few years following the termination of - the war we still had a demand from State Governments for cloth for railway, police, and other uniforms; hut from time to time those Governments, yielding to pressure which was exerted to have these orders placed with firms in their own States, withdrew them from the Geelong mills. The contract with the soldiers expired last year, and they did not propose renewing it, because, meanwhile, they had formed a co-operative company for the establishment of their own mill.We were faced with the absolute certainty that, in the coming year, if they had any orders, they would place them with the mill which they had established with their own money. Wo were faced, also, with a tremendous decrease in the number of cadets and trainees in the Military Forces, and a reduction in the demand from the Navy. To be kept fully employed, the mill would have had to go to the outside markets, compete with private enterprise, and sell the cloth that is required for public use. Honorable senators opposite may believe that that is the right thing to do. It is not the policy of the Government. The Government realized that, unless they adapted that course, the mill could not be retained, because only a very small part would have been required to operate to fulfil the orders for the Navy and the Army. Senator Gardiner referred to the mill as a factor in defence, and compared it with the Small Arms Factory. The analogy is misleading. There are other woollen mills in every State of the Commonwealth, excepting Western Australia, and one is about to be established there; but there is no Small Arms Factory in any State other than that established by the Commonwealth, nor is therelikely to be one, because there is no private demand for the output of such a factory. If this country is to be self-sufficient in the provision of its small arms, it must have its own small arms factory. Senator Gardiner has spoken as though the mill ceased to operate when it was sold. He said that we retained Nauru, where the phosphatic deposits are being worked with coloured labour, but sold the woollen mills, which were being worked with white labour, inferring that the woollen mills were not being continued. They are being continued ; white labour is still being employed in them.
– Will the returned soldier get the product of that mill at the same price as he did formerly ?
– The returned soldiers are building and equipping at Geelong a mill of their own from which, no doubt, they will draw their supplies. When the demands of the war became great, we took the very natural course of commandeering all the woollen mills in Australia.
– This was the only mill that was owned by the Commonwealth.
– Every mill, to all intents and purposes, was owned by the Commonwealth during that period.
– If that were a wise course then, why is it not adopted now?
– If we were engaged in a war now, I should say it would be a wise thing.
– If it were in the interests of the people then, is it not equally in their interests now?
– Senator Barnes was absent when I showed why it was then in the interests of the people. Those mills were commandeered, not with the object of supplying the private market with cloth - we did not allow them to do that - but to supply our troops with uniforms and equipment. The war is over; we do not nowrequire to make that provision, and the mills are available to meet the private demand.
Senator Gardiner was critical of the action of a previous Government in having acquired Nauru. It was the first Hughes Nationalist Government which took that action. I ask honorable senators to carry back their minds to the Versailles Conference, because that is where the fate of Nauru was decided. At that Conference all the islands in the Pacific that had been under the control of Germany were at the disposal of the Allies. Japan, as well as Britain, had some claim upon those islands. If Britain had not been given Nauru, J apan, having the next best claim, would have secured it. I ask honorable senators to remember that. Therefore, if honorable senators say that we should not have taken Nauru, they are saying inferentially that Japan should have had it; because that was the only other Power which had any claim to it.
– Why was not Nauru taken in the same way as Rabaul was taken?
– Nauru waa handed over not to Australia, but to Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. Before the war, a company, which was mainly German in its composition, owned those phosphate fields, and was exploiting them. The Government of the day thought it would be unwise that that great deposit of phosphatic rock, which is so necessary for the production of superphosphates, should be allowed to pass back to the original owners, or to fall into private hands; they thought that, in view of the value of this phosphatic deposit, at should remain in the hands of the Government. So the rights of the British and allied shareholders, in the company were acquired, and the company ceased to operate. Britain, New Zealand, and Australia became partners in a joint exploitation of that phosphatic rock: Australia to-day is obtaining superphosphates more cheaply than any other country in the world, largely because that phosphatic rock is being provided at cost price to the manufacturers of superphosphates in Australia. No profit is being made out of the supply of that phosphatic rock.
– The prices fluctuate. There was a time when we paid more in this country than they were paying in America or in England.
– Every reduction that has been made in the cost of production, in the freights, and in various other directions has been passed on. No private company would have done that.
– Is there not practically a monopoly of the supply?
– There is a monopoly. Owing to the fact that the ‘three countries were partners it was decided that the rock mined should be sent to those countries proportionately to their degree of ownership. As a matter of fact, neither Great Britain nor New Zealand has been in a position to take the full share of the phosphatic rock to which it is entitled, and as a consequence Australia has had not only her share, but that which New Zealand and Britain have been unable to take. The possession of Nauru has thus been of greater advantage to Australia than to either of the other two partners. I am astonished that any honorable senator should say it was not in the. interests of Australia that that arrangement should ‘have been made.
– Is it not a fact that you sell the phosphates to a private company without exercising any control over the price it charges to the farmer?
– The phosphates are sold to quite a number of private companies, but so far as I know it has not been contended that those companies are charging an undue price or making unduly large profits. These companies are in Australia, in competition one with the other, and as far as I know they are satisfactorily meeting the demand. Senator Gardiner has said that white labour is not employed on this island. That is quite true. It was not worked with white labour at any time. I have yet to learn that “the Labour party; as it was constituted prior to 1916, claimed that the White ‘ Australia policy had to be extended to the islands of the Pacific. It did not do so. I do not know whether the Official Labour party to-day makes that, claim; in fact, if you listen to some of the alleged spokesmen of the Official Labour party to-day you will learn that they have no sympathy with the White Australia policy ; they believe in international brotherhood, and are prepared to welcome to Australia as a brother any coloured person. The Seamen’s Union has already announced that it has no sympathy with, and does not support, the policy of a White Australia.
