6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had received a return to the writ issued for the election of a member to serve in the House of Representatives for the electoral division of Dalley, in the place of Robert Howe, deceased, indorsed with a certificate of the election of William George Mahony, Esquire.
Mr. Mahony made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
Australians in Action.
– By leave, I desire to move -
That this House congratulates the Military Forces of the Commonwealth on the soldierly qualities displayed at the Dardanelles.
A few words of mine will serve to commend the motion to honorable members. When our Expeditionary Force was brought into existence, high hopes were entertained of the soldierly qualities of the men. It was thought that they would prove themselves as capable as any soldiers in any part of the world in the performance of whatever work might be allotted to them in the defence of their country. That they have acquitted themselves even better than the most optimistic among us anticipated is now common knowledge. With the special merits of their behaviour under fire I shall leave others to deal who are better qualified to express opinions on the subject.
My particular desire at this moment is to convey to those who have been bereaved of brave relatives and friends, who have- died in the performance of that first of all the duties of citizenship, “ the defence of the country to which they belong,” the sympathy of this House, and of the Parliament. Such a widow or such a mother, in grieving her loss, will nourish a proud sorrow, solaced with the happiness of knowing that her beloved one gave his life to fulfil the duty that lay nearest to him.
May I add the hope that every citizen who can engage in the great work of subduing the enemy, and winning an honorable peace, may feel it to be his bounden duty to give his services to his country without delay, so that the conclusion of the war may be brought about as speedily as possible.
Let me conclude by reading some of the congratulatory messages which the Government have received consequent upon the action of our brave troops.
His Majesty the King, in a message dated Buckingham Palace, 29th April, 1915, cabled-
I heartily congratulate you upon the splendid conduct and bravery displayed by the Australian troops in the operations at the Dardanelles, who have indeed proved themselves worthy sons of the Empire.
From the Secretary of State for the Colonies came this cablegram, dated London, 27th April, 191S-
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.
The First Lord of the Admiralty cabled on the 30th April - - On behalf of Board of Admiralty express our heartiest congratulations on the brilliant and memorable achievements of Australian and New Zealand troops at the Dardanelles. Admiral telegraphs that the fleet ‘is filled with intense admiration at the feat of arms accomplished by the Army.
The message of the Prime Minister of Canada, dated Ottawa, 8th May, was -
Canada congratulates the Commonwealth on the splendid action of her troops in the Dardanelles, which demonstrates alike the quality of British stock and the solidarity of the Empire.
The Governor of New Zealand, in a message dated Auckland, 30th April, said -
I desire on behalf of New Zealand to convey to you the pride which this Dominion feels in being so closely associated with the forces of the Commonwealth in the present great undertaking in the Dardanelles, and rejoices that the two forces have so signally distinguished themselves.
Sir Ian Hamilton, the General Commanding the British Mediterranean Force, has sent the following cablegram, dated Tenedos, 11th May: -
May I, speaking out of a full heart, be permitted to say how gloriously the Australian and New Zealand Contingent have upheld the finest traditions of our race during this struggle still in progress, at first with audacity and dash, since then with sleepless valour and untiring resource they have already created for their countries an imperishable record of military virtue?
Messages of congratulation have also been received from His Excellency the Governor of Victoria, Lord Tennyson, General Sir Edward Hutton, and others, to all of whom suitable replies have been sent.
I intimated to my right honorable friend the Leader of the Opposition that I intended to move this motion, and I move it with his approval and cooperation.
– I join cordially with my right honorable friend in seconding his motion of congratulation to our troops on the brave deeds which they have accomplished at the Dardanelles. There is not a healthy-minded Australian who does not walk with a more erect and happier step since the news of their deeds came to hand. That news made our pulses thrill. It verified our belief that our brave boys were worthy to stand alongside the seasoned troops of the Motherland. They have proved their prowess on a very hard-fought field. They have demonstrated - once more that they are boys of the bull-dog breed, and we are all proud of the race from which they have sprung, for there is no indication of decadence in the transplanted breed here in these Southern lands. We are gloriously glad that they have had this opportunity of proving to the Motherland what we owe to her, and of the opportunity given us to repay our obligations. This feeling, however, is mingled with one of sorrow for the relatives of those who have fallen, and yet -
How can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods?
Surely this is a case in which we may feel that our grief is assuaged by the cause for which we are fighting, and surely we may also express the belief that the lives which have been sacrificed on this field of battle have in no sense of the term been wasted. The blood of those brave men mingling with the blood of their fellows from over the seas will fructify the seeds of liberty which will grow and blossom into fruitage in the years to come.
– Let us give three cheers for our hero soldiers.
Members rose in their places and cheered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Another motion which, with the leave of the House, I desire to move is -
That this House expresses its sympathy with the relatives of those who, by the sinking of the Lusitania, were wantonly murdered on the high seas in the name of war.
We are at war with other nations, but as a free Parliament we have the right to express our views with regard to any departure from the rules of warfare of a character like that which resulted inthe destruction of the Lusitania. Action of that kind, and those guilty of it, merit condemnation in strong though temperate language. It is with that view that the Government, after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition in this matter, resolved to submit this motion.
Speaking for myself, I would say that if warfare is to be carried on in the way it is being conducted at present by our enemies, civilization will have to organize and establish a court which will bring to justice those responsible for this violation of the rules of civilized warfare. I see no other way to do this.
I hope that the House will carry this motion without qualification, and without hesitation, as a declaration that we strongly condemn the destruction of unarmed ships in this manner. The language is strong. “Wanton murder” is undoubtedly strong, but it is the term used by a jury of a judicial character which inquired into the deaths of some of those innocent passengers of the Lusitania whose bodies were recovered from the sea. The motion places on record the views of this House concerning that crime, and if any action is to follow, it behoves those who represent us to take such steps as may be necessary to bring to account those who have been responsible for such a crime against civilization.
– I am sure that honorable members of this House will join heartily in a demonstration of horror and indignation at this awful crime which has been committed on the high seas. One has only to think of the actual facts for a moment to view the action of the enemy with the utmost horror. We read, for instance, that Germany at present is exulting over the fate of the Lusitania. Just think of it - 150 babies on that boat drowned, and helpless women sent to a watery grave.
– Herod was not as bad.
– The enemylays claim to culture, but surely it is a strange inversion of the generally accepted views of culture that such a crime should have been possible in this twentieth century. Rather than think of this as culture, I would call it a cancerous growth in our civilization, which must be cut out at all hazards if our civilization is to live. It is on a par with what the enemy have been doing recently in many other ways. All these outrages against the common instincts of humanity, even if it be war time, make us set our teeth harder and become more determined that this kind of warfare shall cease, and thai a standard of decent warfare shall be maintained. We are going to see this war through. All these violations of the laws of civilized warfare are so many demonstrations of the enemy’s weakness; they prove most surely that we are fighting an outlaw, who subscribes to no standards but those of brute force. It is becoming apparent by this time to most of us that Germany has already lost in this war. But whatever may be the outcome, Germany has lost the respect of the civilized world, and she seems also to have lost her own honour and self-respect, otherwise she would not have resorted to this display of pure savagery. There can be no quarter for a nation like this until she has been beaten and humiliated to her knees, as she deserves to be, for the crimes she has committed against humanity. Germany is fighting not only the British nation and her Allies, but she is fighting humanity as a whole, and I am convinced humanity will win out in the end.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Prime Minister arrange with the Government Printing Office to print a large number of slips containing the addresses made by him and” the Leader of the Opposition on the motions which we have just passed, and also a copy of the resolutions, with a view to their being sent to the front, in order that our officers may distribute them amongst our gallant soldiers who are fighting for the British Empire, and so acquaint . them with the feeling of the House?
– If it be the desire of honorable members generally, I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will readily agree to such a step being taken. It had not seemed to me to be necessary, but if honorable members think that this should be done., the Government will facilitate the carrying out of the honorable member’s proposal.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– Will the Minister representing the Ministsr of Defence make inquiries and take what further action he deems necessary regarding a statement appearing in newspapers published in the electorate of Echuca, that a German resident of Shepparton is alleged to have stated, in a letter addressed to the Bishop of Ballarat, that, if Germany took Australia, it would be advantageous to the people’ of the Commonwealth - that one result would be that middlemen’, preachers, shire councillors, justices of the peace, and other undesirables would have to go ? Will ‘ the Minister take action in this matter, and, if the report be correct, bring this German to book ?
– I will have due inquiries made.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral noticed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Lloyd George, hasstated that “ We are fighting Germany, Austria, and drink, and, as far as I can see, the greatest of these three deadly foes is drink.” Further, in view of that statement, will the Attorney-General inform the House whether the buying, selling, tasting, or handling of ‘drink comes within the scope of trading with the enemy ?
– Had I been acting for the Prime Minister, as I was during his absence last week, I should have endeavoured to answer this question; but I see no obligation, in the present circumstances, to do so.
Volunteers for Active Service
– I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether he is aware that the men of the Permanent Garrison Artillery are desirous of permission to volunteer to go to the front, and if he can see his way to arrange for a number of them to do so ?
– The honorable member was good enough to forward to the Minister of Defence an intimation of his intention to ask this question, and my honorable colleague has furnished the following reply : -
Arrangements had already been made for a small proportion to be allowed to go in the Australian Imperial Force.
The Government, however, has recently offered for service abroad a unit of the Royal Australian Artillery, and the offer has been accepted. During the continuance of this war our Garrison Artillery Forces have been mobilized at the various defended forts of Australia, and have had no opportunity of seeing service. They could not be allowed to go, because it is difficult to replace skilled gunners. Now, however, the situationhas changed, and it was considered advisable to give our only permanent regiment, the Royal Australian Artillery, an opportunity for those allotted to garrison duty to do their share abroad.
The following papers were presented: -
Loss of F.I.S. Endeavour - Report of the
Court of Marine Inquiry.
War, The - Correspondence between His Majesty’s Government and the United States Government respecting the Rights of Belligerents.
Ordered to be printed.
Census and Statistics Act - Statistics Commodity Regulations - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 50.
Defence Act -
Universal Training - Regulation (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 46. Royal Military College - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 55.
War Precautions Act - Regulation Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 47.
Meteorology Act - Regulations (Provisional) -Statutory Rules 1915, No. 49.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Amungula, Canberra, Ginuinderra, Goorooyarroo, Majura, Molonglo, Pialligo, Wallaroo, and Weetangera, partly in Federal Territory and partly in the State of New South Wales- For Federal Capital purposes.
Bherwerre, New South Wales - For establishment of a port in connexion with the Seat of Government and for Defence purposes (2) .
Cockburn Sound, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Sydney, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Public Service Act -
Postmaster-General’s Department -
Promotions of -
– On Friday last I asked the Attorney-General whether he would lay on the table of the House the papers relating to the release of certain persons sentenced to terms of imprisonment toy a court martial at Rabaul. Is the honorable gentleman, prepared to make them available at once ?
– They will be laid on the table at once.
Resignation of Commissioners
– I wish to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether it is true, as reported in. the. press, that Mr. Deakin has resigned his position as the repre sentative of the Commonwealth on the Panama Exposition Commission, and, if so, will he take the House into his confidence regarding the matter?
– The answer to the first question put by the honorable member is “ Yes.” I do not know what he expects of me in regard to his second inquiry, but the position is that Mr. Deakin and Mr. Nielsen have resigned, and that the Government will take the necessary steps to carry on the Commission.
– May I ask the Minister of External Affairs if he will say what are the reasons for the resignation of Mr. Deakin and Mr. Nielsen ?
– I think the reasons have already appeared in the press. The Government found it necessary to replace the secretary of the Commission, and, for some reasons not at present very clear, the Commissioners objected to this appointment and resigned.
– I presume that there has been some communication between the Panama Commissioners and the Minister of External Affairs on the subject of the former’s resignation. Will the Minister lay or. the table of the House any correspondence between himself and Mr. Deakin or Mr. Nielsen on this subject?
– The correspondence is still going on, but, in a phrase rather favoured by the honorable gentleman and his associates, “ the time is not yet ripe “ for putting the whole of it on the table.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs inform the House whether the new secretary appointed to the Panama Commission was in the service of the Commonwealth, or whether he was taken from outside ? Who is he? Where does he come from? Will the Minister give us some particulars?
– The new secretary, Mr. Oughton, is a young Australian, resident in San Francisco for some years, and he is very familiar with both American and Australian conditions. .
– Will the Minister of External Affairs take the House into his confidence as to the reasons which necessitated the change of secretary ? The honorable gentleman has said that departmental reasons required the withdrawal of the former secretary, and I should like the Minister to clearly state what those departmental reasons are.
– Several senior members of the ‘staff of the Department of External Affairs were absent, one in the Northern Territory, one as member of the Expeditionary Forces, and another in San Francisco. It became necessary, in order to keep the work of the Department going, that the officer at San Francisco should return and resume his duties here.
– I ask the Minister of External Affairs whether he will consider the advisableness of appointing no more representatives of Australia to the Panama Exposition?
– We have a representative there at present in the person of the Commissioner appointed for Queensland. What steps the Government propose to take at a later stage I cannot say.
– Will the Minister inform the House of the names of the three senior officers of his Department who he declares are absent from the Central Office at the present time?
– I have a memorandum from the secretary of the Department, in which the facts are embodied, and it was on the representations contained therein that the secretary of the Australian Commission was recalled.
– Will the Minister be good enough to lay that memorandum on the table?
– When I refer to “ senior “ officers, I mean officers doing important work, although they may not be administrative officers.
– Will the Minister lay the memorandum on the table?
– I will, in due course.
– T wish to ask the Minister whether the Commissioners were informed of his intention to withdraw Mr. Edward, and to substitute Mr. Oughton ?
– The Commissioners were duly informed that the services of Mr. Edward were required in the office in Melbourne.
– Seeing that the State Premiers appear to be in a patriotic mood, will the Prime Minister again approach them and ascertain whether it is possible to induce them to con cede the right of free travelling over State railways to cadets going to and from drill?
– Yes. We discussed the matter, and the discussion will be continued.
