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Thursday, 17 March 1904

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member for Echuca must withdraw that remark.

Mr McColl - I withdraw the remark, but the speech which I delivered last week is a sufficient contradiction of the honorable member's statement.

Mr McDONALD - I do not regard the interjection of the honorable member as in any way offensive. " I know what are his feelings towards the Labour Party generally

Mr McColl - It will be better for the honorable member not to say anything more about it.

Mr McDONALD - I know the class outside the House to which the honorable member belongs. Its members have never lost an opportunity of attempting to prevent members of the Labour Party from being returned to Parliament.

Mr McColl - Will the honorable member mention what that class is? He is only a slanderer.

Mr SPEAKER - Will the honorable member for Echuca withdraw that remark ?

Mr McColl - I shall have to do so.

Mr McDONALD - When an honorable member makes a charge of that sort I think he should withdraw it unconditionally.

Mr McColl - It is the honorable member who is making a charge.

Mr McDONALD - I am making no charge. I simply say that the class to which the honorable member belongs-

Mr McColl - What class is that?

Mr McDONALD - The employing class generally. I know that the honorable member is a farmer, and that if he could possibly prevent it, he would not allow a solitary labour member to sit in thisHouse. That is no charge at all. We fight the honorable member, and the party with which he is associated, outside the House in the same way that they fight us. Ido not say that in any disparaging spirit, and when the honorable member loses his temper I am sorry for him. Another familiar item in the Governor-General's Speech has reference to the question of old-age pensions. At the opening of the first Parliament reference was made to the same subject in the Vice-Regal Speech, although the Government were perfectly well aware at the time that there was no possibility of giving effect to such legislation. .

Mr Deakin - They stated so in the speech.

Mr McDONALD - Then why attempt to delude the people of Australia? The reference is intended to induce people to believe that the Government desire to do something in that direction. Yet, when the honorable member for Darwin submitted a motion affirming the desirableness of establishing a system of old-age pensions, and setting out that the passing of the resolution should be regarded as an instruction to the Attorney-General to draft a Bill to give effect to it, who were its strongest opponents ? The present Minister for Trade and Customs and Sir Edmund Barton. It seems to me that no serious attempt was made on that occasion to grapple with the question. If the Government honestly desired to deal with it in an effective way, they could do so by submitting proposals in favour of direct taxation. In regard to the admission of Chinese into South Africa, I must compliment the Government upon the action which they took. I exceedingly regret that it should be necessary for us to interfere in political matters outside of Australia. It is a deplorable state of affairs. Nevertheless, the Government themselves set the ex ample in this respect when they submitted a resolution in this House indorsing , the policy of Mr. Chamberlain. Whilst it is undesirable, as a general rule, to interfere in politics outside of Australia, I think that the proposal to introduce Chinese labour into South Africa constitutes an exceptional case which justifies us in our action, more especially when we consider the amount of treasure and human life that has been sacrificed there. What was the object of that sacrifice? It was ostensibly designed to benefit the British residents there. But it now appears that it was really intended to benefit a few speculators, who dragged the honour of England into the mire for the purpose of robbing the unfortunate Boers of the gold which they had in their country. Now it is proposed to work these mines with Chinese labour.

Mr Conroy - Is there much distinction between a Chinese Africa and a Black Africa ?

Mr McDONALD - There is no difference whatever from the point of view of white labour. I wish now to draw the attention of the House to a paragraph which recently appeared in one of the newspapers, and which sets, out some, of the evidence given before the Royal Commission that was appointed to inquire into. the. labour conditions prevailing in South Africa. I particularly wish to emphasize the testimony of Mr. Creswell, manager of the Village Main Reef gold-mine. The paragraph in question states -

Mr. Creswellrecently engaged white unskilled labour for the mine at10s. per day. The experiment, has proved a success, but yesterday he informed the Commission that the chairman of his London board had privately written to him, stating that Messrs. Wernher, Beit, and Co. and other leading mine-owners had been consulted regarding the new departure. They expressed the fear that the engagement of a large number of white labourers on the Rand would cause troubles similar to those that prevailed in Australia. It would enable a combination of labourers to dictate wages, and would give them a political power when responsible government was granted to the Colonies.

