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Wednesday, 19 June 1912

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) . - I desire to second the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Looking through the Speech, I can congratulate the Government upon the progressive steps they propose, and which I believe are in keeping with the desires of the people of Australia. If the legislation foreshadowed be passed, as I trust it will be, during this session, I have no doubt that the Government will have the highest of all compliments paid to them, such as they have received in respect of their past legislation, namely, that the Opposition will claim their measures wholesale, and assert that they were initiated by them.

Senator Millen - Would the honorable senator mind telling us the date of the Defence Bill which made training compulsory ?

SenatorE. J. RUSSELL. - I have a recollection of a proposal, not by a halfleader, but by a whole leader of the honorable senator, for the defence of Australia up some back creek with a war boat.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator is evading the issue.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I would ask Senator Millen to say whether he was not a supporter of the Dreadnought policy of Australian defence?

Senator Millen - Did we, or did we not, bring in a Bill to make training compulsory ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - In seconding the motion, I have to say that, while agreeing with the past legislation of the Government, I can also extend to them my congratulations upon their splendid administration of the various Departments. I have followed most of the speeches made by members of the Opposition, and I am not aware of any definite criticism which they have been able to level against the legislation carried into effect by the Government now in power.

Senator St Ledger - That is the reason why the Opposition have been so successful in their campaign in the country.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - That is owing to the fact that the Opposition are such an harmonious body ! The various sections of it love each other ! Although the honorable senator is one of the chosen mouthpieces of that great body, the Women's National. League, I am afraid that they are causing as much discomfort in his party as can be imagined.

Senator Vardon - They are supporting the honorable senator, are they not ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I believe they, are, and I wish them good luck. I do not think that I have ever been condemned for being so narrow-minded as to reject support from whatever quarter it may come. There is another difficulty about criticising a document of this kind with which one is in general agreement, namely, that the Opposition, from whom we have a right to expect criticism, seem to be unable to advance anything that is original and new. When we look to them for criticism of the Labour platform, one of the first things we hear from them is the old cry of "caucus secrecy." That is an objection to our party's organization that was dealt with and effectively disposed of years ago. But to-day, it may be remarked, it is not only the Labour party that has a secret caucus. The political party in Australia now that not only refuses information to the public and to the press, but even to members of their own party, is that which is presided over by no less a person than Senator Vardon. He presided over a caucus held not long ago as to the proceedings of which no information was accorded, and consequently Mr. W. H. Irvine, in criticising what he supposed to be the result of its deliberations, appears to have fallen under the displeasure of his colleagues, who took occasion to bring him to book. The result was that Mr. Irvine apologized, and pleaded in excuse his ignorance of the platform of his own party.

Senator Vardon - That shows the tolly of a man speaking about a thing as to which he is not sufficiently informed.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - It does.

Senator Millen - Does not the honorable senator think, then, that he ought to profit by that example?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I say " Hear; hear," to that. Senator Vardon tells us that Mr. Irvine ought not to have spoken till he knew. What an admission that is ! It is an admission that Mr. Irvine did not know the policy of his own party. Who is responsible for his not knowing ?

Senator Pearce - The caucus.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Exactly, the caucus. It was a peculiar position indeed. Recently there was a meeting of the three Opposition leagues - the Women's National League, the People's party, and the People's Liberal party. I believe it was a very harmonious caucus meeting. They sat for about three hours, and I understand that the final result was - no agreement. When the meeting was over, the president, Mr. Lewis-

Senator Vardon - That is where we differ from the caucus of the Labour party. The honorable senator would have had to swallow what the caucus decided.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - What did Mr. Lewis swallow, then? He had to inform the press that he could not give any information, because the caucus of the three leagues had been pledged to secrecy. Vet, to-day, Senator Gould, with all his experience of politics, having heard ' this talk about caucus brought up over and over again, comes here and has nothing more original to say than " Caucus ! caucus !"

Senator St Ledger - The galled jade is wincing.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am not aware that I am wincing; certainly not from that cause. I wish to say a word about the note issue. I understand that Senator Gould ' knows something about banking, and I am quite sure that Senator Millen, with his great keenness, may be given credit for knowing a good deal about it. We hear forecasts of what would happen if one or two of the banks were to produce their notes at the Federal Treasury and demand gold for them. What would be the effect of such. a thing?

Senator St Ledger - The Government would have to float bills.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - First, I dispute the possibility of such a thing occurring; secondly, the wisdom of it; and, thirdly, if the private banks attempted to do anything of the kind, the Australian Government would bring into existence a national bank which would practically wipe the private institutions out of existence.

