1920s >> 1924 >> no-234-february-1924

Queensland’s Labour Government

In the December issue an attempt was made to disprove some of the many untrue assertions about Labour rule in Queensland which have appeared in Forward and the Daily Herald. Tom Johnson has not replied to the charge of deliberate misrepresentation, and to support the charge against him further evidence is now to hand.

Among other things, I stated that the exploitation of the workers is keener and the rate of profit greater in Queensland than elsewhere in Australia. If anyone wants to see the full substantiation of this, it is contained in the reports of the debates in the Queensland Legislative Assembly (Parliamentary Debates, No. 25, Legislative Assembly, Oct. 4 and 5, 1923, page 1481 and following pages). The reason for the publication of the statements, some of which I am going to quote, is that the Queensland Government is faced with the problem of raising new loans to meet repayments of old loans falling due now. Twenty-four million pounds is required at once, and Premier Theodore is in London to negotiate these loans, as cheaply as possible. Failing London, he will be forced to go to New York, but in either financial centre it will be necessary to prove to the investors that Queensland is really a safe and profitable field for investment. Thus we have Mr. Fihelly, Agent-General in London, writing to The Times (Aug. 29, 1923) as follows :—

“I would again ask critics of Queensland io await the Premier’s arrival, and in the meantime I can assure readers that no sensible investor seriously regards Queensland securities otherwise than of the soundest description.”

It must be comforting to the workers in Queensland to know that the absentee investors who exact tribute from their labour can rest secure that those securities are of the soundest description. The additional material provided in the Legislative Assembly must be still more comforting.

A Mr. Weir, Labour Member for Maryborough, answers home critics at length, and so ably does he do so that it is a matter for regret that the whole speech cannot be reproduced here owing to its length :—

“The production of the workman in this State is head and shoulders above that of any other State. . . This year I have again gone to some considerable trouble to frame a set of figures which will prove that this. State, far from being ruined by the workers, owes more to the workers for its prosperity than to anyone else, and that this State is taking more out of the workers in the matter of industry than any other State. I have graded these figures and have segregated the items, to make my case clear, into raw materials, fuel and light, wages, and then surplus. The surplus is what 1 shall call ‘swag.’ . . . Some belongs to us, the workers, and some to them, but they take too much.”

Mr. Weir then gives figures of wealth production per head of workers engaged, one set taken from the Official Commonwealth Year Book for 1922 (p. 403), and the second set taken from Government publications for the current year (1923). In the first set Queensland, with £921 per head, comes third, after Victoria (£953) and New South Wales (£951). By 1923 Queensland, then the only Labour State, had come lop with £954, leaving New South Wales a bad second with only ££892. Deducting the value of raw material and fuel and light, M. Weir gives the percentages going as wages and profits :—

“In the case of the ‘swag’ we find that of the total output the captins of industry take for their share :—

Wages per cent. ”Swag” per cent.
Queensland 16.89 20.67
Tasmania 17.93
Victoria 20.17 16.08
West Australia 25.09 14.17
New South Wales 18.59 12.70
South Australia 10.79

He does not give the percentages wages in Tasmania or South Australia, but states that both are higher than Queensland’s. He protests on behalf of the Queensland workers against this difference. “We claim that they are entitled at least to the same percentage of wages based on the total output as is received in the other States.”

He then gives statistics of actual average wages. “In a table on page 397 of the Official Year Book the Commonwealth average for wages is £169 per head. ‘The amounts paid in the various States are :—

New South Wales £182
West Australia £173
South Australia £167
Queensland £161
Victoria £159
Tasmania £151

Mr, Weir then gives later information from “Bulletin No. 92 :—

New South Wales £186
West Australia £192
South Australia £178
Queensland £177
Victoria £173
Tasmania £157

It will thus be seen that in the first year Queensland’s average wage was £8 below the average for Australia as a whole, and £21 below the highest. In the second year it is still £15 below the highest.

Mr. Weir also deals with one or two industries to give further illustration.

In the sawmills of Queensland the total output is £2,971,079, while wages amount to approximately £750,000. Raw materials, fuel, light, etc., account for £1,635,221, leaving a balance of “swag” of £584,858. Mr. Weir, after allowing apparently for depreciation, puts profit at £500,000 and wages at £750,000. In other words, out of the total wealth produced by the labour of the sawmill workers no less than 40 per cent., or, two-fifths, is appropriated by nonproducers at home or abroad.

While for Queensland as a whole, out of every 36s. worth of wealth produced by the workers about £1 goes as profits to members of the property-owning class.

“On the total cost of production, the men doing the hard „work in this State get the least in the Commonwealth.”

In effect we have these Labour “caretakers” of capitalism in Queensland inviting the investment of foreign capital with the plea “that our slaves are the most profitable, the most heavily exploited, and the most docile in Australia.” Well may the Workers’ Weekly of Sydney complain that “the Queensland workers are being sold on the auction block” (Nov. 16, 1923), and well may the workers demand an explanation from their “revolutionary” leaders who ask them to continue returning to power Theodore and his gang who are responsible for this flagrant betrayal of the working-class interests.

Let me repeat that there is no hope for the workers msave in Socialism.


(Socialist Standard, February 1924)

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