6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence in a position this morning to answer a question that I placed on the notice-paper for yesterday regarding the meaning of the word “ disciplinary “ as applied to troops returned from Egypt?
– No. The Minister intends to make a full explanation, of which the honorable member will be informed, perhaps, on Wednesday next.
Parcels Post - Telephone Rates - Mail Contractors - Deputy PostmastersGeneral- South Brisbane and Wynnum Post Offices - Parramatta Automatic Telephone - Accommodation fob Workmen - Telephone Calls Recorder.
– As there was a serious loss on the working of the Post Office during the year 1913-1914, is the PostmasterGeneral prepared to increase the rates for the carriage of. parcels, catalogues, newspapers, and other articles of that description, which are at present carried too cheaply?
– I do not think that it is necessary to raise these rates. - The losses referred to were not in connexion with the parcels post.
– Some time ago it was announced in the press that the PostmasterGeneral had under consideration the increasing of the telephone rates. Ha» the matter yet been decided, and, if so, is it intended to increase those rates’?
– The matter has not been finally decided.
– I understand that for some time past the Postmaster-Genera! has had under consideration the advisability of doing something to assist the mail contractors, who are passing through a very trying time just now, owing to the drought. If the honorable gentleman’s consideration has matured, I ask him to place before the House his proposals for affording relief.
– I have stated in reply to several questions that each case must be considered on its merits. We are trying to meet the mail contractors as far as possible along the lines indicated in a communication read to the House yesterday by the honorable member for Ballarat, but under the contract system we cannot make a universal rule.
– Without publicly questioning the Postmaster-General in this House, or referring to him in any way, I have on several occasions approached the officers of his Department with a view to securing relief for the mail contractors, and have now received an official communication intimating that additional remuneration will not be paid to the - contractors,’ though services may be curtailed. I would point out that this arrangement will not assist the mail contractors, who have to keep as many horses for- the performance of the curtailed services as would be needed for the full contract. Will the PostmasterGeneral consider some other means of granting relief? To curtail the services is not to grant relief.
– It must be plain to honorable members that the Department cannot pay increases. In one case a contract was let at an increase of £3,000 on the price of the previous contract, and the drought having broken in the district, and the horses being largely grass-fed, everything is in favour of the contractor and against the Department.
– It surprises me to hear the honorable gentleman talk like that, seeing that he knows the condition of the country as well as any man in the House.
– We cannot grant increases to the contractors. To do that would cut two ways. Droughts are not anything new in this country.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral think that he is giving the mail contractors in the drought-stricken districts relief by cutting down the services from three to two runnings per week, aud reducing the subsidy by one-third?
– In some cases where the service has been reduced by 50 per cent., the subsidy has been reduced by only 25 per cent. If the House should say that contractors who find that they cannot carry on should be granted special relief, that will be done, but I am not going to depart from the present system.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that in the Eden-Monaro district, and in other less important parts of New South Wales, mail contractors are being heavily fined for being a little late in the delivery of mails, and that the Department in every case has refused to reduce or remit tha fines, which is contrary to the practice that prevailed in years gone by?
– I do not know of any particular case, though I am aware that some contractors have been fined.
– Their horses are not able to get them through in time.
– When it is proved that (he contractors are not particularly to blame, they are not fined, but when contractors persistently fail to keep time, and there are others who are willing to undertake the service, and to comply with our conditions, fines are imposed.
– Is it not a fact that contracts for the carriage of mails are let on the understanding that they apply to normal seasons 1 If that be so, is there not sufficient justification for some relief in the present abnormal circumstances ?
– There is no such condition.
– I am told by the Department that there is.
– Tenders are called for, practically, every year, and are accepted under certain conditions; and that is the end of the matter. The contractors have to provide sureties, and, if they fail to carry on the work, application is made to the sureties to complete the contract.
– Does not the PostmasterGeneral think it advisable to vest in the Deputy Postmasters-General greater powers than they have at the present time? By doing so we should get better results than we get now.
– The powers of the Deputy Postmasters-General have been increased, and are now very large; as large as I think it is safe to make them. It has not been pointed out how the giving of increased powers would improve matters. We have as much decentralization as possible, and I am not prepared to say that it would be advisable to go further in that direction.
– As the Government spent only £1,513,000 of an appropriation of £4,300,000 last year, I ask the Postmaster-General if he will proceed with the erection of the new post offices so long promised for South Brisbane and Wynnum ?
– I am not sure that the site has been determined in both cases; but I shall ascertain.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral when the automatic telephone exchange for Parramatta, which has been on the tapis for five years, will be installed?
– What was done in regard to it when the honorable member was in power?
– We were trying to get the installation brought from overseas. Our predecessors would not do it.
– The automatic telephone system has not been adopted for five years. We are pushing on as rapidly as possible with the installation of such systems, and have made arrangements for the installation of eight in the metropolitan district of Sydney, among which one for the Parramatta district will be included.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that mechanics and others who have to do with the supply of material for the carrying out of various postal works are provided with very cramped accommodation ? Will the honorable gentleman take steps to remedy this, in order that works may not be delayed?
– It is a fact that, until just recently, the accommodation was very cramped, but provision is being made for a large workshop in a new building. There has been no delay in regard to any of the works.
– What has become of that instrument which the Post and Telegraph Department tested at Ballarat for the recording of telephone calls?
– I have heard nothing of the instrument since the test was made ) indeed, I am not aware whether any test bn.s been applied, bub I shall make inquiries.
Liquor Trade - .Freezing Works
– As it has been- publicly stated that, under Government control, the cost of liquor has been increased in Western Australia, does the Minister of External Affairs still favour Government control of the liquor trade in the Northern Territory?
– The honorable member founds a question on the assumption that the cost of liquor in a State has been increased under Government control. I have no knowledge as to the accuracy of that statement, and I do not think it is correct.. If there has been any increase it must be due to the increased Customs and Excise duties recently imposed in the Tariff. There is no other reason, and, if there has been any increase, I think it is coincident with the increases that have taken place in other parts of Australia.
– Can the Minister of External Affairs tell us whether the Government have power to at once take over the works erected by Vestey Brothers in the Northern Territory, or whether the agreement extends for a period ?
– Speaking entirely from memory, I think the late Government, which entered into this agreement, did not provide that we could take over the works at any time. However, I shall look up the contract, and give the honorable member definite information.
– In connexion with the report of Mr. Justice Street, acting as a Royal Commission on the -meat export trade, I desire to read a newspaper paragraph containing his recommendation, and to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he intends to act in accordance with the advice there given ? The extract is as follows: -
The past history of the so-called Beef Trust in other countries renders it necessary that the development of the activities of these three companies in Australia should be carefully followed, and I recommend that for this purpose the Government of the Commonwealth should communicate with the Governments of the several States, and invite their cooperation. . . . The matter is one of Imperial and Argentine, as well as Australian, concern, and I recommend that the Government of the Commonwealth endeavour to arrange with the Imperial Government, and with the Government of the Argentine Republic, for a frequent interchange of communications and opinions in connexion with future developments.
– The honorable member is going beyond the reasonable bounds of a question. I understood that he intended to read only a small paragraph.
– There are two paragraphs which I desire to read, and I wish to know from the Minister whether he it. prepared to act in accordance with the recommendations therein contained ?
-The honorable member may condense the paragraphs, and ask a question regarding them. If I permit the honorable member to read extracts at length from a report, other honorable members may feel at liberty to found questions on similar extract matter, and also to quote the whole report.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he will act on the advice of the Commissioner in communicating with the States mentioned, and also with New Zealand ?
– It is very difficult to carry in one’s head the whole of the correspondence that has gone out of the Department regarding this or any other matter. I rather think the State Governments have been written to; but if the honorable member places a question on the notice-paper, I shall be pleased to obtain the required information.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What is the estimated detailed cost of -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
£224,324, of which £110,783 is for plant and machinery. 2. (a) £53,000 to £128,000, according to the scheme adopted.
Note. - This expenditure will probably be spread over three to live years.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow - 1 and 2. The dredger is a single screw steel barge-loading bucket dredger designed to raise 900 tons of spoil per hour from a depth of 38 feet.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he will confer with the Commonwealth Statistician with a view of taking a. wealth census throughout Australia ‘similar to the census taken in the United States of America from time to time?
– I will consult with the Commonwealth Statistician, but it may be a question whether the large expenditure involved will be justifiable at the present time.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 22nd April, vide page 2580) :
Department of External Affairs
Division 34 (Administrative), £22,343
– The honorable member for Swan last night dealt pretty fully with the question of the Northern Territory; and I think that he and all other honorable members will agree that a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, right through the centre of Australia, is absolutely necessary to the development of the country. There could be feeding lines established, principally into Western Australia, through some of the best unpeopled country on the face of the earth. The retarding of progress in this portion of the continent is a blot on our history; and a railway of the kind would be of immense advantage, and should be proceeded with at once. South Australia held the Northern Territory for many years, and I am pleased to hear honorable members give credit to that State for what it did in this connexion. There were many nations who would have been very pleased to own the Northern Territory; but the handful of people in South Australia retained it within their grasp, and handed it over to the Commonwealth, with a view to its proper development. It is idle to suggest that the Territory is not good country. We are in possession of reliable reports that land in the Macdonnell
Ranges and Barklay Tablelands would carry 20,000,000 sheep, and that there are 80,000,000 acres of the best wheatgrowing country in the world, with a rainfall of 16 inches. All that is required is a railway to properly open up these tracts of land to the proper stamp of settlers. I am confident that the sons of our grand old pioneers would be pleased to take over and stock country of the kind ; but, of course, there must be proper means of communication. I suggest that all the information available in regard to this portion of Australia, from a settlement point of view, should be published in a small book for the information of honorable members and others who are interested. You, Mr. Chairman, have a motion on the notice-paper to establish a Government horse-breeding station in Australia, and I can only say that no better country than that in the Northern Territory could he found for such a purpose. Iu the time of peace, which we hope will soon be here, a great military station might be established in the Northern Territory, with provision for horse-breeding and the training of men, which, of. course, will have to continue. In the Northern Territory we have a great country with a congenial climate and a splendid rainfall, and yet we hear honorable members and others speaking as though it was the poorest and most miserable land on the face of the earth. Poor country can be found anywhere, but we must remember that country of inferior class in Canada has been satisfactorily developed by means of railways. “We cannot expect people to invest their money in n country which is described as the Northern Territory sometimes is; and I am afraid that that part of Australia is prejudiced by the utterances of men who cannot have even read the reports regarding it. There have been many reports, and the last was that given by Mr. David Lindsay. The request made to Mr. Lindsay was a unique one in the history of Parliaments. He was asked to address the honorable members of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament in the House itself on the subject of the Northern Territory, and he received the thanks of both for the information he then supplied. The Northern Territory can only he properly developed by continuity of policy. The ex-Minister of External Affairs took a great interest in the subject; and I must not be understood as here implying that the present Minister is not doing his level best for the country. In my opinion, the policy adopted by the ex-Minister was on the right track, but, as I say, it is impossible for any proper development to take place without continuity of policy. There ought to be a Board of Advice of, say, three men who are perfectly familiar with the country and its requirements, to advise the Minister and the Department. I do not say that Professor Gilruth is not a very good man for his position, but he is not conversant with Central Australia, and never has been. The right honorable member for Swan carried out his explorations in a proper way, and his reports are well worth reading. Professor Gilruth’s opinion concerning the Northern Territory, to my mind, is worth very little. The Northern Territory is a great country, and we should do our best to develop it. It is a magnificent country for the raising of horses and cattle, while millions of sheep may also be depastured there. I should like the Minister of External Affairs to carefully consider what he should do to develop the Territory. I know that he has ideas of his own concerning the matter, but one suggestion that I would make to him is that he should enter upon a vigorous policy of railway construction. As Sir George Reid once pointed out, development rapidly follows the pushing out of our railway systems. I had the honour of meeting Lord Kitchener when I was in the Old Country a little while ago, and he expressed to me his delight that the Commonwealth Parliament proposed to construct a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. This is by no means a party question. I was sorry to hear the right honorable member for Swan last night refer to the honorable member for Grey as being “ one-eyed “ in regard to the north-south railway. The honorable member for Grey has always been a broadminded man, and has from the first supported the construction of the east-west railway. Neither he nor I desires any political movement for our own -personal benefit, and we have never advocated anything of the kind. A Federal Bureau of Agriculture would assist materially in the development of the- Northern Territory, since it would be able to give settlers much valuable information regarding the class of crops that can be most profitably raised on different areas. Many years ago a ship from South Africa was lost on the south coast of South Australia, and a quantity of seeds on board were washed ashore. These were ultimately scattered on the sand hummocks, with the result that a luxuriant growth of grass sprang up,, and bound the sand together. This grass has since proved of great benefit to the people. The Northern Territory can be made a magnificent national asset if we develop it along the right lines. It is a beautiful country, needing only the attention of pioneers. We want to settle there a body of men like the grand old pioneers who did so much to develop Australia. Let them take up the land and stock it. That is a work which can be better done by our own young men than by the people of any other race. All that they need is the assistance of a few thousand people from outside. If they be given a chance they will quickly show that they have the pioneering blood of their forefathers, and, granted proper facilities in the way of railway communication, they will rapidly develop this magnificent Territory.
.- It would seem that a debate on the Northern Territory is likely to become a “ hardy annual “ in this Chamber.
– Has the honorable member a policy 1
– I have, and I have some suggestions to make, but the doleful note struck last night by the Minister of External Affairs was very discouraging. I regret that the honorable gentleman spoke as he did, since I have a profound feeling that the Northern Territory offers exceptional opportunities. It has been under the control of a succession of Ministers for nearly half a century, yet practically nothing has been done with it. Some of those charged with its administration have been mere cyphers. They have come and gone, and have left no mark. Others have made some efforts to develop it; but it has remained for the present Minister of External Affairs to take some definite action. I am reminded of the old motto, “Veni, uki:, vici.” The honorable gentleman has done something which he may think creditable and likely to mark his administration, but to my mind, and I am certain to the minds of thousands of the electors of
Australia, it is the biggest blot that has yet been made on the administration of the Territory. I refer to the nationalization of the liquor traffic up there.
– Does the honorable member say that it is not an improvement on what was taking place?
