9th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Gi vens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to know if the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) has yet been furnished with the opinion of the Crown Law officers concerning the recent decision of the High Court with regard to the validity of certain provisions of the Navigation Act.
– The opinion of the Crown Law Office has not yet been circulated among Ministers.
Bill presented by Senator Pearce, and read a first time.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
SenatorCRAWFORD. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
– I have to report that Senator Duncan, having been appointed Acting Government Whip in the Senate, has expressed his desire to be relieved of his duties as aTemporary Chairman of Committees. I now lay on the table my warrant appointing Senator Massy Greene to act in place of Senator Duncan as a Temporary Chairman of Committees.
Debate resumed from 2nd July (vide page 618), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the bill be now road a second time.
– When this measure was introduced I thought I could see in it the hand of Mr. Sastri, that cultured British Indian who, as honorable senators will recall, visited the Commonwealth a few years ago on a mission connected with the civil rights of his countrymen then resident and domiciled in Australia, as well as those who in future might leave their native land to come to Australia. I thought at first that the measure would open the door too widely to Asiatics. I understand, however, from the Minister’s second -reading speech yesterday, that the bill simply proposes to give full status of Commonwealth citizenship to British Indians already domiciled in Australia. As they are in the enjoyment of this privilege in four of the states, apparently (he withholding of the franchise in regard to Commonwealth elections is an anomaly. I soo no reason why it should be denied to thorn, because during their residence in Australia they must have assisted in its development. The Minister has assured tis that tho bill refers only to 2,300 British Indians already domiciled in Australia, and that in tie ordinary course of time their number must decrease. So long as the White Australia policy is safeguarded, I see no objection to the measure.
– Tho saving clause in the bill is the application of the Immigration Restriction Act. I understand, from the assurance given by the Minister, that there can be no further addition on the electoral roll to the number of British Indian inhabitants now domiciled in Australia. In these circumstances, I see no option but to support the bill. Brit this measure amends tho Electoral Act, and it is well known that several other important amendments are necessary to correct anomalies. I should- like to know whether steps can bc taken at this stage to effect those amendments. I may menti 011 only one - the provision in the Electoral Act which renders formal any ballot-paper on ‘which the preference of the electors is expressed for twice the number of members required, plus one. It is very advisable that this should be eliminated. In elections where there is a large number of candidates, informal votes play some part, but not nearly so large a part as the description of futile vote known as the exhausted vote. During the last Senate election in Western Australia, on the first count there were 2,000 exhausted votes. On the second count these had increased to over 4,000; and on the third count to over 6,000. There is no provision in the act to remedy that defect. There arc other anomalies which it is not necessary for me to mention at this stage, hut which urgently wy for remedy. Is it possible to insert these amendments in the bill now before the Senate?
– The amendment mentioned by the honorable senator could not be made in connexion with this measure. This bill would have to be withdrawn and a new measure introduced. It has been ruled, over and over again, in the Senate, that there can be no amendments inserted hi an amending bill other than those which relate to the amendment of tho principal act for which the bill provides.
– Then, I understand that it is quite possible, without infringing the Standing Orders, to introduce a bill dealing with the same subjects this session. Nevertheless I should like to have an expression from the honorable the Leader of the Senate of the Government’s intention regarding the points I have raised.
– As one who is in touch with Indian affairs I desire to support this bill. While it seems a small concession to enfranchise 2,000 Indians resident in this country, this measure of justice has been too long delayed. It has been agreed to by the Primo Ministers of the- dominions at two or three imperial conferences. A certain amount of friction exists at the present moment between Indians and the British authorities in India, and this small concession by Australia will tend to promoto a good feeling among the more liberal-minded Indians who are struggling to put their country on the same political basis as Australia.
– Do Indians enjoy the franchise in their own. country’
– ‘Under British laws some of them do, and some do not, but an agitation is taking place on (.hat subject. The White Australia policy has been very much misunderstood by a large number of Indians, who, however, are mow commencing to recognize that our attitude is dictated purely byeconomic considerations. The majority of the more intelligent people of India are quite satisfied that Australia has a right to do what she likes within her own borders. Thegivingof the franchise to Indians resident in Australia will have a very good effect upon the feelingtowards Australia of Indians generally. The effect of the measure in Australia will be infinitesimal. We alsohave to bear in mind that the position in the East is notsatisfactory, particularly in regard to the colour question. I am not pursuing that subject, but should any trouble arise in that connexion in fee future, the bill cannot have other than a good effect - a better effect, perhaps, than the majority of honorable senators, who are not in touch with Indian affairs, realize. I support the bill from a British, an Australian, and a democratic point of view. It will give the franchise to those Indians who have been good citizens of Australia. The majority of them have reared families in this country, and have taken a practical interest in its development. On broad humanitarian lines, too, these people should be enfranchised.
