Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 8 July 1915

Senator SENIOR - Then do not object to our having the waste paper.

Senator BAKHAP - I object to the people of the Commonwealth being solicited to pass measures which will be ineffective in dealing with a substantial grievance, but which, perhaps, will be effective in respect of the attempt of the Commonwealth Administration to indulge in certain fallacies that are ages old. The Minister seemed to stress the point that these powers for_which they are asking are sought by the Administration because of the war. He appeared to argue that, because there was a prospect of their being necessary in time of war, it would be in the highest degree advantageous to place them on the statutebook so that they might be exercised in time of peace. But these proposals for the alteration of the Constitution did not have their genesis in time of war. They were initiated when the whole Empire was in a state of profound peace. We, therefore, can regard them as having been conceived to assist in crystallizing certain Labour ideals so that they can be given direct effect and used as instruments of National Government. There is no more fallacious argument than the contention that because a certain course of action is judicious in time of war, it is essential to follow that course of action in time of peace. War is the very negation of peace. We submit to certain measures in time of war only because of our desire to bring about a state of peace, when those measures, to which we have reluctantly submitted, will be no longer necessary. As "well might the Minister argue that because a medical man administers strychnine, cocaine, morphia, or some other potent drug to a man suffering from some acute inflammatory complaint, it is desirable that that man should continue to take daily morphia or any other anodyne. Strychnine is a tonic when taken in medicinal doses, but who would take an ounce daily?

Senator GARDINER - Bather do I argue that if we build one warship in time of peace we may require to build two in time of war.

Senator BAKHAP - I fail to discover the relevancy of the interjection. These powers which the Government is proposing to exercise in absolute antagonism to its attempt to punish the State of New South Wales for an infraction of the Commonwealth Constitution, may, perhaps, be beneficially exercised in time of war, yet have no healthy relationship to the condition of - the body industrial or the body politic in' time of peace. These proposals were conceived in time of peace for use in time of peace, and because we object to their use in time of peace we are now opposing them. It is not proposed that they shall be placed on the statutebook merely during the currency of the war. If passed and accepted by the people they will remain on the statutebook to be used by any Socialistic Administration in time of peace. It is that which we combat. We do not combat these proposals on the ground that the Government should not use certain powers in time of war. In this time of war it is using powers which it says are not inherent in it.

Senator Guthrie - And the honorable senator is opposing them.

Senator BAKHAP - I have supported every war measure which the Ministry have brought down.

Senator Gardiner - These are the most important and necessary war measures that we have brought down.

Senator BAKHAP - They are not war measures. Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council deny that they were conceived and twice submitted to the people when there was no thought of .the present war in the Blind of the Labour party?

Senator Gardiner - They are ten times more necessary now that the war is on.

Senator BAKHAP - But we are not going to give the Government these powers in time of peace, although we allow it to exercise similar powers in time of war. We did not gainsay its use of them in the slightest degree.

Senator Watson - The war has shown the urgent necessity for them now. Senator BAKHAP.- Nothing of the sort. In what way has the war shown it to be desirable to give to the Commonwealth Government power to acquire monopolies in times of peace?

Senator Watson - In every direction.

Senator BAKHAP - In what direction lias it been shown that the Commonwealth Parliament should have power to declare any industry established at the cost of very much treasure and mental exercise, to be a monopoly 1 The war has disclosed no such reason.

Senator Watson - Tell us why you are afraid to trust the people with these powers ?

Senator BAKHAP - There has been a great deal of objection on the part of honorable senators opposite that honorable senators on this side are not discussing these proposals at this stage, but they were discussed by all the older members of the Parliament on former occasions; and I do not think they can be accused of cowardice if they refrain from dealing with them now. I have discussed the referenda proposals a hundred times on .» hundred different platforms, but have not yet, in the Parliament of the country, made any deliverance upon them; and I think that if I supply the deficiency I might reasonably do so now, seeing that I have not spoken on these constitutional amendments in this Parliament.

Senator Gardiner - We are. listening to you with a great deal of pleasure.

Senator Guthrie - Answer the question, Why are you not prepared to trust the people 1

Senator BAKHAP - Because these powers have been exercised by Labour with great disaster to the other sections of the community.

Senator Barnes - Where?