– Even the Minister seems to have some doubt as to whether it is a good policy, since he is prepared to put it into effect in regard to only ten out of the sixteen or seventeen hotels in the Territory.
– But the country was alive with sly-grog shops.
– It is impossible for the honorable member to make an intelligent reply to ray argument unless he listens to what I have to say. There are some sixteen -or seventeen hotels in the Territory, and the Minister has decided that the Commonwealth shall take charge of ten of them. The reason given for this action is that the men up there have been served with frightfully bad grog, which lias been described as ‘ ‘ chain lightning.” The Minister is so convinced of the devastating results of this bad grog that he is going to take over ten of the hotels, leaving the remaining six or seven to continue to sell liquor of this particular character. The honorable gentleman maj’ be carrying out a rather cherished principle of his own, but I am satisfied that it will not be conducive to the results he is anxious to obtain. I am entirely with him in his desire to curtail the operations of hotels in the Northern Territory, and particularly to prevent them from supplying the men with an adulterated and destroying article. But it is not a very enticing prospect that the Commonwealth coat of arms may now be painted over the doors of liquor saloons. This great democratic nation of the southern seas has decided that one of the grand things it can do to develop the Northern Territory, and to fill up its empty spaces, is to enter upon the sale of grog. I suppose that a short time hence we may be edified by hearing of the “Hotel Fisher” in the Northern Territory. The Prime Minister, being himself a teetotaller, will hardly consider it an honour to have his name associated even with the Government sale of grog. We shall probably hear also of “ Pearce’s Pub.,” although the Minister of Defence is likewise a total abstainer. Then we may have such hotels as “Archibald’s Inn”; “ Spence’s Saloon: Only members of Australian Workers’ Union supplied.” And the walls of these hotels, may probably be decorated with such advertisements as “ Mahon’s Pure Beer”; “Gardiner’s Gin: Guaranteed Good”; “Russell’s Rum: Absolutely Reliable.” There are ten Ministers, and I presume that the ten hotels will be called after them, as an indication of what a progressive Government may do for the future welfare of the people and their use of grog. The Minister’s action to me is most reprehensible.
– Why not “ Finlayson^ Fizz,” in recognition of the fact that the honorable member supports the Government that has done all this?
– It is true that I support the Government, but I am absolutely opposed to the Minister’s action in regard to the nationalization of the liquor trade in the Northern Territory, and I am prepared to vote against him, and against the Government, on the question. I am well aware that the nationalization of the liquor traffic finds a place in most of the State Labour party platforms, but always with the reservation - particularly in the case of the Queensland Labour party’s platform - that the nationalization of the liquor traffic shall be by the vote of the people. If the Minister of External Affairs is prepared to adopt that line, then I, as an honest Democrat, must support him. The honorable gentleman’s action is reprehensible to me from two points of view. In the first place, I regard it as reprehensible because it is a violation of a distinct promise made by one of his predecessors in office. It will be found at page 3005 of Hansard, of 10th September, 1912, that the honorable member for Barrier, then Minister of External Affairs, was questioned on this subject, the questions and his replies thereto being as follows: -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are -
The Minister’s action is a violation of that distinct promise. . It is reprehensible to me in the second place, because the promise made by the honorable member for Barrier, when Minister of External Affairs, was a recognition of a legitimate method of settling a question of this kindThis matter, more than any other, which is before the people of the world to-day, is looked upon as one primarily and specifically for the people themselves to decide. The licensing legislation of most countries is proceeding along those lines - that, by a local option vote, or by a State or national vote, the- people shall decide what shall be done regarding the liquor traffic.
– How do you think the people in the Northern Territory would give their votes on the question of Government “ pub “ versus private “ pub,” or no “pub” at all?
– I am not concerned as to how they would vote; I am concerned only that they should have tho right to vote, and, if having that right, they decide on national control, I can have no objection, just as I can have no objection if they decide on prohibition. My attitude in regard to the liquor traffic is quite clear. I am a prohibitionist, but I am only a prohibitionist by the will of the people, and if the people decide on prohibition I expect the minority to accept the decision, while if the people decide against prohibition, logically I must, as one of the minority, accept it.
– You would not regard the running of Commonwealth “ pubs “ in the Northern Territory because of the very small percentage who would require them, as logical?
– We tare far enough advanced in our thoughts on this question to have a vote on the national issue, but when we are limited to a decision by a local poll we know that the people of the Northern Territory are just as likely to be as intelligent and to know what is good for them as people in any other part of the Commonwealth. I can trust the people there to do what they think is right, though what they think is right may from my point of view be wrong. Not only has the Minister of External Affairs violated a distinct promise made by his predecessor, but he is also discouraging in regard to this question a democratic ideal, which is accepted by every Government in every civilized community. He proposes to improve matters by nationalizing the hotels in the Territory, but the facts of history are against him in every direction. There is no precedent in history showing that the nationalization of hotels or the bringing of them Under municipal or State control has improved the position. A few years ago we were told that temperance people were talking foolishly when they claimed that prohibition had proved a success. Wc were told that prohibition did not prohibit, that there was no argument in favour of prohibition, and that prohibition only encouraged sly grog selling and all that sort of thing, but during the last few weeks the world has been making history in regard to this question, and has proved quite the opposite.
– Go to the East-West railway at either end, and see what prohibition is doing there in the shape of slygrog sheds.
– The honorable member’s argument is entirely against what he is endeavouring to maintain. I am digressing from the general argument which I wish to establish, but the interjection is worthy of reply. If the argument that prohibition encourages sly-grog selling be true, the logical reverse side of the picture should be that there can be no sly-grog selling where licences exist; but, as a matter of fact, we know that where licences mostly abound there is more slygrog selling than in any other part of the country. There is more sly-grog selling in Melbourne than in any prohibition town. As a matter of fact, where licences exist, sly-grog selling is encouraged. The liquor trade is the most law-breaking and vicious in the country. It violates the law at every opportunity, and breaks it at every turn; it defies the law and laughs at law makers - has nothing but contempt for them. The example of New Zealand is quoted, but talking of prohibition where there really is no prohibition is foolish. There is no prohibition in the no-licence towns of New Zealand. Nothing but tha prohibition of the manufacture, importation, and sale of liquor will prohibit its use. However, I have no desire to raise a discussion on the temperance question, greatly as I would enjoy it. That there are some people in the world who’ are intemperate in their language in regard tothe evils of the liquor traffic is a good thing.
– You wish to cure the evil, do you not?
– If the honorable member can separate drinking from the evils of drinking he will do something that no other man has been able to do. It is not the fact of where drink is sold, or by whom it is sold, that does the damage; it is the drink itself that causes the damage, and drink sold in a Commonwealth or State hotel will do just as much damage as drink sold in an hotel not controlled by the Government.
– Many a man has died through being unable to get a drop of good whisky.
– As I have told the honorable member on other occasions, if you vish to preserve a dead man you put him in spirits, but if you wish to kill a living man you put the spirits in him. The Minister of External Affairs has quoted Western Australia and the conduct of State hotels there as an encouraging example. I have a long and interesting letter, written on the 17th April, from the General Secretary of the Western Australian Alliance, and I shall read one or two things that particularly apply to the present case.
– I have stayed in State hotels in Western. Australia, and I know something about them.
– I do not. suggest that this gentleman gives an unbiased or unprejudiced view, and that is why I give the name of the writer. He says that all the five hotels that have been “ legally established “ there are illegally conducted, and he proceeds to say -
By this I mean that the managers make no pretence of observing the provisions of the licensing; laws. As a matter of fact, two neglected to apply at the December sessions of the Licensing Court at York, for the renewal of the licences. The Court adjourned for a fortnight to give them another chance. It was not embraced, and since January the Kwollyin and Bruce Rock State hotels are selling liquor without a licence. … At Bruce Rock the local constable, at the solicitation of the residents, has protested against the non-observance of the closing provisions of the Act, but has no power to compel obedience. This fact should never be lost sight of, that there can be no police supervision over State hotels. The manager, and policeman are both State servants, and “ clog does not eat dog” in the service or out of it. . . . The Wongan Hills State hotel has not been in operation a year, and yet there have been public protests against the amount of drunkenness that takes place there. Intoxicated men are able to get drink so long as they are able to pay for it. An inquiry was conducted departmentallly into these charges, and the manager was removed. He was not punished or reprimanded. He was transferred to the Gwalia hotel. . . . Sending him to Gwalia was a promotion. … At no other State hotel has the manager attempted to prevent drunkenness, or placed men on the prohibited list.
– That is distinctly untrue. I have seen men refused- drink in a State hotel.
– I have given the name of the author of the letter, and I frankly admit that I am giving an opinion from his point of view. Surely honorable members are willing to hear both sides.
– Why quote the opinion of a partisan ?
– What is the Minister but a partisan? He has expressed a very deliberate and emphatic opinion in regard to State hotels.
– I am not a partisan in regard to the liquor traffic any more than you are.
– If the Minister is not a partisan any more than I am he is a. pretty hot partisan, seeing that I am a pretty hot partisan on the question.
– You have only one pair of spectacles when you approach this question.
– To look through a pair of spectacles at the question is better than to look at it through the bottom of a glass. This system of State hotels in Western Australia has not reduced drunkenness nor affected the increased drinking of the people of the State, whose consumption per head of the population is nearly double that of any other State. Not only is this a fact, but the State hotels in Western Australia, just as is the case with State hotels in any other country, are centres of drinking of a very insidious character, more so than in the case of other hotels. I was in Great Britain some years ago when the municipalization idea was strongly in evidence, when Earl Grey commenced his agitation in regard to the public house trust system, by which profits from hotels were to be devoted to the encouragement of temperance societies and the provision of bowling greens and libraries, and the managers of the hotels were not to be given any interest in the sales of liquor, their sole profits outside their salaries being derived from the sale of temperance beverages, and where at all times, night or day, temperance beverages were to be obtainable by those requiring them. On paper it would seem that this system was to be a very fine thing. The churches blessed it. Ministers of the gospel consecrated hotels in some cases. Yet, as a matter of fact, we know that these hotels, by reason of their respectability, are a more insidious temptation to the public.
– What is your evidence of that?
– I have visited these hotels, and seen what was going on. I visited several places in Scotland, which were lauded all over the country. When I returned to Australia I found that they were being quoted as examples. The ordinary individual who is not a total abstainer hesitates to go into an ordinary hotel or public house, but in the case of these hotels controlled by a municipality or State he has a guarantee of respectability. To drink in a place blessed by the church or municipality cannot be wrong. This is the objection I have - the hotels in the Northern Territory because of their respectability will attract a certain class of people who would never otherwise be tempted to enter hotels, and thus the most insidious form of drinking in public houses will be introduced.
– Do you say that a man will go into one of those hotels in Scotland to drink soft drinks and finish up with spirits?
– Yes. In Scotland there are elders of the church and men occupying responsible positions on the board of directors of these hotels. I know of an elder of the Presbyterian Church who was chairman of directors of one hotel. That fact alone led his own son to his ruin. The boy thought it would not be wrong to visit an hotel, of which his father was a director, and the parent had subsequently to report with regret that the very fact of his son being tempted to the hotel by reason of his father’s position had been the means of his downfall.
– The anti-Socialists in the Northern Territory may refuse to drink because they will not patronize the State hotel.
– That resistance will not last long, because, unfortunately, we know that once a man has become addicted to drink he is not particular where or how he obtains it. The grip which alcohol gets on a man is one of the most fearful and saddest features in connexion with it. I hope that the Minister is open to conviction on this matter. During the last few months the world has been making history on this question more than on any other. . Temperance advocates who have been scorned, jeered at, insulted and reviled, are now finding that the very things they claimed all through the past years are’ the accepted results and facts of to-day. Every statement and every challenge made by the temperance people in regard to the liquor traffic has been substantiated by the experience of the nations in Europe during the present crisis. In. 1894 the great nation of Russia nationalized the spirits traffic of that country, and immediately closed 100,000 spirits shops. The object of that was said to be to encourage the drinking of a better quality of grog, and to reduce the amount of drunkenness. The Government started out with exactly the same ideas as the Minister of External Affairs is starting out with in the Northern Territory.
– They started out to make profits.
– The honorable member is wrong. He is nob acquainted with the history of the movement. I should like to read to the Committee a passage from Prohibition Advance in all Lands, by Guy Hayler, a recognised authority on the matter.
The. CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Northern Territory seems to be cropping up as a hardy annual in our debates, but I was on the tip-toe of expectation when the honorable member for Brisbane rose that he was about to settle the whole question, because he took to task categorically all Ministers who have ever had this problem in hand, passed them all out as of no consequence, referred to some as probable triers, and then left the present Minister to justify himself. The honorable member said that he had a policy for the Northern Territory, but he devoted the whole of his remarks to the liquor question. Any sane man who has the welfare of the Northern Territory at heart, knows that the manner of regulating the liquor traffic is not going to settle the great problem of developing the Territory, and I shall not delay further on that subject beyond saying that it is a surprise to see a member of the Labour party trying to show that the general policy of his party, namely, the nationalization of the liquor traffic, is a false one. However, it is for the honorable member to justify that attitude to his party. The development of the Northern Territory proved a proposition too big for South Australia, although that State pluckily, and by the expenditure of a considerable amount of money, endeavoured to do its best for the immense area that was committed to its charge. The Commonwealth took over the Territory, which to-day provides evidence of the fact that, while Australia may be regarded as one of the most prosperous colonies of the British Empire, we have signally failed to effectively handle the question of that country’s colonization. I think the Minister is entitled to the respect of this House for the candour with which he faced the question. Unlike previous Ministers, who thought they had a policy which would determine the matter, he said that, although he had given the matter careful consideration, he was unable, after an experience of a few months, to say where the people to settle the Territory were coming from.
– That speech was a policy of despair.
– It was a policy of candour.
– If that is all there is to be said on the matter, we are not justified in spending any more money on the Territory.
– As each member spoke, the Minister asked him by interjection what suggestions he had, and where the people were to come from, and he credited the honorable member for
Wimmera with having made a good suggestion for testing the value of the country for irrigation purposes.
– Do you want the railway before the people, or the people before the railway ?
