House of Assembly: Vol2 - THURSDAY 4 SEPTEMBER 1924
I would like to reply to the question which was put a few days ago by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the Bills which have still to be dealt with. I stated that there were two Bills concerning which the Government had not made up its mind as to whether they would be postponed. I would like to say now that under the circumstances it is not desirable to proceed with the Financial Relations (Teachers’ Salaries) Bill. At the same time I want to say that the Government will not apply the present saw until such time as Parliament may decide to repeal the clause in question. Then with regard to the Government Attorneys Bill, concerning which I said that the Government had not decided as to whether that Bill would be proceeded with. The Government has now decided that this Bill also will have to wait. I hope the other bills will be carried before Saturday and that the discussion on the Crown Lands Settlement Bill will come to an end.
Standing over from 2nd September.
had asked the Minister of Agriculture:
- (1) Whether married temporary officials of the Veterinary Department, i.e., stock inspectors, dip inspectors, clerks, etc., working in the same districts as married permanent officials receive the same local allowance; and if not,
- (2) whether the Minister will give his reasons for the discrimination in his Department?
- (1) Such temporary officers are remunerated at inclusive rates of pay and therefore do not receive local allowance.
- (2) Temporary officers are remunerated on a different basis to permanent officers.
First Order read: Miners’ Phthisis Act
Amendment Bill, as amended in Committee of the Whole House, to be considered.
On the amendment in line 39 of Clause 10,
The MINISTER OF MINES AND INDUSTRIES moved, as an amendment to this amendment: To add at the end “due to silicosis or tuberculosis”.
Mr. A. I. E. DE VILLIERS seconded.
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
The MINISTER OF MINES AND INDUSTRIES moved: In Clause 15, line 45, after “Provided” to insert “in the case of” and after “widow” to insert “she”.
Mr. BRINK seconded.
Remaining amendments, agreed to; Bill, as amended, adopted.
Mr. A. I. E. DE VILLIERS seconded.
I wish to register my strong protest against a far-reaching measure like this being brought in at the end of the session. I am advised by those who are in a position to express an opinion on the Bill, that the extent and ramifications of the burden which the Bill has placed on the mining industry is not realized by the House. I protest against this hurried legislation, as one has had no opportunity of consulting one’s constituents, and I do not think all the aspects of the case have been considered by the Ministry. It is very wrong of the Government to go on at this stage with a measure of this sort, which places an additional burden on the industry which is already carrying the country on its back. I am advised by those who are in a position to speak that it was not realized by the Minister or the House how far-reaching the effects of this Bill will be.
I am sorry that my hon. friend (Mr. Papenfus) has made these remarks, because he admits in the same breath that he is not conversant with the true effect of the Bill. I hope, although I am only newly in the saddle, that I am a little more conversant with its true effect than my hon. friend is, and I wish to assure him, with all respect to the opinions he has given expression to, that these matters have been discussed for years past. I am acquainted with the views of the special representative of the Chamber of Mines, and have given him all possible interviews. As a matter of fact, I had a letter from him in which he mainly objects to only one portion of the Bill, and that is Clause 11, which was so extensively discussed yesterday. That is the main objection and he gave me an extensive memorandum on the clause, which I considered. It is not a new question at all. All the other questions have been in the air for some years past.
Motion agreed to, and Bill read a third time.
The MINISTER OF FINANCE moved, as an unopposed motion—
Mr. A. I. E. DE VILLIERS seconded.
Third Order read: House to resume in Committee of Supply.
Hot se in Committee;
When progress was reported progress on 2nd instant, Vote No. 31, “Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones”, £2,675,350, was under consideration.
What is the present position in regard to the ocean mail contract? It expires in October of this year, but we have heard nothing of a new contract, although such information is very desirable in view of the increase in freights which has just been announced. Why should £33,000 be paid in connection with the Cape Town—Durban mail boat service? This is an increase of £1,000 on the vote for the previous year. I see no reason whatever for this subsidy to the mail company. In view of the considerable surplus earned by the department, I hope the Minister will take into consideration the desirability of reverting to penny postage. I hope he will not emulate what has been done by the British Post Office and reduce postage from 2d. to three half-pence, because the three half-penny stamp is practically no help in connection with postage and very unpopular. It has been found in England that it has not increased the revenue. If a change can be made it should be reduced to a penny, and the country would welcome the reduction very much indeed. I would now like to refer to telephones. I have a circular here in connection with an automatic telephone exchange at Port Elizabeth. It appears that the installation made at Port Elizabeth is to be followed by one at Pietermaritzburg, and that the business tariff will be £9 with 900 free calls, and the residential tariff £6 with 600 free calls. In regard to business connections, that means about three calls a day, after which the charge is 1½d. a call. In ordinary business forty or fifty calls a day is a moderate number. The present charge at Pietermaritzburg is £12 10s. for business telephones, and £9 for private telephones, with unlimited calls. The new system is going to impose a tremendous increase on these two places. It has not been found that the automatic telephone service is so very satisfactory, and you are practically going to knock out more than fifty per cent. of the present girl operators. It is true the Minister undertakes to find places for them, but probably they will take the place of some of the men. Something like 34 are employed at the telephone exchange in Port Elizabeth, and the effect of the automatic exchange will be to reduce that to seventeen. I would like to refer to the Durban Municipal telephones where the charge is £14 14s. for business purposes with unlimited services, and £8 8s. for the private installation. The net profit was £13,134 last year, which compares favourably with the Government installations. I think it is a scandal that with the enormous telephone service the Government has throughout the country, instead of reducing the charges, they are going to put them up. I understand from a conversation I had with the Minister that he wants to reduce telegraph and telephone charges, but here he is going to put them up 100 per cent., which is a serious matter for the two towns concerned.
I am glad the hon. member has raised this point about telephonic charges. A few weeks ago I asked the Minister whether he would take into consideration the reduction in the price of calls. In Durban a call costs 1d., and the Government is charging 3d. a call. I hope the Minister will deal with the matter, and hope to-day he will be able to tell us that he has taken it into favourable consideration. The pre-war charge in Johannesburg was £6 per annum, and now it is £9. Is he going to reduce it to the former rate? The charge for the post office boxes used to be £1 per annum, and now it is £1 5s. Surely it saves the Government an immense amount of money to put letters in the post office boxes and not have to deliver them: and under the circumstances I hope the Minister will see whether he cannot fairly reduce the charges to what they were formerly. I also wish to support the appeal to reduce the postage to 1d. In England it was found that when they reduced the postage to l½d. a tremendous amount of correspondence ensued, and there was no loss to the revenue.
I notice that the post office have adopted the policy that services rendered for other departments as regards telephones and telegraphs are being charged to these departments, which is a perfectly sound policy to pursue, and I want to ask the hon. Minister whether he will extend that policy to the goods which are sent by parcel post for the various requisite stores of the provinces. Three of the provincial councils have requisite stores for educational requisites, and I understand the post office does not charge the requisite stores for doing their work for them, and the result is that the post office, doing this work practically free of charge, becomes congested at times with the big quantity that is sent by parcel post—goods of a class and bulk that should be sent really by rail. We have, according to the figures here, an estimated surplus in the post office to-day roughly of £683,000 and I feel that if the services rendered by the post office for various other departments, including provincial councils, free of charge, were to be credited to the post office the case for returning to the penny postage would be unanswerable. The post office to-day is being used as a method of taxation; as my hon. friend here says, it is profiteering. The figures show conclusively that the post office as an institution can return to the penny postage, and there is no reason why taxation should be levied through the medium of the post office. I would like to mention one other matter, and that is that several members have spoken of the necessity to provide work for white youths and adults in these various Government departments. In the post office you have a very big body of coloured workers; especially in the Cape Province the post office has a fine body of coloured workers; and I hope no injustice will be done to those men in the anxiety to provide opening for the white men. I quite agree that you should do everything you can to provide openings for white men, but we must see that no injustice is done to this body of coloured men who have served us faithfully and well for a number of years.
I would like to mention a matter I have mentioned before, and I trust that the Minister’s reply will not only be a charming smile. I mentioned the matter privately to him, and I want something more definite. The matter I referred to is the insanitary, dirty and altogether inadequate post office building in East London. There is a vast amount of business transacted there, a scheme has been approved in a former House, for the erection of new post office buildings, and all I ask is that the hon. Minister will, in his reply, give some clear indication that in the preparation for next session this urgent matter will receive some special consideration, and if he does so he will earn the whole-hearted blessing of a troubled community.
I must support some of the strictures passed by members on this side of the House on the financial methods of the post office, which, it is true, has been used as a taxing machine, for the purpose of imposing taxation on those who have been using the post office. I agree with what the hon. member for Dundee (Sir Thomas Watt) said, that you should, in contemplating whether you should or should not reduce postal rates, not take into consideration the general revenue. We are brought irresistibly to the conclusion that it is time the post office is removed from Treasury control, because we had the extraordinary spectacle a couple of years ago of the then Minister of Posts and Telegraphs having made urgent representations to the treasury for permission to spend at least between three and four million pounds for very necessary work—the extension of telephone services—reproductive works carrying in their train an increase of revenue. I urge upon the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs that he has a heart-to-heart talk with his friend of the Treasury, and endeavours to come to some more equitable arrangement, whereby a large revenue-earning department like the post office should raise money the security is excellent—and start to do its business properly. With regard to the automatic telephone exchange system, I understand that there are four or five different companies in England which are urging upon the postal authorities there that their particular automatic exchange system is the best. That has not yet been proved. I would like to know from the Minister when he replies how much the installation of automatic telephone exchanges in this country has cost. We have to consider this question also from the point of view of the throwing out of work of a large number of people. We are a small country and we cannot afford to conduct experiments which on the face of them at all events are going to throw out of work a certain proportion of our citizens. I have never opposed the introduction of labour saving machinery, in fact I advocate it, but side by side with the introduction of labour saving machinery must go this principle that it must be employed mainly in the direction of relieving the work of the people. In making it possible for those who are engaged in occupations, to earn their livings more easily. There is another matter of great importance to us. During the last two or three days there has been a distinct rise in the freight on goods from South Africa to other parts of the world. The shipping companies have got together, as one expected they would, after they had settled their little differences, and they have decided to raise against the whole people of South Africa, the cost of carrying their goods. Now, again reminding the Minister that no longer are they working in water-tight compartments. I would ask him to consult his colleagues in the Cabinet and especially the Minister of Railways, and see whether we cannot extend our own fleet of ships and use them for carrying our goods plus our mails. I see that we pay £199,600 a year for the carriage of our ocean mails. That at 5 per cent. is the interest on a capital sum of £4,000,000. Cannot we embark upon a state enterprise of that kind? use the capital sum that this interest would involve for the purchase and building of ships and thus be able to carry our South African goods in the interests of the primary producers to the advantage of the country and build up a national asset which in itself is something worth striving for? I also want to support the suggested reduction of the postage to one penny. On the face of it, one would expect that the cheaper you make an article the more it is likely to be used. There is no question that to-day the rates have a restrictive effect on correspondence, and I make bold to say that the probability is that if you lower the postage rate, the result will be a considerable increase of traffic.
I would like at this stage to deal with some of the many questions that have been raised in the course of this debate. The request made by the hon. member for East London (City) (Rev. Mr. Rider) really comes under the Loan Vote, that is, for the new post office at East London. I hope I shall not answer him merely with a smile, but that the smile which he referred to will be translated into something more tangible before very long in the city of East London. The Government realize the pressing necessity for a new post office there and it was to have been included in the Estimates for this year, but, unfortunately, owing to lack of funds, it was squeezed out at the last minute, but I can assure the hon. member and the good people of East London that they will have very favourable consideration before very long. The hon. member for Hanover Street (Mr. Alexander) has asked me to have some regard to the number of temporary employees in the engineering section of the postal service. The engineering section is divided up into three classes—the established class, the unestablished or temporary class, and the casual class. In the established class there are 416 workers, in the unestablished or temporary class the staff numbers 338, and on top of that we have a casual staff of 479. We have thus 817 belonging to the unestablished and temporary section, including the casual staff. I have already gone into this matter and I am satisfied that having regard to the permanent work and the construction work in view for many years to come on the basis of present work and work in view, the unestablished or temporary staff is unduly high. There are a good many of them who have been in the service 10 or 15 years, and they are getting tired of being called temporary employees. The hon. member (Mr. Alexander) asked me to approach these men and discuss this matter with them. There is no need for me to do that for they have already approached me and one of the deputation to whom I spoke said that he was a temporary man and that he had been in the service for 14 years. We seem to be establishing a new class—permanent-temporary men. I can assure the hon. member that, as far as I am concerned, I am not going to overload the service unduly with unestablished men, but I am going to satisfy myself that all who are legitimately entitled to be regarded as being on permanent work, shall be, if it is in my power to do so, be placed on the permanent establishment. If a man is engaged on permanent work I say that he ought to be regarded as a Government servant and treated as such. The hon. member (Mr. Alexander) also asked me a question about the withholding of increments. I have enquired into that question and I find that in the case of the established men they had certain scale increments which they automatically received, but a revision of condition of service took place and all increments were suspended on March 28 last year, and the new scales did not operate until April 1, this year. I find that all established men who had had their increments withheld received back adjustments and were put in the position as though there had been no suspension. All the temporary men were not treated the same way and the reason given is this, that they were not on any automatic scale, that they were subject to increases at the discretion of the department and that, consequently, there was nothing withheld from them. But I find this phrase frequently occurs, viz., that “the progress of the temporary men was withheld,” not their scale increment. Their progress was stopped pending revision and when the revision took place, they, of course, received the increments due. I am going to find out how that word “progress” has been interpreted in the past and what is meant by their progress being withheld. The hon. member for Hanover Street (Mr. Alexander) also referred to the differentiation between postal employees and the Railway service in the matter of local allowances. Now that is the state of things that I found when I took office. It applies not merely to the postal staff, but to all departments equally. Speaking for myself, I cannot see any reason whatever why the Government servants in the railway service should be treated differently from the Government servants in the Postal Service, in the Department of Justice, or any other department. As I say, that is only my own opinion. The position is just as I found it and the matter will have to be considered by the Cabinet. The question of the removal of the mechanicians to some other quarters than their present place in the post office building to the bottom of Bree Street has been raised. That is a matter which I have already looked into and I am satisfied that an engineering works inside a building is an unsatisfactory and undesirable thing; it is undesirable to have an engineering workshop right in the middle of the post office surrounded by officers doing clerical work. I enquired how long it was in vogue and was told that it had been there for 20 or 30 years. It was wrong from the start and it is wrong to-day. But I also find on investigation that provision has been made in the plans for the new post office annexe at Cape Town—which is to be built on the Parade at the back of the present post office, for the accommodation of the mechanicians on the ground floor of that building. I have therefore to ask myself whether I am justified in incurring any expenditure in building a place for the accommodation of the workmen at the bottom of Bree Street pending the opening of the new annex which is being started in the near future. Candidly, I do not think I am justified in spending £1,500 on temporary accommodation for the engineering staff.
What about the circular.
I will deal with the circular if my hon. friend wishes. I am prepared to tell him of several of the things I have already dealt with and which are included in that circular, and which have had my consideration. I am waiting to get into touch with the Public Service Commission in Pretoria. In reply to the hon. member for Pietermaritzburg (North) (Mr. Strachan) who is very concerned about the “Hello Girls,” girls he thinks are likely to be displaced by the setting up of automatic exchanges, I give him the assurance that in the establishment of these telephone exchanges I do not intend to dismiss any employees. In a large service like the Postal Service with 8,000 employees there is always a good deal of wastage and I have already arranged that girls and men would, in the ordinary way, be displaced by the establishment of automatic exchanges at Port Elizabeth and Pietermaritzburg shall not be discharged but shall be absorbed in the services and if possible do duty of a like character. It is possible that we may have to transfer them to some other places where they are shorthanded. However I also assure other hon. members that I am not putting them in posts which would be detrimental to fully qualified postal officials. They will be drafted to suitable occupations where they will not be interfering with other people while at the same time they will be doing essential work. Reference has been made to the telephone rates and charges and might I deal with this point now. Certain hon. members want to know how it is that the rates for automatic telephone exchanges are going to be increased in Pietermaritzburg and Port Elizabeth and why there should be any difference at all. In Pietermaritzburg they have a flat rate of £12 10s. for as many calls as they like and we are going to make that £9 for 900 calls and a penny halfpenny per call thereafter. The same applies to Port Elizabeth, we are going to bring these two towns into line with Cape Town, Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa with regard to telephone rates. The measured rate is going to obtain and the larger users, the people who use the telephone most, will have to pay the most. It is merely payment for services rendered. That is the practice which obtains in America, Australia and Great Britain and other parts of the world—the more you use the telephone the more you pay for it.
You are writing your service down a failure, you cannot compete against private enterprise.
The hon. member is interested in gold mines. There are some mines which are very payable and there are some which are not. Some mines are regarded as suitable for certain conditions which other mines are not suited for, and it is the same with the telephones.
Not at all, where is the analogy?
The hon. member need not get excited, we are not asking him to pay more than in Cape Town. In Durban they have a municipal telephone system in operation and they charge so much less and it is contended now—why should we charge more? Durban is a self-contained community and has not got telephone lines all over the country. It is a compact community with a highly organized service. One set of overhead charges is sufficient to operate the whole of the service and they are bound to do it cheaper under these conditions than a national institution which has to carry lines all over the country. I guarantee, if you give us the administration of the Durban exchange, that we will conduct the service just as cheaply and make as much profit.
Are you going to take it over?
