3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– To meet the possible objection mentioned by the Prime Minister on the adjournment of the House last night, I give notice that when I have an opportunity to move my motion regarding the sale or consumption of spirituous liquors within the precincts of this chamber, I shall add to it the words “except for medicinal purposes.”
– As the Legitimation Bill which has been introduced by the honorable member for Melbourne is exciting a great deal of interest outside - that is evidenced by the letters in support of it received by honorable members - I ask the Prime Minister whether an opportunity will be afforded for its consideration this session?
– I see no present prospect of any private business being considered this session.
Mr. GROOM laid upon the table the following paper -
Papua - Ordinance of1909 - Gold-field reward.
Case of Mr. Quirk - Telephone List : Entries - Drysdale to Geelong Telephone - Sutherland Telephone Exchange - Telegraph Poles
– On Friday last, the honorable member for Kennedy, oh be half of the honorable member for Newcastle, asked the following question : -
An interim reply was given, and I nowfurnish specific answers. They are these -
On the same day the honorable member for Cook asked -
Only the first question was answered, and inquiries were promised in respect of the others. I have now been supplied with the following information : -
– In a list of the works being carried out by the Department of the Postmaster-General, published to-day, the telephone line from Geelong to Drysdale appears, with others, under the heading “Awaiting material.” I understood that the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Act, which was passed two or three months ago, provided funds for the purchase of the material necessary for these lines.
– Tenders for all necessary material were called directly the money became available. No doubt, in the case mentioned, it has not yet been supplied. The shortest time possible was fixed for the carrying out of the tenders, but it was not possible to call for tenders until Parliamentary sanction for the works had been obtained.
– In view of the repeated requests of the Shire Council of Sutherland and the residents of the neighbouring district for the establishment of a telephone exchange there, to which until now no satisfactory reply has been given, will the Postmaster-General instruct his officers to make a full inquiry to see if this convenience cannot be provided?
– I am not familiar with the matter, as it has not. been brought specifically under my attention, but I shall cause inquiries to be made. The establishment of the exchange, may be among the works authorized by Parliament. If it is not, I shall do all I can to ascertain the merits of the proposal, and shall, if possible, give effect to the wishes of the local residents.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice : -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to endeavour to pass an Act this session to amend theElectoral Laws so as to secure actual representation of majorities?
Importation of Explosives - Old-age Pensions Administration - Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act - Post and Telegraph Department : Congestion of Business : New Works : Promotions, Letter Sorters’ Examinations : Employe doing Outside Work : Appointments to Semiofficial Offices : Telephones in Hotels - Divisions : Use of Roped Enclosure - Cigarette Smoking - Miners’ Accident Fund- Newcastle Naval Brigade - Personal Explanation : Maitland Miners - Electoral. Rolls : Western Australia.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply- proposed.
.-On last grievance day, the honorable . member for Corio stated that, when -I was Minister of Trade and Customs, a deputation waited on me, and obtained permission to import explosives made by black labour. I repeatedly interjected that thatwas not so, and subsequently formally stated that I had not given such permission. The official report of the honorable member’s remarks has since been published. I find that he said that -
In February last a deputation of importers waited upon the then Minister of Trade and Customs, the honorable member for Yarra, and asked him to admit to Australia an explosive made, by black labour, by the De Beers Explosive Company, of South Africa, and which, if admitted, would come into competition with Australian explosives, made by white labour.
As I said when the matter was first mentioned by the honorable member for Corio, no such permission was given by me, nor was there any need to ask for permission. No deputation of importers waited on me with any request of the kind. The facts are these : About the beginning of last November, it was reported in Queensland that explosives manufactured by black labour, . which could therefore be sold cheaply, were being imported into the State. The matter was referred to me by certain reporters of the. Melbourne and Queensland press, but, although I caused inquiries to be made, I could not find that explosives had come to Australia from South Africa. As a safeguard, however, the following circular was issued by the Department: -
Confidential. For guidance of officers only.
Inquiry re Explosives from Cape Explosives Company, said to be “ dumped.”
It is alleged that the Cape Explosives Company is sending to Australia explosives at unfairly low prices, and representations have been made to the effect that the company referred to is “dumping” its goods in Australia.
The Collector is therefore instructed to have inquiries made as to the truth of the allegations, and report the result. A statement showing the invoice values of the Cape Explosives Company’s explosives, as compared with others imported, should also be forwarded.
Early in December, an inquiry was held in Melbourne, with a view to ascertaining whether any of the goods had come to Australia, and, if so, at what rates; and the result was published in the press, not only in Melbourne, but in Svdney. Further on in his speech, the honorable member for Corio said: -
Evidently the importers of the South African black labour-made explosive thought it could be kept out, or they would not have asked for permission to import it. The Nobel Company, which has works in Glasgow, and other parts of the world, and whose importations come into competition with the productions of the Deer Park factory here, has at no time employed coloured labour in any of its works. Consequently, the permission given by the honorable member for Yarra was a blow at both an Australian industry and white labour generally. He said at the time that he had no authority to keep out this black labour product, but that was after he had given permission for its importation.
I never gave permission for the importation. When the matter was brought before me as Minister, I had an inquiry made, the result of which appears in the Departmental file, which, at the request of the honorable member for Corio, was laid on the Library table. On the 27th Mav the honorable member asked the following question: -
Will the Minister of Trade and Customs have placed in the Library the papers connected with the importation of explosives made by the South African Manufacturing Company?
To that I replied-
I shall be pleased to have the whole of the information collected by the Department placed on the table of the Library.
Included in the file is a lengthy statement, part of which is confidential, and did not appear in the press. The information that was supplied to the press was published in the Age, as follows: -
The report upon which the Minister based his decision is the outcome of communications with
Mr. F. M. Dickenson, of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, with reference to the agreement made between the company and the “ offending “ South African company, the Cape Explosives Works Limited, of Somerset West, Cape Colony, for the supply by the latter of explosives. Mr. W. Knox, M.P;, of Messrs; Knox, Schlapp, and Company, who have been appointed agents in the Commonwealth for the company, and Mr. J. R. Grimmer, the Cape Explosives Company’s representatives from South Africa, were present at an interview which the writer of the report had with Mr. Dickenson. It was explained to him that the information of the Cape Explosives Company was “ due to the excessive charges made by Nobel’s Company for explosives used by the mining companies in South Africa, and at the present time the Cape Explosives Works, under an agreement, supplies half the quantity of explosives used by the South African mines, the other half being supplied by Nobel’s, whose factory is situated at Modder Fonte, the total quantity being over 600,000 cases per annum.” The writer of the report proceeds : -
In reply to a question as to the respective prices of the explosives sold by Nobel’s and the Cape Explosives Works Limited, Mr. Dickenson informed me that the prices paid to Nobel’s for explosives delivered at the mines at Broken Hill from the United Kingdom for the year ended 31st July, 1908, were as follows : -
For the period from1st August, 1908, to end of February, 1909,. Nobel’s prices are : -
and an indication was given that at the expiration of twelve months . from 1st August, 1908, a further rise of 10s. per case might be expected. Up to as recently as September, 1908, the combination quoted the following prices, and for yearly contracts only ….
The prices do not appear in the press report, but they did appear in the report which was placed on the Library table - but Mr. Dickenson states that since the Cape Explosives Works Limited decided to come to the Australian market, the above-named explosives have been offered by the combination at much lower figures than those quoted above, and he believes that contracts could now be made with them, extending over a term of five years, at the following prices : -
The following comparison will show at a glance the respective cost of the two explosives named delivered at the Broken Hill mines : -
With reference to the black labour question, the report shows that both the Cape Explosives Company and Nobel’s use coloured employment to some extent at their South African factories.
The honorable member for Corio distinctly stated that Nobel’s had never employed any coloured labour in their works-
It appears that the Nobel Company are the largest employers of coloured labour, and pay the lowest wages. When the honorable member forCorio was speaking, I interjected that I had not given the permissionalleged ; and on the 21st December the honorable member wrote to me as follows: -
Will you please reconsider your decision re admitting the explosives of the Cape Explosives Company on the following grounds : -
Itemploys black labour very extensively.
The Australian Explosives Company of Deer Park imports no explosives or material made by black labour.
It employs white men only on good wages and fair hours.
Its price is already affected by the threatened importations.
According to the Hansard report, the honorable member stated that it was in February I gave permission for the importation; but I do not know whether he really said that; and if he altered the report, it would not be for the first time. In December, two months before he alleged I gave permission - which, by the way, wouldnot be required - he wrote to me, asking me to reconsider the matter; and I replied on the following day -
In reply to your note of 21st inst. on the subject of the Cape Explosives Company, I fear the facts at present at my disposal would not justify any decision other than that already arrived at.
There is no law in existence which prohibits, excepting prison-made goods, the importation into Australia of goods the product of black or other cheap labour, and there is no evidence, so far as I am aware, which brings the particular goods in question within the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act.
The honorable member wrote the next day, thanking me for my letter, and adding -
The law in existence which prohibits the im portation into Australia of goods the product of cheap or black labour is the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906, No. 9, section 18 a, c, and d, and the fact that the importer’s agent sought your consent first shows that they themselves suspected the illegality of their action and that your Department would uphold the labour rates in the Australian industry.
If you want evidence that the cheap labour of the Cape Explosives Company will (section. 18c) “ probably result in an inadequate remuneration for labour in an Australian industry,” I will see that you have plenty of evidence from the Australian Explosives Company and its employes; but the probability of such result is so obvious and economically certain that I am sure the agents of the Cape Explosives Company were simply astounded at your decision in their favour.
I gave no decision in their favour, because I was never asked to give a decision. In order, however, to be perfectly sure that the provisions of the AustralianIndustries Preservation Act were not being contravened, I sent the matter on to the Attorney-Generalfor his opinion, a copy of which I have here. I will not read the whole of it, but in the course of it the Attorney-General says -
Section 19 of the Australian Industries Preservation Act enables the Comptroller-General. to take action for the prevention of dumping whenever he has received a complaint in writing, and has reason to believe thatgoods are being imported into Australia with intent to destroy or injure any Australian industry by their sale or disposal in Australia in unfair competition with any Australian goods. “ Unfair competition “ is to a certain extent defined by sections 17 and 18. By section 17, it is limited to competition with those Australian industries, the preservation of which is advantageous to the Commonwealth, having due regard to the interests of producers, workers, and consumers. By section 18 competition is deemed to be unfair, unless the contrary isproved, in certain cases; amongst others, if the competition would probably result in an inadequate remuneration for labour in the Australian industry, or in creating substantial disorganization in Australian industry, or throwing workers out of employment.
In orderto form an opinion as to whether the competition could be considered as unfair within the meaning of these provisions, it would be necessary to inquire into the facts as to the size of the Australian industry, and as to the interests of producers, workers, and consumers.
But in order to bring the case within the Act, it is necessary to show, not only that the competition is unfair, but also that the goods are imported with intent to destroy or injure at Australian industry by the unfair competition.
In the Attorney-General’s opinion, there is nothing in the papers to suggest any such intent. On the other hand, the intent seems to be, so far as can be ascertained, to compete with the Nobel Company, and restore the prices of explosives to a normal level. (Signed). R. R. Garran,
Secretary, Attorney-General’s Department.
The honorable member for Corio stated -
The honorable member for Yarra asks how he could have stopped this importation.. He did not consider or refer to that side of the matter when replying to the deputation from the Miners’ Association.
But this is my reply, as shown in the Departmental papers - a copy of which I have not the slightest ‘doubt was among the papers laid on the table of the Library at the request of the honorable member for Corio -
The Minister in reply to the deputation said that under the Tariff no prohibition could be placed on goods being imported into Australia simply becausethey were the product of black labour. It appeared from the statistical classification that the principal countries of origin of the explosives which were imported into Australia were Great Britain, Sweden, and Germany. There was an explosive factory’ at Deer Park, and as far as he knew they made most of this sort of explosive. He thought it an encouraging sign of the times to find the desire so much in evidence to use goods made by white labour. He regretted that he could not place any prohibition on goods made by black labour outside the Commonwealth, and he thought they should do their utmost to see that the explosives were made here.
The honorable member for Corio must have read those papers, and in common fairness, before trying to attack me, he ought to have admitted that I did make that reply. I informed the Government Whip of my intention toreply to-day to the honorable member’s statements, and I have no doubt that the Whip informed him of the fact, but the honorable member has sneaked out, instead of waiting here to hear what I had to say.
– His statement to me was that he was perfectly indifferent as to what the honorable member might say.
– I, too, am indifferent to what he says. In fact, I doubt whether some of the things which appear in the Hansard report of his speech were stated by. him in the House, because this would not be the first time that the honorable member had doctored his Hansard speech.
– Order ! The honorable member must not say that of any member of the House. I ask him to withdraw the statement.
– At your request, sir. I withdraw it, but the honorable member did alter his Hansard proofs on one occasion when, I think, your predecessor was in the Chair.
– I would draw the attention of the honorable member to the fact that the expression which he used was not exactly what he is now saying. It was an expression which might be used to imply very dishonorable conduct on the part of an honorable member. The alteration of a proof, however, might be made with consent.
– The alteration to which I refer was not made with consent. The honorable member made a statement in the
House on one occasion, and deliberately altered his Hansard proof to make itappear that he said something altogether different. In this case the honorable mem, ber stated that I did not consider or refer to one aspect of the matter when replying to the deputation from the Miners’ Association, but any honorable member can see from the official document that I did refer to it. I think every honorable member, whether a political opponent of mine or not, except, perhaps, the honorable member forCorio, will do me the credit of believing thatI would have done my utmost, if I possibly could, to preventexplosives made by black labour from coming in ; but as every honorable member, except again the honorable member for Corio, knows, no power is given to any Minister of Trade and Customs to prohibit or prevent the introduction of the product of any labour, unless it is prison made. In this case the goods were not prisonmade. The honorable member also said that Nobels did not employ black labour, but they employ twice as many coloured employés as the Cape Explosives Company, to whose goods the honorable member was objecting. I have obtained, through the courtesy of another honorable member, a memorandum showing that the first shipment of explosives left Cape Town, per s.s. Aberlour,on the 15th December, 1908, arriving . at Melbourne on 4th or 5th January, 1909. It will be seen that if the first shipment left the Cape on that date, and any permission for their landing here was required - although, as I have stated, it was not required - that permission would not have been given by me, but by my predecessor, because it would have been necessary to send word to Cape Town that the goods could enter. The goods left Cape Town on the 15th December, one month after we took office, and any honorable member who knows anything about business will recognise that a shipment of explosives could not be sent from any port in the world without at least a month’s notice, apart from the sending of the order for the goods, so that, in all probability, the negotiations for the importation of these goods were going on for months. It was known in Queensland as far back as October last that they were to be sent here, and that was long before the Labour Government took office. The honorable member for Corio, in his anxiety to injure a political opponent, went out of his wav to deliberately misrepresent the facts of the case.
He stated, time after time, in his speech, that 1 had given permission for the goods to be landed, when he knew full well that no permission was required. If permission had been required, every other honorable member in the House knows that I should not have granted it. I did not raise this question as a matter of personal explanation, as I could have done any day during the past three weeks, but waited for this opportunity on grievance day, because I desired to give the honorable member as fair and full an opportunity to reply as I had. The honorable member could have replied to me to-day on this motion without asking permission to make a personal ex.planation, but he tells the Government Whip that it does not matter to him- what r say. Personally, before I would go out of my way to slander a political opponent as the honorable member has done, I would retire from public life altogether. The honorable member has made misstatements in Order to gain a little .political capital. It is disgraceful that an honorable mern.ber should make such statements, and then absent himself from the House when, he. knows that a reply is to be made by the man whom he has attempted to misrepresent.
. -I desire to bring under the notice of the Government, and more particularly the Postmaster-General, the fact that for two or three years there has been a growing congestion of business in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, and an inability, owing to the want of an increased staff, to deal with the accumulated work thrust upon it. A little while ago the Postmaster-General informed the House that provision was made on this year’s Estimates for a largely increased staff to enable the difficulty to be overcome, and said that arrangements -were being made to carry out a large number of works which had been approved, but remained in abeyance pending the provision of the necessary funds. In New South Wales, and .1 presume that the position is the same throughout the Commonwealth, these works, instead of- being expedited, are still largely at a standstill. .When honorable members make representations in regard to any of them to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, they receive the stereotyped reply that the works have been approved, but, owing to want of funds, they cannot be taken in hand, and they must wait their turn. I find that practically the whole of these new works are being held up because the Estimates-in-Chief have not yet been passed. One of the causes of the delay is the want of a sufficiently large supervising staff. The Estimates-in-Chief provide for an increased staff, but until they are passed the hands of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral and his responsible officers are tied. This condition of affairs is detrimental to the efficiency of the Department. The officers are doing their best to carry on under the old conditions, which ought not to obtain. It is unreasonable that they should, but, until the Estimates-in-Chief are passed, and more money is made available, this unsatisfactory position must continue. The Government have asked us this session to pass two or three Supply Bills, and, having regard to the way in which business is being transacted, in all probability we shall be asked to pass yet another before the session closes. Such measures do not provide for any substantial enlargement of the existing staffs. In the early stages of the session the Government introduced an Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, which was passed on the ‘ understanding that the works for which it provided would be taken in hand at once; but, owing to the want of a larger supervising staff, a considerable proportion of them are held up. Nearly half the present financial year has gone, and the result of this delay will be that the Department will be asked to increase its staff1 - to take on new men who must undergo a certain amount of training to fit themselves for their duties - and to carry out these works in six months, or perhaps less. The natural outcome will be that at the end of the financial year a large number of new works, for which provision has been made, will remain untouched, and the votes in respect of- them will lapse. We shall have a continuation of. the deplorable state of affairs that has existed for years, which has led to the disorganization of the Department, and given rise to a considerable amount of justifiable dissatisfaction and discontent on the part of the public. Now that the weakness has been discovered and admitted by the Government, the remedy should be applied. The remedy is to be found either, in making- special provision for increasing the supervising staff in the next Supply Bill, or in passing the EstimatesinChief without further delay. Another point’ to be remembered is that it is only when the Estimates are under consideration that we have a full opportunity to deal with grievances.
– -There are plenty of opportunities to discuss grievances in connexion with a motion of the kind now before us.
