6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I regret to inform the House that since it last met we have received word that General Bridges, our Officer Commanding the Commonwealth Forces at the Dardanelles, was seriously wounded on the 15th instant. Subsequently be displayed great courage and cheerfulness, but those near him apparently realize the very serious nature of his injuries. I am sure that I only express the wishes and hopes of this Parliament and the people of Australia that his wounds may not prove fatal. Wears proud of our Forces and the heroic deeds performed by them in the enormously difficult task with which they wereconfronted at the Dardanelles, and whilst we deeply regret that the casualties sustained in all ranks are high, we are consoled by the knowledge that our gallant soldiers have earned the admiration of all. They have made history that will inspire Australians in all ages to come, and General Bridges’ name will alwaysbe associated with their splendid performances.
– I wish to say how keenly I regret the misfortune that has befallen General Bridges, and how sincerely I sympathize with his family, and I amsure that every one who has watched that officer’s distinguished career will join with me in this expression. Special mention has been made of him on this occasion, because of the representative position which he occupies, standing, as he does, for the whole of the Australian Expeditionary Force. I should like to say that General Bridges is responsible, perhapsmore than any other officer that we have, for the efficiency of the war machine that we have been able to build up in Australia. I had the honour of giving him his appointment as head of our Military College, an institution which has already proved on the field of battle its great value to Australia. General Bridges took with him, I believe, the third and fourth year students from the College, and they, one and all, have distinguished themselves by their service in the field. In the training of our Australian Army, General Bridges, while not conspicuously in the public view, occupied a place where he had more to do with the success of our Defence system than, perhaps, any one else. Under these circumstances our regret that he has been seriously wounded is the more poignant. It is in the nature of a true soldier to take what comes, and General Bridges might be expected to be cheery no matter what befell him. He is a soldier to his finger tips, and one of whom Australia has a right to be proud.
The following papers were presented : -
Inter-State Commission Act -
Inter-State Commission - Tariff Investigation Reports -
Spirits for manufacturing purposes; Sulphuric Ether; Perfumes, Medicines, &c.
Tobacco, Cigars, and Cigarettes.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Act -
Military College- Report 1913-14.
Regulations amended - Provisional -
Factories (Government) - Conduct and
Management of, and Employment of Persons. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 63.
Universal Training. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 04.
Military Forces -
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 62. (Financial and Allowance) - Statu tory Rules 1915, No. 61.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Abermain, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Chippendale, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Eden, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Homebush, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Miller’s Point. New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Muswellbrook, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Richmond. Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Ryde, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Waratah, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Public Service Act -
Promotion to R. J. Avard, as Postmaster, 2nd Class, Grade I., Geelong.
Appointment of S. W. Gleed and J. G.
Kalpatrick, as Assistant Engineers, Class C, Professional Division, Chief Electrical Engineer’s Office, Central Staff.
Regulations amended (Provisional) Statutory Rules 1915, No. 71.
War Precautions Act- Provisional Regulation - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 65.
– In view of the evidence given by the boss of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, that the sugar reserves of Australia will be exhausted about the 1st July next, is it not possible for the Government to join with the Governments of the States in purchasing a quantity of sugar sufficient to meet the requirements of the Australian people, and thus to protect the workers from the cool storage mercy of corporate monopoly?
– The Government has had the matter under consideration, but it must be looked at from more sides than one. Ministers desire to be fully seised of the facts before taking definite action. They do not wish to have to retrace their steps.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen the statement in the press that, at a meeting of the Scarcity of Commodities Commission in Sydney yesterday, Mr. Knox stated that there was a shortage of sugar amounting to 150,000 tons? Will the honorable gentleman take steps . to see that that shortage is proved to exist before he allows the public to be exploited by means of high prices?
– The attention of the Government was directed to this matter before there appeared in the press the statement to which the honorable member alludes. Mr. Knox is reported to have declared that the Commonwealth will require 125,000 tons of sugar beyond what is already in stock, to carry it on until next season’s crop is available. The Cabinet, seised of the importance of the subject, has appointed me to inquire into the facts. I have asked Mr. Knox to supply me with a full and detailed statement of his company’s stocks of sugar in each State of the
Commonwealth, and I shall ask the Millaquin Company to furnish similar information, and also endeavour to ascertain what other stocks of sugar are available in the Commonwealth. The scope of my inquiry will cover the whole field, so that the people may learn the exact position.