– Australia is exceedingly fortunate by comparison with the United States of America, in not having a colour problem. For that we are indebted to the late Sir Henry Parkes, who, in defiance of Downing-street, laid down the principle Salus populiest suprema lex. But for him and. the stand he took, I have not the least doubt but thatthe Commonwealth to-day would be peopled largely by residents of Asia. He defied the British authorities, and put an abrupt stop to the populating of this country by Asiatics, with the result that the Asiatic population of the Commonwealth to-day is very small. The bill before the Senate applies only to these Indians that have been resident in Australia for a large number of years. I assume that the Government has no intention of relaxing the provisions of acts relating to Asiatics.
– Certainly not.
– In those circumstances, and in view of the small number of Indians in this country, I favour the extension to them of the franchise enjoyed by other residents of the Commonwealth.
– Furtheramendments of the Electoral Act are being considered by the Government, and the anomaly mentioned by Senator Kingsmill is being inquired into to see to what extent it can be removed. I should be glad if he, or other honorable senators who are aware of anomalies in the law, would bring them under my notice. So far, the only anomaly of which I have been apprized relates to the exhaustive ballot. The representations of honorable senators will be consideredby the Government, with a view to the passing of further amending legislation before the end of the session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 2nd July (vide page 618),on motion by Senator
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The clause in the principal act which this bill seeks to amend is very clumsily drafted. It required people engaged in litigation to do an impossible thing by stating the amount of interest on a judgment before the judgment was satisfied. It ordered that the interest should be stated in the body of the writ, forgetting that the amount could not be computed until the judgment had been satisfied. The bill will remove that anomaly, and will make it as plain as legal language can make it, that the interest can only be determined when the judgment is satisfied. That being so, I shall support the second reading of the bill. I am not very fond of law or legal procedure. I know very little of either, and keep as far away from them as possible. The two professions I like to avoid are the legal and the medical professions.
– What about the undertaker ?
– If I keep away from the medical profession, I shall probably dodge the undertaker for a longer time that I otherwise could.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 2nd July (vide page 617), on motion by Senator Peakce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– At the outset I desire to compliment the Minister (Senator Pearce) on the able manner in which he moved the second reading of this bill. He proved that he had a thorough knowledge of the subject, and dealt with it in such a way that honorable senators present could readily appreciate the objects of the measure. Whilst I compliment the right honorable senator on the way in which he introduced tin’s bill, I regret that I am called upon at such short notice to proceed with the discussion of a subject which is quite new to Australia, and of vast importance to the Commonwealth. The Minister courteously supplied me with a proof of his second-reading speech, but it was quite impossible for me during the limited time at my disposal this morning to . thoroughly study the proposal. With that handicap I shall endeavour to discuss the bill, but I think it would be wise if the Minister asked the Senate to agree to postpone the discussion of the second’ reading until the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia have at least had an opportunity to peruse the bill. Senators received copies only yesterday, and although the subject is of great importance to the whole of Australia, it is of even greater interest to the states I have mentioned, affecting as it does the control of portions of their territory. Honorable senators representing Western Australia and Queensland will, I believe, desire some expression of opinion from the Governments of those states before they proceed to debate the bill, and probably before the committee stage is reached the Governments of the states mentioned will have had an opportunity to submit their opinions of it. The measure will, doubtless, be passed by Parliament, although not exactly in ite present form; but it cannot become operative until the Governments and Parliaments of Western Australia and Queensland have concurred.
– Yes, even if neither of the states mentioned concurs, it can become operative in regard to the Northern Territory, which, is under the control of the Commonwealth Government. If the honorable senator requires further time I have no objection to an adjournment of the debate.
– I was under the impression that .the Governments and Parliaments of Western Australia, and Queensland would have to concur before the measure became operative. Irrespective of the form in which it is passed it will vitally affect the states mentioned, and, consequently, we must be very careful in our consideration of its provisions. Iu moving the second reading of “the bill, tho Minister referred to the conditions in the Territory 100 years ago, but I desire to briefly refer to the position which has existed since 1911, when the Commonwealth Government assumed the responsibility of developing that vast area in the north. Despite the excuses’, if they may be so termed, which the Minister offered yesterday for the non-success during this period, it must be admitted that failure has followed in the footsteps of governmental effort. To-day the Northern Territory stands as a monument of the failure of governments to effectively develop it. In making that statement I am alluding not only to the present Government, but to all Governments which have endeavoured to tackle this vexed question during the fourteen years we have been responsible for its control. We are all, in a sense, guilty, because, as members of Parliament, we have to share the responsibility. The monument of failure is there for the world to see, and proves the necessity of introducing a change in its system of government, if the natural resources of that great country are to be effectually developed. I admit the necessity of a change, but whether the method proposed is, or is not, the right one to adopt, has yet to be determined. As we have sometimes been rightly accused of hurriedly passing legislation, and later regretting it, we should not show undue haste in disposing of this bill. It should he viewed from every possible angle, because, whilst I recognize thenecessity for such a scheme, I also realize the dangers accruing from the hasty passage of such legislation. It is proposed to appoint a commission, consisting of three members, who will control approximately 500,000 square miles of country. The right honorable gentleman informed us yesterday that one of the causes of the present unsatisfactory conditions in the Northern Territory was the distance at which it was situated from the seat of government, and the necessity of reference having to be made by the Administrator in the Northern Territory to the responsible authorities in Melbourne. If this measure is passed in its present form, we shall be repeating the mistakes of the past, as all important matters of policy will still have to be referred to the seat of government at Melbourne or, later, at Canberra. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Effect on Western Australia.