– When did it announce that ?
- Mr. Walsh announced it more than a year ago.
– Walsh’s union turned him clown when he said that.
– Was it the policy of the Labour party to import Chinese coolies to work Papua?
– Why import them to work Nauru ?
– Because there is not a sufficient supply of native labour in Nauru. The report to which Senator Gardiner has referred shows that the total population of the island - men, women, and children - is somewhere about 1,100 or 1,200. Obviously, there is not sufficient native labour, even if they were all willing to take on the work. For various reasons we .do not desire to exploit the native labour. When the terms of employment of the Chinese have expired they have been re-indentured, or a sufficient number of others have been” brought in to carry on the work in their place.
– About 500 Chinese were brought in last. year.
– The labourers from other than European countries at present employed on the island number 578. Indentured labourers who went to the island during the year numbered 356, of whom 288 were Chinese. The number that left the island during the year was 391, of whom 216 were Chinese. It will thus be seen that there has not been any considerable increase in the number of Chinese.
Senator Gardiner referred to the treatment of the natives, but did not bring forward any specific charge. Though he mentioned the unfortunate outbreak of disease during the Australian occupation of the island, I do not think he suggests that it would not have occurred if we had not been in possession. The report which was laid on the table to-day shows that, under the splendid administration of General Griffiths, work on the island has been carried out with the utmost regard for the interests of the natives. It is well known that the native population is decreasing in some of the Pacific Islands, but this is not the case at Nauru. The birth-rate for last year was 53 per 1,000 of the mean population, the highest on record, and the death rate was 14.37 per 1,000. As there are about 1,200 natives on the island, there would be approximately 106 births last year, and there would be, at that rate-
– Do you say that the Government are responsible for the birth rate?
– I say that decent administration and fair treatment of the. natives have given the children a chance _to live. Very few of the native populations throughout the world can show such a low death rate ‘as Nauru. The posi-tion there will bear favorable comparison with any Asiatic country.
– Can you say what is at the bottom of all these complaints to the League of Nations in connexion with the natives?
– Of course I can. Germany still hopes that some day the island will again come under her flag, and is conducting an extensive and insidious propaganda against the Australian administration of the Pacific islands in order, when the time comes, to justify her claim to have the islands handed back to her.
– And it looks as if this Government are aiding and abetting Germany.
– Not according to this report.
– Perha*ps not; but according to the facts.
– The facts are in this report. Neither Senator Gardiner nor anybody else can refute them. They are all to the credit of Australian administration of the Mandated Territories. It is admitted that leprosy has increased at Nauru, put the disease has always been prevalent in the Pacific Islands. It was known to exist amongst the natives when the Pacific Islands were discovered by the white race, and therefore the recent outbreaks cannot be laid at the door of the white race, or of the Chinese coolies who have been introduced. The disease is native to the islands, but for the first time in the history of Nauru the Government have engaged a capable bacteriologist, and men skilled in the treatment of the disease, to combat its ravages. This was not done during German administration. It is being done by Australia, and we are hopeful that, with the greater knowledge of scientific and medical men, we may be able to cope with the disease, and eventually stamp . it out of the island. Senator Gardiner said it seemed as if the Nauruans were being wiped out. The facts, according to the report I have quoted, are that they are on the increase. They aTe one of the few Pacific islanders who, in contact with white and Asiatic races, are increasing in numbers.
– Can the Minister give us the figures for 1921-22 ? I understand there were 230 deaths out of a population of 1,100.
– These figures I have quoted are for the year 1922. The report is to be sent to the Assembly of the League of Nations, and it is available for Senator Gardiner or any other honorable senator who wishes to see it. I suggest, therefore, before Senator Gardiner makes any accusation, he should read it.
– I have read reports.
– I have read only those portions of the report that deal with the charges made by Senator Gardiner. I have not had time yet to read the whole of it.
It was interesting to hear Senator Gardiner’s references to the attempted cleaning up of the Augean stable, with which he has recently been associated in New SouthWales. I remind Senator Gardiner, however, that the charges which led up to this actionby the Labour Conference did not emanate from political opponents at all, but from men who were associated with him on his side of politics. I think Mr. Catts was the first public man to make those charges.Where is he now? Is itproposed to reinstate Mr. Catts in the Labour movement ? The charges which he made, and for which he was expelled, have been proved. Is any restitution now to be made to Mr. Catts? Senator Gardiner might very well have told us something about that phase of the business. He has assured us that, notwithstanding that recently they admitted to their ranks the Communist party of Australia, which is associated with the Third International of Moscow, the Labour party are still in favour of constitutional methods of reform.
– The Communists have not been admitted as a party. The Minister’s statement is incorrect.
– Well, I am relying upon the press reports of the Labour Conference. We know that the Conference discussed whether the Communists of New South Wales should be admitted, and the resolution published in the press showed that the Communists had been successful.
– They had to come in constitutionally, as members of the Labour party.
– That admission by the honorable senator is interesting. But we happen to remember that not so long ago Mr. Garden, who is the secretary of the Sydney Labour Council, returned fromRussia. We remember also his statement, that the policy of the Communists was to get into the Labour party and “ white ant “ it. We are justified in assuming, therefore, that in opening the door to these gentlemen the Labour Conference practically invited them to “ white ant “ the party. In this way they hope eventually to reach their objective and overturn society.