Senator Millen - Have we not a national bank now?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Yes ; but it is not fully developed yet. It is going to grow. Now, what is the security behind Australian notes? Senator Millen says that it is not gold. It is just as well to put on record what the securities against our note issue are. I do not think that there is any intelligent man or woman in this community who would think it a wise thing to allow the money paid into the Treasury for notes obtained to lie there and not be put to good use. I feel sure that Senator Walker would not approve of that. He would not regard it as sane banking. Indeed, I venture to express the opinion that 40 per cent, of gold is too much for the Treasury to hold against the note issue, and that it would be sound policy to devote a larger percentage of the gold to reproductive purposes. Now, what has happened with some of the gold that has been deposited ? Let us see. There is a gentleman at present presiding over the destinies of this State of Victoria who may be given credit for being one of the most active leaders of the Anti-Labour party. Mr. Watt has continually denounced the Australian note issue as being an unsound project. Yet, as Treasurer of Victoria, he was one of the first to be found waiting on the doorstep of the Treasury when it was announced that the States could obtain loans from the Commonwealth, and he secured ^980,000 of this note issue at 3^ per cent., maturing 10th August, 1919.

Senator Millen - He got the money, did he not?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Of course, he did.

Senator Millen - Very well, then, what risk did' he run?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - He is not complaining of running any risk; but honorable senators on the Opposition side are saying that the security is not good enough.

Senator Millen - That does not affect Mr. Watt. He has got his money.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Does the honorable senator think for a moment that Mr. Watt would be guilty of borrowing money from the Commonwealth if the security of the note issue were, in his opinion, unsound ?

Senator Millen - The man to trouble about that is not Mr. Watt. He has the sovereigns. The men who hold the paper have paid the sovereigns for it.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Does the honorable senator mean to say that Mr. Watt does not trouble about the value of the security? The New South Wales Government also took the trouble to obtain a. loan from the Commonwealth Treasury, borrowing ^600,000 at 3! per cent., maturing on 15th June, 1912.

Senator Vardon - Would the Treasurylend me some?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I do not think so. Although, personally, I have the highest regard for the honorable senator, if I had control of the money I would not lend it to him.

Senator Millen - Does the honorable senator mean that the money is only for Labour supporters?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - No; I mean that the Act under which the note issue was established allows the money to be lent only on securities that can be held against the notes and which are as good as gold. The Treasury must hold either golden sovereigns or security of the greatest possible soundness. In the case of these loans the Treasury holds the security of the whole of the people of the borrowing States. For the note issue to fail it would be necessary either for one or two States to go insolvent or for the Commonwealth itself to go insolvent; and I do not think that there is any danger of that. Does the honorable senator think there is?

Senator St Ledger - A State does not go insolvent. It has to pay up by taxing its people.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The only extreme case that imagined is a rush by the banks upon the Commonwealth Treasury. But I do not think that anything of the kind is likely to happen. If it did, surely the security of the Mates would be satisfactory. If not, what would it mean? That the whole of the States would be insolvent; and as their destinies are not, as a rule, being controlled by the Labour party, any such conjecture is a poor tribute to pay to the parties which control the State Governments to-day.

Senator St Ledger - When did Mr. Watt denounce the note issue, and on what grounds ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I should like to put a more reasonable question to the honorable senator. When did Mr. Watt ever go on to the public platform during the last two years without denouncing it?

Senator St Ledger - The note issue? On what grounds?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - That it was unsound.

Senator Millen - Does the honorable senator bring that forward as proving that it is sound ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - As the honorable members of the Opposition have opposed nearly everything that is sound, I should take it that, on that ground alone, their opposition to the bank note issue proves that it is sound. Now, the Labour Government had been in power in the Commonwealth some time prior to 29th September, 1 91 1. I desire to make a quotation from the Sydney Daily Telegraph, a newspaper that is largely responsible for sending some honorable senators opposite into this Chamber.

Senator de Largie - Never again.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I believe that the Daily Telegraph loves them still. Although there is a danger of an unfortunate fate overtaking them, I should be inclined to regret, on personal grounds, if it were so. The Sydney Daily Telegraph of Thursday, 2nd November, 191 1, published the following communication from its special correspondent in London, dated 29th September -

The London Stock Exchange has been of special interest during the past few months. We have had a succession of alarms and situations approaching a financial crisis. With one single exception all securities have shown a heavy loss. And that exception has been in the securities of Australia.