– I move -
That inasmuch as the Navigation Act imposes severe and burdensome restrictions on trade with Western Australia, and also in the coastal trade of that state, the Senate is of opinion that -
The compulsory clauses of that act relating to trade and commerce be repealed until such time as the various interests engaged in the coastal trade are willing to accept the same terms and conditions, no more and no less, as those governing the activities and operations of the general body of citizens throughout the Commonwealth, or until the law compels the acceptance of such conditions.
That this resolution be transmitted to the House of Representatives with a request for its concurrence therein.
This is a humble attempt of mine to bring under the notice of the Commonwealth Parliament, as well as the people of Australia, the handicap imposed on the people of Western Australia as one of the results of their entering federation. Not long ago we had from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Gardiner) the very definite pronouncement that, as a result of his impartial observation in going about the Commonwealth, he had come to the deliberate conclusion that the states which had suffered most as a result of entering federation were those which had the smallest populations. I am sure an . honorable senator occupying his responsible position would not make such a declaration unless he felt the full import of his words. No one can gainsay its truth. The honorable senator had no purpose to serve other than to give true testimony to the position as he saw it. The people of Western Australia entered the federation whole-heartedly and unreservedly, with every intention of making sacrifices so that it might be a success. I cite one instance of their self-sacrifice. When the first Commonwealth Parliament was elected in 1900, they sent a delegation of men to the Senate which, with one exception, had only one attitude as to what should be the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth. As every one knows, Western Australia, in common with other outlying portions of the Commonwealth, stood to gain more by the adoption of a freetrade policy, but quite unmindful of its own interests, like many other parts of the Commonwealth - it was not the only state that made sacrifices by entering the federation - it sent a delegation to this Senate pledged to an effective form of protection. I remember being one of the delegation sent to this Senate when the tariff was being revised in 1907. On that occasion the state of New South Wales sent six honorable senators here as out-and-out op- ponents of the policy of protection, which was then gaining a foothold in Australia. We told those honorable senators repeatedly that the people of New South Wales were mistaken, and as events turned out we were right when we said that the wrong men had been chosen to represent the state. Yet such was the position then that the people of the mother stale, exercising the freest franchise in the world, sent six men here to oppose a national policy which every one now acknowledges was the most suitable for them. Senator Sir Albert Gould, Senator Gray, and Senator Pulsford stood here in this chamber as a solid phalanx against the adoption of a policy that has served the Commonwealth so well, while the representatives of Western Australia crossed the floor in order to nullify their votes. I mention this in order to show that I arn warranted in saying that in those days Western Australia sent to this Parliament a delegation whose purpose was to further the interests of the nation as a whole, and not those of the state itself; because Western Australia was the last, and least, to benefit. The proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof. The making of it counts for nothing. We are now eating the pudding, but very few crumbs are left for the people in the western state. In its wisdom, this Parliament sought to carry out an all-round policy of protection.
Every self-respecting community must make some attempt to protect its standards of living. We are living in an age when we must preserve our standards, be they ever so slightly elevated above those of our neighbours. It is not an ideal condition of affairs, but we are obliged to get down to practical politics. Every nation in the world ,today that is anxious to create and maintain a set of conditions superior to those qf any other people is compelled to do things which cut against the grain, but which., if left .undone, would cause it bo run the risk of having its standards lowered to those of its neighbours. Accordingly the ‘Commonwealth of Australia adapted a policy of .protection, and, as a whole, prospered Tinder Lt. The attempt of T.902 to protect the -young industries of the country was but a feeble one. ‘That of 1907 was much stronger. It was not until 19.20 that a really firm effort was made to afford protection to Australia’s industries. The average rate of protection was increased over the period of years from about 15 per cent, to about 50 per .cent. I believe it now stands at about 25 per cent., which is a degree of protection far in advance of what was afforded in the early days of federation. At the same time Parliament also sought to extend an equal benefit to persons engaged in the maritime trade. In pre-federation days those who were -engaged in this trade had to compete in the open market, but, as a result of what was done by this Parliament, they were put in a very much better position. Previously they had enjoyed no protection, except what waa afforded to them ‘by organization among themselves, but all that was changed when federation came about, and it was changed in a way that, in my opinion, placed them isa an altogether too favorable position. Instead of being exposed to competition such as faces . every other person engaged in industry, a complete shield was thrown around them to give them absolute security from all forms of external competition. I have always protested against this. If a man who builds a vessel has’ to be content