- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 7 Feb 1924, p. 62-73
- Wilson, Senator The Hon. R.V., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Participation in the war by Canada and Australia. Australia's war debt. Uniting in peace as well as in war, in order to build against war. Difficulties to be faced in Australia, similar to those facing Canada. Cooperating with the Old Country. Assisting to ensure that the surplus people of the Old Land may be wisely and well employed. The dole system is London and what it is costing. Issues of immigration to Australia from the Old Country. Developing the Dominions and using them so that they may become and continue to be of great value to the British Empire. Looking to the Old Country for men. Learning the lesson that we cannot afford to feed those who are not our friends. The need for doers, men who are out to accomplish something. Seeking the right class of men in Australia. The policy of the Commonwealth of Australia of a white Australia. Trade between Canada and Australia. Overcoming the difficulties of distance. The need to improve marketing in Australia, with example. The possibilities of cotton. The importance of personal contact between peoples of the Empire.
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- 7 Feb 1924
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AN ADDRESS BY SENATOR THE HON. R. V.
WILSON, OF AUSTRALIA.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
February 10th, 1924.
PRESIDENT BROOKS introduced the speaker, who was received with applause.
SENATOR, THE HON. R. V. WILSON
I should like to ask you, as a Club, under no circumstances whatever to belittle the Imperial or Economic Conferences that are called from time to time in Great Britain. Canada was very ably represented by your Prime Minister, Mr. MacKenzie King, and that other dear fellow--I think you call him "Uncle George"--Mr. Graham. (Applause) I took a fancy to him; I think he kept me on the narrow path in the Committee of the Economic Conference. He is a man with a great deal of thought, a wonderful amount of experience, and he never speaks out of his turn, though we younger men are prepared to take greater risks. To me, as an Australian, it was an education to be brought into contact with other Empire representatives in London; to state our troubles and difficulties around the table, to see if we could not find some means of solving them. We did not go over there expecting to agree on all points; we went to see if we could not come to some arrangement on various questions, but there was no ill-feeling, and the Conference broke up with the knowledge that we had at least built a stronger link
Hon. Mr. R. V. Wilson was a senator when he visited Canada to act for the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Bruce. He is now a member of the Australian Cabinet.
in the chain of sentiment throughout the British Empire. (Applause)
I am sure that organizations such as yours play a very important part in the building of the Empire. I would urge on your members to take an interest at all times in the affairs that count within your own country. (Hear, hear) An organization such as this gives you an opportunity of meeting visitors from time to time, and brings you personally into contact with one another, and this should be of advantage to the Empire, to which we have the honour to belong. (Hear, hear)
The world well knows what Canada did for the Empire during the war. Although Australia has only 5,500,000 people, and we have only started to tickle the productive values of that great Commonwealth, we put up 350,000 men when the Empire called. (Loud applause) They travelled 12,000 miles to defend those privileges of which you and I are so proud, under the flag under which we live. (Applause) Unfortunately 60,000 will never return. That was indeed a great sacrifice for a young country and a small people. On top of that, the war debt which the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Australia are carrying is in the vicinity of 480 millions of money; and that works out in your money to something like $2,125 thousands. (Voices--"Millions.") Oh, really, your figures get too big for me! (Laughter) This reminds me of a remark made by a gentleman who went from this side of the world to Australia some years ago, and took a very active interest in affairs there and became a prominent public man,-King O'Malley. He used to say, "Byes, Byes, you will talk in thousands some day as easily as today you talk in hundreds." (Laughter)
Well, unfortunately Australia has been compelled to assume that great debt on account of the war, but we are carrying the burden and standing up to our liabilities and responsibilities. I am not going to say without squirming a bit, for that is human nature--but we will honour our obligations. (Hear, hear, and applause) We feel that the sacrifice was worth while in the defence of the Empire which your men and ours, as well as those of South Africa, and Great Britain, went to defend.
Now, if it was good for us to unite in the time of fighting and of war, I put it to you whether it is not right that we should unite in the time of peace. (Hear, hear, and applause)--so that we may build against war. (Hear, hear) As organized peoples, happy peoples, let us make opportunities for our own flesh and blood. Dispersed properly throughout the world, they will defend the world and secure to the world that peace we so much desire. (Hear, hear)
In Australia we have great difficulties. We have faced them as you have faced yours, for largely our difficulties are yours. We have had prominently brought under our notice in the last three months the fact that in that dear Old Country there are 2,000,000 of people unemployed, living considerably below our standard of living,--almost in degradation today; and I say that if we are going to grow in strength as the British Empire it is for the public men of this country and of our country, where we have large land areas and plenty of space, to cooperate with the Old Country. It is for Great Britain to see, on their part, that everything possible may be done to assist in this development, so that the surplus people of the Old Land may be wisely and well employed.
