6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. McWilliams took the oath and subscribed the roll as member for the electoral division of Franklin.
Mr. Gregory took the oath and subscribed the roll as member for the electoral division of Dampier.
Mr. Stumm took the oath and sub scribed the roll as member for the electoral division of Lilley.
Mr. Bruce Smith took the oath and subscribed the Toll as member for the electoral division of Parkes.
– I wish to know if the Minister of Defence is able to stop the serving of members of the Military Forces whilst in uniform with intoxicating liquor, and thus to prevent the recurrence of regrettable scenes such as have lately been witnessed in this city?
– The honorable member kindly intimated that he intended to ask the question. Section 123 of the Defence Act provides that no intoxicating or spirituous liquor shall be sold to any cadet whilst in uniform, nor, except by direction of a duly qualified medical practitioner, supplied to him whilst in uniform, the penalty for the infringement of the law being £20. There is no such provision relating to ordinary members of the Military Forces. The Minister has already done all that he can do under the Act. He has prevented the selling of liquor to officers and soldiers in camp, and he states that soldiers who misbehave whilst on leave are dealt with by the officer in whose charge they may be, by being deprived of leave on future occasions.
– I ask the Minister of
Trade and Customs if it is true that the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s agents have refused to accept butter for the next trip of the Osterley, and whether there is not a clause in the postal contract compelling the company to accept 300 tons of butter whenever offered? What steps does the honorable gentleman propose to take in this matter?
– Persons connected with the butter business in Victoria, and representing, I understand, the butterproducing interests of Australia, informed me on Saturday that the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s representatives had stated that they could not accept butter for the Osterley, leaving Melbourne on the 28th inst. I was informed that after the Osterley left no butter could be sent away for another month, and that consequently there was a danger of missing the Christmas trade. I immediately communicated with the PostmasterGeneral on the subject, the matter being within his administration, as affected by the postal contract, and he informed me on Monday that he had sent an urgent telegram to the representative of the Orient Steam Navigation Company in Sydney. I do not know whether he has received any satisfactory reply.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral received any definite reply from the management of the Orient Steam Navigation Company in Sydney as to whether they intend to take any butter on the Osterley?
– The facts of the case are these: Owing to two of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s liner? being engaged for transport purposes, the company’s arrangements have been somewhat upset. The company state that shippers of butter were informed that the agreement existing between them and the Commonwealth was suspended owing to the war. The people engaged in the meat export trade had such a large stock of meat waiting to be exported that they made arrangements with the Orient Steam Navigation Company to get the meat away. They pointed out that unless they could get space for their meat they would be obliged to shut up their works. The Orient Steam Navigation Company state that the butter exporters did not approach them, and, therefore, the first boat sailing, the Osterley, has no room for butter owing to the whole of the space having been already taken, principally for meat. They have promised, however, to reserve apace for at least 600 tons on the next boat leaving for London, which will be the Orsova. There seems to be some misunderstanding in regard to the provisions of the agreement between the company and the Postmaster-General. It does not appear mandatory on the company to hold space for 300 tons as has been stated. The agreement is that if 300 tons is offered the company has to reserve space for that quantity, apart altogether from any other product. The clause being somewhat ambiguous, I have obtained the opinion of the Crown Law Department upon it, and their opinion is that it does not impose any compulsion on the company to reserve space for 300 tons. I urged them very strongly to do their best for the butter exporters, and they have promised definitely to reserve space for 600 tons on the Orsova.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs endeavour to ascertain whether the beef being taken by the Osterley is shipped by the Beef Trust?
– If the honorable member will place the question on the noticepaper, I shall endeavour to give an answer.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral if it is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to do what the authorities of the Straits Settlements have done - that is, to use the German steamers interned in our ports. Is it necessary to establish a Prize Court before these vessels can be used to convey produce from port to port in the British Empire? Some of them, I understand, have refrigerated space.
– Six Prize Courts, one for each State, have been appointed by the Admiralty, and before any German ship interned here can be used in the way suggested the Prize Court within whose jurisdiction it may happen to lie must be approached by the Government for permission. I have no knowledge of what is being done in the Straits Settlements. As to the vessels interned in the Commonwealth, the Defence Department has requisitioned all but ona or two small ones. What shall be done with German vessels that may hereafter come into our possession is a matter which will be given careful consideration when the occasion arises.
– I should like to ask the Attorney-General whether it is not competent for the Commonwealth to establish a Prize Court to deal with these matters rather than have six Prize Courts, the decisions of which may conflict with each other ?
– I have given notice of a Bill to enable the Commonwealth to exercise jurisdiction in Admiralty matters, and we shall ask the British Admiralty to confer upon the High Court of Australia the jurisdiction which the honorable member speaks of.
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether the latest telegraphic intelligence received regarding the war cannot be made known to members. I would suggest that arrangements be made for news of that kind to be displayed in a corridor.
– The official news -a posted on the notice-board in one of the corridors.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs state when we may expect to have laid on the table the instruction respecting preference to unionists and the other information promised on- Friday ?
– I understand the whole of the information asked for is on the table.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs state whether a proclamation has been issued prohibiting the export of coal to foreign ports?
– A proclamation prohibiting the export of coal to all places, except with the consent of the Minister of Trade and Customs, was issued this morning. There are certain ports which the Government have a doubt about, and the proclamation will give us time to make inquiries, so that we may be sure that we are not doing something which will be helping to defeat ourselves in the present struggle.
– The honorable member for Capricornia asked a question on Friday as to whether the prize ship Berlin, which is now lying at Sydney, could be allowed to go to Queensland to discharge her Queensland cargo, or whether that cargo could be transhipped at Sydney. The reply to the honorable member’s question is that it has been decided to land the Berlin’s cargo for Queensland ports at Sydney.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Employment : Land Resumption
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. I am not aware of any such action.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice. -
Whether employment has been refused to any men applying for work on the troopships for the Imperial Expeditionary Forces on the grounds that they were non-unionists?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
No, not on any ships fitted out at Government establishments.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Including the Navy, what quantity of coal was purchased by the Commonwealth Government for the year ended the 20th June, 1914?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The Department of Home Affairs buys coal for its own requirements only.
I shall endeavour to ascertain the extent of the coal purchases made by other Departments, and will inform the honorable member in due course.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Home Aff airs, upon notice -
Whether the Government agreed to pay a portion of the cost incurred by the New South Wales Government in connexion with the collecting of the rolls by the police? If so, has any payment been made?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The Commonwealth Government agreed to pay aportion of the cost incurred by the Government of the State of New South Wales in connexion with the recent review of the rolls by the police. The account for this service has not yet been rendered by the State Government; but it is understood that it is now in course of preparation, and may possibly be rendered within a few days.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will consider the advisability of fixing a uniform telegram rate of9d. for the whole of the Commonwealth, irrespective of State boundaries?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The loss on the telegraph service, as shown by the last balance-sheet of the Department, was £164,108 8s., for the year ended 30th June, 1013. The question of how this loss is to be made up is now receiving my attention, and the question of fixing a uniform rate for the whole of the Commonwealth, irrespective of State boundaries, will receive full consideration; but, in view of the loss to whichI have referred, there is no prospect of the minimum charge for a telegram from one State to another being less than it is at present.
The following papers were presented : -
Bounties Act - Return of particulars for financial year 1913-14 of persons to whom bounty paid, amounts paid, goods, &c.
Clothing Factory - Report for year ended 30th June, 1913.
Manufactures Encouragement Act. - Return of bounty paid during financial year 1913-14.
Shale Oils Bounties Act. - Return of particulars of bounty paid during financial year 1913-14.
– I ask leave to move a motion of which notice has already been given, dealing with the proposal to make a grant of £100,000 to Belgium.
– I move-
That, in the opinion of this House, the sum of £100,000 from the Consolidated Be venue Fund should be made payable as a grant in aid to Belgium, in grateful acknowledgment of the heroic services the citizens of that coun try have rendered mankind in defence of their national right to live in peace in their own country ; and that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral be invited to transmit this resolution to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
In submitting this motion to the House, I shall be exceedingly brief. I do not propose to traverse the circumstances nor discuss the causes that have occasioned this step. Suffice it to say that, perhaps, when the history of the present war is written, its most outstanding feature will be the magnificent defence of their own country by the Belgian people - a defence that is all the more singular because the Belgians seem to have had the opportunity of saving their country by coming under the shelter of the Power that has destroyed them. That Power, Germany, though a signatory to a treaty which was to preserve the neutrality of Belgium against all foes, and a self-appointed guardian of that little State, had endeavoured to get it to make common cause with her. The Belgians, however, as a nation, had determined to remain a nation against all aggressors from whatever quarter; and, in consequence, have suffered all the unparalleled horrors of modern warfare. They drew their swords to maintain therights of their King, and their liberty, and their right to live in peace and enjoy the fruits of their own country. Their action has set an example to every nation and to all mankind.
It is a great privilege, indeed, for our young Dominion -not a sovereign State, but a Dominion which is free to govern itself under the British Crown - to have this opportunity of paying to Belgium a tribute of praise for the valour of its people, and the great sacrifice? they have made; and of asking the Belgians to accept from us a small gift, not that it may repair the damage that has been done, or the destruction that has been brought about by an arrogant foe; but that, in some way, it may heal the wounds that the people of that country have suffered through no fault of their own. During my term of office in this Parliament I have twice welcomed young Belgians connected with the Naval and Military Forces of Belgium who have visited Australia in their progress round the world to acquire knowledge for the benefit of the peaceful pursuits of their nation. Views of a most cordial kind were exchanged between us, and there were full expressions of the hope that the peace of the world would be maintained. Some of those who visited us have suffered by the war. I hope that when this trouble is over a great international council will sit with authority to deal with those who have brought about this international disturbance. I hope that that council will be of such a character, and be clothed with such powers, that, after the evidence has been heard, they will be able to adjudge as to those who have been guilty of bringing about this great international crime; and I trust that the civilized nations will join hands, not only in making the verdict possible, but also in seeing that the punishment awarded will be imposed by the strong hand of civilization. I have the assurance of the Leader of the Opposition that he will second this motion, which I now have the honour of submitting to the House.
– I most cordially second the motion. I am very glad that we are paying this special tribute to a brave people for their action in setting to the world an example of what small numbers of people can do in defence of their freedom and honour. I have asked myself more than once what there is peculiar to the Belgian case which separates it, in this war, perhaps, from that of the rest of the Allies who are fighting at the present time - and undoubtedly there are peculiar features attaching to the Belgian case which call for special mention.
In the first place, to the Belgians belong the first honours of this war. They proved that they were not to be a mere pawn on the German chessboard. In three days they so fought them down that the German soldiers were glad to ask for a truce while they buried their dead - a request which, I believe, they never once made during the whole of the great war of 1870. Meantime German proclamations were being issued from day to day breathing out threatenings and slaughter against these brave people. But these they completely ignored, and they resolutely declined to join Germany in its disgraceful treaty breaking. By their brave defence they shattered, I think, the Potsdam programme, and did a great deal to injure the morale of the German invaders. The Germans entertained the idea that they could run over the world, but this little nation completely disproved the invincibility of the German soldiery. I think that is the first great material service which the brave Belgians rendered to the rest of mankind.
Then, too, we have the spectacle, to which I have already alluded, of a small people battling bravely for their freedom. I think it was Napoleon who once said that the moral forces in war were as to material three to one, and the Belgians have proven on this occasion the value of the moral force even when applied to the ghastly and ghoulish business of war. We have had, at all events, the spectacle of what a small people can do when they are united in defence of their country, their national honour, and the privileges they enjoy. But what affect me more than anything else in connexion with Belgium are the harrowing details of the fight which was waged there in recent days. I am not quite sure whether these things come home to us as they ought to do - whether, for instance, we reflect, as we should do, upon the position of a big nation knocking down a smaller one, and then demanding tribute of it before it may rise. It upsets one’s notions of fair play and fair fighting to hear of these in solent demands for indemnity on the part of the Germans every time they despoil the fair face of one of Belgium’s beautiful cities. We must remember that there was an easy way out for the Belgians had they chosen to follow it, but, instead of doing so, they chose the narrow and straight way of international honour and the fulfilment of international obligations. In this way they have covered themselves with imperishable glory.
But at what cost has it been done? The best blood of that brave little nation has been shed and her flag has been trodden under foot. The Times correspondent tells us that blackmail has been levied in almost every town, and that there is a long trail of ruined towns and villages. The country side, he says, has been ravished by fire and sword, ripened cornfields have been strewn with fallen dead, factories and furnaces have been devastated, and generations will pass before the havoc which the Germans have played can be repaired.
– War is hell.
– As my honorable friend says, verily war is hell. There are many pathetic touches in this war which come home to me. I read one of them the other day, which was supplied by the Times correspondent to whom I have just referred. He spoke of an examination which was proceeding at the Liege University when the Germans came over the border. The students, he said, asked leave to present themselves for their ordinary examination, and, after some demur on the part of the authorities, it was decided that they might be examined as desired. They went through their examinations, so the story runs, and within four hours they lay dead in the trenches. These students trooped out from their examinations to defend their country in the trenches, and within four hours many of them were dead. They passed their examinations outside at least, and qualified, as I think, for a roll of honour which will cause them to be remembered through many generations. Altogether, these brave little people make a strong appeal to our sympathetic consideration, to our admiration, and, above all, to our practical help.
.- May I be permitted the privilege of supplementing by a few words the expression of respect and admiration which I think we, in ‘ common with all who are touched by ardent and effective patriotism, by sublime courage in the field, and by the spectacle of suffering as great as the fortitude with which it is borne, feel for the King and the people of Belgium ? I confess that, in looking over the correspondence that passed between the two nations, nothing to me has seemed more direct and convincing in its eloquence, more affecting, and, as Mr. Asquith, I think, said, more pathetic, than the appeal of the King of the Belgians to the diplomatic intervention of England. Here are the words -
Remembering the numerous proofs of your Majesty’s friendship and that of your predecessors, and the friendly attitude of England in 1870, and the proof of friendship she has just .given us again, I make a supreme appeal to the diplomatic intervention of Your Majesty’s Government to safeguard the integrity of Belgium.
There was never, perhaps, a greater tribute paid to the heart and mind of the Mother Country than that appeal, in a moment of national danger, to the intervention of Great Britain on the sole grounds of sympathy and morality; an appeal as creditable to the Monarch, in every sense a man, who made it as it was to the people to whom it was made; and made, as is evident, in the confident expectation that our statesmen’s sense of the moral supremacy of right over might, and justice over brute force, would not be touched in vain. I feel that this episode - the approach arid the response - about which happily there was no hesitation, will be found to be the most honorable of those that have marked the now historic friendship of those two countries ; one world-wide in extent and influence, and imperial in scope and responsibilities, the other comparatively small in area, but intense in local and domestic feeling, and, until this wretched war, well-knit in industrial life; but both alike, and in all essentials, great; for Belgium has shown by her attitude in counsel, and the valour of her sons in the field, that real greatness is not a matter only of wealth and material resources or breadth of territorial sway - that it is not a matter of the mailed fist, of material power or colossal ambition - but of the clean soul and the unflinching spirit. And that it cannot exist without the clear conscience, the righteous purpose, per- sonal ardour, and devotion to national duty, which have won for the King and the people of Belgium the profound respect and sympathy of the civilized world to-day. Th« Leader of the Opposition has very happily referred to the fact that there have been tremendous sacrifices, and he instanced that the students were dying in the Belgian trenches within a few hours of their examinations. To those who have fallen might well be applied the words of the Athenian orator regarding those who fell for Greece -
Their glory is not graven only on stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.
May God grant that the issue will be worthy of the sacrifice, and that the compensation on the one side may be as great as the retribution on the other.
– This is not, perhaps, an occasion when we can advantageously do much speaking, but I should like to join with the Prime Minister and those who have spoken in expressing the greatest sympathy and respect for the people of Belgium, and our great sorrow at the terrible trouble and dangers which, without any cause so far as they are concerned, have come upon them. It seems monstrous that a peaceful nation, without giving offence, should be invaded and have its cities destroyed and its people massacred because they are not willing to break faith with other nations. The object the Government and the people of this country have, in making this gift, is to show that, although we are far away from the scene of these terrible doings, still we are in deep sympathy with those who are suffering so much. Being so far away, and, apparently, living in comparative safety, I am afraid we do not sufficiently realize the great disaster that has befallen our own and other nations involved, and especially the gallant nation of Belgium. I do not know that I can say more than to express my complete accord with the motion, and my great sympathy and regard for those brave people.
.- I suppose that we all deplore this great war in Europe, and recognise that the fight for the possession of Australia is now taking place on the battlefields there. There is no doubt that it is a question as to which flag and what king Australia is to continue to exist under. We have, therefore, a personal interest in what is now taking place, and to that extent it becomes our duty to furnish all the aid we can, whether in arms or men. And when we say that this is our duty, in regard to men, we must not forget that under our Defence Act we have provided that we are to be exempt from any contest from which we consider it necessary to be exempt. But a thing worth voting for is a thing worth dying for and fighting for - not merely worth talking about, but, if need be, worth going to where the contest is, where the cannon are roaring, the rifles cracking, and the bayonets flashing. To that extent I question whether there is any one who disagrees as to die proposition, and who is not equally loyal, whether the cost be reckoned in thousands or millions, or whether or not our own homes may be in danger. But £100,000 ! What for? Will some one tell me? Not a word. Has the Prime Minister mentioned what this money is for? Not one word; I listened in vain. I have heard that it is to be a recognition of our appreciation of the heroic defence by the Belgians.
– Because the Belgians need this money, and much more.
– The King has been mentioned by the honorable member for Angas, and by the Prime Minister.
– The money is for the widows and orphans. °
– Has the King become the recipient of our sympathy ? I did not hear the Prime Minister say one word about the widows and orphans. Are the widows and orphans confined within the boundary lines of Belgium ? I read yesterday that Rheims is in flames, and that other places are smouldering ruins or reduced to dust; the boundary lines of misery ar© not in Belgium. Are we asked to believe that Belgium has continued this struggle without aid for ten weeks against the power of Germany ? Has not Belgium had the aid of England and France, who are participants in the glory ? But where is the £100,000 to go? Who is to distribute it? Is it a gift from the Aus tralian people to the Belgian Government? Where is that Government? The Belgian people are now in such a position that they cannot escape the German yoke under which they are today ; and it is Germany who controls their lives and destinies. To whom will this money be given ? To the half -million men and women who have gone into Holland ? No ; we do not provide a single penny for those men and women. You would present it to a Government that exists only in name.
– Surely the Government of the country is the right authority to control the distribution of the money?