Senator BAKHAP - If the honorable senator will be patient, I will tell him. After all, these questions of constitutional amendment, boiled down, mean the fixation of prices.. They are not a Liberal versus Labour matter in the strictest sense of the term. I do not think that the Liberal party will assert that it is the custodian of the interests of the agricultural community solely, and, on the other hand, I do not think the Labour party will plead guilty to the charge that it is concerned only with the interests of the metropolitan folk. The cardinal and great question involved in this matter of the referenda proposals isi the fixing of prices, and as such, it constitutes an issue between the country people and the people of the cities.

Senator Guthrie - Then let the people say so ; that is all we ask.

Senator BAKHAP - It is a question between the producer and consumer.

Senator Senior - Not at all.

Senator Maughan - The fixing of prices is nothing new.

Senator BAKHAP - And the disaster to other sections of the community consequent upon the fixing of prices is nothing new either.

Senator Russell - Why does the honorable senator claim to represent the country people ? His party did not get a majority in the country districts in this State.

Senator BAKHAP - I am quite certain that nobody will challenge the statement that the major portion of the Liberal party's strength lies in the rural districts of the Commonwealth.

Senator Gardiner - It is not so in New South Wales.

Senator BAKHAP - It is held to be unsatisfactory that we have such a large concentration of the people of the Commonwealth in the capital cities of Australia, and nearly all who approach the consideration of this question from a rational stand-point, and who are gifted with anything like political and economic foresight, urge the desirability of a larger number of the Australian people going on to the land. We hear from every politician the shibboleth, "Go on the land, young man !"

Senator Guthrie - When they can.

Senator BAKHAP - The city population of the Commonwealth is protected and largely benefited by the fiscal policy of this country.

Senator Guthrie - Do you object to that?

Senator BAKHAP - No, I do not. To a reasonable extent I am a Protectionist. Now the bulk of the industrial population of the Commonwealth is in the cities. I am using the term " industrial " in the same sense as I would use the word " artisan." I mean those employed by manufacturers, the manufacturers themselves, and those dependent on manufactures in a direct or indirect degree. All these people, I say, experience a benefit from the Protective policy. which exists for the raising of prices to a level above that obtaining in the production of goods in other countries. The Protective policy, which benefits the people of the cities, has for its object the raising of prices, and consequent upon that raising of prices, the increase of wages paid to the industrial section of the community. Now it is significant that in this time of war no proposal has yet been made to reduce, say, the price of boots by a couple of shillings, or to take 10s. off the price of a suit of clothes. There is no proposal to reduce the price of gunny bags which the farmer so much requires. No; the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth has for its object the raising of the cost of articles, many of which are absolutely essential to the farming community.

Senator Russell - Give us one or two of them.

Senator BAKHAP - I have instanced one : the increase on boots. The fiscal policy, in fact, increases the price of almost every article of secondary production.

Senator Shannon - Machinery, for instance.

Senator Gardiner - We are supplying hundreds of thousands of pairs of boots to our troops cheaper than Great Britain can supply them.

Senator BAKHAP - I am not going to be deflected from my arguments by those interjections. I am saying that the object of the Protective policy is to enable prices to be raised, and as a conse- quence, to allow wages to be increased, and, therefore, the policy directly benefits the people of the cities and the artisans.

The PRESIDENT - I must .remind the honorable senator that a discussion on Free Trade versus Protection is hardly relevant to the Bill before the Senate.

Senator BAKHAP - I am illustrating my point that the proposals for constitutional amendment, representing the ideals of the Labour party, involve a question which discloses a radical difference between the interests of the city people and the interests of the farming population.

Senator Russell - Did I not hear the honorable senator regret that Great Britain did not have more protection for her steel industry ?

Senator BAKHAP - I said nothing of the kind, and the Minister should not endeavour to father any statement like that upon me.

Senator Russell - It would have been a good thing, anyhow.

Senator BAKHAP - The cry against high prices touches those articles which the French revolutionists called articles of * prime necessity - bread, meat, butter, and so forth. The object in fixing prices is not to make them higher but to fix them lower, in order to give the populations of the cities the advantage of obtaining articles of primary production at lower price than they would bring in the open market. Was not that the object of the wheat grab in New South Wales? Is it not the object of the Necessary Commodities Boards, instituted in some cases by Liberal Governments? The object is to reduce prices, not to raise them. The object of a Protective Tariff is to raise prices so that wages may be raised, and so that the benefits of the policy may 'be enjoyed by the metropolitan population.

Senator Barnes - Was that the object of the wheat grab in Victoria?

Senator BAKHAP - Fixing of prices is always done at the cost of the pro- .ducing community, particularly the agricultural community, which is responsible for the production of those articles the prices of which are complained of at the present time.