The one country with a Labour Government !

Senator Millen - What security is under the control of the Federal Labour Government ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - -This article deals with the securities of Australia, including private and public securities. Have the capitalists who have invested in these securities shown any timidity about the paper of the Labour Government? One would have thought that if the security had been bad the value of the paper would have dropped immediately. But such has not been the case. The article goes on to say -

Apart from the Commonwealth, no country, British or foreign, has escaped the effects of the general anxiety about the position in Europe. Gilt-edged stock, which has been considered immune from anything but the outbreak of actual war of a menacing character, has been indiscriminately hammered with a multitude of less respected holdings'. In fact, Australia has done somewhat better than hold her own. In a number of instances shares have been actually improved during the recent troubled season. There was, for example,a fine rise in Broken Hill. It might have been expected that the ill-informed outcry in the press here about the Federal land tax and the widely advertised protest which the deputation to Mr. Fisher made upon the subject would have had a bad effect upon our pastoral security held in this country. We were repeatedly told that the Federal land tax would cause the withdrawal of large sums of British capital from Australia. Indeed, this seemed inevitable. As a matter of fact, however, all Commonwealth securities have stood firm, while those of the rest of the world were being sorely knocked about.

Senator Vardon - Does the article give quotations ? .

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I have quoted verbatim from the Daily Telegraph article.

Senator Vardon - Does it show whether Commonwealth stocks are at par, above par, or below par?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - It does_ not say, but as the article was published in a newspaper that has continually opposed the Labour party, and which many honorable senators in the Opposition take as their principal authority on most public questions, I think it will be accepted as reliable. Recently Mr. W. H. Irvine - and he ought to be a fair judge - said that it would probably be just as well for Australia if the Labour party remained in power for another three years. He stated that we were now engaged in a perfect financial carnival. I do not know why that should be so. Outside of the land tax, I am not aware that the Labour Government have imposed any new taxation. During the first year, the total amount collected as the result of the operation of that tax was £1,400,000, and, during the second year, ^,'1,300,000. And we have not yet borrowed a single penny. There are certain moneys in trust funds to-day, and it is anticipated that the year will close with a surplus of ,£1,000,000 or £1,500,000. While it may be true that loans will require to be raised for the purpose of constructing the transcontinental railway, it is not true that the Commonwealth is indebted to the private moneylender to the extent of a single penny.

Senator Vardon - But the policy of the Labour party is to borrow only for reproductive works. Will the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie be reproductive?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I hope so; but I confess that I do not regard that project from a commercial stand-point alone. I hope that before we are very much older Senator Vardon will be found voting with me in favour of the construction of still another line, which cannot be regarded solely from a commercial stand-point. I refer to the railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek.

Senator Vardon - That work will pay a long way better than will the other line.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I think it is bad tactics to condemn the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie-

Senator Vardon - I am not condemning it. I merely say that it is the policy of the Labour party to borrow only for reproductive works

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Let us ask ourselves what is the net result of the practical trial of the Labour party ? Who has benefited ? Who has been injured by labour legislation ?

Senator Walker - Why, as the result of the operation of the land tax, some men have lost two-thirds of their net income.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Of course, men will squeak, but I should like some proof of that statement.

Senator Walker - I can tell the honorable senator of one man whom he knows very well, who has suffered.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - During the first year of the operation of that Act about £22,000,000 worth of land was cut up, and about ,£9,000,000 worth was bought by men who were in possession of more than £5,000 worth of unimproved land values. Within one year there were 7,800 new landholders called into existence.

Senator Millen - How many were there the year previously ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I have not the figures. But I have no hesitation in saying that the year previously there was not £22,000,000 worth of land subdivided.

Senator Millen - In my own State the figures show a decrease, not an increase.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - We all know that the States have been attempting to deal with the land problem for a number of years. In Victoria we have had four or five amendments of the Closer Settlement Act. Yet what is the position today ? Victoria is loaded up with about £400,000 worth of land. This land has been advertised broadcast, it has been brought under the notice of local residents and immigrants, and yet the State cannot induce anybody to take it off its hands. Why? Because it paid too much for it in the first place. The Commonwealth brought about more real settlement within twelve months by reason of the operation of the land tax-

Senator Vardon - It was the good seasons which did it, not the land tax.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Then Providence appears to have been very kind to the Labour party. This seems strange, seeing that another political party is never tired of implying that God is upon its side. At its meeting places it has mottoes on the walls such as " For God and country," the implication being that we are for the devils down below. Why has Providence been so kind ?