– I will make my suggestions before I have finished, and the honorable member’s pet railway will not escape attention. The proposition, as it appears to people in other parts of Australia is: “Who is going to leave the conditions of civilization around the coast line of Australia, a temperate climate, good land1, all the conditions of life built up, friends and relatives near, and credit established, to go to the Northern Territory, in some instances a distance of 1,500 miles from their present homes, when it has not yet been clearly proved that they can get for themselves, their wives, and children, an absolutely clean, bill of health?” It is not yet proven to the satisfaction of Australia that the white child will prosper in the Northern Territory as well as in other parts of Australia. The home life is a consideration which will be found to influence very largely the policy of getting bond fide permanent settlers for the Northern Territory. The Minister very properly has said that the class of transitory settlers who go to the Territory with the idea of making money quickly, and departing again, is not going to lead to bond fide settlement. Bond fide settlement requires that the white man shall be willing to bring his white partner with him, and be assured of the possibility of rearing his children. There we have one of the drawbacks of the Territory at the present time. I do not say that it is insuperable, and I do not say that the unhealthiness of the Territory is a fact, but money will be well spent in an investigation to clear away that uncertainty.
– Improved conditions mean improved health.
– Yes; but an Act of Parliament will not “transform the climate of the Northern Territory. A big expenditure in improving the conditions will be necessary. There are a few outstanding features that have proved themselves in connexion with land settlement in other parts of Australia, and they must have an important bearing on any policy of settlement in the Northern Territory. First of all, it is essential that there shall be rapid and effective trans port. The question of whether the means of access shall be by way of the northsouth railway, as suggested by the honorable member for Grey, or along the route suggested by the right honorable member for Swan, is a matter that will have to be determined. For the present my mind is open on the question ; what- » ever route will best suit the Territory, and most quickly develop it, and at the same time not put this Parliament in the position of abrogating any bargain that has been made, I will support. But if any policy means that an honorable bargain made at the time of Federation is to be repudiated* I will not be a party to it. It has struck me that in order to make the Territory something of a success the lines that have been followed in the past are not those to be pursued in the future. I rather favour the appointment of a permanent Commission to accomplish what the honorable member for Barker indicated as necessary, namely, a continuous policy. Changes of Ministries bring, about changes in ideas as to the policy of land settlement. We have had the attempt at the cabbage garden method of developing the Territory, and that has proved to be a failure. To-day the Territory is saddled with a debt of £6,000,000, which is a pretty big handicap foi any Ministry or any permanent Commission to face, and at the same time make a success of the Territory. One essential to the success of any territory is that it shall proceed along the lines, of self-support. I would suggest that .the present debt of the Northern Territory, other than the debt on the railway system, be funded, and the Territory relieved of it; that a permanent Commission be appointed with power to borrow money from abroad or internally for the development of the Territory; that the money so borrowed be earmarked for the Territory alone; and that, as far as possible, the burden of developing the Territory be removed from the ordinary taxpayer. In every distract in the Commonwealth there are -good propositions available to every young Australian. I do not know of one district in the whole of Australia that may be said to be adequately and fully developed. While we have these propositions around the coast of Australia, good land, good opportunities, and other attractions, we will not get people to take the risk of going to the Territory unless, first of all, they are convinced that in the north is undoubtedly a proposition not available in the other parts of Australia. Why I suggest that the development of the Territory should not be a burden on the ordinary taxpayers is this: Within my own constituency there are districts which have been settled for fifty years, and are still without a railway. Am I to ask the taxpayers in that district to find money for building railways in the Northern Territory when they are unable to get money from the Government to build railways, establish water schemes, and other works which would increase the productivity of their own land ? To-day Australia has far too small a population for the development of those areas which already have been long settled. Therefore, I would make the development of the Territory a separate policy and a separate State under a permanent Commission. That Commission should be composed of hard-headed men, who have seen something of the developmental life of this country, and dealt with similar country in, say, Queensland and Western Australia, men of proven capacity and financial ability and experience; I would exclude politicians. I would give the Commissioners power to roam the world, in order to find population to settle in the Territory. No Minister of the Crown will be able, alone, to decide altogether what is good for the development of the Territory, and how population may be got there. Whatever policy we adopt must be continuous. How can we in the National Parliament, 1,500 miles from the Territory, know the conditions that will best suit the development of that country ? Irrigation may be possible in certain directions. My opinion is that it will be found that most of the land in that Territory is already waterlogged.
An Honorable Member. - Not all of it. They have 6 inches of rainfall in certain places, and it is away in a few hours.
– I’ have it from those who have been up there, who have seen, that some parts of the country are waterlogged.
– That is quite true.
– That is what I am told by men who have been there. I do not like to lay my views down too emphatically, but I think men who understand the northern part of Australia will recognise that, so far as the irrigator is concerned, his time has not yet arrived. There are too many irrigation propositions in other parts of Australia, and it has to be recognised that, for successful irrigation there must, first of all, be a big population.
– Make an export trade of it.
– You may develop an export trade to the islands - I would not attempt to put a wet blanket on the idea altogether - but I think that the time for the irrigationist up there is not yet. The question then conies - What other and more likely means of development are in sight ? 1 would suggest to the Minister that an exceptional effort be made to discover and develop the mineral resources of the Territory. To-day we find plants and miners idle all over Australia; mining is at a very low ebb. A big premium might be offered by the Government to miners, mining investors, to mining groups, to test the mineral wealth of the Territory. We have not by any means exhausted all the possibilities of discovering mineral wealth in that country; and, if we were able to discover minerals, there would be little doubt as to population going there. Where would the settlement of Victoria, or, indeed, the settlement of Australia, have been had it not been for the early discoveries of mineral wealth ? With all the good land available, people would not have come from- the Old Country at the time they did, and in such numbers, had it not been for minerals.
– They did not wait for railways, either.
– They did not.- There is nothing in the world which will attract people like the discovery of mineral wealth. Men tumble over one another to get it; some of them even lose their political principles to get it. I think that even the successful Labour man of to-day will be the Liberal of to-morrow if he can only discover a gold-mine. People will rush from all the corners of the globe to get the hidden wealth of the world ; and I would suggest that the Minister of External Affairs ask Parliament for a special grant to push along with the investigation of the mineral resources of this Territory. With respect to land tenures, I hope the Government will not be adamant on the question of the leasehold principle. It would be unwise to set up a conflict of tenures. I do not advocate the entire application of the freehold principle to the Northern Territory, but I suggest that the two principles be allowed to run side by side, and that settlers may be given every opportunity to make and own their homes in the Territory.
– You have to be liberal in order to get the settler there.
– No nian is going to the Northern Territory unless he sees before him the prospect of securing his home. The first institution in life is home. Every mau likes to own his home. I do not care whether it be a humble cottage or broad acres, every man, if you investigate his inwardness and tap his heart’s feelings, wishes to own the home either where he was born or where his family was born - that little dominion which no change of government, no change of politics, can deprive him of. I would, therefore, suggest that the Government ought not to be adamant regarding land tenures. Offer the freehold in conjunction with the leasehold. Offer it on liberal conditions that will induce settlement. Were the Government to give away land, subject, of course, to Australian control, in order to attract settlement, they would be acting wisely. Today the Territory is only an incubus on the taxpayer of Australia to the extent of half a million a year. Any policy that will relieve the Government in regard to these obligations, and at the same time develop the Territory, will be a policy calculated to assist the development of Australia. It has been proved conclusively that all policies up to the present for settling the Northern Territory have abjectly failed. I place no blame for that on the Minister or on the Government. The development of the north of Australia, apart from this Territory, is a big proposition.
– I suggested once that a line should be drawn across the Continent.
– Hear, hear ! I think the Minister is right. The Northern Territory ag we have it under the control of this Parliament is merely a portion of Northern Australia.
– It is just the same as the north-west.
– Before the outbreak of the present war Australia was on the eve of a considerable development of it3 northern proposition. We had seen an unusual demand arising in all parts of the world for foodstuffs. The Mother Country, America, Germany - all these great nations who had been for a considerable time past turning their attentions to secondary industries to the neglect of primary industries - were turning towards Australia, whose opportunity seemed to be arriving. Here we have a great country over 3,000,000 miles in extent, with a climate unsurpassed in the world, comparatively free from disease, than which there is no better stockraising country in the world, and with few people to feed. As a result of settlement in the more highly developed States we have discovered that on the small areas cattle must go; they must go further north.
– They are up there now.
– It is nearly all up in that direction. In many districts df Victoria where beef used to be raised to an enormous extent, the country has been converted into closer settlement areas. It is this process which is making us look to the Territory, which is not going to be a place for the irrigationist or the small settler, but which is going to be the place for beef and mutton like the rest of Northern Australia. It is no use this Government attempting to make a cabbage garden of the Northern Territory. The conditions there offer wonderful inducements to the stock and cattle breeder, and I hope this Government will take no restricted view of the conditions under which favorable development may be brought about. The same argument applies to the capitalist as to any one else. No man will settle there unless he is certain of a fairly good tenure; and I would suggest that such a freehold be granted as will induce a man to make his permanent home in the Territory.
– A smaller area.
– A smaller area in conjunction with a pastoral area. I think that Australia is likely to benefit considerably by the high prices of beef and mutton in the rest of the world. The Minister knows as well as anybody else that Australia’s progress must depend upon the value of her export trade, and it is the export of primary production, chiefly wool, beef and mutton, that will best help us to adjust our balances on the other side of the world, which is being rapidly transformed into workshops. I regret that there has been a steady depletion of the herds and flocks in this country during the past dry year. Probably no honorable member of this House can conceive what the internal loss to the Commonwealth has been. I take no notice of the fact that in odd places there may have been increased prosperity. That kind of prosperity is not calculated’ to increase the national wealth. The misfortune of the man in the north may increase the prosperity of the man in the south, whose fodder has gone up to £12 a ton, but I personally say that I regret to have to sit in any Parliament of this country and watch the stock die by a process of exhaustion., while other people enrich themselves by charging as much as £12 a ton for fodder. I saw an example the other day of a man in my own district, a share-farmer who contracts on the road during the rest of the year. He told me this tale. It had been his third trip into the town to obtain fodder. Beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead. He was the father of a family of eleven. He said: “This is my third trip to get fodder to-day; the price is £12 5s. If I go back without fodder this time I go back with a double-barrelled gun to shoot my eight horses.”
– You think the Government ought to regulate prices?
– I think a condition of affairs like that should be met.
– And I do not think political capital should be made out of it.
– I quite agree. It is not a question of political capital. Facts have to be faced, and the point I wish to make is this : that Australia has to help the producer in extreme difficulties during these times of adversity. I do not care what principle it may be that is going to save him from his extreme position. On occasions like this, when supplies are exhausted, the Government should step in and stand behind the man who is suffering.
– Exceptional circumstances demand exceptional treatment.
– When a crisis like the present occurs iu Australia, and there is an almost universal failure of harvest, the Government officials should estimate accurately the quantity ‘ of foodstuffs available in the Commonwealth for the consumption of men and of animals, and when the shortage is considerable, the Government should see that it is made up. Under such circumstances I should be behind any Government which proposed to allow the importation of foodstuffs. I do not preach, for I do not believe in State Socialism.
– Except when it suits the honorable member.
– I am willing that the State should control what may bo termed natural monopolies, but I do not consider that the State should enter into competition with its taxpayers by means of money extorted from those taxpayers for the purpose.
