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Thursday, 22 August 1912

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I have listened with a great deal of attention to everything that has been said upon this question, and more especially to the remarks of the Minister of Defence, because I recognise that he has the ability to make out the best case for the side which he advocates. I was very much impressed by his arguments, although some of them will not hold water when dissected. Take, for example, the excuse which he offered for flouting the decision of the Senate, that all Commonwealth factoriesshould be established within the Federal Territory where practicable. It is unfortunate that so many persons who are not prepared to press things to their logical conclusion should have insisted upon the insertion in that motion of the words " where practicable." They remind me of a gentleman who was asked if he desired to go to heaven, and who replied, " when practicable,'' by which I suppose he meant that he would like to go there when he could no longer stay here. Why were the words " where practicable " inserted in the motion which was adopted by this Chamber? It was because we recognised that certain things relating to the Federation, such as dock-yards, and possibly the Naval College, could not established at an inland town.

Senator McGregor - We had Jervis Bay.

Senator RAE - We did not have Jervis

Bay then. It was not handed over by New South Wales to the Federation at that time. Indeed, 1 am not sure what the position in regard to it is even now. What I have mentioned is the sole reason why those who favoured Senator McDougall's motion permitted the words "where practicable" to be inserted. It was intended not to make the whole thing a ludicrous farce by providing that we should establish every new service in the Territory, including those which necessarily require to be on the coast. I do not like a Government to make excuses for flouting the declared will of Parliament or of one House of Parliament ; and I say that the reason advanced by Senator Pearce is merely an excuse, because every one here at the time recognised that those qualifying words were not meant to provide an excuse for having none of these undertakings in the Federal 'Capital. Let us consider some of the reasons urged by the expert-. I was very much struck by his statement that we should require a large number of hands to work the Woollen Mill, 60 per cent. of whom wouldbe unmarried females. Probably the reason for that is that this gentleman has come from the Old Country, where cheap labour and female labour are so largely employed ; and apparently he has made up his mind that he must, for the same reason, have 60 per cent. of female labour at this Woollen Mill. I do not know very much about the woollen industry, having merely visited a mill or two; but I do say that, whilst female labour may be especially suitable for some portions of the work, in all probability the chief reason for the large employment of female labour in woollen factories elsewhere is its cheapness in comparison with male labour. But I do not think that even in order to make this factory a success commercially, nor even to advertise a State enterprise, we should consent to the tactics of employing underpaid and sweated female labour. The desirableness of producing a favorable balance-sheet will not, I hope, induce us to consent to that.

Senator Fraser - Female labour is especially suitable for the work.

Senator RAE - The chief recommendation for its employment elsewhere is that it is cheap. Whilst deftness of hand may make that kind of labour particularly applicable to some portions of the woollen industry, I am satisfied that nothing like 60 per cent, is necessary ; nor would that percentage be employed, except that female labour is so very much cheaper than male labour. Senator Pearce says that the expert had no axe to grind, and that it is not fair to attribute bias to him. But there is a very good reason why Mr. Smail should be biased. He says that he cannot see how, if we establish the factory at YassCanberra, it could comply with rule 3. I asked the Minister whether this gentleman was. to be the manager of the factory, and he replied in the affirmative. Now, rule 3 provides that the manager is to be responsible for the financial success of the factory. Naturally, if he is to work it as a financial success, he would like it to be where labour is cheap and most readily available. That is the reason why he did not favour establishing the factory at a place like Yass-Canberra. So that, whilst not attributing any unfair motives to Mr. Smail, I say that the Government, by employing him as manager,- and giving him the choice of the situation for the factory, for the financial success of which he is made responsible, obviously caused him to desire to select a site where the cheapest and most abundant labour would be available. Senator Givens presented a pretty well unanswerable argument why this factory should be established at YassCanberra; and Senator Pearce presented another one quite unconsciously when in mournful tones he implored the Senate not to be induced to vote for the amendment on the ground that many honorable senators might support it, not for the sake of YassCanberra, but for the sake of getting a " look in " for- their own favored sites. He pointed mournfully to the probable fact that Senator Long, on the one hand, would vote against the Geelong site, in the hope of getting the factory established at Launceston ; and that honorable senators from other