Mc. THOMAS BROWN.- Under a, motion of this kind we may discuss grievances generally, but it is only when the Estimates are before us that we can deal in detail with the items, and point out effectively the weaknesses of the system to which we object. I fear that unless the Government proceed with the Estimates without further delay, we shall be called upon to pass them in the closing days of rhe session, with practically no discussion, and that honorable members of another place will complain that they are again required to deal with them in circumstances which do not permit of justice being done, to the important questions involved. I urge the Government to enable the appropriations that have already been made to be used at once by increasing the supervising staff. There is another matter which has been brought under my notice, and which 1 have discussed wilh the PostmasterGeneral. The honorable gentleman was good enough to show me the papers in his possession in relation to it, but, having carefully examined them, and made myself acquainted as far as possible with the position obtaining outside, I still think that the complaint is worthy of his attention. It relates to the question of promotions. There is a large number of officers in various branches whose promotion from the grade in which the salary is£156 to that in which the salary is£162 per annum depends on the passing of a certain technical examination, no matter how efficient they may be in the particular work of their branch. Should the men in the Parcels Post, the Letter Carriers, the Registration of Letters, and the Private Letter Box Branches desire promotion, they must prove, among other things, that they can sort 500 letters, picked from the bulk, at the rate of thirty a minute, with a maximum error of only 2 per cent. Now, proficiency in sorting is to be acquired only by practice, though, of course, the memorizing of the names of post towns, which in New South Wales number some 2,700. is indispensable. Employés in the General Despatch Branch have a great advantage over those in the branches which I have named, because of the technical knowledge which they gain in carrying out their ordinary duties. Consequently, other officers cannot hope to compete with them, unless they get themselves coached in the work of sorting, and devote leisure time to it. Men may be very expertin the work of their branches, and may never be called upon to do sorting work ; yet ability to sort is made a necessary condition to promotion. They are asked to undergo a technical examination, not in the work which they are engaged in performing, but in that of the General Despatch Branch. I am informed that in the newspaper sorting room at the Sydney General Post Office, there is an officer whose removal is objected to, because of his special aptitude for the work upon which he is engaged.That special aptitude, however, is not recognised when he asks for an increase of salary, and consequent promotion. To obtain promotion he must show himself capable of doing the highly technical work of general letter sorting. Probably if he proved himself capable of doing this work, he would still be kept in the newspaper despatch room. As it is, he has to see juniors pass overhis head, because, by reason of their employment in the General Despatch Branch, they acquire proficiency in general sorting, while he obtains no recognition for his proficiency in the special work in which he is engaged. The matter was brought under the notice of the Minister’s predecessor, and recently, in Sydney, and again in Melbourne, under that of the honorable gentleman. In New South Wales officers submitting themselves for examination have to memorize the names of 2,700 post towns, and in Victoria 2,50.0 names have to be learned ; while in Queensland only 750, in South Australia only 730, in Western Australia only 463, and in Tasmania only 390, have to be committed to memory. There is a big difference between 390 and 2,700, but it is admitted that that inequality can hardly be rectified. What if chiefly complained of is that officerscannot obtain promotion until they have shown ability to perform the technical work of a branch other than that in which they are engaged, or likely to be engaged. The fact that few qualify for promotion under the present regulations should convince the Minister that substantial objection is to be taken to them Candidates for the position of sorter in the second grade have to prove their abilityto sort at the rate of forty-fivelettersa minute, with a maximum error of 2 pet cent. ; but officials competent to judge sa that the test is too severe, and that it would bc enough to require the sorting of forty letters a minute. The view is held bymany in the lower grades that the examinations’ are made difficult in order to prevent men from qualifying for promotion and higher pay. If that is so, it is not creditable to the administration of the Department. We should encourage our officers to increase their efficiency by rewarding them reasonably, instead of setting up insuperable barriers against promotion. It is stated, too, that the managers of the General Despatch rooms prefer men who have been trained under them to new men who have not acquired the necessary technical proficiency, and are unfamiliar with the work. This operates against the transfer of able and capable men who desire practical knowledge in order to pass the test. I ami informed by those competent to judge that a man cannot hope to acquire the technical knowledge and experience necessary with less than sixty days’ constant work, and that it is practically impossible for him to secure that knowledge outside unless he is a man of great natural ability, able to devote much of his time to the task. The Department claims that facilities are afforded inasmuch as men are allowed, in their own time, to do sorting work at the head office, with cards supplied for the purpose, but, although . that is something, it is not sufficient to meet all cases. The arrangement imposes unfair and unreasonable conditions on good-. men, though, of course, if this knowledge were absolutely necessary for the work to be done in the future, something might be said in its favour. As a matter of fact; however, a man, after he passes the examination, may have no more direct connexion with the work referred to, and I” see .no reason why the position could not be met by an examination in the special work he -will be called upon to perform. Why should the work of one particular branch be selected as the test for the whole of the other branches? I ask the Postmaster-General to go into the matter carefully, and see whether or not the constant complaints are well-grounded, and, if so, devise some method for the removal of the disabilities.
– 2 81- - I am sorry to have to bring forward a grievance connected ‘with the administration of the Old-age Pensions
Act. Hitherto, I have always been able to get redress from the officials in any cases of hardship brought under my notice, because, while carrying out what they consider to be the law, they have been actuated by feelings of humanity. A rase has arisen, however, in which I find it impossible to obtain that justice which is so eminently desirable in a matter of this kind. I am certain that, when the measure was under consideration, it was never intended that in assessing a pension, such’ a deduction as that to which I desire to call attention should be made. This is the case of a man and his wife who, though not legally separated, do not live together, owing, it is said, to the old man being fidgety, or something of that sort. Prior to the separation, the man was receiving a pension of 10s. per week, and some months after they had agreed to live apart, the wife applied for a pension. Her application disclosed the fact that she . possessed a house, which at present is let at 8s. per week. A commission of sixpence a week has to be paid to an agent for collecting the rent j and, if we allow for rates, insurance, and so forth, the net rental cannot be more than 5s. a week. The officials capitalized the value of this house at ,£250, and I may say that the municipal assessment is £16 a year. The .officials read the Act as meaning that if a man and his wife are living together in a house which does not produce income, allowance is made up to a value of £100, and, exceeding that, sum, the pension is reduced by £1 a year for every .£10. If, however, the couple are separated, and do not live in the house, it is regarded as revenue-producing, and the value allowed is only ^25 per year each, so that in this way the old people lose another £5 a year from their pensions. When the Bill was under consideration, none of us had an idea that people could live cheaper in lodgings than in their own house ; arid I do not see why such a couple as I have in my mind should be penalized. The circumstances may be such that the old people could not live by themselves in their own house, and if they go to live with relatives and friends, then they must lose a portion of the pension.
– Under the Victorian Act, the property was taken possession of by the State.
– The Treasurer could not say one-tenth as much in condemnation of the Victorian Act as I could.
In Victoria, there was not an old-age pension, but a charity dole thrown at the old people ; it was a system we can regard only with horror, and as a matter of fact it was only a sop to close the mouths of some people with democratic leanings, and was so unreasonable that only 16 per cent, of those eligible received pensions. We, as representatives, told the people of. Australia that the Federal Act was to be a real Old-age Pensions Act, with beneficent and common-sense administration ; and, though laymen are prone to err in the interpretation of the law, I am sure it was never intended that there should be such anomalies as that to which I am calling attention. My own opinion is that the Minister could, of his own volition, put this matter right. It is not for us to say that the old couple should live together, and thus get rid of the difficulty, because we know that incompatibility of temper sometimes keeps very excellent persons apart. Unfortunately, the Commissioner is a single man, and really does not understand these cases; but we may be sure that it was never intended that pensioners should be penalized in this way. All who have to do with small suburban properties know that the municipal assessments vary. A very comfortable home can be found for two aged people on a little property, 14 or 15 miles from Melbourne, where land is cheap, for ^100. But what a hovel you would get for that price in any of the dearer parts of Melbourne or its suburbs ! It is provided that £1 per annum shall be deducted from the pension for every j£io in value over £100. A cottage that brings in 8s. per week in a suburb of Melbourne is not worth ,£250 as an investment. . Eight shillings per week is a fair return from the property stand-point, but the life of these houses is not great, and a certain amount has to be set apart every 3’ear as a sinking fund to meet depreciation. From that point of view, an assessment of ,£250 in the case to which I have referred is too high. The peculiar feature of the case is that the Act is being administered in a way which encourages people to deceive us, and get rid of their property before applying for pensions. In the questions that are put to applicants, they are asked whether they have got rid of property in order to become entitled to the pension, yet at the same time we try to force them to do the very thing to which we object.
– Section 24 deals with the whole subject.
– Yes, but there is a provision in the Act which gives the Minister a certain discretion.
– I’ expect the discretion is given to the Commissioner.
– I am not sure, but will look it up. I wish to emphasize my contention that it is inhuman to penalize old people because they feel that their tempers will not allow them to live together. Parliament, in passing the Act, never intended to penalize them for living apart, assuming that they have led, and are leading, moral lives. The remarkable thing is that the Act as it stands puts those who have been formally separated by a decree in a better position than those who are simply living apart from one another. Surely we do not want to make the difference between them so wide that they cannot come together again ? We ought not to penalize them in order to bring them together again, but, at the same time, we should not prevent them from being reconciled. With regard to assessing the capital value of properties, it must be remembered that there are valuers and valuers. Some municipalities have valuers who do their duty, and assess properties to the full amount, but ‘ in other municipalities, the assessment is kept well below the full value, for many reasons. In some cases, the councillors are large property holders themselves, and consider that they have been elected to look after the interests of house owners. They, therefore, desire to keep the municipal taxation down as low as possible, and one way of doing that is to keep the valuations down. Consequently, a man might suffer in one municipality, and gain in another, and the Department ought to have a better method of arriving at the capitalized value than by simply taking the municipal valuations. No Parliament, in imposing a tax upon property, would take the municipal valuations as a basis. Assessing the house in question at £18 a year, we might capitalize it in twenty years. That would make it ^360. The Department have not done that, but have made the valuation considerably lower, but any house agent or property owner knows that it would not bring £120 if put into the market to-morrow. Capitalizing it at twelve years would bring it out at .£200, yet the Department assess it at £25°- A difference of ,£50 in the valuation means a reduction of per annum in the pension. This may not seem a very great reduction to some people, but it means 2s. per week, which would enable old people who cannot earn a living to obtain some additional comfort. Seeing that the Treasurer has power to administer the Act more leniently in that direction, I hope he will give serious consideration to the cases which I have placed before him. I have had on the’ notice-paper for some time a motion asking the Government to place on the Supplementary Estimates a sum of money to recoup the agricultural implement makers for the great expense to which they were put in endeavouring to establish the validity of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act. I dare say that most honorable members are just as conversant with the matter as I am, and would be quite as willing to advocate the cause of these men, but it has become my duty to take up the matter, because a great number of the men live in my constituency, and their immediate needs come more particularly under my notice. I know the great amount of energy which they put into the fight for their rights, and the work which the officials of the union performed. They gave a great deal of their private time in order to prepare the case for the Arbitration Court, their object being simply to justify an Act passed by this Parliament. In the dying Parliament of 1906 a measure was passed which was thought at the time to be the inception of a true form of Protection, which would insure to the employe and the consumer a fair share of the benefits of the Protective duties levied upon imported articles. The measure was passed after as earnest a debate in this House as ever took place in any Parliament in the world. I was not a member of this Parliament at the time, but I frequently listened to the debates in this House and in another place. The Government. of the day were at great pains to show that the Bill would be of benefit to every one concerned in the industries affected. On the Government side to-day there are honorable members who fought both for and against the measure. For two years after the Act came into force the workers waited for the employers to pay them fair and reasonable wages, and then when they saw that there was a prospect that they would have to wait for ever unless they took action themselves, they brought a case before the Arbitration Court. Honorable members W 11 recollect that every week or two the Minister of
Trade and Customs was asked when he intended to collect Excise from the employers. The answer always was that the Government were not in a position to prove that the employers were not paying fair and reasonable wages. On that ground they failed to take action for the recovery of the Excise. Then the workers in the industry, through their union, took action in the Arbitration Court to supply the proof which the Government of the day said was essential, and it is now a matter of history that during the hearing of the case Mr. Justice Higgins declared in unmistakable terms that the Sunshine Harvester Company were not paying fair and reasonable wages. I may say here that although there is some difference in their supporters, there is not a great deal of difference between the composition of the Government of that day and the present. Government.
– Is the honorable member referring to the last Government?
– Yes, the last Government from whom the honorable gentleman ran away, because they were supported by the Labour party.
– I thought the honorable member referred to the Labour Government.
– I did not refer to the memorable Government led by the honorable member for Wide Bay, but to the Government of the small minority that preceded the Fisher Government. The Government of the day took action to claim Excise to the amount of ,£20,000, from the employers who had not paid fair and reasonable wages. Then the vested interests of Australia, the capitalistic employers, and all the forces they could gather together were ranged against.the Act. One can never say what those forces really are until he bucks up against the capitalist. Honorable members on this side know what it means. The Treasurer may laugh, because he has had those forces on his side, and will no doubt make use of them again. I do not blame the right honorable gentleman for that, because I suppose T should do the same if I had the opportunity.
– Then it is’ a case of sour grapes with the -honorable member ? ‘
– It may be, but the fact remains’ that the large employers of Australia with all the money behind them that might be necessary, appealed to the High Court, and beat the handful of men who, with a few shillings, had fought the harvester manufacturers in the Arbitration
Court to justify the Federal Government and Parliament. The High Court declared the Federal Act ultra vires, and that the Excise could not be collected. The employers in the industry had been given all they wanted.
– How did the honorable member vote on that duty?
– I was not a member of the House at the time, but if 1 had been I should have voted for the high duties.
– I voted for a low duty. Mr. MATHEWS.-I have a right to claim, the assistance of the honorable member for Wentworth in this matter, as well as the assistance of all Protectionistmembers.I heard the honorable member debating the matter on one occasion, and he was not very scrupulous in the charges he levelled against the employers, about whom I am speaking. If the honorable member did not actually call them robbers, he went very near to doing so. He said they were trying to get from the great public of Australia something to which they had no right. IfI had been a member of the House at the time, I should have supported the demand of the workers, because I knew it was the intention of Parliament that they should share in the Protection proposed to be given. But having received the Protection afforded them by the duty, the employers flouted their men. Those who voted against the protective duty taunted those who had supported it, and said that in being deceived they deserved all they got. But it is characteristic of the party to whichI belong that they profit by experience. We shall watch these gentlemen in the future, and refuse to take what the present Government intend to offer us in place of what we expected to get in the shape of the new Protection. I do not wish to go too fully into the matter, but it was necessary that I should refer to some details with which the majority of honorable members are, perhaps, better acquainted that I am myself. The men lost their money, and did not secure the fair and reasonable wages for which they asked. If they had been given those wages, there would have been no need for them to cry out about the expenditure they incurred in getting them.
– Is the honorable member referring to the case in connexion with which Mr. Sutch sent in a claim to the late Government?
- Mr. Sutch is the Secretary of the Woodworkers’ Union.
– And he sent in a claim for 5s. a day in respect of his appearance in Court on behalf of that union ?
– If he did ask £5 5s. a day, a lawyer would have asked for more.
– But a lawyer might have won the case.
– The honorable member knows that the claim was made not merely in respect of his individual work.
– But for his general interest in the case.
- Mr. Sutch is an energetic and able man, and put his case before the Court just as well as any lawyer could have done.
– Even better, according to the learned Justice.
– He had at his fingers’ ends the whole of the details in regard to the industrial dispute in question. He had been associated with the claim from its inception, and as a strong, intelligent man, was well able to conduct it on behalf of his union. The claim which he sent in covered, not only his individual services, but the cost of gathering the material used in the presentation of his case. The expenses of the union in the case to which I have been referring amounted to about£1,200. Having regard to the length of the proceedings, and the number of lawyers engaged, I do not think that they were unduly large. I do not say that the lawyers overcharged ; indeed, I am surprised at their modesty. The union has already paid the larger proportion of those expenses ; but the amount outstanding has still to be raised.
– Did the ex- Prime Minister agree to pay these expenses?
– A member of the late Government in another place said that they had intended to place on the Estimates an item to provide for portion of the expenses incurred by the union.
– But not the whole of the expenses ?
– No ; and I am not asking the present Government to pay the whole of the expenses incurred by the union. The men obtained certain experience, and while experience must be paid for, it is not too much to ask the Government to pay something for the experience which the Commonwealth has gained as the result of their action. The Government of the day could not claim Excise under the Act until it had been shown that the manufacturers were not paying a fair and reasonable wage. The men proved that they were not doing so, and the Government then took action to collect the Excise. The union, therefore, did a service to the Commonwealth, and I believe that if it could be shown that it would not lead to other claims being made on the Government, a majority of the House would support my request. The honorable member for Wentworth would recognise, in such circumstances, the fairness of the claim that a proportion of the expenses incurred by the union should be borne by the Government. Such a proposition is by no means new. On several occasions, this Parliament has voted money to reimburse candidates .for election to this House the expenses incurred by them, owing either to the faulty law of the Commonwealth, or to faulty administration.
– If the Commonwealth law only was purely at fault in this case, the men have certainly a moral claim on the Government.
– And the High Court said that it was.
– Did the- parties to the dispute contribute to the fault?
– They could not .do so. The men proved that the wages paid were not fair and reasonable, but the High Court held that the Act under which Excise was demanded was unconstitutional. 1 have heard it hinted that the Ministry would not be disinclined to do something for the men, but for the fear that if they did there would at once be a rush from other quarters to obtain a similar concession. Such a rush, however, is not likely to occur. It was said in another place that if this claim were recognised the employers would likewise have a good claim on the Government on the ground that as the Act was unconstitutional they -were put to unnecessary expense. But there is a vast difference between the position of the two parties. . It must not be forgotten that the employers have secured- the benefit of the protection granted by this Parliament, whereas the employes and the vast body of the consumers, who were to share in that protection, have not.
– According to the Chairman of the Harvester Commission, in some cases people who buy harvesters on terms have to pay interest amounting to 51 per cent.
– That is so. The Harvester Commission inquiries showed that there was anything but fair dealing in the transactions between the -manufacturers and those who purchase their machines. They showed that various methods were resorted to by the manufacturers in order to evade the Act ; that men were not allowed to purchase machines for cash ; that the manufacturers desired to sell on terms so that by charging exorbitant rates of interest they could secure an increased profit.
– Knowing that they had a good market.
– Yes. The employers have gained a double victory. They have secured the Protection granted to them on the understanding that the workers iri the industry were to participate in that Protection, but have refused to pay reasonable wages, and have not carried out what was the undoubted intention of Parliament in regard to their dealings with consumers. In the circumstances, therefore, they could not reasonably ask this Parliament to reimburse them part of the expenditure which they incurred in fighting this case. Every artisan in the manufacturing industries of the Commonwealth knew at the time that’ it was the intention of Parliament to extend the principle of the new Protection on the lines adopted in this case, (but in view of the. decision of the Court, that will not be done. Many honorable members at the last general election explained the details of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act to the people, and showed how, under it, the principle of the new Protection would operate. Yet we are asked to take this defeat lying down, and to give no assistance to the men who were brave enough to endeavour to have that Act carried into effect. In another place a motion was passed that the Government should compensate these men for the loss which they incurred by way of law expenses. That motion was carried by a fairly substantial majority, comprising not only members of the Labour party, but others who urged that under the Act the workers were to obtain certain benefits, and that since the will of Parliament in that respect had been frustrated, it was only reasonable that the men who through nofault of their own, had been put to unnecessary expense, should be compensated; to some extent. Various excuses have been offered for not giving effect to that resolution. I thought that the Government needed only such an expression of opinion to induce them to meet this demand; .but they have decided not to aecede to it. I appeal to them once more to extend some consideration to these men, and I do so as one who supported the present Prime Minister when he introduced legislation to impose high duties upon imports, and .assured the Parliament that the workers in local industries would receive a share of that Protection. These men spent money on litigation, believing that Parliament would support them, and 1 urge the Government to do something for them to-day. The making of this concession will not be detrimental to the Government, nor will it be beneficial to the Opposition from a political stand-point. I should not have taken advantage of this opportunity of bringing the claim under the notice of the House had I been able to secure attention for it privately. But I knew that there would be no “chance of a motion standing in the name of a private member being discussed during the present session. Surely the Government must agree with me that the men have not been treated fairly. If, on consideration, Ministers do not recognise the strength of the claim, I shall feel that they are wanting in a sense of justice. I might bring forward precedents for what I “ am proposing; I might show the Government that they would not in any way be lowering their dignity by granting the request ; I might show them that no’ harm would be done to any section of the community. But I doubt whether arguments on those lines would change the minds of those who are responsible. I appeal specially to the Minister of Home Affairs, who was in opposition at the time the Act in question was passed, and ask him to use his influence to have a sum. placed on the Supplementary Estimates to meet the expenses of these men. I ‘feel certain that if that be done the Government will receive no condemnation, but on the contrary will be praised by the people of Australia.