No. Much as we would like to consider Pietermaritzburg in this respect, we cannot do it. With regard to the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) also on the automatic exchange business, he wants to know what the policy is. In fact I have been asked publicly in the press to declare exactly what we shall do in this matter. The hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) wants to know the cost and if we have taken it into consideration. When I took office I found these automatic exchanges were a more or less established fact. The cost of the one at Pietermaritzburg is £50,000, and that of the exchange at Port Elizabeth is £45,000. Although they had displaced a number of operators more mechanics are required. These automatic exchanges are very complicated, very costly and highly technical apparatus. The system established in South Africa is known as the “Siemen” system. My department has told me that so far as they are aware this system has proved itself very successful. We have established this particular system, but we are not going to make it general; we are not going to be stampeded into establishing automatic exchanges all over the country. Instead, we are going to give these two a trial for a period of years and thus satisfy ourselves fully as to whether we would be justified in establishing any more of them in any of the towns in the Union. We are not laying down a general policy that we are going to establish them. The reason why we tried them in Port Elizabeth and Maritzburg is because the old exchanges there were practically worn out and it came to the point that new exchanges had to be put in. Accordingly we tried these automatic exchanges. We are also putting them in to relieve the congestion in the suburbs where they are necessary to meet increased requirements. They are being established for experimental purposes, and up to the present so far as I know they have been successful. In Durban there has been one established in the suburbs which has proved most satisfactory indeed. We are not going in for an extensive policy of erecting automatic telephone exchanges in the big towns until we are fully satisfied that such a step is warranted from every point of view. The hon. member for Yon Brandis (Mr. Nathan) referred to the increased charge for post boxes. Well, the cost of nearly everything has increased as compared with pre-war prices; for instance before the war I paid £7 for a suit of clothes; now I pay £10. Naturally the cost of running the Postal Service has also increased, but as soon as we feel justified in reducing the charge for post boxes from 25s. to 20s., so far as I am concerned, that will be done. But the hon. member must not expect us to put all our charges back to pre-war level. The hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford) raised the point of our charges for services rendered to other Government departments, and asked whether we were prepared to extend that principle to the Provincial Administration in respect of parcels post. May I tell the hon. member that we have not altered our policy in respect of parcels post, but only in regard to telegraphs and telephones. There is an item of £16,000 in my own estimates for the first time for telegraphs and telephones which my own department requires. The Postal Service has been giving free services to all other departments—telegraphs, telephones and postage—but now we have stopped free telegraphs and telephones, and I am very glad it has been stopped. This year, for the first time, the postal department will get £199,000 from other Government departments for telephones and telegraphs. If it is right in regard to telephones and telegraphs, that principle is right also in regard to postal services. Last year we gave to other Government departments free services to the value of £281,000. We are still giving them free postal services representing £161,000, which is absolutely wrong, for we should be credited for all the work we do, and we are quite prepared to pay for the work done for us by other departments. That is the only businesslike way. I think I had now better deal with the bigger questions. The hon. member for Dundee (Sir Thomas Watt) asked whether it is a fact that under the international postal conference agreement, which has just been concluded, South Africa will sacrifice revenue to the extent of £40,000 a year. I saw that statement in the newspapers, but that is all the information we have had on this matter. That statement was made by an Australian delegate to the Convention which met at Stockholm, but we have not received any details. The question of postal rates as between one country and another is very complicated, as there are 42 countries in the Postal Union. We have not had time to receive a letter from the Postmaster-General, who is Overseas, explaining what has been done at the Conference, but we have had a cable to the effect that South Africa will lose a portion of its revenue. Hon. members have asked what is the position in regard to the Ocean Mail Contract. That contract originally was for 10 years, and was supposed to expire in 1922. In that year a fresh contract was made embodying the old one with certain modifications, and it was extended for a further period of two years. Everyone expected that the contract would expire at the end of this month, but the matter has been gone carefully into by the law advisers to the Government and the Union-Castle Company, and the legal opinion is that the contract does not automatically expire at the end of this month, but carries on subject to 12 months’ notice.
That was the intention.
The hon. member must be aware that there was a big volume of opinion that the contract would expire in 1924. My department certainly was under the impression until recently that the contract expired at the end of the two years, and we were making preparations to negotiate for a new contract. It is only during the last few weeks that legal opinion was satisfied that 12 months’ notice must be given to terminate it. As soon as the House rises and we have the necessary information, we shall conduct negotiations with the Union Castle Company—and any other company we can get to compete—with a view to arranging for a fresh contract. I cannot say anything more on the matter now, as I do not wish to compromise myself in the negotiations which are about to start. I shall remain in Cape Town after the session to take part in the preliminary discussion.
Do you accept the principle of embodying freight rates in the contract?
Personally I do not; I think the postal contract should be separate from the freight contract. This recent increase in freight charges is a very very serious blow to the interests of South Africa. If all these shipping companies are going to organize and hold this country up to ransom—for that is what it amounts to—and charge what freights they like for the commodities exported, we have seriously to consider the position as to how far we can go in the direction indicated by the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley). It is a big undertaking, but no country can maintain its self respect and allow itself to be strangled or be held up to ransom like this and have its export trade crippled. It gives the Government cause for serious consideration as to the best steps we can take to put South Africa in the position to secure reasonable freight rates whether from privately-owned companies or by other means so that South Africa can get its produce carried to other parts of the world. It is a big thing: we have a tough fight on. Recently we hoped the German and Dutch lines would be in competition—in fact we were contemplating having some other strings to our bow in consequence of their being competing lines, but we find just on the very eve of negotiations that they are brought into the shipping ring, and consequently we enter into negotiations under a very severe handicap. Still, we have ways and means of dealing with the position, and as far as the Government is concerned we are going to see that South Africa is going to get the best possible deal it can. There is no question about that—we are not going to be dragooned by the Union-Castle Company or any other company, we are going to get the best possible service in the interests of South Africa—South Africa first. The hon. member for Dundee (Sir Thomas Watt) also wanted to know what is going to be done with regard to the beam wireless installation. Last year the Radio Telegraph Act was passed by our predecessors; it contained an agreement between the Union Government and the South African Marconi Wireless Company, whereby the latter undertook to establish a high-power wireless station for communication with Great Britain and other parts of the world and to form a link in the chain of wireless stations for the Dominions. That station had to be completed in 18 months, and the company was compelled to give a certain service to South Africa. The charges were to be 1s. 4d. a word for ordinary, 8d. for deferred and 2¼d. for press messages. That compares favourably with the 2s. full cable rate and with the 1s. deferred and Government rate. Furthermore, under that agreement, they have to give South Africa a service of 300 days in the year,—twelve hours a day and twenty words per minute. Those are the same conditions as Australia. As a matter of fact, we got a little preferential treatment—10 per cent, better than Australia—10 per cent, better than I have stated. Now, while they are erecting these 16 masts, each 800 feet high, at Klipheuvel in order to carry out the terms of the contract, Senator Marconi, in consequence of experiments and investigations, finds a new method of wireless transmission which is known as the beam system. Now, the beam system has many advantages over the other system—the high power system—and some disadvantages. It has this advantage:—that instead of only twenty words a minute it can give 100 words a minute, and instead of requiring electrical plant of 750 kilowatts, which the high power station requires, it requires only 25 kilowatts, so that, instead of the cost being in the neighbourhood of £600,000, it can be done and supplied to all parts of the world for something like £160,000. So you see the tremendous advantage obtaining under the beam system provided it fulfils all our requirements; but we are not yet satisfied that it will fulfil all the requirements of South Africa. Representations have been made by the Marconi Company to the British, the Australian and the South African Governments. They said, “It is true we have entered into a contract to erect this high power station, but we have found that the beam station will reduce the cost tremendously and give you the service embodied in our contract with you.” This beam system can be conducted only during the hours of darkness and twilight. They are hoping that they may also be able to conduct it during the day time. It means this, that instead of South Africa getting a twelve hours’ service under the original agreement, under the beam system we can get only eleven hours’ service and these eleven hours will possibly have to be during night time. At any rate, the Marconi people satisfied the British Government and the Union Government that the beam experiment was justified and we are working in co-operation. It is claimed that for all practical purposes they will be able to meet our requirements, and they asked us to give them an opportunity of proving this by experiment. So they asked us to extend the time in which they have to complete the big station, by a period of six months, in order to establish and try out the beam system, and to see how far it will meet the requirements of South Africa.
Are they prepared for a decrease of cost?
That point has not been raised, but we can keep them to their original contract. We do not want to keep them to that expensive cost if we can get a cheaper system—a hundred words a minute, and something that will meet our requirements, but we can keep that in view when we come to negotiations and adjustments—this question will be fully considered, we shall get the best system we possibly can. But the British Post Office has been conducting negotiations for some time with the Marconi people, and appointed a Commission known as the Graham Committee. The Marconi people wanted to adopt the South African policy, and own and control a beam wireless station and operate it on the same conditions as in South Africa, but the British Post Office on the recommendation of the Graham Committee said “No; we will give you facilities—you can erect it; but when it is erected we will take charge of it and it will become the property of the British Post Office, subject to its proving satisfactory and giving the results claimed for it: we will pay by instalments—at the end of six months one half, and at the end of another six months another half.” But the Marconi people said: “you would not work it as efficiently as we would work it.” I have a copy of the agreement here, and if anybody likes to see it he can do so. So the British Post Office have agreed to set up what we might call a Vigilance Committee, on which all the Parties will be represented. That Committee will advise and assist and see that the British end of the wireless station is conducted on a commercial and on properly businesslike lines, and in an efficient manner. When the Committee is set up it will be to the interests of South Africa that it should be directly represented. Now, whether we are going to scrap the big station, we are not in a position to say. It is pointed out to us that two requirements are necessary—the first requirement is commercial, and the second is strategic, and that is where the British Government is particularly concerned—strategic requirements. There is no doubt that the beam system may not meet the full strategic requirements; if it can meet the commercial requirements, and if it cannot meet the strategic requirements, we have other alternatives that we might fall back on, in order that the strategic requirements may be met. All that the present Government is concerned with is that South Africa is ultimately going to get a wireless service that will meet strategic requirements, commercial requirements, and all possible wireless requirements at the cheapest possible rate—in fact, to get the best possible service to meet the requirements of South Africa. South African requirements will have to be met, and we are out to do that. Whether the British Post Office is satisfied will yet have to be seen. The next point the hon. member for Dundee (Sir Thomas Watt) raised is the burning question of the penny postage. (Hon. members: “Hear, hear”). Yes, everybody says: “Hear, hear.” I do not think there is any change we could make that would be more popular in the country than the penny postage—unless it is free postage—I might say that for a long time I have objected to paying 2d. for a penny stamp. The hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford) was quite right when he said that there was a profit. I was not going to say this, but seeing he has already said it, I might as well admit it. There is an estimated profit of £683,000, on the postal, telegraphic and telephone services for this current year, and I am astounded that my predecessor, and, the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) who are now so anxious for a penny postage, did not, before I took office, make provision in their Budget for setting up a penny postage. We are not here, may I suggest—
Did you find it lying on your desk?
No, that was one of the things that was not lying on the desk. I went back to my desk and I made enquiries in view of what the hon. member said, and his pointed remarks, as to what provision they had made for establishing a penny postage, but I was told that there was no provision whatever—the provision was in the back of their minds. May I remind the hon. member for Dundee (Sir Thomas Watt) and other hon. members that this Government has not this session initiated its own policy. It is winding up the affairs of its predecessor—we are asked to wind up a going concern (Laughter). The hon. member is too premature in his laughter—it was going in the wrong direction, and that is why we were called in to wind it up. We are liquidating the affairs of our predecessors, and bringing them to a conclusion. I ask, what opportunity have we had for initiating a penny postage or doing other things, when we have to pass the Budget which our predecessors were in the process of passing, when Parliament was dissolved, and when, in that Budget, they mad® no provision for a penny postage?
You must have thought it a good Budget, otherwise you would not have adopted it.
I put it to the hon. member—we are clearly not as clever as he is—we were called upon at three weeks’ notice, without any previous experience of Ministerial administration, with one exception, to meet Parliament, carry through the estimates, and do the necessary administrative work, and so forth, and do you expect us, on top of that, to remodel the whole Budget? I think it is unreasonable to expect that, and I think the country will think it unreasonable, in spite of all the gibes and jeers as to why we have not done this, or why we have not done that. There is no one who wants the penny post more than I do; there is no one who thinks it more necessary. I would like to make the postal department a self-supporting State service—not hinged on to the Treasury or any other department—standing on its own basis and conducting its own work, which is, rendering the best postal, telegraph and telephone service it possibly can to the people of South Africa at the most reasonable rates. That is the object of the postal department. I am surprised at the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) allowing this position to arise. I found on taking over that the administrative and executive work of the postal service is highly organized and very efficient, but the general control, the financial control, and the Ministerial policy is the most slip-shod and unbusinesslike arrangement I have ever had anything to do with. I will tell you why. The first thing I asked for when I took over was a balance-sheet. I wanted to know what it cost to run the postal service. I am given a statement showing only what it costs for working expenses. I asked for a capital account. I wanted to see what we are paying in interest on buildings or rent, and all the other details of a business in order to get a proper financial grasp of the work involved. I wanted to know what it cost to run this business. What do I find? I find that there are about 345 post offices which we hire and pay rent for. The Postal Department does not pay that rent, but it is paid by the Public Works Department. There is no record of it in the Postal Service. I asked for a statement as to what our own post office buildings had cost and what the interest is. They say that there is not one. I wanted to know of the £683,000—how much should be debited against that for money for which the Treasury pay. It is quite right that the Treasury should raise the loans, but it is only right that the postal department should be debited with the interest charges on those loans. There is no record of that. The Treasury raise the money the Public Works finds the buildings, and every penny earned by the post office has to go into the Treasury coffers.
Is that a discovery?
I thought we would have had a much more business-like arrangement than that. How can I tell whether the people are paying more than they should for their postage, telegraphs and telephones, and how much of that £683,000 profit is legitimate? What I hope is that we shall be able to get the postal service on a much more satisfactory footing from a financial point of view, so that we shall know exactly what it is costing, what our capital outlay is, what our working expenses are, and then we shall be able to discuss whether we should reduce the postal rates, telegraph charges and telephone charges. I hope we shall soon have the information, and that before long we shall be able to restore the penny postage. There is quite a lot I want to do. I want to make the Post Office a highly organized and efficient service, giving the best possible value to its customers. It should not be a taxing machine. It should give the best possible service to the people who use the post, telegraph and telephone services, and if we do that I reckon we shall have done some good in South Africa. I would just like to add that I cannot give a more definite statement than I have just made. Col. Sturman, the Postmaster-General, is overseas, and I want to wait for his advice, counsel and assistance before taking any definite action in the matter.
There are a few matters on this Vote to which I would like to refer. The Minister has spoken about the ocean mail contract. He says his personal view is that we should have an ocean mail contract only to deal with the mails, and having nothing to do with freights or anything else. I hope that that opinion is not shared by the Government, because if there is anything by which we have the means for supplying the country with a regular service and reasonable freights it is through the ocean mail contract. The ocean mail contract is the lever whereby we can secure these things. What we want is a regular service so that shippers may know when they can ship and you can only get that in conjunction with your ocean mail contract. The Minister says that they will have to go into the matter at once of arranging a new ocean mail contract. I would urge him to get others who are interested to advise him in the matter. There are many interests bound up in this matter. Let us take the recent raising of freights. That has come upon us as a bombshell. The only means that we have of getting our products to the oversea markets at a reasonable rate is by arranging with the shipping lines which carry our mails. The recent increases seem to have been made regardless of the value of the article to be carried. In some cases the raising of the freight has almost made it impossible for you to get into the market on the other side. Then there is another matter, raised by the hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford) to which the Minister did not reply. The hon. member (Mr. Stuttaford) has become alarmed, as many of us have done. He drew the Minister’s attention to the number of coloured and native employees who have rendered very good service in the Post Office and in employments connected with the postal and telephone departments. These men have rendered excellent service. Now there are demands from many quarters, you might almost say, to kick these men out of their employment. The hon. member for Maritzburg (North) (Mr. Strachan) said that the department had got so many coloured and native employees on the construction of telephone lines and he advised that these men should be put out and white men put in; is that right or just. I would like the Minister to give a reply to the hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford), because this is a very important matter. I may mention further we have seen conferences held of late and the only result which has come from them is the demand that the native—and that also means the coloured man—is to be kicked out of everything. We would like to have an assurance from the Minister that that is not going to be his policy. We must treat these people fairly; they are human beings and South Africans—South Africans long before many of the men on the labour benches were South Africans. They are part of our permanent population and they will remain here. The native and coloured people the really alarmed. I trust that the Minister will give a reassuring reply on this question.
It is very pleasant indeed to hear this touching regard for the coloured man on the part of the hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie). I do not suggest for a moment that he has looming somewhere in his mind the idea that at the next election the coloured man will have a vote. In view of the very great amount of feeling which he has imported into this matter, it would be as well for us to remind him of the attitude of his party and his Government when they were in office. They have been in office for 14 years. Time after time on this very vote hon. members on these benches urged upon the Government the necessity and righteousness of paying their postmen a standard rate of pay. What was the answer? Inadvertently, I feel sure, it once slipped out of the mouth of the hon. member for Dundee (Sir Thomas Watt), the late Minister of Posts and Telegraphs, that differentiation of pay is on account of their colour. How much is their protestation on this matter worth when we remember the long history of their deliberately keeping these men down instead of lifting them up. I want to congratulate the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs on his display this morning, and if there is anything that will reconcile me to the advent of Labour to the Cabinet it is his masterly grip of the post he has just taken up. There is no doubt that the Minister has justified himself, he is a fit man for the post. He has justified himself more especially when we remember that the Government have only been in office two or three short months, and they are busily engaged in cleaning up the mess the other people left behind them. It is wonderful indeed. They have found out the late Minister of Lands and the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs has found out his predecessor and no doubt the other Ministers will do the same. I was pleased at the manner in which he made his points, points to which the previous Minister of Posts and Telegraphs gave no attention. I look sanguinely indeed to the future and when he has cleared up this mess he will put into force the policy which he honestly holds. I am coming to the question of the surplus. It was said that there was a surplus of £683,000—surplus—a word so dear to the heart of the member of Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger). I hope that that surplus, if it is a surplus, will be increased by the efforts of the present Minister and allow me to urge forward the question of penny postage. There is also time we came down to the 6d. telegram. I do not claim the honour for having introduced this subject to the House, but it is not so long ago just anterior to the war that we had a 3d. telegram in England. It is a most convenient method of communication and hundreds of people will only be too delighted to carry on their business correspondence by telegram. Since we departed from the 1s. standard to 1s. 3d. there have been inventions imported to the service which have considerably cheapened the cost of telegrams and if we cheapen a telegram to 6d. for twelve words there will be such a tremendous rush of business that there will not alone be an increase in revenue but you will be able to employ a larger number of people in the telegraphic department. I ask the Minister to give this matter his close attention during the recess. With regard to telephones we know that it is no longer a luxury—it is a necessity in our everyday life. There are thousands who would have them if they could afford them, apart from the cost of installation. The present method of paying for telephones is a big deterrent indeed. Many people would use the telephone if they had not to pay the first year’s payment down in advance, and I think if we were to have it on the quarterly system right from the start we would have a tremendous influx of applicants for telephones. There is very little risk because once a man gets a telephone he will not part with it. It will be so supremely useful to him that he will keep it.
I would draw the attention of the House to one or two things with regard to the mail contract. The hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie) has recommended to the Minister that the mail contract should include a freight contract. I want to draw the Minister’s attention to what happened in 1912 when on the signing of the contract, five or six of the largest importers of this country endeavoured to make an agreement with the Union-Castle Line for a very low rate, whereby they would have cut the throats of the smaller importers. If a freight contract is included in the mail contract then on all goods the charge should be on a flat rate. I have to congratulate the Minister on his very clear statement.
In the very clear statement made by the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs he made an omission, a significant omission with regard to the question put to him by the hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford), in connection with the employment of coloured and native labour in the Post Office. We should be glad to have a reassuring answer from him. A great deal of anxiety is being caused in departments where a large number of coloured and native labour is employed and on that account it is necessary for the Minister to make a reassuring statement. In the post office coloured employees we have a unique body of fine servants indeed. They are a well-known class, a special class, and we must go into this question in spite of some curious remarks which fell from some supporters of the Government. For instance the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley), suggested that this point is raised with an eye to the next election, that is characteristic. But he let the cat out of the bag when in referring to the coloured peoples’ votes at the next election he said “if they still have the vote.” I wonder what he means by that? That is the sort of thing which causes so much grave anxiety and uneasiness throughout the country. On general policy I must congratulate the Minister on the following up on the lines of his distinguished predecessor with regard to penny post. But as we have already read his views with regard to profiteering it is surprising to find him coming out now with a policy of profiteering in the post office.