– Neither “ white ants “ nor “ rats “ can eat the Labour party.
– We remember also that this matter has been dealt with by an important historical figure, greater even than Mr. Garden himself, namely, M. Lenin, the High Priest of Communism. M. Lenin, so we have been informed, has declared to the world that their best line of policy is to “ whiteant “ not only the constitutional Labour party but the trade union movement, in order to enlist the strength of organized Labour on the side of revolutionary action. Senator Gardiner merely touched the fringe of this subject. He could have gone very much further, as he has done on other occasions - not always when the press were present - and have given us his views on the introduction of these Communists into the Labour movement. I object to Senator Gardiner’s efforts to make the people of Australia believe that the Official Labour party of to-day is identical in spirit with the Labour party prior to 1916. It is as different as day is from night.
– It is somewhat better.
– No doubt it is, from the point of view of a number of young gentlemen, who, like the honorable senator, have come into the party in recent years. I was associated with the Labour party from my youth up.I grew up in the movement. When I look at some of the men now associated with it, and who speak of themselves as its leaders, and when I read their speeches, I can say absolutely without fear of successful contradiction, that the Labour party of to-day is not the Labour party to which Senator Gardiner has been referring, and which for many years occupied the Treasury benches in the Federal and State Parliaments of this country, leaving to its credit a record of useful legislation.
– Wherein lies the difference 1
– The difference is in ideals, in motives and in the internal machinery of the party. In the days when I was associated with it, any man who talked revolution would not have been listened to for a moment. It is true that revolutionaries were then abroad in the land, but they were not in the Labour party. They came in after 1916 in their hundreds. Since that year these men, who, up till then, had never lifted a finger for Labour, have ever been ready to denounce the older members of the movement who parted company with it on a vital issue. They now speak of themselves as the leaders of and spokesmen for Labour.
I have no desire to weary honorable senators with a reiteration of what is current history, and, therefore, I shall turn to another phase of Senator Gardiner’s remarks. Apparently the honorable senator has been reading the newspapers in which, when it suits him, he believes implicitly, and so he charges the Government with an intention to adopt extreme measures in order to further their policy. I suggest that he should mete out to the Government the same treatment that he would like to receive himself - that he should not accept all press statements as necessarily true, but should criticise us on ‘ what we ourselves say we intend to do. I defy the honorable senator to find in any of the speeches made by Ministers, justification for his charges. We have said that there is a certain amount of work to do, and we believe that if Parliament will devote itself to the business there will be ample time to debate all measures presented. But if honorable senators, in the full exercise of their rights, refuse to discuss the business brought forward by the Government, and tak© up the time of the Senate in inventing subjects for discussion or in using the forms of the Senate merely for the purpose of preventing the Government from dealing with the measures that the country has been promised, we shall put up a fight, and ask our supporters to assist us in order that time shall not be wasted on frivolous and non-essential matters.
Senator Gardiner remarked that if the Government wished the session to be brought to an early close, to enable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to go to the United Kingdom, the Government ought to select one or two measures and ask Parliament to pass »them. I point out that the Government have selected the measures we think should be passed, and, in doing so, we have paid due regard to the limited time at the disposal of Parliament. It may be that all the measures foreshadowed cannot be dealt with this session, and in that case we may have to take the more urgent ones. The honorable senator spoke as though Parliament would soon go out of existence. It is merely suggested by the Government that, when the time comes for the delegation to leave for Great Britain, Parliament shall go into recess, but early in the New Year meet again to proceed with the remainder of the business. That is not a very terrible proposal. I suggest that the Government, in their own interests, are not likely to bring down measures that are not necessary, or that require a greater amount of time than we shall be able to give to them this session. If honorable senators will glance through the list of Government proposals, they will see a number of important, though small, Bills which, in the ordinary course of events, axe usually left until the end of the session and rushed through in great haste. On the present occasion, however, these measures have been brought down early in the session, and there will be full opportunity for honorable senators to study them, and, if they will allow themselves time, to discuss them.
asked why the Prime Minister wished to so to Great Britain. He said that defence was an important matter, but he asked whether we had no important Australian subjects to consider. I venture to think that defence is an important Australian matter, and it is probably more vital -to us than to any other part of the British Empire. Will any honorable senator say that we in Australia can adequately deal with the question of defence ourselves? If we are to have an ‘efficient defence system that will be worth anything to us, we must have the assistance and co-operation of the rest of the Empire. I contend, therefore, that the proper place to discuss that matter is in the Mother Country at a Conference at which the other parts of the Empire will be represented. It is essential, therefore, that Australia should have its Prime Minister at the Conference, which will be the first of the kind held since the war to deal with the defence of the Empire in all its parts. One has only to consider the subject of naval defence to realize how important it is. If Australia were attacked, the trouble would first come from .the sea, and, without the British Navy, we should be in a very parlous condition indeed.
Defence is not the only subject to be dealt with at the Imperial Conference. There is, for instance, the trade problem to be solved. When we consider what is happening to primary production in Australia we must realize the growing importance of finding adequate markets for our goods. Every effort is being made to increase the number of people engaged in primary production. The growth in the production of fruit has been enormous, but of recent years we have not been able to dispose, profitably of the crop raised. Every year the problem is becoming more acute, and as time goes on production will increase not simply twofold or fourfold, but eight or tenfold, and, unless we take some action for the purpose’ of extending our markets, our producers will be in a very serious predicament. There is a tremendous market for our produce within the Empire, and, therefore, the Government contend that the subject of Empire trade is an important one for consideration at the Imperial Conference. If satisfactorily dealt with, it will settle one of the gravest problems that faces Australia. Let me mention merely one article that we produce. Dried fruits of unsurpassed quality are being produced in very great quantities in the Commonwealth. The State of Western Australia, for instance, is becoming a large producer of raisins, currants, and other dried fruits. In Canada there are over 10,000,000 white people who produce no dried fruits whatever, and they are to-day supplied from outside the Empire. Could there not be some arrangement or mutual concession by which we could supply Canada with this commodity? What a tremendous impetus it would give to Australian trade ! It would be a grand thing for the fruit-growers throughout the Commonwealth. Honorable senators are well aware of other products in which interEmpire trade on common-sense lines would be of mutual benefit.