– In making the inquiry which he lias promised, will the AttorneyGeneral take into consideration the fact that up-country storekeepers are right out of stocks of sugar, and have been refused supplies, not only by the Millaquin Company, but also by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– I have endeavoured to make inquiries as to the position in the retail trade, but as they were only commenced on Monday, it Eas been impossible to proceed very far. However, I shall certainly take into consideration the position as stated by the honorable member.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence aware that a statement has recently appeared in the press that the Defence Department has had to pay three times the supposed value of land resumed at Cockburn Sound for defence purposes ? If this statement is true, will the Assistant Minister say what has been the cause of the inflation in the price of land in that locality?
– Tlie Defence Department has nothing to do with the purchase of land at Cockburn Sound. That is a matter entirely for the Department of Home Affairs. No doubt the holders of land iu the vicinity are very ready to take what unearned increment they can get, but I feel sure that the Department of Home Affairs will be equal to the occasion and will see that it does not pay more than the land is really worth, even if it should be necessary to go to arbitration over the matter.
– Is it not a fact that the Department of Home Affairs, in the matter of the acquisition of land, merely acts as agent for the Department requiring the land, and does not proceed to acquire land until the need for it is notified by the Department concerned ? Will the Assistant Minister of Defence say when the Defence Department notified the Department of Home Affairs that it required the land at Cockburn Sound?
– In regard to the first part of the honorable member’s question, it is true that if the Defence Department requires land it must make a requisition to the Department of Home Affairs to make the necessary purchase. In this case the requisite notification was given to the Department of Home Affairs a month or two ago.
– Is it not a fact that this land should have been acquired while the late Government were in office?
– Our predecessors certainly had a good deal to do with Cockburn Sound.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that in consequence of the war there is a scarcity of permitted explosives for use in coal mines in Australia, and that on this account a large number of miners is likely to be thrown out of employment? In view of these facts, can the Government, do anything to assist in obtaining supplies from Great Britain ? Also, will the Government give further consideration to the matter of erecting a testing station in Australia in order to encourage local manufacture, and thus assist towards supplying our own needs in this respect?
– I was not aware that the war had depleted or greatly reduced the explosives necessary for mining purposes, and on behalf of the Government I promise to take into immediate consideration the question of dealing with the matter.
– Can the Prime Minister arrange to have members submitting questions on notice supplied with carbon copies of Ministers’ replies?
– Yes; it should be quite a simple matter to do so.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence say whether any official confirmation, or otherwise, has been received in regard to the supposed loss of submarine A E2?
– There has been uo confirmation of the report.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral inquired into complaints recently made to him by representatives of the commercial community as to the delays in the Postal Department through the censoring of letters despatched to the East; and, if so, what steps does he propose to take in order to obviate delays which in many cases have caused to mercantile firms in Melbourne the loss of large sums of money?
– All complaints of the kind have been brought under the notice of the Defence Department, which has control over the censors; and the information supplied by that Department is to the effect that everything is done in order to hasten matters.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact Chat arrangements have been made to move the administration of the Federal Land Tax from Bent-street, Sydney, -to Macdonnell House, Sydney, the headquarters of the Labour party in the State of New South Wales; and, if it is a fact, will he be good enough to inform honorable members as to the reason for the transfer?
– Upon the lease of the premises occupied by the Land Tax Commissioner in Sydney expiring a little while ago, the conditions imposed for a renewal for twelve months were so much in excess of the rent previously paid that I took steps to get other premises at a reasonable rate. It is proposed to house all Government Departments in the Commonwealth Bank building a year hence. Happily the landlord thought better of the matter, and extended our tenure at the same rental.
Health of Troops in Training Camps: Soldiers’ Letters: Cost of Cabling Money : Clothing Contracts : Postage on Parcels : Winter Conditions at Broadmeadows.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence aware that pneumonia is prevalent at the Broadmeadows military camp, and that before receiving medical attendance men are obliged to remain at a certain tent for some time awaiting the visit of a medical officer ?
Seeing that a number of these cases have proved fatal, will the Assistant Minister see that no time is lost in making available medical attendance to the men requiring it?
– I hope that that is now the system in force - that medical advice is immediately given. I can assure the honorable member that I shall bring his question under the notice of the Minister, but I am sure that every attention is given to those who are sick.
– I have to bring under the notice of the Minister a similar condition of affairs at Liverpool. I have been told that soldiers who are ill have to go to a hut which the doctor visits, and wait for hours at times, and the result of having to do this, particularly in the damp, cold weather such as prevails at Liverpool when it rains, is that men suffer very severely. I ask the Minister whether arrangements cannot be made to have a doctor continuously in attendance where great Bodies- of men are in camp, so that he can render immediate help where it is needed ?
