6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Landing in the Dardanelles : Allowances to Wives and Widowed Mothers : Censorship of Parliamentary Proceedings : Widowers’ Children.
.- With the permission of the House, I desire to make a brief statement. Some days ago the Australian War Expeditionary Forces were transferred from Egypt to the Dardanelles. They have since landed, and have been in action on the Gallipoli Peninsula. News reaches us that the action is proceeding satisfactorily. I am pleased to be able to read the following cablegram received to-day from the Secretary of State for the Colonies: -
His Majesty’s Government desire me to offer you their warmest congratulations on the splendid gallantry and magnificent achievement of your contingent in the successful progress of the operations at the Dardanelles.
To this the following reply has been despatched through His Excellency the Governor-General: -
The Government and people of Australia are deeply gratified to learn that their troops have won distinction in their first encounter with the enemy. Wo are confident that they will carry the King’s colours to further victory.’
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to inform the public what units have been transferred from Egypt to the Dardanelles? If that information could be given without detriment to the action now being taken, it might relieve the minds of many persons here of anxiety.
– Wo are not in possession of the information asked for, and have not yet been relieved from a request not to make public the detailed information sent to us. . That request was made before the commendatory cablegram ‘which I have read was sent.
– The news that the Australian troops have been landed at the Dardanelles is posted in front of the newspaper offices.
– We are not in possession of information relating to the actual force that has been transferred which would be of any value to relatives here. We cannot say what part of the Australian Forces has been sent, and what has not. We have twice within the last forty-eight hours asked for this information, and we have asked, too, to be allowed to make public the whole of the information of which we are possessed.
– I ask the Assistant Minister of Defence if he has read in the newspapers statements to the effect that women whose husbands have gone to the war have not sufficient means to provide for the maintenance of themselves and families during the absence of their hus bands. Does the Government intend to do anything to’ relieve these women T
– I am pleased to inform the House that the Government has determined that, from the 1st May next, the wives of privates who- have gone to the war shall be paid an extra separation allowance of 10s. a week, with an allowance of 2s. Gd. per week for every child under the age of sixteen years.
– Will similar consideration be given .to widows, many of them with families, who are dependent on sons who have been sent to the war?
– Their case has not been considered. The allowance of which I have spoken is to be paid only to wives of privates who are at the front.
– It was stated yesterday that the censor refuses to allow a reply to a question given in Parliament by the Minister to appear in the newspapers. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if the censor has taken action to prevent the publication of the question and reply in Hansard.
– Neither the Defence Department, the Government, nor anyone else, except the House itself, can exercise any control over Hansard. Until the House instructs me to the contrary, no alteration of any description will be made in the Hansard reports.
– I would like to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether he has given consideration to a complaint that, in case of death, the payments to the children of widowers who have gone to the front is only very small. My attention has been drawn to the fact that a widow left behind receives an allowance which gives some compensation to the family as a whole, but in the case’ of a widower’s family the sum payable is exceedingly small.
– That aspect of the case has nott been considered.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, in reference to a matter which I mentioned some days ago, if he will make a full statement regarding the provision for medical attendance, and the general arrangements for the comfort of the troops, at the camp at Broadmeadows? There has been much com- ment on the subject, and an official statement would be of great value.
– The honorable member was good enough to intimate to me about two hours ago that it was his intention to ask this question.
– There is already a similar question on the notice-paper.
– The Defence Department has built at Broadmeadows six huts. Two of these will be for isolated cases.
– Is it in order for a member to ask without notice a question similar to one of which notice has been given, and may a Minister answer such a question ?
– It is not in order to anticipate a question of which notice has been given. Honorable members will see that there is quite a number of questions on the notice-paper, and that it is impossible for me to be aware immediately a question is asked without notice that it anticipates one of which notice has been given. I ask the Minister to reserve his reply for the question on the notice-paper.
– By way of explanation, I wish to say that I had not read the questions on the notice-paper for today, and that for more than a week past I have been making inquiries regarding the condition of affairs at the Broadmeadows Camp, which is situated within my constituency. The question that I asked was in renewal of a question that I had already submitted privately. There was no intention to forestall the honorable member for Kooyong. I was oblivious of the fact that he had given notice of a similar question.
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs tell tis when the Navigation Act is likely to be proclaimed ?
– There is an amending Navigation Bill before the House which I thought would have been dealt with before now. The Government desires that both the original Act and the amending Act shall be proclaimed together, and the Bill to which I refer will have to go to England to receive the King’s assent. The honorable gentleman probably knows as much about these matters as does any honorable member in the House. Regulations to carry out the Act are now being framed, but this is a long proceeding. We are, however, pushing on with the work as quickly as we can.
– I would like to ask the Postmaster -General whether he has noticed that many of the weekly papers published in Australia can be sent to the Old Country for a penny postage, but that it costs threepence to send such newspapers to Egypt? Will the Minister endeavour to rectify what seems to be an anomaly ?
– The matter will be looked into in connexion with any change of rates.
– It was circumstantially stated in the press yesterday that no one could obtain a position of clerk in connexion with the Defence Department until he had joined a union. I should like to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence if we may take it that no employment will be given to anybody, even in matters of defence, unless he belongs to a union ?
– In reply to the honorable gentleman, I may say that the Minister has issued instructions that all persons who desire to get into the Defence Department with a view to obtaining a clerkship there must be in a union. That is distinct.
– I should like to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence if that part of the Executive minute, “ other things being ©quai,” has been eliminated?
– Not at all.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral state whether his Department, in engaging any lawyer to conduct a case on behalf of the Commonwealth, gives preference to the Lawyers’ Union ?
– In the exalted and secluded circles in which I move professionally, it is not usual to refer to the Bar Association as a union, and, professionally, I resent the imputation. But speaking as a human being, I do not know what would happen if I did not recognise the existence of the Bar Association and give preference to its members. I assume that it would be impossible to get counsel of reputation a -d standing to take briefs from the Crown.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence say if, when men are anxious to go to tlie front, there is any particular union that the Defence Department requires them to join ?
– In reply to the honorable gentleman, I am pleased to say that 70 per cent, of the soldiers who have gone to the front are unionists.
-Will the Assistant Minister of Defence state whether his figures are correct, or whether those published by Mr. Knibbs are correct?
– I think I am fairly accurate.
– Perhaps the Assistant Minister of Defence will state whether it is a fact that only members of the British Medical Association can be engaged as medical officers in connexion with the Expeditionary Forces ?
– I am inclined to think that that is so.
– I should like to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence if the factories in Australia engaged in the production of equipment for the forces are all working up to their fullest extent?
– Yes, as far as I know.
– It has been brought under my notice that the officer in charge of the wireless station at Port Adelaide is a German. I should’ like to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence if he will take steps to find out whether that is correct or not?
– Has the Prime Minister noticed that, according to the Age, the High Court has declared the Inter-State, Commission to be legally non-existent. In the face of that declaration, and of the fact that it has become a Free Trade Association, will he abolish the Commission?
– Answering the last part of the honorable member’s question first, it is not in my power to abolish the Inter-State Commission, nor is it in the power of this Federal Parliament to abolish it without compensation for the balance of the Commissioners’ term. I have not noticed in any newspaper that the High Court has declared the Commission to have no functions. I saw that the
High Court had stated that the Commission is not a Court, that the members are not entitled to wear the wig, or to the title of “your Honour.” But beyond th’at, the Commission seems to have very large powers, and to be exercising them.
^ Mr. RODGERS.- Has the Minister of Trade and Customs yet decided to relax the embargo on the exportation of hides that are not suitable for defence purposes ? I would point out to the Minister that large numbers of stock have recently died, and that this restriction interferes with the market to a considerable extent.
– I stated last week when the honorable member asked a similar question that the embargo referred to hides for defence purposes only. Until hides are treated it is impossible to discover whether they are suitable or not. I promised then that I would have further inquiries made. After all, we ought to use and tan our hides locally. The action of the Government was taken for defence purposes. When the Government think it desirable for any other purpose to place an embargo on export they will be prepared to do so. The Government will consider the relaxation of the embargo in the interests of the sellers.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House why it is that whilst the Public Works Committee have reported very usefully from time to time concerning various public works, no report has been made available from the Public Accounts Committee which was appointed at the same time?
– I think the Public Accounts Committee is very active, and will continue to be so. The rearrangement which has been made in regard u> the financing of the Committee will, I believe, overcome any difficulties that have been experienced.
– That is not the only difficulty. We have been stuck up in other ways.
– I should like to ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee whether they have encountered difficulties in the prosecution of their labours; if so, what those difficulties are, and how soon the House may expect some report of the Committee’s proceedings?
– The Public Accounts Committee have experienced some difficulties, but in view of the Prime Minister’s statement, I think it would be better not to say anything further at present.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is the intention of the Government to create a Supply and Tender Board?
– I will tell the honorable member frankly that I have not had time to look into the matter. A Board of that character might be a good thing, but my mind has been engaged with other matters. I will be glad, however, to look into the matter and make a statement soon.
Surveys : Artesian Boring : Dairying : Settlement
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Can the following information be given with regard to the Northern Territory : -
Has the country been examined between Alroy Station and Alice Springs for the route of the Southern Railway, as recommended by the Administrator, Mr. Gilruth?
Progress in artesian boring.
Progress in dairying, and what has been done with the 500 cows purchased last year? (fi) How many settlers have settled in the Territory during the past six months?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
If he will place upon the table of the House a statement showing the amount paid to each member of the Public Works Committee from the date of the appointment of the Committee to the present date, showing fees and travelling expenses separately?
– The answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is -
The amounts paid to each member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, from the date of appointment, are as under -
In the course of its inquiry the Committee has held fifty-three meetings, examined forty witnesses, and has travelled 1,490 miles by rail and 412 by road.
It has reported on works representing an estimated expenditure of £175,000, and has under consideration proposals involving a further £187,500.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will consider the advisability of discussing with the State Premiers at the forthcoming Conference the question -
– I shall be happy to discuss with the Premiers the matters referred to (a), (b), (c), in the honorable member’s question.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The reason for this is that it has been found that the number of suitable men, with horses, offering in Bendigo in normal times is not sufficient to effectively maintain a troop as well as the head-quarters and machine gun section of a Light Horse regiment.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he inform the House what are the retail selling prices severally in Sydney and Melbourne of the following foodstuffs, viz.: - Flour, bread, meat, butter?
– The Commonwealth Statistician reports that the average retail prices on the 15th April, when the last returns were furnished, are as follow: -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice-
Whetherhe has yet made representations, as desired by the Stanthorpe District Fruitgrowers Association, with a view to the removal of the prohibition by the United States of the importation into that country of fruit from Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Strong representations have been made on the spot by Mr. Niel Nielson, the representative of the New South Wales Government on the Australian Commission to the PanamaPacific Exposition.
Mr. Nielson states that the Californian law provides for the absolute prohibition of the importation of fruit which is known to be the host of the fruit fly from countries where the fruit fly exists, and that such law has been put into effect against the whole of the Commonwealth.
His efforts to secure a removal of the prohibition, or even its limitation to those States of the Commonwealth in which the fruit fly is known to exist, have been unavailing, and he reports that he can see no possible hope of securing an alteration in the attitude of the Californian authorities in that regard.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
By reason of the railway passes issued to Federal members of Parliament, are members, when using them, or their dependents, deprived of the right of compensation in the event of accident or death?
– Not that I am aware of. Members’ tickets are not free passes, but tickets paid for by the Commonwealth, and I know of no difference between the rights of members travelling on those tickets and those of ordinary travellers.
The following papers were presented : - Arbitration (Public Service) Act -
Award of tlie Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in Australian Letter Carriers’ Association v. Public Service Commissioner and PostmasterGeneral of the Commonwealth - Opinion of the Attorney-General.
Copy of an Award dated the 8th day of April, 1915, which ‘has been made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on a plaint submitted by the Australian Letter Carriers’ Association.
Statement of the Laws and Regulations of the Commonwealth with which, in the opinion of the President of the Court, the Award is not or may not be in accord.
SUSPENSION OF MR. McGRATH.
– I move -
That the resolution of this House of the 11th November, 1913-“ That the honorable member for Ballarat be suspended from the service of this House for the remainder of the session unless he sooner unreservedly retracts the words uttered by him at Ballarat on Sunday, the 9th November, and reflecting on Mr. Speaker, and apologizes to the House,” be expunged from the journals of this House, as being subversive of the right of an honorable member to freely address his constituents.
Had this motion been submitted and dis cussed months ago, some heat and passion might have been expected; but so much has happened in the meantime, including a general election, that I think it may now be debated absolutely on its merits. It will not be necessary to go into detail at any length, or to describe, except in a very incidental way, what took place when the honorable member for Ballarat was suspended from the service of the House. There are, perhaps, a few honorable members who are not quite cognisant of the facts; but those who were here at the time will remember that. I tabled a motion to the effect that the House had lost confidence in the then Speaker. The Government, instead of permitting the motion to come on in its proper sequence, refused to allow it to be discussed; and the honorable member for Ballarat went to his constituency, and there, on the public platform, said what he had been denied the right of saying in the House.
When the House next met, the honorable member for Parramatta, who was then the Leader of the Government, drew attention to what the honorable member for Ballarat had stated, and submitted that if that honorable member had been correctly reported he should apologize to the House, or, failing an apology, be suspended. I think I am right in saying that the Government of the day justified the position they then took up by the case of Mr. Conybeare in the House of Commons. Much was made of the incident in the House of Commons when the case of the honorable member for Ballarat was before this House; and it may not be out of place to very briefly state the facts.
– I think the honorable member will find that the case in the House of Commons was quoted here only for the purpose of indicating the procedure.
– o0ur first standing order provides that if any question arises here which is not covered by our own Standing Orders we shall be guided by the .procedure of the House of Commons ; and it was on this standing order that the Government relied.
– That is so.
- Mr. Conybeare, who was member for Camborne, had, at a public meeting, made a speech somewhat reflecting on Mr. Speaker Peel; and when the House met attention was called to the matter by Mr. Henry Chaplin, though whether Mr. Chaplin was a member of the Government or merely a private member at the time I do not know. Mr. Chaplin asked the Speaker whether the speech of Mr. Conybeare did not constitute a breach of the privileges of the House, and the Speaker replied that the “ speech was unquestionably a matter affecting privilege, but whether or not it was a breach of privilege rested with the House to decide.” Mr. Conybeare spoke in the House on that occasion, and expressed his regret at what had taken place; and no further action was taken. During the following session, however, Mr. Conybeare, in a letter to a London newspaper, repeated his charge against the Speaker.
– What was the nature of the charge?
– It was that the Speaker had been unfair and partial in closing a debate on the Crimes Bill. I understand that, in the House of Commons a closure motion cannot be put except with the consent of the Speaker. Under our Standing Orders the position is different, since a motion for the application of the closure can be put with or without the consent of Mr. Speaker. In the House of Commons, on the occason to which I refer, the Speaker consented to put a ‘ motion for the application of the closure, and Mr. Conybeare then accused him of partiality, declaring that he had no hesitation in saying that the closure was, in the circumstances, simply a public scandal. The Speaker called him to order, and he at once apologized. Later on, however, he wrote to the newspapers a letter in which he expressed the opinion that the Speaker had not acted fairly. This action on his part was brought before the House by Lord Randolph Churchill, with the result that Mr. Conybeare was suspended. This took place whilst a Tory Government was in office. In the next Parliament, a Liberal Administration was in power, and whilst the second Home Rule Bill was under discussion, Speaker Peel refused to put a closure motion. That was in 1893, and Mr. Conybeare wrote a letter to the Baily Chronicle, declaring that the Speaker’s refusal to put the closure motion at a time when the Home Rule Bill was being obstructed was unfair, since he had not refused to put a similar motion whilst the Crimes Bill .was under consideration. He accused the Speaker of partiality. The attention of the House was called to this accusation on 4th July, 1893, by Mr. Tritton, Unionist member for Lambeth. Mr. Gladstone was then at the head of the Government, but, although, as every one knows, he always stood up for the privileges of the House of Commons, he made no reference to the letter of which complaint was made. It was left to a Unionist member to draw attention to it. In The Speaker of the House, by Michael Macdonagh, it is stated that -
The Speaker, addressing the House, maintained that his action in refusing the closure actually led to a friendly arrangement between the two sides of the House. He deprecated any severe declaration on the part of the House which it might possibly be willing to take regarding the writer of the letter, and added - “ My only course is to leave my conduct to the judgment of calm-thinking and fair-minded mcn.”
Gladstone, as Leader of the House, said he attached the greatest weight to the recommendation proceeding from the Chair, and thought it would be wise if the House would act in accordance with it. He added, however, that at the same time there ought to be no doubt as to the universal sentiment which prevailed in the House in regard to the impartiality of the Chair. Mr. Balfour, the Leader of the Opposition, spoke in similar tones. Mr. Tritton accordingly did not proceed with the motion which he had intended to submit to the House.
– But both Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Balfour deprecated any allegation of partiality in respect of the Speaker.
– Undoubtedly ; but the motion was withdrawn. The position of the Speaker of the House of Commons is very different from that of the Speaker of this House. An honorable member, on being elected Speaker of the House of Commons, immediately dissociates himself from all parties.
– I think that the exSpeaker of this House did the same.
– I have no wish to go into details, but the honorable member for Lang, while holding office as Speaker, undoubtedly attended a party meeting.
– The honorable member is incorrect.
– I do not recollect the honorable member for Lang attending any meeting of our party while he was in the Chair.
– The meeting to which I refer was a Liberal gathering at which he was reported to> have made a certain statement.
– Does the present Speaker attend the Labour party’s Caucus ?
– He does. I am not suggesting that the occupant of the Chair should not attend meetings of his party. 1 am simply pointing out the difference between the position occupied by the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of this House.
– The honorable member for Lang did not attend a meeting of our party while he was in the Chair.
– That is not the point. The point that I wish to make is that if we are to deal with the occupant of the Chair in this House as the Speaker of the House of Commons is dealt with, then both should be on the same footing. The meeting which the honorable member for Lang addressed while he occupied the chair was not a meeting of the Liberal party in this House, but a political gathering of supporters of the Liberal party. I should not have referred to the incident but for the interjection made by the honorable member for Perth. In this House I drew attention to the statement reported to have been made by the honorable member for Lang at this meeting, and he stated that he was incorrectly reported, but he did not say that he was not present at it. It is an almost invariable practice for the Speaker of the House of Commons to be re-elected irrespective of any change of Government. That, too, was the practice in all the Australian Parliaments until the late Mr. Beazley, who had held office as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria for some years, was replaced by Sir Frank Madden on a Liberal Government taking office.
– What party started that practice in this House?
– The Labour party; but the practice had previously been followed in the Victorian Parliament, and it is now observed in all the State Legislatures. It is now the general practice in Australia for a new Speaker to be elected from the party returned to power. In the British House of Commons such a thing does not occur. Another point is that the Speaker of the House of Commons is always allowed a walk-over. He does not address his constituents when a general election comes round, but sends a letter to them, intimating that he has occupied the chair of the House, and expressing the hope that he will be returned. He practically takes no part in party politics. I am not expressing any opinion as to whether that is right or wrong. Occupants of the chair in the State Parliaments take an active part in politics. The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales was, until ». little while ago, president of the Political Labour Council, and took an active part in its proceedings.
– A very active part.
– “Undoubtedly. The honorable member for Parramatta was good enough to say during the last, Parliament that the Speaker had rights, not only as Speaker, but also as the member for Lang. I do not question that assertion, but the position in the House of Commons is different from the position here. At this stage I wish to read a quotation from a leaderette pub lished in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on the 13th November, 1913. As honorable members know, this journal does not support the Labour party. When the late Government were in office it supported them.
– I wish they had done so. They did not support us.
– Since your party has been in power they have given it very consistent support.
– If the Sydney Daily Telegraph is a Labour paper it is news to me. At any rate, in this leaderette, headed “ The Iron Hand,” the following passage occurs: -
It is rather a matter for regret that, with so many bigger questions in front of the Commonwealth Government, it should waste its strength, and compromise its sense of proportion, by squabbling with a new-elected Labour member over his choice of words when exercising a citizen’s right at a public meeting to criticise the official acts of the Speaker. During the course of parliamentary debate it is necessary that the Speaker’s conduct should only be the subject of challenge under specific motions, as otherwise respect for the authority of the Chair could not be maintained, nor could business be carried on. But outside the House the rights of a member of Parliament in this respect are neither greater nor less than those of any other citizen. For the Speaker to arbitrarily extend his jurisdiction beyond the precincts of the House, and attempt to deal punitively with any one for criticising his conduct in the chair is, therefore, warranted by neither propriety nor expediency. For the head of the Government to take up the cudgels and attempt by penal action to intimidate members from freely expressing themselves within the limits of defamation law regarding any phase of parliamentary business is, if possible, still harder to justify.
I think that this puts the case fairly and squarely. An honorable member of this House should have the right to speak freely to his constituents. I may be pardoned for a moment in reverting to Mr. Gladstone’s remarks in the House of Commons, because they have an indirect bearing on the motion which I have submitted. As honorable members are aware, Mr. Bradlaugh was refused entrance to the House of Commons on two or three occasions, and Mr. Hunter, the member for Aberdeen North, afterwards moved -
That the resolution of this House of the 22nd day of June, 1880-“ That, having regard to the Reports and Proceedings of two Select Committees appointed by this House, Mr. Bradlaugh be not permitted to take the oath, or to make the affirmation mentioned in the Statute 29 Vic, c. 19, and the 31 and 32
Vic, o. 72,” be expunged from the journals of this House, as being subversive of the rights of the whole body of electors of this Kingdom.
