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Thursday, 15 July 1920

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - I told the Manager of the Commonwealth Bank to his face, in the presence of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), what I thought of his methods; and I am sure that if the honorable member lived for 1,000 years he would never forget that incident. In that Bank young men and women were brought back night after night, and not even allowed tea money. I belonged, in my earlier years, ' to the staff of what was considered to be one of the smallest banks; but we were always paid ls. -6d. tea money when we worked back at night. Doctors in Collins-street have sent young men to me to make complaints. I have been asked, "Is it fair that these young men should be worked like this?" If' any of them had dared to take part in a political meeting, of course they have not been dismissed for that offence, but they have been sent away to some small place in the interior. I have made inquiries about the conditions in the Commonwealth Bank in New South Wales, Adelaide, and Perth. I went over to the opening of the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney to ask the Manager if he intended to give up sweating his bank clerks. After I had asked him that twice, he did not make a very happy speech. He is an autocrat. Who knows how much money the man called Kirkpatrick is getting from the soldiers by sending out standard plans for war service homes? It might foe worth while asking that question. Has he ever paid rent for his rooms in that splendid building? I do not care whether he is a relative of the Manager or not; but I object to men like him having all the advantages. Why is not the design of the bank to be built here thrown open to the competition of all the architects of Australia ? The best thing ever done by a Minister here was to send for Mr. Griffin from America in connexion with the competition for the design of the Federal Capital, and to turn down the abortion put forward by the robbers in the Government Service, who made a patchwork plan by picking the brains of one man here and another man there without acknowledgment.

Mr Riley - Why do not the Government give him some work to do on the Federal Capital!

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - I agree with the honorable member. He knows that my vote is always available for him on that question. I remember the late Lord Forrest saying that no man should have the power that the Manager of the Commonwealth Bank has. Can any one tell me what rent Kirkpatricks pay for their big rooms in the Commonwealth Bank? The only way to remedy the evils of our present system is to introduce the initiative, referendum and recall.

Mr Lister - It would be a bit of a shock to a good many members if it was introduced.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - I do not want the honorable member to think that it would apply only to the question of increase of members' allowances. It goes very much further. It would tend to make politics honest, and to make members mind . their p's and q's. It would enable the people to keep in their own hands the control, not only of members of Parliament but of public expenditure, both parliamentary and municipal. The municipality of Melbourne could run the city into a debt of £1,000,000 or £1,500,000 without consulting the people. The ratepayers have no control over them. One Melbourne newspaper, perhaps not designedly, made a great error in stating that the members of the French Parliament were paid only £600 a year. According to a paper issued by the Empire Parliamentary Association prior to the war, the salary of a member of the French Parliament was, at the rate of 25 francs to the £1, £600 a year. This was increased in February of this year to £1,080 a year. The French elections were held in November, and ours were held in

December. The members of the French Parliament raised their salaries in the February following, and we raised ours to almost the same sum in the following May. If the referendum, initiative and recall were adopted here, the people would have the controlling power, not only over members of Parliament, but over the Governor-General. They might be asked to say if he was worth £10,000 a year, seeing that only £15,000 a year is paid to the President of the United States, who rules over 100,000,000 people. The people would be able also to fix the salaries of State Governors, Judges, stipendiary magistrates, heads of Departments, Commissioners of railways, and so on. The' people have to find the whole of the money. Why, then, should they not have a say in the spending of it?

I recommend honorable members to visit the theatre opposite this building and see the picture called the " Right to Happiness." They . must not think that the scenes of slum life shown there are overdrawn. They will see ten or eleven human beings in one miserable room. I was surprised to find the very respectable paper, known as The Illustrated London News, publishing a picture called " Typical Overcrowding in East London." This shows an eating, sleeping and living room for father, mother, seven children, married brother and wife. Here is another picture showing the " Winter sufferings of the Russian bourgeoise under Bolshevism." It depicts a family huddled in the kitchen for warmth, with the mother and baby on the stove, and the rest in chairs. There is, however, a second room, and the conditions are apparently better than in East London. These terrible pictures recall to me what I saw in London in my younger days. As the obstetric officer called on to bring another little life into the world, I had to go into a room 10 x II feet by 10 feet high in what is called the mews - that is, a room over stables. All the others in the room withdrew to give me a little more space, and stood in the doorway in the sleety winter night. I noticed that in each corner there was another little child. I thought to myself, " This city is the mighty centre of the Empire, and yet in it human beings cannot find proper accommodation for a woman in her glorious hour of motherhood." Professor Pepper, a few days afterwards, said that an ordinary working man on 18s. a week could feed his wife and one child fairly well, but that when the third, fourth, and fifth children came, there was no room for them in the one apartment which served for eating, sleeping, and washing. Those little children were sent out to what was called " harden themselves." Thati s how they got the little blue legs and big wrists and ankles, signs of what the Germans used to call the " English disease " - rickets. Professor Pepper, who won more gold medals than any other man at the London University, stated that the seventh, eighth and ninth children rarely had a chance of reaching adult age. That is slum life for you in a mighty Empire. Our party is out to wipe it out, andto tear poverty from the world. We can do it only by the aid of the referendum, initiative and recall, which will give the people power over Parliament.

