2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER laid oh the table revised Standing Orders recommended by the Standing Orders Committee.
Mr DEAKIN laid upon the table the following paper:-
Pursuant to the Defence Acts 1903 and 1904 - Regulation amended- Financial and. Allowance regulations, Part II-, sub-paragraphb, paragraph 60 - Pay of Permanent Forces - Royal Australian Artillery - Married Establishment - Statutory Rules 1905, No. 54.
The Clerk laid upon the table
Return to an Order of the House, dated 7th September, 1905, as to the effect of the Sea Carriage of Goods Act on trade with the East.
asked the Minister representing the. Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether he has seen in the press statements by the Premier of Tasmania -
That Tasmania was paying three times more for defence now than before Federation ?
That Tasmania was now ten times worse off than before Federation, Hobart practically being without volunteers?
If so, will he make inquiries into the matter, and, if the statements are correct, will the Government take steps to improve the defence of Hobart?
– In reply to the honorablemember’s question, I have to state -
Yes;, but the statements are not correct, as the following figures will show:-Expenditure, 1900-1, ?31,471, of which ?4,788 was for Naval Agreement; expenditure,1904-05, ?39,907, of which ?6,670 was for Naval Agreement; estimates, 1905-6, ?43,262, of which ?8,946 is for Naval Agreement. Provision is made on the Estimates for the re-organisation of the troops from the 1st January next.
The honorable member will thus see that the statements “ that Tasmania was paying three times more for defence “ and “ was now ten times worse off “ are poetic expressions.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Mr. Mauger) agreed to -
That a return be laid on the Table of the House showing -
The number and situation of “contract” post and telegraph offices.
The amount of each contract.
The number of employes in each such “ contract “ office.
The wages paid and hours worked by each employe.
Particulars as to the employment of members of the contractor’s family.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce Smith) nega tived -
That notice of motion, No. 1, General Business, be made an order of the day for October 19.
– On the last occasion on which the Order of the Day, No. 1, for the appointment of a Standing Parliamentary Committee of Trade, Commerce, and Industries, came before the House, my attention was called to the fact that the motion stood in the name of the AttorneyGeneral, who was a member of the Government, and that, therefore, it could not be dealt with during the time set apart for the transaction of other than Government business. I would, therefore, suggest that the Order of the Day should be postponed until some day set apart for Government business.
– The AttorneyGeneral desires to withdraw his notice of motion for the present. The Government are considering the whole question, with a view to altering the terms of the motion so that the proposed Committee shall not interfere unduly with the functions of Ministers. I move -
That the Order of the Day be read and discharged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move-
That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon the advisability of amending the Regulations issued under the Defence Acts ; the Committee to consist of Mr. Batchelor, Mr. Hutchison, Mr. Maloney, Mr. Mauger, Mr. Page, Mr. Wilks, and the mover, with power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to sit at any time.
I desire to bring under notice several matters of importance to members of the Defence Force, and particularly to some of my constituents, with regard to certain defence regulations, which seem to me to be contrary to the spirit of the Defence Act, and to involve gross injustice. The regulations which are the subject of complaint do not give effect to the clearly expressed desire of honorable members, as embodied in the Defence Act, but, on the other hand, interfere with the freedom of the men, and deny them those opportunities of preferment which it was intended they should be granted. In the first place, I wish to direct attention to section 11 of the Defence Act of 1903, which reads as follows: -
In the first appointment of officers, preference shall be given, in the case of equality of qualifications, to persons who have served in the Defence Force for three years without a commission.
At the time that section was under discussion - and I am proud to saythat it was inserted on my motion - a desire was expressed by honorable members that opportunities should be given to men serving in the ranks to rise to higher positions in the service. The intention was that the members of our Defence Forces should have opportunities similar to those which are offered to men in the French Army, in which it is said that every private carries a marshal’s bat6n in his knapsack, in the South African Police Force, where every man has to serve fifteen years in the ranks before he can obtain a commission, and in the military service of every democratic community, in which the right is conceded to every man who shows himself possessed of the necessary ability to rise to the highest positions. I am sorry to say that the regulations under the Defence Act have been framed in such a way as to very largely deny to the men the privileges which it was intended they should enjoy. Regulation 13 provides -
A candidate will not be eligible for appointment on probation unless he is between the ages of nineteen and twenty-three. Candidates who have served during the campaigns of South Africa or China will be eligible up to the age of twentyfive years. Candidates over the age of twentythree’ years who have previously been permanently employed in military service, or in military engineering, will be considered on their merits, in accordance with the length of their previous military service, and the experience they have gained.
– Is the honorable and learned member reading from the existing regulations ?
– Yes. The Minister of Defence was good enough to furnish me with a copy of the proposed new regulations, from which it appears that none of the regulations to which I propose to refer have been altered in any material sense. Therefore 1 cannot be met with the statement that the objections now urged have been overcome. The second regulation to which I objectreads -
A successful candidate will be appointed for six months on probation, and must, during the period of probation, pass a qualifying examination in military subjects. The appointment of any candidate who fails to pass will not be confirmed. Under very special circumstances the term of probation may be extended, on the recommendation of the General Officer Commanding, for a period not exceeding three months.
I wish now to refer honorable members to the instructions which appear upon page 247, and which show the sort of examination that those who serve in the ranks of the Permanent Forces, are expected to pass. A man who joins at the minimum age of twenty years is required to serve for three years before he can take advantage of this provision. Further, it is only open to men up to twenty-three years of ‘ age. After having served three years they are required to pass an examination in arithmetic, Euclid, algebra, Latin, French or German, the examination being limited to translations from the language, grammatical questions and easy compositions, writing English correctly and in a good legible hand from* dictation, the elements of geometrical drawing, and geography. In addition to the foregoing it is set out that candidates will be required to qualify, and; if there are more candidates than vacancies to compete in the following subjects: - Plane trigonometry, mensuration of simple surfaces and solids, elementary hydrostatics and mechanics, and the use of logarithms. I have here a copy of the examination paper which was set for candidates during the period that the late Minister of De-‘ fence held office.
– The honorable and learned member does not suppose that the Minister has anything to do with the setting of the examination papers?
– I presume that he is not altogether irresponsible for the work of his officers. At any rate, I thought that the Minister would have known the nature of this examination paper, because of a communication which I forwarded to him in reference to a man named Watts. Under the circumstances I naturally supposed that he would have made himself acquainted with the details of the paper. Although I might have been able, upon leaving school, to answer the questions set in the examination paper to which I refer, I certainly could not do so now, and no man who has been three years soldiering could reasonably be expected to work out the arithmetic paper, for example. There was a time when I could have got through the examination papers so far as French is concerned. In that connexion I may be pardoned for mentioning that when I matriculated at the Melbourne University I obtained honours in French.
– That is not saying very much.
– At any rate, it shows the standard that is being set. I never knew much about geometrical drawing, which is one of the subjects in which candidates are examined. The task set them in algebra was, in my opinion, pretty stiff, and the same remark is applicable to the Latin paper. I cannot say whether or not the papers relating to hydrostatics, statics, and mensuration were difficult. Certainly the examination to which I refer is quite equal to a very stiff matriculation pass.
– But the honorable and learned member is an officer himself, and he must have passed this sort of examination.
– No, I am a militia officer. I am very glad that the Prime Minister has made that interjection, because any candidate for the instructional and administrative staff has merely to pass an easy examination in these subjects. Latin, French, mensuration, trigonometry, and algebra all disappear in the examination for a commission upon the instructional or administrative staff, which we regard as a more important branch of the service.
– lt is only the artillerymen who require this training.
– -Yes. The artillerymen are subjected to this ‘ stiff examination, despite the fact that they do not meet the enemy at close quarters, but engage him at a distance possibly of ten miles. These are the men who should not require to be possessed of a knowledge of languages at all. Under certain circumstances, I can understand that modern languages are useful, and frequently an acquaintance with Latin may be of sendee, inasmuch as it constitutes the base of Spanish, Italian, and other modern tongues. If a knowledge of all these subjects is required by anybody it is by the instructional and administrative staff, and not by the Garrison Artillery, whose members constitute our second line of sea defence. But m spite of the severity of this examination, there was one man who was ready to tackle it. He was one of a number of young men of good birth who are without means, and who join the ranks of the permanent forces. This individual was Corporal Watts. When he volunteered for service in South Africa he was deemed good enough to be appointed an officer. Concerning him Colonel Kelly, under whom he served for over twelve months there, said. “ He is a good soldier, and I recommend him for a commission.”
– Did he not receive one?
– He was not even allowed to submit himself for examination, despite the fact that he was given a commission in South Africa in the corps of the Fourth Contingent, which was commanded by Colonel Kelly. Corporal, then Lieutenant Watts, was a mounted infantry officer, who was engaged in the fighting line, and who came back to Australia with clasps and medals in recognition of his services. Before he first joined the Permanent Artillery he served two years and eight months in the Militia Garrison Artillery He was absent in South Africa for two years and one month, and upon his return he endeavoured to secure his commission in the artillery, at Queenscliff.
– When was that?
– I am not able to give the date, but it was within the past three years. He returned from South Africa in 1.903, and the following year he rejoined the Queenscliff Artillery as a gunner. There he secured the highest number of marks scored by members of his school of ‘gunnery. He was one of those who was sent to South Head, Sydney, for special instruction in gunnery, and there his percentage was 82.
– He failed in his examination as a non-commissioned officer.
– I will refer to that later. Finally he applied to be allowed to submit himself for- examination for a commission. A number of the artillerymen say that they do not like to submit themselves to examination in such subjects as French and trigonometry. Corporal Watts, however, declared that he was ready to face it. He was perfectly willing to compete against men who had not had a particle of military experience, but who had successfully matriculated, or who had come from offices or high schools or colleges. There were sixteen civilian applications and one military application. The first official reason for refusing him permission to compete at the examination was that he had unsuccessfully attempted to pass, an examination as a noncommissioned officer for a position upon the instructional staff, although he obtained 90 per cent, of marks in all subjects except two, which were not artillery subjects at all. I refer to tactics and map drawing; which have nothing whatever to do with artillery.
– Does the honorable and learned member say that tactics and map drawing have nothing to do with artillerymen? These men, it must be recollected, are instructors to the field artillery.
– That is an argument which I intend to meet, because neither map reading nor tactics is laid down as a qualification which officers must possess. Corporal Watts endeavoured to obtain . an instructorship in the Light Horse, and failed to do so. Is that the only reason which the Minister can offer as to why this man was not allowed to compete at the examination ? It seems to me that such a statement will not hold water for a moment. I can point to one officer in the Royal Australian Artillery who failed in his examination the first time, and to another who had to submit himself for examination three times. I will read the letter which was forwarded to me by the honorable and learned member for Corinella during the period that he filled the office of Minister of Defence,, in regard to the case of Corporal Watts. It is as follows : -
Melbourne, 29th June, 1905.
I have now had an opportunity of again looking into the papers relating to the application of Bombardier Watts, R.A.A., to be examined for a commission in that corps.
You are mistaken in supposing that his having served in the ranks has been the ground on which he was not approved as a candidate for examination.
There were, in all, seventeen applicants for permission to compete for the vacancies now existing in the R.A.A.
Each applicant was reported upon by a special Board, and by the Commandant of the State in which he was residing.
The” whole of the applications were then considered by the Military Board, who concurred in the prior recommendation in every case except one, where they sanctioned an applicant’s competing at the examination.
Only seven in all were authorized, and those who were not authorized comprised both members of the Forces and those without military training.
Bombardier Watts unsuccessfully attempted to qualify for the Instructional Staff of noncommissioned officers, and for that, as well as for other reasons of the same character as were- applied in the case of other applicants, his competing was not approved.
Bombardier Watts does not come within the conditions of preference laid down by section n of the Defence Act.
This man, who served many more than three years in the ranks, and nine months as an officer, and twelve months as a regimental sergeant-major, does not, it is contended, come within the terms of preference. But there are other reasons given for the treatment which has been meted out to him. Each applicant was reported upon by a special board and bv the Commandant of the State in which he- was residing. I wish to show what was the nature of that report. On the 8th March last, Colonel Ricardo, the Commandant of his own State, recommended this gentleman - I use the word “ gentleman “ advisedly, for I know Watts well - for favorable consideration. The official papers set forth that Colonel Ricardo reported, on the date named, that his application for a commission in the Royal Australian Artillery is “ recommended for favorable consideration.” Watts, who was selected as one of the best men that Queenscliff could turn out, attended the school of gunnery, and, subsequently, his application was sent on to Brigadier-General Gordon- who had an Australian defence scheme “ up his sleeve “ - and .Colonel Stanley. It is not my desire to read all the papers on the file. It is sufficient for me to say that Watts was recommended by his commanding officer, his State Commandant, and, indeed, by every officer over him. His application was eventually submitted to a special board, consisting of Brigadier-General Gordon, Colonel Stanley, and another officer, who was not present, and Watts was requested to attend before that body. One of the questions put to him was as to his means.
– That does not appear in the official papers.
– It does not; but I know what questions were put to the man. He was asked what his father did, what his mother was before she married, to whom were his sisters married, what position in life did his brothers-in-law occupy, and what occupation was followed by his brothers. These and other questions were put to the man, and, finally, the board reported, amongst other things, that he was not captain of his school, and that he was “ over-confident.”
– Is that a fault in a soldier?
– A factor in the success of many men in the South African war was their readiness as soldiers to accept responsibility. The official papers show that the board reported that they had not a favorable opinion of his force of character. When this report was sent back to the Military Board, Colonel Hoad, a member of that body, who has risen from the ranks, said that he thought it advisable to refer the papers once more to Colonel Ricardo, and that officer - notwithstanding that on the 8th March, 1905, he had recommended Watts’ application for favorable consideration - reported on the 16th May, 1905, “ I cannot recommend him.” The man then wrote to me. I have to mention this, in order to explain how I came into possession of the facts, and I am sure that the House will be prepared to defend him for having committed a gross breach of the regulations in writing to me. It was his only hope. It was a question of the whole of his future to him. .As the result of representations made for him. I wrote to the Minister of Defence, and received a reply which illustrates what may be done under regulations that are supposed to give men in the ranks an opportunity to rise. If any man in the ranks has shown ability, that man is Watts. He has been at the top of every class and school of gunnery, that’ he has attended, and can show a splendid “arm.”
He has badges for flag signalling, first-class gunnery, and other services, and yet he has been denied the opportunity to submit himself for examination for a commission. His brother-in-law may have been working in a laundry, for all I know, as I did not inquire - his sisters are married to I do not know whom - but at any rate his family connexions, good as I know them to be, apparently did not suit Brigadier-General Gordon and Colonel Stanley, who was himself a gunner in the R.A.A. They desired a more aristocratic regime in the Defence Forces, and consequently this man was denied the right to submit himself for examination. It was thought, possibly, that if he passed the necessary examination he might contaminate other officers. Apparently considerations of socal position are taken into account in connexion with applications on the part of men wishing to be examined for commissions. This is an abomination and an outrage, and it ought to be inquired into. Ultimately, Watts paraded before Brigadier-General Gordon, who was unaware that I had seen the official papers, and was told by him that he had been rejected because he had not attended an advanced school. That was the explanation which Brigadier-General Gordon offered, although it was quite different from that furnished in his official report.
– What did BrigadierGeneral Gordon mean by that ?
– I suppose the trouble was that the man had attended a State instead of a Grammar School. My desire is that the regulations should be amended, and I have simply referred to this case as an illustration of what is permitted under them. I hold that the regulations must be defective unless they declare that every man who desires to submit himself for examination on acquiring a certain military proficiency shall be allowed to do so.
– And no matter whose shirts his. mother may wash.
– I would not like the. House to think that his mother is a laundress - as a matter of fact, I am told that she comes of a very respectable family - but I do say that a man should be allowed to submit himself for examination no matter what position in life his parents may occupy.
– There was no age disqualification ?
– Then would not the man come under the regulation relating to -
Warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and men who have served for three years in the Defence Force, provided (hat they are between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five at the date of holding the educational examination.
– That is a new regulation.
– The point is that he has not been allowed to go up for examination.
– The regulations have been completely altered and special boards are now abolished.
– I have read the new regulation.
– At all events it has not been assigned as a reason for the refusal that the man does not come under this regulation.
– Quite so; but I wish to know whether he would not be allowed, under the regulation I have quoted, to go up for examination at the present time. ,
– He ought to be allowed to do so.
– Under another regulation a man who has served in a campaign may also go up for examination. It seems that Watts would be eligible under two of the new regulations.
– That seems to be so, but the point is that he has not been permitted to go up for examination.
– The special board stopped him ? ‘
– It did.
– But special boards are now abolished. Does not that afford the man relief? ‘
– It certainly helps his position, but I am not satisfied with the regulations as amended. In the case under notice we have a man who has served three years, and that fact should be taken into consideration. Why should I, simply because I have just passed the matriculation examination, be allowed a preference over a man who has not matriculated, but has spent three years in making himself proficient in practical military work ? Practical work does not count, although it reduces one’s ability to pass in purely literary subjects. One of my objections to the new scheme is that under it a candidate has first to pass a qualifying literary examination. If, say, three men passed that examination, they would be sent to Queenscliff or South Head for six months, and during that time would be crammed, perhaps, by the very men whom they had defeated at the literary examination, and through their agency would acquire the information necessary to enable them to pass the artillery examination. I certainly do not think that we should have illiterate officers, but I hold that professional military qualifications should be considered at the first examination equally with the literary qualification.
– That seems to be reasonable.
– No provision is made for it. My second objection relates to the qualification as to age.
– But campaign service is a qualification.
– It must be recognisedthat campaign service does not assist a man to pass in literary subjects. A soldier does not usually take a book on trigonometry with him when he is starting on a campaign. I repeat that professional qualifications should be considered equal to. literary qualifications. With regard to the regulations in respect to the age limit, I would point out that if a man enters the permanent service at the age of twenty, a service of three years leaves him a very small margin of time before his arrival at the age of twenty-five years.
– He still has two years-.
– Yes; but some allowance must be made for youthfulness. A man at that age often does not pay regard to the future needs of his vocation. But why should a soldier, who for three years has been doing additional artillery service, and acquiring additional qualifications, be blocked from further promotion by an age qualification ? Section 1 1 of the Act says “ Any man who has served three years in the ranks.” Therefore, I doubt the legality of this regulation. Another matter to which I wish to draw attention is the regulations affecting a soldier’s right to appeal. At the present time, a man who is aggrieved, parades his commanding officer, as it is called; but he has no right to send on his complaint, in writing, in his own language, to the District Commandant. I do not wish to refer to the case of, the man Sheehan, but the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who dealt with that case, knows that the papers, did not disclose the complaint which the man afterwards said he had made.’ He said that he had complained of certain things, but an altogether different case was put before the District Commandant. The men are given the right of appeal, but they must put their cases verbally before their commanding officers, and he sends along whatever form of appeal he likes to frame.
– If that is done, it is due to a misinterpretation of the existing regulations. Every soldier has the right to have his complaints forwarded.
– - But my point is that if he is a permanent soldier, he cannot have his complaints forwarded in writing. He says. “I want to see the company commanding, officer.” He parades that officer, and makes his” complaint. It can then go to the commanding officer of the battery, if he says, “ I am dissatisfied with your decision, sir “ ; but he is not allowed to put in a written appeal.
– Does he not see the State Commandant himself?
– In some instances he is !sent to the out forts when the time for seeing the State Commandant comes.
– The honorable and learned member is now making, not a complaint about the regulations, but a charge of maladministration against officers, which is quite another matter.
– I am complaining of the regulations, which will not allow the men to appeal in writing. I will tell the House of a case in point. The facts relate to a man who is not now in the artillery. If it were otherwise, I should not have been able to get them. A bombardier named Webb, an ex-chemist, was, one day, about six months ago, looking at the notice-board in the barracks. Colonel Le Mesurier and Major Hawker passed, when Webb was reading the notices, and the proper thing for him to do, according to the regulations, was to come to attention as smartly as he could, and salute. As he did not salute, Colonel Le Mesurier called the attention of Major Hawker to the fact.
– Although Webb had his back to them ?
– Yes. Major Hawker went up and tapped Webb smartly on the back with a stick. Webb turned round and saluted. “ Why aic! you mot salute before?” he was asked.- “I did not see you, sir; I was reading the notices,” he replied. “You did see us. Report yourself to the sergeant-major, and he will brine; you up to me at the office in the morning.” He was brought up to the office next morn- ing, and again told his commanding officer that he had not seen him. He is a man who had a clean record, and enjoyed the privilege of living out of the barracks. When the incident occurred, his wife was within about five days of being confined. But, notwithstanding this, and the excuse he had given, he was punished by being compelled to live within the barracks ; he had his bombardier’s stripe removed; and he lost a job which meant extra pay. He desired, first of all, to appeal to the State Commandant, but was told that, if he did so, he would be sent to the out forts, and would not see his wife at all, and it was of so much importance to him that he should see his wife that he withdrew his appeal.
– Surely this is an ex parte statement which the honorable and learned member is now making, and has nothing to do with the regulations.
– It shows the need for a regulation to meet the case. It is an ex forte statement ; but, before venturing to bring it before the House, I made inquiries from several men on whom I can rely, and, if a Select Committee be appointed, it will be found that the facts are absolutely as I am stating them. Webb also asked to be allowed to appeal to the Minister, and was told bv Major Hawker that if he did so he would be sent to the out forts, and, again, because he .had a sick wife, he withdrew his appeal. Having obtained information about this case from others, I wrote to Webb for his account of the matter, and he sent me the following letter: -
August 27, 1905
The following is a true statement of my case : -
On the 14th of April I was made a prisoner for inattention to orders, my crime being neglecting to salute Colonel Le Mesurier. On the following day (although it was not denied by the evidence on either side that my offence was purely accidental) I was for this crime reverted by Major Hawker to the rank of gunner. In addition to this punishment, I was deprived of the privilege of wearing plain clothes, and allowed no late leave for a month. The privilege of living out of barracks, which had been granted me by the R.D.O. the previous week; was also taken from me as part of my punishment, and I was compelled to break up my home and send my wife home to her mother, and come into barracks for an indefinite period. I was also returned to duty, having been employed as assistant linesman for about eight months, and under promise from Colonel Wallace that as soon as the Estimates were passed I would be appointed permanent linesman, with special duty pay ,at 2s. per diem.
