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Wednesday, 14 July 1920

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon J M Chanter - I ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.

Mr J H CATTS - I understand the position. But the stand which I take is that this Parliament is above all the Courts in this Country. It should be itself the great High Court for the protection of the rights and privileges of the people.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! "Will the honorable member please resume his seat. "When the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), in addressing the House, was dealing with the same question, I directed his attention to the fact that the usage of this Parliament, and of others also, had been that, any case which was sub judice should not be discussed. I said, also, that there was no standing order which specifically dealt with the matter. On looking into the point further, however, I noted that there is one standing order which bears upon it. 'That is our standing order No. 1, which states, in effect, that where the Standing Orders do not make specific provision, resort shall be had to the rules and practice of the House of Commons. My attention has been directed to this point since the honorable member for Melbourne Ports addressed the House, and I have ascertained that the universal practice in the Imperial Parliament has been that, in regard to any case which is sub judice, discussion cannot be permitted. I am given to understand, so far as newspaper reports are concerned-

Mr Riley - You have no right to take notice of newspaper reports.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honorable member has no right to interject when the Speaker is upon his feet.

Mr Riley - I have a right to correct you.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - The honorable member is disorderly. So far as my own knowledge goes, the matter is before the Courts at present, and, therefore, is sub judice.

Mr Mahony - No.


Mr Mahony - lt is not before the Courts.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - If the honorable member persists, I shall be obliged to adopt a serious course of action.

Mr Mahony - I understood that you were asking me a question.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - I addressed no question to any honorable member, but would point out again that it is disorderly to interrupt the Speaker or his Deputy in the course of a ruling. I understand that the matter at issue is before the Courts at present.; but, if I am officially informed that it has been settled, and is not sub judice, I shall allow it to be discussed. Until I am so informed, I cannot permit honorable members to discuss it.

Mr J H CATTS - I have no time to bandy words with the Chair. To revert to the charge (a) in relation to the high cost of living - the Prime Minister, to escape his own pledges to the people to reduce the cost of living, states that what we have to do i9 to produce more. How can enhanced production in Australia affect the people of Australia in the matter of food and clothing, seeing that we already produce ten times more than we can use ? Will it affect the cost of living if we produce twenty or fifty times more than the people can use? What those gentlemen who talk in that way wish us to believe is that until the aching void of Europe can be filled, there must be scarcity for the people of Australia. Such remarks are nothing more nor less than the expression of a foreign policy, dictated in the interests of people other than Australians. As an Australian, I demand that this country be administered in the interests of Australians, and that not until we have attended to the requirements of the people of Australia shall we turn our attention to the necessities of the inhabitants of foreign countries. There is no man in the Commonwealth who can say we are not producing, in regard to almost everything, many times more than is requisite for 'the needs of our people. All this talk about producing more is so much humbug.

Mr Wienholt - Does that apply to sugar ?

Mr J H CATTS - It does, in relation to our domestic needs, because, approximately, half of our Australian sugar is made into jam and other foodstuffs, for export. Manufacturers obtain cheap Australian sugar, and thus are able to export foodstuffs to the markets of the Old World, and make huge profits. At the same tame, the people of Australia cannot get enough locally-grown sugar for local requirements, and the prices of household necessities ' go higher and higher. The addition to our sugar bill of £7,000,000 per annum, as represented by the latest increase in the price of sugar, has been enforced mainly to enable Australian manufacturers to export all classes of foodstuffs and some interested persons reap huge profits. According to the Budget statement of 8th October last, in 1918' 72,000,000 lbs., of jam were sold for export at from 5£d. to 6d. per pound. A huge amount of cheap sugar was included in that, and the jam sold, f.o.b. here, at much less than that for which the Australian public may obtain it.

The Prime Minister speaks of the restricted -.power of this Parliament to deal with the cost of living problem. He said it is only recently that we have heard of this. When I was ' sitting behind the Labour Government in 1915, I moved a series of resolutions, in the course of which I pointed out that the Government had ample power then to deal with these matters. The Prime Minister asks honorable members to believe that a few years ago the Labour party did not think that power resided with the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with the cost of living. But a lot of water has run under the bridge since then. We have been carefully studying the position:, and have discovered, some sooner than others, that the Government have powers which previously were not thought to reside in the Commonwealth Constitution. The resolutions to which I refer called upon the Government to take action to reduce the cost of living. Incidentally, they caused the Government some embarrassment. The Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) was sitting in the House at the time, and I intend to show honorable members that his interjections were an admission that my view was the correct one. They also show that the right honorable member has known for year3 that this Parliament has power to deal with the high cost of living. I drew attention to the fact that the Government had power to take a census and to call upon every producer and manufacturer to make weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or quarterly returns to a properly constituted Commonwealth authority, of the output and distribution of goods, and the movement of prices. We have always had that power, and if we desire to control the cost of living, this is one of the first and most essential pieces of machinery to that end.

Mr Jowett - What would the producers of Australia be doing if they had to provide statistics every week ?

Mr J H CATTS - What has that to do with the position of the people of Australia, who are being exploited ?

Mr Jowett - Who are these exploiters? Speak for yourself.

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