.- Of all the great questions brought before this Parliament, the settlement and development of the Northern Territory is the greatest. We should have much sympathy with the Minister who is charged with the administration of the affairs of the Territory. As a Labour member, I feel that this question should not be merely one of Ministerial policy, but that it should be one of national policy, to be preached from one end of Australia to the other, to gain the co-operation of the people as a whole in bringing it into effect. At this particular juncture the eyes of .the people are raised to a wider horizon than ever before. It was asked by a member some time ago whether he could be expected to advise the people of his district, who needed water conservation works and the making of railways for the development of their land, to vote money to build a national railway which would not directly affect them. These people, however, show no hesitation at the present time in mortgaging the resources of the country to provide means ‘with which to fight a foe that is recognised to be the foe of Australia as well as of the countries of Europe to which it is in opposition. We recognise that the security of the Empire depends on the action that we may take in this crisis. It has been preached by the broadest-minded men in Australia, however, that unless we successfully solve the Northern Territory question, this great continent will eventually he lost to the white race”, no matter what development may take place in its more favoured States. We are debating, not a provincial matter, but a question relating to the welfare of every person in the Commonwealth, and affecting the security of the British Dominions as a whole. I have no wish to take sides on the question whether the railway should be built east or west, but T have been so impressed by my study of the subject, although I have no personal acquaintance with the Territory, that I am convinced that no sacrifice will be too great for the people of Australia to make which would bring about the realization of our duties in this matter. The support of the people was given to the Labour party so lavishly at the last election that we should endeavour to give effect in a broad way to the initial stages of a policy which aims at realizing the greater destinies of this continent. I could point to scores of good agricultural districts in New South Wales which need railways, but, nevertheless, I say, let us be taxed to build a national railway from the north to the south of the continent. The construction of such a line is the first step that must be taken towards the solution of the problem which confronts us, and it will secure, not merely the Imperial interest, but also the local interests of the States. But to construct a railway without at the same time putting into effect a progressive land policy, based on the ideals of the Labour party, and not on the failures of the past, would be useless. Our land policy must be entirely different from that which has operated so unhappily in the States. Perhaps I come into this debate not too well equipped, but I have had experience as a worker on the land extending over twenty-five or twenty-six years, and know the hardships which the man on the lane! has to face, and I have also been engaged for eight or nine years in assisting in the administration of State laws, and, therefore, I know something of the defects of our laws, and have sympathy with the difficulties of our settlers. I shall endeavour to lay down briefly a few of the principles at which I have arrived as the result of an honest endeavour to understand the question on which I am speaking. Without the institution of a wise system of land settlement, we shall have to tell, in regard to the North- ern Territory, only a tale of slow progress, and the success of our efforts at development will seem hopeless. A number of honorable members here are opposed to what they term Socialism, but I say that if we wait until men with capital, large or small, go to the Northern Territory, we shall wait in vain for its development. One honorable member has recommended the offering of grants of land, and the Leader of the Opposition, in his policy speech, recommended the adoption of the freehold principle. He would allow a reasonable living area, not exceeding 2,560 acres, to ‘be granted in freehold. He has stated that he regards that as necessary for the development of the Territory. Before stating the principles at which I have arrived, I wish to show what the freehold system has done for the settled States, and particularly for New South Wales, with whose conditions I am most conversant. No doubt, Sir John Robertson, when framing his Free Selection Act, considered that sufficient safeguards had been provided. Free selection was the first step towards the acquirement of freehold, and is so still in most of the States. There have been countless amendments of the land laws of New South Wales; men of varying degrees of intelligence and honesty having thus endeavoured to safeguard the interests of future settlers by preventing land monopoly, and to establish a prosperous peasantry on the soil. Yet, in 1887, it was possible for the late Sir William Lyne, by a question addressed to a Minister in the Legislative Assembly, to elicit the information that, although 230,000 selections had been taken up in the State to date, only 28,000 of the original selectors remained on their blocks, so fast was the aggregation of large estates proceeding. Our party has proposed an expedient which it considers the true corrective of this evil. Although I support it, I regard it only as an expedient, which will ultimately be supplanted by a higher and truer system, under which the principles of broad justice, which have been outraged under the State systems, will receive recognition. Notwithstanding the direct opposition of the Liberal party of New South Wales to the leasehold policy of the Labour party embodied in the Act of 1912, an Act which the Liberals passed in 1908 contains so many safeguards against the. evils arising from freehold, that one of the most distinguished supporters of the Liberal Government - Dr. McLaurin, a member of the Upper House - said that it gave only an illegitimate kind of freehold. The Act of 1908 provides that, even after a selector has paid the whole of the capital value of his land, and a deed of grant has been issued to him, he may transfer only with the sanction of the Minister, and a transfer to a person holding in the district more than a living area, counting the area applied for, cannot be sanctioned. Thus the real essence of freehold is eliminated, and, except for differences which I shall define, the tenure under the Act of 1908 is similar to the perpetual leasehold system provided for in the Act of 1912. If the Labour party were willing to drop the condition of perpetual residence and periodical reappraisement, its tenure would be almost the same as that given by the Liberal party in the Act of 1908. I hope that the system of freehold will not be perpetuated by the Commonwealth, and that we shall profit by the mistakes of the States. I shall show how the Act of 1908, which provides for a tenure from which the essence of freehold is removed, has failed in the object which its framers had in view - the prevention of land monopoly. Aa a practical man, who has had large experience, and has listened for weeks at a stretch to evidence with regard to what is a living area, I say that the meaning of “ living area “ must constantly change. If a man is within a decent rainfall, and the land is good, doubtless, before railway facilities come, it is necessary to have a sufficient area to make a living by grazing. And even when a railway does come, agriculture in the beginning is carried on by slipshod methods, and we are in a great measure now suffering from the careless, improvident system adopted in the past. However, all this is being gradually altered. The development of inventive genius, of agricultural chemistry, and so forth, not to speak of new markets, is tending to make one man’s labour more effective than it was in the past; and we have the phenomenon that land, which, twenty-five years ago, was scarcely able to keep its owner out of debt, can now keep, perhaps, four or five families in a state of well-being and prosperity. I admit that the leasehold system is subject to similar disabilities; and the leasehold system I re- gard as merely an instalment or step towards a better one. In the case of leaseholds, however, it is recognised that the land belongs to the State, and there is a clumsy method of re-appraisement in order that there may be returned some of the enhanced value brought about, in a great measure, by the advantages afforded by the State. It is possible that the freehold areas of 2,560 acres spoken of may in the future be the sites of cities with teeming population.
– Is the owner not entitled to the reward for the risks he takes ?
– No; it is a most unscientific system to provide these “bonanzas” for one section of the community, and enable that section to secure a mortgage over the labour and production of their fellow creatures. Such a system and such a result are a blot on our civilization, and a reflection on our intelligence.
– The same argument would apply to the development and success of a business.
– There is no analogy. A careless and improvident man may start a distributing or manufacturing business at one corner of the street, and later be met with the competition of an uptodate man in a similar business at the other corner, with the inevitable result -of the ruin of the business of the- careless or weaker competitor. But that does not. apply in the case of land. A man may own 1,000 acres, and use it merely for raising a few ill-bred sheep, and for the careless and perfunctory cultivation of 100 or 200 acres, making as a result, perhaps, £200 or £300 a year, and managing to pay the interest on the mortgage. Another piece of land of exactly the same quality and area in the neighbourhood may be purchased by a capable, up-to-date agriculturist, and put to its utmost uses, as I have seen done in New South Wales by settlers from Victoria and South Australia. Better stock is introduced along with modern methods, and an income, not of £200 or £300, but possibly of £1,200 or £1,500, is secured as a return. But does this capable competition ruin the incapable and careless neighbour? Not at all, for the effect has been merely to demonstrate that the land of the incapable man is worth not, say, £2 an acre, but £6 or £7 an acre; and he is enabled to sell out at the higher figure and become what he could not have hoped to become by his own exertions - a prosperous man. Every person in the community is paying something into a deposit on which the cheques of only some particular persons will be honoured later on. I regard land taxation as only an expedient begotten of the necessity to deal with most unjust and monstrous conditions. Census returns in New South Wales show that ten districts in the rain zone, and well calculated to support large numbers of people, have lost population during the last ten years; and this means that our cities are becoming more swollen than ever with what may be described as an artificial population. We have at this time, in the case of the Northern Territory, the finest opportunity to show the world that the principles of0 justice and equity can be firmly established and maintained, when, as it were, we are relieved from the trammels of the older systems under which monopoly was fostered, perhaps unwittingly, by men to whom we handed the care of the community.
– We have had the leasehold system, and it has not borne fruit.
– The leasehold system has not yet been really tried. We are a handful of people, less than 5,000,000, with 3,000,000 square miles of territory; and the net result of all the work of the past is that we are reduced to the pitiful expedient of buying back a little of the lost heritage in order to settle a few willing workers. As the Minister pointed out, hundreds of people rush to the land ballots, whether freehold or leasehold, because they have the proverbial “ Buckley’s “ hope of acquiring land by purchase. Doubtless it would suit people who have aggregated large estates, to keep the bulk of the productive energy of the country cap in hand under some system of tenancy or of share farming, of which I am an opponent, but which I am compelled myself to use. As a practical man I warn the Commonwealth of the danger of allowing the thin edge of the wedge - that is, allowing freehold tenure side by side with leasehold in the Northern Territory. Human beings, of course, always tend along the line of least resistance, and make for the highest profits. We have been taught in the evolution of the race that the easiest and most effective method of becoming great and prosperous is, not to bend our back oi our mind to drudgery in order to produce, but to devise some system by which we can yoke our fellow creatures to work for us, and this idea is effectually and firmly entrenched behind the ramparts of freehold. Perhaps I ought to give some authority for the arguments I have advanced. No one would accuse the late W. E. Gladstone of being a Socialist or. Labour man whose utterances might be regarded with some suspicion, and we find him saying -
There are some persons, for whom I have a great respect, who think that the difficulties of our agriculture may be got over by a fundamental change in the land-holding system of our country. I mean those who think that, if you can cut up the land of a country into a multitude of small properties, that of itself will solve the difficulty. To a proposal of that kind I for one am not going to object that it would be inconsistent with the privileges of landed proprietors if it is going to be for the welfare of the community at large. The Legislature is perfectly entitled to buy up the landed proprietors for the purpose of dividing the country into small lots. In principle no objection can be taken to it. Those persons who possess large portions of the earth’s space are not altogether in the same position as the possessors of mere personalty. Personalty does not impose limitations on the action and industry of man, and the well-being of the community, as possession of land does, and therefore I freely own that compulsory expropriation is a thing which is admissible, and even sound in principle.
Froude, the historian, was even still more emphatic -
Of all the fatal gifts which we bestowed upon our unhappy possession (Ireland), the greatest was the English system of owning land. Land, properly speaking, cannot be owned by any man - it belongs to the human race. Laws have to be made to secure the profits of their industry to those who cultivate it; but the private property of this or that person, which he is entitled to deal with as he pleases, land never ought to be, and never strictly is.
I shall give one other authority to show that the Labour party a.re advocating no wild-cat scheme, although I admit their policy is imperfectly expressed in their land legislation. However, that legislation and policy are based on the imperishable principles of truth, which those great men recognized in their day, but had no opportunity to carry into effect. John Stuart Mill says -
Returning nothing to the soil, they (the landlords) consume its whole produce, minus the potatoes strictly necessary to keep the inhabitants from dying of famine; and when they have any purpose of improvement the preparatory step usually consists in not leaving even this pittance, but turning out the people to beggary, if not to starvation. When landed property has placed itself on this footing, it ceases to be dependable; and the time has come for making some new arrangement in the matter. When the sacredness of property is talked of it should always be remembered that any such sacredness does not belong in the same degree to landed property. Iso man made the land; it is the original inheritance of the whole species. Its appropriation is a question of general expediency. When private property is not expedient it is unjust, it is no hardship to any man to be excluded from what others have produced.
That is what we are trying to affirm in our policy. I am a freeholder myself, and had I not been capable of taking advantage of the system that I am inclined to decry and destroy if possible, I should be spoken of as a Trades Hall advocate. But starting as I did, with twenty acres twenty-five years ago, I have gone on increasing my production of wheat until this year I hope to have 1,000 acres in crop. I have the capacity to employ the system, and have secured opportunities to enjoy it, perhaps through luck, and because of the assistance of others, which I gratefully acknowledge. If I had not that capacity, if I came here merely to deride such a system, people would say that it was but another instance of those who have not, wanting to take from those who have. Some of those who were breaking stones with me on the road-side thirty years ago, are still following the same occupation. They did not have the opportunity to go to a land ballot that I had, and the good fortune to draw a 1,000-acres block. But it is an unscientific and false system of production under which I am able to go on the land and to obtain the services of four or five good men to work for me.
-(Dr. Maloney). - The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to bring before the Committee a matter relating to the meat works that are being erected in the Northern Territory by Messrs. Vestey ‘Brothers. The honorable member for Wannon complained bitterly this morning of cattle being driven back to the more sparsely settled portions of Australia. We admit that they are being rapidly driven back, but Australian consumers of meat are not likely to benefit much by the cattle we have there at present. I was very anxious that the Federal Government should retain large areas in the Northern Territory for the breeding of cattle in sufficient numbers to supply the people of Australia with meat. We have been warned against the Australian Beef Trust, which is buying meat from every available meat works in the Commonwealth. We also have Vestey Brothers carrying on operations here. That firm is an extensive one, with its headquarters in London, and we cannot say whether or not it is associated with the American Beef Trust. It is financially very strong, and is building extensive works in the Northern Territory. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will take over those works in the near future if it has the power to do so. Messrs. Vestey Brothers have purchased four of the best stations in the Northern Territory, together with about 240,000 head of cattle. We know that these people are practically going to control the whole of the output of meat and cattle from the Northern Territory. Australia at present, with the exception of the State of Queensland, is not raising sufficient cattle to feed her own people. As a matter of fact, the beef now being raised in Queensland is of very little use to the people of Australia. Many of us are of opinion that action should be taken to control these large concerns. The Constitution is very weak in many respects, but we are sufficiently powerful to bring forward legislation that will effectively control the Meat Trust as we know it in Australia. Mr. Justice Street, who was appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the operations of the Beef Trust, reported that it is operating, in Australia as well as in America and in England : that Swift and Company, Armour and Company, and Morris and Company were acting in combination in the United States of America and England, with the object of fixing the prices of live-stock, and that they were also operating in conjunctionin the retail markets of those countries. I put certain questions in the House this morning with the object of showing honorable members what these firms exercise in other parts of the world, and what they will exercise in Australia if the opportunity is afforded them. The Commonwealth Government would be acting in the best interests of the people if it imposed an export duty on all meat over and above a certain quantity slaughtered at any works. In that way alone can we hope to control the operations of these people.
The Government, I understand, are prepared to give reasonable consideration to this question, recognising that the price of stock is very high, and will be much higher in the near future. The retail price of meat is steadily rising all over the Commonwealth, and more particularly in the State in which the largest number of beasts is slaughtered. In the northern parts of Queensland meat is probably dearer than in any other part of Australia. Nothing has been done, and, pending an amendment of the Constitution, probably nothing can be done, save in the direction I have mentioned, to prevent a still further increase in prices. Until quite recently the Northern Territory supplied the Queensland market with many head of cattle, but that source of supply has now ceased. Stock raised in the Territory is being sent to the new works. With the arrival of the Beef Trust in Australia, cattle were slaughtered on a most extensive scale, and the price of cattle increased to such an extent that, prior to the outbreak of the war, many of the meat works were fast approaching a point at which they would have been Forced to suspend operations. During the last six or eight months, the meat works in Queensland have been slaughtering on a scale more extensive than was ever known before.
– Is that not owing to the enormous demand from Great Britain?
– From America.
– But since the outbreak of war we have not been exporting meat to America. .
– Very little meat has gone to America since the outbreak of the war.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should not have the benefit of the American market?
– We should have the benefit of every market, but, at the same time, we should take care that the big firms operating here do not secure control of our local market. We have no desire to prevent these big firms coming here from oversea. They might be regarded as welcome guests; but we certainly do not desire that they shall obtain complete control of the local trade. Mr. Justice Street has distinctly stated in his report that there is strong evidence that these people will assume control of the trade before very long.
– That is not what he said. He said that there was a danger that they might do so. That is quite a different matter.
– According to the evidence given before the Commissioner, Messrs. Armour and Company have been buying the whole of Messrs. Birt and Company’s output from their’ works on the Burdekin River, and also the output of the Ocean Beach works, in New Zealand. Evidence to that effect was given by the manager of Birt and Company. It was also stated that they had been purchasing the whole of the output of Mr. Rosewarne’s works at Brisbane, John Cooke and Company, Baynes Brothers, the Queensland Meat Export Company’s works at Brisbane, at Ross River, and at Lakes Creek. Swift and Company are also slaughtering on an extensive scale at Brisbane. They have completed their Alligator Creek works, which they purchased for £40,000, and on which they have expended from £200,000 to £250,000. Mr. Sims, of Messrs. Sims and Cooper, gave evidence that practically the whole of the output of the Geelong Meatworks passed into the hands of Messrs. Swift and Company through their London agency. Mr. Justice Street found that these firms were practically controlling the whole of the meat trade in Australia, and it is reasonable, therefore, to ask the Government to take whatever action is open to them, in order to cope with the difficulty. Messrs. Morris and Company have, so far, not done very much business in Australia, but they intend in the very near future to operate upon an extensive scale. They have purchased land on the Brisbane River, and are about to enter upon the erection of works. As soon as those works have been erected, I am confident that very few of the opponents of these people will be able to withstand the operations of such a combination. Mr. Justice Street has reported that the three firms to whom I have referred are working in conjunction in America and England, and it is hard not to believe that they will fail to act in conjunction in Australia.