I also wish to add that on parading Major Hawker and stating my intention to appeal to the Commandant against his decision in my case, I was warned by him that he “ could make things very rough for me,” and that, in the event of my persisting in making an appeal, he “could transfer me to another company, and send me to South Channel.”
I asked to be paraded before the Commandant that I might state my complaint, but was not allowed to see him ; instead, Major Hawker forwarded my appeal, written by himself - presumably to suit himself - and of course I received no satisfaction. I asked to be paraded before the Minister of Defence, but Major Hawker and Captain Christian, with a little bluff, persuaded me to withdraw the case, pointing out that I was only driving my head at a brick wall, and that I was getting myself into serious trouble, and that I was killing the proverbial goose, &c, giving me the impression that if I withdrew the case I would get my privileges back. I paraded several times for them for three months, but was met with a refusal each time, so I applied for my discharge, and it was granted. The above is rather a rambling report, but I think you will be able to follow it. Regretting to have taken up so much of your time, I remain, yours truly,
– I do not think the Minister knew anything about the matter. Webb took his discharge, because he could not bear to be kept away from his wife, and his child was born in his absence from home.
– This is a grave charge against the officers.
– Yes, and if it be proved, they should be punished. But it has nothing to do with the regulations.
– There are certain men in Queenscliff on whom I can rely for getting accurate information, and having inquired of them, I have no hesitation in saying that the statements I have made are absolutely correct. The man could not get his appeal sent forward ; he could not make it in writing.
– Under the regulations men have the right to appeal in writing.
– If the honorable and learned member will tell me under which of the regulations that right is given, I will read it to the House ; but there is no such regulation.
– Regulations part V., paragraph 2. It is not stated that the appeal may be made in writing, but if the honorable and learned member reads the paragraph he will see that obviously it may be made in writing. The soldier may make any representation he chooses.
– The regulation in question is as follows : -
If any soldier thinks himself wronged in any matter by any officer, other than his captain, or by any soldier, he may complain thereof to his captain, and if he thinks himself wronged by his captain, either in respect of his complaint not being redressed, or in respect of any other matter, he may complain thereof to his Commanding Officer, and if he thinks himself wronged by his Commanding Officer, either in respect of his complaint not being redressed, or in respect of any other matter, he may complain thereof to the District Commandant where the soldier is serving; and every officer to whom a complaint is made, in pursuance of this section, shall cause such complaint to be inquired into, and shall, if, on inquiry, he is satisfied of the justice of the complaint so made, take such steps as may be necessary for giving full redress to the complainant in respect of the matter complained of. Such soldier shall have the power, if he so desire, to make representation to the General Officer Commanding, through his Commanding Officer, and, if necessary, through his Commanding Officer and the General Officer Commanding to the Minister.
– To make representations - his own representations.
– It must mean that.
– That is what I take it to mean.
– I say that the men are not allowed to put in written representa- tions. I do not wish to refer to Sheehan’s case, because it is a dead case. That man gave me a statement of the complaints he made to his commanding officer, and I put it before the House. He wished to have it forwarded on, but the commanding officer did not forward it.
– That was not the fault of the regulations.
– It was the fault of the regulations. I wish it to be distinctly provided that a man may put his complaints in writing, and have them forwarded on, and that if they are not forwarded on. the officer neglecting or refusing to forward them shall be deemed guilty of an offence.
– It would be a verv serious offence for an officer to refuse to send on a complaint.
– Honorable members, with the exception of the honorable member for Maranoa, do not know what permanent discipline is. I brought a man to give the honorable member for Melbourne Ports some information about the canteen at Queenscliff; but he had the greatest dread lest I should tell the honorable member his name, because he feared that it might afterwards be inadvertently used. Consequently, all the honorable member knows is that a certain man, who represented himself as coming from Queenscliff, or some other place, saw him, and gave him information about the canteen. He does not know the man’s name, and I requested him not to ask his name. Although the soldier in question holds a humble position in the ranks, there are several ways of punishing him, just as there are more ways of killing a cat than by hanging it. A man can be blocked time after time, and if he persists in airing his grievances he is regarded as an agitator, and at the end of his five years’ term of service is dismissed as a man who is no longer fit to occupy a place in the ranks. The regulation relating to drunkenness provides that there shall be no punishment for the first offence, but Major Hawker ordered a man, whom I will only call L. M., to be imprisoned for five days in the cells, and ‘to be confined to barracks for ten days, and deprived him of his good conduct badge and the pay attached to it. There is another matter to which I desire to refer. About two years ago the rations issued to the mert were decreased by lb. of bread and lb. of meat. The Tasmanian and Victorian soldiers have complained that, although lbs. of bread may be sufficient for men serving in Queensland, it does not meet the wants of men with more vigorous appetites in the southern States. Even in Queensland the Government insist upon the kanakas receiving 2 lbs. of bread per day.
– In the Imperial service only 1 lb. of bread per diem is allowed.
– But then the men are allowed jam and other things.
– Only when they are on active service.
– Lf an Australian soldier requires jam or milk, he has to buy it. and he is also called upon to pay out of his own pocket for hats and other articles of dress which he is compelled to use on parade. I desire to call attention to the regulations which prevent men from marrying without leave. These regulations should specially appeal to the Prime Minister, who is interested in the question of increasing our population. Regulations 45 and 46 read as follow : -
A Commanding Officer is not to sanction the marriage ot a soldier in anticipation of a vacancy. Any soldier who marries without the consent of the Commanding Officer, Dr was married before enlistment, will be thereby debarred from being placed at any subsequent time on the married establishment without the permission of the District Commandant, which is not to be given unless the conditions given in paragraph 44 are fulfilled, and unless there is an actual vacancy and no qualified applicants for leave to marry e’xist.
No soldiers are to be allowed permanent passes to sleep out of their quarters, except those (1) who have married with leave, and who, together with their wives, are of good character; and (2) widowers with children, if approved by the Commanding Officer. Such men must be regular in their duties, orderly in their lodgings or quarters, exact in their dress, and never leave their lodgings or quarters after tattoo, except on duty with leave. Any man not obeying these orders is to be brought into barracks.
I object to these regulations, because they treat the men as if they were infants.
– There must be some restriction, for the sake of discipline.
– I shall show the difference which exists between the conditions in the Imperial and the Australian military services. At one time a regulation in connexion with the Victorian police force provided that members of the force should not marry without leave, but several men married without leave, and that put an end to the regulation. That could not, however, happen in the military service. The regulations I have quoted are copied from the Imperial regulations. There may be some point in enforcing such regulations in the Imperial barracks, where qu’arters are provided for married men, and, moreover, it is necessary, for the sake of discipline, and also in the interests of morality, that the women who are introduced into barracks should be of good character. In Australia no quarters are provided for married couples, and if a man marries he has to provide for his family outside. On one occasion I had to apply to Colonel Umphelby to permit a man who had married privately to live out of barracks, and to draw his 9d. per day ration money, so that he might contribute that amount/ toward the expenses of his home. I have known cases in which marriages would have been very desirable for the sake of the women affected. In three instances gunners would have been willing to marry girls whom they had wronged, but they objected to going before their commanding officers to obtain their consent, and they urged that as an excuse for not marrying. This regulation not only involves a sin against society, but also interferes with the rights and liberties of the men as citizens. Colonel Wallace and Colonel Umphelby and other commanding officers, were not too exacting, but administered the regulations tactfully, and thus inferentially admitted that they were bad. I wish to mention the experience through which a decent girl at Queenscliff was required to pass by the commanding officer at Queenscliff, Major Hawker. Major Hawker introduced a regulation under which it was required that any girl who desired to marry a member of the force should come before him - should be practically paraded before him. A certain gunner who wanted to marry a young lady belonging to a very respectable family, did not like the regulations, and put off his marriage for two months, but eventually the young lady was brought up before .Major Hawker, who looked her over as if she were a horse. He did not say anything but what was proper. He asked her whether she was aware that the man whom she wanted to marry was in receipt of only 3s. 6d. per day, and she replied in the affirmative. He said it was all right, so long as she was aware of the fact, because a lot of the men gave it forth that they were sergeant-majors, or something of that kind, and in receipt of from 6s. to 9s. per day. I do not suppose that any further marriages in which’ members of the Military Forces are concerned will be celebrated until the very foolish regulations to which I have referred are abolished. I think that the whole system should be done away with. Modern military conditions require independence of thought on the part of the men. The success of an army does not depend upon the officers or noncommissioned officers, but upon the ability and resourcefulness of the individual soldier, who is frequently called upon to fight independently of direct control by his officers. There have absolutely been cases in which men have been confined to barracks for shaving without permission. None of the men at Queenscliff are allowed to shave off their moustaches. If they do, they are confined to barracks for from ten to thirty days.
– That is not according to the- regulations.
– It seems to me that ye should have a regulation to provide against any such punishment being inflicted. I am told that on two occasions mutinies have occurred: among the men under the command of Major Hawker. In one case, at Sydney, ten men refused to do duty under him.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that it is fair to the officer concerned to’ repeat all this gossip? I know nothing about the case. What the honorable and learned member says may, or may not, be true, but it is very unfair to repeat gossip of that kind. The honorable and learned member should make a formal charge, and ask for an inquiry. Even his motion does not relate to an inquiry into the conduct of Major Hawker.
– The honorable and learned member asks me whether it is fair to repeat gossip, and at the same time admits that my statements may be true. I do not think it fair to repeat gossip, but what I am stating is not gossip. I am relating facts which can be substantiated. I should like the proposed Committee to be appointed, so that the fullest inquiry may be made.
Mr.McCay. - The Committee could not inquire into allegations such as the honorable and learned member has made with regard tomutiny.
– Yes, it could. In order to show the honorable and, learned member that I am not retailing mere gossip. I would refer him to the official records, which show that in June, 1904, there was a mutiny among the men at Middle Head, Sydney, when nine men refused duty. A man named Dwyer was imprisoned in the cells for fourteen days, and; the other eight men were removed from the company under the command of Major Hawker, and distributed among other companies.
– The honorable member said Major Hawker had a mutiny - implying that he was the cause of it.
– I venture to say that it is very unfair for the honorable and learned member for Corinella, speaking with the authority of an ex-Minister of Defence, to characterize any statement as gossip unless he can put his finger on it and absolutely prove that it is gossip. If he attempted to do that I should then be able to submit names and dates in support of my assertion, and these would take it out of the region of gossip, and place it in the category of substantiated charges. All these circumstances induce me to believe that the defence regulations require a very great deal of consideration. A number of them affect these men most vitally. I hope that the honorable member for Went worth will assist me in this matter, because there are some members of the Garrison Artillery in his constituency. At the same time, I have not been prompted to take action by the fact that some of these men are my constituents. I feel that if these circumstances had been brought under the notice of any other honorable member he would have been equally ready to do justice to the persons aggrieved. When I think that it is possible for such injustices to continue under our defence regulations I feel sore at heart. I have many other matters to speak about, but I dp not wish to detain the House too long. I claim that the facts which I have brought under the notice of the House merit serious consideration. The Government have been good enough to delay finally dealing with the revised defence regulations until this motion was submitted, in order that they might avoid taking two bites at a cherry. I thank them for their consideration in that respect, and trust that the motion will be carried.
– I am indebted to the courtesy of the Prime Minister for the opportunity to say a few word’s now, as unfortunately I shall be compelled to leave the House shortly, and thus would not otherwise be able to speak at all. I wish to say that if the allegations made by the honorable and learned member for Corio against one officer - and the bulk of his speech was devoted to that matter - are well founded, or even if there is a case for inquiry as regards that officer, I should have no objection to passing this motion. But he has not asked for that at all. The honorable and learned member has asked for a Select Committee to consider defence regulations, and in doing so he has made a number of charges, which constitute a very serious indictment against one of the officers of our Permanent Forces. I regret that he has made those charges in this informal way, and apparently without having ascertained that officer’s version of the matters referred to.
– What about the commissions ?
– I am speaking of what constituted the bulk of the honorable and learned member’s speech. I wish to say a few words in reference to the case of Corporal Watts, to which he alluded. That case was dealt with under the regulations as they existed. Those regulations were of an entirely unsatisfactory character, and they are now being altered in their essence. If I had remained in office they would have been altered undermy control, just as they are being altered under the control of Senator Playford. I did not like the system under which military boards discharged their functions and asked all sorts of unnecessary questions.
– Did they ask the questions to which the honorable and learned member for Corio referred?
– I do not know.
– I have confirmation of his .statement in another case.
– The honorable member for Bland will .recollect that in the case to which he refers I did everything that I could to obtain the fullest information for him, and to get at the root of the matter. It was that and other matters which made me dissatisfied with these special military boards as they were then constituted, and with the confidential instructions issued to them - instructions, which were acted upon before I came into office. Indeed, I went so far that, pending the revision of the regulations, I largely modified those instructions. If questions of the character referred to were asked, they were certainly not asked under the instructions as I modified them. They were not the kind of questions which the instructions contemplated. ; Under the regulations as they stand, an appointment is not possible without the approval of the District Commandant. I did not agree with that provision, and the new regulations do away with it. The Military Board alone, that is, the central authority of which the Minister is a a member, can determine whether or not a candidate may compete at an examination binder the new regulations. In my opinion, there must be some final power of saying,
We shall not allow X or Y to compete.” There are cases in which the mere fact that an officer- is willing to compete should not entitle him to do so. There must be some final power of saying whether a candidate may or may not compete at an examination. But when once we have said that he may compete he must take his chance equally with all the others. The case of Corporal Watts went to the Military Board, and then came before me in my capacity as “Minister. After the fullest consideration, all the officers concerned declared that they could hot recommend him-
– Colonel Ricardo recommended him.
– Colonel Ricardo recommended him at first, but afterwards withdrew his recommendation. I attach more importance to the opinion of a senior officer than to that of a junior officer .
– The honorable and learned gentleman stated just now that all the. officers concerned were against Corporal Watts.
– If I did so, I spoke in too large terms. What I intended to convey was that all the officers whose recommendations carry weight according to the regulations - all the senior officers - were against him. Under the old regulations I did not feel justified in overruling all their views in regard to a gentleman of whom, personally, I knew nothing, ‘and did not propose to know anything, except that he had lodged a complaint.
– Were there reasons that excluded him from undergoing the examina tion other than soldierlike reasons?
– Social reasons had absolutely nothing to do with the matter Time after time during my term of office, where I suspected that such reasons were operative, I appended to the documents this minute, “‘Have social reasons had anything to do with this matter “ ? There were other appointments besides that which Corporal Watts wanted in which I suspected that social reasons might operate. I repeat that, under these circumstances, I did not feel justified in overriding the views expressed by the senior officers. The first regulation of which the honorable and learned member for Corio complains has reference to the age limit. He told the House that that limit was not altered in any material respect in the new regulations. But I would point out that in’ the former regulations the age limit for joining the Permanent Artillery is twenty years, whereas under the new regulations it has been reduce3 to eighteen years. Surely that is a material alteration. The age at which a man could become an officer of the Royal Australian Artillery, or of the Instructional Staff, was previously in all cases twenty-five years. Under the new regulations’, it has been altered to twentyfive years, as against twenty-three years for civilians. All the matters of which the honorable and1 learned member complains are being met in the new draft regulations. He also referred to the examination for the Royal. Artillery and Engineers. I say, without hesitation, that we must have men of good educational attainments in those branches of the service. His derision of the prescribed examination is not justified. The officers in the Royal Australian Artil- lery and in the Engineers are not merely garrison officers, but instructors of our Field Forces, and those forces require the best instructors whose services we can command.
– Why do we not require the same class of officers upon the administrative and1 instructional staffs?
– Because the examination in these special subjects is intended to be confined to the special expert arms of the service, namely, the Engineers and the Artillery.
– What about French and Latin ?
– A man must have literary qualifications, too, otherwise he could not perform his work properly.
– Why is a knowledge of French required of a garrison artilleryman, when it is not insisted upon in the case of an instructional and administrative officer?
– The garrison artilleryman is also an instructor to the Artillery generally. However, these subjects do not appear in the regulations, but in general orders. The honorable and learned member further objected to the six months’ probation which an officer is required to serve, and to the qualifying military examination. I claim that the soldier possessed of practical experience has all the “ pull “ in regard to the qualifying examination.
– I do not object to that.
– Then the honorable and learned member referred to the regulation relating to complaints. That regulation undoubtedly means that the man who has a complaint is at liberty to put his complaint before his senior officer, and, finally, before the Minister. If the officers do not forward such complaints to the Minister they are not obeying, but breaking, the regulation. It seems to me that the honorable and learned member’s complaints - assuming that every word of them be true - are not complaints against the regulations, except in regard to particulars in which they are now being amended. They are complaints against the abuse, and not the use, of power. If a charge was duly made against any officer of having abused his power, I should not object to the fullest investigation. The honorable and learned member asks for the appointment of a Select Committee to amend regulations which are already being amended in the particulars to which he has referred.
– The amended regulationsdo not meet the case which I put in regard to complaints and appeals.
– Yes, they do. I say that the regulation relating to complaints meansthat any man is entitled to have his own complaint put before the Minister.
– It has not been so readhitherto.
– Does the honorable and learned member wish a Select Committee to be appointed in order ‘ that the words “ in writing “ may be inserted in the regulations? Certainly,. I never supposed that any but the aggrieved individual’s owncomplaint was to come before the Minister. Every complaint which reached me was the man’s own complaint, and not his commanding officer’s version of it.
– Through a member of Parliament ?
– No; through the official channel. It is not good from the point of view of discipline that complaints should reach the Minister except through the proper channel.
– I quite agree with the honorable and learned member.
– As a matter of fact, the honorable and learned member’s practice does not agree with his precepts.
– It is only where a man cannot get his complaint before the Minister, through the proper channel, that I take action.
– When a man is unable to have his complaint , brought before the Minister, through the proper channel, he is justified in seeking other assistance, because the regulations have been broken to his disadvantage, and no other remedy is open to him. I have never known of a case in which a man who” wished to have his complaint sent on to the Minister met with a refusal. As to the case of the man Webb, I must say that the honorable and learned member for Corio has mentioned1 a large number of facts that are new to me. I had the whole of Webb’s complaints before me, as Minister - I cannot say at whose instance they were brought under my notice - but there was nothing in the papers lo show that he was labouring under a sense of injustice. So far as I can recollect, he submitted a written complaint, which did not show that he was labouring under a sense of wrong.
– It seems strange that he should have given up his position.
– Quite so; but I would urge the House not to unnecessarily interfere with that which is so essential in the Forces - sound discipline. The proper persons to frame regulations are the Minister and the expert officers who advise him.
– The Select Committee -would not interfere with- the Minister.
– I can assure the honorable member that such inquiries are not good for the morale and discipline of the Forces. The feeling that there is constant political interference, as contrasted with Parliamentary control, is doing, and has -done, great harm in the Forces. In view of the amendments that are being made, the charges of the honorable and learned member for Corio are levelled not against the regulations, but against abuses of the regulations, and they are matters for investigation by a proper court. If an officer has done all the wrongs that are said to have been perpetrated’, he ought to be court-martialled ; the whole question should be decided by the proper tribunal.
– The honorable and learned member will admit that Parliament has some responsibility in these matters.
– Finally, when there is no other remedy for a wrong, Parliament should step in. I do hope, however, that the honorable and learned member for Corio will recognise, on consideration, that his charges relate really to abuses of, and’ not to any defect in, the regulations, except in so far as concerns particulars in which they are being amended. As to the regulations against marriage without leave, I would remind the House that they relate to a question of policy. Personally, I think that they ought to exist, but a Select Committee is not necessary to enable us to form an opinion on a question of policy of that kind. I rose only to deal briefly with the matter, in so far as it might affect the late Administration, and I submit that the honorable and learned member for Corio has not justified his demand for a Select Committee.
– I have listened attentively to the speech delivered by the honorable and learned member for Corio, and have come to the conclusion that most -of the allegations he has made are fit subjects for departmental inquiry. In my opinion-, the honorable and learned member would have been better advised had he submitted his case to the Minister of De fence before bringing it under the notice of this House. If he had failed to obtain redress in that way, it would then have been open to him to move a vote of censure on the Administration. It is proposed that I should be a member of the Select Committee, but I desire to have my name omitted from the list, as I intend to oppose the motion. There is of late an alarming tendency to grant Select Committees to inquire into every conceivable subject, and in this way Parliament is not only escaping much of its responsibility, but is permitting Ministers to do the same. The honorable member for Bland will remember a time not far back in the history of the State Parliament of New South Wales when it was most difficult to secure the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the administration of a Department. The appointment of a Select Committee for such a purpose! was regarded as the most severe vote of censure that could be passed against a Ministry. The honorable and learned member for Corio has made a statement to the House, upon, which statement alone we are asked to put the country to the expense of a lengthy inquiry by a Select Committee.
– It all comes from having a Government that can live only by granting concessions.
– The Reid-Cook Government in the State Parliament lived by concessions.
– The Reid-McLean Administration also appointed one or two Commissions. I have moved for a return showing the cost incurred so far in connexion with these inquiries, and am satisfied that when it is published it will come as a staggerer to the people. I complain not so much of the expenditure which the appointment of Select Committees necessarily involves, as of the fact that in this way Ministers are enabled to escape the official responsibilities of their office. If we are ‘to have a roving inquiry in this case, where will the matter end?’ You, Mr. Speaker, have already ruled out of order to-day a motion, submitted by the AttorneyGeneral, which showed a desire on the part of the Government to absolutely escape from Ministerial responsibility. The honorable and learned member for Corio admits that the bulk of his charges can be met only by an inquiry into the whole military service, and I agree that that is so. The honorable member for Bland interjected that he knew of similar cases to those quoted by the honorable and learned member for. Corio, and I believe that many of us can say the same. It is because I know that there is a military caste in Australia, and because I feel satisfied that much of the money voted for defence purposes is spent in a way that gives no adequate return, that I am always strongly opposed to voting large sums of ( money towards military expenditure.
