Australia and Her Post-War Problem
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Jan 1919, p. 63-76
Braddon, Hon. H.Y., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Australia's regard for Canadians as blood brothers. Some distinctions between Canada and Australia. The labour question in Australia. Laws governing labour conditions and wages in Australia. Reference to the Whitley report in England. Strikes in Australia. The small Bolshevist element in the labour party. Hopes for mutual understanding between the workers and the masters through shop committees and conciliatory committees, and the like. The importance of scientific research, with the example of the discovery of drought-resisting wheat in Australia. What that discovery meant in terms of dollars. The issue of repatriation. Details of the military scheme and the pension scheme. Arrangements for the disabled. Providing psychological support. Pensions for the dependents of some 60,000 dead. The situation with industry during and after the war. War debt figures. Agricultural production. Disadvantages for Australia in terms of attracting immigrants. The need for capital. Education in Australia. The loyal relationship between Australia and the Mother Country. The Australian fleet. The defence of Australia. Comments on the British, German, and Russian fleets. The British Empire. Political events over the last four years. The Imperial Council. Hope for the idea of the League of Nations.
Date of Original
24 Jan 1919
Language of Item
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Full Text
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
January 24, 1919.

PRESIDENT STAPELLS introduced the speaker, saying that no part of the British Empire had done more in the war than the great commonwealth of Australia, by its army on land, and its navy on the sea, and the men, women and children at home doing their bit. Foremost among those at home was the distinguished speaker of the day, who during the war placed his talent, his time, his great ability and energy at the disposal of his government, and came as Australian commissioner to the United States to do his bit there at a critical time. No words could adequately express the tribute to which this great Imperial statesman is entitled.

HON. MR. BRADDON was received with cheers, the audience rising. He said: Mr. President and Gentlemen, I am deeply grateful to your office bearers for their kindness in giving me the privilege of addressing you here today, and still more grateful for this beautiful little burst of Australian sunshine. (Laughter.) It has been extremely gratifying to me to meet such


Honourable H. Y. Braddon is Commissioner for Australia in the United States. He knows Australia and her industries thoroughly, being himself a practical business man of the Commonwealth. His early business connection was with Australian Banking Institutions. He has filled the positions of President of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, and President of the Employees' Federation, and has served as a member of the Legislative Council. He has written several works on business principles and he took a leading part in introducing distinctly commercial subjects into the corriculum of Australian Universities. He was born in 1863 and was educated in France, Germany, England and Tasmania.


gentlemen as Sir Edmund Walker, the head of a great financial institution, and Dr. Morrison, whose name is known from one end of Australia to the other with respect, regard and affection. (Applause.) To me it is entirely delightful to be with the members of the Empire Club. I thought you were just sober business men like myself; I had no idea that I was coming as a guest among the accomplished dilettante. I was told by the Australian government that whatever I'did I was to visit Canada and give you a message of greeting and good feeling from Australia. (Applause.) We regard you there as blood brothers, and we are proud of you. There is nothing they do not know in Australia about you-the unflinching courage, the wonderful devotion to duty of the Canadian boys at the second battle of Ypres, at Vimy Ridge, Cambrai, Mons and all the restit would be idle to recount all the places, and would take too long. But while we rejoice in Australia over the wonderful performances of your lads at the front, we also grieve with you over the inevitable losses which those victories at the front have caused.