– Will the honorable member quote the paragraph in the Commissioner’s report?
– I do not think that I have that part marked, but this is what the Commissioner says in regard to a report of the Board of Trade Committee in 1909 -
In the year 1908, a Committee was appointed by the Board of Trade in England to inquire how far and in what manner the general supply, distribution, and price of meat in the United Kingdom were controlled or affected by any combination of firms or companies. It was alleged that, though the American firms engaged in the trade in England were apparently competitors, they were in fact acting in combination with one another, and that the object of that combination was to obtain control of the market for beef in the United Kingdom. In dealing with those allegations, the Committee said in the course of its report -
And then follows what took place at that inquiry. This is sufficient evidence to prove that these people who are acting in combination in other parts of the world must also do so in Australia. Another paragraph of the Commissioner’s report which is of material value to those people in Australia who hold the opinion that the American Beef Trust is not operating here, appears on page 23, and- says -
It does not seem to have been without reason that the writer of the Review for 1912, commenting on the situation, remarks - “ South America is undoubtedly the key to the situation as regards Britain’s supply of imported meats, and for better or for worse, the key is already largely in foreigners’ hands.”
Another paragraph deals with the sums of money expended by these people on works. I quote these extracts in order that honorable members may be satisfied as to the presence of these people in Australia. On page 27 of the Commissioner’s report we have a few lines dealing with the negotiations between Armour and Company and Birt and Company, and it is advisable to read them. They are -
And it may be that, in establishing relations with Birt and Company, it is aiming ultimately at some sort of control not only over Birt and Company’s output, but also over that of the Burdekin River works, of which Mr. Cox is the managing director, and over that of the Ocean Beach works in New Zealand, which are the property of the Federal Company, a company associated with Birt and Company, and represented by Birt and Company in Australia. The acquisition by an American company - especially if acting in combination with other companies - of a control over supplies by acquiring the output of an Australian works is. as Mr. Cherry points out in his report, a matter requiring serious consideration.
A paragraph on page 30 of the Commissioner’s report establishes the fact that some people in Australia did attempt to secure an option over unborn stock in Australia. When some twelve months ago in this Chamber, I said that some people were trying to secure an option over unborn stock for several years ahead honorable members who were then sitting on the Government benches, were rather inclined to ridicule the idea.
– But the honorable member then said that it had been done, and that people had paid £1 a head for unborn stock.
– What- the American people ?
– I am still of opinion that the American people were associated with the transaction.
– Was there an actual transaction ?
– Yes. This paragraph on page 30 of the Commissioner’s report deals with the purchase of unborn stock by the Beak Pastoral Company, and says -
The rumours as to the purchase of unborn stock had their origin, I have no doubt, in the following facts. In June, 1913, the Rockhampton branch of the Australian Estates and Mortgage Company, acting on behalf of the Beak Pastoral Company, sent out a circular in the following terms to a number of pastoralists : -
We have a buyer prepared to purchase now No. 3 steers for delivery between June and December next year at £3 per head, and so on for two or throe years ahead. If you will therefore give us by return mail a firm offer of the whole drop of your No. 3, 4, 5, and 6 steers for delivery between June and December following the year they are calved, we expect to be able to do business for you without our buyer even inspecting.
– Well, what happened?
– One gentleman, a large buyer of stock who had made purchases under these conditions, avoided coming forward to give evidence.
– What was the finding of the Commissioner on the point?
– At any rate, there was an attempt to engage in this class of business, and only after these American people had come to Australia.
– The honorable member will see that the Commissioner gave no finding on the point.
– Tracing these transactions is a very difficult matter ; but I hold the opinion that those who originated the idea were the people who have lately come to Australia. On page 31 of the report of the Commissioner, we have the evidence of Mr. Sims, whose association with Swift and Company sufficiently convinces me that Swift and Company and Sims and Cooper, of Geelong, are financially connected in some way. The rapid growth of the business of Sims and Cooper during the last couple of years, and the fact that they could not have made such a profit out of their business as would enable them to extend their works as they have done, give additional proof. The Royal Commissioner says -
The fact that, as Mr. Sims says, a great proportion of the output of his firm has gone to Swift and Company may have led to a misconstruction of the business relations between the two firms, and may have led to an inference being drawn of a closer relationship than in fact exists.
Sims and Cooper are selling their output to these people. Some influence must be behind them, assisting them in some way, and enabling them to compete in the market to a greater extent than can older established big financial firms in Victoria. They will soon get control of the trade here by paying a price for stock no other meat works in Victoria can pay, and thus drive other people out. They are large buyers of stock in New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria; and when we know that they are able to operate so successfully, and that their London office is merely a branch office, we can only conclude that their works are influenced in some way - I do not say exactly controlled - by Swift and Company. At any rate the influence of Swift and Company over Sims and Cooper ia sufficient to prove that they are associated with the business of the firm in every way. A paragraph on page 32 of the Commissioner’s report dealing with the advantage of control over Australian supplies says : -
The suppression of competition and the control over supplies is not only a matter of serious concern to Australia, but it is also a matter of Imperial concern. It is improbable that the American companies have any intention of engaging in the distributing trade in Australia. Their object in coming here is to obtain supplies for their trade in the United Kingdom, and in the United States, and, assuming the existence of a desire to exercise a determining influence on prices in the markets of the United Kingdom, the advantage of a control over Australian supplies is obvious.
Then further on, on the next page, the Commissioner says: -
If facilities and opportunities for effective combination exist it is not improbable that they may be made use of. In his recent report Mr. Cherry says that in the United States it is fairly evident that the representatives of Armour and Company, Swift and Company, and Morris and Company, have at least a mutual understanding as to prices. Mr. Cabburn is of opinion that the American companies already fix the price of meat in all the markets of the United Kingdom.
When we know that, and when in . his summary the Royal Commissioner, after collecting evidence in four States of the Commonwealth, shows that he is absolutely satisfied that Armour and Company, Swift and Company, and Morris and Company constitute the American Beef Trust, and are operating in America both in live stock and dead meat as regards prices, and are in a position to arrange and fix prices on the London market, we must have some fear that the same thing will occur in Australia in the very near future. This morning I was not permitted to conclude a paragraph on which I wished to base a question to the Minister of Trade and Customs. I take this opportunity of doing so for the information of honorable members who are not prepared to believe that! the American Beef Trust is in our midst at the present time. This is what the Royal Commissioner says in his summary : -
The three English companies representing the three American firms most prominently identified in recent years with the so-called Beef Trust are extending their activities toAustral i a -
The Swift Beef Company of London, under the guise of the Australian Meat Export Company, a company registered in Queensland, has established works in that State, and has begun exporting.
The Morris Beef Company of London has purchased a site on the Brisbane River, in Queensland, with . a view to the establishment of the meat works.
Armour and Company, of London, is purchasing frozen and canned meat through the agency of Birt and Company and otherwise. It has also been in negotiation for the acquisition of an interest in the output of more than one meat works, and it has purchased 5,000 cattle on the hoof, which are being treated and shipped on its behalf by the Government Produce Department of South Australia.
Thus the Judge finds that the people who constitute the Beef Trust in other parts of the world are here; and, seeing that they are raising the price of meat to the consumer, making the price almost prohibitive, I hope the Commonwealth Government will take immediate action to deal with them in whatever way is at their disposal.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The American Beef Trust, and also Vestey Brothers and the Union Cold Storage Company , have attempted not only to capture the meat trade of Australia, but also to control the industrial movements in that industry. Vestey Brothers have already had a series of labour troubles in the Northern Territory, and the people who are trading in the name of the Australian Meat Export Company, more familiarly known as Swift and Company, issued this circular to all applicants for a position in their employ; at least these are the questions which applicants would have had to answer had it not been for the recent inquiry -
Australian Meat Export Company
Application for Employment
Applicant must answer all questions in full.
For what position do you make application?………………..
What is your full name? (Christian and middle names in full)…………………………
Post office address (street and number)……
Give age, place and date of birth………..
Are you a citizen of Australia?………. native, or naturalized?…………..
Married, single, or widower?…………
Number of children?…………..
If others are dependent on you for support, wholly or in parr, give names, relationship, and other details………………..
How long have you resided in present locality?…….. Previously where?…….. How long?……..
Do you own or rent the house in which you live, or do you board?…………..
What is the nature of your present employer’s business?…………….
How long have you been in the service of your present employer?………. In what positions?…………
What are your duties inyour present position ?…………….
What experience have you had relative to the duties of this position?…………
Below state how you have been occupied during past ten years, whether ‘employed or not……………………..
Below that is given a table to be filled in, showing what employments the applicant has been following. Then there is in addition this note regarding references -
Do not name a relative, former employer, or any one in the service of present employer.
Then the questions continue -
Do you use intoxicating liquor as a beverage?…………….
Give names of any club, lodge, society, association, fraternal or beneficial organization of which you are a member or officer……….
Have you ever been discharged from any position? If so, give particulars…………
Have you ever been in arrears or ‘default in your present or any previous employment?…………..
Do you owe your employer anything? If so, state how much, on what account, and when due……………….
Are you interested or engaged in any other business?………… Give location, description, name of firm, or partners, and income derived therefrom……………..
Have you ever become insolvent or failed in business?………… When?………. Liabilities?………… Name and address of the creditors……………..
Have you ever been required to make application for fidelity guarantee bond?……..
Have you ever had a bond cancelled or an application declined by any guarantee company?…………….
I read this circular to the Committee to show the power these people would use in the meat industry of Australia had they obtained control of it. Every evidence is at hand’ to convince us that, in all probability, if something is not done in the near future by the present Government, these people will have assumed absolute control of the meat trade in Australia. It is not only the price of meat they have caused to rise to such an exorbitant figure; they have been the means of increasing the prices of milk and butter. On account of the high prices offering for fat stock many dairymen disposed of their cows, and then when they went to the saleyards to buy other cattle, they found that there was a scarcity, and they were unable to replenish their herds.
– The only thing which I think can be, and should be, done is to limit the export from the large meat works, as was proposed in South America.
– Are you referring to the Northern Territory ?
– I am referring to Australia generally. I am not confining myself to the Territory. If the Government decided to do the correct thing they would take over these works, and so have an opportunity of controlling portion of the Australian meat trade. But the only thing we can do is to impose an export duty on all meat, beyond a certain- quantity, exported from the Commonwealth. I do not know of any other remedy that can be applied at this stage.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
, - I do not propose to discuss at any length the subject of the Beef Trust, which seems to be always in the mind of the honorable member for Oxley, but I desire to make just a few passing remarks on the subject. In the last Parliament, the honorable member was continually hammering into the then Government his contention that if something were not done to check the operations of the Beef Trust in Australia the whole meat trade would be ruined. Now the honorable me”mber has a Government from his own party in power, and the best thing he can do is to convince them of his view when they are sitting in caucus upstairs. The honorable member has an opportunity of ramming this peril into the ears of the Government in the party room, and giving us a little peace in this chamber. Let him and the Government devise some scheme to save the meat trade of Australia. My principal remarks to-day will relate to the development of the Northern Territory. I regard this as a matter which should be dealt with by the House as a whole, and not by any one party. The Minister of External Affairs, in replying to the remarks of honorable members, practically told the House that he was new to his position, and was in such a fog that he did not know how to develop the Territory. Let me put this point to the Committee. The present Government have been in power for a considerable time, with the exception of a slight interval when the Cook Government held office, and if it is not possible for them to devise a scheme for the development of the Northern Territory, tl”.e best thing we can do is to get rid of it altogether. That is the only sensible course to be followed. If it is to happen that one Minister of External Affairs is to experiment with his pet scheme for the opening up of the Territory, and, when a change of Government happens, the next Minister is to try to upset everything done by his predecessor, we shall make no real progress. It is absolutely necessary that this matter shall be put under the control of some person who will have a permanent policy for the opening up of the Territory on the lines which the people of Australia expect to see adopted. I quite agree that it will be impossible for a new Minister, on coming into power, to shut down works that have already been started, and say that the schemes introduced by his predecessor were to cease. We cannot decide whether such schemes are good or not until they have had’ a proper trial. Any private business man knows that if he starts an enterprise, and finds after it has been in operation for twelve months, that there has been a little failure, he does not abandon the enterprise. On the contrary, he says, “I will give the scheme an opportunity, and see if it is going to do any good.” I do not think that schemes like the Batchelor farm and the dairy farm are going to develop the Territory at all, but I quite agree with the present Minister of External Affairs and his predecessor that those schemes are on trial, and that we must wait to see what development results. It would be only foolishness if, after one Minister had started a dairy farm, his successor immediately decided not to allow the experiment to continue. If such a policy as that is to be adopted we might as well throw straight into the fire the money which the first Minister has expended. The main fact we have to look at is that until we get the Northern Territory really developed we have to devise means of getting the produce to market. That is the experience in the development of other parts of Australia. If a country, or a portion of a State, is without railway facilities, it is useless to go there to grow sheep if it is going to cost more to get the wool to market than to grow it; it is of no use growing pigs if it is going to cost more to get the pigs to walk through the mud to the markets than it costs to raise them. Until railway facilities are provided, the pioneer must grow something that will walk out of the country. We have the illustration of experimental wool-growing in the Territory. Something like 1,000 ewes have been purchased for this experiment, which will be all right if the books are properly kept, so as to show whether, in the event of the price of wool going back to normal, there will be any profit from the enterprise. The honorable member for Grey referred to the Avon Downs station, from which those sheep were purchased. They are very good sheep, and that is about the only sheep station in the Territory. All sorts of propositions have been put before people who have money to invest in the development of Australia. I have seen splendid propositions put forward; any one would think that they are most wonderful undertakings to put money into; the leasehold is to be bought at a cheap price, the sheep gave fine percentages of wool, and in some cases the percentage of lambs was very good. The whole thing looks like a scheme for picking up money. But we have to remember that as soon as the price of wool gets back to normal, although there is a profit to-day, it is going to cost the whole value of the wool to get it to market ; the proposition becomes no longer payable. Take the case of Avon Downs station. To get the wool down to the river, and thence to the seaboard, costs something like £10 per ton. I do not know what the distance is, but I know that that was the contract price in connexion with that little steamship enterprise which the Commonwealth Government undertook, and which proved a failure. But, having got the wool to the seaboard, the owners had then to bring it to one of the big cities of Australia or ship it to London, and all that carriage was only profitable while wool was bringing the price which it is worth to-day.