If we had the referendum, initiative and recall, would the people of Australia support the continuance of six Governors and a Governor-General ? Is it not current opinion that the present GovernorGeneral was sent to Australia to do the work that Lord Denman would not do when the then Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook), with a majority of only one in this House, and that one the Speaker, and an adverse majority in another place, wanted a double dissolution? Denman would not grant a double dissolution, but Munro Ferguson did. If the people had a vote, would they continue to pay him £10,000 per annum as well as a huge sum for the upkeep of his position ? Do honorable members think that the people would vote for the continuance of six Agents-General and a High Commissioner? Can any honorable member mention £500 worth of work that the High Commissioner does? I say nothing against Andrew Fisher, who, as an honest politician, has my affection and regard. But has the country ever benefited through the creation of the High Commissioner, and the continuance of the AgentsGeneral? I lived in London for five years, and I know of no earthly good that the Agent-General for Victoria did in that time. I have spoken with artists who were driven from Australia to earn their living in another country, and whose work has made the name of Aus tralia widely known, and they told me that they had never been benefited through the Agents-General.

Mr McWilliams - The AgentsGeneral do a lot more good than the High Commissioner has done.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - Speaking from my own experience, I doubt that. I admit that the late Sir George Reid did splendid, work as High Commissioner to my personal knowledge in Coronation Year. We could dispense with the services of six Governors and six Agents-General. The only service the latter are able to render is to introduce some swell Australian's wife, who wishes to be presented at Court to some needy Dowager Duchess who, for a fee, will put the visitor through her paces, so that she may not commit the awful offence of turning her back on Royalty. I believe that the spectacle of these ladies practising their bows and curtsies under the coaching of a hired Duchess is most interesting. Honorable members have read of the trouble that occurred at the last Indian Durbar, when the Gaekwar of Baroda was supposed to have turned his back on the King. These socialservices are the only ones rendered by the Agents-General, and their offices could well be abolished. At the proper time, I shall move a motion for a similar reform in regard to the office of High Commissioner. I shall do that with no personal feeling against the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), who is generally understood to be the next occupant of that office. But I am tired of the High Commissionership, and the heavy expense it entails. Australia House has cost this country nearly £1,000,000. That is too much money to waste. In place of the Agents-General, I would appoint men whom the late Sir Thomas Bent described as general agents, who would receive a fair salary, and a commission on business transacted. I should say to them in the words of a celebrated American, in his letters to his son, " The letters I want from you when you are away are your orders for business." With men of that type there would be no further gallivanting about Courts in order to introduce wealthy ladies to the King and Queen. Those rich Australians who take up their residence in England are not the best friends of Australia.

The problems of finance were different during the late war from those of any other war. If honorable members will turn up the banking records, they will find that in no previous war did the gold reserves in the banks increase. There is instance after instance of the Bank of England refusing to pay in gold. But in the late war, banks in the Homeland and in Australia increased their reserves ; and whilst 80 per cent, of our available manhood offered their lives, I do not think 10 per cent, of the wealth was offered. We have not yet got one-tenth of " the last shilling." But I have a belief that we shall get that money sooner than seme people expect. The Wunderlich Company had a debit of £4,000 in 1913, and to-day has a credit reserve of £37,000. The Commonwealth Bank, controlled by a gentleman who receives a salary »of £80 per week, and £2 2s. per day for travelling expenses, but who would not pay ls. 6d. as tea-money to clerks who worked at night, started in 1913 with a debit balance of £45,000, and now shows a profit of £2,363,000, which was made during the war. Burns, Philp and Company had a reserve fund in 1913 of £206,000, which has been increased to £667,000, whilst the pre-war dividend of 5 per cent, has been doubled. The Bank of New South Wales has increased its reserve fund from £2,400,000 to £3,425,000, and is paying a dividend of 10 per cent. The Bank of Australasia has increased its reserve fund from £2,720,000 to £4,102,000, and its dividend from 7 per cent, to 8 per cent. And so on.

