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Thursday, 14 May 1914

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) .- We have often heard the superstitious saying that thirteen is an" unlucky number, and it seems to me that the number "thirteen" on this document, which is called the Governor-General's Speech, is likely to become an unlucky number for the gentlemen who at present occupy the Ministerial bench. Honorable senators may have noticed that, during the last few days, the journal whose support is largely responsible for the present Government being in power has begun to beat its own joss; and, whilst many of us find it difficult to follow that journal, which we admit to be powerful in influencing and moulding public opinion in this State, at least, we must admit that some of the criticisms passed on Ministers within the last few days are certainly deserved. I speak as a Protectionist.

Senator Millen - You sat silent for three years.

Senator O'KEEFE - I was not silent for three years. From the very first time I had the honour to put my foot inside this chamber, in 1901, I have always stood for the best kind of Protection for Australia, and a reference to Hansard of those early days of the Federation will bear me out in saying that I have always been a staunch Protectionist, asking for the best Protection I could get by legislation and administration, and for the New Protection every time.

Senator Millen - You are a militant Protectionist when you are in Opposi tion, and as mild as a tame duck when your party is in office.

Senator O'KEEFE - If the honorable senator can get any change out of it, I will admit that I was not satisfied with the attitude of the Labour Government in regard to Protection, and the honorable senator knows that many members supporting his Government are not satisfied with what the present Ministry are doing. Since 1901, the people of Australia have, time after time declared that there should be a thoroughly effective Protective policy for Australia. Yet, what do we find when we look at the statistics available to the end of last year ? I have taken the trouble to cull a list of the chief articles of import during the last two years, and, whilst I admit that for the year ended 31st December, 1913, some of the main lines of imports show a decrease as compared with 1912, I contend, and I am satisfied that the majority of Australians will agree, that that decrease is not great enough. We have been long enough established as a Federation, with power to impose a thoroughly Protective policy for Australia, to have reduced that volume of imports in far larger measure than we have done. I find that, in the year 1913, the value of goods imported into Australia totalled £79,743,540, whilst, for the year 1912, the imports were valued at £78,158,000, an increase in 1913 of over £1,000,000.

Senator Millen - That was the time Senator Findley was in office.

Senator O'KEEFE - It is instructive to pick out a few of the items which comprise the main imports. Boots and shoes, other than goloshes, sandshoes, and other rubber boots, to the value of £433,000 were imported in 1912, whilst, in 1913, the value was £495,000, an increase of about £62,000 in the value of imports in that one line of goods alone.

Senator Millen - Your Government did nothing to stop it.

Senator O'KEEFE - The honorable senator cannot turn aside the gravity of the charge by saying, " You are another; your Government did not do anything."

Senator Millen - I have shown the hypocrisy of your complaint. You remained silent for three years while the Labour Government were in office, and now you are attacking us.

Senator O'KEEFE - The Minister of Defence is trying to draw the proverbial red herring across the trail. I find that in the imports of piece goods : woollens, flannels, there was a decrease of about £1,000 for the year 1913, the value being £16,756 as against £17,719 for the previous year. There was also a small decrease in the importations of blankets and blanketing for 1913 as compared, with the imports for 1912, the value being £35,869 and £42,656 respectively. Rugs, n.e.i., likewise showed a decrease. I come now to a large item of apparel - that of hats and caps - in respect of which we ought to have a very big local production. In 1912, however, £447,800 worth were imported, whilst last year the value of the imports was £503,482, an .increase of nearly £56,000. Our imports of apparels of fur in 1912 were valued at £69,853, whereas in 1913 they increased to £76,525. The imports of apparel and attire, n.e.i., in 1912 amounted to £1,978,770, whereas the figures for last year were £1,875,231. I am pleased to notice that the local production in this line of manufacture has increased, although to only a small extent. In the local production of boots and shoes in 1912 there was an increase of about £100,000 as compared with the returns for the previous year, the figures for 1911 being £3,713,948 as against £3,819,371 for 1912. The apparent advance, however, is largely accounted for by the increase in the prices of raw material, and, to some extent, by the increased rates of wages. The local production of woollen, cotton, and tweed mills in 1911 was £860,789, whereas in 1912 the value increased to £930,485. The increase also is to be largely accounted for by the increased price of raw materials and the increased rates of wages. The local production of hats and caps in 1912 was valued at £830,746, as compared with £768,416 for the previous year. The full figures for last year are not yet to hand. Coming to clothing, tailoring and slop goods, we find that in 1912 the value of the local production was £5,807,431 as against £5,486,388 in 1911. There was a small advance in the local output of dressmaking and millinery, but the increase in the cost of raw material and wages will account for it. The same remark will apply to the figures relating to ties and scarfs. There is only one other item to which I desire to refer in detail, and it is one that is of vast importance to Australia. The great timber industry has not received the encouragement that it deserves. It extends over the greater part of the Commonwealth, and gives employment to large numbers of people.; but the volume of our imports of softwoods and hardwoods is much larger than it should be, having regard to the magnificent variety and the extent of our timber resources.