– The Government of the country has no control of its territory. What authority has it in Belgium ? Are those of the moneyed classes of Belgium who have already fled to Great Britain to be intrusted with the distribution of these funds ? The honorable member for Angas spoke about the heroic King of Belgium. The other day we read in the newspapers that this king - -who in the profits that he reaps from the horrors of the Congo which were left to him by his predecessor possesses enough to keep all his people in food - stood on a balcony in Brussels and told the populace, “ I will be with you to the last. 1 will fight in the trenches, and will be shot in the last ditch.” A day or two later he added, “ When the first German shot falls into Antwerp I shall shoot Prince Adelbert, who is my prisoner.” But did he wait for a shot to be fired ? Did he wait for the ring round Antwerp to be completed ? No. We read last Saturday that he was scuttling like a rabbit for Ostend. His action reminds me of a hero who kept asking for the enemy, but who thought it better to have it said of him, “There he runs” than “There he fell.” It is to this king that we propose to hand £100,000, without a word conditioning a guarantee for the expenditure of one single penny of it upon the relief of any suffering individual in Belgium. In 1910, when the miners of Charleroi were being shot down by the maxim guns of their Government, we of the Labour party here in Australia had not a penny to offer, nor a word of sympathy to say, on their behalf. We were told then, “ We must leave these matters to a selfcontained Government to deal with.” In those streets in which lie the dead today lay, three or four years apo, the bodies of miners who had been shot down, leaving behind them suffering wives and children. For them we had no expression of sympathy, no recognition of their great struggle, not a penny of help. It was said that, as a Labour party, we had to be modest and discreet. Now, however, we are waving the flag, and voting £100,000 for the Belgian Government to do what it likes with. Where is the seat of government in Belgium ? That is a question that remains unanswered. We have heard a great deal about the glory of civilization and the easy path which Belgium might have taken. What was that easy path? We are told that Belgium might have allowed Germany to march troops through her territory. Had she done so what would have happened ? Would the British and French nations have permitted that to be done? Would they have allowed Belgium to be a highway for Germany? No. They would have ravaged the country, and the Belgians would have found themselves in this ignominious position : that their territory was being made a theatre of war and a field of slaughter, English, French, and Germans meeting there in common conflict, despite her absurd neutrality. The Age to-day points out that Holland is now occupying the position that Belgium lately occupied; that Holland cannot permit Germany to infringe her neutrality without running the risk of being assailed by the forces of the Allies. Belgium could not have permitted her neutrality to be infringed without running the risk of being assailed by the Allies. She was between the devil and the deep sea, and had to make a choice. The path which lay open to her was the path which she took. She had to make the sacrifices which she has made. That being so, why should there be this recognition of her bravery? If this money would go to the relief of the starving poor of Belgium; if there were any guarantee that the greedy, welltodo classes would not get it, there might be some excuse for sending it, but not one precaution is suggested for making that possible. I smile at the talk about civilization in connexion with the present war. The scalping knife and the tomahawk of the savage were humane weapons compared with those which modern science has forged for this conflict. You read of men being caught in electrically charged barbed wire entanglements. The entangling wires stretch out like the tentacles of an octopus, seizing one victim after another, and holding blackened corpses in their embrace. Do you call’ that civilization ? We read, too, of funnel-shaped pits into which men fall, and fish hooks which catch them and rip out their bowels. We hear of shells which explode and dismember bodies, blowing arms and legs in all directions. We hear of other shells from which escape poisonous fumes which leave men dead on the fields, their mouths open, but their limbs unscathed. What a mockery to call this curse of war the upholding of civilization ! We, the Labour party, should take the opportunity to point out to the masses of the people that this war is the product and the outcome of the domination of trade and commerce, and the greed of wealth. It is the outcome and the product of the capitalistic system, and all we do is to vote £100,000 to the King of the Congos. Little children’s fingers have been nailed to trees, and men and women have been torn and maimed, in order to bring him wealth. Rothschild is rich, Vanderbilt is rich, Pierpont Morgan was rich, but the King of the Belgians, with his enormous wealth, is as rich as the three of them put together. In 1912, in Johannesburg, the Government was using maxim guns, rifles, and bayonets against strikers, and the streets of the city were running red with blood. Widows were weeping for their husbands then, and orphan children were crying for their fathers, but did we vote £100,000 for their relief? We did not vote a penny; we did not even express our sympathy. Whenever the matter was raised, we were told that it was our duty not to interfere in the affairs of a self-governing community. It was upon that ground that we shirked our obligations. In Melbourne, and throughout Australia, there is a vast amount of unemployment, and it is constantly increasing. We are told that there is no poverty so great, no misery so awful, as that produced by war. I say that the poverty and misery which arise from industrial disaster are equally great. Capitalism has no solution for the present trouble. It has been paralyzed by the war, and we, the Labour party of Australia, have no solution booffer for the evils that confront us. We know not what the next few weeks may bring forth. The one outstanding fact is that thousands of men in every city of Australia are without means for supporting their wives and families. Swift death upon the battlefield is not more awful than hunger and misery. Carlyle wrote that to die is a small thing; the awful thing is to live without knowing what to-morrow will produce. There should not be a penny voted for the relief of destitution abroad - and this money is merely a presentation to the Belgian Government- until we have devised a scheme for relieving the misery, destitution, and hunger within our own borders. Those are my views. The speech of the Prime Minister amounted to a declaration that what is proposed is a present to the Belgian Government, a Government responsible for horrors which have not been exceeded by those of Russia itself, a Government cursed with the barbarities of the Congo, where unlimited blood was shed in order that Belgian Royalty might acquire wealth. I should not do what I thought right did I not express the opinions which I hold on this subject, and did I not vote against a proposal which, in my opinion, has nothing to justify it.
– The emotion of the honorable member for Bourke has led him entirely astray, but his criticism ought not to be allowed to pass without reply. He conceives the issue to be quite other than it is. No sane man could intend this gift of £100,000 as something to put the Belgian people again in the position in which they were on the 4th August last. It is not to be regarded as a sponge to sop up the ocean of blood that has been poured out since that date, nor can it in any way compensate for the violation of women, the killing of children, and the burning of cities that has taken place. It is intended chiefly as an expression of the esteem and regard which we in Australia have for the Belgian people. What have we to do with the King of Belgium or with any king? The honorable member for Bourke spoke of what the late King of Belgium did in the Congo, and I believe that his criticism of that monarch was amply justified*; but what have we to do with that matter? Are we to trace back the genealogy of the reigning house before relieving the people over which a king rules? If so, the springs of human charity must dry up. If the honorable gentleman looked at home and studied the history of our Kings or the history of the rulers of any nation, he might find there, adopting his own argument, ample justification for keeping every penny we have in our own pockets. But we are dealing now with an event that has happened before our own eyes. I differ entirely from the honorable gentleman when he says that Belgium had not an easy way open to her. She had the easy way of the craven and the coward. She could have turned her back. There was a safe and, temporarily, profitable way which she could have taken. The honorable member says that had Belgium allowed the German troops to cross her frontier, or to use her territory, Prance and Great Britain would have brushed aside their treaty obligations, and the country would have been as badly off as it is now. The chronology of the war proves that statement to be wrong. Had it not been for the stand of the Belgians at Liege, the Germans would have been in France before the French were ready, and long before the British could get there. The British did not get to Mons, or wherever they started, until days after the Germans had entered France. Belgium, with its handful of men, women, and children, is not to be judged by the sins of those who have ruled the country. I would remind my honorable friend also that the present war is not a conflict of kings; it is a racial war, and has its well-springs in the fundamentals of human interests and human nature. I would remind him that Vanderveld, the leader of the Socialist party in Belgium, is now a member of the Belgian Government, and joined that Government at the special request of the Socialist party of Belgium, to show that in this war there is no class division, no division of political opinions, and that to the last man Belgium is determined to repel the arrogance of that nation which threatens her very existence. For my own part the only fault I have to find with the motion is that the proposed grant is too small. I would that we were able to give £100,000,000 to the Belgians. But we have done what we are able in other ways to repay our debt, and this is but a small recognition of our obligation.
As to how the money is to be distributed, I ask how are all gifts of this kind dealt with? When the Commonwealth sent £10,000 to relieve the misery caused by the earthquake at Messina it was left to the local authorities to distribute the money, and we assume that it was distributed in the way in which it was thought would do most good. Are we to believe that this £100,000 will be used for the purposes of the King of Belgium? There is such an ocean of misery in Belgium to-day that this will do little to relieve it; but it is being given in a proper spirit, and I believe that it will be received as we intend it. I cannot for a moment entertain the suggestion that the giving of this money will deprive any man in Australia of employment. Have we come to such a pass that, notwithstanding her wealth, Australia cannot make a grant of £100,000 without disorganizing her industries, and throwing thousands out of employment? The employing of our people is another matter altogether. If £100,000 will do little for the Belgians, what would it do for the thousands who, according to my honorable friend, are out of employment in this country? This Labour Government came into power to promote and preserve the interests of the working man of Australia. It lives for that, and if unable to do what is required it should give way to some other Government. This grant would have been proposed by any Government that might have been in power. It has no party origin, and will find the amplest justification in the heart and mind of every man and woman in Australia. I have nothing more to say, except to pay my small tribute to those people to whom civilization will owe its existence, if civilization is yet permitted to endure. Those Belgian people have kept the bridge for us at a time when, unarmed and unready, France and England were not prepared for the onslaught of these German vandals, and by that action, as my friend the Leader of the Opposition has said, the Belgian people have covered themselves with imperishable glory. They have reared for themselves a monument more enduring than the Pyramids, and their fame will last as long as human memory lasts, and as long as the love of bravery and honour is implanted in the spirit of man.
– I always listen with interest to the honorable member for Bourke, as I think every honorable member in the House does, and to-day we have heard from him one of his characteristically strong utterances. I am in accord with the Government in moving this resolution, and I disagree entirely from the honorable member for Bourke. If at this stage the honorable member tries to accuse me of being remiss in my duty by voting for this motion, and throws in my teeth the accusation that we have forgotten our duty, both in the past and at the present time, I tell him that the German and French Socialists advancing on on© another to-day do not stop to talk economics with the point of a bayonet against their “breadbaskets.” Surely the honorable member recognises the seriousness of the present position ? He must know that if the Belgians had not taken the stand they did, the Germans would have been in Paris before the British troops had landed in France. There is no doubt about that, and we in Australia are giving our assistance towards the defence of our allies by sending to Europe our Expeditionary Forces. The sending of troops to Europe is going to cost us millions of money, but I take it that the money which it is proposed to vote to-day to the Government of Belgium will be for the benefit of the people of Belgium who are in want. We have other funds for that purpose also. The honorable member for Bourke asks, “ Where is the Government of Belgium?” Well, I read that they had retired to Ostend. The honorable member tells us that it is impossible for this money to be spent amongst the miserable, starving poor in Belgium, because the Belgian Government, cannot reach them, they being to-day under the control of the German Government. That may be so, but there are still portions of Belgium where the money can be spent in alleviating the misery of those who are there. We are trying to do our share - and, to my mind, this, vote is not enough - towards relieving the distress that exists there to-day. I know very well that it is the spirit of commercialism and the greed of the great moneyed classes of the world that has brought about the war. I understand that fact fully. I know, too, that while there is want in Melbourne today, it is because of the actions of those scoundrels who are hoarding up wheat and other commodities. I have not forgotten that fact, but it has nothing to do with this vote. I will take the platform at any time to fight Conservatism in Victoria or anywhere else, but the fact that there are scoundrels who are throwing the people out of work, and are robbing them of their rights, has no bearing on a proposal that we shall do our share to show appreciation of the action of the Belgian people in trying to preserve their honour as we should wish to preserve ours. We have not forgotten our fight with those who are opposed to us politically any more than the Belgian and German Socialists have. When the war is over, they will be just as eager to fight down the present economic system as ever they were. I resent the speech of the honorabl member for Bourke, inasmuch as he charges me with remissness of duty if I vote for this motion, because he considers the money should be applied in another direction.
.- I am not here to-day to answer the speech of any other honorable member, and in the few remarks I shall make I desire it to be understood that I am dissociated from what may be said on this proposition by any other honorable member, no matter from what side he speaks.
It is very easy, in a time like this, for one to go with the stream, but my own judgment tells me that we are not doing the right thing in voting this £100,000, and I propose to briefly give my reasons why I shall vote against the motion if a vote is taken.
I indorse every word said regarding the brave stand made by the Belgian nation. When this war broke out, and Great Britain took sides with France and Belgium, and the whole Empire became involved in the hostilities, every portion of the Empire was interested in seeing the campaign of the allied forces brought to a successful issue. That must ever be the case. And we had in this country large numbers of ablebodied men, who were offering their services as volunteers to go with the Empire’s troops wherever it might be necessary to help to fight the Empire’s battle. We are doing the right thing in providing the wherewithal to transport and maintain our own troops on the battle-fields of the Empire, wherever the conflict may be rag ing. We are committed, we are told, to an expenditure of £10,000,000 of money in regard to the part which our own troops are, and will be, taking in this war, and thus we have demonstrated in the most practical way possible, by contributing both men and money, that we are prepared to stand side by side with the Belgian people to bring the campaign to a successful issue.
But I think that the voting of this £100,000 is “ panicky.” I would like to know what is to be done with the money. Is there a shortage of money in Belgium? There is not. On the fall of Antwerp, within the last few days, we heard of the German Army making a demand for £20,000,000 from that one Belgian city.
The Germans are making demands on every city they have captured - Brussells is an instance - that so many millions should be handed over to the German Army. The trouble of the Belgians is not a shortage of money. There is ample money in their country. The German Government have probably collected £50,000,000 from Belgium.
Our £100,000 will not provide the Belgians with food and succour. I have no doubt that they have ample food. We noticed in the papers the other day that shiploads of food were sunk in the harbor at Antwerp. The real positionis that Belgium is so disrupted and disorganized that there are no means at present of making arrangements for distributing provisions among the people. It appears to me that the voting of this £100,000 will not relieve any distress. It is not wealth that the people of Belgium need. They do not need gold or silver; they need organized society. They require bread and meat to be distributed. But the voting of this £100,000 will go no way towards providing for the distribution of that bread or meat. We are simply voting this money to-day under an impulse. We should like to pay a tribute to the bravery of the Belgian people; but the money is being voted without due consideration of what will be the effect at home and abroad .
What is the position of our own finances ? We do not know. We are told that in New South Wales the condition of the public finances is so bad that the Premier of the State cannot make a financial statement to the country. We do not know what is the condition of the Commonwealth finances. We have no idea of it.
– I suppose we are going to have a statement as to the finances ?
– I think that statement should precede, and not follow, the expenditure of public money. We do not know what we are voting away. We might not have a penny to vote away. In a week or two we may have to turn round and go to Great Britain in order to borrow the money from which to provide this £100,000. We have disruption in our own industries. In the Governor-General’s Speech I have read paragraph 10, which says -
My Advisers recognise the necessity, caused by the higher cost of commodities, of increasing old-age and invalid pensions, and also for the provision of pensions to widows and orphan children.
– Order ! The honorable member must not anticipate the discussion of that paragraph in the Speech of the Governor-General.
– I am not anticipating it. I think that I am entitled to show that the Government have laid it down in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral that they cannot provide for the promises that they made to the country, and which require the expenditure of money. Yet we can vote this money for Belgium.
-The honorable member is in order in making a casual reference to the paragraph, but he must not discuss it.
– I do not propose to discuss the paragraph. It is a paragraph of four lines, which states the position of the Government in regard to thepromises they have made. Theparagraph goes on to say -
Legislation to effect theseobjects will be introduced as soon as the state of the finances makes it practicable.
– If the honorable member is not going to discuss the matter he can have no object in quoting the paragraph. When the motion before the House is disposed of there will be ample opportunity for the honorable member to discuss the paragraph to the fullest possible extent. If I allowed the honorable member to quote one paragraph he might quote all the paragraphs, which, of course, I could not permit. In the cir cumstances I cannot allow the honorable member to quote the paragraph.
– Would I be permitted to move an amendment, to the effect that before the money is voted away to another country, provision should be made to carry out pensions to widows and orphan children in Australia ?
– The honorable member may submit an amendment of that description, and when he does so I shall deal with it.
– I think that I am entitled to say that the Government has made a statement to the effect that it is not practicable at the present time to proceed with legislation for the purpose of providing for pensions to widows and orphans and of carrying out their promises in regard to increasing old-age pensions. If it is not practicable to do that, then I contend it is neither practicable nor opportune for us to vote away money to another country. My personal feelings are that I should like to be able to vote money, or do something substantial, in order to aid the Belgians.
I oppose this motion, not because I do not feel sorry for all that has transpired, but because I have to give an account of my stewardship. There are widows and orphans in my electorate who are in need, and I know of no means of assisting them from the public purse. What answer am I to give to them ? It is estimated that to provide for widows and orphans on the same scale as is adopted in New Zealand would cost £130,000; yet here we are voting away £100,000 that would provide for our widows and orphans in the first year. Later on I shall probably have to go before my constituents and tell them that the Commonwealth Parliament could not carry out its promises because there was not the money to do so.
– You did not consider my promises to my constituents.
– I am not here to consider the promises the honorable member made to his constituents. He can speak for himself very well.. He refers to the Tariff discussion. I have carried out the promises I made to my constituents in that matter, and the honorable gentleman had to take what course he thought proper in regard to any obligation upon him.
– There is a good time coming.
– Every day men are knocking at my door who are out of employment. In their homes the cupboards are bare. What can I offer?
– Good advice.
– That is a very good Liberal policy. If a man comes to you hungry, give him good advice. However, that is not good enough for me. I want tooffer something better than good advice to hungry men and women.
– What do you do for them ?
– The best I can in Parliament to improve their position, and I take this opportunity of pointing out that this money could be better used to improve their condition. 1 haveno wish to get to cross purposes with honorable members in this matter. It would be much easier for me to agree with them. To have to disagree with honorable members on an occasion like this is not pleasant, but I feel that I am right in the course I am taking. If a vote is taken on this matter I shall be reluctantly compelled to vote against granting this £100,000 to Belgium. The first business that should take place in this Parliament on its assembling is the consideration of the financial position, and I shall not be a party to voting away money outside Australia until I first see whether we can provide for the necessities of our own situation. Just now we are absolutely in the dark as to these matters; we know nothing whatever about them.
– I am heart and soul in. accord with the motion that has been moved by the Prime Minister, and I was proud to see the handsome response received from the Opposition. I regret exceedingly that a note of dissent should have come from this side, because I feel that there may be a danger that the patriotism of honorable members on this side of the chamber may be assailed - and with some degree of right. When we are helpingthe Belgians, and showing our sympathy with them by making a grant to them - a grant which is ever so much too small; that is the only complaint I have against it - we are only recognising people who stood in the trenches where we would have stood had we been able to get there in time. Those brave Belgians who freely gave up their material possessions, and imperilled the honour of their wives and daughters, in the attempt to stem the onrush of the avalanche of Germans as much command our assistance as will those men who are now going to the front in our Expeditionary Force. There are always people who, when money is being devoted to a good cause, are ready to find some better use for the money. The sum of £100,000 is exceedingly small, and we know that it will be a mere drop in the ocean of distress, but we know that when we give it to the Belgians, who need it as much as we do, and deserve it as much as our own people do,we are only doing our duty, although perhaps in a very small and ineffective way. We have read in the Scriptures of where, when one sister was anointing the Saviour with the precious ointment, the other sister, a careful person, said this should be sold and the money given to the poor. That is the attitude taken up by honorable members today when they are even letting a breath of dissent impair the unanimity of this motion. There should be no dissent at all. I would be sorry to think that the cup of comfort we are extending to the Belgians would have, when it reaches them, a drop of poison, which may be said to have been introduced into it by the objections of honorable members on this side of the House.
.- I intend to oppose the motion, but I hope I shall not merit what the last speaker has said. I am sure that my objection will not be considered aspoison. I yield to no man in loyalty or admiration for the Belgian people in taking the stand they have done. I know that starvation, poverty, privation, misery, and chaos must be rampant in Belgium ; but the honorable member for Grampians has emphasized what nearly every speaker has said, that this £100,000 is only a cupfull in the ocean. It is a cup that may not even be heard of in Belgium. We may not even be heard of as fhe donors of the money. I can understand the sentiment behind the gift. But that £300,000 spent locally would have still more sentiment in it. 1 have no fear of the feeling of South Australia as to my contention in regard to this matter. They will have no need to doubt my loyalty to the Empire and the country in which I live, but it is to the country in which I live that I first give loyalty. Therefore I say that if we wish to see a good result from the spending of this £100,000, let it be spent in Australia. If we wish to offer our congratulations, backed up by money when the. condition of the country is satisfactory, it will not be too late, and in the meantime we shall have kept poverty and deprivation from our own people by spending among them this small sum - a small sum in Belgium, but a big amount in Port Pirie. We are told that we have not yet felt the effect of the war or the drought; but already we fear an uprising of the starving unemployed at Port Pirie and of those similarly placed in all our largo cities. We have to consider the position of the workless. I shall be prepared at the right time to support any measure taken to show our appreciation of the efforts of Belgium, but this proposal at the present time is, I think, mere flagwaving. A grant of £100,000 would ne a mere bagatelle to Belgium, but it would do much to help the hungry and the workless that we have in Australia at the present time. If the Commonwealth Parliament to-morrow made a grant of £100,000 to South Australia it would not only go a long way towards relieving suffering and want amongst the industrial sections of the community, but would enable the State, Government to make large purchases of seed wheat and fodder for those who in many cases will have to shoot their live stock unless rain speedily falls. That is the position I take up. I have no lack of appreciation for the fight which Belgium has put up. I do not pretend to be able to say what would have happened but for the stand made by the Belgians, but I do know that in Australia we are feeling the effects of a war in regard to the declaration of which we had no voice. The Belgians were differently situated. They had their own country to protect. ,They knew that even if they did not oppose the Germans their territory would become the theatre of war, and that they would have no voice in the matter. Mighty as the Germans undoubtedly are, I believe that even if the Belgians had not resisted them, they would not have been able to withstand the combined attacks of Russia, France, and Britain; that eventually they would have been driven back, and that the theatre of war would have been placed in Belgium just as Waterloo was fought there. I recognise that the proposed grant is offered by the Prime Minister with a good heart, and I certainly appreciate the attitude of the Government. But let us, first of all, succour the suffering and distressed in our own community, and thus place ourselves in a position later on to grant, perhaps, ten times as much as it is now proposed to vote for the relief of Belgium. That can be done after the war is over if we confine our attention now to the task of helping the workless m our own land. I cannot be accused of disloyalty in taking up this stand. I do so because charity begins at home. I io not want our charity to stay there; but if we confine ourselves at the present time to an effort to improve the position of our own country we shall be better prepared later on to give the people of Belgium some practical evidence of our recognition of the splendid fight they have put up.
– I cordially support the proposed grant, and my only regret is that it is not larger. It is said that the heart of the Empire exists in London, but the present war will be decided, not within the confines of the inviolate sea which surrounds Great Britain, but in Europe, and, I think, in the little land of Belgium, which has already suffered so much. What, after all, is £100,000 compared with the £5,000,000 which we are spending in fitting out the most expensive expedition that has ever left the shores of any country ?
