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Wednesday, 13 September 1911


Senator MCDOUGALL (New South Wales) . - I desire to add a few words to the agony inflicted upon the Senate by other speakers. I agree that this debate is a waste of time, and all my sympathies are with the President in having to sit and listen to it. A few remarks have fallen from honorable senators opposite during the debate which, I think, require an answer. I shall not make an outcry, as some have done, about the result of the referenda. I feel as Senator Gould felt last year, when he admitted that his party had been weighed in the balance, and found wanting. At the referenda we were weighed in the balance, and found very much wanting; but I am prepared to accept the verdict of the people on that occasion without offering any excuses for it. Senator Millen said that I had been making excuses for it ; but, as a matter of fact, I made none. Certain honorable senators opposite have referred to the manner in which some of the members of our party were nobbled on that occasion. They told us how poor Mr. Holman, Mr. Beeby, and Mr. McGowen were hobbled, shackled, and bound by a Labour Conference. I wish to say that if they were shackled and bound, it was only with a silken thread, which they might have burst at will. I, personally, should have been much better pleased if they had done so, and had openly and boldly proclaimed their opposition to the referenda proposals. Their silence was made good use of by the other side, from every Conservative platform in Australia, and through every journal opposed to the Labour party. I wish to say that they were not the only persons silenced, but we did not hear one word about the silencing of one of the brightest intellects in the New South Wales Parliament, who, though on the other side generally in politics, made a manly and straightforward speech in that Parliament in support of the referenda proposals. When I asked across the chamber how the party opposite nobbled Mr. David Fell, the honorable senator who was speaking, said, "Who is David Fell? I never heard of him." I say now that he is one of the brightest intellects in the New South Wales Parliament, and because he made a speech in favour of the referenda proposals, he was nobbled in some way. We have not been told how, and, in fact, nothing has been said on the subject, but we know that pressure was brought to bear upon that man in connexion with his business interests, and he was in that way compelled to keep silence. One of the strongest speeches made in favour of the proposals of the Labour party was made by him, and as some honorable senators opposite have not heard of that gentleman, or his speech, I shall read a little of it to show what sort of a speech it was. Mr. David Fell said-

Reference .has been made to the Federal referenda, and the Leader of the Opposition called upon members of the Government to declare themselves on that point. I do not know whether he wished any other honorable member to declare himself. But I should like to state here, without fear or favour, that I am prepared to declare myself. It is not the first time I have declared myself on the question nf the Federation as against the State. I believe that I am voicing the feeling of the majority of the people of Australia when I say that the Federation will be upheld before the State. If young Australians have any national sentiment, they recognise the greater potentialities of the Federation as against those of the State in which they live. If I am to be influenced by the statements of the Leader of the Opposition, who is also the leader of the party to which I belong, I must come to the conclusion that the Federal Parliament - and I am speaking of it as a Parliament in which to-day we may have a Labour Government and to-morrow some other Government - is composed, and likely to be composed, of the enemies of Australia. But I recognise that the people who sent me here also sent the representatives to the Federal Parliament, and on the principle that the greater includes the lesser, I assume that the members of the Federal Parliament, whilst they may view matters in broader perspective than we do, will also recognise the requirements of the State. I have never hesitated to tell my constituents that I am first for the Federation, secondly for the State, and thirdly for my constituency. So far as the referenda are concerned, I admit that. there is some strength in the argument of the Leader of the Opposition that it would have been much fairer to take four votes instead of one upon the questions submitted to the people. But whilst I have listened to the Leader of the Opposition, and I have read Mr. Deakin's manifesto, and Mr. Bruce Smith's letters, I have not come across any practical statement affording reasons why we should not consider some of the suggestions submitted to us by the Federal Government. I recognise that the Leader of the Opposition, viewing the matter from a legal and constitutional point of view, has it presented to him in an aspect which does not impress commercial men. But I would ask the honorable member whether it is not a fact that the conflict of opinion upon the subject of the Companies Act alone has led to tremendous expense and confusion. In New South Wales we have a Companies Act dealing with matters, which the Federal Government desire to control, which I say is a disgrace to our community. Although we have had' Government - after Government in power, not one of them has attempted to deal with that Act and put it on a proper basis. Then, again, in the matter of life insurance, for years past the public have been robbed; more or less, owing to defects in the Companies Act which are extremely irritating. Moreover, that Act does not give protection to bodies of individuals who form companies in New South Wales. At present companies formed and registered in Sydney, if they establish branches in other States, are treated as foreign companies. I would ask the public and the Leader of the Opposition whether under these circumstances he considers that the desire of the Federal Government to obtain power under the Federal Constitution to bring about conditions of uniformity in regard to company law is anything that we need feel any special concern about.