Senator Findley - We have the finest woods in the world, and yet the present Government believe in imported timbers.

Senator Millen - Why did not the late Government alter the Tariff?

Senator O'KEEFE - We are told in the Governor-General's Speech that -

The Inter-State Commission is engaged considering the Tariff question. My Ministers look forward with great hope to the labours of the Commission in regard to this important and difficult matter.

The Government are looking forward with "great hope" to the labours of the Commission. That is the only comfort which they hold out' to the people of Australia.

Senator Millen - When the Labour Government brought in the revised timber duties why did they not make matters right so far as this industry was concerned ?

Senator Findley - Because the honorable senator and his crowd voted against the duties.

Senator Millen - We did not vote against them.

Senator O'KEEFE - The present Government are looking forward with " great hope " to the efforts of the Inter state Commission. We are to receive the reports of the Commission " later on " - not this year but later on, in years to come. According to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs, we cannot expect to obtain any progress report from the Inter-State Commission. It would be improper, we are told, to interfere with thai tribunal in any way. But I take it there would be no impropriety in asking for progress reports, to enable this Parliament from time to time to rectify Tariff anomalies. This Parliament, after all, is the tribunal which will have to deal with the Tariff when the recommendations of the Commission are to hand. In voting for the Inter-State Commission Bill I recognised that one of the duties of the Commission would be to inquire into Tariff matters, but I did not imagine for a moment that it would not only have assigned to it practically the duty of framing a Tariff, but the power to say that there should be no alteration of it until it saw fit to report. The pre-, sent Government, however, have stated freely that the Commission cannot be interfered with, and that we cannot expect to receive any progress reports until evidence has been taken in all the States. Having regard to its present rate of progress, and the infinite variety of details into which it is inquiring, I do not think we shall receive, for at least two years, any reports that will enable us to rectify anomalies.

Senator Guthrie - The Commission ought not to have been created.

Senator O'KEEFE - The Constitution contemplated its* appointment to discharge certain functions in the interests of Australia; but it was- never contemplated that the Commission would devote the whole of its time to Tariff' investigation. For all I know to the contrary, it may be attending simultaneously to other matters of importance. The Commission has been sitting for about a year, but we do npt yet know when it will present the smallest progress report on which the Government can base a proposal to Parliament for the rectification of anomalies.

Senator Ready - And the Commission is keeping no record of the evidence given before it.

Senator O'KEEFE - The leading members of the Liberal party told the people prior to the last election that the rectification of Tariff anomalies was urgently needed, £.nd held it out as one of the inducements to give them Protectionist support, that if they were returned to power the reform would be one of the first things undertaken. It is often difficult to follow the Age in its conduct towards Governments, because it lauds its joss one day and beats it another ; but it must be admitted that there is considerable force in the criticism which it has directed against the Government during the last few days. Another paragraph in the GovernorGeneral's Speech refers to what are to be known as the test Bills, one of which is now before another place. These

Bills test nothing, do nothing, and are nothing, but if they are to be the means of securing a double dissolution, the Government have been rightly accused of attempting to perpetrate a fraud on the Constitution.

Senator Millen - If the Bills were such trifles, why did the honorable senator's friends sit up all through last night to oppose one of them?

Senator O'KEEFE - To show the hollowness of the pretentions of the Government, which declares that the business of the country is* being obstructed, although the ' programme of Ministers, boiled down, consists only of these two measures. There are many men in our gaols, for having obtained goods on false pretences, who are. not more guilty of fraud than are Ministers, in a politica-1 sense, for this attempt to obtain a double dissolution. If seems to me that we shall hear no more cries from our friends the Conservatives about the need for preserving- State rights. When the Labour party, in open and candidfashion, asked the people to grant thisParliament larger powers, we were told that we were infringing State rights and encroaching on home rule. The few representatives of the smaller States in this Senate who sit behind the Government must admit that they are now in a pretty tight corner. Senator Millen wants to know why, if there is nothing in these Bills, the Labour party is fighting them. The real- question at issue ia much greater than any raised by the Bills, or than the question which party shall occupy the Treasury bench. The Australian Constitution provides for a Federation; our political system is not a Unification. Yet those who a short time back accused the Labour party of desiring Unification are to-day taking a long step in its direction by endeavouring to secure a double dissolution by means of these Bills. To-day we hear nothing from them about State rights. The rights of this Senate, which is the constitutional guardian of the rights of the States, are surely worthy of consideration. The Attorney-General, speaking a few days ago at Sandringham, as the legal mouth-piece of the Government, showed clearly his opinions on this subject. He said -

The Senate could neither be destroyed nor disregarded.