I propose to touch briefly upon one or two subjects in reference to Australia which would ordinarily be rather dry, but which today have an importance that they never had before, so I will plead no excuse about that. Let me first, however, refer to one or two big distinctions between your country and ours. When I left Australia I was quite convinced, as a patriotic Australian, that it was a wonderfully great and spacious continent, but since arriving here little doubts have intruded themselves into my mind. I am told people do not know it is the biggest island or the smallest continent in the world, (Laughter.) but whatever its dimensions may be, we yield place to no other section of the Empire in our regard for the old mother country, our loyalty to it, and our admiration of its wonderful efforts. (Applause.) The climate of Sydney is typified by what you see through this window. We are on 34 degrees south latitude, about the same as Buenos Ayres and Cape Town, or, coming nearer home, about the same degree of northern latitude as Oklahoma. The mean summer temperature of Sydney is 71 degrees, and the mean winter temperature 51 degrees, and we play games like golf all the year round, and it is hard to say which is the better season. Our sheep graze all the year round, which takes a big burden off the country in the sense of winter feeding. When we think of Canada we naturally think of an old primitive land covered with wonderful snows; we picture your trappers, pushing those extraordinary pioneer equipments of theirs, hunting the musk-ox, the caribou, and the rest, right out into the dim wastes of your great west. It is not our fault that we do that. Kipling is partly responsible, and charming writers like Sellers, who give us wonderful stories of the scenes, and we are apt to forget your great clay-belt, your water powers, your manufacturing in the east-you manufacture more than we do in Australia, and you export your manufactures. You have your technical skill in commerce, which we have not as yet, most of our manufacturing is for local consumption only. We rely mainly on our primary products, wheat, meat and the associated products, for export. We are less than five million people, almost wholly British, but one wool clip, under the British government purchase scheme, which will run on until June 1920, is worth roughly, $200,000,000. (Applause.) We are said to be enervated by paternal government, state control, and the like. I do not apologize for touching briefly on that very dry subject, but please understand that I must outline the local problems. We have public utilities like telephones, post and telegraph, supply of water. These utilities grew out of the inherent surroundings, and they are not the result of any special economic doctrine, because we had no private capital to do these things, and if the government in the various states did not build those railways I don't know who would; we might have had seven or eight lines here and there. Australia is a big country with a very sparse population, but we would not have had the railways run as they are now. They are fairly run under commissions which are assumed to be entirely free from political control-I hope you will note the caution of my language. (Laughter.) We have about 25,000 miles of those railways in Australia, against your 47,000 or 48,000. There is a trend of opinion that we have reached the limit of state paternalism in Australia, but when we turn back a little there are streams which indicate the flow of the current towards private enterprise and private industry.

Turning now to the labor question, which belongs to what has been termed the dismal science, I may say that Australia has a labor question. Before I arrived in the United States I knew I would have to combat the effect of a pamphlet published in 1914 by a commission from U.S. manufacturers who were sent to Australia to write up the labor question and who wrote it in vitriol, not in ink. In the twenty-one conclusions of that pamphlet there is not a statement made that is not in itself correct enough, but there are no mitigations, it is all one-sided, and I am told that the two gentlemen principally concerned are red-hot employers in the sense that they are class-conscious, they are bitter against the laboring classes, and they went out prejudiced and ready to find a certain type of evidence, and wherever they found it they wrote it down and did not look for mitigating circumstances. The net result is a caricature; it is not a true presentation of the picture. One could talk for an hour on the Australian labor question, but I will touch only one or two of the high points.

First, understand that the labor question involves really a unit, all British; the number of foreigners is almost negligible. They are all educated; the percentage of illiteracy is also almost negligible, because we have free compulsory education which runs up in the state schools to about 16,2 years of age, and for all practical purposes it is all unionized, all the bigger trades. Compare that with the United States-I do not know how Australia stands relative to Canada. In the States they have a big percentage of what one would call foreigners, many not English-speaking. They are not unionized to any great degree, and the percentage of illiteracy was stated the other day by Mr. Secretary Lansing as over ten percent right through. That is a serious thing. They never tried our experiment in compulsory arbitration, and the like, but out of their labor world less than three million are unionized, yet those unionized people involving the most skilled trades, have exercised a quite extraordinary power in bringing about the conditions they sought. Taking it as an entirety--and I say this with some responsibility--looking at their State Acts and ours, their Workmen's Compensation, their Factory Act, all those places where the particular employer may be said to be curbed, the employer in Australia is no more curbed today than the employer in the United States, notwithstanding what this pamphlet alleges about Australia. That phase of compulsory arbitration we have tried for twenty years. The New South Wales Act, the one that naturally rises between us, has been just about twenty years in existence. It is an admitted failure; you cannot compel big bodies of men; the penalties under those acts are jury offences; you cannot compel big bodies of men. You have many penalties on a biggish scale which are not enforced because penalties cannot come into this question. I am largely of the opinion that the opportunity of the future lies along the line of the Whitley report in England, and not having penalties upon the statute books which are laughed at, which you cannot enforce. My own view, which is corroborated by that of the best man on the labor question in Australia, is that we will do away presently with this compulsory arbitration, which only benefits one side, the employer, and we will retain the basic living wage.

Today we can honestly say that in Australia sweating has been abolished; it cannot exist there because there is a line in this basic wage law under which no wage can go, so I hope we will presently obtain a condition where this basic living wage, fixed by an impartial tribunal once a year, will set a line below which no wage will be paid, above which free bargaining will be allowed, and the relation of scale, adaptability, responsibility and hardness of work, and all

those elements, will be considered.