When the motion was submitted -t was opposed by the Solicitor-General, Sir E. Clarke, who was a member of the Government, but Mr. Gladstone supported it, though he asked that the latter portion be removed. He said -
I would commend this motion to the House as one that is called for by the circumstances of the case, and one which may save its successors from the dangers of committing the most dangerous error - the error, namely, of exceeding the limit of its own jurisdiction.
I move this motion because I think that a very grave and serious injustice was done to the honorable member for Ballarat, and, using the words of Mr. Gladstone, in order that in the future we may be saved from the danger of this House committing the most dangerous error of exceeding the limits of our own jurisdiction. I also submit the motion so that every honorable member should have the right freely to address his constituents on any subject without being suspended from the House for so doing.
– As I am concerned in this matter, I rise at the earliest possible moment to say one or two words about it. I regret that owing to inadvertence on my part I was not aware until the House met to-day that this motion was down for discussion, and, therefore, I have had no time in which to refresh my memory as to the circumstances under which the matter referred to in it took place. Since the honorable member rose, I have been endeavouring to think back in order to refresh my memory as to the circumstances of those awful and fearful times, which I hope will never be repeated in this House. I have been in parliamentary life for a quarter of a century, and I have not seen a Parliament so reduced to Bedlam by an Opposition as was the last Parliament.
– How can the honorable member, who has been in the New South Wales Parliament, make that statement?
– I have not seen in any Parliament, certainly not in the Parliament of New South Wales during the period when I was in the Legislative Assembly, anything comparable with what took place in this House. What was the position? Here we have an isolated instance only; I am certain that the mover of the motion will be glad to have it so regarded, but I am quite unable to treat it as such. It is a matter which must be considered in the light of the whole of the circumstances in which it took place, and the general political environment of those days, in order that it mav be properly and rightly appreciated.
The late Government were trying to transact the business of the country ; day after day it was assailed by epithets such as I have never heard in Parliament during the whole previous course of my parliamentary life; the Speaker was assailed every day, wholesale charges of partisanship and incompetence, and, indeed, every other epithet that could be given to a man, being hurled at him by ex-Ministers, who ought to have known better.
– And an ex-Speaker.
– The honorable member for Echuca must cast no reflection upon myself. If he does, I shall take a course which will prevent him. I ask him to apologize.
– I made no reflection on the Speaker.
– The honorable member will withdraw his statement.
– I made no reflection upon the Speaker; I spoke of an exSpeaker.
– The honorable member was referring to me. He knows that I am not on the floor of the House, where I could defend myself, and that, therefore, he cannot be permitted to say what lie said. I ask him to withdraw his remark, and to apologize for making it.
– You, sir, appear to me hyper-sensitive; but, in deference to your wish–
– The honorable member must withdraw his remark without qualification.
– Under the circumstances, I withdraw it.
– I desire to know, sir, whether any action taken by you before you were elected Speaker is, or is not, open to the discussion of honorable members.
– I shall rule on the point when the occasion requires me to do so.
– I suggest that the occasion has now arisen. An action of yours in the last Parliament, recorded in the proceedings of the House, has been referred to.
-I informed the honorable member for Echuca that he could not so refer to my actions, as I am not able to defend myself on the floor of the House. I ask other honorable members not to follow the same course.
– With all deference, I ask whether I may take your statement as a ruling that we are not free to discuss any action of yours before you were elected Speaker ?
– I shall not rule on hypothetical cases. When the occasion arises, I shall give a ruling.
– Then I desire to give notice that to-morrow I shall move that your decision be disagreed with.
– The honorable member cannot do so in that way.
– Amongst exMinisters, strangely enough, the mover of the motion now before the House was the most violent. Never have more bitter accusations been hurled against a Speaker than were hurled against the last Speaker by the honorable member for Barrier. The honorable member himself was suspended, and ever since, actuated by that spirit of Christian charity which, it is well known, dominates all his actions, he has been desirous of suspending some one else.
– I had great pleasure in voting for the suspension of the honorable member; as much pleasure as he had in voting for my suspension.
-I remind the honorable member for Barrier that he was allowed to address the House without interruption, and I ask him not to interrupt
– I have put the following notice of motion in writing. I give notice that to-morrow I shall move -
That Mr. Speaker’s ruling, that the honorable member for Echuca was out of order in referring to the action of the present Speaker before he was elected Speaker of this House, be disagreed with.
– If the honorable member wishes me to give a ruling, I say that no remark which reflects on the Speaker is in order. If the honorable member wishes to give notice of his dissent from that ruling, he may do so. I cannot accept the notice that he has just read.
– I assure you, sir, that I do not wish to give you, as the occupant of the chair, any trouble, and that I have no personal feeling in what I do. The position as I realize it is this : The honorable member for Echuca, in the course of the debate now proceeding, referred to what had been done on a certain occasion by a member who was then a private member and has since become Speaker. Because that private member has since become Speaker, the remark of the honorable member for Echuca was ruled out of order, and the honorable member for Echuca was made to apologize. That is the ruling; from which I dissent.
– I appreciate the spirit which actuates- the honorable member, and assure him that I have no personal feeling in this matter. The honorable member for Parramatta had stated that in a certain debate certain members had interjected, and the honorable member for Echuca, referring to myself, said that the ex-Speaker had done so. He and all other honorable members will see that it is not open to them to make an attack on me personally for anything I may have done last session. I have no objection to references being made from time to time to anything I may have said ; but as I am not in a position to defend myself on the floor of the House against any reflection that may be cast upon me, honorable members will see that I cannot permit any reflection to be made against me. If the honorable member for Echuca disclaims any attempt to cast a reflection upon me personally, I am prepared to overlook his remark.
– May we be permitted to reflect upon your actions during last Parliament as member for Kennedy?
– I shall not detain the House much longer in the discussion of this matter, because I regard the debate as an absolute waste of time. Honorable members opposite have the power to remove a certain entry from our records, but the passing of this motion will not actually erase it. This is only a whitewashing motion.
– It shows that the House has thought better of its determination.
– It shows that the Caucus is for the moment allpowerful, not that the House is in favour of the removal of this record. The fact remains that last Parliament, during the reign of absolute Bedlam, the last Government took action to conserve the dignity of this Chamber, and to maintain the rights and privileges of the Speaker. The severest condemnation of the action of those who at the time sat on the Opposition benches and hurled accusations of incompetence, tyranny, and partisanship against the last Speaker, lies in the fact that one of their first acts on their accession to power was to appoint him to a diplomatic mission of great delicacy and responsibility. He was accused repeatedly, to use their own words, of doing the “ dirty work “ of the Government then in office; and yet his accusers, directly they came into power, made him a Commissioner to inquire into the affairs of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands. This appointment gave the lie to the fearful accusations which were made against the late Speaker. It showed that those who made them did not believe them to be true, and that they were acting the part of political hypocrites. I want to say that it was a time such as I hope will never be repeated in this House. Day after day, many times during the day, ex-Ministers and those who should have supported the Speaker hurled their anathemas at his head, and accused him of all the political crimes in the calendar. They reduced this Parliament to a condition of affairs which I once described as worse than a pothouse, and I am not so sure that that description was a very inapt one. However, whatever action you may take with this motion will not do away with what occurred in those times.
Take the honorable member for Bar*rier himself. He, to-day, has expressed his great pleasure that he was able to do a good turn for me.
– As you did for me.
– May I tell the honorable member that it was impossible to do anything else with him than suspend him. His behaviour was such that it was impossible to pass it by.
– What about your behaviour ?
– May I remind the honorable member of a few thin 23 he said, not outside, but here in this House. In Hansard, page 4465, ho is reported to have said -
The Government, notwithstanding the power of its numbers and with the “gag” and Mr. Speaker to help if necessary-
– Hear, hear !
– But he is another individual to-day, and you have the fullest confidence in him, you have sent him away on a specially delicate confidential mission of great trust and responsibility. Here is the first statement made by the honorable member for Barrier concerning the late Speaker. Another referring to the ex-Speaker is -
You are telling a different yarn every time you speak.
Did the honorable member read in his erudite observations just now any statement of Mr. Gladstone or Mr. Balfour concerning the Speaker of the House of Commons in which they accused him of telling a different yarn every timet The honorable member had better have left the field of Chesterfieldian politics alone.
– Because of his own foolish conduct when he was over here. Because of his own villainous treatment of the ex-Speaker.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– Very well. Again, on another occasion he says -
There is nothing like having the umpire on your own side.
That was an odious charge of partisanship against the late Speaker.
– Did the honorable member for Ballarat say that?
– No, the honorable member for Barrier said that.
– He was not suspended for saying it, was he ?
– If honorable members had been suspended every time they deserved it, we should have been doing nothing else from morning till night but suspending honorable members. We should have had the House cleared out, and been able to do whatever business we chose. The honorable member for Illawarra, referring to the late Speaker, said all he was put into the Chair for was “ to do their dirty work.”
– Yes, quite true.
– I think, Mr. Speaker, you ruled just now that no reference of this kind must be alleged against an ex-Speaker of the House.
– I am just debating within myself as to whether the line the honorable member is himself taking is not likely to bring in a good deal of dis- cussion that ought not to take place. I listened patiently to the honorable member for Barrier, to see that he did not overstep the mark, but if I allow the honorable member to proceed we shall get interjections of all kinds, and these may lead us further than we desire. However, I ask the honorable member for Illawarra to withdraw the statement he made just now.
– What statement?
-The honorable member made a certain reflection upon a member of this House.
– I did not say anything.
-The honorable member did by way of interjection.
– If I have said anything disorderly I withdraw it, but I did not reflect on anybody.
– I think I am entitled to make some reference to the circumstances in which this motion was carried. We had a condition of affairs such as I hope no Government will ever have to meet in this House at any time. There is only one other quotation I should like to make, and then I shall have done with this sordid, squalid history. It is a statement made on a public platform, and it justifies the remark I made just now that if we had suspended a member every time he deserved it, we should have been able to do nothing else. Listen to this statement. I ask if, during the whole history of this Federal Parliament, or of any other National Parliament in this or any other part of the world, language like it has been heard concerning a Speaker of the House-
For myself, let me state emphatically and unmistakably, speaking as one of your legislators clothed with my full responsibility as such, and here publicly, that the Speaker in his unparalleled course of action has shown himself to be a pitiably puny party puppet, and has degraded and prostituted his high office and still higher traditions of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
– Where is that from?
– A speech by Senator Ready, the man you distinguished, I understand, by appointing him one of your Whips. Then there is the statement of the honorable member himself, and with this I propose to dismiss the subject. This kind of thing had been going on for some time, and it appeared to us that a climax had arrived when the honorable member for Ballarat, after making charges inside the House, after making accusations galore, proceeded to repeat these statements on the public platforms of the country. It was time something was done to protect the Speaker in his then very difficult position. This is the statement, I understand, that was made by the honorable member for Ballarat -
Therefore, he wanted to say what he would not be allowed to say on the floor of the House -
There is his own absolute condemnation, for he is allowed to say anything on the floor of the House that is appropriate to bc said.
An Honorable Member. - You refused to allow the Speaker’s action to be questioned.
– Of course we did. We should never have done anything at all otherwise. At the time Parliament closed, there were no less than three motions of censure on Mr. Speaker. Others had been disposed of, ‘and honorable members were coming down with fresh ones every day. They tried to make the life of Mr. Speaker unbearable ; to hunt him out of his position, if possible, by the abuse and contumely which they heaped upon him. The honorable member for Ballarat went on -
The Speaker had lost the confidence of the members. There was good reason for the motion. We had absolute proof that the Speaker had deliberately altered a Ilansard proof. The proof showed that the third reading of the Loan Bill was not carried according to his own words, and he altered the proof to make it appear in Hansard that it was carried. The Speaker was acting in a biassed manner, and was proving himself a bitter partisan.
These are the words uttered by the honorable member, in addition to his conduct in the House, and it appeared to the then Government that they had to make a stand in the interests of the dignity of debate, and for the protection of a man who was, in those days, unable to help himself. Accordingly, the honorable member was expelled from the House. He was given the opportunity to come back at any moment he cared to make amends. He chose to play the part of a martyr. I do not think he cut much ice in his own electorate. Ballarat did not rise to the honorable member. It sent him back here, it is true, but he was only just able to pull himself through. I am not complaining about that, but it is evidence that they did not regard the honorable member’s action in this matter with any degree of appreciation or interest. The Government felt it their duty to do what they did. Personally, I have not one atom of regret. I would do the same again to-morrow. Do what you will with this motion, you cannot wipe out the effects. You cannot obliterate from the records of Hansard the facts as they transpired, the statements as they were made, ana I say ‘that altogether they form one of the most squalid and miserable displays of partisanship and temper ever seen in this or any other Parliament.
– I did not think this debate would have developed as it has, according to the tone of the right honorable gentleman’s speech. The motion either raises a matter of procedure or it is of no importance at all. We are far enough away from the event to discuss it calmly and deliberately from the point of view of the rights of honorable members.
– You are on the other side now, of course.
– It is a pity we did not have calm deliberation at the time.
– I think we had better discuss it in the presence of the exSpeaker.
– I think there is something in the point raised by the honorable member for Grey, and that it might be better to discuss the matter in the presence of the then Speaker - the honorable member for Lang.
– He ought to be in a position to defend himself from the charges made by the honorable member for Barrier.
– Perhaps I may be allowed to state my view in the meantime.
– I am sorry I omitted to quote from the honorable member on this matter.
– I have not altered my views in the slightest degree. I would not have spoken in the same terms as the honorable member for Ballarat, perhaps; but I do say that that honorable member, or any other member of this House, has a right to say outside the House everything he has a right to say here.
– I just quoted the honorable member for Ballarat as saying that he made the statement outside the
House because he could not make it inside.
– Because you would not allow me to make it inside the House.
– That was sufficient justification for the honorable member for Ballarat, speaking where he had a right to speak. According to the statement of the right honorable member for Parramatta this afternoon, if he had had control of the police, he would have arrested the honorable member because of his speech at Ballarat. Do honorable members see what that proposal meant? On a motion in this House, with Mr. Speaker in the chair, the honorable member could have said, under the rules of the House, what he did say about the Speaker at a public meeting. Instead, the honorable member, speaking to his constituents, said that in his opinion soandso had happened; and when he came back to the House it was alleged that he made an attack on Mr. Speaker, which was outside the rules of parliamentary procedure. I say that it was not outside the rules of parliamentary procedure ; and it would be intolerable if Mr. Speaker, in his official capacity, could not be discussed in a reasonable way outside the House as he could be discussed in the House on a proper motion. It is quite true that the Speaker of any Parliament must be protected, for the obvious reason that, holding, by virtue of his office, the balance evenly between parties and preserving the rules and usages of the Chamber, he could not very well enter the fighting arena without losing part of the dignity of his office. Having said that much, we have said everything necessary to protect Mr. Speaker. If the old argument, which was used at the time the honorable member for Ballarat was punished, were to hold good, it would imply that even during an election Mr. Speaker could not be referred to, except in dignified parliamentary language. That would only be a step further than the contention raised in the case of the honorable member for Ballarat, because Mr. Speaker, even though a candidate for re-election, is still Mr. Speaker, whether he is inside or outside Parliament. There is only one question to be asked : Can a. representative of the people be suspended from his duties in this House because he has claimed the right, as a representative of the people, to criticise every happening in the Chamber? I think it is his bounden duty to his constituents to claim that right, which is in no way contrary to the best rules and practices of Parliament. The Government of the day trespassed badly when they took action which deprived Ballarat of its representation in this House. Whether the honorable member had a difficulty in being returned or not, has nothing to do with the question. If the honorable member had not been reelected at all, that fact would not affect the principle we are discussing.
– I . treated him a little more leniently than the Prime Minister treated me some weeks ago. I would not say anything about that if I were you.
– I did not treat the right honorable member unkindly.
– You treated me in a despicable fashion.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– In obedience to your direction, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the remark.
– Any unkindness to the right honorable member was unintentional. I do not wish to argue in any but a judicial way. I believe the dignity of the House and the chair will be protected if this motion is carried, because it will be a direction to any other Government, or any other majority in the House, in the future to mind their own particular business, and not to interfere with the right of the Democracy to hear their representative on any subject that may arise in this House or elsewhere.
– Do you say that au honorable member could libel other honorable members of the House?
– If a member is not privileged outside, he is privileged inside the House, and if he does wrong, he can be suspended. The right honorable member is falling into one bad error by forgetting that the honorable member for Ballarat was suspended, not for what he said in the House, but for what he said before his electors, to whom he has to bow, and upon whom he relies for his parliamentary existence.
– He could be removed from this House even for doing that.
– Of course, the majority could remove any member from the Chamber.
– Exactly; as you removed me recently, without hearing me.
– This House, by its own motion, can protect itself in any way it thinks fit. Members are privileged in the House, but only to the extent of what the majority may do. I, in conjunction with some of my colleagues, spent some money in Queensland in bringing before the Law Courts a case of so-called injustice and improper conduct by the Queensland Parliament. The present Chief Justice of the High Court, sitting then as Chief Justice in Queensland, decided that he would not be the first Judge to interfere with the rights, practices, and usages of Parliament. Therefore, Parliament is the custodian of its own privileges. Parliament itself is responsible for its good conduct ; and by the rules and ‘ practices of Parliament, and even without them, members can do what they please. Only by act of this House can a wrong once done be remedied. In my opinion, the honorable member for Ballarat was wrongfully injured. I do not impute motives to the majority who were responsible, but in a true Democracy we must, at the very least, permit equal privileges to a member to say to his constituents everything that he could say here on any motion that could be submitted to the House.
.- I am sorry that the honorable member for Barrier has thought proper to resuscitate this motion. I do not think there is any member of this Parliament, who, like myself, has occupied a seat in it since its inception, but must regard the doings of the last Parliament as something they would very much prefer to blot absolutely and entirely out of memory. To me those doings are almost like some hideous nightmare. Perhaps I have even better reason for that impression than some other honorable members. Nevertheless, I do not think there is any one with any regard for the honour and dignity of Parliament who can look back on that particular period of its history with anything but feelings of regret and shame. There is another reason why I do not think this matter need have been brought forward again, and that is that if it were desired that any statement by any person should be buried away where it could never be discovered, it should be interred in the Journals of this House. There is no doubt that whilst those Journals serve a very useful purpose, they are, perhaps, only once in a great cycle of years referred to in regard to a matter such as that we are discussing. Any one who wished to discover the precise words used, or anything of the nature of an alleged offence, would undoubtedly first ascertain the date, and then refer to the newspapers. So that the expunging of this motion from the records of this House is a mere formality that would not in any way alter the existing condition of affairs. I am quite unable to follow the argument of the Prime Minister on this matter. The right honorable gentleman contends that it is quite competent for any’ honorable member to say outside of the House what he could say inside. I quite agree with him. But when he applies that argument to a case of this kind, it loses its relevance altogether, because it is well enough appreciated by any one who knows the rules of the House that the honorable member could not have said in the chamber what he said at Ballarat. The honorable member, addressing his constituents, said that his party had absolute proof that Mr. Speaker had deliberately altered a Ilansard proof - a reflection of a very serious kind on the personal honour of Mr. Speaker. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you would have allowed in this chamber any such imputation as that? Would you not have insisted upon a withdrawal and apology? And if the person who made such a charge against you refused to withdraw and apologize, what would follow? Most undoubtedly the offender’s expulsion from this House. Then the honorable member for Ballarat went on to say that the Speaker had acted in a biased mariner, and was proving himself a bitter partisan. Again, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you would have allowed a remark of that kind to pass in this chamber? You certainly would not. I can well imagine your indignation in regard to ‘any imputation of that kind against yourself, and I would be willing to uphold you to the utmost in vindicating your honour, both as a Speaker and in your private capacity as a man. For the very reason suggested to-day - that Mr. Speaker has no opportunity to stand on the floor of the House and de- fend himself - the honour of the Speaker becomes a question of the honour of the whole Chamber. Therefore, such imputations made on a Speaker should be visited with condign punishment, if the honorable member responsible for them is unrepentant. If an honorable member, in order to evade the rules of this House, goes outside and makes charges of the kind, is it to be thought for a moment that the power of the House does not apply to him, and that the honour of Mr. Speaker is no longer in the hands of this Chamber? Surely not. Surely we must take cognisance of the utterances of honorable members which reflect on the honour and integrity of the principal officer of the Chamber. Whether these are made inside or outside the Chamber is absolutely and entirely immaterial; indeed, the offence of making them outside is the greater of the two, because it is the more cowardly. I say, therefore - and I am speaking only as a member of this Chamber jealous of its honour and dignity - that this House had no option at that particular juncture but to take the course it did. And I desire to say this for the ex-Speaker: I was associated with him in an official capacity during that very trying period, and his desire for impartiality sometimes rather amused me. He spent a great amount of his leisure in looking up rule and precedent for everything he did. He was most remarkably painstaking in these respects; and I have known of no other Speaker of this House who took so much trouble to be sure that his action and his official decisions were on a sound basis. I can well remember the anxiety and worry that this particular episode caused the exSpeaker; and you, sir, will bear me out when I say that the Speaker owes a duty to this House which is often lost sight of. That duty is to use the Standing Orders - to use all the forms and rules - to facilitate the business of the House; and I am quite sure that honorable members opposite will agree with me, in their souls, at any rate, that whatever the exSpeaker did at that particular time, and under the particular circumstances, was in recognition of the duty imposed on him. In the face of organized obstruction, the duty devolved on the ex-Speaker to see that such obstruction was not permitted any longer than was unavoidable, to interfere with the work proposed by the Government. It was because he was doing his duty in that respect that he was made the object of those attacks which, as we all know, culminated in the speech of the honorable member for Ballarat. I again assure honorable members that I am only desirous to uphold the honour and dignity of the Chamber, and I suggest that the honorable member for Ballarat has a duty to perform to the late Speaker, assuming that this House has a duty to perform to the honorable member for Ballarat; and the duty of the honorable member for Ballarat must take precedence of the action proposed now. In other words, this House cannot honorably and fairly expunge those records until the honorable member for Ballarat has apologized for the language which brought punishment upon him. I therefore suggest, as a very fair and proper method of arriving at finality-
– The honorable member would have them kiss one another!