Does that mean that if he had his way he would destroy or disregard the Senate ?-

A majority of the people represented in one House was prepared to carry on the government of the country, and an overwhelming majority of members in the Senate blocked the way. The Senate was a non-representative Chamber, and could be nothing else when a citizen in one State had seven or eight times the voting power of a citizen in another State.

No doubt the Attorney-General would change this if he could.

Senator Millen - The passage that the honorable senator is. reading is almost word for word what I heard Mr. Hughes say many times, years ago, when speaking from the same platform with him.

Senator O'KEEFE - Mr. Hughes, before the Constitution was accepted, was an open and avowed opponent of the provision for the equal representation 01 the States in the Senate. Many other leading political spirits of the time were with him. What we want to know is, how do public men stand now ? Do Ministers subscribe to the doctrine that there should not be equal representation of the States in the Senate? Those who represent the larger States may hold that view, but would Senators Keating, Bakhap, and demons support it? To resume my quotation -

The Senate was a non-representative Chamber, and could be nothing else when a citizen in one State had seven or eight times the voting power of a citizen in another State. Under these conditions Parliament would become unworkable.

It is at present unworkable, because the Government, having no working majority in another place, have introduced there measures which are a direct challenge and insult to the Opposition. Instead of bringing forward measures of importance in the public interest, the Bills introduced are trumpery things, the declared policy being to do nothing at all for Australia at present, but to bring about a double dissolution. He said -

The Senate could neither be destroyed nor disregarded. A double dissolution was the only way to bring to an end the present unworkable condition of Parliament. An appeal to the country in some form could not be long delayed, and then the Government would have to submit its whole policy.

The Government will submit their whole policy after they get a dissolution.

SenatorFindley. - They hope to do that later on.

Senator O'KEEFE - Yes, later in the year. I have never shrieked very much about State rights. I have never been wedded to the doctrine about which our honorable friends on the other side had so much to say during the last referendum - the sacredness of State rights. We have heard that cry particularly in Tasmania, but I have never said very much about the question, because to me, Federal rights have always been greater than State rights. In considering the question of a double dissolution, there are three points to be considered by a representative of a smaller State, who recognises that at present Australia is a Federation and not a Unification, and who recognises, too, that if the Government can get a double dissolution on issues which they admit are practically of no great importance to many people in Australia, any future Government without a working majority, and relying on the Speaker's casting vote in one House, and with an overwhelming majority against them in the other place, can bring about a double dissolution in just the same way. Because, as was truly said in another place, we are travelling in an uncharted sea in this connexion. If the Senate can be dissolved on such trumpery issues as these in the present circumstances - and that to me is a greater point than even the importance or unimportance of the issues - at the wish of the party in office, though not in power, in another place, a precedent will be established, and, naturally, it will be followed when similar circumstances arise in the future. This Parliament, as well as the representatives of the smaller States, ought to consider three points. The first point is: Should the strict letter only of the Constitution be considered - that a Bill has to be twice passed by the House of Representatives, and twice rejected by the Senate, as the conditions precedent to the grant of a double dissolution - or, in addition, should not what is known as the alleged spirit of the Constitution also be taken into consideration ? The second point, which seems to me to be one of more importance, is : Should a Ministry without a working majority in one House, and with a majority against it in the other House, be able to obtain a dissolution of the Senate in any circumstances, seeing that it does not represent a majority of the people of Australia? There can be no manner of reasoning brought forward by our honorable friends opposite which could satisfy a fair-minded man that the Government have the support of a majority of the people.

Senator Millen - You seem very frightened to go to the country and test the question.

Senator O'KEEFE - It is all very well for the Minister of Defence to indulge in a cheap jeer or sneer of that kind. We have had that sort of thing for some time; but it does not get away from the fact that the Government cannot by any manner of reasoning say that they have behind them a majority of the people of Australia. As recently as last May, the people, when they were asked to return seventy-five members to one House, returned thirty-seven on one side and thirty-eight on the other. If the figures are added up correctly, the addition will show, I think, that the people voting for the thirty-seven representatives on one side totalled ' rather more than those who voted for the thirty-eight on the other side.

Senator Millen - Why did Mr. Fisher resign, then?

Senator O'KEEFE - My honorable friend, of course, would like to drag me off the track.

