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Friday, 11 November 1910

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) (Honorary Minister) . - I cannot understand much of the opposition to these questions. Some honorable senators have said that such questions have never been asked in any part of the world in connexion with census returns. Is there any reason why we should slavishly follow the practice of other countries?

Senator Millen - No; but the onus is thrown upon the Government to justify these questions.

Senator FINDLEY - I think there is ample justification for them. The necessity exists for obtaining the information, which, we hope, will be made available when these questions are answered. Time after time statements are made that in Australia the industrial classes work shorter hours, and receive higher remuneration, than the working classes in any other country. The Savings Banks returns are often quoted as. a further evidence of the prosperity enjoyed by the working classes in this country. We have no reliable information as to the accuracy of these statements. Is it not of importance to every one, whether he approves or disapproves of the Labour party, to know what the real conditions of the working classes are? Will any working man, or woman, have any great difficulty in replying, for instance, to the first question as to the amount of salary or wages earned per day, per week, or per month, at the time of the taking of the census; or the second question, as to the average number of hours worked during the year preceding the taking of the census? Senator Story mentioned the case of wharf labourers, and explained that they worked very long hours at certain periods, and that, after working a certain number of hours under the rules of their organization, they are paid overtime. But there should not be any very great difficulty in arriving at the amount of money which a wharf labourer would earn during the eight hours recognised by the Union. A man might work sixteen hours in one week and twenty-six hours in the next. . But he should have no difficult)' in estimating approximately the number of hours he has worked during a year, or in estimating in the same way his average earnings. We should, in this way, obtain some reliable information as to the conditions of this class of workmen.

Senator St Ledger - They will get tangled up.

Senator McGregor - Working men are not so stupid as some people believe.

Senator FINDLEY - Honorable senators must admit that no working man will have any great difficulty in estimating approximately the number of hours he has worked in a given year. It is as simple as falling off a log.

Senator Millen - Can the honorable senator say how many hours he worked during last year?

Senator FINDLEY - I am talking of men engaged in other than parliamentary work. The number of members of Parliament in the community is very few.

Senator Millen - Could the honorable senator say how many hours he worked last year? I know I could not.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not think a member of the Senate should have any great difficulty in stating approximately the number of hours he has worked during the year. Working men and women in Australia will, I think, be able to state approximately the number of hours they have worked during the year, and their average earnings. In most occupations men 'have permanency of employment, and in connexion with all skilled trades organizations have fixed the rates of pay. The information which might be obtained in the* way proposed would be very useful, especially for statistical purposes. I do not think Senator Millen was serious in suggesting that the question with respect to the amount of money held in gold, notes, silver, and copper at midnight before the census day should be made optional.

Senator Millen - I offered it as a way out of the difficulty, which, I am sure, the Government would be glad to get rid of.

Senator FINDLEY - We want these questions submitted and answered.

Senator Givens - Why not ask usurers what rate of interest they are getting?

Senator FINDLEY - Exception is being taken to the number of questions already proposed. But if the honorable senator thinks that there should be a few additional questions submitted, I do not know that there would be any great objection on the part of the Government.

Senator Millen - Judging by the way the Government have fallen in over these questions, I have no doubt they would be willing to ado'"*- any other silly questions.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not think the Government have fallen in. In my opinion, this is a move in the right direction. The returns may not at first be as satisfactory as those responsible for proposing these questions would desire, but we must make a commencement, and the people will soon see that they have nothing to be afraid of, or to be ashamed of, in answering these questions, and that they are asked in their own interests as well as in the interests of the country.

Senator Millen - It is merely a little idle curiosity.

Senator FINDLEY - Not at all. In every country efforts are being made to ascertain the amount of money in circulation at certain periods of the year.

Senator Givens - Does the honorable senator think that a person who hoards money will say how much he has hidden away ?

Senator FINDLEY - What has he to fear?

Senator Givens - Why do people keep secret hoards ?

Senator FINDLEY - There are very few who have secret hoards, and I am disposed to think that they are not mentally " all there."

Senator Millen - As a rule the people to whom I refer keep a larger amount of money in the house than do those of the more opulent classes.

Senator FINDLEY - My own opinion is that they do not keep very much money in their homes, because if they did so, it would be earning nothing, whereas if it were deposited in a financial institution it would be earning interest.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator has a lot to learn about the habits of the people.

Senator FINDLEY - What have I to learn? We ocasionally read in the newspapers that after the decease of certain persons, amounts of£2,000 or , £3,000 have been found buried in the houses which they had occupied, or in some place adjacent thereto.

Senator Millen - Those are not the instances of which I speak. I refer to householders who keep small amounts of from £5 to£10 in their homes. They will not proclaim that that money is there. I would not do so myself.

Senator FINDLEY - Surely no honorable senator will believe for a moment that in the replies which have been given to questions in previous years absolute correctness has been attained. With all due deference to those who hold a contrary opinion, I say that there is nothing absurd in the questions which it is proposed to ask. I believe that our citizens will answer those questions to the best of their ability.

Senator Givens - And they will tell the Government whether a new-born infant is a total abstainer or not.

Senator FINDLEY - Every member of the Government accepts responsibility for these questions. We believe that they are necessary, and that the replies to them will prove useful. Although there may be a certain amount of diffidence on the part of some citizens to answer them, that diffidence will soon disappear.

Senator Givens - Some of them are mere impertinences.

Senator FINDLEY - The Government accept full responsibility for these questions. As to whether or not a person is. a total abstainer from alcoholic beverages

Senator Millen - For how long must be be an abstainer?

Senator FINDLEY - That line of reasoning might be applied to almost every subject under the sun. For instance, a man might be single to-day and married to-morrow.

Senator Givens - But how long must a man be a total abstainer before he can reply " Yes " to that question?

Senator Millen - He must be a total abstainer between drinks.

Senator FINDLEY - If a man is a total abstainer he will record the fact upon the census-paper. Is there anything personal about that question?

Senator O'Keefe - Certainly.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not think so. I hold no brief for temperance associations

Senator Millen - But the answer to the question is, " What has it to do with the Government ? ' '

Senator FINDLEY - Whether the people are temperate or intemperate has a good deal to do with a country.

Senator Givens - Why not ask householders whether they are temperate or intemperate in eating? There is just as much intemperance in eating as there is in drinking.

Senator FINDLEY - There is a growing movement in this country which declares that intemperance is harmful to a nation. Its organizations number so many hundreds of thousands-

Senator O'Keefe - That has nothing whatever to do with the question of temperance or intemperance.

Senator FINDLEY - If that be so, and if the answers given to the question will serve no useful purpose, why all this heat?

Senator O'Keefe - Because the question is a useless one.

Senator FINDLEY - It will serve a useful purpose.

Senator Millen - What useful purpose ?

Senator FINDLEY - It will enable us to ascertain the number of total abstainers that there are in Australia.

Senator Millen - What then?

Senator FINDLEY - It will show us the strength of those engaged in this forward movement.

Senator Millen - Is that why the question is to be put?

Senator FINDLEY - Not altogether.

Senator Millen - I will not answer it, and the Minister can put the law in motion against me.

Senator FINDLEY - The Government have approved of these questions, and they confidently ask honorable senators to reject the motion submitted by Senator St. Ledger.

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