– I have a matter to bring under the notice of the Treasurer affecting the administration of old-age pensions. I’ have been informed that the new regulations compel pensioners to apply personally for their pensions once at least every three months. If that be so, the regulation will be rather” hard on some people living in the backblocks. Some pensioners will have to travel 80 or 90 miles to renew their applications. ‘ The suggestion which I would make to the Treasurer is that if such a regulation has been framed *he Department might allow the police to visit the pensioners in the more inaccessible parts of the country. I believe that the police in New South Wales visit the stations once a month if not oftener. It surely ought not to be necessary to compel old persons to travel to the offices once in three months.
– I also have a small matter in relation” to the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act to bring under the notice of the Treasurer. It seems that some magistrates in country districts are rather severe in their interpretation of the Act. A case that has been brought under my attention is that of a miner who has spent his life in endeavouring to make a living on the mining fields. He has spent many arduous years in prospecting, often working for years at a time without much remuneration. This old man was so independent and selfreliant that he did not apply for an oldage pension when he reached the age of sixty-five. He continued to operate on the old lines with the little strength that remained to him. .But Nemesis overtook him at last, and he found that he had overtaxed his powers. He was smitten by rheumatism, and was forced to apply for the pension. He had to travel a distance of something like 20 miles to appear before a registrar. Then, for reasons which I will explain, his application was refused. As is well known to some honorable members, in mining life many old people have a peculiar method of doctoring themselves. They do not have recourse to drugs or medicines, but once every few years they think that it is a good thing for them to take a little spirits. Consequently it is not unusual to find such an old man as this the worse for liquor every now and then. Many old miners, after a long spell of .work, will pay up all their debts, and then have a little spree with what is left. If they drank under the guardianship of an hotelkeeper, as their richer neighbours are able to do, their indulgence in two or three extra glasses of beer would not be noticed. But an old man of this kind is apt, after drinking a glass- or two, to talk rather loudly in the streets about his ups and downs, and” the experiences he has had. In this particular case, the old man had evidently beenonce or twice under the notice of the police- I am not aware that he has ever been convicted or fined, but still he had been seen somewhat the worse for intoxicating liquor. Consequently the pension for which he applied was refused, on the ground that he had been seen the worse for drink. I am sure that the Treasurer understands miners, and must have known many similar cases. What I ask is that the registrars shall receive instructions in regard to the interpretation of the Act. It appears to me that they are altogether too severe. The Act provides that a man shall lose his pension if he drinks. I am in accord with that provision. I am not an advocate of allowing people to draw pensions in order that they may spend the money on drink. To do so would be absurd. But I do know of cases in which old-age pensioners who have been addicted to drink have become almost total abstainers as a result of receiving the pension. They have considered - manly old chaps as they are - that they had no right to draw a Government pension and spend the money on drink. The system which we have inaugurated has actually reformed them and straightened them up. But there are people who go to absolute extremes in respect to the drink question. Sometimes an extreme teetotaller is as bad as a drinker ; at any rate, teetotallers often need to exercise more toleration in their judgments. I do not believe in extremes in anything ; and when a magistrate refuses a pension to an old man because he has had a glass or two of liquor, I rebel. The administration of the Act should be tempered with a little mercy. A magistrate should say in such a case as I am dealing with, “If I recommend YOU for this pension, will you guarantee that you will leave off drinking? Will you keep sober?” Let the magistrate recommend the pension, and then, if the old fellow is so idiotic as to “go on the booze,” he deserves to lose his pension. But the old man in the case I am referring to is not a “boozer.”
– Why should he not get his pension if he were?
– Looking at the matter from the Christian stand-point, we should give according to a man’s needs. The urgency of an applicant’s requirements ought to be sufficient ground for his claim.
– That provision was eliminated from the Bill.
– Not with my assistance. I am sorry that the Act provides that an applicant for a pension must be of. good character. What does “ good character” mean? I should be sorry to leave the interpretation of those words to certain gentlemen of my acquaintance.
– How would the “honorable member put it ?
– The Act declares that if an applicant has been found guilty of certain offences he shall he ineligible to receive a pension. But the magistracy is not composed of men who are competent to judge of whether or not a man is of “ good character.”
– The Act permits of an appeal to the Commissioner.
– But these old men shrink from the idea of publicity. They are so unused to authority that when they stand before a magistrate they fear that something extraordinary is about to happen to them. All I claim is that the Act should be administered more sympathetically. Is it not possible for the Treasurer to instruct magistrates to take a lenient view of the claims of applicants, unless they have been convicted of certain offences? The old man to whom I have alluded is not a chronic drunkard. But it often happens that men living in the bush are prone to deny themselves the necessaries of life, so that they are .not in that splendid bodily vigour which would enable them to speedily throw off the effects of drink. Thus they may be considered drunk upon two or three glasses of beer, whereas the man about town may be able to imbibe twenty-three glasses without exhibiting any ill effects.. I claim, too, that miners as a. class are deserving of special consideration, inasmuch as they, pay a very large share of taxation - more, indeed, than does any other section of the community. In such circumstances ought they to be treated in the shabby manner in which this old man has been treated ? Is it not a disgrace to this Parliament that a man who is seventy years of age, and who has proved his self-reliance over a long series of years, should in the winter of life be denied a pension merely because a magistrate - by reason of one or two fall* from grace - chooses to regard Him as an individual of bad character?
.- I should like to bring under the notice of the Treasurer the basis upon which the income of applicants for old-age pensions is estimated. During an earlier discussion I pointed out the way in which our Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act differs from the New South Wales Act in that connexion. In the latter statute it was mandatory that the income of an applicant for a pension should be based upon his actual earnings during the previous year. Thus, if an applicant had earned ^50 during the preceding twelve months, the officials had no option but to assume that his income was ,£50 per annum, and that he was therefore entitled to a pension of £2 monthly. In our own Act that provision does not appear. But I think experience in New South Wales - and indeed our own experience - has shown how very unjust it is to adopt that basis in computing the pension to which an applicant is entitled. A man may have earned a certain sum last year, but since then his health may have entirely broken down. In such circumstances he may not have the remotest chance of earning anything during the ensuing twelve months. But because he has been fortunate during the previous year, it is assumed that he will be equally fortunate the following year. Now, experience of men in all conditions of life proves that no more fallacious basis upon which to determine their earnings could be adopted. Take the case of the Treasurer and of myself. The right honorable member for Swan is a Minister of the Crown, and I am a member of Parliament, but next year he may not be a Minister of the Crown, and I may not be a member of Parliament. I wish now to cite the case of a man who, although he is sixty-six years of age, had until recently ^worked without intermission all his life. The year prior to that in which he applied to the New South Wales Government for an old-age pension he was fortunate enough to obtain employment under the “ old and slow “ workers’ clause in a certain trade, in which his wages amounted to 30s. a week. His employment lasted seven months. When he applied for an old-age pension he was told that, owing to the amount which he had earned during the previous year, he was not entitled to any pension during the following year. That principle is now being adopted under our own Act, and I protest against it, especially as the Treasurer has power to prevent its adoption if he chooses to exercise it. The right honorable gentleman says that there is nothing to prevent any person who feels aggrieved because his pension has been reduced from appealing to the Commissioner. That may be the case. But there is nothing in the Act which justifies the Commissioner in assuming that an applicant for an old-age pension will earn during the current year an amount equal to that which he earned during the previous year. Indeed, upon the face of it, the very opposite is most probable. In most cases a man applies for an old-age pen sion, not because he has reached sixty-five years of age, but because he realizes the necessity of applying for it. Thank God, there are many able-bodied men in the community who are over sixty-five years of age, but who, under ordinary circumstances, would not dream of applying for a pension. At the same time it is undeniable that the slightest misfortune might compel them to adopt that course. As a man becomes older his chance of getting employment decreases.
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– To assume that a man in his sixty-sixth year- will earn as much as he did in his sixty-fifth year is ridiculous. I contend that an old-age pensioner ought not to be compelled to appeal to the Commissioner to review the estimate of his income. Rather should his income be assessed upon his earnings. I admit that you cannot tell what a man will earn. A man earns a certain amount ; he goes up for his pension every fortnight; and if after a given time he has earned more, he cannot get his pension, and there is an end of it. But it is wrong to say to a man that, no matter what he earns this year, the Department will only grant him a .pension according to his earnings in the previous year. Let me state the case of a man who ought to have been entitled to a pension of £26, but who received a pension of only £4.. In the previous year, he had earned an amount’ which, if it had been earned in the following year, would have entitled him to a pension of only £4. ; but during that year, he did not earn a fraction of a penny. That is very unfair. All the agencies for the Department are in existence, and it ought to be possible to deal out justice without all this bother.
– It would occasion a good deal of trouble to review every case fortnightly
– It may be difficult to deal with each case; and we ought not to unnecessarily embarrass the Department, or ask it to do impossible things. But where a cruel injustice is being done, we ought to consider, not whether a thing is difficult, but whether it is right. I was interviewed by an old woman whose character was stamped on her face as well as guaranteed in her credentials, who had been working all her life, and who had been in employment quite lately. She had earned such an amount for the previous twelve’ months, that although she is quite eligible, she will not get a red cent, from the Department.
– The honorable member had better bring forward her case specially.
– Appeals against decisions must necessarily consume an enormous amount of time. If there was not a hard-and-fast rule of this sort ; if the qualifications were old age, and no unearned income, and the pension was to rise or fall just as the applicant earned money in the current year, there would be verymuch less difficulty.
– Perhaps persons would not earn much then.
– I am not blind to the difficulties with which the right honorable gentleman is faced; but I feel sure that if he met any of these men or women face to face, he would have no hesitation as to what he should do. Take the case of an old miner who wrote to me from Trunkieand who has been in this country for fortysix years. He has not been living with his wife for the last twenty-five years, and because she has an income, he is denied an old-age pension. The Department has no right to act in that way. A man who is separated from his wife by a legal order of separation is in no way entitled to anything which she earns, or vice versa.
– Perhaps they are not legally separated.
– They are. Besides, if the right honorable gentleman will look at the section, he will see that it does not apply to such a. case. I brought forward the case of this miner, whom I have known for eighteen or nineteen years, and it still goes on churning its placid way through - the sluggish waters of the Department, and Heaven alone knows when land will be sighted. I adjure the right honorable gentleman to” consider the question of the determination of the estimate of the income of an applicant far a pension on the basis of last year’s income. That is a wrong way. It does an injustice to the individual, it is illogical, and the only excuse for it is that it is convenient to the Department. 1 hope the right honorable gentleman will see his way clear to abandon that method, and grant pensions- to persons because they are entitled to them, and not deny them because they have been foolish or industrious enough to earn money in the previous year. Lately I have received very many complaints. I am not casting upon the right honorable gentleman any responsibility for the existence of these complaints. It is impossible that one man can make himself acquainted with all the complaints which are made to the Department. But there is a tendency towards red-tapeism which is to be deplored. I hope that the right honorable, gentleman will do what he can to expedite the treatment of claims, and will not leave them, as they are now in very many cases, for an unconscionable time awaiting attention.
– I have one or two matters which I desire to bring under the notice of the heads of various Departments. On last “ grievance” day I brought forward the case of an officer in the General Post Office, Sydney, who, though he is in receipt of a comfortable salary, is taking work outside the Department. I mentioned that reluctantly 1 brought forward the case, at the request of a constituent. It appears that the gentleman referred to is a Mr. Gregory, and that he . is taking accountancy work outside, notably the auditing work of the Civil Service Co-operative Society of Sydney, at a salary of one hundred guineas a year. I have no desire to pursue the gentleman personally, but I do not think it would be altogether fair to call upon a private accountant to take upon himself the burden of threshing out the matter. I know that the regulations forbid such proceedings on the part of Mr. Gregory. His conduct has been brought under my notice by an accountant who is aggrieved, and it is mv duty, quite apart from my personal feelings, to again bring the matter under notice, and to ask that a reply shall be given to my previous representations. Unfortunately, although both the Postmaster-General and the Minister of Home Affairs were present on that occasion, no reply has yet been made. When a matter of this kind is brought forward here, it should not be ignored. It is due by the administrators of Departments to honorable members who represent the interests of large constituencies to at least offer some explanation when their attention has been pointedly drawn to a grievance. I ask the representative of the Government present if he will bring under the notice of the Postmaster- General and the Minister of Home Affairs the fact that I have not yet received a reply to my former representations, and inquire whether, after making an investigation, they will furnish me with a statement. I desire to refer to another matter in connexion with the Postal Department. Prior to appointing a person to take charge of a semi-official post-office, the practice is to insert in the Gazette and daily ‘ press an advertisement calling for nominations for the position of postmistress. My attention has been called to a. numberof these cases, and I find that it is practically impossible for persons who have not been connected with the Department to secure an appointment. It seems that the Department keeps a list of the names and qualifications of postmasters’ widows who have been left in impecunious circumstances, and who have acquired a certain amount of Departmental experience in assisting their husbands, and that whenever any positions have to be filled, the widows on this list are given a prior claim over other applicants. It is not my duty to complain particularly about this course of procedure, but, whenever a vacancy is advertised, a number of very capable and qualified women each send in an application, but they have no hope of getting an appointment because of the number of postmasters’ widows who are awaiting preferential treatment. The former applicants either look up their State representatives, who in turn communicate with the Federal representatives, or the applicants themselves communicate directly with their Federal representatives. It is due by a Federal member to his constituents that he should make proper inquiries and ascertain the exact position. In each case, however, the time of the applicant and myself has been wasted. It is not fair to publicly call for applications for positions which are really not open to persons other than postmasters’ widows. I suggest to the Minister of Home Affairs that the .vacancies should not be advertised, or, if advertised, that there should be a statement that postmasters’ widows will have a preference over other applicants.
– I think that the Public Service Act provides that any vacancies must be advertised.
– If so, the real position ought to be disclosed in the advertisement calling for applications, and then persons other than postmasters’ widows would not waste their time or request persons to push their applications. A number of these cases have been brought under my notice, and I have gone to a good deal of trouble to ascertain what the position of the applicants was. I do not object to having to do work of this kind, because I am always willing to do what I can for my constituents, it being part of my business to attend to their interests. But much inconvenience is caused, and a great deal of time wasted, by asking members of the public to lodge applications for positions to which they are not at all likely to be appointed. I do not think that vacancies should be advertised unless there is some chance of members of the public being appointed to them. Should their advertisement be 55 necessary, to comply with the law, it should be indicated that preference will be given to those already in the service, or, as in this case, to widows of postmasters needing employment. .
– I shall consult the Public Service Commissioner on the subject.
– I thank the Minister. I wish, also, to refer to the grievances of letter carriers, sorters, and others in the Department of- the Postmaster-General. 1 intended to speak on the subject a month or six weeks ago, but, as the hour was late, and it was the general desire that we should adjourn, I agreed to forego my right, on the promise of the Postmaster-General that, if I brought the matters upon which I wished to speak under his notice by letter’, they would be attended to. I did that, sending a typewritten document to the Minister, in which the men’s grievances were set out, and receiving an acknowledgment of its receipt, but I have not yet had a reply to it. The Postmaster- General yesterday, in answer’ to a question put by me, made a general statement regarding one point, but a number of other matters have been brought under his notice about which he has not given any information. I ask him to consider them, and to make his decision known as soon as possible. Much dissatisfaction has been caused by the tests for the position of letter sorter. Deputations have waited on the Postmaster-General in the various States, to put the complaints before him-, but the officers concerned still insist’ that they are being unfairly treated. This should convince the Minister that there is a real, grievance, which he should make an effort to remedy. In conjunction with the honorable member for Calare, I have looked ‘ through the official papers, but, nonwithstanding the explanations there given, it is not made apparent that the tests complained of could not be modified without disadvantage to the Department. The main grievance is that officers desiring promotion are examined, not only in the work of their own room, but also in that of a number .of other rooms. This applies to officers in the
Despatch Room, in the Delivery Registering and Receiving Room, the Parcel Post Rooms, the Letter Carriers’ Branch, and the Private Letter Box Rooms. The employés in these branches hold that they should be examined only in the work of their branches. To perform the work of a despatching official one must memorize the postal towns of New South Wales, and to be able to perform the work required of those employed in the Private Letter Box Rooms one must make himself acquainted with the names of the renters of boxes, and of the various heads of the firms which have boxes. This requires a good deal of study. But, should an official become proficient, and pass the examination, he is appointed to one or other of the branches, and, being continuously employed there, forgets whathe has learnt regarding the work of the other. Obviously, we ask too much from those who are required to subjectthemselves to examination. When letter carriers wish to prove their capacity for the work of sorting, they are compelled to sort at the rate of thirty cards a minute, with a maximum error of 2 per cent., and to obtain promotion from one grade of letter sorter to another, a man has to be able to sort at the rate of forty-five cards a minute, with a maximum error of 2 per cent. I am not able to say whether these tests are too severe, but it seems to me too much to require that successful candidates should show 98 per cent. of efficiency. It is held, too, that there is. inequality of opportunity regarding these tests. Probationers are often given work which provides them with practice in sorting for which those in other branches have no opportunity. The Department says that the letter carriers can practise sorting in their spare time. But the Sydney letter carriers are on duty from 6 a.m. until 6 or 8 p.m., sometimes from month to month. The short breaks which they have in the day are not of much value to them, and at night they are too tired to practise sorting, and have to go to bed early in order that they may rise early next morning. It is not too much to ask that those who are to be tested in sorting should be employed at the work on probation. If, at the end of two or three months, they then failed to prove their ability as sorters, they could be returned to their former positions. The Department says that it desires its men to be qualified all round, instead of being mere specialists. At the Sydney General Post Office some 2.,ooo private letter-boxes are rented, and the officials in that branch have to memorize, not only the names of the renters, but, in many cases, the names of directors, managers, secretaries, and others as well. They have also to memorize the postal towns of the State, which number over 2,000. The proper thing to do, if the Department wishes to have good allround men, is to move the officials from one room to another, so that they may acquire in turn a knowledge of the duties to be performed in all the branches. It is right that the man who wishes to be employed as a sorter should be asked to prove his ability to sort, but it is not fair to refuse promotion to those who cannot pass an examination in the work of all the branches. Men should be examined in regard to their ability to do the work of the particular branch in which they are to be engaged. Why should an applicant for employment in the despatch room be tested regarding his knowledge of the duties of employes in the private letter-box room, for example? The present system puts an unnecessary strain on the men. The employés do not object to fair and reasonable tests of efficiency, nor to being called upon to do such work as the senior men are. engaged upon. The tests in New South Wales are much more difficult that those in any of the other States, with the exception of Victoria. In New South Wales there are 2,700 post towns, in Victoria, 2,300; in Queens land, 750; in South Australia, 730; in Western Australia, 463 ; and in Tasmania, 390. I regret that provision has not been made for Departmental Boards, consisting of representatives of the employés and of heads of Departments, with independent chairmen, which could take evidence regarding matters of this kind. This would rectify abuses, and minimize complaints. At present the employes, after they have exhausted their right to complain to the Departmental heads and to the Minister, have no other resource than to appeal to members of Parliament. So long as the Department is administered by a political head, grievances of this kind will be brought before the House. At the same time, it seems to me that in technical matters, on which it is difficult for members to pass a decided opinion, it would be much better if we had aBoard composed of representatives of the parties concerned. As to old-age pensions, I have one case to bring under the attention of the Treasurer. It is that of a Mrs. Anderson, who has not been able to prove her age, and is, therefore, unable to obtain a pension. I have referred the matter to the Treasurer and to the Department, and it appears that the Immigration Department was asked to Consult the register so as to ascertain the age of the woman when she came out to Australia. This was done, and it was found that the registered age was not such as to entitle the woman to a pension ; but it appears that her husband, when they embarked, was under the influence of liquor, and gave a wrong age. Mrs. Anderson was for some time in the employ pf Chief Justice Way, of South Australia, and he knew her age to be as she states.