– We were told that the expenditure would be £10,000,000.
– And it may be if the war lasts for -two years. Whilst recognising the honesty of those who object to the proposed grant, I feel that their opposition must be due to a failure to study the question. Had Germany, with its magnificently managed campaign, been able to dash into Paris immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, and to reach the nearest point to England , I doubt whether Australia would long have had a flag of its own to wave. I do not wish to depreciate the splendid potentialities of that great race to whom Victor Hugo paid, perhaps, the greatest compliment that any country has ever received when he said that the greatness of that nation had only to show itself when the genius nf Germany would say that poverty should be no more. Those words, falling from the lips of, perhaps, the greatest poet France has ever bred, were undoubtedly a fine compliment to the German nation. My heart goes out to that splendid socialistic, democratic organization of the Germans, unequalled in the whole world, but at the same time I loathe the war party in, not only Germany, but England, France, and wherever else it exists. I hope the time will soon come when the great nations of the world will follow the splendid example of Australia, and when the workers and the middle classes will say, “ We shall have no more war.” To help on that day I trust that the Government will provide that no private company shall be permitted to manufacture munitions of war. I hope that we shall keep such work in the hands of the National Government, so that there may not be the inducement of big profits to encourage such private enterprise to try to bring about warfare. No words of mine could adequately appraise the splendid stand of that great little country of Belgium. I hope this motion will be unanimously agreed to. Let us make this a gift straight from the heart. The quicker the gift, the more sacred it will be to those who receive it. At the same time, let us take notice of the enemy within the gate. Great praise is due to that mighty newspaper, the Age, for pointing out that the enemy, in the shape of those who are raising the price of foodstuffs, is within our own gate. So, too, every landlord who raises his rent at the present juncture, as many are doing in Melbourne at the present time, is an enemy within the gate. I promise those people an advertisement that they will not relish if their names are supplied to me. I compliment the Government on their action in submitting this motion, and my only regret is that a larger vote is not proposed.
.- I intend to vote against this motion, because I feel that there has been no call in Australia for the proposed vote of £100,000 to Belgium. I support all that the Prime Minister and the Leader of . the Opposition have said regarding the bravery of the Belgians. I am sure that we all recognise what they have done; but, at the same time, we cannot forget that charity beginsat home. We have a call from our own people in Australia today, and there is a demand that the Government should do something towards finding employment and food for them. In the city which I represent I saw 500 men begging for work, and during the present week many women have told me that they and their children are starving. While we are faced with that position, I am not prepared to vote for a grant to the people of any other country. Our own people should have the first call upon our finances. The Government have not come forward with any proposition to deal with the unemployed question, and I am not going to vote for this motion. I do not object to assistance being given to the people of Belgium after the needs of our own have been provided for; and I therefore move, as an amendment -
That after the figures “£100,000” the following words be inserted - ‘‘shall not be granted until definite propositions have been put forward by the Government to cope with unemployment and destitution in Australia.”
– I second the amendment.
.- I strongly suggest to the honorable member for Ballarat that he ought not to press his amendment. The sympathy, at all events, of every honorable member is united in this matter, and we ought not to attempt in any way to embarrass the Government or the idea ‘which is at the back of the motion submitted by the Government. The honorable member will realize, upon reflection, thathis amendment is the sort of one which he or any honorable member on this side of the House would move if he had some grave doubts as to the honesty of intention of the Government as regards the alleviation of local distress. I sit in Opposition, but I am confident that the present Government is as earnest as its predecessors would have been to meet all local cases of need, and to deal fairly, frankly, and fully with any case of local distress. For that reason I strongly suggest to the honorable member that the terms of his amendment constitute, quite unintentionally, I believe, a serious reflection upon the Government which he is supporting.It must be obvious to my honorable friend that it would not be necessary to carry a provision of the kind if one had complete confidence in the Government with regard to their conduct of the local business arising out of the war. The honorable member proposes, in effect, that this money shall not be granted until the Government shall have given some proof of their bonafides. Does any one desire to put the Government in that position ? I should be sorry to see it done, and I submit to the honorable member for Ballarat, and those associated with him in this matter, that, if we must divide on the motion - we should not have anything of this kind - the one thing should not be hung on the other. Let us trust the Government to deal with local matters, and let us support them in their very fair recognition of the desire of Australia to give some practical sign of its appreciation of the great pluck, the endurance, the self-sacrifice, and the heroism of one of the greatest little peoples the world has known.
.- While I desire to speak against the motion, I must add my tribute to the bravery of the Belgians; and I wish further to say that my opposition does not arise out of any feeling of disrespect or disloyalty. I object to the motion because I recognise that in Australia to-day there are a number of people who are suffering and in distress. It is only about five weeks ago that the Minister of Labour of New South Wales said at Cobar that there were then 24,000 unemployed in that State; and since then the figure has been increased. The other day I was informed that in my own electorate there is a likelihood of the coke works being closed down, in which event some 500 or 600 men will be thrown out of work. Germany is, I suppose, the greatest buyer of our ores; and as the smelting works cease operations large numbers of men must find themselves unable to obtain employment. As a Labour representative, my opinion is that we ought, first of all, to see that work is found for our own people. I am no believer in charity; whatever money we have to spare ought to be used to enable people to earn their own living, for only in this way can we adequately assist them. I do not suggest that the Government are not going to see that employment is provided, but every penny we have to spare will be needed in this country to tide u3 over the difficulties which confront us. It is for that reason, and that reason only, that I am opposed to the motion. The honorable member for Bourke has already touched on the question of the distribution of the proposed gift. As pointed out, the Belgian Government are at the present time located at Ostend ; but, in my opinion, it is probably a question of only a few days when they will be driven out of Belgium altogether. How; then, under such circumstances, are the Belgian Government going to distribute the money? The proposed amount, in my opinion, is infinitesimal, and, having regard to the population of Belgium, will amount to only about 2d. per head. We can find a better way of spending the money in the assistance of the 30,000 or 40,000 unemployed in our midst at the present time. Tor those reasons I shall vote against the motion.
.- I wish to say to the House and the country that I have every confidence in the ability of the Government, as now constituted, to deal with the problems, in regard to which our brethren on the back Government benches seem so afraid. One would think that those gentlemen were not members of a great National Parliament, but members of some municipal council. They tell us that there are a few thousand unemployed in their electorates; but are their electorates the only places in Australia where unemployed are to be found? As a matter of fact, there are unemployed in every electorate throughout the length and breadth of this great Commonwealth. As I have said, I have every faith in the power of the Prime Minister and Treasurer of this Commonwealth to deal with the problems as they arise. I have never wavered in the faith which I pinned to that gentleman when he first occupied the Treasury bench, and I still believe he is quite capable of meeting difficulties as they appear.
– “ Since when I have used none other ‘ ‘ !
– And I hope that we shall have no need to use any “ other.” Has the honorable member for Adelaide come here to tell us how to pluck chickens? If so, I may tell him that we have lived long enough to know how to carry out that operation without expressions of opinion from gentlemen like himself. If there is one fact more than another that gives me satisfaction in voting for this motion it is that the Belgians have helped to make Australia free. The pluck of, the Belgians in blocking Germany at the commencement of the war has done more for Australia than many of us realize. Like other honorable members, I feel that £100,000 is not enough, and I am sorry the amount is not larger. Many of the gentlemen who have already spoken have known the pangs of hunger, and will realize that even if, as the honorable member for Illawarra has said, this money amounts to only 2d. per head, a twopenny loaf of bread to a hungry man or woman is better than nothing.
– How are the Belgians going to get this money?
– It is not for me to say; it is enough for me to give the money. It is amazing to find honorable members raising these “ Little Peddlington “ objections, just, as I have said, as though they were municipal councillors instead of members of a great National Parliament. I have heard Labour men on the hustings in Queensland expressing their pride in belonging to this great National Parliament; and the arguments we have heard to-day are not in keeping with the occasion. Surely honorable members do not desire that the Prime Minister should go into details regarding the distribution; and it will be humiliating to the recipients to think that this money has not been given with good grace. I am sorry the question is going to be put to the vote, and I can only say that my own vote will go in favour of the gift.
Mr.FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Minister and Treasurer) [4.58]. - I remind those honorable members who, while they oppose the motion, declare that they do not do so through any disloyalty, that the question does not involve loyalty at all; it is simply a question of whether this Parliament thinks it is interpreting the views of the people of Australia. Personally, I think we are interpreting those views in thanking the Belgian nation for what they have done in support of their own rights and in protection of the rights and liberties of civilization. It is a great privilege and honour for a young Dominion like this - perhaps the most prosperous country in the world to-day - to be able to ask the Belgian nation to accept this money. I trust the Government of Belgium, as I would the Government of any other country, to use this small tribute in the way they think best. The honorable member for Bourke, unwittingly no doubt, did me an injustice when he said that I had not indicated how the money was to be used. I stated definitely and clearly that I hoped the money would be used to, in some small way, heal the wounds inflicted on a brave people in defence of their own rights - & people who have, I think, nobly realized the lines of the great English poet -
Because right is right, to follow right
Were wisdom in the scorn of consequence.
This they have done, and not only for their own sakes. I should have liked to see the Belgian Government distribute this money in Brussels, and, though I have little hope of that at the present time, I trust that the day is not far distant when they once more will be in their own capital city. All that I can do in Parliament or out of it to help to bring about that result I shall willingly do. At any rate, I trust the Belgian Government, notwithstanding all that has been said against them ; and I hope and believe that this small tribute will be given cheerfully by the people of Australia, and will be used in the best possible way to alleviate the sufferings of the Belgian people. I suggest to the honorable member for Bourke, and those who think with him, that they should not call for a division, but, if they persist in doing so, I must ask honorable members on both sides to support the motion.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from Sth October (vide page 38), on motion by Mr. Jolley -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency thu Governor-General be agreed to by this House: -
May it please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Common wen 1th of Australia, in Parliament assembled. he«r to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– In the first place, I offer my congratulations to the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, who made a very happy beginning. I wish them good health in the future for the arduous duties which attend them as representatives of the people. I also cougratulate the new Ministers. Some old hands have come back, but there are changes in the Ministry. Ministers have my hearty good wishes in their laborious undertakings of the immediate future, and I hope that they will be given that measure of strength which will enable them to properly discharge their duties to this great country; I find that there are now, including the Honorary Ministers, eleven members of the Cabinet, which is one more than has been customary. When, some years ago, the Ministry was increased to ten, the present Prime Minister accused the party to which I belong of having done something reprehensible, and said -
What is more important in this matter is that the Ministry are ten in number. If that sort of thing were to continue, it would be possible to suborn Parliament. If an indefinite number of Honorary Ministers is to be up- 5 jointed to suit a peculiar position, then this Parliament should seriously take the matter into consideration.
– I am against Honorary Ministers altogether.
– Then why has the Prime Minister increased the number of Honorary Ministers?
– The Constitution fixes the remuneration of the Ministry, but does not limit the number of Ministers.
– The conditions obtain now that obtained when the
Ministry was increased to ten. I presume that there i3 a peculiar position in> this case. If reports be true, there was? i very peculiar position in the Caucus - J was going to say Cabinet, and I might, as well have done so, because the Caucusis the real Cabinet - and that was thereason for the increase in the number of Honorary Ministers. It was decided,, we have been told, as a way out of a difficulty, that the members: who now fill the positions of Assistant Minister of External Affairs and Minister of Trade and Customs should both be elected to the Cabinet, and, therefore, the number of Ministers was increased.
The position of the honorable member for Bass is a peculiar one, too. We were told by the Governor-General’s Speech that it is proposed to make him the Finance Member of the Navy Board. I have not the slightest objection to the appointment. I believe that my colleague, the late Minister of Defence, had! it in contemplation to appoint a member of Parliament to that position. My criticism is this : The Navy Board is only a baby Board. It is constituted of three officials, and by adding two Cabinet Ministers, you are going dangerously near tomaking it a political Board, which we should strive to the utmost to avoid. I think that the Government ought to> divide the duties in the Defence Department. The work is sufficiently heavy to» justify the creation of another portfolio. The control of our land forces alone is> enough for one Minister. Instead of having two Ministers on the Navy Board, there should be only one, but he should be a responsible Minister, performing, for the present, duties for some other Department, in addition . to his work in connexion with the’ Navy. I could name a Department, which he could relieve considerably. That arrangement would be a better one than to have two Cabinet Ministers oil the Navy Board, making the political representation nearly equal to the official, and more than equal to itin authority. I offer this criticism* in no factious spirit. What I have to say regarding functional responsibilities will be said without a tinge of party feeling; we can differ on these matters without loss of good feeling.
There is another matter I should like to refer to. Reference is made in the Speech to the dissolution of both Houses of Parliament. May I say at once that I do not intend to occupy the time of the House very long to-day ? Somehow I do not feel in fighting mood just now. I should have been better pleased if the programme had been of a non-party character, but the Speech, as I view it, is a challenge to the worst party feelings of the House. I venture to say that without the slightest hesitation. I should have been very much better pleased if a programme had been submitted which could have been carried through in a short space of time, so that we could have freed Ministers to attend to the high and responsible duties which the war has imposed upon them. First of all, let me refer to the double dissolution* not to argue it, but to make a criticism with reference to the papers laid on the table by my right honorable friend. He, with a great flourish of trumpets, and to the accompaniment of the plaudits of members on his own side of the Bouse, laid on the table the correspondence between the late Government and the Governor-General. I have not the slightest objection to the papers being laid on the table.
– You did have a very serious objection.
– The honorable member thinks he knows a great deal, but ihe does not know very much, and that is why he is so confident about all these matters.
– You were dead against these papers being produced.
– I would suggest that the honorable member should go and tell the barber something, and hold his tongue, if he can. I desire to know what is in contemplation in regard to these papers. There must have been some reason for laying them on the table of the House in this dramatic fashion. I know they were demanded by honorable members behind my right honorable friend. I know that he had to produce them, in obedience to his party ; and I know that during the election great party capital was made out of these things, and all kinds of slanderous abuse was heaped on myself and the GovernorGeneral - even His Excellency was not spared. Now that honorable members have the papers, what do they think of them 1 I should like to know what they are going to do about them. Is the GovernorGeneral to be sent Home ?
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that.
– I am merely quoting the language of a senator on the hustings in Queensland the other day. At any rate, I hope that, now my honorable friends have the papers, they are quite satisfied, and, if they are men, they will withdraw the slanderous statements made broadcast on every hustings in the country during the recent campaign. I will only add that some of those papers were not written for publication. They were merely reminders of conversations that had taken place between His Excellency and myself. I have nothing more to say on that question, but perhaps had we known that we were setting out formal documents for publication, the terminology of some of them might have been slightly altered. However, there they are, and I wish honorable members joy of them. I hope they will peruse the papers carefully, and that they will then withdraw some of the unfair and shocking statements they uttered during the campaign.
Meanwhile, I wish to put into the witnessbox on this subject a distinguished and impartial critic, whose words I read in the Britannic Review of July last. Sir John Madden, the Chief Justice of Victoria, writing on the subject of the double dissolution, said -
Australia, from the constitutional standpoint, at the moment occupies a position which is unique. The double dissolution “s >i very interesting experiment. It is the first test of the cure for deadlocks provided by the Constitution of the Commonwealth. M ambers of both Houses were, of course, no more than those of other Parliaments eager to risk their £600 a ye«r by an appeal to the country, and the. action taken by the GovernorGeneral has boon the occasion of some irritation and criticism. But it was quite the only thing to be clone.
I am glad to quote that statement from so eminent an authority, one who is not only an old politician himself, b’H who had to do with many a crisis in his own State.
– He is a great Liberal.
– Is he? I did not know that.
– Yes, one of the old type.
– My impression is that the honorable member is doing Sir John Madden a great injustice. That gentleman is no Liberal while he is on the Bench.
– He is not on the Bench now.
– I had to remain with my hands tied behind my back and listen for a whole month while honorable members flagellated me throughout the length and breadth of the country. Surely the honorable member can listen to me now for a few minutes! Sir John Madden continued -
Clearly Parliamentary Government could not go on with a hostile majority in the Senate, and a Ministerial majority of one in the House of Representatives, that one often consisting of the Speaker. Mr. Cook, the Prime Minister, was compelled against his own inclination to put one of his own supporters into the chair, and the Speaker found himself in an invidious position when Government business could only be advanced by the aid of his vote. The dissolution of the House of Representatives was indispensable; on the other hand, the Senate, which is supposed to be a house of review and delay for more careful consideration, with an overwhelming Labour majority, had become thedetermining factor whatever Government was in office. Mr. Cook’s Government could do nothing. Whatever they carried by their one vote in the House of Representatives was rejected by the Senate. Consequence, complete dead -lock. Ministers having passed in two different sessions their Bill “repealing the Labour Government’s Act, which gave preference to trade unionistsin Government employment, and the Senate having twice thrown it out, the situation left no room for choice. It now rests with the people of Australia to determine the issue.
The people have determined that issue, and many another issue as well, but I am glad to have confirmation of the course which the late Government took in seeking a way out of the dead-lock.
I think honorable members will agree, at any rate, that they have a working Parliament now. This Parliament ought to work if ever a Parliament did, and I only hope that what we have seen and heard to-day will be no criterion of what is likely to occur during the weeks and months thatare to come. I do not know why the honorable member for Capricorn ia smiles-
– It is his first smile for three weeks.
– I owe the honorable member for Capricornia nothing, and I do not know that he owes me anything. But I will say that he did more valiant work for his party when he was on this side of the House last session than any member then sitting on this side. That is but truth to say, and I say it, who am an uncompromising opponent of his. Reference is naturally made, and this reference is in a commanding position in the Speech, to the Expeditionary Forces and to general war preparations, and if I should make a criticism at all of paragraphs 3 to 7 it would be to suggest that perhaps they are just a little bit ungenerous. All these statements are a simple relation of facts concerning the previous Government, yet, by some accident or other, which always occurs in what they do, there is no mention in them of the preceding Government in any shape or form. Are present Ministers afraid of making mention of anything -the previous Government ever did? Surely this omission was a little ungenerous; some reference might have been made to associate all these preparations, of which the party at present in power cordially approve, with the names of the individuals who were responsible for them. I cannot help saying at this stage that Australia will hardly know what the first three or four weeks of the war meant. I would never have believed, if it had not been my bitter experience to go through it, that a war could smash up things in the way it did. To speak vulgarly, everything was knocked endways. For their work in the difficult task of gathering up the jagged ends which the wrench of war had caused, this country owes a debt of gratitude to at least two men, who bore the brunt of it, and were in the forefront all the time. I refer to the late Attorney-General, who had to tread unexplored country from a legal point of view, to advise and give decisions on all sorts of new points which cropped up from hour to hour, and this country will never know what it owes the honorable member for Flinders for his devotion to duty during those weeks.
I must also say the same of the late Minister of Defence. That gentleman occupied in the late electoral campaign a unique position. Not only do I refer to his work in the preparation of the Expeditionary Force, but I allude to him in another way. The honorable member for Capricornia at least will remember his motion in this House urging the Government to reduce the defence expenditure. I will not refer now to those fierce demands from so many members on the other side of the House, couched in unequivocal terms, that the defence expenditure should be ruthlessly cut down. As a result, we undertook to do our best to reduce the defence expenditure.
– You agreed with that view at the time.
– I am pointing out that Senator Millen went loyally to his task, and cut down the expenditure by about £700,000, without, I believe, diminishing the efficiency of the Forces by one sixpennyworth. What is his reward ? He nearly lost his seat. He made himself most unpopular in the Defence Department. He did an unpopular work, and that is why I wish to pay a tribute to him to-day, because he carried out the wishes of this House in particular, saving the country a great amount of money, whilst at the same time preserving the efficiency of the Forces.
As to what happened when the war broke out, the simple statement of facts in the Governor-General’s Speech is sufficient testimony. But what I regret was the display of pure savagery during the election campaign on the part of the present Attorney-General. That honorable member was brutal, bitter, and unfair in his criticism of the late Minister of Defence. He was brutal in his conduct all through the campaign, and I cannot help feeling strongly about it. One of the things he said, and said with all the emphasis and all the specious and flamboyant rhetoric of which he is a master, was that the late Minister of Defence had done nothing. Yet here in the Governor-General’s Speech is Senator Millen’s record. This is what he did, and this is what the Attorney-General calls nothing. There is such a thing as fair fighting, and I say it is brutally unfair when a man attacks another whose hands are tied behind his back, and declares that he has done nothing, and then, with his tongue in his cheek, he pens sentences which tell the people of the great work that that man has done for the country, without ever mentioning his name. I speak strongly, because I feel strongly; that I candidly admit.
I should like to call the Prime Minister’s attention to clause 6 of the Governor-General’s Speech -
Proposals for a pension scheme for Australians engaged on active service and their dependents will also be laid before you.
