4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and, read prayers.-
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : - Social Insurance - Report by the ‘Honorable Sir John Cockburn on the Conference held at The Hague, September, 1910
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Act - Military Forces -
Regulation No. 199 (*) Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 166..
Financial and Allowance Regulation No. 6 Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 167.
Cadets : Train Travelling - Christmas
Vacation - Manoeuvre Area, Ross
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
On the nth inst., the honorable member for Hunter asked if the Minister of Defence would endeavour to make arrangements for avoiding the drilling of cadets during the Christmas holidays. I have been furnished with the following reply : -
Instructions have been issued that parades are not to be held between 15th December, 1911, and 15th January, 1012, and, in the case of detachments formed at educational institutions during the midsummer vacation.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
If he will inform the House what steps have been taken to purchase a military area in the vicinity of Ross, Tasmania?
– Certain areas in the vicinity of Ross, Tasmania, have been suggested as suitable sites for a manoeuvre area. Information in regard to the lands within the suggested areas has been obtained, and supplied to the Department of Defence, and the matter is now under consideration by that Department.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice - .
With reference to the Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry -
Hansard of the 21st September, last : - “ The Government have decided that the Commission shall be a nonpolitical Commission “ (page 703)? “ We think it is wise- to appoint an outside body whose members may inquire into the conditions surrounding the sugar industry free from all political bias “ (page 705)?
Commission appointed is as follows : - Mr. Justice Gordon, The Honorable Albert Hinchcliffe. M.L.C., Mr. Robert’ McC- Anderson, Mr. R. M.- Shannon, Mr. Thomas William Crawford ?
Hinchcliffe is a member of the Queensland Labour party, and business manager of the Brisbane Worker t
Royal Commission is in keeping with his statement to the House, as quoted above, on the 21st ultimo?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions art) -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice - :
With reference to the Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry, why was he able, on the 25th inst., immediately to answer the question of the honorable member for Capricornia bearing on the political views of Mr. Crawford, while honorable members of the Opposition were denied similar information with regard to the other members of the Commission?
– The question was asked without notice. I replied that if notice were given I would be pleased to furnish an answer. It is not correct that I refused to supply information on the subject. I was unable, on the facts at my disposal, to afford the information desired, other than in regard to Mr. Crawford and Mr. Hinchcliffe.
General Post Office, Sydney - Slot Telephone Collector
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is he aware that the public are put to great inconvenience in obtaining post-office and money orders owing to the small place available in the temporary office in Moore-street, Sydney?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
When will the Postmaster-General appoint a collector for the slot telephone tins?
– An officer has been appointed to this position, and will tike up duty on Saturday next.
.- I move -
That a Royal Commission, selected from members of this Parliament, be appointed to take into consideration all matters pertaining to the employment of white and coloured labour now, and to be, employed in the Australian pearlshelling industry, and in respect of the general conditions under which such industry is now conducted.
In moving for the appointment of this Commission, I am following a precedent set by the Queensland Government about three years ago, when it was found necessary to inquire into the manner in which the pearlshelling industry was being conducted. The need for such an inquiry has been emphasized by more recent occurrences. The Commission for whose appointment I ask would be political, that is, composed of members of this Parliament; and, as it may be objected that, inasmuch as a short time ago I urged, in connexion with another Commission, that it should be non-political, my actions are inconsistent, I would point out that they may be reconciled if consideration is given to the fact that our policy in regard to the sugar industry is a settled one, we having decided that it shall be conducted wholly by white labour, whereas the White Australia policy has not been applied to the pearl-shelling industry, which at present is almost entirely worked by coloured labour. Some time ago, the late Minister of External Affairs issued a memorandum to this effect -
Inform the Sub-Collector of Customs at Thursday Island, for communication to the Torres Straits Pearl-Shellers Association that I have been giving full consideration to the conditions under which permits are issued for the admission of aliens to work in the pearling fleets, and have decided that the time has arrived when some definite steps should be taken to give the benefits of labour in that industry to people of our own race.
My ruling on the subject now is that owners 1 of pearling vessels may have permission to indent Asiatics, preferably Malays, to work in their vessels for a period of two years from the 1st January, 1911, but that after that date all engagements shall terminate, and no permits for admission for further employment shall be given except in the cases of boats in which the diver and tender are both white men. In those cases permits to introduce Malays to the number of five per lugger will be granted, provided that the local authorities certify that local labour suitable for employment as crews is unprocurable.
I have carefully considered the proposals put by the Association -
There are two associations - the Western Australian Association and the Torres Straits Association - in their letter of the 24th November, and wish a reply to be sent that I understand the conditions under which the industry has been worked and appreciate the efforts which/ speaking generally, have been made by employers to conform to the conditions laid down by the Department. I do not consider that it is the duty of the Government to advertise for or assist the immigration of labour for the pearling industry, except in a general way, as is done with respect to other industries in which there is a shortage of labour.
So far as advertisement is concerned, the Government will be prepared to instruct the High Commissioner to give publicity to the fact that a certain, class of labour is required as soon as the employers have decided upon the terms and conditions to be offered. Arrangements for the engagement of particular men and assistance to emigrate must be made privately or through the State Government.
I think that the matter of assisting in the establishment or maintaining of such a school as is suggested is one for the State rather than the Federal Government.
The decision its to the cancellation of all permits on the ist January, 1913, sublet to the ruling as to their continuance if white men are employed, is to be communicated also to Port Darwin, Broome, and other towns from which lite pearling business is conducted, who should also be informed of the communication sent to Thursday Island.
That was the memorandum issued by the late Minister of External Affairs, and it lays down that after 1st January, 19T3, no permit shall be issued for the introduction of coloured labour in connexion with the industry. Those engaged in pearl shelling, however, have taken exception to it, and have made no effort so far to conform to the regulations. Reports have been furnished from various centres, more particularly in Western Australia, regarding the industry, and I propose to read from them a few extracts showing that the pearl shellers maintain that there is no possibility of continuing the industry except under present conditions. They state very emphatically that white labour is not procurable, because, in “the first place, of the peculiar conditions of the industry, and, secondly, because the price of the shell does not permit of what is called decent wages being paid. The’ report of Captain Mackay to the Premier of Queensland on 4th September, 191 1, was to the effect that the pearl shellers were opposed to white labour on trie ground that diving is totally unsuited to that class of labour and unremunerative. The Government Resident at Thursday Island reported last year that the facilities then existing for recruiting would cease on 31st December, 191 .1, and that whilst at one time the opinion was favorable to the employment of white men, a different view was now held. A telegram was also received from the Premier of Western Australia asking if it were true that no permits were to be granted after 1st January, 1913, as the matter was serious. The regulation made by the Minister was that no engagement made since the decision should be binding after 31st January, 1912. A scheme was submitted in May last by the Western Australian Pearlers Association proposing that recruiting should be conducted under the supervision of a committee. I have a copy of that scheme before rae, but I regret to say that I have hot been able to obtain a copy of another scheme formulated by the Pearl Shellers Association of Torres Straits, which, although somewhat similar, is not identical with it. The Pearl Shellers Association of Torres Straits proposed that a school should be established to provide for the teaching of diving, and that it should be under the supervision of the Government and a committee appointed by the pearlers. The Sub-Collector at Onslow reported that no change had been made in the direction of employing white labour to meet the wishes of the Government, and a similar message was received from the Sub-Collector at Cossack, another port on the Western Australian coast. A summary of the report from the Sub-Collector at Broome is as follows : -
No practical efforts made by pearlers to meet the Government’s wishes. Western Australian Pearlers’ Association have intimated that with a view to furthering Government’s wishes they have authorized their committee to submit scheme to the Minister for the introduction ann. training of white men as divers and tenders.
No information has been furnished from Port Hedland, where the industry is conducted upon only a very small scale, but a letter has been received from the Pearl Shellers Association of Torres Straits by the Sub-Collector at Thursday Island deprecating any immediate substantial alterations, and stating that the industry would not pay with the present “take” and the price of white labour used. They suggested that the Government should charter two luggers and man them . with white labour for two seasons ; that they should advertise in Great Britain, Norway, and Sweden, as well as in countries from which white divers are recruited, and that a bonus should lae offered. From Port Darwin information has been received as follows -
No white labour available. Jolley and Company submit statements showing loss on working lugger with white labour would be, approximately, ^38 15s. per month.
These are the opinions of pearlers as submitted to the Sub-Collectors of Customs at the various ports to which the Minister’s memorandum was supplied. The scheme submitted by the Western Australian Pearlers Association to the Minister of External Affairs was as follows : -
Sir, - 1. Confirming my telegram of the 5th’ instant, as per copy enclosed, I have now the honour of submitting the following scheme for’ the introduction and training of white men as pearling divers and tenders, which the members of this Association have directed their committee to lay before you for your consideration and’ approval.
Scheme for the recruiting of white men and their training as divers and tenders -
Recruiting. - This to be conducted in the United Kingdom and in Europe, under the supervision of a Committee of Advice, in London, consisting of (it is suggested) - The Agent-General for Western Australia, Mr. M. S. Warton, Mr. “ Fred. !H. Sprang, Mr. G. S: ; Streeter - assisted by other gentlemen who might be willing to interest themselves in the matter. Any member of the Association visiting London also to be nominated as a member of the London Committee of Advice. Every endeavour also to be made to recruit suitable white labour within the Commonwealth.
The facilities hereby afforded to be open to any member of the Association who may be desirous of engaging men on his own account. () Terms of Agreement with the Men.* - The men obtained from the United Kingdom and Europe to be engaged in terms set out in the draft agreement enclosed herein for your approval.
I should like to be permitted to put the details of the cost into Hansard without having to read them.
– The honorable mem- ‘ her must read them if he wishes them to appear in Hansard.
– (/) Cost of Training Station for Twelve Months. - The following data are estimated. The amount of anticipated revenue might appear to be placed very low, but it must be borne in mind that the principal purpose of the fleet is the training of raw material, which, on being turned out proficient, would be replaced by further drafts of inexperienced and unprofitable labour : -
Working cost of one lugger -
Working cost of schooner, including expenses of supervision -
Total estimated cost - 5 luggers at, say, £750 1 schooner
The schooner constitutes what is called the floating station. It is anchored in some convenient place, and from that centre the luggers, numbering from ten to fifteen, or even more, are worked. They get their stores, gear, and other requirements from the schooner, and all the shell is taken to the schooner to be opened, cleaned, and packed. If is then taken by the schooner itself to the nearest port for shipment.