To my mind that evidence constitutes one of the strongest reasons why we should compliment the Government upon having taken such timely action. As we shall shortly be called upon to deal with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill,' it is unnecessary for me to discuss the matter at the present stage ; but I desire to intimate that if that Bill ever reaches the Committee stage, I shall move an amendment extending its provisions to the railway servants of the States. I wish now to make a few remarks relative to the effect which ' certain legislation, passed by this Parliament, is said to have had upon the credit of Australia. We are told that this legislation has been passed practically at the bidding of the Labour Party, and that if it has not ruined Australia, it has, at all events, led to the depression from which the States are now suffering. What does this charge amount to? It simply means that in the opinion of those who decry this legislation, section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act, and the contract labour section in the Immigration Restriction Act, have been detrimental to the interests of Australia. Is there any one outside a lunatic asylum who would assert that two isolated provisions in two Acts of Parliament have frightened capital away from Australia? Section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act dennes the class of labour which shall be employed on vessels subsidized by the Government of the Commonwealth, and declares that white labour only shall be employed on such steamers. We are told by one honorable member that the question at issue is not whether the shipping companies require cheap labour, but whether they desire to obtain reliable labour. My. own opinion is that what they desire to secure is cheap and servile labour. Considerations of expense enter very largely into the question of employment, so far as these companies are concerned. Capitalists care nothing for the black man ; they use him,- just as they employ the white man, in order to secure a profit to themselves, and that is all they are ever likely to do. One honorable member has asserted that white sailors are not reliable, and that it is for that reason that the shipping companies prefer to employ black labour. I would ask that honorable member whether he would prefer to depend upon a black or a white population. I am beginning to think that the loud cries that we hear against the exclusive employment of white labour on our mail steamers are hypocritical. We hear opponents of legislation of the class to which I have referred, singing from time to time about the " Boys of the Bulldog Breed," and talking loudly of the readiness of our men to defend the Empire; but, as soon as their pockets are touched they assert that white sailors are not reliable, and that they prefer black labour. In these circumstances we are justified in believing that there is a great deal of hypocrisy associated with the protestations of loyalty on the part of those who prefer to see black labour employed /ed cn our steam-ships. We have also been !old that the incident of the six hatters has caused the British investor to look upon Australia as a place to be avoided, and that, because we considered that certain men who had violated our laws should be detained here for several days, there is not a capitalist in the old country who would lend us a farthing. In my opinion, the British investor does not care a continental rap for section 1 6 of the Post and Telegraph Act, nor for the provision relating to the employment of contract labour in the Immigration Restriction Act. I have here an interesting quotation from the London Daily Mail, of 3rd December last, which puts the whole position in a nutshell. Referring to the Immigration Restriction Act, it sets forth that -

The commonly-received talk about the Act being the work of the Labour Party in the Commonwealth is only talk. The Act is the Commonwealth's ; there it is, on the' statute-book, with not the faintest indication of a disposition in the Legislature or the people at large to wipe it off again. The Act is certainly in the interests of Australian labour, or what Australian labour takes to be its interests ; but if labour has the power to pass such laws, it has the ruling power in the Commonwealth) and nothing practical is gained by denouncing labour. If a sweeping measure of disfranchisement is what is at the back of the minds of the people here and in Australia who talk in this way about the enormities of the Labour Party, let them speak it out plainly, and see how ridiculous the notion is. If they do not want that, they may as well make the best, instead of the worst, of things as they stand. What it all comes to is that Australia is the most perfect Democracy in the world, and naturally legislates for the Demos; if it consoles any one to call Demos bad names, he is at liberty to do so. But the better plan would be to attempt to enlighten and improve him.

