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Thursday, 14 September 1911


Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) -3'l- - After such bloodthirsty sentiments as we have just heard from Senator Hae, it might be a>> well to get back to the matters dealt with in the GovernorGeneral's Speech. The honorable senator appears to have been worrying over the fact that a certain number of members who said they would go to Papua afterwards decided not to go.


Senator Rae - It did not worry me ; we were tetter without them.


Senator CHATAWAY - The honorable senator first complains that certain persons did not go, and then says that they were better without them. The Department of External Affairs supplied the honorable senator with a list of the names of those who said they were going to take part in the trip, and it is a rather remarkable fact that, according to the list, more Labour representatives dropped out of the trip 10 Papua than members representing the other side. The reason I dropped out at the very last moment was because I received an official letter from the Department of External Affairs notifying that the trip originally arranged to visit thirteen or fourteen stations in Papua had been abandoned, and making it appear that we were to go only to three or four trading stations that had been settled for a long time. In the circumstances, it seemed to me to be a waste of money to make the trip. I should like to add something to what Senator Rae has said in connexion with loans. The honorable senator mentioned the enormous amount of money that Australia owes, but he forgot to say that, of that amount, ;£i 47,000,000 is invested in railways, and that, for the last five years, they have paid over 4 per cent, on the money borrowed for their construction. In addition to that, it should be borne in mind that they have been the means of opening up and settling the country, and in this way the different State Governments have secured a substantial revenue from land settlement.


Senator Rae - I do not deny that.


Senator CHATAWAY - One thing is very clear, and it is this, that had we not borrowed in the past to build our railways, our Australia would still be practically unpopulated. 1 think that the GovernorGeneral's Speech very properly puts Empire questions in the forefront. A good deal of interest has been excited by the report of an interview which the editor of the Review of Reviews is alleged to have had with the Prime Minister. I do not take any exception to the reports of that interview, except in so far as the earlier part of the Prime Minister's statement is concerned, suggesting that there is no constitutional connexion between Australia and the Old Country. That appears to me to be incorrect. The other part of the interview does not indicate a desire on the part of the Prime Minister to haul down the Union Jack. I think that the honorable gentleman expressed himself, as Mr. Stead has said, in terms that were neither novel nor original. Sir Wilfrid Laurier nasi spoken in the same way. and Lord Derby said, many years ago, that the Colonies were like fruit on a tree, and would drop away from the parent tree as soon as the fruit was ripe. There are different conceptions as to the way in which the Empire will develop, and it is felt that a time will come when we shall not only be taking an interest in the Old Country, but become partners with the Old Country in foreign affairs affecting the integrity of the Empire. Why so many apologies should have been made for the very simple statements uttered by the Prime Minister, I cannot conceive. I notice that Senator Rae quoted very largely from newspapers, and I should like now to quote some remarks which were published in the Labour Call on the 22nd July, 191 1 -

The report of the interview with Andy Fisher just before leaving the Fog City, wherein he stated a few straightout facts re the Hempire, has staggered the spineless boodleistic press that is at present attempting by lies and corruption to run Australia. This is how Andy puts it : - " We recognise that our territory is subject to attack by England's enemy, and if we were threatened we should have to decide whether to defend ourselves, or, if wc thought that the war was unjust and England's enemy in the right, we should haul down the Union Jack, hoist our own flag, and start on our own." No doubt the Labour leader had the episode of the infamous Boer war in his mind's eye. Why should Australia be dragged into any war without having a say in it as to its merits? Better go down fighting on its own than be butchered at an English syndicate's behest - who may be after another land grab? or a war that is started by the capitalistic crowd to divert the workers' attention from the betterment of the toilers' lives.

If that represents the views of any considerable number of _ Laborites, I ask why the indignation with which Mr. Hughes and others denied that the Prime Minister uttered statements attributed to him, which, as I say, may not have been very wise, but certainly were perfectly correct, to Mr. Stead of the Review of Reviews) Another statement "appearing in the GovernorGeneral's Speech which .gives a great deal of satisfaction is that the representatives of the outside Dominions of the Empire have been taken more fully than before, very fully indeed, into the confidence of the Imperial authorities. The Labour Call on that subject says -