– The Chief Justice’s letter does not say that he knows her age, but merely that he thinks her to be sixtyfive years.
– At any rate Chief Justice Way gave a very strong expression of opinion.
– But that is not enough. The Chief Justice thinks that the woman was thirty-nine when she was in his employment.
– That would make the woman over sixty-four when she applied, and I think that since she has become sixty-five. This is a case in which I think the Treasurer might accept the opinion of Chief Justice Way, and it is a matter entirely within his discretion.
– It is within the discretion of the Commissioner.
– Does the Treasurer say that he has no power in such cases ?
– No, none.
– But would not a recommendation from the Treasurer carry very great weight with the Commissioner ? This is a case of considerable hardship, and I submit that the woman has proved her age to the satisfaction of any commonsense person. As a matter of fact, I believe that this old lady is unable to do anything for herself, and thus, in any case, she is -entitled to a pension at the age of sixty. In the absence of a birth certificate I think that the evidence already given might be accepted. These old people have great difficulty in obtaining copies of their birth certificates from England ; and, in my opinion, the Department, ought not to insist upon the production of such evidence. Another case I desire to refer to is that of a man in Newtown, whose wife deserted him and his family some time ago; and, because they are not living together, and he can not say where she is, he is unable to OD- tain a pension. I brought this case under the notice of the Department or of the Treasurer himself, and the reply is to the effect that the application has been held over until some evidence is given by the applicant as to what has become of his wife. This man has committed no wrong; on the contrary, he is a highly respectable man, whose family hold honorable positions in their sphere of life. I understand that the man’s wife was left some money, and, being somewhat younger than her husband, she decided to leave him and “ strike out on her own.”
– Why did he not get legally separated from her, as the Act provides ?
– Why should he?
– Because, otherwise, according to the Act, half his wife’s property is his.
– But he does not know where his wife is, or anything about her. He does not know what her position is now. He has a son thirty-nine years of age, and friends, and undoubted evidence could be submitted bearing out’ his statement.
– Will they not look after the old man?
– That is not the point; under the law he is entitled to a pension. That is purely an administrative matter, and the man should not be deprived of his pension for causes over which he has no control. As to a legal separation, he may have conscientious scruples on the point, and,_ in any case, his wife may not be possessed of any property now. He has honestly answered all the questions put to him, and I think the onus ought to be. on the Department to find the wife, if they think it necessary.
– If the honorable member will give me the name, I shall look into the matter and let him have a reply.
– Thank you. I notice . that the Postmaster- General has entered the Chamber. About _ six weeks ago I mentioned some of the grievances of the letter-carriers, and although yesterday I received an answer to a question, that answer does not cover a number of other cases which require looking into. I did not proceed with all the grievances of which I had a note some weeks ago, because there was a desire that the House should adjourn; but I sent a typewritten statement of them on°to the PostmasterGeneral, and I have received an acknowledgement of its receipt.
– What were the cases ?
– I do not remember them now, and my copy of the statement is amongst my papers in Sydney. I think that we ought to receive replies to communications which affect the interests of our constituents.
– I desire to make a brief reference to two complaints which I think require some reply or explanation. The first complaint was made by the honorable member for Calare, to the effect that certain public works, such as telephones, telegraphs, and exchanges authorized by .Parliament to be carried out in New South Wales were at a standstill, or were not being properly or expeditiously prosecuted, owing to shortage in staff, and so on. It is a fact that, as the result of years of economy, the staff in New South Wales and other States has been for a long time undermanned. Provision is made on the Estimates of the current year for increasing the staff in New South Wales to the number of over 600, and increasing the staff in the various States, altogether to the number of 1,400. I am advised that whenthese increases have been authorized by Parliament, and made in accordance with the authority of law, the efficiency of the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services will be greatly increased and placed upon a very satisfactory footing. Among the officers required are men to exercise supervision in the construction of public works, such as overseers, gangers, and linemen. There is a shortage of men of that description in the staffs of most of . the States. Unfortunately, my hands are tied. I cannot make the appointments until the House has authorized them by passing the necessary vote. The honorable member asks why I do not provide for them in the Supply. Bills, but I could not do that, since, In accordance with the practice of the House, Supply Bills are intended only to deal with services actually authorized by Parliament, and not to provide for the appointment of new officers.
– Then why not push on with the Estimates, and get the authority?
– I should be most happy to do so, and the Estimates would have been pushed on but for other and more urgent measures that have been engaging the attention of Parliament. I hope that when those measures have been disposed of we shall be able to go on with the Estimates, and obtain the necessary authority. I have, in the meantime, authorized arrangements to be made for the temporary employment of men to exercise supervising functions in some of the States, so as to cause the least possible delay in the commencement and prosecution of these works. Notwithstanding the shortage in the staff, I am not prepared to admit that there has been any serious delay in beginning and carrying on the works authorized by Parliament. I gave instructions that the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in each of the States should send to the Postmaster-General’s office monthly reports showing the progress of these new works, so that we might keep them under observation, and see that the mandate of .Parliament was being carried out. I have in my hands the first of a series of reports from New South Wales, signed by the Deputy Postmaster-General, which passed through the Electrical Engineer’s office on the 19th October, and reached me two days ago. In that report it is stated that, in accordance with instructions, action has already been taken in New South Wales to begin’ the construction of new telegraphic and telephonic works, and also new exchanges, authorized by the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Act passed a month or two ago. The indorsement on that report by the Chief Electrical Engineer is as follows -
All action in connexion with these new works appears to be well in train. No further action seems necessary hereon.
This shows that there is no justification for the complaint of the honorable member for Calare that the works are at a standstill or not being properly prosecuted. Reports from Victoria also show that a commencement has been made here, and that everything is being done to push on with the works, so as to absorb the vote within the time limit imposed by the law. I hope tq receive reports from Queensland and the other States in a day or two. I shall make them available to honorable members, and be always prepared to receive suggestions or complaints from any honorable member who thinks that there has been unnecessary delay, or that there are any grounds for drawing the attention of the permanent officers to the state of any particular work. I shall place the preliminary report from New South Wales upon the table for the- information of members representing that State. They will be able to see, on reference to the details, that most of the works are in hand, and that nothing is being neglected. The next matter is the complaint made by the honorable member for Calare, and supported by the honorable member for Cook, with reference to . the examination tests imposed by law for promotion to the higher grades of sorters. This question was brought under my attention when I visited New South Wales two or three months ago. I received a deputation of sorters, who complained that the tests were too severe and too comprehensive, and that they had not proper facilities and -opportunities for preparing to pass them. I heard their case patiently, had their complaints and evidence noted, and promised to consider and investigate the matter. I was in duty bound to consult ‘ the permanent officers of the Department on so professional or technical a question as that of examinations. I consulted the Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney, and the Secretary of the Department in Melbourne, and also brought the whole matter fully under the attention of the Public Service Commissioner. Those officers reported, in writing, that the tests had been approved of by the whole of the responsible officers of the Department, that they were not too severe, and that persons expecting to be promoted to the higher grades of sorter could not be allowed to pass a mere partial examination with regard to efficiency in the despatch room, for instance, or any particular corner of the post-office. They must be expected to pass an examination showing their efficiency and ability to do work in any capacity as sorter. A mere partial test regarding the work of any particular room where a certain kind of sorting is done, is not sufficient to justify the promotion of those officers.
– Why not test them in the work they are called upon to perform ?
– A man may be in the despatch room, but is not expected to remain there all his life. He is expected to be competent to do other work before he gets the higher salary.
– When it is desired to send him to another room, test him in the work of that room.
– As at present constituted, the Department is divided into grades. The system is based on a gradation of work, but we are now asked to establish an infinite variety of grades and sub-grades, to be determined according to the particular office in which a man happens to be working. The responsible officers of the Department report that that is not a practical division of the work or a scientific method of testing and examining the men. As regards the opportunity for acquiring practice, and preparing for passing the examinations, I am assured that all these men have equal opportunities of getting the necessary practice in the various branches and rooms. The only difficulty of course is that they must do it in their own time. They cannot do it in office hours. If they are willing to secure the necessary practice and acquaintance with the work of the office, they are afforded opportunities of doing so in their own time. As a proof that the tests imposed by law are not too severe or too technical, I have been informed that a number of young men, not actually in the particular office, have been able to pass the very examinations that some of the veterans who are now making these complaints have failed to pass.
– Have they passed without practice in the work?
– They have had opportunities of obtaining practice such as these veterans have an opportunity of obtaining, by the assistance of diagrams and by getting instruction, and ‘have qualified for promotion or appointment - a fact of which complaint is now made.
– The honorable member is surely not going to throw the old hands on the rubbish tip?
– Nothing of the kind is proposed or suggested, but it is asked now that they should get higher pay without passing the tests. If we dispensed with the tests there would be no inducement to any of the men to increase their efficiency, and the value of their services to the Department. It would be establishing a very bad precedent to abolish the examinations or to reduce them to a mere partial test of efficiency or ability to pass ah examination on work done in a particular room. We want them to become generally efficient, to be able to go where they are told, and to do any class of sorting work. I have no bias in the matter. I am acting according to information placed at my disposal by the responsible officers.. After considering their reports I have arrived at the conclusion that their advice is sound, and I intend to adhere to it until Parliament decides that the tests ought to be mitigated or reduced - which, I think, would be a mistake. A number of smaller items have been referred to by honorable members, and in regard to them I shall cause the Hansard records to be examined, and detailed answers to be supplied to the honorable members concerned.
.- There is a small matter to which I feel that I need only draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, in order to have it rectified. While the House was in Committee one day last week a division took place which resulted in a tie, and the question was raised whether one honorable member was inside or outside the chamber. He was put into the “ calf pen” in the corner on this side.
– The ropes were not up.
– I witnessed what took place. The honorable member whose vote was questioned was playing with the rope, but he was never actually outside the chamber, as some honorable members seemed to think, through the ropes being up. He was half in and half out. I do not think it is a very good thing to have those calf pens in the House, unless they are railed off like pews, so that a member cannot dodge in and out at the sweet will of the Whip of either party. I have seen that done on several occasions. In fact, I. have been a transgressor myself. When the voting has been very close, I have dodged in or out under the rope at the discretion of the Whip, so that either my vote should be counted or I should stand out as a pair for some other honorable member. I should like to see those enclosures done away with altogether, or railed off properly.
– They are very convenient as they are.
– They are a little too convenient.
– What is the good of causing trouble about them?
– I am not causing trouble, but one of them very nearly caused trouble the other day. The matter went so far that the Chairman of Committees had to put the honorable member concerned upon his honour as to whether he was inside or outside the rope.
– The first time in ten years.
– That does not matter. It has happened before, but no one has called attention to it, and there would have been no question about it last week if the voting had not been so close. The result of the division was a tie, and the Chairman of Committees had to give a casting’ vote. It meant a big difference to one side of the House or the other whether the particular amendment before the Committee on a new clause proposed in the Defence Bill was carried or rejected. The amendment was carried by the casting vote of the Chairman, but had the honorable member whose vote was challenged been outside instead of inside the chamber, the division would have gone the other way. I think that it is right that your attention should be drawn to the matter, Mr. Speaker, and to the abuse likely to arise from the use of these calf pens on each side of the chamber. If their use is to be continued there should be some means adopted for yarding members into them properly.
.- 1 desire to emphasize a little what I said the other day on the subject of cigarette smoking. I mentioned that I could produce a gentleman who is in splendid health, although he has smoked and inhaled the smoke of cigarettes for about fifty-five years. I mentioned at the same time that no man could continue for five years to inhale the smoke of a pipe and live. Any scientific man will agree that a sphygmograph affords the most reliable test of the harmful effects, if any, upon the heart caused by smoking. A scientific gentleman in the Old Country conducted experiments in this matter extending over ten days, and he found by the use of a pulseregistering .machine that in the consumption of the same weight of tobacco in cigarettes, cigars, and the pipe, the smoking of the cigarettes was less harmful than the smoking of the cigars, and -the smoking of the pipe was most harmful. The trouble is that the mildness of cigarette smoking induces, the smoker to take liberties, and frequently inhale the smoke. It was never intended that smoke should be inhaled into the lungs, and its inhalation is undoubtedly injurious. It is probably more harmful to smoke and inhale the smoke of cigarettes than it is merely to smoke a pipe, but there is no doubt that it is much more harmful to smoke and inhale the smoke or a pipe than to smoke and inhale the smoke of cigarettes. I repeat that I can produce a gentleman who is known to some of the Fourth Estate, who is in splendid health, and has inhaled the smoke of cigarettes for fifty-five years, and I challenge any one to produce a man who has inhaled the smoke of a pipe for five years and survived. I have some more grievances to ventilate in connexion with the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act. I hope that it is not a fact, but it has been intimated to me that the Treasurer has refused to take any action in connexion with the questions which are asked of claimants for pensions, because, to use a colloquialism, I have “ kicked up such a row” about the matter. I should regret it very much if that were so.
– Who is the honorable member’s informant?
– The Treasurer will know that it is not always convenient to mention names.
– The statement is quite inaccurate.
– I am very glad to hear that. These old people need kind and generous treatment. There are many cases in which claimants for pensions are unable to supply reliable proof of their age. I remember that a previous Treasurer of the Commonwealth, Sir George Turner, speaking of a gentleman who has since joined the majority, and who was high in the Law Department, said that it was almost impossible to secure a record of a birth certificate in Great Britain of half a century ago. People born in Ireland, and in a lesser degree those- born in Scotland, have also great difficulty in securing records of their births.
– The British Pensions Department is confronted with the same trouble.
– The Treasurer will agree that if it is found difficult for residents of Great Britain to supply proof of their birth, it is natural that the difficulty should be greatly increased in the case of persons who are now 12,000 miles away from their place of birth, and who can only write to a parish priest or minister to look up their baptismal records. There is, I think, a very simple way of meeting the whole difficulty. Where there is any doubt about the age of a claimant for a pension, the local Government Medical Officer might examine him, and if he is of opinion that the claimant is sixty-five years of age or over that age, that should be considered sufficient. In connexion with one matter, I have to complain that the Department adheres too closely to the letter of the law. We frequently hear that men and women when they are being married understate their age. Of course the practice, is to be condemned; but I think it is straining the Act for the Pensions Department to bring such a thing against a claimant for a pension. I wish to mention the case of a gentleman who to my own knowledge was at one time worth £20,000. In the course of business and following the débâcle of the boom, he was reduced to analmost penniless condition. He has always been a most respectable man, and as he went down with his colours flying through no fault of his own, there is no reason why I should not mention his name. Irefer to Mr. Eckman. He is now sixty-eight years of age and owns a house which is valued by the municipal valuators at£125. Though he could at one time sign his cheque for£20,000, that is all that remains to him of his fortune, and be is now drawing a miserable pittance of a little over 3s. per week. As he is not one of my constituents, I shall hand the letter I have received in connexion with his case to the honorable member who represents the district in which he resides. I feel sure that the Treasurer will look into the case, not because the claimant was once a wealthy man, but because his case is deserving of some little sympathy. I have particulars of another case, of a woman who has lost her husband. She never received any education, and can neither read nor write. I have made an appeal on her behalf through the press, with the result that she will be saved from penury for at least three months. I am prepared as a medical man to certify thatthe appears to be over sixty-five years of age, but she can produce no proof of her age. She says that she has never been one to make many friends, and has always preferred to stay at home. As a result, she can produce no one who has known her for twenty years or for ten years. I shall put the particulars before the Treasurer and ask him to look into the case and see. whether something cannot be done for this woman. The oldage pensions question is not a. party question ; and if any remarks I have made in dealing with these cases may appear to have been somewhat severe, I have not intended them to be personally applied to the Minister. I should have spoken just as severely in the circumstances if a Government belonging to the party to which I belong were in power. I have admitted that the questions to which I have objected were passed by a Labour Government, and I regret that they did not prefer to resign in a body rather than agree to them. I am sure that if they could realize the misery which those questions have entailed upon a number of old people they would never have passed them. Unfortunately, New South Wales legislation has sometimes influenced Commonwealth politics. These questions were taken from the regulations under the New South Wales Act, and may be regarded as lineal descendants of the workhouse system of the Old Land. In comparison, the Victorian system is simplicity itself. Under the Victorian Act a claimant went to an officer of the Court, who read over to him a list of questions. The officer filled in the replies and the claimant was asked only to sign his name or his mark, the officer putting the question signing as a witness. When the paper was returned to the Pensions Department, the case was followed up if necessary by an officer of the Department, who filled in the answers to another list of questions which the claimant was asked to sign, and then came the personal appearance before theCourt. I am satisfied that the taxpayers who find the means which the Treasurer dispenses in the form of old- age pensions desire only that if a claimant is sixty-five years of. age and has resided twenty years in the Commonwealth, he shall, if in receipt of an income of ros. a week, receive a pension sufficient to bring his income up to £1 per week. I hope that the Treasurer will hasten some reform in the administration of the Act, and will make the questions more simple. If the right honorable gentleman will look into the Victorian system, I feel sure he will agree that it is the best he could follow.
.- It is fortunate that an occasional opportunity is given to review the administration of the Government, especially in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department. The Postmaster-General was good enough some time ago to put upon the Estimates a sum of money for the construction of a telegraph line from PeakHill to Nullagine, but I have heard nothing further in regard to the proposal.
– I told the honorable member that I expected a report from Western Australia by every mail.
– The honorable gentleman knows that the line is necessary to the prosperity and even to the existence of the people in the north-west. The present line runs for many hundreds cf miles along a coast which is subject to violent storms, “ willy-willys,” and hurricanes, which bring down the wire at different points, with the result that telegraphic communication between that part of Western Australia and the outside world is interrupted for weeks at a time. This is the intolerable position of the pioneers who are developing that faroff territory. It is to be regretted that more money is not made available for the development and extension of telegraphs and telephones in Western Australia. There is no part of Australia where the display of a little more energy in making extensions would be more acceptable to the people, and whether the necessary money is provided out of revenue or from loans, it would be well to expend it There seems to be an idea on the part of some people that the party with which I am associated is opposed to the construction of reproductive works out of loan moneys. That is largely a mistake.
– Do not speak for me.
– That is not my interpretation of our platform.
– But the honorable member will speak for himself, not for the party.
– That is exactly what I am doing. The honorable member should have a little more patience ; he may find there is no occasion for his dissent. There is nothing in the platform of the party opposed to the principle of constructing reproductive works out of loan money, and, indeed, it is sound business to do so. A nation or a man who by means of other people’s capital creates works which not only pay interest on the borrowed capital, but also leave a substantial profit out of which the loan may be paid off, is doing good work for posterity. Our children will have no cause for complaint if, as a set-off for our debts, we leave them assets of equivalent value.