Action by New South Wales Government.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware of what steps have been taken by the New South Wales Government to prevent butter passing from that State to the other States? If so, will he ascertain from the Attorney-General whether the State Government are acting within their legal rights ? If they are not, will he take the necessary steps to insure Inter-State Free Trade in regard to butter?
– I have seen nothing more regarding this matter than the telegrams which have been published. I was under the impression that, in view of the decision recently given by the High Court in the Wheat case, a State is at liberty to keep within its own borders any of its own products.
Permanent Military Forces : Soldiers from Rabaul: Australian Troops at the Dardanelles.
– Is the Treasurer aware that members of the Forces who have returned from Rabaul, and who were paid at that place in New Guinea money, have been unable to change it in Australia? Will the Treasurer give instructions that the Commonwealth Bank shall receive the New Guinea money, seeing that the Bank has already refused it?
– No one in my position would answer such a question until he knew the facts. If the men were paid in a currency at a discount in New Guinea, and wish to have the value of it, I should not do as suggested. I shall look into the matter, and see that justice is done - that is, that the men shall receive the remuneration to which they are entitled.
– In view of the unenviable position in which officers, noncommissioned officers, and men of the Permanent Military Forces are placed by reason of their services being refused at the front, will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence make some official public announcement as to whether he intends to allow any portion of these men to proceed on active service ? If not, will the honorable gentleman not make public, to a certain extent, his reasons for the refusal, so that the position of these men shall be made clear, and a stigma removed that is resting at present on those who are doing such good work in the Military Forces!
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister of Defence, with a view of doing what is desired.
– The account of the lauding of the Australian troops at the Dardanelles, sent by Mr. Ashmead Bartlett, and appearing in the Age last Saturday, is a most graphic and picturesque description of what was done. I would like to ask the Prime Minister if he will suggest to the Ministers of Education in the different States that they should ask the headmasters of the various schools throughout their States to read that account to their scholars.
– I shall he very glad to bring the suggestion made by the honorable member under the notice of tho proper State authorities.
Public Works Committee Inquiry
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether the reference, or proposed reference, of public works in the Federal Capital to the Public Works Committee will in any way impede the work now being carried out there 1
– Certainly not. The following works, which are wholly outside the city area, will be sufficient to keep the present men employed to the end of 1915 : - Completion of Cotter dam, channel, suction main’, pump-house, £40,000; first section, of main sewer, £70,000; completion of Stromlo and Red Hill reservoirs, £20,000; completion of first kiln and commencement of second kiln, with plant, machinery, and brick works, £15,000; completion of electric power mains, £10,000; road maintenance, afforestation, fencing, rabbit destruction, &c, £20,000. Total, £175,000. This is the work that is now being carried on. Probably more men will be employed there on works independent of those now proposed.
– Can the Minister tell the House what works have been carried out at Canberra, and the expenditure incurred upon them ‘
– The reply to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Water supply, £180,000; power plant and power house, £00,000: roads, bridges, fords, and transports, &c., £70,000; railways, sidings, and depots, £50,000; buildings, workshops, stores, &c.. £60,000; timber storage for seasoning, £15,000; brickworks, &c, £15,000; electric supply transmission lines, motors, &c, £18,000; materials and stores, £7,000; afforestation, £10,000 ; rabbit-proof fencing and rabbit destruction, £20,000; sewerage, £0,000: cement, lime, stone. &c. (investigations), £2,000; surveys, £30,000: health administration, education, engineers, draftsman, &c., £53,000; running expenses and miscellaneous, £12,000. Total, £608,000.
The remainder is made up of small items necessary in the early stages of investigation, such as preliminaries, surveys, competitive designs, premiums, fees, inauguration expenses, inspections, reports, plans, and advertising.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs supply the House tomorrow with particulars as to the number of murders of white residents of Papua that have occurred during the term of governorship of Governors Barton and Le Hunte, and the present occupant of the office; also the dates of the murders ?
– I think that it will be possible to supply the information which the honorable member requires; also, if necessary, information as to the murders which occurred while Sir William McGregor was Governor.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that there are very many complaints from our soldiers at the front that the newspapers, to which they look forward so longingly, sent by their relatives and friends in Australia, are not being received ?
– They do not even get their letters.
– The complaints apply to letters also. If the Minister is aware of this fact, will he at once communicate with the authorities having control over the matter, in order to see that postal matter despatched from Australia to the front is promptly delivered ?
– We have arranged that the postage charge for newspapers is to be the same as that on newspapers sent from Australia to Great Britain. I do not know of any more complete system for the delivery of letters than that which has been carried out, but I am not surprised that some soldiers do not receive their letters, because there is now at Broadmeadows an immense number of letters lying unclaimed, for the reason that they have not been correctly addressed. The arrangements for forwarding newspapers and letters are very complete. They are sent to the particular section or unit at the front, where their delivery is in the hands of experienced postal officials, who, having joined the Expeditionary Forces, have been selected by the Defence Department for that work. If letters are properly addressed to the particular section, I cannot conceive how they can fail to be delivered. We can do nothing more at this end than has already been done, but I can, if necessary, make inquiries through the Defence Department to see what is being done at the other e.nd. Sending a letter addressed to a soldier: “Expeditionary Forces, Egypt,” is of no use. It will not reach its destination. Full instructions have been issued notifying that the address must give details as to the soldier’s unit, and so forth.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence be good enough to inform the House as to what is done by the Defence Department in the way of sending letters to soldiers, nurses, and others at the front? I know of a nurse who has not received one letter, though letters go forward to her every week.
– The unfortunate thing is that there are two Departments handling the matter.
– I think that we should have a clear statement as to what steps are taken to insure correspondence reaching its destination.
– I have had a consultation with the Minister of Defence upon this matter, and he has informed me that he has held a conference with the PostmasterGeneral, and that, as the result, the best scheme possible was devised for enabling the soldiers at the front to receive letters addressed to them from Australia. Tho letters are sorted in Aus tralia, and those addressed to each unit are put in separate bags, in order toinsure their safe and quick despatch at the other end.
– The letters do not. get there.
– Nothing better can be done at this end. The Minister of Defence is not responsible for what takes, place at the other end. I would point out that the location of our soldiers during the last eight or ten weeks has created difficulty, because many of our troops have been on transports, and have not had a chance to receive letters. If honorable members will have a little patience, no doubt everything will be right in the end. I can assure them that everything possible that can be done at this end is being done.
– With reference ‘to the attitude of America towards the neutrality of Belgium, I place at the disposal of honorable members, and for the information of the honorable member for Cook, who submitted a question in regard to the matter on Friday last, information obtained from a document in the possession of the Prime Minister’s Department, as follows : -
Department of State,
Washington, Feb. 8th, 1915.
Mr. A. J. Barnes, 90 West Street, New York City.
In response to your letter of January 7th, I am instructed by ‘the Secretary of State to advise you that the United States is not a party to an agreement affecting the neutrality of Belgium.
Your obedient servant,
– Can the AttorneyGeneral say whether it is his intention to’ bring in a Bill this session to amend the Land Tax Act? I understood that the Minister intimated before Christinas that there would be a further amendment of the Act?
– I am unable to lay my hands on the precise statements I made to the House, but T assume they have relation to the amending Acts introduced last year. If $he honorable member will allow me to refresh my mind by looking at the debates, I will answer his question to-morrow
– The honorable member for Adelaide last week asked a question concerning a German supposed to be in employment at the Port Adelaide Wireless Station. In reply to that question. I may state that the Postmaster-General’s officers advise that the officer in charge of the Port Adelaide Radiotelegraphic Station is Francis James Burgoyne. From particulars furnished to the Engineer of Radiotelegraphs on the 7th May, 1914, it appears that Burgoyne was born in Monmouthshire, England, on the 21st March, 1876. Mr. Burgoyne joined the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in 1889, and has, therefore, had twenty-six years’ service in the Department.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs, when he is furnishing the information in reference to the price of sugar in New Zealand and Australia, be good enough to include similar information in reference to Great Britain ?
– I have already prepared an answer for the questions asked on notice by the honorable member in reference to Australia and New Zealand. If he will put an amended question, I shall be glad to get the additional information he desires.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a large number of the silver coins now in circulation in the Commonwealth are in such an excessively worn condition that a great deal of inconvenience is being experienced by their use in small transactions? As it is estimated that the Commonwealth is making a profit of £100,000 a year out of its silver coinage, will the honorable gentleman take steps to have these bad coins recalled, and good ones substituted?
– I am quite aware that inconvenience is being caused, as suggested by the honorable member. I was nearly put out of a tram in Sydney myself on that account. When the coin I had was sent to tire officer responsible for giving instructions, he did not take the same view as that taken by his subordinate. I agree with the suggestion conveyed in the honorable member’s question; but the British Government have entered into an arrangement with the Commonwealth Government to withdraw only a certain amount of silver coinage each year. If there are more coins unduly worn than will make up the amount to be withdrawn, I do not think undue pressure should be applied at the present time.
– Yes, but they will not take the coins from the public.
– My reply to that is that if any person occupying a position of authority of any kind refuses to take this money, do not pay him. That is my advice.
– Then off the tram you will have to go.
– I think any coin that has the King’s head on it should be accepted.
– But you cannot see the King’s head in some instances.
– In the incident to which I have referred I could see the Queen’s head, and it seems to me that the whole business arises out of a fad on somebody’s part. These are not times when matters of this description should be dealt with as they are being dealt with.
– But they are doing it.
– Well, they may be, but it is more like the act of an enemy.
– Is it a fact that the Treasury of this country has the authority of the Imperial Government to receive worn coins from the banks and issue new coins in their place? If so, will the Treasurer proclaim the fact to the public?
– We have entered into an arrangement to withdraw a certain amount of silver coinage each year, so that it may be replaced with Australian coinage. We have notified the banks that this will be done, and have taken all reasonable steps in this connexion. I cannot, however, understand this anxiety about worn coins just at the present moment.
– If the right honorable gentleman had only a worn threepennypiece, and was thrust off a tram car late at night, he would understand the concern shown.
– I once saved a fare when a certain transport company here refused to accept a ten-shilling note, and I declined to tender payment in any other form. The transport company were afterwards glad to apologize.
Mr.FENTON.- Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House what is the reason why the work of erecting telephone exchanges in various parts of the Commonwealth is not being permitted to go ahead at the present time, seeing that the matter is one which might have an important bearing upon the subject of unemployment?
– I am not aware that there is any delay.
– Yes, there is. The work is not being gone on with.
– Then I do not know anything about it.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is a fact that lettergrams lodged in Melbourne for Sydney, to be sent from Melbourne at about 8 o’clock, are not delivered in Sydney until late in the afternoon of the following day, notwithstanding that the promise was made that on the receipt of these lettergrams at the Post Office they would be delivered as early as possible on the following morning?
– I am not aware of it. If the honorable member will give me any instance, I will have the matter investigated.
– Has the Minister of External . Affairs seen the report of a speech delivered by Sir Edgar Horsley, one of the leading physicians in England, in which he states that 60,000 people were killed in England last year through the effects of drink, and that this number is more than were killed on the battlefields of Europe during the last eight months?
– But that total is out of over 40,000,000.
– Sixty thousand people were killed in England through drink last year, and I may say-
– Order ! The honorable member must not make a speech.
– I was only going to say this : That the number is equal to that which would be sustained by a Lusitania being sunk once every fortnight. Will the Minister be good enough to cable to England to know whether the figures quoted by Sir Edgar Horsley are correct?
– If the honorable member will be good enough to give me the extract I will look into the matter. If he is quoting medical opinion about the decimation caused by drink, the honorable member should bear in mind that it is possible to obtain a good many contributions on the other side.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is the fact that at the Premiers’ Conference last week the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Holman, notified him of his Government’s intention to resume the Mint premises in Sydney ? If that is done, will the honorable gentleman, in the interests of decentralization, take into favorable consideration the question of establishing the Mint at Orange.
Employment of Turks
– Some time ago I directed the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that a Turk was employed in the Censor’s Office at Adelaide. I have since discovered that not one, but two, Turks are employed there. Has the Prime Minister made any inquiries; and, if so, what is the result?
– I ask honorable members to be a little patient in this regard. The matter has been brought under the notice of the Minister in charge of the Censor’s Office, and I shall make a statement to the honorable member, or to the House, later on.
– Was the Minister present at the Premiers’ Conference when an arrangement was come to between New South Wales and Victoria in regard to the release of fodder? If so. did be, as the custodian of the Constitution, raise any protest against the States attempting to do that which they have not power to do, namely, to use their railway systems in order to prevent the free interchange of produce.
– I have felt lately that I am not an authority as to the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth. To begin with, I am not sure that any powers exist; hut we do the best we can under the circumstances. I was not present at the Premiers’ Conference when this matter was discussed; but I think that what should be done by the people is to clothe this Parliament with the powers that it was thought it would possess:
– In view of the visit of Dr. Simpson, who, I understand, is Medical Officer, as well as a member of the Executive Council of Papua, will the Minister of External Affairs be good enough to allow the members of both Houses an opportunity to hear that gentleman’s statement of his grievances? Will the honorable gentleman fix a date on which the members of both Houses could meet Dr. Simpson, say, in the Senate room upstairs?
– I have no control over the Senate room upstairs, nor have I any control over the freedom of honorable members, who are at perfect liberty to hear Dr. Simpson whenever he chooses to speak. I need not remind the honorable member for Calare that neither have I any control over Dr. Simpson. The matter is one entirely between Dr. Simpson and honorable members themselves.
Employment of Germans
– Is it a fact, as has been stated, that, in the Postal and other Departments, a considerable number of Germans are employed? If so, will the Prime Minister consult with his colleagues as to the desirability of removing those Genu an s, and replacing them with British subjects?
– I can only repeat what I have frequently before said in this House, that, although we are engaged in a war struggle with Germany, we ought not, under ordinary circumstances, to be vindictive towards honest aliens who are in our service here, and who are not violating any law, custom, or practice observed by our own people.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether he has received any official information of the reported loss of submarine AE2 ?