Estimated revenue -
(g) Financial. - The net loss arising from the working of the training station to be borne equally by your Government and the Association.
It is the intention pf the Association to make every endeavour to obtain within the Commonwealth a supply of white labour suitable for the requirements of the training station, and, at the same time, thoroughly test the possibilities which the United Kingdom. France, Germany, and the Northern countries of Europe may afford for obtaining a good class of men.
The Association desire that everything done in connexion with the carrying out of this scheme should meet with the approval of your Government, and to this end suggest that the operations of the training station be open to the inspection of an officer appointed by you for the purpose.
Members of this _ Association, from practical experience, are well qualified to form a trustworthy opinion concerning the likelihood of desirable whites taking up an extremely hazardous occupation as pearl-shell diving, with all the dangers and discomforts attaching to a life at sea, in a tropical climate within the hurricane zone, cooped up in a very small boat for months at a time; and they consider that if the Commonwealth earnestly desires the introduction of white divers and tenders into the industry, a special inducement, in the nature of a bonus, should be offered. The Association accordingly asks your Government to supplement the endeavours to introduce such labour under the foregoing scheme, by offering without delay a bonus of at least £25 per ton on all shell raised by white divers and tenders.
The view that the presence in the industry of men of a particular race, working under the foregoing conditions, constitutes an undesirable state of affairs from a national aspect, becomes dwarfed into insignificance when the possibility is considered of that industry passing completely into the hands of the same race, but beyond all control of the Commonwealth.
Protected by the 3-mile limit, outside of which ‘ by far the greater part of our shell is found, such a competitor would exploit the wealth which at present provides a livelihood for Australian citizens, and, in doing so, would make use of our ports, obtaining his supplies under bond, duty free ; obtaining an interest in these waters that would afford a powerful pretext for the presence on our coast of his nation’s warships.
From remarks you are reported to have made to representatives of the press, it appears that your Government acknowledge that the Commonwealth is not in a position to guarantee pearlers immunity from foreign competition, so that in the event of such competition resulting from the enforcing of your decision relative to the employment of white divers and tenders, the present Australian proprietors would be driven out of the industry, and it would be impossible for them to regain a footing therein, unless the Commonwealth placed them in a position of freedom equal to that of the foreigner by the removal of customs duties and various restrictions at present placed upon the industry.
I have, &c, (Sgd.) Stanley Pigott,
That is the case put forward by the Western Australian Pearlers’ Association. They say they are quite willing to assist the Government in procuring white labour under certain conditions. The responsibility which they propose should be undertaken by the Government is rather severe, and it is to be hoped that honorable members will carefully consider it before giving it their sanction. This question has been a burning one in my electorate for a considerable time. I had on one occasion to move the adjournment of the House in order to draw attention to the way in which the industry was being conducted. At that time the pearl-shellers of Torres Straits, after some difficulty had arisen between this Government and their association, determined to withdraw their fleet from Australian waters, and a number of them left and conducted their operations under the Dutch flag. However, the Dutch regulations were found to be restrictive, and the conditions so unsuitable that the business was unprofitable, and they returned, and have since, for some eight years, prosecuted the industry in Torres Straits. The Queensland Government, as I have said, appointed a Royal Commission, but that Commission took a wider scope than that now proposed, inasmuch as it considered the allied industry of beche-de-mer collecting. It is very unfortunate - and it furnishes another argument in favour of Unification - that the pearl-shelling industry is conducted under divided control. The beche-de-mer industry, on the other hand, is mostly carried on by aborigines, the licences being held mainly by Japanese, who obtain the natives on the coast. I may say that the Japanese do not always return the natives to their own villages, but land them 100 or 200 miles distant, leaving them to find their way home as best they may. That is a grievance which, up to the present, has not been coped with by the Government.
– Is aboriginal labour governed by regulations?
– To some extent. Those engaged in the beche-de-mer industry are under a penalty if discovered to have aborigines on board without a licence or permit ; yet, as a fact, the natives are taken from place to place without the knowledge of the Government, and, as pointed out in the report of the Royal Commission, much inspection would be needed to insist on the observance of the law on such a coast. In the pearl-shelling industry, the boats are licensed by the State Government to fish in certain waters, while the Federal Government has control of the labour by which the boats are manned ; and this divided control has led, if not to friction, to inharmonious relations. The Queensland Royal Commission, which was appointed in May, 1908, reported strongly in favour of the employment of white men in pearlshelling. The Commissioners were Captain John Mackay, Mr. H. A. C. Douglas, and Mr. G. H. Bennett; and in their report they make some comparison between pearl-shelling and the sugar industry. It is pointed out that a certain stigma applied to white men - I am not saying that it did - working in the sugar industry side by side with kanakas, and that the same applies to the white men employed in pearl-shelling, they being “ looked down on “ because of their living and working with Asiatics. The employment of white men solely, the Commission, points out, would remove this stigma, as it had done in the sugar industry; and certain recommendations were made, very like those put forth by the Pearl-shellers Association of Western Australia.
– Do the beche-de-mer operations extend beyond the State boundaries ?
– Very little, because the beche-de-mer industry does not extend beyond the Barrier Reef, which is within territorial waters. I shall not read the report of the Royal Commission in extenso, but content myself with quoting the recommendations as follows : -
With a view to encouraging white men to engage in the pearl-shell industry as divers, and to securing their gradual substitution for aliens in that capacity, we recommend -
That the present restriction’ on the issue of divers’ licences be removed so far as to permit of licences being granted to white men.
That the employment of alien divers shall cease entirely within five years from the date of the establishment of a School of Marine Biology and a School for White Divers, and that of the divers now licensed, and who may still hold licences at the end of the second year after the establishment of the schools, one-fourth shall not be granted licences in each of the four succeeding years.
The scheme of the Pearl-shellers Association of Western Australia is somewhat like this, only it contemplates the work being done in two years instead of five, though I think the smaller term is impossible -
That the employment of white men as crews shall not be compulsory ; and
Some eight years ago 1 had the pleasure of travelling with the then Premier of Queensland, Sir Arthur Morgan, and the exTreasurer, Mr. Kidston, and I made some suggestions in this connexion which, had they been adopted, would, I am sure, have removed to some extent the present difficulties. At that time there was in Queensland the Lytton Reformatory, near the mouth of the Brisbane River, some of the boys from which have turned out good citizens. I suggested that these boys, instead of being trained as tinsmiths, saddlers, bootmakers, and so forth, should some of them be trained at Moreton Bay to the work of diving, and later sent to Torres Straits, where a good living could be earned. The price of shell was then high ; and the beds not worked as much as they have been since, some of them being now almost entirely depleted of shell. My suggestion was, I think, reasonable, and the Premier promised consideration, but no action was taken. The Commission spoke strongly in favour of the restriction of the industry to white labour, saying in one paragraph of the report -
The patient industry, the uncomplaining endurance of hardships, and the generally lawabiding character of these Asiatic sojourners in our midst are admitted. In many respects they are not undesirable residents ; but in 00 country in the world outside the British Dominions is any primary industry allowed to be monopolized by a race of aliens.
The Torres Straits pearling industry is almost entirely in the hands of aliens, and has been so for some years -
The total declared value of all produce exported from Thursday Island during 1907 was £102,655, and the amount sent to China and Japan last year alone, through the post-office and the two banks referred to, was no less than £21,123.
That is, 20 per cent, of the value of the total exports. Unless steps are taken to prevent it, these people will continue to monopolize the industry. I favour the employment of white labour solely in our industries wherever that is possible, though I am willing. to hear the other side. I opposed the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the sugar industry when the abolition of black labour in connexion with that industry was proposed, because T thought that the desire was, not to investigate facts, but to secure delay until after another election, when a reversal or modification of policy might be secured. I was, however, willing for an investigation of the conditions of the industry, and I am in favour of it now. What we have to ascertain regarding the pearl-shelling industry is - Can it be conducted wholly by white labour, and, if not, is it worth preserving? The pearl shellers say that if we do not maintain the industry ourselves, aliens will continue to control it, working outside the 3-miles limit, and using our ports for watering and victualling. Some time ago, I asked the Minister of External Affairs whether that could be prevented, but constitutional lawyers, among them the honorable member for Angas, seemed to be of the opinion that our jurisdiction does not extend to all the islands and reefs off the coast where shell is to be obtained. Only lately, however, the Customs Department brought down the coast, under surveillance, two vessels whose skippers, were afterwards fined for illegal practices.
– In that case, action was taken because of something done off an island forming part of the territory of Western Australia.
– A question for the Commission to investigate is - How far does our jurisdiction extend over the waters surrounding the continent? The latest report of the Fisheries Department of Westtern Australia which I could obtain, is four years old, being dated 1907. It contains statistics regarding the number of men employed, and the “ take,” and gives the number of boats employed and their owners, but there is not a word as to whether white or coloured labour should be employed. For the purposes of my argument, the report is worthless. The report of the Government Resident at Thursday Island for 1910 is more informative. It says -
A fact that must not be lost sight of is that the Japanese are thoroughly conversant with the value of our shelling grounds, and it will be a matter of considerable difficulty to keep them off the beds. By purchasing some old vessel, say, at the Aru Islands, they may sail over here and transfer their crew to one of their countrymen’s boats, after sinking their own vessel. Again, a Japanese crew could clear out for Dutch New Guinea, from where, under a foreign flag, they could defy us, mixing without fear of detection, with their countrymen working on other boats in Torres Straits waters. lc is a well-known fact that the Japanese are, as a rule, extremely clannish, and they would never inform on any of their countrymen who were endeavouring to evade our laws.
That seems to strengthen the statement of the pearl-shelling association that aliens can, without interference, deplete pearl beds not far from out coast, but beyond the 3-miles limit. To show how little control is exercised over these waters, I might mention that, although certain areas off Darnley Island were closed in 1903 because of the lives which were lost there by diving in deep water, the regulation has never been enforced, it being found impossible to enforce it without great expense. Consequently, fishing goes on there, although the death rate among the divers is very high indeed. I hope that the Ministry and honorable members will be impressed with what I have said about the advisableness of appointing a Commission for the investigation of the industry, not from the State, but from the Federal stand-point, with a view to ascertaining if the White Australia principle is applicable to it.