The daily liars announced in solemn cold print that the " dominions over . the sea " had been taken into confidence of the Imperial authorities, and that the secrets of the Hempire had been divulged to them, and the old girl " Argoose " devoted a leader to the subject, saying what a great thing it was to be in the know - dontcherknow - as to what was going on in international affairs. She even went so far as to say that Andy Fisher was an honorable man, and for sure would not tell the Germans what the English were doing or about to do. A bolt from the blue took place a week or two afterwards in the shape of an announcement that a fresh treaty had been made with Japan, to last ten years after the expiration of the present one, which falls due about 1915. Evidently Prime Minister Fisher knew nothing about it, and Acting-Prime Minister Hughes swears it was all done in the dark. So much for the " tommy rot " about the oversea dominions being consulted re treaties with other nations. The Commonwealth would be thrown over like a rotten orange if the yellow man's trade looked like better "biz" to the bulky boodlers of London ; or if it suited them the White Australia policy would be rendered as ineffective as the attempts to lift the " submerged tenth" of London out of the rut of starvation.

Apparently, the writer in the Labour Call was not taken into the confidence of the Government, because, although we are not told that the Government approve of the renewal of the Japanese treaty, we are assured that it means something in the direction of securing the peace of the world. There is one matter upon which I think, differing possibly with some of my honorable friends on this side, the Government deserve some congratulation. I refer to the question of immigration. I might read a further quotation from the Labour Call on the subject of immigration, but, whatever may be said, there is,. I think, no doubt that the present Federal Government have done more to stimulate immigration than any previous Government. For instance, the Prime Minister, when interviewed in London, said some things on the subject which

I think were very satisfactory. Mr. Fisher was asked, in the course of the interview - " What are the prospects of the average working man who is thinking of going out to Australia?"

He said - " Excellent, without doubt. He need never be afraid of getting work to do, so long as he is willing and able to do it. Mind you, I do not say he will be able to pick and choose. Far from it. But I know in my own trade - mining - that there is a continual demand for good men from 10s. a day upwards. It is much the same in other branches of industry; a good tradesman need never be out of work." " What class of people would you advise to go to Australia then?" " Every one who is dissatisfied with his present position in England. Of course, we mainly want people who are willing to settle on the land, and there is also a very good opening for manufacturers ; but in any case they will all get a welcome. Australia is big enough to take millions of the right sort of people, but at the same time I would strongly caution people not to come out without a little money." " How do wages in Australia compare with wages in England?" " They are a good deal higher. In some trades they are fully twice as much as in England, but of course vary considerably all over Australia. Carpenters, bricklayers, miners, are a few which might be instanced as well-paid men."

Mr. Fisherwas asked whether the cost of living was dearer in Australia, and he said - " Well, house rent may be a little higher, but food is very much cheaper. Look at it this way. We ship large quantities of meat, fruit, wheat, and butter to England every year. Surely they ought to be much cheaper in the country they are produced in !"

The report continues - "Are there many unemployed in Australia?" " No, the percentage is the lowest in the . world. Every country, of course, has a certain number who won't work. But in Australia a man can always get agricultural work at 20s. a week and his keep."


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He made a mistake there.


Senator Henderson - In any case, there is nothing to boast of in that.


Senator CHATAWAY - The interview goes on - " Do you prefer living in Australia to Britain, Mr. Fisher?" "Yes, certainly I do. Australia has been very good to me, and I think it is an ideal working man's country. You see, Australia is so sparsely settled that a man does not get the tierce competition existing in older countries."


Senator de Largie - All of us say the same.


