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Thursday, 10 March 1904

Mr LONSDALE (New England) - I was an opponent of the Constitution under which we federated, as the Minister for Trade and Customs is well aware. I opposed it because of the principle of State rights to which it gives so much prominence, and because I realized that we were asked to federate under a provincial Bill, and not under a national one. Its main purpose, it seems to me, is to raise revenue, to accept all the responsibility for so doing, and then to hand over that revenue to be spent by irresponsible bodies. Consequently, I fought the Bill with all. the strength which I possessed, and as a result I was defeated in my own constituency. Our experience of. Federation, however, has been such that if the people of New South Wales had to vote upon the question to-morrow, the Constitution would be rejected by- a majority of ten to one. However, we have federated, and it behoves us, therefore, to do the best we can for the people whom we represent, and to pay regard to the nation as a whole. I know that that is not easy. I realize that it is extremely difficult to destroy the provincial spirit which to a large extent has been created by the Constitution itself. In New South Wales there never was such a strong feeling against the other States as there is to-day. There, the spirit of antagonism has grown and has been intensified since the accomplishment of Federation, by reason of the course which has been taken. Quite recently the States Treasurers met in Conference in Melbourne, and practically decided in favour of the perpetuation of the Braddon section of the Constitution. Instead of seeking to improve our position, they adopted exactly an opposite course. In the GovernorGeneral's speech I notice that reference is made

The reaping of bountiful harvests over the greater part of the Commonwealth revives the problem of insuring to the agriculturist a return which will repay his labours and encourage increased efforts.

How is this to be done? Do the Government propose to obtain for our farmers an increased price for their produce at the expense of the rest of the community ? I presume that is what is suggested. Then the speech proceeds to make reference to the question of preferential trade, and to state that if we can secure it, it will give us " an immense and reliable market." Protection is mean, and this proposal is a piece of superlative meanness. Protection simply takes the money out of the pockets of one set of men -and puts it in the pockets of others. It takes it out of the pockets of those who ' can ill afford to bear any burden, and gives it to those who are already rich. The proposal foreshadowed in this paragraph is superlatively mean, because it suggests a desire to take money out of the pockets of the masses of England and put it into the pockets of the farmers of the Commonwealth. Could there be a more selfish proposition ?

Mr Storrer - It is better to do that than to allow their money to go to the foreigner.

Mr LONSDALE - Ten thousand times no. The honorable member says, in effect, that it is better to starve the poor of England than to allow the money to go to the foreigner. Are there men in the community with souls above pounds, shillings, and pence, who accept the position -of the honorable member?-

Mr Johnson - And this is the expression of their loyalty !

Mr LONSDALE - Is this loyalty? I am loyal to the King as the head of the nation - as the representative of the nation; but I am also loyal to the people. If loyalty to the King meant the starvation of the people I should not be loyal to the Throne. We do not give away anything to the foreigner. It is from the foreigner that Great Britain obtains a portion of her food supplies, and it is better that she should do so if, by drawing her supplies from us, her people would obtain less than they would otherwise do. The gentleman who has brought forward the preferential trade proposals is, of course, to be spoken of with bated breath. He stands amongst the great people of the world. He occupies a foremost position in the minds of the people. People everywhere look towards him, and one must say nothing but nice things df him. I, for one, have had the courage to criticise Mr. Chamberlain in terms which do not come within that definition, and I assert that when he entered upon his crusade he was either suffering from softening of the brain or was prepared to occupy a position that is not creditable to him. He commenced his crusade by pointing to the people of England, and declaring that they were failing in the race for trade - that from 1872 to 1902 the value of the trade of Great Britain had increased to the extent of only some £20.060,000, while its population had increased by some 30 per cent., and that it could not bear this increasing burden of population unless its trade expanded. That was the statement made by him in his Glasgow speech. It is true that, according to the returns that are available, the population of Great Britain between 1872 and 1902 increased by a little over 30 per cent. ; but let me point out that- 1872 was a boom year - that from 1870 to 1872 British trade increased, as the result of the FrancoGerman war, to the extent of some £60,000,000. Why did Mr. Chamberlain choose these years for .the purposes of his comparisons? Was he aware of the fact that I have just mentioned when he selected the year during which England's trade was booming for the purposes of a comparison with a year in which she had just emerged from a war as severe perhaps as any in which she had ever been engaged. He would have us believe that this is a proper comparison-

Mr Deakin - Mr. Chamberlain made a comparison with alb the subsequent years, and showed that the result was the same.