Senator Barnes - Is it not a fact that at 4s. 9d. the New South Wales farmers have got the highest price they have ever obtained for wheat?

Senator BAKHAP - Is it not a fact that the farmers of Victoria were compelled to sell their wheat at 4s. 6d., whereas now it is selling at 6s. or 7s., thereby practically losing 3s. per bushel?

Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - Was it not in their interests, to fix the price ?

Senator BAKHAP - Let the referenda proposals be decided by the votes of the farming community, and honorable senators will see them thrown out as they were thrown out before. It is to the urban communities that the party now in power looks to have the referenda proposals carried. There is a serious kink in human nature not always observed by politicians, but seen every day by philosophers.

Senator Barnes - The farmer is slowly finding the honorable senator out.

Senator BAKHAP - I would not be here but for the votes of the farmers, and their case is going to be championed by me, although I am not a farmer. A few weeks ago I accompanied a friend into a licensed victualler's establishment, where I was introduced to the manager, who was very much concerned by the proposals which were then before the State Parliament of Victoria to considerably reduce the hours during which licensed premises could remain open for business. I listened very sympathetically to him, though I did not take any particular part in the conversation. He resented the action of the State Administration in submitting those proposals ; but presently, when he and my friend, who at one time had been in the licensed victualling trade, began to discuss the question of counter lunches, the manager of the hotel broke out. He spent £1,000 a. year on counter lunches; used 70 lbs. of sausages a day and several rounds of corned beef, and several rounds of pressed beef, and he very much resented the high price of beef. He did not want to have his business interfered with, but he was quite prepared to see the " obnoxious Administration " interfere with the butchers, "who were making too much money," which he thought he was not doing. It is the same right through nil classes of the community. Every man wants a high price for the article or commodity he is producing, and he wants to see every other man selling his product cheaply. The tin miner talks of the monopoly of the Colonial Sugar Refining

Company, but he rejoices when tin advances 100 per cent, overseas. He would regard the city plumber who proposed that the price of tin should be reduced in order to make solder cheap as a lunatic; in every-day language he would tell him to " go and get his head read " ; but he would applaud with both hands the statement that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a pirate and a robber, and has been exploiting the Australian people for more than a generation. I approach this subject from the stand-point of the producer, and in view of the fact that the waste spaces of Australia must be filled with cultivators and producers of articles of prime necessity, as they were called by the French revolutionists; but while I am in favour of high wages and of a Protectionist policy, I abhor absolutely the man who says that he is in favour of high wages, and of protecting the manufacturer against the low-priced goods of other countries, yet turns round and, while in the same breath advocating the placing of men on the land, is desirous of compelling the agricultural producer to sell his commodities at an arbitrary price, fixed, not in the interests of the producer, but in the interests of the other man.

Senator Lynch - The honorable senator has missed one important point. The tin miner cannot fix the price of the product of his product, whereas the Colonial Sugar Refining Company can do so.

Senator BAKHAP - Can the wheatfarmer fix the price of the product of his labour? Is that not fixed overseas? Honorable senators may be prepared to do it, but are not some of the State Governments in Australia robbing the farmer of the price of his wheat to-day? Are they not robbing him of the price of his butter, and of the price that he might secure for. his chaff?

Senator Lynch - From my own personal experience, I know that the Wheat Ring can, and does, fix prices.

Senator BAKHAP - I am willing to see Protection adopted, and every attempt made to raise the standard of wages in order to raise the standard of living among the industrial community, but I deprecate any attempt made on behalf of that community, which is very largely metropolitan, to secure articles produced in country districts at prices which will be fixed- in their own interests, and not in the interests of those who are adjured to go on the laud and produce what the cities require. I again, denounce this Administration which is appealing to the people of Australia, in an alleged spirit of nationalism and federalism, for not boldly taking the situation in hand and proposing an amendment of the Constitution which would not confirm the State of New South Wales in its rights, as pronounced by the High Court, or the State of South Australia in its unfederal action, or the State of Queensland in its equally unfederal action, but will secure to the people of Australia that object which was dear to them when Federation was consummated. The Administration is acting with perfidy in this regard, for, while it contested an action against the State of New South Wales, immediately afterwards it instigated the State of Queensland to a similar act.

The PRESIDENT - I remind the honorable senator that a little while ago I did not permit him to pursue that line of argument.

Senator BAKHAP - I shall not pursue it any further.