– We have no official information. There is information from what is considered to be a good source that an Australian submarine has been lost in the Mediterranean. Beyond stating that, I decline to make any announcement until we receive official information.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister - who has expressed some doubt as to the constitutional powers of this Parliament - whether he will confer with the Attorney-General, with a view to ascertaining if the Commonwealth cannot compel the States, as common carriers, to carry Inter-State produce on their railways ?
– I shall be glad to make that inquiry of the Attorney-General. I thought that we possessed the requisite power under our Constitution, but whether we really possess it or not I cannot say. I shall be glad to co-operate with the honorable member in enforcing any powers that we possess towards insuring freedom of trade, commerce, and intercourse between the States.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence - seeing that the operatives in our various? Defence factories are being paid in full for all overtime which they work - whether he is aware that- employes in the clerical branch and others who are doing good work in the stay-at-home portion of the Department, are being paid for only ten hours’ overtime weekly, even though they may work twenty or thirty hours overtime ? Will he look into this matter, with a view to seeing that they are recompensed for the additional services which they are rendering at the present critical juncture?
– I am not aware that such a system as the honorable member suggests is in existence. If it is, it should be altered at once, because I do not believe in Commonwealth employes working thirty hours’ overtime a week whilst other men are walking idly about the streets.
– I understand that, after the Prime Minister had quitted the Premiers’ Conference, the State Premiers discussed the advisableness of re-opening the question of a uniform railway gauge, and, with this end in view, decided to secure the services of experts. I ask the Prime Minister whether he is in accord with the view which they then oxpressed ?
– I was not present when the decision to which the honorable member refers was arrived at, and consequently I am not competent to say what took place. But, if the State Premiers wish to re-open the question of a uniform gauge, that circumstance will in no way alter the view cf this Government regarding the necessity for such a gauge on a 4 ft. 8$ in. basis.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether he is correctly reported as having said, when speaking to the Federal Public Service Association of those who remain outside the ranks of unions -
Something might happen some day, and they may be uncomfortable.
Also that -
He would not have them about the place, and some steps are likely to be taken in that connexion which will be made public when they arc sufficiently ripe.
I also wish to ask him what are the penal steps which he proposes $to take to make these persons uncomfortable, and was it in that connexion that the Government to-day rescinded regulations under which public servants outside of associations were to be paid exactly the same rates as are paid to members of associations under arbitration awards?
– I am not proposing to take any penal steps in regard to the employes to whom the honorable member refers, nor did I make any statement which would convey any such idea. My opinion of those who remain outside industrial organizations is well known, and I expressed that opinion in regard to organizations and unions generally. My views have undergone no change in that regard.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether it is a fact that there is a miniature rifle range in the basement of this building, and, if so, will he take steps to bring it up to date, so that honorable members may attain proficiency as marksmen?
– In reply to the honorable member, I wish to say that Mr. Speaker has control over everything connected with this House. I have no authority to speak upon the matter to which the honorable member refers.
– Last week the honorable member for Cook asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to supply the following answers to those questions: -
It is intended to transfer to other positions male telephonists of twenty-one years of age, and such transfers are being made, and will be continued, as suitable vacancies occur. Action in this direction is, however, being hampered by the refusal of a number to accept transfers involving removal from Sydney, thirty-five having recently intimated their unwillingness to accept transfer under such conditions, preferring to wait the occurrence of vacancies in Sydney. It is not intended, in the meantime, to make any allowance in addition to their prescribed salary as telephonists, as there is no justification for paying them at a higher rate than other officers engaged on the same work.
– Some days ago, in speaking in this chamber, the Prime Minister used certain words of regret - perhaps of mild reproach - concerning my attitude towards him on a certain day, on the outbreak of the war. Amongst other things, he said that he had secret information from the Motherland which he could have communicated to me had he been asked to do so. I should like the right honorable gentleman to say whether he had information from the Imperial Government concerning matters relating to the outbreak of the war other than that which was communicated to His Majesty’s responsible Government of the Commonwealth for the time being?
– The right honorable gentleman’s statement of the facts is not accurate. I used no such words as those which he has attributed to me, but I did make a statement to the effect that I believed I could have assisted him in the way suggested. I waited purposely in Melbourne from Saturday night until 4 o’clock on Monday. I had no direct communication, and I was not entitled to have any, from the Imperial Government. But I was in possession of information which was known only to one other gentleman in Australia, and which we both thought might have been of some service to the Government.
– But like the lady, the right honorable gentleman insisted upon being proposed to first.
– The honorable member’s mind runs towards ladies. I am dealing with a question of much greater moment. I made no complaint at the time. I was putting in only a rejoinder to something said by the right honorable member for Parramatta. The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, as he was quite entitled to do, met me when I arrived at Colac, and gave me certain information. He saw the Leader of the Government later. He motored down from Ballarat, and picked me up at Bacchus Marsh, and we came to town together.
– Did he go to Ballarat on that day?
– Then he must have left before I got there. I do not think that I saw him.
– I think’ the right honorable gentleman is mistaken. I believe that Mr. Miller did see him. Those were times of stress; I have been through similar times myself, and it was easy for the right honorable gentleman to be mistaken in the matter. I think that he did see Mr. Miller.
– I do not think so.
– I dared not interfere with the Government at the time, though our relations were quite friendly. Mr. Miller was the intermediary. I did non carry the matter any further. I rejoined by saying that I had information in my possession which I was prepared to give.
– I do not say anything about that; but some newspapers have been saying that the right honorable gentleman had communications from the Imperial Government which the Commonwealth Government at the time had not received.
– That is nonsense. The Imperial Government would not do anything of that kind. I thought I might have been of some little service in counsel, but the Government of the day took their own course, and I take no exception to that.
– Perhaps the Minister representing the Minister of Defence can say how it is that no one can get information from the Defence Department? Months ago I wrote from Perth, and, I think, also telegraphed, to the Department in regard to the death of a son of a Mrs. Crossley, asking at the same time for a reply to my communication. I received no reply. I wrote again a private letter to the Secretary, but I could get nothing out of the Department. The question I asked was what were the rules which had been agreed upon with respect to the relatives of soldiers who die before going to the front. This was the case of a man who died at Broadmeadows. Perhaps the Assistant Minister of Defence will undertake to facilitate a reply to my question?
– I shall be very glad to look into the matter. I do not know the particular case to which the right Honorable gentleman has referred, but I take ft that the relatives of the soldier were duly advised in the matter.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister representing: the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is -
The tenderer for bread at Enoggera Camp is W. Shead. The price is 15s. per 100 lbs., with a provision for increase or decrease of 1s. per 100 lbs. for every £1 per ton rise or fall in the price of flour. There was a lower tender, namely. that of the Automatic Bakeries Ltd.. at 13s. “3d. per 100 lbs. The tender of W. Shead was accepted in preference to that of the Automatic Bakeries Ltd.,. because the former was the only firm employing union labour.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact, as stated in the Sydney metropolitan press, that, whilst the Commonwealth Government are utilizing the State railways for the conveyance of recruits within that State, they are demanding payment for sentry work done on the Sydney water supply?
– I am not aware of any such demand having been made. A report has been called for from the Military Commandant, New South Wales.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether Dr. Thompson, the Government sanitary officer at Canberra, was willing to give evidence on the sanitation of Canberra, and, if so, why was he not called?
– The evidence to be called at such inquiries is a matter which the Committee, not the Department, decides. It may, however, be pointed out that Dr. Cumpston, Director of Public Health for the Territory, who is personally well acquainted with the locality, having given evidence on the medical aspect of the sewerage schemes, the Department would not be likely to suggest that any subordinate officer be called.
Panama Exposition Commission : Resig nation of Commissioners - Expeditionary Forces : Returned Soldiers : Case of Private Melbourne : Terms of Enlistment: Delay in Delivery of Letters : Death of Private Dancocks : Appointment of Officers - Inter-State Trade in Butter - Treatment of Interned Germans.
In Committee of Supply:
– I move -
That a sum not exceeding £1,143,343 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1915.
It is necessary to get this Bill put through to-day, to enable the mid-monthly payment to be made. It involves no new items of policy. I am sorry that its introduction is necessary, but that cannot be helped. The Estimates are still before the House, and I cannot do more than ask honorable members to be as good as they can in the matter.
.- The right honorable gentleman has, I think, overlooked the fact that he got the permission of the House to go into Committee of Supply to consider the Estimates, Division No. 34. He is asking honorable members to deal with a new Bill, to which, of course, I take no exception; but I think that he had better be sure of his ground. We got the permission of the House for a particular purpose, but it is being used for another purpose. That is a very unusual course.
– I think that “ Supply “ is a generic word. We could do anything pertaining to Supply under that Order of the Day.
.- I understand, from the very brief explanation of the Treasurer, that this is a Supply Bill to enable him to meet the midmonthly payments, and that the Supply will stretch to the 31st May.
– If we vote this Supply, we shall have afterwards to vote Supply for one more month before the close of the year. There is, however, one question I would like to deal with at once. I do not know whether I would consult the convenience of the Treasurer in dealing with it now, or in discussing it later on the Bill.
– I would prefer the discussion to take place now.
– The question deals with the recrudescence of the Deakin-Mahon controversy. I do not know whether the Minister of External Affairs is interested in vindicating his character before an outraged public.
– He is not at all well; but if you want to raise the question, take your own course.
– I should think that the Minister of External Affairs would not be well after what he has been doing lately. He has certainly not been well mentally or politically; but I am sorry to hear that physically he is unwell. I considered - pending his arrival in the Chamber - that the old trouble, which arose before the departure of Mr. Deakin to San Francisco, should have been ventilated in the House. It was only out of consideration for the feelings of the exPrime Minister that a number of honorable members on this side did not proceed to lay bare the secret history of that struggle. We were all hopeful that as the Cabinet had turned down the Minister of External Affairs, and had seen things with a larger gaze, we would not have had any attempt at vindictive treatment by the Minister of External Affairs of the late honorable member for Ballarat, once the leader of a Government in this country.
– There is no evidence of it.
– The right honorable gentleman means in the recent case?
– So far as I can see.
– I am sure that the right honorable gentleman cannot say that there was no evidence of it in the earlier case.
– I speak of what I know.
– If the right honorable gentleman speaks of what he knows, has read the correspondence of which the Government have made a parliamentary paper, and circulated, and agrees with the tactics of the Minister in relation to the criticism of Mr. Deakin prior to his departure for San Francisco, then, like the peace of God, he passes understanding. I have read the correspondence.
– I have not.
– I think that Mr. Deakin showed that he was not the man he used to be.
– The Prime Minister was in New Zealand while the correspondence was proceeding.
– I thought that in all probability the right honorable gentleman would take the correspondence as a bit of comic reading to lighten his sleepless hours.
– It evidently disagrees with you.
– I am sorry that the correspondence was made a public document, because it portrays the Minister of External Affairs in the worst possible attitude before the public of Australia. It shows him to be a small, bitter, narrow, prejudiced, revengeful man, against a big, broad man, whose shoe latchets he is not worthy to unloose. I hope that the honorable member will not mind me making these gentle remarks across the table. Some of us did not suspect that he would be guilty of this conduct. We thought that he would prove worthy of his position, having leaped twice into the shoes of a dead man. But, instead of that, as soon as he gained power he took a hold of this fallen giant, this stricken man, who for the third of a century had served this country, and whose name is honoured throughout its length and breadth, and endeavoured to humiliate him in a way quite unparalleled, thank God! in the history of Australia. I did not intend to refer to that matter, because I was hopeful that the Government would have been sufficiently ashamed of their conduct after the disgraceful episode to which I refer, and that it would not be repeated. They showed their worth at that particular time by turning the Minister of External Affairs down in the Cabinet.
– How do you know that?
– The Cabinet marked their disapproval of the Minister’s pennyaline journalism at the expense of an ex-Prime Minister. His colleagues said, “Look here, Mahon, you have made a fool of yourself. Deakin must represent Australia,” and Mahon was quietly turned down in the Cabinet in that way. Mahon did not resign.
– A high-minded man like you would resign.
– Even the Austrian Minister of War, at that particular time, who had a collision with his sovereign, resigned, but Mahon did not. Any man with a degree of self-respect, having been turned over by his colleagues, would undoubtedly have left the Cabinet.
– Do you know anything about a resignation from Essendon?
– I have heard of a number of resignations, but if I was treated as the Minister of External Affairs was treated by his colleagues, whether the Caucus was behind me or not, I would say at once to my colleagues, “ Gentlemen, as my recommendations have not been accepted, you must accept my resignation.” If Ministers do not accept and act upon that view, we cannot have responsible government, or a proper respect for Cabinet solidarity. The Minister of External Affairs, apparently smarting under the lash of his colleagues’ action, takes the first opportunity of getting level with the man he had already abused so much. That is really the position as it appears to us, and as “ the man in the street” is viewing it. I wondered at the ex-Prime Minister going to the Panama
Exposition, even after the more generousconduct of the Cabinet. It occurred to me that his proper attitude would have been to say to the Government, “ Gentlemen, I am extremely obliged to you for your vote of confidence, and your second invitation, but, after the treatment I have been subjected to by a Minister, I cannot think of representing Australia at the Exposition.” However, Mr. Deakin evidently had made up his mind that, being larger than the Minister of External Affairs, he could put his feelings in hispocket, and forget the cruel and slanderous attack of the honorable member; he was willing to give one more service to Australia, and away he went. I have read many newspapers published in the western States of America since Mr. Deakin arrived in California, and beyond the occasional misspelling of his name it is obvious that he has been received with respect and treated generously by the people there, and has done even better in his public utterances than in his present state of health we thought it likely that he would do. What is going to be the effect upon the people of America of the cavalier treatment which has led to the instantaneous resignation of Mr. Deakin? When the Minister wasasked to-day in charitable mood by one of his former colleagues to lake the House into his confidence in regard to this matter, he replied, “The time is not ripe.”
– That is a phrase of which the honorable member’s party is. very fond.