– Why have we no market now in Canada ?
– Because there is. no arrangement with Canada.
– Why is the honorable senator so anxious to trade in fruit and not in cloth?
– I do not suppose we could send cloth overseas.
We were told by Senator Gardiner that he listened to the Prime Minister’s speeches in Sydney and was disappointed with them. I can quite understand that, from the honorable senator’s point of view, the Prime Minister would be a great disappointment, for the very reason that honorable senators on this side would regard him as a success. No doubt Senator Gardiner was disappointed because the Prime Minister’s speeches in New South Wales caught the public imagination, and because he attracted large and appreciative audiences. One can well imagine that after listening to one of the Prime Minister’s practical and commonsense addresses, Senator Gardiner would say that the prospects of his party at the next elections were not as favorable as he would like them to be. The honorable “ senator stated that we should face Australian questions. P maintain that the Government are doing that. We invite Parliament to face them. The Ministry are dealing with some matters that have been left too long in abeyance, and there has been a determined attempt to grapple with some of the important questions that are ripe for settlement. I refer to subjects the satisfactory settlement of which will benefit both the States and the Commonwealth.
– There has been a determined attempt to take the people down.
– Suspicion ever haunts the guilty mind. We are inviting Parliament ‘ to consider these matters. Senator Gardiner referred to . the financial situation, and I hope we shall soon have the Budget before us. It will be introduced earlier than any Budget since the beginning of the war. Already there is a Bill before the other Chamber which deals with the financial position of the Commonwealth, but no doubt Senator Gardiner will not be pleased with the measure when it reaches this Chamber, because we are endeavouring to conduct the financial affairs on lines with which he and his colleagues are altogether out of sympathy.
– The Government, by means of the Tariff, are taking millions from the pockets of the people.
– The honorable senator should endeavour to persuade some of his own colleagues that a protective Tariff is not the right thing for Australia.
– A Tariff that extracts £30,000,000 annually is not protective.
– It was Senator Gardiner’s closing sentence that most disappointed me. He stated that the Ministry was Australian in name only. I have on many occasions heard the honorable senator declare in his eloquent fashion that at least the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth should be Australian born. The members of the present Administration are all Australian born. We have done our best to furnish a Government such as the honorable senator would approve, but still he is not happy. I can only hope that as the session goes on, and as the various measures are brought forward, Senator Gardiner, even against his will, will be forced to recognise the sense of justice and equity with which the Government are facing the problems confronting Australia, endeavouring to legislate in the best interests not of any class, but of the whole of the people. I hopeit will be admitted that the Government are attempting to place the country on a sane financial footing. We desire to govern on constitutional lines by setting our face against revolution. We are anxious that the people shall lead contented and prosperous lives, and obtain a fair return for their labour.
.- In the first place, I desire to inform Senator Pearce that honorable senators on this side are not members of the “ Official Labour party.” There is no such party. It is the Australian Labour party - as it was, as it is, and as it always will be called - to which we belong. If honorable senators opposite look along the benches on this side today they will notice that there has been an increase in the Labour representation in this Chamber; but otherwise there is no difference. Turning for a moment to the other House, I am reminded of the remark of a visitor from Western Australia, who stated that his experience in this Parliament had been a very pleasant one. He stated that he had listened in the House of Representatives to the finest speeches he had ever heard, but, unfortunately, they had all come from the Opposition. Among the members of the Labour party in this Parliament there is not a single Communist or revolutionary. The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was not a member of the Labour party at its inception. He came in from the ranks of the “ red-raggers “ and communists, in exactly the same way as these other men are doing to-day. He has since altered his views, and these men will do the same. The Labour party is just as good as, or better than, it was prior to 1916. A country newspaper published in New South Wales recently lamented the inability of the Country party to show any semblance of a fight in this Parliament, and referred to their position in these words: -
There was a young lady of Riga
Who went for a ride on a tiger;
They returned from the ride with the lady inside.
And a smile on the face of the tiger.
The Country party combined with the Nationalist party, and, in consequence, were, like the Lady of Riga, completely swallowed. They are like dumb dogs, and dare not express the views of the people who sent them to this Parliament. I have been associated with the Labour movement for nearly half a century, and I prefer to retain my old associations rather than follow the tactics of Senator Pearce and those who with him left this party. Senator Guthrie, when moving the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, stated that he would confine his remarks to two or three subjects, of which he had had some experience. I shall do the same. The honorable senator submitted figures in connexion with the industrial position of this country, and also with immigration. He “ put his foot “on the Labour party of New South Wales because of their condemnation of immigration at a recent conference. The Labour party at that conference did not condemn immigration; in fact, they invited the right class of immigrant to Australia in unlimited numbers. They formulated a scheme to accomplish this object, and I shall put it on record so that there can be no- doubt as to its authenticity.