– The request is such a reasonable one that I am sure the Minister will agree to carry it out.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral yet communicated with the Home Government or the military authorities in regard to the delivery of letters sent by relatives of those who are fighting at the front, because complaints in regard to letters which have been sent not being received are continuous? Has anything been done since I last submitted a question to the Postmaster-General upon this matter ?
– After the letters leave Australia, the matter is in the hands of the Defence Department, whose attention has been drawn to the complaints that have been made. I think that the military authorities are doing everything possible in the matter.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence inform the Housewhat arrangements have been made with, the military authorities in Egypt to receive and distribute letters sent from Australia to the fighting forces? Will letters sent to Egypt be forwarded to thetroops who have been moved to the front ? Is the Minister aware that numerous complaints have been made throughout the Commonwealth that letters and papers which have been sent to the Australian troops in Egypt have not been received by the addressees?
– The Defence Department, in conjunction with the Postal Department, is doing everything possible to facilitate the despatch of letters to the troops at the front. Any letters addressed to Egypt will be transmitted to the addressees wherever they may be as soon as possible.
– In view of the fact that the first heavy winter rains have converted the Broadmeadows training ground into what is practically a quagmire, will the Assistant Minister of Defence consider whether it would not be in the interests of the health of the troops and also conducive to recruiting to set apart for use during the winter months a training ground with a sandy or gravel soil ?
– My own opinion is that a loamy or sandy soil would afford a better training ground during the winter months. I shall bring the honorable member’s suggestion under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
Dr.CARTY SALMON. - In view of the urgent necessity of the clothing for the troops being prepared as speedily as practicable, and also in view of the unemployment in the country as well as in the city, will the Department take steps to have some of the clothing contracts sent to country districts to be carried out under the supervision of departmental officers ?
– Tenders for the manufacture of clothing for the Defence Department have been invited from manu-‘ facturers throughout Australia. No person in city or country has been refused a proportion of the work at the flat rate which exists.
– In regard to the cost of transmitting money to the forces at the front, as the cost of the cable is a very large percentage of the cost of transmission, will the Assistant Minister of Defence seek to obviate that percentage of the cost by making it known that the Defence Department will, on receipt of a sum of money in Australia, cable instructions to its pay officers at the front to pay an equivalent sum to the soldier for whom it is intended ?
– I will have the suggestion investigated.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral consider it fair that parents whodesire to send comforts, such as socks* and shirts, to soldiers in Egypt should be charged postage for those parcels at letter rates, because no packet rate obtains in Egypt?
– I do not think it isaccurate to say that letter rates are charged on such parcels.
– That statement comesfrom a father who had to pay those rates.
– A statement as to the charges was published in the press, buff it was inaccurate. We have endeavoured to have the English postage rates for parcels, as well as newspapers, applied toEgypt, and I am making further inquiry into the matter.
– A statement having appeared in the press this . morning that steps have been taken by theElectoral Department to instruct the Registrars to bring the rolls up to date, will the Minister of Home Affairs tell the House exactly what is being done in that direction ? What special instructions have been given to the Registrars, and what other steps are being taken to perfect the rolls? Are names being added as well as removed ?
– The control of the Electoral Department is largely in the hands of my colleague the Assistant Minister, Senator Russell. I, therefore, ask the honorable member to give notice of the question.
Report on proposed buildings at the Flinders Naval Base presented by Mr. Riley.
Ordered to be printed.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister if it is true, as stated by the Sydney press, that after the Privy Council had decided that the title to Government House, Sydney, resided in the State, the State Government offered the use of the premises to the Commonwealth Government as a residence for the Governor-General at a 3½ per cent, rental, and the Commonwealth Government refused the offer ?
– I have no knowledge of the circumstances. I will make inquiries.
– Following upon those Ministerial strokes of policy by which the duties were removed from fodder and wheat, will the Prime Minister take into consideration the propriety of removing the duty on sugar, with a view to once and for all taking the control of this important commodity out of the hands of the sugar kings?
– Two questions bearing on that point have been answered already. The whole question of Protection is involved, and, together with the question of the shortage of commodities generally, will receive serious consideration when the Tariff comes before us. I can only say again, on behalf of the Government, that they will not “ rush “ this matter, but will first ascertain the facts; and when Parliament is supplied with the facts, action can be taken accordingly.
– Has the Postmaster-
General yet been able to make arrangements with the New South Wales Government to supply mail contractors in that State with fodder on the same terms and conditions as it is supplied to farmers?
– The Government have not yet been able to make such an arrangement.
– In view of the fact that the Seat of Government Act prevents undue inflation of land prices when purchases are made for the Commonwealth, will the Attorney-General ask the Cabinet to consider the introduction of a Bill to permit the Commonwealth to purchase land in any part of Australia on the basis of the value on which the owner is willing to pay taxes ?
