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Thursday, 15 July 1920

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Objection has been taken to the phrase employed by the honorable member for Swan, and I ask him, therefore, to withdraw it.

Mr PROWSE - I withdraw the expression. I havepatiently listened to the various speeches delivered since the launching of the motion, and I have closely examined the reasons set forth in its support. I have wondered how the socalled Labour party was going to support, particularly paragraphs a and d of the motion, and at the same time be consistent. In the first place, it is complained that the Government has failed to reduce the cost of living. It has been amply shown in this House that the cost of those commodities which were specifically referred to during this debate is lower in Australia than anywhere else; and those commodities are primary products. The complaint set forth in paragraph d of the motion has to do with the alleged failure of the Government in regard to obtaining better prices for commodities sold overseas. It has also been shown in this Chamber that the commodities disposed of overseas, particularly our wheat, have been sold at considerably greater advantage to the Australian producer than that portion which has been disposed of at home. If there were to be a further reduction in the cost of living, enforced by the methods proposed by the extreme Opposition in this Chamber, the effect would be to disadvantage the primary producer even more than to-day. In other words, if there wereno consumptionof wheat in Australia, our primary producers would be receiving double that which they are actually getting for the portion of their wheat which is consumed within the Commonwealth. If there could be a quid pro quo between the primary producer and the other sections of the community we should have something like fair play. But since the primary producer gets no advantage in return the position is grossly unfair to him. And why is this so? Because he has not political strength enough to demand consideration. Honorable members of the extreme Opposition represent the interests of the consumer only, for they declare that after his needs are provided for, the primary producer is at liberty to get as much as he can from the other fellow.

Mr Gabb - But is not the primaryproducer a consumer, too?

Mr PROWSE - He is prepared to pay a reasonable price, but honorable members opposite expect him to buy in the dearestmarket and sell for home consumption at a price determined by them. In this way they talk about building up a two years' supply by a kind of confiscatory method at the expense of the producer. If those who advocate this theory would undertake to give the farmer cheaper labour, cheaper machinery, cheaper clothing, and generally cheaper living costs, as a quid pro quo the consuming public, outside the producers, would be justified in expecting Australian products at a cheaper rate. But what is the position? We cannot employ black labour, nor do we want to do that, as weare in thorough agreement with honorable members opposite in regard to the White Australia policy; but we complain that they are not with us in this principle, for they would have us work like blackfellows, and, moreover, they would, in effect, seize our property, by claiming thatwe must sell to Australian consumers at a cheaper rate than to any one else. To-day the Australian consumer is getting foodat a cheaper rate than that at which it can be produced elsewhere by black labour. Honorable members opposite must clearly understand that members of the Corner party are out to defend their interests, and as an impartial representative - I claim to be that - I say that all we desire is sound government. When I spoke first in this House I declared that this little party of oura stood for sound government, irrespective of party, and I say that while members of the Government talk in a manner to indicate that they know what the primary producer requires, they have not yet given proof of their bona fides.

Every honorable member in this House must admit that finance is the most important question for consideration to-day. The financial position of Australia is appalling, and in grappling with it honorable members should rid themselves of all party ideas, and, on behalf of the people, endeavour to get under this burden. The only thing to do is to produce more original money. Let us assume, for a moment that every honorable member of this House was possessed of £1,000 - I am not referringto their salaries - and that we locked all the doors and windows of this chamber for twelve months. At the end of that term the aggregate of the wealth would be the same, though no doubt some of the abler men might have more than others. Wow, that is just the position Australia is in. No artificial methods will gain forus the additional wealth necessary to lift thisburden from the shoulders of the people. We must keep the doors unbolted and the windows open in order to get additional original wealth, and we cannot continue to prosper unless we adopt a progressive policy.