– That is not the Socialistic side of the Labour platform.
– I am dealing now, not with Socialism, but with the statement frequently made that the Labour party are opposed to the construction of reproductive works out of loan money. That is one of the taunts which the Treasurer will doubtless hurl at me and other members of our party before long.
– I should have good ground for the charge if I did.
– The right honorable gentleman has equally good grounds for levelling it against some of his own supporters. Members of all parties in the House are responsible, more or less, for the policy which has so far forbade the Commonwealth from borrowing. Personally I do not regard a continuance of that policy possible - it certainly is not consistent with progress, though it may do for a wheelbarrow state of civilization. Whether the money for works that are urgently necessary in Western Australia is to come from revenue or from loans, I hope that it will be speedily made available. No part of the Commonwealth would derive greater benefit from the extension of telephone and telegraph lines than would Western Australia. It is something of a reproach to the Commonwealth that although it has been in possession of that magnificent instrumentality of Government - the Post and Telegraph Department - for practically nine years, it has done so little to extend telegraphic communication in Western Australia and in some of the other States. Speaking subject to correction, I think it will be found on inquiry that not more than 100 miles of new telegraph lines have been constructed inWestern Australia since Federation. The position is certainly serious. The State itself has been rapidly developed by its own people. Railways are being extended into all parts of the interior by the State Government, private individuals are spending money liberally in the development of their enterprises, but the Commonwealth has permitted a sort of paralysis to creep into its agency of civilization there. The Department is stagnant, and the people of Western Australia have great reason to complain and strong grounds for demanding the initiation of a more progressive policy. The Government, having amongst its members the right honorable member for Swan as a representative of Western Australia, ought to have been a little more active than it has been in regard to the transcontinental railway. Reports and plans relating to that line have been in the possession of the Department of Home Affairs for some time, and we have been told by the Prime Minister himself, I think, that we have as much information as we require to enable us to proceed with the construction of the line. If that is so, the House has a right to expect the Government to submit at an early date some concrete, tangible (proposal, with a view to its construction. I am sorry that the Prime Minister should be relying entirely upon the agreement made with South Australia in respect of the Northern Territory to enable him to obtain the consent of that State to the construction of the proposed line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. Yearsago, when Western Australia was considering the advisability of entering the Federation, an understanding was arrived at between statesmen representing South Australia and Western Australia that if the latter entered the Federation, South Australia would freely give her consent to the construction of the line through her territory.
– Was there an agreement to that effect?
– Yes; the facts have been published in Parliamentary papers. The compact so far took the form of a treaty that the Parliament of Western Australia passed aBill consenting to the construction of the line through its territory, and it was on that understanding that that State entered the Federation. From that day to this, however, South Australia has not attempted to carry out her part of the compact, although frequently reminded of her obligation. It is necessary to remind the House that under the Constitution the construction of a railway through a State by the Federal Government is prohibited except with the consent of the State affected.
– Could not the Federal Government construct a railway line for defence purposes through a State ?
– I am referring to the plain language of the Constitution. The present Attorney-General some seven or eightyears ago kindly gave me an opinion on the subject. He then held that, despite this constitutional prohibition, the Commonwealth could build any railway required for the effective defence of the nation. There is certainly a good deal of common sense behind such an interpretation of the law. One of the great objects of Federation was to secure the effective defence ofAustralia, and consequently any provision in the Constitution which would impede the advancement of that object would, I think, be held to be invalid. I thank the honorable member for Fremantle for his reminder.
– I always argue that if the Commonwealth could not construct 200 miles of railway through a State without the consent of that State, it could not construct a yard of railway for defence purposes.
– The point is one rather for the High Court than for Parliament, and it is a pity that there should be any necessity to raise it. We have a stronger claim upon South Australia than is afforded by the Northern Territory compact upon which the Prime Minister is relying.
– What reason do the South Australians give for opposing the construction of the line?
– So far as I know, they give none; but there seems to be a vague fear that Adelaide would lose some trade. But that is a totally insufficient reasonfor a breach of faith on the part of a great State. I can scarcely believe that if the Commonwealth made representations to South Australia, asking that the original compact should be adhered to, she would refuse. I know that the Treasurer has frequently reminded South Australian politicians, in a very forceful and emphatic way, of the disregard of their obligations. But that was many years ago. I have not heard a word upon the subject from him lately.
– The Northern Territory matter has been before us for a number of years.
– The Northern Territory agreement and the Western Australian railway are two distinct propositions. My contention is that we ought not to rely upon the agreement. South Australia ought to give her consent to the construction of the railway quite apart from it.
– Surely Western Australia has as much claim as have the land grant people.
– Yes, but there has been a great deal of bluff in reference to the land grantidea. I have heard rumours to the effect that close upon£10,000,000 was to be put up for the purpose of continuing the railway through to the Northern Territory and developing the area. It is very improbable, however, that any private syndicate will essay such a gigantic undertaking. They might try it if Parliament were so unpatriotic as to permit them to import coloured labour, but that at presentis, happily, unthinkable. It is fortunate that immigration is under the absolute control of this National Parliament, so that we can, after all, prevent the exploitation of this great Australian asset for the benefit of private speculators. Some South Australians, and I am afraid people from other States also, are under the mistaken idea that the one projected transcontinental line is as important as the other. They forget, however, that, whereas the Port Augusta, to Kalgoorlie line would accommodate a prosperous white community of 270,000 people at its western terminus, only about 1,500 white people and 2,000 Chinamen would be served by the other line.
Mr.McDonald. - Only 600 white people.
– Whatever the number may be, it is diminishing.
– Those who object to both the projected transcontinental railways would much prefer the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie line.
– I am glad to hear that. Although our Western Australian apples are displacing Tasmanian fruit in the London market it is pleasant to know that a Tasmanian representative can take a sound view of this question. It has been continually said in South Australia that even if we do build the railway, we ought to have only a narrow-gauge line. But on such a railway, as the honorable member for Fremantle knows very well, it would be impossible to develop a very high rate of speed such as would be necessary for long distances. It is essential that a broadgauge line should be constructed in order that trains may travel at such a rate of speed as will make communication between the two States principally concerned as rapid as possible. But I do not believe that the people of South Australia are behind the objections that are raised. I am inclined to think that they spring from a narrow circle in Adelaide, who fear - and it is a foolish fear - that their interests will in some way be jeopardized by the construction of the line to Kalgoorlie.
– Perhaps they fear that Port Augusta will become a rival port to Adelaide.
– I do not think that the possibility of a considerable development at Port Augusta is to be feared.
– The steam-boat companies are interested in preventing the construction of the railway.
– As the honorable member for Fremantle suggests, the shareholders in the coastal steam-ship companies foresee a possible disappearance of remunerative passenger traffic. That may have something to do with spreading hostility to the proposal.
– It would be the best thing that could happen to Adelaide if the line were constructed.
– I think it would be. I hope that the line will be a good thing, not only for Adelaide, but tor all die eastern States. It must surely be advantageous to bring the people of Western Australia into direct and rapid communication with their fellow citizens in these parts. We can never have that community of ‘ feeling which should exist if a whole State has no communication with the East except by sea ; because, however easy and comfortable the voyage may be made, there will always be people who dread a sea trip. Therefore, if that part of Australia which is most eager for the construction of the line is to be a real entity of the nation, we must build the railway, and build it soon. Passing from that subject, I observe that a good deal has been said about the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act. I do not desire to dwell upon what seems to be the unsympathetic treatment of old people. I have received a good many complaints from Western Australia. Some people have considerable difficulty in proving their ages. It would be a good thing if the Commissioner were to adopt the rule which prevails in courts of justice, and, whenever possible, give applicants “ the benefit of the doubt. “ As I pointed out on a previous occasion, bush workers do not travel around this country with birth certificates stowed away in1 their waistcoat pockets. A man who has been up and down Australia for a quarter of a century or more hunting for an elusive job, may experience great difficulty in getting people to certify as to his age. Many bush workers are men whose surnames are not known to friends with whom they have worked for many years. Men who work in shearing sheds and mining camps are frequently known only by their Christian names or by nicknames. Suppose that such a man has lived for twenty-five years in Queensland. Suppose that late in life he comes to Western. Australia and, on attaining the age of sixty-five years, applies for an old-age pension. He is required to find some person who has known him for twenty years. He may have the greatest difficulty in complying with the request, because pro.bably those with whom he has worked longest in a distant part of the country have never known him by his surname. I wish the Treasurer had power to direct the Commissioner to give to such an applicant the benefit of the doubt.
– I have no power to direct the Commissioner. If I did, I should be exercising a Ministerial act, and that would put the administration under political control.
– I am sorry that the Treasurer has not power, because I am sure that he would not refuse any old person a pension. He is by instinct teo generous to inflict unnecessary hardships. Where a person has obviously reached the statutory age, he surely ought to be granted a pension, even if he be unable to furnish legal proof of the fact.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.- When I arrived here to-day, I learned that the honorable member for Maribyrnong, in reply to an interjection, had stated that if the official papers were examined it would be found that the allegation which he made some time ago to the effect that the Maitland miners were a drunken lot was fairly correct. When this matter was brought forward on a prior occasion, I recollect that the honorable member withdrew his allegation and apologized for having made it. Under these circumstances I scarcely expected that he would repeat the statement. I spoke to him this afternoon in regard to the matter, and he then told me that he did not intend to convey the impression which his remarks had created, and as I understand that he intends speaking again this evening, I hope that he will embrace the opportunity of making the position of the Maitland miners absolutely clear. Some time ago I brought under the notice of the Treasurer the lack of seating accommodation for. old-age pensioners at the Plattsburg Post Office. Upon that occasion I was told that ample accommodation existed. Now, I know the Plattsburg Post Office very well. It is an extremely busy one. It contains a small counter - perhaps 12 or 14 feet long - but no seating accommodation for old people who may be obliged to wait some -time .before they receive their pensions.
– When I inquired into the matter I was informed that the accommodation was very good.
– I am prepared to believe the evidence of my own eyes.
– Has the honorable member been in the office upon pay day ?
– I visited it upon almost every occasion that I returned to my home. If old-age pensioners are obliged to wait in that office until their pensions are paid, they should at least be provided with seats. Surely that is not asking much. I understand that a promise was made recently that any persons who, under State laws, had been the recipients of pensions, and whose pensions had been reduced upon their transfer to the Commonwealth, but had subsequently been restored to their original amount/would be paid the arrears that had accrued from the beginning of July of the present year. Take the case of an old-age pensioner who was in receipt of a pension of 10s. per week under the New South Wales law, and whose pension was by some mischance reduced upon his transfer to the Commonwealth. If, at the end of three months, it were found that a mistake had been made, and his pension was then restored to its original amount, surely he would be entitled to the arrears which had accumulated.
– - It would depend upon the merits of each case. If the honorable member will send any case of that kind along, we will look into it.
– As a matter of principle, if a pension is reduced by the Commonwealth authorities, and it is subsequently found that a mistake has been made, the pensioner should be paid the arrears which would have accumulated.
– The pension might not have been reduced as the result of a mistake.
– Is it not right that in cases where pensioners have had their pensions reduced and subsequently restored to their original amount, the accumulated arrears should be paid? ‘I think that that is a course which ought to be adopted in every case. Then I should like to inquire whether the Treasurer has received sufficient information to permit him to adjust the anomaly to which, in connexion with the miners’ accident fund, on a former occasion I directed .attention?
– I have received that information, and I am considering it with the Attorney-General. The whole amount involved is about .£30, and only three, persons are concerned in it.
– That does not affect the principle which is at stake.
– But it shows that the position is not such a terrible one after all.
– I wish also to draw the attention of the Treasurer to a question connected with the Newcastle Naval Brigade. For two years past money has been voted for the construction of a. boat harbor and drill shed at that port, but so far nothing has been done. The boats, which were built in Sydney, were completed some six months ago, but the Newcastle corps cannot take them over, because it has no place in which to house them. Some of the officers of the Newcastle Naval Brigade, have recently been asked to present themselves for examination, notwithstanding that they have no appliances to enable them to fit themselves for such examination. I repeat that the necessary funds for the construction of a boat harbor and drill shed were voted two years ago.
– Perhaps the vote has lapsed.
– The amount has been re-voted. Surely there must be something radically wrong, or such a state of affairs would not eixst. I hope that the Minister of Defence will take the necessary steps to insure the expenditure of this money at the earliest possible moment. Before concluding, I would again urge upon the Treasurer the necessity for providing seating accommodation for old-age pensioners at the Plattsburg Post Office.
– They are not all so decrepit as to require accommodation of that sort.
– A number of them are. A man cannot work down a coal mine for many years without having a’ good deal knocked out of him. I ask the Treasurer to look into this matter from a practical stand-point.
– I have made inquiries into the matter.
– I am aware of that.
– Have the pensioners themselves complained about the lack of seating accommodation ?
– The Municipal Council of Plattsburg, at the request of these old-age pensioners, has complained.
– The postmaster at Plattsburg says that the accommodation is all right, and that there are no complaints.
– I say that there are complaints, and justifiable ones.
– Not by the men themselves.
– Yes,by the men themselves. The Treasurer should do something to justify the claim which he has made so often that he is sympathetically administering the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. It is a very small request which I make on behalf of these old people.
– I will look into the matter again.
– If the Treasurer will take the trouble to inquire into it, he will find that what I have stated is absolutely correct.
– People cannot goto a bank and get a seat
– If the Treasurer takes up that stand, let him say so. Does he sav that to ask the Government to provide seating accommodation for these old people is to ask too much?
– If they have to wait for any length of time, I think that seating accommodation is necessary.
– The right honorable gentleman stated that he would again look into the matter, but immediately afterwards he turned round anc! said that the accommodation was all right.
– This is not the only office to be considered. The honorable member seems to ‘be full of complaints.
– I am talking of a typical office.
– This is very good “copy,” I expect.
– I have heard that remark before from the right honorable gentleman, but it has no weight with me. The office I complain of is typical of many offices. Even if the right honorable gentleman were to provide a seat in every postoffice it would not cost very much. When he takes this stand against a small request to provide old people with a little accommodation I am surprised.
– It would be better to provide for their payment at their own homes if the honorable member is going to make such a fuss about the matter.
– That would not be a bad thing for the right honorable gentleman to do, but while he is waiting and con sidering, in many cases, the old people are suffering. It is absolutely necessary that seating accommodation should be provided at the offices where the pensioners have to wait. I do not suggest that the place I refer to is worse than other places. It is certainly a busy office, and very often pensioners have to wait some time before they can be attended to.
.- I am much obliged to the honorable member for Newcastle. If the construction can be put upon my remark that I went back on anything which I had stated in reference to the Maitland miners by way of explanation or apology or withdrawal that was not my intention. My remark was intended to convey that the papers if moved for and produced would prove that I had the authority which I said I had for making the statement.
– Will they prove that the honorable member had a written authority?
– No. I did not say anything about a written authority.
– How are the papers to prove that the honorable member had authority if it is not written?
– The papers will prove my statement that a sergeant of police was my authority.
– Not that the statement of the honorable member was accurate, but simply that he had made it on the authority of the sergeant ?
– That is not what the honorable member’s interjection conveyed.
– That is what I wanted to convey. I do not wish to recede from the position I took up. I desire to refer to the question of telephones in hotels. In this evening’s Herald there is a report of the proceedings of a deputation which waited upon the Postmaster-General. He stated that one of his predecessors, mentioning my name, had drawn up the regulations with reference to the prohibition of public telephones in hotels.
– No, I said the honorable member issued an instruction.
– The report says-
On account of the increase of semi-public telephones in hotels, a predecessor in office, Mr. Mauger, issued an order in 1908 that no new official slot-payment telephones were to be established in hotels. A further instruction was issued when Mr. Thomas was Minister, as a result of which notices that telephones were available at hotels were prohibited.
There was a reason for the issue of that order by me. It was represented to me that the police authorities had found that a public telephone on licensed premises was the means of persons excusing themselves for being thereon when they had no right to be, and that it made the administration of the Licensing Act more difficult than it would otherwise be. I had no desire to be a partisan or to discriminate, but I had a desire to do all that I possibly could to help the authorities in administering the law of the land. That is the reason which prompted me to issue the order. I’ see no ground for receding from that position.
– Hear, hear: the honorable member’s successors have approved of it.
– There :ire public houses and public houses. There are some public houses which have accommodation for travellers, and which have no occasion to use any means outside their legitimate business for attracting persons. There are some public houses which it was represented to me would be likely to use telephones for that purpose. It was also represented that no excuse, hindrance or obstacle should be put in the way of the authorities administering the Licensing Act. I think it is only right that I should make this statement, because, whilst I was anxious to uphold my principles I was also anxious that I should do no injustice to any .one, and that there should be a good foundation for any action that I took in administering the Department.
– I desire to draw the- attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to a question affecting the compilation of the new rolls in Western Australia. I am advised that the method of taking the old rolls for an electorate, ascertaining whether any persons had left the district or not, and adding the names of new residents, is not being pursued in that State. My information is to the effect that the old roll has been practically discarded, and that the police are, where possible, leaving forms at houses to be filled up and calling for them subsequently, and that those persons whose names are not collected in that fashion will not find themselves on the new roll. If that method is being pursued at mining camps, it will mean the disfranchisement of many per. sons.’ No matter whether the police make a visit by day or by night, they will find the houses of some miners empty, particularly those occupied by single men, because the occupants will be at work. Even if a form left at a miner’s house is filled in, it may not be convenient for the occupant to present it to the police officer. My information comes from a private source, but I have no reason to doubt its accuracy. The writer may not be fully informed as to the methods of the police, but he has written what he believes to be true. If he has furnished correct information nothing but a very imperfect roll can be the result. The proper method to adopt would be for the police to take the old roll, find out who have left the district and strike off their names and give forms to the new residents. I have not the slightest objection to that being done. Whilst seeing that all qualified persons are enrolled, we ought to see that the roll does not contain the names of a number of unqualified persons. We should not proceed to an election with stuffed rolls, nor should we endeavour to strike off the name of any qualified person.
– What the honorable member suggests seems to be the easiest way to proceed.
– I have no doubt that it is.
– That is what is done at present.
– I should be pleased to hear a reply from the Minister, because the getting of a perfect roll is an important matter. If he can assure me that my information is not correct I shall be very pleased to know that that is the case.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to -
That the House will to-morrow resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Fuller) read a first time.
– With regard to the matter brought up by the honorable member for Maranoa, respecting the two reserved seats on each side of the chamber, 1 have instructed the attendants who have “ charge of the doors at this end to see that when the seats are occupied and a division is called for the ropes are put up ; these must be (regarded as doors, and honorable members must not pass under them while a division is being taken.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest, by leave) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I am sadly disappointed with the measure as a whole, although, perhaps, it provides for a moiety of the reform that we desire. From what was said both inside and outside the House prior to its introducton, I expected that its provisions would do credit to this Parliament, and would show the world how a citizen soldiery should be established. But instead of being a Bill to provide for the training of the manhood, it is one which provides for the training of the boyhood of Australia. Our young men are lost sight of just when they should be subjected to strict training. What is to be done with those who have reached the age of twenty-one years? That is the crux of the whole matter. The Minister of Defence said that he hoped that most of them would enter the Militia. I asked, “ What will happen if they do not?” and his reply was that something would have to be done to keep them in training. I admit that the Bill is a step towards providing for compulsory training, but it does not go as far as it ought to go. In my opinion, the training should be so thorough that every man between the ages of twenty and forty or forty-five should be able to carry a rifle or man a gun, or perform some Of the other duties of the various arms of the combatant forces, so as to be prepared to defend the country if need be. A country worth living in is worth fighting for. That is my feeling, and, 1 think, the feeling of the majority of. honorable members. Some of the Ministerial supporters voted solidly against every proposed amendment, acting like so many sheep.