Senator Millen - Does not the sun shine upon the good and evil alike ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - It does; but if we are to attribute things to luck, the squatter has never enjoyed such prosperity before as he has enjoyed since the Labour party came into power. Neither have the bankers.

Senator Millen - Have not they raised their rates of interest since the Labour Government took office?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Have not they raised their profits? Have we not produced more wool and more wheat ? Have there not been more profits for the bankers and more work for the manufacturers? There is not a single branch of industry which has not enjoyed a considerable increase in the profits which it has earned.

Senator Millen - Then Mr. Joshua was wrong in his statement to the Minister of Trade and Customs the other day?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Undoubtedly, he was wrong. I still hope that this session will not close without an increased measure of Protection being granted to certain industries in Australia.

Senator Millen - I thought the honorable senator said that all our industries are doing well.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I believe that the manufacturers of Australia as a whole are doing very well. Proof of that is to be found in the difficulty which is experienced in securing suitable labour. I admit that, during the past two or three months, there has been a slump in the labour market, and that' there have been men unemployed.

Senator Walker - In good times, there are always some men out of work.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator believes it to be inevitable that, under the best circumstances, there will be a certain number of unemployed. But are we responsible, as a Labour party, for that?

Senator Millen - But the honorable senator's party was going to alter those conditions.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - During the past two years, there has been less unemployment than there was previously. But was Labour legislation responsible for the threatened dry season?

Senator Millen - The honorable senator's party promised to prevent all these things.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Tome Protection is not a matter of figures. I feel sure that if Senator Millen saw a young man who was doing very well, he would not say to him, " You are doing very well, and therefore you must not go in for more enterprise."On the contrary, he would be the first to encourage him by saying, " Go on, you are doing very well." While it is true that our industries are prosperous, I say that many of them could be made more prosperous by the aid of a little more Protection. To me the test is not whether a manufacturer is doing well, but whether, by producing certain commodities here, we could not provide more employment for our people. I am prepared to fight the manufacturer for fair conditions for his employe's. The greatest enemy to a Protective Tariff in Australia to-day is the manufacturer himself. He is not prepared to extend to his employes the new Protection.

Senator de Largie - The fault lies, in the first place, with the Age.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Less than a week ago, the Age published an article which stated that two-thirds of the members of this Parliament are Protectionists. It pointed out that, unless Protection was extended to the workman and consumer alike, some members were not prepared to grant to manufacturers any increased measure of Protection. I do not agree with that view, but I respect it, because I recognise that there is some reason underlying it. But it is useless to talk about protecting the consumer and worker so long as commodities are. manufactured in a foreign country. We never shall be able to pass a law which will affect the industrial conditions of any country other than Australia. For these reasons, I hope that, before the session closes, Parliament will see that the Commonwealth is given effective Protection. During the past three years, the value of our imports has increased from£51,000,000 to£66,000,000, and the value of them for the current year will probably approach £80,000,000. I say that, for a young country like Australia to import £80,000,000 worth of goods is a suicidal policy. These figures show convincingly that our Tariff wall is too low. If Australia is to develop her trade and industries, she must not import so largely and I know of nothing that will attract men and women to a country so quickly as the knowledge that there arc good times ahead of it. I hope that something will be done to stop an importation which. I consider to be excessive..

Senator St Ledger - It can easily be done.

SenatorE. J. RUSSELL. - How ?

Senator St Ledger - I am not the honorable senator's adviser.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I anticipated some such reply ; the honorable senator is never known to be definite. The Labour party is in this difficulty in the matter : we know how our members stand on the fiscal question, but we do not know how the Opposition members stand.

Senator Vardon - That is their business. The honorable senator need not trouble about that. Those of the honorable senator's party quarrel amongst themselves.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I used to think that we quarrelled a gooddeal, and regretted it ; but my present opinion is that our caucuses, or meetings, compared with those of the Opposition, are as heaven. Honorable senators may draw their own conclusions regarding, our opponents. In conclusion, I hope that all the legislation outlined in the Speech will be placed on the statute-book during the present session, and that something definite will be done in regard to Protection. I hope, too, that at the end of the session the Government, in every Department, will have the same clean record for administration that it has now. I congratulate Ministers on the work that they have done, and trust that they will do equally good and effective work in the future.

Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.

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