Let me remind honorable members of the attitude adopted in America towards this grave problem. The Government of the United States of America has given serious consideration to the question of inducing more people to go upon the land. We are told -

Prices for all grains have risen sharply, and many predict a world-wide scarcity. Undoubtedly the dearth of farm labour will seriously affect the yield of the coming crop, there having been a general movement of labour to the cities throughout the country, owing to thehigher wages obtaining in tie manufacturing centres. Reports from the Argentine show an enormous demand for wheat for export at advancing prices, and there has been talk of anembargo on wheat at Argentine ports.

Wheat in the Argentine and America is 17 s.6d. per bushel, and the point I wish to make is that this is evidently the proper time to encourage our farmers to extend the area under cultivation. This isAustralia's opportunity, as a producing country, to insure agreater output, , and thus increase the wealth so necessary to cover our national obligations. There is, as the Prime

Minister (Mr. Hughes) says, only one method by which we can retrieve the position, namely, by working and producing. To-day I heardsome honorable members opposite refer to the high rents nowprevailing. I have sympathy with those who have to pay high rents, but I cannot help thinking of the position of our farmers who are obliged to work long hoursand are expected to sell their produce for home consumption at about half the world's price; while the worker is asking for shorter hours in erecting cottages and other works. We must recognise the great obligation that rests upon us, and endeavour to work harmoniously for the development of this country, with a full recognition of the rights of all parties. I believe that, on my property, I give more satisfaction to my men than most people, for I pay the highest wages that are going, and a bonus to my permanent men.I endeavour, in this way, to give them an interest in the farming operations.

My sympathy goes out to every man who is honest and straightforward ; but I am afraid that there is too much party feeling dividing Australia at the present time and hampering our progress. We have a splendid opportunity, now that the war is over, of getting back to those peaceful activities that will bring wealth to Australia. I have received many letters from labouring men , upon this subject. One communication is from the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation, in relation to the Tariff. Doubtless other honorable members have received the same communication. The federation sets out the facts as they affect the miner.

Mr Nicholls -The contract miner.

Mr PROWSE - And. I suppose he is to receive no consideration?

Mr Nicholls - I did not say that.

Mr PROWSE - The letter states-

Doubtless you are aware that the proposed Tariff makes provision for an increase of 25 per cent, on explosives, made up as follows: - Intermediate Tariff, 5 per cent.; general Tariff, 10 per cent. (explosives n.e.i.) ;. and on and after 1st January, 1922. British preferential Tariff, 15 per cent.; intermediate Tariff, 20 per cent.; and general Tariff, . 25 per cent.

Mr Riley - On a point of order, Mr: Deputy Speaker, I draw yourattention to the £act that the honorable member is anticipating the debate, on the Tariff.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon J M Chanter - I remind the honorable member for South Sydney that on this motion an honorable member may refer to anything.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - Not quite to anything.

Mr Riley - I am very glad you have given this ruling, because I shall have a few nice things to say too.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! Apparently the ruling of the Chair is misunderstood. I wish to state that on this motion an honorable member may refer to anything within the Standing Orders and rules of this House.

Mr PROWSE - The letter continues -

You will therefore see that if the Tariff becomes operative as set out, the price of explosives imported will immediately increase in price, and as the miner has to purchase the explosives, it will affect him, and not the coal-owners. Consequently, the miner is not disposed to bear the increase.

Of course, he is not disposed to bear the increase. I have had another communication from the Collie coal miners in Western Australia. There are Tariff duties on coal-cutting machines and similar appliances; and, to my mind, that is only tinkering with the most important industry we could have within our borders. It is claimed by the Miners Federation and by the Collie coal miners that these imposts increase the cost of this most important output; and yet, at the same time, the Prime Minister tells us that the only way out of our financial difficulties is to increase production, and thus create greater wealth. Is it consistent, is it statesmanship, is it wise legislation to burden the people who are asked to produce this greater wealth? Would it not be wise to afford them every opportunity to develop the industry? These questions are, to my mind, of paramount importance.