States might vote for the request with similar ends in view. Suppose that we all voted for the amendment for such reasons. What would it show ? lt would show that, in our opinion, now is the time to prevent that kind of thing from occurring. It would show that, in our opinion, now is the time to put an end to such parochial jealousy by sticking to the terms of the re-, solution passed by the Senate that the services under the control of the Common-: wealth should be established in Commonwealth Territory. I was rather amusedby some of the arguments advanced by my venerable friend Senator Fraser. I am sure he will believe me when I say that it was with a measure of regret that I heard him say publicly that it was his intention not to seek the suffrages of the electors at the next election. Because, whilst we may fight and try to overcome our opponents, we may nevertheless look with kindly feelings on one another, apart from campaign work j and I think we can express an honest feeling of regret at the prospect of parting from one of our friends opposite. But there is one thing that somewhat reconciles me to the fact that Senator Fraser is leaving us.

Senator Chataway - Has the retirement of Senator Fraser anything to do with the establishment of the Woollen Factory at Geelong?

The CHAIRMAN - No; the honorable senator is out of order.

Senator RAE - I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman ; but I was referring to the matter only incidentally. I shall, I think, be perfectly in order in my next sentence. I was about to say I am somewhat reconciled to the fact that we shall be parting from Senator Fraser, when I remember that he has such an immense knowledge of so many industries - railway contracting, pastoral pursuits, day labour, match factories, woollen factories, and various other industries that occupy our attention from time to time. I rather look forward with relief to sitting in company with some one who will be on a par with myself in respect to such matters.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable senator is again out of order.

Senator RAE - I have no intention of " stone- wal ling " this item. I was dealing with the Minister's argument, in which he deplored the fact that some honorable senators would vote for Senator Givens' motion, not for the purpose of favoring the selection of Yass-Canberra, but from the ulterior motive that they favored other sites in their own States ; and 1 say that that is a strong argument why any Government should endeavour to carry out faithfully the terms of the resolution passed by the Senate a year ago, and use every effort to secure the establishment of Commonwealth factories in Commonwealth Territory. The statement of the Minister that Mr. Smail's report is binding on the Government seems to me an admission that we have to run to somebody else for our policy in everything.

Senator Pearce - I did not say " binding on the Government." I said " guiding the Government."

Senator RAE - It amounts practically to the same thing in the result. If we are not to have a Government with a mind of its own, let us run this country by means of a committee of experts.

Senator McGregor - If the honorable senator sent for a doctor, who prescribed a certain course, I suppose he would do the opposite ?

Senator RAE - Not necessarily; but I should take as much of his advice as I thought fit. As a matter of fact, I never remember having had to send for' a doctor. Whilst we may be guided by the advice of experts on purely technical matters, I say that this is a matter of principle and policy, and not a technicality; and if the Government is going to shelter itself bethind the views of some expert, who naturally has a bias in the direction of working the factory as cheaply as possible, even with the aid of a lot of girl labour, I am very sorry that such an admission should be made. We have heard from Senator Blakey that the land for building the factory is to be offered by the Geelong Harbor Trust. But that only puts the site on a level with Yass-Canberra, because there we shall have free land of our own. Moreover, by attracting a population to YassCanberra, we shall help to send up the value of surrounding land, which is also owned by the Commonwealth. I venture to say that Ministers who set this bad example, and honorable senators who are attracted by their excuses for not establishing the factory at the Federal Capital, have never realized the value of the Capital at all They have been compelled by the Constitution to conform to the letter of the law ; but the spirit is not in them, or they would not be haggling over such matters as the respective advantages of Geelong, Launceston, Ipswich, and other places.