Senator CHATAWAY - Just so. I read those passages to show that, as far as he could encourage immigration to Australia, Mr. Fisher did some excellent work. I should like to refer to a mistake that I think has been made in the expenditure of between ,£3,000 and £4,000 on a poster representing a girl standing amidst a quantity of wattle blossom. A copy of the poster is now, by the courtesy of the Government and the President of the Senate, on view in the Queen's Hall. It is fairly large, and it ought to be large at the price. The lettering underneath the picture is, " Australia : Home of the Golden Wattle offers the advantages of old lands with the opportunities of the new. For information about Australia apply to the High Commissioner," &c. I do not think that a sum of upwards of £$,000 has been wisely expended on a picture of that kind. It creates the impression in the Old Country, that the women out here either have nothing to do, and loaf about among flowers, and so forth, or else that we have a very large number of women who want to get married, and are not fit for domestic duties. I have ascertained that the cost of putting up the poster on 750 stands, where it is to remain for six months, amounts to 13s. 6d. per stand. I have worked it out at something over £3,000. I went to a printer in Melbourne, and tried to ascertain the cost of producing 600 posters, the printing on which could be altered every week. I had not seen this particular poster at the time, but I ascertained that the cost would come to about 3.3d. per stand per copy instead of 13s. 6d. I think that in this instance money has been wasted. One other matter that the Government has done to encourage immigration is, on the whole, satisfactory. They have administered the law in respect to contract immigrants with a reasonable amount of liberality. Since the beginning of the present year something like 768 contract immigrants have been admitted into Australia, including, amongst others, 85 boiler-makers, 20 riveters, 24 shirtmakers, 30 furniture hands, 20 machinists for mantle-making, and a number of others who may be classed generally as ironworkers, blacksmiths, and so on, in addition to 400 men for the sugar industry. While on that point, I must say that I think that the Government ought to be more prompt in sending replies to people who apply for leave to introduce workmen under contract. I know of a case in which per mission was asked, through the Premier of Queensland, to introduce two men. Ultimately the Premier of the State had to wire to the Commonwealth Government, asking when he would get a reply to a letter which he had sent on the subject. I cooled my heels outside the doors of the External Affairs Department for over a week, but unless the reply has gone very recently to the Premier of Queensland, there has been no answer yet. In matters of that kind more prompt attention should be given to honorable senator?. There is another direction in which the Government might be a little more liberal. This also concerns the Immigration Restriction Act. I do not now refer to the case of Hop Gooey, which has attracted a good deal of public attention, but to another case arising in Queensland. Application was made by a woman who has lived in that State for many years, and who is a naturalized British subject, though she is a native of Constantinople. She owns a farm and a business-place in Queensland, and, being very old, she applied that her son and his wife and child, who are Europeans and living in Constantinople, might be allowed to come to Australia and take the business from her. If the Government set them an education test in the Turkish language there is not the slightest doubt that they would be able to pass. But the Minister will not give them permission to come. I think that this is carrying the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act too far. If these persons came to Australia without permission, it is well known that the Department could set them a test in Russian or some other language which it was known they would not be able to pass. The case is that of a woman named Mrs. Abood. Another point to which I should like to direct attention is that a large number of orders for goods is being sent to England because the things cannot be made here, owing to shortage of labour. I know of a case in which a firm had been paying £1,500 a year for tweeds imported from England. It is now paying £4,000. I have a list of the contracts entered into by other firms in relation to collarmaking, and so forth. In every instance the reason given is that orders cannot be executed here because there are not sufficient hands capable of doing that class of work. Turning to financial matters, I wish to point out that the Senate has practically left finance alone for a long time, and Parliament, as a whole, has dealt very meagrely with the subject. . We know that our expenditure is going up by leaps and bounds, and that our revenue is also increasing, but we also know perfectly well that the revenue cannot continue to go up in anything like the same proportion as the expenditure is increasing. The question of the transferred properties has yet to be settled. It is absolutely absurd that we should take it upon ourselves and the Commonwealth to use properties which belong to the States, and leave the States to pay interest upon them. Virtually we live in houses which have been built by the States, and pay no rent for them. The matter is really urgent. It is all very well to say that the money comes out of the same people's pockets, but if that be so, why does not the Commonwealth pay the interest on the debts of the States? Why leave the States to pay the interest, whilst we occupy the property on which the borrowed money has been spent? The proposal is now made that we should pay the States 3 per cent, on account of the loans for which they are paying 3J per cent. We are to offer them \ per cent, as a sinking fund. That would produce £100 - that is the capital value - in sixty years, whilst the loans on which the States are paying interest will probably mature in the next fifteen or twenty years. Another matter of finance which should engage our attention illustrates the necessity of putting such matters as the lending of money in connexion with the note issue reserve fund in the hands of a commission of experts. The Commonwealth has offered to lend money to the States, but the rates fixed are such that it does not pay the States to borrow. Queensland recently floated a 31 per cent, loan in London, and realized £,94 19s. 6d. nett per cent. The Commonwealth offered a loan to Queensland at 3! per cent, at par, which would have produced ,£93 6s. Sd. per cent., so that we have the curious position that it was cheaper for Queensland to go to " the Hebrews," " the boodliers," or whatever else honorable senators opposite may call them, of London, than to borrow from the Commonwealth Government, for Queensland made a profit of £1 12s. 6d. per cent, by doing so. In connexion with the Defence Department, I wish to clear up what appears to be a misconception in the Governor-General's Speech, where it is inferred that the present naval policy of the Commonwealth is the policy of this Government, and not of the preceding one. I need only refer to Hansard of the 1st December, 1909, where is reported the debate which took place in the House of Representatives just after Colonel Foxton's return from Great Britain. On that occasion, Mr. Fisher, the present Prime Minister, said, as to the proposals of the then Government. " I give them my support." Mr. Fisher said, in another part of his speech -

I am therefore in entire agreement wilh the general line of policy which the Government have proposed, although I am entirely opposed to the position taken up by them in regard to the method of raising the money.