There is the question of local allowances.
I have already dealt with that.
But not in the way I would wish you to. The Minister is employing a number of white labourers to-day to do the donkey work, and I understand that some of them are receiving only 5s. 6d. per day, and I hope he will not make it his policy that 5s. 6d. shall be a settled wage. There is another thing that I would like to refer to, and which is of the utmost importance. We have been talking about postal contracts with the mail company, and which has been used as a lever. Might I say it shows how necessary it is to have our own ships. That brings me to my favourite topic. We should have our own ships, and then we would have absolute control. Here we are a big producing country of various raw materials, but which we require ourselves in the finished state. I refer particularly to wool. Here we are exporting wool and buying it “back in the way of clothing. I want to ask the Minister if he will not get into touch with the other Ministers, such as the Minister of Railways, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Defence, and see if we cannot follow the example of Australia and erect large woollen mills in South Africa for the manufacture of clothing for the services.
Business was suspended at 12.45 p.m. and resumed at 2.22 p.m.
I would like to compliment the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs on his remarkable feat in answering all our questions without a note, and by so doing he has certainly set a very high standard. I wish to endorse the remarks of the hon. members for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford) and Rondebosch (Mr. Close) as to the absolute necessity of doing justice to the coloured postmen. In this connection I have brought a matter up session after session; for some years past there has been some differentiation of treatment, although not actually specifically so in name but practically amounting to a differential treatment of coloured as against white postmen in the peninsula. Many of these postmen were engaged at Three Anchor Bay and Cape Town. There was a re-grouping of all post offices throughout the Province and in every case coloured postmen were removed from big offices to small ones, this change adversely affecting their status and conditions. All the men who have suffered in this way have had long and meritorious service.
I wish to draw attention to a few defects that exist in my own constituency. There is only one postal conveyance a week between Brakfontein and Hopetown. Brakfontein deserves a little more consideration, and I do not think the difficulty of furnishing a more frequent post are insuperable. Great inconvenience is suffered at Sarotaga, a small place on the line between Belmont and Douglas, owing to the fact that the only telephone is that owned by the railway. We wish to utilize that line for private purposes. Then the country people are being penalized for living in the country by having to pay an increased postal rate of 50 per cent. on newspapers and periodicals, although that tax does not apply to the towns-people. With the disadvantages the country people are suffering from at the present time they have to pay this extra amount, although the Treasury only reaps an additional £20,000 as the result of these increased postal rates on newspapers and periodicals. Seeing that this amount is so negligible compared with the whole, it seems to me that the Treasury will by no means lose much if this impost is removed—a special tax placed on the shoulders of the country districts. In common with other hon. members I want to raise my views with regard to the raising of ocean freights; whether in the postal contract we are involved in freight rates or not makes little difference to the farmers. But if the information published in the press is correct, that on many articles that are sent overseas the freight will be raised 50 per cent., it appears to me that the farming community and the producers, particularly the wool producers and the exporters of hides and skins, in the first instance, will be penalized by something like £500,000. An additional farthing in the pound imposed on one article means £200,000 already. Those who represent the farmers know that farming is not a paying concern, and now that we have a new outlook operating a change of circumstances, we find that a company or a group of companies comes forward with a new tariff of ocean freights which will imply extra taxation on the producer. We cannot too strongly impress on the Minister that steps be taken—whether we adopt the attitude of the hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) or find some other way out of the difficulty—is a matter for consideration, and I have no doubt that, to my mind, the country is prepared to adopt and to accept any way out of this that will avoid a recurrence of it. These carriers are abusing their position, and the exporters and producers of the country are suffering as a result.
I want to question the Minister on one or two staff matters, and I would like to express regret that the Minister did not use his influence to persuade the Prime Minister to receive a deputation from the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Service Organisations. I hope the Minister will look into it and see that the service organizations, composed entirely of the workers of the Public Services, will be received by the Prime Minister in the ordinary way, if they so desire. Another matter is that in regard to the recent Unemployment Conference, at which a large organization such as the Postal and Telegraph Association to be represented. They would express a different point of view, and they should have been heard. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the people connected with that organization. Then there is the circular to which the hon. member for Cape Town (Hanover Street) (Mr. Alexander) has alluded with regard to the Post Office—and the engineering department employees have expressed the wish that this circular should be withdrawn. It does seem to me that in this circular the postal authorities do indulge in class distinctions between the technical branch of the service and the other side. It was the same thing in the railways some time ago—the thinking staff and the manual staff—there should be no such distinction, either in the railway or the postal staff—they are all in the same service, and all have to use their brains. Another very objectionable feature of the circular is that the practice which was introduced by the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger), on the railways has been continued in the postal service—a system of casual labour being set up. Although I cannot expect men to be placed on the permanent staff without some qualifying period, I object to this casual labour. People are taken on as casual labourers and treated as relief workers, and the organization is very emphatic on that point. It is wrong altogether, and I want to see the Minister do away altogether with that class of labour. The organization says that the casuals of which there are a large number have been regarded as relief workers, and they should not be regarded as such at all. They are employed at 5s. per day. It is not that I have to convert the Minister on this, the Labour Party does want to be converted on this matter; but this is something which has been left behind by the Minister’s predecessor. These people are not relief workers, but Government workers, and are doing necessary work. I would also like to say that I agree with what an hon. member said this morning with regard to the reduction of postal rates, and I hope in future that we get back our penny postage, and not have to pay as a friend of mine complained about recently: “twopence for a penny stamp.”
I should like to bring to the attention of the hon. Minister the question of zone rates for telephones. The areas for telephone charges are divided up in circular fashion—an imaginary circle is drawn from the post office as centre, and the charges are levied accordingly. In the Cape Peninsula owing to that system the imaginary circle passes somewhere between Claremont and Wynberg, and really cuts Cape Town in half. This circular arrangement may be, and quite probably is, quite sound up-country; but when you come to the coastal towns this is absolutely absurd because, for instance, in Cape Town the largest portion of our telephonic area, according to this, is out in; the middle of Table Bay, and the result is we do not get anything like the same land area for telephone services as an up-country town does. It seems quite possible for the post office to suggest some better method of sub-dividing their areas. Surely there is some other geometrical figure which will apply better than a circle. The same applies to Port Elizabeth and East London. There is one other suggestion I would like to make to the hon. Minister, on the question of automatic telephone exchanges, and that is whether it would not be possible to institute these exchanges in small country towns in order that there should be 24 hours’ service there, as against the 12 hours now. Owing to the smallness of the exchanges in these country towns, it is, of course, impossible to keep the few telephone operators on duty for 24 hours; and I recognize it would be uneconomic to provide more operators on small systems.
Arising out of the various answers the hon. Minister has given to us, I would join with other members in a eulogy; but at the same time he has a habit of rather airily and easily glossing over some of them. For instance I raised what I considered an important point some three weeks ago. The Minister promised consideration, and gave us that smile of his. We have the smile—but nothing else. The matter is with regard to extra calls. In Durban they charge you only 1d.
I answered that.
No, the Minister did not answer that. There is one other point I would like to mention. The Minister said he had come into office to clean up, and he went to the desk of the late Minister to see if he could find any memorandum with regard to penny postage. At the same time he told us that he had been an agitator for the reduction of the postage to one penny. Why did he want to employ what we have so frequently heard of in this House lately—the “muckrake”? Having so frequently expressed the view that we should revert to the penny rate, he ought to have told us, now that he has been in office for a few months, what his own considered views were. When he agitated for the return to the penny post, before he took office, did he mean it seriously? If so, he ought to have had no difficulty whatsoever. We want relief, and the public want relief in this matter.
I would like to ask the Minister what the Government’s intentions are in regard to the antiquated barn which at present serves as a Post Office in Johannesburg. The building is very congested and very unhygienic.
The hon. member may bring that up on the Loan Vote, not on this vote.
I have one or two little matters I would like to put to the Minister. The men in the engineering department are anxious to know how many workmen have become redundant during the last six months, and how many old pensioners are being employed. Information is also desired in regard to the results of the investigation into the possibility of manufacturing telegraph and telephone apparatus in the Union. We want the postal department to go into the question as to how much of its requirements can be manufactured in this country. Just as the Railway Department should be in a position to manufacture most of its requirements, so should the other Departments and the ideal should be to provide as much employment as possible for South Africans, for the benefit of South Africa.
With regard to this question of the manufacture of the department’s requirements in South Africa, I may tell the hon. member (Mr. Snow) that I have not gone very fully into that point, but I do not see why, if the policy of the Government is that the Railway Administration should manufacture its requirements in this country, as far as possible, the telegraph and telephone departments should not also manufacture their own requirements here as far as it can be economically done. As regards the number of redundant men, I am not in possession, at present, of the figures, but I will call for that information. The hon. member (Mr. Snow) earlier on dealt with the circular of April 25th. I do not know whether the hon. member was in the House when I spoke on this subject before. I have dealt with a good portion of it. I am not in love with the circular, and I will give it my close attention. I believe the best way to get efficiency is to have a contented staff, and while some of these cases exist the staff cannot possibly be contented. The hon. member for Hanover Street (Mr. Alexander) spoke about the coloured postmen being differentiated against. I do not see really why there should be any differentiation, but I am not going to commit myself on the point. I will go into the question, and, as far as I can, remove any cause of complaint. The general question of the coloured workers was raised by the hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie) the hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford), and the hon. member for salt River (Mr. Snow). While it is the policy of the Government, to, as far as we can, explore and extend the avenues of employment for civilized labour, that is for European and coloured workers, who are living or attempting to live upon European and civilized standards, I—and I think my colleagues will say the same—am not prepared for one moment to do an injustice to these coloured workers who have given us such good service in the past.
What about the natives?
And the natives. You can carry out a policy sympathetically without doing injustice to any section. It is all a question of how it is handled, how it is administered, and how it is done. Hon. members in this House can rest assured that, as far as we are concerned, we shall carry out the policy we have embarked upon, with the utmost consideration especially for the coloured people. I agree that we have got a very fine coloured staff in the postal service in Cape Town. Hon. members can rest assured that there will be no harsh or unjust treatment, so far as I am concerned, of these workers. The hon. member for Newlands (Mr. Stuttaford) raised the question of the zone system. The zone system is in operation in other parts of the Union. It may not be the last word in a system, but, as far as my department is concerned, it is considered that it meets the position as far as it can be met. If there are any particular cases of injustice or hardship, if the hon. member will bring them to my attention I can assure him I will give the matter my closest consideration and try and have it put right. Even in the zone system, or any other system, you must have a boundary, there must be a dividing point, and, if the hon. member can taper it off in such a way that there will be no ill effects felt, I shall be only too pleased to hear how it can be done. The hon. member for Hopetown (Dr. Stals) referred to a place with a population of 7,000, which has only one post a week. It seems to me that, unless there is any very strong reason against it, a Very good case has been made out for better postal facilities than they have got. Unless there is any very strong reason on the other side, this matter will receive my very favourable consideration. With regard to the question of telephone facilities that he mentioned, I am not in the position to make any statement on that at present. The hon. member also referred to the revenue which we get from having increased the postage rates on newspapers from one farthing to a half-penny, and said that this was imposing a very severe handicap on the country districts. He said that the reduction to the old rate would cost £20,000. I may inform the hon. member that the increase which we receive from the higher rate is £32,000. It will cost us £32,000 if we restore the postage to a farthing on newspapers, and put it back to sixteen ounces. The hon. member for Benoni (Mr. Madeley) asked why we should not reduce the charges on telegrams from 1s. 3d. to 6d. He said we would gain on the reduction of charges, because more people would use the telegraph. At the present time the charge is 1s. 3d., and I am told by my officials that it costs us 1s. 4½d. to send a 1s. 3d. telegram. I have not gone into the accuracy of the details of that statement, but I am afraid that the sixpenny proposition has not got much chance in the meantime. Supposing we reduce it from 1s. 3d. to 1s., which I am in sympathy with, that would mean a sacrifice of revenue to the extent of £62,000, ignoring the possible increase of traffic in consequence of the lower rate. Hon. members may be surprised to know that when they reduced the postage in England from twopence to a penny half-penny the increase of business was not 4 per cent. In South Africa everyone has been clamouring for a reduction from 2d. to one penny. I do not know how many members of the House know what that would mean in cash and which the Treasury would have to pay. If you reduce the postage to one penny, and allowed for 10 per cent. increase, the loss in revenue would be £450,000. You may say that all that put together does not equal the surplus which the Post Office expects to get in profit during this year. That is true, but of the whole of the surplus, not a penny of it is in my control. The position is this, that nothing can be done without the sanction of the Treasury, all this profit goes into the Treasury. The Treasury pays interest on our loans and on our capital account, pays the Public Works Department, which pays the rents of the various post offices, and all our profit has got to be handed over to the Treasury. In my opinion it is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. When I took office I found my predecessor and the late Government allowed the whole of the surplus to be handed over to the Treasury to be spent by them for the destruction of locusts, etc. If I did agree to give this reduction the House would have to stop here, and pass new taxation measures to raise the £450,000 and the other losses of revenue which would be incurred. For that reason I am not in the position to do anything, my hands are tied but not through any fault of mine. It is a position which I shall try to get out of. The post office should be an institution on its own and any money made by it should go towards better postal facilities. Before I sit down, the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Snow) has referred to an interview that was sought with the Prime Minister. With regard to that, the Prime Minister was overburdened with work at the time, but the Post and Telegraph Association delegates were seen by myself and my colleague the Minister of the Interior and other members. The Prime Minister will later on be only too pleased to meet them and hear their representations. With regard to the unemployment conference, I think you might have asked the question of my colleague, the Minister of Labour. I can tell you that the conference was called not of service organizations, but it was a conference of all the outside trade unions who were asked to give their views. There will be plenty of other opportunities when the service organization can represent their case. There was a question raised by the hon. member for Dundee (Sir Thomas Watt) who asked what we were doing with regard to civil aviation. Last year this House passed an Aviation Act. Under that Act a board was set up, called a Civil Aviation Board, for the purpose of drawing up regulations for, and generally supervising matters connected with, aviation. It started full of enthusiasm and they were quite prepared to carry on with the work. The Civil Aviation Board secretary, Mr. Lindup, is very enthusiastic and has done very good work. They drew up a certain proposal and gave the figures and facts with regard to a three months’ trial service between Pretoria and Cape Town, and which was estimated to cost £12,000. £8,000 of which was to come from the post office Vote and £4,000 from the Defence Vote. The Civil Aviation Board has the co-operation of the defence department and a practical scheme was drawn up for an experimental service between Johannesburg and Cape Town. It went so far as to be included in the original Draft Estimates and it was intended to start operations on the 1st February of this year. Everything was cut and dried, everything was arranged. The Estimates were finally scrutinized by Mr. Burton, the then Minister of Finance, by the hon. member for Yeoville (Mr. Duncan) and by the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) these three gentlemen when they finally went over the Estimates would not allow this money for Civil Aviation and cut it out. That went against the wishes of my predecessor, the hon. member for Dundee, (Sir Thomas Watt) who was anxious that the scheme should he proceeded with. Surely he does not now expect me, within the space of three weeks, to make provision to give effect to it. I have given, it a good deal of attention; I have had reports from the Civil Air Board and others and I must compliment the Secretary, Mr. Lindup, on the splendid way in which he supplies us with information. Every country in the world except South Africa is making headway in civil aviation. In America they have a daily service from New York to San Francisco, in Australia they subsidize civil aviation, in last year’s estimates they subsidized it to the extent of £150,000—quite apart from the vote of £250,000 for their own military air service. I am going to represent this point to my colleagues with a view to doing something in this line. This country is essentially suited for civil aviation; it is a country of long distances, and as an hon. member behind me pointed out, there is a town with 7,000 inhabitants and with only one post a week. We are not rushing it—we have the men, we have some of the finest flying men in the world in this country, we have the machines lying idle and my colleague the Minister of Defence is ready to lend them to us. All we want is a little money from the Treasury to establish an air service in South Africa equal to any in the world. I will do anything I can to assist civil aviation in this country.
Before being called to order I was talking about the Johannesburg post office. The post office is very antiquated and wholly inadequate while the work is carried on there under the most unhygienic conditions. The staff have complained of these conditions and have made representations. Last year a large deputation of the Johannesburg Town Council was down here and it approached the Minister to see if they could get the site of the present post office for municipal purposes, while another post office could be erected on a more adequate scale and on a more suitable site. I would like the Minister to look into this question.
I have already done so.
Johannesburg is lacking in good public buildings considering its size and importance and there can be no doubt it has been neglected in the matter of public buildings. All the wealth comes from the Rand and it should receive due recognition. Many promises were made during the recent election and my opponent was lavish in his promises as to the consideration that Johannesburg would receive in the matter of public buildings. A very great deal is expected from the Pact. I hope in this respect the Pact will try to redeem its election pledges, and that the Minister will see that the proper thing is done for Johannesburg by the erection of commodious and suitable post office buildings.
I would like an explanation why, seeing that it costs 6s. 6d. to send an 11 lb. parcel from Great Britain to South Africa, the cost of conveying a parcel the same weight from Great Britain to the Argentine is only 3s. 9d., to Australia 5s., to Mexico 3s. and Japen 2s 6d. It is not fair that South Africa, which is very much nearer Great Britain than Japan or the Argentine are, should pay so very much more. There is another point. People who live on farms are being informed that they are to pay a cheaper rate for telephones, but that they will have to keep them in repair. We do not mind that, but our telephone wires are in a deplorable state. They are of very light copper, and when hawks and owls sit on them and rise to fly away they break the wire (laughter). Hon. members are laughing, but I have seen turtle doves fly against the wires and snap them. If the Minister will give us stronger wires we shall be pleased to assist him.
One can understand that the expense of extending telephones is very considerable, but about three sessions ago experiments were made in wireless telephony which seemed to be very successful. In the country places people suffer because of the lack of telephonic communication, especially when the services of a doctor are required. Is there any objection to the installation of wireless telephones in such districts? The Minister should go further into the matter, for the installation of wireless telephones seems to be a good way out of the difficulty at small cost.
I want to bring to the attention of the Minister that an agricultural telephone line was built from Bethal, in which I am a shareholder. The Department built the line and it was opened last September, but it was so bad that we could not use it. It could only be used at times and I and others have given it up. In May last the telephone was improved and since 15th June it as worked well. We have, however, paid £15 each in advance, and now we are getting notices to pay another instalment of £15. We paid for it and did not get service, and I should like to see the matter enquired into. I have written to the postmaster, but his reply is that I should send my cheque. That is not the way to encourage the construction of agricultural telephones.