– The honorable member is now making a new charge.
– I am simply pointing out that there should be really a military inquiry. We have appointed a MilitaryBoard, to .which this complaint might well be referred. I can imagine the concern of honorable members when they find that, although we are prepared to devote large sums to the defence of Australia, a considerable proportion of the money voted for that purpose is expended in a way that will give the country no adequate return. Unfortunately, many military men appear to believe that the State exists for them, and not that they exist to serve the State, and a man in the ranks seeking redress of a grievance finds so many difficulties in the way that he often abandons the attempt in disgust. The honorable and learned member for Corio referred to the official objection that Watts had not had a sufficiently high scholastic .training. We know that . as a matter of fact many of the non> - commissioned officers have higher literary and scholastic attainments than have commissioned officers, and it seems to me that all that is necessary in that direction is that a man should have a thorough acquaintance with mathematics. Corporal Watts served his country in South Africa, and yet, because he could not pass a certain scholastic examination, he was refused promotion.
– He has been driven out of the .service.
– I was not aware of that; but his experience may be that of any other man in the ranks. We all know that it is easier to pass an examination in our school days than it is a few years later, and that a man cannot apply himself so closely to study as can the boy who has just left school. My idea of many of those possessing high academic degrees is summed up in the words of Carlyle, who spoke of them as being little men with big crutches. We often find that a man who has had a brilliant University career is a failure in the practical walks of life.
Many of the men who went to South Africa, and who possessed high academic degrees,, were often found absolutely wanting as practical soldiers. I have very little faith in scholastic examinations in respect of military service. Without desiring to reflect on any honorable member, I would point out that there are among our number somewho can claim to have been gold medalists, and yet, so far from their being’ effective or useful members of thisHouse, they are lost in the ruck. I know from personal experience that a good deal of what was said by the honorable and learned member for Corio was true, andi that for many years there were in our permanent service officers who were nothing, more nor less than derelicts. I was personally acquainted with a number of them,, and know that they were simply pensionerson the State. Their vitality was exhausted, and their mental powers impaired, so that in time of need they would have been almost useless. It is because of that knowledge that I have on several occasionsopposed the granting of large sums for the upkeep of our Military Forces. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Corinella that discipline must not be impaired.
– But- it must apply to both officers and men.
– Yes. While the ranker is compelled to act according to the canons of good taste, a similar obligation must «rest on the officer. In Australia the ranker cannot any longer be despised. I know, not from personal acquaintance, but from a knowledge of his history, that oneof our most expert State commandants was originally a ranker in the artillery service, and obtained his present position only after years of struggle. There has been nokeener or better mathematician in our military forces; but, time and again, social influence was brought to bear against him inNew South Wales, because certain colonels,, when in the service, were opposed to his advancement, for the reason that his wife did not belong to the same social grade as their wives belonged to.
– That is a more serious charge than the charge made by the honorable and learned member for Corio.
– Not a more serious, but an equally serious charge. While I agreewith ‘a good deal that was said by the honorable and learned member, I do not think, that he gave sufficient reasons for the appointment of a Select Committee. The regulations into which he wishes it to inquire can be taken exception to by any honorable member in this House. If he puts these cases before the Military Board, or the Minister, and no notice is taken of them, he will then have the right to appeal to this House to compel the Government to do justice, but the appointment of Select Committees is absolutely becoming a scandal. I do not object to Select Committees only because of the expenditure which they cause, or the small fees which are paid to their members.
– No fees are paid to members.
– It is of no use to beat round the bush. I know that members of Select Committees and Royal Commissions are not paid so much a day for their services, but when they are travelling they receive very liberal travelling allowances. I should not, however, oppose the motion if I thought that the appointment of a Select Committee was justified in this instance. In addition to the cash expended by members of Select Committees and’ Royal Commissions, there is the expense incidental to the collection of information. I defy any honorable member to instance a case in which during nearly five years, the report of a Select Committee or Royal Commission has been acted on. Their recommendations are merely so much waste paper. I regard the tendency to appoint Select Committees as likely to weaken responsible Government. A Minister has only to get into an awkward corner, and an obliging member of Parliament will move for a Select Committee to get him out of his difficulty. We pay Ministers high salaries to perform certain work, and surround them with highly-paid officials to give expert advice. Why, then, should it be necessary for Select Committees to deal with matters of administration? When I have received the information for which I have asked, I intend to obtain an expression of opinion from the House on the subject of the appointment of Select Committees and Royal Commissions, and I shall address myself to the question without fear or favour of any honorable member. It is the duty of the Minister of Defence to deal with the cases which have been referred to by the honorable and learned member for Corio. At the same time, I agree with the honorable and’ learned member that if any branch of the service requires purging it is the military branch, and I shall always hesitate about voting large sums for military expenditure, not because I think that money is not required for the defence of Australia, but because I know of the rotten system which exists.
– I must oppose the motion, because it seems to me that the honorable and learned member for Corio can obtain redress without a Select Committee. As he is a lawyer, I regret that he should have put forward mere hearsay as evidence, and I was still more surprised to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Darwin. If there is one honorable member in the House who knows what baseless charges may be brought against a man it is the honorable member for Darwin.
– I beat them at the Police Court.
– I regret, too, that the honorable and learned member for Corio mentioned the names of officers who will have no opportunity to reply to his charges.
– I wish to give them an opportunity.
– The honorable and learned member’s remarks will go forth to the public, but these officers, as servants of the Commonwealth, will be unable to put their side of the case. There is a way in which any private or officer may obtain a remedy for any grievance ; he’ has only to act in accordance with the regulations provided in this case. As the honorable and learned member has not shown that the regulations are deficient, it will be my duty to vote against the motion. I shall be perfectly willing to assist the honorable and learned member, or any other honorable member, to obtain the repeal of regulations which prevent men from appealing, if such, regulations exist*; but their existence has not been proved. No one will ever accuse me of being too ready to back up the military. My speeches show that I do not lean in that direction. The honorable and learned member has made out no case for the appointment of a Select Committee. It appears to me that the most that can be charged against any one is an error of judgment.
– In any case, the honorable and learned member proposes to inquire, not into the actions of the officers of whom he has complained, but into the effect of the regulations, which’ is quite another matter.
– Yes. Although he made certain charges, he gave no reasons for appointing the Select Committee for which he asks, because he said nothing which tends to show that the regulations are insufficient or too arbitrary.
– I trust that the motion will be carried. If the statements made in the quiet, sensible, and unprejudiced speech of the honorable and learned member for Corio are true - and they look to me to be true - they should be investigated. Some of these aristocratic officers would have no hesitation about separating a cripple from his crutches.
– Then why not ask the Minister to investigate the charges?
– This Parliament is the palladium of the liberties of the Commonwealth - the institution to which every man should be able to appeal for justice; and if Ministers, inspired by their officers, fail to accord fair treatment to the members of the Defence Force, we should step in and see that all wrongs are righted. Unfortunately, men in subordinate positions are not in a position to adequately protect themselves against unjust acts on the part of their officers, and I am afraid that unless some action is taken in the direction proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corio, Corporal Watts will suffer. The military caste is gaining ground all over the world. Only a few years ago Admiral Sampson who did not fight the battle of Santiago, but left Admiral Sly to do the hard work whilst he was on dry land, endeavoured to introduce such rules and regulations as would have prevented any man, excepting the son of rich parents, from becoming a naval officer. The same thing is happening here. Only a few years ago a Minister in one of the States had the conditions for the admission of officers into the Defence Forces altered in order to permit of the appointment of a relative of some influential person who was not able to pass the ordinary examination. When General Phil. Sheridan was in command of the United States Army in the Valley of the Shenandoah, one of his aristocratic officers complained that a private had not saluted him. and when the soldier explained that he had not recognised the officer in his private dress, the General made the officer walk up and down in front of the army for three hours a day in order that every soldier should learn to recognise him. The old aristocratic military classes of Europeare spent forces, and are no longer good for fighting purposes. It is the Corporal’ Wattses upon whom we have to depend, for our defence. Every general in theUnited States Army who has ever won a battle is opposed to frill, and some of thebest soldiers who have fought on the battlefields of that country were unable to passthe military examinations. Jackson and Lee, and others, failed at the military college, but they were able to fight. We want fighters in this country. I am opposed tothe whole military system, which, I think, should be entirely wiped out of existence. But if Ave have to put up with it, we should’ encourage soldiers rather than balletdancers. Why was the French Army annihilated by the Germans? Because the former were commanded by dancingmasters. We do not read anything about theexaminations which the Japanese soldiers were required to pass, and yet they wereable to lick the greatest of nations upon the battle-fields of Manchuria. In this country we are endeavouring to imitate the failures of Europe. We should wipe out the whole of the military system and devote the money now spent upon defences to settling people on the land. Among the Indian tribes in Mexico the most humble of redskins can interview the great Sagamore,, and can talk to him quite freely ; but I understand that the Australian soldier, who has the right to vote, cannot go before an officer who wears a peacock’s feather in his nose. According to the honorable and” learned member for Corio, a private soldier is not admitted into the presence of one of these gilded-spurred roosters. Weare required to vote .£700, 000 or £800,000 per annum in order to support a military sham. I shall support the motion, because I think that the Military Department is, of all others, a fit subject for close investigation. I want to have some of these dancing-masters examined. If Corporal Watts had money - and it makes me sick to hear it stated that money does not count in Australia - it would not make any difference if his mother was a laundry woman, or his sister was married to a Chinaman. So long as he had ^5.000- a year, and could give a ball two oi three times a year, and shout champagne for his superior officers he would be all right. That is the kind of thing to which I strongly object. The time has come for a full investigation, which I hope will result in a decision to entirely abolish our military system. So long as we are a part of the British Empire no nation can attack Australia without also attacking Great Britain. As a nation, we are at peace, and are engaged in commerce with all the nations of the earth, and it is about time that we came to the conclusion that our defence forces are an incubus. I hope that the Committee will be appointed^ and that the result of their inquiry will be the beginning of the end of the whole of our military pomp and parade.
– Honorable members were in the first place asked to appoint a Select Committee to report upon the military regulations, with a view to their being amended in such respects as might be considered desirable. The honorable and learned member for Corio, however, did not deal so much with the defects of the regulations as with the administration of certain officers. He did’ not devote his attention to showing that the regulations were not drawn in such a way as to insure discipline, and, what is equally important, content and good feeling among the members of the forces. Then the honorable member for Darwin has characteristically objected to the maintenance of a lot of gilt-spurred roosters, and has at the same time rolled off his tongue in a way that other honorable members have found it impossible to imitate a. number of highsounding titles, such as that of the Grand Sagamore of the Mexican Indians, and of various gentlemen of the Courts of America, of which the honorable member was at one time an ornament. He told us that the question we had to consider was whether or not we should encourage frill in the Department. Honorable members will therefore see that the debate has been carried far beyond its original scope.
– The regulations deal with frill as well as with other matters.
– So far as that .matteris concerned, I am in entire accord with what I know to be the views of the honorable member. The first question we have to consider is whether such reasons have been advanced as would justify us in appointing a Select Committee to make an inquiry into the regulations. The honorable and learned. member for Corio did not advance any such reasons.
– The Government are amending the regulations. »
– Yes, we have just had them revised.
– I was about to mention that phase of the question. The Government are amending the regulations, and therefore the honorable and learned member for Corio had only to wait until thev were brought before the House in order to move in the direction of their amendment if he so desired:.
– That has been attempted in the Senate in regard to other regulations, and it has proved an impossible procedure, because unless a motion bearing upon them be debated and’ adopted within thirty days, the regulations are in force.
– I fail to see that it would be possible for a Government to deliberately postpone consideration of these regulations until such time as a motion relating to them would lapse.
– The motion which I submitted this afternoon has been upon the notice-paper for more than thirty days.
– But the honorable and? learned member would be at liberty to move the adjournment of the House at any time for the purpose of directing attention tithe action of the Government in refusing to provide an opportunity to debate regulations laid upon the table for indorsement. Inasmuch as the honorabale and learned member has not officially asked the Government to amend the regulations in a concise way-
– I forwarded these suggestions to the Minister of Defence sonic four years ago.
– May I ask the honorable and learned member whether he desires any special regulations to be amended?
– I have written officially to the Minister in regard to two of them, but there are about twenty which require amendment.
– I ask the House to consider the number of regulations that have been framed under the ‘Defence Act of 1903. There are regulations governing almost every conceivable subject. For instance, there are regulations governing the conduct of a military college, the enrolment of all persons liable to service, the rates of pay for all branches of the Forces, leave of absence and furlough to members, the convening, composition, and procedure of courtsmartial 3 the assurance of the lives of married men, the formation and management of rifle clubs, the control of rifle associa- tions, &c. If the motion under consideration contemplates dealing with only twenty regulations, those regulations should be definitely set out. It seems to me that the honorable and learned member for Corio is asking for powers which we ought not to grant.
– An inquiry by a Select Committee would occupy only about three days.
– The honorable and learned member has had considerable experience of Select Committees. Does he mean to tell me that a body comprised of the gentlemen whose names are specified in this motion, would be content to scamp an inquiry of so far-reaching a character 3 We all know the way in which Select Committees ‘examine their witnesses. The unfortunate victim is placed at the head of the table. The chairman conducts the examination-in-chief, and the members of the committee then cross-examine the witness, in rotation. The majority of those members are not lawyers, and are, therefore, not gifted in the art of crossexamination. Then the honorable and learned member for Corio should have shown whether this Committee would be qualified to deal with these intricate and technical questions. I do not think that he should have allowed so important a point to escape his attention. I question whether the gentlemen whose names are mentioned in the motion are qualified to act as an expert body upon all phases of the Defence regulations, a few of which I have detailed.
– Nobody suggests that they should undertake that task.
– Most of them are military men.
– Honorable members, who have seen active service, are not necessarily qualified to deal with all sorts of defence subjects, apart from the particular branch with which they have been associated.
– They are better qualified than are those who have not seen service.
– I agree with the honorable member. But why appoint a Committee at all, when we merely require to lay down general rules for the guidance of those who frame these regulations? I am quite at one with those who urge that there should be no such thing as caste in our Military Department. The only recommendation for promotion in the service should be efficiency. The moment the Minister has his attention directed to the fact that thisHouse does not consider that candidates should be examined in certain subjects, hewill doubtless notify the responsible officers to that effect, and they will give effect to our wishes.
– Under the new regulations, the Minister has no more power than has any other member of the Council of Defence.
– I think that the honorable member for Maranoa will ‘admit that effect must be given to the desires of the Government. We all know that’ one of the principles laid down by the members of theSocialistic Party is that the administration, of the various Government Departments should be free from all political influence, and that, therefore, they should be placed! in the hands of Commissioners. The honorable member for Bland has frequently stated that every new Department which is created should be administered in the sameway as are our railways. What the honorable and learned member for Corio proposesis that we should exercise over the Military Commission a control other than the legitimate control which this House exercises over all Departments. The legitimate control which we should exercise over all Departments is through the Government. When honorable members are of opinion that an Administration is not fulfilling its proper functions of watching the administration of Departments, it is their duty to displace it. Certainly it is not their dutv to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the matter. I have already said that the only guide to promotion in the Defence Department should be efficiency. When the Government, of which the honorable member for Bland was the head, was in power, t drew attention to a number of hardships towhich non-commissioned officers were subjected. I pointed to a few instances similar to those which were alluded to by the honorable and learned member for Corio, inwhich officers who had received the King’s commission upon the field in South Africa had been denied promotion here on their return to the Commonwealth. That is much to be regretted. It is a loss not only to the officers themselves, but to the Commonwealth, that we cannot retain in these responsible positions those who have so signally served their country in, the field.
– That is what the honorable and learned member for Corio has contended.
– I am absolutely with the honorable and learned member so far as that point is concerned.
– I brought the matter up three years ago, and. should like to see a new regulation dealing with it.
– There should be such a regulation. We should ask the Government to see that those who have served their country so well shall receive at the hands of the Commonwealth the recognition to which they are entitled. I have shown what I consider to be the course which this House should adopt. I brought this question forward, and asked the Ministry of which the honorable and learned member for Bland was the leader to consider it, with a view to rectifying the anomaly.
– But the honorable member voted against that Government.
– That was on general principles, which were manifestly just.
– Would it not be fair to appoint the Committee for which I ask, and to refer the question to it?
– I certainly do not think so. We should not in that way facilitate action in the matter. Numberless Select Committees have been appointed, and reappointed session after session, by both branches of the Legislature, and they are doing a voluminous work; but there seems to be no finality to their investigations.
– There will be in this case.
– I understand that it is vouched that this Select Committee, if it be appointed, will furnish its report in a very short time.
– - It will take a month to report.
– Is the honorable member sure that the members of the Committee would not have to work overtime?
– The honorable member is trying to talk the motion out.
– I do not wish to delay the House dealing with the matter. My desire is that we shall proceed to a vote, if the Government will consent, and that we shall deal with the proposal for a Select Committee in the way that all such propositions should be dealt with when no sufficient ‘reason! is forthcomingfor the appointment. The honorable and learned member for Corio did me the honour of asking me to join the proposed Committee, and I regretted at the time that I was notin a position to do so. The reason I refuse to serve on it is that I think that, in the first place, the less political influence - and I use the term “ political influence “ as opposed to “ proper parliamentary control “ - we exercise on a great Department that depends so largely for its efficiency on discipline, the better for the service of this country.
– Then we might as well let the military officers run the show.
– I do not propose that they should do so. I should like to see the House lay down principles which should guide the Department in its general control.
– We have done so in the Defence Act.
– If those general principles have been ignored, it is the duty of the House to call on the Administration or the day to see that they are henceforth properly carried out. If the Government of the day will not take action, it is our duty to get a Government that will.
– Could not such a Committee as is proposed indicate to the Government what ought to be done?
– What would be the use of appointing a Committee to do that? If the House could not successfully indicate its wishes to the Government, how could a mere Committee do so? If the Government did not wish to take action, if it were so absolutely stiff-necked that it refused to act in accordance with the wish of the House, would it notignore a report by a Select Committee? While I am of opinion that soldiers should be treated as soldiers, and kept as far removed as possible from political influence of the sort that is behind this motion, no one recognises more than I do the duty-
– Surely regulations are a matter of policy, and, as such, are a proper subject for political interference.
– The honorable and learned member for Corio has given us no evidence of faulty regulations ; he has simply shown that the regulations are faultily administered. Unless the House is prepared to admit that it has outlived its usefulness - that it cannot do its own work, but must delegate it to Select Committees - we ought to refuse to pass the motion. I shall not vote against it from any desire that a system of class distinction should continue to exist - if it does exist, as alleged - in the military services of the Commonwealth ; I shall vote against it solely because I believe that if the Select Committee were appointed, and allowed to deal with all the technical phases of the Defence regulations, it would not be in the interest either of the Department or of those officers and men who are so well carrying out the duties which this House has intrusted to them.
– The debate has conclusively proven to my mind that even if a Select Committee be not appointed, some inquiry should be made into the charges that have been levelled against the Defence Department by the honorable and learned member for Corio. I desire to thank him from the bottom of my heart for the way in which he has exposed the tactics of certain military officers, and stood up in defence of the rank and file of the Commonwealth Army. Having served in the ranks, I know how important it is that discipline should be maintained, and, like the hon- orable member for Wentworth, I fear that a Parliamentary inquiry might be subversive of true discipline. Once we set aside discipline, we might as well let the whole system go by the board. If members of the Commonwealth Forces can induce honorable members to air their individual views in this House, all semblance of discipline will quickly disappear. Whatever we may do, our desire should always be to see discipline maintained, not only among the men, but among the officers of our forces. The honorable and learned member for Corio has certainly disclosed a scandalous state of affairs. I felt highly indignant when I heard that an officer and a gentleman had so far forgotten himself as to put to a candidate for promotion such questions as those to which reference was made by the honorable and learned, member for Corio.
– If he put such questions, was he a gentleman ?
– No; ‘no one but a cad would have made such inquiries. So far as “military service is concerned, it is immaterial what a man’s position in life may have been. We have only to turn to the life of Napoleon, and to remember where he obtained his brainiest men.
– Napoleon’s marshals.
– All his marshals were men of lowly birth. I know of many men who proved themselves soldiers in the’ fullest sense of the word, and yet were of lowly birth. I have known men to be promoted from the rank of gunners in the artillery, and of troopers in the mounted forces, because of their gallant deeds in the field. I remember hearing Colley say of privates who had distinguished themselves in the fields of South Africa, “ These men are soldiers, and must be at once promoted.” When men are promoted on the field in this way, surely promotion should not be refused a man in the Commonwealth Forces for no other reason than that he is of lowly birth. I would remind honorable members that when the present Treasurer was introducing the Defence Bill, he said, emphatically - and I believe he meant every word that he uttered - that, so far as he was concerned, every private in the ranks should have an opportunity to qualify for the post of General Officer Commanding if he had the requisite ability. He declared that if a ranker showed merit, promotion would not be denied him. But since the passing of the regulations framed under the Defence Act, a military caste had been created by our officers, and men who are not of social rank or of noble birth are strictly tabooed. The sooner we rid the Commonwealth of such a system the better. The honorable member for Laanecoorie some time ago brought under notice the case of two men - the one being a man of means with influential friends, and the other having neither influence nor money - who had applied for promotion in the forces, and. he showed that, the mam, without social influence was- denied promotion.
– But he obtained it.
– Senator Dawson, when Minister of Defence, saw that justice was done him.