– The Minister cannot claim originality for that, nor for any other phrase. The language used in his correspondence with Mr. Deakin was borrowed from Billingsgate. The time for the making of an explanation is the present, when all the circumstances are fresh in our minds, not when everything is closed and forgotten. Surely, if the Minister has a good case, he will lay the papers on the table and say, “ These are the reasons that impelled us to act as we did towards the delegation, and these are the feelings that we have in regard to the members of the delegation.” In the first encounter of these unequally-matched adversaries, the Minister and the Prime Minister relied largely in their replies to Mr. Deakin on the statements of Mr. Nielsen; but to-day Mr. Deakin and Mr. Nielsen are together. Both consider their- honour and self-respect jeopardized by the action of the Minister, and have incontinently resigned their commissions in consequence of the affront to which they have been subjected. .Surely they have taken a right attitude. I knew something concerning the appointment of Mr. Edward to the secretaryship of the Commission, and the beginnings of his work. I saw how successful he was at the start. He could be spared at that time from his duties in connexion with the Department of External Affairs because he was a junior.
– Does the honorable member term a second class officer a junior ?
– Mr. Edward is not the senior officer that the Minister would have the House believe.
– Is a man who draws £400 a year a junior?
– Yes, in a Department in which the salaries go as high as £1,000 a year.
– Mr. Edward gets only £335 a year.
– He is down for a rise.
– When first employed, he was getting a shade over £200 a year. Judging by the work that he did for the Commission in its early stages, he was wisely selected. There was a lot of difficult work to be done at first, and it was due largely to his delicate handling that conflicting State interests were reconciled. He was the only man who could be sent to San Francisco, and the only man of three who have gone abroad, and whose services are supposed to be indispensable to the Department, to be recalled. Permanent heads are notoriously unconcerned with political and diplomatic matters. When they said “ We want this man back; will you recall him?” the Minister was only too glad to do it. He should have said, “ At worst, this officer will be needed for only another six or eight weeks, when the return of the majority of the Commissioners will free him.” The Minister should have paused, out of a sense of decency towards the men composing the Commission. The representatives of the States are mostly Ministers or ex-Ministers; and of all the men who played a prominent part in the early days of the Union, the representative of the Commonwealth took pride of place, and was pre-eminent in the public mind of the country. A feeling of decency - or, at least, of delicacy - should have caused the Minister to say, “ I will not inflict cruelty on Alfred Deakin, a man who has retired from political life with honour, and who is performing gratuitously public service for the Commonwealth.” From some of the correspondence emanating from Billingsgate some months ago, it might have been thought that Mr. Deakin is being paid heavily for his services. To my personal knowledge, he made great personal sacrifices in going to America, and receives nothing for his sendees beyond bare travelling and living expenses while away.
– He would not take anything more.
– I am sure that he would not. He has probably undertaken more missions for the Commonwealth and the State of Victoria than any other public man who ever lived in Australia, and no nian has performed his work more economically or has been more scrupulously exact in accounting for public money expended. The service that he is now performing is honorary, and he was called to it apparently in accordance with the unanimous desire of all parties of the people. If we may believe the provincial press of Victoria, which contains fuller particulars than the metropolitan journals, the Commission was not consulted about the recall of its secretary. A cable was not sent, asking “ Can you spare Mr. Edward?” Had such a message been sent, the reply might have come that he would be free within a month or six weeks, and then any decent Minister would have said, “ Suggest that he return then.” Why was not such a message sent? Judging by the earlier correspondence, it was because the Minister takes the view that the Commission is a departmental body which must do his bidding. An office boy must not be more subservient to the views of the political head of the Department. That is an entirely wrong conception of the position of the Commissioners, and no other man in this House would take such a view. The Commissioners should be treated as a body of extra departmental men who are performing honorary services for the Commonwealth and the States, and therefore must be dealt with courteously, if not as equals. I do not suppose that the Minister can imagine any other man to be his equal. Mr. Deakin, however, is one who has borne all the political honours that the people of Australia could confer upon one of their countrymen, and has declined titular honours times out of number, when they would have been thrust on him by universities and by sovereigns. Though some of us may differ from him in politics, Ave know that he is a man against whom no sneer or suggestion of dishonour will ever be made by contemporaries or historians. This bitter Minister must have a much lower estimate of him than we have; otherwise his treatment would not have been so cruel. T speak strongly, because for twenty years I have been in close personal contact in private and public life with Mr. Deakin, and looking at the matter calmly and dispassionately, I feel that the Minister of External Affairs stands in a pitiful light over the business. I hope, however, that even now he will recognise his error, if it is not too late to retrieve the position, and that he will say to the Commissioners who have resigned, “ “We made a blunder. Stay there - continue this Exposition work through to the end.”
– There is a million to one chance against that.
– I do not know whether my honorable friend is a clairvoyant, but apparently he has made up his mind that the Minister of External Affairs has determined not’ to relent and deal generously with these men.
– I think he will keep control over his own officers.
– Is Mr. Deakin one of his officers ?
– The action in connexion with the secretary was an incident which any man who has had experience in departmental or political affairs would feel to be an affront. In all these Commissions, Royal or otherwise, a wise Government acts in conjunction with the chairman. If an officer has to be appointed, the chairman has as much to do with it as the Minister. When an officer was appointed to take up the work of Mr. Edward, no other man was sent, but a man on the other side of the Pacific was selected to carry on the work. Mr. Deakin was probably apprised of the man who was selected, and advised fl’it he would take up the secretarial duties. If we may judge by the reports, it was at that particular time that Mr. Deakin and Mr. Nielsen joined in agreement upon the matter and resigned. There is something to me very significant in the resignation of these two Commissioners when the new officer was suggested. Why was this? Did they deem him unfit because of his qualifications or antecedents to conduct the work of the Commission? These are the things upon which we are in the dark at present, and upon which we are entitled to some explanation, and in this quiet way I am inviting the Minister to give this Committee the information. I hope that in all I have said I have exercised due restraint, but I would like a chance to deal with a man like the Minister of External Affairs in regard to this matter.
– Eire away!
– I hope the Minister will also exercise restraint, because on this side of the House there are many men with a strong sense of British justice, and who feel strongly on this subject.
– Well, you can do your best now.
– There are people outside, too, who are interested in, this matter.
– The Minister of External Affairs is uneasy, and he feels the harpoon of criticism when it is under his skin. He is exhibiting evidence of the shattered remains of a guilty conscience though I do not suppose that his conscience is equal to the full discharge of its official work, or he would long ago have registered his penitence in this House. I hope he will give us a full explanation. I shall have something further to say anon, lt seems to me that the Minister must be judged only by what is published, and viewing the matter in that light he stands in a most inglorious position.
– I think I shall be best consulting the wishes of this Chamber by avoiding the shocking example of vituperation to which wehave just been treated. I have nothing to say derogatory to the Chairman of th”i Panama Exposition, who occupied a seat in this House for so many years and with whom I was as much assorted as the eulogist who ran away from his former constituents to get- a safe seat in this House. If there was any doubt as to the wisdom of the course I have adopted, it has been removed by the speech of the honorable member.
– In what way ?
– He has magnified in a ridiculous fashion the recall of an ordinary public servant to his duties in Melbourne. It must have been clear to the House that it was not the benefit of the Public Service or the welfare of Australia that concerned him. Rather he had in view the possibility of gaining some party and political advantage from this attack.
– We will judge this matter upon his statement, upon which much of his harangue hangs. He said that the Cabinet had turned me down. If he were in any other place than this House I would describe his statement in a word of three letters. I am asking the House to judge the statement of this man, because it would be a travesty to call him an honorable member.
– Order ! Order!
– I wish to be perfectly calm. I want the House to remember that it was actually at my instance that the Cabinet confirmed the arrangement that Mr. Deakin should go to San»Francisco.
– Too thin !
– What does the honorable member mean by that? Is my assurance challenged? I admit that the correspondence with Mr. Deakin was of a lively character, but I claim, also, that it was called for. Now. here are the facts: Immediately after taking office I asked Mr. Deakin for a statement of the position. I had a perfectly open mind regarding the Panama Exposition, and did not care whether he went on or not. I simply asked for a statement of the position of affairs, and I received a document eloquently detailing all the advantages of proceeding. But the important fact that a member of the Commission then in San Francisco had strongly advised Australia to pull out, because the Exposition was merely “ an American show,” was concealed. Mr. Nielsen gave that advice in several successive cablegrams, and also in a lengthy letter.
– They were on the Minister’s file.
– I had taken over the administration of the Department only a few hours when I received this document which purported to give all the facts, yet concealed one of the most important. For, of course, had we known Mr. Niel sen’s view, we should not have gone on. He was the one man in a position to judge. Yet we have not heard one word from the last speaker on this vital point. He gave the House a bitter, blackblooded, partisan speech reeking with the “blatherskite” so often heard at Essendon
– I take exception to the use of the word “ blatherskite “ only because it is unparliamentary.
– I ask the Minister to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it; but I shall say that this gentleman, who now poses as a paragon of fairness, as the eulogist of a great statesman - this man who followed to the grave one of the ablest men ; drove into his coffin one of the best and most practical statesmen that Victoria has ever had - talks about justice and generosity–
– Surely this is not in order.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– You fiends over there, to go on like this when an honorable member charges another practically with murdering a man.
– Is the Leader of the Opposition in order, Mr. Chairman, in speaking of us as fiends?
Mr.Joseph Cook. - I withdraw the remark.
– I ask honorable members to assist me by refraining from interjections. I am following the debate : as closely as possible, and am determined that every honorable member, no matter on what side of the House he sits, shall have his rights, and no more. I can succeed in carrying out that determination only by the support of honorable members. I ask that the Minister be allowed to proceed without interruption.
– I rose to a point of order, Mr. Chairman. I direct attention to the fact that the Minister just now accused an honorable member on this side of having driven into his coffin and his grave an able man in another Legislature.
– “Followed him to his grave “ was the expression used.
– The expression used was “ followed him to his grave.” I was following the Minister very closely, as I wished to take care that he did not override the Standing Orders. The honorable gentleman’s statement was that the honorable member for Balaclava had followed some one to his grave, but he did not say who that some one was, or whether or not he was connected with this House.
– On the point of order, sir, I wish to point out that the statement made by the Minister was that the honorable member for Balaclava had driven an honorable statesman to his grave. There is a special method provided by the Standing Orders for dealing with a matter of this kind, and I therefore move -
That the words of the honorable the Minister be taken down.
I desire that the motion, if carried, shall be taken as an instruction for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into this charge.
– The honorable member for Wentworth is not in order in submitting such a motion. He must know that under the Standing Orders such a motion should have been submitted as soon as the words were used.
– I took the point of order as soon as I could do so. I shall submit my motion to-morrow.
– Although there is a good deal of provocation-
– I rise to a point of order. Do I understand, Mr. Chairman, that you rule that nothing that is out of order has been said by the Minister of External Affairs?
– My ruling was that the honorable member for Wentworth could not submit his motion, since the Standing Orders provide that where exception is taken to the use of any words, a motion that the words be taken down must be submitted at the time of their utterance, and without any intervening debate.
– There was no intervening debate. I rose as soon as you saw me.
– That is not the point with which I am dealing. I am referring now to the language actually used by the Minister of External Affairs, who said that the honorable member for Balaclava had practically driven an able man into his coffin - into his grave.
– That he had driven him into his coffin, and followed him to his grave.
– Those were the words used. Are they in order ?
– On the point of order, Mr. Chairman, I think that the Leader of the Opposition forgets that the honorable member for Balaclava alluded to the Minister as having reached his present position over two dead men’s shoes.
– Hear, hear!
– I would not willingly misquote the honorable member; but I think that in view of such . a statement having been made by him, the Leader of the Opposition will hardly press his point of order.
– The Minister of External Affairs, as far as he had gone, was not, in my opinion, out of order. Had he used the words attributed to him, they would have been directly personal, and the position would have been different. But all that I understood him to say was that the honorable member for Balaclava had followed some unnamed person to his grave.
– I rise to a point of order. You have just ruled, sir, that you could not accept my motion that the words be taken down, because debate had intervened before I submitted it. I wish to point out that I rose as soon as the opportunity was afforded me. I was not seen by the Chairman, however, and several points of order were taken. Do you rule that the taking of those points of order constituted a debate that intervened between the using of the words of which I complained - and of which I asked that official notice should be taken - and the submission of my motion?
– Yes. My ruling is that a motion that words to which exception is taken shall be taken down must be moved at once, or not at all.
– The issues involved in this matter are very simple. I asked Mr. Deakin for a statement of the case, to assist the Government in determining whether we should proceed with the proposed representation of Australia at the Exposition, in view of the outbreak of the war, and of the fact that three of the contributing States had retired from, the project. I naturally expected tha.t this statement, which was a very full one, would contain all material facts bearing on the matter. The honorable member for Balaclava has by interjection suggested that the departmental file was open to me. As the Committee is aware, however, it was only a few hours after I took over the administration of the Department that Mr. Deakin’s statement was submitted to me. Files in reference to extra-departmental Commissions do not usually come before the Minister. I believe that my honorable friend, the honorable member for Angas, who held office as Minister of External Affairs, has seen very few of them.
– I beg the honorable gentleman’s pardon. I attended most of the meetings of the Commission, and I had on every occasion, from Mr. Edward, a record of what had been done at such meetings. I also read the whole file.
– I at once accept the honorable member’s assurance. My statement was based on the fact that when perusing the papers relating to the Commission I rarely saw his initials on them.
– I drafted most of the papers for the Premiers.
– I did not see those papers.
– They were in the office for the honorable member to see, if he had taken the trouble to look at them.
– I cast no reflection on my honorable friend.
– I know that. This is simply a question of fact.
– I found very few papers which contained any indication that the honorable member had seen them. I repeat that I never saw these papers. They were not produced to me, and naturally, when I received Mr. Deakin’s statement, I assumed that it contained all the material facts connected with the project. I had a perfectly open mind. Personally, I was not convinced that it was desirable to be represented at San Francisco; and, as my colleagues know, when I was asked in Cabinet for a recommendation, I said, “ There is Mr. Deakin’s opinion; take action upon that.”
– Do you not think that Mr. Deakin may reasonably have assumed that, before you would make a recommendation, you would make yourself acquainted with the departmental files ?