with a certain degree of protection, say 35 per cent., and can thrive and prosper under it, why is it that when a vessel is launched its owner, in using that vessel, can enjoy an absolutely prohibitive, tariff against all forms of external competition? What is the difference between a shipbuilder and a shipowner ? They are both citizens of the Commonwealth, both equal before the law, and due to get the same consideration extended to them. Yet the laws of this country, hut not with my vote or my consent, go to the utmost extent to give the owners of vessels favours far and above those given to any one else in the community. The result is that people living in the outlying portions of Australia, particularly the greater part of Western Australia, which is not connected by railways, are being penalized by the operation of the excessive protection given to one element in the industrial field,. While this Parliament has piled up Customs duties, so far as the field of industry is concerned, it hae said to persons engaged in navigation - “ You are unlike any one else. We shall give you & protection that we do not give to any .one else.” Why is it done in their case? And, if it is done in their case, why not in the case of .all other persons engaged in -.the various fields of industry,? Why not give to the shipbuilder the protection that the shipowner enjoys ? Why not go a step further and give it “also to the man who is mining the .ore which is converted into steel for the rose of the shipbuilder ? I am pointing out the absurdity .of giving to one set of people in the industrial sphere an unfair .and unwarranted .advantage, the ill effects of which are reflected in every sphere of activity, . particularly in the outlying parts of the Commonwealth. It is not fair play to single out one -element .in the community for special favours, and ask the rest of the community to pay for them. That is movement in ,a circle, and progress cannot be made exoe.pt in a straight line. There are some people who have to work harder and longer than others; there are- vast areas- that; are untenanted and undeveloped, because of. our ineffective, unsatisfactory, and costly steamship service. Is it not time= that that position was altered ? The chickens are coming home to roost; stagnation exists where formerly at the least a moderate degree of progress was made. Western Australia, is raising, its voice in protest against the injustice it is suffering. This Parliament appointed a royal, commission to inquire into the effect of the Navigation Act on trade, industry, and development in Australia. The members of that commission arrived at very deliberate conclusions. It is a pity that the commissioners did not present a unanimous report. I do not, however, find ‘ much fault with that, because, although there is a division of opinion among them upon certain points, they are unanimous in believing that Western Australia has been adversely affected by the operations of the Navigation Act.
– Did the commissioners make- a unanimous recommendation for relieving the position?
– They are unanimous in saying that a wrong exists’, and. that, a change should take place, but they are mot unanimous regarding the methods, that should ‘ be adopted for bringing that about. Although they suggest different remedies, that does not weaken my argument. Their reports referred to the position of the primary producer in Western Australia. The primary producer is virtually the backbone of the country. Everybody will admit that without him - or with him, doing badly - our inland’ towns-, would fade, railway lines wouldrust,, and out coastal towns and cities would disappear. His work is- too long and too continuous for him to give any thought to Arbitration. Court awards- or the efforts of those who would override the laws of the country. Were it not for his- labour all the idle gossipmongers in the cities would be sent about their business. They would be in a much worse- plight if he did not hold the- fort”, and see that the country progressed. Recently rain did not fall for a few weeks in Western Australia, and the- city gossipers grew nervously anxious, which led’ me- to remark, “ The cocky is, then,, of some consequence to this country ? “ These city dwellers know that if the primary producer does not get the rain- that will fructify the earth and enable- him to- get something from it, their condition will be far more serious than it is.. I do- not need to emphasize that point; it is- so evident that it can be grasped by the intelligence of a school boy. If it were not for th& man who* turns his back upon the sea coast and. the- false allurements, of the cities, to suffer all the hardships of the interior, how rauch prosperity would wa enjoy I Being human, of course,, he has some- faults;, but, notwithstanding those, he is the man- to whom we have to look for our progress1. When his welfare is net jealously guarded, when he is not given every encouragement, it will be a sad day fox Australia. Goldsmith, in styling him the “ country’s pride,” merely said what everybody knows, and what has. been a trueism throughout the centuries. The husbandman knows very little about laws, and cares less, because he is too busy with his own work. He is not of those who grope along the city fronts, and have too- much- time- for “ chin-wagging.” He is the exemplary citizen; and1 the basis of all prosperity. When his work is done he is so tired that he must immediately seek the rest that will enable- him to- continue on the following morning. Clocks and watches- do not regulate his movements-; he works when he is able to work, and knocks off only when he can do no more. If the average farm in- Australia were worked by modem industrial rules our primary products would be much dearer than they are. If wheat and butter, apples and other fruits, were produced according to- the standards of an . eighthour day or a 4!4-hour week, could those commodities be purchased at their pre. sent prices? Certainly not. They would be about double the price that they now are.