Today in London the dole system is costing many millions of pounds a year, but anyone with a reasonable knowledge of men must know that to feed people without work under circumstances that practically insist on their receiving charity, is degrading to both men and women. (Hear, hear) Instead of so much of that dole system in the Old Country I would say--as was said to the last Government in Great Britain--and I believe the new Government will do it--"Find the capital for the development in the newer countries; make the terms easy; make the opportunities attractive; and so rid yourselves of that surplus population, that can be wisely and well employed in young countries." (Hear, hear)
As the Minister charged with the responsibility for Immigration in the Commonwealth of Australia, I may say that we are doing everything on these lines that you are going. We want people out in Australia, for we realize that the peopling of our country is the defence of our country; but we are not going to people our country at the expense of a lower standard of living within our country simply to relieve some other country of a difficulty that we ourselves are not prepared to accept. (Hear, hear) We are very careful in scrutinizing those who get through on those lines. As most of you know, Australia is a tremendous country, like your own. From the middle of Australia right north we have the great northern territory which some people say is no good. Twenty years ago we had what was known as the "90-mile desert" between Melbourne and Adelaide. You could have bought it for a few shillings an acre, and I honestly believe that some owners would have given you a pound of tea to take it off their hands. (Laughter) But today we have several fine and most progressive towns there, made up of younger people with great energy, and they are getting rich rewards for their labour. Even your own town here played a very active part in reclaiming that country and making it as valuable as it is today, because if you had gone there as I did 15 or 18 years ago you would have seen "Toronto" riding all around the fields. (Laughter) But today we are manufacturing a lot of our own machinery. (Laughter) By the use of the highest methods for scientific improvement, with super-phosphates and machinery, that country that was considered by some people as useless has turned out to be very profitable indeed. That is practical experience, Gentlemen, and not hot air. (Hear, hear)
We have that Northern territory, and I say advisedly, after a great deal of knowledge of that territory, that God never intended any people to retain such a vast area without using it. (Hear, hear) But on the other side of the water you have people starving and craving for elbow-room, and it is for us to develop the Dominions and use them so that they may become and continue to be of great value to the British Empire. (Applause)
Now, of course we look to the Old Country for our men, and we have a right to look there for our money, as we pay for it, and it is an investment for them. We relieve them of their burdens, and I can assure you there is no better investment today for British capital than the development of their own Dominions within the Empire, be it in Canada or Australia or anywhere else. (Applause) We must learn the lesson that we cannot afford to feed those who are not our friends, because as a people we are all too prone to forget the things of yesterday, and want to start off giving those opportunities again.
Some three or four weeks ago I was at Sheffield, and Sir James Conley showed me a pocket knife, and I asked him where he got it. He said, "Well, old chap, I brought that along to show you; that is what Germany is doing; they are six shillings and sixpence a dozen, and yet the country that lets them all in has got all these unemployed, and is still going to get the unemployed."