Senator McGregor - He resigned because he had more principle than Mr. Cook.

Senator O'KEEFE - It is a certainty that Mr. Fisher would not have continued to retain office for twelve months in the humiliating circumstances under which the present Government have done.

Senator Oakes - " I don't think."

Senator O'KEEFE - Mr. Fisherwould not have continued to retain office for a month under such humiliating circumstances that he would have had to depend upon the casting vote of a gentleman who hitherto has been looked upon as a judge to hold the balance fairly between parties. The Leader of the Government has to buttress his arguments in different parts of the country by making statements that lead people to ask, " What does the Prime Minister intend to convey?" He admitted in a speech reported in the newspapers during the recess that the Government were able to carry on last session only by straining the Standing Orders, and I affirm that, no matter how many things that may be considered harsh have been said by members of the Labour party in Parliament or out of it, nothing so harsh in effect has ever been uttered by a member of that party as that utterance by the Prime Minister. No reflection so serious as that has been made against the gentleman who occupies a position which, from time immemorial in the Parliament from which we have taken our usages and customs, has been held to be high above party fighting. Yet the Leader of the Government said - if he was correctly reported, and I have not yet read any statement where he has denied the correctness of the report - that it was only by straining the Standing Orders that the Government were able to. hang on during last session. The Leader of the Labour party would not have hung on to office under such circumstances.

Senator Millen - Do you mean to say that Mr. Fisher would not have held office with a majority of one ?

Senator O'KEEFE - Mr. Fisherwould not have held office with only a majority in the Speaker's chair.

Senator Millen - Then why did he wait for a month to find out who was going to have the majority of one? He hung on to the last moment.

Senator O'KEEFE - The circumstances were entirely without a parallel, because Mr. Fisher knew perfectly well that if he could get legislation squeezed through the other House it would be quite safe here. The present Government knew perfectly well that the majority was against them. This party would like to face the country to-morrow, whether by means of a single or double dissolution, 'if the Government would give us something definite for the people to decide upon ; but if a double dissolution can be brought about by trumpery measures of this kind, it practically means altering the Constitution. The Government got them through the House of Representatives on the first occasion last session only by outraging the practices of Parliament, and by using the gag in a way that no Parliament in the British Dominions has ever been gagged before, after, by means of a side issue, getting rid of one member of the Opposition from the Chamber. They then sent them up here, and so got the first stage towards a double dissolution. On the face of it, this is an attempt on their part to alter the' Constitution. I should like, in a friendly way, to ask my colleague, Senator Keating, who is supporting the

Government on the other side of the Chamber, whether he subscribes to the doctrine laid down by Mr. Irvine in his latest speech at Sandringham in the following words: -

The Senate was a non-representative Chamber, and could be nothing else while a citizen in one State had seven or eight times the voting power of a citizen in another State. Under these conditions Parliament had become unworkable. The only course open to the Government was to pursue the path that led to the one solution the Constitution afforded for deadlocks. The Senate could neither be destroyed nor disregarded. We can only read in that the hope, or wish, in Mr. Irvine's mind that he could destroy or disregard the Senate. Does Senator Keating subscribe to the doctrine implied in those words ?

Senator Keating - I have spoken in this debate, having seconded the motion, and the honorable senator must have heard what I said then.

Senator Pearce - You support the Government ?

Senator Keating - No, I do not.

Senator O'KEEFE - I was present during Senator Keating's speech, but I did not hear his reference to that subject. I take it that he means that he does not subscribe to the doctrine put forward by Mr. Irvine. There would be no place for email States like Tasmania in this Commonwealth if it was a Unification, and not a Federation. Tasmania would never have been in it if it had been a Unification at first, nor would any other small State. Western Australia, which, numerically, is not much larger than Tasmania, would not have come into the Union had it not been for equal representation in the Senate; and yet, for a passing party advantage, which may not last a year, the great professed States righters in the Government are seeking to destroy the power of the Senate; because it will be most effectively destroyed if the Senate can be dissolved at any time on such trumpery issues as those involved in these so-called test Bills, which do nothing, and will be of no benefit whatever to the people. Even if they did involve principles of great moment to the people, it would still destroy the power of the Senate if a Government with a chance majority of only one in the Speaker's chair in the House of Representatives, and with a majority of four to one against it in this Chamber, elected by the same people, could bring about a dissolution of the Senate at any time.

Senator Keating - Nobody knows better than the honorable senator what my position has been with regard to the principle of equal representation in the Senate for the last fifteen years.

Senator O'KEEFE - I am very pleased to have Senator Keating's assurance, and accept it as frankly as he has given it.