– The honorable member for Illawarra has an unfortunate inclination, sometimes, to attempt to reduce the proceedings of this Chamber to ridicule; but I do not wish to follow him in that respect. I suggest that the honorable member for Ballarat should express regret for his utterances at that time; and, when that has been done, I shall have the utmost pleasure in the world in voting for the motion of the honorable member for Barrier.
.- I do not intend to take up the time of the Chamber in reviewing at any length the painful circumstancesunder which we endeavoured to carry on the business of this House at the particular time to which the motion refers. In fairness to the exSpeaker, I submit that the House should not be asked to go to a vote on this question until that gentleman has had an opportunity to state his side of the case. The charge against the ex-Speaker has been read here to-day, and necessarily so; and it is only fair that he should give his version of the incident. The charge which the honorable member for Ballarat made against the then Speaker was, in my opinion, perhaps the most serious that could possibly be made against the occupant of the chair, whom the House has charged with the duty of seeing, with the assistance of the clerks, that the records are kept absolutely correct. Those records are particularly in the custody of the Speaker; and the honorable member for Ballarat accused the ex-Speaker of a crime - I say a crime - against the honour of this House.
– Which he has admitted.
– Admitted what?
– The ex-Speaker has admitted the charge.
– It is a charge which the ex-Speaker has never admitted; on the contrary, he has denied it, and denied it most emphatically. He hasnever, however, had an opportunity, up to this moment, to put his case fairly and fully before the House. I appeal to the honorable member for Barrier not to allow the House to expunge this record, and so wipe out the incident, until the honorable member for Lang has had an opportunity to attend and make his defence. I am satisfied, nay, I know, from my own knowledge of the circumstances, that when that defence has been made, the honorable member for Ballarat, if he is the man I believe him to be, will rise in his place and apologize to the honorable member for Lang for having made the charge. I am certain that the charge cannot hold water, and I am equally certain that the honorable member for Ballarat will eventually feel it his duty to apologize. I well remember the circumstances; they are burned into my mind as, perhaps, is no other incident in my life. I can go over the whole circumstances from moment to moment, and I know that at that very time the honorable member for Ballarat made his accusation he was not in a fit state to know what was going on in the House.
– What was wrong?
– Why, the honorable member for Ballarat was standing away back on the Opposition side, with his mouth wide open, and his hands in the air shouting for his very life.
– That is a lie!
– The honorable member for Illawarra must not use language of that kind, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the language and will say that the statement of the honorable member for Richmond is a deliberate untruth.
– The honorable mem*ber is now committing an offence worse than the original one, and that he must not do.
– Well, I withdraw the statement.
– The honorable member must withdraw it unconditionally.
– Yes, I withdraw it unconditionally.
– Should not the honorable member for Richmond also be made to withdraw the statement he made?
– It was open to the honorable member for Illawarra to immediately rise to a point of order when the honorable member for Richmond made the statement, and take the ground that it was not correct, and ask for its withdrawal. That, however, the honorable member did not do, but took matters into his own hands.
– Am I in order in asking that the statement made by the honorable member for Richmond be withdrawn ? The statement was that the honorable member for Ballarat stood in this House, with his hands above his head, and his mouth wide open, not knowing what was taking place. That is as much as to say that the honorable member for Ballarat was drunk.
– I must say that I do not place the same interpretation as does the honorable member for Illawarra on the language of the honorable member for Richmond. When the honorable member for Richmond was speaking, I did not take it that his language concerned the honorable member for Ballarat, but thought that he was referring to somebody else altogether. In any case, the peculiar position is that, when the honorable member for Richmond said something concerning the honorable member for Ballarat, it was the honorable member for Illawarra who took up the defence of the latter. The honorable member for Illawarra will see that any complaint about the language should have nome from the honorable member for Ballarat.
– I rise to a point of order. I also do not place the same interpretation as does the honorable member for Illawarra on the words used by the honorable member for Richmond.
– It was never intended.
– There was great excitement in the House on that night.
– The honorable member must rise to a point of order.
– I take strong exception to the statement of the honorable member for Richmond that I was standing up waving my hand. I do not think that the honorable member himself was in a fit condition to know what anybody was doing.
– If the honorable member for Richmond has made any statement to which an honorable member takes exception, I am sure he will withdraw it.
– Certainly, Mr. Speaker. I was only endeavouring to describe the very excited state in which the honorable member was at that particular moment; and, indeed, he was not the only one who was excited. ‘ There were at least eight honorable members on the Opposition side who were doing exactly the same thing as he was. It was a scene of the wildest excitement I have ever witnessed in this chamber ; and I hope I shall never go through a similar experience.
– Do not talk about excitement ! You were the most excited person in the House I
– The honorable member must pardon me; that is not so. I was standing close alongside Mr. Speaker, and I know exactly what happened. However, I rose to-day only to suggest that it would be only fair to the honorable member for Lang, in view of the serious nature of the charge which has now been resurrected by this motion of the honorable member for Barrier-
– I made no reference to the speech alleged to have been made.
– While that is so, the honorable member is asking this House to expunge from its records a statement of the action that it took upon the speech made by the honorable member for Ballarat, and which contained a charge against the then Speaker. Since the honorable member for Lang is at present in the New Hebrides, whither he has been sent in company with an honorable member from the other side of the House, to make an important investigation on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, the honorable member for Barrier may fairly be asked to await his return before calling upon the House to deal with this motion. If he will do so, then I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will say that after the honorable member for Lang has been given an opportunity to put his case before the House he will not prevent a vote of the House being taken.
– I will be prepared to facilitate the taking of a vote on the question.
– I have now the authority of the Leader of the Opposition for the statement that we on this side of the House will, in every possible way, facilitate the taking of a vote on this question as soon as the honorable member for Lang has been afforded an opportunity to state his side of the case. In common justice to the ex-Speaker, the honorable member for Barrier should he prepared to adopt my suggestion.
– The question is not what the ex-Speaker did, but what the House, following the lead of the Government of the day, did.
– We must admit that the action of the majority of honorable members is, after all, the action of the House. The House, on the occasion referred to, took action upon a speech made by the honorable member for Ballarat. Whether that action was right or wrong is not the question with which I am at present concerned. My own view is that it was right; but if honorable members are to be permitted to discuss from every platform in the land their private opinions regarding the occupant of the chair, it seems to me that the authority and the respect of the Chair - everything that we hold sacred in connexion with the Chair - must immediately disappear. We all have our opinions, I presume, regarding the occupant of the chair from time to time. We may consider that a Speaker is perfectly fair or the very incarnation of all that is unfair. But if we are to give expression outside to our private opinions concerning the occupant of the chair, I can well conceive the position into which this House will quickly drift. In the circumstances to which I have referred, I ask the honorable member for Barrier if he will consent to the adjournment of the debate.
– We are endeavouring to give the honorable member for Barrier a perfectly fair deal, but, at the same time, I think we ought to afford the honorable member for Lang an opportunity to give his version of the incident that has been resurrected by this motion.
.- I would be very much impressed by a claim that we should give to an honorable member charged, actually or inferentially, an opportunity to reply to anything said against him in this Chamber; but it appears to me that the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond were, in reality, directed to an attempt to remove from the right shoulders the responsibility for this matter. This motion makes no charge against the ex-Speaker.
– 1 said that there was no charge made against him in the motion itself.
– There is no charge made against the ex-Speaker, but I take it that he will be given the fullest opportunity to make a statement when he likes, and how he likes, with regard to his conduct in the chair.
– After it is all over - after the motion has been dealt with.
– The Leader of the Opposition ought not to be permitted, under cover of the suggestion that this motion is a charge against the exSpeaker, to rid himself of the responsibility for what I conceive to have been an odious act of tyranny on the part of the late Government in suspending the honorable member for Ballarat. We know perfectly well that in this House exchanges sometimes take place in the heat of debate that are much regretted afterwards by both sides. Apologies and withdrawals follow, and are . usually accepted in the spirit in which they are offered. But this was the first case, within my short experience of parliamentary life, in which an honorable member was followed into his electorate and a public expression of his opinions there - even if they were ill-advised, and I do not say they were - made the subject of a motion for his suspension. ‘ I had hoped that in the calmer atmosphere in which this Parliament is being carried on under the present Government, as distinguished from the late Administration, wiser counsels would prevail. I had believed that the Leader of the Opposition would recognise that it was fair to do that which, from his point of view, is magnanimous, and, from our point of view, just, in regard to the honorable member for Ballarat.
– Two members of the honorable member’s own party have told me to-day that they voted for my suspension with the greatest possible pleasure. That is magnanimity, is it not?
– I know nothing of that, but I do know that the Leader of the Opposition has thought fit to revive,’ with all the party rancour of which he is capable, the spirit that prevailed in connexion with the debate during which this incident took place.
– Then it was a rancorous and bitter spirit that prevailed?
– Yes. A strong and, to my mind, regrettable party spirit was manifested in the course of that debate. There were things said and done which are infinitely to be regretted, and, so far as the action then taken permanently affected the honorable member for Ballarat, the time has arrived when better counsels might well prevail and a full measure of justice might be done him. A new House has been elected. The country has declared itself upon this question, as upon other matters.
– Was it in issue at the late elections?
– The right honorable member may consider that it was a minor issue, but it was, at least, one of the issues upon which the country expressed an opinion at the last general election, when it returned the majority on this side of the House. If it pleases the Leader of the Opposition to revive all that was said and done on the occasion under consideration, I must remind him that the action which his Government then took had a peculiarly sinister aspect, having regard to the equal numbers upon each side of the House - a sinister aspect that was not lost sight of by the country. I regard it as an outrageous act of injustice by reason of the fact that the honorable member for Ballarat had no charge preferred . against him . He was confronted with a copy of a party newspaper, which in the most truculent and unbridled language was at the time supporting the Government of the day, and was told, “ This is what you said, therefore, out you go.” He was not charged with having made the statement attributed to him. It was not proved against him that he did make the statement. But it was proved that it was published by a press supporter of the right honorable member for Parramatta and his party, and that was enough ! The honorable member for Ballarat was adjudged guilty, and was ordered to leave the House. We ought to deal with this motion upon its merits. 1 listened to the address delivered by the honorable member for Barrier, and must say that he dealt with the question in the most temperate language. He did not revive any of the spirit manifested by the Leader of the Opposition ; he discussed the question very fairly, and made no charge whatever against the ex-Speaker. He said nothing to which the ex-Speaker could be called upon to reply, although 1 am sure we shall be very glad to hear him when he likes and how he likes.
– Yes, have a special session for him.
– Quite so, if necessary to go so far. I repeat that no charge has been made against the ex-Speaker, and therefore I attach no importance to the impassioned appeal that the honorable member for Lang should be consulted before we proceed to a vote on this question. Let us come to a conclusion upon this very plain issue. The House, in time of war outside and of peace within, is endeavouring to carry on business with less party rancour than was manifested in the last Parliament. Let us do a full measure of justice, if we can, to one of our members who, in my opinion - and if it is the opinion of the majority of honorable members, let them so express themselves - was unfairly treated.
– Is the honorable member referring to the charges made against the ex-Speaker?
– No, they are to ve- . main.
– I am not dealing with any charge against the ex-Speaker. I am not supporting what the honorable member for Ballarat is alleged to have said. I do not know whether he did make the statement attributed to him, and if he did I am not in a position to say whether it was true or not. I am not trying that issue. Indeed, it is not the issue before us. The honorable member for Ballarat was alleged to have made publicly, when before his own constituents, some statement which was made, in this House, the basis of a motion for his suspension.
– If the honorable member for Ballarat had only said that he did not make use of the words-
– In saying that the honorable member for Ballarat had not yet said that he did not make use of these words, we have a new principle of justice laid down by my honorable friend - that it was not for the late Government to prove the charge against the honorable member for Ballarat, but that they should hold up any party newspaper, and call on him to prove that he did not use the words ascribed to him by that paper. That may be the honorable member’s idea of British justice, but it is not mine. Martial law would be better than submitting the matter to the judgment of the Leader of the Opposition and his friends. All we can do at present is to proceed to expunge the records that reflect on the honorable member for Ballarat, and I hope that this will be done.
.I regret that this matter has been brought up again. I may say, in justice to the honorable member for Barrier, that he did not, as has been stated by one honorable member, reinstate the motion. I understand that it has remained on the business-paper from last year. Probably the motion would not have found a place on the notice-paper to-day if the honorable member had had to write it out again and reinstate it; and possibly the fact that the matter has come up for discussion is rather a disappointment to the honorable member for Barrier, as I suppose it is to many other honorable members, including myself. I cannot understand why so much sympathy is shown to the honorable member for Ballarat by honorable members opposite in regard to this matter. The honorable member made very improper and libellous statements regarding the then Speaker. This is what the honorable member is reported to have said -
He wanted to say (at Ballarat before his constituents) what he would not be allowed to say on the floor of the House.
The Prime Minister has urged as a principle that an honorable member should be permitted to say before his constituents anything that he would be allowed to say in his place in the House. We can all subscribe to that principle; but the facts in this case are the opposite of the principle stated by the Prime Minister. The honorable member for Ballarat was saying something at Ballarat that he would not be permitted to say in this House. That is the point, and the whole point. The honorable member for Ballarat said, at Ballarat -
The Speaker had lost the confidence of members. There was good reason for the motion. “We have,” he added, “absolute proof that the Speaker has deliberately altered a Hansard proof.” . . . The Speaker was acting in a biased manner, and was proving himself a bitter partisan.
I do not believe these accusations against the then Speaker, and I do not think any one believes them. That being the case, why should there be so much sympathy by honorable members opposite for the honorable member who made use of these words; words which he would not have been permitted to use in the House? All honorable members are liable to overstep the mark on occasions, but if we do we know our duty as man to man. If we say anything that is improper or not right or justified, our clear duty, as we all acknowledge, is to say that we are sorry, and apologize.
– It would take you years to do that if you had to do it.
– I know of no case where I have said unjust or improper things about any honorable member and have not withdrawn them on finding that I was wrong. That we do not find Speakers acting in such a way as to discredit and dishonor the office they hold, goes without saying. To say that they do is a terrible charge to make against any person in authority - be he Judge, magistrate or Speaker, or any one sitting in judgment. My sympathy is always for the occupant of an office, because I am glad to say it is very rare that he can be found guilty of any such proceedings. On the 11th November, 1913, the Prime Minister had a different view from that which he holds today. He said then that he would deal with the newspaper report of the words used by the honorable member for Ballarat, namely, “ We have absolute proof that the Speaker has deliberately altered aHansard proof,” and he said -
I think that the honorable member for Ballarat exceeded what he should have said, becauseI believe that he had not evidence that the Speaker altered the proof.
And then, further on, he said -
But in my opinion, he had not evidence to warrant him in saying that the Speaker did so-and-so and so-and-so, any more than he had evidence to justify him in saying that the Prime Minister did so-and-so and so-and-so.
If that was his view then, is it his view to-day?
– Did not the present Prime Minister vote against the expulsion of the honorable member for Ballarat 1
– His voice was “ Yes “ and his vote was “ No.”
– Here we have his words recorded in Hansard that he did not think the words of the honorable member for Ballarat were justified, because he had no proof that what was alleged to have been done had been done by the Speaker; but to-day he seems to have changed his opinion, and he says now, in effect, “It is all right; let us pass the motion and whitewash the honorable member for Ballarat.” I do not wish to do that until the honorable member says that he is sorry for what he has done, and until he gets away from the position of having stated something of which, according to the Prime Minister, he had no evidence. The present Prime Minister also said on that occasion -
T think, too, that the error of attacking thu Speaker, particularly in accusing him of doing certain things, is the only justification for a motion of this kind being moved.
That was the motion suspending the honorable member for Ballarat submitted 10 the House by the then Prime Minister, the honorable member for Parramatta; and the only justification for it, according to the present Prime Minister, . was “in accusing the Speaker of doing certain things.” Evidently the present Prime Minister thought that the honorable member for Ballarat was not justified in accusing the then Speaker of doing these things. Therefore, what justification is there for the support he is giving this motion to-day?
– I pointed out that the whole matter was trumpery, and more a political affair than one of safeguarding the Speaker.
– There is too much of this kind of thing, especially in regard to men holding high offices. I do not think that honorable members should go on to platforms and say anything about the Speaker, or any one in authority in this House, that they will not say to his face on the floor of the House. The honorable member for Ballarat acknowledged that he would not be permitted to say in this House what he said at Ballarat to his constituents. Every hon orable member is responsible for what “he says to his constituents, and this House should hold him responsible if he traduces the character and honour of a Minister, or any one else, by accusing him of being in any way corrupt. In Western Australia, years ago, a member accused the Government of which I was the head of being corrupt. The House called on him to prove his case. He failed to Drove it, and resigned. A man who makes a statement, and cannot prove it, should take steps to amend the error into which he has fallen. The honorable member for Ballarat has remained obdurate. He made a statement which he has failed to prove, and which we all know was not correct; but he has not withdrawn it, nor espressed any regret whatever. In the circumstances, I have no sympathy with him, and can have none, until he does withdraw his statement and express h;s regret.
– If there is any honorable member who should be willing to have this record expunged, it is the right honorable mem ber for Swan, because, at his request, I agreed to have something expunged from Hansard. I have never regretted doing so, and I cannot understand why the right honorable gentleman should now be speaking against having the matter referred to in the motion expunged from the records.
– I was anxious to have that matter expunged because I was ashamed of it. I did not wish to see it in Hansard.
– The right honorable gentleman had reason to be ashamed of it.
– But I did not exonerate the honorable member in any way from making a wrong statement.
– I accused the right honorable gentleman of having reduced the age of consent of girl children to twelve years of age. I can prove it. I challenge the right honorable gentleman to prove the contrary before a Committee of his side of the House
– Do you think that I would have anything to do with you in the matter?
– You took advantage of it.
– That was before I found you. out.
– I do not think the right honorable gentleman found me out. I leaped from a four-in-hand coach, and ruptured myself in doing so, in order to help him, and yet he had the impertinence to say that I had fawned upon him.
– I did not need your help.
– And you did not even pay the doctor who attended you.
– If the right honorable gentleman will have these exchanges across the floor he must accept these hits. I remind him that I had a letter of thanks from him. How, then, can he say that I did not clear him?
– I acknowledge the accident business.
– I have a letter of thanks from the right honorable gentleman for consenting to the removal from ilansard of words which he did not wish to appear there.
– That was because I did not wish to have those words read in my own State.
– Because they exposed the right honorable gentleman.
– Not at all.
– The Western Australian Hansard says that the right honorable gentleman, as head of a Government, brought in a Bill to alter the age of consent from fourteen years to twelve years, and his brother, Alexander, voted against him.
– That is a parody of what actually took place. I raised the age of consent by two years.
– The right honorable gentleman reduced it by two years. I am willing to leave the matter to a Committee of honorable members from his own side of the House. My statement is true. I have challenged him before, but he was not manly enough to accept the challenge.
– I did not wish to have anything to do with you. My name is too well known.
– It is in the records of the Western Australian Hansard.
– Go to Western Australia and prove it-
– The right honorable member for Swan must cease these continuous interjections.
– With the knowledge that, at the request of the right honorable gentleman, this matter was deleted from Hansard, I am astonished at his objection to the present proposal. The right honorable gentleman must know that the Government during the last Parliament will be handed down to futurity as the “ Speaker’s Casting-vote Government.” There is no doubt about that, and it certainly suited some one that an honorable member should be removed, so that, in any close division, the decision would not rest upon the casting vote of the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees. I do not say but that there may have been some reason for taking objection; heat was certainly engendered by an unjust charge, and if the honorable member for Ballarat thought that he was not justified in withdrawing according to the forms of the House, when he went outside to the people, from whom all power comes, he was sent back with a large majority, which was the answer of his constituents as to whether his action was right or wrong. I shall have much pleasure in voting for the motion submitted by the honorable member for Barrier. The fact that the present Government have come in with a majority is the keenest answer of the people to a Ministry that tried to carry on the work of the country in its own interests by the casting vote of the Speaker.
– Lest it may be thought that I wished to have expunged from Hansard some statement that would injure me, let me say that the words that were taken out were opprobrious expressions that I had applied to my honorable friend, and the use of which I regretted.
– I think that if the right honorable member looks into the matter he will find that I am right, and that he is in error. No expression was used in regard to me about which I cared twopence.
– I was sorry that I had used the expressions, and therefore wished to have them deleted.
– I have based what I have said on the Hansard records, and believe my statement to be correct.