Senator Barnes - Why does not Senator Bakhap give some redress to the people of Australia; why does he not say why he is absolutely opposed to giving them any power to govern themselves?

Senator BAKHAP - I am not going to give to the National Administration the power to destroy the essential feature of the Federal compact. If honorable senators wish to substantially alter the nature of the Federal compact, let them adopt the proposal of Senator Keating and relegate the whole matter to a Convention similar to that which propounded our present system of government; and let them not submit these proposals to the people in the interests of alleged socialistic objectives which, if the realization of them is attempted, will result in disaster to the people. The Minister has alluded to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, whose stock, because of the national action, has already fallen 26s. per share. Many of these people were charged with having done a number of absolutely dastardly things. It was suggested that they had given £50,000 to anti-referenda funds in order to protect their business.

Senator Ready - That is a statement which Mr. Knox did not deny.

Senator BAKHAP - He said that he .had given the money for a certain pur pose, but he would not pursue the subject any further. Had I been Mr. Knox, and really had given this money to the campaign funds in connexion with an attempt to defeat the referenda proposals, I should have boldly stated that I had done so, because, in my opinion, he would have been justified in doing so, in, the interests of his enterprise. The stock of that company has fallen to the extent of 26s. per share in the last few days

Senator Ferricks - The best commendation the action of the Federal Government could have received.

Senator BAKHAP - A blow which will have its effect on the history of the Commonwealth for generations has been dealt at this company, whose shares can be bought openly in any stock exchange in Australia. The loss already entailed by the fall in share values will represent a sum of about £150,000 at least. If Mr. Knox, or the directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, thought that the interests of their shareholders would be impaired by the adoption of the referenda proposals to the extent of £150,000 a year, would they not have been honestly justified in subscribing £50,000 towards any fund created to resist them? When I was addressing the country in connexion with the referenda proposals in 1911, I drew attention to the fact that the finest sugar was then 50 per cent, cheaper than black sugar was twenty-five years previous to 1911. The president of a Shearers Union was at one of my meetings. He came round to my hotel afterwards, and said, " I heard that argument of yours about the sugar. I know it to be a fact, and, consequently, I am going to vote against these proposals, for if you can blow a hole into the argument in one direction it will be possible to blow many other holes into it." But it is a fact that sugar was 50 per cent, dearer in Australia fifty years' ago than it is to-day.

Senator Ready - Were not suits of clothes, boots, and other things dearer?

Senator BAKHAP - According to a statement for which the Minister of Customs is- responsible, sugar has appreciated only about two-hundredths of a penny per lb. as compared with the price last year. At the time this statement was made - I am giving it on the authority of Mr. Tudor - sugar was being retailed in the Commonwealth at under 3d. per lb. That is only a few weeks ago. I have the statement here cut from one of the papers published at the time. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company makes a' profit of about a quarter of a million sterling every year-

Senator Ferricks - Over halfamillion.

Senator BAKHAP - In the year of the first referenda campaign it declared dividends to the extent of" £240,000 per annum.

Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - That was for the half-year.

Senator BAKHAP - At every meeting I addressed against the referenda proposals I was greeted with the remark, " What about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company 1 Did it not make a quarter of a million in profits this year, and would it not be a good thing for the Government to take it over?" Is this the objective of the Government? Is this the objective of the Labour party - to declare every profitable enterprise of any magnitude whatever a monopoly, and then to impair its stability in some way by some covert action, or to attack it directly and absorb it? What sort of incentive is this sort of thing going ' to give to private enterprise during succeeding generations? For the purposes of argument, I am perfectly willing to admit that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a monopoly. As a matter of fact, it is not a tyrannous monopoly. It is a company conducted in the light of open day. Shares can be bought on any stock exchange in Australia. There is nothing of the ring, trust, or combine, or anything of a sinister or deleterious nature about it.

Senator Maughan - Ask the cane growers of Queensland what they think about it.

Senator BAKHAP - Does the honorable senator deny that he can buy shares in the company to-morrow? Is there anything sinister in connexion with the company ? It sells sugar at a price 50 per cent, less than inferior sugar was sold for half a century ago. Why? Because it mixed the sugar with brains. It has given service of the highest order to the Commonwealth, but because it has not .gone into liquidation - and the National Administration would not have recouped it its capital if it had - and because it has made a profit of a quarter or halfa.million pounds a year it is declared to be something pernicious, that the Government should take over or undermine. But I will admit, for the purposes of argument, that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a monopoly, and that it makes a profit of half-a-million a year.