– I assume that the honorable member has in his mind some recent cases in which apparently attempts have been made to exploit the community in this connexion. I certainly shall draw the attention of the Government to these cases, and recommend the adoption of whatever means can be devised to protect the interests of the community.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Last week I made a statement in this House regarding the Automatic Bakeries Company, Brisbane; and I have since received a letter from that company referring to a report of my remarks in the Brisbane Courier. The letter I have received is as follows -
I enclose extract ofCourier of even date. I am sure you feel quite certain of the truth of your statements, so am writing to defend ourselves. The wages and conditions of work are specified on the tender. Referring to the conditions, I am sending you, under separate cover, a booklet explaining our process, which certainly shows that “the conditions are different.” Here the trade is elevated almost to a profession, and a man who once works here does not like to have to work again in a hand factory. Our wages are all governed by the Wages Board. We pay higher than the award - the highest in the city. The present contractor employs four other members of his firm under no award. We are an entirely open shop, never asking whether a man is a unionist or not. In fact, many of our men (not bakers) are unionists. Over two years ago the Bakers Union refused to allow members to work for us, and the present contractor has been stirring up enmity against us ever since, in order to further his trade -using the unions as a cat’s-paw. Mr. Hall, the New South Wales Attorney-General, visited pur factory, and was so pleased with it that he has decided to install a similar one in Sydney, and he says the conditions are all that is to be desired.
I was misinformed on many phases of the subject, and I thought it only fair that I should read this letter to the House.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Parramatta that he desires to move the adjournment of the House, to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The unsatisfactory method of announcing casualties to the relatives by the Department of Defence.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) journment of the House is moved, it is to deal with some matter that lends itself more or less to party treatment; but I sincerely hope that this afternoon will prove an exception to the rule. I wish to take advantage of this procedure to make known some facts, in the hope that the Defence Department, which has to do particularly with the communication of these harrowing facts to relatives, may be organized more completely, and thus avoid Buck mistakes and ‘inadvertences as have occurred in the past. I submit the motion as a better and more friendly way of ventilating the subject than would be the asking of questions or directly approaching the Department. I ask the Minister to take the motion in the spirit in which it is put forward, and, after looking into the facts, to address himself specially to the organization of this branch of his Department with a view to preventing these sad occurrences. War is a fearful thing, and its consequences are wide-spread and broadcast. The anxieties of the war are in themselves sufficient, without the added suffering to which I refer. The women folk feel these occurrences a great deal more than the men folk can ever do; and it is out of consideration for the parents and relatives of those at the front that I ask the Minister to make a special note of the facts I propose to place before him. I know how difficult it is, in a Department such as this, to have everything working smoothly and with celerity in war time, and particularly so when the authorities are called upon to deal with cases occurring 10,000 miles away. The problem is rendered much more difficult than when those concerned are nearer home; and we should make every allowance, and extend our sympathy and help to the Department. At the same time we should take care that the last ounce of efficiency is put into that part of the administration which specially has to do with the home life and the relatives of those who have gone to do battle for us abroad.
Certain facts have come to my notice; indeed, the lengthy list of cases is one of the reasons why I adopt this method of bringing the matter under the notice of the Minister. The first case is that of a Melbourne gentleman named Wigg, who had a son at the front. The first intimation that Mr. Wigg had of anything having happened to his son was in the office in which he was employed. Mr. Wigg had been delighted with news that his son was doing well at the front, and had sent him a congratulatory cable on his birthday. It was when he was telling his employer of this fact that he learned that the latter had just previously seen, on a list hanging in the street, an announcement of the son’s death. Another case I have been told of is that of a gentleman named Kerr, who received’ the sympathy of a companion in the street on the death of his son. At the time that kindly note was struck, however, Mr. Kerr was totally unaware that anything at all had happened to his son.
– Where was the Kerr case? In Melbourne?
– Yes. These are all Melbourne cases. There are other, gentlemen on this side who may be able to give more details. I am merely mentioning bald facts. Another case of which. I have heard is that of Captain Luxton. There is also the case of Lieutenant Steen,. a friend of one of my own boys, who, first of all, was reported slightly wounded. Afterwards, his death was reported, and I believe official notification was conveyed to his mother in Sydney. She was naturally prostrated with grief, for, amongst other things, he was her only support; but, two days after the notification of his death had appeared, he himself cabled to his mother that he had only been slightly wounded. It is easy toimagine what shocks like this mean tothe relatives of those concerned. Thereis also the case of my colleague, Sir Robert Best, who, hearing that his soninlaw had been wounded, rang up hisdaughter to condole with her, and then discovered that she was totally unaware of the fact. I might also refer to the experience of a constituent of Mr. Massey Greene. A boy who lived in his electorate had been killed. Mr. Greenepromptly sent a wire of condolence to the parents, and that wire was the first intimation they had that anything at all. had happened to their son. I do not wish to elaborate these cases. I think I have said sufficient for my purpose.