Mr. PIGOTT (Calare) [5.21.- It is very much to be regretted that the honorable member for Barrier has chosen the present occasion to revive a question which in its nature is extremely partisan. The members of the Opposition are giving the Government the most generous support, to enable them to prosecute vigorously all operations pertaining to the successful conduct of the war; and the honorable member for Barrier might well have taken the advice given to him, and withdrawn his motion, instead of seeking to divide the House on a question exciting party feeling. He has said that he does not wish to reflect on the exSpeaker; but the motion is a reflection on that gentleman. It is brought forward, too, when the ex-Speaker is absent in the Pacific, engaged on important public business. Surely the matter could have been deferred until his return. In his opening remarks, the honorable member for Barrier referred to the action of the ex-Speaker in attending a Liberal conference. As one who was present at that conference, I say that he did not attend it. He merely attended a picnic which was held after the conference had finished its work. At that picnic he made a speech, which I heard, and which I say did not contain a word which could be construed to be of a contentious nature. No doubt the honorable member for Kennedy, under similar circumstances, would make similar remarks. On the 30th April of last year, the honorable member for Barrier attacked the exSpeaker in regard to this speech, and the ex-Speaker made an explanation, following on which the honorable member for Barrier said -
I had not seen or heard your denial, or I would not have made use of that report.
Now, in the absence of the ex-Speaker, he repeats his attack, a most cowardly proceeding.
– The honorable member is not stating the circumstances fairly. T accepted the denial -of Mr. Speaker Johnson that he had used certain words. What I said this afternoon is that he was present at a picnic given to a Liberal conference, and I should not have said that had not the honorable member for Perth raised the question.
– The Prime Minister has spoken of the motion as a trumpery one, and it certainly should not have been brought forward at this juncture; but as it has been brought forward, we on this side must state our views in regard to it. Having been present, I support every word that fell from the lips of the honorable member for Richmond in regard to what occurred during last Parliament. A division took place about 2 or 3 o’clock one morning, when thirteen or fourteen Labour supporters, who were then in Opposition, were in bed asleep; and the honorable member for Ballarat, being’ appointed a teller, took something like thirteen minutes - I checked him with my watch - to count twenty-three votes. I do not know whether he was in a fit position to judge what was done on that occasion. ‘ The honorable member went to Ballarat and said, “ We have absolute proof that the Speaker altered the Hansard proof.” When a member makes a statement of that kind, and it is not substantiated by the fact, we have a right to set out the facts exactly as they occurred. A child from a kindergarten would be able to count twenty-three votes in as many seconds. Regarding the incident “of the picnic, surely a member who becomes Speaker does not thereby lose his rights of citizenship ! Surely he has a right to attend a picnic!
– I did not question that. I merely pointed out how the practice of our Speakers has differed from that of Speakers of the House of Commons.
– The ex-Speaker of this House and the Labour Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly both represent New South Wales constituencies. Let me draw the attention of the House to the fact that during a recent Labour conference in Sydney the present Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales presided at nearly every meeting. He made all kinds of reflections on our Returning Officers, which he was not able to prove; and said that if his party could nob obtain by evolution what it wanted, there would be nothing left for it but to adopt revolutionary methods. That was a nice party statement for a Speaker to make. But at a time like this, when our troops are fighting alongside those of every other portion of the Dominion, we should put a stop to party warfare. Our business now is to further the business of the Empire, and it does not reflect credit on the honorable member for Barrier that he has brought this motion forward for consideration.
.- Au aspect of the case which has not been commented on is this : that the present House consists largely of new members, who are being asked to vote upon a somewhat important issue without personal knowledge of what actually occurred. This is unfortunate, but it is unavoidable under the circumstances. However fair these new members may desire to be, they are not competent to express an opinion on the question before them. I do not think that there was ever a noisier Opposition than that which occupied these benches during the time that the events to which reference has been made took place. The noise was incessant, and the Speaker’s calls for order continuous. In fact, he injured himself physically in his efforts to maintain order. When the noise was at its zenith something occurred. The Speaker said he had not done certain things he had been accused of doing, and a member of this House, who would not have dared to make the assertions he did in the House, sought to escape his obligations by makins; platform speeches in the country. The point of the whole thing appears to be this: When the honorable member made the statements alleged, he was asked as to the correctness of the newspaper report. Adopting a mulish attitude, he would not say whether those reports were correct or not, and we were justified in assuming that all he was reported to have said he did say. Usually, when members are misreported, they are only too anxious to correct the report. Now we are told that the attack is not upon the ex-Speaker, but upon the late Government, because they pursued a line of action which resulted in the expulsion of the honorable member for Ballarat. They did take that line of action, and I say now that they would have been absolutely wrong if they had done anything else, because the first duty of any Government is to uphold the dignity of the Chair. That is the fundamental obligation resting upon any Government. The present Government would be at fault if they did not assist the Chair. But what did the late Government do? Honorable members opposite tell us that they excluded the honorable member for Ballarat for party purposes, suggesting that members were so evenly divided that by excluding one the Government were able to carry on. Tt i& perfectly true that the expulsion had that effect, but that was not the motive. The motive was to uphold the dignity of the Chair, ‘ and the honorable member for Ballarat had the ball absolutely in his own hands. All that it was necessary for him to do was to have come forward in a manly way, acknowledging that he had made a statement which he could not prove - that he had reflected upon the Speaker- in a’ way which would not have been permitted in the House - and apologized. Immediately he would have been permitted to return, and to have continued his part in the warfare of the period. Instead of doing this, the honorable gentleman chose to appear before the country as a martyr - crucified by the Government - expelled for party reasons. As a matter of fact, it was a case of self -crucifixion. The honorable member committed political suicide, was false to his party, and, for a time, disfranchised his own electorate. We have been told by the honorable member for Batman that the fact that the honorable gentleman came back with a somewhat larger majority than he had previously is proof that the people upheld him in his position. A statement recently made by the honorable member for Angas worth quoting is that “ a people may be always trusted to act rightly if they apprehend correctly.” But it is impossible to get the great mass of the people to judge correctly-, and I am sure that the people of Ballarat never apprehended the inwardness and wickedness of the action of their honorable representative in defaming the Speaker as he did. Parliamentary government would be impossible if conduct like that of the honorable member was to be permitted, and the people of Ballarat would never have returned the honorable member to the Chamber if they had understood correctly. Therefore, they voted as they did, and I am sorry they returned the honorable member. There is some force in what has been said regarding the right of the ex-Speaker to take part in this debate. The honorable member for Lang, who is engaged on a Commission for the Government, is necessarily absent from the Chamber, and the attack, whether levelled against him or not, reflects upon him, and he ought to be permitted to speak upon the question at a later stage, though his remarks will he separate from this debate. Not only has the honour and dignity of the House been assailed through the attack on the Chair, but the honesty of certain officials is also impugned, because if the honorable member for Lang, when Speaker, deliberately altered Hansard to suit his own purposes, some paid officer in connexion with the Hansard staff is seriously at fault. A conspiracy is suggested, so that the charge is not only a charge against the Speaker. It is a charge against officers of the House, and I feel we ought to stand up in defence of those who have not the right to defend themselves. I agree that the Speaker is in a position where he cannot defend himself entirely, but he can defend himself to a certain extent, .while officers of the House are absolutely powerless. If it is necessary for the House to defend an honorable member, it is quite as necessary that we should uphold the honour and honesty of those who are here paid to do the work they perform. I would like to say, by way of conclusion, that in my judgment, so great was the noise and tumult in the House on that occasion when the incident occurred, that comparatively few honorable members can really know what happened. It is the usual thing when a member of the House, be his views what they may, makes a statement that he did not do a certain thing, for that statement to be accepted, and properly so. The honorable member for Ballarat did not pursue any such course as this. It suited him to defame the Speaker. He did defame the Speaker. Even if this motion be carried, it will not be possible to alter the printed record which contains the gravamen of the charge. It must remain for all time.
– I have listened with very great interest to the speeches that have been made from both sides in connexion with this motion, and I would like to reply to one or two. It might be as well if I answered the observations made by the Leader of the Opposition when he stated that my remarks had done me no good in my constituency. I did not make them with any idea that they would do me any good in that direction. I had no idea of it; but the fact that I have been returned by a majority three times greater than I had previously, shows that my constituents still have some faith in me. I do not want to go into this question generally, and I do not want to discuss the details of what transpired on this particular occasion.’ I admit freely that we were all very excited that night. Not only were we excited that night, but for a number of weeks, perhaps months, party feeling had run very high. I had no persona] feeling against the Speaker when I uttered the remarks I did, and I am sure that 1 can say, on behalf of the honorable member for Lang, that we both regret the incident now, reviewing it in our calm moments. But I felt I had a duty to do at that time, and seeing that I was denied the right of speaking here, I went to my constituents and told them what I thought of the action of the Speaker. After the lapse of several months - after we have all had time to reconsider the events that transpired then - I regret the incident, as I feel sure the ex-Speaker also regrets it. I hope that this aspersion -will be removed from the records of Parliament, because I consider that a very grave injustice was done to me at that time. Although regretting the incident, I felt then that, as a ‘member of Parliament, I had the right to go on a platform and tell my constituents what transpired in Parliament. That is a right which I cannot waive. If I say on a platform anything of a libellous nature, any honorable member has what he has not got in Parliament, the right to proceed against’ me in the law Courts of this country. I will leave the case with these few remarks, and trust that the motion will be carried.
– With the leave of the House, I should like to make a statement.
– After that expression of regret on the part of the honorable member for Ballarat, neither I nor any honorable member on this side can have any wish other than that this motion should be carried on the voices.
– I am not quite sure as to the action I shall have to take in the event of this motion being agreed to. The incident referred to can be expunged from the official record kept in the Department, but honorable members will understand that, as Hansard and the Votes and Proceedings are scattered world-wide, it will be impossible to recall them and have this incident deleted.
– Surely there is a precedent.
– The usual procedure is to expunge an incident from the record kept by the Clerk of the House, and that will be done, but honorable members will understand that it will be impossible to recall the copies of Hansard and other official documents that are distributed throughout the world. However, the carrying of this motion will always stand as an official record that it was the wish of the House that the suspension of the honorable member for Ballarat should be expunged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That this House resolves that it is expedient and urgently necessary for the Government to at once establish horse-breeding stations in order to create and maintain a full supply of suitable horses required for military and other public services.
The motion speaks for itself, and I have no desire to unduly occupy the time of the House in discussing it. The necessity for the course I propose must appeal to every honorable member. It is in no way a party question, and I desire the House to approach it from that point of view. Already the cost to the Commonwealth for the purchase of horses, for both military and civil purposes, has been enormous. No doubt, the expenditure has been largely increased by the present deplorable war, but, even after the war is over, we must recognise the fact that the Commonwealth will be called upon to maintain and supply a very large number of horses to meet the military and civil requirements. In entering upon an enterprise of this kind, the first consideration is that the horses can be reared at a very much lower cost than the Commonwealth is compelled to pay at the present time. Secondly, the particular types of horses suitable for the Government requirements can be produced in the way I indicate. Country members, who know the points of u horse and the necessity of having particular types of animals for different classes of work, will sympathize with the Government, particularly the Defence Department, in the difficulties they have had to encounter in obtaining a suitable class of horses. Of course, in creating and maintaining stations such as I am suggesting, it would be necessary to place in charge experts who have practical knowledge of the classes of horses required. That our horse stock will be more and more depleted as the years roll on we have already ample evidence. Horses of a military type have been leaving Australia for years past, and they have not been going to our people within the Empire. Japan particularly has had purchasers in Australia, and thousands of the best horses, that ought to have been retained for our defence requirements, have been lost to the Commonwealth. On several occasions we have, had opinions expressed in the House as to the best uses to which the Northern Territory can be put. I have had the privilege of spending some time in the Territory and travelling hundreds of miles through it. I have seen the northern portion, and I approached the southern boundary as far as Oodnadatta. Even between Port Augusta and Oodnadatta, territory which many people would be inclined to condemn a3 useless, I saw plenty of country admirably suited for the rearing of horses. The best horses for military and civil purposes are not bred on what is known as level country. The horses which are hardiest and truest to strain are bred on somewhat hilly country, of which there is a large area in the Northern Territory. The expense of creating stations of this kind would not be very great. It will be necessary, of course, to have a stud.
– Should not this proposal be referred to the Public Works Committee ?
– What I am proposing is not a public work, but a public utility, and it will become more so as the years roll on. I have not gone into details or quoted statistics as to the immense cost to the Commonwealth Department of purchasing horses for the military and civil requirements. I desire the House to affirm the principle that it will be to the best interests of Australia as a whole, as well as a helpful factor in utilizing the Northern Territory, that the Government should establish at the earliest possible moment horse breeding stations, not to interfere or compete with the private breeders, but merely to supply the requirements of the Government departments.
– That would be part of the Defence scheme.
– I think it would. Those, briefly, are my views; and keeping in mind my promise to give other honorable members an opportunity of speaking on the question before the dinner adjournment, I shall say no more, but merely recommend the motion to the House.
.- For about eighteen months I had on the notice-paper a motion dealing with the question of horse breeding, but not a motion relating, as this one does, to the establishment of State horse breeding farms. The effect of my motion was that a Committee of the House should be appointed to confer with the horse breeders, the Defence experts, the veterinary faculty, and horse shippers, with a view to the standardization or typification of horses required for defence purposes, in order that the breeders throughout Australia might better understand the breeding of horses for army requirements, thus insuring an adequate supply at all times. I appreciate the effort of the honorable member for Riverina in bringing this matter before public attention. Any one who has regard for the blood horses of Australia must regret the pace at which the blood strain throughout the Commonwealth is diminishing. For that there are many reasons. The introduction of motor traction has done much to displace the horse from the city; the increases in the prices of beef, mutton, and fat lambs have practically wiped out light horse breeding in the country districts: and the arrival of the American trotting horse has resulted in the blood strains being supplanted to such an extent that to-day we are unable to get the good old station horses of days gone by.
– But we get faster horses.
– My friend is both right and wrong. He is probably right if he means that wo are producing sprinters for five or six furlongs, but I am afraid he is wrong if he is looking for the good old handicap horse which used to be the pride of Australia. If I were asked to suggest an ideal horse for Defence purposes, I should point to the old steeplechase horse with stature, blood, strength, substance, and endurance. It is very hard to get that typo of horse today. It makes a good charger, which can go all day, and subsist on small rations; while if it comes in after a hard day on the battlefield it, soon recuperates.
We do not desire to have a soft horse that will “ crack up,” as, unfortunately, does the blood or light horse that we have to-day. I do not feel particularly favorable to the establishment of State stud farms. The best breeders are engaged privately, and have, undoubtedly, got possession of the best land and stock in Australia for their businesses. A step might be taken similar to that taken in Prussia by an eminent count for the breeding of war horses. That gentleman evolved a class of horse which was the admiration of the world; and the French Government followed on very similar lines. There is no doubt that Australia would be well repaid if a serious and successful effort were made to produce a better class of animal in this country. This effort ought to be made in a business-like way, with the assistance and co-operation of those who have been breeding horses all their lives for local use, as well as for export. There ought to be some scheme under which the Defence experts could confer with established breeders, and standardize the most suitable types of horse. There are the transport horse, the charger, the leader, and the gunner ; and I may say that the horses sent abroad with our Expeditionary Forces, and in camp in Australia to-day, number about 30,000.
– Does that include horses purchased on account of the Imperial authorities ?
– No; only those required in connexion with our own Forces. I am afraid that in the better districts of Victoria the light horse has practically gone. The number of failures in breeding is a substantial consideration. A breeder may select what he believes to bc an ideal sire, and may have stud mares; but no one can say whether he will get a full proportion of the right standard of stock. I have conferred on this matter with those engaged in the export trade, and particularly with one gentleman who has for’ years been in the Indian trade, and the proportion of wasters he has had to reject would astound the country.
– There are not so many wasters now..
– There is not the same field, because the Indian trade has practically stopped.
– Horses are still going to India.
– The gentleman to whom I am referring was pre-eminent in the business; but he has now gone right out of it.
– No doubt he has found that cattle pay better.
– I referred to that point previously. The price of beef, and the rapidity with which that commodity can be commercialized, means that horses are becoming unprofitable. The honorable member for Henty has said that we are now getting speedier horses; but I think any honorable member who has paid attention to the subject will recognise that there is degeneracy in this respect. At present we are breeding sprinters, and not that type which, at one time, gave us the dependable buggy horse or good hack - the all-round horse. I may say that I have carried a few of these animals through the drought at a cost of £11 or £12 a head, and I do not suppose that I could get more than £1 a head at the present time. These animals have been bred on stud lines, from stud-book mares and stud sires; and I have to admit that they are a pack of rubbish, so far us the requirements of the Defence Department are concerned. “We have all the one object in view, and I think that the motion might be modified with some advantage. The Government could take the initial step of declaring that they intended to put the breeding of Defence horses in Australia on a sound footing, and that, to that end, they proposed to confer with breeders and veterinary exports, with a view to laying down something like a standard. The Government might go further and import good sires, because no serious efforts have been made in Australia in this connexion, so far as the Governments are concerned. It is true that something has been done in New South “Wales, but nothing of moment elsewhere. As a matter of fact, we are not able to keep a good sire in Australia. As soon as we unearth the right class of sire, he is taken to the Old Country, for the reason that we cannot here pay the price. Even New Zealand sends here for sires, at prices which we do not seem to bo able to reach. I am speaking now, of course, of private breeders. The French Government have gone to Britain and paid £30,000 for a blood horse, in order to improve their Defence mounts ; and I think that it is time we in Australia woke up. I fear for the future of the light horse, for I fear that he will practically disappear, except for the breeding of sprinters. My opinion is that in the establishment of Government stud farms we should only be courting failure. First of all, the nucleus of the right class of mare has to be got, and the breeding traced back. If there be laid down a type or standard such as I have in my mind, no doubt the authorities will stipulate that a mare, before she becomes eligible for breeding from the approved sire must be accompanied by proof of her lineage. The Government, whether State or Federal, will have great difficulty in extracting from the breeders of to-day the nucleus of a stud, seeing that, those breeders require for themselves all that they now possess. I am afraid that the Government would never be able to marshal a sufficient number of the right type of brood mares, though, with the public purse at their disposal, they would no doubt be able to get good sires. My suggestion is that the Government should enter this business by purchasing a few sires, and that the service of those sires be placed at the disposal of the community. The progeny should be earmarked, first of all, for the Defence Department; indeed, we might go further and provide that up to three years of age the Department should have the first option of purchase, at a fixed minimum price. It would not be proper to arbitrarily fix a price, and I am not going to attempt to do so ; but it should be a payable minimum equal to the return that would be received from the same land if devoted to beef or mutton, or other produce that pays so well. “We shall not induce breeders to go into the business unless their position is equalized in the way I suggest. The establishment of stud farms in the Northern Territory is not, in my opinion, a good idea. There is, for instance, the difficulty of mobilization, in view of the fact that the animals would have to be carried from 1,500 to 2,000 miles.
– Build a railway.
– A railway from the Territory would never get the product to market at a payable price.
– But the honorable member said that the horses are required only for Defence purposes.
– I do not say that; what I say is that my idea would give a better horse for Defence purposes, and bring a better type of animal into general use. To-day there is much indiscriminate breeding.
– Too much.
– That is so. Various efforts have been made to improve the situation. In Victoria, a measure was introduced providing that no draught horse could get a Government certificate for service unless sound and free from natural blemishes, but nothing has been done on the same lines in regard to the light horse. The only object we have is to put the breeding of light horses, and horse breeding generally, on a better footing; but I am afraid that, with Government stud farms, we should be deprived of the best brains in the business. If an improvement is to be made, it will not be by establishing isolated farms in the Northern Territory, which could have but a slight influence on breeding in the rest of the country.
– Plenty of good country can be got in Queensland.
– Quite so; but, as I say, that land must be put on the same footing as land devoted to beef and other payable products. There must be a market for the product. The Defence Department, for instance, might say that for a charger or a remount the authorities were prepared to give a minimum price of £25, and for a transport horse £30 to £35. A breeder would then know the basis of the business, and the prices given would regulate the prices of similar horses in the ordinary market; at any rate, something would be done to put the industry on a definite footing. I think I may say without egotism that I have some little knowledge of this question, seeing that the firm with which I was associated has sold hundreds of thousands of horses. The number of rejects of every class for both the local and export markets shows a tremendous wastage. It would be far better if the animals were never bred - far better if the efforts were devoted to cattle or sheep, in regard to which there is no such wastage. There is a great national economic loss occasioned by indiscriminate breeding, and if one horse has contributed more than another to this result, it is the soft-boned American trotter.
– They are the curse of the country.
– Horse-breeding has suffered considerably from this cause, because the progeny are even much more degenerate than the sires and mares. I have not had time to consider carefully the language of the motion in conjunction with those who are privately engaged in horse-breeding; but I think it might be so amended as to convey a direction or intimation to the Government to give the most serious consideration to the breeding of our horses, with a view to spreading the organization and effort over the whole of the continent. Instead of isolating the stud farms in the Northern Territory, a type of horse required should be selected, and bred in certain approved localities, which offer themselves for the purpose. The hard, mountain horse, with a hard hoof, clean in the wind, and so forth, could be bred with great advantage in certain parts of the Commonwealth. Then again, on the plain country you can breed a big, fine-looking horse. Private owners, however, have been engaged in this work for years, have picked out the most suitable localities, and have established stud farms. If the Government propose to take action, let them do so in a direction that would prove beneficial to the whole community. Let them purchase stallions, and make them available, as far as possible, wherever their services are requisitioned. I do not suggest that the Government could afford at once to supply stallions in every district throughout the Commonwealth; but if they move in the direction I have indicated, and thus give private breeders an opportunity to benefit by their enterprise, they will secure the support of the whole community for a praiseworthy action.
.- I am quite in accord with the views expressed both by the honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Wannon. This question should have been tackled years ago. Victoria produces the finest type of draught horses to be found in Australia.