– No; and for reasons that I shall explain. The contract for the pavilion had been held up for about a month, and I was being pressed by Mr. Deakin and the Commission to get an immediate decision from the Government.
– Would not all these facts be before the permanent head of the Deoartment ?
– Order ! 1 ask honorable members on both sides to cease their interjections; they will have the fullest opportunity of making any statements they wish to make.
– The permanent head of the Department would not read the correspondence on these matters. A secretary had been appointed, and the whole matter apparently had been turned, over to the Commissioners. I think the Prime Minister will bear me out that it was after considering the document submitted by Mr. Deakin, and upon my solicitation, the Cabinet eventually and unwillingly agreed to be represented at the Exposition. Matters went on, and some months afterwards I saw a letter from Mr. Nielsen, who was associate Commissioner with Mr. Deakin at San Francisco, to the Prime Minister, in which Mr. Nielsen corrected a statement which the Prime Minister had made, and which had appeared in the Melbourne Age. This letter was the first clue I had to the concealment of the advice which Mr. Nielsen had given, and thereupon I wrote a letter to Mr. Deakin asking for an explanation as to why this fact had not been included in the document submitted to me in September.
– Was Mr. Nielsen’srecommendation made to the Ministry, or to the Commission ?
– It was made to Mr. Nielsen’s fellow Commissioners in Melbourne. Honorable members can form their own opinion from that letter; the rest of the correspondence is before them.
– Is that why you appointed Mr. Deakin?
– Although I had reason to complain of want of candour on the part of Mr. Deakin, I felt that, as there had been an implied obligation on our part, and which was created by the previous Government, Mr. Deakin should represent us. Hence it was on my proposition that the Cabinet decided to renew the invitation to Mr. Deakin to go to San Francisco. Honorable members can see for themselves what ground there is for the passionate invective of the honorable member for Balaclava to-day. However, I pass it by, in order to say a few words in regard to the tabling and printing of the papers. The papers had to be laid on the table in connexion with the correspondence of another Commission, and were part of that matter. As they were of public interest, I thought it right that they should be laid on the table and printed for circulation among official documents. I have nothing further to say except that, in the exercise of my right, this being merely a departmental Commission, and in the interests of economy and the public welfare, I decided to recall Mr. Edward from San Francisco and appoint some one else to carry on the work.
– Is the other man appointed at the same salary ?
– Mr. Edward was drawing £8 15s. per week as expenses, in addition to his departmental salary. The gentleman now appointed is drawing only 25s. per week more than the amount Mr. Edward was drawing as expenses.
– He lives there, and has been living there.
– Yes, he has no allowance for expenses. I have acted in a straightforward way, with no wish to cast an affront on Mr. Deakin or any other Commissioner. If by the recall of the secretary, Mr. Deakin considers that he should resign-
– Did Mr. Deakin say that he was aggrieved?
– No, the cables show that Mr. Deakin wished to have Mr. Edward retained, and the only objection to the new appointment I have had is on the ground of expense, though I do not know where that comes in.
– For what length of term has Mr. Oughton been appointed?
– I presume that he will remain during the currency of the Exposition, and that should be only a few months.
– Did you know anything about Mr. Oughton before?
– He was in Western Australia, was he not?
– Yes. Is there any further cross-examination? Mr. Oughton fought for the Empire in South Africa. I think my defence is sufficient. I am not going into the many irrelevancies introduced into this debate. I think that I have given a sufficient explanation, and to the satisfaction of honorable members.
– Did the facts which it is alleged were not in Mr. Deakin’s report appear on the file?
– I believe that they appeared on the Panama-Pacific Exposition file, but there was one most important letter missing.
– When the Minister discovered that these facts were on that file, did he apologize to Mr. Deakin?
– Certainly not; there was no reason for an apology. The honorable and learned member must be confusing the dates. Mr. Deakin’s memorandum was submitted to me immediately after we went into office, and I had no opportunity of consulting the Panama-Pacific Exposition file at the time. In fact, I did not know that such a file was in existence. What I did was to ask Mr. Deakin for a statement of the position, for the guidance of the Government as to whether they would go on with the Exposition, in view of the war, and the fact that three of the States had withdrawn, and the document which I obtained from Mr. Deakin as a full statement of the position did not disclose the most important fact of all.
– Would not Mr. Deakin assume that it would be included in the file?
– How could he assume that? I took office on the Friday, and this document reached me on the following Monday. A decision was being pressed for, owing to the fact that the contractors’ job had been held up in San Francisco, and that we should be sued for damages unless we decided to go on at once.
.- I did not know this matter was coming on to-day, but it is only right that I should say something about the Panama Exhibition, as I happened to be the Minister concerned when the proposal was taken up. A few weeks after I took office - in 1913 - I read through a large file dealing with this Exhibition, in which I found that Mr. Harcourt or the authorities at
Homo had requested that we should decide this matter quickly. I do not know whether my predecessor in office read through that large file or not, but I saw no evidence that there had been any haste on the part of those who preceded me in deciding this question. I went carefully through the file, made a digest of material parts of it for my own information, and came to the conclusion that if we could get a better estimate than either of the two estimates supplied to my predecessor, a matter of such international importance should be decided at once. I made a recommendation to Cabinet accordingly. The original estimate, if I remember correctly - the honorable member will be able to correct me by looking at the file - was about £150,000, but there was a lower one, amounting to about £100,000.
– £60,000, 1 believe.
– I am afraid that the Minister has not seen the main files dealing with this matter. I have read them all up to the time I left office. There was one file, examination of which might occupy half a day - the original file - in which the last Government, and the Government before the last, were asked to come to a decision. As the matter had been in abeyance for eight or ten months - I think there was a request about July, 1912, for a decision on the part of the Commonwealth Government on this matter - I went into the subject at once, and came to the conclusion, if the lowest estimate of £100,000 could be reduced, that perhaps the proposal was one in which we ought to join, even though the Imperial Government did throw it up. Following this came the suggestion that the States might join, and that a joint responsibility to the extent of about £80,000 should be undertaken. The Cook Government accepted this proposal, and decided to contribute £20,000 towards the total expenditure. During this time I was directly conversant with the file, and with” what was going on. I saw some of the State Ministers myself, and I took the chair on behalf of the Commonwealth at any meeting held for the purpose of drawing up some definite plan of operation.
– The minutes do not show that.
– The officers of the Department will tell you it is so. If he looks, the Minister will find some of the minutes actually drafted in my own hand writing - if he can read it; I find some difficulty myself. May I give him one instance? I remember that, in February, 1913, there was a meeting in my office at the Department of External Affairs one Saturday afternoon. Mr. Nielsen was there, Mr. Hagelthorn was there, and I think Mr. Deakin was also there. I drew up about ten propositions, which were grouped together, as the basis of the arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States. I had typed a copy of that. Mr. Nielsen lent every assistance in his power then. We determined upon taking part in the Exhibition, and 1 think it was in September that Mr. Deakin, at our request, accepted the position of President of the Commission. There was no appointment of a Royal Commission. There was simply a meeting of the representatives of the States for the purpose of arranging preliminaries, and an intimation, published in the Gazette, of the appointments that were made as State and Commonwealth representatives. That was in the September before we left office.
– I think it was in August.
– August or September; but Mr. Deakin was told as early as March that the Cabinet desired him to accept the office. He took it; but I told him, as he probably would not leave until the following January, that there was no necessity to give him anything like in official appointment. Everything at that, time was to be informal. Matters went on from week to week and month to month. Meetings were held in Melbourne, and I was always present until I thought the time had come for making business arrangements - for collecting the exhibits, and making arrangements about sending them away; for communicating with the authorities at Panama itself, so that everything might be done on business lines as between those who were to represent us as an Australian body, while they were here, and Mr. Nielsen, who, with others, was representing us at San Francisco. I can assure the Minister that right through all this time, either by personal attendance at the meetings or by report by Mr. Edward, who was an officer at the Department of External Affairs, after each meeting, I was perfectly cognisant of what was being done.
– My statement was that I did not see your initials on any of the papers.
– Coming to the point to which the misunderstanding has arisen, may I observe that honorable members will see that the moment Mr. Deakin was asked for the report, he would naturally conclude that the Minister knew as much about the matter as the Minister with whom he had been directly concerned.
– How could I?
– I do not say that the Minister should have known all the details - not for a moment - but what I do say is that Mr. Deakin might have thought that the Minister had got all information from Mr. Edward, who always saw me.
– Edward and he compiled the document ‘together.
– What document?
– The document that induced the Government to go on with the Commission.
– Does the Minister suggest that Mr. Deakin and Mr. Edward were in collusion to deceive him?
– I do not know what it was, but they failed to mention a salient fact.
– I am sorry the Minister has allowed appearances to raise a suspicion in his mind. I do not for one moment say that the Minister should have known all the facts contained in the files in his office, but I do say that, rightly or wrongly, Mr. Deakin might have assumed that he knew more of the facts than he did, as he was aware that I had investigated the matter closely, and that Mr. Edward had been in communication with the Department as well as with the Commission. He might have thought that every matter that came before the Commission had also come before the Department, and that the departmental officers might have kept him in touch with everything that was being done. I am not deciding the matter as between the Minister and Mr. Deakin.
– How could I know that Nielsen had given this advice. I should require to be a sort of Mahatma-
– I ami not going to decide that point, but I wish the Committee to be fair to Mr. Deakin. Mr. Deakin somewhat reluctantly went. The Prime Minister asked him to accept the position, and he asked me to give him time to consider. There were considerations against his acceptance, and he told me that if he did accept it would be desirable that he should come back after three or four months, and that he did not want to put the Commonwealth to the expanse of his continuous residence; that as soon as he found matters could go along without his personal supervision, it might be necessary and desirable for him to come back. The Minister will find that this is the fact. I am sure that he will accept my bona fides in the matter, when I state that the suspicion that has been raised by the correspondence is not justified, and that Mr. Deakin has no personal motive in concealing anything. I put that to the Minister as a fair interpretation of the facts. We pressed Mr. Deakin into the position. We pressed Mr. Deakin to take the position, and it was with some reluctance that he accepted it. As to the expenses of Mr. Edward, I may say that he is a good officer, who has been our representative at Home, and also the representative of the States at the Franco.British Exhibition of 1908, so it will be seen that he has very large experience of how to conduct such undertakings. He was our chief advertising officer, and, in order to save expense, I got him to arrange all the advertising material at his disposal for use in America. As the Minister probably knows, Mr. Edward prepared a rather elaborate pamphlet for circulation abroad. There were a good many applications for the position of advertising agent, but I refused to make any appointment, seeing that it would run into a great deal of money. Mr. Edward, amongst the officers of the Department, was the most qualified man to send away; and I may say that, he was paid only his salary and expenses. As to the expenses, the only standard we had was that afforded by the payments made by the States to their, officers in San Francisco. The New South Wales Trade Commissioner had, I think, a fixed salary and £2 a day expenses.
– He was paid £4 4s. a day, and £2 2s. a day expenses, if I recollect aright.
– At any rate, he was paid at least £2 2s. a day.
– He was paid £3 3s. a day when travelling.
– He got £4 4s. a day.
– That was a prior arrangement.
– I find, from some notes I have, that the New South “Wales Trade Commissioner, when in San Francisco, was paid a salary of £1,500 a year, and an allowance of £2 a day; I am not now dealing with his expenses as a travelling Commissioner for that State. In the case of Victoria, the salary paid was £400, and travelling expenses at 25s. a day, and the advice I got was that 25s. a day was, on the whole, reasonable, in view of the cost of residence in San Francisco during the period of the Exposition. Mr. Edward was paid no allowance for the time occupied in travelling from Australia to America.
– He would be paid onefourth of his daily expenses while on board ship.
– At all events, I disallowed the payment of 25s. a day while he was on board ship, so that there was nothing unreasonable in what he was paid in that regard.
– That was so.
– I regret to say, however, that some misunderstanding arose which led to correspondence. Of course the Minister might not know everything, and it may be that Mr. Deakin assumed the honorable gentleman knew more than he did. Any information could have been obtained, as usual, by asking Mr. Edward, who almost on every occasion after a meeting of the Commission, saw me a.nd kept me posted up. Apart from that, Mr. Deakin saw me practically every week, in order that the Department might be kept in touch with what was going on.
.- I desire to refer to the case of Jeremiah Melbourne, a member of the Second Australian Light Horse. While this man was at Broadmeadows Camp, his mother every week received an allowance out of his pay; and when he left for Egypt he made an order that this payment was to be continued. However, information regarding this man ceased, and the mother, becoming somewhat alarmed, made inquiries at the Department. It is nearly three months since the Department was first approached, and it then transpired that this man had apparently been lost sight of. My reason for bringing the case up now is that the following letter was received only to-day from the Department : -
I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 22nd ultimo, relative to the case of Mrs. Melbourne, of Avenel, referred to you by J. Gordon, Esq., M.L.A.
Inquiries are being made, of the result of which you will be advised as soon as possible.
That is all the information that has been obtained up to the present time, beyond an admission, at an earlier stage, from the Department that, in the case of a number of men who left for Egypt on, I believe, the 22nd December, no list bad been kept, and that the Department waa awaiting a proper roll from Egypt before anything could be done. There appears to be room here for a very vigorous protest. It seems singular, from a military point of view, that a number of men could be sent from Australia with no proper detailed list of their personnel. I do not know what to do in order to expedite matters. The Assistant Minister of Defence has suggested that I should place a question on the notice-paper for to-morrow; but the only result of that would be, in a month’s time, a reply in almost identical terms with that of to-day, and I am not disposed to do anything of the kind.
– What are you going to do?
– I am going to try to stir the Minister up, in order to find out what has become of this man. He either went to Egypt, or he did not. If he did, his name should be on the roll of those who left, and the allowance out of his pay should be made according to his instructions.
– Where is the Assistant Minister?
– I know that my efforts are largely dumb-show, seeing that the Assistant Minister is not in the chamber ; but I am entitled to the information for which I ask. If this man went to Egypt, why was his name not recorded? And why is the allowance not being made according to his instruction?
– Has he a wife and children?