In Australia we have strikes, and the mention of these forms a large portion of that U.S. pamphlet I mentioned, but it does not mention that strikes there are of very short duration. This compulsory act, if it did nothing else, had that effect. It is also not mentioned that we never have had a strike with violence worth talking about, or with destruction of property. Strikes do not assume that phase in Australia. We have labor governments in power every now and then, and we find that they develop quite a fine sense both of capacity and responsibility, and they do not do the weird things that they speak about in their pre-election hustings speeches, when some candidates call down fire from heaven to destroy the employer. When they get into power they are sobered. They learn, and many of them are men of great native capacity. I do not know if you had here Mr. Holman, the present premier of New South Wales. ("Yes.") There is one of the most brilliant men in the political world of Australia. For three years he was practically the leader of a straight-out labor party, and for the other three the leader, and today he is the National Premier, in the State of New South Wales, and we are glad to have him. If you read that pamphlet you will see mention of the I.W.W., Bolsheviki and others down in Australia. We have a few, and they create trouble. Some of them were unfortunately pushed out of the United States, and in our kindness of heart, and not quite knowing what we were welcoming, we allowed them into Australia. Some of those men tried to burn down the city of Sydney. They succeeded in burning down some big factories, and they are now in jail, but that is nothing; they represent an irresponsible minority of labor. I am speaking now of the labor party itself, and as far as I have been able reliably to ascertain, the Bolshevist element does not represent more than ten percent of the labor party. The rest are sober, decent Britishers. (Applause.)

I hope when we get going with those shop committees, conciliatory committees, and the like, where the men meet the masters, as they should do, that a far better mutual understanding will come about. There is a delightful saying that "To understand all is to forgive all," and when men meet together they discover that the other fellow is not the black-hearted devil that they thought he was; that there are not the hundred and one inequalities in the trades that the men are always being told by this irreconcilable minority existing in the various trades. You must have read the Whitley report. That seems to me to be something in entirely the right direction, the direction at which we will aim presently in Australia in contradistinction to those compulsory cast-iron arbitration measures. I do not think there is anything insurmountably difficult or impossible about getting men to understand one or two simple propositions which they do not understand now, that is, the benefaction to any community of the recognized money-maker. He is not a man that I violently admire, but to a community, and from an economic point of view, he has a thoroughly good motive; that man puts his money into use, and most of the time wisely; it is a matter of instinct; he is always doing something, and that something means employment, industry and wages. You may dislike him, he may be an ignoble person, but for the community he is a fine thing, and the workmen should be honestly told these things, and have the why and wherefore explained to them.

Speaking about the value of brains to a community, we had one man in Australia earning 500 a year. He put himself to work to find drouth-resisting wheats. In a few years he developed types which had not been previously accessible to farmers, and today the value of that man's brain-effort is assessed at 1,000,000 per annum to Australia, because there we have a capricious climate which every now and then does not furnish just the right modicum of rain when the grain is coming into the ear. The labor world has to understand what brains mean in the big concerns, the terrible burden that concerns bear, quite apart from the risk; and when they get to understand these things, I entirely decline to believe that their attitude will not be very much better than it has hitherto been. (Applause.) I think they will see that the slacker-and I am talking now of this awful cancer of the go-slow business-has a recoil like a boomerang, that hits itself. The man who deliberately cuts down his own effort raises the cost of bricks. That reacts in every direction; others are doing it elsewhere. These things react on one another with an accelerated effect, and you have the cost of living rising, always faster 'than wages rise, and men consequently in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction. I think that can be taught to them. To my mind it is almost more serious than the effect on the national output, this doctrine of go-slow, the effect on individual character, because I decline to believe that a man can be properly happy when he is conscious that he is not doing the best with those talents of adaptability and that influence which God has given him. (Applause.) So that, on the whole, I do not think we are in such a parlous case as that pamphlet of 1914 seemed to evidence. I have no hesitation in saying all this in the south, and they have been good enough to pay it a certain amount of attention.