I should imagine this ought to be the very first business of the session. Those men are going away, leaving their wives and children behind them. Their pay is small, and I say that the sooner we let them know what they have to face, and the sooner we let their dependents know what they have to face in certain contingencies, which at tha present moment seem very likely, the better for all concerned. To deal with this matter immediately would be a simple act of justice to our soldiers and their dependants. I hope that we shall see this one of the first measures of the session in order that those who are going to fight for us may know what their fate is to be. It will add to their comfort, no doubt, to know that those they are leaving behind, those near and dear to them, will be provided for, that Australia is rich enough to find sufficient to keep them, at any rate, beyond the fear of want.
In paragraph 7 we are told -
Upon the declaration of war the Australian Navy was immediately placed at the disposal of the Admiralty. Acting in conjunction with Expeditionary Forces of New Zealand and the Commonwealth, it has rendered considerable service to the Empire in Samoa and New Guinea. By its presence and activity these waters have been kept clear of enemy ships, and our maritime commerce has been continued uninterrupted ; thus amply vindicating the policy of an Australian Navy.
I cordially agree that the policy of an Australian Navy has been amply vindicated. May I add that the policy of the late Government regarding the character of the boats has also been amply vindicated? The fact is that the flotilla of small boats, the Naval programme sketched by my honorable friend in his Gympie speech a year or two ago-
– A year or two ago ? It was early in 1909.
– So long ago as that? I had no idea of it. I thought it was only a year or two ago. But I am sure my honorable friend will be the first to admit that the programme he first laid down would have done nothing to save Australia in this crisis. Those twenty small boats for which he was providing, and which constituted the whole of his
Naval programme at that time, would not have kept one of the German raiders from our coast or prevented our commerce from being suspended and hung up, or perhaps prevented our capital cities from being sacked. Our protection came through the bigger proposal, for which the late Government, at any rate, may take some credit, seeing that they put the Bill through Parliament, and ordered the lighting ship which is now doing such great service for Australia. Therefore I think honorable members on this side may stand in for some of the praise bestowed upon the Australian Navy and its effectiveness in these trying days.
I have already said that the programme submitted by the Government in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral is a challenge to the party instincts of this Chamber. I return to this point for a few moments. When one contrasts the policy submitted to the House with the responsible statements made by the present Ministers prior to the election, a very wide discrepancy will be found to exist between them. Here, again, the arch offender is the AttorneyGeneral. He played a deep game, if ever a man did ; he took every party advantage he could of the war, and we suffered in consequence on our side.
– Did the Daily Telegraph do a mean thing ?
– I am not talking about the Daily Telegraph. Let me tell the honorable member that the Daily Telegraph had occasion to remind his party of their brutal conduct afterwards, and to accuse them of unfair fighting and of twisting and contorting things that the paper had said to the advantage and purposes of the party - of actually taking away from their context the words of the paper, and making them serve a purpose entirely different from what the paper intended. Surely the honorable member remembers that. He will not range himself, I hope, with the Daily Telegraph with regard to all that was done, as I am sure the Daily Telegraph would not range themselves with him, seeing that on several occasions during the late campaign they repudiated him and all his associates.
– They made no reference to me in the matter of which you are speaking.
– Why should they? What had the honorable member done to be specially singled out? I know that the honorable member thinks that he renders great services to Australia.
– I think nothing of the kind.
– But the honorable member does; and he has put it oi> record, and told all his confreres of it. also; and then did not get the position, after all. The honorable member and I suffer many injustices, and that is ona one of the number. I was alluding to the Attorney-General, who, I am sure, isquite capable of looking after himself.. This is what he said before the elections,, and it bears upon the programme submitted to us in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral. I shall quote what the Attorney-General has said in order to p,16 it on record. On the 3rd August, speaking of the “ Stop the election “ agitation that had sprung up, he said - -
In my opinion, speaking offhand, and without a copy of the Constitution by me, no such course (postponement) is possible. The Constitution lays down certain conditions, which the Electoral Act necessarily follows. These conditions prescribe certain intervals which must elapse from the time of the issue of the writs to their return. Parliament has been, dissolved; the writs have been issued; and they must be returned.
On the 5th August he thought that Parliament should be called together, and suggested means by which the old Parliament could be revived. Two days previously he was convinced that it was impossible. After two days he is convinced that is quite possible and easy.
– He then had a copy of the Constitution, before him.
– Tell that to the marines. This is what he said on the 5th August -
Of course the suggestion, if it were put forward, would not in any way affect the ultimate settlement of party issues lately set before the people. It would not be a settlement of party difference, but a truce. The Parliament, whether the old one re-created or a new one, would last only during the currency of the war and thereafter as long as it was decided by mutual agreement, and would only deal with the war and the consequences arising out of it.
Here was the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral before the elections. He deliberately said that this Parliament should not be engaged in general party business, but should be engaged with the war and the consequences arising out of it - that and nothing more - and that as to party measures there should be a truce.
– And you refused it.
– Does that alter the facts? Has the Attorney -General a different opinion now ?
– That was before the elections.
– The honorable member is quite right. It was before the elections - when they did not mean it. What is in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral is what they meant all the time. They take advantage of every passing wind that blows. I hope honorable members will realize that I am not sorry as to what has happened. I wish them all the joy that they may get out of their next three years, and I tell them that if Ministers will leave party issues alone, they will have no stauncher supporters than those sitting in opposition.
– What nonsense it is to talk like that! We cannot leave legislation alone for three years.
– Why did you not tell the people at Paddington that all this talk about stopping the issues was nonsense ? It is all nonsense now, according to the honorable member, and that evidently is the opinion of the Caucus, of the Prime Minister, and of the AttorneyGeneral. Of course, it is all nonsense. But it was the best of good sense before the elections, when honorable members used these statements for party purposes and secured a great many thousand votes by doing so. There was no nonsense About it then, but now that the election is over, now that honorable members are away from the people for three years, they say that it is all nonsense. I call the attention of the electors, who gave honorable members votes believing in their sincerity, to the fact that things are different - at least, so they say - now that honorable members are returned to the House with a majority. However, I must proceed with what the Attorney-General has said. He went on to say -
We cannot have party warfare and united action. We cannot go on the platform and denounce the Government, and, at the same time, work with the Government….. For the time being party has ceased to exist. With most miraculous celerity, the din of party strife has died down, the warring factions have joined hands and the greatest crisis of our history is faced by a united people. On all hands it is agreed that there is no room for party fighting now.
Later on he referred again to the “ indecency of party strife.” He said -
I had hoped that even at the eleventh hour Mr. Cook would have come forward with some proposals that would suspend party strife during this great national crisis, but he has not done so.
The national crisis is still in existence. There is still a grave condition of affairs confronting us on the Continent of Europe, and if the condition of affairs before the elections required the cessation of party strife, the conditions have since been accentuated. The war will be a tremendously long one, taxing all our resources and . those of the whole of the Empire and of the Allies. There can be only one ending, I believe, but that will only be through tremendous suffering and self-sacrifice on the part of our Empire. These conditions remain to-day, and if honorable members believed . what they said - that party strife should cease - why do they now submit a programme which raises the very fiercest of party contentions, and must lead to party turmoil in the House and a great deal of bitterness and many hard words?
– That is a very nice promise.
– Does the honorable member think that there is to be no debate in this House on the referenda proposals? Under the cloak of the war, do the Government want to sneak them through? If they do, I promise them that they will not succeed. That is not playing the game. It is taking a mean party advantage of the war to throw proposals of this kind before Parliament, when all parties, so the Labour party told the electors, should be united in an effort to see the war through, and when we should concentrate all our argumentation, convictions, and judgment on the one supreme task of insuring the national safety, and winning victory for the Empire in the crisis through which it is passing.
– If the Liberal Government had accepted the offer to call a truce, there would have been some justification for the right honorable member’s criticism; but it was refused.
– I still hold that what the Labour party proposed was impossible. Their Attorney-General of to-day said so at the time, and he was right. I say deliberately, now that the tide of battle has turned, now that the Labour party have got all that they could out of it, that to take any other course than we did was practically impossible.
– I am glad.
– Of course the honorable member is glad now.
– I was opposed to the Attorney-General’s opinion as expressed at the time, and I said so.
– Such is fame. If the honorable member gave expression to that opinion, I can onlY say that we never heard of it.
But where is the evidence of the cessation of party warfare in connexion with the whole proceedings of the present Government since they assumed office ? Let us take, for instance, the officering of the House. Mr. Speaker stepped down when the Labour party stepped out of office, and he steps up again now that they have again stepped into power. He would not sit in the chair with a Liberal Government in power. It is only when the Labour Government comes back to office that he decides that he can again occupy the position. I am pointing out these evidences of a truce - of the utter absence of party feeling and of the cessation of party strife ! We have evidence of it on every hand. Rumour says that, in connexion with the Public Works Bill which I had the honour to place upon the statutebook - it was one of the measures which the Labour party described as “nothing at all “ during the elections, although they evidently think it is of some importance now - that the Government and their supporters desire to monopolize the Committee to be appointed under it. Is that true?
– We are only to have a proportionate share, according to representation.
– Is it true that the Government are proposing to insist upon six nominations to that Committee?
– And there are to be only three from this side of the House. On what ground?
– Proportionate representation.
– That is to say, party representation. The right honorable gentleman, who, before the general election, was shrieking all over the country for a party truce, now says, “Because our party is bigger than your party, we must have more representatives on the Public Works Committee.”
– The worst type of the policy of “ spoils to the victors.”
– The policy is raging here with hurricane-like force. My impression is that some honorable members opposite, when on this side of the House, urged that there should be an equal representation of parties on the Committee - that it should conduct its business on a non-party basis. We are now told that the Labour party must have two representatives to our one on the Committee.
– Does the honorable member claim that there should be five representatives of his party ?
– There is an odd number, and the Government are entitled to have the odd number, but to say that there should be six representatives of the Labour party to three representatives of the Liberal party on the Committee seems to me to suggest a mendacious grab. Here we have the policy of “spoils to the victors” in its most perfect form. May I remind the Prime Minister that, although he has a large preponderance of members on his side of the House, while in the Senate we are, so to speak, out of sight, nearly one-half of the people of Australia voted for our candidates. It is only the accident of the grouping which gives these anomalousresults within the Chamber. If the right honorable member consults the public opinion of Australia, therefore, he must recognise that we are entitled to have at least four members on the Committee, and to be treated in a different manner from that proposed by the Caucus. But here again we have evidence of the non-party spirit - of the truce which was to be called while we were dealing unitedly with the war”!
– The right honorable member is honouring that truce in his present speech.
– I never agreed to the sort of truce proposed. The authors of it came from the Labour side, and since their return to power they arefalsifying every statement which they made from the public platforms of the country during the election campaign.
– Did not the right honorable member promise that if Labour were returned to power he and his party would cordially co-operate with them?
– And I tell the honorable gentleman now that, so far as this war and all the things relating to it are concerned, we shall follow the Government implicitly. There will be no party feeling on our part. I am entitled, however, to ask that this spirit shall be reciprocal, and that we shall be treated fairly while we try to treat the Government fairly. Is it the honorable gentleman’s idea of a truce that we should be utterly and absolutely subservient to the Government and their supporters’! Does it mean, in his opinion, our absolute prostration ?
– The honorable member’s party in the whole Parliament numbers only thirty-seven.
– Yes, here it is again ; the honorable member and his colleagues are totting up the parties all the while, although they said before the election that the question of parties should not be taken into account during the war. We were told then that there was to be a truce, but the moment Labour was returned the party was numbered on a party basis, and they declared that they were entitled to have six representatives to our three on the Public Works Committee.
My complaint is that honorable members opposite do not consider these things in the spirit of the truce they suggested, and that they are using the war to cloak a lot of things which they would have done much better by leaving undone. They would have consulted their own respect, in my judgment, had they left those things alone. The public outside will know, at any rate, how much credit to attach to these statements on the part of the Labour party. I wish to say something more regarding the composition of the Senate. If ever there was a gross democratic anomaly in any country we have it here in connexion with our National Parliament. There was a nearly equal party vote, and yet we have only five members of the Liberal party in another place, while Labour has thirty-one.
– In reality, only four. The Liberal representative from South Australia was elected by Labour votes.
– -Then honorable members opposite give themselves thirty-two representatives “as of right” in the Senate, and think it is right that- 1,000,000 voters should return thirty-two representatives, while the Liberal party has only four representatives for nearly the same number of votes.
– Seeing that the right honorable member was in office for two years, and never proposed any alteration
– Two years?
– Yes, twelve months in two different Governments.
– The honorable gentleman is seeing: double since taking office. He knows that we could do nothing in the last Parliament. We were struggling for our very lives during the whole twelve months, and we had no right to remain in office a minute longer than we did. The appeal just made to the country has emphasized that fact.
– It proves that the honorable member and his party had no right to go there.
– We had to go.
– This House should have gone to the country straight away.
– This is the first time that the honorable member has made such a contribution to the discussion of the question.
– Why did not the honorable member think of it before? We might then have gone to the country and have come back with a majority of ten in this House, just as the Labour party have to-day. We tried to do the best we could in difficult circumstances, and I for one am very glad to be out of it all. I had enough of it. I shall be much happier on this side than I was when we were making an heroic struggle to keep our heads above water while fighting the bashi-bazouks who were arrayed against us.
There are some proposals in the Ministerial programme which are of a nonparty character, and I hope the Government will give them first place since they have seen fit to mention them. We have, for instance, in His Excellency’s Speech a reference to the late Premiers’ Conference - a gathering which the Assistant Minister of External Affairs once described as an excrescence on the Constitution.
– I repeat the statement.
– Yet the Government propose to take advantage of what the Premiers’ Conference did. Whydo they not repudiate what this “ excrescence “ did ? They are glad, however, to take anything useful that is proposed by a Premiers’ Conference, and to denounce it afterwards.
– We were only recording an historical incident.
– But there have been others since that to which I have referred. These criticisms were made by the Labour party in connexion with the last Premiers’ Conference. One honorable gentleman said that if the destiny of the Commonwealth was going to be controlled by a State Premiers’ Conference we did not want the Federal Government at all; whilst another sapient critic - I think it was the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament - declared that these Conferences were being foisted “ like a growth “ upon the people, and that they were an abuse on our own form of government. Abuse or no abuse, some exceedingly useful things were done by the recent Inter-State Conference, and the Government appear to think so, since they have embodied in their present programme some of the most useful proposals made at it. So much for the “ excrescence “ and for the “ growth.” I congratulate the Government on taking these proposals into their programme. While trying by this bitter, unfair, and acrid criticism to poison the wells of the InterState Conference, they are glad enough just now, shall I say, to lave in the waters of the River Murray, the springs of which were unlocked by that very useful Premiers’ Conference to which I have alluded. I am glad to welcome into this House one of the moving spirits of that Conference. I do not hesitate to say that we could not have achieved the results we did at that meeting but for the spirit of compromise and fairness and statesmanship which characterized the actions of my now colleague, the honorable member for Balaclava. We shall help, the Government to put these matters through. I venture to say that the Murray waters proposal is the biggest one ever put before Australia for finding employment here and developing the country.
– Why did the honorable gentleman, when in power, not go on with it?
– Only a man like the honorable member would make an inane interjection of the kind.
– Chesterfield. I bow to you I
– That is the sort of thing the honorable member indulged in at the elections; he ought not to disgrace himself by continuing it here. The honorable member knows that we on this side, when in power, could not do this or anything else - honorable members opposite took good care of that.
– The honorable gentleman knows that what he is saying is not in accordance with fact.
– Then I shall now tell the honorable member that the agreement was not signed until a long while after Parliament had been dissolved; is that sufficient reason?
– It is the, only reason the honorable gentleman has advanced so far.
– This is doubtless one of the ‘ ‘ cobwebs ‘ ‘ the honorable member would brush aside.
Now we come to the question of the uniform railway gauge; and the Government have suddenly arrived at the opinion that this is a very urgent Australian question.
– Well, I may say that the late Government thought that it was urgent.
– The Prime Minister has done more in this connexion than any one else in the House.
– What has the Prime Minister done? What did the Labour Government do during their three years of office except put this question in their programme every time?
– The Labour Government fixed this gauge for the transcontinental railway.
– Honorable members opposite had better not talk about that railway, which they never built, but for the building of which they nevertheless sought credit. We are now discussing the question of the gauge, which was dealt with by the Labour Government in the same way as they dealt with the debts question. I notice that in the programme there is no mention of the State debts, immigration, the Commonwealth Bank,, or the Agricultural Bureau. Honorable members opposite told the people of the country that they were in favour of the Agricultural Bureau, but they forgot to mention it in their programme. However, that is a matter which can be referred to later. As to the gauge, there is no indication as to what the Government propose to do, and I should be very glad to hear something in this regard. We are informed that it is proposed to take “ early steps to initiate this great national work”; and I should like to know what those steps are. The Prime Minister, in his policy speech, referred to the question of the railway gauge, and said that the late Government had shelved it. He is thus reported -
Distinguished as are the members of the Inter-State Commission they can add but little to the views of the distinguished and experienced gentlemen who so carefully considered the matter in 1912. The thing has been effectively pigeonholed -
– Hear, hear !
– Does the honorable member call it “ pigeonholing “ to send the question to the Inter-State Commission ?
– In view of that criticism, surely the obligation is laid on the Prime Minister to tell the House what he is going to do in order to push the matter on more quickly?
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– I invite the Prime Minister to tell us explicitly how he is going to effectuate this great and necessary undertaking? My own opinion is that he will find that there are others to be consulted.
– I am well aware of that.
– Has the right honorable gentleman done anything up to the present in the direction of consulting the States?
– Verbally, and I shall do more.
– If the right honorable gentleman can expedite this matter more quickly, he will find us behind him.
– I have spoken of the matter on the platform until I should think the people are tired of hearing me.
– I remind the right honorable gentleman that he has no power to deal with this matter in its entirety on his own account. The railway gauge is not his gauge; the railways be long to the States, and he can do nothing whatever regarding them without consulting the owners.
– I am not so sure of that.
– Then the right honorable gentleman has predatory designs on the State railways? Here we have a new doctrine being laid down, namely, that the Government, without reference to the States, can do something in the important matter of altering the effectiveness and carrying capacity of the whole of their railways. I should be glad to hear what the Prime Minister’s doctrine reallyis in regard to this great question. My own opinion is that the Premiers’ Conference did the only thing possible to bring about a rapid solution of this pressing and important question. When I first submitted my proposal several of the Premiers turned it down, not liking the idea of an inquiry by the Inter-State Commission, which was regarded as a power or authority on which the States were not represented; but after thinking the matter over the Conference came unanimously to the conclusion that there was no better body to investigate both as to details and the allocation of the expenses involved. The reference to the Inter-State Commission was in the following words -
That the States agree to refer to the InterState Commission the question of a uniform railway gauge for Australia, for report whether it is desirable to adopt a uniform railway gauge; and, if so, when and what gauge should be adopted.
And, further, that the Commonwealth and the States agree to refer to the said Commission the following questions : -
What benefits will result - (a) to the Commonwealth? (b) to each of the States ?
What will be the cost of the conversion ?
In what manner and to whom shall such cost be apportioned?
But for the Tariff interposing, the InterState Commission would have dealt with the matter before to-day, and we should, I believe, have had a concrete proposal put before the House. The Commission, however, was busy with the Tariff, and, therefore, could not immediately take the gauge under consideration.
– That is no reflection on them.
– No; but the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues reflected on the Inter-State Commission quite a number of times during the elections. I should like to know what other body is going to deal with the question, and how the States are to be brought to the final settlement necessary to a determination at the earliest possible moment.
– Engineers on one side, and finance on the other.
– That is a general statement which means nothing. I suppose the States will have to find the “engineers” and the “finance,” too. At any rate, the right honorable gentleman can do nothing at all in the matter without reference to the owners of the railways.
– They will never agree.
– That settles it !
– The Commonwealth will have to take control.
– I am afraid that is the trouble with all these matters) and that is why the Conference thought it necessary to refer the question to an independent judicial body to apportion all the factors of the case, and make them bear equitably on all who will benefit by the great operation. I hope the right honorable gentleman will tell the country very plainly what the Government are going to do; and if he can suggest a working basis which will be fair alike to the Commonwealth and the States, and lead to greater despatch than did the proposal that we on this side agreed to, I tell him candidly that we shall stand behind him and give him the best support we can.
– I can quite believe it, for it is a national work.
– There is another matter to which I may refer for a moment, and it is one which did my honorable friends opposite some service during the elections. Paragraph 12 of the Governor-General’s Speech is as follows : -
To promote the establishment of new Australian Industries, and further develop those already established, it is intended to amend the Tariff.
I call the attention of honorable members to the mild language in which that proposition is couched. Paragraph 14, which refers to the Murray waters, informs us that the scheme “ will receive early consideration “ ; we are told that in regard to the uniform gauge “ early steps “ will be taken to initiate this work; the proposals to amend the Constitution are to be placed before us “at an early date”; and the Navigation Act is to be proclaimed “ at the earliest possible moment.” All these measures, it would appear, are supremely urgent, whereas an amendment of the Tariff is neither important nor urgent. What does this mean, I wonder ? When is it intended to amend the Tariff? During the first session?