– Especially those coming from the Wimmera plains.
– I do not know from what part of the State they come; but I have seen yarded in Melbourne three-year-old draught colts and fillies that were models of horse-flesh, and absolutely true to type. The honorable member for Wannon’s suggestion is a good one. You, Mr. Speaker, will remember the Hon. J.- P. Bell, a former member for Dalby in the Queensland Parliament, whose one desire throughout his political career was to improve the breed of horses in that State. You not infrequently joked at his expense, particularly in regard to his proposal that a stallion tax should be imposed. Such a tax is very necessary. No one knows better than you do, Mr. Speaker, the type of horses bred in the western plains of Queensland. There we find many nondescripts that are horses only in name. It was because of this that the honorable member for Dalby proposed a stallion tax. He was constantly asking the State Government to take action on the lines suggested by the honorable member for “Wannon; but, so far, nothing has been done. In the Springsure district, Queensland, a stud farm is conducted by the State Police Department. There we have beautiful limestone country, which was said to be absolutely useless save for the breeding of horses and cattle. “When the present Commissioner of Police took office in Queensland, he set about the establishment of a stud farm there ; and to-day the Springsure district is producing the finest type of saddle horse to be found in Australia. The Police Department of Queensland breeds its own horses. It found it necessary, as the honorable member for “Wannon has said will be necessary in our case, to prove its blood stock, and it was fortunate in obtaining n good type of mares and of stallions from the Old Country. If the Commonwealth Government spent £100,000 a year in providing in the different States entires for the encouragement of horsebreeding, they would do a service, not only to owners of mares, but to the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, since it would give an impetus to the breeding of good types of horses. All who have had anything to do with horses are aware that the coaching horse, the buggy horse, and the good strong hack of olden days are not to be found to-day. “What, too, has become of the old type of roadster that could carry a burden of 4 cwt. or 5 cwt. 50 or 60 miles a day? That type of horse is not available to-day. One would have to use a mongrel-bred draught to carry such a load over a long distance.
– How does the honorable member account for this change?
– The industry of horsebreeding is dying out, because farmers find that it pays better to breed cattle. If you breed a weed of a horse, you cannot sell it ; but you can sell, without difficulty, a weed of a bullock. It matters not whether it has the ricketts, is devoid of rump, or is bred as fine as a camel - its shape matters nothing - as long as it is a bullock one can sell it at a good payable price. On the other hand, a weed of a horse is thrown back on one’s hands. The number of rejects, as has been said, is very large; but since the Imperial and Commonwealth Governments have been buying horses, the percentage of rejects in the case of private purchasers of horses for export to Manilla and India has been very small. I think the suggestion made by the honorable member for Wannon, that the Government should lease out entires at a nominal rental in different horse-breeding districts, is a good one.
– And fix a very low fee for service.
– But only to approved mares.
– The honorable member has just forestalled me. I was about to say that the type of mares should be approved so that the Defence Department would be able to say, “ Whatever the foal may be we are to have first claim on it as a three-year-old for, say, £25.” Twentyfive pounds is not a big price for a good army remount. If the Defence Department did not exercise its option on a colt or filly reaching the age of three years, the owner should be at liberty to sell it to whom he pleased. The honorable member has also referred to the Northern Territory in relation to the establishment of a stud farm. In the western and northern parts of Queensland there are wide areas of accessible land suitable for horse breeding. Queensland is rapidly becoming intersected with railway lines, and between these lines, in certain parts, we have plenty of good country on which hundreds of thousands of horses of the right type could be raised. Then again, the honorable member has said that horse breeders would not part with their stud mares to the Commonwealth Government; but there are many who would be only too pleased to do so, because they desire to go in tor cattle breeding. The high price of meat makes cattle raising more profitable than horse breeding. Four years elapse before a horse breeder can raise a £25 horse. In the same time he would raise £60 or £70 worth of cattle on the same country. It is for this reason that so many horse breeders are giving up the business in the St. George district, in my electorate, where the true type of saddle hack is largely raised. Some of the finest horses in Australia come from that district, and fetch the highest market prices. I have known fifty guineas to be paid at auction for a saddle hack from that part of the Commonwealth. This desirable state of affairs has been brought about by judicious breeding. If the Police Department in Queensland can carry on a stud farm with success, why should not the Commonwealth be able to do so ?
– The Commonwealth would have to spend a lot of money in acquiring in any of the States the necessary country for stud farming, and in obtaining plant that is already in private hands.
– There are hundreds of square miles of good horse-breeding country in Queensland that can be leased for about 12s. per square mile per annum.
– But horses raised there would be fairly costly by the time they reached Victoria.
– Many horses are shipped from Townsville, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Pinkenbah, and other Queensland ports. The freights to Melbourne would not be very high. If horses can be exported with profit to India and elsewhere, it should be good enough for the Government to breed horses in Queensland, and to ship to Melbourne all that are required for its service in this State. Commonwealth stud farms would raise the type of horse required for our own service, and would have an educational influence on the horse-breeders of the districts in which they were situated. As the honorable member for Wannon has said, some districts are not suitable for the breeding of horses. The horses raised in certain parts of Queensland are more like goats than anything else, whereas in other parts of ths State, only a few hundred miles distant, some of the finest horses in Australia are raised. Lime stone country is the most suitable for horse-breeding, and I am sure if the Government took up this scheme it would prove a success. I hope that the motion will be carried, and that, even if we cannot at once establish our own stud farms, we shall do something, as suggested by the honorable member for Wannon, in the direction of supplying stallions in different parts of the Commonwealth at a nominal rental for suitable mares.
.- I am very much in sympathy with the object that the honorable member for Riverina has in view, although I do not think the method he suggests is altogether the best by which to achieve it. I would suggest to the honorable member that he omit the words “ establish horse-breeding stations in order to create and maintain a full supply,” and insert in their stead the words “ take steps to encourage and improve the breeding of suitable horses required for military and other public services.”
– That would render it impossible to establish a Government stud farm.
– Not at all. I am much impressed with what the honorable, member for Wannon has said. The present crisis has brought home to us more than anything else the necessity for insuring a suitable supply of horses for the requirements of the Commonwealth. If the Defence Department were to endeavour to organize the horse-breeding possibilities of Australia by registering throughout the Commonwealth all suitable mares - it is always possible to obtain approximately the breeding of any fairly good mart - and importing the necessary sires, it would do well. It would be able to register or to hire sires for the purpose of making them available to breeders at a reasonable fee, or a fee which would be sufficient to pay the actual cost of the upkeep of the sires and the wages of the men taking them round the country. In that way, also, the best places for putting these sires from time to time could be ascertained. It very often happens that the small farmer has a suitable and well-bred mare - for instance, in the district which I represent many farmers take pride in having a real good horse for driving; in fact, some of the finest horses on the roads of Australia are to be found there - and if this suggestion were adopted we should probably get a far greater supply of horses suitable for military requirements, and at a very much smaller cost per head in the long run, than by the mere establishment of stud farms. I am not altogether opposed to the idea of establishing these farms - I believe that something can be done in that direction; but I do not think that it will be possible to establish them in any part of Australia and supply sufficient horses to meet our requirements, particularly at a time like the present, when we need them most. At such a time as this, which may occur again, though we hope that it will not, we must be able to put our hands on a great many more horses than it will be possible for us to get by breeding our own. Nevertheless, something should be done in the direction of breeding our own horses, because we can thus produce good sires and good mares; but we should not attempt it on a large scale at first. We can conserve the public interests, and do far more for the horse-breeding industry, by following the course suggested by the honorable member for Wannon - that is, the registration of mares suitable for breeding horses for military purposes and the importation of sires which can be leased out in districts where there are sufficient mares registered to justify the sires standing.
– That system should be auxiliary to the other.
– I put it the other way - the stud farms should be auxiliary to the other method.
– The motion merely establishes the principle; it is a direction to the Government.
– The honorable mem ber should consent to alter it, thus leaving to the Government the option of establishing stud farms or of acting on the line suggested by the honorable member for Wannon, and approved by the honorable member for Maranoa. Both honorable members are experts in the matter. The amendment I have suggested will not preclude the Government from setting up stud farms. In passing, T. may say that I have seen Government stud farms which were anything but what they ought to have been. There are Government stud farms in the Richmond district particularly - those dealing; with cattle breeding - which are anything but a success. On scores of farms in the district infinitely better stock can be seen than can be seen on the Government farms. Nevertheless, the Common wealth might be very successful in establishing stud farms. I hope the honorable member will consent to alter his motion, and thus leave the Government free to adopt both methods. If the motion is carried as it is printed, the Government, in acting upon it, will he precluded from doing the other thing, which, in the first instance, would be more useful for Australia.
.- The motion submitted by the honorable member for Riverina is intensely practical, and I welcome it. It covers all the ground necessary, and meets the objections raised by the honorable member for Richmond. It asks the Government to establish horse-breeding stations, not only for military purposes, but also for “ other public purposes,” which will cover any scheme for distributing the product of the stations. If the honorable member, when he reflected on existing stud farms, meant that the Government were not capable of managing such stations, they are equally not capable of nominating persons to distribute stock throughout the country, or to say under what circumstances any person should have the use of it. There is always an element of risk in the Government undertaking a scheme of this sort. As a matter of fact, success depends entirely on the man chosen to manage the undertaking. To me the virtue of the motion lies in an incidental result, namely, that we can use part of tlie Northern Territory as a stud station. The objection raised by the honorable member for Wannon, that the stock could not be shifted about quickly enough, does not seem to have any justification, because the establishment of such an institution in the Northern Territory should assist in bringing about at an early date that railway communication we all hope for there, and when all the States are connected with the main trunk line, the facilities for shifting stock will be plentiful.
– The process of learning how to select suitable stock is a lifelong matter.
– There will be nothing to prevent people in different Parts of “the country visiting stud farms and selecting stock.
– To evolve a proper breed will take centuries.
– I am not talking of centuries, I am talking of years; but even if that assertion is true, then there is greater justification for getting a move on quickly. The longer it will take, the more quickly we should act now.
– We are all agreed as to that.
– There is no proposal to confine the movement to one station. The motion says “ horse-breeding stations,” therefore, presumably there will be several stations selected, and among them I sincerely hope that the Northern Territory, with its fine stretch of big stock country north of the Macdonnell Ranges, will be chosen.
– As the motion stands, the benefits to be derived from any stock the Government may import will be confined to particular districts, instead of being spread over the community.
– I cannot agree with that statement. As the stations are to be established, not only for military purposes, but also for public purposes, presumably there will be some centre from which the stock will radiate, and there is nothing to interfere with the stock being taken from the different centres wherever required at stated times, which will be quite in accord with the main proposal of the honorable member for Wannon and others. That the standard of horseflesh in Australia has fallen so low is a disgrace. Only to-day we notice in the evening paper a report to the effect that the Australians in the Levant are particularly noticeable by reason of their rough-coated, ugly horses. There may be something in this accusation. I was disgusted with the type of horses that we had to secure in order to send our contingents away; and, in view of the fact, as has been pointed out, that the ten-‘ dency is for this deterioration to set in largely because other forms of motive power have been adopted, it is necessary for the Government to do something in order that we may be in a position at any time to equip our Army. We shall probably have a standing Army for some time after the completion of the war, and horses will be in demand. A war cannot be won without horses. They are useful as much for the intelligence they display as their other powers. With our idle lands that need development the Government should get a move on speedily and establish these stations, particularly in the Northern Territory. I know of men who are experienced in this particular direction, and who would be able to render valuable aid. As I have already said, a great deal of the success of the undertaking will depend on the men selected to manage it.
– The purpose that the honorable member for Riverina has in view, and the very valuable suggestions made by the honorable member for Wannon, may both be incorporated in any scheme that may be introduced by the Government. Our recent experience in securing remounts and artillery horses has shown us that some system of breeding horses should be introduced, better than we have had in the past. I refer to the class of horses used for military purposes. The reason for the deterioration in that class of animal in Australia is easily seen. In the old coach days there was a constant demand for strong horses for the roads, which encouraged breeders to breed that particular class of animal. That time has passed, and our difficulty, which will grow in the future, is to know how far the requirements of the Defence Department will warrant people breeding the class of animal required in a large way. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a future date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Jensen) read a first time.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 28th April, vide page 2694) :
Clause 4 -
Section 6 of the principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead : - 6. (1) Any person who contravenes, or fails to comply with, any provision of any regulation or order made in pursuance of this Act shall be guilty of an offence against this Act.
An offence against this Act may be prosecuted either summarily or upon indictment, or if the regulations so provide, by court martial; but an offender shall not be liable to be punished more than once in respect of the same offence.
The punishment for an offence against th is Act shall be as follows: -
If the offence is prosecuted summarily - a fine not exceeding £100, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both;
If the offence is prosecuted upon indictment - a fine of any amount, or imprisonment for any term, or both:
Provided that where it is proved that the offence is committed with the intention of assisting the enemy, the person convicted of such an offence shall be liable to suffer death.
If the offence is prosecuted by court martial - the same punishment as if the offender had been a person subject to military law, and had on active service committed an offence under section 5 of the Army Act:
Provided that where it isproved that the offence is committed with the intention of assisting the enemy, the person convicted of such an offence by a court martial shall be liable to suffer death.
Where a person, being a British subject but not being a person subject to the Naval Discipline Act or to military law, is alleged to be guilty of any offence against this Act which is triable by court martial, he shall be entitled, within six clear days from the time when the general nature of the charge is communicated to him, to claim that he be tried by a civil court instead of being tried by court martial, and where such a claim is made, the offence shall not be tried by court martial.
The expression “British subject” in subsection (6) of this section includes a woman who has married an alien, but who before marriage was a British subject.
In the event of any special military emergency arising out of the present war, the Governor-General may, by proclamation, forthwith suspend the operation of sub-section (6) of this section, either 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.
Section proposed to be repealed -
Any person who contravenes, or fails to comply with, any provision of any regulation or order made in pursuance of this Act, shall be guilty of an offence against this Act.
Penalty: One hundred pounds or six months’ imprisonment, or both.
Amendment (by Mr. Anstey) negatived -
That the words “ or if the regulations so provide, by court martial,” sub-clause 2, be left out.
.- I should like to know from the Minister in charge of the Bill whether the following statement, which appears in to-night’s Herald, is correct -
Members of the Federal Ministerial (Labour) party are now said to be in general agreement with the provisions of the Amend ing War Precautions Bill, which have been the subject of much adverse criticism from the Government supporters in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
At the usual weekly caucus of the party today, consideration was given to the clauses which some members have declared unnecessarily subordinate civil rights to military power. Mr. A. Fisher, the Prime Minister, said subsequently that much of the criticism arose from misunderstandings, and that these had been cleared up. It was shown that the latent power was always with the civil executive. He did not think that any amendments of the measure would be necessary.
I have had a very pleasant day, I have just risen from an excellent meal, I have given this subject mature consideration, and I see no reason for altering the opinions which I expressed in the debate last night. To my mind, there is no necessity, and no justification, for the provisions of the clause, and if I can obtain support’ I shall press my objection to the provision. Last night the AttorneyGeneral was being advised from this side of the House, and by the honorable member for Angas and others on the Opposition side, until at length he said, “ I wish I had not so many friends to advise me.” His remark reminded me of a passage in Byron’s Don Juan. The hero was asked, “ Have you no friends?” and his reply was, “ I had some, but, thank God, I have lost them.” That seems to be virtually my position. Those who were supporting me last night have, in the interval, been ground through the mill. The honorable member for Parramatta asked me, and those who were then supporting me, why we were so fearful of a military despotism, and why we made charges against the military officials. Let me say that no one has a higher respect than I have for those who go forth to fight the battles of their country, no matter how humble their rank, or exalted their position. I hold in far higher estimation those who have taken the risk of life and limb to serve the interests of their country than I hold the platform patriots, who urge others to do what they are not prepared to do themselves. It is not because I am opposed to me military that I oppose the clause; it is because I am opposed to the giving of absolute power to a few men. I would object to such a measure were those to whom this power was to be intrusted my dearest friends, or the associates of years. I object to the giving of absolute power except in the most extreme emergency.
Crises come in the history of nations and of individuals. There are periods of history in which nationalities must war against others to their very existence. There are times when, to save from disaster a vessel buffeted by the wind and the waves, all on board must be subject to one intelligence and will; when there must be no discussion or argument, but implicit obedience to the orders of one person alone that all may be saved. The hour of supreme crisis may have dawned for the Old Country and for countries of Europe, but has not yet dawned for Australia. The honorable members for Parramatta and Kooyong are in the same boat with the Ministry, but I occupy a very different position. Last night the honorable member for Flinders said, “ This Bill gives enormous powers,” and he added thathe could not imagine any circumstances which would necessitate their exercise. He said that he would like to know what circumstances would require their exercise. That was a plain question asked from the standpoint pf Toryism. I ask it from the standpoint of working Democracy. It is an instance of extremes meeting. The members of the British House of Lords showed their hostility to this provision because they recognised the glorious love of liberty which is traditional with the British race, and felt that only under the most extreme emergency should that liberty be violated. The Ministry and the honorable members for Parramatta and Kooyong say that the Bill does not give new powers, but merely sets forth powers that they already possess. I have denied that. I hold with the honorable member for Flinders that the Bill gives new and extremely wide powers. It gives the power to make regulations, and by regulations you can bring within the scope of the military authorities all civil liberties. You can put an end to the liberties of the people, if you will, under the excuse that that is necessary in the public interest. I ask, “ What are the powers that are demanded ? What is the need for them, and to what extent are they to be used?” I am told that Ministers do not know of any circumstances under which they are needed, of any evil that they are designed to meet. In the Old Country they live within the sound of the cannon. Bombs have been dropped on country villages which for long centuries had not felt the blow of a foreign foe. There the emergency possibly has arisen. Yet the House of Lords, in spite of its aristocratic instincts, has maintained the glorious traditions of the race to which we belong, and refuses to allow to be put into operation provisions to which the Labour party here has given its adherence. A week ago the Age said that this Bill confers enormous powers.
– So far from that being the case, I understand that it embodies the results of the criticisms of the House of Lords.
– Does it?
– So I understand.
– We have that statement. Even supposing that we have the Bill with limitations imposed by the House of Lords, while it may meet the objection of the honorable member and his party, how can it meet the attitude of the men with whom I am associated to-day? Men who claim to be Radicals in politics find that the framing of their Bills has to be done, not in accordance with the Radical instincts of the working classes of this country, but in accordance with propositions carried through the House of Lords. That is the position. How do honorable members justify the fact that they are not one step in advance of the British aristocracy to-day; that they are going backwards; that they are not acting in accordance with their own needs and instincts, not in accordance with the principles and fundamentals of a movement with which we are supposed to be allied ; and that they have to go to the Old Country and its aristocracy to know how Democratic they should be? It is said that thisBill confers enormous powers on the naval and military authorities. In many respects it constitutes the Defence Department the sole administrator of justice throughout the Commonwealth. Has that been denied ? Is there any honorable member on this side - and we all attained to our positions by the votes of the working democracy - who will stand on the floor of this Chamber and deny that this measure makes the Defence Department the sole administrator of justice throughout the Commonwealth ? The clause goes on to say that the methods of the military tribunal shall be brought into a closer approximation with the forms and principles of civil law; but we do not do anything of the kind. Every five minutes yesterday it was stated clearly and distinctly that the Bill does not embody any new principles. We were assured that it was exactly what the Bill was eight months ago. We were told that we were called upon to give our adherence to something to which we gave our adherence then, and the honorable member for Parramatta said that the Bill was. a. mere repetition or a mere reiteration. Are we asked to believe that we are called upon here to occupy the time of the country with mere repetition and mere reiteration ? In the clause we are now considering there is not a single line, from the beginning to the end, which is not absolutely something new to be embodied in the existing law. The clause provides -
An offence against this Act may be prosecuted either summarily or upon indictment-
It says that there shall be certain offences which may be prosecuted in a summary manner, and certain other offences which may be prosecuted upon indictment. It lays down the penalty for an offence; it states clearly and distinctly the processes of the Court; and, in a line, it goes on to say that an offence may be prosecuted “ if the regulations so provide by court martial.” Can any honorable member conceive of a Bill presented to Parliament which sought to so cajole the judgment of its members - a measure under which, if it be passed to-night, to-morrow the military authorities may proceed to make regulations which will nullify every provision of the Act? This clause says that certain offences may be prosecuted summarily, and certain other offences by certain processes of indictment. Let honorable members read the clause and examine it for themselves. It is clear that the day after the measure is passed the Executive Government can make a regulation which will say that those things shall not be done, and that everything which comes within its scope shall be within the purview of a court martial. Further down it says that certain other provisions will protect the civil rights of the working classes, and then, cunningly, another clause provides that the Government can take away that protection by a mere proclamation. Is not that an evidence of its mala fides? .If there is anything genuine about the whole matter, why should we not lay down clearly and distinctly what we mean ? Why should we with one hand give a protection and with the other hand enable the military authorities to take it away ? We are told that this provision is designed for the preservation of public safety. Now, what is the preservation of the public safety ? Let me read a few extracts to show the situation which is dawning in Australia, and we are told that it is not dissimilar from that which is occurring in England. Let me see what is the position since, under some of the regulations, the authorities can take away the rights of ordinary civilians, can multiply offences, create any crime they like, and impose any penalty they like. They can take a case to an ordinary military tribunal; they can bring in the prisoner; they can condemn him, and from that court there is be no appeal. But, says the Daily Express of the 21st January -
Just as it is the duty of the Government to maintain an efficient well-nurtured army and navy -
Do honorable members believe that? Do they believe that it is the duty of a country to maintain a well-nourished Army and Navy ? They will not speak. Said the Daily Express - so it is equally its duty to take every possible means to maintain the food supply of the civilian population-.