Just to enlarge on my idea, you walk into a restaurant in the Old Country today, and it is almost impossible to be served by somebody who can speak your own lingo decently. When you ask why this is so, you find that in the Old Country they have no organization worth talking about for the folks that have to do this class of work, but they get an outsider, who is prepared to hate everybody, who holds both hands out for a tip and says, "I get no salary, sir; what about a tip?" Well, I saw a chap at one of those places there they were hitting us to leg a bit--(laughter)--and this great big able-bodied chap, who ought to be able to put the gloves on with me, waltzed up and said, "We get no pay, sir,"--insinuating a tip. I said, "Look here, my friend, you are lucky to be here at all! (Great laughter) If you were in Australia you would have been knocked in the head before you were nine days old." (Laughter)
Mr. President, what the world wants today is the doers, men who are out to accomplish something--(hear, hear)--men who are out with some ambition for service, instead of these chaps that just want to wander through on the fringe of things, to accept no personal responsibility, and have no regard for the future or the past. We want the right class of men in Australia, and we are going to get them. We are getting them, and you are getting your share--and a little bit more, I think,--(laughter)--but I am after you. (Laughter) We want these people in Australia, and we can offer them opportunities; so can you. I am not here to express an opinion of your country; I don't know anything about it; this is the first time I have ever seen snow decently--(laughter)--one of the luxuries that we don't enjoy in Australia--but I will say that the direct policy of the Commonwealth of Australia, of its Government and of its people, is a white Australia. (Hear, hear, and applause) Every now and again you hear some gentleman who is touring the world, who blows in there and blows out and can tell the Nation what is best for it--(laughter); but I am not going to attempt that in Canada. I read recently in your Press about a gentleman, who likens the question of a white Australia to the blood-horses running in the carts in Adelaide. Well, he may know something about soap--(laughter)--but when he disparages blood in a horse or in any part of animal life or in any work in connection with Australia he does not know anything about it (laughter); and as the blood-horse is the best for work, so the white man is the best for Australia. (Hear, hear, and applause)
You buy our wool, and I am glad to see that at the moment you are not getting it too cheaply--(laughter); and I will go as far as to say that you are only getting it as cheap as you are getting it because we cannot get any more for it. (Laughter) Meat is another big product of Australia, in which we have, as it were, "hit the fence," for today the cattle industry is nearly off the map, and it is very difficult to see how it is going to exist in that great Commonwealth. Men who were making a tremendous amount of money, in the cattle industry and were very well-to-do are today almost in the breadline on account of the price of meat. This is understood when you realize that meat takes three years in growing it, and it is taken thousands of miles, perhaps, to the port where it is killed, then it is frozen and taken 12,000 miles and landed on the wharves in Great Britain at three-pence farthing a pound; yet the man who eats it has to pay in the vicinity of nine pence or a shilling, even up to a shilling and three-pence a pound. Well, there is "something wrong in the State of Denmark."
Gentlemen, that is one of our great difficulties; we are that long, long way; we are 12,000 miles away, while you are only a suburb of Great Britain. (Laughter). May I tell a story that was told by Rt. Hon. W. M. Hughes, to show that many people do not realize these great difficulties. An Englishman in Ireland saw Pat taking a mare to the fair, and asked, "Well, Pat, what do you expect to get for her? Pat replied, "Seven Pounds." The Englishman replied, "Why, if you took that mare over to England you would get thirty-five pounds for her." Pat stepped back, looked him up and down, and asked, "Well, Mister, tell me what would I get for the Lakes of Killarney if I took them to Hell?" (Great laughter) Pat realized the marketing conditions and difficulties (laughter), and we have got to do so, and to find a way out. When I come into this great country of yours and find men belonging to the same Empire, with the same ideals of developing the Empire, using in your daily food items that can be bought from the men who are producing it within the Empire, who made that great sacrifice at the time of war, I wonder what was the result of it.
I am not blaming Canada, not a bit, but I think that marketing in Australia needs a bomb. We never should have let the market drift from this great country. We are producing in Australia from 35,000 to 40,000 tons of dried fruit each year; yet when I walked down your street--and I hope there are no retail grocers here, for they might want to apply a boot to me, I had 25 years at it, so I know the sins--(laughter)--I purchased Sultanas, currants and raisins, and I make bold to say that we will give you a better sample, better quality and better flavour at a jolly sight less money. (Applause, and a voice: "Good!") All those Australian fruits are grown by men who were prepared to make the sacrifice to defend this country and to defend our country. Surely it is a question of tariff. On this subject I am not allowed to say much today, and if any gentleman came here thinking that I would discuss the question of the mission that brought us to Canada I would say that that cannot be done. (Laughter) We are in the midst of our enquiries, which we will resume next week, and I can say that. whether an agreement be reached, or not, the visit will not be fruitless, because I am certain it will bring Australia and its Cabinet more closely into touch with your affairs here. (Applause)
We have, for a young country, been spending an immense amount of money; it seems that the war had that tendency--my friend to my right (Sir Edmund Walker) is having a little laugh of his own, and I think he is quite right--the war had a tendency to disregard capital expenditure. But the Government of which I have the honour to be a member is taking hold of this matter with both hands, and we are going to try and confine ourselves to expenditure which will produce interest, and will use as much money as we can get to develop the Commonwealth of Australia on legitimate commercial lines, and on no other. (Hear, hear, and applause).