– Is that a fair question to ask 1
– This is a question which honorable members opposite declared on the public platform to be the most pressing of all, and yet we are told that it is unfair to ask when it will be dealt with.
– I am speaking in the interests of the revenue.
– On this question the Labour party got thousands of votes ; but now that the party are in office it is suggested that it is unfair to ask when they are going to honour their promises.
– The honorable member will get his “ full of it “ before we have done !
– If so, honorable members opposite will also get enough.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition ask me to advertise the date?
– I am not asking any such foolish thing, but merely whether the question is to be dealt with at the end of the three years, in the second year, or in the first year. That is very far from advertising the date.
– It will be in the first session.
– Then the session is going to last some time?
– I do not know.
– It looks like it, at any rate. However, on the public platform the Prime Minister said -
We intend to introduce during the first session of the new Parliament a Tariff which will give effective protection to Australian industries. We do not propose to ignore the reports of the Inter-State Commission. We shall hear their reports, read them and examine them, but we are not going to assume that three gentlemen - perfectly respectable in their private life - are competent to recommend a Tariff.
I am calling attention to the way in which the head of the Government waves aside the Inter-State Commission in connexion with the Tariff. Who created the Inter-State Commission? The members of the present Government. Who gave the Commission the Tariff to inquire into ? Again, the members of the present Government. And now we have the Prime Minister distinctly saying that those three gentlemen are not competent to recommend a Tariff. Was the right honorable gentleman playing a farce when he gave the Commission power to make recommendations, and when he enacted special legislation appointing these three gentlemen as specially competent to recommend a Tariff?
– I did not say what the honorable member says I did say.
– I am quoting the speech of the right honorable gentleman in the Melbourne Town Hall, and he said -
We shall hear their reports, read them and examine them, but we are not going to assume that three gentlemen - perfectly respectable in their private life - are competent to recommend a Tariff. What a marvellous amount of power these three gentlemen have acquired lately.
But the Attorney-General, who introduced the Inter-State Commission Act, which gave that Commission the power to inquire into the Tariff, went even further. Speaking at Dandenong on the 21st of July, the Attorney-General said -
The Tariff had been referred by the Government to the Inter-State Commission, and a report would be brought in when the grass grew green on the graves of the present generation.
That is nothing but a sneer at the members of the Inter-State Commission.
– Do you call a statement of fact a sneer?
– Is it a fact?
– I do not know; I know they have not reported.
– The honorable member told the electors of the country that the Commission will report when the grass grows green on the graves of the present generation. But inside Parliament and in office he says, “ I know nothing about it.” Continuing, the honorable member said -
The Labour Party pledged itself to amend the Tariff in the first session without waiting for the report of any Commission.
– That is perfectly plain and unambiguous.
– Perfectly plain ! The honorable member is there ridiculing our reference of the Tariff to the Inter-State Commission - a Commission which he appointed and set up.
– I did not appoint it.
– The honorable member’s party passed the Act. Does the Attorney-General object to the appointments ?
– I am not saying anything at all about that.
– Then what point is there in the criticism ? The Government of which the honorable member is a Minister passed the Act, and yet the honorable member says that he is going to ignore and flout the Commission.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– The honorable member said that the Labour party would not wait for the report of the Commission, but would amend the Tariff in the first session of this Parliament, without waiting for the report of any Commission.
– What paper is that you are quoting from?
– I am quoting from the daily papers.
– Which one ? There are papers and papers. I would like to know which particular one you are quoting from.
– Will the Age do for the honorable member in these days?
– For this purpose, it will.
– Then the Prime Minister, speaking at Ballarat on the 27th July, said -
The Tariff would be dealt with in the first session. The other side had sent this matter on to the Inter-State Commission, which they had madea kind of hold-all to take charge of difficult problems.
– Fair criticism.
– Criticism of the honorable member’s own Act, which was passed for this special purpose. The honorable member’s Government created the hold-all character of this Commission; the Liberal party did not. We faithfully followed the explicit directions and terms of the honorable member’s Act. Yet the honorable member went abroad and flouted that Act on all the public platforms in Australia, and stated that we were taking advantage of it for purposes not honest and not fair.
I desire to express the hope that the Tariff, when it does come before the House, will be accompanied by a report from the Inter-State Commission, I shall attach the greatest possible importance to the statement of that Commission, knowing it to be composed of men of judicial mind, of great power of penetration, of great research, and great labour and industry; men who have no axe to grind but who will do their best for all sections of the Australian public, under the direction of the Act passed by the right honorable gentleman. I admit that the war has made a change in many respects, and I shall be glad to hear from the right honorable gentleman what partiocular portion of the enemy’s trade he proposes to capture. I think he might at least consult the Inter-State Commission on that matter. I fancy that after their exhaustive inquiries they should be able to give him a great deal of information which would be useful in dealing with that subject. The Prime Minister will find before he is finished that this hold-all capacity of the Commission, at which he sneered on the public platform, will prove most useful in framing the Tariff so as to meet the new emergent conditions arising out of the war. There are many things arising under present circumstances which are necessary to be dealt with, and dealt with urgently, and I do not know anybody, outside the Inter-State Commission, possessing the requisite knowledge to enable us to deal with them. I have some statements here respecting German trade with Australia, but I have no time to deal with them just now. I shall be able to refer to this matter when the Tariff comes before us.
I have no desire to prolong the discussion. I wish to give the Government every consideration and fair play, but these things, which arose out of the incidents on the hustings during the last few months, required to be said. Now, having cleared them out of the way, 1 tell the right honorable gentleman candidly that I believe all members on this side of the House, for whom I have the honour to speak at the present time, desire to give the Government every fair and reasonable consideration in the course they propose to take. We are here, feeling that the country has spoken in their favour, and we are democratic enough to heed the voice of the country, and do it without upbraiding the victors. They won out, Parliament is restored to a working condition, and I hope that it will do useful work in the interests of the country. Meanwhile, let me remark that these are the things to which the Ministry have pledged themselves, and it is well to put them on record. These are the arts and the devices employed in seeking the suffrages of the Australian people, and by the use of them the Labour party have been returned to office, with the power we know them to possess.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7. .45 p.m.-
– The members of the present Government promised the electors, among other things, the initiative and referendum, the re-submission of the referenda proposals - the Prime Minister said that we are to have these things at an early date - the amendment nf the Tariff and the provision of effective Protection, the provision of pensions to widows and orphans, the increasing of the old-age pensions rate, the establishment of a Commonwealth General Insurance Department, the institution of a uniform railway gauge, the purchase or construction of an Atlantic cable to be operated by the Commonwealth, and the establishment of Commonwealth lines of steam-ships between the mainland and Tasmania, and from Australia to places oversea. The Prime Minister has also undertaken to set up a huge export Department, which will deal with the produce of the farmers of the country, make financial advances upon it, and find markets for it in other parts of the world. There is also to be an amendment of the Arbitration Act, to afford all workers and employes the opportunity to approach the Arbitration Court.
I ask whether paragraph 26 of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech refers to an intention to bring the public servants under the Arbitration Act? Prior to the election, the employes of the PostmasterGeneral stated * certain grievances, by reason of which, and, I presume, also because of certain representations made privately, the Attorney-General sent to them this letter. It has as its address, “ Macdonnell House, Sydney,” and is dated 2nd September, three days before polling day. It was one of those fine bits of electioneering art for which the honorable gentleman is so famous, and, no doubt, was intended to swing the postal vote in the right direction. It reads -
I understand that very considerable dissatisfaction exists in the ranks of your association owing to the vexations delays in getting your case heard by the Commonwealth Court, and I understand, further, that the suggestion of the Postmaster-General for settlement by Conference, as I anticipated, proved abortive.
Codlin is your friend, not Short.
I am writing to point out that, as set forth in Mr. Fisher’s Bundaberg speech, the Labour Party will, if returned with a majority, make such amendments of the law as will enable all claims to be speedily heard.
The Labour Party is in favour of sweeping
Away all legal technicalities and making access to the Court easy and settlement of just claims economical. And we shall do everything to effect a speedy hearing of the Post and Telegraph Associations’ case.
My honorable friends opposite cheer those statements; but may I remind them that the uneconomical character of the Court and its congested condition are due to their own clumsy manoeuvring over a long period of years? It is they who -set up this Court that will not work, and there was good reason for the AttorneyGeneral to say that he would correct his handiwork, and establish a Court which would do better in the future. He gave the people a Court whose operations he the other day described as a public scandal. It is congested with two years’ business. I hope that the next effort of honorable members opposite will be less of a bungle, and I shall watch with interest how far they propose to go in providing for appeals from the Public Service Commissioner.
The Prime Minister has asseverated from every platform in the land that defence expenditure would be provided for from revenue; that there would be no borrowing for defence.
– The statement was qualified in every instance.
– The right honorable member referred to expenditure in times of peace, but I presume that even in war time the development of the Defence Department along its ordinary lines would be paid for out of revenue. That is why I desire that the abnormal expenditure of the Defence Department shall be kept separate. I take it that even in time of war normal expenditure will be provided out of revenue, and that only the extraordinary and additional expenditure brought about by the war will be provided for otherwise.
– Does the right honorable member say that my words have that meaning? I think that they have not.
– Does my right honorable friend suggest that the expenditure which would have been incurred this year had there been no war is to be provided for by emergency financing ? If not, the ordinary normal expenditure of the Department is to be provided for out of revenue.
– Would it not be better to quote the words, and leave them to the test?
– The words are clear, and I put on them the only interpretation that I can think of. I take it that, had there been no war, the right honorable gentleman would not have proposed to borrow for defence. When on a hundred platforms he said, “ We shall not borrow for defence,” was he indulging in that method of political fighting at which the Attorney-General is so good, or did he mean what he said ? How else can his words be interpreted than to mean that the ordinary defence development of Australia, the normal expenditure of the Defence Department, is still to be paid for out of revenue? The reasonable thing to do in the face of his assertion is to separate the special and abnormal from the ordinary or normal defence expenditure, so that his pledge to the country may be kept. So far as the abnormal expenditure goes, we shall not be severe critics, no matter what the right honorable gentleman does. I shall not now, nor at any other time, indulge in any criticism except criticism of the most sympathetic character in regard to his proposals for dealing with the present emergency. The war is the affair of us all, and transcends all party considerations. No one on this side will be anything but an indulgent critic when the financing of the war comes under consideration.
If ever there was a righteous war, this, I believe, is one. The White.Book makes that very clear. The Empire is at war to-day after the most strenuous efforts for peace. Sir Edward Grey was patient almost to weakness in the preliminary negotiations preceding the outbreak of the war. If ever a man solemnly and earnestly strove to preserve the peace of Europe, he did so. Indeed, I am not sure that there was not point in the remarks of some of the Allies that, had he stated a little earlier that Great Britain would join with them in case of war, Germany might have been made to hesitate. But I am glad that did not happen. It is better to take the job on now than to have waited until the German Navy had grown stronger. A few years hence we might have had a very different proposition to tackle. The war has been inevitable for years past. Any one who has read anything of the preparations that have been going on must know that it would have been impossible to have kept it much longer from breaking out. It is better to fight when we have a fighting chance than to have waited until Germany had grown stronger, ais she intended to do, and could attack us under more favorable circumstances for her. The arresting feature of the present situation is the determination of Germany to secure the hegemony of Europe. It was intended to prostrate Europe before the almightiness of Germany, which, I believe, aimed at securing world power. If the statements that have been attributed to the German Emperor are true, his associating of himself with the Almighty and his claim to a monopoly of the Almighty’s favour and assistance amount almost to blasphemy. For years past the motto hung up in the German naval quarters has been “ Delenda est Britannia.” It must, therefore be a fight o a finish. We must beat Germany, or Germany will beat us. It has been suggested that for the time being our motto should be “ Delenda est Germania’’ at any rate, so far as the military oligarchy of the country is concerned. In regard to the German people, I have no such feeling. I believe that a great many of them are as sincerely desirous of peace as we are.
This war has driven us back to the fundamental passions of human nature. The Socialists in Germany, the Socialists in France, and the Socialists in other countries are fighting each other to extermination. Evidently, nationality is stronger than socialistic brotherhood. We have a long way to go before the millennium of which we peak in our ecstatic moods is realized.
War is a tragedy in many ways ; it means a set-back to the higher aspirations of the nation, and to many of those things to which we look for the uplift of civilization, no matter from which nation they may emanate; and when we are fighting a nation so nearly akin to us in blood, race, and literature, one that is leading the world in many paths of civilization, we cannot but regret it as one of the great tragedies of the world. But we are not fighting these qualities in Germany; we are fighting Prussian Junkerdom, which is always the enemy to the higher civilization of Europe and the world. We see the strength of nationality when it even colours the views of the theologians and scientists of the various nationalities. Professor Harnach, perhaps the most eminent theologian in his church in Germany, upbraids England for coming to the help of those people whom he declares to be against the higher culture of mankind. Professor Haeckel, an eminent scientist, says the same thing; he claims that we are trying to bolster up Muscovite’ barbarism against the higher culture that Germany professes.
In all these matters we have to apply a practical test. Culture is as culture does ; culture separated from conduct is an empty and barren thing. Applying these tests to German culture, I venture to say it leaves very much to be desired in this war. If culture means the breaking of international treaties, the violation of international good faith, and hacking one’s way through agreements voluntarily entered into, I know little about that sort of culture; it is a culture not worth preserving, and I hope that we shall not cease our preparations nor our fighting until that kind of thing is made impossible, at any rate for many years to come. There are many indications in connexion with the history of this war which prove that Germany is violating ali the ethics of international relationships. It was said the other day by Archibald Hurd that it had been proved up to the hilt that Germany has sown mines in the international highways of commerce 50 miles from the coastline. There is not much culture about that; there is not much about international ethics in it; there is only pure, perfected barbarism in an action of that kind.
Therefore, when we hear talk about German culture, and about all that Germany has done for civilization - and she has done as much as many other nations in the world in many walks of life-
– What about France?
– Germany has done a great deal for the world, and we must not underrate what she has done.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the honorable member for Parramatta be granted an extension of time.
– The other day I read a statement by the German poet Schiller-
The nation is worth nothing that does not joyfully stake all on its honour.
That statement is worth quoting in these days. I wish that the poet would commend it to his own rulers, for they have violated the honour of their nation, and have violated their solemn pledges given to the world many years ago. Now that we are in this fight our attitude should be that of Polonius when he says -
Of entrance to a quarrel; but, being in,
Bear’t that the opposer may beware of thee.
We must make them beware how they hack their way through solemn treaties, and violate the neutrality of small kingdoms who had every claim to their protection and support ! Sir, I believe that war is not all bad. It is bad enough. On the platform the other night the honorable member for Barrier, in the course of a very eloquent and moving speech, said that he could only see in war all that was bad. There are, however, more things in war than those that are ineradicably andunmistakablybad. When one comes to think that out of many a war in the past has come the great fillip to the freedom of the various peoples of the world one can only hope that some such result may come from this war. There is just a gleam of truth in the words of Hosea Biglow -
Not but abstract war is horrid, -
Isign to thet with all my heart, -
Butcivyzation doos git forrid
Sometimes upon a powder-cart.
I hope it will be so on this occasion. At any rate, I believe that this war, when it is over, will, among other things, end that mad race of armaments which has beggared - I am not sure that I should not say brutalized - Europe for many years past. The New Age the other day said that Germany’s attempt to found an effective navy has cost Western Europe a thousand million pounds. We could not go on very long at that rate. There had to come a stop to it all, to that mad race of armaments which we have seen going on for many years past. So far as we in Australia are concerned, I believe that the sentiment expressed the other day by Harold Begbie is our own, and that we -
War for the end of war :
Fighting that fighting may cease.
Why do our cannons roar?
For a thousand years of peace.
We cannot hope to get a thousand years of peace, but we can hope for a peace which will last for many years to come when this tremendous war is over.
There is another consideration, and withthis I shall conclude. War is a great leveller. Liberal, Labour, Home Ruler, Unionist, rich and poor, all are together, side by side. The other day we read that there were seventy members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords at the front fighting in this battle. May I refer for a moment to the statement made this afternoon by the honorable member for Bourke? I hope that in this war we are doing more than fighting for the capitalist. I hope that all sections are banded together and, setting aside all fratricidal feelings, which had already got too far ahead in many of these countries, that all are combining to fight for the principles of freedom and liberty which are the birthright of all of us, and which are worth any cost in preserving in Europe and the rest of the world. Instead of seeking points of difference which the honorable member for Bourke did so glibly, and yet so eloquently to-day, I should like to say that these words fill the bill very much better -
He, to-day, that sheds his blood with me shall be ray brother; be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition.
I should like most of all to see that this war shall put an end to that class strife which has been so rife in recent years, and that we shall all begin from now to. try to understand each other’s position and put ourselves in each other’s place, to consolidate our resources in order to fight our natural enemies, instead of fighting through all the regions of political and social existence in the fratricidal way we have done for so many years. May we not hope that war is like an earthquake, which, when the convulsions are active, sends out fertilizing streams which spread themselves over the land and beget in later years rich harvests of the rarest products. I hope that as a result of this war we shall gain rich fruits of liberty and freedom in Australia. For this, above all, is our own war. If we lose it, we risk the loss of Australia. I hope we shall feel right through to the bitter end, if need be, that we are fighting for the liberties of Australia, for the social ideals of this home of ours, as well as for the homes of the kingdoms over the sea. I wish to say to the Government that we shall be behind them most cordially with our best support - and not critical support- - in prosecuting this war right to the end. and in financing it to the full in every legitimate and reasonable way. I hope sincerely that this session may not be a session that the programme in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral promises. I can say that, had we succeeded at the polls, this session would not have been a controversial one. It has remained for the present Government to make it so. There is plenty of controversy in their programme. I hope some of it will not find its way on to the floor of this House. I hope that we shall try to find points of agreement rather than points of disagreement, and to consolidate our affairs and cultivate that spirit of unity and strength which is so necessary in order to carry the war to a successful issue.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Minister and Treasurer* [8.13]. - I join with the Leader of the Opposition in congratulating the honorable members for Grampians and Werriwa the mover and the seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Their speeches were brief and modestly delivered, but they were efforts that commended the mover and seconder to the sympathetic consideration of the House. I venture to say that already these honorable members have a standing in the House that they would not otherwise have attained had not the task been imposed upon them. I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on his speech, and I tell him quite frankly at the outset that the Government will readily co-operate with him and those who sit behind him in every matter that is national in its character and has for its object the protection of the national life of this dominion and of the Mother Country. We shall not fail in our duty on this occasion, even if in trying to carry out our duty as we see it we make extraordinary demands on the public Treasury and on the citizens of the Commonwealth in order that the present trouble may be brought to a successful issue: I ask the people of Australia, so far as my knowledge goes, to steel themselves to the view that this matter may only just be beginning. But whether we are just beginning or whether we are in the middle of it, or nearing the end, the policy of this Government will be the same as communicated to the then Prime Minister when I had the honour of leading the Opposition. We shall pledge our last man and our last shilling to see this war brought to a successful issue.
I am not here to-night to canvass the purpose of the war. I wish only to express my individual opinion that its origin was insignificant. The cause was not one that should have brought about a world conflagration. It ought not to have been entered upon by the great Powers on such a small and paltry issue. It was first of all an attempt on the part of two great military powers to suppress a very small power. The first attempt made by the greatest military nation in the world was to trample on the rights and privileges of one of the small nations, the neutrality and safety of which were guaranteed by all the civilized powers. We may leave the matter at that. The Commonwealth, with the Dominion of New Zealand, lies furthest away from the scene of war, and we are practically free, therefore, at the present time, from its difficulties. But the Government, with the Opposition, and with every member of the community, I think, are prepared to share in its difficulties and expense, its trials and its sacrifices.
I wish now to say that I do not agree with the idea expressed by the Leader of the Opposition aa to how this session should be conducted. We are not here as children, playing in a dangerous place, likely to be attacked by the enemy. We are here as representatives of the people to devise means and measures that will help to develop the country. If we do not exercise our power and authority whilst we are practically at peace, when shall we do so? The programme of this Government is not a party one in the sense which the Leader of the Opposition would have the country believe. It is a programme in which we believe just as honestly as do the Opposition in another kind of programme.
– And therefore it is a party programme.
– By giving effect to it we shall not help any one party in Australia. “We shall rather help the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, and we should be recreant to the trust reposed in us by the people at the recent elections if we did not proceed immediately to give effect to it. I would ask the right honorable gentleman to modify his threat that if we sought to proceed with the programme of our party he would do everything possible to prevent us.
– I said no such thing. What I said was that I was afraid there would be trouble in the House, and I am indeed afraid.
– If there is going to be trouble, I know whence it will come.
– If the right honorable gentleman had made in New South Wales, before the elections, the speech he is now delivering, he would have been short of some members of his party.