Senator Keating - The honorable senator knows it.

Senator O'KEEFE - I did not know it. The honorable senator is supporting a Government which is professedly trying to destroy the Senate by taking away its power. I accept his assurance that that happens to be one of the contingencies attached to party government, and am willing to admit that the honorable senator is not, and would not be, a party to take away the principle of equal representation. He is only supporting the Government because, I suppose, he thinks there are other things in their programme that are of greater importance.

Senator Keating - The honorable senator knows that I was advocating equality of representation long before he took up any attitude on the subject at all.

Senator Findley - The honorable senator ought to come over to this side.

Senator O'KEEFE - I am quite satisfied that Senator Keating will be on this side before very long. He feels that he is in bad company now, from the point of view of the interests of the States. I wish to refer briefly to the principle involved in the Bill relating to unionists in Government employment. We have just witnessed the departure from Australia for a well-earned holiday of the gentleman who has presided for some years over the Arbitration Court. I am sure that a large majority of the people agree with me that no public official ever better deserved or earned a holiday than Mr. Justice Higgins, and he was quite justified in referring with natural pride to the work of the Court in his last utterance in the Court.

Senator Oakes - He had no right to say that he wanted to be appointed again if the Government would appoint him.

Senator O'KEEFE - He referred, with pardonable pride, to the magnificent work which the Court has been able to do under his presidency. We can only hope that his successor for the time being, or his permanent successor if it should so happen, will apply himself to the work with the same assiduity and thoroughness as Mr. Justice Higgins has done. One important feature of the work of the Court is what is knownas the compulsory conference. We cannot appraise the value of the Court if we merely say how many industrial disputes it has settled after those disputes have arisen. We must ask ourselves how many strikes have been averted by the work of the Court under the compulsory conference sections - work which the public does not see or hear so much about. On the eve of the Christmas festivities, for instance, a serious strike was threatened amongst the bakers, over the long-standing question of baking at night or in the daytime; and the dispute had arrived at a stage at which it seemed a certainty that there would be a strike, at least in Melbourne, if not in both Melbourne and Sydney; but a compulsory conference immediately convened by the President of the Court did splendid work, and averted what would have been a strike affecting most seriously all the people in and around this great city. That is only one instance among many in which the compulsory conference provisions have done splendid work. It is often claimed by members of our party, and rightly so, that no award of the Arbitration Court made under the presidency of Mr. Justice Higgins has been broken by the employes. Senator Millen apparently does not believe that statement. I admit that the claim we make, that no award given by Mr. Justice Higgins has been broken by the employes, is disputed by the other side.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator has narrowed the statement down. The claim as first made was that no award of the Federal Arbitration Court had been broken by the employes. The honorable senator now confines the claim to awards by Mr. Justice Higgins.

Senator O'KEEFE - I am glad to have been corrected in that regard. Of course, what I mean is that no award of the Arbitration Court has been broken by the employes.

Senator Millen - An award given by Mr. Justice Rich was broken the other clay.

Senator O'KEEFE - I do not believe that the awards should be broken in any case. I believe that they should be observed. If any awards of either the

Federal or State Arbitration Courts have been broken by the employes, there is, at least, this much to be said in favour of the men who broke those awards, that they did so openly, in the light of day.

Senator Oakes - The honorable senator does not support that?

Senator O'KEEFE - No, I do not; but I point out that the friends of Senator Oakes are in no better position than are the members of unions who have broken awards. The employers have broken awards of the Arbitration Court more effectively than have the employes, but they have not broken them in the light of day. They have used the power of the purse in taking the employes from Court to Court, relying upon their financial strength to break up the unions.

Senator Oakes - Is that not in pursuance of a right which the law gives them?

Senator O'KEEFE - It is taking a very subtle advantage of that right. I do not justify any body of men who break an award of the Arbitration Court, but I say that where the employes have done so they have done so in the light of day, and where the employers have broken awards, as they have done in several instances, they have done so in the most effective way by taking advantage of the financial strength of their organizations to prosecute appeals from awards of the Court.

Senator Millen - Surely the honorable senator does not call the lodging of an appeal breaking an award ?

Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - No, but it is not abiding by the award.