– His mother is dependent on him. This is not an isolated case of hardship. In quite a number of instances the Department has had to be stirred up to enable the relatives of soldiers who have gone to the front to receive the wages which have been allocated to them. Unfortunately the Minister representing the Assistant Minister of Defence is not in the chamber at the present moment. But the Minister of Trade and Customs ought to Be able to assure us that he will immediately have the case of this man inquired into, with a view to a proper statement being made to his relatives.
– I will ask the Minister of Defence to read the honorable member’s remarks.
– I accept the assurance of the Minister of Trade and Customs. I merely wish to add that, if something is not discovered in regard to this man very shortly, I shall want to know the reason” why.
.- I would not have spoken but for the attitude of the Minister of Trade and Customs towards the honorable member for Echuca. When he made his half-satirical reply to the honorable member, did he realize that there is an aged woman, with one foot in the grave, who is anxiously waiting to hear what has become of her son? Does he recognise what her feelings must he, seeing that she can obtain no information from the Department? Certainly they are not a cause for merriment, or for the sneers of some honorable members opposite. I do hope that the Minister will see that the honest thing is done by this woman, who has brought a man and a soldier into the world.
– All I can do is to direct attention to what has been said by the honorable member for Echuca. Could the honorable member himself do more ?
– I think that in a matter so simple I could have stated that the right thing would be done. There is no difficulty in the way. But do not let us make sport of the feelings of an old woman who is anxiously awaiting tidings of her lost son. I come now to another matter. To-day the Minister of External Affairs undertook to give certain information in regard to murders in Papua. I want that information to set out the callings of the men who have been murdered by natives. Within the last month or two prospectors in Papua have suffered to an unprecedented extent at the hands of murderous natives. In my humble judgment, this is entirely due to the extraordinarily protracted delays which have occurred in bringing to trial natives accused of capital offences.
– The Australians have neither votes nor the rights of a jury.
– Quite apart from that important and pressing question, we are called upon to consider the grave position in which white settlers in Papua are now placed. I shall be obliged if the Minister will bring my request under the notice of his colleagues.
.- I understand that in quite a number of cases recruits for our Expeditionary Forces, after having been passed as fit for service by the medical practitioner in the particular town from which they hail, have, upon re-examination in the city, been rejected as unfit. In some instances these men have sacrificed their employment on the strength of their having successfully passed an examination by the local doctor. Any recruit who had successfully emerged from such an ordeal would be justified in concluding that he would be accepted for service when he presented himself at the barracks for enrolment. But quite a number of these recruits have suffered a bitter, and sometimes a cruel, disappointment when, on subsequent examination in the city at the hands of a medical officer, they have been rejected. I hope that this matter will be brought under the notice of the Minister of Defence, and that means will be devised to prevent a repetition of the disappointment which has been experienced by numerous young men from the country.
– The honorable member has touched upon a question which I had intended to bring before this Chamber at the earliest opportunity. To me it seems an infamy that men who are burning with the desire to serve their country on the battlefields of Europe, after having been passed as fit for service by a qualified medical officer appointed by the Defence Department, and after having been quartered at the Broadmeadows Camp for some weeks, should be rejected on the ground that their teeth are not in order.
– But the trouble arises from the fact that they have been passed as physically sound by a country medical officer.
– In many instances these men have sacrificed their employment to come to the city for the purpose of undergoing military training. In such circumstances, I am of opinion that the Department should defray the expenses which they have incurred. I have in my mind the case of one man who broke up his home in Melbourne, and was in camp at Broadmeadows for eight weeks before he was finally rejected as unfit for service. His wife sold the pony and trap with which he had been accustomed to earn his livelihood. This woman has five children by her second marriage, in addition to one son, who is already serving at the front. I say that the rejection of her husband, after he had broken up his home, so that his wife might reside with her own people during his absence, is an infamy. To-day the whole family are in want. When such cases can occur it is unmistakable evidence of a lack of efficiency somewhere. I am sorry that the honorable member for Grampians is not present, because I am sure that he would indorse my remarks. To the honour of the dentists of this city, they have offered to form a dental corps at the front for the purpose of attending to the teeth of the members of our Expeditionary Forces, and I am assured that medical jealousy alone is responsible for the non-acceptance of that offer. If there were dentists out at the camp, they would be in a position to save the teeth of many of the men. Their offer should have been accepted, and no feeling of jealousy on the part of any person should have been allowed to prevent its acceptance.
– Can the honorable member give any reason why the offer of the dentists was not accepted ?
– I am informed by the dentists that the refusal of their offer was due to jealousy on the part of the medical officers of the Department.
– Was it not a case of sending dentists to the front with the troops, and not merely out to Broadmeadows?
– No. I refer to an offer to form a dentists’ corps at Broadmeadows.
– There was a suggestion made that a dentists’ corps should be allowed to go to the front.
– I think that they might, very well have been sent there. There is another matter of importance which I wish to bring under the notice of the Committee. I am sorry to say that, by insisting upon the observance of an old rule established in Victoria, the Education Department of the State is compelling the resignation of every lady teacher who honours a soldier going to the front by becoming his wife. Such a rule might very well bo suspended at a time like the present, especially in such a case as the one to which I refer, where the children attending the school at Toolangi, near Healesville, are deprived of the opportunity of being taught by the enforced resignation of the teacher. I should be glad if honorable members would assist me to bring under the notice of the Government the injustice of the course which is being followed.
– I suppose it will be generally contended that it is, to a certain extent, a waste of time to attempt to ventilate particular cases in connexion with the work of the Defence Department in this chamber. But, until the Department establishes some tribunal before which these cases may be brought, honorable members will have to continue to waste time in this way. I have a case to bring under notice to-day, because there is no other way in which I can have it ventilated. The first duty of a soldier is, of course, obedience, and the punishments inflicted for offences in the Army and Navy may appear to be severe to a civilian. It will, however, be granted that the Army and Navy authorities are not justified in inflicting a punishment which will make a man for the rest of his life a burden on society. A soldier has written to me from Osborne House making certain complaints. I am aware that he has been guilty to a degree, but the condition of health in which he is left as the result of the punishment inflicted upon him does not reflect any credit on our civilization, and certainly not upon the common sense of the men who had charge of him. He writes -
I have been returned to Australia suffering from valvular disease of the heart, which, I consider, was brought about by ill-treatment received aboard H.M.A. Troop-ship Orvieto. On 14th November, 1914, I was brought before Colonel Wanliss, 5th Battalion Infantry, charged with my first offence, the first being leaving parade without permission, and the second being refusing an order of a corporal. In the second charge my defence was that the corporal was ill-using my greatcoat, to which I objected, and refused to allow him to have it, as I was responsible for it.
The men are responsible for the clothing issued to them, and if it is damaged by other persons their responsibility still remains. The letter continues -
On both charges I was found guilty, and sentenced to eighteen days’ detention - nine days for each charge, and these my first offences. I was taken before Captain Lind, Medical Officer, 5th Battalion, who sounded my heart and other organs, and was then taken to the stokehole, where I worked six hours per day during my detention, right through the tropics. Having finished work, I was conducted to the cells, and slept on iron laths, with no mattress, and only two blankets. In another cell constructed for one, two men were confined, one sleeping on the concrete deck, with no mattress. During my time of detention, I was never taken above decks for exercise or fresh air, but was taken between decks to the stokehole, and brought up the same way. I had never done any such strenuous work before. My time expired the day previous to arrival in Egypt, 4th December, and on the morning of 6th December I was sent to Mena Hospital, where Captain Todd found I was suffering from encarditis I was detained in the hospital the whole time we were in Egypt, and on being examined by the Medical Board I was told I was suffering from valvular disease of the heart, and had been recommended for discharge as permanently unfit. Previous to enlisting, I was examined by two doctors, and also hold a medical certificate from a doctor in England dated February, 1914, stating that my organs were all sound. Captain Lind is also prepared to state that I was quite sound before working in the stokehole. I must also state that, before leaving Egypt, I examined my pay-book, and found that £ 5 8s. had been deducted for the time I was compelled to work in the stokehole.
I do not say anything on that point; but I do say that the treatment meted out to this man ought to be inquired into. Human nature cannot stand that kind of treatment, and those who- were responsible for it are not fit to retain the positions in which they have been placed. Here we have a healthy young man subjected to such treatment that he is now ruined for life. He could not have been a very bad character. He has sent me conies of two references which were given him. The first is as follows -
I hereby certify that………….. has served in B Company, 5th Battalion, Australian Expeditionary Force, from August, 1914, to the present dato, and that he is now being discharged on account of not being physically fit for a hard campaign.
While in this company his conduct has been very good, and he has proved himself willing and energetic.
That is signed by D. A. Luxton, captain, and officer commanding B Company.
Here is a certificate from a medical officer : -
Private…….. has been discharged from the 5th Battalion, 1st Australian Division, Egypt, suffering from valvular disease of the heart. In my opinion, this should not debar him from following any ordinary sedentary occupation. Any violent exercise or occupation necessitating much exertion is inadvisable. To my knowledge, his conduct has been exemplary while with this battalion. I feel confident that he will prove himself worthy of any trust and give complete satisfaction in any position he may obtain.
This man may have committed a crime against the military regulations. One offence, to my mind, was excusable, and the other may have been a trivial affair. At any rate, it was a crime which the man committed, and he was punished. I accept the fact that he ought to be punished, but surely the treatment meted out to him - eighteen days in a cell, under the conditions he described, and six hours a day in the stokehold, without exercise or fresh air - is not worthy of a civilized people !
– That is an ex parte statement, mind.
– The story seems so incredible that the honorable member can hardly conceive that such treatment was meted out to a man in this democratic community, but he knows that officers are more severe at some times than at others. Seeing that so many cases of this character have been reported, some body or board, removed from the peculiar feeling which surrounds military and naval men, ought to be appointed to investigate them. It is not too much to ask that such an investigation should take place.
– How could you investigate every case?
– Surely the honorable member will admit that a statement of that sort, going forth in a democratic community, will give rise to a feeling of horror in the minds of many persons. If the charges brought against the authorities are correct, we ought to devise some means of preventing the infliction of punishment which will make a man a physical wreck. The man whose case I am ventilating is at Osborne House, Geelong, and, according to his statement, he is likely to be in hospital there for some time. Honorable members on this side have presented cases to the House. It seems a waste of time that we should have to ventilate such matters here, when there is a great amount of other work waiting to be done. But we have no other means at our disposal. It is impossible to get wrongs rectified by the Department.
– Has that person sent a communication such as that to the Department ?
– I do not know, as he has not told me. But I know that in the Department a man is required to send a communication through his superior officer. During my time in the House I have known fifty cases where a communication has been kept back, and the information has not reached the Minister. I have proved that to two Ministers of Defence, but nothing has been done in the matter. For instance, a man in the Naval Department wished to ventilate a grievance because he had been unjustly punished. He endeavoured to reach the Minister, but he was unable to succeed. I have tried to get the wrong redressed, but so far nothing has been done. Fancy a case like the one mentioned by the honorable member for Echuca being brought up here! Tet there are numerous cases of men who have left good positions and have been passed by the local doctor, but who have been told by the Department that they were not wanted. I know four men who were accepted under conditions which were right at the time. They had to make an arrangement to leave their work; they had to give their employer a chance, but by the time they were ready to go, new regulations had been brought in, and the men found that they were not wanted then. In regard to the question of teeth, at one time the Department would accept a man if he had a full upper set of artificial teeth; but after a certain time the Department revoked the regulation, and dozens of men who in the transitory stage had left their places of employment, were rejected. I cannot go into the question of teeth. There are medical men who ought to know” what is desirable in that regard, and cases ought to be dealt with on their merits. It is not possible to get wrongs redressed by military officers, and therefore we have to bring these matters up here whether we like it or not. I ask Ministers to see if they cannot establish some board or court where men who have been dismissed from the Defence Department can get their grievances considered, otherwise we shall have to continually waste the time of the House in ventilating them.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister a matter which I consider of national importance. It is well known that, owing to the fighting in the Dardanelles, we have lost a considerable number of officers. I read in the press last week that the Minister of Defence had decided to appoint a board to fill vacancies.
– Do you mean a board to fill vacancies over there ?
– Not to fill the vacancies which have occurred recently, but ordinary vacancies. I believe that there is in existence a regulation which precludes any officer under the age of twenty-three years from going to the front. I know of one case - probably there are others - where an officer had made every preparation to leave, but, owing to the regulation, his services could not be accepted. I believe that we should have the best men we can possibly get to act as officers.
– Twenty-three years of age is young enough.
– I am coming to that point. I do not agree with the contention that a man under that age is not capable as an officer. If a board can examine the privates, it can also examine the officers who are willing to go, and who are under twenty-three. If the board find men suitable, there is no reason why they should not be permitted to go as officers. The system has only been in operation a short time, and most of the young officers have grown up with it, and although they have not yet reached the age of twenty-three years, it will be found that very many of them are more capable of acting as officers than are others who are thirty or forty years of age. The sending of inexperienced men is quite another question; but. if young men can prove that they possess the necessary judgment, and have had sufficient experience to fit them for the position of officer, why should they not be allowed to go, seeing that they have passed the examination and hold a commission ? I ask the Minister to give this matter his serious consideration. I believe that, in very many cases, it will be found that some of the best officers we have have not yet reached the age of twenty-three years.
.- I wish to refect- to a matter I raised in a question some time ago, and that was about accepting as recruits “ those who otherwise would have been sent to prison. I noticed that in a case where two young fellows were about to be sentenced to imprisonment for housebreaking, the Judge said that if the Defence Department would accept them as recruits, he would not pass sentence on them. I do not desire to be hard on those who have been in prison ; there are some in gaol who ought not to be there, and some out of gaol who ought to be there. And when an offender has served his term of imprisonment, he ought not to be ruthlessly pursued. But it is a serious thing for Judges to allow criminals to go scot free on condition of volunteering for the front. Of course I do not refer to cases like that of the young fellow who opened a letter in the Wyong post-office. I am quite with Justice Backhouse in his remarks on that case. The cases that I have in mind are those like that of two young men who were convicted for housebreaking, and a more recent case to which I drew attention. On Saturday last, when I was saying good-bye to some men and officers who were leaving for the front, one of the officers said to me, “ As I am in the King’s uniform, I must not talk politics; but I wish to tell you that we read the question that you asked in Parliament about permitting criminals to volunteer, and wo are glad that you asked it. We trust that you will follow the matter up, because it is a reflection on decent fellows that criminals shouldbe allowed to join the ranks.” I know that in one tent at Broadmeadows a man borrowed the private overcoat of a fellow soldier, promising to return it shortly, but, instead of doing so, he went into town, stayed there for a couple of days, and came back without it. Then he tried to borrow the overcoat of another of his comrades, and as this one objected, took it without permission, and left it in town. . Finally, he deserted. Quite a number of men have deserted just prior to the time fixed for their departure.