– The thanks of the House are due to the honorable member for Herbert for having brought forward this matter, which is an important, and a very difficult, one. I do not agree with the proposal that the members of the Commission should be members of Parliament. Members of Parliament have to give many months of time to their parliamentary duties, and not many could afford to spend a considerable time in Northern Australia investigating this matter. Many honorable members could not altogether neglect their private and public duties during recess. Consequently the scope of choice will be limited if members of Parliament only are to form a Commission. The pearl-shelling industry must be closely investigated before action is taken which might disastrously injure it. The industry is a very important one, our exports of pearl and tortoise shell for 1909, the latest year for which I could obtain statistics, being valued at something like £300,000. It is certainly remunerative to those engaged in it, but is carried on under very great discomfort and difficulties. Our White Australia policy has hampered the industry, although not to a very serious extent, and we have always been confronted with the fact that if we imposed upon it too many restrictions we should force it into the hands of people of other countries. Foreign boats could fish for pearl outside the 3 miles limit under the law of nations, and men from those boats could come ashore from time to time to obtain water supplies and fuel. We have had foreign pearlers in Torres Straits, and the danger is one that is always threatening. Naturally the State desires to derive from this industry as much benefit as possible. The practical work relating to pearl-shelling would not be taken up by white men, in my opinion, unless it was very remunerative, and those actually engaged as divers in the industry are well paid. The question which the Government has to decide is whether white men can carry on the work of diving for pearlshell, and whether they will engage in the industry if we prohibit coloured labour. No doubt the Government have already come to a decision on the question, and if they have decided it wisely a good deal of the difficulty has been overcome. My own opinion is that diving for pearl-shell is not a suitable industry for white men. Although I have had no personal connexion with it, I have been told that white men have unsuccessfully attempted to engage in the work.
– It is suggested that a Select Committee should be appointed to ascertain whether or not the work can be carried on by white men.
– Quite so; but I am told that the work of diving makes serious inroads upon the health of those engaged upon it, and that white divers come to the surface bleeding from the ears.
– That is also the experience of the black diver.
– He does not feel the strain to the same, extent, or, if he does, he does not mind the physical discomfort so much as does the white man. If the white man can do the work, I see no reason why he should not be encouraged to take it up.
– I do not think any white man will rush it.
– That is my’ belief ; but if the Ministry think that white men are able, and willing, to do this work,. their course must be fairly clear. The employment of coloured labour in the pearlshelling industry does not affect the policy of White Australia, so far as its main aspects are concerned. One of the objections raised to the introduction of coloured aliens is that they enter into competition with the white man, and that their presence here is calculated to affect the purity of our race. We have no desire to see a coloured population in Australia; we prefer, rather, that the Commonwealth should be inhabited by white races. The coloured pearlers, however, do not enter into competition with white men, because white men, apparently, have no desire to take up the work. Another point to be remembered is that these coloured pearlers live, for the most part, on the sea, and come ashore only at rare intervals. They land only during the off season, and remain at one or two centres. Broome, I think, is practically the only centre to which they go in Western Australia. They are kept under close surveillance, they must obtain permits to remain on land, and every man must be accounted for. In these circumstances, therefore, they do not interfere ‘ with what is known as the White Australia policy in the same way as do coloured aliens who are allowed to settle on the mainland. It is for that reason that we have been content to allow the carrying on of this industry by coloured labour since the inception of Federation, and also because of the knowledge that if the conditions imposed were too stringent we should run the risk of destroying this valuable industry. I should have expected the Government to adopt some more practical course than the issue of a notice that after a certain date the employment of coloured labour in the industry shall cease. That is a drastic and destructive policy to pursue. I take it that the Government believe that white men can do this work, otherwise they would not have issued this notice; and, that being so, their next step should have been in the direction of proving that their belief is well founded. I should have expected them to say: “ We shall not destroy this industry; we will man some boats with white labour, and experiment.”
– That would be Socialism.
– And that is what the Government believe in.
– The right honorable member would not advocate it?
– The Government have power to adopt such a course, regardless of what my opinions on the subject may be ; but I trust that power will not remain with them very long. There would be no difficulty, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, in making such an experiment. A boat could be manned by some of the members of the Government or their supporters, and they would afterwards be able to tell us of their experiences.
– Would the right honorable member take charge of such a boat?
– No, I do not believe that the work is suitable for white men, but since honorable members opposite consider that it is, why do they not enter upon the experiment? Let it be clearly understood that I am not advocating such an experiment. I merely suggest that it should be undertaken by the Government since, apparently, they consider that white men can successfully carry on the industry. I do not think that the appointment of a Select Committee of members of Parliament would furnish the best means of inquiring into the industry. In the first place, a member of Parliament would be loth to put hi& name to a report that the industry could not be carried on by white men, or to advocate that it should be conducted, as at present, by coloured labour. Most honorable members opposite would probably prefer to advocate the abolition of the industry, rather than to support the employment of coloured labour.
– Does not the right honorable member think that it is waste labour in any case to go for pearls?
– I do not. Why should we ask honorable members to report on such matters knowing, as we should, that they would enter upon the work with preconceived ideas in regard to it? Not one honorable member, on the Government side of the House, would be prepared to put his name to a report stating that white labour could not be utilized in this industry.
– Thien, it would be equally unwise to appoint a member of the Opposition on such a Commission or Committee.
– I should advocate the prosecution of the inquiry bysome person or persons free from political bias.
– Where would suchperson or persons be obtained?
– I think we could secure the assistance of business men and medical authorities with experience of what white men can do in this direction.
– We have just appointed –a non-political Commission to inquire into the sugar industry.
– If it would be in order for me to refer to that appointment, I should say that a more biased Commission was never appointed.
– It is absolutely nonpolitical.
– I do not think it is.
– Order !
– Men who have preconceived opinions on political questions cannot be described as nonpolitical, and to appoint a Committee or Commission of members of Parliament to inquire into this question would certainly :be to appoint men having preconceived ideas with regard to it. What we need to ascertain is the view of fearless experienced men competent to express an opinion, if, indeed, it is necessary for us to obtain any further information on the subject.
– Let them try the diving. Sir JOHN FORREST. - That is a very practical suggestion. I understand that the divers are paid high wages. I cannot agree to the appointment of a Select Committee or Royal Commission consisting of members of Parliament, although I would favour any other proposal that would enable us to obtain expert information. Even if this inquiry were made, I do not think it would materially assist us. We already know a good deal about the industry. I have a knowledge of it extending over thirty years - from the days when the diving was carried on by the natives to the present time, when diving dresses are worn. The drastic action taken by the Government will probably result in the whole of this industry passing into the hands of the people of other countries. The Dutch and the Japanese would be able to go with impunity to our pearling grounds. They could have a dep6t-ship, and it would be unnecessary for them to land, except, perhaps, to obtain water and fuel. -Indeed, they could bring their own coal and condense water for themselves, but they would probably land for the sake of cheapness, and they have a right to do so under the law of nations. The question is - Are the Government going to destroy this industry altogether? If so, the in dustry will not be abandoned, but will be prosecuted by the people of other nations, and I see no good that is likely to come to us from that course. These people are not doing us any harm now; they only come in now and again, and they live on the sea, carrying on their vocation where they have a right to, independent of us, so long as they obey the law.
– Do they do us any good? Sir JOHN FORREST. - I think they do. The industry represents a sum of £300,000 a year, and a lot of people live on that. We cannot afford to throw away that sum. While I am not prepared to support the honorable member’s motion, I agree with him that the question is very important and difficult. I do not think the Government are dealing with it in a statesmanlike way by decreeing that, after a certain date, no more coloured labour shall come in to work the industry. They will come in whether the Government like it or not, but they will not come in under our laws. We cannot interfere with independent nations working on the sea, and, that being so, I disapprove of the “ bull at a gate “ policy adopted by the Government. Their idea seems to be, ‘ ‘ Do something, never mind what the result may be.” At the same time I should not be prepared to agree to a Commission consisting solely of members of Parliament.
.-! confess that I speak on this question with some diffidence, because my knowledge of the business is comparatively recent, and very limited. This, however, is a suitable opportunity to express some of the opinions I formed during my recent visit with other members of this Parliament to the northern parts of Australia! The original itinerary of the Papuan tour had to be considerably curtailed, but three senators and three members of this House were able to accept the invitation of Judge Murray, the LieutenantGovernor of Papua, and with him visited Thursday Island. While there we were waited on by a deputation from the Pearl-shell Fishermen’s Association. During our short stay of nine or ten hours every facility was given to us to find out as much as we could about the industry.
– Were they white men? Mr. FINLAYSON. - Yes. They were the owners of the boats - the men who control the industry. They told us that they represented about no boats engaged in the industry in Torres Straits, and as there are seven men on each boac, they represented 770 men. Each boat carries a diver., a tender, and a crew of five. I wish honorable members to understand that I can speak on this matter only as it affects Torres Straits. Some time ago it was reported that the Papuans, who are recruited for the Torres Straits pearl-shelling industry, had been supplied with liquor. The Papuan Government have taken the greatest care, and been most successful, in preventing the Papuans from getting intoxicating liquors.
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond the terms of the motion.
– At present there are about 120 Papuans employed annually in the pearl-shelling industry in Torres Straits, and when the Papuan Government were informed that these men were being supplied with liquor on the boats, and when they went ashore at Thursday, Island, inquiries were made, with the result, rightly or wrongly, that an Ordinance was passed, under which the recruiting of Papuans for the industry is to cease at the end of this year. This constitutes a considerable grievance with the pearl shellers of Thursday Island. They absolutely deny that any Papuan was supplied with liquor either on the boats or on shore. They have invited investigation and criticism, and asked for an explanation. When I was at Thursday Island in July last, they felt that they were under a slur or stigma in that regard. The difficulty is increased by the fact that, at the present time, Malays and Papuans nearly equally supply the crews of. the vessels, and when the Papuan labour is stopped the pearl shellers are compelled to fall back on the Malays for the crews for the luggers. But when they try to recruit Malays now, the Government of the Netherlands step in and say, “ No,” the reason given being that the Commonwealth Government have refused to allow the Papuans to be recruited on account of their having been supplied with liquor, and that that is a good and sufficient reason, to their mind, for refusing to allow the coloured population of the Malay Peninsula and islands to be recruited. It will be readily understood that we on this side have very little sympathy with any attempt to make coloured labour an essential part of any industry in Australia. I am prejudiced in favour of the white man being exclusively employed in Australian industries, and am hopeful’ that the recruiting of Malays will not only be discouraged and prohibited by the Government of the
Netherlands, but also that, so far as our power over the territorial waters extends, the recruiting of Papuans for the industry will also be discouraged. I say that for a double reason. Papua needs all the labour it can possibly get for its own development, and the pearl-shelling industry is’ not at all detrimental to the white man, nor does it offer any serious drawbacks to his continual and regular employment in it. Indeed, one member of the deputation at Thursday Island said he was quite in favour of white divers and tenders, and was prepared to man his boats with them if the other pearl shellers would do the same, but he. very properly said that he would be unfairly and unreasonably handicapped if he did it on his own account while others were under no similar obligation. The difficulty, of course, arises in regard to the crew. It is admitted by every one that the Papuans make good crews, that they are successful boatmen, and are quite reliable and capable. It is questionable whether we are not gaining to some extent by allowing the Papuan to be engaged in this industry to the extent of supplying the crews of the boats, but the Ordinance has been passed, and he has to go. What, then, is to be done? The pearl-shelling industry cannot reasonably be allowed to languish. In 1909, according to the Commonwealth Y ear-Book, there were 567 boats engaged in the industry ; the value of. the boats and equipment was £221,080; the number of men employed was 3,883 ; the quantity of pearl-shell obtained was 1,770 tons; the value of the shell was ,£270,256 ; and the value of pearls obtained was £77,788. The Papuans are paid at the rate of £i per month wages, and are provided by the owners of the boats with clothing, food, and tobacco.