Senator O'KEEFE - I leave the question of preference to unionists with the remark that, whilst Ministers have been declaiming that they will not give preference to any persons in the Commonwealth employ, they have shown that they are not above giving preferences in the letting of railway contracts. Several speakers have gone into detail in connexion with the letting of the Teesdale Smith contract, in connexion with which Mr. Teesdale Smith was given a preference. I shall pass that subject with the brief comment that, in my opinion, the letting of the contract was due to the absolute incompetence of. the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, who was . taken down bythe contractor. A schoolboy would have known better than to have assented to what Mr. Kelly assented to without looking into the question. The Prime Minister is responsible in this matter, because he is the Minister of Home Affairs, whilst Mr. Kelly is only an Honorary Minister. If ever an administrative act showed utter incompetence on the part of the Minister responsible for it, it was the act of Mr. Kelly in signing that contract without looking into it, and without arming himself with the information which any practical or reasonable man would have insisted upon having before he signed it. One of the most prominent cries used by the party opposite at the last election, and one which greatly assisted in their return to power, had reference to the rural workers' log. Something fresh on the subject of the rural workers' log came to light the other day.

Senator Findley - Is that log still rolling about?

Senator O'KEEFE - Yes. It was used during the last election as an instrument with whichto torture the poor farmers. It became a nightmare to them. They felt it rolling over them in their beds, and felt themselves being flattened out and crushed by the tyranny of the Rural Workers Association. It would have been a good thing, not only for the rural workers, but for the farmers, if the claims made by the Rural Workers Union could have been threshed out before the Arbitration Court. It would have been found, had that been done, that a large majority of rural workers wanted only a fair thing, and, while there would, no doubt, be some exceptions, it would also have been found that a majority of the farmers are quite prepared to do the fair thing by their employes. It is a good thing for our honorable friends opposite, in view of a possible appeal to the electors, that the rural workers' log has not yet been settled. It proved an effective scarecrow at the last election, and our friends have no wish to see it removed. We heard the other day that some interesting evidence was taken by the Fruit Commission from rural employers at Mildura, and I can quote from an instructive article on the subject, in which it is reported that the employers have actually admitted that they have got more effective work done since they have been paying wages under an award made by Mr. Justice Higgins, and it is further ad mitted that the aggregate cost of production has not increased. I direct the attention of honorable senators to the following statement : -

As is generally known, the arbitration award of Mr. Justice Higgins has fixed the wages for harvesting the extensive fruit crop of Mildura at a minimum of 8s. per day for labourers over 18, working 8 hours per day. In the case of dippermen, barrowmen, &c, the wages are 9s. per day of 8 hours, while the 8s. minimum applies to females in the harvesting operations as well as men.

A year or two ago farmers would have raised their hands in horror if they were told that they should pay females the same wages as men for the same work, and they would have been almost scared to death if they were told that they should pay 8s. for a day of eight hours, and would not be any poorer as a result. The article from which I am quoting goes on to say -

These wages have now been in operation for some time, and the result is interesting. It has always been the contention of unionists that increased wages and lesser hours do not necessarily increase the cost of production ; but, on the contrary, it has been correctly contended that with better wages and conditions, a class of more efficient workers has been induced to take up these callings that hitherto paid low wages, and in consequence not only more work, but a better class of work, resulted, while it was done in eight hours instead of twelve hours as previously.

Senator Millen - What is the honorable senator quoting from ?

Senator O'KEEFE - I am quoting now the opinion of a writer on the evidence given before the Fruit Commission.

That this contention is correct is proved by sworn evidence given before the Royal Commission on the Fruit Industry last week.

Mr. ThomasC.Rawlings, who is not only a fruit-grower but occupies the important position of Chairman of the Irrigation Trust at Mildura, was interrogated by Senator Beady, of Tasmania, on the question, as follows : - "You stated that the cost of harvesting and drying fruit was £6 per ton. How many years has the price been £6 per ton? - I have contracted at that price 12 or 14 years ago. " Then, really, the labour cost of harvesting and drying fruit has not increased during the last decade? - It has increased very little, if any, because we have better methods of doing the work than we had then. " So that in spite of the fact that your wages have gone up 33 per cent. for men, and from 100 to200 per cent. for women, the cost of harvesting and drying your fruit has not increased? - It has not increased to any extent. As I have said, we have better methods of doing the work, and I also think we have a better class of men to do our work, taking them on the whole. It pays a good man to come along and do the work; he is well paid for doing it. "Has your experience been that higher wages mean higher efficiency ? - In that respect there is no doubt it is so."

That is evidence of a very valuable kind indeed. One paragraph in the GovernorGeneral's Speech states that the Ministry hope, as the outcome of the work of the Premiers' Conference, that a satisfactory arrangement will be arrived at between the Commonwealth and State Governments in regard to Savings Bank business. In referring to the work of that body the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have said -

As soon as possible, and as far as practicable, the States should transfer their banking to the Commonwealth.