– “Was the freight cheaper by the Government service?
– Just about_ the same as the prices charged by private enterprise. The wool had to he stored at the riverside for a considerable time, waiting for the Government to do their part as contracting carriers, but eventually the Government boat failed, and the owners of the wool have had to fall back on private enterprise.
– I think the freights on those boats were less than those charged by private enterprise.
– I do not know whether the Government made any profit out of the service, but they failed to carry out their contract, and if I had been the owner of the wool I would have shown them up, and called upon them to complete the contract to carry the wool to the seaboard, which they could not do.
Where the grower has to pay enormous freights to get his produce to market, a policy for the development of the Northern Territory by sheep farming and that sort of thing is not likely to be a success. Many mistakes may be made in the development of any country. Mistakes were made in the development of Australia generally. They were made in Queensland, and we may expect them in the Northern Territory, and we may expect that the people who go there first, like the people who went into central Queensland, will lose money through not understanding the country. We know what happened in Queensland. First of all they tried the ordinary dam system which had been used in the development of other portions of Australia. That was found to be absolutely useless. Then there was the experiment of making an overshot dam, where there was a hole in a creek. When the overshot was running over there was plenty of water in the dam, and this was looked upon as a means of combating drought. But the result was that with the tremendous silt which takes place in that portion of Australia, when a 60-ft. dam. was full it contained 20 feet of water and 40 feet of silt. That, like the ordinary dam, was a failure. Then there was the circular dam built up on the banks of a creek. This was supposed to be the best scheme possible, and it was a good scheme up to the point that it would carry on over two years without rain, but the seven years’ drought came, and at the end of the second year there was not a drop of water left in this dam. These are three schemes for the supply of water that absolutely failed in central Queensland.
– The circular dam is all right as a dam
– It was all right so long as there was not continuous evaporation, and it could be filled every year. But in a country where there may be year after year of drought, and the circular dam cannot be filled, it naturally becomes empty.
– Over large portions of the Northern Territory there are ample supplies of water.
– I am not an authority on the Northern Territory, but if there are ample supplies of water then we have overcome a great difficulty. I will accept the statement that there are ample supplies, though honorable members on this side say there are not. Now we come to the question of fencing. Fencing has to be done in the Northern Territory. The mistake made in- Queans] and was that wooden posts were adopted. During thunderstorms, lightning set fire to everything, and the wooden fences went. They were absolutely useless, and they will be absolutely useless in the Northern Territory.
– There is no fencing in the Northern Territory now.
– If we are going to develop the Northern Territory the people must fence, and I am pointing out the mistakes which are likely to be made there unless the settlers know absolutely what they are doing. Queensland has had to do away with wooden fencing on account of fires and white ants. I am informed that in the Northern Territory there is very little timber to be got, and people going in for fencing to any extent find that the carriage of wire is a tremendous cost. Then again, I would ask if sheep in the Northern Territory are going to produce anything like a reasonable percentage. Are they going to do better than in central Queensland ? On paper, sheep-breeding sometimes looks a very good proposition, but in central Queensland, with two lambings a year, the average amongst merino sheep is not much more than 45 per cent., putting the rams in twice. Are we going to have the same experience in the Northern Territory? If so, it will be a great drawback to sheep-breeding. I cannot understand this low percentage in Queensland in regard to sheep. Experts will tell you how this kind of thing ought to be improved, but the practical man doing everything that it .is possible for him to do has that experience. In the southern portions of Victoria it is found that merino sheep will remain together in the flock. If they were put into a paddock they would remain there, but in central Queensland they are apt to roam all over the place. People who have properties up there say the only explanation is that the rams cannot find the ewes. If that is the case, the ewes will have to be put into smaller paddocks. That is a workable arrangement in good seasons, but sheep cannot be kept in small paddocks when there is no rainfall. That experiment has been tried, and proved to be a failure also. I want to draw the attention of the Committee to the only way in which I consider it is possible to develop the Northern Territory. I am not going to take any notice of the little dispute which crops up every time this question is mentioned between the members for South Australia and Western Australia. Referring to the railway connexion, the members for South Australia say that the only possible way of developing the Northern Territory is by a railway system running from north to south. The honorable member for Grey states that if we run the railway up along the route of the telegraph line from South Australia we are going to have a backbone to start with. My view is that it would be a backbone without any ribs, and such a railway will not do much by way of development. Western Australia, we are told, only came into the Federation to secure the building of the east-west railway, while South Australia informs us that it only handed over the Northern Territory conditionally upon the north-south railway being built. Dealing with the Western Australian railway, the right honorable member for Swan - I do not know that any agreement was actually entered into - has always told us that it was the price paid for Western Australia coming into Federation. In my opinion - and I have always stated it - if either of these big railways is to be built, then that to the Northern Territory should be started first. The line from Western Australia should wait, because the Northern Territory is the most serious problem the Commonwealth has to deal with.
– We have the population.
– The right honorable member for Swan says they have the population. If they have, then they are developing their country, and they do not want the railway. They can travel round by the sea, but, in my opinion, the east-west railway should have waited until after that to the Northern Territory had been built. That should be the first, but honorable members from South Australia realize that, while an immense expenditure is going on on the east-west railway at present, they have not much chance of their Northern Territory railway. The Minister of External Affairs informed us that the reason why the northern railway cannot be proceeded with is that the plant is not available, and I gathered from his remarks that as soon as the east-west railway is finished that plant will be released and can go on to the northern line. I think, therefore, that the only possible way to deal with the Northern Territory at the present time is to connect it with our railway system through Queensland. When the time comes we may be able to develop it by the backbone line which the honorable member for Grey refers to.
– Unfortunately for your argument, I never used the word “backbone “ in my speech.
– Well, I am using the word “backbone,” and I say, if we build that railway, it will be like the backbone of a barracouta; there will be plenty of backbone, but no ribs. I would like to see a scheme brought out for the development of the Northern Territory, with a commissioner appointed to control it. I do not care whether it is developed under the freehold or the leasehold system. It does not matter very much what tenure is used. If the people are given one that will enable them to spend their money and see something for it before their lease expires, well and good.
– We have started at the wrong end.
– The honorable member is quite right. I think it is very little good starting to develop the Northern Territory at Darwin, which is absolutely shut off from the rest of Australia. I think it is very little use starting at Darwin to develop a country which is absolutely shut off from the rest of Australia, but I should like to see a man in charge who understands his business, and who will start the work of development on sound lines. We are absolutely certain to make mistakes, but do not start sheep-breeding or dairying and give it up before you have tested the possibilities of the country. Give the thing a fair trial, and by all means start at the right end. That end is not at the northern coast.
Mr. JENSEN (Bass - Assistant Minis
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The conditions under which we are now living, which necessitate the introduction of this measure, are, happily, entirely new to the people of the Commonwealth, which finds itself involved, as part of the Empire, in one of the greatest wars that the world has known. The object of the Bill is to secure the protection of life and property within the Commonwealth, and to maintain the supremacy of the Empire, which is threatened. There is no intention to do harm to any section of the community. Last year the* British Parliament passed a War Precautions Act, the provisions of which were copied in an Act passed by this Parliament, but the Imperial Act was found not to do all that was required of it, and an amending Act has since been passed.
– Yes; practically word for word.
– That may not be good enough for us.
– The Government feels sure that what is good enough for Great Britain in a matter of this kind is good enough for Australia. We have received a copy of the British amending Act, and by means of our Bill propose to do what has been done by the Imperial Parliament.
– Does the British Act provide for trial by civil tribunals?
– Yes. When the Bill had left the House of Commons and reached the House of Lords it was discovered that, if passed into law as it stood, it would take his civil rights from practically every person in Great Britain, and an amendment was made to prevent that. We propose to similarly amend our law. This Bill gives the Commonwealth Government the right to take over certain factories, or the goods manufactured in them, for the use of the Defence Department. Before the war broke out, we had had happily no experience in matters of this kind, and our original Act was largely a copy of an Imperial measure. Experience has shown the English legislation to be inadequate, and our experience has been similar. Things for which there was no statutory authority have had to be done by the Government by the exercise of its inherent power to deal with circumstances as they arise in times of war. The Bill concerns chiefly matters of detail, and is intended to fill up gaps which have been found to exist under the operation of the original Act. It makes it clear that offences against the regulations are punishable on summary conviction. It also gives to the Government power to take over any mill or warehouse, or anything contained in them, in order that all necessary equipment may be provided for the carrying of the war to a successful issue. The powers given to the Government by this legislation are very great, but it is’ absolutely necessary that the Government should have them. We have already practically commandeered the output of every woollen mill of importance in Australia. In justice to the proprietors of these establishments, I wish to say that they have met us in a most honorable and gentlemanly manner, and have not placed any obstacles in the way of our doing the right thing in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.
– Have you done the same by them ?
– Yes. We are paying prices for their output which meet with their entire approval.
– What about the regulations regarding preference?
– Every member of the Government, and every member of the Labour party, will stand by the principle of preference to unionists. But I do not wish to discuss that matter now. If at any other time we are attacked on the subject, we shall know how to meet the attack. I desire to say at once that the manufacturers of Australasia have met the Defence Department in a truly patriotic spirit, and that, I suppose, is because the Government have not taken up any strong attitude in regard to prices, but have given practically those that were asked for. The manufacturers admit that they have been satisfactorily treated by the Department, and that, at the prices paid, they are able to sell us the goods at a certain profit. It was an admirable idea on the part of the Minister of Defence to hold a conference representing the whole of the manufacturers of Australia, and thus to approach and deal with the question in a manner worthy of the occasion. At present the Government have no power to take such steps for the acquisition of supplies, and the object of this Bill is to give them the necessary legal authority. Honorable members may be surprised to learn that we have gone to certain warehouses - I am not talking of woollen mills - in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and elsewhere, and have practically taken possession of the underwear and other “woollen goods off the shelves for the use of our men. Our justification is the necessity occasioned by the war, and I have much pleasure in informing the House that many of the merchants have disposed of those goods to us at the invoiced price, although there is no doubt that, if they had insisted, they could practically have got the prices , ruling in retail establishments. It is my duty, as Assistant Minister, to gratefully acknowledge such patriotic conduct on the part of our merchants, and I do so gladly. It has been stated that even at present the Government have sufficient power to take possession of goods in the way I have described, but it is our desire to make the position absolutely sure by means of this Bill. It is also provided in the measure that civilians who are charged under the War Precautions Act shall have the right to trial in a civil Court - a right now non-existent. It is only some six days ago that we received from the Imperial authorities an intimation that a similar provision had been incorporated in their War Precautions Act, and the AttorneyGeneral, together with the Minister of Defence, then decided to follow the British example.
– That provision would not apply to such cases as were referred to yesterday.
– No ; but at present every person charged under the War Precautions Act must be tried by a military tribunal.
– That provision will not apply to any but British subjects.
– That is so, and to any woman, a British subject, who may have married an alien. I have had a consultation with the Minister of Defence, and I find that he is not prepared to allow any person under naval or military discipline to be tried by a civil Court, but that all outside military discipline shall have that right.
– The men concerned in the Papuan affair would not be tried by a civil Court?
– No. “We, as a people, boast of our nation and of our Army and Navy; and surely we can trust our Defence Forces.
– Some things go on that we cannot stand up for!
– That may be so occasionally, but will anybody assure me that everything in the civil Courts is as it should be? Honorable members should not be biased by what they heard yesterday. May I be permitted to say that I am sorry that the names of one or two gentlemen should have been mentioned
– I must ask the Assistant Minister not to refer to that matter.
– I bow to your ruling. The Bill gives a very large, and practically a predominant, power to the military authorities; but I am assured by the Minister of Defence that that power will not be used unless it be absolutely necessary.
– Has the Minister of Defence power to review all decisions?
– But not the decisions of the civil Court?
– The Minister will have power to review all cases within military jurisdiction.
– They are submitted for the Minister’s final approval?
– Yes; all military findings.
– Is power given to hold the civil proceedings in camera?
– No; the proceedings have to be open. “When a charge is made against a civilian, it will be in writing so many days before the trial, in order that he may have every opportunity to consider it and obtain the advice of counsel.
– Is it not likely that there may be certain confidential or secret evidence that could not be given in open Court?
– I do not think that there will be any necessity to hide matters.
Mr.Manifold. - There is that power in Great Britain.
– Under this amending Bill, as I say, the military authorities will have very great power. But these powers are absolutely required as the
Minister of Defence has pointed out in another place. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that a portion of the German fleet were to get away from the North Sea and attack Australia. Under such conditions the military authorities would need these powers to protect the people of this country. But, as my colleague has stated, they will only be used in very exceptional circumstances. I do not think that I need say much more. The Bill has been introduced for two or three specific purposes. It has been brought in to enable the. Common wealth Government to procure certain equipment, and carry the war to a successful issue, and to extend to civilians a right which they do not now possess.
– I do not propose to debate this question at any length. This is largely a technical Bill, and, as I understand the general purpose of it to be ameliorative in character, and to provide further opportunities for civilians, who have committed, shall I say, semi-military offences, to be tried in a civil Court, it appears to me to be a step in the right direction. The wonderful thing of all - and it only indicates how completely obsessed with the war were the great minds in the House of Commons - was that, with the great ability of the Imperial Government, and the unquestionable literary and legal ability of the Parliament, statesmen allowed these tremendous powers to be placed on the statutebook of Great Britain. Following them here, of course, we did the same thing; even I, with all my legal lore, did not see how tremendous the powers were. However, there is only one point to which I wish to direct the attention of my honorable friends opposite. Every one recognises that war supersedes ordinary rules relating to the trial of individuals, and the relations of civilians in their business, and otherwise. The whole community is completely upset, and requires a re-adjustment to war conditions. Everything must be made to bend in war time to the supreme purpose of making the State safe. Therefore, ‘ whatever is involved in that has necessarily to be performed by the Parliament, whian is charged with a supreme and overmastering duty. As I understand that a whole crop of these ‘ measures is already ripe, and during next week will probably be brought before us, I only want to say that the Government, knowing their own intentions concerning the measures, must take full responsibility for them. Everything will depend upon the administration of the Acts, and for that administration the Government, and only the Government, can take full responsibility. We simply say to them, “ Take your Bill; use it wisely, as no doubt you will ; use it, anyhow, in the interests of the country, and for the purpose of securing the safety and the welfare of its people.” Extraordinary powers are taken here. For instance, there is a compulsory socialization, for the time being, of all sorts of businesses, and” while the Constitution does not give us power to socialize in ordinary circumstances, either we are playing ducks and drakes with the Constitution, or there is in the Constitution some latent and inherent power, as I should imagine, which requires it to be capable of meeting the supreme crises of the nation.