– I do not think I was ever clearer or more direct in my statements than I was at the last election. 1 ask the Leader of the Opposition to produce any equivocal statement made by me in dealing with our programme.
– I am talking not of what the right honorable gentleman said, but of what was said in New South Wales by his present Attorney-General, who had charge of the campaign.
– I was intrusted by my party with the duty of announcing its programme, and my speeches alone should be quoted by the right honorable gentleman in dealing with that programme.
– Why did not the right honorable gentleman, instead of his AttorneyGeneral, offer the truce, whilst he was leader of his party ?
– Is that the question wo are now discussing? Is the honorable member trying to help his leader?
– The AttorneyGeneral said he spoke for his leader.
– I think that my interjection is very pertinent.
– It is awkward.
– Not at all. We intend to proceed with the business of the country as long as we have the opportunity to do so.
– There is not much of a truce about the referenda proposals, is there?
– Yes. I consider it is little short of a political disgrace that the people of Australia were not afforded an opportunity at the last election to record their mind on the referenda proposals.
– For the third time?
– What matter if it were the sixth time?
– May I ask why we are here? We are here by the authority of the people of Australia, and those who voted for us, as well as for the majority in another place, had the right to say whether they desired that the. Constitution should or should not be amended as we proposed. The referenda could have been submitted at the last election without any increased expenditure being involved, and the taking of them would probably have placed in the hands of this Parliament powers that are wanted, and which have been demanded from time to time by practically a majority of the people. Our party was nearly as numerous as were the late Government and their supporters in this House : we polled more than they did at the previous election, and we also had a vast majority in another place. What right, therefore, had the Government to refuse to advise the Governor-General to allow the proposed amendments of the Constitution to be. put to the people?
– There being an equal number on this side, supposing we asked the Government to advise the Governor-General not to put these questions to the people. That would be an exactly parallel case.
– If the right honorable member were not in a majority he would have no right to ask us not to put them to the people. The people, being the fountain of power, should be approached as often as convenient. Why should they be denied an opportunity to express their will at a convenient time?
– The right honorable member and his party will not take their verdict.
– On the last occasion the majority against the referenda proposals was only 8,000, or less than per cent., while on the first occasion that they were put to the people there was a majority of something like a quarter of a million against them. This shows clearly the growth of public opinion. I express my own opinion when I say that if our proposed amendments of the Constitution were again put before the people of Australia, they would be carried by a largo majority. I do not think I misinterpret the ex-Attorney-General, the honorable member for Flinders, when I say that he himself is reported to have declared from many platforms that most of the proposed amendments ought to be passed, and that the powers asked for should be given to the Federal Parliament.
– Not most, but some, of the powers. I defined what they were.
– Quite so. Time will not permit me at this stage to go into details, but I shall accept the honorable member’s amended statement that some >f the proposed powers should be granted to the Federal Parliament. Since he held that view, why did not the Government of which he was a member ask for some of these powers at the last election ? Why were not some at least of the proposed amendments put before the people?
– Does not the right honorable member know that we did put them ? He cannot have read our programme.
– Were they put by way’ of referenda ?
– No; but they were in our programme.
– They were in the programme, and there they would have remained, I have no doubt, so far as honorable members opposite are concerned. Coming to the question of the double dissolution papers, I did not understand to what the Leader of the Opposition referred when he said that some of them were private papers. There can be no private papers presented by the Executive Government to the Governor-General in support of advice tendered by it for or against a double dissolution.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not say they were private papers. He said that they referred to conversations.
– What I said was that they were hastily thrown together as memoranda of private conversations.
– I do not wish to do the right honorable gentleman an injustice, but his statement certainly conveyed to me the impression that these were private and confidential communications.
– Not at all.
– The right honorable member said that if he had known that they were to be used for this purpose ho would have amended them.
– I said they might have been.
– I merely wish to know where we stand in this matter.
– They might have been “ touched up “ a little, and made more readable.
– Quite so. I take the view that purely private communications between the Governor-General and his advisers need not be asked for and, I think, need not be given. But in this case, with a great constitutional issue like that relating to the first double dissolution of the Federal Parliament before us, it was not too much to expect that a Government possessing all the talents - a Government having in its ranks five lawyers - might very well have been able to pub its case in a concrete constitutional form, fit to be presented to Parliament when wanted.
– I hope that it is fit.
– I asked for nothing but the advice tendered to His Excellency by his advisers in favour of the double dissolution, and if it is any satisfaction to the Leader of the Opposition I may tell him that I made that request before consulting either my colleagues in the Ministry or the party. It is a sound principle that communications of the kind, which make their way to the Colonial Office and come back to us again, might very well be given first hand to the Parliament which they affect. The recognition of that principle will lead to greater safety and to the security and protection of responsible constitutional government. In that way any difficulty connected with such a matter will he thrown on the political party concerned, and not on the representative of the Crown, and, therefore, it is undoubtedly desirable that such a matter should be dealt with in the straightforward way I have outlined. The Leader of the Opposition complains that he was fighting with his hands behind his back for about a month. He was not alone in that respect.
– I was not fighting at all.
– He was not the only one in that position. I think he will do me the justice to say that, apart from our political differences, I told him clearly and distinctly that I was backing him up in everything that the late Government did with regard to the war.
– Yes; but the right honorable member kept on scouring the country for all that, whereas we could not do so.
– That is quite an error. I did nothing beyond making a few speeches in my own electorate, and I had need to do so. It was reported that my opponent had withdrawn; and it was so stated by the right honorable member for Swan, who was then Treasurer.
– No; I never mentioned it.
– It was so posted up in Perth.
– I did not do it.
– If any one looks at the figures, they will see that my opponent polled nearly as many votes as did the Liberal senators in my electorate; that is to say, he was less than 1,000 behind the Liberal senators. And yet it was said that he had withdrawn !
– That proves nothing.
– I know, but it calls for explanation.
– There was a candidate withdrawn in my constituency, and the consequence was that there were 3,500 votes less for the senators than on the previous occasion.
– How many votes were recorded for the gentleman who was said to have withdrawn ?
– There was no nomination in my case.
– In this case the nomination was in, and that was the trouble.
– I am not accusing the candidate, Mr. Austin, in any way ; but the so-called Liberal newspapers and organizations urged the people to vote for him, saying that if votes were not given to him he would lose his deposit. Would the right honorable member for Swan, as a leader of the party, say that a candidate was being withdrawn and at the same time tell the electors that they must vote for him ?
– Who said that?
– The leaders and the newspapers. I do not seriously complain, but the honorable member for Parramatta is complaining about an injustice done to himself. I repeat that, after the all parties Conference, I refrained from speaking at any place except in my own electorate; and I was amply and fully justified in viewing with suspicion actions of the kind to which I have referred.
– I hope the right honorable gentleman will take my word when I say that we did our utmost to give him a walkover.
– I am not questioning that in the slightest degree.
– And I have not heard up till now why it was not so,
– The honorable member for Parramatta complained of some extraordinary and severe criticism of himself by my colleagues during the election.
– Pure savagery some of them.
– Savagery! Has the honorable member any cognisance of an attack made on myself in a leaflet of the grossest kind known to mankind, that was distributed in my electorate?
– I do not know to what the right honorable gentleman is referring.
– Is it not a fact that the honorable member knew before the elections that this leaflet was in existence, and that it was circulated by his own official organization, while he refused to lift a hand to stop it?
– That is a complete misrepresentation .
– It was known to the honorable member.
– I shall make a personal explanation when the right honorable gentleman sits down.
– I am informed that this was in existence as an official leaflet of the Liberal party prior to the elections.
– About two days before.
– I am not attacking the honorable member, but I remind him that he has complained of unfair criticism.
– The right honorable member is attacking now.
-I am rejoining. The honorable member for Parramatta has complained of attacks as though he were an “ innocent abroad.” I have not mentioned this matter before, and I- should not have mentioned it now but for the complaint made. However, I am seeking redress in another quarteraltogether, and I do not propose to discuss the matter any further. Do not let us run away with the idea that there is only one class of people being attacked. Nobody knows better than the honorable member for Parramatta that when he was associated with the party with which I now am associated, much more virulent and unfair attacks were made upon him then than there can possibly be at the present time. I am not one who does not respect him for the work he did then, and afterwards, from time to time.
– Do not say your party, because I never belonged to your party.
– I am not going to discuss the question whether or not the honorable member ever did belong to the party, but I know that he has done good service in his time, and that is a fact I am one of the first to acknowledge. I am glad to admit that there is something in the criticism of the honorable member in regard to paragraphs 3 to 7 in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I did not observe the omission until he drew my attention to it ; I think we might have given more consideration there to the work of the previous Administration. As to the sending of the troops, the providing of the Fleet, and so forth, I think that the honorable member’s criticism is warranted - that we ought to have referred to the late Administration in this connexion. I do not wish the honorable member to think that, having said that, I agree with his statement that the Australian Fleet was the proposal of the Fusion Government in 1909, because that is not so. The Fleet had its origin earlier; and that fact is known to the honorable member for Parramatta.
– Indeed, it is not.
– I may be permitted to refresh the honorable member’s memory. If he will turn to the official records under date loth April, 1909, when I was first in office as Prime Minister, he will find that in a communication sent on behalf of my Government to the Imperial authorities there are these words -
Prime Minister of the Commonwealth asked me to submit to Your Lordship, for consideration of His Majesty’s Government, the following memorandum on the question of Naval Defence : - “ Whereas all the Dominions of the British Empire ought to share in the most effective way in the burden of maintaining the permanent naval supremacy of the British Empire :
And whereas this Government is of opinion that, so far as Australia is concerned, this object would be best attained by encouragement of naval development in this country so that people of Commonwealth will become a people efficient at sea and thereby better able to assist United Kingdom with men as well as ships to act in concert with the other sea forces of the Empire :
The views of the present Government, as a basis of co-operation and mutual understanding, are herewith submitted : -
The Naval Agreement Act to continue for the term provided for;
The Commonwealth Government to continue to provide, equip, and maintain the defences of naval base for the use of the ships of the Royal Navy;
In order to place Australia in a position to undertake the responsibility of local naval defence, the Commonwealth Government to establish a Naval Force ;
The Commonwealth Government to provide ships constituting the torpedo flotilla and maintain them in a state of efficiency, wages, pay, provision, “ and maintenance of officers and men;
The sphere of action of the Naval Force of the Commonwealth to be primarily about the coast of Commonwealth and its territories;
The administrative control of the Naval Force of the Commonwealth to rest with the Commonwealth Government. The officer ‘ commanding to take his orders from the Commonwealth Government direct, proper sequence of command by officers appointed by the Commonwealth being maintained. The forces to be under naval discipline administered in the same way as in the Royal Navy. . . “
– Hear, hear! A torpedo flotilla,and provision made for the Royal Navy in the shape of bases !
– What I have read is the first announcement of an Australianowned, manned, and controlled Navy.
– Not at all. Mr. Deakin ‘s proposal was the first.
– The document I have read was signed by myself when I was at Cairns, early in April, 1909. On my way to Cairns I received what is generally termed a “round robin” - an urgent telegram signed by Mr. Deakin and twenty-five others - asking me what the Government proposed to do in the great crisis. . I wired to Mr. Deakin asking him whether he was of the same view as all the gentlemen who had signed the document, and he replied that he was, and urged me to call Parliament together to deal with the situation. What was the situation? The proposal then was the offering of a Dreadnought to the Mother Country to fight her battles in the North Sea. The manner of the Labour Government’s coming into office was remarkable. We met Parliament, and the Governor-General’s Speech was read, and the Address-in-Reply moved and seconded. Then, however, the business was taken out of our hands, and we were not allowed to put our case before Parliament. Senator Pearce had been nominated to represent the Government at the Imperial Conference, and his passage hud actually been taken ; but he was turned down, and another sent in his place. The Fusion Government came into office, and here is their official communication to the Imperial Government: -
Confidential. Government of Commonwealth of Australia take earliest opportunity after assuming office to inform Prime Minister, as President of Imperial Conference, they will shortly submit to Parliament their proposals for defence of Commonwealth and its coasts. They now beg to offer to the Empire an Australian Dreadnought, or such addition to its naval strength as may be determined after consultation with Naval and Military Conference in London, at which it will be represented. This offer will be communicated to Parliament immediately it reassembles.
– The offer of a Dreadnought.
– The offer of a Dread- nought to the Empire, not to Australia.
– To be disposed of at the Conference. That Dreadnought is the Australia.
– I will give the right honorable gentleman this credit - that he can see when political opinion is turning against him. The Labour Government started out with the one determination to support the principle of an Australianmanned and controlled Navy, but the Liberal party flouted the possibility of anything of the kind being required here. In town halls and everywhere else we were denounced, and some of our opponents so far forgot themselves as to allege that we had traitorous intent. Happily, the good sense of the people of Australia was sufficient to enable them to discover in time that it would help the Mother Country, and protect her most distant Dominions, to have an active, capable sea-defence Force maintained by the Commonwealth in these waters. The right honorable gentleman complained about the attacks that were made upon him by the Labour party in 1913 regarding the cost of defence. All Governments have to meet those attacks and stand up to them. It is the business of a Government to stand up for unpopular things when they believe those things to be right, but the right honorable gentleman yielded.
– Who attacked you about the cost of defence?
– The cost of defencethe huge extravagance - was one of the main planks in the right honorable gentleman’s platform in the 1913 election.1
– Will you prove that by a scintilla of evidence ?
– I intend to proceed with evidence only.
– I defy you to produce that evidence.
– What was the 1910 programme? We went on with that. What was the 1913 programme ? Does the Leader of the Opposition remember the Maryborough programme ?
– I do, and also your complete abandonment of it this year.
– That programme provided for an additional Dreadnought.
– There is no mention of it this year.
– The Liberal party turned that programme down. They opposed it in the electorates, and denounced the extravagance of our Naval expenditure. .
– Prove that. You are not saying what is correct, at all.
– Nobody knows better than the right honorable gentleman now that that was the right policy then. It was the right policy for Australia and for the whole of the Dominions, and well would it have been for Australia if that policy had been given effect to. The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech, stated that the honorable member for Capricornia moved last session for a reduction in the Defence vote, which motion the right honorable gentleman very cheerfully accepted.
– I did not say anything to the contrary. I told the House that we would do our best to reduce the expenditure, but we would do nothing which would interfere with the efficiency of the Forces.
– Exactly; that is one of the little ways that bears have of hugging the things they desire to help until the breath is squeezed out of them - all through excessive affection. What did I say ? These are my words, as reported in Hansard of 18th December, 1913, page 4493-
And yet we are asked to believe that this young and prosperous country, prolific in resources, cannot find the money necessary to provide for its defence. Such a statement is ridiculous. If we, in the National Parliament, merely because of a cry of economy, which seems to enjoy a little popularity at the present time, interfere with the efficiency of either our land or sea defences, we shall make one of the gravest blunders that has ever been committed by any Legislature. I urge the Government to be cautious how they break into the scheme which has been introduced. I ask honorable members not to look at the matter from the point of view of today, or to consider any question of embarrassing the Government, but to look ahead, and to determine that efficiency shall be the first consideration. A saving “of £500,000 would be very desirable if it could be made without impairing the efficiency of our defence system, but the statesmen of a country must look first to its safety rather than to the saving of a few pounds.
And I said something even stronger than that. The right honorable gentleman knows now that it was an error to join in the clamour against excessive expenditure.
– I do not admit any such thing. I say that the efficiency . of the Forces was not interfered with at all, although a saving was made.
– I have figures here regarding the so-called savings with efficiency, but I have no time to go into them this evening. I just desire to say that I deny the savings with efficiency. Take the questions of the Naval Bases - the Cockatoo Island Dock and Western
Port - are those savings? Is it a saving not to purchase machinery? Is it a saving not to proceed with the construction of a dock? Is it a saving to bring out Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice to report on the Naval Base at Cockburn Sound, to spend thousands of pounds on trial bores, and then, after the report has been delivered, to be compelled to adopt the very scheme submitted years ago by the present Minister of Defence?
– Who advised the present Minister of Defence?
– All I have to say is that you are about to carry out Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice’s recommendations.
– As to who advised Senator Pearce, that is immaterial. He was advised by his experts, and he was guided by borings which we put down, and which have been borne out absolutely by the report of the expert who was brought out from. London. The Leader of the Opposition knows that a whole year has been wasted. .
– You had not ordered a dredge, nor did you know what sort of dredge to order.
– Will the right honorable gentleman be good enough to say if it is a fact that the official report of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice is exactly in accord with the recommendation made by Senator Pearce to the previous Administration.
– No; indeed it is not.
– I say it is.
– Senator Pearce had no experienced advisers at all.
– It is a fact that the Liberal party had abandoned the principle that the right honorable member for Swan advocated, and the Government have now been advised to establish a floating dock at Cockburn Sound.
– I never recommended anything. I am not so foolish as to interfere with things I know nothing about.
– All these statements will require to be replied to.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman remember that he said in his non-party speech this evening that Senator Millen had nearly lost his seat through effecting a saving of £700,000 in defence expenditure? I say that Senator Millen did not effect that saving; he merely did not spend the money. That is not saving in a young country. The worst kind of statesmen we can have in a young country like this arc those who make savings of that kind. They will not proceed with works of urgency and necessity. For such men there should be no place in our Parliaments, let alone in our Governments.
– Do you not know that Senator Milieu’s recommendation will save you over £100,000?
– I have heard that. That is like some of the statements made regarding the Northern Territory.
– Do you not know that he told you that your Government had ordered dredges that were no good ?
– That is not quite pertinent to this question. Every Government that does things will make mistakes. Heaven help the country that relies on men who do nothing. We have made our mistakes, and we have admitted them, but we have done something; we have made a move. I am not one of those who claim that the Labour party initiated, and are entitled to the whole credit for, the establishment of the Australian Navy. There have been men, who have now gone from the public life of Australia, and other enlightened citizens, as well as newspapers, who urged this policy long ago; but wo were the first party bold enough to announce the policy, face the ordeal of introducing it, and take the consequences, because we thought it to be right. The Australian Navy is established now, and even the Imperial authorities cheerfully admit that it is the only sound and effective system for the satisfactory protection of the outer Dominions. I should be ?lad to hear the reply of the Leader of the Opposition on this point, because I have here a lot more matter which I do not propose to use this evening. As I have already said, war matters and the Murray River Waters Agreement will not be treated as party questions. When the Murray River waters matter was before Parliament on a previous occasion I said candidly that, so far as my influence went, I was in favour of such propositions. My only objection to them was the limitation of their scope. All national matters inaugurated by State or Commonwealth should receive encouragement from the National Parliament.
– Why did you make no reference to this matter in your policy speech ?
– Because, having already declared my view, I thought there was no need to repeat it. Repetition does not take one a step further forward.
– I do not recollect you ever committing yourself on the subject.
– Does, the right honorable gentleman wish me to quote Ilansard again ?
– I will do so. I have not looked it up; but I know what was in my mind. I was ready to give support to any proposal of the kind, but did not think that the scheme should be limited to any one part of Australia. Works of this kind are national in character, and the Commonwealth must help the States to carry them out. But they must not be confined’ to any one part of Australia.
That brings me to a kindred subject - the institution of a uniform railway gauge. The Leader of the Opposition challenged me to say what we had done in this matter.
– No. I asked the right honorable gentleman to say what he intends to do that will get the matter dealt with more quickly than the method we proposed to follow.
– I shall urge the States - which control the railways, and will have to give authority for the work - to recognise the alteration of the situation and the urgency of the matter. I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the Commonwealth has no power to do this. I believe that it has the power. The circumstances of to-day would warrant the Commonwealth in proceeding in its own way. The defence of the country stands first.
– The unification of gauge for the purposes of defence would only partially deal with the problem.
– The institution of a ‘ uniform gauge throughout Australia is ancillary and incidental to the effective defence of the country. I do not speak now on legal authority; I give merely my own opinion. Circumstances may demand that things shall be done for the protection of the country, without waiting to comply with legal technicalities, and among them is war, or the danger of war. In 1897 the Railway Commissioners of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia met in conference, and estimated that the cost of making a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge uniform throughout their States would be ?2,360,000, and that the cost of making a 5-i’t. 3-in. gauge uniform would be ?4,260,000. In 1913 a Conference of the Railway Engineers-in-Chief of the same three States estimated the cost of making a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge uniform to be ?12,465,000.
– Those figures relate only to trunk lines.
– No. I have given the estimated cost of making a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge uniform on all lines in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and compared the cost in 1897 with the cost in 1913. The chief cost of the whole unification scheme would be in altering the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge lines of Queensland and Western Australia. It was estimated by the Conference of 1913 that an expenditure of ?12,000,000 would give a uniform gauge line from Fremantle to Brisbane, and even to Townsville. Every year the cost of conversion is being increased by ?1,000,000 or ?2,000,000.’
– By ?1,000,000.