– Is that a trade union rate?
– £1 a month is a very good rate for a Papuan. The ordinary native labourer gets on an average £6 a year in Papua. These men are paid £12 a year, and are provided with clothing* food, and tobacco. They are recruited at Daru, where there is a Government Resident Magistrate, and all wages must be paid to the Papuan at that place in the presence of the Magistrate on his return from his engagement. No deductions are allowed on any consideration, and no excuse for short payment is taken. The divers are mostly Japanese. Their general wage is from £20 to £25 per ton of shell, and the diver gets all the pearls. That struck me as very peculiar ; but the reason is very obvious. When the diver is down below, he can open the shells and find out if there are any pearls, and, if there are, he may secrete them. For this reason, he gets all the pearls, whether big or little, and the owner of the boat never knows what pearls are found, or their value. I was interested in noticing that, in October, 1909, a pearl found in Torres Straits, weighing 32 J grains, and valued at £1,000, was exhibited in Melbourne. The shell is what the owners do business on; and they pay the divers £20 to £25 a ton, it being worth in London from £82 to £85 a ton. The owners of the boats provide all that is necessary in the way of equipment and material. Some time ago, an effort was made to induce white men to do the diving, and the share system, which was strongly advocated has, I believe, been found very successful. Certain efforts were made to provide thoroughly-equipped boats, which it was thought the divers, out of their earnings, would be able to make their own in a very short time. One of the members of the association informed me that, to thoroughly equip a boat, means about £550; but he further told me that in the previous two years the income from his own boat was £250. It will be seen, therefore, that in a period of four years the divers could pay for the vessels and make them their own under the share system. These facts prove that the industry is a very remunerative one - that those engaged find no difficulty in making it pay. Their real difficulty will be found when they have to do without Papuan and Malayan labour. The industry is not confined to Torres Straits, but, as I have already pointed out, extends right around from Cape York to Shark Bay; indeed, pearl has been found as far south as Moreton Bay. We may say that the workable coast-line for this industry, on a payable basis, is roughly about 2,000 miles; but the inshore grounds have been so continuously and closely worked, that it is now found necessary to go further afield.
– How far do the boats go out now ?
– Up to 20 miles out; and the fishing grounds really extend over 100 miles.
– But that is beyond our jurisdiction.
– It is beyond the 3-mile limit, but the Queensland Govern ment annexed a number of islands between Cape York and the coast of Papua, so that our territorial power is not interfered with.
– Is that not rather a peculiar action on the part of the State? Is annexation not a Federal matter?
– The State Government acted so as to secure territorial power, and thus unlimited control is given over that part of Torres Straits.
– I question whether the State had power to do anything of the sort.
– But they did it.
– The Imperial Government did it for them.
– At any rate, it was done. The Queensland territorial rights run to, I think, 3 miles from the coast oi Papua, and pearling luggers occasionally make venturesome voyages 100 miles from the coast. This, however, is exceptional, because, during the hurricane season especially, and at all times of the year, to some extent, there is danger so far from land. It was also pointed out that an ordinary diver can go down 15 fathoms without any danger. Naturally, however, as the shell becomes scarcer or smaller, there is always the temptation to go further and deeper. The water fished in so far is from 3 to 15 fathoms, and the latter is reckoned a safe depth for white men. The Japanese hold their lives much cheaper than do ordinary white men, and they often ven.ture into deeper water ; hence the danger of bleeding, from the ears and nose, and so forth, pictured for us by the right honorable member for Swan.
– What I described does happen.
– That is only because the divers needlessly venture into great depths. By going further around the coast, they might be able to get good fishing ground at reasonable depths ; but when they are getting good pearl, they are inclined to stay where they are and take all risks. It has been decided, I think, by the Commonwealth Government, that in three or four years from now alien divers will not be allowed to fish in Commonwealth waters, and there is a hope of getting men from Norway, Sweden, and the northern parts of Europe generally, to take up the business. This is a policy which will commend itself to the people of Australia, ‘because it means the employment of white people whose interests and mode of life are akin to our own. I warn the Minister of External Affairs, however, that great difficulty will be created before very long, unless care is taken. After the deputation was over, in the desultory conversation that ensued, I found that the members of the Pearl Shellers Association do not intend to make the slightest effort to prepare for the time when the alien must go and the white man take his place ; there must be some training, something done to insure that the while man will be ready to step in. The pearl-shellers, however, are living in the hope that the Labour party will not always be in power - that, perhaps, before the time arrives, this party will have left office, and that they will be able to get an extension of time.
– Do they think there will be a “ black-labour “ party in power?
– They apparently think so.
– Nonsense !
– The pearl-shellers on Thursday Island hope that the white men will not be ready, and that they will be able to come to the Government and say, “ Your Ordinance is’ absolutely useless; the alien diver is gone, and there is no one to take his place, and the industry must go to pieces, because of the stupid White Australia policy.” They hope that with this pitiful tale, and doleful prospects, the Government will be induced to extend the term for another year ; and there is the further hope that such extensions may go on from year to year, with the result that white men will not be employed at all. There are one or two members of the association who honestly desire to employ white men; and one of them had the courage to say so at the deputation. That gentleman said, “ I know I am opposed to my friends in the association in this matter ; but, while they know that, so far as I am concerned, I would not have a coloured man on the boats, I am simply tied by the laws in operation, and by the usages of the association.”
– Is the name of that gentleman a secret? Will the honorable member give it?
—I will not give the gentleman’s name publicly, though I have it amongst the full notes I took at the deputation.
– Was it a public’ deputation ?
– No; it was arranged at the invitation of the PearlShellers Association, who sent a special message asking us to meet them.
– Was there anything confidential about the gentleman’s statement?-
– So far as I know, there was not.
– Then, surely, there can be’ no objection to making his name known ? ‘
– I do not think it would be fair to the gentleman to do so.
– Why not? ‘Hemade the statement publicly.
– The gentleman; said quite openly, before the other membersof the deputation, that he was quite in. favour of the Commonwealth regulation-, whereby aliens would depart, and white men take their place.
– Perhaps he was a. new chum. !
– I do not think so, because he owns quite a number of boats, and is one of the active members of the association ; only he happens to be a man. of advanced views.
– He ought to come out in the open, and let us know who . he is.
– He is a man who looks on affairs in their proper light, believing in the Labour party, and, above all, in the White Australia policy”!
– I thought that the right honorable member for Swan also believed in the White Australia policy 1
– So he does- at times. I understand that the PearlShellers Association has made an offer in this connexion, though I am not quite aware of the full particulars. The honorable member for Herbert, in submittingthis motion, made some reference to this matter,- and I understand that it wasproposed that four boats should be provided by the Government as a school for the training of divers and tenders. The expenditure, was estimated at somethingover £2,000, and the Pearl Shellers Association offered -to pay half the loss, if any, which was estimated at about £800 for the first year. For that offer I give the association ‘all’ credit, because I believe that it was sincere. The appointment of a
Royal Commission would enable us to know what should be done for the training of white men, either Australians or immigrants from other parts of the world, to take charge of the industry when the coloured aliens have been got rid of.
– Why could not the Minister find that out for himself?
– It would be a good thing for the Minister to make himself acquainted with the industry, and he might do worse than spend a week in a pearl-shelling boat. Something should be done to forestall any intention the pearlshellers may have in postponing their evil day. They are making a good thing now because their profits are high, and coloured labour is cheap.
– They deserve all that they get.
– Yes ; but their profits should enable them to pay wages which would satisfy white men.
– What do they pay their divers?
– From £20 to £25 per ton of shell, and the pearls that are found. The divers get the pearls, because they cannot be kept from them. They open the shells underneath the water.
– The honorable member is speaking about what he does not understand. The shells are brought
Tip, and opened at leisure.
– What I have stated is correct. Those who visited Thursday Island must be interested in it as an outpost of the Commonwealth. It is a sort of feeler for Australia, to warn ais of danger from the north. The Defence Department is going to spend thousands of pounds in dismantling the existing fort, which is obsolete, and in the wrong position, because it does not command the trade route, and in constructing a new fort which will give us a proper defence. The island is already connected with telegraph cables, and in addition a wireless installation is to be provided to ;put us into oommunication with Papua. But to-day Thursday Island is overrun with coloured aliens. In its streets there rare few white persons in comparison with the Chinese, Japanese, Malays, and others, a heterogeneous collection.
– Are there any Scotchmen there ? ‘..”.
– What is the saving element of every community has found a lodgment at Thursday Island. If it were otherwise, we might not have held the place so long.
– Thursday Island is not worse than the Northern Territory.
– Let us clean Australia a bit at a time, if we cannot do it all at once. I am not frightened by the Jingo talk about the Japanese designs on Australia. My fear is of China rather than of Japan. But the Japanese in Thursday Island are believed to be engaged in charting all the navigable channels, openings in reefs, shoals, and the like. We should not allow an outpost to be inhabited chiefly by a mixed coloured population. If the 100 pearling boats now working in Torres Straits were each manned by seven white men instead of by seven coloured aliens, we should have, instead of a force which is a danger to us, one which would be a defence and protection. The pearlers, instead of being available as pilots for an enemy, would assist in the defence of Australia. We have more to think about than the mere selling of pearls and shells at a great profit in Great Britain and elsewhere. This country is so good that every man living in it should be willing to defend it ; but it cannot be defended properly so long as a vulnerable point is in possession of those who may one day be our enemies. It would greatly increase the security of Australia if, in place of the coloured men who are now finding a living at Thursday Island, we had a white population of 2,000 or 3,000 settled there. No true Australian can desire to have any part of his country occupied by aliens, or any Australian industry conducted by them, if it can be carried on by white men.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Greene) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. W. Elliot Johnson for Mr. Mcwilliams) put -
That Order of the Day No. 2 (General Business) be postponed until Thursday, 2nd. November.