I see no reason why any man or woman who is in receipt of an income of over £1,000 should object to. the fact being made public. Everybody knows the income of the King of England and Emperor of India; of the Prince of Wale9, who is playing the game like a man in Australia; the Judges on the Bench, every public official in Great Britain and Ireland, and even members of Parliament. Though the precise amount received by Ministers is not known to the public, everybody has an approximate idea of what each one receives. What reason is there for keeping secret the names of those persons . who pay taxation on incomes of over £1,000 per annum? That information would afford Parliament an indication of how the taxation should be levied. To his great credit, Sir Alexander Peacock published a list in which the taxpayers were indicated by numbers up to 259, and which showed the profits made by various companies and individuals prior to the war and in the first two years of war. In one instance, the increase in profits was 2,000,000 per cent. The then honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) questioned the accuracy of my figures when I quoted them, but he would not support his opinion to the extent of risking having to pay for a life-governorship in a hospital. Why should not the information prepared by Sir Alexander Peacock be supplemented and brought up to date. I ask the Government to indicate in a similar return the profits of various firms and squatters from 1913 onward during the years of war. When I made that. request to a Minister on a previous occasion, he would not agree to supply the information. Even if the Government cannot see their way clear to publish the actual names, it would be an advantage to the House to have a return indicating by numbers all the persons who were in receipt of £1,000 per annum in 1913, together with their incomes in the subsequent years. It would be found that the vast majority of them had increased their incomes during the period of war.

The Bulletin publishes in its " Wild-cat Column " from week to week the balance-sheets of various companies, and rarely, indeed, does it disclose a reserve fund that has not increased since the commencement of the war. We have been told by that splendid statist, Mr. Knibbs, whose reputation extends throughout Australia and Europe, that whereas the property of Australia was valued at £1,200,000,000 in 1913, it increased during the war to £1,600,000.000. That increase of £400,000,000 would pay our national debt; and whenever the opportunity arises, I shall act in accordance with the statement I made in this House as soon as it re-assembled after the declaration of war, that I would never vote to saddle the future millions of Australia with the burden of the interest on the war debt. If the' unborn generations are obliged to carry that burden, the Kaiser and his battalions will have punished Australia for all time. I say that the wealth of Australia should pay the war debt. Eighty per cent, of our manhood offered their lives; 800,000 of our men offered themselves for active service; over 400,000 were accepted; over 300,000 left our shores; and 60,000 have never come back. I want to know now about that last shilling. How are we going to get it? "With my banking experience, and having made a study of the banking system, I can confidently invite honorable members to read the particulars of the Banking Commission of the United States, which inquired into the affairs of every bank in Europe. It is obvious that if all the war debt were to be requisitioned it would destroy credit. Sudden actions and changes would not only destroy credit, but, in many cases, would cause loss of life. I am out to prevent that. There is the unearned increment. Why not let us say that we will have all property valued now, and that the increase for the next ten. years, or until the war debt shall have been wiped out, shall be drawn upon for such specific purpose? I have asked the keenest business men whether they would prefer to give one-fourth of their property forthwith in cash or be dispossessed of ten years of unearned increment. Honorable members know full well what was their answer every time.

I hope that, since this House has done that which no other Legislature under the British flag has ever done - that is to say, has agreed to the most momentous motion ever carried by any Parliament, namely, that for the establishment of the principle of the referendum and initiative - honorable members will now assist me to have that principle put into working order. It is a plank of the platform of the great party to which I -am attached, and it is a plank of the platform of the Nationalist party. I welcome the Country party, and I hope it will amend its policy so as to come into line with the other two parties. Its members should be prepared to trust the people. If we were to give to the people the power to initiate legislation I would look forward with confidence to glorious days for Australia. I would be prepared to seriously consider offering a post of great responsibility to that greatest organizer of machinery and labour the world has ever known. I allude to Henry ' Ford, of America, who was told that ho could not employ a larger unit than 5,000 men, but who did so; who was told that he could not make an automobile for £40, but who did so; and who, for the payment of one dollar a year, turned the whole of his machinery over to the welfare of his country, when the United States of America declared war. Money could have no value to a man who has made Ford's millions. When labour troubles occurred, his critics said he would not be able to carry on, that he would be beaten; but he was not beaten, and the unions did not object to his carrying on. He fixed the minimum wage of the sweeper-out of his factory at £1 a day. If [ had the power, I would be inclined to invite Ford to come here and govern Australia. He would do it, perhaps, for the maximum salary of one dollar a year, for the honour and love of the task. And, so, he would set Australia going as a great, co-operative Commonwealth; for that is the only way in which to eliminate poverty from our midst.

I commend to honorable members the last book published by that wonderful man, Alfred Russell Wallace. In his 93rd year he penned these words, " The State should be the heir of all property." There is the thought which, in the minds of men, will grow. The State has never yet sold its property, nor the right, of taxation. In the words of the elder Napoleon, in his Code, property is that which is movable and immovable. I can remove my watch from taxation, but I cannot remove my house and my land. We hear threats of the removal of capital. Property cannot be moved, and I ask the wealthy to consider seriously the advantage to them of the referendum, the initiative and re: call. The shadows are creeping. The first shadow in Australia is being thrown by the happenings in Western Australia at this moment. Let us have the referendum, the initiative and recall. That will enable this nation to bring about reform by gradual change. What an insult it is to the intelligence of the people that this Parliament should permit them to vote upon a referendum! We say it is the most glorious thing iri the world to be the servants of the people. Why do we not embody in our Constitution provision for the people to have the right to initiate legislation? If we did, this " fool " game of Parliament, as carried on now, would cease to exist.

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