I don't suppose for a moment that it has ever occurred in Canada, though I heard something about a political railway line. (Laughter) I have seen them, they don't pay cents in; they pay cents out, and as far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned we are looking to put that sort of thing on a proper and legitimate business basis. But the one thing Australia does want is to impress the point that if we do the producing, then we look to the other side of the world for our markets-among those people who are, may I say? flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood. Our people have travelled 12,000 miles in defence of the Empire, and am I looking for too much when I say--"Here, it is up to you people to do your part; consume what we produce?" (Hear, hear, and applause) That, Gentlemen, is defence.
Our Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, created a magnificent atmosphere in Great Britain on behalf of Australia. He travelled throughout that country and worked morning, noon and night, and built up an atmosphere in favour of development within the Empire very fully wherever he went. He told them what we can do and what we are going to do. At the British Empire Exhibition Australia will show what the Commonwealth is doing. As Chairman of the Australian section of the Exhibition I have the further responsibility of looking after our Exhibit, and at the moment I am very deeply engaged in a fair "dinkum-go" with Canada. Soon after I arrived in London my people wrote me that Canada was a month ahead of Australia, and they were terribly alarmed Australia would not be ready. I replied that whenever Australia finished there would be more behind than in front--(laughter)--and you may rest assured that on the 24th or 26th of April Australia will be there--(Hear, hear, and applause), and we hope to vie with you in exhibiting to the world and to those old countries what we can do as an Empire, and to show that every possible thing can be produced within the Empire.
I want to say a word to you with regard to the possibilities of cotton. I have spoken about our wheat, which is in competition with yours, we can grow the best, but I think you can grow the most. (Laughter) Before I became a Minister of the Crown I spent three months last year in Queensland, and travelled in all sorts of districts and to all the cotton patches that I could see. I think I visited nearly 70, and the cotton growth was beautiful, in many places, nearly all, five-finger bolls; and I say unhesitatingly that within five years Australia will be a very active competitor with regard to the cotton required within the Empire. (Hear, hear, and applause)
Now, some of you may put up your hands in horror and ask, "What are you going to do for labour?" That is the first question I meet everywhere. Well, we are going to make labour work for itself; there is no other way to do in growing cotton. In Sydney and in Brisbane they are considering the formation of big companies to grow cotton. To my way of thinking, gentlemen, that is doomed to failure. What we have to do is to cut up the land into areas that will allow a man to keep a pig or two, a cow and fowls, and to grow his 25 or 30 acres of cotton, and have his wife and his family or his pals assist pick and cultivate it. But if you are going to enter into Australia today in the present state of Unionism and attempt to pick cotton under Union conditions, I tell you you are looking for trouble. (Hear, hear) I give it to you in a nut shell. On my estate we have enough labour to pick the grape currants. There was a storm and a disagreement about working overtime, and we had some difficulty, and you know the currant grape has to be put into distil within three days or it is useless, and at the end of three days it would be an economic waste, never to be recovered. With my son and the little girls and their friends we made up a scratch team and went to work at 6 o'clock in the morning and worked till 8 o'clock, and at the end my team had picked as many buckets per hour per man or woman as did men to whom I was paying at fourteen and six-pence a day. That is our difficulty. Over the road there is a man with 15 acres who has an industrious wife and one or two in the family. 'When the storm carne he simply hopped in and had his stuff in, and he used to come over and have a smoke and chat with me at night. That is just what we have got to do in Australia in the cotton industry make labour work for itself, every man his own master. In that way you will have a better community and build up stronger manhood, and everything else should be to the advancement of the Commonwealth. (Hear, hear, and applause) So I say to you, don't be discouraged in regard to the cotton industry within the Empire. Australia intends to delve right into this, and inside of the next five years we will become a very big factor in it; and I think, indeed, we will give our wool a very close call within the next few years.
I am delighted with the opportunity of being here. I stated I would not talk at any public gathering, and when the Prime Minister asked me to take this trip I said, "Cut out all the speeches; I am getting too old for that." He replied, "All right, old chap, we will do the best we can for you," and he left with a smile: But I am very grateful to you for the opportunity of meeting you. I think that this personal contact plays a very active part in building up a better and nobler spirit within this great Empire of ours; and I would say to you, sir, and to your members--Hold fast to that which is good-the British Empire. (Hear, hear, and loud applause)
HON. N. W. ROWELL voiced the thanks of the Club to the speaker for his interesting and inspiring address.