The postmaster at Doornkraal in the klipriver division has been paid £2 a month for conveying the mails from Ladysmith to Doornkraal, a distance of 14 miles twice a week as well as for distributing the mail, selling postage stamps and carrying out all the duties of a postmaster. He intends to send in his resignation, because he is paid only on the same scale as a native runner. The district is a growing one, and it would be a very great inconvenience to the farmers if this post office were closed. The present postmaster has carried out his duties most efficiently, and it should be made worth his while to continue.
With reference to Doornkraal, the post contractor is paid £18 a year for conveying the letters and I believe extra consideration will be paid for certain small postal services that he renders. I hope we shall be able to fix the matter up satisfactorily. The hon. member for Bethal (Lt.-Col. H. S. Grobler) and others, I understand, have been called upon to pay for telephone services which have not been rendered. The hon. member asked me whether a rebate will be allowed. As a fairminded man, I will make enquiries and if it can be shown that people have been charged for any services to which they are entitled but which they have not received, the matter should be redressed, for the department should not take money from telephone subscribers if it is not in a position to give them service. With regard to the question asked by the hon. member for Roodepoort (Rev. Mr. Mullineux) dealing with wireless telephones in country districts, I am told that the cost of installation and up-keep in the meantime is more expensive than a telegraph service of light poles and cheap equipment, but if it is more economical I think it would be a very good thing. I shall certainly bear it in mind and follow developments, and see how far we can go in that direction. With regard to the question asked by the hon. member for Hospital (Mr. Papenfus), he says that Johannesburg has been very badly served with regard to public buildings, and the post office, which he calls a “barn,” and that they are working there under difficult circumstances. He wanted to know whether I would be prepared to go into the matter. I can inform the hon. member that I have gone into the matter already, and that I was not in office a week before I called for the papers. My suggestion was to put another storey on the building, but I found that they had already put a storey on before. There is a plan drawn up for a new post office in Johannesburg, costing £235,000. The hon. member was right when he said that a deputation interviewed my predecessor early this year, when it was suggested that the present post office buildings should be pulled down, the site handed over to the corporation for municipal purposes, and a new post office erected on some other site near Market Square. Since then, I understand, there is something on foot to put a library in the very place where we were going to have the new post office, I put it to the hon. member this way: let the Johannesburg Town Council come to me and show me that they are prepared to do what they can to help us to relieve the congestion, and to give us a satisfactory site for the building, and I will be prepared to consider the position and do all I possibly can to meet Johannesburg, the same as I have just met the people of Cape Town.
Vote put and agreed to.
On Vote 32, “Public Works”, £769,356.
There are a few matters affecting the staff to which I would like to draw the Minister’s attention, and if he cannot give the information now, I would be satisfied if he took a note and dealt with them afterwards. The first matter is leave for artizans in the Public Works Department, and I want to direct his attention to it. It is a great hardship to these men, that their occasional leave has been taken away unless they had been in the service before Union. They used to get twelve days after ten years’ service. Cannot the new Government make uniform leave conditions throughout the service? The next point is the condition of the cleaners in his department, and somehow this branch of the Public Works Department is one that seems to have been forgotten by every succeeding administration. There are the men in the Law Courts in Queen Victoria Street, and there are eight to do the whole of that huge building. They have over ten years’ service and get the noble salary of 4s., 4s. 6d. and 5s. 6d. a day, excluding Sundays. They say that when they joined there was a rule that sixpence would be added after twelve months’ service until the maximum of 7s. 6d. was reached; but for some reason they stopped at 5s. 6d. Some are married men, and they would come under the definition of “civilized labour.” They are men who are struggling to maintain themselves on this miserable pittance. If men outside who are doing similar work are getting more, there appears to be something wrong. I would like also to deal with the case of a man who is employed as a lift-man at the Law Courts and has received notice that he would not be required after October 31st. This man was for 23 years a fitter at the Salt River works, and after that he received the noble pension of £2 9s. 1d. per month. He was then given a job as liftman at the new Law Courts. It is true he is 75 years of age, but there is nothing wrong with his health and vigour. While employed as a liftman he is paid £13 per month, but he has been told that, as he joined after sixty, he will get no pension or gratuity. I hope the Minister will go carefully into his case with a view to retaining his services.
With regard to the first point raised by the hon. member for Cape Town (Hanover St.) (Mr. Alexander), I have already gone into that matter, and I find that these men were given the option of remaining in the service under the old conditions or of coming into line with trade union rates and hours; they preferred the latter. The department said that if they preferred that, they must forego the other privileges, as they could not have the best conditions inside and the best conditions outside. With regard to the cleaners, I will make enquiries about them. With regard to the third point, that of the liftman, I am told that he is 78 years of age, and is really beyond the age to work, and that it is almost a merciful thing to retire him. I will see whether further consideration can be given to his case.
The second item here is subsistence and transport. The vote refers to page 171. I find a lot of information given here, but no opportunity was given to discuss the items on page 171. I see that the Pretoria garage cost £7,107. It mentions chauffeurs and a number of cars. For what purpose are they utilized? The same applies to the Cape Town garage and the Johannesburg garage.
This does not come under this Minister.
Can you give me some explanation under which Minister it comes?
It comes under the Treasury.
Vote put and agreed to.
On Vote 33, “Lands, Deeds and Surveys,” £237,616,
Some weeks ago an attack was made in this House on Col. Mentz by the hon. member for Zoutpansburg (Mr. Pirow). At the time Col. Mentz was away in the Bushveld for several weeks, and it took us a long time to get into touch with him. We are now in a position to give the real facts of the matter. This session is nearly at its close, and I do not propose to raise any contentious debate on the subject at the present moment; but I think we would be lacking in loyalty to an ex-colleague and a prominent member of our Party, if, being in possession of the facts, I did not put these facts impartially before the House. I do not propose saying anything which may give rise to a contentious or an acrimonious debate at this time, but I do propose putting before the House the facts of the case.
To which case do you refer?
The charges made against Col. Mentz in respect of the way in which he has administered the Lands Department. I move—
I cannot accept 10s.
I will make it £1. I move—
I am sorry I have to raise this subject at the end of the session, but there has been no other opportunity. What were the charges against Col. Mentz? Last session to all intents and purposes the hon. member for Hoopstad (Mr. Conroy) charged Col. Mentz with somehow or other getting hold of 35 Government farms while he was a Cabinet Minister. It was not said in so many words, but that was the insinuation. After close investigation however, the hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) was compelled to drop 34 of these farms and he has now pinned discharges on to the case of one single farm. The charge is now with regard to the farm Tommy. The charge is that the farm Tommy embodies everything that can be said about this kind of corrupt land dealing. It is a case of a Government occupation farm transferred to the Minister of Lands while he was Minister of Lands. The hon. member for Hoopstad (Mr. Conroy) asked last session when this transaction took place and how it came about and the answer by Col. Mentz was that the farm was originally issued in 1908. Col. Mentz went on to say that the then allottee, a certain Moller, was a friend of his, that a certain Kruger had taken over the farm because Moller could not keep up his payments and that he (Col. Mentz) had taken over the farm to help Moller. Then the hon. member (Mr. Pirow) went on to say: “I wish to refer to certain documents. I want to tell the House that I have repeated all this outside and challenged a libel action. I want to say that the explanation given by Col. Mentz is hopelessly unreliable and thoroughly untruthful.” So that the charge seems to be, not that Col. Mentz improperly got hold of this farm Tommy as a Cabinet Minister, but that somehow or other he gave an explanation with regard to Kruger and Moller that was “hopelessly unreliable and thoroughly untruthful.” The hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) unfortunately is not here. He made a great point of the fact that he has made this statement outside and challenged a libel action. I think any lawyer in this House will agree that this statement may be repeated outside the House ten thousand times with perfect safety. There is nothing libellous in it. It may be mere abuse or contumely. There is no definite charge that Col. Mentz got hold of this farm Tommy in any wrong way or abused his position as a Cabinet Minister. I would challenge the hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) to go and repeat that outside. He bases his charge on Col. Mentz’ answer in this House last session in regard to this farm Tommy. His answer was that the farm Tommy was given out by Mr. Rissik as Minister of Lands in 1908, at the purchase price of £468 to Moller, that Moller was unable to keep up his instalments and that he (Col. Mentz) went to his assistance during the time he was practising as an attorney at Pietersburg, that subsequently the lease was ceded to Kruger, that Kruger was unable to retain the farm and that in order to help Moller, who is a personal friend of his, he (Col. Mentz) advanced the balance of the purchase price. “Thereafter” added Col. Mentz “I took transfer in my own name and gave Moller an undertaking in writing that as soon as the money was repaid to me he could get transfer of the farm, and there the matter stands to-day.” That is Col. Mentz’ answer on which the hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) founded his charge. He said that Col. Mentz was hopelessly unreliable and thoroughly untruthful. Let me give the House the facts of the matter and then hon. members can judge in all fairness whether the answer given by Col. Mentz was “hopelessly unreliable and thoroughly untruthful.” This farm was given out by the Government in 1908, two years before Union, so that before Union the Government had to all intents and purposes divested itself of the ownership of the farm. Since 1908 no Cabinet Minister can be accused of having tried to get hold of that farm as a Cabinet Minister. The Government had merely retained a qualified right over the farm, which was that until the allottee had paid the full purchase price the Government had the right to refuse to consent to Moller making the farm over to somebody else. There could be no question of Col. Mentz having used or abused his position as a Cabinet Minister to obtain possession of that farm. In those days Col. Mentz was carrying on business as an attorney at Pietersburg. There must have been a curse on that farm Tommy from the very start. It had previously lapsed back to the Government. Moller, the allottee, did not seem to make headway on the farm. He came to Col. Mentz, who lent him something like £360 to pay his instalments to the Government.
Order; the hon. member’s time has expired. This is not an attack upon the policy of the Government or the Minister and I must rule the hon. member out of order in proceeding.
Then I shall turn it into an attack on the Government. It is an attack on the Minister to the extent that he has allowed an attack on officials of his department to go without comment. We are dealing with the honour of an absent man, and if necessary I would ask the House to agree to allow me to continue. I am not going to raise any contentious matter. I am merely here as an act of loyalty to an absent man.
I am sorry, but the hon. member is out of order. He will see the rule if he looks at page 41. There is no attack on the policy of the Government or the Minister in the hon. member’s speech.
I want to know from the Minister of Lands whether it is the case or not that Col. Mentz when he was Minister of Lands abused his position to get possession of Government land. That was what was stated by the hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow); at least if it was not stated in so many words it was insinuated, and we were put in the position by hon. members opposite of asking why we did not call for an enquiry. It is not our business to ask for an enquiry. If anything wrong has been done, if there has been any maladministration in regard to the giving out of public lands, or if a man who was Minister of Lands used his position to get lands which he was not entitled under the law to get, it is the business of the Government to find that out and have an enquiry and, if necessary, take public proceedings. I hope it will now be clearly recognized that, if anything wrong has been done, it is the business of the Government to have an enquiry and from this side we will welcome an enquiry. If there is no ground for alleging that there has been maladministration in regard to the giving out of public lands by Col. Mentz, then let this thing have an end. Don’t let us have these vague insinuations if there is nothing behind them. We court the fullest publicity. Our friend, who is now absent (Col. Mentz), also courts the fullest publicity. We are not afraid of it. What we do object to is the insinuations, the half-truths, which come from the other side.
The hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) not only attacked Col. Mentz personally, but he attacked the Lands Department, and I am therefore going to discuss the policy of the Minister. The hon. member (Mr. Pirow) said: “I do not think I am overstating the case when I say that there is no Government department abused to the extent that the Lanas Department is. It is abused for personal and political purposes.”
The hon. member is now referring to a previous debate.
Very well, I will not quote any further from the hon. member’s speech. I had hoped he would have seen fit to defend his own officials. I worked with them for three and a half years and can vouch that from the highest to the lowest they maintained the highest traditions of the public services. The attack which has been made is not an attack on the Minister (Col. Mentz) but on the officials, and I move that his salary be reduced by one pound sterling. Part of the hon. member’s attack dealt partly with the officials and partly with Col. Mentz. I have taken it down to the time when the farm “Tommy” was given out in 1908 to Moller, and I have told you that at that time Col. Mentz was practising as an attorney in Pietersburg, Moller approached him and told him that he could not keep up his payments to the Government in respect of this farm and to help him. Col. Mentz gave him £360, and as a sound business man took a document in pledge, he took as deposit the lease. It was a perfectly legitimate transaction. Col. Mentz said he did not want to take the farm and told Moller to sell it if he wished provided he did not do so for less than £360, and to that end he gave him a power of attorney. The hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) commented on the fact that Col. Mentz gave Moller a power of attorney to sell the farm and later on wrote to Moller and said he did not know anything about it. On these grounds the hon. member said that Col. Mentz was untruthful and wholly unreliable. Moller, it was obvious, could not sell the farm without the power from Col. Mentz. In the course of time, without the knowledge of Col. Mentz, Moller went to Mr. Tom Naudé, the hon. member for Pietersburg, who was then practising as an attorney, and who could have got up in this House and spoken on this matter, but he sat there listening in silence and without objection to the charges made against Col. Mentz. He even took part in the hue and cry, and concerning that I may say to the hon. members opposite, “As for a wound, it may be bound up, but he who betrayeth a friend is beyond hope.” He at one time was partner of Col. Mentz, and let me deal with his share in this business.
His brother acted for him; he is also an attorney.
Who was the partner of Col. Mentz?
I say he acted as attorney for Moller, and when Moller found he could not make good on the farm He went round in search of a cessionary—someone who would take over the land—and ultimately he found a man named Kruger, who for £50 took over the farm. If Col. Mentz wanted the farm, all he need to have done was to say to Moller: “Here is the purchase price, go and pay the Government and give me transfer.” Kruger having taken over the farm found that he too could not make good and gave notice to Mr. Tom Naudé, who in turn gave notice to Col. Mentz. In 1917 Col. Mentz had become Minister of Lands and a gentleman named Du Plessis acted for him, and the latter wrote and told him that Kruger proposed to surrender the land, and he said it looked as if he was going to lose his money. Col. Mentz in return told him he would pay off the balance due to the Government, costing about £300 odd; the money was paid and the farm was released so far as the Government was concerned. Col. Mentz did not take over the farm; all he wanted was to get his money back, and he gave Moller the right to sell the farm so long as he did get that money back, and he gave Mr. Naudé authority in writing to sell. That did seem curious, for in 1919 Col. Mentz wrote to Moller to say that he had nothing to do with the farm and wrote a letter to Mr. Naudé denying any knowledge of the farm, saying it was not his. The hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) made great play of the fact and I must say it did seem to call for explanation as to why he should have told this House that he had acted throughout solely with a desire to help Moller. The two acts seemed inconsistent. By 1919 Col. Mentz was so thoroughly sick of the whole thing, two men had been on the farm and had failed and he had spent £700—in trying to save £300—and he was acting in the interests of Moller and told him to sell the farm and to pay him back his money. So in 1919 when Moller wrote to Col. Mentz—let me say this, Tom Naudé had been trying to sell the farm and had merely succeeded in finding a purchaser at £850—Moller hearing this gets perturbed because he has a document from Col. Mentz saying he would not sell the farm without his, Moller’s, consent. He accordingly wrote to Col. Mentz and the latter who was tired of the whole business wrote back telling him not to worry him as (Col. Mentz) the farm was not his. In the (beginning of 1920 Col. Mentz who then had another letter from Moller pointing out that Naudé was trying to sell the farm, and Col. Mentz realizing that the authority he had given to Naudé was pretty vague thought that he had better make it clear that the farm was to be held for Moller’s account only. He then wired to his agent, Mr. du Plessis, telling him to withdraw the farm “Tommy” at once, and this wire was sent in order to protect Moller and no one else. Col. Mentz had not had the transfer of the farm at the time and that is the reason why he said he did not know anything about the farm. It is not very material but it is material to show that Col. Mentz in spite of these two letters on which the hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) has founded his case—that he was always trying to safeguard Moller’s interests and help him. This clearly proves that from beginning to end and after he had written to Moller in that vein he was solely acting in the interests of Moller. Sometime in 1920, a year after that letter was written, Col. Mentz took transfer of the farm. It was transferred to his name without his knowledge, but when he heard of it he confirmed du Plessis’s action. From start to finish Col. Mentz acted only for Moller. Having paid over the £700 to Government, as he was fully entitled to do, and as any man—whether Minister or private individual—was fully entitled to do, he took transfer in 1918. Any time after 1914 that land could be dealt with by anyone without reference to the Government. Col. Mentz was entitled to lend money on it or take transfer without being accused of abusing his position. When Col. Mentz wrote to Moller he had no intention of taking transfer and he was perfectly right in saying to Moller “Don’t worry me about the beastly farm it is not mine.”
What has this got to do with the policy of the Government?
I am attacking the policy of the Minister for not having defended his officials.
I do not see why the hon. member should be permitted to enter into details of what took place.
I have moved a reduction in the Minister’s salary in order to attack his policy, and to do that I must go into details to show what his policy was. It has been said in the House by another hon. member—
Unless the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) specifically and bona fide challenges the Minister’s salary on a question of public policy he would be debarred from speaking for the period of forty minutes contemplated by Standing Order No. 102a (3); and that under Standing Order No 75 it was not in order for the hon. member to allude to speeches made in previous debates in the House.
I have been ruled in order by your predecessor. It would create an anomalous position if the two Chairmen, differed in their ruling.
I do not know what the other Chairman said, but I know what the rules of debate are.
It is rather embarrassing when one has two different rulings on the same matter.
I feel that this matter cannot be allowed to rest just as it is. It looks very much as if members of the Government are inclined to encourage their followers to make attacks for them—
The hon. member is referring to a previous debate.
I would like to know whether the Minister of Lands is satisfied with the working of his department, and that the officers who were working under the previous administration are men of high character and would not lend themselves to any sort of jobbery, such as has been suggested in this House It is a very anomalous position that although there is a chairman and deputy-chairman, who are supposed officially to be one and the same person, yet—
There are other opportunities the hon. member may avail himself of at a later stage, but I cannot allow him to go into the details at this stage.
I would like to know from the Minister how he is going to deal with the Sundays River Settlement, the assets of which Government has purchased at a very much lower price than it would have cost it under ordinary circumstances to buy the ground alone? In the Sundays River Valley is the Dunbrody Mission, which contains a large area of valuable irrigable and grazing land. The State having bought the Sundays River Settlement, is the Minister prepared to have a searching enquiry into the possibility and desirability of buying this Dunbrody land, for unless the Dunbrody land is added the Sundays River Settlement will be of much less value. The Dunbrody land, although it is rateable for water purposes, is unable to use the water as it has not the use of the irrigation system. The Minister should consider the purchase of Dunbrody in order to avoid the waste of good land lying idle owing to legal technicalities and put the land to full use.
That is what Mr. Merriman calls “buying land with a brass band.”