– I know that the honorable member for Laanecoorie was put to much trouble in seeing that justice was done to this man. He interviewed the Minister, and also the General Officer Commanding, but they constantly put him off. I am very pleased to hear from the honorable and learned member that the man did get on. The honorable ‘member for Wentworth’ said that the regulations open up a field in which technical knowledge is required; but if honorable members are not competent to deal with’ them, it is: a strange thing that the Act requires that they be laid on the table .of this House, so that we may. suggest improvements or alterations; or make any objections in regard to them. If the regulations are too harsh, this is the proper place in which to complain about them. I am very pleased that the special board has been done away with. A man used to be brought before that board, and before being allowed to compete for the rank of an officer, practically courtmartialled, or, as they say in the service, paraded and carpeted. Fancy being asked who one’s father and mother were, who one’s sisters are, to whom they are married, and what are their social positions ! I would smack a man in the jaw very quickly if he asked me such questions. It does not matter whether my mother is a laundry woman or anything else, she is still my mother; and 1 would not allow any one to insult me by asking questions about her. If I had ‘been in Watts’ position, I would have moved heaven and earth to obtain my just rights. If what the honorable and learned member for Corio has stated is true, the officers to blame deserve, not censure only, but cashiering. In the Imperial Service, the Duke of Cambridge used to ride along the ranks at parade at Woolwich, or any of the other garrison towns, once a year, and any man who had a complaint to make could, if every other remedy failed, step out and state his grievance to the Field Marshal. Apparently, however, the Commanding Officer could not be approached by Corporal Watts. But if in the Imperial Service a private may approach the Field Marshal, surely our officers should not consider themselves so great as to be unapproachable. There is another aspect of the case. We find Colonel Ricardo saying that a man is a fit subject for promotion, but three or four months afterwards, when this special inquiry board has sent word that his mother is not of the right stamp, or that his sisters are not married correctly, or has raised some objection of that kind, Colonel Hoad turns round-
– What Colonel Hoad did was to refer the matter to the officer who had made the recommendation.
– He asked the recommending officer. “ Do you still recommend him in the face of this evidence?” If the Prime Minister were to recommend a man, would he not first make inquiry about him? Colonel Ricardo recommended this man as competent to present himself for examination. So far as examinations are concerned, the man has shown himself worthy of every honour and credit. The honorable and learned member for Corio has said that he has a continuous record of successes from the ‘ day he joined the service until the present day. He is a top-notcher in everything that he has undertaken - gunnery, flag-signalling, and everything else His sleeve is covered with badges of distinction. He has served in the field in South Africa, and has been promoted there, being made a lieutenant.
He did not require Latin or Greek when in South Africa, neither did those in authority there wish to know what his father and mother were. Yet, when he comes back home> instead of getting honor and glory, he is told that he is not wanted, because his social rank is not sufficient. Is that the way to treat our soldiers ? Is that the way in which any of us would like to bc treated? If the man is good enough as a fighting machine, he is good enough to be an officer. He may not be able to do the “ lah-de-dah “ in the drawing-room, or to parade round the ladies at a garden party ; but he must have been a man and a soldier to have gained distinction on the field. That is the point which I wish to make. I should like the Prime Minister to find out why Colonel Ricardo went back on his first recommendation. I know that officer well, and some honorable members may have heard how he distinguished himself in South Africa. He ought to be an authority as to what constitutes a soldier and a man, because he got roasted enough in the Queensland Courts on the subject. If ever a man suffered, he did, and he should be the last to try to put another into a hole like that in which he was at one time in Queensland, I thought that he had forgotten all about that sort of business, and would give every man a square deal. -I did not expect this of him. But I shall not condemn him until I know why he changed his mind in regard to this man. We do not desire that a military caste shall spring into existence in Australia.
– We have got one already.
– I am sorry to think that the seeds have been planted, but it is within the power of the Prime Minister to root them out, and the regulations framed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella will go a long way towards doing so. If those regulations were carried out in accordance with their spirit, there would be no trouble. I appeal to the Prime Minister to see that the charges which have been made by the honorable and learned member for Corio are either refuted or proved.
– I wish to say a word or two on this matter, because it seems to me that the main issue is being lost sight of to some extent by the discussion of the details of the several charges which have been made by the honorable and learned member for Corio. The members of the Opposition seem to think that it is not the function of this House to investigate actions which seriously imperil the efficiency of the Military Service. I cannot see that the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the truth of the definite statements which have been made will interfere with discipline, and we are far more likely to impair the efficiency of the service by refusing to let in the light upon these matters than by making an investigation. In a country like this, every one should know that Parliament represents all sections of the community, and that no military caste can be successfully set up. Delicacy should not prevent us from fully considering this matter. Are not the records of the Parliament of the mother country full of instances, known to the students of history, in which members have dealt with matters of military administration? Was it not objected, when members of the House of Commons tried to abolish the cruel system of flogging, which, at one time, prevailed in the Army, and the abuse to which it led, that by doing so, discipline was likely to be interfered with ? To say that we have no right to voice the wrongs of the humblest man in the service is to misunderstand our sacred obligations. The late Minister of Defence said that he had looked through the papers relating to the case of Corporal Watts, and was of opinion that he could do nothing but concur in the recommendations made. Yet he admitted immediately afterwards that those recommendations were made under regulations which were so bad as to require amendment, and that he, therefore, caused a new set of regulations to be framed, which would prevent the recurrence of similar abuses in the future His position was that he concurred in recommendations under which a man suffered injustice, because of the regulations then in force, but’ that if the new regulations, which were framed because of the treatment meted, out to this man, had been in existence, he would have been entitled to very different treatment. What will be the position, if a Select Committee is appointed? Is it to be supposed for a moment that it would do an injustice to either the men or the officers pf our Defence Forces ? Could it be suggested that the members of the1 Committee would not have as much regard for the good name of Australia as would any other members of this House? Honorable members who have opposed the motion have entirely begged the question. We have been told on previous occasions when abuses have been brought under our notice that any attempt at investigation would probably involve an interference with dis- cipline, or hamper those who have charge of the Forces, and it invariably happens that obstacles are placed in the way of inquiries such as that now proposed. Take the case of the administration of the Lands Department in New South Wales. Although it was well known that that Department was being administered in a manner inimical to the best interests of the people, those who agitated for an inquiry were told that the case which they had brought forward was not strong enough to justify their proposal. They were told that it was not right to proceed upon mere hearsay information. We now hear - the same old cry. Results are not only justifying the appointment of the Lands Commission in New South Wales, but they are showing that those who placed obstacles in the way of the appointment of the Commission at an earlier date were guilty of criminal neglect of their/ public duties. We are told that we should not appoint the proposed Select Committee because its inquiries might result in offence to the heads of the Military Department. The jealous regard which has been shown for the rights and privileges of the officers of the Defence Forces indicates to ‘me that existing conditions are in accord with the desire of some honorable members; they evidently fear that an investigation might result in radical changes. I shall support the motion, because I think that a very strong case has been made out by the honorable and learned member for Corio. No man should have been subjected to the indignity which Corporal Watts had to suffer. The honorable member for Maranoa very plainly indicated what would have been the result had such questions been put to him. That, however, was not the worst feature of the case. Corporal Watts was not able to make his way to the fountain head of justice. He was thwarted at every turn. His case was not allowed to be placed before the Minister, or to filter through him to Parliament. That seems to me to be the gravamen ‘ of his case. I would appeal to the Prime Minister to consent to the appointment of the proposed Committee, whose investigations need not occupy any great length of time.” We need not have such a rambling inquiry as was indicated by the honorable member for Wentworth. I do not desire to see any affront put upon the officers of the Defence Forces, but we should make it perfectly clear to them that they are directly under the eve of this Parliament - that they must treat their men fairly, and that if they do not their presence in the Forces will no longer be tolerated.
– When the Defence Act was passed, it was specially provided that Parliament should not lose its control over the Defence Forces, and I think that those honorable members who are urging that the appointment of the proposed Select Committee would involve an interference with discipline, and would have a prejudicial effect upon the Forces, must have lost sight of the fact that Parliament has specially reserved to itself the right to review everything that occurs in this Department. Honorable members must have been deeply pained when they listened to the honorable and learned member for Corio, and it must have been a matter of keen regret to the Prime Minister to hear such charges made against tha officers of the Defence Forces. We have been told that we have heard only one side of the case; but, judging from my own experience, I am afraid that only too much of what has been stated by the honorable and learned member is true. I fear that if an inquiry is made it will transpire that certain men have been subjected under the regulations to hardships which were never contemplated by honorable members when the Defence Act was passed. I recognise that we are treading on very delicate ground in taking action upon ex -parte statements. But I feel that the cases which have been brought under our notice are so strong that if we declined to order an inquiry of some sort, we should lav ourselves open to a charge of gross dereliction of duty. A grave responsibility rests upon us, and we should take care to completely purge the Defence Forces of all those elements which conduce to disgraceful proceedings such as those described. During the time that MajorGeneral Hutton was General Officer Commanding, the discipline of our Force reached its highest point. The most complete discipline was enforced, from the second in command right down to the latest recruit. Since the departure of Major-General Hutton, however, the discipline which was previously exerted in the case of the officers has been relaxed, and rigorous conditions have been applied only to tha lower ranks of the service. The late General Officer Commanding brought with him from the old country rather extreme ideas, but thev had the merit of equity in that thev were applied to all ranks. That cannot be said of present conditions-. Whether these matters can be dealt with under regulation or not is open to question. We have one body constituted under the Defence Act which might deal with such subjects most effectively, but unfortunately it is composed very largely of officers such as those who have been criticised this afternoon. I feel sure that the Prime Minister will take steps to insure a searching investigation, and that the inquiry will be conducted not by those immediately concerned, but by persons who will not be in any way affected by the result. The Prime Minister has been good enough to allow me to glance at the proposed new regulations, and I regret to say that, in one respect, a$ all events, they do not appear to me to provide for any improvement upon those now in force. I believe that, if some have their way, the morale of. the Army Medical Corps will be most seriously interfered with, and that Ave shall not be able to preserve what I advisedly call the high state of efficiency to which that branch of the Forces has attained. I would urge upon the Prime Minister the desirability of bringing this matter under the notice of the Minister of Defence. I shall be satisfied to abide by his decisions. An unusual position arises in regard to the Army Medical Corps. In the old country it was provided that professional members of the forces, such as members of the medical profession serving in the Army Medical Corps, should rank equally with combatant officers. -That rule has been adopted here, and at present the head of the Army Medical Corps is of higher rank than the Inspector-General of the Commonwealth Forces. We have been exceptionally fortunate in securing the services of General Williams, who proved in South Africa that he was a man of capa-‘ city, and with exceptional powers of organization. I need only remind honorable members of that magnificent contingent of the Army Medical Corps which was despatched from New South Wales to South Africa during the Boer War, and which, under General Williams, showed that it was capable of doing work that had never before been attempted by the Royal Army Medical Corps. General Williams! won his promotion in the field, and now has a world-wide reputation. He .is the senior military officer of the Commonwealth, and I do not think that under the proposed new regulations he will be supported as he should be. It is necessary to maintain the
Army Medical Corps in a high state of efficiency in times of peace. We have heard of what can be done in the way of organizing fighting forces upon the spur of the moment, but the organization of the Army Medical Service is a matter that cannot be undertaken at short notice, and our regulations must be so framed as to permit of that branch of the service being thoroughly trained. I feel sure that, irrespective of -whether or not a Select Committee ‘be appointed to inquire into the matter, much good will result from this debate. I recognise that in the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence we have men who will sift these complaints to the very bottom, and who will see that action follows their investigations. Whether the motion be carried or rejected, the honorable and learned member for Corio will, therefore, have cause for satisfaction.
– I am not in favour of the appointment of the Select Committee proposed, because I think that the creation of such a body would relieve Ministers of their proper responsibility. I claim that we should hold them responsible for seeing that justice is done to the men referred to by the honorable and learned member for Corio. I also think that the appointment of a Committee would scarcely accomplish ,the object which he has in view-. His object is to right certain wrongs which he alleges have been committed under the Defence regulations. There is absolutely nothing in this motion which would permit of an inquiry being made into specific cases. The right to inquire into the Defence regulations does not confer the right to inquire into specific cases of injury. I do not think that we should interfere in these matters beyond impressing upon Ministers the necessity of doing their duty. If any wrongs have been done it is the duty of the Government to right them. I was astounded when I heard the statement which was made by the honorable member for Maranoa this afternoon, and I admire him for his spirit. If the questions to which he referred had been addressed to me, I should probably have acted as he suggested, and have been courtmartialled for striking an officer. I hold that wealth confers upon us no rights other than those enjoyed by our fellows. A man who has neither rank nor money is, nevertheless, the equal of any other individual, so long as his character is good. I do not hold myself inferior to the GovernorGeneral, Lord Northcote. I claim that as ai man I am his equal.
– If the honorable memberbelieves that, why does he not vote for thismotion ?
– I say that the honorable and learned member will not achievehis object by the appointment of a Select Committee.
– I wish to deal with principles.
– The honorable and’ learned member, I presume, desires that the wrongs of certain individuals shall berighted. I am quite in sympathy with his. object. If the men to whom he has referred? have lost positions to which they were entitled by reason of their merit, simply because their mothers may have been washerwomen, I say that they have been badly treated. There are many women toiling at Ihe wash-tub who scarcely secure enough toeat, and who are superior to many who are rolling in wealth and ride in their carriages. The possession of wealth is no test of manhood or womanhood, and this House should* not tolerate any distinctions of that kind. I feel very strongly upon these matters. I do not wish to point to my genealogy. I care not what my father or any of my relations may have been. I do not wish the world to judge me by them. It does not matter how noble thev were if I am ignoble. Everyman should stand upon his own merits. It is an outrage that men who have sprung from lowly origin should be refused positions to which their merit entitles them. The great Napoleon told his soldiers that every one of them carried a field marshal’s baton in his knapsack. That is the spirit which should be fostered here. No manshould be questioned as to his antecedents. I am not in favour of spending large sums of money upon military organizations. If this Parliament and those of the States enacted proper legislation, they would cover the broad lands of this Continent, which are now held by a few monopolists, with tens of thousands of men and women, having happy homes and deriving their livelihood from the soil. If that condition of affairs obtained, we should not want tomaintain much of an army. We should have people who would defend their homes to the last gasp, with the result that no nation would be able to invade this country. _ The sooner we set about the task nf putting our house in order by placing men- and women on the soil, the sooner the pressure upon us for expenditure upon military matters will pass away. We allow men to grow wealthy by our foolishness, and not by reason of what they earn. Then they parade their wealth as an evidence of their -superiority. That is what we do in these democratic lands* I have no objection to the acquisition of wealth by any-‘ man. Every individual is entitled to what he earns, but he has no title to that which somebody else produces. If we gave every man what he earned, we should soon have a power in this land which would be able to resist all invasion and enable- us to dispense with the large expenditure which we now incur, upon defence matters. I am totally opposed to any military caste, but I am not in favour of dealing with it by- the method proposed- by the honorable and learned member for Corio.
– After the discussion which has taken place upon this motion, I think that an inquiry is absolutely necessary in the interests,, not only of- the men, but of the officers whose names have been mentioned. Certain charges have been made against some of the officers, and a Select Committee is the pro* per tribunal to investigate them. I do not see why! the Minister ,of Defence should be asked, to undertake that task. At the same, time; I think that the honorable and learned member for Corio should have first brought, this matter under the notice of. the Minister privately. Then,, if. he could not obtain redress, he- would have been justified in drawing the attention of the House to the question. This afternoon nobody has made a more serious- charge- than the honorable member for Dalley,, and it is only his objection- to the appointment of Select Committees and Royal Commissions, which induces him to oppose this motion. Personally, I am. of opinion, that we should let the world know that these military officers are responsible to this Parliament. In the interests of the Defence Department, I believe that the appointment, of a Select Committee will result in much good, and therefore I shall support the motion.
– I am in. entire sympathy with many of the remarks which have been made during the course of this debate. It seems to me that there is need for an inquiry into the charges which have been levelled against certain officers. I believe that that feeling pervades, the whole House. The humblest unit in our military service should be taught to feel that he can rely upon justice being meted out to him, and that if he possesses the necessary merit there is no reason why he should not receive promotion. It is undesirable, perhaps, that this matter should be taken out of the hands of the Minister of Defence. But seeing that the names of two officers have been specially mentioned, it seems to me that they will demand that there should be a proper in*vestigation of the charges preferred against them. Unless we can instil into the mind of every member of our Military Forces the knowledge that he has a fair chance of promotion - assuming that he posseses the necessary qualifications - we shall never create in Australia that citizen soldiery upon which our defences must ultimately rest. The disclosures which have been made today seem to me to deserve thorough consideration at the hands, not merely of the Ministry, but of. the Parliament itself. It is essential, above all things, that we should encourage ‘a sense of security, and the feeling that justice will, be meted out to the humblest man in the community.
– The honorable member for Cowper has largely expressed the opinions that I intended to put before the House in reference to the position of the officers- in question. It seems to me that, they, as. well as the men, have a right to be heard, and that even in their interests an. inquiry should be held. To my mind, an, investigation should be made by a Select Committee representing all parties: in the House. Unfortunately, if a proposal is brought forward1 by the Government, it is at once viewed from a party stand-point, and it seems to me that it would be better in the circumstances to have this question dealt with, by a thoroughly- representative Committee. The whole question of the state of our Military Forces requires to be carefully considered. Honorable, members will, readily recall an incident; which occurred last year, when a whole corps in one of the States, was disbanded, as the result of action taken by the Government of the day on the reports of responsible officers. An independent, impartial inquiry by a Committee free from all party considerations would be valuable, and would be of service, not only to the men, but to the officers themselves. I fully agree with those who have said that promotion should not be denied to a man in the ranks. At the same time, discipline must be observed, and if a Committee were appointed, ‘as proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corio, it would be able to place on the right shoulders the responsibility for what has occurred. I have no doubt that it will be found in the end that there are faults on both sides.
– I do not propose this afternoon to address myself to the merits of this question, because, in addition to the disability that attaches to me as temporarily representing my honorable colleague the Minister of Defence, the information supplied to me in anticipation of the motion being submitted related to matters upon only one or two of which the honorable and gallant member for Corio has touched. In view of the serious development that has taken place in the course of the debate, it is necessary that I, or some other member of the Government, shoul’d be fully equipped, in order to be able to fittingly discuss the several questions that have been broached by the honorable and gallant member. Some of them relate to administration, some to legislation and regulation, and others to matters of policy. The names of individual officers have been mentioned, and they, too, are entitled to a reply. I am quite certain that the strong sympathies of my honorable colleague the Minister of Defence will be with those who have contended in the House for absolute equality of treatment to all ranks of the service, and for a sense of reciprocal obligation among them extending from the highest to the lowest, I propose to call his attention to every matter that has been mentioned during the debate this afternoon. I have also obtained from the honorable and gallant member for Corio a statement of further points in connexion with the regulations, which he desires examined. It seems to me that it would be an advantage to have the new regulations dealt with in the ordinary way - they have to be laid on the table of the House - and placed in the hand’s of honorable members, in order that they may learn how far any of the objections urged have been already anticipated, and how far the regulations fall short of what is required. Then, when the House resumes the discussion of this question, I hope that the Government will be able to submit a proposal that will meet with the general assent of those who take an interest, as I trust we all do, in the proper development of our citizen forces, and the defences of Australia. I move -
That the debate be” now adjourned.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the pennypostage system should be extended to all partsof the Commonwealth.
I trust that the motion will commend itself to the House as one that will be received with much satisfaction throughout the ‘Commonwealth. I feel assured that the people will heartily indorse my proposition, and that I shall be able to show, before I resume my seat, that the establishment of a system of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth would not be attended by so great a deficiency in the postal revenue as is estimated by the DepartmentHonorable members are aware that during the last few years great changes have taken place in the Commonwealth postal system. It is only a few weeks since that the subsidy granted to the Orient Shipping Company for the carriage of our oversea mails was largely increased, and, concurrent with that increase, the postage on letters for the United Kingdom was reduced from 2½d. to 2d. I am unable to say what were the reasons leading to that reduction,, but assume that it was thought that - as was the case in connexion with the introduction of penny postage in Victoria - it would result in an increased revenue. Honorable members have also, doubtless, observed the cablegram published in the press a day or two ago, stating that a proposition had been made for universal penny postage, and I trust that the time is not far distant when such a system will be in operation. Meantime, we should at least endeavour to have penny postage throughout the Commonwealth’. The whole of the Postal Departments of the States, which in pre-Federation days were under the control of six different Ministers, are now directed by one Minister of the Crown, and’ the separate systems have given place to absolute uniformity. We have at the head1 of the Department men whose efficiency is undoubted, and who are called uponin the course of their administration to keep the expenditure as low aspossible, consistent with the maintenance of efficiency. It is estimated by theTreasurer that we shall have a surplus of over ^400.000 for the financial year 1905, and I hold that, instead of returning thewhole of that money - which has been taken out of the pockets of the citizens - to theseveral States, we should be perfectly justified in devoting at least a portion of it towards making good any deficiency that might arise from the introduction of a system of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth.
– And so cripple the States.
– If the money were returned to the States it would be used for educational or other general purposes, and I fail to see why the Commonwealth should not expend at least a part of it in providing increased postal facilities for the people. By popularizing the service, we should increase its usefulness, and probably secure a larger revenue. As an illustration of this, I would point out that at one time a fare of 2d. was charged on the tramway running from Circular Quay to Redfern railway station, Sydney. Deputations waited on the Commissioners times out of number, and asked that the fare should be reduced “to id., but the reply always forthcoming was that the departmental reports showed that a very serious loss would result from such a reduction. The agitation was maintained, however, and eventually the Commissioners consented to run a penny section. The result was that that section of the tramway service, instead of paying 3 per cent., as before, now yields a return of something like 10 per cent. By reducing the fares, and so popularizing the service, the Commissioners largely increased the revenue derived from it. I hope to be able to show that such would be the result of the extension of the penny postage system to the whole Commonwealth, and that we should therefore be perfectly justified in granting that great concession to the people. Since I gave notice of this motion the Treasurer has delivered his Budget statement, and I presume that honorable members have made themselves familiar with the figures which he then submitted to us. I gather from them that the revenue derived from the postal, telegraphic, and telephone services for the financial year ending June, 1902 - the first year for. which complete Commonwealth returns can be obtained - was ,£2,372,861, and that the estimated revenue for the year 1905-6 is £2,682,000, or an increase of £309,139. Turning to the question of expenditure we find that, excluding new works and buildings, the expenditure of this Department for the year ending June, 1902, amounted to £2,430,645, or a sum considerably in excess of the revenue for that period. The estimated expenditure of the Department for the year 1905-6 is £2,656,714, or” an increase of £226,069. This large increase will be largely the result of the adoption of the reclassification scheme. The receipts for the year ending June, 1905, were £64,730 in excess of the expenditure of the Department, while the expenditure on new works and buildings amounted to £131,425. If we allow 10 per cent, for interest and depreciation - a margin that should be wide enough to satisfy any PostmasterGeneral - we have a credit balance of £51,588 on the year’s transaction. If we take the estimated receipts and expenditure for the year 1905-6, during which the increased mail subsidy and larger salaries will have to be paid, and also make provision for new works and buildings, which are estimated to cost £217,731, we still have a credit of £3)513-
– The honorable member is not making any allowance for interest on the capital cost of the postal buildings.