Mr LONSDALE - The comparison does not show anything like the same result.

Mr Deakin - I beg the honorable member's pardon.

Mr LONSDALE - If the values which prevailed in 1872 had ruled in 1902 the value of British trade in the last-named year would have- been £r 50,000,000 greater than it was. Great Britain's trade has enormously advanced, and the man who dares to say that it is decaying is either ignorant of the facts or is influenced by reasons which cannot be explained. Honorable members may take whatever estimate they please, they will find that my statement is correct. I shall mention one or two items in order to show how Great Britain's trade is affected by the question of values. In 1872 England imported 1.135,832,432 lbs. of raw cotton, the value of which was £42,720,000. In the same year the . value of the cotton piece goods exported by England was £63,466,729, while the value of yarns exported by her was £16,607,426. In 1902 England imported 1,541,574,832 lbs. of cotton, or, in round figures, 400,000,000 lbs. more than in 1872, but the value of that importation was £8,529,000 less than that of the cotton imported in 1872. Then, again, the export of cotton piece goods in 1902 was nearly £2,000,000 in excess of the exports of 1872. Any one can understand that if the price of the raw material which England imported in 1902 had been the same as it was in 1872, the value of her export trade in cotton goods would have been immensely greater. An examination of the statistics from first to last shows that the seemingly small increase in England's trade is due really to the reduc-tions in value which have taken place, and that, as a matter of- fact, the actual bulk of her exports in 1902 was immensely larger. I do not desire to labour this question, but I trust that honorable members will see for themselves the true position in which

England's export trade stands. Mr. Chamberlain has also compared the trade of England with that of other countries, and has declared that in the race for trade she is drifting behind. Let me take the greatest country of all, the United States of America, and see how England stands in comparison with her. Strange to say, in making these comparisons, our protectionist friends always desire to deal with the figures relating to the export trade, and Mr. Chamberlain, although he does not admit that he is a protectionist, appears to be adopting the same system. ^Protectionists invariably tell us that the volume of a nation's export trade is the criterion of its prosperity - that the more a nation sells, and the less it receives in return, the richer it is. According to them, the more a nation exports, and the less it imports, the greater is its prosperity. Unfortunately, I cannot recognise the wisdom of that doctrine If I part with my goods, and receive nothing in return, I find that I am so much the poorer; but, nevertheless, we have protectionists declaring that if a country's export trade is large, while its import trade is small, it must be growing rich. I wish honorable members to see that other nations cannot in any way compare with England, so far as their total trade is concerned ; but in order to please the supporters of the Government, I shall deal, first of all, with the figures relating to exports. La'st year America's exports were about equal in value to those of England. That, to many men, seems to be a proof that England's trade is not keeping pace with that, of other countries ; but, to me, it conveys no such impression. I find that the 40,000,000 on the one hand have the same trade as have the 80,000,000 people on the other. Per head of the population, England has exactly double the trade of the United States of America ; and yet we are told that the trade of the old land is decaying. Honorable members are, doubtless, aware that the great bulk of the trade of the United States* of America relates to agricultural productions - that it deals, for example; with live cattle, meat, mineral oils, and timber. Do honorable members imagine that England can compete with the .United States of America in that respect?Is it possible for England to graze on her pasture lands as many cattle as America can run on her vast prairies ? Is it possible for her to take out of mineral oil wells that she does not possess the oil which America is able to send abroad ? Is it possible that she. should be able to take out of her forests the same quantity of timber that America can obtain? The answer must be, No. And if we exclude these sections of America's trade, we find that England is placing on the markets of the world four times the exports, per head of population, that the United States of America is sending forth. I wish honorable members to give this matter some consideration, and to say whether the figures I have quoted indicate any sign of decay on the part of the grand old land. England possesses no advantage over- the United States of America. In order to secure this immense trade she has to levy tribute upon the whole world for her raw material. Last year she imported £34,191,000 worth of cotton - much of it coming from the United States of America - worked it up in her factories, and sent it abroad again to compete in America, and other parts of the world, with the products of other countries. " Our industry," . they tell us, " is assailed; you can see that there has been a change in the trade.. Away back in 1872 our iron and steel trade was not as much as it is today." But some £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 worth of our. exports in that year were raw material. If honorable members will look at the statistics for the present time, they will see that the export of raw material from English ports has almost ceased, and that what is exported now is the finished article. Indeed, England imports raw material - bar iron, scrap iron, steel blooms, and so on - very largely. Last year she imported .£5,000,000 worth of iron ore, which shows how largely she is dependent upon other countries, even for the raw material needed for the manufacture of steel. 'We have been told that the dumping of foreign goods is ruining England. To my view, that is a foolish statement. Honorable members wonder why England keeps her position. That position has come to her because of the freedom of her ports, because she says to the other peoples of the world - " Send us your goods; we are ready to admit them free of duty." By doing this, she has had at her command the products of other countries, and has gained an advantage which has placed her in her present unequalled position. To say that the dumping of foreign exports upon her shores has ruined her is absurd. My trouble is that, people will not dump enough into -my home. I should be very pleased if they could dump everything for nothing. I would soon grow rich if that happened ; but, as it is, I have always to pay for what I get. During the recent electoral campaign, I saw the statement published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph that one of the iron manufacturers had called together his men and told them that he would have- to reduce their wages, because of the quantity of raw material being imported into England, and I saw .that steel blooms could be purchased for less in England than in America. ' I admit that the state of affairs was a bad one for those who had to submit to a reduction of wages j but the raw material imported into England increased employment in very many other industries. The English shipbuilding industry stands in front of all others to-day, and will occupy that position so long as other countries keep sending into that country the steel and iron required for building ships. It is the foolishness of other nations that has helped England. Would it be surprising if America, with her population of 80,000,000 of people of the cutest intellect and. the highest industry, and her magnificent resources, were doing a greater trade than that of a little country like England ? Would it be a thing to be wondered at if they got in front in the race ? It would not surprise me at all. But they have, by their restrictive legislation, kept themselves behind, and allowed' the little land of freedom to forge ahead. The position of England in the markets of the world is an astounding one. The Prime Minister, speaking last week in this Chamber, said -