– The law of eminent domain is sufficient for that, is it- not?
– I do not know that the law of eminent domain gives to my honorable friends the right, in ordinary circumstances, to go on with their nationalizing proposals.
– It gives the State all power in a moment of crisis.
– I think that the legal principle is “ Necessity knows no law.”
– Quite so; and on that principle Ministers appear to be going at the present time. I suppose it would be a nice question to solve as to whether we have the constitutional right to pass this crop of measures. Perhaps that matter may be postponed until the war is over, and then, in our own armchair, and at our own fireside, smoking the pipe of peace, we may determine whether this or that Act was constitutional. I only want to make one point. In this amending Bill, there is nothing which appears to limit these extraordinary powers and functions to the duration of the war. I know that such a provision is contained in the principal Act, but this amending measure is introducing into the Act so many new provisions which, perhaps, are not relevant in some respects to it, that perhaps, it would be well to state in this measure that the new provisions are to operate only for the duration of the war.
– This is an amendment of the original Act, and will be governed by it.
– It is an amendment of the principal Act in the widest and loosest sense.
– It is a limitation.
– It is more than a limitation of the original measure, because it introduces entirely new provisions.
– The operation of this measure, of course, will be decided by the operation of the principal Act, whatever that is.
– Then you may as well say so in the Bill.
– There is no necessity.
– It is not wanted, because this measure will be part of the principal Act.
– All right. I am not a lawyer, and so I do not know. I merely raise the point, and leave it with my honorable friends. I hope that these powers will not be exercised very long. We all trust that the circumstances under which they are being enacted’ will pass away, but that can only be when the war has been fought to a successful finish, when we have re-established our right to our destiny in Australia, leaving other people to enjoy their destiny in their own country. I simply say to the Government, “ Good luck to you ; take your Bill, and do what seems good.”
– I am afraid that the lion and the lamb at the table are trying to Prussianize
– I am the little lamb in this case; I am inside, all right.
– It seems to me that if we pass this Bill any one who attempts to redress a wrong brought about by militarism will be liable at once to be placed in durance vile.
– We should not be able to discuss such a matter as that which we debated in this House yesterday.
– That is so.
– To what clause does the honorable member refer? “
– I wish to bring a certain question before the House on Thursday next, but I shall- be unable to do so if this Bill be passed. If I do, it will be a case of “ God help me.” Under paragraph d of clause 4 it is provided that regulations may be made for securing the public safety, and in particular with a view - to prevent the spread of false reports, or reports likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty or public alarm, or to interfere with the success of His Majesty’s Forces by land or sea, or to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with foreign Powers.
Under that provision it would not be permissible to discuss any defence matter.
– Not in this Parliament?
– Neither here nor anywhere else.
– In view of the powers which have been vested in the Defence Department, I should not be surprised at any time to see an armed force entering this House to arrest you, Mr. Speaker, and the rest of us. It may be true that this Bill will not interfere with our right to discuss any defence matter in this House, but why should I be prevented from addressing my constituents outside on any defence matter calling for reform?
– Is not the honorable member aware that the Defence authorities have practically had all these powers from the inception of the war?
– I wish to prevent the grant of any additional power to them.
– But the provision mentioned by the honorable member relates only to the spread of false reports. The honorable member would not spread a false report.
– My honorable friend is not as innocent as he looks. Who is to be the judge of whether a report is false? The condemnation of any act of the Naval or Military Forces might be held to be likely to “ cause disaffection to His Majesty.” I intend to take exception to the treatment meted out to the men in Egypt.
– This would have been the sort of provision to deal with Keir Bardie when he was in India.
– I have never held a brief for Keir Hardie, but I lived in India for eight years, and know that there was a good deal of truth in what he said regarding that country.
– The Socialists in theSydney Domain are saying exactly the same thing every Sunday.
– We pretend that in the British Empire we are at liberty to grumble and to ventilate our grievances.
– If we were under German rule we should not have much chance to do anything of the kind.
– Quite so; and that is why I do not wish to see Prussian methods introduced into the Government of Australia. In order to beat the Prussians, evidently other nations have to emulate them. The rest of Germany has been bound hand and foot by the Prussian form of militarism.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the Germans could be held in chains in the way he suggests if they were not willing?
– I do not think the majority of them are willing.
– They would not have tolerated the Government they have had for forty years if they had not approved of it.
– What about our own country ?
– I am surprised that the Minister should make such a statement. We have been unable to make any change in the Government of Victoria, and not because of any fault on the part of the people. For one thing, the franchise of the Legislative Council, is too high, and a Democrat can hardly hope to be returned to that Chamber. I have no desire to see Prussian militarism introduced in Australia, and there is no reason why it should be. I am willing to assist the Government to make such provision as is necessary to prevent anything that is likely to endanger the nation as a whole; but I wish opportunities to be afforded to bring to book individuals who commit acts that should not be committed. If military officers, in the discharge of their duty, do wrong, it should be possible to bring them to book. Military officers, in carrying out their work, sometimes do unfair things. Many a man has been severely punished, at the whim of an officer, for an offence that he has never committed. If officers do something which they have no right to do, there should be power to call public attention to it. But evidently, with the passing of this Bill, I shall not be allowed to refer outside to any such question, because it would be likely to “ cause disaffection to His Majesty “ or “ public alarm.”
– Would the honorable member have those words struck out?
– The honorable member is a lawyer; I am not. What I desire is that provision shall be made in this Bill for the ventilation of military grievances before a civil, and not merely a military, Court. We were told recently that the House of Lords had caused certain provisions to be inserted in the British Bill with the object of protecting the rights of the people. I marvelled at the time that any member of ithe House of Lords could be so democratic as to desire to secure the civil rights of the people. I find that the civil Court is only for civilians.
– -I said so.
– What a great concession that is ! A man enlists for the defence of his country, and goes to the front to protect civilians, and for doing so he is asked to give away his rights. The men who go to the front should have more, and not less, rights than the men who stay at home.
– The enlistment is voluntary, and the volunteer, by enlisting, accepts the provisions of the Defence Act.
– That is just what our bosses used to tell us when we asked for more money - “ If you do not like the job you can leave it.” The men who are banded together in the Labour movement were not satisfied with that, and they said to the bosses - “ We will fight you for it.” It is up to us to make provision that the men who fight our battles shall have preserved to them at least the rights they enjoyed before they joined the Army. Sub-clause 8 of the proposed new section 6 reads -
In the event of any military emergency arising out of the present war, the GovernorGeneral may, by proclamation, forthwith suspend the operations of sub-section 6 of this section.
– That is the ordinary power to proclaim martial law.
– Exactly. So that it is proposed, not merely to confine the right to justice to civilians, but in certain circumstances to prevent even civilians having justice.
– It would only be very exceptional circumstances that could bring about such a proclamation.
– The Assistant Minister of Defence is more trusting than I am.
– Can the honorable member not trust his own Government?
– No. Since I have been a member of this House I have found it necessary to have many interviews with successive Ministers of Defence. I worried the Leader of the Opposition in this House and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate when they occupied the position. Unfortunately, a great many matters connected with the Defence Department are brought under my notice. I have written letters galore to the Department, but it is very seldom that I get an answer within three months.
– How have I treated the honorable member?
– The Assistant Minister knows very well that I have been waiting for a long time for a reply to a complaint about an injustice done to a man in the Naval service. The honorable gentleman may have seen me recently with a bundle of papers, and it may bo his desire, should this measure be passed, to secure my arrest next Wednesday. Some of my honorable friends on the opposite side may have the opportunity to go to my funeral next Thursday, but I have no desire to give them the chance to do so. If I have certain information that our troops in Egypt have been overworked and underfed, and that some of them in hospital have been worse fed, and I make that information public, it may cause disaffection amongst the troops, and may give rise to unrest amongst the people of Australia.
– Suppose the honorable member manufactured such statements ?
– They are facts. I can mention the case of a man who arrived here invalided from Egypt. He tells me that he was put into the hospital for a sprained ankle. He was treated with hot fomentations, which is not the most gentle kind of treatment, for eight days. The pain he suffered was excru- mating. At last he said, “Doctor, I do not understand this foot of mine. It is getting worse, and not better. Will you kindly examine it ?” The doctor examined it, and said, “ I am sorry, my poor man, to have to tell you that your ankle is broken.” This man was treated for a sprained ankle for eight days. If that can happen to men placed as this man was, God help the poor men who are wounded at the front. When Christmas Day came along, and we were eating our turkey and plum pudding, this man was given curried fat for his dinner. He is prepared to make that statement. We read that some of the men had poultry and other good things for their Christmas (“inner, but if they had they contributed the money themselves for the purpose, and the men in the hospital could not do that. I can quote the case of the son of a policeman here, who, in a letter, complained of the food he was getting while in the hospital. If this Bill were passed, and I mentioned these facts outside this House, there would be nothing to prevent the military people coming down upon me and arresting me for telling the truth. I hope that the Government will assist me to secure the appointment of a Board for the investigation of these matters, quite apart from the military people. A soldier is supposed to be an exceptionally good man, and I cannot see why he should not have the same right to justice as a man who is not a soldier. My generation of our family is the first for seven generations that has not been represented in the British Army. My father brought us out to Australia so that we should not join the British Army, because of what he and those with whom he associated were subjected to in the Army. I am appealing to the people of Australia to remedy the old order of things. Honorable members have read of the mutinies that have taken place in the British Navy and Army, and we know that they were brought about by the practice followed of treating men as things, and not as human beings at all. Here we are being asked to pass provisions which will enable the military to treat us as people are treated by the military in Prussia. If a man going down a street in Berlin bumps against a soldier and does not immediately crawl upon his stomach in apology to him, the soldier my run his bayonet into him. If a man is sitting at a table in a restaurant, and soldiers come in, and there is no room at the table for them, he has to get up, and let them sit down. We do not want that kind of thing here, but we shall tend to bring it about if we place these extraordinary powers in the hands of the military, authorities.
– The conditions the honorable member describes prevail in Germany in times of peace, but this Bill is intended to apply only during the term of the war.
– The Minister has admitted that inquiries are to be made concerning the treatment of men in hospital at the Mena Camp, and there are many who can give information on the subject. The military method of investigating and of ordering punishment is somewhat peculiar. I might mention what occurred at Broadmeadows. There were some cases of measles in a camp, and to prevent the spread of the disease about 300 men were removed to an isolated camp. One night two of these men committed a nuisance. The whole of them were paraded next day, and the offenders asked to step out. They would not do so, and the whole crowd were punished by twenty-one days’ confinement to barracks. That was the military way - I confess it was an effective way - of punishing the innocent in order to get at the guilty. These men, although they are soldiers, at heart are civilians just as we are, and when they are going to do their duty to their country, why should they not have the means of getting redress that we civilians have?
– Why did not those men give up the two “ blighters “ who put them in that position?
– When the honorable member was at school he did not care to be considered a sneak or a skunk. I am sure that then, as now, he would not “ give the show away.”
– The real spirit of a school is that a man should own up rather than see his fellows punished.
– When the Leader of the Opposition was at school he would take his gruel instead of “giving the show away.”
– That is not the point. These two rascals preferred to see their fellows punished for their offence.
– However, leaving that point, an injustice is being done to men who are returning from Egypt, which I shall ventilate. If I do not get satisfaction in the House, I shall take the matter outside.
– What about the Caucus upstairs?
– Our friends have a most peculiar opinion about Caucus. If, after what they have seen on the floor of the House, they have not realized that Caucus is not what they formerly thought ft was, they are denser than I imagined them to be. Our Caucus has no greater power ‘than their Caucus has. I doubt if. it has as much power. Time after time honorable members have seen that Caucus has not been effective in closing the mouths of men on this side of the chamber. The mouths of honorable members opposite have been closed when the mouths of honorable members on this side could not be closed.
– But I understand that they open their mouths much wider upstairs.
– My desire is to ventilate the grievances of the men. I cannot get satisfaction through the Minister of Defence. There never yet has been a Minister of Defence who has been able to get from his officers that which he wanted. The Leader of the Opposition may remain silent on this point or not, but I know that while he was Minister of Defence he found the difficulties almost insurmountable. No Minister tried more than he did to carry out the duties of his office, but I know many of the difficulties under which he worked. On more than one occasion I had to bring before him matters which the officers would hang up and hang up until the Minister went out of office. There was a similar case during the term of office of a previous Labour Government. The matter went on for seven months, and I could not get an answer until our Government went out. If we confer more power on the military and naval people without retaining the right to redress wrongs we shall act very foolishly. During the progress of the war, when I have asked why certain things have been done, the only answer I have been able to get has been that it is for defence reasons. I recognise that there is much that we must not give away to the enemy, but the trouble is that these military and naval officers are not subject to correction - -if they make a mistake they do not admit it.
– Upon my word, they are as bad as Labour members.
– They are just as bad as party politicians, but whereas there are means of getting at politicians, there are no means of getting at these gentlemen. I wish to preserve to Parliament the right to prevent them doing as they like. The matter can be very easily arranged. If we do not make some such provision we are foolish. There is nothing to prevent the Government inserting a clause in the Bill whereby some Board outside the Defence Department shall give to the men their civil rights of redress for grievances or wrongs.
– -And while that Board is inquiring we can give notice to the Germans that we are not fighting.
– Not necessarily. The honorable member may joke about the matter if he wishes, but that is not my intention.
– No joke was intended. I am afraid that you are talking of peace time, and forgetting that this is war time.