Do honorable members believe that? Right ! They give an endorsement to it. Thanks for that much. Then, said the Yorkshire Miners’ Manifesto, throughout last January -
And not one step has been taken by the Government to safeguard Labour against the employers, though Government has spent fabulous sums safeguarding the owners against war.
The Weekly Echo said -
The war is a life and death struggle, in which every ounce of energy will be required to win. ironically, the people are saying, “ How can the nation put forth all its strength if its vitality is to be artificially sapped by the legalised highwaymen who are deliberately holding up the foodstuffs?”
On the 22nd January the Clarion made this comment -
To the perils that beset this nation is now added the deadly canker of treason. Britain is fighting for her life against the most formidable enemy she has ever known, and this time of supreme test and peril is being exploited for greed of gain by powerful knaves within our gates whose devilish treachery threatens to stir the people to revolution.
On the 24th January Reynolds’s Newspaper wrote -
That we should, on the one hand, call for men to leave their homes to do duty in sodden trenches or man our ships, and on the other hand allow the dependants of those men to be bled and robbed by the vampires whose wealth the men are protecting, would be unspeakably comic if it were not an unutterable shame.
So the situation which exists in England is the situation with which we are confronted in Australia to-day. Again, said Reynolds’s Newspaper of the 31st January -
It is an ironical picture.
And I present this to you, sir, and to the members of the Labour party, as a picture which is as true of Australia today as it is of the Old Country -
It is an ironical picture for a patriotic nation to reflect upon, and a still more ironical picture for the husbands and fathers at the front to fight upon. But it is just what every decent-minded Briton in England to-day is thinking and brooding over with intensified feelings that will brook little further delay from this or any other Government. “It is not,” they say, “the blood heroically shed in the great cause that hurts the most.a It is the stomach plunder at Home by men o’f our own race that hurts the most, more especially in the case of the kiddies, who are to fill, in a few years’ time, the places of the men now giving up their lives to their country.”
In a few months we are going out to ask the people of Australia to pass referenda proposals enabling us to cope with the food monopolists of this country; to handle the sugar monopoly, the tobacco monopoly, and the men who make big profits out of fodder, butter, and wheat. We are going to ask the people to give us power to suppress the evils in connexion with the foodstuffs of the people. Here, iu a great National emergency, where it is an absolute requisite to maintain a wellnurtured Army and Navy, whence 70,000 Australians have marched forth to battle, leaving their wives and children behind, and where men who claim to be of our race and blood are taking advantage of the opportunity to raise the price of fodder for cattle and of food for human beings, we, the members of the Labour party, talk of taking precautions against traitors ! Who are they ? Are the traitors those who are ready to give direct help to the Germans or those who take advantage of the situation to raise prices? What are we, as a party, if we do not take full advantage of the powers we have to deal with a great emergency ? What are we if we do not come here and say, “ We shall cope with the grievances within our own boundaries?” Who are the traitors to the British race?
Who are the enemies to the great supremacy of the Empire if it is not those men who, in the hour of National emergency, are seeking what they pan make out of it? Before I come back to the question, let me read an extract from a newspaper which, mark you, is not a revolutionary journal, not one of the red-rag brigade, but one which from beginning to end is filled with a desire to animate the British race to that glorious supremacy which has prevailed for long centuries. It describes how the manufacturers, the Cadburys and others, have exported 16,500,000 lbs. of cocoa through Holland to feed German troops, as against 3,500,000 lbs. in the corresponding period of 1913; it shows how these buccaneers of our race, who talk of their patriotism, have exported 20,000,000 lbs. of tea to the enemy, as against 2,000,000 lbs. in the corresponding period of 1913. I propose to read this extract because it is true to-day. What applies to the Liberal Government in England applies to the Labour Government in Australia. If this is an argument against a Liberal Government in England, it is equally au argument against a Labour Government in Australia. If we are true to our ideals; if we believe ourselves to be something distinct from honorable members on the other side, let us show the difference in our acts and deeds, and put our views into force.
– What newspaper do you propose to quote from?
– -Reynolds’s Newspaper. There is not a sentiment in that newspaper which cannot be taken out of every other English newspaper. Whether you take the Tory Baily Express, the Yorkshire Post, the Daily Chronicle, or the Clarion, edited by Blatchford, everything it contains on this subject is a mere repetition of the few lines I am going to read, and I hold that our Government stands in exactly the same position in regard to the working classes as does the Liberal Government in England. Tt says -
They have enlisted in numbers that have staggered the conscriptionists. They have laboured superhumanly in the national interests; and what have they seen happening around them? First they saw the railway shareholders safeguarded by a Government guarantee of full dividends based on the rate of a record year; they saw the banks secured at we know not what a colossal price to the taxpayers; they saw the shipping interests helped by the Government in regard to insurance; they saw contractors being given huge prices for work that was a disgrace. All round them they saw the commercial and financial interests, they saw money receiving help from the national coffers, and for themselves they listened to continual appeals for patriotism and sacrifice. Then, as if the open scattering of national wealth among the profiteers was not enough, there came the conscienceless throttling of the workers by the food and fuel exploiters; and still the Government left Labour to the mercies of whoever could grapple it by the throat.
Where are we to-day? Do honorable members mean to say that we stand here to-day as a party and have no power? Does any one dare to make that state ment ?
– Do you mean to imply that this Government is doing the same thing as Reynolds’s Newspaper says is being done elsewhere ?
– That is exactly where it stands. It comes here to pre. serve the interests of money. It comes here with the indorsement of the banks. For twenty long years we have said that the struggling working men were subjects of a system of exploitation and public robbery. But how do we, in this hour of National crisis, act? We simply say, “It is not we, but others who have saved the country. Thanks to the banks, the situation has been saved,” and the Minister of Defence says, “ I have to thank the mercantile community for the manner in which they have come to the rescue of the country.” No more shall we be able to argue against them upon the platform. The banks, God bless them ! have saved us, not our members, not our policy. But God bless the banks!
– How is all this relevant to the Bill?
– Of course it is relevant, because the matter is one that affects the preservation of the public safety. The Government will be given power to deal with any commodity that it thinks fit. But the point I wish to emphasize is, the Government, under its war legislation, has had the power to apply the social and economic principles upon which the party stands. From the very hour that the war started, the Government could, in the interests of the public safety, have checked the exploiters in their operations in the foodstuffs of the working classes. It could have dominated the Sugar Trust; it could have applied the Act against butter, wheat, and every - thing else.
– You are not advising your party, under the pretext of war, to violate the Constitution, are you ?
– In the American Constitution, upon which ours is based, the war provisions are of the most elastic character. Abraham Lincoln on one occasion, when somebody put the question to him as to whether their operation was not a breach of the Constitution, asked, “ Do you know any one who in this hour of national trouble is prepared to take out an injunction ? If you do, see that he goes to the concentration camp before he gets his injunction.” The maintenance of national existence and the securing for the civil population of all the necessaries of life is one of the most important duties imposed upon us during war time.
– You are going further than that. You are advocating the socialization of industry under the guise of war.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has reached the time limit.
– I have nearly finished. I oppose every provision in this Bill on the ground that there is no national emergency, and that nothing has happened to justify this interference with the civil rights of the people, and this handing over of such extensive powers to any particular section of the community.
– I desire to move the following amendment, adding at the end of sub-section 8 the words : -
Provided that whilst this proclamation is in force any sentence passed by court martial. . . .
– I rise to a point of order. I proposed an amendment, and spoke to it. Where does the Minister come in?
– I must call the honorable member’s attention to the fact that he has exhausted his rights. He has spoken to the clause and also to the amendment.
– I do not wish to deprive the honorable member of his right to move an amendment if he wishes. He has the right to speak twice.
Honorable Members. - He has spoken three times.
.- I do not desire to obstruct the Minister in charge of the Bill in the tabling of this amendment, but the issue prior to this i3 as to whether sub-clause 8 should stand in the Bill at all. I am afraid if the Minister now moves any proviso there will lie no opportunity for honorable members to say whether they think the sub-clause should stand in the Bill or not. Yesterday, the Committee will recollect, and the Attorney-General will recollect also, the whole question was whether the Ministry should, after debate, consider that subclause essential to the Bill.
– We do consider it essential.
– We have had three utterances on the point, and it is of that that I wish to speak. First, the Assistant Minister said he regarded it as vital. Then the Attorney-General said that he himself did not like it; that he was not enamoured of it; and was prepared to consider its excision. Then the Prime Minister said that he wanted to hear dobate.
– Suppose you move the deletion of the sub-clause : then you will bring the matter to a head, and we can come to a decision.
– That is the procedure, of course. But I am not prepared to take the responsibility after the more recent utterances of the Minister, to move the excision of that clause. Personally, I do not like it. I think it is extreme!) dangerous. I think its value and necessity may be doubted ; but the Prime Minister’s latest utterance was that he regarded it as essential, after hearing the debate.
– Would you prefer martial law to this?
– That is a term that is particularly elastic, and we have had many interpretations of it. I prefer not to deal with that matter at this stage. It may be necessary to break down all impediments to National safety, and declare that a military ordinance is essential to National life; but my position is this. I am prepared to forfeit my fears, to abandon my dislike of the clause, if the Government will take the responsibility of saying, “ We regard this clause as essential to the Bill.’-
– I think the fair position is this. The Government say that while there is no emergency now, such a law is required should the emergency arise.
– And because of that it prefers to take that power in such a form that the House may share the responsibility, and that the people may know where we are.
– That attitude, if I may without presumption say it, seems to be highly reasonable. We who sit in this House, provided we are off the Treasury bench, cannot know as much as the Government knows. There are all sorts of communications, necessarily confidential and secret at certain stages, passing through the hands of the King’s representative direct to the head of the Government that advises him, and if, after due consideration - whether that has been the case here or not - when a proposal comes from the Cabinet as a deliberative body, and is recommended to. Parliament, I am prepared to lay down every objection I have, and vote with the Government. But in doing that the Government invites and accepts from members like myself on this side a loyalty it is not getting from its own supporters; and I hops the Government will recognise that we are doing this because we believe that, although we are opposed to many principles of the Government, there must be absolutely one single will controlling the nation in a time of National emergency, and that that will appropriately rests in the Government.
– If there is no loyalty to this Government, there is loyalty to the principles of the movement.
– I do not want to take part in the unedifying squabbles that are occurring on the Ministerial side of the House. But I beg leave to say, after a knowledge of the member for Bourke extending over twenty-five years, that, although I do not agree with him in his utterances, I believe that they were thoroughly earnest and conscientious, and whatever his friends in the party may think, I am quite sure his constituents, though they may disapprove of many of his sentiments, will probably give him every credit for honesty and earnestness. I am prepared, for one, now that the Government has said, “ Give us this subclause, “ to put the responsibility on them, if they think it essential, and grant the power, whatever their sup- porters may do. Whether the proposal is qualified by an amendment or not, my vote will go as the Government desires. The danger from a cancellation of the civil rights provided for in sub-clause 6 by the military authority advising the Government is very real, and I hope the Government, through its head, will give the assurance to this House, before the Bill passes from it, that these large powers, the greatest ever intrusted to any Government, since self-government was granted to the Australian people, will be exercised with the greatest care and discretion, not only with a desire to preserve the general peace and stability of this part of the Empire, but to preserve also those individual liberties that injudicious use may jeopardize.
– With regard to the remarks that have fallen from the honorable member for Balaclava, the Government do not need to delay for one moment the assurance the honorable member desires. These powers will not be used except in the case of emergency. They will be safeguarded in every way, and especially in the direction outlined by an amendment which was read by the Attorney-General last night. Regarding the differences of opinion that have been referred to, T have stated from the first that this is not a party question, and will not be made a party question by this Government in any circumstances whatever, nor will any of these National measures be dealt with in a party spirit. We are not going to wrangle on the steps of the temple in a matter of this kind, and whatever be the attitude of individual members, it will not affect the Government one iota as to the course they intend to pursue. It may be the right, way or the wrong way, or it may not be the best way, but we think it the best course that we can take with the information in our possession.
.- I move -
That at the end of sub-clause 2, the following words be added : - “ Provided that no civilian shall bc tried before a court martial.”
– That is duly provided for in sub-clause 6 in another way.
– No, it is not. There is another clause which, to a certain extent, is a saving clause, which gives to civilians the right to apply for civil trial if they are sufficiently well advised of their powers. I do not wish to speak at length on this subject, and merely wish to say that I support in general terms the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Bourke, who expressed the hope that there would be one at least on this side to support him in his opposition to this extension of military power. I shall be that one, at all events, and I hope there will be others in opposition to the clause. I would like to have it tested whether the protestations of this party against military law and trial by court martial are genuine or whether they are really make believe. The right honorable the Prime Minister gives the assurance that this power will be exercised in the most guarded way, and has told us that every sentence to be imposed by court martial will be reviewed by the Executive Government. How reviewed ? It will be reviewed upon the evidence that is given before the court martial. My trouble is as to the original trial, not the review of the trial. I am opposed to the extension of military law to civilians for that reason, and I am moving the amendment in conformity with my own view and with that expressed by the honorable member for Bourke, who was technically excluded from the right to move the amendment.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Bourke, even at this late hour, on being able to get one supporter amongst honorable members opposite for the views which he put with such force and ingenuity only a few moments ago. From the remarks which have fallen from this side of the House, however, it is clear that members of the Opposition are prepared generally to trust the Government, and the Government’s utterance upon this question, so my friend the honorable member for Bourke will probably find yet another supporter or two from the ranks of Government supporters.
– They are at liberty to do so if they like.
– Quite so; but my honorable friend was not a few moments ago, and I fancy I detected a look of relief when he realized that, owing to the united support of members generally to the head of the Government at this time of great national emergency, he would still be free, without jeopardizing or inconveniencing his party, to continue in his attitude.
– I suppose you think that is funny ?
– No, I think it is deplorable; and I think I can see a look of relief on the honorable member’s countenance.
– At any rate, that is the remark of a clown.
– I do not wish to excite the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in any way. It seems to me that the amendment moved at this stage practically amounts to a want of confidence in the statement which has been made to the House by the Prime Minister. Only a few moments ago the Prime Minister stated definitely that he realized the gravity of these powers with which he is seeking to be clothed, and that he only proposed to use them in a time of the gravest emergency, and after the most careful consideration. Now, the honorable member for Bourke says, in effect, that whatever happens those powers are not to be put into effect against civilians. Would the honorable member wish that to be the position in the event, say, of Australia being invaded ? If Australian troops were engaged in the firing line in Australia, would the honorable member say that any traitor giving valuable information to the enemy should not be summarily dealt with, and according to martial law? That, of course, is the ultimate emergency which might be expected to arise.
– It has not arisen yet.
– How can my honorable friend tell us that an emergency of that kind will not arise? What opportunity, compared with the Government, have private members of this House of getting information as to the real risk with which this country may be confronted ? Tt is for that reason that I am prepared to believe and accept the weighty utterance to which we have just listened from the Prime Minister. I am willing to trust the Prime Minister with these powers, with which I should certainly have absolutely nothing to do if it were not for his weighty utterance.
– When was this weighty utterance given ?
– Just prior to the honorable member’s amendment being moved. Honorable members in Opposition are prepared to trust the Government. If the Government say that these powers are ne cessary, we will give them to the Government; but the responsibility for their exercise will depend absolutely on the Government of this country. If mistakes occur, they will be the mistakes of the Government; but I trust no mistakes will be made.
– Do you not know the Government have the power now to act in emergencies without any law at all ?
– Yes; but only by going beyond the powers which are legally reposed in them. The Government want these extended powers, but I trust they will not require to use them.
– It is only a practical, straightforward way of putting into words the powers which we desire to exercise in an emergency.
– Yes; but I hope that those powers will never require to be exercised. The Government have asked for them, and the least we can do is to support the request in this emergency.
– The honorable member for Batman has moved an amendment to sub-clause 2 which practically covers the ground set out in sub-clause 6, excepting that it extends its provisions to aliens as well as to British subjects. I venture to suggest that the proper place for the honorable member’s amendment is in sub-clause 6. It is a matter for very serious argument, indeed, whether, at a time like this, an alien enemy should enjoy the same privileges as a British subject. Let us take an extreme case. Suppose an alien enemy is charged with espionage, that he is a spy proposing to strike some vital blow at the Commonwealth ; is he to have all the advantages of the civil law ; is he to be safeguarded as if his liberty and his rights were coincident with, or in some respects the foundation upon which civil liberty itself rested ?
– It does not include alien enemies.
– It does; but it ought not to do so. As to aliens other than alien enemies, I am certainly quite favorable to including them with the general provision, and giving them the advantages of the civil law. I see no reason why they should not have it. I see very good reason, however, why alien enemies charged with these offences, which are offences particularly arising out of the war, ought to be treated in a different way to that in which the civil law deals with offences under the civil code. It appears to me that the trouble with the honorable member for Bourke, and the honorable member for Batman, is that their imagination, fecund and exuberant as it is, moves only in one direction. They see the danger of civil liberty being lost. Their minds pierce the misty past, and grope with the shadowy host of reformers who have blazed the track of liberty; hut they are blind to the bloodred present. They cannot see the tens of thousands of men who die every day that civil liberty may be maintained. They do not see through the mists of the abstractions in which they live the dreadful horrors of this war. They live in a little world of their own, where the sound and horrid din of war is never heard; where academic discussions about the civil rights of men take the place of action ; such discussions, for instance, _ as the Sansculottes and the Jacobins indulged in during the afternoon before going out next morning to behead each other. What we have to do as practical men is to face the facts. My friends talk about civil liberty being in danger. So it is : but who threatens it ? I want to ask the honorable members for Batman and Bourke do they realize that there is at the present lime in progress the greatest war of all the ages, . and that _ if it he the destiny of our Empire that she and her allies be defeated, civil liberty will completely disappear ? Does the honorable member think that if the Prussians were victorious, and were to conquer Australia, they would allow in the Reichstag, or whatever Parliament they constituted, his voice to be heard with that freedom which the honorable member has exercised to-night? The honorable member speaks about the danger of militarism; does he not see that at this juncture the foundations and fabric of civil liberty depend for their very existence upon the military power of the Empire and its Allies? The honorable member does not see that militarism, which has been for ages the enemy of liberty, is to-day the very sword and shield by which liberty is to be maintained. The honorable member declares liberty to be endangered by this Bill designed to protect, not only our liberties, but our very existence. From the very inception of this war the honorable mem- ber treated it as some immoral and monstrous thing, in which we were participators. He has spoken of the grant to Belgium as if it were a reflection on the community, and an offence against its interests, that we should give £100,000 to that afflicted country. He does not realize that but for Belgium, and the deathless valour of her people, in all probability he would not be in this House to-night. The honorable member’s imagination peoples the whole atmosphere with figures moving in every direction, so that it is all one vast cinema show, in which he sees all the ages passing swiftly before his eyes. But his imagination boggles when it’ comes to facts. He turns his head away from the stern realities of life; he turns from this war, where men are now fighting and dying for civil liberty, and pokes his head into a recess, where abstractions and figments of the imagination take the place of facts and stern realities. We are in this House to carry out the business of the nation, to protect the country, and to discharge the duties for which we are elected. ‘The honorable member for Batman, amongst others, has reflected upon the Government as if we were recreant to our position and trust, as if it were not the business of a Government composed of Labour men to fight for liberty, and to do everything possible to safeguard our national honour, is much as it is the business of any other citizen. That view I utterly repudiate. If now, when we, as Labour representatives, are in a position in which we are intrusted with the reins of government, we allow them to dangle slackly in our hands, we shall he rightly branded as incompetent doctrinaires. The honorable member for Bourke speaks of civil liberty. Does he understand how civil liberty has been built up?
– Do you?
– I do; it has never been built up by words, but by deeds. The honorable member’s talk about liberty reminds me of Jean Jacques Rousseau, who kindled a revolution, the smoke of the fires of which stung him, so that he disappeared into the shadows from the conflagration which he had ignited. Revolutions have to be made by men, aud not by orators. The honorable member has drowned his judgment in the sea of his emotions. I have always prayed for imagination to descend on the people lite a gift of the gods, because imagination is good. But imagination must ‘e counteracted by common sense, and must not be allowed to sweep like a cataract over one’s mind, filling every corner with phantasms and figments. The honorable member ignores the solid fact that there is war, and we have to deal with that fact as men facing the greatest reality of life. If there be one greater reality than war it is death. Would the honorable member, seeing a man dying in the gutter, preach about civil liberty, or would he not do everything possible to render help and succour? I know the honorable member is a thousand times better than his words; and when he is silent he is excellent. But when he speaks- ! !
The Committee can decide this question in a very much simpler way than that suggested by the honorable member for Batman, and that is by voting against subclause 8. The clause as it stands, without sub-clause S, gives the civilian ample rights. I admit that it does not give the alien civilian those rights. If the honorable member chooses to delete the words “ British subject,” and insert in lieu “ any civilian,” we can take a division on that proposal, and we shall be in exactly the same position as we should have been had we pushed this matter to a division on sub-clause 2. Personally, I am not opposed to allowing alien civilians to have the same rights as British subjects, but I am opposed to alien enemies, who may be charged with offences under this Bill, enjoying those privileges. I would not rob the alien enemy of any rights he possesses under the civil code, but the offences dealt with in this Bill are those which no person is more likely to commit than an alien enemy, and no person is more likely to commit them with the deliberate intent of inflicting vital injury on the nation. For that reason I am opposed to exemption of the alien enemy from trial by court martial; I am not opposed to the exemption of any other civilian, and I am prepared to accept an amendment on those lines. If, however, my honorable friends constitute themselves the champions of the alien enemy, they can put the question to a test by moving an amendment.