– If the right honorable, gentleman has further details, I think it would be very interesting to get them all.
– I have nodoubt other honorable members will be able to supply further details, but I hope- this debate will not take long. I would, however, like to call the attention of the Postmaster-General to one aspect of this matter. The son of a tram-driver who has charge of a car running from Parramatta to Baulkham Hills was wounded at the front. An intimation was sent by the Defence Department, but the man happens to live just over the boundary line which is the limit for the delivery of telegrams without porterage, and he was charged 3d. on this wire. The sum is not much, but the man felt it very severely, as he told me when I condoled with him about his boy. The rule and regulation, I admit, are there, and no one can blame the postmistress for carrying them out; but it does appear to me that the Postmaster-General might relax their operation in war time, and especially when communicating casualties to the parents and relatives of our troops. I rang up the postal officials as quickly as I could, and begged of them to give the man his 3d. back at the earliest possible moment. I have not been told yet what they have done, but I hope they have refunded the money. I only call attention to the incident now so that we may get these regulations, all very well in times of peace, relaxed, as far as possible, in connexion with this war and the unpleasant duties which the Department has sometimes to carry out.
I hope, as the outcome of this debate, that the Minister will specialize this Department. A delicate and difficult duty has to be performed, and even when the Minister has done his best we may expect that there will be misadventures and mistakes from time to time in communicating the casualty lists to the public and to the people intimately concerned, but I think we are not asking too much in requesting that the Department shall be made as careful and efficient as it is possible to be made. That is my only object in bringing these matters forward, and I do not intend to occupy any more time.
– I shall leave the reply to the Assistant Minister of Defence, but I should like to say that I appreciate the tone and temper and desire of the honorable member in submitting this motion. I quite agree with him that, wherever action can be taken to lessen the shock that may be occasioned in regard to these notifications, we should use all our machinery to that end, so as to minimize the suffering and apprehension of the parents of those who, unhappily, are wounded, or who may fall. The Government will co-operate with the Opposition or with any honorable members who bring forward instances of what we have in mind, with the object of remedying any difficulty and creating any improvement in the present position.
.- I do not intend to refer to the case I brought be-, fore the notice of the Leader of the Opposition, which was the first mentioned by him, but I should like to make a suggestion in connexion with this discussion. Where the Department is dealing with thousands of cases mistakes are almost certain to occur, but the mistakes of this sort are so serious to the people deeply interested that every precaution should be taken to prevent them. I would suggest to the Minister that he ought to hold back the casualty lists from the press until he is absolutely certain that there is no mistake, and until the parents are notified. The public are anxious, no doubt, to get the information - we are all anxious to know whether our friends and acquaintances have been injured or have fallen - but it is much more important that the immediate relatives should receive information before any steps are taken to satisfy the public.
.- I should like to suggest to the Assistant Minister that there should be two issues of the lists of casualties - one for the morning papers, and one for the evening papers. I have seen many anxious people buying issue after issue to see if there was any later information. If it were made clear that only two lists would be given out it would tend to reduce the tension that these people feel.
.- May I thank the right honorable gentleman for the very kindly way in which he has moved the adjournment of the House in order to discuss this question? I realize that it has been done with the best motives and for the good of everybody concerned. The honorable gentleman has quoted a number of names, and no doubt the incidents described by him in connexion with them may be perfectly true. I should not care to take the stand that everything that is done by the Defence Department at a time like this is absolutely accurate, but I do say that the Department is doing all that it possibly can in the circumstances. We all realize that this is a terrible time. Parliament and the Government feel deeply for those in Australia who have husbands or sons at the front, and are agreed that in these matters they should be treated in the kindest manner possible. We feel that where it is necessary to give them such information it should be done in a way which will minimize the shock of such distressing news. The Department is endeavouring to do all that can be done in that direction. I shall see the Minister of Defence and discuss the matter with him. I am quite sure that he will have no objection to offer if it should be found necessary to employ extra hands to facilitate this work, and at the same time to secure the greatest accuracy. I may inform the right honorable gentleman, and the House, that we havein the Department special officers told off to do this work. It is possible that some inaccuracies have appeared in the information published, and these may cover the very cases which have been quoted. Only on Friday last the honorable member for Barrier brought, a man to me who had received a telegram from a certain young man at the front, informing him that his son had been killed, that another young man had been severely wounded, and that the sender of the telegram was himself all right. It appears that these young men were three Victorian friends who were in camp at Broadmeadows together, and went to the front and into the fighting line together. Up to the time at which I am speaking the Defence Department has had no word in confirmation of the cablegram to which I have referred. We have cabled to ascertain the facts, and though the parents of the young man who was reported to be killed are, of course, awfully concerned, the Department has been unable to obtain any information upon the matter. I can assure the House that everything possible is being done by the Defence Department to secure that the relatives and friends of those who are killed or injured at the front shall be given information as quickly as possible, and that the news shall be conveyed to them in the most kindly manner.