– And the Opposition voted solidly against the Government proposals.
– It was only members of the Opposition who were prepared to debate the Bill; very little criticism came from the ranks of the Ministerial supporters. On one occasion when the division bells rang, some entered at one door, and some at another, like so many rats emerging from their holes, and went straight across the chamber to where they saw the Ministers sitting.
– The effect of compulsory training !
– Undoubtedly the Government had its forces well drilled and disciplined. On one occasion, a Tasmanian representative voted against the Government, but when he found that if he adhered to his original position Ministers would be defeated, he turned a somersault, and in the next division voted with them. Every member of the Opposition, however, was free to vote as he liked. I know that some of the supporters of the Fusion wished to move amendments, but the party whip was cracked, and they had to swallow the Bill holus-bolus as it was put before them. The honorable member for North Sydney would not have had a “ t “ crossed or an “ i “ dotted. He wished the Minister to insist on the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill.
– I should have thought that the honorable member would have supported the Bill all through.
– I supported it, but I also tried to make it better. Surely the Treasurer does not think that Ministers are infallible, and possess all the brains of the House. The Opposition is able to hold its own with the Government, even with the honorable gentleman thrown in. I am sorry that the Minister of Defence is not present, because there is a matter which I wish to bring under his notice. No doubt he is away addressing a lot of old tabbies, following the example of the right honorable member for Swan, instead of attending here to do the work for which he is paid.
– The honorable member will not get their votes if he speaks like that.
– I do not want the votes of the old tabbies whom the right honorable member looks after.
– Why insult any one?
– I ask honorable members to refrain from interrupting. It is not in order to endeavour to make speeches by interjection when an honorable member is addressing the Chair.
– The honorable member for Maranoa was speaking very harshly of our friends.
– It is disorderly to interrupt the Speaker. I hope that the honorable member for Maranoa will be permitted to address the House in his own way.
– I shall speak to the people of Darling Downs at the proper time, in a proper way, and from the proper place.
As a military man, you, Mr. Speaker, know that the discipline and esprit de corps of our Forces depends on the -efforts of the non-commissioned and commissioned officers of the Instructional Staff. I know from experience and from inquiry that it is the hardest matter possible to obtain non-commissioned instructional officers, because of the low rates of pay that such officers receive. I am pleased that the Minister of Defence has returned. I was at fault in accusing him of being away addressing meetings. The matter to which I wish to draw his attention is this - and to make the position clear I shall quote from a statement which has been supplied to me- Speaking of the new classification of Military Staff clerks, it says that -
It will be seen that these gentlemen are now graded with ranks from corporal to honorary rank of captain at salaries varying from £I Ic to £400 per annum. I beg to state that a- high percentage of these gentlemen have no military experience whatever, and are dependent upon the warrant and non-commissioned officers of the Instructional Staff for their education in military matters, while a few were formerly gunners in the R.A.A. and sappers in the Royal Australian Engineers. It is difficult to understand why the salaries and ranks allotted above are so much superior to that of the members of the Instructional Staff, warrant, and noncommissioned officers when it is taken into consideration the great amount of study and perseverance it is necessary to undergo in order to become an efficient instructor, which position entails a great amount of clerical work that cannot be done except by those who have had a thorough military training.
It is suggested that the warrant and noncommissioned officers of the Instructional Staff be placed on a similar footing to that of the military staff clerks.
At the present time warrant and noncommissioned officers of the Instructional Staff have to perform similar duties to those of the military staff clerks, and, in addition, have to study night and day as opportunity offers, in order to maintain their high standard “of military knowledge, whereas the military staff clerks are only employed in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
The financial and allowance regulations, paragraph 77, show that provision is made for the payment of warrant and noncommissioned officers of the Instructional Staff at the following rates -
The difference between the pay of a seniornoncommissioned and a junior commissioned officer is so great that it is not surprising that non-commissioned officers cannot be obtained. If the service is not madeattractive, we shall not get the best men. The Minister has told me privately that hehas had this matter under consideration for some time, and that, as soon as the money is made available, he will make an alteration. This, I am sure, will prove a boon, and a benefit to this branch of the service, and be regarded as one of the best featuresOf the new defence scheme.
– Will that apply to thenew instructors?
– Yes, to all of them. Military Staff Clerks, with ,£110 and less,, have the rank of corporal; above £110, and less than .£130, the rank of sergeant;, above £[130, and less than £160, the rank of company sergeant-major ; and, with £160 to £ji8o, the rank of regimental quarter-master sergeant. A squadron sergeantmajor on the instructional staff in class 4 can only reach a salary of ,£146, with a minimum of .£130 17s. 6d., so it Wil be seen that the clerks are paid a higher rate than are the men who are doing the actual work of training the forces. A military clerk in class 2 has a minimumsalary of ,£185, with a maximum of .£’285, and the rank of warrant officer; and hereagain is a great disparity, because a regimental sergeant-major or warrant officer has a minimum salary of .£191 12s. 6d., with a maximum of only ,-£209 17s. 6d. The inducement is not for the intelligent and highly trained men to become instructors, but to become military clerks. Another injustice is that a military clerk canreach the honorary rank of lieutenant or captain, whereas an instructional officer finds himself against a stone wall when he becomes regimental sergeant-major, warrant officer, or garrison sergeant-major, nomatter what his ability will be. The Minister has promised me faithfully that he will see that some alteration is made ; and I am confident, from what both he and the Acting Secretary for Defence have said’ that there is to be some attempt to make the positions on the instructional staff much more attractive. This can only be to the benefit of the whole force, inasmuch as it will secure a better class of officers. My desire is to see this Bill further amended in another place, and made much moreworkable. Every man, in my opinion, ought to be an efficient fighting force ir» whatever corps he is posted. Militarism is a most progressive science ; indeed, although I have been out of the army for only some twenty-eight years, 1 found when I visited Queenscliff that, despite the fact that I underwent a course of gunnery at Shoeburyness, everything was as foreign to me as if I had never been a gunner. The fuses, both percussion and time, the mountings of the guns, and the guns themselves, are altogether different now. Some of the guns are models of mechanism ; in fact, many of them are as delicately made as. a watch, and require skilful and careful treatment. If the work of handling them is to be left to men of twenty-one years of age, it will, I think, be a great mistake. A man is only beginning to have sense at that age; indeed, I regard that as my most sensible period of life, because it was then I decided to come to Australia. If Australia does not know when it has a good citizen, I know when I am- in a good country. Although every one may not be so enthusiastic as I am in regard to militarism, I am sure we all desire to see an effective fighting force ; and if the Bill can be made more workable in another place, then I shall join in the old Conservative cry of “ Thank God, there is an Upper House ! “
.- The honorable member for Maranoa is able to bring to this subject an experience which I am sure is regarded as a most valuable contribution to this discussion. It is a matter of congratulation, both .to the House and to the country, that the measure has passed so rapidly through its various stages, and that it is now on the eve of leaving one Chamber of the Parliament. Although, as I said on the second reading, I welcome the principle of the measure, I am bound to say that, in my opinion, it does not provide the machinery to create the effective fighting force that the honorable member for Maranoa desires. I say again that, while the measure prepares a man to be a soldier, it does not make him a soldier. It is better, in a sense, to have no fighting force than to have a fighting force on which we cannot rely. I do not go so far, of course, as to express any regret at the introduction of the” measure, because I welcome it; but it must’ assuredly be amended. Experience will demonstrate that the measure as it stands is quite ineffective for any purpose for which it is intended. It will neither provide men with sufficient training, nor will it create an organization which permits of the utiliza tion of the trainees. In my opinion, it isimpossible to get men in any way fit todefend the country with the training proposed; because a recruit requires, at any rate, not much less than forty days’ training. On the second reading, I suggested thirty-six days, because the Deakin measure proposed eighteen days the first year, eighteen days the second year, and nine days the third year. My suggestion at that time was that it would be better to have thirty-six days’ training the first year and nine days in the second. Better results would be thus obtained, and it would take the trainee from his industrial vocation at a time when he could be more easily spared. However, I do not wish to labour the point, nor, indeed, is it of any real use to do so. The greatest soldier of the Empire, Lord Roberts, who has given> this question of citizen soldiery especial’ attention that certainly makes his opinionworthy of consideration, declares that anything less than four months of training, of which one month ought to be continuous incamp, is insufficient. Lord Roberts gives an instance - which I have previously quoted -in the fact that the C.I.V’s., after having undergone a course of preparatory training, for very much longer than that proposed in the Bill, were quite unfitted to take the field in South Africa, and had to be kept for three months training in camp day afterday before they were regarded as effective. Before the honorable gentleman can really get into full swing with his scheme, I an* sure it will be abundantly demonstrated that the proposed .period of training is quite insufficient. I am also sure that before the first set of trainees - those of the ages of from eighteen to twenty - pass through and become eligible to go into the reserve or join the Militia, as the case may be,, the necessity will become apparent for an active organization into which they canbe drafted, so that there shall be of men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six at least an active fighting force all the time available. It is of no use to train a man and then turn him adrift. I pointed out cn the second reading that there ought to be from 50,000 to 100,000 men in this country who have passed through the Militia, and are still within the fighting age. If there are 23,000 in the Militia, and if on the average they pass through the Militia in two years, and the Militia Forces have been in existence for the past ten or fifteen years, there must be at least 50,000 men between the ages of twenty and forty-five who have had a militia training. But where are they? How is it that those men are not available? How comes it that we have the declaration of the Minister that if mobilization were attempted to-morrow we should be utterly unable to conjure up a force sufficiently strong to make even a colorable attempt at defence? Why is it that these men are lost? We go to considerable trouble and expense to train them, and as soon as they are trained they disappear. The reason is that there is no organization. We must have a complete scheme, and I would impress upon the Minister’s attention the fact that Mr. Haldane’s territorial scheme is an admirable one, wanting only the power of compulsion behind it to make it ample for the purpose - home defence - for which it is required. That scheme provides that men, as soon as they have been trained, shall fall into a second lighting line where they are at all times available. They are part of the organization. There is a place for them to go, and they have to go to it. They are called up yearly for a further period of training after they have passed through the stage which corresponds with the training period of the Minister’s proposed trainees. It is at least as important to have an organization to absorb the trainees as it is to give them sufficient training. I venture to say that those two defects will so impress themselves upon the Minister’s mind that when his scheme gets into working order and he has established his Military College he will feel compelled to remedy them. Here let me congratulate the House upon its insistence on the inclusion of provision for a Military College. It is an admirable idea., and the Bill without it would have been almost waste paper. We have, at any rate, laid the foundations for the provision of a sufficient number of officers and an Instructional Staff. The honorable member for Maranoa has told us how much the Instructional Staff are underpaid, and I am glad to hear that it is the intention of the Minister to pay them a better wage. The Minister is in charge of a Department, which is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult that a man can be called upon to administer. Soldiers, of course, are human beings, and have their kinks. The Department is marred by traditions wholly inapplicable to the circumstances of Australia. And more red tape is to be found in that Depart ment than in the Attorney-General’s office or, indeed, the whole of the lawyers’ offices in the largest city in the world. 1 feel sure, however, that the longer my honorable friend is in that Department the more he will become seized of the facts that a soldier is not made in a day, that even by compulsion we cannot make a nation of soldiers in eight days, and that when we have made a man a soldier it is only throwing money away and wasting time if we do not utilize his services. I take it, therefore, that the two fundamental defects of the measure - defects which will become apparent as the scheme is slowly worked out - are, first, that the time allotted for training is wholly insufficient, and, second, that there are no means of utilizing the men when they are trained. The effect of the first defect is that the men are insufficiently trained. The effect of the second is that you wholly lose their services, good, bad, or indifferent, because you have no machinery to utilize them. With regard to the Cadets, I am not clear as to the honorable gentleman’s attitude towards the suggestion that the Junior Cadets should have uniforms. I remember reading that the Minister was asked to provide uniforms for both junior and senior cadets, and my impression is that he said he did not propose to give the Junior Cadets uniforms.
– That is so.
– But that he did propose to give uniforms to the Senior Cadets.
– I recognise that the matter is not free from difficulties. I arn inclined to think that very little useful purpose can be served by spending the amount of money which would be necessary to provide the Cadets between the ages of ten and twelve with uniforms. We should not deceive ourselves into thinking that the junior cadet will be anything but a schoolboy, or that the course proposed for him will be anything but one of physical training. We call him- a junior cadet, and there is no harm in doing so, but he is just a schoolboy engaged in a physical training which will do him no harm. I express no opinion as to whether the proposed training is good, bad, or indifferent, but I would impress upon the Minister that everything depends on the kind of training given. Very much harm can come of wrong training physically as well as mentally, but the course proposed for the boy between ten and twelve is physical training pure and simple, and not military training in any sense of the word. With regard to the Senior Cadets the matter is entirely different with them. Here the difficulty arises, ns pointed out by the honorable member for Adelaide, of brigading boys of fourteen with those of eighteen. I hope the Minister will give that matter his most serious consideration. There are phases of it that can hardly be discussed here with advantage, but I am sure that they will occur to the Minister.
– A lot of difficulties will crop up which we shall have to face when we come to them.
– Yes. But this difficulty is one that will have to be faced at the- outset. When his scheme starts, the honorable gentleman will deal not merely with boys of fourteen and take them on up to the age of eighteen, but will have to deal with boys of fourteen, boys of fifteen, boys of sixteen, boys of seventeen, and boys of eighteen at the same time. I do not say that there is a great gulf between a boy of sixteen and a boy of seventeen, but between a boy who is approaching fourteen and another who is nearly eighteen, there is the gulf between a boy and a man. Every sensible person knows that that difference must be regarded, particularly in camp training, and I would impress upon the honorable gentleman that it is in the last degree important that they should not be brigaded or camped together. As to the penalties proposed in the Bill, very much will depend upon the temper of the people whether they are effective or not, and much, too, will depend upon the manner in which it is proposed to enforce them. 1’he detention which is spoken of is no doubt quite necessary, or may be in certain circumstances. It is also very necessary to insist that a man who declines to present himself for training in one year shall be liable the following year to make up his arrears, but if any large proportion of the people regard this measure unfavorably, the Minister will be hardly able to enforce that provision. I am not clear in my mind as to what the Minister proposes in regard to those who desire an exemption because of religious convictions or conscientious objections to war. In what way does the honorable gentleman propose to :leal with them as regards proposed new section 125 and the following sections?
– Our idea at present, broadly, is that there will be plenty’ of non-combatant duties.
– I take no exception to that, but I would submit that if a man is to be permitted to be drafted into the noncombatants merely upon his declaration that he has conscientious scruples, a difficult position may arise. The percentage of non-combatants to combatants must be maintained at a certain ratio. We cannot have more non-combatants than combatants. There is plenty of useful and necessary, and often most distasteful, work to be done by non-combatants, but if every man who says he has conscientious scruples against serving is drafted into their ranks, I hardly see what the Minister is going to do with them if they outnumber the combatants by ten to one. He cannot put them all in the Commissariat, nor in the hospital corps, nor even in the sanitary corps. It has been suggested that those seeking exemption should be deterred by being compelled to pass an examination ; but you cannot -compel a person to pass an examination. You can say to him, “If you do not do your drills this year you must come up next year and do them,” and you can make him come up, but you cannot make him do the drills. And, certainly, we cannot make him pass an examination. It would, no doubt, be an admirable thing if we could. The pupil would be pleased if his teacher could make him pass an examination.
– The honorable member will see if he looks at section 61 of the principal Act, that the provision is not so wide as he suggests.
– I see that the section reads -
If the honorable gentleman is relying on that section, I say that if the Minister says to a man whose religion forbids him to bear arms, “ Take that musket,” and he says “ I will not,” he cannot be compelled to” take it unless this Bill is amended. He will be able to defy the Minister under section dr of the principal Act. 1 do not know whether the honorable gentleman realizes that the elasticity of religious doctrine in the minds of many people in this country is amazing. I have heard stories of men who, in one gaol, have declared themselves to be Roman Catholics on being informed that the majority of the warders or the head warder or the cook were Roman ‘Catholics, and who, when they have been transferred to another gaol, have become Presbyterians. Men may say anything, and I venture to say that a number of persons may try to evade military’ service if they find they can do so by saying that the doctrine of their religion forbids them to bear arms. I say very humbly that the doctrine of our religion, as Christians generally, forbids us all to bear arms, if it comes to that. No one who calls himself a real Christian and stands by the Christian religion, as such, can bear arms. How could he do it? Under section 61 of the existing Act, ‘ as we are all Christians, none of us could be brought under the compulsory training provisions. That would be an absurdity. I am sure that the Minister of Defence does not propose to permit so wide an exemption as that. I remember very well discussing section 61 of the principal Act when the measure was going through this House, and I know that what was contemplated was to meet the case of Quakers, Seventh Day Adventists, and persons of that kind, who object to war. But training is not war. It is merely a preparation for war. I direct: the attention of the Minister to section 59 of Part IV. of the principal Act. It reads -
All male inhabitants of Australia (excepting those who are exempt from service in the Defence Force) who have resided therein for six months and are British subjects, and are between the ages of sixteen and sixty years shall, in time of war, be liable to serve in the Militia Forces.
I submit that the exemption provided for in section 61 refers to the liability imposed under section 59, or it has no meaning at all. If it refers to the liability imposed by section 59, it does not and cannot apply to the training provided for under the proposed new section 125 contained in this Bill. The Minister of Defence will see that we are dealing here not with a liability to bear arms in time of war, but to come up for a certain number of days and be trained. The exemption therefore provided for in section 61 will not relieve a man of the liability imposed under the proposed new section 125, and the succeeding provisions of this Bill. If it does, it destroys absolutely the usefulness of this measure, because it leaves a loophole by which any person may escape the lia- bility to undergo training. I should be thelast to compel a man to bear arms whohad conscientious scruples against it, but I say that training is one thing, and bearing, arms quite another. I see no reason why persons with conscientious scruples against bearing arms should not be liable toundergo training. If the Minister takesthe power to make everybody serve, he may then exercise his discretion in regard toclaims to exemption under the circumstancesset forth in section 61 to such an extent as may ‘be compatible with the effectiveoperation of this measure. But exemption to a greater extent under the provision for exemption would be fatal to the success of the measure. It should be remembered that section 61 of the principal Act contemplates the exemption, not merely of persons who, because of their religiousdoctrines have conscientious objections tothe bearing of arms, but also of thoseclasses of persons who are usually exempted, such as Judges, members Of Parliament, clergymen, and so on, and it clearly applies only to the liability under section’ 59, to serve in the Militia Forces in timeof war. I submit that it cannot and ought not to refer to the liability to undergo thetraining provided for in this Bill. If it can be held to refer to the provisions of this Bill, the Minister of Defence should makesome provision to meet the difficulty. I have just glanced at clause n of this Bill, and the proposed new sections it includes,, and though I have not had an opportunity to look into the matter carefully, it now appears to me that I may have been mistaken, and that owing to the manner itv which part IV. of the principal Act hasbeen repealed and remodelled in this Bill, section 61 of the principal Act will apply to persons called up for training under theproposed new section 125. If that be so, T submit that it might easily render this Bill a nullity. If a man can come uo and’ say, “ The doctrines of my religion forbid” me to train,” the Minister will be unable to make him train. He will have no discretion in the matter. Under sub-section 2 of section 61, lt is provided that -
The burden of proving exemption from service in the Defence Force shall rest on the person claiming exemption.