– Hundreds have done so. They join to get a good time, and do not intend to go away.
– That is so. If criminals are told that they may escape imprisonment by volunteering, they may join for two or three months, robbing their comrades, as in the case I have mentioned, and then desert. The Assistant Minister told me that it was for the Minister to decide whether men who would otherwise be punished by the Courts should be allowed to enlist.
– He told me to-day that he does not favour such enlistment.
– I am glad to hear that, and I wish to know what he intends to do to prevent it. Will he state publicly that these men shall not be permitted to join the Force? When a man offers to join, he is asked whether he has been convicted or not; but the men to whom I refer could, I suppose, declare that they had not been” convicted, because they had not been sentenced. The overwhelming majority of those who have volunteered are the pick of our young manhood, and are going to the front actuated by the highest and best motives, but there are some who have volunteered merely for their own ends, and desert a few days before the time for leaving, comes. I should like to know what is being done in cases of desertion. I know that of ten men in one tent, two did not embark when the unit to which they belonged was sent away.
– A great deal of money has been wasted on deserters.
– Yes. They draw pay for two or three months. I spent a night at Broadmeadows, and next morning was present when two or three men were brought before the Lieut. -Colonel. One of these was charged with breaking a regulation. He had written to the Lieut. - Colonel saying frankly that he had no idea that he would be sent away so soon. Apparently he had broken the regulation to get himself dismissed. The Lieut. -Colonel, however, treated the matter very wisely. He gave the young fellow a lecture, telling him that the regulations must be obeyed, and saying that he trusted that he would not again disobey them.
.- The complaints about the non-delivery of letters addressed to the troops in Egypt are general. I am constantly receiving letters from constituents who have sons at the front, complaining that their letters are not delivered. The Postmaster-Gene- ral to-day stated that he thought that letters were not delivered because they were insufficiently addressed; but I write to some of the men at the front, including a brother, and my letters have been addressed in accordance with the departmental regulations. Only yesterday I had a letter saying that they had had no word for several weeks, and then all the letters came in a bunch. These are specific instances in which the regulations concerning the addressing of the letters had been observed in fullest detail. The regimental numbers had been given, the troop, squadron, the regiment, Expeditionary Force, first or second, as the case might be, and the word “Egypt.” They were fully addressed, as stipulated by the Defence Department, and yet those letters did not reach the men for several weeks. In some cases, as far as I know, they have not been received yet. The letter I received was dated 4th April, and stated that no letters had been received for several weeks. I know that letters were written regularly, because I have written to privates in the ranks myself, and I feel, therefore, that there must be a great deal of substance in the complaints which have been voiced in the press. I hope that the Postmaster-General and the Minister of Defence will try to get at the root of the trouble. If, as the Minister representing the Minister of Defence stated, the letters are sorted according to their regiments and division, and so on, in Australia, the presumption is that the trouble is at the other end.
– They are sorted in that way, and each lot is put into a separate bag.
– Does that system operate in all the States?
– I presume it does; but there must be something radically wrong at the other end, and it must be due to a lack of organization.
– Were those men in the Light Horse?
– One was in the Light Horse. So far as we know, those men had not moved from Egypt. At all events, that is the presumption, because there has been no casualties among them : and if they had not been moved from Egypt, there was all the more reason why they should have received the letters. There is one other matter to which I should like to draw the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs. I refer to the position with regard to the export of butter from New South Wales to the other States.
– I have not heard of a case in which there has been restriction so far as the export of butter is concerned.
– Well, the New South Wales Government are restricting the export of butter.
– Will the honorable member give me one case of any person who has bought butter and has not been able to get delivery?
– I am unable to give a specific instance to-day, because I have not details in my possession, but I can tell the Minister that it is being done.
– It is being done in other lines also, and there are plenty of specific instances.
– And I know that it is being done particularly in regard to butter. My constituency happens to be right on the border of New South Wales and Queensland, and, owing to the action of the New South Wales Government, my constituents find themselves unable to export butter to Queensland, where the price is 192s., as against 124s. in Syd- . ney. At all events, that was the price at the time I refer to. We are only 100 miles from Brisbane, and 400 miles from Sydney, and yet we are unable to take advantage of the Brisbane market. My constituents, in common with all the different parts of Australia, have suffered by this restrictive legislation of the New South Wales Parliament. They are also suffering from the prevailing drought, and their returns have been cut down to less than half what they were formerly.
– In Victoria they are only one-twelfth in some cases.
– I am aware that my district has not suffered quite so badly as others, but I want to point out that the scarcity of butter has not been brought about by the war. It is due entirely to drought conditions, and it seems to me that it is the duty of the Minister of Trade and Customs to ascertain what is being done by New South Wales. I conceive that the Minister in his official! capacity is the guardian of the rights of all the citizens of Australia. I do not see why the State of New South Wales should be allowed to adopt a dow-in-the manger policy by refusing to allow an increase in price in that State, and prohibit exportation. In many instances my constituents are working fifteen or sixteen hours a day, and yet they are barely earning enough to make a living. In some cases they are unable to pay their rent, and a great many cannot keep their cows alive owing to the high price of fodder. It is costing the farmers in some instances 2s. and 3s. a pound to produce butter, and yet they are unable to take advantage of the Australian market owing to the attitude of the New South Wales Government. Surely, it is the duty of the Minister of Trade and Customs to inquire into this matter.
– 1 say that there has not been one specific case brought under my notice.
– Well, I am bringing it under the notice of the Minister now.
– If you give me the name of any firm concerned, inquiries will be made.
– It is the duty of the Minister to find out what is being done, and to ascertain from the AttorneyGeneral what is the exact legal position. Then, if possible, he should take steps to force the New South Wales Government to throw open the whole of the Australian market to the producers of that State.
– Does the honorable member maintain that butter ought to be 3s. per lb. in New South Wales to-day?
– I maintain that the people who are producing it are entitled to a fair living wage, just as the man who is working with the pick and shovel wants to get all he feels he is entitled to.
– I wish they would think the same about their employes.
– They do. The honorable member will find that fair and reasonable wages are paid in my district. Unfortunately, at the present time scores of the farmers are carrying on at a loss, and in cases where they are losing their cattle it is utterly impossible to replace them. Once they lose their cattle they lose their livelihood for many years to come. In these circumstances, they should be entitled to get for their product what is the fair market price in Australia. The scarcity of butter has not been caused by the war. On several occasions the price of butter has reached very nearly its present level; but never before in my time in Australia has a drought been so widespread throughout the dairying districts as is that of to-day.
– And in other districts also.
– Quite so; but I am dealing more particularly with the dairying districts. Some of the dairying districts of New South Wales were in good heart during the whole of the great drought of 1902. The principal dairying districts did not do quite as well as they have done during certain other periods, but they certainly did not have a bad time. This year, however, the position is different. With the exception of one very small part of the State, the drought has been severely felt in the dairying districts.
– This is the worst drought we have had since 1857.
– I do not think we have had a worse drought for many a day. I ask the Minister to set these inquiries on foot.
– As soon as the honorable member has given me one case where butter has been refused transmission to a purchaser in another State.
– I can obtain that information from Sydney; but I contend that it is the duty of the Minister, and not of a private member, to secure it. The matter having been brought before him, it is his duty to protect the interests of all citizens of the Commonwealth who are affected by his Department.
– But if, after I have made inquiries, it is found that not one case of butter purchased for transmission to another State has been held up, what am I to do?
– The honorable gentleman knows better than I do where he can obtain the necessary information.
– Does the honorable member say that the dairying districts of New South Wales are affected by the drought?
– Yes, very badly.
– What ! On the south coast and the north coast?
– It is true that they have had a little rain in the north lately ; but from January until last week practically no rain fell in the Richmond River district.
– Is it not a fact that the Byron Bay Butter Factory has put up a record output?
– It did for January.
– And has done since then.
– Its output now is less than it was last year.
– Infinitely less. It is true, as the honorable member for Gwydir has suggested, that an excellent season was experienced from August to December, but from January until last week practically no rain fell. That period covers the flush of the year, when a great number of cows come into milk, and the farmers rely on that particular part of the season for returns to nay their rent, and to enable them to keep their head? above water.
– There are few people in New South Wales who have done better than have those engaged in the butter industry in the northern districts.
– They have done well because many of them did not hesitate to work, in a number of instances, fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen hours a day in order to make a start.
– And they worked their employes the same number of hours.
– No; very few had enough money when they started to enable them to employ any one. I shall not argue this phase of the question with the honorable member at the present moment; other opportunities will offer for its discussion. I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to inquire from those who, to a very large extent, control the butter industry of the State, if the position is not as I have stated.
– Unless there has been some case in which permission to transfer butter to a purchaser in another State has beenrefused, I do not think I can interfere.
– Cannot the Minister make inquiries from the New South Wales Government as to the action they have taken ?
– We can ask them if they will be good enough to furnish us with information on the point. .
– And make inquiries from the larger butter firms as to the actual position? Will the Minister obtain this information ?
– We can only ask for it.
– But once the Minister has obtained from the New South Wales Government a statement as to what they are doing, and from the butter vendors as to what the exact position is, I desire that he shall prepare a case for the opinion of the Attorney-General.
– Hear, hear.
– I wish him to ascertain whether it is not possible to compel New South Wales to observe the principles of Inter-State Free Trade in this matter. No Act has been passed in regard to the transfer of butter from New South Wales to other States. In that respect this case differs from the wheat case. The constitutional position is not the same. I ask the Minister to see whether it is not possible to throw open to the citizens of New South Wales the whole of the markets of Australia.
– I desire to submit to the Assistant Minister of Defence a proposal which, I am sure, having regard to his own ample proportions, will receive his unqualified sympathy. We have in this community many men who are described as “ bantams,” and who are anxious to go to the front, but who, because their height is below a certain standard, are denied the right to do so. In respect of the Lancashires, and something like twenty other British regiments, the standard has been reduced so as to allow men to go to the front who are less than 5 ft. 4 in. in height.
– They must be not less than 5 ft. 1 in.
– The standard was 5 ft. 4 in.
– A long while ago.
– Not at all. About 70,000 of those who volunteered in Great Britain to go to the front shortly after the war broke out were denied the right to do so because, although they were physically fit, they were below the standard height. We have big, stout hearts beating in the breasts of many men of small stature.
– Take the Frenchmen of the line. Many of them are under 5 feet.
– Quite so. At a time like this, when there is a call from all parts of the Empire, I think it is unfair that the’ smaller men of the community should be denied the right to assist in fighting the Empire’s battles. Some of our most brilliant generals - some of those who have conducted the biggest of our campaigns- have been very small men. I would ask the Minister whether there is not some way of getting over this difficulty. Seeing that in the case of certain British regiments the standard height has been reduced to 5 ft. 1 ir.,, can we not do the same here?
– And form a “bantam” regiment 1
– Call them what you will, I am certain that they will fight a very good battle.
– And prove very useful.
– Very useful indeed. I read, recently, a statement to the effect that the Minister of Defence had suggested that the smaller men could not keep step with the bigger men, and that the trenches in many cases would be too deep for them. I do not think such an argument will bear a moment’s investigation. I hope that our “ bantams “ will have an opportunity to show their mettle. I am confident that if the opportunity offers they will acquit themselves quite as well as, and possibly do better than, some who, by reason of their greater height and breadth, present a substantial target to the enemy. I am sure that the Minister, having regard to his own ample proportions, will have sympathy with my proposal.
– It is -the usual custom for the chair to be vacated at this hour, and resumed at a later period, but as I understand that the Government wish to have the business before the Committee completed, I ask whether it is the desire of honorable members to continue the sitting.
– Yes, until this Bill passes.
– Is there any urgency about this Supply?
– It is required to meet the mid-monthly payments. The Bill must be ready for the Senate to-morrow.
– I take it that it is the desire of the Committee to sit on.
– Though it is not my intention to attack the Minister of External Affairs over the matter of Mr. Deakin’s resignation, because I think the blame should go further back, I do not, of course, exculpate him from blame. I think that he should share it in connexion with the Cabinet, of which he is a member; and, as I said this afternoon, I cannot help think ing that if ever a man has been treated scurvily by a Government, that man is Mr. Alfred Deakin. But we must go further back than this incident. It will be recollected that, during the term of the last Government, Mr. Deakin was appointed to another Commission, along with Mr. Dugald Thomson and Mr. Knibbs, and the terms of the Commission were made specially wide, in order to permit it to be practically the eyes and ears of the Government, to be a sort of outlook for the Government in connexion with all maiters coming to the surface during the war, and so that the Government could give the Commissioners any special duties which might crop up, or call on them to undertake any special investigations which we might wish them to make in connexion with the war. What happened? First of all, the Commissioners inquired into this and that commodity, and made recommendations concerning it, and then all at once their services were not required. It appears that “ there was nothing for them to do.” The present Government, with the tremendous business knowledge that every one knows it possesses, with its wonderful and varied assortment of ability, deemed itself capable of running the world, let alone Australia, and so it completely ignored and set aside the Commission, took no notice whatever of its recommendations, issued proclamations without reference to it, and finally squeezed the Commissioners out of the positions which they had filled with so much distinction and ability in the stress of war and the multitude of other engrossments now forgotten. Papers which lie on the table bear witness to the excellent work they did and the amount of consummate ability they pressed into it. I venture to say that no one in the House who knows Mr. Dugald Thomson will deny that, for an all-round business man, it is doubtful whether he can be excelled in Australia. I have never met a man with a more varied knowledge and a greater, broader, and saner outlook upon life and business matters generally. Yet this man who, without fee or reward was’ prepared to give his services to the country in its time of stress and strain, has been set aside, and another gentleman, about whose qualifications I have not a word to say in derogation, has been appointed, at a big salary, to do the same work. That is fact number one.