The House divided.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, legislation should be introduced to provide a system of pensions to the members of the Defence Forces, and that the resolution be communicated to the Senate, with a request for its concurrence.
I may say at once that this is not a party question, and that the present Administration, as well as all previous Governments, from the inception of Federation, have felt that something in the direction proposed by me is really necessary. The sole objection raised hitherto to the introduction of this system has been One as to ways and means, and I dare say that that will be the only objection offered to-day. I dp not think, however, that the difficulty is insurmountable. If we were always to consider whether we could afford to give men their due rights, - 1 am afraid that very few men would receive that to which they were- -entitled.- I take- it that what has actuated previous Administrations will possibly influence the present Government in dealing with this matter; but, since
Australia has determined to adopt a larger” and more extensive scheme of defence than we have ever had before, we ought to recognise that adequate provision should be made for those to whom we look to defend our country. Whilst we claim to be an advanced and democratic nation, I think we are the only civilized country that has failed to make provision for the payment of pensions to members of its Defence Forces. As a people, we cannot allow that state of affairs to continue much longer. The Government have announced that they are considering this matter ; but the knowledge that the House held that the time was ripe for action would probably act as an incentive, and cause them to set about making immediate preparations for giving effect to this proposal. I hold . the view that pensions should be made payable to the officers, warrant officers and men of the Naval and Military Forces, and tha], this system should apply both to ‘ the Militia, and the Permanent Forces. Some people think that the pension system should relate only to the Permanent Forces; but that would be a very small proposal, having regard to the defence possibilities of the very near future. I would warn the Government to profit by the example of the United States of America, which, owing to the belated introduction of a system of defence pensions, finds itself to-day in a most peculiar position. America, as we know, was hurried into a civil war which cost the nation thousands of lives and millions of money, and resulted in thousands of its citizens being maimed for life. No preparation whatever had been made for such a contingency, and the Government suddenly found themselves forced to provide for many individuals who, as the result of the war casualties, were unable to provide for themselves. A pension scheme had consequently to be hurriedly devised. Owing to this unpreparedness on the part of the Government, the United States of America during the last forty-five years has spent, nearly £200,000,000 by way of defencepensions, and has never had any certainty that the persons receiving pensions were in every case incapacitated from earning a living owing to participation in the war. I believe that it has now been practically determined that a pension shall be paid to. every man who took part in the American Civil War, and ‘ we can well understand’ what’ enormous dimensions such a system will assume. The scheme so hurriedly de*- vised by the Government of the United States provided for the payment of joint pensions to the men and their wives, so that a war pensioner, when eighty years of age, or at the point of death, could marry a girl of, perhaps, seventeen or eighteen, and pass on to her for life the benefit of the system. The whole system is far more expensive than it would have been had it been carefully provided for in the early days. In these circumstances, I think it will be recognised that it is highly desirable that the Government should seriously consider the institution of a defence pensions system at an early date. They have already made certain provisions in this regard. Two leading British naval and military authorities visited Australia some time ago at the invitation of the Government to report upon the naval and military defence of Australia. One of these, Lord Kitchener, in his report, recommends the payment of pensions to officers only. I am rather surprised that, so far as I can see in his report, he makes no provision for the payment of pensions to the men.
– Did not Lord Kitchener recommend a system of deferred payments ?
– Speaking from memory, I believe he recommended the payment of pensions. Admiral Henderson, in his report, puts forward an idea which, up to a certain point, we might accept. He says -
The rates of emoluments for officers and men should be calculated on the following bases : -
The rates paid in the Mother Navy.
The higher rates of wages paid in Aus tralia to those employed in civil occupations than in the United Kingdom, (r) The higher cost of living in Australia than in the United Kingdom. A system of pensions or annuities is essential to an efficient Naval Service. It is necessary that Naval officers and the higher ratings among the men should be able to regard their Naval employment as a professional career, and so devote their whole energies and intelligence to the Naval Service; this necessity cannot be insured unless such officers and men have an assured competence, modest though it may be, for life. It is also necessary to efficiency that the Government should feel able to dispense with the active service of officers who may have rendered good service, but who are not considered fitted for advancement and yet have reached an age which renders them unsuitable for service in a junior rank ; the retention in active service of officers for a considerable time after they have been passed over for promotion is detrimental to the Navy, and does not make for cither efficiency or economy. When no pension system is in force, the hardship of dispensing with the services of such officers and putting them out of employment without pay- falls too heavily upon them. This would result inevitably in their being retained in ap-‘ pointments for which they were unfitted, and, moreover, would cause such appointments to be closed to more suitable younger officers.
He very rightly recommends that, in fixing pension or pay we should take as a basis the difference between the rates paid to civilians in England and Australia. If the civilian in Australia receives higher pay. and has better conditions that the civilian in the Older Country, necessarily the members of our Defence Forces, being also citizens of Australia, should be paid in proportion. We make provision in Australia now for paying certain amounts to those who are injured on service; and the same thing obtains with the territorials in the Old Country. I believe that in Australia the payment is based on three years’ service; but I do not see why a man who has been maimed for life through carrying out his defence duties should get only a certain small payment. If any man is deprived of the means of earning his livelihood, whether he is in the Naval or Military Forces, and whether he is a permanent man or in the militia, we should make provision for him to live in a civilized manner. The justice of their claim is not debatable. It is simply a question of when the time will arrive for giving effect to it. But the big difficulty is this : For many years, we maintained that we were not a military nation. In a sense, to-day we are not a military nation. Our standing army is small, and we are endeavouring to make up for it by a Citizen Force. We have, however, come to the conclusion that we must take our stand, from a military and naval stand-point, with the rest of the Empire, and do our share in its defence. We ought, therefore, to recognise that we must pay for defence, and pay those who take part in it.
– Lord Kitchener recommended compulsory deductions of pay, but not pensions.
– But only for officers. I admit that I made a mistake in saying that Lord Kitchener recommended pensions. I am in favour of pensions, and not of deferred pay. I should not be so foolish as to say I would not accept a system of deferred pay if it were offered, but there are many arguments against it. I am surprised that Lord Kitchener did not touch the case of the men in his report; but perhaps he recognised that the men’s pay was so small that it would be impossible to deduct anything from it. We take our men for the Permanent Force in the full vigour of their mental and physical capacity. We take only the best, and we take them when they are young, and when, perhaps, they have not had an opportunity of being trained in any other occupation. We say that when they reach an age at which they are unfit to be in the fighting line we will retire them, and throw them upon the world without making any provision for them to earn a living. That system is cruel and hard on the individual, and on those dependent on him. It tends, also, to create a class of men who, having been thrown upon the industrial market, will be a menace to those already there. They will be incompetent from an industrial stand-point, having been trained only in the art of war, and there will be a ten dency for them to take positions, if they can get them, at lower than the ruling rates of wages. Officers in the Australian Navy are compulsorily retired at the following ages : - Captain and engineer-captain, 55 ; commander and engineer-commander, 50 ; lieutenant and engineer-lieutenant, 45 ; sub-lieutenant and engineer sub- lieutenant, 40 ; pa paymaster-in -chief, fleet paymaster, staff paymaster, or paymaster, 60; assistant paymaster, 40 ; commissioned and other warrant officers, 55 ; chief petty officers and petty officers, 55 ; other ratings, 50. In the Military Forces recently, several officers were thrown on the world at the age of fifty-eight without a pension. The follow ing are the retiring ages for the Military Forces : - Major-general, 62 ; colonel, 58 ; lieutenant-colonel, 55; major, 55; captain,. 50 ; lieutenant, 48 ; officers of the Australian Army Medical Corps Reserve, 60 ; quartermaster and bandmaster holding commissions, 60; military staff clerks, warrant officers, armament artificers, assistant armament artificers, and other Ordnance Department artificers, and noncommissioned officers, 60; men, 55. The whole of these men, who have devoted their lives to the profession of arms, are thrown out on the ground that they are not fit to be in the firing line. . After spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on their training, we say to them, “ We have paid you only small wages, in most cases, during the. whole of your term, and now you can go and do what you like ; we do not care.”
– Are not those men placed on the Reserve List?
– They get no pay; up to the present they have been simply told to go. Who can pretend that a man at the age of fifty or fifty-five, who has been earning a decent wage, can save enough to retire on ? We know very well that very few are able to do so. I now desire to draw a comparison between what is done in Australia, and what is done in the conservative old Motherland. No honorable member will, I think, charge the British Government with paying their soldiers too much either in the way of wages or pensions; and yet we find that there is really no great difference between the rates there and the rates here, as the following table will show -
We know, of course, that the gunner is, and the lowest in the ranks of the British Army are, paid at abominably low rates, and it will be observed that the percentage increase in this connexion is considerable. It is generally accepted, I believe, that our artisans, and workers in almost every walk of life, are paid 80 per cent, higher wages than in the Old Country; but the figures 1 have quoted show that we have in no degree paid sufficient in Australia to com: pensate for the absence of pensions. The following is the scale of pay which would be due to the soldier in the Commonwealth it a minimum increase of 80 per cent, was given over the rates in the British service -
I have already referred to the low pay of the gunner, and I have only to point out that the higher sum paid in Australia was not due to any desire to give better wages, but simply because, otherwise, we should not have got the men. No one can contend, in the face of these facts, that there is no need for defence pensions in this country, on the ground that the wages are high enough to enable the men to provide for an annuity of some sort. With the knowledge that several members on both sides of the House desire to address themselves to the question, and that I should like to see a decision come to this afternoon, I shall not further prolong my remarks. I have no desire to harass the Government iri submitting this motion : indeed, I should rather think they would welcome a vote of the Chamber. I point out once more that we are the only civilized country which does not pay pensions of this sort, and that it is unfair to throw men on the world at so early an age, handicapped as they are by their previous training; and I submit that, under all the circumstances, the Government ought to receive the proposal in no antagonistic spirit, but proceed to make some provision for the members of our Defence Forces
– I have great pleasure in seconding the motion, which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is more than justified in submitting. For many years, I know, the consensus of opinion has been rather in favour of abolishing pensions : but that was brought about by the -fact that members of the Public Service, who were paid a living wage, with sick benefits and annual leave, were, at the termination of their services, granted fat pensions by a generous Government. Naturally, the general public, who are not ‘insured permanent employment, and do not enjoy any of the privileges conferred on public servants, claimed that they were entitled to consideration. In the case nf the Defence Forces, however, the aspectis entirely different. The men so employed have no feather-bed jobs, as I know from personal experience of some six or. seven years. The occupation they follow is dangerous; and the records show several cases, particularly in the artillery, where men have been permanently incapacitated or killed, without any provision being made for them, or their dependents. They have had to- rely on the generosity of the Government of the day; and sometimes the Government, in their wisdom, have not been so generous as one would like under the circumstances. In selecting men for the Defence Forces, we do not pick the “ weeds,” but men physically capable of heavy work. We all know that it requires a very able-bodied man to work the guns of the artillery ; and, further, if we are to have the best service, it is necessary to have men of some mental capacity. As a matriculated man, who has gone through the examination papers of those desirous to rise in the service, I know that they display knowledge far above what is required in the sixth-class standard of our State schools. If honorable members would only read some of the mathematical questions presented at these examinations, they would be astounded at the intricacy of the work. All the while, these men are asked to accept what I term a sweating wage, although the Government, in this respect, ought to set an example. Past Governments have failed to recognise the value of the services rendered, but it is essential that we, as a Labour Government, should repair the omission. For many years a gunner here was asked to accept as. 6d. per day and his keep, and, although I had some idea of remaining in the Forces, I did not do so when 1 found out what the prospects were. Last session I had the honour of approaching the Minister of Defence, and also Colonel Wallack, in reference to an increase in the remuneration. * Mr. Page. - There was not much patriotism about the honorable member ! He went in for the “boodle”!