To our thoughts the doctrine of free imports is essentially distasteful, because it -means to us as to some of its most outspoken advocates in the text books, a reduction of the conditions of life and labour to the irreducible minimum, an abolition of every consideration, than the power of the purse, coupled with a refusal to look beyond superficial cheapness.

I am sure that every free-trader desires that the living of the people employed in industries shall be of the best, and when the Prime Minister spoke of free-trade, or free importation, as he called it, to escape certain difficulties, bringing wages down to an irreducible minimum, he made an assertion that has never been proved, and, if I may be pardoned for using the term, employed a piece of pure claptrap. A few years ago I read in one of the Victorian factory reports that fifteen factories in Melbourne, employing 339 hands, were I paying their workpeople no wages at all. I do not think they could do much worse than that, unless they charged them for working.

Mr Deakin - Does the honorable member understand what those factories were?

Mr LONSDALE - Yes ; I shall he perfectly fair. I do not think a man helps his cause by being unfair. I admit at once that they were dressmaking and millinery establishments.

Mr Deakin - And the employes were what are called improvers?

Mr LONSDALE - They must have been apprentices ; but that is the irreducible minimum under protection.

Mr Deakin - It would be the irreducible minimum under any policy.

Mr LONSDALE - I am not saying that protection was responsible for that state of affairs. My point is that to say that protection keeps up wages is not correct. Protection never did and never will assist the workers.

Mr Deakin - The honorable member's other point was that legislation will not assist them ; 'but by legislation we compelled those factories to pay their improvers.

Mr LONSDALE - The Inspector of Factories, in reporting upon this state of things, recommended that a minimum wage should be provided for to put an end to it, and a wage of 2S. 6d. per week was accordingly fixed upon. The Victorian Government did its level best to help these apprentices, 'but twelve months later the inspector reported again that the factories were still being carried on without these apprentices receiving anything. At the time I was fighting against the introduction of protection into New South Wales, and therefore I kept myself abreast of what was taking place here.

Mr Hutchison - The honorable member's statement only shows that the employers did not respect the law.

Mr LONSDALE - It shows how ineffective laws are to remedy these things. Employers "under protection learn to be much smarter than they are under freetrade. So the employers of these persons said - "We cannot take you into our factories unless you pay us a premium." And when the apprentices replied that they could not pay a premium, they were told that they could pay it by instalments ; that they would be given 2s. 6d. every Saturday night, which they must pay back on the following Monday morning. After that, the Victorian Government passed more legislation to deal with the matter ; but if the Prime Minister will read that legislation, and the reports of the inspectors upon its effects, he will find in it a text-book which will show him the utter impossibility of increasing wages by Act of Parliament. The honorable and learned gentleman no doubt will tell me that they did increase wages. I admit that they may have increased the wages of some of the employes who were retained, but, to counterbalance that, other employes were dismissed to starve.