– I am allowing 10 per cent, for depreciation, and interest in respect of the capital cost of new works and buildings.
– What about the interest on the capital cost of the whole of the> postal buildings and appliances?
– We have not yet taken them over, and I am therefore allowing only for interest on the capital cost of the new works and buildings erected by the Commonwealth. I have not allowed for the cost of previous years, nor for the properties which have not been taken over by the Commonwealth.
– They have been taken over, but the interest is not a charge against the Commonwealth yet.
– I wish to show that, by reducing our postage rates, we may expect to increase our revenue, and I must thank the Postmaster-General for having placed certain figures at my disposal in his replies to a series of questions which I asked. It is upon those figures that I base my arguments, and confidently ask the House to give favorable consideration to my motion. In framing my questions, I took a Jot of pains to insure that the real facts of the case should be made known ; and the replies which I received justify my present action. As honorable members know., Victoria, before Federation, charged 2d. for the carriage of letters throughout the State, though there may have been a 1d. rate in connexion with the deliveries in some of her towns.
– No; the 2d. rate was universal. There was no special rate for towns.
– That makes my argument all the stronger. Just prior to Federation, the Victorian rate was reduced from 2d. to 1d. I do not think that it can be argued that the State is much more thickly populated or much more prosperous now than it was five years ago. The questions which I asked the Postmaster-General, and his replies, were as follow : -
What amount was received in Victoria under the twopenny postage rates for the year prior to the introduction of the penny postage rate? - Estimated postal revenue from sale of stamps used for postage purposes only for the calendar year1900, £400,837.
Amount received last year under penny postage? - Proceeds of sale of postage stamps, &c, used for postage purposes for the calendar year 1904, £429,880.
Receipts and expenditure for both periods? - Total receipts, 1900,£590,207;total expenditure, 1900,£608,875. Total receipts, 1904,£668,283; total expenditure, 1904, £658,348.
So that while there was a loss of£18,668 on the 2d. rate, in 1904 there was a profit of £9,935 on the1d. rate; and, taking the Budget figures, there will be a profit for the current year, after making all allowances, of£17,964.
– What, was the loss on the1d. rate for the first three years during which it was in force?
– Not so much as it was under the 2d. rate. I am not asking honorable members to make a leap in. the dark; I am asking them to act on the proved facts. With a view to ascertaining to what extent the carriage of letters and papers had increased, I asked the following question, the answer to which will, I think, surprise honorable members, because of the magnitude of the figures: -
Increase in letters posted? - Estimated letters and cards posted in Victoria,1904, 94,733,350; 1900, 67,563,206; an increase of 27,170,144. The figures for 1900 include all O.H.M.S. correspondence which was then carried free, and also circulars, invoices, &c, enclosed in envelopes and bearing penny stamps.
These figures show that when a service is made cheap it becomes popular, and as facilities for communication increase the revenue of the Department increases. The receipts and expenditure of the States for last year was given as follows : -
With regard to the Queensland loss, it must be remembered that that State is very large, and her population widely scattered; but she is a coming State, and’ the number of people who are flocking there will soon convert this loss into a profit.
– Until we had Federation Tasmania had a surplus.
– She has twice had a surplus since Federation, and it must be remembered that at the present time she is paying for her buildings and public works out of revenue.
– No buildings have been put up there; they will not even give us a clock.
– As the hour is nearly 6.30, I should like to be allowed to resume my remarks on another day.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 18th August (vide page 1 1 90), on motion by Mr. Knox -
That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, consisting of the following members : - Sir W. J. Lyne, Mr. Lee, Mr. Brown, Mr. Glynn, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Salmon, Mr. Carpenter, Mr. McWilliams, and. the mover.
– I desire to thank honorable members for allowing me to continue my speech. Since I tabled my motion for the appointment of a Select Committee the representatives of the Chambers of Commerce of Australia have waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs, who met them very frankly and fairly, and told them that he proposed to make a number of amendments in the Bill, which, I must confess, modify very considerably some of the objections urged against it. I understand that the Minister is unfavorable to the proposal that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, and, therefore, I shall have to recapitulate many of the objections urged, in order to support my contention that it is desirable, in the interests of the commercial and trading community, that the measure should be subjected to the closest examination. The Minister indicated to the, deputation that he would limit the operation of the Bill to articles intended for human consumption, and to patent medicines.
– That is where he made a mistake.
– I think the Minister acted very wisely. The objections raised by the commercial community are in no sense attributable to a desire to defeat the objects sought to be achieved by the measure. On the contrary, the members of the commercial community distinctly recognise that a measure that would prevent adulteration and the misuse of trade descriptions would be very serviceable, but the Bill as it stands, in their view, seriously menaces the whole of the commercial interests of the Commonwealth. It is undesirable that a Bill’ of a highly technical character should be practically redrafted in Committee of the whole House. A number of details requiring the closest consideration will have to be dealt with, and I think that a Select Committee would be in a very much better position to come to just conclusions as to the most effective means of bringing about the desired results. I very much regret that the Minister has not circulated the amendments which he proposes to bring forward. I take it for granted that he will faithfully adhere to the promise he made to the deputation representing the Chambers of Commerce, and that he will submit- his amendments in due course. One of the main objections to the Bill is that the standardization of goods which appears to be contemplated can properly be carried out only by experts. Ministers have spoken with two voices upon this subject. The AttorneyGeneral has expressed the opinion that standardization is not contemplated, whereas the Minister in charge of the measure holds the view that there must be a distinct indication bv way of brand or description of the value or quality of the goods. Another objection to the measure is that it will place it within the power of the Customs authorities to refuse to admit goods into the Commonwealth unless certain trade secrets are divulged. This is a particularly dangerous provision, and surely those who are likely to be most seriously affected should have an opportunity to make the fullest representations to a Select Committee. I have here statements which have been prepared by the members of the Chambers of Commerce after mature deliberation. The members of these bodies are- deeply concerned in the proposed legislation, .have a special knowledge of the subject dealt with, and are actuated by no other desire than that the trade of the Commonwealth should be sustained at a high level.
– Could not their argu- ments be submitted for the consideration1 of this Committee?
– I am sure that the honorable and learned member will recogni.se- the difficulty of practically redrafting a Bill in a Committee of the whole House. Such a process is likely to result in a number of conflicting provisions, which will probably lead to serious trouble.
– If necessary, the Bill’ could be referred back to the draftsman-, for reconstruction.
– I still hold the opinion that a Select Committee could most effectively deal with a highly technical Bill of this character. I must confess that it is with a considerable amount of hesitation that I ask honorable members to add another to thealready large number of Select Committees and Commissions. I do not wish to in any way to relieve Ministers of their responsibilities ; but it is imperative that the measure should be considered line by line and? clause by clause, in order to insure full justice, and to precludethe possibility of inflicting injury wherewe desire only to confer advantage.. I now propose to read the opinions regarding the Bill which have been expressed by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. That body says- -
The Chamber would hail with* satisfaction awell considered measure safeguarding the public health and applied to food and drugs, but asthese are already provided for here, and possibly in other States, by legislation, we cannot see the necessity for any such Act as the present one. It is evident, from the list of goods stated’ by Sir William Lyne as being most likely to be affected by the Act, that the measure is not tobe regarded as one to safeguard health, but that it is one which affects all classes of the trading community. In their opinion the Commerce Bill travels too far, and in its possible restrictions might very injuriously be used, and seriously embarrass the operations of both importers and” exporters.
In the next place, if such an Act is considered necessary in the public interests, we think it should embrace all trade operations, and not deal with imports and exports only, leaving manufacturers and producers in Australia severely alone in their transactions between States of the Commonwealth.
In passing, I may inform the House that if this motion be defeated I shall feel justified in endeavouring in Committee to make the Bill applicable to local productions, as well as to exports and imports.
– We cannot deal with goods which are not exported beyond the borders of the States.
– I am sure that the honorable member will admit that we are quite entitled to deal with trade between the States. If the Government persist in pressing this Bill forward, I shall attempt to make its provisions applicable to InterState trade and commerce, as well as to foreign trade and commerce. Surely the sense of fairness entertained by honorable members will prevent them from making the measure apply exclusively to external trade. The protest of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce proceeds -
It is only when a manufacturer or producer becomes an exporter to countries beyond the Commonwealth that he comes within the provisions of the Bill, which is entitled “ An Act relating to commerce with other countries.”
Seeing that the measure, if passed into an Act, is to be “ incorporated and read as one with the Customs Act1901,” it appears possible to have been designed as a “ drag-net “ to give extended powers to the Customs never anticipated or authorized by Parliament when the Customs Act 1901 was passed.
The main effects of the measure, if passed into an Act, will primarily be to harass importers, and, secondly, producers and manufacturers when they wish to become exporters.
I regret very much that I am compelled to trespass upon the patience of honorable members, but I feel that this subject is so important that I am justified in placing these protests upon the permanent records of the House. The report continues -
Clause 7, sub-section 1. - The GovernorGeneral may, by proclamation, prohibit the importation or introduction into Australia of any goods specified in the proclamation unless there is applied to them “ a trade description of such character relating to such matters, and applied in such manner as is prescribed by the proclamation or by regulations.”
In addition to the very wide powers sought to be conferred on the Governor-General by proclamation, there is the insidious and dangerous (judging by past experience) power by regulation.
If we turn to the definition of a trade description we find - “ Trade description,” in relation to any goods, means any description, statement, indication, or suggestion, direct or indirect -
The definitions, “ direct or indirect,” tinder (a), (b), (c), (d), (e),(f), are full enough, one would think, but are added to by the inclusion of “ a Customs entry relating to goods,” and, further, “ any mark, &c, shall be deemed a trade description within the meaning of this Act.”
On any one of the above items a proclamation could be issued, or regulations promulgated - but this is not sufficiently drastic; it is made to include any description, statement, indication, or suggestion, direct or indirect, in connexion therewith.
It is clearly evident that almost any article could be prohibited on one or other of the above grounds, and that in the hands of a Minister with such powers of restriction, importations of a most ordinary nature could be forced to prohibition.
Then, further, in passing an entry, an importer is faced with a false trade description. “ False Trade Description “ means a trade description which, by reason of anything contained therein, or omitted therefrom, is false or likely to mislead, in a material respect, as regards the goods to which it is applied, and includes every alteration of a trade description, whether by way of addition, effacement, or otherwise, which makes the description false or likely to mislead ina material respect.
In the majority of instances it is impossible for an importer to know of his own knowledge, say, for instance, the “ measure “ or “ purity,” the “country” or “place” in or at which goods were made, by whom they were selected and packed, the “ material “ or “ ingredients.” Yet any error or omission under clause 8 renders an importer liable to a fine of £100, or three months’ imprisonment, under clause 260 of the Customs Act 1901.
– All the description has to be included in the entry.
– Exactly. The report continues -
It is, however, provided in the same section - “ It shall be a defence to a prosecution for an offence against this section if the defendant proves that he did not knowingly import the goods in contravention of this section.”
But the onus of proof is on the defendant, and under the Customs Act 1901, with which this measure has to be read, the proof must be to the satisfaction of the Customs. That is a most difficult task at the best of times, but under certain conditions it is absolutely impossible.
We must now refer again to clause 7. Subsection 2 provides for forfeiture. Sub-section 3 says - “ Subject to the regulations, the ComptrollerGeneral, or on appeal from him, the Minister, may permit any goods which are liable to be, or have been, seized as forfeited under this section, to be delivered to the owner or importer upon security being given to the satisfaction of the Comptroller-General that the prescribed trade description will be applied to the goods, or that they will be forthwith exported.”
We do not know what regulations there may be, but the Council see grave objections to putting the terms of the “trade description” as applied to a particular article in the hands of the Comptroller-General.
I know that [the commercial community have the utmost confidence in the present Comptroller-General. At the same time, the entire trading community feels that this is an enormous power to place in the hands of one officer, no matter who he may be. I have now dealt with the objections by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce to the provisions of the Bill so far as imports are concerned. In regard to exports -
The Council fear that under clause 5, which provides that an officer shall inspect and examine all prescribed goods,- and clause 6, which provides that notice of intention to export must be given, the export trade will be seriously hampered, and the expenses incurred in the supervision for carrying out the provisions of the Act will fall very heavily on the producing interests f the State.
These expressions of opinion emanate from men who have most carefully considered the probable effect of this Bill. They say -
If the provisions of the Act mean that the goods have to be graded prior to export, no provision has been made for” the appointment of graders or for their emolument, nor has any charge been authorized on the exporter ; but, perhaps, all this will be attended to under the sweeping conditions of clause 14 - miscellaneous. Certainly producers ought to be apprised of the intentions of the Government under the clause in question.
Merchants feel that the drastic provisions of this Bill must react upon the great producing interests of Australia. If these coercive conditions are imposed upon merchants, the latter must pass them on to the producers, and consequently the whole community must inevitably suffer. Thev add-
A curious anomaly seems to exist in connexion with sub-section 3 of clause 7, and sub-section 3 of clause 10. Under the former, goods im ported and seized as being prohibited may be exported. In the latter, goods prohibited may not be exported. Clause 15 states -
Whoever knowingly aids and abets, &c.» shall be deemed to have committed that offence, and shall be punished accordingly.
An indentor, ship-owner, drayman, Customsclerk, all might assist in importing a prohibited article unknowingly, but the onus of proof being on accused, they will, under the Customs Act of 1901, have to prove their .innocence.
Having dealt with the disabilities involved in the measure generally, let us turn to the question of inspection. We find, first of all, that under this Bill any officer of Customs may inspect and examine “ all prescribed goods.” It is clear that such a work should be carried out only by an expert. Subclause 3 of clause 5, however, places “enormous powers in the hands of the officers of the Department. It is pointed out by the Chamber of Commerce that -
We fancy under the Customs Act, any officer, at any rate on shore, would require a warrant for breaking into a store - it does not seem sohere.
Clause 6. Notice of intention to export. This could only work to the detriment of exporters.
This is a series of well-thought-out objections by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, and surely it is too much to ask hon.orable members to deal with those’ objections, and to attempt in Committee to so recast the Bill as to give satisfaction to all parties. I come now to the position taken up by the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. That Chamber devoted many hours to the consideration of the Bill, and drew up a series of objections to its provisions. They hold that it would be detrimental to the trade and commerce of this State. Clauses 5, 6, and 7 are, in their opinion, in the nature of new legislation, but the remainder of the Bill is similar to the Merchandise Marks Bill, and there is no objection to it. It is felt by the Chamber that -
Under clause 3 it would be absolutely impossible for an importer to give the details enumerated from A to Fj and it would appear that many pitfalls are provided for traders ; and they object to the effect of this Bill, which will be to standardize goods.
– Where do the people come in who have to buy the rubbish that is offered for sale?
– The interjection made byrne honorable member shows that it would be absolutely impossible for him to deaf with the details of this Bill. I am reading the opinions of responsible men who come to the House, not with paltry objec- tions, but with weighty arguments advanced as the result of the experience of a lifetime in the trade and commerce of Australia.
– I am one of those who take an interest in the position of the consumer.
– I agree that it is necessary that we should protect the interests of the consumer, and I would remind the honorable member that not one of the propositions made by the various Chambers of Commerce would interfere in any way with the carrying out of that object. ‘
– Who elects the members of the Chambers of Commerce?
– They are elected by the merchants.
– They elect themselves.
– It is pointed out that -
According to the Interpretations Act, any regulation or proclamation will require two months’ notice ; this was considered quite inadequate, as a sailing vessel often takes from three to four months to come from England, and we would suggest that six months’ notice of regulation or proclamation should be given.
The Minister of Trade and Customs met the deputation which waited upon him in the fairest manner possible, and admitted that this suggestion was reasonable, and that he would give it the most careful consideration -
No proclamation of regulation should take effect in respect of orders placed or shipped before the issue of such proclamation. It is often necessary to place orders twelve months or more before execution. It is felt it would be a hardship to ask any manufacturer to divulge the secret of his manufacture, and to guard against this as much as possible, we think that any patent medicine or other compound, unless proved to be deleterious, should not be subject to description. In answer to our objection to being governed by proclamation and regulations, it is urged by departmental officers that this;’ Act was much more elastic under such rule, and that any mistaken regulation would be upset by Parliament. How this could be done when Parliament was not sitting does not appear.
If the Parliament were not in session, it would be impossible to give effect to alterations made, with a view” of preventing any improper interference with trade and commerce in respect of various goods -
Analysis : - It was argued that the importer should have the right to have the goods analyzed, and that in case of a difference between his analyst and a Customs analyst a third should be appointed as arbitrator. Should not some amendment of clause 14 be made in this direction?
It should not be left in the hands of a man who might have no expert knowledge - who might know nothing of the character and quality of the material with which hs was called upon to deal- to give an arbitrary declaration of opinion. The work should be intrusted to an expert, and, if his decision were considered unsatisfactory, it should be open to the importer concerned to submit the matter to arbitration -
A Customs entry could be deemed a trade description. Wool adulterated with cotton would be entered as “ wool,” but would be a false description. How can this be reconciled.’
Honorable members are aware that for certain purposes cotton has been, and is being, used in conjunction with wool.
– Even in Australia.
– I am dealing at present with the matter from the point of view of the importer. If a bill of entry stated that certain goods, consisting of an admixture of cotton and wool, were woollen goods, the importer would be subjected to heavy penalties under this Bill, although he might have no knowledge of the admixture.
– What is the objection to stating the quantity of cotton in so-called woollen goods?
– I do not know what objection ‘ there may be, but I would point out that in order to comply with the provisions of this measure merchants and importers would have to engage a whole army of officers. If their expenses were increased in that way, the consumer - about whom my honorable friend is so anxious - would have to pay.
– If the honorable member went into a shop to buy a woollen shirt, he would not expect to be supplied with a cotton one.
– I certainly should not. Another objection taken by the Chamber relates to the cost of administration. It is pointed out by them that -
A large number of graders and inspectors would have to be appointed at very considerable expense.
I know that the Minister replied to the deputation which waited upon him, that in his opinion the present staff of officers would be able to undertake all the additional work imposed upon the Department by this measure. They might be able to do so, if the limitations which the Minister promised were imposed. If this work is to be done at all, however, it should be done well, and in order to carry it out effectively, it would be necessary to have a large number of specially qualified officers appointed for the purpose.
– It would also have to be done as between, the States.
– I shall ask the House later on to deal with the question from that point of view. The report of the Chamber of Commerce concludes -
To sum up, your committee is of opinion that this Bill is unnecessary, ample powers in the same direction being already possessed by the different States; that the effect of the Bill would be to interfere with and restrain trade, that the standardization and grading of manufactures and products would be harassing and inimical to progress and improvement, and that the cost of proper administration would be enormous. -
I have read the objections of the Chambers of Commerce of Melbourne and Sydney, as representing the opinions of the merchants in the two chief importing and exporting centres of the’ Commonwealth, and I shall content myself by reading only a condensed statement of the objections of other chambers. The Brisbane Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution, on the j 6th August last -
That, in the opinion of this Chamber, the Bill relating to commerce with other countries, introduced by the Honorable Sir William Lyne in the House of Representatives, is an unnecessary embargo on the trade of the Commonwealth, and its tendency will be to restrict the free exchange of commercial commodities to the detriment of the producer, manufacturer, and importer.
That the power vested in an officer of Customs under the Bill is despotic and unreasonable.
That if, as the Bill proposes, it is to be “ Government by regulations,” the proposed regulations should be scheduled with the Bill.
That a strong protest be entered against the Bill being proceeded with.
The Chamber of Commerce at Fremantle also wired to me, that they had communicated with the Treasurer, and had urged him to oppose this Bill. I hope that in the interests of the trade of the State of which he is a representative, he will at least see that the restrictive features of the measure are eliminated. Whilst I should not impose unnecessary restrictions on trade, I would join with the right honorable gentleman in any effort to protect the public from inferior or deleterious goods. The Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, as the outcome of a lengthy meeting, sent the following telegram to the Treasurer : -
This Chamber strongly urges it, as outlying part of Commonwealth, should have full opportunity protecting interests by being allowed sufficient time to consider possible effect of important measures, such as Commerce and Secret Commissions Bill. Respectfully invoke your powerful aid.
In a letter to me, the Chamber confirmed the telegraph message which they had sent, and explained that -
At this distance from the seat of the Federal Government, information with regard to the various Bills that come before Parliament is very meagre ; and, in the absence of the Bills themselves, it is very difficult for an opinion to be expressed on them.
They ask that the right honorable member for Swan and the other representatives of that State shall protect their interests. The trade and commerce of Western Australia is increasing, and the Chambers of Commerce of both Perth and Fremantle ask that these unnecessary restrictions shall not be placed on it.
– How many attended that meeting ?
– I cannot say.
– It is the three tailors of Tooley-street over again.