I agree that Hartebeestpoort and similar areas should be used largely for the settlement of suitable “poor whites,” but I would suggest that the Minister should classify all these schemes into areas from this point of view: first, an area for the training of prospective settlers, then secondly, the moving of them to a permanent allotment area, and thirdly, the reservation of a portion for the ordinary public of South Africa to apply for under Clause 11 of the Land Settlement Act. A number of men are retiring from business and employment who would be anxious to obtain holdings at Hartebeestpoort or elsewhere, but they would not come under the conditions which the Minister has in mind in this. Bill. Is it the intention of the Minister to allow the settlers on certain Crown lands, many of whom are in arrears with their payments, an extended period for repayment and capitalization of such arrears in accordance with the intention of the late Government? Are we going to deal with irrigation separately, Mr. Chairman?
The policy of the Minister of Lands should be discussed here.
Does the Minister propose to act on what was the intention of the late Minister, and to allow landowners on the Fish River and other irrigation schemes, who are in arrear with their water rates, to surrender land to the value of the amount which they owed to the State? I want the Minister to consider very seriously this: we want to make our irrigation schemes in South Africa a success, and they have not been an unqualified success up to the present. It has not been caused by any party in power, but it is due largely to a characteristic of the people, as we do not like to surrender our land, and most men have retained, and undertaken to work, far more land than they can possibly manage or pay rates upon. Now, with regard to such surplus land, will the Minister—
The hon. member’s time has expired.
I would like to ask the Minister as to the position between the Union Government and the Portuguese concerning the border, as it would appear that no provision has been made on the Estimates for it.
I am not quite sure where I stand at the present moment, but as I was ruled out of order naturally I must obey the Chair. May I refer to an indictment of the Lands Department which appeared in a newspaper? In the “Guardian”, edited by G. Reyburn, M.L.A.
Well, I do not think I should allow the hon. member to circumvent the rule by taking advantage of some newspaper report on the same subject.
But this is not a report, Sir. It is a newspaper comment on the same subject. I do not wish to try to circumvent the Chair but it does seem to me that it is very hard. Here we have an attack made on the Lands Department and the policy of the Government, and there seems to be no head under which I can discuss this. I know you would be only too pleased to permit me, if the rules permitted it. We have newspapers and even placards—I had a placard here the other day attacking the Lands Department. As a member of the public and as a member of this House, I think I should be allowed to follow this up.
That indictment was made by a private member; not by the Minister. It was made by the hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow), and I dare say that that newspaper report referred to what the hon. member said. I cannot allow the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) to continue that debate, and I refer the hon. member to rule 75.
On a point of order, may I crave the indulgence of this House. The hon. member is standing here in defence of an absent man, and I am sure the House will grant me the indulgence. I am nearly finished.
No, you will never finish!
No, the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) has not been attacked.
Yes, indeed, I have, Sir. I have been attacked, and Col. Mentz has been attacked, and the Lands Department has been attacked. It would be unsportsmanlike, to say the least of it, of any hon. member to deny me the indulgence to address the House.
But the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) had an opportunity of defending himself when that attack was made.
And I did so very effectively.
But no attack has been made since.
I am not arguing against your ruling, Sir, but the rule says “with the indulgence of the House” and I am now arguing “with the indulgence of the House.”.
Does the hon. member wish to make a personal explanation.
Yes, I wish to explain that I am pleading for the indulgence of this House.
Yes, by the indulgence of this House for a personal explanation.
Yes, I wish to make a personal explanation. Col. Mentz and I were personally attacked. Col. Mentz was away, and could not defend himself; nor could I defend him because we could not get into touch with him and get the facts from him.
Well, the hon. member will have to confine himself to himself, and he cannot discuss Col. Mentz’ position at all.
A personal explanation. Well, I am afraid I can carry the matter no further. I do not think that my conduct is in any need of any personal explanation this afternoon. It is not Col. Mentz and myself who are being accused, but the accused are really hon. members who made the attack.
I must ask the hon. member now not to go with this any further.
Would it not be possible for the Committee to allow the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) to discuss the matter?
The decision as to the course of the debate is in the hands of the Chairman, and not in the hands of the Committee.
I am not going to keep the Committee. I am just rising to ask the Minister whether he will make some statement that will allay the feelings of anxiety in the minds of many settlers in the country today. I think it is not necessary for me to stress the point because the Minister must have had a tremendous number of representations made by the people who are to-day on the soil—about 11,000, I understand and with their families about 50,000 souls. Now the Minister of Lands has brought in a law which he asked us to pass as a matter of urgency to deal with Hartebeestpoort. It seems to me that the matter of keeping the men who are actually on the land is even more urgent than the Bill which is before the House at present, and I did hope he (the Minister) would have been able with the few clauses of a Bill which he has in his possession and taken over from his predecessor to give relief to these people. I hope he will make a very clear statement and tell us and the settlers just what he is going to do. These settlers are claiming in the first place a reduction of the purchase price of many holdings. They argue, and justly, that whatever the reason was and where the ground was bought at too high a price—and let me say I do not for one minute say so—that any of the land boards paid too much for the farms, here and there a mistake might have been made, but on the whole I know they got these farms at or sometimes under the market price, but there is no doubt that these farms stand at much more than you can buy these farms at to-day. The Minister will say who must pay for this? I think it is a good motto to cut your loss. Give these men their start in life so that they can make good and save the balance of their money. In the second place and on this point—I believe the former Minister of Lands did not commit himself entirely and committed himself to general policy, and I don’t know whether it would be fair to ask for a general policy—there were large numbers of farms bought for a certain price and the farms as such were well worth the money, but where they cut up 20 or 30 portions certain portions are not worth half of the other portion of the farm and they stand at the same price. Some settlers claim that the land board should not make this valuation and that the Minister should get an independent valuation if he has the power, as the contention is that the land board bought the farms in the first place, and that if they valued them at less it might reflect on them. I do not say that I agree without qualification with that contention. The second point I hope the Minister will make a declaration on is the extension of the terms of the period. I take it there is no objection to that and instead of making it 20 years the Minister makes it 40 years and then also to capitalize the arrears and interest. I think some of the settlers are inclined to throw up the sponge and join the unemployed if they don’t get some substantial encouragement.
I should like with your permission Mr. Chairman to raise a point of order, You have ruled just now that a previous debate could not be alluded to. Now I would like to point out that the rule—
The hon. member is not permitted now to question my ruling.
Is it not possible for a member of the House to discuss your ruling? Surely it is competent to discuss a ruling. The hon. member over there now—
The Committee has no right to discuss my ruling—not the Chairman’s ruling. I have given my ruling, and there is an end to it.
On a point of order, it has always been the practice to raise the question—
Yes, before one gives one’s ruling. I gave my ruling, and there can be no further discussion on it.
I would urge upon the Minister that he should give this question of the irrigation schemes which we have in this country, his serious attention, because in many parts people who started irrigation schemes a few years ago on ostrich farming now find that they are unable to pay the rates. In the irrigation areas there are a number of farmers, some of whom are able to and do pay the rates, and others cannot. The farmers who pay the rates are liable for the rates of those who do not pay. I trust that the Minister will have a strong commission or board appointed to go into the whole matter. Relief can be given in various ways. In many of the undertakings you have farmers who started ostrich farming and who were able to pay the rates on a large area. Now they have had to adapt their farming to something else, on which they cannot pay the rates. In some cases it may be better for the holders to come to an arrangement with the department. If the department were to take over, I do not say expropriate, a portion of their areas, these people would probably be able to pay the rates on the rest. As an instance I may mention the Le Chasseur irrigation board where you have men who are farming in a part from which it is difficult to reach the market. They could do well on ostrich farming, but ostrich farming has gone out and you find these people to-day struggling to pay their rates. Some of them could well pay their rates if they were relieved of the immense area on which they have now to pay rates. In some cases relief could be granted by extending the period of repayment of reducing the interest in the initial stages.
I would like to know what is the attitude of the Minister towards the policy of the late Minister of Lands with regard to the Fish River irrigation schemes. The late Minister of Lands had a policy of taking options on surplus land, and I believe that while the department held those options the owners were not called upon to pay rates on the amount of land so held. Certain of the people there have given the department options. I would like to know what the Minister’s attitude is with reference to the big schemes which were built and on which the actual cost exceeded to a large extent the estimated cost, and whether it is not possible to write off the difference. I trust that the commission of enquiry which the Minister has promised, will be appointed as soon as possible. I would extend a hearty invitation to the: Minister to come to the Great Fish River and personally inspect the schemes; I would suggest to the Minister whether in a place you are to have closer settlement, it would not be possible to provide in his Estimates next year, for a demonstration farm in the Great Fish River Valley.
I want to deal with the question of clean government. The Government may be as stupid as it likes, but we must have a clean Government. As I am unable to obtain the ear of the Minister, I shall not proceed with my remarks at present.
I would ask the Minister what the policy of his department is in connection with the survey of native land in the native territories. For years past district after district has been surveyed into small allotments. This has cost the native a good deal of money. One district cost the natives for surveys as much as £80,000, and they got very little return for it. The natives are in a very impoverished condition owing to the drought, and so forth, and they find it very difficult to meet the costs of the surveys. In the discussions in this House accusations have been made against the officers of the Minister whose policy is now being discussed. I take it that under the law of the land it is impossible for a Minister to deal with land without the connivance at least of his subordinates, and it seems to me that if the accusations made against the late Minister of Lands are true, that involves the staff of the Department of Lands. I have expected for some time that the Minister would get up and make some explanation.
Does the hon. member refer to the previous debate on the question?
I am referring to the accusations made in this House by the hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow).
I cannot allow that to continue now.
I will not adhere to that, but I do say, speaking as a new member, and as one who is interested in public morality in this country, I do think that if the charges which have been thrown out—
Does the hon. member question my ruling?
On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I had no opportunity just now of raising this point of order.
I am not going to allow any discussion on the point.
There is another point. I wish to raise a point of order as to whether this is covered by the rule which you have referred to, number 35.
Whether what is covered?
Reference to the debate which has previously taken place.
I have ruled that I am not going to allow any discussion on that point. I will ask the hon. member now to discontinue his speech.
Then I move—
I wish to raise a point of order as to whether this is covered by the ruling which you have referred to. The ruling with reference to the debate on this particular matter by the hon. member.
The hon. member moves that I report progress?
Do you accept the ruling of the Chairman?
I move to report progress to receive Mr. Speaker’s ruling.
On a question of order, the Speaker’s ruling should not be taken at all. Of course if the committee wishes me to report progress I will put the question.
On a point of order, Sir, are you not bound to put the question?
Is the hon. member moving to report progress to get the ruling of the Speaker?
I move to report progress to get the Speaker’s ruling as to whether on a vote for the land office an hon. member is entitled before voting on it, if he is not en titled to refer to a private speech made by another hon. member—
The MINISTER OF DEFENCE: Is it not necessary to put the particular point in writing so that we may know what it is? I submit that it is customary before reporting progress, the members should know exactly what the question is to be put to the Speaker.
I shall put it in writing.
The hon. member moves that I report progress in order to obtain the Speaker’s ruling on the following point, “as to whether in a discussion on Vote 33, Lands, Deeds and Surveys, an hon. member is entitled to refer to the speech by the hon. member for Zoutpansberg on a motion to go into Committee of Supply reflecting on the administration of the lands office.”
I think I should have put the words “Land Department” instead of land office.
Motion put and agreed to.
The CHAIRMAN stated the point which had arisen in committee and that the committee desired to obtain Mr. Speaker’s ruling thereon and that accordingly he had been ordered to report progress and ask leave to sit again.
I should like to put my reasons before you Mr. Speaker for this motion. The hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) was making a speech after having moved the reduction of the Minister’s salary in order to go into the question of a certain attack made by the member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) at an earlier stage of this session on a motion to go into Committee of Supply. We are now in Committee of Supply. During the course of the speech the hon. member (Mr. Pirow) made remarks which were entirely relevant to the subject matter of the debate. An attack was made on Col. Mentz and in the course of his attack the hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) definitely linked up what he said with the Lands Department. In the accusations be made against Col. Mentz he made some very serious allegations. The allegations against the Land Department have been read to the House. The two things are indivisible and if anything wrong was done by Col. Mentz, it could not have been done without the sanction and connivance of the department It is a terrible thing to think that during the short session an hon. member should come here fully prepared to make this attack as he has done without any opportunity of proper reply being available. No reply could be made until Col. Mentz could be communicated with. Col. Mentz was away in the Bush Veld and could not be reached for some time. This is the first opportunity of making this defence. I submit that even if the rules require a little straining the House would have been glad to have had an opportunity of hearing an answer to the charges. I am in the position of having to vote money for the Lands Department, but technically the purchase is that I do not wish to do that if the department has been guilty of the mal-practices which have been alleged against the department. We are entitled to have a full opportunity of hearing an explanation of the charges, not only in the interest of public morality, but of the department and of hon. members who have to vote on the question. I submit that technically and morally the hon. member was in order. The wording of the rule does not prohibit any reference to the previous debate. It says “no member shall allude to any debate on the same question or Bill not then under discussion.” When the hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) made his attack the question under discussion was the bona fides and the honour of the administration of the Lands Department. That is the question under discussion to-day. I can quite understand that if an hon. member had referred to the irrigation say of Kamkatscha you could not refer to it on the debate oil the Lands Department, but here you are absolutely discussing a relevant and germane thing. I submit it is the same question, and members’ minds are bound to be influenced by the nature of the charges which have been made, and they are entitled to an opportunity to discuss them before they part with their sacred right of voting money. Then another Chairman at the earlier stage of the debate allowed discussion on the very matter.
In the motion to go into Committee of Supply the widest latitude, as a rule, is availed of by members, who wish to raise all sorts of matters affecting the administration of the country. It will be a very serious matter if, because an hon. member on a debate on the motion to go into Committee of Supply, refers to the administration of a particular department, another member when the House is in Committee of Supply is to be precluded from dealing with this particular point, because the first hon. member has already made it the subject of debate. That would be a very serious consequence of the ruling given by the Chairman should that ruling be upheld by you, Mr. Speaker.
May I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to what the charge was. It was as follows: “I do not think I am over-stating the case when I say there is no Government department which is abused to the extent of the Lands Department. It is abused for political and personal motives.”
Order 75 reads that “No member shall allude to any debate of the same session on a question or Bill not then under discussion.” The speech of the hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) contained certain allegations, an opportunity to reply to which is now sought. He was not then debating a Bill or question then under discussion, and if this is a corview of his position, then the present discussion can hardly be said to be an infringement of the standing order I referred to.
The hon. member for Gardens (Mr. Coulter) has referred to Rule 75, but he has not read the whole of it. Rule 75 says “No member shall allude to any debate on the same question on a question or Bill not then under discussion, except by indulgence of the House for a personal explanation.” It was purely a personal explanation of an attack on Col. Mentz during his administration as a Minister. Subsequently, in order to bring the matter before the House, a reduction in the Minister’s salary was proposed, and then the hon. member ceased to defend the department and dealt entirely with the personal question whether the late hon. member for Zoutpansberg had acted honourably or not. Under these circumstances the chairman ruled him out of order. Unless the indulgence of the House is sought the chairman’s ruling is correct.
The rule is that the chairman decides questions of order when the House is in committee and “from his decision no appeal should be made to the Speaker” (May, 11th ed., p. 385). This is a salutary rule which I think should be strictly observed unless extraordinary circumstances should arise, for the Speaker does not hear the discussion in committee and is not in the same position as the chairman to decide points of order. I should, however, draw the attention of the House to the fact that in 1922 (V. & P. p. 802), on a similar point of order, it was held that a member would not be entitled to discuss the Budget speech of the Minister of Finance when the House was in Committee of Supply unless such discussion was relevant to the vote under consideration. Under these circumstances I cannot interfere with the ruling of the chairman.
House in Committee:
stated Mr. Speaker’s ruling.
I would like to refer, if I may, to the allegation of the hon. member for Port Elizabeth (Central) (Col. D. Reitz) that attacks have been made on the Department of Lands. The hon. member for Zoutpansberg (Mr. Pirow) did not give me the impression that he attacked the ordinary officials of the department, and I do not think anybody can say anything against them. Any Minister may be proud to have such loyal officers under him. The attack was made against certain inspectors of the department in the north of Zoutpansberg. Similar complaints are made against sheep inspectors, who are accused of having abused their position for political purposes. Personally, I know nothing about it.
On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, if we were debarred from discussing the question, is the Minister allowed to do so?
I am watching the debate, I can assure the hon. member, and so far the hon. Minister is not out of order.
The previous Government refused to institute an enquiry. I will, however, appoint such a commission.
†The hon. member for Albany (Mr. Struben) raised the point what my policy is as regards the Sundays River Settlement. I can only say that my intention is immediately after the session personally to investigate matters there. It is a tangle from beginning to end, and it is a very difficult tangle to straighten out. The matters affecting the men throughout have my attention. Some hon. member asked me whether I would follow the policy of my predecessor and extend the time of payment of settlement. I have already made a statement in the House that I intend to bring in a comprehensive Bill next year in which this point, and other points too, will be embodied. This is a matter which I have often discussed with my hon. friend here when I was a private member and we practically agreed to the extension of time and the consolidation of arrears, but all settlers would not be treated on the same footing because some are not in such a bad position that they would require arrears to be consolidated. Some settlers are in a good position, but if necessary it will be done. Each settlement will be treated on its own merits.
*There was a dispute between the Portuguese Government and the Union. We have now, however, reached an understanding so that the Union loses no land. The Portuguese sent out a commission, an agreement was come to, and the land is now being surveyed. The costs are paid by the Government and appear on the Estimates.
†The hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie) asked me to give this matter of irrigation my serious attention. I can tell him that in reply to a question some time ago I said that I would appoint a commission to go into this matter, and it would have been appointed already but I am negotiating with a gentleman I want very much on the committee, and I have not got his definite reply yet. The commission will be appointed as soon as possible, and one of the terms of reference to it will be this very point of surplus land which has been brought to my attention. The same point was raised by the hon. member for Cradock (Mr. G. C. van Heerden). This commission will make recommendations about all the irrigation schemes in the country. I find that the irrigation position in this country is not at all what it should be. We have spent a, little over £7,000,000 on irrigation works—£2,000,000 on Government works—£4,000,000 on major private works, and £1,000,000 on smaller irrigation works. These loans generally last for about thirty years. The interest was 3f per cent. and is now 5 per cent. The Act was changed so that the Minister could get a reduced payment for four years. Even then we find that many people cannot pay up. This commission will go carefully into the matter. I think the whole irrigation policy should be put on a different footing. I think we shall have to follow the example of Australia and America, and have regard to the point of view not only of settlement, but also railway facilities and things of that kind. The whole question will Have to be dealt with by a commission or a board. I do not think I shall be able to bring in a new Bill next session. The public should study this matter very carefully before any new legislation is brought in.
*The hon. member for Cradock (Mr. G. C. van Heerden) asked for an experimental farm in the Fish River. There is no settlement there, consequently it is not possible to have a demonstration farm. It is, I admit, an excellent plan to give the settlers some agricultural training.