If the present Government say that the naval policy, for which they claim credit, is simply one of how the money is to be raised. I am quite willing that their claim should be allowed ; but it is clear that the idea that Australia should have a Naval Unit, with big sea-going vessels, forming a portion of the Imperial Navy, was never decided upon until the Conference for which Colonel Foxton went to England took place. The proposal of the previous Labour Government was that we should be provided with a mosquito fleet. Their policy was that we should defend Australia pure and simple, and not attempt to maintain a naval force which could strike a blow outside our own waters. To-day, they favour the formation of a fleet which will be fitted to take part in the battles of the Empire, if ever the necessity for it to do so should unfortunately arise. In connexion with the system of compulsory training, I note that some little difficulty has been experienced with members of the Cadet Force, and I would suggest that it would be better if, instead of prosecuting cadets for smoking cigarettes, or for being rude to their officers, the Government prosecuted those persons who have printed objectionable leaflets, and distributed them amongst the lads - leaflets preaching insurbordination and disloyalty. Quite recently a boy in Brisbane was fined £1 and costs for a trifling breach of discipline, and that money would probably have to be paid by his parents.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - How about Senator McColl, who preached the gospel of insurbordination last night?


Senator CHATAWAY - The Government cannot prosecute Senator McColl for what he may say in this Chamber.


Senator Pearce - But it is a bad example for him to set.


Senator CHATAWAY - Just so. All I say is that the Government ought not to prosecute boys for insubordination until they have attempted to punish the adults who seek to stir up insurbordination amongst them. When the Prime Minister was asked whether he would cause a prosecution to be instituted against such persons in Sydney, he said that he hardly thought they were worth the shot. I do not agree with him. We have to recollect, too, that the fostering of insurbordination is absolutely forbidden by Statute. I come now to another matter. It is extremely to be regretted that the Minister of Trade and Customs has not been better advised as to the manner in which he should have dealt with the question of moisture in butter. First of all, he fixed the standard at 14 per cent, instead of 16 per cent., but eventually he compromised on 15 per cent. If the newspaper reports be correct, the reason why he has fixed 15 per cent, as the standard is because in England the standard of 16 per cent, is not compulsory. To my mind, the proper method of dealing with this matter is to adopt the system which is in vogue on the Continent. There, dairies are graded according to the quantity of moisture contained in the butter which' they manufacture, and diplomas .are issued to them accordingly. For instance, in Sweden, there is one class of dairy which sends out butter the moisture in which does not exceed 15 per cent., another class sends out butter in which the moisture varies from 15 to 15.8 per cent., and still a third class produces butter which contains more than 15.8 per cent, of moisture. The butter mark is withheld from all consignments containing more than 16 per cent, of water. These steps have been taken in order to insure that Swedish butter for export shall comply with the requirements of the English law. No"w the alteration which has been brought about by the Minister of Trade and Customs is costing the butter producers of the Commonwealth £75,000 annually.


Senator Pearce - When a similar proposal was made in regard to apples, a strong protest was entered against it by the apple growers.


Senator CHATAWAY - According to the latest figures available, there are only nine Swedish dairies possessing certificates in the first grade, there are twenty-eight in the second grade, and no less than 118 in the third grade.


Senator Pearce - That shows that our standard is not a very rigid one.


Senator CHATAWAY - The maximum of moisture in butter allowed by the Minister is equal to the maximum fixed in connexion with the very best dairy in Sweden.

I wish now to congratulate the Government upon having at last decided to appoint a Commission to inquire into the conditions which obtain in the sugar industry. Had they appointed a Commission such as was originally proposed, probably the industrial disturbance which we have witnessed in Queensland recently would have been avoided. On the 1st June last, I wrote a letter to the Minister of Trade and Customs in which I pointed out to him that the power to regulate wages paid in the cane-fields rested with him, whilst the power to regulate the wages paid in the factories rested with the Wages Board, and that the Board at that time was actually sitting. I also dwelt upon the practical difficulties in the way of working three shifts a day immediately, and invited him to assist in preventing the trouble - which had only just commenced - from spreading. I informed him that I thought we could patch up an arrangement which would carry us on to the end of the year. I may tell honorable senators that the proposal which I had in my mind at the time was practically that which has now been adopted. I can only express my regret that the postal facilities were not sufficiently good to enable my communication to reach Mr. Tudor, because I have not had any acknowledgment of it. During the course of this debate something has been said to the effect that the men on strike were only asking for a miserable pittance of 30s. a week and their keep. In a quotation which I made from a speech delivered by Mr. Fisher in London, he refers to agricultural labourers, who are in receipt of 20s. per week and their keep.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The wages alter very much at harvest time.