– Is the honorable senator opposed to an eight-hour day %
– No; I am opposed to an- eight-hour day for an occupation that can reasonably afford to work longer. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, leader of the British Labour party, said on one occasion that you should not impose upon- employment conditions that would ruin enterprise. My definition1 of an eight-hour day is that for- some callings it is- too. long, and for other callings it is far too short. How can we expect to compete with- other countries if it is- made- a hard-and-fast nile for every industry ? I can see Senator Findley looking at me. He might as well try to put a quart of water into a pint pot as to endeavour to make Australia succeed under those conditions. Why do honorable senators opposite advocate such doctrines ? It is because they seek popularity from the unthinking multitude. Whenever these people who are so fond of “ chin-wagging “ attemptto work a piece of land, however small it is, or wherever it may be situated, they drop the red-rag argument, and say, “ I was very young when I talked about the brotherhood of man, the 44- hour week, socialism in our time, and the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity.” They change their policy instantly.
– There has been a remarkable change in the honorable senator since he became a primary producer.
– It is quite true that I have changed my opinion of the “ goner.oseed “ Labour party. There is no hope for the man who does not- change. If the honorable senator belongs . to the latter class then there is no hope for him. Ever since Simon de Montfort wrung the privilege from an unwilling British sovereign the purpose of Parliament has been to effect a mental change in those who could be changed - not men of the type of Senator Findley, but men who, under stress of reason, and because of the force of stronger arguments, are prepared to say, “ I have made a mistake; I have trodden the wrong, track; the opinions expressed by my opponent, even though I do not like him, are sound.” If minds were not changed parliamentary institutions would be a failure. Parliament exists merely- to bring about change. I again remind Senator Findley of the truism, “ There is nothing so unchangeable as change.” There can, however, be no change in truth; it remains for all time, and has stood the test of every age. There is no change in honesty and in morality. It is Senator Findley who has changed; he has wandered into wayward paths, whilst I have kept to the straight path. If anything has changed it is the latter-day Labour party. It has wandered from the path of political rectitude, the straight path in which its feet were once planted.
– I like to hear honorable senators opposite snapping. There is an old Chinese proverb, ‘ ‘ When you fling a stone into a herd of swine the one that squeals has been hit.” But I must return to a consideration of the position that is occupied in society by the primary producer, and to certain happenings in Western Australia. It is an unbalanced state of society that has busy bees and city idlers side by side.
– The “ city idlers,” as the honorable senator calls them, work as hard as he does.
– At one time they did bear their share of the burden; but when they drank in the advice of men like Senator Findley they adopted a different attitude. The honorable senator advocates a 44-hour week for certain men, whilst other poor devils are compelled to work 64 hours a week. Does he consider that that is an equal distribution of the burden ? He and those who think as he does address the primary producer as “ Dear comrade “ ! ‘ The irony of it ! As I understand the meaning of the word, a “ comrade “ is a man who will bear with another an equal share of his burden ; he will not look for the light end of the stick as the city dwellers do. To-day it is a fact that the economic pyramid has been inverted, and is standing on its apex. Twenty years ago that was not so at all. Fifteen years ago it was less so than it is now. When, many years ago, I landed in Queensland, the first question I asked was, “ Where is the place in which I can make the bestprogress? “ The advice I received was - as Horace Greeley said years ago in America - “ Go west, young man.” I was told to “ get into the interior, where competition is less keen.” What is the position to-day? The further you go into the country the worse you fare. In the cities there is a manufactured, standard of comfort that has been brought about by the ceaseless effort to improve the standard on the fringe of the continent, whilst at the same time neglecting the interior. Is it not a fact that the further you go inland the further you get from the chance of improving your lot? Nobody can deny that that is so. The Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Phillip Collier, had something to say about this matter, but he left it to some one else to point the moral.
I have no doubt Senator Needham will recall his words. In a burst of candour he confessed that the conductors on tram cars in the streets of Perth were getting wages as good as those enjoyed by men in the 2,000-ft. level of the Great Boulder mine. He did not mention, however, that this happy state was brought about as the result of agitation’ after agitation, year in and year out, and that it was enjoyed largely at the expense of the pioneering elements in the interior. If the miner could sell his gold, the farmer his wheat, the sweated dairyman his milk, and the orchardist his fruit, at double the present prices, and could tell the consumers to starve until they paid him his price, then things would be evened up, and there could be no complaint. But the trouble is that these primary producers cannot go on strike and levy involuntary tribute on the community.
– Did he say anything about the wealthy pastoralists or the workless men starving in Melbourne ?
- Mr. Collier well knows that this artificial levering up of conditions along the coastal fringe of Australia is going on whilst the interior is being sadly neglected. We shall never make real progress in that fashion.
– Did the honorable senator use those arguments when he was advocating the cause of the miners before the Arbitration Court in Western Australia ?