†The hon. member for Tembuland drew my attention to the survey of land in the Transkeian Territories. That is a matter which should be brought up on the Vote of the Minister of Native Affairs. I am informed that the survey of the whole of the Engoobo district is neatly finished, and that a commission was appointed to go into the matter of whether a simpler survey costing less than the other would not meet the case. That is a matter now under the consideration of the Native Affairs Department.
With the leave of the House, I will withdraw my amendment.
Vote put and agreed to.
On Vote 34, “Irrigation,” £140,000,
Vote put and agreed to.
On Vote 35, “Public Service Commission”, £29,046,
I wish again to bring up the matter of the ex-officials of the old Republics. It will give much satisfaction if the Minister will say a word or two as to their position.
That question was often considered by the previous Government and by this House. According to the Transvaal law of 1908 the old Republican officials had to be pensioned at the age of 55. It was then agreed that 75 per cent. of the usual grants would be made to those who asked for special provision to be made. The amount was only 75 per cent. because in the Republic they did not contribute to a pension fund. The officials concerned said they were satisfied with that agreement. Later they asked to be kept on until the age of 60. A Select Committee brought out a report which was adopted by the House, and that document is the cause of the dissatisfaction. The Clerk of the House intimated to those officials,—or at least so they interpreted his statement,—that they could continue in the service until they were 60. The Government then stated that that would place the Republican officials in a better position than the other officials, therefore the Government did not comply. All will admit, however, that a misunderstanding must have arisen regarding the letter written by the Clerk. I think the attitude of the previous Government was reasonable and that it should not be compelled to keep on officials after the age of 55. That would be unfair to the Government because it may be necessary to discharge officials for reasons of reorganization, etc. The Government cannot be compelled to keep its officials under all circumstances. There is, however, another problem. The Government practically undertook and promised to the Republican officials that if circumstances permit they would not be pensioned before the age of 60. This promise was made and I think it should be carried out. There has been more correspondence on this point. The Public Service Commission also went into the matter and recommended as a matter of policy that the Government place the old officials on the same basis as those appointed later, namely that they remain in the service to their 60th year, or, if they resign before that age, they would foe pensioned as if they were kept in the service until 60. The previous Government gave these old officials the assurance that the matter would be taken into favourable consideration and a promise was practically made, and I think it is the duty of the new Government to fulfil that obligation. The whole question will be taken into serious consideration by the Government as soon as possible after the session closes.
Vote put and agreed to.
On Vote 36, “Labour,” £336,143,
I wish to move—
In the absence of the recommendation of the Governor-General, I am unable to put this amendment.
I enquired about that, and as no further appropriation would be required I was informed it would be competent to move that.
I am sorry, you cannot.
I would like to ask the Minister if he in, during the recess, going into the serious question of unemployment. So far he is entitled to great credit for the steps he has taken, and I hope they will be continued during the recess. I also express the hope that when he is going into the matter that he will seek advice from a larger circle than he did at the recent conference. There has been a large amount of disappointment amongst various bodies who were not represented, for instance, the Unemployed and General Workers’ Union were not represented, neither was any of the coloured unions affiliated to the Federation of Trades. There was not a single coloured man, so far as I know, at the conference, and that was a great mistake. I believe the reason was that only unions whose membership was 1,000 strong were invited to attend, and the feeling has got about that this conference was too exclusive. If any conference is called on this question it should be made as broad as possible, and not as exclusive as possible. The natives and coloured people are engaged in forming trades unions all over the country, but there seems to be an idea among certain officials that there is something wrong in this movement. An organizer of the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union found that all sorts of obstacles were put in his way when he was at Durban to prevent him from holding meetings or taking any steps to form a branch there. The explanation given by the Minister of Justice the other day was not satisfactory, as it did not explain how it was that these obstacles were made to the forming of a bona fide trades union. I hope the Minister will indicate that as far as his department is concerned, no obstacle will be placed in the way of natives and coloured people forming trades unions.
The question of unemployment is one which the Minister has shown very considerable interest in, but I have not noticed any statement by him or any one in authority as to whether the Government are considering unemployment insurance as one of the remedies, as well as accident and health insurance. There is a motion on the paper from the Select Committee on Pensions which prevents one dealing in connection with old age pensions, a subject on which a very valuable White Book has just been published. In England, from 1920 to 1922, £90,000,000 were distributed under the unemployment pension scheme, and whatever objections there may be to doles, or however demoralizing they may be, unemployment without doles would possibly have led to a revolution in England. It is a most illuminating fact that of that £90,000,000, only £11,000,000 came out of the Exchequer. The balance was subscribed by the men and the masters. I understand that to-day the annual contribution towards unemployment in England is in the neighbourhood of £30,000,000. I hope the Minister will, in addition to his more than praise worthy efforts to tackle the unemployment question, also study the old age pensions, which should be on an insurance basis; he should also take up the whole question of social insurance. I am more or less convinced that under the conditions which prevail in South Africa an old age pension scheme by itself is barely practicable with our coloured people and natives. An old age pension scheme should be on a contributory basis. I would like the Minister to give us an assurance, not only that he will investigate the question of old age insurance, but that he will take up the broader question of general social insurance by the State or by contracting out.
The Minister should not have confined his unemployment conference entirely to one class—organized labour. I have read the suggestions of the conference and it is difficult to find a single practicable suggestion that has been made. They refer to minimum wages, sending the natives back to the land, protection of South African industries and so forth. At this conference I do not think there was present a single member who employed any individual. The delegates belonged to the class which is accustomed to look to the State for assistance in matters of this kind. Why does not the Minister call a meeting of employers—the men who find the work? They may be able to make some suggestions of being able to employ more men if they get certain facilities. But, most important of all, why does the Minister not call a conference of landowners? I firmly believe that the only solution of the poor white question, which of course is closely connected with the unemployment question, is to get people back to the land. If anything can be suggested to increase the employment of white labour on the land that would be a tremendous advantage. The late Government had this in mind when it suggested lending money to landowners to build cottages on their farms. A very large portion of unemployment results from the migration of Europeans from the land to the towns. This migration is a perpetually running sore, and if that could be stopped my hon. friend would do an important work. Unfortunately the starting of relief works tends to attract still more people from the land to the towns.
Business was suspended at 6 p.m., and resumed at 8.7 p.m.
When the House adjourned I was stating that one of the big sources of unemployment in this country was the poor whites, and if the Minister of Labour would stop the migration of Europeans from the land to the urban centres he would render a tremendous service to the country. In my opinion the solution of the poor white question lies in the land, and to me it does appear extremely unsatisfactory that in this country, where we have millions of acres uncultivated, we should have such a migration. It is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs as it exists at the present moment. I go further and say that there must be something wrong somewhere when such a state of affairs exists. It may be in the land laws, and we ought to stop the accumulation of large blocks of land in one hand, and, if possible, get a division; and then furthermore, we might also compel more cultivation of the land than exists at the present moment. I am not going to suggest to my hon. friend (the Minister of Labour) the means he should take, but I suggest that he might study this matter in conjunction with the Minister of Lands and give some attention to what is the cause of this migration of European labour from the land to the towns. There is one simple suggestion I might make to him. There is farming on the share system—why cannot that be put on a proper legal footing? A tenant is entirely at the mercy of the landlord, and can be sent off, I should imagine, at a moment’s notice. There is another suggestion I might make to my hon. friend, and it is this—unfortunately you cannot employ labour without capital—I think my hon. friend will admit that the workers must be paid and must live. All the schemes of this conference that was recently held come to the State for capital; in fact, I notice that the Minister has put down something like £300,000 on the Estimates for the purpose. That is going to be used more or less to pay the unemployed in one form or another—in other words, capital expenditure. The State has no capital of its own—not a single sixpence—and it has got to take the whole of this money out of the pockets of the people in the shape of taxation, or if on the Loan Estimates, to borrow it. Let me suggest that he should get the Minister of Finance to leave some of the money he is going to take in taxation in the pockets of the people. If there is one thing I found out while I was in office it is this, that the Government itself cannot completely meet the position with regard to unemployment, and nothing impressed me more. We did our best, but it did not completely meet the situation. You have to bring about a state of prosperity in this country to solve unemployment, and there is nothing better to bring that about than to reduce expenditure. If a man saves money it is generally used for capital purposes. As to taxation, it takes over seventeen millions out of the pockets of the people.
They are your own estimates.
I admit that. I am not blaming anybody. But if some of the seventeen millions is left in the pockets of the people, part of that would go into new enterprises. We are all anxious to try to remedy this, which is a very great evil in South Africa at the present moment.
I should like to congratulate the Minister and the Government on what they are doing for unemployment in this country, and the actual progress being made to find work for the people who adopted a civilized standard of living. Much more has been done than appears on the surface, and I believe a lot more will be done before Parliament meets again, and when Parliament does meet again, there will, I think, be a record of achievement. The policy of extending avenues for civilized labour is a good one. But I should like to sound a note of warning. We must realize that even if we do extend these avenues and build up a white population in this country in skilled, semi-skilled and even unskilled avenues of employment, the time will come when another slump will overcome this country. We will have a bigger unemployment problem then than ever we have had before. I realize that the steps which are being taken are to give the country and the Government of this country a breathing space. The extension of avenues of employment in Government or private service is no cure for unemployment. Hard work is no cure for unemployment in this country. People are unemployed and cannot find work to do to-day and if those who are employed work harder more people will be out of work. The prosperity of this country will not solve unemployment. Protection will rot cure unemployment. We have got protected countries, highly protected countries in the world to-day, and they have as great an unemployment problem as any other country has. There is only one thing that will solve unemployment and that is an alteration of the economic system whereby goods are produced for profit and not for use. I sincerely hope that this Government will devote its attention to the cure of the unemployment problem and not merely to palliatives of that problem. In Natal we have a problem which, with the possible exception of the Transvaal is peculiar to that Province. We have the Asiatic question and one may say without hesitation that it is almost impossible to reason with the bulk of the people there and in the Transvaal in regard to aspects of this question. There is fear in their minds—fear of displacement by competition of the Asiatics. I hope we shall not allow the native problem to develop to this rate; that we shall not have this fear raised in this country in connection with the employment of natives. I believe that we can deal reasonably to-day with the position as between the native and the white man. I hope the Government will take steps to see that the native does not compete with the white man in this country, in other words will carry out what we have bad adumbrated, a segregation policy of some kind or another. I hope they will carry out experiments for finding work for natives on commercial lines within their own areas. I trust that the Government will take bold steps and try and build up rational industries in this country owned by the people and run by the people and that, instead of sticking to a purely distributive and administrative service they will go in for a productive service and institute for instance a system of national and State mines and State farms. We want to see land and labour organized and not left in the chaotic state they are in at the present time.
I was very pleased indeed to listen to the speech of the hon. member for Umbilo (Mr. Reyburn) and to notice that it harmonized with the speech of the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger). I was very pleased to see that both the hon. members realize that the land laws of this country are wrong and that to solve the problem we must have the settlement on the land of the people. The hon. member for Hanover Street (Mr. Alexander) and other members have dealt with the point that there were no coloured representatives at the recent conference which was held. I believe that the Minister of Labour was in a very difficult position. There were three sections of natives who wanted representation. Then there were representations from the Malays of this country for direct representation. There are also representations from three sections of the coloured community, different organizations, and I hold that it is utterly impossible unless the coloured people are organized and have proper spokesmen to give them representation at these conferences. Instead of the S.A. Pary members criticizing they should help us on these benches to properly organize them so that they can speak with a united voice. While believing in the grand principle which has been advocated by the hon. member for Umbilo (Mr. Reyburn), I still think it is possible under existing circumstances to deal with the unemployment in this country. This is a new country, and when we analyze the finances, especially of the late Government, we find that £812,000 of money voted for public works was neglected to be spent. We also find that £19,000,000 of commodities were purchased overseas for the railways during the last three and a half years. I realize that only 50 per cent. of these commodities could be manufactured here on an economic basis, but still £10,000,000 would mean a great deal to this country if it were spent and earned in this country. I would ask the Minister of Labour, when he is considering this question of unemployment, to impress upon his colleagues in the Cabinet to undo the policy of the late Government and see that South Africans do the work of South Africa in South Africa.
I find myself in rather an unpleasant position, inasmuch as I have to move a reduction of a vote which happens to be in the care of my hon. friend and revered colleague, the Minister of Labour. I propose to move the deletion of the item “grant-in-aid African Peoples’ Organization, £50”.
If my hon. friend will allow me, I will explain this item of £50 for the African Peoples’ Organization, not the African Political Organization. It is a vote to a little society on the Witwatersrand which acts as the registry bureau or labour agency for coloured people.
I am glad my hon. friend has made this explanation. We have always to remember that my hon. friend and his colleagues, rushed into office as the late Government rushed out, and I thought this might be one of the little items which they had found on the desk. However, I am glad to see that even the South African Party had some sense of decency. In view of the explanation given by my hon. friend the Minister, I will withdraw the amendment. I would like to take the opportunity of supporting wholeheartedly the point of view put forward by the hon. member for Umbilo (Mr. Reyburn). There is no question about it that that is the only way we are going to solve the unemployment question and most of the problems of a pernicious character which faced South Africa and indeed the whole world to-day. I would say to Mr. Jagger that it is no use his preaching those fallacies which he has been preaching so many years in this House. If we were to follow the hon. gentleman’s suggestions to their logical conclusion you would get nowhere at all. We would not even touch the fringe of this unemployment question and certainly we would go no distance at all towards solving it. Does he not know that it is not only the belief but the actual fact that the present system of industry cannot flourish or be successful unless you maintain a reservoir of unemployed. That statement in actual language was given effect to by Sir Lionel Phillips, one of the greatest controllers of industry and finance that has ever sat in this House. If hon. members will take the trouble of looking up Hansard, I think it was in the first Parliament of the Union of South Africa, they will see it recorded in cold print. Therefore, Sir, we have to examine this position, always having this in our minds in order that these people, this great private enterprise, should be successful in this or in any other country; they have not only to try and solve the unemployment problem, but they have to accentuate it for their own profit. The idea advanced by the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) that by the remission of taxation that you are going to do anything towards this end seems to me to be remarkably foolish indeed. Those gentlemen who are employing others to make profit for themselves, in their case the tendency becomes more and more to squeeze those who are working for them and to make them work harder as they are taught by the press and to produce more, which means more profit to those who employ them. This desire to save by those who are employing them is a direct inducement to unemployment. Might I suggest to the Minister of Labour that while he is considering the intensely fascinating suggestion made by my friend—one which goes to the core of the matter and one which if carried out will wipe out the problem—might I suggest that he takes his colleagues into his confidence and make an effort to try and drive the biggest nail into the coffin of those who control the nation to-day—big finance. Let him and his colleagues get together and work out a scheme which will do away once and for all with the control exercised by what is known as private finance. Might I ask the Minister of Justice to go back to his platform utterances—I would not suggest that to the members of the S.A.P. because it would be an outrage to what they are pleased to call their consciences—let him get back to his promises, and I have an intense belief that he will do so and that he will take them up, but before he does any more, let him set up a State bank in South Africa which would gradually bring about a state of affairs in which the nation would control its own finances. The man or men, the group or the combine, or the nation which controls its own finances controls the destiny of that nation. I would remind the Minister that while all the largest issues remain, the fact is that we have thousands of men and women in this country on the verge of starvation.
Strikes, my boy.
The hon. member who has just resumed his seat and also the hon. member for Umbilo (Mr. Reyburn) who have complained about unemployment, should remember that the best remedy for unemployment is, you should have more employers? On the other hand they complain that employers are employing men for profit; well, you are not going to employ them for anything else. Do any of you do it? I am sure that the hon. members opposite if they were to employ anyone to-morrow they would not do it from philanthropic motives. While the present system exists you will have to work according to it and you will not find men employed for anything else except for profit. We all know that the Minister of Labour has a difficult problem to deal with in unemployment and I am sure everyone wishes to give him all the assistance they can, more particularly when you hear the kind of advice given to the House, advice calculated to set one section up against the other. The Minister with the best intentions called a conference of the unemployed to consider—
It was said to be a conference of unemployed, or rather a conference to deal with unemployment. Now, what I want to know is, why the Minister called to this conference only representatives from organized labour. That showed plainly that he was asking advice of organized labour only. If you were to take your labourers in this country, your organized labour would not represent one-tenth of them. Does the hon. Minister as Minister of Labour represent organized labour only, or is he representing all labour? Or is it his intention by recognizing only the labour unions to drive all others to becoming members of the labour unions? He has only recognized the one section and the others had to remain unrecognized. Whereas you have unemployment among all classes of labourers and not only amongst those ‘represented by the labour unions, you have also coloured and natives; these were not consulted at all and they are suffering just as much as the others. If you come to the assistance of the European labourers you must also come to the assistance of these others. If you consult one section, why should you not consult the others? There is something further. The hon. member for Cape Town. (Central) (Mr. Jagger) has pointed to one of the causes of a great deal of unemployment, that is the men drifting from the land. They are driven to do so by hard times. The hon. Minister should be careful—he has a certain amount of unemployment to deal with and there is still a large number of people struggling on the land and who while they remain there are trying to maintain their independence with credit, and who are not looking to the Government to do anything for them. I wish the Minister would not inculcate the principle that the best remedy is always the Government. Nothing has caused more unemployment in the country than what he used to preach from the labour benches, and encouraged the people to look to the Government for everything, instead of trying to do the best for themselves.
Tell us one of the things.
Everything. In the past the hon. Minister has encouraged everyone to look to the Government for employment which has contributed a great deal to unemployment while relief work must be given to provide work for those in want of employment, but the greatest care must be exercised to avoid making relief works too attractive by offering too high a wage as by such a policy you would attract men from other employment to the relief works and thereby undermining their independence. I advise the hon. Minister to be careful that he does not make unemployment an industry. If you are going to make unemployment one of your most paying industries then you are going to have very much more unemployment than you have to-day, and many more people will flock from the land into the town. I know the Minister is earnest in his intention to try and do his best, but we are also trying to do our best. People are being taught to look to the Government for work, and by offering high wages on relief works you will have much more unemployment than you have to-day.
I have been impressed with the fact that labour is exceedingly well represented, at least vocally, in this House. I hear a great many assertions about the rights of labour, but I seldom hear a word about the duty of labour. Not only is there a great deal of vocal energy regarding the rights of organized white labour, but a certain inarticulate class is in danger of having its rights altogether disregarded. I refer to the 6,000,000 of natives whose strength and sweat and energy built the railways and constructed the roads. Yet we hear talk about segregation. It was a dangerous thing even to begin to talk of segregating natives, and the Minister of Labour should be exceedingly chary, if he listens to us, of committing himself to any policy of segregation, because it is dangerous in the extreme.