The London Daily Mail cannot be regarded as a labour journal: but it certainly, puts the position in regard to legislation of this kind in a proper light. I am one of those who believe that the great depression from which Australia has suffered for some years past has been- due, not to any legislation passed by the Parliament of the Commonwealth, but to the severe and unparalleled drought through which we have passed. During the course of my travels through Queensland, I have seen many instances of the terribleeffects that the drought - which was most acute during the first three years of the existence of the Commonwealth - has had upon the country, and it is to that cause, and not to any legislation which we may have passed, that the depression now existing must be attributed. We are told that apart altogether from the effects of the drought, Australia is passing through a period of depression, and I think that we are justified in asking our opponents to furnish us with some specific evidence in support of their assertion. The honorable and learned member for Parkes spoke of the ruin and disaster which, in his opinion, had been caused by Commonwealth legislation, but, on turning to Coghlan, I find that the facts do not warrant such a statement. Coghlan shows, for example, that the plant used in productionin 1899-00 was of the value of £18,202,724, while in 1902-3 it was of the value of £20,534,436 - showing an increase of £2,331,7 12. Coming to the question of output, I find that the value of our production in 1899-00 was £28,666,000, while the value of our production in 1902-3 was £32,118,000, an increase of £3, 452, 000. Another test of the effect of Commonwealth legislation is a comparison between the value of property in Australia prior to Federation, and since our Commonwealth legislation was passed. I find that the value of property in 1899-1900 was £879,391,000, while in 1901-2 it was £908,762,000, an increase of £29,371,000. Surely the capitalists of the community ought to be satisfied with that increase, unless nothing short of the whole product Of labour is enough for them. Taking the earnings of the investments of non-residents and the incomes of absentees in excess of the incomes obtained by residents from investments abroad, I find that in the year 1899-1900 it was £149,144,000, in the year 1901-2 £164,400,000, and in the year 1902-3 £183,152,000, showing an increase since Federation of £44,008,000. The only periods in the history of Australia during which capital has been withdrawn from the country to any large extent are those between 1872 and 1.875,and between 1891 and 1894, in the first of which the capital withdrawn in excess of the capital sent here was about£2,000,000; in the second it was about £1,500,000. My comparisons have dealt only with the period which has elapsed since Federation, in which period, we have been told, Australia has been deprived of capital which would have been invested here but for Commonwealth legislation. The only specific instance of a withdrawal of capital was that mentioned by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who told us that the directors, of the Scottish Widows Fund, who had invested £2,000,000 in Australia, and were employing a manager at £2,000 per annum, had paid off their manager and would withdraw their money. I regret that the honorable and learned member made such a damaging statement against so estimable an institution. He should have had more tact than to disclose such a state of affairs in connexion with an institution of that character. If the money was invested, it was brought here before Federation.

Mr Fuller - It was invested years before Federation.

Mr McDONALD - If the investments have not paid they must have been badly made, for which the directors were to blame ; but, if they have paid, and the withdrawal is being made for political purposes, it is a disgrace to those who hold honorable positions in connexion with the company.

Mr Fuller - A large part of the money was invested in station property.

Mr McDONALD - I regret that the honorable and learned member for Parkes went out of his way to instance that case. I do not believe that the state of affairs is as he depicted it. The information I have gathered since is that the institution is in a very flourishing condition, and that its Australian investments bear favorable comparison with its other investments elsewhere. Then we have been told that capital is not now flowing into Australia.. As a matter of fact, however, those who have come here within the last few years, have brought with them no less than£1, 772,000. The last, but not the least effective, of the comparisons I shall make is with regard to private investments. During the three years which have elapsed since Federation, the amount of private investments has greatly increased. In1899-1900 the value of these investments was £92,296,000. In 1901-2 it was £94,861,000, while in 1892-3 it was £114,282,000, so that since Federation £21,976,000 has been invested in Australian industries, notwithstanding the legislation which the Labour Party have assisted to pass. Any one who doubts my figures can check them by reference to the last edition of Coghlan, just issued. Of course, comparisons to be fair, must be between normal years. During the recent drought the number of sheep carried in New South Wales was reduced from 61,000,060 to 23,000,000, and the number carried in Queensland from 21,000,000 to 8,000,000. Legislation could not be held responsible for that, and it would not be fair to compare such a period with a period during which the condition of things was normal. I have shown, however, that there has been a wonderful increase in the value of property and of investments under Federation, notwithstanding the passing of the Immigration Restriction Act, under which the six hatters were stopped, the Pacific Island Labourers Act, and the sixteenth section of the Post and Telegraph Act, which requires that mail contracts shall not be made with companies employing black labour upon their steamers. What then becomes of the statement that those measures are driving capital out of the country ? It is not the legislation of the Commonwealth, and the fact that the Labour Party is gaining ground in all the States, that is responsible for losses of capital. Whatever losses have occurred are due to wild speculation. It is that which has tended to destroy the confidence of the British investor. I need only mention one case, namely, that of the Chillagoe mines in Queensland. Three gentlemen, who had three prominent mine speculators behind them - two of them were in the last Parliament - obtained a concession from the Queensland Government in connexion with these mines. What was the result? Although they paid their manager £10,000 per annum, and they erected smelters at Chillagoe at a cost of £100,000, they knew very well from the outset that there was nothing in the mine. One gentleman, who had 48,000 shares in the company - and this is a matter of ancient history, because the information appeared in the Argus some time ago - quietly unloaded the greater portion of his holding, some 40,000 odd shares, at prices ranging from £1 to 38s. per share, after which the price of the shares suddenly dropped to 2s. I afterwards met a gentleman who was in London when the news of the failure of the Chillagoe enterprise reached England. He told me that he believed that if he had had the best mine - gold, coal, or anything else - in Australia, and had mentioned it on the London Stock Exchange at that time, he would 'have been mobbed. This is the kind of thing that is bringing Australia into disrepute, and injuring her credit. When I hear honor able members telling the Labour Party that the policy which they are pursuing is ruining Australia, I think that it is time that that section of the people to which they belong should be told a few home truths. At the last elections the Labour Party fought one of the biggest battles that has ever taken place in Australia. We had arrayed against us the united employers' associations, the united chambers of commerce, the united chambers of mines, the united chambers of manufactures, and a number of auxiliary organizations, which had been brought into existence to assist in breaking down the Labour Party. No less than £10,000 was raised in Queensland for the express purpose of wiping out the Labour Party. In New South Wales, judging from the statements of the secretaries of the various organizations, some £20,000 odd was subscribed for a similar purpose; and in Victoria it was reported that the employers and kindred organizations had a fund amounting to £23,000. All this money was used in the interests of that section of the community which wishes to rule the. destinies of Australia without let or hindrance. I must congratulate the leader of the Opposition upon having spoken out. so strongly against the action of these people. I think that his remarks upon that point are well worthy of being published in every labour newspaper in Australia.