That does not refer to a claim for exemption on the ground of religion, but tothe first part of sub-section 1 of section 61, giving the Governor-General power, by regulation, to declare what persons shall be exempt from service in the Defence
Force. The proviso in sub-section 1 of section 61 is that persons whom the doctrines of their religion forbid to bear arms shall be exempt upon such conditions as may be prescribed, and if we say to such persons that they will be exempt from bearing arms, provided they join some noncombatant force, I say that we cannot have too many in the non-combatant forces, and there must be a discretion vested in the Minister to prevent the number of noncombatants exceeding a certain proportion. The Minister should take power, under this Hill, to limit in any way that is deemed expedient and wise, the number of persons who may take advantage of section 61. I do not deny for a moment that there are many in this country who might legitimately come under it, but, on the other hand, there are many who might be disposed to take advantage of it to the detriment of the effective working of this Bill. I shall be glad to hear what the Minister may have to say on the points I have raised. I hope that, whatever he doesin this House, he will take care that when the Bill is before another place such an amendment will be inserted as will meet the difficulty to which I have referred.
– I differ from the two honorable gentlemen who have preceded me, although we are all members of the same party. The age of compulsion provided for in the Bill is as high as I think it ought to be. If any attempt had been made to make it much higher, I should have been prepared to wreck the Bill if that were necessary to prevent it succeeding. When the people of Australia have had a taste of compulsory training, they will better understand what it involves. I objected to the proposal when the Bill was in Committee, and I am pleased that in the form in which the Bill has been reported the compulsion is to stop at twenty years of age, when, as a rule, young fellows will have very few responsibilities. Some, of course, may have widowed mothers to provide for, and their case must excite sympathy. We trust that the proposed allowance will compensate them to some extent for the loss of wages they will suffer. I do not share the hope expressed by the honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for West Sydney that the age of compulsory service will be extended. They have said that the Government propose to trainboys, not men, and that the period of compulsory service is to cease where it ought really to commence. There need be no pretence as to what we require. We do not expect to raise an army such as might be necessary in Europe; the troops that we shall raise will partake more of the character of the Boer forces than of a European army. If we train our young men up to the age of twenty years, and offer them some encouragement, I am sure that thousands will be prepared at the close of their period of compulsory service to join the volunteer forces. We do not pretend to desire to raise and maintain an army of 200,000 or 300,000 men. To my mind we require to raise a force of between 60,000 and 80,000, and provided that more encouragement is forthcoming than has been offered in the past by the Defence Department, we shall find plenty of young men prepared to join the volunteerforces after reaching the age of twenty. Prior to the introduction of this Bill I expressed the opinion that the existing system could be materially improved without resort to the compulsory system, if young men were given reasonable encouragement to train. Our cadet forces have hitherto received no encouragement, and, I believe, it will be better for the youth of Australia to be subjected to a little more discipline and control than they are at present. A great deal has been said about the making of a soldier. I well remember when the six years’ term of enlistment first came into operation in England. In my boyhood days men there had to enlist for a period of from twelve to fourteen years, and, after remaining in the army for twenty-one years, they were able to retire on a pension. When the period of enlistment was reduced to six years, many of the leading military authorities said that it was impossible to make a soldier in that time. What they really meant was that it was impossible within that time to turn out such a soldier as they would like to have under them, and whilst we may not be able, within the time fixed for compulsory service, to turn out a soldiery such as might be necessary in Europe, I am convinced that the training proposed to be given our young men will be advantageous to the manhood and the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– Men who had had but comparatively little training did very well in the American Civil War.
– I am not an authority on that subject, but I have heard many military men declare that what took place in that struggle was not war, but murder. In England, ‘after serving for six years, the men went into the reserves, and the system to be adopted under this Bill is somewhat similar. I hope that it will be found effective. No doubt in connexion with the artillery and other highly technical branches of our defence system a longer training will be required than in other divisions. We must all acknowledge that it is necessary to have a permanent force to man our forts, and that it may also be found necessary to have a permanent force of field artillery. I do not suggest that the present permanent forces should be largely increased, but their numbers may need to be augmented so that our citizen soldiery may be properly trained in gunnery, and so forth. I believe that the scheme laid down in this Bill would prove sufficient for our purposes. I am not satisfied, however, with the arrangements made for training officers. The greatest difficulty that will confront the Department will be in relation to i the officering of the troops. A Military College is to be established, but I trust that for some time, at all events, the Department will be content to issue commissions to good practical soldiers, although they may not be of high scholastic attainments. A knowledge of Greek arid Latin may be necessary in some professions, but I do not think it necessary to make a. man a good fighter. All that the average man needs to learn in regard to the military side of Grecian history can be obtained from English works, and if a man desires to study the life of Julius Caesar he may learn all that is necessary from English text-books just as well as he could from works in Latin. English officers who are sent out to India- are expected to learn Hindustani, and those who are stationed in the Pesbawur district are also expected to have a knowledge of the Afghan tongue. Such’ a knowledge is essential on the part of those who have to command native troops. I hope, however, that’ we shall not insist upon high literary qualifications on the part of our officers. What we really require are men thoroughly familiar with life in Australia, and possessing an intimate knowledge of what is necessary for the effective defence of the Commonwealth. We have in Australia men capable of doing work as goo’d as that which any officer from the Old World could be expected to do. I do not say that the knowledge of warfare which Old World officers have would be useless in Aus- tralia, but I do say that their knowledge nf handling troops would be useless in the absence of a knowledge of Australian conditions. We are told that this Bill will involve an enormous increase in our Defence expenditure, yet we have received from the Government no information as to the way in which provision is to be made for that increase. That, however, is a matter of no great concern to me. It is for the Government to make the necessary provision. I trust that they are not passing this Bill with’ the idea that by the time that it is necessary to provide for the increased expenditure which it involves they will be no longer in possession of the Treasury Bench, and that that duty will be thrust upon another party. The Labour party endeavoured to secure the insertion of certain provisions in this Bill but failed. We made our fight, and must be satisfied, but I hope that the present Government are not passing this Bill without having a definite scheme for providing the necessary ways and means:
– I rise to express my disappointment. When this Bill was introduced by the Minister of Defence it was thought that it was to’ be dealt with expeditiously. For the first day or two fairly good progress was made, but the honorable gentleman then appeared to lose control of the House and allowed honorable members to remould it. There is nothing in the Bill that belongs to the present Government. In framing it they adopted the policy’ of the Opposition, although, in introducing it, they indulged in a good deal of self-praise. I believe that the people are in favour of a Citizen soldiery, and it was for that reason that this measure was received with’ some degree of satisfaction. Its consideration, however, was ‘allow;ed to be dragged on most ignominously for several days, and all the credit due to the Minister of Defence. in connexion with it disappeared. Neither he nor any other member of the Government is entitled to take any credit for the Bill as it now stands.
– Is credit due to the Government for anything?
– So far they have done little of any importance. What they have done has been forced upon them. Part XV. of this Bill was inserted on .the motion of a private member.
– It was accepted by the Government.
– The Minister of Defence contested it for days and, then finding himself defeated, accepted it. Anything more ignominious than the performances of the Minister in regard to this Bill I have rarely seen. The whole of one part of the measure was introduced by a private member, and carried by the votes of the Opposition.
– It is time the honorable member stopped this nonsense.
– The Minister, having responsible officers at his command, should have paid them the deference of consulting them. They have been put into their positions for the purpose of advising him. But he came to this House ignoring those responsible officers, and took from the Opposition - because it would not have been done except for their action - the whole “of Part XV., providing for matters which he had had no intention whatever of introducing into the Bill. Therefore, I say that no credit is due to the Minister .for some of the most useful portions of the measure. Indeed, I challenge him to point out a single part of it which is original. Provision after provision he accepted after long debates. He repeatedly adopted amendments after watching to see how the cat would jump. He gave way when he saw (hat it was inevitable that they would be carried. I repeat that that is not creditable to him as a. Minister, and I do not feel at all satisfied with his performances.
– Will the honorable member allow me to say that I do not value his opinion a snap of the fingers.
– I am sure that the honorable gentleman does not, because he even ignored the advice of expert officers who have been placed in positions for the purpose of advising him.
– It is time the honorable member stopped this kind of business.
– When the Minister ignores the advice of qualified officers it is not to be wondered at that he snaps his fingers at the opinion of a member sitting on his own side of the House. But the time has come when he must stiffen himself. He ought to bring in something that is his own, and not submit to the dictation of the .Opposition. He ought to do something worthy of’ the party of which he is a member.
.- I have listened with very great interest to the remarks of the honorable member fpr Robertson.
– And with pleasure.
– And with pleasure. . But though the honorable member’s observations were amusing enough, I have heard him speak so often in a similar, strain, and then vote the other way, that one really does noi! take much notice when he makes a complaint. I recollect the honorable member writing to the Sydney Daily Telegraph in a somewhat similar strain about the present Pusion, but when the party whip was cracked he went over and voted with them. I recollect that when the question of granting old-age pensions to Asiatics was before the House, the honorable member spoke in a certain direction, but conveniently managed to be absent when the division took place. I recollect the way in which he spoke on the financial agreement, but when the whip was cracked by the Premier or New South Wales the honorable member turned a complete somersault, and went in the opposite direction. He went straight from one extreme to the other. I heard him in connexion with the present Bill stand up and say how emphatically he objected to the clause dealing with the Military College because it was introduced by a private member, a colleague of his own. He declared that he would not support it. But when the division took place he did not insist upon registering a vote against the proposition. When we recollect instances of this kind we can take the honorable member’s complaints at their true value. I have several objections to raise to this Bill. The first is that it is ineffective ; the second is that it is unjust ; and the third is that it is undemocratic. The Bill is ineffective, because the periods of training provided for are insufficient. The Minister himself has not endeavoured during the passage of the measure through Committee’ to prove by quoting the opinions of the military experts that the periods of training are sufficient. All that he was able to say in answer to the criticisms launched against the ineffectiveness of his measure in this respect was that if it does not prove successful we can alter it later on. It is a pure experiment. The opinions of high authorities have been cited in opposition to the scheme with respect to the number of days of training. The opinion of Lord
Roberts, for instance, has been most effectively instanced. Furthermore, the Bill does not apply uniformly throughout Australia, but is only to come into operation in certain proclaimed districts. Consequently, a certain portion of the population will be compelled to serve while other portions will have no responsibility. Again, there are loopholes which will enable some persons to escape their obligations. There are too many ‘ ‘ equivalents.” The Bill provides that there shall be so much training “ or its equivalent “ ; and the Minister has not taken the trouble to define what these equivalents are to be. A monetary equivalent may be meant. The Minister may be enabled under the regulations prescribed to permit certain wealthy people to escape their period of compulsory training by paying certain sums into the Consolidated Revenue. Again, the Government brought in their Bill without making any provision whatever for instructional staffs. If we are going to bring forward a huge number of trainees grouped into various divisions, it is evident that they must be taught. The portion of the measure which now deals with the creation of instructional staffs had to be evolved .”fay a private member ; and although he is mot a member of the party to which I belong, I am sure that honorable members on all sides are very glad that there was somebody who was prepared to supply the deficiencies in the Bill, not only in this respect, but also in regard to the establishment of a Military College. Next, the Bill is unjust in that it does not provide proper payment for those who are compelled to give their time for training for the defence of Australia. This is a question which was dealt with while the Bill was_ passing through Committee. It is stated that those who are compelled to train will receive pay “as prescribed.” The Minister has given his interpretation of what pay “‘as prescribed” means. “But it’ will always be at the will and pleasure of the “Minister to lower the rate to the smallest possible amount. I maintain that those who are compelled to train should be reimbursed for what they lose if they have to leave their employment for the purpose. Further, the Bill is undemocratic because it makes no provision for Ways and Means from the proceeds of direct taxation. Indeed, there is no proposal to find the necessary money at all. During the discussion -on the financial agreement, a balance-sheet was placed before the House by me, based on official figures supplied by the officers of the Government. The authenticity of those figures has not been and cannot be denied. The balance-sheet showed that in the first year when the proposed financial agreement comes into operation, there will be a deficit of ,£39,000 in the Commonwealth Government’s accounts; and that calculation dees not provide for a single item of new policy in the Government programme. It is, therefore, evident that the amount of a million and a half, which it is estimated will have to be spent in the year when this Bill comes into operation, must be raised from some source. How is the money to be raised? We had an indication from the honorable member for Denison during the debate on the financial agreement. He said, “ We can get ,£3,000,060 from cotton and piece goods.” We have also had the honorable member for North Sydney talking about the untapped sources of Customs revenue. Other honorable members opposite have also indicated that large amounts can be raised by means of taxes on tea and kerosene. As a matter of fact, we know that the idea in the minds of a number of honorable members opposite - if not of the majority of them - is that huge Customs taxation should be levied upon the working classes of this community. In other words, the working classes are to be made to pay by means of taxes on the necessaries of life for the defence of Australia. The Government do not intend to bring the Bill into operation until 191 1. Why? Because there is to be a general election within a few months. They know that to bring the Bill into operation at once would mean that they would have to find the money for its purposes. That would mean that they would have to go to the people and explain where the money was coming from. Explaining to the people where the money was to come from would put the Government and their supporters into a most terrible difficulty. If they said anything about raising the money by direct taxation, they would have their wealthy supporters, and the Employers Federation deserting them as rats desert a sinking ship. If, on the contrary, the Government said, “We are going to raise this money from Customs and Excise,” they would have the constituencies at the ensuing general election up in arms against them. If they mentioned the third alternative - that of borrowing money for defence purposes - which seems to be the popular idea amongst the Ministerial party - the coward’s resource of putting the burden on to somebody else’s shoulders - they would find considerable opposition to that project. Consequently, it is convenient for the Government to pass this defence measure now, so that they may try to get credit for it at the coming general election, whilst not putting it into force until 1911. The general election will take place in 1910; the Government wil] want a few months after that date to get things ready ; then they will put the Bill into operation ; and if any fresh taxation is required, it will be imposed early after the meeting of the next Parliament, so that the people will have forgotten all about it by the time the following election takes place. By that time the people will have become accustomed to the new imposts. I submit, however, that it is a reasonable thing, when we pass a measure of this kind, for the Government to indicate where the money is to come from to pay for it. Of course, they will answer that the responsibility is upon the Cabinet. They will say, “ We will find the money for this purpose, and we know where we can get it.” I say that it is a responsibility which attaches to every honorable member. The Government have no right to arrogate that responsibility to themselves and to refuse to disclose the sources of taxation to which they intend to resort. Only in September of last year the Minister of Defence, who was then the acting Leader of the Opposition, was just as emphatic as I am’ now in affirming that the Government should indicate where the money for defence purposes was to come from. Upon page 116 of *Hansard of the 17th September of that year he is thus reported -
In view of the importance of the matter the Minister should tell us exactly where he proposes to raise the money.
Now that he is upon the other side of the Chamber, he practically says that this House is not concerned with the question of where the money is to come from. He evidently regards politics as a game- I am utterly disappointed at the humbug and make-believe which characterizes our Parliamentary procedure. Politics appears to be a huge game, the object of which is to fool the public by leading them to believe that they are getting something, and deliberately scheming to prevent them getting it. My only hope is that the electors of this country will take an increasingly intelligent interest in our politics, and that they will keep an eye upon honorable members opposite. If the former do that the reign of the latter will be very short indeed. In England it has long been recognised as a sound policy that the cost of national defence should be defrayed out of the proceeds of direct taxa- tion. There, the money for the purposes of defence is raised from death and succession duties and from an income tax. But in Australia we are told that the cost of our national defence must he derived from Customs taxation. Now we all recognise that it is impossible to raise any large revenue from articles such as silks and satins, because the quantity of these goods that is consumed is relatively small. Consequently if our defence system is to be paid for out of Customs revenue, it is apparent that we must tax the necessaries of life. We must tax articles of general consumption, and any such tax must inevitably press most heavily upon the working classes of the community. I submit that when the manhood of this country undertakes to fit itself to defend it - to make itself the target of the enemy’s fire - it has borne its fair share of the burden. The property owners should pay the piper. There are Australian absentees in London who are drawing from the wealth of this country between ,£8,000,000 and £9,000,000 annually. Should not they be called upon to pay something for the defence of their property? I repudiate’ any responsibility for this measure. It certainly is called a Defence Bill, and it certainly provides for the creation of a citizen army ; but when we take into account the defects to which I have alluded, and when we consider its class character, we must recognise that it is a measure for which no Democrat can accept any responsibility whatever. I shall tell the electors wherever I meet them that it will only be possible to correct those defects by placing a Labour Government in power. I have no desire to speak at length upon the Bill, but as I did not occupy any time in discussing the motion for its second reading, I thought it was only right that at this stage I should place my views upon record. When the Bill was introduced there was a general desire that honorable members should consider it as a purely non-party measure, and consequently quite a number of them refrained from addressing themselves to the motion for its second reading. Their object was that the Bill should get into Committee, and that untrammelled by party considerations we should seek to evolve from it a Democratic defence scheme. But in Committee what did we find? Whenever proposals emanated from the Government the divisions upon them were of a non-party character, but the moment that a member of the Opposition submitted an amendment with the object of improving the measure it was immediately regarded from a party stand-point. Now that the Government have absolutely refused to give the Bill the Democratic finish which we endeavoured to impart to it, we are quite at liberty to entirely repudiate it. As a Bill which provides for the physical training of our youth, the measure will be a success, but as a Bill which will provide an effective defence scheme for Australia, it will prove a huge farce and involve a waste of public money. Since the inception of Federation we have expended about £11,000,000 upon defence, and it is now generally admitted that, to a large extent, that expenditure has been wasted, because it has proved ineffective. Yet, according to the Minister of Defence, when experience has shown that further amendments in this Bill are necessary, we should proceed to improve it. In other words, when a few more million pounds have been squandered - millions raised by duties upon the necessaries of life - we should endeavour to make the measure a. workable one, very probably after we have brought the idea of a compulsory citizen defence force into dispute. However, the Opposition have done their best to assist in formulating a scheme which would havebeen effective, and which might have been recommended from every platform throughout Australia. But we have failed to give effect to those principles which we think should be the governing principles of the measure. I sincerely trust, in the interest of the economical expenditure of public money, and of an effective defence of Australia, that before the Government are afforded an opportunity to put this scheme into operation in 191 1 the electors will have returned the Labour party to power, so that the measure may be recast with a view to making it both just and Democratic.
.- As I did not address myself to the motion for the second reading of this Bill I propose to say a few words now that we have some idea of the attitude of the Government towards the great question of defence. It is not always advisable for an honorable member to speak upon the second reading of a measure because the reply which is usually urged to his criticism is that its details may best be considered in Committee. But now that the Bill has emerged from Committee, we find that, notwithstanding it was introduced as a non-party measure, it has taken on a party complexion. Whenever amendments were submitted by honorable members upon this side of the House, the Government were adamant in their opposition to them.
– Why, I have accepted new clauses and amendments from honorable members opposite.
– Yes, upon matters of mere detail. The Minister has accepted amendments of no consequence in order to give colour to the professions of the Government that the measure is a non-party one.
– Why, almost the last clause of the Bill was introduced by an honorable member opposite.
– I quite realize that the proposal to abolish the canteen system placed the Minister in an awkward position.
– That is not fair.