– The amount is increasing every year. As sensible men, we cannot allow things to continue as they are. When I first entered Parliament, the work could have been done for a mere song, compared with what it will cost now. To-day it will mean practically ?40,000,000 for all the States..
– 1 carried a motion in favour of it in 1889, when Victoria was the only State that objected. The conversion would have cost very little then.
– Many others have talked and voted in favour of the conversion, but we have not been able to get anything done. The blunders of the past must be put behind. What we are concerned with is how to get this thing done. The right honorable member for Swan knows the urgency of the matter, and agrees with me that the work should be done, whatever it may cost. We deplore that it was not done years ago, and those that come after us will blame us if we do not do it.
– We all say that it should be done.
– I shall co-operate with the right honorable member in the matter very heartily, and I believe that the Premiers will come to an agreement. The estimate of the Engineers-in-Chief of the cost of making the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge universal throughout Australia is ?37,000,000.
– The Prime Minister does not state the cost of making the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge uniform.
– It would cost ?14,000,000 more. That is altogether too much. I do not think that the utility of the 4-fb. 8i-in. gauge is less than that of the wider gauge. Besides, we have entered upon the construction of nearly 1,500 miles nf trunk line on the 4-ft. 8A-in. gauge. That should weigh with those who have to deal with this question. The adoption of the 4-ft. 8^-in.. gauge for the great east-west railway practically determines the gauge that must be adopted uniformly. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of what had been done. I have here a copy of the report of the Conference of Premiers which met in Melbourne in March and April of his year. Mr. Holman then said -
I say that the responsibility for this work rests with the Commonwealth Government entirely. If they say, “ It is too heavy a job for us, and we cannot do it unless we get the co-operation of the State Parliaments,” let them outline . the degree of co-operation they desire.
– Suppose we frame a scheme and notify you. “ That is our scheme, and on the basis of it we are going to proceed with the railways of your States,” what are you going to say?
Mr. Holman. ; I do not think that the Constitution gives you that power.
– Hear, hear !
– The Leader of the Opposition agrees with that.
– I do.
– But the right honorable member said at the time, in reply to Mr. Holman, “ Indeed, it does.” Are we to take what he said then, or what he says now? This is the only record of his views on the point.
– The Prime Minister is mixing up two matters. Every one knows that for military purposes the Commonwealth may do anything it likes.
– T am With the right honorable member in that, and am not quibbling in this matter. I wish to arouse public attention to it. Let roe read further from the report -
– I suggested that the Inter-State Commission should investigate it and settle it.
Mr. Holman. I do not regard the InterState Commission as any substitute for the Federal Cabinet. The policy which the Federal Government is going to pursue ought to be enunciated by the Federal Government. 1 am glad that ‘Mr. Holman and myself are sometime!) in agreement, and I am entirety in agreement with him on that point.
– Read what was do u.e next day, when a decision was arrived at. Two or three of them began by pooh-poohing the suggestion in regard to the Commission, but next morning they unanimously adopted the view that the course proposed was the only practicable one to pursue.
– One of the most singular of the right honorable member’s statements was the complaint that in the reference to Tariff legislation we gave no date nor any indication of the time at which the Tariff would be altered.
– I did not complain: I merely called attention to the matter.
– The right honorable member should not have done so. It is the rule of Parliament, whether good or bad - and I think there are good and sufficient reasons for it - that after a policy statement regarding a Tariff change, there shall be no particularizing. We have no intention now to say more than that the Tariff will be altered this session, and at the right time.
– - That is not stated in -the Governor-General’s Speech, and it was to the omission that I drew attention.
– Let me repeat now what I said definitely and distinctly to the electors. The right honorable member misquoted me two or three times, and I shall therefore read from an official copy of the policy speech that I delivered at Bundaberg.
– I quoted what the right honorable gentleman said in the Town Hall at Melbourne. He has pledged himself to lots of things besides that.
– Let me quote the report of the Bundaberg Daily News on Tuesday, 7th July -
Tariff Reform. - The policy of the Labour Party has been and is along the lines of the new ‘ Protection. Since our appeals to the electors for power to give effect to that policy have been twice refused, and recognising that many industries cannot exist, much less prosper, without effective protection, we pledge ourselves, if returned to power, to amend the Tariff during the first session of the new Parliament to give effective protection to Australian industries.
Then, later on, the report proceeds -
The chairman invited questions, the only one forthcoming being the following, which Mr. Armfield said had been handed to him - “ What will be the attitude of the Fisher Government, if returned to power, towards the evidence taken and the report furnished thereon by the Inter-State Commission?”
– First, let me say distinctly that the evidence and report will not in any way affect our policy, which is to amend the Tariff, so as to give effective Protection, in the first session. That is the main point. As to the evidence and the report, much will, of course, depend upon the nature of them. We shall ignore neither. They will be carefully considered. But we shall use our own judgment as to how far we shall accept either.
I think that is a perfectly straightforward statement on that particular matter, and I hope that when the right honorable gentleman again quotes me, he will give the remarks exactly as they are given to him. I am bound to say that I am pleased that there were some notable exceptions in the speech of the right honorable gentleman. It is not the time to raise the financial issue, or the question of the Commonwealth Bank, but I expected criticism on these points, and I was ready for it. However, I am glad that these matters have not been raised, and I would be the last to throw a bomb-shell into the camp in that regard. As I have spoken of the war. I wish also to speak briefly in regard to the finances from a non-party point of view. I believe that Australia is the only Dominion that has not been seriously embarrassed by the war. Nearly every other country has a moratorium of some kind, and difficulties of a very serious nature. I do not say that the Mother Country is embarrassed, but its difficulties were greater than ours; certainly, from a monetary point of view, they were more complex, and the authorities at Home hari to take steps to protect their cwn interests. We shall have our difficulties in the future, but I believe that we shall surmount them with less embarrassment, difficulty, trial, and trouble than most of us thought would be our lot when the war broke out. However, that end can only be attained by the full and hearty co-operation of every citizen of the Commonwealth. Let him who has it make good use of the capital that is available for investment, especially inworks that will give employment and be reproductive in time to come. Let us all cooperate, the Commonwealth with the States, and the lesser organized bodies with the State Parliaments, in order to secure, as far as possible, employment for those who will undoubtedly be thrown out of employment during this crisis.
– The bad season has a lot to do with our troubles.
– It is a very old proverb that one trouble does not come alone. The rain has failed us in several parts of Australia; but I would not like the people of the Commonwealth to believe that the present is a drought like that of 1902-3. It is far from it.
– I think it is just as bad. It certainly is in “Western Australia.
– The season is bad in only a small portion of the Commonwealth. But the rain will fall, and the sun will shine, and Australia undoubtedly will recuperate much more quickly than any other country could. The right honorable gentleman will agree with me that in regard to wool - that great commodity of which we produce so much - the sales have been at a price better than was anticipated.
-Not very much of it; only in England.
– I know that. I have no desire to exaggerate or belittle the matter in any way. Isimply say that wool has been sold at a figure that is more satisfactory than some of the shrewdest of the owners thought was possible a little time ago. Let us hope that the sales will be maintained, and let us hope also that some of our metals that are being withheld from the market will find a sale in the near future. It will be the business of the Commonwealth Government, in co-operation with State Governments, to find employment, and for every one interested in this country to help in the development of trade and in the carrying on of industries by every possible means within our power - financial and otherwise.
– To build a plant to deal with the Broken Hill sulphides will take years.
– I am speaking of what Governments can do.
– What we really want is something at the present time.
– Exactly ; and what can be done at the present time by this Government will be done. The State Governments have more agencies than the Commonwealth Government. At the present moment I am in close communication, as Treasurer, with State Premiers, and I hope that within a week some announcement may be made. These negotiations take time, but in the meantime nothing has been left undone; no day or hour passes without something being done, but the organization is not complete, and the difficulty of getting all into line is one that is known to all who have been in the State and Commonwealth arenas. We shall leave nothing undone that we ought to do, and I ask honorable members to be patient for a few days at least until some announcement can be made. Our position should not be unduly depressing, though it is sad enough for those who are out of employment, and it devolves on all of us to devise immediate means - especially the smaller authorities in the community - in order to provide, without pauperizing the people in any way, for those who are out of employment. Let it be by employment on reproductive works of some kind, and let all the agencies of this country see that that work is given. I hope that at an early date this Government will be able to submit a scheme which will be acceptable to the House, and which will help to bring about the state of affairs that I have indicated.
– I am sure that honorable members were pleased to hear the concluding remarks of the Prime Minister, and the hopeful view he took about the financial situation, showing that he, at any rate, has complete confidence in the financial credit of the Commonwealth, and that he believes he will be able to devise a scheme by which the credit of the Commonwealth may be used - because, unfortunately, we have no great store of cash - to tide us over these very difficult and dangerous times. The war is not our only trouble, though it. is the most serious, because our position as a people and a nation is jeopardized. Unfortunately we are confronted at the same time with one of the worst seasons we have had for many years. Except by hearsay I am not conversant with the state of affairs in all parts of Australia, but I am conversant with the position in the western State. The position there is not at all hopeful. Those in the agricultural areas seem doomed to great losses, while the pastoral areas away to the Tropics have never been in a worse state. These facts should be known, but, at the same time,we should all do our best to get our minds into the position indicated by the Prime Minister, and take as hopeful aview of the future as possible. There is no doubt it is not the occasion to be unduly depressed. It is a timewhen Ave should have stout hearts, and be bold and determined, and when we should help one another as far as Ave possibly can.
The Speech with which we were favored from the Governor-General did not impress me as containing much that was novel. Omitting thewar news, with whichwewe re all acquainted, and which is no doubt very serious, and must give us great cause for consideration and great anxiety, there are many things in the Speech that are fairly well known. There is much in it which was part of the policy of the Liberal party, and there is a good deal which could very well, under existing circumstances, stand over for a time. I listenedwith attention to what the Prime Minister said in regard to our going on with the public business as if nothing extraordinarywas occurring. I join issue with him. I think it, is scarcely fair to honorable members, or to the people of the country, that we should be asked to engage in domestic legislation, and polemical discussions when we are in such a state of anxiety and danger. To ask us to do so is unseemly. Myview, I know, is not shared by the Prime Minister. He thinks that this is an opportune time to proceedwith the ordinary business of the country. In the course of his speech the right honorable gentleman said that Ave were far removed from the scene of the disastrous and horrible occurrencesin Europe. But are Ave far away from them? Are Ave not in reality as closely associated as we possibly could be, in our thoughts and actions, withwhat is occurring there? Are we really living in peace and security, andwithout grave anxiety? Can we forget that thousands, and tens of thousands, of our countrymen are lying dead or dying on the battle-field at this very moment? Can we forget that many of our fellow citizens have relatives or friends who are either dead or dying there ? And in these circumstances, are we to be asked to blot out from our minds this terrible knowledge, and to engage in discussions regarding purely local affairs, as if nothing of the kind was occurring? Is it likely that Ave should be able to do justice to the country or to ourselves if we attempted to proceedwith the ordinary business at this juncture, and are the circumstances so urgent that Ave should be compelled to do so? Many of the proposals of the Government are by no means urgent; they can well be allowed to stand over. There is no necessity, in ray opinion, to embark upon these polemical discussions at the present time,when our thoughts arc centred on other matters affecting the safety of our country and the security of friends and relations, and whilst disasters are coming to some of us almost every hour of the day.
– Arewe to do nothing?
– We should only do thatwhich is necessary and obligatory upon us. In other words,
Ave should dealwith the financial position, and take steps to enable us to tide over a time of trouble and difficulty caused by the war and the drought. Beyond that we should do nothing. We are not in a competent position to do more, and it is unseemly and not in keepingwith our surroundings that we should attempt more.
I notice that the phrases “ as soon as possible,” “early consideration,” and “as soon as the state of the finances makes it practicable,” occur frequently in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, showing thatmy honorable friends opposite have in their minds the difficulties that I foresee. They must recognisewith me that it is unseemly to attempt to proceed with all their proposals as if therewas no national danger or difficulty. We find these phrases used in regard to such questions as the increase of old-age pensions, the provision of pensions forwidows and orphans, the utilization of the Murray waters, a uniform gauge of railway for Australia, the development of the Northern Territory, the provision of a Commonwealth line of steamers, and the amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The paragraphs dealing with all these matters end with the promise either of “ early consideration,” that they will be dealt with “ as soon as possible,” or “ as soon as the state of the finances makes it practicable.”
In paragraph 4 we have an important statement, which I hope will be carried out. Prom what we heard a few days ago, however, it would seem that other counsel has been given since the paragraph was written, and that some other plan is proposed to legalize or validate the action taken in regard to certain expenditure caused by reason of the war when there was no Parliament in existence. In this paragraph we are told that -
It has been necessary to anticipate Parliamentary approval of expenditure urgently required for war purposes. A Bill covering all such unauthorized expenditure will be submitted for your consideration at the earliest possible moment.
That, I think, was a most proper clause to insert in the Speech, and I urge the Treasurer to give effect to it. I assure him that any other plan will lead either himself or some one else into trouble; it will give some one else an excuse later on, when no necessity may exist, of ignoring the requirements of the law in regard to the expenditure of public moneys.
– I shall be very glad to do this.
– I am not speaking with a desire to find fault.
– Hear, hear; I want to make it doubly sure.
– We shall do well to make it very difficult for any one to anticipate parliamentary approval of expenditure.
– I am not the culprit this time; it is the right honorable member himself.
– The right honorable member has continued what I began, and is, therefore, equally with me in the same position. There was no Parliament that could be summoned at the time. The money had to be expended, and I intended to ask Parliament to validate that expenditure.
– I indorse what the right honorable member did.
– There was no help for it. We did it under great stress and difficulty, and I wish to see it put right, as well as what has also been done by the right honorable gentleman.
– What the right honorable member did was quite right; but it was not within the law.
– It was a violation of the law. The Audit Act was ignored.
– But it was the right thing to do.
– Yes, and the honorable gentleman has followed the same course since he has been in office. I am glad to have the Treasurer’s assurance that he- proposes to give effect to this paragraph in the Speech, because we may have some day a Treasurer who will anticipate parliamentary approval of expenditure when there is no urgent necessity for doing so - when there is a Parliament that can be summoned to overcome the difficulty.
Leaving that matter, there is one paragraph in the Speech which I think is a little ponderous. I refer to paragraph 32. I wonder that my right honorable friend should have availed himself of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to tell us that -
In order to complete the constitution of the Naval Board, Mr. J. A. Jensen, M.P., Assistant Minister for Defence, will be appointed as Finance Member.
I can hardly think that that is a matter of such grave governmental or parliamentary procedure as to require to be specially mentioned in the Speech. This gives me an opportunity to refer to the fact that Executive Councillors “under summons” have been appointed Assistant Ministers. I protest most strongly against that being done. This is no new objection on my part. Ever since we have worked under the Federal Constitution I have objected to the term “ Honorary Minister.” My colleagues will bear out that statement. I hold the opinion that such an officer cannot be appointed under the Constitution as it exists. The only persons who can be appointed are Ministers of State. Their number is limited to seven, and £12,000 a year is provided for distribution amongst them in such proportions as Ministers themselves may agree upon. There is power under the Constitution for the
Governor-General to appoint only Executive Councillors, and the rule has been that Ministers on retiring from office shall not be summoned, but shall still remain members of the Executive Council, thus following a procedure that has been adopted in some of the States. Honorable members are perhaps aware that in some of the States Ministers resign from the Executive Council when they cease to be Ministers ; but in the Commonwealth and in Victoria and in some of the other States they do not. On retiring they continue to be members of the Executive Council, but not under summons. It has always been a question with me as to whether it was ever intended by the Constitution that there should be any Executive Councillors under summons other than the seven who are Ministers of State. The question of convenience does not concern me. It may be most convenient to have Executive Councillors under summons to assist the Government of the day. But the point I wish to make is that the Constitution provides that there shall be only seven Ministers who are Ministers of State; that they shall be members of the Executive Council, and that they shallmanage the affairs of the country. We have had instances in which Honorary Ministers have been in charge ‘of great Departments of State - absolutely as much in charge of a great Department as the Ministers of State themselves.
– I think there is a great deal in what the right honorable member says.
– An Honorary Minister or whatever he is designated is not a responsible Minister of State, and has no Executive authority whatever.
– Who was responsible for the Teesdale Smith contract’!
– I am not dealing with that matter. I am merely giving expression to my views, in order that they may be known, and if they are acceptable I hope that they will be acted upon.
– But the right honorable member knows that seven Ministers . are not enough to conduct the whole of the governmental affairs of the Commonwealth nowadays.
– The number of Ministers can be increased by statute. If the Government choose, provision can bemade for the appointment of more than seven Ministers of State, and the salary of £12,000 per annum available for Ministers can be reduced or increased by parliamentary action. An amendment of the Constitution itself is not required. I am not here, however, to advocate at present either an increase in the number of Ministers or an increase of the available salary. My sole desire is that what we do shall be legal and above board.
– But the right honorable member was never in a Federal Ministry in which there were not Honorary Ministers.
– That does not prove anything.
– But the use of the words “ above board “ is rather strong.
– It may, perhaps, require some explanation. Although there have been Honorary Ministers in every Cabinet in which I have sat, I have never been in favour of such appointments.
– I am with the right honorable member.
– I have always protested against the appointment of Honorary Ministers as not being provided for in the Constitution. The practice has grown up in Australia. I do not think it exists in the Old Country. There they are called Junior Lords of the Treasury, and they have salaries provided by Parliament.
– There are UnderSecretaries in Parliament.
– They are in statutory Executive positions, and their salaries are provided for by Parliament.
– In England there are Ministers not in the Cabinet.
– Yes, but they all hold some office. Great Britain has no written Constitution, whereas we have, and we ought to stand by it. There is no such office as Honorary Minister known to the Constitution, and certainly no such offices as those of Assistant Ministers, who undoubtedly have no Executive authority. If more Ministers with emoluments are required they should be provided for on a statutory basis.
– I have always held the same opinion.
– I should now like to refer to the appointment of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice to advise the Government on the sites and construction works of the Naval Bases at Cockburn Sound, Western Port, and other places. I should nob have referred to Sir Maurice Fitzrnaurice’s appointment but for the fact that the Prime Minister has mentioned it. I said on the hustings that, although I was no more responsible than any other member of the Government for his appointment, I was quite willing to take the whole responsibility if necessary for reasons which I gave. While I am willing to spend millions on naval or other great necessary public works, I like to know exactly how they are to be carried out, and exactly what they will cost, and to have behind me the advice of some person of great eminence and experience. I had been scarcely a day in office in 1913 before I interested myself in the question of the Cockburn Sound . Naval Base, and I asked the Minister of Defence to allow Admiral Creswell and his engineering officer to come and see me. Admiral Creswell and the Director of Naval Works, Mr. Fanstone, had an interview with me, and I asked whether they had any plans and specifications of the works being carried out, what it was proposed to do in regard to the dredging, whether dredges had been ordered, and whether a decision had been arrived at as to the width and depth of the channel through the Parmelia and Success Banks, what works were to be done on shore, and generally what it. was proposed to do. Admiral Creswell showed me a marked Admiralty chart, and told me that was all the plans and specifications they had - that they had no plans in regard to the width and depth of the channels, and did not know what sort of dredges would be required. He did say that two small dredges had been ordered, but I think these were for Western Port. I had a private conversation with Admiral Creswell, which it is not necessary to relate; but I was so convinced that we were proceeding in the dark that I suggested to the Cabinet that we should have some eminent Naval works engineer to advise us. I could not but remember thatonly a month or two before, during an election, there had been the farce of a grand opening ceremony at the Henderson Base. The State Governor was there, I think, along with the principal people of Fremantle, and, with the usual speeches, everything went off very well, I believe. I subsequently went down to see theplace, and found nothing there except the sea beach and a shanty or two to serve as offices. I do not wish to say anything offensive, but I have no doubt that that opening ceremony in the middle of a general election was a make-believe to obtain votes for Mr. Pearce, the Minister of Defence, and the Labour party, because there was nothing to open, and there is nothing there now.
– Why was the right honorable gentleman not at the ceremony ?
– I was electioneering; but I do not think that in any case I should have attended, because every one knew the ceremony to be a farce for political purposes. It succeeded, no doubt, in getting a large number of votes, and in defeating Mr. Hedges, the Liberal candidate. However, I am not concerned with that matter now, though I was concerned at the time I took office by the fact that neither Admiral Creswell nor any one else connected, with the work knew what they were going to do. Without plans and specifications and proper preparation, great works of this kind, such as cutting channels several miles long through banks in the sea, to cost £300,000 or £400,000, cannot be carried out. Why, the dredges alone are to cost £370,000 !
– Did the officials propose to tackle the work in that way ?
– Yes, they say that they had everything ready to go on; and they say also, and the Prime Minister reiterated it, that it was a waste of money to bring out Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice to advise us. Sir Maurice, who is an eminent authority and a’ member of the firm of Sir JohnCoode and Company, before giving an opinion, asked for a shaft to be sunk, which, however, shows that the site is an unsuitable one, as there is no solid bottom until 80 feet is reached.