– I shall not take up the time of the House by reading the various resolutions which have. been passed throughout Australia in regard to the Bill, but the effect of them is that it is an undue interference with the trade and commerce of the -country, and, if passed, will prove detrimental to the best interests and welfare of the people. That is the opinion of men who have no other aim than to increase the trade and commerce of this country, and their objections to the measure are based on sound experience. Without further stating these objections, I think I have said enough to prove to the House the need for this Committee, and to show the Ministry that it does not mean a derogation’ from their executive powers. The members of the Chambers of Commerce of Australia who waited on the Minister the other day believe that he met them in a very fair spirit. They recognise that he wishes to co-operate with them An’ securing a workable measure which, while protecting the consumers, will not harass the trading community. Every State will be represented upon the Committee which I propose, and I think that the result of the Committee’s recommendations will be to secure a Bill which Wil give satisfaction to the whole community. To attempt to re-draft the Bill on the floor of this Chamber will end in failure, and probably bring about the adoption of contradictory provisions.
– I do not propose to re-draft the Bill. I have only said that I thought of proposing an amendment.
– Yes; but I have shown how numberless are the objections to the measure on the part of the community. The object of the motion is not to secure delay, but merely to enable a more workable measure to be passed. The proceedings of the Select Committee would be expeditious and ‘inexpensive. It could report within a very short time.
– How soon?
– An effective report could be made to the House within three weeks.
– If the honorable member could guarantee that the Committee would’ report in three weeks, I would vote for the motion.
– Within three weeks the whole Bill can be gone through, and the objections to it set out seriatim. Men are- prepared to come from Brisbane, Sydney, and Adelaide to explain the practical reasons why certain of its clauses should not be enacted. I earnestly ask the Minister not to consider that the motion has been moved to cause unnecessary delay, but to believe that our object is to obtain a . workable measure which, while benefiting the community at large, will not seriously hamper the trade and commerce of the States.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Ordinarily 1 should consider that there are enough Select Committees now in existence; but I submit that the honorable member for Kooyong has made out a good case for adding another to the number. If there ever was a Bill in regard to which the investigations of a Committee would do good, this is such a Bill. It is a great misfortune that honorable members do not really understand its provisions, although two Ministers have laboured to explain them. We are particularly in the dark as to why the additional powers which are asked for are required. When we urge that they are too drastic we are told by the Attorney-General that equally drastic powers are contained in the Customs Act, and, as the first clause of the measure incorporates it with the Customs Act, so that it must be read as part of that Act, one wonders why the Government ask for these additional powers. If they already possess more drastic powers for the prohibition and regulation of importations, why are they proposing to add another needless statute to the many by which this poor Australia of ours is now. afflicted. I venture to assert that these additional powers are not being asked for only to protect the health of the community, and the prevention of the loss of life which we are told is occasioned by the use of deleterious foods and drugs, out that there is another motive operating which we have yet to hear from the mouth of the Minister, or, if the measure becomes law, to perceive from his subsequent actions. But regarding the Bill as a bona fide attempt to deal with certain matters which require regulation, I think, in view of the conflicting statements of the Ministers who have tried to explain its provisions and its far-reaching effect, there should be some inquiry as to the views held in regard to it by those who are most interested in it’s passage, or who will be most seriously affected by it. I am at a loss to understand why the Government should object to refer the measure to a Select Committee, because it was only this afternoon that the Minister of Trade and Customs withdrew, on behalf of the AttorneyGeneral, a notice of motion for the appointment of’ a Committee of Trade, Commerce, and Industries -
To sit and act at any time during the continuance of Parliament, and to take into their consideration all matters pertaining to the general development and welfare of the Commonwealth as a whole, including trade, commerce, agriculture and its kindred industries, manufactures, population, and defence, and any matter referred to them by either House of Parliament.
I understood the Minister’s reason for withdrawing the notice of motion to be that the Government hope to attain the object in another way, which he did not explain.
– That motion was given notice of by the Attorney-General as a private member.
– Yes, but when I took exception to his moving it as a private member he would not withdraw it, and it was only withdrawn on the explanation of the Minister of Trade and Customs that the Government propose to take these powers in another way. If the Government believe in the appointment of a Committee of this kind, what harm can they see in this proposal to refer the Bill to a similar Committee?
– I did not say that I believed in the exercise of these powers.
– The Minister, in withdrawing the motion, said that he did so because it was under the consideration of the Government whether the same end could not be reached by other means.
– Not the same end.
– I shall not labour the point; but those who are most interested in trade and commerce join in asking for the proposed investigation. I wish to make one or two observations in support of the’ proposal of the honorable member for Kooyong. First of all, I should like to refer to some of the statements made by the Minister in charge of the Bill. He declares that it is his intention to compel the exporters of produce to mark it correctly ; that is to say, that they shall mark their butter as excellent or inferior, their fruit as superior or inferior, and other produce similarly, according to quality, weight, size, and grade. That also is the definition of the Bill given to us by the Attorney-General. He said that it was deemed necessary to insure that all goods going out of the country should have the truth told regarding their weight, size, quality, and grade. I want to know whether that is not grading in its very essence. If exporters are to be required, not only to mark their goods, but to comply with a prescribed standard, they will have to practically grade them. If the Minister insists upon the goods being marked, according to the standard which he is to lay down, I contend that that will amount to grading. Yet the Minister of Trade and Customs and the AttorneyGeneral quibble over the question. When we asked plainly whether the Government intended to adopt a system of grading, we were told that that all depended upon what was meant by grading. Ministers informed us that they intended to make exporters mark their goods, but they did not say that they intended to prescribe the standard according to which such goods should be marked. Importers are to be required to mark their goods according to the place of production, and the ingredients contained in them. That is to say, the proprietors of any trade secrets will be required to disclose them to the Customs Department. I think that it is reprehensible on the part of the Government to attempt to impose any such conditions upon importers or exporters. It should be the first duty of the Government to protect patentees, and certainly they should not require them to disclose their secrets of manufacture to any Government official, no. matter how highly placed or trustworthy he may be. A trade secret ought to be regarded as sacred. If the Government are going to force these secrets from the safe-keeping of the manufacturers, they should go a step further, and abrogateall our patent laws. Of what use will a patent be to a manufacturer if he has to divulge his trade secrets to Government officials? It is all very well to say that the Customs officials will be placed under a bond of secrecy, and that the strictest possible safeguards will be afforded against any breach of faith, but I venture to say that, if once trade secrets are communicated to Government officials, they will certainly leak out, in spite of all that may be done to prevent it. A farreaching power of this description ought to be carefully safeguarded, and those who are most directly interested should have an opportunity of being heard before any such conditions are forced upon them.
– What about the public?
– I am just as much concerned about protecting the public as is the honorable member. May I point out that, according to the great protectionist panjandrum, the Age, the cardinal principle of protectionism is to look after the producer, and to leave the consumer to look after himself. The Government are now proposing to act right in the teeth of that protectionist tenet. The Age says that those who subscribe to the free-trade doctrine look after the consumers, and leave the producers to look after themselves, whereas protectionists ‘look after the producers, and leave the consumers to look after themselves.
– Does not the Age say that the interests of both producers and consumers should be studied ?
– No. If the honorable member will read the article to which I refer he will find that the positlion is just as I have stated it. This Bill does not trouble about the producer, but looks after the interests of the consumer, and therefore is anathema to the Age. The honorable member for Kooyong pointed out very clearly that whilst importers were proposed to be placed under a ban, no attention was to be paid to our producers at home. If we are to studv the interests of the consumer, whatever we may do by way of restriction, regulation, and control, and by way of standardization in the case of outsiders should also be applied to the goods which are consumed at home.
– The honorable member knows that there is a difficulty in the way.
– Not as to InterState commerce. There may be some difficulty with regard to. trade carried on within a State. That leads me to another point, namely, whether we should take this matter under our Federal consideration, seeing that the States Governments have already brought certain machinery into operation with a view to exercising supervision over food and other products. That is one of my objections to this Bill. We have at hand in the various States the means of doing precisely what is proposed to be achieved under the Bill. We have bur Health Acts of various kinds and our Health Departments to see that the goods that are consumed by the community are pure and unadulterated. Why should we double-bank our legislation in the way proposed? I contend that we cannot interfere in these matters as effectively as the States authorities can.
– The Bill will apply only to goods imported or exported from the States.
– I am quite aware of that, and I am pointing out the anomaly of the whole proposal. It is proposed to interfere with goods passing beyond a State, and therefore to interfere with the manufacture of all classes of goods; that is, unless it is assumed that manufacturers will produce one article for export and another article for home consumption. It would scarcely pay them in most cases to do that, and, therefore, in effect, it is proposed to interfere with the ‘ manufacture of all articles. That is my objection to the Bill. Whatever could be accomplished by this Bill could be performed much more effectively by the States authorities. They are on the spot, have local knowledge, and have gained experience as to the details of manufacture and production, and therefore know infinitely tetter than a Minister sitting outside all the States what to do in the way of restriction and control. I am not sure that we are entitled to interfere with the police powers of the States. At any rate, the matter is one for inquiry. In connexion with the exercise of these police power’s by the States, there now exists something akin to prohibition. A conference of fruit-growers recently met in Melbourne and complained that the authorities in Western Australia had prohibited the importation of fruit from the other States.
– They do not prohibit the importation of fruit, but merely insist upon close inspection.
– The inspection is so rigid that fruit cannot be imported.
– Oh, yes ; large quantities of fruit are sent there from the Eastern States.
– The charges levied upon importers of fruit are so heavy; as to be almost prohibitive.
– That is libellous. The Western Australian authorities are merely seeking to keep out the codlinmoth and other fruit pests or diseases.
– Some time ago. I inquired into the charges and restrictions imposed in Western Australia in connexion with the importation of fruit, and I found that what with one charge and another - inspectorial charges, wharfage charges, and others - the shipment of fruit to Western Australia was rendered unprofitable. I ascertained these particulars from the inspector in Western Australia, whose scale of charges amounted to a sum almost’ prohibitive. Hence very little fruit is sent from the Eastern States to Western Australia, anc? then only at certain seasons of the year. The proposed Committee could do good” work in connexion with the investigation of this and kindred subjects, with a view todevising means of bringing about equality of administration and that freedom of tradebetween the States which was contemplated1 by the Constitution. Although the Constitution provides for free intercourse as totrade and commerce between the States, some of the States, by the exercise of their police powers, are prohibiting the introduction of perishable products from other States. There is another reason why I think the Minister should not have conferred upon him the large powers sought in the Bill. It is proposed that the Minister should have placed in his hands the powerto prohibit the importation of certain goodsif they do not bear certain trade descriptions which he alone is to prescribe. That would practically give him unlimited power.
– And the burden of proof would be thrown on the person charged.
– If the Bill were passed in its present form it would place the -Minister of Trade and Customs in theposition of a Czar of Commerce. I am not prepared to make the present Minister a Czar in matters of commerce, or anything else. In the harvester case, the Minister, -without one word of warning, or calling -upon the importers to show cause, increased ,the price of machines by an arbitrary act, and under the powers proposed to be conferred by the Bill he might proceed to the extent of totally prohibiting the introduction of many articles of commerce which are now imported. In a word,, the Minister would have the sole right to apply prohibitive protection to Australia at his own will and pleasure. Such a power should not be conferred upon any Minister, no matter how good or trustworthy. We might as well have no Parliament if the Minister is to be placed in such a position. The Attorney-General stated that he would not object to provide that the regulations framed under the Act should be presented to Parliament; but the Minister for Trade and Customs does not say anything of the kind. He is endeavouring to whittle away all that he has previously -stated, and to remove the impressions which he conveyed to various deputations. He has told us that he will make only one amendment in the Bill, and no one can pretend that a solitary alteration is all that is necessary to meet the requirements of the case. In plain English, the Minister is not going to do very much by way of alteration. If the powers proposed are conferred upon -the Minister, the effect upon trade and commerce will be very serious. It is all very well for the Minister to say that he is going to make producers tell the truth about “the goods they send out of this country. It will be hard to do that, and I venture to say that the very doing of it will be a hardship to those to whom the provision is intended to apply, not because they do not tell the truth, and not because they are not trading honestly. For instance, I was told by an Eastern merchant that if this Bill be passed it will absolutely ruin his trade. There is, I understand, a big trade done with the East1 in ,the way of tinned butter, which is usually put up in 1 -lb. tins. This gentleman points out that the Eastern mind is very conservative, and very suspicious, and unless we can give the people there the same tins, marked in the same way as those from other parts of the world, they will decline to trade with us.
– If we give them good weight, they will very soon find it out.
– I am assured that, if we alter the tins in any way, they will decline to trade with us at all. Take biscuits as another illustration. I under stand that all biscuits exported to the East are put up in 2 -lb. tins.- As honorable members are aware, some biscuits weigh more than others, but, to suit the Eastern mind, we have to use the same-sized tins for all biscuits. The difference in the weight of them is regulated in their price. But in the East the measure must be the same in all cases. I am told that the ordinary Chinese has no knowledge whatever of weights. He goes by measurements, and unless we can give him the same-sized tin every time he will decline to trade with us. These are the statements made to me by a reputable Eastern merchant-
– They are very thin.
– I venture to say that the word of a reputable merchant should be accepted. Does the honorable member entertain any doubt as to this gentleman’s veracity?
– I have my doubts about it.
– I have not any.
– The average Easterner - and especially the Chinese - is more than the equal of the white man in matters of commerce.
– I know that that is so in some respects and within cer tain limitations. But he has become so accustomed to measurement that hp will not have anything to do with weight at all. I say that they men are entitled to be heard. We know nothing whatever about the Eastern trade, and they do. Ought we not to endeavour to profit by their knowledge’ They allege that if we legislate as we propose, we shall be doing so ignorantly, and to the disaster of their trade.
– Does the honorable member approve of selling 14 ozs. for a pound?
– I do not. This is a Bill for destroying trade, and not for regulating it in these particulars. The trading community do not object to the marking of a tin, or to its ingredients being known, if their competitors in other parts of the world have to subscribe to similar conditions. But, so far as I am aware, there is no legislation which goes as far as does this- measure
– Is that an: objection to it? . ‘
-It is an argument in favour of inquiry before it is passed. All I ask is that there shall be an inquiry into this matter, and that the people whose trade will be affected by the operation of the Bill shall be heard. That is a reasonable request to make to the Minister. These men declare that the Bill will ruin their businesses.
– Nonsense. The gentleman to whom the honorable member refers approached me upon the subject. The Bill does not alter the size of the tins.
– Ibelieve that the merchant to whom I allude has been to the Minister, who led him to believe that he had every sympathy for him. At the same time the Minister told him that he was not going to make many alterations in the measure.
– He went away from me quite satisfied.
– Then I am afraid that the Minister hypnotised him, because he is very dissatisfied now. Whilst other communities endeavour to cater to the prejudices and customs of Eastern races, we propose to cut right across them by legislation.
– Will the honorable member show me where the Bill alters the size of the tins?
– Yes. It provides that a trade description is to apply to the nature, number, quality, quantity, purity, class, grade, measure, gauge, size or weight of the goods.
– There is no alteration of the size of the tins provided for there.
– Does not that provision compel a merchant to declare what his tins contain?
– Yes; but it will not alter the size of the tins, or their colour, or the paper upon them.
– If we alter the size of the tins in any way, even by stamping the weight on them, the Eastern races will not look at them. The least that the Minister can do is to hear these merchants upon their oath, and to weigh their statements. Instead of doing that, he proposes to make standards in the case of all these goods. Although we cannot get the Minister to say that this is a grading Bill, its provisions enable him to establish standards in connexion with all our produce. I venture to say, with very great respect, that his officers do not possess the requisite knowledge to enable them to prescribe those standards. They know nothing about the Eastern trade or its requirements.
– Surely the honorable member does not suppose that the Department is foolish enough to endeavour to destroy the Eastern trade?
– I do not suppose that it would do so willingly, but I am afraid that it will do so ignorantly.
– Trust the Department.
– I should think we ought to be very careful to what extent we trust the Department, after the McKay incident. If we are to extend a prohibition to goods, let it be after that prohibition has been placed upon the statute-book. Do not let us give the Minister of Trade and Customs power by Executive act to open or shut the ports of Australia. I repeat that there is no parallel to this Bill. We have been told that it has been taken largely from the Merchandise Marks Act of Great Britain. But I would point out that that Act does not interfere with the size, quality, measure, and gauge of goods.
– It ought to; that is all.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK. That is a vary good sentiment, to come from a free-trader like the honorable member.
– I believe in providing for the proper weight, size, and quality of goods.
– That is not the question, This is a question of whether we shall ignorantly interfere with the relations of traders. It is a good old principle, which has worked well for thousands of years, that when a man buys an article, he takes the risk of making a good bargain. In this case, however, it is proposed to set up a standard for him. I claim that we are going beyond the legitimate functions of Parliament by interfering in such a way. If the Governmentwill give us the Merchandise Marks Act of Great Britain, we shall not object. That Act interferes with imports only to the extent of providing that they shall show what is the country and place of their origin. If that measure were applied to the Commonwealth, it would not be permissible to mark goods made in Australia and sent to Germany as having been “ made in Germany.” Its object is to prevent fraud on the consumer. That is an object which we might very well seek to achieve; but when we interfere in all the details of aman’s business, when we seek to compel him to reveal his trade secrets, to say how he makes up certain compounds, what are the contents of each case that he sends away, and what Is the size, shape, gauge, and measure of his packages, we go beyond anything that has ever been done, either in European countries or anywhere else.
– We are a progressive people.
– It seems to me that we are progressing backwards. This is a retrograde step, such as I venture to say will make us a laughing-stock in the eyes of the trading community of the world.
– We have heard that before.
– It is useless to argue with the honorable member, because he is not open to conviction. That was not always his attitude, but now all that he can do is to barrack for the Government. I congratulate the Ministry on having so subservient a supporter. When he was a supporter of Governments with which I was associated, he used to be very critical, and now and again was heard to express his opinions, but he seems to have been struck dumb ever since the present Administration came into office. He can do nothing more than interject, while members of the Opposition are speaking. Proposals that are an outrage on his life-long principles are submitted week after week to the House, and we find him supporting them. I congratulate my honorable friend on his new views, but am afraid that his political perspective is becoming a little awry.
– I have heard the honorable member talk differently.
– I repeat that the powers which this Bill will confer on the Minister of Trade and Customs are altogether too great. There is not the requisite knowledge in the Department to enable them to be exercised prudently and safely. The Bill will strike a blow at the commerce of Australia. It will do more injury to the true interests of the Commonwealth than can be counterbalanced by any act on the part of the Governments of the States. If we cannot interfere for the purpose of assisting the States to their own betterment and welfare, do not let us keep meddling with a view of undoing the good they are accomplishing in their own local spheres. Let us leave them alone in regard to matters affecting the health, safety, and moral welfare of the people. The States Governments are on the spot. They have the necessary machinery, and can do the work better than we can, because they have a larger experience in these matters than we could possibly possess. I repeat that we ought to leave them alone. All that I am asking for, so far as this Bill is concerned, is that the people outsidewho will be so profoundly affected by it - whose businesses, fortunes, interests, and livelihood are in jeopardy - shall at least be heard before we proceed to take the drastic steps which they assert will lead to disaster and, in many cases, crush them out of existence.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). I think that some of the interjections which we have heard during the debate - and especially those made by the honorable member for Maranoa, the honorable member for Wide Bay, and the honorable member for Barrier - make it abundantly clear that the intention and the effect of this measure are not fully realized. I amnot surprised at this, because the Minister in charge of the Bill failed, when introducing it, to enlighten the House either as to its scope or as to the intention of the Ministry in regard to the exercise of the powers which it would confer on them. Another point is that we have had different opinions expressed by three different Ministers in regard to the intentions of the Bill. One Minister said that it was absolutely absurd to suppose that grading of any description was intended; another declined to say whether or not such was the case, while the Minister of Trade and Customs stated that it was intended that grading should be carried out to a ‘certain extent, but that the system was not to be fully observed.
– I said that true descriptions would be required.
– The truth of the description is to be determined by examining the quality of the goods, and by fixing certain departmental standards.
– Has the honorable member read what is being done at present under the Victorian Act?
– I have a copy of the Victorian Act, and am acquainted with its provisions.
– And I have a statement as to the full working of the Act.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the Ministry propose to duplicate the work carried out under the Victorian Act? If that is the intention, why does he seek to take such large powers as the Bill would confer upon him? The question has often been put, “Why not protect the consumer.” I quite agree that the consumer should be protected from dishonest trade- practices. But this Bill does not provide any means to protect him. It will still be possible under it to introduce into the Commonwealth adulterated foods and the most deleterious of articles.
– Then the honorable member should move an amendment to render such practices impossible.
– The Minister said that he had abandoned the provisions of a more drastic measure, which he found in his Department when he took office.
– And the honorable member is complaining of the provisions of a less drastic measure.
– I shall deal with that point presently. The honorable gentleman says that he has abandoned the provisions of a more drastic Bill. What was the intention of those provisions ? I am not advocating that measure, because it was merely a departmental Bill which had not undergone the criticism of the Cabinet, but the intention of it was that a certain standard should be fixed, and that certain - but not all - goods, where the departure from standard would make them useless for their purpose, should be absolutely prevented from entering the Commonwealth, and also from being exported. For instance, manures which might be so adulterated as to be useless for their purpose might have been prevented under that Bill from coming into Australia. And so with leather loaded with deleterious chemicals.
– But, according to the honorable member for Parramatta, that would be an interference with the right of the person purchasing the goods.
– I am not dealing with that question; I am simply indicating the provisions of the departmental Bill. The Bill now before us abandons those (provisions, although one would gather from the interjections of some honorable members that such was not the case. It is proposed by this Bill to enforce true descriptions. I do not object to that. It is desirable that any description of goods should be a true one. But this measure goes beyond that, and is really dangerous. A trade description is not merely to be true; a whole shipment of goods may be stopped and forfeited unless the trade description which they bear, in addition to being true, complies with the description framed by the Minister of the day. That is the remarkable feature of the measure, and it is one which honorable members have not fully appreciated. The whole of the commerce of Australia is to be gripped in this way. Before taking such a step, we should very seriously consider the matter. I believe that some samples of so-called leather have been shown in the House tonight. I would point out, however, that the importation of such leather would not be prohibited under this Bill.
– The importers would have to correctly describe it.
– They could describe it as “ pasteboard “ or “ imitation leather “ ; but that would not prevent it being made up info boots and sold in that form to the general community as freely as at the present time. How can it be said, therefore, that this Bill will protect the consumer? It will afford him absolutely no protection.