Senator Pearce stated that the Government had a mandate from the people to do certain things; but that is not so. They were beaten from one end of Australia to the other, with the one exception of Queensland, and the Labour party were given a mandate by the people to incorporate their platform in the statute books of the Commonwealth. Had the Government been successful at the recent elections, figures would have been published by the press to show that they had been given a mandate by a majority of the electors; but the newspapers were strangely silent. After the Queensland election, Senator Duncan compiled elaborate figures, showing the number of votes required to elect Nationalists and Labour men respectively, but he was quite mistaken. When the final results were published, it was found that the Labour party had a preponderance of votes ; but I have seen no notification to that effect in any newspaper, and Senator Duncan is just as silent. The people returned to this Chamber eleven Labour members and seven supporters of- the Government. Who had the mandate? Not the seven, but the eleven. These are figures as to the first No. 1 and essential, votes: -
Difference in. favour of .Labour, 20,650. Taking three candidates selected in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, four in- Queensland, and one in Tasmania (as only one Labour candidate nominated) the figures, are: -
Difference in favour of La’bour, 46.256.
Taking the Federal -returns for the Country and Nationalist parties together, we still have Labour with a majority in every State excepting Queensland. How can any one in the face of these figures pretend that this Government had a mandate to sell the woollen mills or any other Commonwealth venture? They had no mandate, and should at once have definitely appealed to the electors. Instead of doing so, they attempted to govern this country with a half mandate. Senator Guthrie stated that he was ashamed of the action of the Labour party, at their Conference, in respect of immigration. I propose, in reply to him, to give the Senate the following accurate report of the committee appointed to deal with that question : -
As the bulk of those immigrating for land work are unsuitable they inevitably and quickly drift back to the, cities, lt is clear that the employers are still conducting their immigration policy to break down the wages and to lengthen the hours of the workers in industry through this .policy.
The Australian Labour party is against the people of this State being overburdened with interest on financial credit from oversea for immigration until- adequate provision is made for the working class of this country.
The working class, of this country have not been consulted in any way on the question of immigration, but the whole matter has been arranged by the representative of the capitalist class - the Nationalist Government. We therefore strongly protest against the working class being excluded in the consideration of any scheme.
We also disapprove of the Nationalist Government being used to have land made available which in most cases is over-valued as well as unsuitable -for purpose used.
The Australian workers warn the- workers of Britain and other countries that, the Australian labour market in every branch of industry and on the land is amply provided for, and in, most cases glutted with masses of unemployed, workers.
They further warn all fellow-workers overseas to disregard any immigration policy which is not indorsed by the trade unions and the Australian Labour party of this country.
Recognising; nevertheless, the fact that many thousands of deluded workers are being continually dumped on the Australian labour market with no guarantee whatever of stable employment, it is recommended, in accordance with “the proposal of the Australian Labour party,, Western Australian branch, that a Labour immigration depot should be established in each State of the Commonwealth for’ the reception and information of immigrant workers.
The principal duties of such Labour immigration depots should be -
We further demand that a more drastic examination of immigrants should bo made both prior to embarkation and on arrival in Australia in order to prevent the introduction of diseased and mentally deficient persons. Such examination be made to cover all diseases that would tend to undermine the health of the nation. Tt is clear that many immigrants arriving are mentally deficient, and are becoming a charge upon the State.
The sub-committee therefore suggests that each State Labour Council should be invited to confer with each State branch of the Australian Labour party for the purpose of establishing such Labour immigration depots by joint action.
As an illustration of the cruel callousness of the present system of enticing people to migrate to these lands where there is no organization whatever to provide for their employment without displacing other workers, a case brought under the notice of the Labour News, by Mr. W. J. McKell, M.L.A., is worth publication.
The family concerned was induced to come to Australia by the glowing pictures which are painted by Nationalist agents and others - who, by the way, should be prosecuted for false pretences - and the father being unable to secure employment, the unfortunate people soon found themselves in a poor tenement in Redfern totally without furniture or warm covering, and practically starving.
Although located in a district in which many of the people are more or less continually on the bread line, be it said to the credit of Redfern that when the condition of the family became known the neighbours immediately came to the rescue and speedily relieved immediate, needs.
Mr. McKell has now appealed to the Minister of Labour and Industry in the following letter: - “Mr.- , of- street, Redfern. arrived from the Old Country on the 6th January of this year accompanied by his wife and eight children.
As a returned soldier he was receiving a pension of £2 5s. 5d. per week, but voluntarily had it reduced to Ids. per week so as to permit of his leaving for Australia. He came out under the free immigration scheme with the impression that there would be work awaiting him. Since his arrival he has done practically no work, and feels that there is very little prospect of his obtaining any. At present the whole family is in a state of destitution, and expect any moment to be turned OUt of their house on account of arrears in rent.
Mr.- interviewed me for the purpose of having me request you that he should be found employment or repatriated.
Trusting that this matter will receive your earnest and careful consideration.”
In view of the above, is it any wonder that Labour opposes bringing more people here to swell the already large numbers of unfortunate out-of-works? ‘Provide employment and then people are welcome in numbers unlimited.