Mr Frazer - The remarks of the right honorable and learned gentleman came a little bit late.

Mr McDONALD - I do not care about that. It is sufficient for me that the right honorable gentleman, holding the position he does, and being opposed to the Labour Party, acknowledged what had been done by the employers' organizations, and condemned their action in the very strongest terms.

Mr Frazer - He was very careful that he did not act or speak in that way before the elections.

Mr McDONALD - -Ido not care when the statement was made. Everything possible was done to prevent members of the Labour Party from being returned to this Parliament. . Last evening one honorable member thought he was very clever to obtain from the Labour Party an acknowledgment that they were socialists. We have never denied that, and any one who does not realize that the labour movement is of a socialist character cannot know very much about it. ' So far as Queensland is concerned, the election struggle was essentially a fight between socialism and antisocialism, and the result was a pronounced victory for the Labour Party. The lowest labour candidate upon the poll for the Senate had a majority of 16,000 votes over the highest representative of the other side. The members of the Labour Party have just as strong a desire as any others in the community to see Australia progress, but do not wish that result to be achieved at the expense of the great masses of the people. It is" true that the labour movement is a class movement, but not in the sense that our opponents would have it understood. As a party, we represent 90 per cent. of the community. 1 do not say that we polled that proportion of votes, but those who toil with their hands or their brains represent 90 per cent. of the population.

Sir John Forrest - They represent the whole of it.

Mr McDONALD - In the past a small section of the community - the other 10 per cent. - have ruled the legislation of Australia, which was of a purely class character. It was only when matters reached an acute stage, and the oppression of the working classes became unbearable, that it was realized that something would have to be done to combat the influences at work. The Labour Party wasthen brought into existence with a view to secure to the working classes a fair share of the products of their labour.

Mr Conroy - If Parliament had not passed class legislation there would not today be the feeling there is.

Mr McDONALD - That is perfectly true. The Labour Party would not have gained its present strength, but for the unjust laws previously passed. We are prepared to fight until such time as we can exercise a very strong influence over the destinies of Australia. I hope that time is not very far distant. There seems to be great uneasiness on the part of some honorable members as to the- intentions of the Labour Party. If our opponents think that we are inclined to legislate in a manner detrimental to the welfare of Australia, why do they not combine their forces and place us in direct opposition? That is where we want to be. Some honorable members are greatly agitated, and in some cases have almost been reduced to tears over what they regard as the present alarming condition of affairs. I do not see that there is any cause for alarm.

We got along very well during the last Parliament, as we shall during this Parliament, if the Government will only act reasonably. We do not ask them for concessions; but we say that if they do the square thing for the people of Australia we . will support them. When I describe the members of the Labour Party as socialists, I should, perhaps, define my own position in the matter. One honorable member, in defining his position as a socialist last night, spoke in such vague terms that I found the honorable member for Kooyong quite in accord with him. In the circumstances, I should not be surprised if honorable members did not know where they are. It may subsequently be said that I do not know where I am, but I shall give my idea of socialism as clearly as possible: I take this to be a correct definition. We wish that the source of life, namely, the land, and the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth, shall be as far as possible in the hands of the people, and used for the common good. I think that covers the whole of the doctrine, aims, and desires of the Labour Party. We wish to bring about that condition of things, and we are prepared to fight until our object is accomplished.

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