– The action of officers in treating men unfairly is not conducive to making the men do what is necessary in the interests of the defence of the country. When men fret and fume they become useless to a certain degree at a time when they ought to be strengthened instead of weakened in their determination to do what the country desires them to do. We are supposed to be Democrats. We are not a military nation.
– Through the war we are made to be a military nation.
– I am aware of that, but why should the fact that a man is willing to defend his country deprive him of his civil rights ? Because some men, a little pluckier than the honorable member and I, have gone to the war, we withhold from them certain rights.
– The war is not over yet. I shall go when the time arrives.
– But if one brother goes to the war and the other stays at home, the one who stays at home gets all the concessions, and the other who goes away gets none. That is not fair. We pretend that we are fighting to break down Prussianism, but really we are perpetuating it by placing these amendments on the statute-book. I hope that honorable members will see that some provision is made whereby men in the Army and Navy who are suffering any injustice can have their wrongs redressed by a Federal Court. There is no need to give it out to the world, but if men have committed wrongs they should be condemned and removed from their commands so that others who know how to handle men, and who can get the most out of men, can take command.
– Who is to be the judge?
– Who are the judges to-day? Some Court will have to be created to take evidence. Men, who have cost the people of Australia £500 or £600 each, have been sent back here from Africa, and discharged from service. Men have been brought out medically unfit and discharged - thrown on the world when they are not able to earn a living. Yet there is means of redressing the wrong. Though one may go to the Minister and Department continually redress cannot be obtained. Take the case of Captain Brown, about which I submitted questions to the Minister on Wednesday last. This gentleman was shot by some one on the Cerberus. He was suffering an injustice, but had no recourse at law to have his wrongs redressed.
– And since then I believe it has been proved that the man who shot him was a drunkard.
– There was a tea party on the Cerberus that night. Captain Brown had charge of a ship of 2,000 tons moored within a cable length from the Cerberus. He had been leaving that ship day after day for months, in a little boat, and passing alongside the Cerberus, and those on the Cerberus knew him well. He had conversed with them all. One night, months afterwards, he left Port Melbourne in his boat for his ship, and sailed alongside the Cerberus. The young man on guard, who was a deserter previous to this - I believe it was his twenty-first birthday, and that they had been having a jollification - called on him, so it is said, to stand off; but, knowing that they knew him, he shouted back, and still kept on his ordinary course. Then they put four bullets into him. He was a fine specimen of humanity, but one has only to look at him to-day to see the change in him. The whole of his thigh was torn out, three bullets going through it, while he can take his foot and bend it up to his shin and back again, as the sinews are all gone.
– Do they want any more power ?
– That is what I want to know. This man is only thirtyfour or thirty-five years of age, and has a wife and five young children in Liverpool. Casual acquaintances here have kept him since he was shot, through no fault of his own, and the Minister has offered him £1C0. I suppose £100 is better than nothing; but I would point out to the Defence Department that the man was not a criminal; he had no desire to approach the Cerberus. The men on the warship may have made a mistake in shooting him, even if they were in a proper condition, as they ought to have been, but he ought to have some redress, or the right of recourse to some Court that will do justice to him and his family. Any man placed in his position would feel bitter against a country that could so t) row him and his family on the world.
– Is there no appeal to a civil Court from that decision?
– No. I have no feeling against my country, I am proud of it; but in a Democracy like ours, we ought to make arrangements different from those which exist in older countries. We ought to have gained by the experience of the military systems of the Old World, and if we find it impossible to alter them, the best thing we can do is to resign our positions, and let the people send here others who can bring about a condition of things more suitable to a community like this.
.- The honorable member has misunderstood the scope and purpose of the Bill. With the spirit of his remarks I quite agree. It is intolerable and odious in a Democracy that there should be distinctions of class, sex, or status; but military discipline and trial by court martial are inevitable consequences of the militarism imposed upon us by inexorable circumstances. It is notorious that the ideal and basis on which Democracy rests are incompatible with militarism, and where they co-exist militarism is a menace to Democracy. But these questions are not now before us. We are discussing now a question relating to the war and the conduct of the war alone. We are not proposing to impose upon any soldiers or sailors or any persons in the Defence Department greater disabilities than those from which they now suffer, whatever these are. Such a proposal as the honorable member has outlined- the establishment of a Board capable of trying military and civil causes - cannot be introduced in this Bill. The Bill, so far as it touches the matters referred to by the honorable member, deals with two classes of persons - traitors, whether of alien or British descent, and persons guilty of such careless or criminal negligence as to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth. Under the Bill all offenders are liable to the same punishment, whether they be civilians, soldiers, or sailors. The only distinction lies in the tribunal which tries them. And this distinction is, I submit, not only justifiable, but necessary. I am not going to say anything in support of courts martial, but shall refer the honorable member to some observations I made when introducing the principal Act, and will ask him to listen carefully to what I say, so that he may know exactly the position in which the soldier, sailor, and civilian in this country, under this law, will stand, and the attitude of the Government on the matter. I said then -
The Bill is retroactive, but it is not the intention of the Government to so apply it unless in regard to an offence so rank in character as to justify recourse to such an unusual remedy….. This clause has been made very wide, but the aim of the Government will bo to use it as little as possible, and to as limited an extent as possible. . . . I do not believe that we shall need to have recourse to courts martial other than those within the ordinary control of the military, and provided for under the Defence Act. It is quite certain, however, that all cases cannot be dealt with by the civil law.
Meaning the civil law as it then stood -
There is about the civil law a majestic dignity and circumlocution which unfit it to deal with espionage and treachery in a time of national danger. It is for that purpose, and that alone, that we desire a sharper and readier instrument, and to it we shall resort only in the very last extremity. The Prime Minister has given the honorable member his positive assurance, and I give him mine, that this power will be used only when absolutely necessary, and only to the extent that is absolutely necessary.
I said also that all cases tried by court martial under the War Precautions Act would be referred to me, as representing the civil law, before the sentence was executed. I referred honorable members to section 99 of the Defence Act, which provides “ that the proceedings of a court martial other than a regimental court martial shall, after promulgation, be forwarded to the Minister for transmission to the Attorney-General for record.” And I gave my assurance, and I repeat it, that all sentences by court martial will be forwarded to me as representative of the civil law, and may be re viewed by me if necessary. From this it follows that persons tried by court martial under this Bill are as much under the aegis of the civil authority as those tried by the ordinary tribunals. In effect, this is a Bill to confer on the Executive Government power to deal directly with offences which ordinarily come before the civil Court. That assurance, I submit, is an adequate and full answer to the honorable member’s objections. It is a positive assurance that all law in this country proceeds from, and is dependent upon, the will of the people as expressed through their representatives and the Government. And although some of these powers may be executed by military tribunals, these tribunals are subordinate to, and cannot act save by the authority of, responsible Ministers.
I come now to sub-section 8 of the proposed new section 6, which is the only portion of the Bill to which my brief explanation is not a sufficient answer. Sub-section 8 reads -
In the event of any special military emergency arising out of the present war, the GovernorGeneral may, by proclamation, forthwith suspend the operation of sub-section 6 of this section, cither generally or as respects any area specified in the proclamation, without prejudice, however, to any proceedings under this section which may be then pending in any civil Court.
Sub-section 6 provides for civil trial in the ordinary way. In regard to that, I wish to repeat, first of all, the positive assurance I gave in introducing the original measure, that this power is only intended to- be used in those cases where the position of the Commonwealth stands literally trembling in the balance. It does not refer to an emergency which arises out of any circumstances mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, but to rank and wholesale treachery, or such an attack on the very vitals of the nation as would render anything less than the sharp sword of martial law impotent to deal with it.
This new sub-section 8 affords no more power to the Government than it already has. Every Government has, and must have, power, in a case of extreme urgency, the right to suspend the civil law and substitute martial law. All that this amendment docs is to express this in statutory form. This measure is not, as the honorable member seems to think, aimed at soldiers and sailors, because they, of all people, are the least likely to be guilty of treachery or any act calculated to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth, but is aimed at men who, under cover of British nationality or naturalization, are plotting and contriving to the detriment of the Commonwealth. The powers asked for under this Bill are great, but the circumstances of the nation demand them. As to the manner in which these unusual powers may be used, the experience of the past few months is, I venture to say, a sufficient guide. The War Precautions Act, which was passed some six months ago, gave the Government tremendous power, and let honorable members point to one of those powers which has been abused by us. Let honorable members point to one case in which the Government have abused their great powers under the War Precautions Act. This Bill is necessary, and it is wanted without a day’s delay. Speaking from my experience of the administration of one part of the emergency laws - the Trading with the Enemy Act, which dovetails with the War Precautions Act - I say that we have found the powers conferred on us inadequate in many particulars; and we are now brought to a standstill in some most important matters because we lack the power to deal with circumstances that have arisen.
– What about the death penalty? That is new.
– Death is no new thing, and the death penalty is not new. If a man deserves death, why should he not get his deserts ? I make no apology for the introduction of the death penalty. There are some acts for which death is richly deserved - where, indeed, death is but an evasion of the responsibility and rightful consequences of an act of national treachery. I make no apology for inserting that penalty; but I do say that justice shall be done, not only in cases where the death penalty is involved, but even in the least offences. As bitter a wrong can be done a man in respect of the least offence as in respect of the greatest. Under this Bill the Government will use its great powers without regard to persons; the guilty will be punished, but- justice will be done to every man. As for the monstrous supposition that because a man happens to be an officer he is thereby removed from all risk of punishment, such a thing merely requires stating’ to carry its own refutation with it. I hope that this measure will pass without further discussion, and I can only assure the House that, in regard to any penalty whatever imposed under the military law by court martial, the sentence, before its execution, will come before me as the representative of the civil law.
– Is the civil power dominant over the military power?
– The civil power will remain dominant. Under section 99 of the Defence Act, all sentences are referred to me for record. But I give this House the same assurance that I gave on a former occasion, that before any sentence is carried out under this Act by court martial it will come before me, and be subject to review by me. It will not necessarily be reviewed, but it can be reviewed by me, and the influence of honorable members) as representatives of the people, will be no less under these laws than under any other.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral if he will adjourn the debate, because many honorable, members wish to speak, and some of us desire to catch our trains this afternoon.
– The Government wish to have the Bill passed to-day.
.- If the Government will not adjourn the debate, I am prepared to oppose the Bill to-day. This measure was put into the hands of honorable members a short time ago, and we have not had an opportunity to peruse it. The Government are expecting too much in asking the House to swallow a Bill of this character without an opportunity to discuss it. Looking hurriedly through the Bill, I find, on page 2, the words “ to prevent the spread of false reports,” and the Bill continues to the effect that any man writing in a newspaper what the military authorities consider to be a false report, will be liable to trial by court martial. The House should not allow any Government to get a Bill like this passed in a hurry. Honorable members have a right to go on the public platforms of the country in order to voice their grievances in regard to any action of the naval or military officers, and this may interfere with that right. As the measure now stands, if my honorable friend for Melbourne Ports drew attention from the public platform to the matter referred to yesterday, he would find himself in the hands of the military authorities at once. I am afraid that the Government are in a funk over this matter. One would think that the country was .’nil of enemies, when really there are no enemies here. In the Old Country, trading with the enemy is met with a fine of from 5s. to 20s., but here, although we are 12,000 miles away, the Government are trying to get very heavy penalties. I am not prepared to put the liberties of the people in the hands of the military authorities. Now that the Prime Minister has returned to the chamber, I ask him, does he think it fair to try to force this Bill through with less than an hour for discussion? I, for one, if it goes into Committee, will do my best to prevent it from passing until members have had an opportunity of discussing it. Surely the matter is not so urgent as to prevent the Government from allowing it to stand over till Wednesday next. There are several members of the House who want to speak on it. I think it is a trick on the part of the Government to bring the matter on at this particular time.
– What do you say?
– I say that it is a trick on the part of the Government to try to force the Bill through like this.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to say that.
– Well, I think the Ministers should give us an opportunity to discuss the Bill.
– Ask leave to continue your speech.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks when the House resumes.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move - That the House do now adjourn.
I want to say that we will take the War Precautions Bill first thing on Wednesday next, and I hope that members will give it their close attention, and not delay its passage.
.- I desire to ask the Minister in charge of the War Precautions Bill if he will have the original Act printed, with the amendments inserted, so that we can follow them. This is a technical Bill, and it is impossible for honorable members to know what the amendments mean in their present form. I think that in other cases besides this the course I am suggesting ought to be followed.
– I will be pleased to comply with the honorable member’s request.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister when we may expect a report with regard to matters brought before the House yesterday by the honorable member for Bourke. A painful shock was caused to the whole community by the publication of that speech, and the public mind should be relieved as early as possible. Besides the general public, those who are more intimately concerned - the members of the Forces themselves - desire that the imputations which have been cast upon Australia as a whole should be removed as early as possible.
– - I have too much confidence in the
Prime Minister of Australia to think that he would allow any man, being an official, to escape if he has done wrong. The public of Australia know that they can trust the honorable gentleman. We refuse to believe that any officer who has committed a theft will not be punished equally with a man of the rank and file. If, in the Australian Citizen Forces, we can eliminate this kind of thing, we shall be advancing civilization in a greater measure than any other nation. It might be that our men have not come under the influence of discipline to the same extent as their fellows in the Mother Country; but I want an authoritative statement from the Leader of the Bouse that whenever crime is proved against an officer he shall not escape while men of the rank and file are punished for a similar offence.
– In answer to the request made by the honorable member for Grampians, and the statement by the honorable member for Melbourne, I desire to say that, immediately the charges were made, I took steps to ascertain the facts. I go further than the honorable member for Melbourne, and say that an officer who offends in the way that has been alleged has - committed a crime far . greater, in my opinion, than would have those who serve under him had they been equally guilty. I am not here to give judgment on the matter at present. I am not here to say whether the allegations are true or otherwise, but I do say that the evidence in . the possession of the Department is sufficient to demand that a thorough investigation of the whole proceedings shall he entered upon speedily and determined quickly. This is the position of the Government; and neither eminence in the Public Service of the Commonwealth nor any other influence will deter the Government from sifting this matter to the bottom.
– Have you any idea when we may expect the report!
– I am not in a position to say that, nor is the Minister in charge of the Department able to do so; but I say that, unless those immediately concerned can accelerate their pace, it will probably be taken out of their hands.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 April 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150423_reps_6_76/>.