The Labour party welcomes these people in unlimited numbers so long as employment is provided for them. Senator Guthrie said that in a country like this no man should be obliged to look for work or walk the streets on the bread-line. I wonder if he ever walks from this Chamber into the street and sees the poor, slinking figure of some unfortunate hungry outcast, creeping under the eaves of a building to escape the cold. I have seen the sight too often. In Australia there is nothing for a man who is, workless but to pass on from the “ doss house “ to the old men’s depot and thence to the grave. Is it to be wondered that we declare that our own men should first have employment before we ask other people to come here? Sir George Fuller has told the people of England that there are no workhouses in Australia. As a matter of fact, in Sydney there are three homes for old men, and in those institutions I have seen some of the finest Australians dying. I saw an ex-Minister of the Crown so reduced in circumstances that he had to seek a refuge in one of those institutions. That is the condition of affairs facing the working classes of this country. Some day they will rise in their might. No one will be able to withstand a” forward movement the aim of which is to carry out the teachings conveyed to mankind in the Sermon on the Mount. If the moneyed classes who are now governing Australia will pass sympathetic legislation, there will be no need for any revolution; that revolution which is inevitable will, of course, be brought about by legislative action. Before very long the people will take charge of the administration of this country, and then we shall have again that progressive legislation about which Senator Pearce has spoken. The platform of the Labour- party to-day is exactly what it was years ago. It has not changed. Some who were in the movement years ago have since turned to Mammon; others, although they may have differed with the majority of the party on the conscription issue, are still in it. I ask the Government to devote some attention to the matterof unemployment, so that no man may, through inability to secure employment, find it necessary to walk the streets on the bread-line. It is only when attention is given to this problem that we shall have a realization of the hope expressed by Senator Pearce, that there will be a contented race of people in Australia, working together for the great good of the country.
During his speech, Senator Guthrie said that he would not confiscate any person’s land, but when one sees that big financial institutions hold enormous tracts of country well served by railways, and refuse to give them up so that they may be put to their legitimate use, one realizes that some law must be passed to compel them to do so. I have with me the report prepared by the Committee of the New South Wales Labour Conference for the purpose of giving Mr. Wignall an idea of how land has been alienated in New South Wales. A Sydney newspaper “ makes no bones “ about saying that this report was prepared by “ clever men.” It is based on reliable data secured in the Lands Office and in the Statistician’s Office in New South Wales. No one can doubt the figures given. The appendices tothis Committee’s report are as follows: -
Area ofnew South Wales.
The area of New South Wales is comprised of 198,036,500 acres (exclusive of the Federal Capital area).
This large area of country is made up as follows : -
Numbers 1 and 2, which comprise 160,620,455 acres, and which is practically beyond State control, constitute the most fertile (and best accommodated as far as communication is concerned) land of the whole of the State. This land is held by individual capitalists and capitalistic institutions, for which they ask most exorbitant prices, and thereby retard a progressive land policy.
Number 3, 15,989,675 acres, held in occupation under short term, may be available for closer settlement, providing that the improvements when the land falls due are not overcapitalised.
Number 4, area neither alienated nor leased, 21,426,370 acres, is the rough country that is practically useless for occupation or inaccessible.
In 1922, 4,000,067 acres were under cultivation.
Eighty million acres are known as the western lands area, which comprises principally very arid country, and of which from 8,000 to 60,000 acres are considered a maintenance area.
The land indicated in 1 and 2 (that is the fertile portion of the State), under present conditions, is valued at about £8 per acre. This, of course, is an inflated value, and as it is considered that about 500 acres are a maintenance area, at such a price it will readily be seen that it is an utter impossibility as far as the worker is concerned.
The population of New South Wales is 2,101,192, of which 43.55 per cent. are domiciled in the Sydney metropolitan area, and the tendency is for a continuous driftof the population from the country to the city. The reason for this is the adverse conditions, both from a climatical point of view, continuous droughts, and the unsatisfactory land settlement conditions.
Treatment of Ex-Service Men on the Land.
During the war, as an inducement to the workers to enlist, all sortsof elaborate and extravagant promises were made by the Nationalist Government. They were told that after the war, or upon their return from the war, land would be made available on such terms that it would be almost impossible for them not to succeed.
Returned men were invited to make application to the Lands Department, undergo an examination for qualification certificates. The result was that 20,000 returned soldiers received qualification certificates, and up to date about 8,000 have been allotted soldier settlement blocks. If this was the experience of the returned soldiers who had practical knowledge, what would be the experience of immigrants who knew nothing about the working conditions of the country?
These soldier settlement blocks were purchased from the land-owners at such inflated values that the returned soldier settlers are now finding that the land is so considerably over-capitalized, through the excessive valuation of the land and the improvements, that it is impossible for them to produce sufficient from the land to meet their obligations.
This can be proved by a perusal of the values in the’ Returned Soldiers’ Settlement Branch of the Lands Department.
In 1921, 4,000 land settlers were in arrears of their payments to the extent of £600,000, and most of these farms were purchased for considerably less than they can be purchased to-day. and these were men who had local experience.
The railway policy of the present Government is also opposed to land settlement by men of limited means, as the freights and fares are exorbitant. For instance, in the, central and eastern divisions there ore about 40,000,000 acres of arable land, only 10 per cent. of which is under cultivation.
This land is served by railways, but is locked up by land monopolists, and until it is subdivided under reasonable conditions, and put to its proper use, thereby creating loading for the railways, it is impossible to expect the railways to pay from a revenueproducing point of view. The result is that the small area under cultivation has got to bear the burden of heavy freights.
Sheep Losses Through the Drought.
During the last few years there has been a loss of over 2,000,000 sheep in this State. This is caused through the lack of a progressive policy of fodder and water conservation, notwithstanding our continued periodical droughts.
The following is a list, showing the losses through drought during the last twenty years. : -
The above districts in the early years employed a large number of men, as the wool industry lends itself more to creating employment than anything else in the grazing industry. In comparison with cattle, the sheep industry employs ten men to one of cattle.