I shall not read any more of the speech. I have read sufficient to show that there was some one on the opposite side who was nobbled, not by a Conference, but by the operation of a force which would have compelled him to leave the State if he did not comply with the desires of certain people. I wish" to say a word or two about the way in which some of the members of the opposite party attempted to frighten the unthinking electors. One honorable gentleman, who is well known to us all, told the electors of South Australia that if the referenda proposals were carried, there would be a bloodier revolution in Australia than there was in France 100 years ago. In view of such statements made to unthinking people, and the terrible tales told of what the Labour party were going to do if they got the power, is it any wonder that their proposals were defeated ? I shall not further enlarge upon the matter. We got our gruel, and were prepared to take it standing up. There is another matter to which I should like to refer. Senator Millen read a resolution which he said was passed by the Sydney Labour Council, and spoken to by delegates from the union to which I belong. The honorable senator tried to show that the members of that union and the Labour party generally have always been against immigration, and have turned round now only because the present Government fear the people. I was one of those who, as honorary secretary of a large union in New South Wales, circularized England, and America with the object of preventing' people being brought out to Australia under false pretences. I am not ashamed of what I .did, and should do the same thing again to-morrow if the same necessity existed. We were told that Mort's Dock Company had applied to the Minister of External Affairs for permission to bring out mechanics. I interjected " with the approval of the unions." I wish to say that that great company recognised the boilermakers' union. Before going to the Minister of External Affairs, they asked the union for their approval of a scheme for bringing mechanics into the State of New South Wales. They secured the approval of the union, but they did so under false pretences. They said that they were in need of a certain number of mechanics, and in this connexion I shall read some extracts which may serve to explain the situation. By the way, I have an extract here from the Sydney Daily Telegraph, which leads me to say that the authorities of that journal should, under the existing law of the State of New South Wales, be brought before the Court for attempting to provoke a strike. I quote the following from that newspaper -

BOILERMAKERS MAY STRIKE.

compi.aints of Unemployment. "Rough Weather and Rust."

The word " strike " was freely used at the last meeting of the Boilermakers Union in connexion with the position of the men employed by the Railway Department at Eveleigh, whoare waiting for a Wages Board decision. It was decided eventually to wait upon the Premier in regard to the matter. If no settlement results from this course a special meeting will be held to consider the next step to be taken.

I have read that to show what some of the newspapers will do to try to stir up strife amongst trade unions. The statement made was an absolute falsehood, because the union to which I belong never talked, or even thought of striking against the Railways Commissioners. As I have said, the authorities of this journal should be cited before the Industrial Disputes Court for publishing such a statement. The next extract is the one to which 1 wish specially to refer -

Members expressed indignation at the report that the Minister for External Affairs had granted permission for boilermakers to be brought from overseas while a number of mcmbers of the union were out of work. It was stated that Mr. Cutler, superintendent of Cockatoo Island Dock, had said 400 boilermakers were required, and eight days afterwards had put off 40; and that Mr. Franki, manager of Mort's Dock, had stated 100 men were wanted, and had obtained permission to obtain 87. During the fortnight the foremen at Mort's Dock had discharged over 60 boilermakers, and 20 members had left on clearance for the other States in order to seek work. "We depend on rough weather and rust," remarked one member. " Our work only lasts for a week or two, and then we are out of work again." Some new arrivals complained that they had been deceived as to the amount of work offering, and they intended to go back to Britain as soon as possible.