Senator Guy - Two hundred and seventy thousand pounds in a . half-year.

Senator BAKHAP - I will grant that that is so. I have not been following the share market in connexion with the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I am not a speculator in shares; but let us say that it makes a profit of a million a year.

Senator Long - What is a million anyhow !

Senator BAKHAP - I have known honorable senators do discreditable things for less than a million .

Senator Barnes - Mr. Knox says that you only got £50,000.

Senator Long - Smuggling Chinese into Australia. Is that what you mean ?

Senator BAKHAP - Very likely. There are some people engaged in that occupation, but if the honorable senator is making any reference to me I inform him that he cannot connect me with any attempt to smuggle Chinese or any other aliens into Australia.

Senator Long - Possibly, but it would not be very difficult.

Senator BAKHAP - Let us say that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company makes a profit of a million a year. That is twenty million shillings. There are five million people in Australia. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company provides the whole of the population of Australia with sugar, and, consequently, it is rendering this service to the whole of the people at a cost of 4s. per head. What service will any honorable senator perform for any other person in any other capacity at the price of 4s. per head?

Senator Senior - We know what the disclosed profits are, but do not know the reserve capital.

Senator BAKHAP - This successful enterprise, which has been selling sugar to the people of Australia at less than 3d. per lb., has a right to make some profit. Is it the Labour party's ideal that such an enterprise as this should fail, or that every successful joint stock company should go into liquidation? Is that their objective? They do not like to see these profit-bearing balance-sheets, because there is a cant of Socialism abroad. There is a cant of industrialism abroad. If a man makes a profit in an enterprise the people are told that he is a robber, an exploiter, and a pirate. A false economic philosophy is being preached. Nobody is preaching the glory of success in business - the glory of initiative which enables something that was unproductive and not previously disclosed as a resource of the Commonwealth to be turned into wealth. There is no glorification of that brain power or of that capacity, but there is a continual volume of calumny directed at the successful business man; and the false doctrine is being preached to the people that the successful business man is an exploiter, a pirate, and a robber. Who is it that was invited the other day to go to Broken Hill to preach against the "food pirates", the " exploiters ", and the " robbers " ? Beyond all doubt the situation of the Australian Commonwealth, allowing for the difference in temperament between the peoples of France and Australia, shows that the conditions that preceded the French Revolution are, to a certain extent, being artificially set up here. What precipitated the French Revolution, which otherwise might have been peacefully and constitutionally effected ?

Senator Guthrie - Fellows like you.

Senator BAKHAP - It was fellows like the Labour party that made the revolution what it became - a regular terror to mankind; so that the people breathed with relief when it was no longer hanging over them. It was a bad harvest that precipitated the French Revolution. The people listened to the -tale that they were being exploited by those who were hoarding up grain. They demanded the free circulation of grain, and accused the capitalists of hoarding vast stores of it, in order to enhance prices and rob the people. In spite of the greatest efforts that were made to disclose these imagined stores of grain, the largest store ever found in one place consisted of forty cartloads secreted for the purposes of a certain religious community. The free circulation of grain was demanded, the exploiters were denounced, every artifice was employed to relieve the situation; but, singular to say, it was only intensified, for bad harvest, succeeded bad harvest, and the revolution degenerated into what it became for nearly two years - a reign of terror. The people, forgetful of the lessons of history, forgetful that the English had attempted to fix prices - and I suppose they could not be expected to remember that the Romans, the Babylonians, and the Chinese, had made similar attempts - were convinced that th<* situation would be relieved by the fixing of prices, and the law of the maximum was instituted. This was, in effect, a national attempt to fix the prices of articles of prime necessity. That law did not fix the price of so many articles as the Australian Labour party appear to have in contemplation, but it did fix the price of a good number of commodities, mainly those produced by the rural communities of France, and attempted to fix them in a downward direction for the benefit of the metropolitan community of Paris. Even in the time of the English Edward III., the legislators of the day pursued the same fallacies, and attempted to remedy the same evils, by the same improper means that the Labour party seek to employ to-day. I shall not deal with what was done in the time of the Romans, the Babylonians, or the Chinese, but will quote something written by a much greater man than we have ever produced in Australia - a man who was himself a revolutionary and a friend of freedom, and who was at one time provisional President, if not President, of a French revolutionary Government. He was a literary man, a scientist, and historian, and gave to posterity a history of the disastrous attempts of his countrymen in the direction of fixing prices.

Suggest corrections