This, condition has been brought about by the indolence of the moneyed men who are holding the lands of this country. They will not conserve fodder, they will not make provision for an adequate water supply. Their only concern is to load the country with the unfortunates from overseas, and they are continually crying out that labour is too dear. Labour has never been too dear for the pastoral or any other industry. When Vestey Brothers were compelled to close down their meatworks in the Northern Territory, they were absolutely satisfied to pay the rates of wages that were ruling, because they realized that when the pay was good the work was correspondingly well done. They complained of the treatment of the Government. which represents the moneyed class in this great meat industry. If the pastoralists conserved fodder, and made provision for an adequate water supply, to tide them over bad years, there would not be such great losses of sheep during periods of drought. The appendices continue -
As far as the western lands area is concerned, of 8,000,000 acres, a great portion of it is held on leases that do not expire until 1943. The leases are held by individual capitalists or capitalistic institutions. The shareholders in these institutions are mostly absentees, and apparently are not sufficiently patriotic to forgo their leases for the purpose of closer settlement without charging extortionate valuations.
Some of the institutions mentioned are -
The Australian Mortgage, Land, and Finance Company, 6,880,704 acres.
Dalgety and Co., 5,899,227 acres.
Goldsbrough, Mort and Co., 6,227,983: acres.
New Zealand Loan, 1,394,087 acres.
Sir Sidney Kidman holds about 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 acres of this country.
Hereunder appear figures which provide striking evidence of the great land hunger in this country. The particulars refer to homestead farms only, and cover the period from February to October, 1921 : -
Those figures can be verified from the records in the State Lands Office. We should hear no longer the cry that we ought to bring people out to this country, and place them upon the land. If firms like Dalgety and Company desire to take a patriotic action, let them start a settlement in the back-blocks with the money they have taken out of this country. The
Bank of Queensland has started one in the Northern Territory; it has given its employees noble conditions, and nobody hears a word about it. Let these other great institutions follow that example, and a happy and contented people will settle on those areas: The capitalists say, “ Dump them out in the back country give them no pleasure in life.” They should inaugurate a system of cheap motor transport for those people, and provide them with the opportunity to have a little pleasure. Coming to Mel-‘ bourne to-day, I saw a man felling trees on his land. He will not be able to fell the whole of them even ifhe works at it as long as he lives. His is an unbearable life. If the Government adopt my suggestion, they will be doing good work. There are as many as 877 applicants for a block that is worth having. Even when a man succeeds in obtaining a good block, its value has been so increased that his life becomes unbearable in trying to meet the interest payment on the money which he has had to borrow. The Government give him a certain amount of assistance, but it is not sufficient. The following are further appendices : -
The completed figures for the year 1922 will not be available for at least another two months, but the estimated number of stock in the State as at 3.1st December, 1922, is as follows : -
Unemployment. (Note. - There are no comprehensive official figures covering unemployment in Australia. The figures given hereunder are obtained in the Government publications, and cover only a small percentage of the workers.)
The following is from a Bathurst source : -
Unemployment is becoming acute in the Bathurst district - so acute that when Mr. Fitzpatrick (Minister for Mines) arrives in Bathurst on Wednesday he will be approached by the Bathurst Progress Association with a view to seeing whether any relief work or Government grant can be secured to alleviate the position. The manager of the Government Labour Bureau at Bathurst states that there are over 100 local men, mostly married, on his list. He states that the increased number of unemployed is due to the number of rabbits in the district having been diminished owing to the drought in the first place, but more particularly to the activities of the Bathurst P.P. Board in insisting upon the extermination of the pest.
Until this year many of the men now unemployed have earned excellent wages rabbit trapping during the midwinter. Mr. Lorimer states that the Chinese gardeners have absorbed a surprisingly large amount of labour during the past few months picking peas, beans, and tomatoes, and digging onions and potatoes. The Chinese, he says, engage men, women, and children on the piece-work principle, and pay thorn at the end of theday’s work. The Chinese have reaped prolific harvests this year, and have proved fair and considerate employcers. He has found employment for hundreds of Europeans at the Chinese gardens.
What a nice prospect if men who come to this country have to walk about our streets until they can get employment from a Chinaman who is making tons of money. I have nothing to say against Chinese personally, but I think it is decidedly unfortunate, to say the least, that white men should be forced to accept work in Chinese gardens. This is one reason why we object to immigration on its present lines.
I desire now to direct attention to the existing social system which, I think, is largely responsible for much of our present trouble. No one can say that w© are in an ideal position when* a considerable section of our industrial population is on the bread line while huge profits, in some instances amounting to millions every year, are being made by the great financial institutions of the Commonwealth. I am going to give one illustration - again from New South Walesa - in support of my contention. I direct the attention of honorable senators to this significant press statement concerning the profits of the Bank of New South Wales -
Scarcely a day passes but the capitalistic press and the high priests of big business assure us that “ economic ruin faces the country “ unless the workers are forced to work increased hours per week and accept reduced wages.