When one hundred mechanics are placed on the unemployed list in Sydney alone, is there any wonder that they carry a resolution such as that referred to by Senator Millen ? Had it not been for the action of the Labour Government, who are doing their best to foster this much-needed industry of iron ship-building in Australia, there would have been a great dearth of employment in that line to-day. The Government to which Senator Millen belonged intended to have these vessels built, not in Australia, ' but in another land. The present Government have shown that they possess some stamina by declaring that they intend to give Australian workmen a chance. When, in the near future, the material has been landed, there will be plenty of work for mechanics in the trades and callings I have referred to. Can any one wonder that men embittered by hunger and the want of clothing for their offspring carry resolutions of this description ? It is unfair and unjust for honorable senators on the other side to criticise the action of those who are compelled by want of employment to act in that way. We have heard during this debate, and Senator McColl has just told us, that there is room in Australia for thousands of men. So there is, but the States are not bringing in the right class. They are bringing in men for whom there are no places here. There is a class coming to Australia to-day who are being thrown on the labour market. Perhaps an extract from a Tory newspaper in Sydney will explain the position better to honorable senators opposite better than I could do. It reads as follows -

" WANTED, A CLERK."

A Rush of Applicants. immigrants to the fore.

There is rather more than a suspicion that a fair percentage of the immigrants now regularly arriving from the Motherland are simply and solely city men and youths, who have no intention of faring forth into the country to engage in primary production.

Striking proof of this discomforting fact was afforded by experience of a Sydney business man last week. He was desirous of adding to his clerical staff, and advertised for a young gentleman, applications to be made in writing addressed to the office of a newspaper. The day on which notification appeared, his accountant called for and received replies numbering some scores. Next day there were many more, and, altogether, over 200 disengaged young men made known their willingness to accept the post, practically at any salary that might be fixed. " I was astonished, and not a little grieved," said the advertiser, in conversation, with present writer, " to discover that the larger proportion of the applicants were immigrants - five-sixths of them, in fact. Their letters were, for the most part, well written in commercial style, indicating that their claims to be regarded as trained men were well founded. As it happened, I wanted a local man, or a man with knowledge of local conditions, and I could do nothing for any of the poor fellows." "You did not see any of them?" " Yes, one, as I thought by the brevity of his note that he was a Sydney resident, and his business-like style impressed me. He told me things which I was very sorry to hear. He and many others like him had been induced to try_ their luck in this country, only to find on arrival that the opportunities of getting billets for which they are suited are few and far between. I learned as much from the letters of the applicants which I received, and it would seem that there is something radically wrong. Goodness knows, we rear more than enough clerks for our requirements, and we don't want to import more from the old land." "But did these immigrants not come here with the intention of entering into agricultural work ?" "Not so far as I can discover. Their letters give no hint of any such intention, and that one man I saw told me that he had been assured there were plenty of openings in Sydney, that business was booming, and so on." " And how are these immigrant-clerks getting on?"

This is the part which explains the matter. From New South Wales I have received plenty of proof of the statement - " I have heard," said our informant, " that a number have been taken on in various establishments at what is called a ' commencing salary,' and the old hands have been displaced. Others of the new comers have swallowed their pride, and whatever pretensions they may have had, and taken jobs as kitchen men, pantry boys, housemen, and so on. There is always a demand for this class of domestic labour, and it insures a home and food, if nothing else."