– What was the purport of his report?
– He suggested that there must be a shaft sunk. There was a question whether Jervoise Bay was the right place for the Base, and he decided it was, principally, I believe, because, in his opinion, it would prove the cheapest site. His report was a very fair one, though, personally, I thought a better site could be found further down the Sound, where there is deeper water right into the shore.
– The right honorable gentleman not only thought so, but said so very strongly; but it is a fact that a report some years ago from the same firm supported the present site.
– I do not think so. That report had nothing to do with a Naval Base.
– I shall find the report for the right honorable member.
– I forgot to mention that I asked Admiral Cresswell whether he had seen Sir John Coode’s report made many years ago in regard to cutting channels through Success and Parmelia Banks, from Gage’s-road into Cockburn Sound, and both he and Mr. Fanstone said he had not heard of it. I informed him that when I was Premier of Western Australia, Sir John Coode had made elaborate reports in view of an idea that was then held of constructing the harbor at Owen’s Anchorage rather than at the mouth of the Swan river, and I remarked that it was extraordinary that Admiral Henderson had not been put in possession of these reports. We are now told, however, that Admiral Henderson had them, although I know as a fact that, two days after I had made these remarks, telegrams were sent by Mr. Fanstone to the officers at Cockburn Sound asking them to obtain the reports and to get them quietly and not officially. There was no need for this, however, for the reports could be obtained, and were easily procured, from the Public Works Department in Perth. If Admiral Henderson had that information, all that I can say is that Admiral Cresswell and Mr. Fanstone told me they were not aware of its existence.
– According to the right honorable gentleman’s statement, the officer ought to have been “sacked” as incompetent.
– I think there is a good deal of sense in the suggestion. I was of opinion, based on local knowledge and the opinion of nautical men, that further down Cockburn Sound at James’ Point, or at Mangles Bay, a better site for a Naval Base would have been found, and I am of that opinion still. Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice does not say a word against that site, but that the one he recommended will prove the cheaper. If any one looks at the chart they can see that between James’ Point and Mangles Bay there is one of the finest pieces of water in the world, where a ship of 50-feet draught can run right up to the shore. One thing which I think ought to have been mentioned in Sir Maurice Fitzrnaurice’s report is that western gales come through Challenger Passage right into Jervoise Bay; but, however that may be, I am personally very glad he has recommended the present site, because it is closer to Fremantle.
– Was there not another difficulty in regard to the other site that the right honorable gentleman suggests?
– I do not lemember, although it is said to be open to sea from the westward.
– I think the difficulty was that it would be necessary to pump up the Indian Ocean.
-No, the honorable member is not well informed.
According to the newspapers it was said by the Minister of Defence the other day, and it has been reiterated by the Prime Minister to-night, that the last Fisher Government had decided that there should be a floating dock for Fremantle and Cockburn Sound. I should very much like to see the record of that decision. I have no recollection of any deliberate Ministerial recommendation that a floating dock should be substituted for a graving dock.
– I cannot speak of my own knowledge as to the report, but I shall make inquiries.
– I know there is a strong opinion in favour of a floating dock, but I am rather old-fashioned, and would prefer the graving dock.
– So do I - a solid bottom.
– I should now like to say that it is a matter of great regret to me that the system of check rolls, which was instituted by the previous Government, and which would have proved most valuable, not only to candidates and the public, but also to the Department, has been abolished by the present Government.
– I think not.
– There ought, I think, to be a little fellow-feeling and courtesy between the persons who leave office and those who succeed them under our form of government.
– The Chief Electoral Officer did not see the necessity for it.
– I have advocated this system for years, and, much to ray satisfaction, it was brought about. When the instructions were issued I was sent a copy of them. I desired to see who voted at the elections and who did not. I wished to perfect the rolls, to have an opportunity of seeing if any one had voted more than once,and generally to cleanse the rolls. I knew that there was nothing improper or unreasonable in that, because the information I wanted, and which would be available to every member of the House, could be obtained if one had scrutineers at every polling place, but we know that, whilst there are scrutineers at the principal pollingbooths, there are a great number of places all over the country where there are no scrutineers. I thought it would be far better if the Returning Officer were to prepare a check roll, of which honorable members would have an opportunity of obtaining a copy.
– The idea is that the Chief Returning Officer should have a check roll and mark -off every voter.
– Yes; at the present time there is no check roll at all. The papers are sent to the Returning1 Officer, and he takes the numbers, and seals the papers up, after which they are put into a box, and nothing more is seen of them. There is no means by which a candidate can ascertain who voted or who did not vote. The system in Western Australia was that the Returning Officer made a complete roll and certified that no person had voted more than once, or, if such duplications had occurred, he sent in the names and the Law officers dealt with them.
– There is a check now.
– Yes, but the present Government have done away with it, and we cannot get that information which we all want, and which would be very valuable to the Department also. For instance, there were 10,000 electors in my own electorate who did not vote, and if there were a check roll that circumstance could be investigated by the Department. Perhaps many of those people were dead, or had left the country; we should find out all that information.
Of course, it may be assumed that those who voted were in the country, but, inregard to those who did not vote, there should be some inquiry. No information of a secret character was. required by thisregulation. At any rate, the Chief Electoral Officer did not see anything irregular in it, and it is a rather peculiar thing that it should have been brought, under the notice of the present Minister of Home Affairs so soon after his assumption of office. Iri a letter which I shall read to the House the Chief Electoral Officer does not take any responsibility at all, but puts it all on to the Minister. This is a letter written toexSenator McColl, who was formerly administering the Department, and which has been forwarded to me in order toacquaint me with what has been done. The letter says -
In reply to your communication of the 6th- instant, I desire to inform you that the Minister has intimated to me-
The writer does not say “on ray recommendation the Minister has approved,”” but clearly says that he lias received instructions from the Minister - that it is not considered advisable to proceed* at the present juncture with the checking of the certified lists of voters used at the polling- booths, and the certified list of absent voters.
What harm could be done by havingthese certified rolls? The information is available to any candidate if he chooses to appoint scrutineers to get it, and it is very valuable to candidates, as well as to> every one else.
– You say that the Minister has prohibited the Chief Electoral Officer from giving the information?
– The letter says that the Minister has intimated that he does not consider it advisable to have a check roll prepared.
– That is not correct.
– If it is not correct, perhaps you will countermand .the order.
– It seemed tome that this check roll was a move in the right direction. Every one desires the rolls to be accurate, and this was a means by which the Department could make them accurate and every member of Parliament could help also in making them accurate. Whichever way you look at the matter, there would be no undue advantage to anybody. in the system.
– I understood that the scrutiny was proceeding, but without scrutineers being present.
– There would be no objection to scrutineers being present. The Returning Officer has to make the scrutiny, and all the candidate can do is to get a copy of the check roll through an agent.
– We want the scrutineer to be present.
– Well, that could be arranged if it were thought necessary.
– The Returning Officer should get a complete roll, and discover whether there were any apparent duplications or fraud. The candidate would he able to see who voted, and who did not vote.
– That was not the purpose of the regulation. The intention was to ascertain if there was any duplication. I understand that Mr. Oldham had done portion of the scrutiny, and, being satisfied, did not consider it necessary to go any further.
– The investigation is not for the satisfaction of the Chief Electoral Officer alone, but of every one of. us. Every candidate desires to know who has voted, and, as I have already said, it is information which he can get for himself if he cares to take the “trouble.
– The trouble is that you got in on a dirty roll, and we won on a clean one.
– I do not want a dirty roll, and I will not believe that it could possibly help the Liberal party. I have brought the matter under the Minister’s notice, and I hope he will look into it.
In regard to the proposal to again introduce the Referenda Bills, I do not know what the end is going to be. We have had two referenda on these questions now, and still my honorable friends think that if they continue long enough they may win. Although the taking’ of a referendum will cost £50,000, I shall be glad if it is taken at a time when there is not the excitement which accompanies a general election. I regard it as an improper procedure to have a referendum in regard to a change in the Constitution when excitement is such as it is at a general election. The elec tors are thinking about the candidates, about the rival programmes, and about the sides in politics which they themselves are taking, and they vote accordingly; they do not give that calm reasoning to the matter which I consider ought to be given to a proposed change of the Constitution. The Constitution Bill was not submitted to the people in the first instance at a time of excitement. A Convention was elected by the people, and their work was referred to the people by referendum. To my mind, this plan of making Constitution alerations a party matter is not conducive to the Constitution being wisely amended. The alteration of the Constitution should be nonparty, and should be considered in a calm and judicial way by a Convention elected for the purpose, and then the matter should be referred to the people as the Constitution itself was referred. If we continue in this haphazard way, making our Consitution alterations dependent on the chance vote of a temporary majority, I do not know where we shall get to. I hope that that may not occur. I am in favour of the submission of proposed alterations of the Constitution at times other than a general election.
– The right honorable gentleman submitted the financial agreement proposal at the time of a general election, and made it a party question.
– That did not contemplate so serious an alteration of the Constitution as is now proposed, and I think that it was understood, when the Constitution was framed, that the procedure we followed was that which would be adopted. I took a part in the framing of the Constitution.
– But the right honorable member did not consider it perfect.
– No. Still we should be careful about altering it, lest we commit a breach of faith with the parties to Federation. The people of the States were talked into Federation by their leaders, thinking that it would be a good thing, and federated in accordance with the terms set out in the Constitution. It would not be fair to them to destroy the foundation of their rights without their consent.
– The Constitution cannot be altered without the consent of a majority of the States.
– An alteration of the Constitution might be pronosed which would be disadvantageous to two States; but the votes of those States would not prevail against that of a majority of the States and a majority of the people voting.
– The States federated on the understanding that the Constitution could bc altered.
– Yes; but they expected fair play, not drastic, point-of-the-bayonet invasion of their rights.
– There must be majority rule or Kaiser rule.
– We ought to be careful not to coerce a State into a change of Constitution of which it may not approve.
– I do not understand how one State could be affected prejudicially without the other States being similarly affected by any proposed change of the Constitution.
– An isolated State like Western Australia might be so affected. The volume of business being greater in the eastern States, freight from Europe to Fremantle used to be, and probably is now, dearer than freight from Europe to Sydney, even on a steamer which called at Fremantle on its way to Sydney. Many proposals might affect the small States prejudicially, and yet bo to the advantage of the large States. The Labour party has determined to destroy the autonomy of the States to a large extent. Its referendum proposals tend to Unification.
– We desire that national affairs shall be within the control of the National Parliament.
– The Constitution was framed so that national affairs might be controlled by the National Parliament, and local affairs by the local Parliaments. I have fought these proposals on two occasions, and shall probably fight them again; but they are rather matters for the State authorities. If the State authorities do not desire Unification and the destruction or weakening of their autonomy, they must fight those proposals more vigorously than they did in the past. All over Western Australia I have asked from the plat form this question : “ Can any one present tell me how he has suffered through the Commonwealth not having sufficient power?” To that question I have never received an answer, though some have said that they had suffered through the Commonwealth having too much power.
– What about the differential freights of which the honorable member has spoken ?
– The Commonwealth Government could not do more in that, matter than the States could do.
We are promised an amendment of the electoral law. I am not hopeful of getting much from my friends opposite. I trust, however, that in the Bil] to be introduced there will be ample provisions for the purification of the rolls, and drastic and effective provisions for the prevention and punishment of wrong-doing. There were no complaints in Western Australia regarding the conduct of the last election, but at the preceding election there were many complaints.
– The Liberal party got in on the unclean roll’s.
– Then it was the Labour party, which was in power for three years previously, that made them unclean. No one opposite seems inclined to find fault when names are on the roll, even when they are wrongly there.
– We had a clean roll, and we won.
– Even when-, names are wrongly on the roll my friends opposite seem to wish them to remain there. My experience in this House, from the speeches of honorable members opposite, is that they do not want clean rolls. The Liberal party, on the contrary, want the rolls to be purified, and we want wrong-doing dealt with drastically.
Paragraph 7 of the Speech states -
Upon the declaration of war the Australian^ Navy was immediately placed at the disposal of the Admiralty.
That was done, but it was not this Government that did it. It was the previous Government, although I have no doubt the present Government would have done the same thing. Paragraph 7 goes too far in saying -
By its presence and activity these waters have been kept clear of the enemy’s ships, and our maritime commerce has been continued uninterrupted; thus amply vindicating the policy of an Australian Navy.
I do not think that is quite a generous statement. Our Fleet, no doubt, has done its duty as well as it could, although it is not very numerous. It is, however, ungenerous not to mention that the British Fleet and the Fleets of the Allies have kept our commerce open to all ports of the world. Any one would think, on reading that statement, that it was owing to our ships alone that our maritime commerce had been continued uninterrupted, and that this amply vindicated the Australian naval policy. The Australian Navy has had very little to do with keeping open our commerce with the rest of the world up to the present. I am willing to give our Fleet as much credit as possible, but I do not want to be ungenerous to the Fleets of “ Great Britain and her Allies, which have really kept our maritime commerce uninterrupted, nor do I think that the Fleet of our Empire and the Fleets of our Allies, in keeping our maritime commerce uninterrupted, have in any way had anything whatever to do with vindicating the Australian naval policy. I am sorry to hear some difference of opinion as to who was responsible for the establishment of the Navy. It is not a question of opinion, but of facts, and those who do not know the facts ought to find them out. There is not the slightest doubt that the Liberal Government ordered the Australia, and also passed a Bill, about which we have been jeered at ever since, to raise £3,500,000 to provide, not only for that ship, but for the other ships in the Squadron. Paragraph 7 would have read better if couched in terms like these -
The presence in Australian waters of His Majesty’s ship Australia, and other ships of war of our fleet ordered and arranged for by our predecessors, has been of the greatest advantage in keeping our coasts clear of the enemy’s ships, and ‘ our maritime commerce has continued uninterrupted by reason of the strong arm of the fleets of theMotherland and her Allies.
That would have been the truth.
I quite agree with the Prime Minister that this is not the time to discuss the financial position. When we have the Budget speech, as we shall have in a few days, it will be time for us to discuss it. Even then, I think, we shall all feel some diffidence in discussing it, because we do not want to say anything to interfere with or minimize our credit. We want at all times all the credit we can get; and especially is that so at the present time and until the end of the war. An enormous amount will be required to keep the Commonwealth and States going. The Prime Minister as Treasurer will tell us how he proposes to do it, and I am sure we shall not be inclined to cavil unduly, for we know the great difficulty which confronts him. There is no doubt the note issue will be most useful. I make that statement unreservedly, because there seems to be an impression that I and other members of the Liberal party were opposed to the note issue. I was not, and I think the Liberal party voted for it.
– You had a Bill drafted, did you not, and could not get your colleagues to agree to it?
– The Labour party is “ploughing with my heifer.” I proposed to introduce the Bill in the session of 1909 before we went out, but there were some difficulties at the time. The whole of the information is at the Treasury. I had consulted the financiers of England in regard to it, including the governor of the Bank of England, Lord Goschen, Lord Revelstoke, and others, and their confidential advice is on the Treasury files. The note issue is a very easy way of obtaining currency for a short time. I do not see why honorable members opposite should try to discredit me or other members of this party on the question. There is no reason for saying that I was not in favour of or opposed to the note issue in any way.
– I think we shall have to look up the division lists.
– The honorable member can look them up, and if he asks the Treasurer he can see the files.
– I think we shall find that your vote was against it in this House.
– The honorable member does not know anything about it. One thing in regard to which I am afraid my right honorable friend the Treasurer will find a difficulty is the exaggerated ideas that . his friends and my friends also have in regard to his resources. They seem to think that he has an immense stock of notes available for any one who wants them, and that they can come along and get as much money as they want whenever they require it. When I stated in the press that I hoped that all the States and banks that the Commonwealth was anxious to help would be as economic and as moderate in their demands as possible, because even the resources of the Commonwealth were not unlimited, the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Scaddan, said, “That is all nonsense.” The notes do not belong to the Federal Treasurer. They belong to us, and he is charging us 4 per cent, for those notes which cost him nothing. We ought not to have to pay anything.” One of the things charged against me during the elections was that I asked the Western Australian Government to repay £200, DOO which had been lent to them by my predecessor. As Treasurer, I needed the money, and I gave the States six months’ notice, not only Western Australia, but all the States. I wanted the money for Federal expenditure. Yet I was charged by the Premier of Western Australia with acting because of spite. It was charged against me by the Labour party in Western Australia that I did not need the money, and that the money was lying idle in the Commonwealth Treasury. It was a case of abusing the Commonwealth Treasurer for doing his duty. I think the present Treasurer will find the same thing occurring to him, and that he will have to do or say something to these people to put them into a more reasonable frame of mind . The popular view is that there is no limit to the issue of a paper currency, and the thought never occurs to people to say anything about a gold backing. While no doubt we have a great deal of trouble in front of us, I hope, with the Prime Minister, that no matter on what side of the House we sit, we will remember that we have to look after the interests of the country, and I hope that we will remember that, and be patriotic and forbearing
– You might give your views as to people carrying as many notes as they can and giving up the gold.
– I always used gold, but now I ask for notes. I think the banks should issue notes only.
– The people are carrying £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 in gold in their pockets.
– They should use notes.
I should like to refer to the difference- * in price between British consols and Australian Inscribed Stock. The Australian credit in London is always 10 per centworse than British consols.
– That is because we havenot one stock.
– I am aware that that may be so, but it does not alter the fact that 3 per cent, consols bring JJ 10 per 100 more in London than Australians stock of the same rate and currency. We should give full consideration to thisfact in order to ascertain if it can beutilized to the advantage of Australia at the present time. In 1906 I went toLondon at my own expense to see what the people of England thought of the consolidation of our debts, and I took a lot of trouble about this matter. I interviewed some of the great financiers, the Bank of England, the London and Westminster Bank, Lord Goschen, Lord Revelstoke, the head of Barings, and several others.- I was very friendly with the Secretary of the Treasury, Sir Edward Hamilton, a very eminent man, and the right-hand man of Mr.. Goschen when he converted the National Debt of England. We had a long talkabout the matter, and as I expressed a desire to see Mr. Asquith, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Edward Hamilton arranged an interview between me and Mr. Asquith. At that interview I told Mr. Asquith that Australians did not. wish to make any money out of him, because we were able to pay our own way,, but that I would like to know whether the British Government would guarantee our conversion of £300,000,000 if we arranged! to spend the saving, which would be about £30,000,000, on the defence of the Empire. I pointed out that it would cost the British Treasury nothing, and that the responsibility would be nominal. I thought it rather a good patriotic idea. I thought that if we could get the money at a price considerably lower than we obtain it ordinarily we could put it into the defence of the Empire, and I pointed out clearly that it was not only in our interest that I was asking the Chancellor to help us in this conversion, but that the money would be spent on the defence of the Empire; because, though Australia would probably have some of the defence expenditure, it would all be in the interests of the Empire. However, I am sorry to say that Mr. Asquith was not sympathetic; in fact, he was a little worse, and be soon knocked all the enthusiasm out of me by saying that the British Government had enough to do to get money for itself. I again repeated to him that -Australia was able to pay her own way, and that my suggestion was based primarily on Imperial advantage. Though I dropped the matter then, I think there is a good deal of sound business in my proposal.
– You would hot consider Mr. Asquith a good financier?
SirJOHN FORREST. - At any rate, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time. The idea is worth considering just now, when we are spending immense sums of money, along with other portions of the Empire, in the defence of the Empire. It is a pity that we cannot devise -some means of saving some of this £10 per cent., and thus have more money for defence purposes. I wish Mr. Chamberlain had been in good health at the time, so that I might have consulted him. I am sure he “would not have been so unsympathetic had he been Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am sure that he would have said to me, as he once said, “It is of no use shrinking and peddling nowadays. Those who wish to succeed must risk something, and courage finds it own reward.”
– Does the honorable member think that his idea is possible until -we have one stock for the whole of Australia?
– My idea was to bring about that stock.
In conclusion, ‘ I can only say that it is’ not only our being engaged in a great death struggle along with our fellow countrymen -throughout the world that is affecting us financially at the present time; because, in addition, in Australia the forces of nature seem also to be against us. I hope that honorable members will realize the gravity of the situation. Sometimes we think that because we are so far removed from the scene of strife, and because the enemy is not actually at our gates, the situation is not a serious one. A gentlemanof high repute in this country, and a great thinker, wrote to me only to-day and said that he could not under stand the people of Australia going about just as if nothingwas the matter, whereas he thought we were in terrible danger, and were engaged in a death struggle to maintain supremacy and our national existence. He said, “ Who can tellwhat the result may be.” I can only hope, as we all do, for the best, but I do not think that any one of us can say, although we may believe and hope that it is so, that the issue of the war is certain. I trust that we shall all behave like sane men, and devote all our thoughts and energies to our great national danger.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archibald) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 October 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19141014_reps_6_75/>.