They would realize the desirableness of establishing Commonwealth enterprises at a place which belongs to the Australian people as a whole, and where we can build up land values in such a way as to make the Capital site still more valuable. We ought to try to make this Capital a Mecca for all Australia, the one spot to which the energies of the Commonwealth should be devoted in making it an ideal city, owned by the whole people of Australia, cherished as a monument of their nationhood. I do not think that the Minister's arguments were any better than special pleading. As to the argument that sufficient labour is not available at Yass-Canberra, Senator Givens has pointed out that by placing a perpetual bar on the establishment of industries there we shall prevent the aggregation of population. Does any one imagine that when the Federal Capital is built the head officers who are housed there will put their sons and daughters to factory life? Not if they can help it: Does any one imagine that the members of the Federal Parliament will reside every month of every year, in the Federal Capital? There are obvious reasons for asserting that they will not. They will necessarily have to visit their respective constituencies. If we are going to wait for population before we do anything at the Federal Capital we are, while, per- haps, keeping the letter of the Constitution in establishing a place to be known as the Federal Capital, taking every possible care that it shall never be more than a paltry village.

Senator Fraser - Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is only a small place, and will always be a small place. So will YassCanberra.

Senator RAE - We may, perhaps, know more than the Canadians do about some things. With all respect to my venerable friend I hope we shall not go to Canada to learn how to establish a Federal Capital, though, by going there we might avoid some of the errors which the Canadians have fallen into. Having obtained a fairly large Territory surrounding the site of the Capital it is our obvious duty to make it a payable asset to the Commonwealth which is charged with finding the money to develop it. I hope that honorable senators will not be influenced by Senator. Pearce's argument about the hereditary qualifications of the people of Geelong for the manufacture of woollens. There have been two or three woollen mills established there for many years. They have nearly gone " bung " on many occasions, and have been struggling infant industries since I can recollect.

Senator Barker - There have been woollen mills there for the last forty years.

Senator RAE - I am aware of that. The first time I arrived at the dignity of a suit of clothes it was made of Geelong cloth, but the people of Geelong have not made such a marvellous success of the woollen industry as to have bred up a whole race of persons as deft at the business as are the people of certain towns in the Old Country. The fame of Geelong, as a centre of woollen manufacture, has not become as widespread, and as hallmarked, as the fame of Nottingham for laces, or Birmingham for buttons. The fact is that there is only a small percentage of the people of Geelong who know anything of the woollen industry. It is playing a little low down to ask honorable senators to swallow very much of that kind of " flap-doodle." The woollen industry has not been established on anything like so large a scale in Geelong as to have bred up generations of people specially skilled in the industry. We can brush all that kind of argument aside as very special pleading. Honorable senators frequently claim to be acquainted with remote distances of this continent, and they must be aware that big populations have often been attracted to spots that previously had been in the actual wilderness whenever they offered inducements in the shape of a high remuneration for labour. It is an absurdity to say that we could not get a sufficient supply of labour for a woollen mill at a place that is only a three or four hours' run by rail from Sydney. It is only 6 or. 7 miles from Queanbeyan, which is on a line running almost to the Victorian border, and is connected via Goulburn with the main line between Sydney and Melbourne, and at no distant date will have a further connexion with that line at Yass. Whatever defects may attach to Yass-Canberra, it is certainly centrally situated, so far as New South Wales is concerned, and is easily accessible by rail from almost any direction. It is unthinkable to suppose that we could not get a sufficient supply of labour there when the place is only three or four hours' run from the biggest city in Australia. The Minister has referred to the difficulty of getting special men for casual jobs at the Military College without paying them an additional rate. But the employment of men in a city is a very different thing from their employment at Duntroon on the class of work at which the men engaged at the Military College are employed. With regard to the water supply, 1 may be allowed to point out that Mr. Smail does not condemn it, but says that it is not available. We must have a water supply for the Federal Capital, and the same water could be used for the woollen mill. We have been considering only this very day a vote for this water supply, and we must secure such a supply if the establishment of the Federal Capital is ever to be advanced a single stage. Personally,I should prefer to delay the establishment of the woollen mill for another year, rather than that it should be established anywhere but at the Federal Capital. I should be prepared to say the same with respect to the establishment of any other Commonwealth factory. I want to put an end to the scrambling by representatives of different States of the Commonwealth for the establishment of Federal enterprises in their particular States.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Where does the scrambling come in?