I am extremely sorry to have noticed that so much time is spent on sectarian questions in this House. I have been here for a few months now, and have heard a great deal on sectarian matters from the extreme Opposition, and I have also heard the Prime Minister speaking on the same subject. I would like to sayin the most dispassionate way that it would be just as well for us to understand each other here, on these great question?. It would be a good thing if members wove to try to differentiate spiritual religion from subjects which trench on matters which come within the jurisdiction of this House. Within recent times, people associated with the persuasion referred to more particularly, have regarded this intrusion on matters outside religion as going too far ; even co-religionists take exception to this clerical trenching on matters political. I am Australian born, and have lived here for just on fifty years, and I feel that, the Australian people desire every soul in the country to have perfect freedom in the matter of religion - desire that there shall be no trenching on the right of all to worship as they please.

Mr Gabb - The Government is trenching now.

Mr PROWSE - No; the desire is that we shall all live peaceably together, and differentiate between that which is religion, and those other matters outside religion on which we find this trenching.

Mr Gabb - How would you like to be cut off from the Bible in your own language 1

Mr PROWSE - I would cut no one off from the Bible. I do not say this for political aggrandizement, but in very recent years a very serious affront has been laid on me, as well as others, by a particular Church - by the introduction of the ne temere decree. Those who examine that decree closely must see that it is an affront to the clergyman of other Churches, including my own Church; and, in any case, this is a matter for those who make the laws.

Mr Brennan - You do not know what you are talking about! Drop your preaching - your blathering about matters you do not, understand 1

Mr PROWSE (SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - There has been too much bluff of that kind in this House, and my desire is only to speak honestly and fairly. If it is said that a marriage effected by a certain Church in Australia - a country where every one is free - is not a marriage, and that the parties live in sin, an affront is placed on the clergy of that Church, on me, and others who desire to live in peace with all men. It is loathsome to have to refer to these questions, but they have been raised in this House.

Mr Nicholls - You are raising the sectarian cry yourself now.

Mr PROWSE - I knew that would be said, but, as a matter of fact, I am speaking against sectarianism. Since i have been a member of this House the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), according to the press, has actually stood by and applauded a priest who said he would cause as much trouble as he could in Ireland and Australia until he got what he desired. What has poor Australia done that she should have so much trouble over such matters? Are those who are the cause of this trouble not judged out of their own mouths? Why should there be this cry from the honorable member? I am trying to remedy the present state of affairs if possible, and immediately I find the charge of sectarianism thrown at me. It reminds me of the days of my youth, when an elder brother frequently thought it advisable, during the course of our play, to hit me on the nose. On such occasions I would cry out very loudly in order to attract the attention of my mother, who had considerable strength; and, when I heard her footstep approaching my cries became inaudible, as I thought of the thrashing she would give my brother. However, when my brother saw the " boot " he immediately started yelling, and on my mother's arrival, he accused me of having hit him, and I got the "walloping." That seems to me to be a very fair representation of the position in regard to sectarianism.

I refer to these matters because I realize how much better it would be for the peace of this House, and the peace of Australia, if these sectarian questions were not raised. I am speaking seriously, without any feeling of hatred; I have no spirit of malice towards any living soul in the country. Many people of the Roman Catholic persuasion are my friends, and I hope to have them remain my friends. What' I desire is that the Churches of Australia shall keep to themselves, teaching as much Christianity as possible to the people, and leaving the politicians to do the other business. This would be of infinite advantage; and we have only to read the history of other countries to learn that such intrusion on matters political has not proved of any advantage to the Churches guilty of it or to the country.

Mr Brennan - What does the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) think of that?

Mr PROWSE - I dare say the honorable member for Wannon would not. disagree with any reasonable attitude taken up with a view to the peace and harmony of the people of Australia. I hope that every section of the community, if they have no faith or much faith, will recognise that a change in this regard would b© conducive to harmony amongst the people as a whole.

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