– I used sound arguments, and they were successful, as the honorable senator knows. I never was, and never will be, associated with . the policy which Senator Needham, by his silence, is endorsing. I successfully urged men who were on strike against an award to return to work. The embryo “ redraggers “ of that time sought to trample me down, but failed. I never will be associated with any movement which, to improve the industrial conditions of a section of the people, seeks first an award of the Arbitration Court, and, if it is not satisfactory, repudiates it entirely. This policy, by the way, has never been condemned by Senator Needham. He has never condemned a strike in his life, for the simple reason that he knows he would lose votes by it. I am all the time condemning strikes, as I know to my cost. I do not believe in this levering up of industrial social conditions along the coastal fringe of Australia to an uneconomic level whilst those of the interior are allowed to stagnate. This so-called prosperity along the whole of the coastal fringe of the Commonwealth whilst the interior has been allowed to stagnate or empty itself of population, is counterfeit progress.
– The trouble is thai men cannot get land.
– The honorable senator who interjects is a young man. He takes good care to hug the coastal fringe of the Commonwealth. He has no wish to go into the interior. He and his colleagues are satisfied with this counterfeitprosperity.
– People cannot get land, and the honorable senator knows it.
– These men are prepared to use the Arbitration Court when it suits them, and when it does not satisfy their demands they believe in and advocate the policy of strikes, which, as I have shown, merely create an unwholesome and uneconomic condition of society.
– The land is noi available. I made application, and could not get a block.
– I can assure the honorable senator that if ever he gets land he will have to ‘ ‘ graft ‘ ‘ for hip living. I am afraid that is the trouble with him. It is less irksome to get blisters on the tongue than blisters on the hand, and these gentlemen prefer to blister their tongues in political life than blister their hands in the real work of developing this country. Let the honorable senator make no mistake about it. He can get as much land as he wants in Western Australia. For a £10 note he can get 1,000 acres if he is prepared to hold it for five years, and by that time the land, if worked and not merely looked upon, will give a living. Does he really believe that he cannot get land? Again, let me say, if every other element could strike and arbitrate alternately, then all would be well. But they cannot, and thai is where the national mischief comes in.
The primary producer of Western Australia is a fellow Australian, and is entitled to every consideration in this Parliament. In no part of Australia is the man on the land suffering more than the primary producer in the state which I represent in this chamber. I find, according to the evidence given by Mr. B. L. Murray, the managing director of the Westralian Farmers Limited, before the Navigation ‘Commission j that the freight on necessary commodities for the operation farm work is 42s. 6d. a ton from Newcastle to Fremantle., as compared with 38s. a ton from London or New York. In other words, the farmers of New South Wales can purchase the same articles at the same price in Newcastle, but have not to bear the freight burden of 42s. 6d. a ton imposed on primary producers in Western Australia.
– What do you want? Do you want the Australian worker to be brought down to the level of the coolie ?
The DEPUTY PKESID.ENT (Senator Newland). - Order! Senator Hannan must address the Chair, and desist from interjections when requested to do so by the Chair.
– Senator Lynch is inviting interjections.
– Tie freight from Newcastle to Fremantle is too great for the primary producer who is endeavouring to win a living from the lighter and sandy soils in the agricultural areas of my state.
The same witness told the commission that the cost of fertilizers in Western Australia is 7s. a ton more than to the primary producers in South Australia. Honorable senators should bear in mind that the great bulk of the agricultural lands in Western Australia consists of light and sandy soil. I regret to .say this of my state, but I am here to bear witness to the truth. Everybody knows that the land is very patchy. A comparatively small area is first class land. The great bulk of it is second class, so it is all the more imperative that it should be treated generously with artificial fertilizers if the producer is to have any chance of success. Any effort to prevent struggling primary producers from joining the ranks, of the unemployed in our cities should be encouraged by every person who has the interests of the Commonwealth at heart. Only the man who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. When, therefore, we are trying to make productive an immense tract of agricultural country capable of producing anything up to 90,000,000 bushels per annum we should not be -rebuffed. As a wheat-producing state, Western Australia nas a splendid chance, if given fair treatment, to beat the eastern states. But the primary producer must not be so burdened as to believe that -he has no chance of success ; he must not be forced -into thinking that -he had -better get back to the cities, and search for work in secondary industries. I tell -honorable senators that the position of the primary producer in Western Australia demands the serious attention of this Parliament. The lighter and drier soils in that state present the hardest proposition I know of, tout they will respond to treatment with .artificial fertilizers, and give a fair living to industrious men. The best asset that a country can possess is the man who is striving to make good on such land. Why, then, should the producers in my state be saddled with this burden of excessive shipping freights, and this extra 7s. a ton on fertilizers, as compared with farmers in the eastern states of the Commonwealth ? Every wellaffected Australian citizen should be prepared to do all that is possible to right this grievance. It is as plain as the noonday sun. The prosperity or failure of our primary producers will inevitably be reflected in the financial position of the Commonwealth. I can prove what I am saying about the injury done in many ways to our primary industries by the Navigation Act. Mr.. D. G. Humphries, general manager of the state .sawmills in his evidence before the commission, stated that the act was seriously affecting the timber industry of Western Australia. Mr. Humphries, I remind the Senate, was the responsible mouthpiece, appointed by a Labour Government, and he was speaking about a Labour enterprise. The freight rate on timber from Fremantle to Adelaide, he told the commission, -had risen from 16s. a load of 50 cubic feet in 1909 to 35s. 5d. a load of 50 cubic feet in 1923., representing an increase of over 100 per cent, in fourteen years. He went on to say that, in consequence of the higher freights, the state saw-mills were not selling the quantity which otherwise would have been sold, and he attributed the rise in freights to the operation of the Navigation Act. If the timber industry had not suffered from this rise in freight, I would say, well and good. Perhaps the act could be justified if no injury were done to other elements in the community by the improved conditions brought about as the result of its operations. If, on the other hand, an established industry were injured, then the position could not be sound. I turn now to another section of the report, signed by Senators Duncan and Elliott. On page 87 it is stated -
Nobody will deny that the primary producers of Western Australia are handicapped by having to pay higher freights on the means of production, but it may be argued that the reason for this is the geographical position of the state in relation to the chief manufacturing centres of Australia. Another factor which must have an influence on freights to and from Western Australia is that the imports to that state from the eastern states are more than three times the exports. The result is that there is shortage in back loading from Western Australia, which considerably adds to the cost of sea carriage.