– It is about time that he had some protection.
– No effectual protection can be afforded him unless the matter is taken in hand by the States.
– The States could not deal with it through the Customs.
– They could prevent deleterious goods reaching the consumer,, and that is what the Department of Trade and Customs cannot do.
– It can.
– If the honorable gentleman is familiar with the provisions of the Bill, he must know that under it the so-called leather which was exhibited to-night could be entered by its true name, passed through the Customs, and distributed among the boot factories just as if such a measure never existed.
– But we should be able to tell what quantity of that material was coming in.
– That can be ascertained at the present time.
– It will be under this Bill.
– The honorable member administers the Customs Act, and if he can prevent these goods from entering, why does he not do so?
– Such goods could be made up here and sent to New South Wales.
– That is so. The provision requiring that trade descriptions, shall be not merely true, but as phrased by the Minister, is a most extraordinary one. I agree that all trade descriptions should foe true, and, as a member of another Parliament, moved the insertion of clauses in certain measures to secure the truthfulness of all statements on goods or in invoices of goods. Personally I shall support anything in that direction; but the Bill goes beyond it. Goods might be imported bearing a description as true as the gospel, yet if that description did not accord with whatever the Minister might, as I have already said, phrase as a description, they would be liable not merely to prohibition from importation, but to absolute forfeiture. Consequently the whole trading world from Kamtschatka to South America would be called upon to bow to the mere whim of the Minister of Trade and Customs in Australia, or else goods, notwithstanding that they bore truthful descriptions sanctioned by long custom, might he forfeited on being landed in Australia. The provision is a most extreme one. Further than that, the penalties provided for in the Bill are exceedingly drastic. The Minister has referred to the Victorian Act, some of whose provisions are similar to those of this measure; but although penalties are provided for, accompanied with non-permission to export goods which do not fulfil the conditions, that measure does not go nearly so far as to provide forfeiture of shipments. But because of the aptitude of a Department to adopt the most drastic measures, this Bill provides, not only that a departure from the truth, but any flaw in a description, or anyvariatiqn from a , style of description required by the Minister, may cause the forfeiture of a shipment. These facts show how carefully the Bill must be examined, and, in my opinion, the request of the honorable member for Kooyong for the appointment of a Select Committee is only reasonable.
– To destroy the Bill.
– The Minister has very little faith in the measure if he thinks that to let in a little light upon it will destroy it.
– I shall not permit it to be blocked, as the amendment of the Tariff has been blocked by the free-traders by” the appointment of the Tariff Commission.
– The Minister’s remark shows that he is afraid that the Bill cannot stand fair criticism. Here is another point which shows what a tremendous engine we are asked to create to obtain very poor results. The Bill will roll over the whole of our imports and exports like a Juggernaut of commerce, producing as much harm and doing as little good as that instrument of torture did.
– I think that the merchants will find a way to escape it.
– I do not wish them to avoid compliance with proper provisions, and I shall assist the Minister to make the measure as effective as possible, so far as I think we should go. This is one way in which its provisions may be readily evaded. Goods will be imported
– Or manufactured here.
– I was going to refer later on to the movement of goods from State to State. It is a ridiculous thing to provide, if goods are manufactured in a State, and allowed to be sold there under a particular trade description, that they shall notbeimported under that description, and I have prepared an amendment to alter that provision, which, as it stands, is a piece of hypocrisy which I venture to think this Parliament is not capable of sanctioning.
– Is not that protection?
– The honorable member has hit upon what, though not the avowed object of the measure, may be one of its hidden objects. The point to which I was about to refer is that goods may be imported, and then re-described, re-labelled, or re-invoiced. Many goods are sent out in bulk packages, and unless the States laws forbid, may, after importation, be re-marked and re-invoiced.
– That would be a new industry.
– I do not think that the honorable member wishes to see that industry established within our borders. Although some of the advocates of the measure seem to think that it will protect the consumer, it is absolutely careless about him in regard to goods produced in one State and sent to another. I admit that we cannot legislate in respect to goods produced in a State and not exported from it, and, for that reason, the effect of the Bill will be very largely circumscribed.
We can, however, legislate in regard to goods passing from State to State, but the Bill does not apply to such goods.
– Would the honorable member support such an extension of its provisions?
– Yes, if the Bill is to go through in such a form as t think it should take. Surely it is even more necessary to insist upon honesty on the part of our own people than to try to provide against dishonesty which may be committed by persons outside the Commonwealth ?
– Would the honorable member, if we had the power, apply the provisions of the Bill to goods retained ‘within the State in which they were ‘ manufactured ?
– Certainly ; with the limitation I have just made. But I would not support the absurdity of providing that goods branded similarly to goods manufactured within a State, and allowed by the State law to be sold there, shall not be imported into that State. It is the province of the Parliaments of the States to protect their citizens, and they should exercise their powers in that direction. It is almost impossible to believe that any Parliament would pass a measure which, while prohibiting the importation of goods branded in a certain way. would allow the manufacture and sale within its territory of goods so branded. Then there is the matter of grading, which’ has already been referred to in some of the State Parliaments. It is of the utmost importance to the States that they should know what are our intentions, and what are the powers which’ will be conferred bv the Bill. Clause 13 says- ‘ :”TT
Any goods intended for export which have been inspected in pursuance of this Act may, in manner prescribed, be marked -
That is, on behalf of the Commonwealth - with any word, figure, or mark, for the purpose of indicating the quality, class, or grade of the goods.
If that does not clearly indicate grading by the Commonwealth, I do not know what does.
– I never believed that it did anything else’.
– Perhaps the honorable member was present when I tried to get a statement from the Ministers as to the meaning of the clause, and they were at a loss to explain its meaning. All that we can get from the Minister of Trade and Customs is that, if an attempt is made to brand inferior butter as superior, the Government will step in.
– Quite right.
– I do not object to that; but I wish to know if the Government are going to take in hand the work of grading. If they are going to decide what shall be the quality of the butter or other goods which we export, it seems to me that they will have to grade our exports, and if they intend to do that, the States should know it. Otherwise we shall be piling Commonwealth legislation on the top of State legislation, until we bury the commerce and people of Australia beneath it. We do not wish to do that. We should try to delimit the spheres of operation of the States and of the Commonwealth. To give the Minister power to grade every article of export would be to give him an enormous power, and we should know if that is the intention. If such an extension of power is not needed, why is it asked for? If it is needed, the’ intention must be to use it. and, if that is the intention, the States should know it. Surely, therefore, since the interests of the States are our interests in this matter, they should be permitted the opportunity to send representatives to a Select Committee to express their views as to what is their proper sphere of action, and what is the proper sphere of the Commonwealth. I think that the fullest reasons possible have been shown for referring the Bill to a Select Committee. There is no pressing haste. The measure can accomplish very little good as it is if PUt into force. It gives the Minister power to exclude any import, not because of a false description, but because of a description which, however much sanctioned by custom, or however true, departs from that laid down by the Minister. It also gives the Government power to grade every article of export. Are we going to place such powers in the hands of the Minister, without limitation, and without knowing whether he intends to use them? If the power to grade is not to be exercised, why has clause 13 been inserted ? Surely the States have a right to this knowledge, and to place evidence before a Select Committee as to the desirability or otherwise of these provisions.4 Whilst I cannot indorse many of the complaints which have been made in the States against this Parliament, if we embarrass the ordinary transaction of business by the duplication of laws, and the enactment of unnecessary and complicating measures, we shall justify some of those complaints. Apparently the only object sought to be attained by this measure is that a true description of goods shall be given. I say that a true description should be insisted upon, but, in endeavouring to attain that object, the measure goes far beyond what is required. In effect, the Government say, “We care not whether your description is true or riot; we shall prescribe a description, and unless your goods bear it they shall not enter the Commonwealth.” It is apparently assumed that goods are put up all over the world solely for consumption in the Commonwealth. Any one who knows anything about trade will fully appreciate the effect of such a provision. Goods intended for Australia would have to be specially prepared and packed, and bear the description prescribed at the whim t of the Minister. That would involve increased expense, because goods cannot be specially packed and labelled without involving considerably increased cost. The effect of such provision would be to hamper Australia in the markets of the world, and to hamper our competition with other countries. We have no right to go beyond the provisions of that clause which provides for a true trade description. I feel that the request of the honorable member for Kooyong is fully justified. This House, as the special custodian of the large interests of Australia, should exercise its powers with every consideration. Whilst we should do everything we can to prevent fraud and deception, we should not pass a Bill merely because we think it possibly may have such an effect. As a matter of fact, the provisions of this Bill do not make that result at all certain. Adulterated or defective goods will be admitted just as freely as- ever. It will merely be necessary to describe adulterated leather as what it is, or to describe an article used as leather by its true name. The articles will then be admitted, and there will be nothing except the operation of the laws of the States to prevent their going into consumption. Under these circumstances, the Commonwealth, which’ recognises that its powers in connexion with trade arid commerce, are extensive, should ‘act only after careful’ consideration. We should not’ refuse an opportunity, such as a Select
Committee would provide, for a careful examination into the possible effects of the proposed measure upon the import and export trade of Australia. So far as I can judge, honorable members have not thoroughly grasped the provisions of the Bill. They seem to think that it will accomplish what it will certainly fail to do. The Bill as it is can have nothing but a disastrous effect, and can benefit neither producer, trader, nor consumer. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will afford an opportunity to those best acquainted with the trade of the Commonwealth, and the probable effects of a measure of this kind, to express their opinions. There is no need for undue haste. The measure is not required to-morrow or the next day. I have no desire to obstruct its progress, but I think that an inquiry such as that proposed by the honorable member for Kooyong, which can be conducted without much delay, should certainly be entered upon.
– The honorable member for North Sydney has stated that there is no need for haste in passing a measure of this kind; but I would point out that we have badly needed legislation of this kind for many years past. I do not consider that there is any necessity to appoint a Committee to inquire into facts which are already well known. The object of the Bill is to insure that all Australian products exported shall bear an honest description.
– More than that ; they have to bear the description prescribed by the Minister.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. The Minister is not supposed to act as an expert in the matter; but he will undoubtedly rally round him) a number of capable officers who will be able to advise him upon practical lines, and in such a manner as to make the operation of the measure effective.
– He will require an army of inspectors.
– I do not think so. It is highly desirable that -we should bring about uniformity in connexion with our export trade. Some States authorities have been very careful to insure that their products shall bear proper descriptions, but the good work thus accomplished has been to some extent nullified . by other States which have resorted to means that, to say the least, were not honest. The honorable member for Parramatta, in speaking of the prohibitive regulations relating to the importation of fruits into Western Australia, appeared to forget that the importation of certain fruits into New South Wales was also prohibited. For many years - and I believe even to this day - the importation of grapes and vine cuttings into New South Wales has been prohibited. The various States Governments have interfered with importations in the interests of their own producers, and I think that it is our duty to legislate in the interests of the producers of the whole Commonwealth, by insisting that all goods sent out of Australia shall bear a true description.
– Does that mean grading ?
– If there is any necessity for grading, I see no reason why it should not be resorted to.
– Does the honorable member know whether the Minister intends to insist upon grading?
– No, I have not consulted the Minister. I do not think the honorable member for Parramattadid himself justice when he was speaking with regard to the Eastern trade, and the usages of traders in regard to tinned goods. He referred to the practice of packing articles in tins containing less than the declared quantity. I asked him whether he approved of that course, and he replied in the negative. The object of the measure is to insure that the tins in which jam or other articles are packed shall contain the declared quantity.
– It is obvious that unless that practice was also followed in other parts of the world, we should lose our trade.
– We had better lose our trade than act dishonestly.
– I am glad to hear that the honorable member is so ready to assist the Chinamen.
– I have not said anything to indicate that I haveany sympathy with Chinamen. The honorable member conveyed the impression that Chinamen did not care what were the contents of the tins, so long as they were of a certain size, but I think that that question may be left to the Chinamen to settle.
– I am not concerned about the Chinamen, but about our merchants.
– I am concerned about the whole of the producers,of Australia. When Australian produce is exported I desire that it shall bear an intimation as to its origin, and as to its quality. That would prevent inferior goods being placed upon the London market and labelled “Australia.” Let me give an instance of the frauds which are perpetrated in this connexion. As honorable members are aware, we have endeavoured for many years past to establish a trade with the old country in frozen meat. In attempting to build up that trade we have had to compete with the Argentine and New Zealand. The New Zealand brands of frozen meat have always been regarded as first class, and the Argentine brands have also been held to be very good. The best lambs produced in the mother country come from Wales, and I have the assurance of a New South Wales pastoralist that he forwarded his lambs to England in a frozen condition, and afterwards saw them hanging in a London butcher’s shop, classed as the best Welsh lambs, whilst inferior lambs were classed as Australian.
– How will this Bill prevent that practice?
– It will necessitate the branding of Australian goods which are exported.
– Those brands will be taken off Australian goods by the same rascals who indulge in that practice now.
– Then we may safely leave their punishment to the British Parliament.
– We cannot stop men from doing that sort of thing.
– We cannot prevent burglary, but we can mitigate it. I claim that as good beef, mutton, and lamb can be produced in Australia as can be grown in any part of the world. The same remark is applicable to. wheat. As a matter of fact, we know that some of the best brands of wheat exported from the Commonwealth have been sold in England as Manitoba wheat, to the detriment of the Australian farmer.
– How does the honorable member suggest that wheat shall be branded ?
– We can brand the bags. In dealing with the article which recently appeared in the Age newspaper, the honorable member for Parramatta was scarcely just to that journal.
– What he said was perfectly true.
– I challenge the honorable and learned member for Parkes to read that article and to say that it does not exhibit as much consideration for the consumers as it does for the producers of Australia. The Age has consistently exposed everything in the nature of fraud.
– Why does the honorable member say that I misquoted the article ?
– I did not say that. I said that the honorable member had not properly quoted it. He stated that the article in question exhibited consideration for the producers only - that it did not study the interests of the consumers.
– Has the honorable member himself read the article?
– Yes. I take a pride in reading every article which appears in that newspaper. From a lifelong experience I can say that the Age is the most liberal and democratic newspaper in Australia, and that it has been its constant endeavour to expose the frauds which are perpetrated upon consumers and producers alike. Can the deputy leader of the Opposition deny that, in order to meet the prejudice which exists against local manufactures, labels have been attached to certain articles manufactured in New South Wales, declaring that they were manufactured outside the Commonwealth ?
– This Bill will not prevent that.
– It will, otherwise what is the meaning of the term, “ trade description.” The Bill provides that no goods shall be imported into Australia unless they are properly described, and the same condition is applicable to goods exported from the Commonwealth.
– That does not touch the practice of marking goods dishonestly after they have been imported.
– If the Bill be properly administered, it will prevent the importation of falsely described goods.
– They may be properly described upon their admission to the Commonwealth, and improperly described subsequently.
– I do not see how that can be so. When they are entered here, they are under the control of the Customs Department. Does the honorable and learned member for Parkes suggest that the merchants of Australia are so dishonest that they will alter the description of those goods in their own warehouses ?
– The people whom the honorable member alleges commit that sort of fraud now will commit it then.
– I am glad that that defect in the measure has been pointed out, because we shall now be able to insert an amendment to meet it.
– We have no power to do that.
– Does the honorable member wish to stop that fraud?
– Let us stop all frauds.
– Is not the practice to which I refer a gross fraud upon the public ?
– The honorable member does not understand the Bill.
– I do not look at its provisions with the legal mind of the honorable and learned member for Parkes. I regard it rather from a practical standpoint. The object of the measure is to guarantee to the consumer that all goods imported shall be properly described. It is also intended to guarantee that Australian produce which is exported shall be similarly described, and, if necessary, graded ; in other words, that produce of a certain quality shall not be placed upon the London market as first-class, to the detriment of the local producer. A little while ago, the honorable member for New England interjected, “ What about clause 7 “ ? That provision will prohibit the importation of any goods which are not properly described.
– Upon a description proclaimed by the Minister.
– No. I gather from the remarks of some honorable members that an inferior article, in the form of leather, was exhibited in this Chamber tonight. Is it not in the interest’s of the consumers that such goods should be prevented from entering into competition with the genuine article ? The Bill imposes no hardship upon honest traders, and I refuse to regard the merchants of Australia as dishonest.
– I am afraid it is the manufacturers who put “ manufactured in England” upon Australian hats very frequently.
-I have worn both imported and Australian hat’s, and I have no hesitation in saying that a comparison between the two is very greatly to the advantage of the locally-produced article. I hope that in Committee the honorable and. learned member for Parkes will assist us to protect the consumer.
– My desire for honesty is so great, that I should like to see the millennium to-morrow.
– I do not intend to occupy any further time. I hold that this Bill mak:s for honesty, where, at present, we have dishonesty. It is intended to protect the consumers of Australia, inasmuch as it provides that all goods imported must be properly described. If they are not of good quality, the consumer has only himself to blame, if he purchases them. In the interests of Australia, as a whole, I hope that the measure will speedily become law. There is absolutely no necessity whatever to refer it to a Select Committee.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).During the course of his remarks, the honorable member for Riverina implied that I do not understand clause 7 of the Bill. I think it will be generally admitted that he does not understand it. It was apparent that he had not read it carefully. I would point out to him that the clause does not deal with false trade descriptions. It provides that -
The Governor-General may by proclamation prohibit the importation or introduction into Australia of any goods specified in the proclamation, unless there is applied to them a trade description of such character, relating to such matters, and applied in such manner, as is prescribed by’ the proclamation or by the regulations.
In other words, the Minister? by proclamation, may prescribe certain descriptions regarding goods of which he really knows nothing. When those goods are imported they may be not only prohibited, but absolutely forfeited, not because they are improperly described, but because they do not bear the trade description which the Minister of his own motion has proclaimed as that which should appear upon them. Will any one say that that is a reasonable power to place in the hands of the Minister? No one would object to a provision requiring that all goods should bear proper trade descriptions, but the clause goes beyond that. The honorable member for Riverina said that Australian lambs were being sold in England as “ superior Welsh lambs.” I would remind him that this Bill . would not in any way abolish that practice. Even assuming that (packages containing Australian lambs bore a true description pf their contents on being exported, there would be nothing to prevent a man in England taking them out of those packages and selling them as “Welsh lambs.”
– There is a registered ear-mark for Australian lambs exposed for sale.
– Quite so; but I am speaking of what can be done under this Bill. Notwithstanding that there is a registered ear-mark in respect of Australian lambs, the fact remains that lambs so marked are being sold in the old country as “superior Welsh lambs.” The Bill cannot interfere with that practice, and therefore the statements made by the honorable member were quite beside the mark. Then, again, we cannot prevent traders in other parts of the world from offering Australian wheat for sale as Manitoba wheat if they desire to do so. How could we brand the wheat we export? True, we might brand the bags, but it would be easy for those purchasing them in other countries to shoot the wheat into different bags, and to sell it as having been grown in Manitoba. How could such practices be prevented by any Bill that we might pass? When the honorable member suggests that they could he is talking absolute nonsense. We ‘ might impose certain restrictions so far as trade in Australia was concerned, but we could not regulate the actions of traders in other parts of the world. The consumer must protect himself; he must take care to examine the goods he buys, and to determine their quality for himself. I take exception to the powers proposed to be vested by this Bill in officers of the Department. To my mind they have not the requisite knowledge to enable them to judge of the quality of the various classes of goods passing through their hands. They are reared in an atmosphere of suspicion. They suspect every one. They are always after the man seeking to defraud the Customs - in fact, their environment is such as to make them naturally suspicious. They are not the right men to deal with delicate matters of trade and commerce as between Australia and other parts of the world. We have had illustrations of what may be done by these officers. I take it that in regard to a case which was recently discussed at length in the House the Minister was guided by the adivice of his officers. If that be so, he must recognise that the advice tendered to him was wrong - that it was tendered in accordance with political opinions, and was not due to any special knowledge the officers possessed.
– They have no political opinions.
– I have no hesitation in saying that their advice was given really in accordance with their political opinions. The right honorable gentleman perhaps does not know them as well as do other people.
– They are not here to defend themselves, and the honorable member is acting meanly in speaking of them in this way.
– I am simply stating a plain fact.
– They are paid to protect the revenue of the Commonwealth.
– I am confident that their advice in the harvester case was the result of their political opinions. The price at which they fixed those goods was altogether too high.
– I suppose the honorable member would say the same in regard to the jute wheat-bags?
– I do not know anything about the case to which the honorable member refers.
– The inferior bags, at all events, have been prevented from coming in.
– The matter has not been discussed in the House, and I am not familiar with the details. I would go so far as to Say that an exporter of goods should be required to place upon them a fair description - that he should place his own name and the brand of his factory upon them. If that were done, in a very short time his name would become a guarantee of the quality of the goods which he sent forth to the world, and he would reap the reward of sending out the very best or the very worst article as the case might be. I would not allow a man to export goods under the name of any other person, or under the name of a factory with which he was not connected. If, however, any one wished to export goods of second grade, I fail to see why he should not be permitted to do so, as long as he did not attempt to deceive the public.
– The Bill will allow that to be done.
– I object to the provision that grading shall be carried out by officers of the Commonwealth. The Government cannot successfully carry out thework. It would be utterly impossible for the Government, for instance, to grade the butter that we export. Let us take, for example, the position of the ByronBay factory, which is thoroughly representative of the butter factories of New South Wales. That factory conducts its own business, and employs no agents. We have a State Board of Health to see that the dairies are properly constructed-, and that due attention is given to cleanliness. Every care is taken to insure the purity of the butter, and the factory-owners do not require any further Government interference.
– It is done in Victoria.
– That is where all this comes from. There is absolutely no self-reliance shown by the people of this State. They are crying out all the time for Government interference. The Minister says, “We have this system in Victoria,” and I reply at once that the practices brought to light by the Butter Commission were the outcome of Government interference.
– They were nearly as bad as the practices revealed by the New South Wales Land Commission.