Senator RAE - It comes in in the fact that every Victorian representative would' rather die than not get up and say a word for Geelong. Some honorable senators are against the establishment of the factory at Geelong, because they wish to have it established in some other part of the Commonwealth. The Minister of Defence has himself afforded one of the best arguments why we should not have these questions settled according to the way in which they affect particular States.

Senator Barker - The expert has recommended Geelong.

Senator RAE - He was naturally influenced by the condition that he must make a financial success of the woollenmill, or take the responsibility of failure.

Senator Barker - If the expert says that Geelong is the best site, and a number of honorable senators suggest other sites, who is to decide?

Senator Pearce - Senator Rae.

Senator RAE - No. I claim that the Senate decided last year that where practicable all Commonwealth factories should be established in Commonwealth Territory. There has been nothing in the report of the expert, or the arguments of the Minister of Defence, to show that there is anything impracticable about the establishment of this Woollen Factory in the Federal

Territory. The statement about the labour difficulty has been blown to the winds. To say that we could not find a sufficient supply of labour when the Federal Capital is only three or four hours' run by rail from the biggest city of the Commonwealth is unadulterated humbug. The fact that the expert was only in one place for a few moments before he " jigged" away to another does not justify those who have been inAustralia all their lives in accepting his judgment. Probably as a man fresh from the Old Country he would consider a place at a distance of half-an-hour's walk quite inaccessible, while those of us who have known what it is to carry " bluey " would think no more of going 1,000 miles than he would think of travelling as many yards.

Senator Barker - Why did not honorable senators raise all these difficulties when the Harness Factory was being established in Melbourne?

Senator RAE - There is no reason whatever why it should not have been established in the Federal Capital, but some of us were not here when that matter was being settled.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator was here at the time.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator was caught napping for once.

Senator RAE - I am not cornered at all. The answer to those who talk of cornering me about the establishment of the Harness Factory in Melbourne is that it was because the Ministry departed from the proper principle by wandering all over the Commonwealth in order to placate political supporters or to sweeten this or that locality, to find a place in which to establish Commonwealth factories, that we decided to make the Federal Capital a real thing, and not a sham and a farce, by carrying the resolution which has been referred to. When I ask honorable senators now to act upon that resolution I am greeted with abuse.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - No, we are only sorry for the honorable senator.

Senator RAE - Senator Russell for one joined with me when I opposed the selection of Yass-Canberra, and took up a position which was not satisfactory to the people of my own State. I showed in that case that no parochial feelings influenced me.

Senator Barker - Victorian representatives supported the honorable senator on that occasion.

Senator RAE - They knew better than to injure their political skins by doing any thing else. It is a stupid argument to say that they voted against the selection of Yass-Canberra.

Senator Barker - The honorable senator's argument is a stupid argument.

Senator RAE - If Senator Barker would bark less and listen more he would realize that Victorian representatives were in an absolutely different position from that which I occupied in the matter referred to.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - We like the honorable senator as a fighter, but not as a martyr.

Senator RAE - I am not posing as a martyr when I say that I can prove that I acted in that matter in no parochial spirit. But I said that, having once settled where the Capital should be, it was our duty to make it a success, to build it with the utmost expedition, and to induce people to go there by giving them something to do when they got there. The Minister of Defence has done the best he could with a rotten case, but he has failed to make out a case which should convince any one who has at heart a desire to make the Federal Capital a real thing and not a sham and farce, as I am reluctantly compelled to believe the Government desire to make it.

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