This . presents to the student another phase of the difficulties encountered by Western Australia. Not being in the position to sell as much as we buy, our economic position is still further complicated. For every £3 worth of goods that Western Australia buys from the eastern states - purchases which serve to keep the people of those states in lucrative jobs - the eastern states buy only £1 worth of goods from Western Australia. The handicap is more severe 0L Western Australia than on any other part of the Commonwealth. The report, in explaining how the restrictive clauses of the Navigation Act hamper the primary producer of Western Australia in fulfilling his requirements, says -
The Navigation Act limits the carriage of these requirements to ships registered under the act, i.e., the ships of the interstate shipping companies. The carriage of his supplies are subject to their pleasure, their convenience, and their demands. He may consider himself unjustly treated by these companies, but the Navigation Act says that he cannot use any other means of sea carriage.
– Is the honorable senator reading the majority report of the commission 1
– I am reading one of the intelligent minority reports. It proceeds -
He cannot, as the fruit-grower of Southern Queensland did in a similar emergency, use the railway as an outlet. His geographical position precludes this. It is not to be wondered, therefore, that the primary producer of Western Australia complains bitterly of the provisions of the Navigation Act which pre vents him from using the ma,ny oversea vessels which call at Western Australia en route to the eastern states. That he cannot do so does to an extent impose a brake upon his progress and development. The Commonwealth ‘certainly has the constitutional, but has it the moral right to impose this limitation upon him? The development of Western Australia, and the settlement of its vast areas, are matters of vital moment to Australia.
I now wish to refer to the timber industry, in which so many supporters of the latter-day Labour party are foundThe report continues -
Your Commissioners are of the opinion that the conditions in the timber industry in regard to shipping space is a further exemplification of the position as set out under the heading of “ Primary Production.” The timber industry of Western Australia is not developing as it should, because of the “ prohibition “ clauses of the Navigation Act. Some war must be found of adequately protecting the shipping industry in conformity with the declared national policy, without at the same time unduly injuring other industries. Your Commissioners are confident that this can be done if the proposal outlined in “ General Recommendations “ is adopted.
Now I turn to the views of honorable gentlemen of the opposite political complexion. Honorable senators will notice that I am quoting the views of all three sections of the commission. Notwithstanding the variety of opinions contained in the report, it is a valuable document, because it shows independence of thought, and a man of judgment can easily determine whether the opinions expressed are political or otherwise. Parliament is a very desirable institution, for it enables these things to be ventilated in public, instead of being dealt with in dark comers or behind closed doors. Parliament is ar. enemy of the caucus. . A glorious fact is- that everything that takes place in the public life of this country may be brought forward in this public chamber and examined from every angle. Some people would prefer that not to be so, and would surround the discussion of this matter with .a wall 4 feet thick, with iron doors and unpickable locks. By contrast with Australia there is Russia,, with which the notorious Mr. J. S. Garden is linked up. Who has ever heard of a general election in Russia? The most delightful part of the commission’s report contains the opinions of Mr. Anstey, Mr. Yates, and Senator McHugh, whose findings were-
I and others who are more familiar with Western Australia than these three honorable gentlemen, worthy though they may be, know that but for that intermittent service of “ black “-manned boats to the north-west, there would be a positive decline of development in that area. The settlers who are there are mostly kept there by that line, against which these three honorable gentlemen raise so many objections. I wish I had the power of the last trumpet to resound throughout Australia the following passage from the report : -
Here we have at last a bit of unconscious truth thrown at us. It is admitted that the trade of Western Australia has declined in the one field where it should prosper. The explanation of that decline in the export trade, which is found in another part of the report, is the undue handicap and restrictions imposed upon the primary producers by the Navigation Act. Western Australia, of all the states, is the only essentially producing state, and in that state there is a decline, while, in the others, there is an increase. While there was a steady upward tendency in the export trade of Australia, there was a steady downward tendency in that of Western Australia. One of the causes of this extraordinary condition of affairs is that the man in the interior of Western Australia has not a fair chance owing totheNavigation
Act. When these unwilling witnesses say that the export trade of Western Australia has fallen off, who dare contradict them? They are stating, of course, a fact, and a fact that has a cause, which should be removed.