– I am fully satisfied with the statement made by the Assistant Minister of Defence. I hope that action will be taken to specialize this branch of ohe work which has to be done by the Defence Department. It demands greater care and attention than any other work at the present time. Mistakes in other branches of the Department may be rectified, but there can be no remedy found for the cruelty and suffering which is inflicted by inaccurate information or the lack of information concerning the fate of our soldiers at “the front. With reference to the point last mentioned by the Assistant Minister, I may say that I understand that it is only now that the Department has been able to correct its own mistake in connexion with the news concerning Lieutenant Steen-
– Just so.
– Lieutenant Steen’s name appears in the list of wounded handed to me to-day, and which I understand is to be published to-night or to-morrow morning. This is the first intimation the Department has had that young Steen is not dead, although a week ago he cabled to his mother to tell her that he was only slightly wounded. It seems to have taken the Department a week to correct even so serious a mistake as that, and this shows that there is some little lack of organization at one end. As this is our first experience of the kind, I know the Minister will appreciate the spirit in which our criticisms are made. They are offered solely in the hope that everything possible will be done to prevent the publication of further inaccurate information of this kind. I should like to ask the Postmaster-General before I sit down whether he will take care that at this time the regulations of his Department shall not be enforced In such a way as to cause unnecessary feeling and distress. The man to whom I referred in this connexion is a working man, and he said to me, “ The 3d. does not trouble me at all, but I do feel it hard that when it became necessary to intimate to me that my son, who has gone to fight for his country, is wounded, I should be charged 3d. before the Department would give me the information.” There is a regulation under which this course was followed, but I suggest to the Postmaster-General that he immediately instruct the officers of his Department to set aside all such regulations in connexion with these cases. I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Land Resumption - Canberra to Jervis Bay Railway
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the fact that during the last month three cases have been forced into the High Court with land-holders regarding resumptions in the Federal Territory, will he endeavour to have some system of arbitration substituted for the High Court?
– Every facility is given claimants to put forward their views regarding the value of the property in respect of which the claim is made. Conferences are frequently held without prejudice, additional valuations obtained, and, in the great majority of cases, a settlement is arrived at without litigation. Recourse is made to law only as a last resource in cases where the demands are considered unreasonable in the light of all the information which the Department has been able to gather as to values. As instancing the extreme ideas of some owners as to the value of their properties, I may mention that in a recent case the Court awarded about as many hundreds as the claimant demanded thousands.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
What steps are being taken to open up the Federal port at Jervis Bay, and to construct the railway from Yass to Canberra and Jervis Bay?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
Consultations in regard to a proposal for a joint Federal and State port at Jervis Bay are in progress.
In regard to the railway, trial surveys over the Federal and State lands have been completed; but in view of heavy expenditure in defence and other directions, and the existing railway connexion with Queanbeyan, further action has not been taken.
With respect to the Canberra- Jervis Bay railway, trial surveys have been completed, and plans and estimate of cost are nearly finished.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
President - Colonel G. Ramaciotti, 11th Infantry Brigade.
Members - Lt. -Commander J. O. Graham,. Royal Navy; Major H. G. Edwards, General Staff; Captain J. Bowie Wilson, Intelligence Section; CaptainR. S. Godsall, 34th Infantry.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the following extract from the “statement presented by him to the House on 14th April last, viz. : - “ The Savings Bank in London was established primarily to assist emigrants leaving England for Australia,” how does he reconcile that statement with the following, which appeared in the Argus, when reporting the official opening of the Savings Bank in London on 18th June, 1913 : - “ It is expected by the officials that the Bank will do good business, owing to the higher limits of deposits and the higher interest, when compared with the British Post-office Savings Bank”?