The hon. member for East London (The Rev. Mr. Rider) has nothing to complain about in regard to his vocal energy. I understand that he earns his living by his tongue. The hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie) would be far more correct if he were to say that what brought about unemployment more than anything else was the policy of the late Government, of which he is such a warm supporter. I am not going to shoot at the new Minister of Labour, for he is doing his best under very exceptional circumstances. But I would like to draw his attention to the fact that the Juvenile Affairs Board at Maritzburg is considerably handicapped in its duties, because the late Government neglected to appoint a full time secretary for it. Is the Minister prepared to do something to bring about a mutual settlement in the strike amongst the building workers of Cape Town?
He tried and could not do it
Owing to the absurd attitude taken up by the master builders. But I want the Minister to make yet a further effort to bring this strike to a successful conclusion. I don’t want him to allow the situation to develop until such time as something arises that we would all regret. It is a good thing that the Minister of Labour is also the Minister of Defence for now there will be no fear of the building employees being sent back to work by the rifle and the bomb. We want different methods in South Africa now—the methods of reason. I wish to appeal to the Minister to make yet another endeavour to bring about a settlement, and not to allow the employers to so reduce the financial means of the employees that the latter will have to go back because of starvation. The employers in the building trade in Cape Town ought by some means or other to be practically compelled to arbitrate. The employees are prepared to do that, and the employers must have a very bad case indeed if they are not prepared to submit the matter to arbitration. I hope the Minister will get busy, and that before hon. members leave Cape Town we shall know that the new department has brought about the settlement of its first strike on a basis of mutual understanding and compromise. I do not wish the employees to get all their own way from the employers, but I would like to see methods of reason brought to bear and a settlement reached along the lines of reason and compromise.
I want to take exception to the rather impertinent habit that one or two members of the Opposition have got into, when I am here as an ordinary member, of referring to me as the deputy chairman. That is impertinent, is not fair and is in bad taste. Hon. members can rely on one thing—that is that when I take that chair they will get as much fairness from me as any other member of the House will. I am not going to be gagged as a member because I happen to hold the position of deputy chairman. The hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie) talks about the Labour Party making unemployment. He knows that is not true and that we are out to beat unemployment wherever we can. We may be wrong in our methods, but what we do is for the common good. Is it not true that the big employers of labour want unemployment? (Opposition cries of “No.”) Of course it is. It pays the large employer to have unemployment because that is a reservoir. I am also an employer of labour and I know.
How many people do you employ?
In my factory about 70 to 80. I know it is a good thing for the employer if there is a reservoir of unemployed because then he can cut the wages.
Is that your policy?
No. The hon. member knows that is not my policy. He knows very well that I belong to the only people who have a joint national council, and have no strikes, and are paying the wages that were paid during the war. I refer to the printing industry. We have asked him to come into an industrial council, but he and his friends have refused. We have to a certain extent abolished unemployment in the printing industry. We have joined hands with the employees. The Labour party is out for conciliation and favours employers and employees meeting. The Cape Town building strike should be settled. The employees are willing to meet the employers, but the latter refuse as they want a strike and more unemployment, as do most of the employers all the world over. Then hon. members opposite talk about the drift from the land. Have we not seen during the past few days hon. members opposite fighting against men being put on the land? There has been a continual effort to stop the poor man being put on the land. That effort has been led by an ex-Minister. Then the hon. and rev. member over there—
Rev. Mr. RIDER: Honourable, please; I am here as a man.
It was not meant in a nasty way at all. The hon. member does not seem to know the policy of his great leader, the right hon. member for Standerton (Gen. Smuts), who stated time after time on every platform that segregation is the only way to settle the native problem. It is the policy of the South African Party, and if it is not, it is certainly that of the leader of the South African Party and members of the party in the north. I know the policy of the South African Party in the north is different from that in the south. Does the hon. member know the history of this country, and does he know that the only people who stood up for the natives and took exception to the murder of natives at Bulhoek were the Labour men?—and they stood up for the Bondelswartz. Where was the holy man of God then? I do not remember that this Christian and man got up and protested against the South African Party or sent a protest to the League of Nations. He stands up for the natives because there happens to be a large number of native voters in the location at East London. The majority of Labour men come from the north where the native has no vote, and we Labour men stood up through thick and thin for the natives. We were losing votes instead of gaining them. No, the hon. member cannot say anything about the Labour party on that point.
He thinks a good deal.
He can think what he likes, but he cannot say that Labour has been antagonistic to the natives in this country; and when we go and organize labour in our unions what a shout there is in the South African Party newspapers about Bolshevism and the like. You must give the Minister of Labour time. It is a new portfolio, and I take it that my hon. friend will also meet the employers of labour. If the hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger), as one of the largest employers, can give us a little help and advice, we will accept it readily, but the South African Party does not seem to like to have that problem solved. We are only going by the past.
We have been listening to a speech which is eminently typical of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Barlow) who has just sat down. It had very little to do with the subject of unemployment about which he expressed such anxiety. He succeeded in introducing more acrimony into the debate in five minutes than perhaps anyone else in the House could manage to do within that time. He said that the South African Party policy is clearly against the policy of solving unemployment. It requires some considerable courage (and the hon. gentleman has courage of that kind) to get up in the House and say that. I am not going to take up time to enumerate in detail all that the late Government has done, for instance, in its great schemes of afforestation, housing and public works, as part of an attempt and a big attempt to solve the unemployment problem. That is precisely what the Labour Government of England is trying to do, and what this Nationalist-Labour Government is doing here. But when it was done by the late Government they were sneered at and it was said we were doing nothing but introducing palliatives. I predict that this Government will, by finding and continuing the kind of “palliatives” which the late Government undertook, do the same thing because obviously that is the right thing. As put by the hon. member for Germiston (Mr. G. Brown) very truthfully the other day—a statement we were howled at when we stated it on the platform—the only way to solve the problem of unemployment is to find employment. That was done by the late Government by the expenditure they made over a series of years with singular success in coping with the problem as it could best be done. Our difficulty, however, is this—we have not yet had a statement of policy from the Minister on this—the opportunity has not arisen. We do not expect too much. We have as great a desire to make the Ministry of Labour a success as his supporters have; if by that we are going to solve one of the most dreadful of modern problems. The fact that there are difficulties in the way do not deter us from giving every sympathy and assistance to the Minister. The fear we have is that he will regard this problem as one of white unemployment only—and that in doing so he will solve to some extent the problem of white unemployment by creating unemployment among other sections of the people of, this country. We are justified in having that fear. People have that apprehension because we have heard the doctrine of civilized labour, and the extension of the sphere of civilized labour preached from those benches and on the platforms by members of that party for some considerable time. What it means we do not know. It is a vague phrase capable of a variety of definitions. The suggestions which have been made go to show that there is a definite attempt to solve the white unemployment problem by depriving other sections which are employed. We do not want to see unemployment, but we do not want to see injustice; and there must be equitable treatment of all sections. The problem is not solved, although it apparently may be, by merely transferring the burden from one section to another. That is mere concealment. The matter is not helped by the speech of the hon. member for Bloemfontein (South) (Mr. Barlow), who tries to make party capital in connection with this problem, and actually had the audacity to refer to a previous debate in this House, and said we have been putting up a battle against putting people, especially poor men, on the land. It requires courage of a sort to say a thing like that.
Quite true, though.
The most amazing thing is the attitude of the Labour members in regard to the Bill on which the battle was fought and to our action on that Bill. One would have thought that members of that party would have come to our support in our actions regarding this Bill, but with one accord they left us to fight the battle, not against putting the poor man on the land, but in favour of imposing conditions essential in the public interest, with a view to putting the poor man on the land. In the interest of the purity of public life we should have been entitled to expect their support in our endeavours to limit the uncontrolled power proposed for the Minister to alienate public land and money as suggested. The Labour attitude has shown democracy in a new form. May I just put to the Minister one allegation which has been brought to my notice. I was informed that there was a certain company here that wanted a number of natives in the north. They could have got their labour in Ndabeni and could have got 200 natives there. The only question was one of transport. It was not worth their while to pay the transport, as they could get the labour in the north, but they were willing to relieve the pressure here by employing natives. Leave was asked the Minister of Railways and Harbours to use empty trucks for transport when going north. The Minister referred the matter to the Minister of Labour. The amount technically involved was £800, but really it was only a matter of book-keeping, and I understand the Minister of Labour refused. That was a practical method of helping to solve one part of the problem in Cape Town, where unemployment is said to be largely due to the excessive number of natives who have flocked there. I would like to know whether those facts are correct, and, if they are, why it is that the Minister refused to come to the assistance of these native people who were workless and for whom work could have been found to the benefit of the other unemployed down here in Cape Town.
The hon. member’s time has expired.
The hon. member for Rondebosch (Mr. Close) was not quite correct in his remarks on the attitude of the members or the Labour Party in this House with regard to afforestation and irrigation works. We never, on any occasion, in this House said that we had the key to the solving of the unemployment question. We put forward schemes in this House for more capital for afforestation schemes, irrigation and development. We claim that the nation, as a nation, acting through its executive officers, the Government of the country, should carry out a policy of national development in order to provide the citizens of South Africa with work and open up the country. Hon. members tell us that they are anxious to help to solve this problem. Will hon. members not be perfectly frank and admit that whenever the State enters into any sphere at all which may bring it into conflict with private enterprise, people who are running private enterprise come along and interview members of this House and say that the Government should not do this and should not do that, because it is going to ruin a particular undertaking. We are prepared to allow the nation to undertake anything in the country that does not pay from an L.S.D. point of view, but we are not prepared to allow the nation to undertake work in this country that private enterprise can carry on with fat profits for a few individuals.
What about the railways?
If the hon. member looks up the South African Year Book, he will find that owing to the sparseness of the population, it would not pay private enterprise to undertake the building and running of railways in South Africa. What the members of the Labour Party attacked in connection with the policy of the late Government was not the afforestation schemes, or any other schemes, but the miserable wages of the men employed in running these schemes. The hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie) made a statement that we must not undermine the independence of the people of this country. What will undermine the independence of a people of the country more than the fact that the employer has them in his grip, and if he pleases they can live and if he does not please they can starve? I think the independence of the working classes in this country is being undermined day by day, week by week and year by year, by the policy of the employers of this country. Will anyone attempt to justify the attitude of the building employers in this city at the present time? Your Mayor and other prominent citizens have attempted to intervene in this dispute, but the employers in the building trade are doing their utmost to undermine the independence and spirit of the men. The employing class have no time whatever for the man of independent thought and independent spirit. The hon. member for East London (City) (Rev. Mr. Rider) spoke just now about the “sinister talk” of segregation, and he asked who built the railways and who built the roads? He said: “We are out for justice for that six million inarticulate citizens or ours.” Will he condemn the indentured labour system of the gold mines on the Witwatersrand, that system of slavery which exists on the Rand where thousands and thousands of these natives are herded in their compounds and where they are not allowed out without a pass?
The hon. member’s time has expired.
I am sorry the hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie) is not here. He made a statement at the opening of his speech that we must not teach the people to look to the Government to solve the unemployment problem. It seems to me that two parties have realized that the Government is the proper body to bring some measures forward to solve this problem. When this session opened we heard from the Leader of the Opposition that the criticism from that side of the House was going to be constructive. What a lovely opportunity they have lost to bring forward constructive criticism, especially where you are dealing with a new department. I was astounded to hear the hon. member for Rondebosch (Mr. Close), to show the appreciation that that side of the House has of the need of solving this problem, speak of what the late Government has done. He referred to the erection of public buildings and the roads it has built, and so on. He then stated that the carrying out of these public works were at any rate earnest attempts to solve the unemployment problem. It is the first time I have heard that the Supreme Court in Cape Town or the Hartebeestpoort dam was built to solve the unemployment problem.
I never said public buildings.
Naturally every work you do will be an expedient, a relief for the time being. I would like the Minister to concentrate on the permanent causes of unemployment, not the accidental ones. Incidentally, the hon. member for East London (City) (Rev. Mr. Rider) touched upon the verge of one of these permanent causes, viz., the segregation of the native. It seems to me that another cause of unemployment is the encroachment of the native in the sphere of unskilled labour. Permanent causes, however, do not stop there: they go much deeper and into matters almost as serious. Let us take one of the most important, the huge diamond industry. Nobody with any sense wants to kill a huge industry like that. We have a great production of diamonds here, but what employment have we got from it? You go to Antwerp, Amsterdam, Brighton and New York, and see thousands of families that get their support practically from diamond cutting alone. I do not say how it is to be done, but let us assume that we can transplant that industry to this country. Why should not the Government take over the whole of the diamond industry, expropriate the whole business, and run it as a national monopoly in this country, control the diamond market, control the diamond cutting, and control everything connected with the industry. Where you have these 55,000 families supported by the diamond cutting industry abroad, yon will be able to have them cutting them here. An hon. member said that we would have no employees, still it is the duty of the Government to create markets for labour and for surplus labour, and I contend that it is just as important to find a market for that labour as it is for us to find a market for our ordinary products. We expect great things from this new department and I feel sure the Minister will not rest in his endeavours to solve this basic problem of our national life. We also expect support from the opposite side and if there is some necessity for criticism let it be constructive criticism and let them assist the Government in all they can.
The hon. member for Rondebosch (Mr. Close) and the hon. member for East London (City) (Rev. Mr. Rider) who supported him have what I call warped views on this question. They have raised the question of unemployment amongst natives in South Africa. I submit that there is no unemployment amongst the natives, in fact there is a scarcity of native labour in South Africa at the present time, that scarcity is so great that one huge group of employers has had to bring into the country nearly 100,000 natives from outside the Union during the past year. While this system prevails of going outside our own borders to bring in uncivilized labour from Central Africa to work our own industries, we are keeping down the civilized native. That is sapping at the very foundations of our national life. As I have said not only is it detrimental to the white man in this country but is detrimental to the native. These uncivilized natives are brought in at a very low wage, and the civilized native has to work for the same, and he is gradually encroaching on the civilized coloured man who in turn is encroaching upon white labour. It is a case of dog eating dog. Unless we deal with this question of the importation of uncivilized labour into the country we are going to sap the foundation of our national life indeed. This is an important matter and the Minister will have a difficult job in dealing with it. Every step will have to be carefully considered before being taken, but we must make a beginning to gradually bring about the stoppage of the importations of contract labour. The sooner this is done the better, in the interests of both white and black. In dealing with the unemployment problem there must be close co-operation between the Minister of Lands and the Minister of Labour. This drift from the land to the industrial centres must be stopped in some way. This has been going on for years and it is going on at the present moment with the result that the farmers are gradually losing their farms and they are passing into the hands of large companies or combines who will neither work them themselves or allow anyone else to work them. Just before I came down for the session I heard of the case of a man arriving on a farm in the district of Northern Transvaal. He approached the farmer who allowed him to prospect and for five weeks he squatted there and did very well. At the end of that time, he shook hands cordially with the farmer and said to him that there were no minerals at all on his farm. A month later another man came to the farm told the farmer he was looking for land and offered to buy it. He made what the farmer thought a good offer and he parted with his land. It subsequently transpired that these men were the emissaries of a big combine looking for minerals, now they would not allow that farm to be worked nor will they work it themselves, while the farmer and his family drifted into the Germiston district. That kind of thing must be stopped. The drift must be turned in the opposite direction and we must make every effort to put these men back on the land again. They have drifted towards the mines, they are not miners and they will never make miners. Farming is in their blood, it has been in it since the days when their ancestors sold vegetables to passing ships. Nowadays they are going down into the earth and contracting phthisis in ever increasing numbers. I suggest that the Minister of Labour should consider the two points that I have briefly mentioned, namely, the question of the prevention of the importation of labour from outside our own borders and the question of the drift from the land to the urban centres.
I have considered this discussion to-night from the point of view of one who comes from the backveld, which produces the raw aboriginal heathens who are stated to be flooding the labour market to-day. I see a dangerous prospect before this country. You will never create white employment by killing black employment. We have built up this country and we have educated these natives up to a certain standard of living. Some of them have attained a high standard of civilization, higher even than many of our Europeans. We have encouraged them to that extent and are still encouraging them, and now we cannot put them aside and say to them “We are blocking all the avenues of employment by which you are living; we are going to force you back into your own territory.” It is an impossible position. An hon. member has quoted the Bullhoek affair and said the Labour Party championed it. Now, with regard to the Bullhoek business, there were no citizens who condemned it more than the natives themselves. I say this without hesitation as I was there at the time, and the native general council at Umtata passed a resolution condemning the actions of those natives who took part. I am going to make a suggestion to the Minister of Labour. I have listened to the discussion from the Ministerial side and the opposite side, and if he receives no better suggestions from the conference which he recently held in connection with the solution of this problem than he has had, I am very sorry for him. Might I possibly try to give a suggestion, and I put it forward with all due humility. The natives are not anxious to come into the towns to become poor blacks. They have a national spirit of their own, a spirit which should be encouraged in this country. If we look back, upon the history and development of the natives for the last 20 years I think we will find that nothing has been done to develop this national instinct, and I have no hesitation in* saying that they have been used merely to assist the capitalists. To-day we find the labour markets are being flooded to a certain extent, and during the past years the natives have reached that stage of civilization in which they realize that they are no longer mere animals but that they want something and that they are entitled to it. I hope the Minister will co-operate with the Ministers for Agriculture and Finance and help them to develop their own territory along their own lines with our guidance and assistance. If we adopt the policy of simply forcing the natives back to their homes without any regard to their development, the future of this country is a very dark one, and I hope the Minister of Labour will realize that. The natives are not anxious to come here to work, but they have to earn wages with which to pay their taxes and to enable them to live. They have evinced a desire to remain within their own boundaries and to develop along their own lines, and the Government should encourage such ideals, and by doing so we will help to solve the many problems which are before this country and do a great deal towards solving the unemployment problem.
That is an old story in this House.
Yes, and we have a new Government which has made a lot of promises to solve the problem, and let us see if they will face the position and try to solve it—to solve it—not by the establishment of civilized labour but by a liberal policy of the internal development of the natives. If we assist them to devolop in their own areas we shall be doing our duty. I have had several deputations of natives coming to me, and I assure the House from what they have told me and from what I myself know that there is a feeling of grave unrest amongst the native community.