.- I understand that the Attorney-General proposes to delete from the Bill the power to try by court martial civilians who are not alien enemies. When this proposal wasbefore the Imperial Parliament, on 24th February, there was a general feeling, which was expressed by some members, that the Act upon which we modelled our legislation, and which was passed on the 27th November, 1914, was a mistake in respect to these provisions. Civilians ought not to have been included within the provisions of the measure as regards courts martial, and the Act was amended in February by leaving in those provisions, but inserting a proviso that the option should be given to British subjects, within four days, of electing to be tried by a civil tribunal; also the provision in clause 8 giving power to suspend was inserted. But had the matter come on as a new proposal, the Bill would have been differently drafted. It would not have given power of court martial over civilians, but a provision would have been inserted enabling the Executive in casesof invasion or other special emergency to extend the scope of the Bill to civilians. That is what ought to ha?e been done, but as such a course would have involved an alteration of the text of the Bill, the other means was adopted. When honorable members on this side spoke on the question yesterday, we did not wish to embarrass the Government, and if the Minister assured us that the powers herein contained were necessary, we were prepared to vote for them. It was stated in the House of Commons by the Attorney-General, Sir John Simon, speaking on behalf of the Government, that the special emergency under which the suspending clause would operate - that is the clause taking away the option to be tried by a civil tribunal - was in invasion or other such special emergency. If the Government will administer the provisions of sub-clause 8 in the sense of Sir John Simon’s remarks, I do not see that any harm will be done by retaining it in the Bill. The reason for such a provision in England is that the Imperial Government have not yet been given power by Act of Parliament to proclaim martial law. The moment war broke out martial law was declared in Germany and France, but we have a different tradition, and, so far, no power to take that step has yet been given. This clause does not deal with martial law, but with trial Dy military tribunals in certain cases’ for offences against the existing law.
– It does not suspend the processes of the civil tribunal.
– No; it gives the alternative in certain cases of trying offences against the existing laws by courts martial ; but there is no power here, or by Act in the United Kingdom, to deal with civilian offenders under martial law. If an emergency did arise, martial law would be proclaimed, but in order to avoid that, they have taken this special emergency power to try by a special military tribunal offences committed before the Act authorizing the proclamation of martial law is passed. Knowing that was the case, I did not wish to press for an amendment to be made. Nevertheless, if the Attorney-General chooses to go beyond that, and restore the right of trial by jury, I will not object, because that step logically follows from the position which a good many honorable members have taken up. If, however, the Government are inclined to administer this provision in the sense of the assurance given in the House of Commons by Sir John Simon, that the option of trial by a civil tribunal would be interfered with only in case of an emergency, such as an invasion, I do not think it will be objectionable.
– The Attorney-General, as well as several honorable members on the Opposition side, have had a lot to say about invasion. Before this country can be invaded, there must be some nation prepared to do that. Will my Conservative friends opposite say which nation is capable of swimming here ? At present Japan, which is an Ally, is the only nation that has the ships with which to come to our shores, unless the invaders are coming in Chinese junks. This continent is surrounded by walls of water and sharks, whales, and alligators, and yet every honorable member talks about invasion. Western Australia has an invasion of rabbits; is it that to which honorable members refer ? To me, this talk is amazing, and yet we are considered an educated and thinking people. The germ of greatness is in everybody, but we are all the victims of a puncture in the germ’s development. The great Labour party must not permit the freedom of the worker to be touched. In an Englishspeaking country a Judge weighs the evidence at a trial, and his sympathies are always with the victim. It is not so with the military man. He has a peculiarlyconstituted conscience. I heard soldiers, who were trained in Presbyterian universities, and were Sabbath school men, after coming back from the American War, sit round the table and talk of killing a man as a Chicago butcher will talk about butchering a hog. The great Labour party should not allow these military men to be judges of treason, or let them come into our houses, drag us out of our beds, and shove us into gaol.
– The Assistant Minister of Defence says that this is nonsense, but an ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory.
– No one has dragged the honorable member out.
– They cannot drag me out, because I am a lawabiding citizen. I am talking in the interests of the working man, who expresses his opinion at the street corner, or who when travelling in the train has his say, especially if he has a little stagger-juice in him. I know that there is a scare just now. Military men are going about in fear and trembling. They think that they see a German everywhere, or that they can smell him. This provision should be struck out. If lt does not mean anything in particular, why is the AttorneyGeneral fighting so strongly for it? Why should the life of every man be in the hands of some civil servant? A civil servant recommends this to the Minister, who takes it to the Cabinet, and one wise Minister shakes his head and says, “ We cannot interfere with the law.”
– Then they walk him out.
– No, they do not walk him out always. My honorable friend will rise again. Do not be disheartened. While there is life there is hope. When I see our Conservative, friends on the other side supporting this proposal, my mind is filled with grave misgivings. I say that we are creating in this country a military despotism, and those who will be the first to suffer from it will be the Labour people. Is the AttorneyGeneral prepared to furnish lawyers for working men when they get. into gaol under this measure, as clever as those whom he will provide to assist the prosecution to get them there? I saw the trouble in America. I saw the way in which they grabbed Southerners, and shoved them into gaol under a provision not half so stringent as are the provisions of this Bill.
– The honorable gentleman appears to have seen a lot pf things.
– I have, and I shall see a lot more before I die, though I am .a teetotaller. I do not believe in stagger-juice, which, in my opinion, is the curse of the English-speaking people. This Bill will set up here a military despotism more damnable than ever existed in Egypt. The newspapers came out to-day with the information that the Caucus was throttled. There is no throttling our Caucus. Thank God, we have freedom of speech, and we intend to maintain it. Our business in this matter is to tell ‘bur Ministers not to violate the sacred principles of the Labour party. I can remember the time when Americans used to hunt Congressmen on their way to church on Sundays, and get them while at Washington to see tha President, because it was impossible, without an order from the President, to get a man out of gaol. A man might say, “ I have no right to be here, because T committed no crime “ ; but he was in gaol all the same. This is an assembly of intelligent men. Honorable members around me are possessed of towering intellects, yet they permit three or four Ministers to induce them to support a measure which did not emanate from Ministers at all, but which is submitted in fear of an invasion suggested by some officer who has been dancing the tango.
– Let me tell the honorable member that no military man had anything to do with this Bill.
– I am prepared to put up any money, and say that no Labour man ever suggested it.
– I have answered the honorable member’s statement.
– It is no answer. I had three years of office, and know something about the game. I know as much about business as does any member of the Committee, and if any honorable member thinks that I do not, let him take me on at the game of boodle. I shall divide the Committee on this clause, if I stand alone. I shall never have it said that I have been a traitor to the working man of Australia, and yet I never did an honest day’s work, and never intend to. You cannot make money working.
I should regard the passage of this measure as a national calamity. In Australia we are 12,000 miles away from the scene of war-like operations, and there is no chance of an invasion of this country. What nation would invade us ? The German fleet is gone, and the German flag is gone. I think they killed my brother down in Mexico, and I have got an oil-well there that I shall probably never see, yet America will not invade the country. When Ministers talk of an invasion of the Commonwealth, I say that the Almighty created the real defences of the Commonwealth by putting miles of ocean between it and other countries. An enemy would require a great fleet and a great stock of provisions before it could attempt the invasion of this country, and, if it did, Australians would meet the invaders, and guide them into hospitable graves.
.- I suggest to the honorable members for Batman and Bourke that, by an amendment of sub-clause 6, striking out the words in that sub-clause, “ Where a person being a British subject but,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words, “ Any person other than a subject of the alien enemy and,” all that they desire would be achieved. I understand that the Government would be prepared to accept such an amendment of the clause, and, if it were agreed to, no naturalized British subject could be tried by court martial. Perhaps the honorable member for Batman will say whether he is prepared to withdraw his amendment in order that sub-clause 6 may be amended in the way I have suggested.
.- 1 do not wish to withdraw my amendment, but I am prepared, with the consent of the Committee, to have it amended in the way suggested bv the AttorneyGeneral, by adding after “civilian” the words “ other than an alien enemy.” If that is agreed to, we can deal with subclause 6 afterwards.
.- If the words “ British subject “ are retained, they will apply to naturalized British subjects, and if the words “other than an alien enemy” are also put in, it may exclude some naturalized subjects. A German subject, according to German ideas, is a man who has been born in Germany, though he may have been naturalized elsewhere ; and he remains a German-sub- ject unless he gets a special certificate of dismissal, which a good many do not. I fancy the limitation goes beyond what the honorable member intends, and that the amendment now suggested may possibly deny the right of civil trial to some naturalized British subjects, and to aliens who are not enemy subjects.
Amendment, by leave, amended.
– The proposed amendment does not, to my mind, meet the case. The principal weakness lies in sub-clause 8, which nullifies sub-clause 6. We are assured by the Attorney-General and the Assistant Minister that no sentence of capital punishment will be carried out until the Executive has had an opportunity to review it. The trouble is that the suspension of sub-clause 6 by the operation of sub-clause 8 will immediately give the military authorities the right to exercise the powers to which we object. Unless it is absolutely set forth that any military decision shall be submitted to the Executive, the military authorities will he able to do anything they desire.
– But there is to be a proviso that no sentence shall be carried out unless and until it has been submitted to the Governor-General for review, confirmation, mitigation, or remission.
– With other honorable members, 1 prefer working under an Act of Parliament to working under martial law ; and what the honorable member for Flinders said eased my mind a good deal. But the military authorities are very likely to take action before the civil authorities can step in. This I know can be done under martial law, but I am afraid that the military authorities may deal with matters offhand, on the ground that they have no chance to appeal to the Executive, and that the necessities of the case compel them to take action at once. I do not think that this sub-clause is at all necessary, and if it is allowed to remain, we might as well place the conduct of all business under martial law.
– Sub-clause 8 cannot come into force until it is proclaimed by the Executive.
– And once it is proclaimed, the military authorities are given power to do certain things.
– The Executive will give the military authorities what powers they please, and not what the military authorities ask for. No sentence can be carried out until it has been submitted to the Executive, and there is the fact that the proclamation will limit the area and the powers.
– The AttorneyGeneral forgets that the provision will not be used for specific cases, but will be of general application in some crisis, such as the presence of the enemy at the gates, and the necessity to prevent espionage and treachery.
– But the proclamation will have regard to special offences set out in clause 4.
– And it will operate over a protracted period.
– It will he over such a period as the circumstances warrant.
– It is like the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act or the Riot Act.
– In the proper and technical sense of the term, it is not a proclamation of martial law that is contemplated.
– I admit that; and I understand from the Attorney-General that if martial law prevails there will be no need for the operation of the Bill. My contention, however, is that we might just as well be under martial law if subclause 8 be retained.
.- Just a few words by way of benediction. My friend, the Attorney-General, did me the honour to say a few words about me, and to refer to my marvellous imagination. What envy! What jealousy I Never was Ananias more envious of Sapphira than is the Attorney-General of the honorable member for Bourke. What is the qualification of the AttorneyGeneral, if it is not his fertile imagination? What is it but his imagination that makes him grasp at the air? The honorable gentleman accuses me, not of stating facts, but of talking fiction, apparently envious of any one who may excel him. in this regard. Can the honorable gentleman not at least admire a competitor in the art of fiction?
– Let us get on with the business.
– Let me say only a few kind words. Other honorable members have spoken severely about me, but never, in my most despondent moments, did I think that one such word would come from the Attorney-General. The honorable gentleman in the course of his remarks said that he had not dwelt or touched on the subject of the war; but, as a matter of fact, he did.
– I dealt with the Bill.
– So did I. I dealt with the powers that are contained in the Bill. The honorable member for Flinders asked the Attorney-General what powers were given by the measure; and I tried to show how far those powers are instrumentalities for the realization of the principles for which our movement stands. The Attorney-General talked of the Sansculottes, for whom Christ spoke.
– The honorable member would have spoken in the same way about representative government, religion, morality, or anything else.
– Do not let us talk of morality - in politics. It has been said that in politics there are no morals and no principles, but only expediency; and those of us who lead the life well know that.
– You are opening the door to the charnel-house now!
– It is well for us that sometimes we should open the door. The Attorney-General talked of the Sansculottes; but why did we come here if not to speak for the Sansculottes ? Who constitute the nations of the world if it is not the Sansculottes ? The AttorneyGeneral was kind enough to remind honorable members, the ladies and gentlemen in the audience, the press, and the country generally, that the honorable member for Bourke had, at the beginning of the war, said something about the Belgian Fund, the inference, of course, being that that honorable member is less English and less patriotic and less a lover of his race than is the Attorney-General.
– I never said any of these things. That is all your-
– Imagination, I suppose. Do not let envy run away with you. I am saying all this to the AttorneyGeneral in a kindly spirit.
– You take a worm and make a sea-serpent out of it.
– We have both done it. Wherein lies the honorable gentleman’s excellence if not in his capacity to do that very thing? My honorable friend was pleased to remind the country and my friends on this side - and especially those friends of mine on the other side who have on occasions fought against me - that on one occasion I spoke against the grant of £100,000 to the Belgians. I deplore the miseries of the Belgians. I recognise the struggle they have put up, but I based my objection to the grant on the ground that if any Parliament governed by a Labour party could vote £100,000 to the miserables of Belgium they could at least grant something to relieve the desolation in their awn midst. Those are the grounds upon which I stood, and upon those grounds I still stand, and I have no need to retreat from them. Then my honorable friend talks of the greatness of the war, the misery and desolation it has caused, and the duty devolving upon us to maintain civil liberty. He says that if the enemy conquers civil liberty will disappear. Is civil liberty to be maintained in a community by a measure of this kind ? Do we preserve civil liberty by providing ourselves with weapons against it? Do we further the cause of civil liberty by destroying it at the very beginning of the struggle? There is no necessity whatever to destroy one iota of the civil liberties which have been secured in Australia to-day in order to preserve our race. Will the honorable member allow me to remind him that Disraeli, in the forties, wrote a book designated The Two Nations, which afterwards became the foundation of the dissemination of the Socialistic doctrine in nearly every part of the world? He laid it down that every country that existed Under one flag was not one nationality, but twothe oppressors on the one hand, and the oppressed on the other. Let me ask my honorable friend, who is an exponent of the principles of the Labour party, for what does our party stand if it is not for the acquisition of civil and religious and political liberty, and the preservation of the rights of the great mass of the working classes, and the instrumentalities by which the great bulk of the community have risen out of the dens and caves of savagery to their present standard ? These things have been secured, not by wars upon men of other nationali ties, but by depriving of acquired rights and exclusive privileges some minority of men within our own nation. Prom what sprang the civil liberties of the British race; upon which we pride ourselves? They are not inherent in the race; they are not the; exclusive property of the British people; they do not belong to us and attach to us exclusively, nor did they grow up with us. They were born in the very blood and fibre, and were secured by the unselfish sacrifices of the great proletariat of the world. England has been made great by the struggles of the masses of the poor and obscure. It is they who have made her glorious in political, religious, and civil liberty. Against whom have the English working classes warred 1 It has not been against the Germans or against conquerors of foreign extraction, but against tyrants of their own race and creed. We have risen superior to the tyrannies of the past by slow and agonizing steps, by sacrifices, by tragedies on the gallows and in the dungeons of our country ; and those members of the British race who left their country because they were not prepared to barter their principles and their political rights have helped to make the British Empire the pride and glory of the world. Yet we talk of civil liberty as if it were a mere birthright inherited by us. The British race has been made great by those who suffered upon her gallows, who are buried in nameless graves, by that glorious and unnumbered army of the dead and forgotten, who fought first for religious liberty, and secondly for political liberty and the rights of the nation. From this mighty army of the unnumbered dead have come the great traditions which have made our nation what it is. Are we to sacrifice these glories, these liberties, and these traditions, when we can turn round and say to-day that under our flag there are monsters who call themselves Britishers, who enjoy civil and religious protection under the flag, and who yet, while men are drawn from th© mine, the mill, and the factory to go forth to battle and die upon the fields of Belgium and of France to uphold the glory of the Empire, are making profits out of the necessities of their fellow men? Do you believe that?
– They ought to be shot.
– So I say. Then why do we not do it?
– Ought they to be shot by the slow and agonizing process of civil law?
– No; but the honorable gentleman has no intention of shooting them. If there was any wholeheartedness, any “ guts “ in the Government to do it, I could support them; but they have no intention of doing it. The war has proceeded for nine months. Some of us have brothers there, some have left their wives and children in the slums of London, some are lying in unknown graves, all are offering up their blood and treasure for the glory and honour of the Empire, and the conditions which exist in London exist here, hut for nine months not one step has been taken here to remedy them. I will affirm to-night that whether the war lasts another three months or another three years, we who call ourselves a Labour party and a Labour Government, who are here by the will of the people, put here by the efforts of workingclass men, we who were once working men ourselves, we who have risen to it, will not be prepared to take our chance and our risk by using the power that has come into our hands. Once to every man, once to every nation, comes the great chance to take a risk ; once to every movement only comes this chance. That chance is now here for us, and we dare not take it, because we claim to be too respectable. We do not claim the adherence of the other side; we do not look for their support. They are honest in their convictions; they believe in upholding the existing social order; they do not want to transform it. But for what do we live? How have we grown ? We see the system under which we live condemning the great bulk of humanity to be mere hewers of wood and drawers of water. We said that once the working classes secured the power they would use it for the elevation of the great masses of the people. Yet here we, with the chance that comes only once in the whole history of the world, and that, if not taken, will disappear for ever, are not prepared to seize it. What has the Labour movement produced? Nothing. It has produced here a class of us who are drawing our salaries and are not prepared to utilize the instrumentalities of human government that we possess in order to push forward the common cause. What are we doing to protect the people against a rise in prices?
What will we do, as the honorable member for Wannon asked, to help the farmers who have had to shoot their horses and cattle because others have raised the price of fodder ? What are we doing under this Bill, in which we take the power to suppress the rights of every individual in the community, to take any civilian and order him before a court martial? We are not prepared to use our power to regulate the prices of which we have talked so much. Let us own and acknowledge that it is all one gigantic hypocrisy; and when we talk of civil rights and the shedding of blood, I will say once more, as I said at the beginning, as one who honours and glories in the men who offer up their lives in the forefront of battle, that at least it becomes our duty .and obligation to live up to our principles. I have had a week or two of this game on one subject and another, and probably this is the last that honorable members will hear of me for some time. I support the amendment, and whatever may be the result I take this opportunity, as a man growing up in years, exposed to the chances of wind and tide, to give expression to my honest convictions.
– I suppose, as the editors say, this correspondence between the Attorney-General and his formidable protagonist from Bourke is now closed. I am interested to know whether the amendment as proposed by the honorable member for Batman will effect the object aimed at. It seems to me that even those who want to make some such amendment are adopting a wrong course. The proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne is surely preferable in form. Why should we have two dicta stretching across these two sub-clauses when we can easily put them in one, particularly sub-clause 6?
– Sub-clause 6 will no longer have any meaning.
– That will depend, of course, upon what is said by sub-clause 8, which will still govern the amendment.
– The honorable member proposes to strike out both sub-clause 6 and sub-clause 8.
– I did not gather that from the honorable member.
– Sub-clause 8 will govern sub-clause 2 as amended just the same as it will govern sub-clause 6. The amendment is in the wrong place, and is badly drawn. “ Civilian “ is a very loose term. A man has to prove that he is a civilian, when he ought not to need to prove anything of the sort.
– If the honorable member for Batman is moving his amendment with the intention of moving as a consequential amendment the omission of subclause 6 and sub-clause 8, we ought toknow it before we vote for it.
– Both of them will be meaningless if the amendment is carried.
– Then I, for one, cannot vote for it. I may be prepared to vote for some amendment to which the Government agree, but not for the elimination of two very important provisions of the Bill which they have described as vital.
– I take not the slightest exception to the object of the amendment as far as it goes, but every lawyer will admit that the term “ civilian “ is indefinite. It has, nodoubt, a colloquial and well-understood meaning, but the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne is preferable, as it keeps to the words used in the sub-clause in the Bill. It says “ any person not being an alien enemy, and not being a person subject to the Naval Discipline Act.” If the honorable member for Batman will agree, the Government will accept that amendment, which will do exactly what the honorable member wants, so far as it goes. If the honorable member for Batman wishes to move the deletion of any portion of sub-clause 6, so as to give the fight of trial by jury to any civilian other than an alien, without requiring that he shall claim it, I shall offer no objection. But sub-clause 8 will then have to be made the subject of a second amendment. The effect of the honorable member for Melbourne’s suggested amendment would be that every person other than an alien enemy would be entitled to civil trial; but sub-clause 6, as it stands, goes on to provide that such a person must make his claim to be tried by a civil Court within six days. I have no objection to the clause providing straight out that every civilian other than an alien enemy shall be entitled to a civil trial. I attach no special importance to the conditions in the clause hedging about this right. They are not, and cannot be, intended to defeat the purpose of the clause as it stands, which is to give to a British subject the right of trial by civil law. That” being so, if the Committee desires it, I shall not oppose the proposal made by the honorable member for Batman to insure civil trial to persons other than alien enemies. The whole position will then turn on sub-clause 8. If the honorable member for Batman will withdraw his amendment, the honorable member for Melbourne will then be able to submit that of which he has given notice. If the honorable member for Melbourne’s amendment be carried, it will then be necessary for the honorable member to move an amendment to the latter part of the clause so as to remove what is the real and tangible objection on the part of the honorable member, and those who think with him.