I wonder if it will be news to the Government to learn that it was left to a Labour Ministry to lead the way in this matter. Within four weeks of a Labour Government being formed in Tasmania, the desired change was made. That Government has transferred the whole of its business from a private banking institution to the Commonwealth Bank, and has transferred it unconditionally.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator forgets that the transfer of the Savings Bank business there took place under a Liberal Government.

Senator O'KEEFE - I do not forget it. But when that same Liberal Government were asked by the Labour Opposition of Tasmania to transfer the whole of their business to the Commonwealth Bank they said that the time was not opportune. Within four weeks of the advent of a Labour Ministry to power in that State the whole of the Government business has been transferred to the Commonwealth. Why? Because they believe in building up and strengthening the Commonwealth Bank, which they regard as the principal bank in Australia. They have set the pace, and I hope we shall find the Governments of other States following in their footsteps at an early date. Not only have they transferred their business to the Commonwealth Bank, but they have been able to secure better terms than they formerly enjoyed. Under the arrangement which previously existed with a private bank in Tasmania, the Government of that State were able to overdraw only to the extent of about £40,000. If they required more they had to ask for it as a favour. But under the arrangement which has been made with the Commonwealth Bank the Tasmanian Government can overdraw to the extent of £100,000, and, moreover, they get the money at one-half per cent. less than they formerly paid. They get it for 4½ per cent., whereas previously they were required to pay 5 per cent. On the question of defence, I would like the Minister of Defence and Senator Pearce to put their heads together, and, in consultation with some of the chief officers of our Defence Forces, endeavour to evolve a system which will shorten the term of service of trainees. Of course, we are pledged to the principle of compulsory training. I have been an advocate of that principle for many years - long before it was mooted in this Chamber. But we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that its adoption has aroused a good deal of opposition amongst the community.

Senator Guthrie - Only amongst a small section.

Senator O'KEEFE - Small as that section may be, I contend that if we can remove legitimate causes of friction it is our duty to do so, provided that we do not destroy the utility of the system.

Senator Millen - When the honorable senator talks of shortening the period of training, does he mean the number of years that a trainee is required to serve or the number of days in each year?

Senator O'KEEFE - I mean the number of years.

Senator Millen - If we shorten the number of years we shall diminish the efficiency of the trained man.

Senator O'KEEFE - That is a matter which should be threshed out by military experts. At fourteen years of age the boys begin their course of training as senior cadets. For four years they undergo continuous training.

Senator Pearce - It is largely physical training.

Senator O'KEEFE - Still it occupies a considerable portion of their time. From eighteen years to twenty-five years of age they form part of the Citizen Forces. I suggest that it might be possible to make the training less irksome than it is. When we realize the enormous number of trainees that we have we must admit that the number who are disaffected is very small indeed.

Senator Blakey - I hope that the honorable senator recognises that Senator Oakes has expressed his disapproval of military training at all.

Senator O'KEEFE - I did not hear him say that.

Senator Oakes - The honorable senator need not worry about my view. I am opposed to conscription every time.

Senator O'KEEFE - If we reckon that from 17,000 to 20,000 boys are coming into the ranks of trainees every year-

Senator Millen - There is not that number.

Senator O'KEEFE - I obtained my figures from an official source.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator is spe: king of the number of lads who reach fourteen years of age each year.

Senator O'KEEFE - I inquired from the Minister's Department by telephone how many trainees will fall into line every year, and I was told that the number is from 17,000 to 20,000.

Senator Millen - Excluding those who are exempt from service on medical grounds, the number is about 15,000 annually.

Senator O'KEEFE - That means that about 150,000 trainees will be enrolled by the time the system is in full operation. However, I have heard it suggested by many friends of the system that it might be possible to close the term of service a year or two earlier. I admit I have not gone very carefully into the matter, but, as a supporter of the system, who will be glad to see his own boy under training, I throw out the suggestion.

Senator Millen - If. the suggestion is to shorten the period at the end of the term, it cannot be carried out for some years, and, therefore, cannot allay any immediate or present discontent.

Senator O'KEEFE - Senator Oakessaid something about the Meat Trust and the rural workers' log being a " good double"; but all that the Labour party have had to say about the Meat Trust in the last few years the honorable senator and his party are saying now, or will say shortly. They are realizing that what the Labour party pointed out a couple of years ago has come to pass, and that the Meat Trust is here. The best evidence of the changed attitude on the part of the Liberal party is that the Government propose to introduce a Bill to deal with trusts, though I am reminded by an honorable senator near me that the measure will, in all probability, prove just as efficacious as a mustard plaster on a wooden leg. If the promised Bill is to do no more than amend the present anti-trust Act, we must remember that any such measure, under the Constitution as at present, will in all likelihood be found to be absolutely powerless.