– No responsibility can be taken for statements appearing in the press; but against the statement in the Argus referring to the official opening of the Commonwealth Savings Bank in London on 18th June, 1913, quoted by the honorable member, it may be of interestto make public here the following statements on the same subject appearing in leading London newspapers: -
The Times, 17/6/13. - “Sir George Reid, High Commissioner for Australia, yesterday opened a new savings department at the branch of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in the city. Although anybody may become a depositor, the original idea is to provide facilities for emigrants who may remit money, free of charge, through the London office, and receive interest on the sum while they are travelling to Australia.”
Bankers’ Magazine, London, July, 1913. - “ With a view to meeting the demand for remittances of funds in connexion largely with immigration into Australia, the management of the Bank has opened a Savings Bank Department, which otherwise would not have been necessary on this side of the water. Those proceeding to Australia will be able to deposit money with the Bank, and have it transmitted, free of charge, during their journey out to Australia.” ….
Financial News, 17/6/13.-….. “Although anybody may become a depositor, the original idea was to make a convenience for emigrants. . . . Sir George Reid, in opening the Bank, emphasized its usefulness to the emigrants in this way, and pointed out that, as regards the Commonwealth Bank security, it is as good as any security could be in the world.” ….
Star, 16/6/13.-. . . . “Sir George Reid said that the volume of emigration of late years had so greatly increased that it had been thought that it would he well in the interests of the emigration movement that people going out to Australia from the Mother Country should have the advantage of the Commonwealth Bank in which to deposit their money.” . . .
News and Leader, 17/6/13.-. . . “The Department, said Sir George, was primarily, though not solely, intended for the benefit of emigrants, who could deposit money at the Bank’s offices in London, and draw it, free of cost of transmission, at any office in Australia.” ….
Globe, 16/6/13.-. . . “Sir George Reid said that the volume of emigration of late years had so greatly increased that it had been thought that it would be well in the interests of the emigration movement that people going out to Australia from the Mother Country should have the advantage of the Commonwealth Bank in which to deposit their money.” . . .
Standard, 17/6/13. - . . . . “ As a matter of practical experience, it is found that, with the large emigration movement proceeding to Australia, it would be advantageous for people of moderate means to have the convenience of depositing money in London and having it transmitted to their account while they are journeying out to Australia. This Savings Bank will undertake this duty free of any charge.” ….
Standard and Gazette, 17/6/13. - . . . . “ The object of the Savings Bank, said Sir George, in formally declaring it open, was that it might be used by prospective emigrants to deposit money for free transmission to any office of the Savings Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank in Australia.” ….
Standard, 17/6/13.-….. “Sir
George Reid said they all recognised that the finances, not only of the Empire, but of the world, and all the important Powers, really centred in London, and it was only a sign of the growth of the Empire, and of the closer relations between the different parts of the Empire and London, that the Bank made its appearance. They had no sort of desire to intrude in any controversial way into the financial circles of London.” ….
British Australasian. 26/6/13. - “ A problem which frequently troubles emigrants to Australia is how they may convey their money to their new home with the greatest safety and convenience. Their needs in this respect appear to be exactly met by the Savings Bank Department of the London branch of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.” ….
Royal Society of Arts Journal, 11/7/13. - . . “ The savings department is in tended primarily for emigrants, though it is not confined to them.” ….
Financier, 17/6/13. - . . . . “Although primarily intended for the benefit of emigrants, who may deposit money at the Bank here and draw it, free of cost of transmission, at any office in Australia, anybody may use it.” ….
Financial World, 21/6/13.-. . . . “Primarily intended for the benefit of emigrants and their children, the Savings Bank Department, London, will also be at the disposal of those who intend, at a later date, to proceed to Australia, or who may hereafter decide to do so. Safety and profit are thus secured for the emigrant, and in helping the thrifty worker the Savings Bank does work of national importance.” ….
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will supply the House with information as to the price paid by the Defence Department for bread purchased from the New South Wales Socialistic State Bakery, and the amount paid to private enterprise contracts in New South Wales and Victoria?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The contract rates for bread per 100 lbs., including delivery in New South Wales and Victoria, are as follow: -
Victoria Barracks, Sydney, 9s. 3½d., contractor.
Liverpool and Randwick Camps,11s., - State Bakery.
South Head, Sydney, 13s. 6½d., contractor.
Newcastle, 12s. 6d., contractor.
North Head, Sydney, 15s. 7½d., contractor.
Broadmeadows and Melbourne, 16s. 8d., contractor.
Queenscliff, Portsea, and Langwarrin, 18s. 9d., contractor.
Application has been made for the first three lines to be increased to 13s. 6d., 13s., and 16s. 13d., the reason given being the rise in cost of flour. The price of flour is -
New South Wales, £11 17s. 6d. per ton.