– My patriotism is of the sort that I worked for “practically nothing in the artillery. It is unjust to ask a man to give the best part of his life to his country for what is equivalent to about 3s. a day. The sooner we wipe that kind of patriotism off the slate the better.
– I gave my services as a soldier for a “ bob “ a day.
– Of course, we do not desire to repeat the experience of the United States in the matter of pensions. At the conclusion of the Civil War, a generous people, who were sick of conflict, had not the heart to refuse the claims that poured in. There was no statutory legislation as a guide, and every claim was recognised. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports told us of the case of the old United States soldier of eighty years of age, who married a young woman, and how his pension would be continued until the death of the latter. With such cases as these we find that, while in 1861 the total pensions paid in the United States was £200,000, the amount had increased in 1865 to £1,700,000; in 1875 to £5,900,000, in 1885 to £13,100,000, in 1895 to £30,000,000, and in 1905 to £34,000,000. Thus we see that the further we get from the time of the war, the larger the total amount of the pensions. From my brief experience of public life, I feel confident that in the case of war in Australia, no member of this House would have the heart to refuse claims for pensions; at any rate I know that I should not be able to do so. It is absolutely essential that there should be some legislation to guide us. Last year I made several comparisons of artisans’ wages here and in Great Britain, showing that, on the average, our artisans receive from 80 to 120 per cent, more than artisans similarly engaged in Great Britain. But, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has shown, our soldiers receive much less than 80 per cent, more than British soldiers. For instance, a sergeant-major of engineers in the Imperial service, taking into consideration the value of his pension, gets ns. 2d., but in the Commonwealth Forces only 13s., including all allowances - a difference of only 16 per cent, in favour of the Commonwealth officer. In the Imperial service a sergeantmajor of armament artificers gets 12s. 2d., and here he gets 13s., or only 7 per cent, more; a first class master gunner ns. 2d., as against 13s., or only 16 per cent, more; a third class master gunner 8s. nd., as against 10s. 9d., or only 20 per cent. more. A regimental quartermaster-sergeant- occupies a very onerous position. Not only must he know all about drill and guns, but he must also possess a good education. Yet, in the Imperial service, such an officer receives only 8s. 7d., and here ns., or only 28 per cent. more. A regimental quartermastersergeant of armament artificers receives ros. 5d. in the Imperial service, and ns. in our service, or only 5 per cent, more ; a staff sergeant-major receives in the Imperial service 9s. 5d., and here 10s., or only 6 per cent. more. The rates for a company sergeant-major are 6s. in the Imperial Army, and 6s. 3d. here, or only 4^ per cent, more ; for a sergeant 5s., as against 5s. 6d., or only 10 per cent, more; for a corporal 4s., as against 4s. 6d., or only 13 per cent, more; for a bombardier 3s. pd., as against 4s. 3d., or 14 per cent, more; and for a gunner 2s. 5d., as against 4s., or 66 per cent. more. When this Government came into power, the pay of a gunner was equivalent to only 3s. a day; but, under a Labour Administration, the gunners have obtained a slight increase, though not as much as they deserve. Furthermore, under the old regulations, only to per cent, of the married men were allowed to go on the strength of a regiment. Sergeants had to keep their wives and families on 5s. 6d. a day, and gunners were still worse off. But last session the Minister of Defence allowed all married men to go on the strength. That is what has been done by the party which is accused of desiring to break up the home tie. I hope that more will be done in the same direction. If we made the pay of our officers and men 80 per cent, more than that of the Imperial Army, a warrant sergeantmajor of engineers would receive 20s. id., an increase of 7s. rd. ; a sergeant-major 21s. 10d., an increase of 8s. lod. ; a first class master-gunner, 20s. id., an increase of 75. id., and so on; the increase to a gunner being only 4d. These increases amount to something over £1,000 a year for eleven men. A sergeant-major of engineers who, if these increases were given, would receive 20s. id. a day, performs work of a highly technical character, equal to that of engineers on board steamers, who get about £2 5 a month and their keep ; whereas, at present, the officers to whom I refer get only £16 a month, without keep. Sergeants, if the suggested increase were given, would receive only 9s. per day, while ordinary labourers get 8s., 9s., and even more, a day. Yet sergeants are in charge of detachments, and, on occasions, of groups of guns. Outside the army those in charge of men are called gangers, and receive 9s., 10s., and even up to 12s. a day. The men in our Military Forces give more than value for the pittances they receive, and should be paid, at least, as much as men doing similar work outside the army. A gunner would get only 43. 4d. a day at the higher rate, but his status is surely as good as that of an ordinary labourer. I trust that the Government will recognise that these men are physically and mentally capable, and should be paid wages commensurate with their ability and duties. I understand that the Minister favours a deferred-payment system, but, if such a system were adopted, what would become of the old soldiers who are about to retire after the faithful discharge of their duties? Their services are as well worthy of recognition as are those of the men now doing duty. The deferredpayment system might do great injustice to men who joined the service long ago, when conditions were not so favorable as they are now. As for a superannuation scheme, it is recognised that the cost of administration is greater than with any other scheme. The Government should do the best they can for these men, at a minimum expense, and should not adopt a superannuation scheme with premiums higher than would be charged under a deferredpayment system or a pension system. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has pointed out that the various Governments throughout the world provide pensions for their soldiers. I have spoken of the British pension system; let me now deal with that of Canada. I find, on referring to the Act of 1 90 1, that no deduction for pensions is made from the pay of the rank and file or non-commissioned officers, but there is a deduction of 5 per cent, from the pay of officers. After fifteen years’ service, a pension is given at the rate of onefiftieth of /[100 for each year of service, or £30 a year ; at the end of sixteen years, the pension is £32 ; at the end of twentysix years, £52 ; and at the end of twentynine years, £68, which is the maximum. The police pensions in Victoria ceased in 1902, but there is a strong desire for the re-establishment of the pension system. The ordinary civil servants do their work without risk, but the police and military are engaged in dangerous occupations. I was very pleased when the Minister of Defence last session gave permission to the members of the Military Board to meet and discuss a scheme such as would be acceptable to the whole service. That was the first time in the history of responsible government in Australia, so far as I am aware, that such a privilege had been conceded to the Military Forces. The men met, and subsequently placed before the Minister of Defence certain resolutions. The position was carefully explained to him, and the Minister, in reply, said that -
He .had recognised for some considerable lime lhat the pay of the service was unsatisfactory, and that he proposed making some provision in the next year’s Estimates. He expressed grave doubts as to whether a pension scheme would be acceptable to members of the present Parlament -
I trust that the Minister’s fears are groundless, and that the Opposition will awaken to a sense of their neglected duties, and strongly support this motion.
– Does not the honorable member think that he had better stop dragging in this partyism? ? The men behind him will not thank him for doing so.
– The honorable membar had an opportunity to take action when in office, but he failed. The Minister of Defence went on to say that -
He had discussed a- deferred-pay system with Colonel Wallack, which, he thought, would meet the requirements of the deputation. He promised to favorably consider the requests made, and that he would bring the pension proposal before the Cabinet.
I hope that he has done so, and that the Government will submit this session a measure to give these men justice. I ask only for justice on their behalf, and feel very strongly that they are entitled to it at our hands. After this deputation had waited on the Minister of Defence, a Defence Bill was introduced, and it contained the following clause -
Funds may be established in such manner and subject to such provisions as are prescribed for providing for the payment of annuities or gratuities to members of the Defence Force permanently injured in the performance of their duties, and for the payment of annuities or gratuities to members of the Permanent Forces who are retired on account of agc or infirmity.
That shows that the Minister recognised that these men were making a just claim, and the House, in passing that provision, unanimously indorsed the view that something was due to them. Later on a deputation waited on the Acting Minister of Defence, Senator McGregor, who, in the course of his reply, said that -
He was pleased to have met the men and heard their position. He knew that a great many difficulties existed as to the pay and other working conditions of the soldiers, but it must be remembered that all these had come down to the present Government as legacies from past Administrations, and it had been impossible to put everything right during the few months they had been in power.
The Government have rectified certain wrongs, but they have still a long way- to go, and I hope that they will remedy this wrong during the present session. The Acting Minister of Defence continued -
Th* mcn might rest assured, however, that early consideration would be given to their representations, both respecting increased pay and future provision for the retired soldiers of Australia.
On that statement I” base my remarks today. I hold that I am quite justified in urging that pensions should be granted to these men, and also that their rates of pay should be made equivalent to those ruling outside the service. The Minister continued -
To begin radical changes right away would upset the calculations as to the cost of Military Forces, and the public was naturally anxious tokeep in touch with the advancing cost.