Senator Millen - Would it not be better for the honorable senator to first see the Bill?

Senator O'KEEFE - No; because I know that the Bill cannot go outside the four corners of the Constitution.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator must not assume that the powers of the Constitution are only those which he has discovered.

Senator O'KEEFE - If our friends opposite have discovered that we have greater powers under the Constitution than we thought, we shall be very glad; but we are more likely to find ourselves once more up against a stone wall in the shape of the High Court and the Privy Council. Two items which appeared in yesterday's press are rather significant. One item is from Queensland, where the Meat Trust is said to have a very strong footing, with the finest and most uptodate meat works in the world. It is as follows : -

Brisbane, Tuesday. - Replying to a deputation at Cairns to-day, the Home Secretary (Mr. Appel) indicated that during the coming session there would be a Bill introduced to deal with the Meat Trust, and prevent it becoming injurious in its operations.

If there is no danger to be apprehended, why should the State Liberal Government contemplate legislation? The Meat Trust is in Queensland, and the State authorities are in a much better position than we are here to arrive at a conclusion as to what dangers there may be. The second item of news is -

Adelaide, Tuesday. - At the cattle sales today, beef sold up to 45s. per 100 lh. Two shorthorn bullocks together realized £G0.

Senator Oakes - Is that the Meat Trust again?

Senator O'KEEFE - Yes; and I do not think it is very difficult to connect these two items of news with, the fact that there is a trust operating here. We are told that the Victorian Government also intend to introduce legislation to deal with this trust; and, I suppose, the example will be followed by the Governments of those States who are adverse to handing over additional powers to the Commonwealth. In my opinion, it will be found in a few years, when it is too late to effectively curb the operations of the trust, that the State Acts are ineffective, as they have been found to be in the United States of America. We cannot shut our eyes to what is taking place in America ; and these State Acts will prove about as useful as the waving of a scented handkerchief in order to banish the aroma of a pigstye. If the Labour party have to answer the charge that we are wasting the time of Parliament because' we are putting up a strenuous fight against the test measures, it will not be difficult to show that the blame rests with the Liberal party, who, after twelve months of office, have absolutely failed to introduce one measure calculated to benefit, in' the slightest degree, the people, of Australia. His Excellency's Speech is. an absolutely empty document. Before the Government bring forward their programme, which is somewhere in the dim and misty future, they desire to take steps, by dissolving Parliament, to put it out of the power of the Legislature to deal with measures of any kind. The Government have been weighed, and found wanting, and when an opportunity is given on a question on which tie people can form an opinion, that verdict will be returned. The Government have shown themselves utterly incompetent in administration and utterly barren of legislation. The people are asking the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs for an effective Tariff - asking why we pay £78,000,000 a year for imported goods, half of which might well be made by our own artisans - and the answer is that the Inter-State Commission is dealing with the matter, and that, when the reports of that body are forthcoming, proposals will be made for the revision of the Tariff. The people of Australia have said to the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, who is in charge of big national works, " There are railways to be built and extensive works to be undertaken; but, though we recognise that it will be years before they can be made to pay, you are to build them as cheaply as you can." And the Minister's only reply is: "I shall do away with the system of day labour which has saved Queensland £2,000 a mile as against the contract system of building railways, and I shall institute the beautiful, old, worn-out system of contracting." The people of Tasmania have said to the Postmaster-General, " Give us a better steamer service, something like an efficient service, between Tasmania and the mainland, so that we may have a chance of getting speedy transit of mails and passengers, and an opportunity to carry goods to and from the State at a fairly reasonable cost, and thus put ns on the same basis as people in other States." And the answer to that is, " Yes; we shall tie you up to another seven years of the present HuddartParker Combine," though the only way of doing it is to have a Commonwealth line of steamers running between Tasmania and the mainland.

Senator Millen - Where are the Commonwealth steamers your Government were to build ?

Senator O'KEEFE - Our Government were engaged for a number of years in big national matters, which they put on the statute-book, and there would have been .a Commonwealth line of steamers running now had not the people of Australia made a mistake at the last election. Then we come to that great national asset, the Northern Territory - if it is not now an asset it will be to our children in the future - and the people say to the Minister of External Affairs, " This Territory is an incubus on the taxpayer; try to get a move on and induce settlers to go there." And the answer of the Minister of External Affairs is, ." We have a number of things under consideration. We have discharged a few officials put there to lay the foundation of work in the future. They were put there by the Labour Government, and we have discharged them." That is all the answer we get. And so it is with all the Departments. The present Government, in the matter of administration, or incompetency of administration, and barrenness of legislation, have been weighed and found wanting.

Debate (on motion by Senator Pearce') adjourned.

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