– Will that leave it still necessary for an accused person to make his choice?
– Does sub-clause 8 come out?
– We are now dealing with sub-clause 6. I have just said that if that sub-clause be amended as proposed, it will then be necessary to amend sub-clause 8.
– I did not hear the latter part of the Attorney-General’s speech because of the circumstances in which it was made. As I understand the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman, it provides in sub-clause 2 that no civilian, other than an alien enemy, shall be tried by court martial. If that provision be inserted, sub-clause 6 will become entirely inoperative, and a consequential amendment to omit it will have to be moved, since it contains a general provision that any civilian may be tried by court martial. Sub-clause 6 being thus deprived of any effect by the amendment, sub-clause 8, for the same reason, would have no effect, since it merely provides that, in a certain contingency, subclause 6 shall not be held to apply. I understand the honorable member for Batman to Be bringing forward in the form of his amendment an assertion of the general principle that every civilian shall have the right to be tried by a civil
Court. Let us test the question on that straight-out issue. Do not let us think for one moment that any alteration in subsequent parts of the clause will enable us to make the two inherently antagonistic views come together. It is better that we should decide once and for all whether the sub-clause is to stand. I am just as much opposed to a provision that will take away these rights, except in a case of extreme urgency, as is any honorable member. I agree with much that was said by the honorable member for Bourke as to the struggles of our fathers to secure certain liberties, which, no matter what our political opinions may be, are equally prized on both sides of the House. I therefore repeat what I said last night - that it is only because of the assurance of those who are intrusted with the government of the Commonwealth in a time of great national peri] that it is necessary to take this power - and because of their solemn promise that they will not exercise it, except in a case of extreme national peril - that I, for one, am prepared to support them in this matter. Let us vote on this straight-out question. Honorable members who say that they are not prepared in any circumstances to give the Government this power should support the honorable member for Batman’s amendment, but not under the impression that these two hostile views can be reconciled. They can no moire be reconciled than water can be made to mix with oil. If the honorable member for Batman’s amendment be carried, then sub-clause 6 and sub-clause 8 will have to be struck out, because they are inconsistent.
– I do not admit that.
– I am aware of that, but I am unable to agree with the honorable gentleman’s interpretation of this provision. The honorable member for Batman’s amendment is, in form and substance, intended to be a definite and absolute guarantee to all civilians that they shall be entitled to trial by jury before a civil Court, no matter what the peril or the circumstances may be. If it is carried, the subsequent sub-clauses 6 and 8 will become absolutely meaningless, and should be struck out. That is the plain issue. I do not think we ought to try to whittle away anything bearing on such a grave issue as that which the Committee has now to decide. Let us face the question directly and vote ‘ ‘ yes ‘ ‘ or “ no.”
.- If sub-clause 8 is to be struck out, then I think I shall be right in stating now what I had intended to say when we reached that provision. I have given this matter considerable thought, and I intend to follow an example once set us by the honorable member for Flinders, although with a very different result. The honorable member said on one occasion in this House that he would have voted for a certain proposal if the Labour party had not been in power. In determining what should be my attitude iu regard to this clause, I asked myself whether I should have voted for it if the late Government had been in power. My conscience told me that I would not, and, therefore - and this is where my action differs from that of the honorable member for Flinders - I decided that I could not support it, even with the present Government in power. Let us consider for a moment what martial or military law really is. According to Haydn’s Dictionary of Dates -
Military or martial law is built on no settled principle, but is entirely arbitrary, and, in truth, no law; but sometimes indulged, rather than allowed, as law. - Sir Matthew Hale. It has been several times proclaimed in parts of these Kingdoms, and in 1798 was almost general in Ireland, where it was also proclaimed in 1803. Military Manoeuvres Act, passed 1897, Military Works Acts, passed 1897; another, 1899. The King’s regulation and orders promulgated, 1901.
Honorable members must know that martial law has never yet been proclaimed from frontier to frontier of the British Empire. It has never been proclaimed throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, but only in parts. Lest honorable members think that statement is too farfetched, I shall refer them to page 792 of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, where we have the statement that -
In 1803 a similar Act was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom-
That was an Act of indemnity - as it was after the Act of Union. In introducing it, Mr. Pitt stated : “ The Bill is not one to enable the Government in Ireland to declare martial law in districts where insurrection exists, for that is a power which His Majesty already possesses - the object will be to enable the Lord Lieutenant, when any persons shall be taken in rebellion, to order them to be tried immediately by a court martial.”
This power exists in Great Britain at the present time. There is a special law, to which the honorable member for Angas has referred. Let us see now where martial law has been proclaimed -
During the 19th century martial law was proclaimed by the British Government in the following places : - .
Jamaica, 1831-1832; 1865.
Ceylon, 1817 and 1848.
Cape of Good Hope, 1834; 1849-1851.
St. Vincent, 1863.
South Africa, 1899-1901.
– In some of those cases it was held subsequently that there was no power to proclaim it.
– That is stated in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In such cases, I presume an Indemnity Bill was subsequently passed. Last night, in answer to an interjection, which I regret was made regarding a name I did not desire to make public, I did an injustice to the honorable member for Balaclava. I withdrew the remark at the direction of the Chairman, and I wish now to express my regret for having made it. The honorable member for Balaclava is not to blame for the fact to which I am going to refer, and which will prove my statement in regard to a certain officer. I have always fought against military domination, and shall continue to do so. I glory in the idea of a civilian citizen soldiery to defend Australia, and am proud whenever any of our citizen soldiers enlist for active service in this war, because every one must recognise that the fight for civilization is taking place on the battle-fields of Europe. We have had in our midst a coterie of officers who have advanced men who had not the courage to volunteer for the front - men who stayed at home and polished up the handle of the big front door. The latter have thus attained high rank. Only when they could not skulk any longer did some of them volunteer for service abroad. I have in my possession a letter from a man at the front whose statements I was able to verify to-day by reference to a member of our Expeditionary Forces who lias been invalided home. My correspondent assures me - and I know him as an honest man - that a free gift of two barrels of wine from the Mayor of Fitzroy, together with other gifts of preserved fruit and eggs, were sold in the regimental canteen, and the proceeds given to the officers.
– Was that on board a troop-ship ?
– Where did it happen ?
– On the way to “Egypt. Whilst on this subject, I would like to quote from a report made by a deceased senator, who was not then a Labour man, but a Liberal, and who was an exceedingly straight goer - the honorable member for Balaclava will understand why I do not wish to mention the name of the officer concerned - I refer to the late Senator Styles, who said -
Last year the following prices wore charged at the canteen : -
Even mean and paltry thefts of coal belonging to the men were committed. But the late Senator Styles affirmed - and I think his statement drives the nail home better than does any statement I have ever heard -
If the higher prices fixed for the men were to discourage the use of intoxicants, it follows that the rates shown above were also fixed higher to check over-indulgence in limejuice and sarsaparilla. On the other hand, if the lower charges were to wheedle officers and sergeants into drinking canteen limejuice, it follows that the same cause would produce a like effect on the lower-grade non-commissioned officers and the men.
If these things are done in time of peace, it is not impossible that they are done in time of war. I also hold in my hand a statement to the effect that members of our Expeditionary Forces abroad have not been provided with the clothes which have been sent to them. Whenever they have to rid themselves of vermin, they are obliged to strip for the purpose. Why
should men who draw only 2s. per day be required to pay for their clothes, after the Government have undertaken that they shall be properly equipped? I am sure that no honorable member will imagine for a moment that either the Minister of Defence or his colleagues have been unduly impressed by the views put forward by military officers here. We all know that this Bill is almost a copy of the Imperial Act. But anybody who is familiar with the British Parliament knows that it consists largely of retired military and naval officers, and as a result not only every clause, but almost every line, of this measure is tinged with the military advice which is thus at the command of the Imperial Government. I repeat that martial law has never yet been proclaimed throughout the United Kingdom. With all its evils, I consider that lynch law would insure a person quite as fair a trial as would a court martial. I hope that an inquiry will be conducted into certain remarks which one of our brigadiers is alleged to have made on New Year’s Day - remarks which were an insult to every honest man in our Expeditionary Forces. I would not soil my lips with the language which he used. Such language, addressed as it was to Australian natives, who have sacrificed much to uphold the cause of the Empire, should certainly be sufficient to warrant him being speedily brought to book. The remarks of this officer have not yet been published in the press - perhaps the censor has prevented that; but we may yet see them there. What is a trial by court martial? It is simply a trial of the accused by an officer who has had the advantage beforehand of seeing every document pertaining to the case, and who has, therefore, acquired an unconscious bias. How different is the trial of a soldier from that of an officer? We know that one soldier is now serving a term of imprisonment in this country for a certain offence, whilst an officer who is a greater thief and a viler man has escaped. Fortunately, he may yet be brought to book, because the Government have promised an inquiry into his case. On the suggestion of the Attorney-General, if the honorable member for Batman is prepared to withdraw his amendment, I would like to move that the following words be inserted in lieu of the first paragraph of subclause 6 -
Notwithstanding anything in this section, no person other than an alien enemy or a person subject to the Naval Discipline Act or to military law shall be tried by court martial for an offence against this Act.
– I would like to explain to the Committee that the adoption of the proposal which has been outlined by the honorable member for Melbourne would leave the position of the accused exactly where it was, except that it would include aliens other than enemy aliens, and that it would omit those conditions, which, after all, might embarrass some persons who might fail to recognise the importance of exercising their right in this matter. It would give to all persons other than enemy aliens the right of a civil trial.
– Would it not go further? Would it not destroy sub-clause 8 ?
.- To my mind, the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne affords us a better opportunity of testing the issue involved than does that of the honorable member for Batman. The latter desires us to vote upon the right of civilians or non-civilians. Now, among the persons we have in Australia who, by virtue of their quasi military positions, must know most about our military secrets are men who are themselves civilians. Our Intelligence Department, for example, is composed entirely of civilians - of men who follow civil pursuits. I would suggest to the honorable member for Batman that he will scarcely accomplish his purpose, even if the amendment he has submitted be carried, and that, therefore, he would do well to withdraw it, and to allow us to vote upon the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne. The latter commences with the words, “Notwithstanding anything in the section,” whereas in similar cases the words usually employed are, “Notwithstanding any of the foregoing paragraphs of the section.” We should be careful in wording these provisions. As the Government should have the powers given by sub-clause 8, if they think them necessary, I have no desire f to do anything that will destroy those- powers.
– The amendment suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne embodies precisely what is proposed in my amendment in a slightly different way; but I have no objection to withdrawingmine in favour of his. I suppose that when we come to sub-clause 8 we shall have an opportunity of voting upon it. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Dr. Maloney) agreed to-
That the first paragraph of sub-clause 6 be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “Notwithstanding the preceding provisions of this section, no person other than an alien enemy, or a person subject tothe Naval Discipline Act, or to military law, shall be tried by court martial for an offence against this Act.”
.- The proviso to sub-clause 6 which still remains is intended to enable an intelligent person to make a choice of the method of trial; but seeing that, as the result of the amendment just agreed to, a civil trial is now a matter of necessity, should it not be deleted?
– I do not see that any harm can be done by retaining the proviso; but as sub-clause 7, which defines the expression “British subject,” which appeared in the portion of the subclause just omitted, is now unnecessary, I move -
That sub-clause 7 be left out.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment . (by Mr. Brennan) proposed -
That sub-clause 8 be left out.
– This amendment is unnecessary. We should vote for or against the whole clause.
Question - That sub-clause 8, proposed to be left out, stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided -
Ayes … … 35
Noes … … … 14
Majority … … 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr. Jensen) proposed -
That the following words be added to subclause 8 : - “ Provided that while such proclamation is in force any sentence passed by a court martial against a person to whom subsection 6 of this section applies shall be referred to the Governor-General for confirmation, mitigation, or remission.”
– Have not the sentences of all courts martial to be referred to the Executive for confirmation, together with minutes of proceedings and all details? This provision is entirely unnecessary.
– It was suggested last night that the matter might be overlooked by the Government. The amendment has been moved to reassure honorable members.
.- We have been debating to-night proposals for the abrogation of the civil rights of the community, and some of us have objected to provisions giving to courts martial the right to try civilians. Our arguments may have been good or bad, but some honorable members at least have been influenced by them, because at the beginning of the evening I seemed to stand alone. After a great deal of discussion. Ministers have professed to make a con cession to the opinions of their critics by providing that no British subject shall be tried by a court martial, and we are asked to be content with that. But what they seem to give with one hand they take away with the other. Having given way in regard to sub-clause 6, they propose that sub-clause 8 shall stand, and thus their concession is worth practically nothing. Ministers have the gigantic hypocrisy to say that the sentences of courts martial will be subject to review. The Prime Minister and other Ministers told us last night that the Executive would always review such sentences, and would see that justice was done. If that be so, what is the need for the amendment that has just been moved? The AttorneyGeneral has told us that the Executive has the power to review any military decision. Why, then, has this amendment been moved?
.- The power to try by court martial must be provided for by regulation. Sub-clause 8 will be inoperative until a regulation is passed providing for the trial of civilians by martial law. That is an additional protection to civilians. I take it that. were an emergency which would justify the operation of sub-clause 8 to arise it would be the duty of the Government to call Parliament together, if it were not then sitting. I assume that the emergency would be something in the nature of an invasion. Parliament being assembled, it would be in a position to disallow any regulation to which it objected. That is one of the considerations which influencedme in voting for the provision. The Defence Act requires the calling together of Parliament in certain contingencies, such as the calling out of the Forces with a view to prevent invasion. I take it that any similar emergency justifying the operation of sub-clause 8 would require the summoning of Parliament if it were not in session, and honorable members would then have power to disallow, if they thought fit, a regulation taking away the right to civil trial.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That sub-clause 8 be further amended by the addition of the following words: - “Nothing shall be deemed a military emergency which deprives a British subject of the right of trial by jury.”
I have had two experiences. We have argued this question hour after hour. On the resumption of the sitting after dinner, I presented a case, and gradually arguments in favour of my contention were built up. Members of the Opposition saw that there was some common sense and reason in what I advanced, and they began to support my view. The Government then professed that they would make a concession, and the honorable and learned member for Batman moved an amendment to the effect that no British subject, not being an alien in any form” or shape, should be subject to the military power. That proposition was argued again pro and con; the Government then came down, and said, “ It is a very good proposal.”
– I said over and over again that it did not affect sub-clause 8, and the honorable member heard me.
– I did.
– Are you not satisfied?
– The Committee did not come round to your way of thinking.
– The Attorney-General should not be too sure that honorable members will not yet come to my way of thinking. I advanced arguments as to why the military authorities should not have jurisdiction over civilians; and the honorable and learned member for Batman moved an amendment that British subjects should not be tried by a military court, and the Attorney-General, speaking candidly for the Government, said he would accept it.
– I did not say that I would accept the amendment.
– Permit me to say that the Attorney-General’s friends on the Opposition benches have said very often that they could never understand him. He understands that remark, does he not? I do not want to tell anybody that we cannot understand each other.
– These are merely mountebank statements.
- Mr. Chanter, did you hear what the Attorney-General said about me?
– No. Does the honorable member take objection to anything which has been said ?
– No, sir, because of favours to come. I object to nothing,, sir. I only direct your attention to theremark because you may not have heard it. He said, ‘ 1 These are merely mountebank statements.” Permit me to remind’ him through you, sir, that the statement he has made against me is the very one which his friends on the Opposition benches have made about him. They have said that he is a mountebank.
– Never !
– Yes; but do not let the honorable member interfere in a debate between friends.
– Order ! The honorable member has called my attention to a remark which he alleges the AttorneyGeneral has made. If the latter made use of the remark, I ask him to withdraw it.
– Do not do that, sir.
– If the honorable member does not like the remark, I certainly withdraw it.
– I love the remark. I have never heard a remark from the AttorneyGeneral which I did not appreciate.
– I cannot say that of you.
– What did the AttorneyGeneral mean when he said that he would accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman ? He meant that he accepted the spirit of it.
– And you said you were satisfied. What more> do you want?
– The honorable member for Batman and I were satisfied provided that sub-clause 8 came out, because otherwise the Government gave us nothing. In other words, they gave with one hand what they took away with the other. The honorable member for Flinders once introduced in this State what we denounced as a Coercion Bill. We walked up and down the platforms of the country; we wrote articles and talked about the honorable and learned member as an “ iceberg,” as a man who had introduced a Coercion Bill. I venture to say that, odious as it was, it was not so far-reaching in its effects as will be this Bill, which has been introduced in the name of the Labour Government. I submit my amendment, and when a vote is taken I will go home.
– I would point out to the honorable member for Bourke that the effect of his amendment, if carried, would be somewhat remarkable. It would not in the slightest way prevent the operation of the rest of sub-clause 8, which suspends the right of a man to trial by a civil Court, but would introduce an entirely new kind of trial - a trial before a court martial with a jury.
– That is not bad, either.
– I submit that if the honorable member for Bourke wishes to enshrine this principle in the measure he could not possibly have selected a subclause more inappropriate than sub-clause 8. The whole gravamen ofhis criticism has been directed against a court martial, because it is fundamentally opposed to, and destructive of, the principle of trial by jury under the civil law, and now he proposes to make this monstrous and unholy graft on that principle. First of all I think the amendment is out of order, because it is quite irrelevant to the subjectmatter of the sub-clause, and it will not have the object of making workable or of rendering null and void this section which has been the subject of debate for two nights. I say this also to the honorable gentleman, that there is no honorable member on this side - or on the other side, so far as I know - who is not as anxious to preserve the rights of trial by jury as he is. He is not the only custodian of the people’s rights. If he were to die, does he imagine that liberty would die with him? Does he for one moment imagine that if his voice were silent, then freedom would die? Does he think that freedom is so frail a thing that it depends solely upon his advocacy, or that it will totter to a fall if he does not uphold it? I do not think so. Freedom existed before he lived, and will continue after he dies. The honorable member has, first of all, to recognise how utterly insignificant the individual is in the scheme of things. It is because of that, and because of the lateness of the hour, that I suggest we come to a settlement in regard to this matter.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted, be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 36
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I should like to explain that I voted against the Government to-night because we were promised by the Prime Minister that sub-clause 8 would be withdrawn. During the discussion yesterday, when this matter was referred to, the Prime Minister stated that, and I was under the impression, after the honorable member for Flinders had spoken, and after the discussion and the remarks by the Prime Minister, that sub-clause 8 was to be withdrawn.
– That was not so. Such a thing was not in my mind. Ask the honorable member for Flinders.
– Of course not. The Prime Minister invited discussion; that was all.
– In view of the opposition coming from this side, there was a feeling that the sub-clause was to be withdrawn; but now we find the Minister insisting upon it.
– Do you say that you were under that impression?
– Yes; I was. I thought that it would have been withdrawn to-day.
– I said over and over again that sub-clause 8 would have to be dealt with when we came to it in Committee.
– Evidently there has been a misunderstanding. I was strongly of the opinion that it would not have been proceeded with, and I am surprised at a Labour Government introducing a Bill containing such a clause; but after experience of the military authorities, and after what I saw going on to-day, I am pleased to think that I was able to cast my vote against any increased power being granted to the military authorities.
– I am sorry that there was a false impression in the mind of the honorable member, because I am clear that I invited discussion on the sub-clause referred to. In view of the position that we find ourselves in to-day, it is necessary, if we are going to do anything at all, either to take ample powers or leave the matter alone. That is my opinion. As regards the character of military officers and others, I think the honour of the former is equal to that of anyone else in the world. The time is past when we should cast any reflection upon them. We should realize that they are doing their best to meet the difficult circumstances of this world-crisis. The time has come for plain speaking in these matters, and that plain speaking ought to be done by me. If there are military officers who are incompetent to discharge the duties intrusted to them, they should be pointed out, and if the charge can be proved, they should be dismissed as not being worthy to carry the King’s commission or be intrusted with the honour of this country. As far as I am concerned, I have said again and again that this is not, and must not be regarded as, a party measure in any way; so I would ask honorable members to be reasonable in their criticism, and not cast any reflection on men who are not in a position to answer the charges made.
.- I find myself in a most unfortunate position. I have been associated with the Labour movement from boyhood, and now it seems that to-day I am recreant to my party, though I am still under the impression that I am true to my conscience. I find myself left in a forlorn position upon things which I regard as of very high importance; but I say clearly that I owe no allegiance after to-night to this Govern ment, or to the men I find associatedwith them. The constituency of Bourke can have my resignation to-morrow. If I have not conducted myself properly, I am no longer fit to be a member of this Parliament.
– The honorable member has made his announcement to the wrong place, though.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Jensen) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- When this Bill was being discussed in Committee, the honorable member for Bourke drew attention to the very great powers which the Government possessed under the Constitution in time of war to control the price of commodities. That, to my mind, is a very important point, well worthy of consideration by our party.
– This Bill will deal with that.
– If there be any truth in the statement that in time of war the Government have power to control the price of commodities, I think those powers should be exercised.
– They will be. They have the power now.
– Yes, by taking this extreme course ; but it has been argued by the honorable member for Bourke that we possessed great powers in time of war over those persons who exploited the people in our land. I notice, however, that this matter was not referred to by either the Attorney-General or the Prime Minister. In their replies they evaded that question, and I would like to know if they have any statement to make with regard to that matter.
– I do not wish just now to dogmatize on a question of that kind, but will merely state, in general terms, that this Bill will give the Government power to declare martial law for the purpose of dealing with that and other matters that may arise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 April 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150429_reps_6_76/>.