– The latter were not the result of Government interference. It was admitted by witnesses examined before the Butter Commission that the Government stamp was often missing from its usual place, and that the officers were unable to say where it was to be found. I presume that it was being used by persons who were sending out inferior butter, and placing upon it the Government brand of quality. A concrete illustration of the ineffectiveness of Government grading was given the other day by the honorable member for Grampians. He explained that he and a neighbour sent some lambs to the Victorian Government export stores, and that the expert declined to brand those forwarded by him as being fit for export. His neighbour’s lambs, however, were branded in. that way, and both consignments went home in the same ship. They were consigned to the same salesman, and were sold on the same day, in the same market, with the result that those which the Government officer refused to brand as being fit for export brought the highest prices. I was referring to the position of the Byron Bay factory, when I was interrupted by the interjection of the Minister that the Victorian Government adopted this system. All that I have to say in that regard is that the sooner the people . of Victoria refrain from seeking Government aid on every possible occasion the better. The Byron Bay factory, which, as I have said, is representative of the butter factories of New .South Wales, asks for no Government interference. Seventy-five per cent, of the butter which it makes is sent into the markets of the world, and secures prices quite equal to those realized by butter manufactured elsewhere. The factory pays its suppliers of milk no less than ^1,000 per day, and is in short the largest in the Commonwealth. The company are doing their own work, and simply ask the Government to leave them alone. They have made a name for ‘themselves without any Jaw such as that which we are now asked to pass. I was speaking the other day to one of the directors, who had just returned from a trip to England on the business of the company. They have no commercial agents, and he assured me that he had secured a reduction in respect of the insurance on the butter from the factory to the market, which in one year would more than cover the whole expenses of his trip. When men are able to conduct their business so satisfactorily, I fail to see why we should interfere with them as proposed by this Bill. The Minister of Trade and Customs referred to butter as one of the articles that would probably be graded. Imagine the Government ‘grading the butter of a factory like that of Byron Bay, which is already securing top prices. Mr. Davidson, a large English, buyer, was in Australia a little while ago, and was. examined by the Select Committee on dairying which sat in Sydney. He distinctly stated that they did not buy the butter on the Government brand, but on its quality. He further said that the New South Wales butter, which is- not branded with the Government stamp, obtains in the market a price equal to that given for the New Zealand butter, which bears the Government brand. When factories get a name for the quality of their butter, that butter obtains a good price wherever it is known, whether it bears a Government brand or not. The less the Government interferes the better. When a substance is injurious to health, or does not answer the purposes for which it is sold, its importation should be prohibited ; but, under the Bill, although the importation of goods under a false description is prohibited, there is nothing to prevent the alteration of the description and subsequent sale of the goods after they have passed through the Customs barrier. For instance, there is nothing to prevent the importation of adulterated manures, if their contents are properly described, and their subsequent sale under a different designation.
– The honorable member’s opinion of the honesty of the middleman is not very high.
– If persons will im- . port goods of poor quality - and the Bill is an admission of the belief of the Ministry that they do so - they will sell such goods after importation. I think that all that is required is the prohibition of the importation of goods which are harmful. The Bill will not prevent manufacturers within the Commonwealth from turning out such inferior goods as have been shown here this evening. It may be that these goods were manufactured within the Commonwealth. Some years ago I visited Victoria to see what was being done here in the manufacturing line, and was told by one of the partners of a large bootmanufacturing establishment that some manufacturers were taking a side of leather, splitting it into three, and using these split pieces to make uppers, the soles of the boots being made out of belly pieces and other inferior parts. Boots made in this way were being sold in Victoria, notwithstanding all the Government interference here, and the outcry against the importation of shoddy. I bought a pair of these’ boots, and took them back, to New South Wales, as an example of what was being done here.
– What did the honorable member pay for them?
– Something like 3s. a pair. I do not say that they were highlypriced boots/ All that I say is that they were shoddy. The Bill does not prevent the wearers of boots and shoes from being victimized by local manufacturers of such ‘ shoddy. Its real object is not to protect the consumers, but to protect the local manufacturers. Even the honorable member for Riverina spoke of the need for protecting the consumer from being victimized by manufacturers here, although that is something which this Parliament cannot do; but the fact that such different opinions are held with regard to the measure shows the need for sending it to a Select Committee, so that those who have a knowledge of its probable effects may give evidence upon it, and it may be understood, and made as perfect as possible. I shall support the motion, and I hope that the Minister will agree to it.
– As I have had the advantage of speaking on the second reading of the Bill, I do not propose, if I can help it, to , repeat anything which I said on that occasion, although the whole field is open to me under this motion. During the discussion a number of interjections have been made by honorable members of the Labour Party and others, which convince me that the measure is a very, difficult one to oppose, not because of its nature, but because its supporters are evidently influenced by sentiment, and a very strong bias of a class character. I justify my statement in this way. The honorable member for Darling has brought into the Chamber two or three samples of articles in daily use, as instances of the fraud of some manufacturers. I admit his right to show these articles to honorable members, but his action proves the* existence of sentiment behind the support which is being given to the Bill, and all experienced advocates know well that when you have sentiment and prejudice to deal with, all the logic in the world is of very little avail. I, therefore, feel that this is a very difficult Bill to oppose, or even to get referred to a Select Committee ; but I shall address myself not “to the bias or prejudice to which I have alluded, but to the reasons which it seems to me ought to actuate every level-headed; man in this Chamber in dealing with it. In the first place, the honorable member for Kooyong is not endeavouring to kill the Bill, or even to injure, or belittle it. He has pointed out what I think he is not only entitled, but bound to point out, having regard to the position he occupies in the community as the head of the mercantile classes, that almost all the Chambers of Commerce in Australia have seen reason to direct their attention to the character of the measure, and to ask, not for its rejection, but for an investigation into its probable effects. I do not think it possible for an intelligent community to make a more rational request than that ; and it was very well said by the honorable member for North Sydney that, if the Minister is not prepared to allow the measure to be investigated by competent men, he has very little confidence in it. I know that there is a verv strong prejudice nowadays against the appointment of Select Committees and Royal Commissions, though I do not think that it is justified. If the( Select Committee is constituted of competent men, whose minds are open, and the evidence of merchants and consumers - because I am a great advocate for the consumers - is put before them, no harm can be done; but the House will afterwards be given an opportunity to judge as to the wisdom of passing this piece of legislation. The Minister has not put before us any extraordinary circumstance necessitating haste in connexion with the measure. It is really not a measure introduced by him, but an heirloom from the Reid-McLean Administration; though the extraordinary thing is that the primary purpose intended by them has been eliminated. There is an old gibe about the difficulty of getting a joke into a Scotchman’s head,’ except bv surgical operation, and the speech of the honorable member for Riverina, following that of the honorable member for North Sydney, . satisfied me that it is equally difficult to get good reasoning into the heads of some men. The honorable member for Riverina seemed to completely lose sight of the main facts put before the House by the honorable member for North Sydney, who showed that the Bill fails, not partially, but utterly, to effect the purpose of the Ministry which framed it, namely, the protection of the purchasers and consumers of Australia. The Bill deals solely with importation and exportation. It requires every importer to give a specific description of everything that he brings into the country before it can pass the barrier of Customs-house officers ; and it requires the exporter to describe accurately and truthfully every article which he wishes to export before it will be allowed to pass that barrier. But there is nothing in the Bill to provide for the following of our exports after they leave our shores, or to provide for the following of imports after they have passed the barrier of the Customs-house officers. It requires very little thought, after hearing the speech of the’ honorable member for North Sydney, to see how the Government has lost sight of the original intention of the Bill to protect the consumers. A false description is defined in the measure to mean a description which is likely! to mislead. It is not provided that a description shall not be false, “ and” likely to mislead, but it must not be false, “or” likely to mislead. Nothing must come into this country under a description “ likely to mislead,” because such a description is defined in the Bill as a false one. We have been shown material which is said to be passed off as leather, though it is nothing but brown paper. I will take that as a typical case. There is not in this Bill any clause which will prevent the country being flooded with that commodity. It may be correctly described when it is imported. There is nothing easier, than for an importer to describe that material as “ imitation leather made of paper.’-“ He may bring in tons of it. It first pays duty - a lower duty than it would pay as leather. Then it can be sold ,to the manufacturers, and the manufacturers of Victoria can, without let or hindrance of any kind, make up hundreds of pairs of boots for use by the people of Australia. We are told that under this Bill it is possible to stop deleterious liquids which are sold as patent medicines. We know very well that a lot of very unwholesome stuff comes into this country bottled and labelled with all sorts of pretentious statements. But there is nothing to prevent an American or an European, or, if we like, a British firm, from sending, the most injurious liquid? in barrels into this country. The importer may give a truthful description of it. He may even, if honorable members like, call it by an injurious name - by a name that will discount its value. But the moment it passes the Customs House, it may go into a store, where it can be labelled and bottled, and it may afterwards be distributed all over Australia and consumed by the Australian people. There is not a word in this Bill to protect the public in such a case. Whether it is a question of importation or of exportation, there is not a clause in this Bill that protects either the public of the country to which our goods go, or the public of Australia to whom importations come. Surely the public for whom we have most concern, and regarding whom our highest duty exists, is the public of Australia. Yet there is not a word in this Bill that prevents a manufacturer of Victoria from sending goods which are falsely described into all the other States. There is not a word in this Bill that prevents a manufacturer in New South Wales from sending goods under a false description into other States. The whole purpose of .this Bill has been lost. The consumer is neglected and disregarded in every clause. Still, that cannot be a fault in the eyes of some people, because, although I do not quote this passage with any evil intention, it is a fact that it appeared in an article in the Age only three days ago. I should like the honorable member for Riverina to listen to it, because, without, I think, taking the trouble to look at the article, he had the courage practically to accuse the honorable member for Parramatta of misquoting the journal.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. I did not say he misquoted it.
– The honorable member practically charged the honorable member for Parramatta with unfairly criticising the article. I shall read what the newspaper said -
That is protection in its essence. It proclaims aloud as its cardinal principle, “ Take care of the producer and the consumer will take care of himself.” It is the very antithesis of the freetrader, who says, te Take care of the consumer and the producer will take care of himself.” In these two phrases lies the essential antagonism of the two schools.
The honorable member for Parramatta said the Age laid this down as a fundamental principle - “ Look after the producer and the consumer will look after himself,” and that it had said of free-trade and freetraders that their principle was that if the State looked after, the consumer the producer would look after himself. I say that that was practically a verbatim statement of what is contained in this article. I do not quote that for the purpose of attaching this Bill to either party in this House. But I do say that it is very gratifying to feelthat that principle is not being espoused by the Minister in charge of the Bill. Because he has claimed it as a merit of this measure, that it does look after the interests of the consumer. If it did conserve the interests of the consumer without being calculated, in my opinion, to paralyze commerce, by reason of its attempt to moralize the whole commercial ramifications of Australian and foreign trade, I should be very glad to assist the Government in doing anything which would establish a higher standard of morals in trade. t As I have stated in answer to an interjection, we all desire to make commerce and industry as honest as possible, but every practical man with a knowledge of the world recognises that there is a limit to one’s ability - not to one’s desire, but to one’s practical ability - to introduce a higher system of morals in either trade or commerce. I suppose that the common law of England is about as old an institution as we have, and, as I said once before, the common law of England recognises the impossibility of these higher standards of morals. I do not wish to be misunderstood as advocating a low standard of commercial morality in industry or commerce ; but I am talking of our practical ability to deal with the subject. We often say of young people that they are impracticable because they do not know the world. As men get up in years: and acquire experience, they recognise, not that higher morals and ethics are less desirable, but that they are less attainable than young people are apt to imagine. I say that we should endeavour to check attempts to pass what I might call millennial measures - measures that are futile and impossible in their aspirations. The common law has long since recognised that it cannot insist in every case on the most absolute honesty on the part of parties who are concerned in commercial transactions.
– It succeeds to a degree.
– Will the honorable member allow me, as one who has given some attention to the subject, to state the conclusion at which I have arrived? The common law lays this down, as a rule - that if a man enters into a contract, and then finds he has been deceived, if he can show that the deception has been in regard to a latent defect, he has a remedy. But if it is a defect that he could have seen, the law says: “You may have been deceived, but we cannot protect you; Caveat emptor - let the buyer beware.” There is another principle of law which throws a very interesting light upon the fact that the Law Courts have seen the impossibility of going to extremes in these matters. We know very well that there is in law an offence which is called slander of goods; that is to say that one tradesman is not allowed to depreciate the goods of another tradesman beyond a certain point. But the Courts have recognised that what is called legitimate puffing in trade cannot be stopped by law. Therefore, when actions occur for what is called slander of goods the Judges constantly say, “ Certainly, this is not true; but it is a mere puffing of the business which the law will regard as a legal wrong.”
– An auctioneer’s advertisement, for instance.
– If we are going to carry what I call the Truthful . James standard - that is the name of a very moral book which all boys and girls used to be asked to read - into all aspects of trade, and to say that there shall be no advertisements on the part of auctioneers, and no description in a shop window such as “this is choice,” or “this is select,” or “this is the best quality,” unless the thing is so, we should have to extend our operations into every ramification of public and private life, and there would be no end to our efforts.
– The Bill will be unfair unless it goes that far.
– The Bill will be unfair unless it provides for the protection of the Australian consumer. If the House is convinced that while the Bill provides that whatever comes into Australia shall be properly described for the few minutes or hours during which it is passing the Customs barrier, it can be used for all sorts of fraudulent purposes after it has come into the territory, and it is of opinion that although goods are required to be truthfully described and defined whilst they are passing the Customs (barrier for the purpose of exportation to the British and European public, the marks can afterwards be altered to any extent, then we are not succeeding in our purpose. The Bill is not trying to succeed in its purpose, because the Minister in whose charge it is has evidently cut out the very clauses which formed the backbone and purpose of the measure in its original form. I have not, I hope, introduced any warmth into this debate; for, although I may speak vehemently, still I can assure honorable members that I have no feeling in the matter. There is no party feeling in this connexion. This is not a question that touches the issue of free-trade or protection. It is not a question of the strength of the Government or of whether they shall be defeated or not. We are a deliberative body, and are expected by the public to be practical business men. Although we may not be engaged in commerce, still we are expected to have some knowledge of the complexities and difficulties of the great trade which goes on between this country and the outside world. The Treasurer told us, in his Budget, the other night, that, annually, Australia exports goods to the value of ^57,000,000, and imports goods to the value of ^37,000,000. There is a trade to the amount of almost £95,000,000 a year which is passing into and out of the Commonwealth.
This Bill touches every commodity included in that sum, and the House, as a practical Chamber, with self-respect, with a desire not to pass a measure which may develop into a laughing stock, would do well to pause and consider whether it would not be better to have the Bill considered by a Committee of men specially chosen, who have its confidence, and are believed to be honestly and honorably (actuated in any inquiry they may make.
– Would not the term “honestly actuated “ apply to every member of the House?
– I know very well that there is a class feeling existing in the House, because I hear merchants spoken of as if they were a class who were afflicted with a sort of dishonest tendency, just as I hear manufacturers spoken of as if they were an injured class. These are all class biases, which every man who desires to take a level-headed course throws off. He knows very well that in every class, whether it be the importers or the manufacturers or the consumers, there are honest and dishonest persons. Assuming that these prejudices exist in the minds of some honorable members, let us have a Committee whom the whole House approves to examine the manufacturers and the importers. Let the importers be heard at least, because sometimes I hear protectionists talk of importers as if they were a special breed from whom nothing that was honest could be expected. Let the importers be examined on oath, if honorable members like. We know very well that when the Tariff Commission came, the other day, to examine the manufacturers even of Victoria, it was found that they were selling flannel which was supposed to be made of wool with 45 per cent, of cotton in it. That did not startle me, nor did it startle a great many persons.
– That statement was not proved, and it came from an enemy, who is unreliable.
– It was alleged, in the first place, that the flannel contained 70 per cent, but that was shown to be untrue, although it was admitted afterwards by a manufacturer that it contained 45 per cent. I mention that fact, not as against the manufacturer, but to show very well the sort of thing is going on, not among the importers only, but among the manufacturers too. Have we not had instances mentioned? here in which hats are being made in these? States - it is done in Victoria, and I believe in New South Wales too - and specially marked inside “ Made in England.”” Why ? Because the shopkeeper considers that the consumer, for whom there is so much, concern, prefers a hat bearing that mark. Honorable members know very well that all over the world the manufacturer studies the whims and fancies of the public just as carefully in food as in dress. He watches for the tendency of the public in a certain, direction. Immediately the American manufacturer detects a tendency towards vegetarianism, he begins to make up all sorts of cereals, in forms which he calls “ grape nuts.” We find a variety of goods intended for food which are manufactured in> order to appeal to the moving taste of thepublic in food. Are we going to attempt to cure that, to eradicate it, in order to induce a high standard which, however desirable, all experience has shown to be impracticable? The honorable member for Kooyong, as the president of the combined1 Chambers of Commerce of Australia, represents a position which we ought to respect here. When I use the term “respect,” I do not wish to be understood as saying that he should receive more attention than does any man who is not connected with those institutions. But he moves this motion for a Select Committee as the representative of a large body of mercantile men who know the difficulties and complexities of commerce. The House would do well not to stop the Bill, but to pause. Under all the circumstances, seeing the extraordinary shortcomings which have been pointed out: in the Bill, from the fact that it does not protect the consumer either abroad or here,, it behoves the Government and every member of the House to pause with regard to its passage, and merely to say, “ We do not express any opinion on the Bill at thepresent’ time. We should like some special evidence on its subject-matter from all’ classes affected, and when we have that evidence, with a short report, the value of which we can judge for ourselves, we canthen determine whether the Bill is one which would do credit to the Parliament,, and effect the purpose which we have in hand.”
– We have listened to an admirable speech, which should convince honorable members of the absolutenecessity of voting against this measure- £ agree with the honorable and learned member for Parkes that it will not carry out the intention for which it was introduced. It is possible that the commercial immorality of the importer is only equalled by the commercial immoralityof the local manufacturer. I know of a manufacturer in New South Wales who. has placed locally-made boots on the Sydney market with the brand, “ Made in America.” This gentleman is a good protectionist, and is well known to some members of the Ministry, and he has availed himself of the subterfuge to which I have referred to sell the goods he manufactures. We are aware that the principal intention of such a measure as this should be to secure to the consumer a healthy food supply. We are not so much, concerned with inferior wearing apparel, as with the injury done to the health of the community by the consumption of foods and medicines of a deleterious character. This is a matter which can best be dealt with by a Foods Adulteration Bill. I have already spoken on the second reading of this measure, and I now rise merely to protest against it being referred to a Select Committee. In almost every speech I have recently made, I have had to direct attention to the tendency on the part of members of this House to grant applications made for the -appointment of Royal Commissions and Select Committees. I do not wish to pose as an Ishmaelite in my opposition to this tendency. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has just inferred that this House seems indisposed to grant a Select Committee for the consideration of measures of this kind. The position is absolutely the reverse, and there is now hardly a member of the House who is not a member of one or more Select Committees, or of a Royal Commission. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has said that this measure will not carry out the intention with which it has been introduced, and should consequently be referred to a Select Committee. In proposing that this measure should be so referred, the intention of honorable members may be to destroy it.
– There is some merit in the Bill, and we do not wish to destroy at.
– If some ‘honorable members desire that iti should be referred to a Select. Committee, in order, that it might toe destroyed, that should be stated openly.
– That is not my intention.
– I am aware that it is not the intention of the honorable member for Kooyong. I desire, as strongly as does any member of, the House, to protect the interests of the consumers of Australia. In their own interests the Government should resist the attempt to refer this measure to a Select Committee. If they believe in It they should light to the last ditch to carry it, and if they do not believe in it they should withdraw it. Are we to understand that in the Commonwealth. Parliament, which should be the exemplar for all the Parliaments of Australia, there has been introduced a system of Government by Select Committees? Why should this measure be sent to a Select Committee? Is it desired to obtain information which the departmental officers should have obtained for the Minister? I am tired of the practice of sheltering civil servants. The Minister of Trade and Customs is supposed to have at his command’ the advice of expert officials, and if they have failed to arm him with information to meet the objections urged against this Bill they have neglected their duty, and’ should be dismissed. Instead of this action being taken it is proposed to refer the Bill to a Select Committee; that will involve expense and further delay.
– The Bill will not go to a Select Committee if I can help it, and that is also the view of the Prime Minister.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs resist theproposal to refer the Bill to’ a Select Committee ?
– The Prime Minister must know that thetendency to refer measures to Select Committees and Royal Commissions is positively -becoming a disease in this House. The honorable and learned gentleman knows that there is such a thing as Ministerial responsibility,and I ask whether he and the members of his Government are prepared to continue in office under a system of Government, by Select Committees?
– I do not think honorable members will hear any more of the Bill if it, is referred to a Select Committee.
– Is that an admission that the Minister fears that the Select Committee would emasculate the’ Bill ?
– Certainly not; but I will not have the measure taken out of my hands.
– I can applaud the Minister for that. I believe the honorable gentleman takes a proper stand when he says that, having introduced the Bill, he will not allow the measure to be taken out of his hands. That is in accord with our system of responsible government. I trust that the press will take notice of the great expense to which the Commonwealth is put by the frequent appointment of Select Committees and Royal Commissions.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Spence) adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from the Senate forwarding the following resolution, and requesting the concurrence of the House of Representatives -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the High Commissioner for the Commonwealthof Australia should, when selected, be, selected by exhaustive ballot at a joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives.
– I have been asked by the honorable senator who moved the resolution in another place to take charge of it in this House, and 1 move -
That the consideration of the. message in Committee be madean order of the day for Thursday, 12th October.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Order of Business - Orient Mail Contract for Brisbane Service. Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of External Affairs). - I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
To-morrow we propose to continue the debate on the Commerce Bill.
– I desire to know whether the Prime Minister is in a position to afford us any further information with regard to the arrangements for the extension of the Orient mail service to Brisbane ?
– The despatch received from the Premier of Queensland, covering the new contract made between that State and the Orient Company, has only just come to hand, and some time will be required for its consideration. I do not hope to be able to deal with the matter before the end df next week, if then.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at11.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050914_reps_2_26/>.