I am satisfied that the public, whilst demanding at our hands the recognition of its own rights, is quite prepared to recognise the rights of these men. We have passed legislation providing that private employers shall not sweat their men - that they shall give them reasonable rates of pay and fair working hours, and we ought to set an example to them. We should set our own house in order before appealing to others to do so. Senator McGregor went on to say -
He hoped that some system similar to that introduced for the Naval Forces would soon be possible for the soldiers. But that would scarcely meet the case of those who had donefaithful service for thirty years, because if they came under a deferred-pay system they would get very little out of it.
He recognised that the deferred-pay system was not a fair one to apply to the Military Forces. Its application to the Navy, which is as yet in its infancy, will: hurt no one ; but if it were applied to the Permanent Military Forces, it would injure many who have given years of faithful service to their country -
A man who had given thirty years to the Military Service would find the world very hard, when he was suddenly launched on it without money. The Minister was making inquiries intothe European systems, and would see how the difficulty could be surmounted. Ministers had been considering how they could evolve . some scheme satisfactory to the men and public. As. to the request for a Board of Inquiry, that would be put before the Cabinet at” once.
We know that the Minister of Defence is anxious to deal fairly with these men, and I am confident that that is the desire of honorable members generally; but whenever a proposal of this kind is brought before the House, we are met at once with the cry that the state of the finances is against its adoption. If we are always going to legislate on those lines, then we must justify the cry of the manufacturer,, who, when asked to pay certain wages, says that his industry will not permit of their payment. If a private manufacturer is not justified in advancing such an argument in support of the payment of sweating wages, are we justified in urging that the peopleof Australia will not be able to bear theadditional expense thai such a system as this would involve ? Every individual in the community is worthy of his hire. These men are asked to defend the wealth of Australia, and why should that wealth not pay them ? As those who have been in the service know full well, they have to fill very difficult positions. There are other honorable members, in addition to the honorable member for Melbourne Port’s and myself, who have been behind the guns, and who know the danger of the work, as well as the sacrifices made by the men. They are practically the first line of our land defences, and yet some apparently consider that they are not worthy of receiving what, after all, is only a reasonable rate of pay. I trust that the Minister will act, and that the good work commenced by him last session will be carried on. Notwithstanding that the adoption of this scheme will mean increased expenditure, I think that every taxpayer in Australia is anxious that our Defence Forces should receive that which is fair and right.
– I have much pleasure in supporting this motion, which should command the sympathy of both sides of the House. I do not propose, however, to discuss it at any length, and I regret that the honorable member who has just resumed his seat should have seen fit to make such a long speech, because I take it that there are others who wish, within the limited time at our disposal, to deal with it. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out, Australia is the only nation possessing anything in the shape of an army that has not adopted some form of pension scheme for its Defence Forces. It is a disgrace to us, as Australians, that no pension system has as yet been instituted in respect of a body of men to whom we have to look in the hour of danger for our very safety. It is absolutely essential that whatever force we have in Australia should be an efficient one. More especially is this necessary in the case of our Permanent Forces, and the only way to secure efficiency is to offer such encouragement as will induce the best class of young men to enter the service. Unless we do so, we can hope to obtain only second-class material. Another factor for efficiency is long service; but, at present, there is no encouragement for long service. A considerable wastage goes on. Of those who join our Permanent Forces, 40 per cent, retire at the end of their first term. That is not a desirable state of things. Almost all civil public servants in the employ of the Commonwealth and the
States have some pension rights, and we should, at least, concede to those in the military service the rights that are enjoyed by the men engaged in our Public Service.
– What about pensions for members of Parliament?
– We shall be looking to that later on. The least we can do is to evolve some scheme of pensions for our Defence Forces. I may say at once that I am averse to any system of deferred pay. The honorable member who has submitted this motion said that he preferred a pension scheme, but that if he could not secure one he would have to be satisfied with some system of deferred pay. If a system of deferred pay is to be introduced, then the rates of pay must be increased. Men could not maintain themselves and their families decently on the rates of pay at present ruling, and, at the same time, make a contribution out of their allowances to a deferred-pay system. We must, therefore, have a pension scheme, and I should be inclined to vote against a system of deferred pay unless the present rates of pay were increased. I earnestly hope that the Government will give serious consideration to the proposal, and determine to introduce a pension scheme. The Minister representing the Minister of Defence, last Thursday, in replying to a motion that I had submitted with regard to the pay of warrant officers and men of the Military Forces, emphasized the point that a rise of 40 per cent. had been granted by the present Administration to the members of the Military Forces. That increase, however, was given because it was found that recruits could not be obtained for the Permanent Forces. The recruits’ pay was accordingly raised from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d., but as this was higher than the next in rank, the bombardier, was receiving, it was found necessary to increase the bombardier’s rate of pay also. Consequently, the pay of each rank had to be raised, but the increase was less each time, and it stopped altogether when it reached the staff-sergeant. There are noncommissioned and warrant officers receiving to-day the same pay that they received ten and fifteen years ago. That is particularly the case in regard to the more senior among them. Men in the service, who have gone through the mill, and passed strict examinations, having proved themselves experts, should receive an adequate increase in their remuneration, or, at all events, should receive an increase in proportion to that given to the recruit. The latest Wages Board decision in New South Wales gave the leading hand in the butchering business a rate of £3 17 s. 6d. per week. That is more than the pay of a great many senior noncommissioned officers and warrant officers in the Military Forces. Let honorable members compare the employments. The butchers’ leading hand may be a man of twenty-five years of age, but very few warrant officers will be found under forty years of age. If the leading hand in a butcher’s shop were discharged, he could easily fmd employment, but if the unfortunate man in the Military Service got into disgrace, and were discharged, although his crime might not be more serious than that for which the butcher’s leading hand was dismissed, he would find it absolutely impossible to get into any other employment. His business is soldiering,, and of that the Government have a monopoly, so that he could not get work in his line from anybody else. He would find himself most likely, a middle-aged man, cast upon the world, perhaps without a shilling in his pocket. If he was a married man with a family, he would not have been able to save any money on the pay he had been receiving in the Military Service. He would be cast upon the world absolutely penniless, and without a pension. That should not be so. There is no encouragement for men to enter the service if they have to face those conditions. It is disgraceful that we should subject these men to such a position. If the eyesight of the leading hand in a butcher’s shop was a little affected, he would still be able to remain in the shop, but all non-commissioned officers have to be examined every three years by the doctor, and if a defect is found, even in one eye, the man must lose his job. What a prospect for him ! What is a warrant officer fit for after he has been in the service from his youth? He is absolutely unfitted to make a commencement in any other occupation of life. We should give these men something to look forward to. It is absolutely essential for the efficiency of the Forces to establish a system of pensions, and it is most important that we should give that encouragement now, because we are about to make an endeavour to create a great army in Australia. If we do not encourage the best material to join as a nucleus for this great Force, the whole project will absolutely fail. The billet of a non-commissioned officer is no sinecure, and it is not every man that can attain to the senior grades. To do so, he must be possessed of considerable ability, and go through many years of laborious toil and study. Let me read some of the questions in the general examination paper set for the master gunner’s course -
I do not think any member of the House would like to have to answer those questions. Another paper set in the School of Gunnery, at South Head, for the master-gunner’s course, contained the following
It is desired to instal an alarm circuit from the Look-out stations of four (4) anti-torpedo boat batteries, so that the look-out a( any one of these stations can ring the four (4) alarm gongs simultaneously. The gong has a resistance of 100 ohms and requires .05 amperes to ring it. The total distance between the four batteries is 1,000 yards. The only stores for line and battery are 2,000 yards of insulated wire whose resistance is .02 ohms per yard, and a number of small LeClanche cells (1.4; 2). How many of these cells would you require for the purpose? The gongs are connected up in parallel.
That is a very difficult question. I do not know how honorable members would answer it if it were set to them, but it shows that the position of a non-commissioned officer is not very easily attainable. If men in other avocations, such as a man in a butcher’s shop, can receive £3 17s. 6d. per week by the award of a Wages Board, surely these men, who have to go through so much study and pass such examinations, after doing a great deal of hard manual toil, should be better paid than they are. These non-commissioned officers are never idle wherever they are, and none of themcan get on iri the service unless he does a great deal of night study. A case of which I have personal knowledge is that of a staff regimental sergeant-major. I happen to know definitely that he did not receive theincrease of 40 per cent., about which the Minister representing the Minister of Defence spoke last Thursday. He got two* increases recently - the first at the rate of Jd. a week, or 2s. 6d. a year, and the next at the rate of 4d. a week, or 17s. 6d. a year. This man, who was receiving £156 ten years ago, is receiving £156 in pay today. He has had a great deal of reduction in his allowances, he is from £2 10s. to £3 a month worse off than he was ten years ago, and he has a wife and family to keep. He pays £30 a year for the rent of a house over and above what he may be allowed for that purpose. He has insured his life, and the contents of the house against fire, at a cost of £12 10s. a year. Fuel costs him £9, light £3, clubs £1, his church £1 10s., and his uniform £9. These items make up £66 a year, leaving him £90 a year upon which to keep a family. These men are sweated in a most scandalous way, but they are supposed to keep a wife and family on those rates, and have no pension at the end of their service. If a man knew that he would not be cast on the world penniless at the end of his term, he could put up with it, but under present conditions he knows that he must go out at a certain age, without a pension, and utterly unfitted to take up any other vocation. In fact he is cast out helpless and hopeless, without a penny in his pocket. 1 have pleasure in supporting the motion, but I wish the mover had been more definite on the question of pensions, as opposed to a deferred-pay system. I hope the House will not give the latter system any support. The pay at present received by these military men will not allow of any deductions being made for such a purpose. I trust that the House will extend to this motion the treatment it deserves, and carry it on the voices.
.- I intend to support the motion, but not to speak at any great length, because facts and figures, worthy of earnest consideration, have been laid before the House by honorable members with actual experience or who are well-informed on the subject. We are entering on a large defence scheme, and it is essential that we should consider what is to become, not only of the men who enter the service now, but of those who have served us faithfully and well in the past. There are quite a number of men who have won positions as officers and in the ranks - men of large practical experience who have proved their fitness by examination and otherwise - and they are entitled to consideration at our hands. ‘Various Ministers of Defence and Governments’ have been ap proached in this connexion by the men, or by members of Parliament on their behalf ; and on many occasions the House has discussed the matter. Senator McGregor,when Acting Minister of Defence, received a deputation from the Military Forces, and, after hearing their views, gave them an exceptionally favorable reply. Of course, Senator McGregor could not speak: definitely, because he, in turn, had to submit the proposals to the Cabinet, which,’ up to the present, has been exceptionally busy, and has not intimated whether it is the intention to support the scheme suggested. The Central Pensions Committee of the Forces, who have the matter in hand, arranged the deputation, and Senator McGregor’s reply to them is thus reported -
He knew that a great many difficulties existed as to the pay and other working conditions of the soldiers, but it must be remembered that all these had come down to the present Government as legacies from past Administrations -
That is true; but it seems to me that this-: Government are engaged in a campaign, not to keep down wages, but to insure fair remuneration, whether in the Defence Forces; or outside. In any case, the fact that this is a legacy is no justification for maintaining the position of previous Governments. I trust that the reforming days of the present Government are not over, but that, if possible, increased pay will be granted in the Forces, or some provision made for the future of these men. The report of the deputation proceeds - and it had been impossible to put everything right during the few months they had been in power.