– It is fair, coming as it does from the honorable member for Gwydir.
– I am not surprised at the Minister of Defence charging any member with being unfair, because such accusations constitute his sole stock in trade. I repeat that to the more important amendments which were submitted by honorable members on this side of the House the Government turned an absolutely deaf ear. They did not wish to make the measure an effective one. If proof of my statement be required, it is to be found in the curcumstance that they have departed from the system which has been in vogue in Great Britain ever since that country had a military system to uphold. From time immemorial the cost of the defence of the Mother Country has been exacted from the wealthy land proprietors. Upon them has been cast the duty of contributing the necessary funds for the defence of their own property. But since we have evolved a system of indirect taxation - a system by which it is easy to increase the burdens of the people, and to increase it in such a manner that they do not realize either the load which is being placed upon them, or the frequency with which it is increased, Government after Government have shirked the responsibility of placing the duty of defending the country on the shoulders of men who have property to defend. There is no doubt in my mind that the order of things which prevailed in the British Isles in the fourteenth century was based upon equity to some extent. In other words the workers were called upon to form an army for the defence of the rights of the people and the Constitution. They were not asked to pay money into the general exchequer for the purpose of covering the cost of defence. It was thought sufficient that they should submit their persons to the danger which would be involved in fighting for their liberties, or for what they considered their rights. That was their contribution towards the defence of their country. But under this Bill the Government intend to practically label every boy as a defender of his country. They propose to compel him to learn drill and to go through the different manoeuvres which are explained in the measure. They propose to bind him to this work until he is twenty years of age, and then by some process of transfer to the Militia, voluntary I suppose, he may remain in the forces of the Commonwealth. In that way they are teaching the masses of the people that it is their duty to prepare themselves for the defence of the country. At the same time they are doing nothing whatever to place the burden of the expenditure on the backs of those who would be most affected if trouble should arise. In this country the best of the land is held by a very few persons compared with our small population. “ A stake in the country “ is that which it is necessary ‘to defend. Consequently, I contend that upon the shoulders of land owners should fall the burden of providing the money to carry out this defence scheme, imperfect as it is. Are the Government doing anything in that direction? No. Are they showing any earnestness in this matter ? No. While they are fathering a defence scheme which will practically involve the Commonwealth in the annual expenditure of about £2,500,000, they have not made an) provision for raising that money, nor have they given to the House any indication or guarantee as to where it is to come from. They do not propose, nor did they allow a proposition to be carried here that the burden should be placed on the backs of the wealthier classes. When honorable members on this side sought to enact that the cost of defence should be raised by in- come and land taxation, what did we find? The Government practically opposed an amendment which would have placed the Bill on a similar basis to that which has governed the conditions which have pertained in military matters in the British Isles. We on this side only ask that accumulated wealth should bear its fair share of the cost of defence. We contended that it was not only wrong, but absolutely unjust, for the Government to submit’ a Bill embodying an annual expenditure of £2,500,000, without indicating where the money is to come from. The only conclusion we can arrive at is that if they are not quite indifferent, they are not sincere, or that the Bill is only intended as a placard to tide them over the general election. One provision of the Bill is that it shall not come into force until June 191 1. To my mind that provision is designed to land the Government safely over the general election. I should have been better pleased if instead of submitting this placard they had come down and said, “ We submit this Defence Bill, but we think that the money necessary to work the scheme should be derived from accumulated wealth, and we therefore propose to levy income and land taxes for the purpose of raising funds.” But did “the Government do anything of that kind? No. That would have been unpopular with the crowd which they represent. The representatives of Conservative interests in the Parliament, the pure Tories of Australian politics, those who father the schemes which are propounded by the Tory wing of the new Governmental side, are merely doing that which will suit the Tory element at the next election. The Government are not game to do what they should do, nor are their proposals marked by a sense of justice. If they were to come down and propose to levy income and land taxes for the purpose of covering the defence expenditure, what would happen ? They would have arrayed against them the forces of Conservatism, the land owning and banking forces, and the newspapers, which merely echo the sentiments of banking and other institutions. The reason why they postpone the operation of this measure until June, 191 1, is, I take it, that they may be assured of office for a term of three years. Their troubles then about the people and the defence of the country ! If, however, the electors at the next contest indicate by their votes that they are notin favour of these measures of a class character introduced by this Government
– Yours is the class proposal.
– The Treasurertalks about the class on this side. I admit that we do represent the masses of the people, but if we want to find the representatives of the classes we must look to that side.
– Order ! I do not see what this has to do with the third reading of the Bill.
– Nor do I.
– I will not discuss any measure while I am interrupted in this way.
– Order !
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27th October (vide page 5093) on motion by Mr. Fuller -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- Last night the Minister of Home Affairs stated that it was the intention of the Electoral Department to introduce the card system, as against the present method of enrolment, transfer fr om division to division, and transfer within a division. I must congratulate the Department upon the proposed alteration, as I believe that it will be superior to the existing method. I asked last night, by interjection, how it would be possible for the Department to trace the removals, unless the people themselves kept in touch with the electoral officers, or a canvass was made by the police from time to time, say, every twelve months. I understand that a greater number of removals takes place in a city electorate than in a country one, and that it has been stated by the electoral officers that the alterations of a roll in twelve months average 25 per cent. Suppose that John Smith removes from the Abbotsford subdivision of the Yarra electorate to the Melbourne electorate, and lives in the latter electorate for twelve months without having notified the Electoral Department of his removal, and without the police having gone round to ascertain whether he was still in the Yarra electorate or not. I desire to know from the Minister whether there is any means of tracing a case of that kind, because persons who were favorable to a particular candidate or party could remain on the roll for a place where their votes would be most valuable, unless, of course, the police went round and revised the roll from time to time. I should like to know whether it is the intention of the Department to make subsequent canvasses. I understand from the Minister that it is not intended to bring the card system into operation right away, and that if any body, or party, or organization have a number of the old forms they will be used for the present enrolment. I presume that up to the time of the next election they will be acknowledged.
– I assume that afterwards the card system will, as far as possible, be brought into operation, and its introduction, I understand from the Minister, is for the purpose of practically verifying the individual whose name is on a roll. An elector’s name, I take it, will be signed on a card, and, in the case of an application for a transfer, the officers will be able to see that it does not appear on two rolls. Is it the intentionof the Department to get the police to take round cards at the first canvass after the next election, to obtain the signatures of the electors? For the subdivision in which I live about 9,000 or 10,000 persons are enrolled. Will the police be asked to try to get as many of them as possible to sign the cards? I understand that those who do not sign will not be disfranchised. It would be an advantage for the Department to possess the signatures of the electors, for the sake of verification, particularly in regard to those voting under the absent voters provisions or by post. Signatures would be a better means of identification than any possessed at present. I doubt, however, whether half of those enrolled in this State have signed application forms, although three or four collections have been made by the police. In my opinion, what is needed is, not the purification of the rolls, but the collection of new rolls. It has been suggested that in Western’ Australia the police are not doing their work properly ; that, not finding persons art home, they are assuming that they have removed from the electorate, and are striking their names off the rolls. Like other public men, although I hope “ not known to the police,” I am fairly well acquainted! with some members of the force. It will be acknowledged that the collection of names has been done very thoroughly by them. In Victoria the basis of the Parliamentary roll is the ratepayers’ roll, to which are added the names” of those who have obtained electors’ rights. Speaking recently to a policeman regarding the collection of names - he is not a resident of my electorate, nor has he been stationed there - I learned that in his opinion it would be better if the police, instead of being instructed to add names to or strike them off the old rolls, were to be instructed to compile absolutely new rolls. In many instances, the police are very zealous in the collection of names, and I know of a case in which a policeman called six times at a house in order that those living there should not be disfranchised. When public servants do their work in that way they should be given the credit which they deserve, and I pay my tribute of praise to the police for the manner in which they have done this work. I see that it is provided that where an arrangement has been entered into for the preparation, alteration, and revision of the rolls jointly by the Commonwealth and a State, and the law of the State does not require a person to have lived or resided in a division or subdivision for any specified period before being enrolled for it, the regulations may dispense with the period of one month’s residence, which is otherwise required where persons claim to have their names placed on the subdivisional rolls. I wish to know how far that will lead us? I understand that one or two of the States are working with the Commonwealth in this matter, but that the -others, nowithstanding their professions, ha.ve not shown a willingness to do so. Joint action would save money, and would assist in preventing disfranchisement, because at the present time many persons whose names are on the ratepayers’ roll think that they are therefore on the Parliamentary roll; or because their names are on the rolls for a State elector rate, think that they are on the roll “for a Commonwealth electorate- I am therefore willing to do what can be done to secure joint action. In my opinion, it would be best to try to frame a model Bil] whose provisions could be enforced by both the Commonwealth and the States. Of course the franchise of all the States is not quite the same as the Commonwealth franchise, but a great saving would be made, and much inconvenience avoided, by having only one set of rolls. In New South Wales the police collect all the rolls, but here, if a person’s name is not on the electoral roll, he has to obtain an elector’s right. Under section 30 of the Act, arrangements may be made by the Commonwealth and States to use the same rolls; and it would be interesting to know what has been the experience of Tasmania, which is the only State that has taken advantage of the section. According to section 60 of the Act, and, 1 think, clause 7 of the Bill, applications for transfer have to be signed by the elector and witnessed by an elector “or a prescribed person.” What is the difference between an elector and “ a pre- scribed person,” seeing that the latter must surely be an elector?
– A “ prescribed person “ will be one who is an elector or qualified to be an elector. The intention is to leave no doubt as to the qualification.
– The honorable member for Kennedy last night referred to the question of postal voting ; and I cannot believe that the House will accept the amendment of which the honorable member for Balaclava has given notice, because, if we open the door so wide as to allow persons to vote by post merely on account of sex, we- shall absolutely destroy the secrecy of the “ballots. The honorable member for Kennedy pointed out that postal ballot-papers are actually carried round; and I interjected that the Melbourne and Echuca electorates have shown what can be done under such a system. In Echuca, I believe, some 1,800 persons voted by post; and if that were anything like a fair proportion, we should find it evident throughout the Commonwealth.
– There were only 14,000 postal votes out of nearly 1,000,000 votes at the general election.
– But why should there be a greater percentage in Victoria., which is the most densely populated of the States ?
– Because there was not women’s suffrage in Victoria.
– Why should that make any difference?
– The women hesitated to go to the polls.
– Their hesitation would form no ground for obtaining a postal ballot paper. The grounds for postal voting are reasonable expectation of not being within 7 miles of the electorate, illhealth, or serious illness or infirmity. Iti the Melbourne by-election, when the present member was elected, there were 1,000 postal votes.
– And in one subdivision !
– I know that the Leader of the Labour party has spoken strongly in favour of voting by post.
– If there is voting by post it ought to be carefully safeguarded. I admit I was never favorable to the system, and I repeat the hope that the proposed amendment of the honorable member for Balaclava will be defeated, though, in the case of seamen, and others who must be away from home, provision might be made. When voting by post was originated in South Australia, I do not think there were any such facilities as are represented by the Q form, under which absent voters’ certificates are issued. I should like to know whether the Minister has a return showing how many persons utilized those forms in Victoria, as compared with the other States.
– 1 have not a return.
– I do not think that the electoral population, if I may so term it, is more migratory in Victoria than in the other States. That is the reason why we should be careful to do nothing that will widen the voting by post provisions. In the principal Act it was provided that no authorized person should witness the signature of an elector to’ an application for a postal vote certificate unless the elector was personally known to him. It is now proposed in new section I09B that the authorized witness shall simply satisfy himself as to the identity of the applicant. This makes that provision weaker than it was before. I do not know whether it is because the Department found that men were witnessing the signatures of persons whom they did not know.
– That was so; I was the Minister, and knew all about it.
– I have heard of cases where persons have introduced an applicant for a postal vote certificate to a constable or other authorized witness, saying “ This is Mr. So-and-so; he is coming to you tomorrow for you to witness his signature,” and the witness has replied : “ All right; I will know you to-morrow when you come.” The previous provision was not very strong, but I should like the Minister to state why we should make it still easier for persons to obtain postal voting certificates. How is the authorized witness to satisfy himself as to the identity of the applicant ?
If I applied to an authorized witness tr> witness my signature, I might tell hin» that I was so-and-so, and he might be quite satisfied. “ He might or might not ask some .one standing by to confirm my statement, but no safeguard is provided. We should not make it any easier for persons to vote by post, because experience has not shown the system in a very favorable light. Grave scandals have occurred, and I believe the Queensland Parliament, after their experience of the system have abolished it altogether.
– They did not have the same system as we have.
– -At any rate they had” considerable experience of postal voting. An authorized witness might be easily satisfied as to the identity of “the applicant, and although certain penalties are provided, he will probably be able without much difficulty to persuade himself that he is satisfied, and perhaps to take an oath that he waS. Provision is made in clause 17 that in the scrutiny of postal votes the signature on the ballot-paper shall be compared with that on the application form. Of course those signatures are sure to be the same, and the Minister should go a good deal further. Does he intend to keep the cards at the head office in each State?
– Then could not provision be made for comparing the signature on the postal ballot-paper with the signature of the person who originally applied to be placed on the roll? There have been grave doubts in the past as to the genuineness of applications for postal ballotpapers. Any one who wanted to commit a fraud might note that an elector had died, and that there had been no time to strike his name off the roll. He might not care to run the risk of impersonatingthe dead man at the polling booth, but he might chance applying for a postal ballotpaper* in his name. That sort of thing could only be detected by providing that in the scrutiny the signature on the ballotpaper should be compared with the signature of the person who originally applied for enrolment in that name. I do not know how far the card system is to go, but I presume that if it is to be made perfect the police will have to hand cards to every person to obtain his or her signature, because it will be useless to get the signatures of about 25 per cent, of the electors, and not to have the signatures of the other 75 per cent. Section 148 of the principal Act provided that in the case of a voter whose sight was so impaired, or who was so illiterate that he could npt vote without assistance, the presiding officer should, “ in the presence of such scrutineers as may be present,” mark, fold and deposit his ballot-paper for him. Clause 23 of the Bill amends that section by including voters who are physically incapacitated. There was a case in Victoria where a person asked the presiding officer to assist him, and the scrutineer for one of the candidates told the returning officer that he must mark the paper at the table, but the presiding officer replied that he need not do so. I trust that it will be made clear to all presiding officers that under the law the scrutineers have a right to see them mark every ballot-paper for voters who are unable to vote without assistance. The object of that provision was to prevent any presiding officer from taking the ballot-paper away and marking it as he desired without any check or supervision. I notice that a number of amendments have beencirculated. The honorable member for Fawkner proposes that instead of one Commissioner for the purpose of subdividing the various constituencies, there shall be three Commissioners. I have yet to learn that the one Commissioner system has proved 2. failure. Every time, with one exception, that a single Commissioner has sent his report to Parliament, it has been adopted without amendment, and on the occasion when the report of the Commissioner was not adopted, there was a party formed from all parties in the House known as “ the statu quo party,” and, if I remember aright, the then Leader of the Opposition resigned in order to mark his disapproval of the action of that party. I shall be prepared to listen to the arguments put forward by the honorable member for Fawkner, or by any other honorable member, in support of the proposed alteration, but I have yet to learn that any such amendment is necessary. I think that every one will admit that the Commissioners appointed for each of the States have given every satisfaction. It has never been hinted that they have been influenced by any but the highest motives in the discharge of their duty. The honor able member for Herbert has given notice of a very important amendment, referring to comments by newspapers after the dar of nomination. Honorable members will remember that quite recently the honorable member for Fremantle asked the Prime Minister whether we could not insist that articles appearing in newspapers should be signed by those who wrote them. Honorable members opposite who have been supported by one newspaper or another may not object to comments by the press, but honorable members on this side, who have had all the daily newspapers against them, are in an entirely different position. I shall support the proposal of the honorable member for Herbert, to curtail as far as possible the unfair influence exercised by the newspapers at the present time. I believe that, on the whole, this Bill proposes useful amendments of the existing Act. I am particularly interested in the provisions for voting by post, and I hold that we should not make it easier for electors to vote in that way than it has been in the past. I regret the Minister has hot proposed an amendment of the section limiting the election expenses of candidates. That section should be repealed or made effective.At present we find that not only candidates, but organizations supporting them, are at liberty to spend almost any amount of money.
– The organization to which the honorable member belongs is the worst of all.
– The Treasurer is making a statement which he ought to know is’ incorrect.
– Itis not incorrect.
– I know that it is.’ When, after the last election, a resolution was carried by a Labour organization authorizing the secretary to investigate the candidates’ expenses, there was a rush of candidates to see what accounts of their expenses had been sent in. If we are to have a limitation of expenses, it should be genuine, and not farcical.
– The amount allowed under the existing Actis too small for my district.
– I consider that it is altogether too high.
– The organizations of honorable members opposite doall the work and spend all the money for them.
– I wishour organizations had some money to spend.
– What is the bazaar being held for?
– If the honorable member were not a teetotaller, I would say that he would probably spend more money in one “ shout “ than will, be made by the bazaar to which he refers. We know that under the existing law, if candidates themselves do not spend more than the amount allowed, money is spent for them.
– By the Labour organizations.
– I would advise the honorable member for Corangamite to put another record into his gramophone. He knows that the statement he repeats so often is incorrect.
– I know that it is correct. The Labour organizations spend money for honorable members opposite, they pay for the use of halls, and for election advertisements.
– I remind the honorable member for Corangamite that the honorable member for Yarra is in possession of the Chair, and is the only member entitled to address the House at this juncture.
– The honorable member for Corangamite has stated that the organizations to which I have the honour to belong spend money in engaging halls and paying for advertisements.
– Will the honorable member explain what they mean by the “ Bourke Campaign Fund “ ?
– Apparently the money question is a burning one with honorable members opposite. I . no sooner touch upon the limitation of_candidat.es’ expenses than many honorable members whose seats are threatened with opposition display their anxiety to know what is meant. My regret is that the funds at the disposal of the Labour organizations are so small that they will not be able to put up as good a fight as I could wish.
– Are they not collecting shilling subscriptions in the honorable member’s electorate now ?
– I wish they were. The statement has been made that the supporters of the Ministerial party are prepared to put up £1,000 for the purpose of ousting the present honorable member for Wannon. If that kind of thing can be done the existing provision for the limitation of election expenses is a farce. I heard that every motor car in Melbourne was used in the interests of the honorable member for Fawkner at the last election. If the party opposite are to be at liberty to spend an unlimited amount in contesting elections, we might just as well repeal the provision for the limitation of election expenses. I brought the matter’ under the notice of the
Minister of Home Affairs the other day- -
– I saw motor cars running around South Sydney at the last election in the interests of honorable members opposite.
– We should repeal this provision or make it more drastic.
– The State should pay al) election expenses.
– I certainly think that all election expenses should be borne by the Commonwealth. It would be far better if a candidate were called upon merely to lodge his deposit. I admit that we can run an election for less than .£50 in the Yarra district, and I hope that we shall be able to do so again.
– If it were also provided that there should be no comments by the press we should have a chance.
– Move that the clause be struck out.
– When the Bill goes into Committee I shall be in favour either of improving the provision as it stands or omitting it. T am certainly in favour of providing that those who are guilty of bribery and corruption shall be sent to gaol for a term without the option of a fine. Imprisonment, rather than fines, which many can readily pay, is the most fitting punishment to award for such an offence.
Debate (on motion by Mr. J. H. Catts) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 October 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091028_reps_3_53/>.