Mr Deakin - That statement has been contradicted by the Inspector of Factories. Victorian legislation has raised the wages of thousands of employes, .without leading to the dismissal of any.

Mr LONSDALE - I read the report of the inspector to-day. He says that there are still places in which men who find that they cannot do as much work as their fellows have agreed to sign for certain wages and to accept less.

Mr Hutchison - It is time that the State interfered to prevent employers from taking advantage of the necessities of their workmen.

Mr LONSDALE - Laws may alter conditions a little, but they only lead to the creation of other conditions which, in my opinion, are worse.

Sir William Lyne - What the honorable member complains of is being very largely done in New South Wales.


Sir William Lyne - Yes. I could name places where it is done.

Mr Deakin - The sweating has been worse in Sydney than in Melbourne

Mr LONSDALE - It could not be worse.; but in any case the Government of New South Wales has not put its hands into the pockets of the people arid pretended that it was making things better when it was really making them worse. Honorable members opposite pretend that protection helps the workers, but it does not. Wages are lower, and their purchasing power is less in protected Germany than in free-trade England. The advantages enjoyed by the people of Great Britain under free-trade are immensely greater than those at the command of the people of Germany. It is only necessary to go to Germany and see the the people eating their black bread, and the poverty in which they live, to realize the difference between the two countries, and the advantages enjoyed by free-trade England.

Mr Isaacs - Was it not very much worse in Germany before protection was introduced there ?

Mr Deakin - What has the honorable member to say about English pauperism ?

Mr LONSDALE - English pauperism is not so great to-day as in years past. There is pauperism in Melbourne and Sydney, where there ought not to be any. Our people are crushed down into deeper poverty than they should be, because of the restrictive conditions under which we live. What has made the Social Democrats of Germany so strong ?

Mr Deakin - Militarism.

Mr LONSDALE - Not only that, but the fact that the general community has been called upon to bear the burden of the bonuses granted to farmers and others, and because of the heavy duties placed upon foodstuffs. Every increase of Customs duties in Germany has led to an accession of power to the Social Democrats.

Mr Isaacs - How does the honorable member explain the fact that, according to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, there are 12,000,000 persons in the United Kingdom who are on the verge of starvation.

Mr LONSDALE - First of all I do not believe it. How was that result arrived at? The plan adopted was to take the numbers of the 'poor in the slums of London to ascertain the proportion they bore to the population of that city, and to use that as a basis of calculation applied to the whole population of England. It was not arrived at by noting the facts disclosed in the returns of the Poor Law Boards, and therefore the estimate is utterly unreliable. The Prime Minister has referred to the fact that, so far as the free-trade party is concerned, conditions have altered since the time of Cobden, particularly in regard to sanitary and industrial legislation. Cobden was a free-trader, but he did not advocate freetrade only so far as commerce was concerned. If he had lived and could have carried out his crusade to the fullest degree, the condition of affairs in England would have been very different from what it is today. He stated just before his death that, if he were a young man thirty or thirtyfive years of age, he would start a league for free-trade in land with a view to ameliorate the conditions of the people. We are seeking to improve the conditions of the . people by legislation which is taking an entirely wrong direction, and is gradually making things worse. Reference has been made to the fact that the Labour Party are supporting legislation for the benefit of their own class, and who shall blame them. I do not agree with everything they have done; but before there was a Labour Party in politics what course was adopted by those who had the power? They legislated for their own section, and for them alone. If the legislation in times gone by had been of a different class there would have been no LabourPartyto-day. We have created huge monopolies and conferred great benefits upon them, not deliberately, but owing to our misdirected legislation. So far as immigration is concerned, the land question is the key to the whole position. Land is the one element from which wealth is produced. It is upon the land that every man should be able to find employment. There are broad acres in all directions, which, if men were free to till them, even with a spade, would yield livings for themselves and their families. Yet we find that the means which nature has provided for man's sustenance have been legislated away from him, and given to monopolists. Restrictive legislation such as that passed in recent years will never benefit the working classes ; but the doctrine of freedom carried to such an extent as to afford full and equal opportunities to every man to sustain himself by profitable employment, presents the only means of salvation. Every man is entitled to what he earns or produces. No man is entitled to take from him any of the product of his labour without giving him a fair equivalent, but there are hundreds of men in this country who, under existing conditions, are able to take from the working classes a share of the wealth they produce. Whilst I recognise all this, I believe that the legislation which is now being submitted to us is not of the class calculated to remedy existing evils.

