Permanent link to this item
OUR SYDNEY LETTER, Issue 15629, 21 October 1914
OUR SYDNEY LETTER
. EIGHT-HOUR DAY. Eight-hour Day was an even more successful function than usual. Special efforts had been made to get the men to roll up, and the number of unions taking part in the celebration was greater than on any previous occasion. The crowd in the streets was also very large, and the enthusiasm displayed was proportionate. One factor could hardly fail to strike the thoughtful observer. It is that the success ot the eight-hour movement is due less to legislation, and political agitation than to the gocd-will of men of all classes and the general desire to ameliorate the lot of labor as far as is reasonably possible. There come a point, of course, when the curtailing of the hours of labor means the curtailing of the general prosperity, for wealth cannot be achieved without labor, and prosperity cannot be achieved, without wealth. But the importance of preserving the golden mean is a lesson which youth is very slow to learn. And this is as true of nations as of individuals After all, Australia is very young as yot in the scale of nationhood, and has a lot to learn. Shis certainly going iho way to acquire experience, much in the same way as the child learns that fire burns, by burning its own lingers; But is there any other feasible mode of learning? Meanwhile, it is gratifying to reflect that it is largely owing to the good-will of men who are stigmatised as monsters of callous greed and soulless selfishness that the success of all modern humanitarian movements is due. If the case were otherwise, we might expect to see '‘Capital” massed against •‘Labor” in the manner depicted by Bellamy in ‘ Ctetar’s Column.’ As a matter of fact, it is difficult to distinguish between the policy’of Governments which are wildly denounced as “Capitalistic” and that of Governments which boost the worthy name of “Labor.” EIGHT-HOUR DILATORY.
The oratory was of the character usually looked for on such occasions. The angler trims his fly to allure a, particular kind of fish. The politician trims his fly—i.e., his public utterances—to catch as many kinds of fish as possible.. From the martial and patriotic-point of view, nothing that was said could reasonably be taken exception to. But it formed a queer commentary on these loyal at to ranees to read in the same paper that reported them that the Australian Mineis’ Association, who control the Labor politics of Broken Hill, have forbidden their band to play any patriotic tunes in future, and that 'the 'bandsmen, with a truer sense of the inwardness of the situation, had determined that they would not perform at all unless they were allowed, to play the National Anthem. That is a fly of a color very different from that which was cast at the Trades Hail. Which of them declared the more accurately the real sentiments of the men responsible for its manufacture? The Prime Minister, with an eye to the Protectionists in his large Australian audience—tor he was speaking. to all Australia, and not merely to the persons actually .present—said that he not only desired to have an Australian navy, but to have one which should bo built of Australian materials ana built by Australian workmen. On which the most obvious comment is that it is to bo hoped that it will be a very long time indeed before there is any serious need of its services. EMPLOYMENT AND WEALTH. The “unattached” politicians are i in the field with various suggestions for employing surplus labor and creating wealth, both of them vitally important objects. They differ in the objectives immediately aimed at. But it should not be impossible to harmonise them, or, at any rate, to take out of each that which is the most useful. Mr Ashton is in favor of putting a large area under wheat. Mr H. I). Morton thinks maize would he preferable. Both of these assume that the Government themselves will employ the men, cultivate the land, and market the grain. Mr Waddell, mure statesmanlike, advocates the encouragement of men already in the business to put as large an area as possible under crop Cor next season. Assuredly the “Government stroke” and at '“half time” is not likely to bring out a balance on the right side of the ledger in such an industry as wheal-growing,'where, taking one season with another, every shilling to the good, has to be strenuously fought for. Mr Waddell declares that if the Government enter the field ns wheat producers the initial cost of procuring horses and machinery and engaging another hatch of public servants to do the work will make the experiment a very costly one, and one which is not 'ikely to do any good to the State. But this is Liberalism, which believes in encouraging the people to employ one anoth/r, rather than entering into competiti -n with them and calling on the helpless public to foot the bill.’ The Labor ideal is diametrically opposite. It looks for ward to the clay when the Government shall employ everybody (and, by 'jd/ij-v quence. shall he able to make things very rough for any who venture to'inquire too closely into its proceedings). It hails every step towards that cnci. no matter how undesirable, its results, as a step in the right directi m, and so far its leading opponents have shown themselves to be thoroughly convinced of the soundness of their theory, and to be impervious to all adverse criticism. THE .MILITARY PARADE. There has been a good deal of contention as to whether there should, or should not, he a public parade and march of the Expeditionary Forces. By count of noses, the “ayes” would have it by a very large majority; for the love of the spectacular is very strong among ns, and it presses into the surface any arguments that may serve its purpose. “It will stimulate recruiting,” it has been urged. But we have been accustomed to believe that the men who have offered themselves for service are not of the stamp that could bo inveigled by an hour or two of military display. On the other -side, the fnilitary men have said ; “ Our business is to drill and train the men, and to do it as soon as possible. Every minute spent in useless display is a minute lost.” They are in earnest for efficiency. Many of their opponents, on the other hand, seem to be out for a little cheap popularity. However, the militarists have had to give way, and the review is to take place to-day. Members of the Staff have been careful to tell us not to expect too much, as many of the men are as yet only raw recruits, and there has been no time to get them into shape; The response in the way of recruiting has been very gratifying, and the work of enrolment , is still going strong. Australia will have no occasion to be ashamed of the contribution which she is making to the forces of the Empire. Many, however, are expressing the hope that it will be found possible to employ them in these warmer latitudes, for the rigors of the European winter are more formidable than the Germans. NOT QUITE SATISFIED. Everything must be all right, of course, i now that we have a Labor Government’ in power. But there is much bewilderment, and not a little uneasiness, beneath the surface. Here is a Labor Ministry every pay day putting off thousands of men with a very much smaller wage than the Court has declared to be required to maintain the standard of living which has been decreed. What will be the end of it? it is asked. How can private employers be expected to be zealous upholders of the “ living wage ” if Labor Ministers set the example of ignoring it ? The plea of economy is no 'more valid in their case than in that of anyone else, and in the case of anyone else it would be laughed out of court. There is another trouble, too. Mr Arthur Griffith, the Minister of Works, with his project for housing the more impecunious *«* the workers under canvas, has neglected to make provision for the flooring of the tents! What sort of barbarians does he imagine that he is catering for? is a question that is frequently heard. And another of a similar character isvery apt to follow it —namely, If they do the thing at all, why don’t they do it well ? What is the use of having the credit of the State at their back if they are going to boggle at comparative trifles of this kind? No wonder the Treasurer, who is beginning’ to get some practical comprehension of the financial difficulties
which the State has to face, is also beginning to look haggard and careworn. One can laugh at the criticism of one’s opponents when one has a good majority behind him. It is the wounds one gets in the house of one’s friends that rankle. WAYS AND MEANS. What are our war preparations going to cost us, and how will the cost be met ? These are questions, of greater gravity than those by means of which politicians are so apt to seek popularity. Australia’s war bill will not be much under £25,000,000. Australia’s money-raising capacity has its limits, and those limits have not been extended by the worldcrisis which has overtaken us. On the contrary, they have been seriously contracted. But when all is over it may reasonably be expected that Britain will come to the assistance of “the Greater Britain Beyond the Seas”, by guaranteeing the interest on the special war loans. At present it is doubtful if Canada or Australia could borrow any large sum “on their own” at less than 5 per cent., which would be a very heavj burden. But with an Imperial guarantee, such as was accorded to South Africa, much easier terms would be available. Only it will be imperative that, in the meantime, our credit shall not be impaired by any wild experiments calculated to impair confidence in our stability. And here is another reason for the furrows which are marking the Premier’s brow. He is expected to make two or three millions or so do the work of ten or more! It’s not “all beer and skittles” being a Premier, especially if one is Treasurer at the same time, and has to placate a number of visionary, but very hungry, theorists. Mr Holman is to take the House into his confidence next week. The announcements which he will then make will be the “ resultant,” as the mathematicians would say, of quite a number of forces tending in different directions. But wc may be certain that he will make very heavy demands on those who are considered “ best able to pay.” October 6.
OUR SYDNEY LETTER, Issue 15629, 21 October 1914
Use these buttons to limit your searches to particular dates, titles, and more.
Print, save, zoom in and more.