Of course, no one can expect, at .one stroke, to sweep away abuses and grievances which have been accumulating for years.
– Is it not time that a Minister spoke on the motion?
– I thought that, after the honorable member for Corio seconded the motion, some Minister would have either told us the intentions of the Government, or moved the adjournment of the debate.
– The honorable member for Grey is well acquainted with the practice in these matters, and he ought not, in the circumstances, to have asked such a question.
– I know nothing about that ; but I do know that ‘ the Honorary
Minister was sitting at the table apparently taking notes. If the honorable gentleman is not prepared to tell us the intentions of the Government now, I presume that we who are interested will have to wait. Senator McGregor went on to say -
The men might ‘rest assured, however, that early consideration would be given to their representations, both respecting increased pay and future provision for the retired soldiers in Australia.
– When was that deputation ?
– I understand that it was on the 24th October last year. A deputation is one of the best methods that the men could adopt to lay their views before the Department ; and Senator McGregor, shrewd Scotchman as he is, was evidently impressed by the evidence. He went on to say -
To begin radical changes right away would upset the calculations as to the cost of military forces, and the public is naturally anxious to keep in touch with the advancing cost.
Of course, I quite believe that when the Defence Estimates are laid before us, it will be found that they amount to a considerable sum. When it is a matter of expenditure, the Treasurer will no doubt have to think very hard, seeing that the enterprises now before us will cost immense sums. Nevertheless, the men who have served us in the past, and are doing so now, should be considered. Senator McGregor went on to say -
He hoped that some system similar to that introduced for the Naval Forces would soon be possible for the soldiers. But that would scarcely meet the case of those who had done faithful service for thirty years, because if they came under a deferred pay system they would get very little out of it.
That is quite true. We can conceive that if a man, who had been engaged in military pursuits for thirty years or more, and had practically lost touch with the world, had to enter into competition with skilled workers outside, he would have a very small chance of earning a living for himself and his family. Of course, odd cases may be pointed out where a man has a smattering of carpentering or some other trade; but, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports contended, it would be highly undesirable for such a man, practically a self-taught tradesman, at the age of fifty or sixty, to come into competition with those who had served an apprenticeship, and were well-qualified tradesmen. That point evidently weighed with Senator McGregor, because he said -
A man who had given thirty years to the military service would find the world very hard when he was suddenly launched upon it without money.
In my opinion, there is very little opportunity for a man in the military service to even have a small Savings Bank account, and it is hard to see how he can in any way provide for a rainy day. I trust that this Parliament will rise to the occasion, as it ought to have done long since.
– I take it that the motion includes all ranks of the Permanent Forces ?
– The Permanent and Militia Forces.
– We ought not to make fish of one and fowl of the other; and there is no reason why the House should not take kindly to a motion of the kind. Senator McGregor went on to say that the Minister of Defence was making inquiries into the European systems, and would see how the difficulty could be surmounted. I suppose that Senator McGregor was there referring to the visit to England of Senator Pearce, who would have an opportunity to inquire into the English, German, and other systems.
– Would not the question of incompetency apply to other retired public servants as well?
– The members of the Military Forces are retired at a much earlier age than are those in the Civil Service.
– Pensions in the Civil Service have been abolished in Victoria, at any rate, since 1882, but public servants are retained until the age of sixty-five, with a possible extension, of which, however, I do not approve. In the case of the Defence Forces, men are discharged practically in the prime of life, and it is scarcely conceivable how, under present circumstances, they can provide for themselves and their families. It is impossible for men who are receiving so little to put by for rainy days.
– The pension system is a pernicious one.
– I hope that the Government will evolve a scheme which, if it will not wholly satisfy those whose com- plaints have been voiced, will go a long way towards doing so.
– It would be better to give them proper rates of pay.
– They should be properly paid, but there are some who will have to retire within a few years, and the increase would not enable them to make provision for their future. Why should we do injustice to those who have nearly completed their term of service? Let me read what was said by Senator McGregor during the absence of the Minister of Defence in the Old Country -
Ministers have been considering how they could evolve some scheme satisfactory to the men and public. As to the request for a Board of Inquiry, that would be put before the Cabinet at once.
The motion merely asks for justice to men who, for many years, have had to maintain wives and families on very small rates of pay.
– I am in sympathy with the motion. The men of our Military Forces have as much right to pensions as those in other branches of the Public Service. The police now get pensions to which they contribute, as do die police in the Old Country. But no one would contend that the officers and men of our Naval and Military Forces receive rates ot pay from which deductions could fairly be made on account of pensions. The making of such deductions at the present time would drive the best men out of the service. I have been given to understand by officers that to qualify for decent pensions they have to resign, and enter the Imperial service for a number of years. Ministers should take into consideration the advisableness of increasing the rates of pay for all ranks, so as to make it possible to enforce Seductions on account of deferred payments. It seems to me that some such arrangement might very well be applied to members of Parliament. I know that if I were thrown out I should be quite unfit for the work of cutting coal. I hope that the electors will retain my services until I get old. A pension system established by deductions from salary would keep us out of the poorhouse.
– The honorable member has the Liverpool Asylum.
– I hope that I shall retain the votes of its inmates for a long time to come. The question which we are considering cannot be burked. Both officersand men have sound reasons. Their rates of pay should be at least as high proportionately as those of private citizens, who, we have been told, earn from 80 to 156 per cent, more than persons in similar occupations in the Old Country. I am not prepared to say that the difference is so great, but rates are at least 50 per cent. ‘ higher here than in the Old Country.
– Would it not be a good thing to provide a universal national scheme of contributory pensions?
– I am in favour of a scheme on the lines of Lloyd George’s Bill, applying it, not only to those in our Naval and Military services, but to all our citizens. But a contributory scheme could not be established in connexion with the Naval and Military Forces while the present rates of pay continue. No doubt the Estimates will provide for an enormous increase of expenditure, particularly in regard to Defence. But that is no reason why those we employ in defending the country should not receive a remuneration sufficiently good to make the service attractive.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.24. to 74.5 p.m.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, transmitting Estimates of revenue and expenditure, and Estimates of expenditure for additions, new works, and buildings, for the year ending 30th June, 191 2, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Mr. FISHER laid upon the table;
The Budget 1911-12. - Papers prepared by the Right Honorable Andrew Fisher, P.C., for the information of Honorable Members on the occasion of opening the Budget of 1911-12.
Ordered to be printed.
– My last Budget speech was delivered on 7 th September. Owing to circumstances with which honorable members are acquainted the present Budget has been delayed. On only two previous occasions was it delivered as late as the middle of October. I fully admit the inconvenience of a late Budget, and intend, if the duty should again fall on me, to arrange for a very early Budget next year. The revenue for the year ended 30th June last was estimated on the 7th September, 1910, at £16,841,629. The actual receipts were £18,803,873. The Customs and Excise yielded £12,980,443, being £1,280,443 in excess of the estimate, and £1.387,278 more than the receipts of the preceding year.
The Customs and Excise receipts (not including special Tariff, Western Australia) were - In 1904-5, ,£8,656,981 ; in 1905-6, £8,921,819; in 1906-7, £9,631,780; in
J9°7-8, £”,645»352; in 1908-9. £10,844,067; in 1909-10, £n,593>l65; in 1910-11, .£12,980,443.
They were, in 1904-5, £2 3s. s£d. per head of population; in 1910-11 they were £2 18s. 9 1/2d. per head. The figures are surprising, per head that before Federation was accomplished it was thought by some that it would be impossible to devise a. Tariff for Australia which would raise £2 pei head of population, as that was a sum much larger than was raised in any other country. There is no doubt that the splendid seasons with which we have been favoured account mainly for this great expansion of revenue.
The land tax yielded £1,370,357, being £370,357 above the estimate. This year I hope to be able to make a better estimate, as last year we were very much in the dark as to what the results would be.
An amount of £151,513 was paid into revenue by the Government of South Australia, being the credit balance of Northern Territory funds at 31st December, 1910. The reason of this surplus was that the Government of South Australia raised a loan to meet the deficit on the Northern Territory accounts, and the amount of £151,513 was raised in excess of requirements up to the date of transfer. The amount was credited by the Commonwealth Treasury to revenue, the justification for that course being that during the same year the Commonwealth redeemed out of revenue Treasury bills amounting to £273,250.
– South Australian Treasury bills?
– Yes, or part of the debt that now falls to the Commonwealth in accordance with the agreement. That is a rauch greater amount than we credited to revenue.
Honorable members are aware that an Act was passed on the 6th August, 1910, authorizing an advance not exceeding £500,000 from Trust Fund for the purposes of revenue. This was to enable the Treasurer to complete payment to the States on account of 1909-10 sufficient in amount to comply with the Braddon section. This Act was retrospective in its action, and, under its authority, £451,284 was advanced from Trust Fund on the 30th June, 1910, for revenue purposes. £44> 5i7 was paid over to the States on the 30th June, and the balance, £406,767, was paid during August. The whole amount of £451,284 was repaid to Trust Fund from revenue during 1910-11.
Another Act was passed on the 21 st October, 1910, authorizing an advance from Trust Fund of £1,500,000 for the purposes of revenue. This was to enable the Treasurer to make payment to the States in terms of section 87 of the Constitution for the half year ended 31st December, 1910.
The amount of £1,114,578 was accordingly advanced from the Australian Notes Account, and full payment was made to the States. The amount was repaid from revenue to the Australian Notes Account in the latter half of the year, interest being also paid to the amount of £5,248.
The Treasurer was enabled by the above Act to make full payments to the State Treasurers up to the 31st December, 19:10. The figures for the half-year were -
which amount was paid in full. The Commonwealth thus finally discharged its obligations to the States as far as the Braddon section is concerned. The total amount paid to the States in excess of the amount payable under the section in the ten years ended 31st December, 1910, was £6,059,088.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 October 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111026_reps_4_61/>.