– Has the export of primary produce from Western Australia fallen off?
– Is there anything plainer than that those engaged in the export trade are handicapped or are losing money ? Otherwise they would at least hold their own. If the honorable senator will travel through Western Australia he will be impressed, as I have been in that state and in Queensland, by the large area of primeval forest that he will see. Any well-intentioned citizen would be prompted by the thought, Why are there no people here? Can Senator McHugh say there is no room for them ? Nonsense ! The great majority of the people of Western Australia are only on the coastal fringe, and mother nature is bursting with a desire for men to relieve her of her bounteous resources, which she offers for men’s use and benefit. Man is nob coming forward because of the discouragement of the Navigation Act and other manufactured burdens. Instead he stays east, mainly in the cities. He does not come forward to increase the yield of primary produce. Yet there are people who shut theireyes to these facts, and say that Western Australia ought to be content. Content with what? With a state of stagnation? There is great need for a remedy, unless we want to see the time when the citizens of that part of the country will be kept poor in order to supply others with luxuries. There is everywarrant for honorable senators to ask themselves, Have we not made the Navigation Act too exclusive? Have we not given to the ship-owners and the seamen privileges they should not enjoy - privileges for which the most ardent and clamorous protection-mad citizen has never asked ? Actually we have given the shipowners and seamen prohibition. No ship can enter the Australian trade without a licence. While we are content to give to the manufacturer of hats, boots, clothes, and other necessaries of life a degree of protection equivalent to the difference between the cost ofproduction in Australia and elsewhere, we say to those engaged in the maritime trade. “ We give you the trade exclusively . “ I should like to know why we have done that. - [Extension of time granted.] In submitting the motion I am afforded an opportunity to state some of the difficulties under which the people of Westtern Australia are labouring. A debate on this question will, I hope, be the means of opening the eyes of some honorable senators to its political, economic, and industrial phases, which in the past they have been in the habit of conveniently ignoring. It is my duty to bring forward thesefacts, and if I have succeeded in opening only the corners of their eyes I shall have done some good. Is it not possible for us to come to some agreement on this question? Honorable senators opposite know that they are wrong, but they will not admit it. Surely they realize that the ground upon which they stand is insecure, and are beginning to say to themselves, “These foundations which we thought were of granite do not sustain us.” They are allowing questions of this kind to pass untested and without discussion. Under the provisions of the Navigation Act one section of the community is being penalized in a most pronounced manner in order that another may derive advantage. The manager of the Western Australian State Steamship Service - which is controlled by a Labour Government - appeared before the Navigation Commission, and stated that although he had to run state shipsin competition with ships manned by black labour, he considered the latter necessary if the people were to remain in the north-west. This gentleman welcomed the presence on the Western Australian coast of ships manned by black labour. He personally did not want them to be manned by such labour, but at the same time, he did not want the hardy dwellers in the north-west to think they were neglected and forgotten, and were only of use when taxes want paying. It would be interesting to know what the members of the Labour party have to say in that regard. The manager of the Western Australian stateowned ships voluntarily stepped into the arena and testified to the advantages of the service provided by those vessels, Without them, he said, it would he diffi cult to say what the effect on the state would be. I leave the matter in the hands of the Senate, believing that the whole question will receive sympathetic consideration, and that prompt actionwillbe taken. This Chamber was established to ensure that no intentional wrong should be done to any section of the community. I have proved that a manifest wrong is being done to a most deserving section of our people, and it is our duty to utilize all the lawful means at our disposal to rectify it. Settlers in other parts of the Commonwealth are also facing adversity through the same cause, but their case will doubtless he put by those whose duty it is to assist them. I have shown the manner in which the primary producers in Western Australia are handicapped as the result of the operations of the Navigation Act, and I earnestly trust that the law will be amended in the direction I have indicated. I submit the motion believing that it is time the act was amended so that those engaged in the shipping industry shall not be placed in a more advantageous position than those employed in other important industries. It is our duty to give a fair deal to all.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilson) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Supply Bill (No. 1), 1925-26.
Loan Bill (No. 1), 1925.
Resignation of Senator DrakeBrockman.
– I desire to announce to the Senate that I have received the following communication from Senator DrakeBrockman : -
Ibeg to request that I may be allowed to resign my membership of the Standing Orders Committee.
The following paper was presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act- Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1925, No. 104,
Senate adjourned at 12.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 July 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1925/19250703_senate_9_110/>.