Senator CHATAWAY - I am speaking of the minimum wage. I hold in my hand a list of the wages paid in the Marian Central Mill, a list taken from the mill paysheet. It sets out the wages paid to the various men in its employ, and is as follows : -

 

 

As a matter of fact, very few of these men were receiving less than the wage for which they asked.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Does the honorable senator know any part of Australia in which carpenters and plumbers get such low wages ?


Senator CHATAWAY - The carpenters mentioned in the list which I have read are not tradesmen in the real sense of the word. On the 17 th June last the Wages Board in Queensland issued a list of the wages paid, which corresponds almost exactly with that which I have quoted. I am aware that an amended list was issued on the 19th August, under which the wages of the few individuals who were previously paid 25s. a week, with keep, were raised to 30s. a week, with keep. I know, too, that the system which is in vogue at Proserpine and other mills, where men work ten hours a day, but are paid so much per hour for eight hours, and time and a quarter for every additional hour, has been adopted at other mills.


Senator Mcdougall - What about the wages paid to the general labourer in the mills ?


Senator CHATAWAY - The honorable senator must know that I have quoted the wages paid to the general labourer.


Senator McDougall - I was through the very mill of which the honorable senator speaks, while on my way to Papua.


Senator CHATAWAY - The worst, paid men in the mills are those who feed the cane to the rollers. The next worst paid are the men who serve in the megass loft.


Senator McDougall - How many men are getting £1 a week, with their keep?


Senator CHATAWAY - Every one of those employed in the mills.


Senator McDougall - No; they told us that they were not.


Senator CHATAWAY - I cannot help what they said. There is the Wages Board decision, and it is idle for the honorable senator to contradict me in that very abrupt fashion. If I were to declare that a member of this Parliament was not receiving his parliamentary allowance, and Senator McDougall replied, " There is the Statute, which says that he shall get it," what would be the use of my retorting, " Oh ! but he does not get it " ? T hope that the Government will lose no time in getting the Sugar Commission to work. I trust, too, that it will consist of men who are independent of all political parties. To ascertain how the profits of the industry are divided between the mills, the refineries, and the workers, is largely a matter of accountancy, and can be settled only by good business men. I am perfectly willing that this' question should be ventilated from top to bottom. Only a couple of years ago the Colonial Sugar Refining Company expressed its strong desire that an investigation should be made into its affairs, so that it can be seen that it comes with clean hands before the public. There has been so much stated in the Melbourne newspapers about this sugar business that one thing has been forgotten, and that is that Australia is not producing sufficient sugar at present, although I believe it will do so before very long, to supply the whole of its requirements. Consequently, a certain quantity of sugar has to be imported and to pay a duty of £6 per ton. It is utterly unreasonable to suppose that a company will import a quantity of sugar at that duty and then sell at £3 or £4 per ton less than the cost price. It may be worth while here for me to read a cablegram which appeared in the London Times of the nth August, from its Sydney correspondent -

There is grave danger, should a strike break out, that it will result in a general upheaval. Strong comments are made on the anomalous position of Mr. Hughes, who is Federal AttorneyGeneral and also honorary secretary to the Waterside Union, but Mr. Hughes is using all his influence to prevent the strike from spreading.

That was just about the time when the AttorneyGeneral proceeded to call out the Waterside Workers' Union in connexion with certain matters, in order to try to force the position of the employers in the sugar industry. If the Government want to see that industry put on a sound and nonpolitical basis, they will appoint a nonpolitical Commission to go into the matter thoroughly. I venture to say that there is no organization - whether it be the Sugar Workers' Union, which is a Labour union, or the Cane-growers Union of Bundaberg, or the Sugar Producers' Association, or the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or some of the manufacturers associations - which will throw the least obstacle in the way of the whole industry being inquired into from top to bottom ; and I think that the sooner it is done the better.

Question resolved in the affirmative.







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