What a nice prospect ! Because the Court decided that men must work fortyeight hours per week on the Sydney trams, 400 unfortunate men, many of them returned soldiers, have been obliged to join their comrades on the bread line. The Sydney press, in big head-lines, gave us this information recently, and declared that the unemployed included 500 “ diggers.” I went to the Sydney . Domain to inquire into the position, and was appalled at the prospect before these men. It is frightful that returned soldiers should be obliged to accept relief from institutions that were not created for that purpose. Their services to this country have been forgotten. It is cruel to think that many of them are now allowed to starve in the streets of our cities. Even Dr. Arthur, who declared that these men were unemployable, confessed, when he saw them, that he was wrong. After what happened during the war, any Government that permits this state of affairs -to exist, is not worthy of a people of humanitarian instincts. In my spare time, and at my own expense, I went to do what I could to succour our men in the Great War, and over there 1 saw what I hope I shall never see again. Is it any wonder, after what our men went through, that we rail against war, and against any capitalistic class that lives by war ? Is it any wonder that we protest against any system that permits huge financial institutions to make enormous profits, and build up immense reserves, whilst so many of the working classes are on the bread line? The statement concerning the Bank of New South Wales continues -
And yet it is a fact that bigger profits ure being made to-day than ever before. Our capitalists cun write off tremendous sums as depreciation, smother up huge parcels of loot in reserve accounts of various kinds, hand out bonus shares to shareholders, send up capital accounts sky-high with watered stock, and yet, despite these tricks of concealment, be compelled to disclose hig profits.
Last week, the capitalist press stated quite frankly that the Bank of New South Wales, one of the leading financial institutions in the Commonwealth, had made “ record profits “ during the last six months. And so it had. For the six months ending 31st Mardi last, the profit was £4.32,188 - the largest in the whole of its seventy years’ existence.
The following figures will show the toll it has levied upon the people since the outbreak of war in 1914: -
Thus, since the firing of the first shot in the world war - just under nine years ago - this huge corporation has made profits totalling no less than £5,434,974. It has been able to pay a dividend of 10 per cent, every year, has increased its capital from £3,500,000 in 1914 to £0,000,000 at the present time, and, in addition, has notched up its reserve account in the” same period from £2,570,728 to £3,901,645.
The above figures disclose that, though the bank has paid a dividend of 10 per cent, only, its not profits have been greater than this. The rake-off for the last six months (£432,188) works out at an actual net profit of more than 14 per cent. After paying the customary 10 per cent, dividend, it has managed to stow away into reserves nearly half as much again as that paid to the shareholders.
So great is the amount in reserve that a straight-out dividend of over 24 per cent, could be paid to the shareholders, and still leave the amount in reserve at the figure it was when the world war started.
It is evident, moreover, from the foregoing statistics, that wages and working conditions are not ruining Australia.
On the contrary, they prove conclusively that big business could pay higher wages, reduce tlie hours of toil, grant still belter working conditions, and nevertheless secure fat profits for itself, without calling upon the people to shoulder a single penny of the extra cost involved.
Banks are necessary, but they should be nationalized, and the profits paid into the Consolidated Revenue, or to help a colonization scheme for tho benefit of the people on the land. We do not want to bring people out here with no prospect of remunerative employment. We should follow the example of Western Australia, and provide for group settlement on safe lines. The immensely strong financial position of such institutions as the Bank of New South Wales, which is only one of many throughout the Commonwealth, is one of the contributing causes of our present industrial troubles. ‘These institutions, many of them, do not know what to do with their surplus money, and frequently invest it abroad, to the detriment of Australia. Many of them also hold large ureas of land for speculative purposes. In this way values are inflated by unsound financial conditions, because those who control the land are able to hold it as long as they like, with the object of extracting the highest profit from its sale.
– They will only be forced to sell by legislation. Land values taxation of itself will not do much good. Wherever it has been tried, iu effect has been to increase land values. But other legislative means may be employed to force these institutions to make the land available for the people who want it. We do not want to confiscate these lands. Wo should give the owners what they paid for them before the railways passed through them, plus a fair thing by way of interest, and make them available for the settlement of our own people and those who may come here. Our railways are not paying because so much, of tha land through which they run is held by these people. No land tax will shift (hem. Governments are obliged to pay huge sums of money to resume land which, in the first instance, cost very little. This state of affairs, I repeat, ss the cause of much of our present trouble. Labour conditions are good, but they could- be better, and the more they are improved the better it will be for Australia. The Government should courageously tackle this big problem, and not waste. time by referring to what has been done by the Labour party or to some silly business about ballot-boxes, or to the alleged introduction of Communists into the Labour party. In every community there is a certain proportion of extremists, but they have never done any harm. Has the great British Labour party, or any other Labour party, been influenced by them ? I say emphatically they have not. I was one of those who objected to the. admission of the press to the last LabourConference in Sydney. 1 am very glad,, in the circumstances, that press representatives were admitted, and although I was the only delegate who voted against their admission, I do not think I should do so again. I believe that the present Government are attempting to do something for Australia, but their ideas are not big enough. They have no national ideals; they are little Australians; and they have not attempted to grapple with the great national problems. They have offered to hand over to the States powers that properly belong to the Commonwealth Parliament. The Government, have had the audacity to agree to the States taking over the rights of the Commonwealth for . a period of five years. All agree that there should be one taxing master and ons tax gatherer, but the Government aro afraid to say that the Commonwealth should be the tax gatherer. Until the present Ministry awake to a keener sense of their duty, very little can be expected from them.
I do not for a moment suggest that Australia should not be represented at the Imperial Conference; but I do say that this Parliament should not be closed simply because the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) intends to proceed to London. The Labour party is prepared to grant pairs to those of the Ministerial party who are to comprise the delegation, and surely there is no need to bring Parliament to an early close. I object to that course being followed. The Labour party is opposed to it, and so are the people.
– How do you know that the people object?
– I refer the honorable senator to the figures showing the votes polled for the opposing parties at the last general elections.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
– I have to announce that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a commission authorizing me to administer to senators the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
Commission read by Clerk.
Senate adjourned at 10.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1923/19230704_senate_9_103/>.