Mr Watson - What would the honorable member substitute?

Mr LONSDALE - I would substitute something if I had my way, but I recognise that in this Parliament we are very much hampered. In the State Parliament of New South Wales, I have throughout my career advocated a certain course which would take me beyond the sphere of Federal politics at the present stage. Some of the members of the Labour Party have spoken of the necessity of providing for the payment of old-age pensions. I am in favour of pensions being given only to the deserving poor. I do not regard every man as being entitled to a pension; but I am looking forward to the old-age pension scheme for my own benefit, because I am not a wealthy man, and I may have to take advantage of the system. When deserving men go down in the struggle of life it is right that we should make their conditions as pleasant and easy as possible.

Mr Watson - How would the honorable member discriminate between those who are deserving and those who are not?

Mr LONSDALE - That could easily be done. I know of one case in New South Wales in which a man who has £130 in the bank - that is more than I have - and also his own house, draws a pension from the State because he is over the age of 65. Will any honorable member say that that is right ? I am afraid that State rights will stand in the way of the adoption of the suggestion that the funds necessary for the payment of old-age pensions should be raised by means of a land tax. I would point out that we could not impose a land tax in Western Australia, for example, and leave other States untouched in that regard. Whilst our financial conditions remain as they are we are powerless to do anything in the way of raising funds. Until the Braddon blot is removed, and the federation can exercise a free hand in regard to its finances, we cannot provide for old-age pensions. I am an advocate of land taxation. I believe that all the revenue that we require should be raised by means of a tax upon land, and I have industriously promulgated that doctrine throughout my State electorate, although not in my Federal electorate. The true friends of labour should avail themselves of every opportunity to denounce the present system of spoliation under which we live, and endeavour to so adjust the incidence of taxation that when the State spends large sums of money it shall receive an adequate return, that when the growth of population increases the value of the land the increment shall go to the people who make it. The Labour Party in New South Wales crippled the land tax when it was first introduced into the State Legislature. They supported an exemption with the object of saving the poor man.

Mr Watson - So did the leader of the Opposition, who was then the head of the Government in New South Wales.

Mr LONSDALE - But I did not.

Mr Watson - No, I grant that.

Mr LONSDALE - I suppose that I may term the honorable and learned member for East Sydney an opportunist, because he went for all he thought he could get. Some halfdozen honorable members of the State Legislature voted against the provision for the exemption, but it was inserted in the Bill at the instigation of the Labour Party, and the honorable and learned member for East Sydney had to submit. I wish to say a word or two with regard to the doctrine of cheapness. Cheapness is bad if it results from the sweating of labour. It is a curse to the community that wages should be kept down in order that commodities may be made cheap. But if cheapness results from the lessened cost of production, and is obtained by fair and right means, it is one of the greatest possible blessings to the community. Is it right to make goods artificially dear? Was it right that fodder should be made artificially dear, as it was last year when so many farmers were upon the verge of ruin ?

Mr Hutchison - Ask the South Australian farmers about that?

Mr LONSDALE - In my own electorate there are farmers who made fortunes out of the necessities of others. I faced them upon the public platform, and told them exactly what I am saying tonight. It was absolutely wrong that they should have enriched themselves as the result of the misery and distress of others. That is an instance of artificial dearness, which was good for the South Australian farmers, but extremely bad for the men who were suffering, and who ought to have been considered. South Australian farmers would have obtained a good price for their wheat without the operation of the fodder duties. Now they cannot get a good price, even with the aid of these duties. Such imposts can prove of assistance only in time of famine or scarcity. If we desire to produce dear wheat, let our farmers use the primitive plough, which was used by my father in the early days, before the outbreak of the gold-fields. The improved methods of production have cheapened the cost, and as' a result our farmers derive a fair price for their produce to-day. Any attempt to increase that price by means of the payment of a bonus is equivalent to robbing the people. It will be gathered from my remarks that I am opposed to granting a bonus for the production of iron. Neither Mr. Sandford nor any other gentleman will secure my assistance in any effort to exploit some one else's pockets. I desire, nevertheless, that the fullest avenues of employment shall be opened up. When we have done that we shall have accomplished all that legislation can do for the purpose of benefiting the massesof the people. So far as New South Wales is concerned, our factories under free-trade employed only a thousand hands less than did those of Victoria. The main difference was that the former State employed men, whilst the latter employed women and children. I thank honorable members for the very patient hearing which they have accorded to me.

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