– Who is that?
– I am referring to Mr. McCheyne Anderson.
– He is dealing with the finances.
– Absolutely dissimilar work.
– I am afraid that my friends still do not understand anything about this matter. Their interjections prove that they do not. Mr. Dugald Thomson was appointed on account of his all-round business knowledge to see into this matter of finance or any other matter made emergent by the war. He was doing his work, and doing it well, and he was doing it for nothing. And now another gentleman has been appointed in his place.
– I repeat that another gentleman has been appointed to do the work which Mr. Dugald Thomson and the other Commissioners were appointed to do.
– And I say “ No.”
– My friend, unfortunately, does not know the facts, whereas I do know them. My colleagues in the last Government, who are in the chamber, know what we appointed that Commission to do. They know the terms under which it was appointed, and I say that we did not appoint it merely to inquire into exports and imports. We appointed it to do anything that the Government saw fit to give it to do in connexion with the war. That was the beginning of all this trouble. Now we have the second dose that Mr. Deakin is getting at the hands of the present Government. He got the dirty kick-out the first time, and they have made it imposBible for him to continue in his office on the second occasion. If ever a man has been treated scurvily by a Government, Mr. Alfred Deakin has been at the hands of this Government. And for what? If there is an unselfish man in Australia it is the same Alfred Deakin; notoriously throughout his life not a self-seeker, desiring only to ‘serve his country ; certainly doing nothing which would make his country one whit poorer or worse monetarily for his services; all his life particular upon these” points of honour and emoluments. Why, then, is this man turned away in this unseemly manner; an old public servant, who has served his country well, given up his own interests to do so; who is practically a poor man to-day; who has sacrificed his health - I think it is not too much to say so - finelydrawn and finely-balanced as he is. Every one knows the mental strain which his public life has always involved ? And here is his reward for it all. To be humiliated and degraded by this Government. It is time some one spoke out about this kind of treatment.
– I think that once you helped to put him off the Treasury bench in this Parliament.
– Politics! Why are these miserable politics dragged into everything? Is there never to be any surcease of this kind of thing? Are all your appointments to be made on the basis of “ spoils to the victors “ ? Have you booted one man out to put some one else in?
– You know all about that sort of thing; you are an authority on that.
– ‘Such interjections are unworthy of the honorable member.
– Two men were dismissed by your Government because they were Labour men.
– Who were they?
– One was Mr. Chinn. You never gave him a fair trial.
– If your party believes that, why have you not restored Mr. Chinn? Why did you not put him back into his position?
– If I had the power, ho would have been put back.
– You know your Government holds a very different opinion.
– I know no such thing.
– If I were you, I would let Mr. Chinn alone. At any rate, there is the fact that you had the opportunity of reinstating Mr. Chinn ; but I do not think there is any likelihood of this Government doing it. I would prefer to let these men alone, and I would very much prefer to have allowed this matter to rest; but I feel that a shocking injustice is being done to Mr. Deakin.
He has got scurvy treatment from a Government which certainly owe him something better.
Look what happened from the very first. There developed quite suddenly, with tremendous energy, a cyclonic controversy between the present Minister of External Affairs and Mr. Deakin. For what? If ever there was a trumpery reason for a Minister’s action, I think that was one. What was the explanation ? Just this, and only this : that Mr. Deakin gave him a memorandum showing the present position of affairs connected with Panama, and omitted this one particular, which the Minister says is an important particular. I wonder what is so important about it. Mr. Neilsen was one of the members of the Commission assisting in this matter, and yet, somehow, an expression of opinion on the part of this one member of the Commission is regarded by my honorable friend as the most important of them all.
– Because he was the one man who knew the real facts.
– My honorable friend’s position, then, is this: his opinion at the other end of the world ought to have dominated the whole of the matters being dealt with by this Commission.
Mr. Mahon. They ought to have been governed by it.
– I say it is preposterous that Mr. Nielsen’s opinion at the other end pf the world should govern a Commission at this end.
– He was on the spot, and knew the facts.
– He was not the on.lv man on the spot.
– Who else was there?
– Some of your own trusted officers. Mr. Oakeshott, for instance, of the Home Affairs Department, a much abler man than Mr. Neilsen - with all due respect to Mr. Neilsen.
– I do not think so. He was not a member of the Commission.
– No. He was one of your own officers. You did not ask him for his opinion about it, I suppose? But the fact. that Mr. Nielsen appeared in this matter at all is the Minister’s own fault, and not Mr. Deakin’s. Mr. Deakin might well be forgiven for omitting an opinion with which he disagreed, knowing it to be on the file. .But the matter was capable of two simple solutions. The
Minister could either have read the file, as he ought to have done, before he came to the decision he did, and before entering upon a bitter controversy with a respected public . man in the way he did, or he could have done what would have been the proper thing for him to have done - he could have communicated with Mr. Deakin, inviting him to discuss the matter. That is the very first thing that any reasonablyminded Minister should have done - to have asked the Chairman of this Commis-sion to talk matters over in his office. Instead of doing that, the Minister got hold- of this memorandum. So far as we know, no conference took place, but there at once began an epistolary correspondence of a very violent character by my honorable friend, who wanted to know this, and that, as if Mr. Deakin were a dog, and had done some underhand dirty work. The Minister ought to> know in his sober judgment that Mr. Deakin is the very last man to try and deliberately deceive a Minister in such a way as has been suggested. Either the Minister could have talked the matter over with Mr. Deakin, or he could have looked up the file, which would have given? him all the information which Mr. Deakin had; but I have yet to know that Mr. Deakin was under any obligation to include all the details of correspondence in this memorandum. To my mind the idea is absurd. Besides, is it not a fact that Mr. Nielsen’s opinion was presented! to the Commission and set aside?
– And also set aside by his own Government in New South Wales.
– What obligation was there upon Mr. Deakin to quote an opinion and place it in a memorandum which purported to set forth the then position of affairs? It seems to me that the Minister not only attacked Mr. Deakin in that correspondence, ‘but also attacked every member of the Commission for having dared to turn Mr. Nielsen’s opinion down. The Minister says here that Mr. Nielsen’s opinion is the one thing that ought to have determined, the matter. In my opinion the Commission comprised men infinitely wiser than Mr. Nielsen, abler than Mr. Nielsen, and who are infinitely more concerned with the real welfare and interests of Australia than Mr. Nielsen, and that ‘is without saying any- thing derogatory to Mr. Nielsen. I do not wish to say one word against what he has done, but now, strange to say, in this last episode of all, Mr. Nielsen joins hands with M.r. Deakin against this Ministry. What have you done to drive Mr. Nielsen out too ? Who else are you going to drive out?As far as we can get the facts, and we have only the scantiest particulars to go upon, the Minister has recalled Mr. Edward and appointed Mr. Oughton in Ihis place. Strangely enough, the Minister lets the cat out of the bag in making his explanation. He says that Mr. Edward helped to formulate the memorandum with Mr. Deakin at this end of the world. I wonder if that has anything to do with his recall.
– And the honorable member pauses for a reply?
– No, but something wants explaining yet. Mr. Edward is at the other end of the world. I understand that the Government are proposing to wind up this Exposition business - that they are not going to continue our connexion with it for an indefinite time. Could not they have let Mr. Edward stay two or three months longer to finish up the whole thing? Have things become so urgent in the Department of External Affairs, and has this man become so absolutely indispensable, that he cannot be allowed to stay there for three months longer? Does anybody believe trumpery excuses of this kind? In my opinion there is something at the back of it all still that we do not know of. I do not blame the Minister any more than I blame the Government. The Government were responsible for the appointment of this Commission, and I never heard such trivial reasons given for the humiliation of a great public servant as those which have been placed before the Committee. I invite the Minister, for the sake of his reputation as an administrator and an able man, to give us all the facts, and to place on the table all the correspondence in order that we may see whether there is anything more behind. If this is not done, I am afraid the honorable gentleman must be judged very severely, and that the Government must share his responsibility for having treated men in high positions with such scant courtesy.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Min desirable that this Bill should be put through; but I have to say that the Government have not treated Mr. Deakin, or any other man, with discourtesy, disrespect, or want of consideration. The sum of £1,000 was paid to the credit of Mr. Deakin-
– What has that to do with it?
– Of course, if the honorable member does not desire to hear it-
– I do not - not that!
– Is this not rather sordid ?
– No communications have been discourteously dealt with - I am speaking of correspondence with which I deal myself.
The Government entered into an agreement with the three States to provide £12,000 out of £30,000, the total sum required; and they are bound to pay the £12,000. I believe that the money is nearly expended. 1 was interrogated in Conference about further obligations, and it was assumed that further obligations could be incurred without the consent of the Government. That is not the way in which the Government have dealt with matters. I can say that the facts will not be withheld; but in the meantime-
– Is it a fact that you are going to wind this Commission up?
– The Government have not had time to consider the matter. 1 do not care who knows it, but I am not in favour of expending any more money, because I think the Exhibition has fizzled out.
– If so, then the Commission must also fizzle out.
.- I should not have risen but for the eulogistic way in which the honorable member for Parramatta referred to Mr. Deakin as a public man, a public servant, and all the rest of it. It is peculiar that, in life, retribution at times comes to men. I have a clear recollection of the time when Mr. Deakin authorized the appointment of a Commission which he never intended should conduct a sincere inquiry.
– What Commission was that?
– I am speaking of the Postal Commission; and it is not a laughing matter. Here we have a man belauded as beyond reproach; but such an act as that to which I refer was never perpetrated by any man holding a position in a Federal Government. It was never intended that that Commission should work, or should come to any conclusion, and the then Government attempted to annihilate it.
– That is all pure assumption. Mr. Deakin did not limit the powers of the Commission.
– It is not assumption at all; I know the facts. I only mention these things because I do not like to hear a man lauded up for services which are not altogether of the kind we are asked to believe. I have nothing to do with the question of the Panama Exposition, because I know nothing about it; and the Minister may be right, or he may be wrong. However, before honorable members get up to present a case, they ought to be quite sure they are in possession of all the facts.
.- Will the Prime Minister afford honorable members another opportunity to refer to the case of Private Dancocks, of Casterton, whose regrettable death at Broadmeadows has already been mentioned in this House, so that the relatives’ side of the case may be considered ?
.- The Estimates will be brought on at the first convenient time to enable such questions to be dealt with. What we have before us now is a Supply Bill pure and simple, which it is absolutely necessary we should pass.
– A complaint was made to me to-day that a man, who desired to send £5 in a hurry to his son at the front, had to pay the extortionate fee of £1 8s. for doing so. Will the Prime Minister do something to make it cheaper for parents to send money to their boys at the front?
– Will the honorable member bring the case personally before me?
– I must enter my protest against the remarks of the honorable member for Gwydir, who is probably disappointed by the result of the appointment of the Postal Commission, inasmuch as, in connexion therewith, he did not score as he thought he ought to have scored. It seems to me that, after the lapse of years it is a cowardly thing to make such an attack in this House on an absent man.
– Order ! the honorable member must withdraw that word.
– It may be unparliamentary, but it is true.
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– Well, what am I to withdraw?
– The word “ cowardly.”
– I withdraw the word in deference to your ruling, and ask whether it will be in order to say that such an utterance as that of the honorable member shows a great lack of courage, if it does not show vindictiveness. I happened to be a colleague of Mr. Deakin at that time when, I think, he did well under all the circumstances. It was a difficult and stormy time, and party lines were not drawn so clearly as they are drawn now. The honorable member for Gwydir is usually a generous opponent ; and it seems to me most strange that he should make what I cannot but regard as a dastardly attack on an absent man. I am rather surprised that the Prime Minister, who is a lover of fairplay, did not rise in defence.
– I have already expressed myself.
– I do not wish to criticise the Minister of External Affairs, because it seems to me that we ought to wait until we have the facts before us. It is the duty of the Minister, I think, to lay all the papers on the table. I, personally, was of the opinion that we were only wasting money over the Panama Exhibition; and, even after we had entered upon the undertaking, £ raised the question whether it was wise to go on. It seems to me, however, that something has happened behind Parliament - something that we ought to know. We ought to know, for instance, why the Minister, when he took action some time ago, had, so far as it appeared to the general public, his judgment over-ridden by his colleagues.
– They did not ‘ over-ride my judgment.
– I am only saying that it so appeared to the general public. At any rate, the honorable gentleman took a strong stand, and, knowing him as I do, I believe that he must have had very good grounds. Probably, ha will be able to explain and vindicate his action; but it is certainly due to the Government to lay the papers on the table. I protest against the action of the honorable member for Gwydir - who is usually a manly opponent- in making an attack upon an absent man.
– The question will come up for consideration again.
– But now, when the charge has been made, is the proper time to repudiate it.
– I had done that prior to the honorable member entering the chamber.
– The honorable member for Gwydir has charged Mr. Deakin with having done something dishonorable in this House. I merely wish’ to say that if the honorable member for Gwydir lives to be a thousand years of age he will not have a record like that of Mr. Deakin.
– I would be sorry to have it.
– I feel sure that the Minister of External Affairs must have strong reasons for taking the action which he has taken. I hope that when this question again comes up for consideration we shall avoid indulging in innuendoes’ such as we have heard fall from the lips of the honorable member for Gwydir.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), proposed -
That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year ending 30th June, 1915, a sum not exceeding £1,143,343 be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– There is just one item in those Estimates which strikes me as being very significant and eloquent of many things. It is an item of £70,000, which represents the expenditure involved in the internment of Germans in Australia. The spending of so large a sum of money seems to indicate that we are engaged, in none of the diabolical things of which we read, and that We are trying to treat them as belligerents should be treated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring ia a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
House adjourned at 7.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 May 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150512_reps_6_76/>.