When I heard some of the sentences of the last hon. member (Mr. Payn) I seem to hear echoes of sentiments I have been expressing for the last 20 years. I entirely agree with him. In dealing with this subject I am conscious that one must recognize that at every step as far as one possibly can, not to give ground for needless apprehension in the natives territories, that the Government does not mean to deal justly with the natives. We have a great country, and a sparsely populated country, but a country with immense natural resources, and under healthy conditions of development there should not be any man who is able to work, out of employment. The question of native unemployment has hardly been brought to my notice, and I agree that when we have a constant force of something like 90,000 natives from outside, that should be comparatively easily dealt with by limiting that outside force. But we have thousands of our own people unemployed, a poor white population continually increasing, only a moiety of our young people being able to find entry into useful occupation. Not only our own interests, but the civilization of the native races, depends on the robustness and vigour of the European population, which is after all the bulwark of civilization in South Africa. More people are permanently departing from South Africa than are entering it. We must face the fact that our condition is not one of health, and we must ascertain what are the causes, and we must remedy those causes. I express the conviction of the Government when I say that we all realize that the causes are very deeply rooted in the habits and customs which have grown up in South Africa, not the least of which is the relying far too largely for our development on low wage uncivilized labour. I have not changed my sentiments, but public opinion is very much more alive to these facts than it was many years ago. We must have a change, and South Africa cannot go on imperilling its future destiny—we have to change our habits if we are going to preserve our civilization. The old theory was that we could go on depending on all the rough work being done by uncivilized men, and that by some magic of nature the whole of the European population would be provided for in skilled and intellectual occupations for which, however, every child is not fitted, whether he comes of a European or any other stock. That old theory must be discarded. It is largely owing to a public realization that a change must be made that we are here to-day. The Government is pledged to that change, and that pledge we mean to keep. I have heard continual gibes in the House and allusions to election statements. Do hon. members expect us to carry out the policy adumbrated during the election in a short session? We are fully alive to the necessity of carrying out the policies we had adumbrated, but we are not going at it like a bull in a china shop. The country may be assured that we shall try to bring about a better state of things than the one we found. This Department of Labour has been formed for the purpose of keeping continually before the Government the effect of any measure on the conditions under which the mass of the people live. I have been asked why certain associations were not invited to be present at the conference held last week. I desire to get the co-operations of organized labour. If I had invited to that conference every little association, I think the cost would have been more than the object I had in view would have warranted. I made two discriminations, and invitations were sent to societies which were registered or could be registered under the Conciliation Act, and also to societies with a membership of 1,000 or over. The conference was not confined entirely to European delegates as was stated here—I saw at least one coloured delegate. I think I was successful in getting a conference of men who were men of brains and experience in labour organization, and who represented the bulk of organized labour. I had to limit it in that way or I might have had a little parliament. I do not think that any body of men left outside should feel aggrieved, because I am only too ready to receive suggestions from any organized body. I received at least two deputations from the Industrial Workers Union, but if I had asked them to attend the conference I should have had to ask groups from all over the country, and it would have been almost impossible to draw the line, and I should have had a tremendous gathering from which I think I should have got less result. I certainly got from the conference some suggestions which, at the moment, are impracticable, but also some which are helpful. My object was to let organized labour see that Government looked to them as responsible men to give us responsible advice, and to associate them in the effort of trying to set the current in a different direction to what it has been going. In 1915, when the leader of the Opposition desired to obtain the assistance of the trade union movement in the war issue, and when owing to circumstances which happened 17 or 18 months previously, there was considerable antagonism. I suggested to him that if he wanted the co-operation of the trade union, he should take the course of asking them to meet him. I am taking exactly the same step. Although that element had been very much alienated from the late Government, I hope every section of the population will feel that they have a distinct obligation in this matter and will try to bring about a more healthy condition of affairs. I was also asked about the employers, but different quarters different methods. I am most anxious to get suggestions from the employers. The Associated Chambers of Commerce are holding their meeting at Harrismith next month, and I propose to be there. Representatives of the Cape Town Chamber of Industries have already discussed the matter with me. I shall discuss and enlist the co-operation of employers or organized labour and the agricultural population in the efforts Government is making in order to try and produce something a little less gloomily staggering to the imagination than the report of the census of 1921 impressed upon us. The Government of this country desires whatever assistance can be procured, and that assistance will be welcome, but we shall pursure our policy even although we meet with opposition and great inertia. Well now just to develop that for a moment, let me point out the situation, broadly speaking. The activities of the department will be, broadly speaking, like all Gaul—divided into three parts. On the one side we have to deal with that portion of the population which is more or less agricultural—you have people who are very small farmers, who are almost slipping off the land, and you have the bywoners and the landless men who wander into the towns. All that section of the population is one problem, but of course these things cannot be kept in watertight compartments. They all act and react on one another. On the other hand, you have your industrial problem; that is, so to speak, another department. The hon. member for Cape Town (Central) (Mr. Jagger) is perfectly right, and so is the hon. member for Germiston (Mr. G. Brown), that we have to do all we can to try to reverse this process of men slipping off the land. There is no royal road; it is the resultant of a whole heap of contributory causes, some of which are to be found in our laws affecting insolvency; and a man should be left a minimum amount of tools, plant, oxen and so forth. Attached to the department I propose and want to set up an advisory board. I cannot go into the functions of it, as in point of fact it is experimental. The statistical department found it an enormous advantage to have attached to it a statistical council; people engaged in outside activities, which enabled one from time to time to discuss with people not immediately concerned with Government some of these suggestions. This advisory board is not to be of all-time people at all. It may be called once a month and later on a couple of days in two months, or a couple of days in three or four months. I want with regard to the agricultural element of the population to endeavour to get gentlemen who are acquainted with and have an intimate and thorough knowledge of conditions of agricultural life. I want three gentlemen representing that. I want to get as representing urban and industrial life, one representative on whose general knowledge one can rely, representing commerce, one representing industries, and one of the mining employers. Then I want to obtain three gentlemen representative of organized labour and the trades union movement. It has been represented that I should add one lady who has a knowledge of and is able to help one with regard to social matters. My main aim in that is to be able to avail oneself of extra-departmental advice on various points which may arise. The Government will, of course, take full responsibility for any measures taken, but I do not think anything is lost by discussing tentative proposals with such an advisory council. There may be rocks in the way of any given course, you may have to get around some, or you may have to blast others away. Let me say a little with regard to the drift off the land. It arises from a number of causes, and we have to do our utmost to arrest it, and to try to get people on the land. My hon. friend’s little Bill is one of the instruments, and a very useful instrument, to work effectively in that direction. It has also been suggested to me, and I will give effect to it as far as the funds at my disposal permit, to do as was done in 1908 when quite a considerable sum was expended to advance men a minimum of plant, oxen and ploughs to help to establish them on the land. This proved very successful, and was at small cost to the public purse. There was very little lost, and nearly everything was paid. Another thing I inherited from my predecessor, and I am not going to take credit for it myself, was putting men on ground of farmers—where by small subsidies yon got them over the first six or seven months till they were able to make good. Then you have the afforestation settlements and other matters I inherited from the previous Government—the Hartebeestpoort works, and all these relief works. I may say I do not like relief works; they are uneconomical as temporary works—on the railways or the Hartebeestpoort canals or anywhere else they are not administered with the same engineering skill as if they were regarded as permanent works. The Government is doing its utmost to meet the position by extending the avenue for European employment as far as it can, and if it can be done successfully, in any one sphere of work, the same thing will be applied all along the line, in the same spheres of work. We regard this not as a temporary makeshift, but as a permanent policy. Take railway construction, and I give credit to my hon. friend opposite (Mr. Jagger) in having gone a long way in that direction. I think we can obtain much better results if it is understood that it is the Government’s permanent policy; and that if such labour can be employed economically and men on this work can earn a reasonable and decent wage in one place, it shall be understood by those administering labour that if the same results are not obtained elsewhere the Government will look upon such failure as the fault less of the workers than of the way they are organized, we shall get better results all along the line. Then I come to private employment. It is quite clear that it is rather absurd for us, as a country, on the one hand to be spending large sums of money in subsidizing employment of men who require wages on which they can maintain European standards of civilization, and at the same time assisting large employers of labour to satisfy their labour demands with men who are working at rates at which no civilized man can exist. On that point I wish to revert to what I said at an earlier stage, that these things are very deeply rooted in our habits of mind in South Africa, but we have this big broad fact, that our troubles are due to nothing which is inherent either in our own population or inherent in the nature of South Africa. The development problems, the engineering problems with which we have to deal in this country, are inherently no different from what they are in Canada. Australia, or any other country. We have all of us got to try and make an effort in a matter of national self-preservation, to try and modify these habits, and gradually but inexorably move in the direction in which we ought to go. In any changes we make we have to recognize that the results are due to the organizing faculty, the organizing power as to the physical capacity of individual workers. The fact is with us our organizing faculties under our institutions have been very much atrophied and have not developed as they have in other countries. Therefore, in the measures we take, we want to be careful not to make too great; demands, not by sudden action to dislocate things, but at the same time, by a gradual but inexorable pressure, to insist that there shall be developed the organizing power which will get the best results from higher paid labour as is done elsewhere and keep this up until all hands are pulling together in the desired direction. Our plans, as we develop them, we will announce to the House in due course. I will now come to some of the other questions which have been asked by hon. members. The hon. member for Durban (Central) (Mr. Robinson) spoke on the subject of unemployment insurance and old age pensions. Certainly all these matters will come under the consideration of the Department of. Labour, but I wish to point out that the Department of Labour is only in its infancy. It will expand, I think, to one of the most important departments of State. The hon. member alluded to the late Government’s action in offering £250 to build a cottage. We are proceeding on rather different lines. I am trying to develop in the land department a large number of agents, so to speak, travelling agents, who will try and get about among the farmers and try and place men. I do not think that £250 is necessary. I think for a smaller sum than that you will be able to place quite a number of men on these works. The hon. member for Umbilo (Mr. Reyburn) knows that it is rather supererogatory to preach to me the doctrines that he has preached, but I hold that until a larger proportion of the people of this country holds these views, and a larger proportion of the civilized world holds those views we have got to administer what we have and to try and convert them to other ideas. I do not think it is necessary, after my previous remarks, to say anything in answer to the hon. member for Worcester (Mr. Heatlie). I do not think one can call what we are doing exactly making unemployment an industry.
I did not say that. I said you should avoid that.
I can assure the hon. member that it would be the happiest day of my life when there is not a bit of relief work given in this country. The result of my enquiries hitherto is that when you have these things started as relief works, you have the least possible amount of organization. You have the able-bodied and the halt and the lame and the blind, so to speak, all mixed up together, and when subsidies from the Government are being spent, I think it is only reasonable for one to suppose that the same amount of care is not taken by the local authority or person concerned as if it were their own money. For that purpose I propose attaching to my department an engineer who will, on behalf of the department, exercise some supervision, and at all events enable the department to criticize with considerably more force any subsidies which are spent on such works. The hon. member for East London (City) (Rev. Mr. Rider) said that we heard a great deal about the rights but not the duties of labour, and we heard nothing about the six million natives we have in this country. As I said before, I entirely agree with what the hon. member for Tembuland (Mr. Payn) said, and that is that we ought to give the natives every possible help we can in their own territories. I think we should find a vastly less desire for them to come out into the urban centres. As for the rights and not the duties of labour, I think we may all say to ourselves, “physician cure thyself”. The hon. member for Rondebosch (Mr. Close) asked me a question with regard to certain natives in Cape Town. His information is perfectly correct. I am not going to assist employers to get cheap labour as far as I can help it, by sanctioning the expenditure of public money to enable a proposed profit-making concern to get cheap labour. Let me say from the native point of view the only effect of removing the natives from here is to make room for another lot to come in. To make Cape Town in fact a sort of conduit. My friend, the hon. member for Pietermaritzburg (North) (Mr. Strachan) asked me about Juvenile Affairs. I will look into the matter. He also touched on a more serious matter—the building strike in progress in this town. I have done my utmost and I can say without fear of contradiction, that I have done my best as “honest broker” in this matter. First of all I tried to intervene before a strike took place, and twice since. It is only right I should say that since then I have endeavoured when this Conference was held last week to bring the parties together. It was a singularly useful opportunity because there were certain members of the building trade down from the north at the time and they were anxious to see in the building trade a National Industrial Conciliation Council formed the same as in the printing trade, and I took advantage of the fact that not only had we representatives of the employers here but also from the north, representatives of the building trades union and I asked the masters to come and see me about this council, and I also asked the workers to come and see me that afternoon. Well there was a strong desire on behalf of the workers to have a provincial council of that nature. I brought both parties together, they met and they came very close together on the question of the formation of this national conciliation council. When they reached that stage it was clear that one of the obstacles in carrying out the scheme was the present dispute. However, I was informed on Thursday morning that the masters had agreed to meet the men that afternoon to see if they could come to some solution of the difficulty when to my surprise and disappointment I was brought a letter from the delegates on the men’s side which they had received from the master builders’ side to the effect that they didn’t think that any good would be done by meeting, that it would be better to call a truce and for the men to resume work and leave the present dispute to be the first to be settled by that conciliation council. I think it was a great mistake to offer to meet the men and then not to do so. On the one side the men said “what is the use of starting a thing like that in a state of war when you should first of all settle the existing dispute”. I could only speak to each side and ask them to meet the other. It was suggested to me yesterday and I approved of it and I authorized a letter to be written to each side, suggesting that both parties should allow the matter to be determined by a judge in the Supreme Court with a representative of each side acting with him as assessor. Judgment to be retrospective. A reply has been received from the men they are quite willing, but I have not as yet received a reply from the master builders. The Government have no power to make people who quarrel make peace. One can only be unremitting in one’s endeavours not to leave things to develop. I hope councils of moderation will prevail. I have pointed out to both sides that instead of being adamant if the unbending side would agree to a little bit of bending they would find it is better than the continuance of the dispute, and it could be brought to an end very soon. That is my considered judgment on the matter. I have made every attempt but I find a great tendency to go back to the rigid attitude on the part of one side.
I would like to dispel any impression which may have crept into peoples’ minds owing to the remarks of the hon. member for East London (City) Rev. Mr. Rider) as to the attitude of the white wage-earning class to the black wage-earning class. White trade unionists do thoroughly realize their obligations to the black wage earners, and it is not due to the former that the latter are not organized. The people who tell us that we are class and racially prejudiced have themselves failed to make any effort towards the raising of the blacks to the state of being able to demand what they should get. I will point out a line in which the hon. member for East London (City) (Rev. Mr. Rider) can move and that is an alteration of the regulations issued under the Native Labour Regulations Act of 1911. For the infringement of some of these regulations a native is liable to a fine not exceeding £10 or a maximum of two months imprisonment. These regulations emphasize the attitude of giving cognisance to what is practically slavery, as a result of which natives have become detribalized and have become competitors with white workers in the urban areas. The unemployment problem m South Africa is different to what it is in most other countries. There is a poverty line in every country, and above that there is just the bare decency of existence. In South Africa when the white worker has once crossed the poverty line he becomes identified with those of an inferior civilization, and thereby sinks beyond recovery. We, as trade unionists, are simply struggling by our organizations to keep ourselves above that poverty line, and to maintain ourselves within the influence of European civilisation, and it has been necessary for us to make our callings exclusive to some degree. The organizers of black labour will find no opposition from the trade unions, and once they are organized we shall not object to their coming in and being organized with us. Labour is a profit-making commodity, and it only gets what it forces and demands, and the white worker only gets it because he keeps his field some what exclusive. If that field becomes enlarged through the incursion of a body with much lower social aims, then we are bound to fight. If the organized trade unions can keep that domain intact until that other body is fit to come in on an equal footing, trade unionists as trade unionists will not be opposed to it although naturally there may be cases of individual prejudice. Our interests as wage earners are identical and other prejudices will die away. These are the actual facts, and I mention them so as to disabuse the House of the idea that trade unionists do not realize their duty to all wage earners and confine themselves exclusively to their own sectional interests.
The Minister omitted to mention the attitude of the Government to the native and coloured trade unions. Another point is that a case has been brought to my notice of a young man apprenticed to one of the manual trades who attends the Cape Town technical classes, but he has been called out under the Defence Act for night drills, clashing with important lectures. Is it not possible for the Minister of Defence to arrange with himself as Minister of Labour that where a boy is attending a technical class he is called out for training on nights which will not clash with those when important lectures are given? I am told that the boy’s future may be actually ruined through this.
I will represent the matter mentioned by the hon. member for Hanover St. (Mr. Alexander) to the Minister of Defence, and I have no doubt he will give it sympathetic attention. With regard to the other matter, my position is very plain. We have an industrial Conciliation Act which defines registration of trade unions, and there is no mention of colour in it. If a union is, registrable it has to be registered.
I was disappointed with the Minister’s statement, because although he dealt very fully with the red tape and sealing wax side of his department, he left us entirely unsatisfied as to any practicable endeavour which he was likely to make for the settlement of industrial trouble. After his election by his present constituency he made a statement which I think might very well be interpreted as an announcement that in any case we would now have a Government which would deal with industrial trouble, in fact people considered there was an end to industrial trouble. But we have serious industrial trouble in Cape Town at present, and although the hon. member has sneered at the late Government for “allowing things to develop,” he has not told us how he proposes to deal with the Cape Town strike. He is following the same policy of allowing things to develop. There is nothing tangible or practicable in anything that he has done, and he has left us with a very distinct sense of disappointment on the whole subject he has traversed this evening. He had very little to say, and he has given us wordy evidence of the fact. That, I think, about correctly sums up his statement this evening. The Minister has been appealed to by the hon. member for Cape Town (Hanover Street) (Mr. Alexander) to allow and to recognize native trade unions in South Africa, and I will sound a note of warning with regard to that. I do not want to be an alarmist, but the present state of affairs is not suited to the native trade union movement, and the results, as they have been evidenced hitherto in connection with any industrial troubles, such as on the Rand in 1913-’14, wherever they touched or affected the natives, show that they go to extreme feelings, and it has been proved impossible in my experience to prevent violence on the part of the natives when banded together in any industrial trouble.
Do you advocate an alteration in the Industrial Act of last year?
I thought it applied to European industries only. I may be wrong. But that was the impression I got under that Act. There is another matter to which I want to draw attention, and that is that the Minister did not reply to me on a former occasion, when I made some comments on matters of administration in regard to the Defence Vote. I suggested that certain economies might be effected and indicated how. But the Minister did not condescend to reply. I do not know whether he intended it as a discourtesy, I hope it was not, and that the Minister was occupied with other matters, but I think in matters relating to economies which may be effected which I have brought forward in the way in which I put forward these matters, an hon. member is entitled to a reply. I understand from the Minister’s reply with regard to trade unions that he rather holds the view that no harm could result from allowing or recognizing native trades unions. I only hope that the Minister will not be hurried in recognizing these trade unions, because I really believe that he would have cause to regret it if he did.
I can assure my hon. friend that there was no intention on my part of discourtesy to him. It was an entire oversight. In regard to the present matter, the position is perfectly plain. We passed an Act last year under which certain bodies of men, if fulfilling the conditions of the law, could register themselves as trade unions, and it is not in my power to say that this shall only apply to white persons. There are many coloured unions, and I would point out to the hon. member that, whatever our views may be, as surely as positive electricity introduces negative electricity, so under modern employment conditions and industrial conditions the establishment of industries certainly results in organization amongst the wage-earners. Under these circumstances I have got to administer the law. I shall watch the position, because I am very clearly of the opinion that what is of nothing but benefit to men at a certain stage of civilization, may, unless very carefully watched and very carefully handled, be quite unsuited to persons of another civilization. I shall watch the position, but the hon. member must not run away with the notion that I have got the power under the law as it is, of saying to one group, “You shall form a trades union,” and to another, “You shall not form a trades union.”
Vote put and agreed to.
Estimates of Expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to be reported without amendment.
Progress reported; House to resume in committee to-morrow.
The House adjourned at