That extract, taken from one of the Tory newspapers in Sydney, shows the state of the market so far as that class of labour is concerned. Something should be done. We, as a Labour party, say that we are pleased that men,, women and children should come to this country and engage in the primary industries, but we contend that if any Government imports men of the description I have mentioned into our towns, it can only be regarded as a menace to the Labour movement and an attempt to lower wages. I think that Senator Millen might well excuse the Labour Council for carrying the resolution, because they knew too well the consequences which flow from the introduction of such persons. We can realize that employment must be scarce in some parts of Australia when recently employers found 300, 400, and 500 men at a time in Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales to take the place of the men on strike in Queensland - men who were simply asking for a living wage, and who had worked, in ray opinion, for a starvation wage. When we find that hundreds of men in Australia are willing to " scab " on their fellow-men at the time of a strike, we say that employment is scarce, at all events in that line. I will admit that there is a scarcity of labour in some trades, but you cannot get skilled artisans in those trades to come here when they can get better wages in other countries. In Canada, for instance, a skilled mechanic gets 35 or 40 per cent, better wages than he could get here, notwithstanding all the boom we have, while in South Africa a skilled mechanic receives 25 per cent, more than the wages paid in Australia. You can not expect practical mechanics in the Old Country to come to Australia when they can go to other parts of the world and get from 25 to 35 per cent, better wages than are paid here. I trust that whatever may be done in the matter of advertising in the Old Country, it will be made pretty . plain that there is no room in Australia for men of that description. So long as they come to Australia we are always willing to hold out the hand of fellowship and treat them as brothers, but we say that there is no work for them here, no openings, no opportunities, and we would rather that they stayed away. The Leader of the Opposition must have had a very poor case to bring against the proposals of the Government in this Speech when he could only find small matters in connexion with our defence system to speak about, when he could only tell us, for instance, about the terrible tragedy at Mittagong, when four of our young soldiers fainted on one day. I have watched the progress of this movement in the district where I live, and there is nothing harmful to the lads in the drill. Everything depends upon the character of the area officer or the men who are put in charge of the lads. The principle of the man who is in charge of the area where I live is to appeal to the hearts of the lads, and he succeeds. After the drill is over you will see a couple of hundred lads going home with the officer, so well do they like him. A man of this description acts sensibly when youngsters begin to quarrel on parade. It has been reported that someawful offences have been committed in some districts, and that the offending lads have been hauled up to the Courts and fined. But the officer I refer to is not a man of that type. He simply takes the lads round the corner and lets them finish the quarrel. When an officer will enter with his whole heart into the spirit of the thing and teach the lads that drilling is a privilege everything will be well with the system. Senator McColl has referred to the awful crime of herding the boys together. He forgets the object of the association.


Senator McColl - I only referred to boys of fourteen years of age.


Senator McDOUGALL - Between a boy of fourteen years of age and a boy of seventeen years of age there is not much difference.


Senator McColl - When a boy is sixteen he knows differently.


Senator McDOUGALL - That Is not the trouble. The trouble is that a son of a privileged family in Australia is compelled to take his place in the front fighting line with the son of the merest labourer.


Senator McColl - That is right.


Senator McDOUGALL - That is the trouble. The lads have to stand together, and those who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth think that they are placed in an inferior position when they are required to mix with the sons of labourers, and the sons of poor widows. If this military training will do one thing it will help to stamp out that feeling of caste which has prevailed so long here, and which has ruined other lands. I desired to see in Australia an Army different from that of the Old Land. I wanted to see a citizen force from which caste would disappear, but I am sorry to say that it is slowly and surely making headway. To-day, if a man does not happen to be in a select social circle, no matter how good he is, no matter what examination he has passed or how clever he is, he finds it three or ten times harder to get promotion than does a man who mixes in society circles. I give a note of warning to the Government that, if they want to insure the success of the scheme that differential treatment must be wiped out. It is said that we cannot find any Australians to man our Fleet. It is hard to bring Australians down to what men have to stand in the Navy of the Old Land and other navies. It is hard to break the spirit of the Australian. But let him know that he is in exactly the same position as the best on the vessel, though holding a humbler position in life; let him know that one man is as good as another, and you will find that the Australian will be ever ready to take his place in the front fighting line, not only on the land, but at sea. I hope the Government will do something to render it possible for the sons of working men to rise from the ranks. Of course, it is not impossible for them to do so at present, but very few working men are able so to educate their sons that they can, under present conditions, rise to the highest positions in the Australian Army. I do not intend to add further to the debate, and should not have spoken at all except for the assertions made as to the position of the trade unions in Sydney in regard to the immigration proposals of the Government.







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