Now I am going to say a word or two about repatriation. In Australia we recognize it as a duty to give the returned soldier a full, fair, clear opportunity to reinstate himself in civil life. (Applause.) As to a number there will be no difficulty whatever. My own company, for instance, has pledged itself to take back every man, not only without loss of status, but we preserve his seniority, so that if somebody else who remained here has advanced in his absence, that soldier returning is put up to the same level. But quite apart from that-and a number of other big houses have given that as well-we realize the sacred duty to those soldiers; all men that are well will remain on the pay list; we are not paying any six months' pay, as I understand you are doing here, but the returned soldier will remain on the pay list until he will be offered a job, and there will be committees and boards to watch for opportunities to reinstate the soldier. But if he refuses something reasonable offered him, to which his condition should induce him-his previous training, for instance-to accede, then he goes off the pay list, because the company will -have done its duty in offering him work; if he declines to take it, that is his concern. Then there is a big category of totally and partially disabled-I am speaking now of the military scheme as it was put before me just as 1 left Australia-and the pension scheme will arrange, according to individual circumstances, number of dependents and the like, from $8.50 to $13.50 a week; and remember that the purchasing power of money in Australia at present is nearly double that of money in the United States, so that is not a bad pension--42 to 66 shillings according to conditions. If the soldier is partially disabled, institutions will be set up for teaching him how to use his hands, how to do without one limb, etc. For the totally disabled there will be homes, and if they need special treatment, they will get that in addition. Those who are suitable for blocks of land will get them, but those blocks of land are not going to he given to them, but they can get them on a very easy purchase scheme, something like thirty years on a four per cent. basis, land roughly worth $5,000, and they can get any part of the price up to $2,500, to enable them to erect a little home, plants and improvements; they will be tided over the non-productive period, of necessity. That is an expensive scheme, but it is a duty to be done; it means $7,500,000 to put a thousand men on that basis. Other problems are isolation and psychology. Remember what those soldiers have been through -fierce, terrible, incalculable excitements of war. Will they come back and settle down quietly on little farms some distance from others? I don't know; we have got to try. If it can be done on a community basis so as to have them more aggregated it will be done, because this problem is recognized. Then the problem of psychology, where some of those men come back shell-shocked, they will require extraordinarily patient and sympathetic care to tide them over until they are fit to go back to work for themselves in the country. (Applause.)

We have to find pensions for the dependents of some 60,000 dead, and we have to work back gradually in this way some 70,000 disabled soldiers. In one he probably says, "Well, I will be back next year and see the old folks," but that would be a rather wild dream for an Australian, who would probably say to himself, "If I have luck I will be back in ten years." I hope my own case will not be taken as typical, but I was away thirty-one years. You remember what Mark Twain said about his lengthened absence; he was away some time from the place, and when he got back all his friends were either dead or in jail. (Laughter.)

We also want capital-and I say this in bated breath and whispered humbleness, for there is not altogether lacking some symptom of that kind here. (Laughter.)

In Australia we believe in education, just as Mark Twain, whom I quoted just now, did. You remember what he said about training-that training is everything; the peach was once a bitter almond, and the cauliflower, after all, is only cabbage with a college education. (Laughter.) At Sydney we have a University, and in a lesser degree in Adelaide a precedent, and in Melbourne as a result of my personal advocacy--I am almost a nuisance to Melbourne--we have a higher commercial course, on the recognition of the theory that, in the test after the war, the most highly trained nation commercially will win out. (Hear, hear and applause.) The Sydney university has a full degree, a three or four years' course, a degree of economics and commerce. It was a long weary contest bringing that about, the commercial world was not particularly interested, but I managed to get over that; the Senate said it was infra dig, but in an entirely brutal way of my own I got over that finally, and the labor government put on the estimates $12,500 a year within five minutes after my asking for it, after the University of Sydney had given at last its reluctant imprimatur. That course involves subjects such as pure economics, a high degree of skill in accountancy, business principles and practice-that is my subject; I have lectured for twelve years at nights for two and sixpence a week, and I hope to resume when I get back; civic and public administration, languages, sociology, commercial technology, the technology of products, the history of industrialism, and four or five other subjects. Now, here is a gratifying thing, the ministries of the Crown in New South Wales have told me that they already have induced a superior mentality, a superior pressure of intellect in the work of the public service as a result of a number of students who have passed through the university and are now in the public service of New South Wales. (Applause.)

But we did not stop there. The head of the state schools must, up to sixteen or seventeen, decide to start preliminary commercial teaching at the school, and the boys are delighted with it; they take a far greater interest in it than in either horticulture or agriculture, because it is something real, something that a great many of them will presently tackle, and they just love it. That is a simple course, because it would not do to put heavy subjects on mere lads to prepare them for the office and the university. I helped the government to draft the syllabus. I read the papers for the first two years, and appalling they were, for we were all new; at the end of two or three hundred papers each year my patience petered out, and I passed the work on to others. But it is a fine thing, and now there is no excuse for any young man who wants to fit himself into the finest instrument of which he is capable; he can start at fourteen and finish with a degree at the university.

I spoke just now about Australian loyalty. We are deeply conscious today, as we never were before, of what we owe to the mother country. (Applause.) I am not speaking specially of the fine gifts of local autonomy, or of the sums lent for our development at preferential rates of interest, without which we could not have got much ahead; I am speaking perhaps more of the realization which has come home to us in the last four years of what it meant to us to be there in the southern Pacific-the protection of the British fleet. (Applause.) I am grateful to the chairman for mentioning the Australian fleet, because on a Mercator's projection it might require something in the nature of a microscope to find it, but we have one entire and undivided battle cruiser, we have four or five destroyer types; but, gentlemen, when the war started we realized that the defence of Australia was not down there in the southern Pacific, it was fought out in Flanders and in the North Sea. (Applause.) We believed, as devoted men believe in their Deities, in the efficiency of the British fleet and we sent our little unit to join up there. (Applause.) But to 'me as a little Britisher, I confess it makes me glow when I think what the British fleet has done. (Hear, hear.) People speak of the freedom of the seas. For a hundred years that fleet has maintained the finest traditions of the Nelson school, and has never used any bullying or braggart way. (Hear, hear and applause.) It has been the protector of the small nations; it polices the highways of the deep; it drove the pirate of the sea off the seas, so that the humblest trader could sail into any port he liked, under any flag, and feel perfectly secure, and he could trade in British ports on an exactly like footing with British tonnage. (Applause.) Having seen the freedom of the seas, I confess I don't know what it is. It seems to me the British navy has for a hundred years conferred the freedom of the seas upon the world at large. (Hear, hear and applause.) Could anything have been finer than what occurred the other day, when the British fleet came into its own; that day for which the German navy has been feverishly building-"the Day" they have been toasting for twenty years -"the Day" it has been inviting. (Applause.) Why, you take off your hat with respect to the Spanish fleet at Santiago, sailing out to its certain doom, with the flag flying and guns booming. (Applause.) You respect that Russian fleet that sailed away around into the eastern seas knowing that it was going to its doom, but with its flag flying, and it put up a fight. But what are you to think of that German fleet? As somebody put it in New York, speaking of its security in sailing through two lines of Allied battleships, he could think of it as a fleet not battle-scarred but battle-scared. (Laughter and applause.) Now, the German has referred to his wonderful Empire, and I confess I rather quarrel with the word "Empire," and I wish we could get a better, because, you think instinctively of the German Empire, perhaps more of the Roman Empire-the subjection of outlying people by greater force, the subjection of those outlying people by the great. pro-consuls in the central government. Now, that is explicitly not what the British Empire is. (Hear, hear.) It is the exact opposite of it; the most wonderful structure the world has ever seen; free peoples linked together by bonds of blood and literature and language, of common enthusiasm, of common aims, and one great loyalty to one Crown. (Applause.)

Now, we have had extraordinary things happening in the last four years. In 1915 and 1916 your representative and the representative of Australia were admitted for the first time in history to a cabinet meeting in the United Kingdom. A year later the Imperial War Council was formed. At an earlier meeting those representatives of ours were merely there in a consultative capacity. A year later they joined the Imperial Council in a representative capacity, the first time in history inside the Empire. What will grow out of that one does not quite know. What will grow out of this scheme for the completion of a League of Nations as autonomous countries one does not quite know; but this, at any rate, has emerged--that you and Australia went into this war as daughter states, and you emerged from it as sister nations. (Hear, hear, and applause.) I do not know if my mind is quite big enough, if its thinking is quite wide enough, to take in the idea of a League of Nations, and when one does not know the surroundings it is stupid to comment or attempt to comment; but one can say this-and the more I have been with the people to the south of you, your great neighbors and cousins, the more I feel it and that if we can bring about a league of the English-speaking peoples with their common notions of honour and sportsmanship and fair play, we need not worry about much else. (Loud and continued applause.)

SIR EDMUND WALKER voiced the thanks of the club in appropriate remarks.

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Australia and Her Post-War Problem

Australia's regard for Canadians as blood brothers. Some distinctions between Canada and Australia. The labour question in Australia. Laws governing labour conditions and wages in Australia. Reference to the Whitley report in England. Strikes in Australia. The small Bolshevist element in the labour party. Hopes for mutual understanding between the workers and the masters through shop committees and conciliatory committees, and the like. The importance of scientific research, with the example of the discovery of drought-resisting wheat in Australia. What that discovery meant in terms of dollars. The issue of repatriation. Details of the military scheme and the pension scheme. Arrangements for the disabled. Providing psychological support. Pensions for the dependents of some 60,000 dead. The situation with industry during and after the war. War debt figures. Agricultural production. Disadvantages for Australia in terms of attracting immigrants. The need for capital. Education in Australia. The loyal relationship between Australia and the Mother Country. The Australian fleet. The defence of Australia. Comments on the British, German, and Russian fleets. The British Empire. Political events over the last four years. The Imperial Council. Hope for the idea of the League of Nations.