Victoria, £ 17 per ton.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– To obtain the information would necessitate asking every person in the Service. The Public Service Act provides as a qualification for appointment that a person must be a naturalborn or naturalized subject, except by the permission of the Governor-General.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The information is being secured. I will supply it as soon as it is available.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In connexion with acquisition of land at Cockburn Sound, as shown in Commonwealth Gazette, dated 3rd May, will the Minister give the reasons why the following pieces of land were not acquired : - Clarence Townsite Lot* Nos. 17, 24, 26, 27, 38, 48, 53, 54, 57?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is
The blocks of land referred to belong to the State, and are now the subject of negotiations with the Western Australian Government.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon, notice -
Whether he will obtain the wholesale and retail prices charged for (a) beef, (b) mutton, and (c) lamb in the principal cities of Australia, and also the prices charged in the chief cities of Great Britain?
– The following tables give the information asked for by the honorable member: -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 14th May, vide page 3201) :
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this section, “enemy contract” means any contract -
to which an enemy subject is a party, or
in which an enemy subject has an interest, or
which is or is likely to be for the benefit of enemy subjects or of enemy trade.
Any party to a contract may file with the Attorney- General of the Commonwealth a copy of the contract, and apply to the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth for a declaration that the contract is or is not an enemy contract within the meaning of this section.
If the Attorney-General declares that the contract is an enemy contract, then, upon the publication of his declaration in the Gazette, the contract shall be deemed to be an enemy contract.
If the Attorney-General declares that the contract is not an enemy contract, then, upon the publication of his declaration in the Gazette, the contract shall be deemed not to be an enemy contract.
Every enemy contract made before the commencement of the present war is hereby declared to be and to have been null and void, as from the commencement of the present war, as regards all rights and obligations thereunder except in relation to goods which had already been delivered or acts which had already been performed at that time.
Every enemy contract made before or after the commencement of this Act, during the continuance of the present war, is hereby declared to be null and void and of no effect whatever.
– Upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill I ventured, as quietly and courteously as I could, to put before the Government certain reasons why this clause might inflict an enormous amount of mischief upon certain individuals - mischief which was not contemplated by those who framed it.
– The honorable member urged that money of which an enemy subject might be deprived might find its way into the pockets of private individuals, instead of benefiting the Commonwealth.
– That was only one phase of the matter. I also pointed out that when we begin to cut unfulfilled contracts in two, we are likely to do as much damage to British subjects as to enemy subjects, and I gave illustrations in support of my contention. Where a contract at the present timehas been partly performed, this Bill will undoubtedly prevent its further fulfilment. I made this point perfectly clear to the Attorney-General, but I am sorry to say that my arguments did not receive that courteous consideration which we are entitled to expect from the occupant of his high office. Instead, they were treated as if they were of a character1 hostile to the Bill. They were met, not by an answer, but by insinuations as to the motives which prompted me to bring them forward.
– I think not.
– I confess that I am speaking from a perusal of a rather full newspaper report of the AttorneyGeneral’s utterances, and not from the Hansard report.
– Hear, hear! That was the tone of the Attorney-General’s reply.
– There are certain duties which the Attorney-General owes to honorable members on both sides of this Chamber. Where statements are made by members of the Opposition, they are entitled to receive from him something more than the kind of consideration which the newspaper report of his remarks suggests that they did receive. I made my position perfectly clear. The Attorney-General, instead of answering my arguments, met them by an ad captandum appeal to the prejudices of honorable members opposite, and by insinuations as to my motives. I do not consider it my duty to do any more than to point out such views to the gentleman who occupies the position of AttorneyGeneral. But I desire to take this opportunity of saying that members on this, and, indeed, on both sides of the House, ft this Parliament is to be conducted as every other deliberative assembly is and ought to be conducted, have every reason to expect that the AttorneyGeneral will give fair consideration to the legal arguments which are brought before it. That has not been done on this -occasion. I do not want to repeat those arguments which I stated clearly and fully on Friday last. I do not propose ito add one word to those arguments now, but I merely wish to say that, whilst I thoroughly sympathize with what the AttorneyGeneral has stated to be the main object of this Bill - the removal of the fettering conditions concerning metal contracts, which are a serious embarrassment to Australia - the Bill is dealing with matters which have not come under the consideration of the Attorney-General, and will carry mischievous effects in a number of directions which I believe were not contemplated. The responsibility rests with the Government. My duty, and the duty of every legal member, is, I believe, fully discharged when this aspect of the Bill is pointed out.
.- I want again to call the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to a few suggestions for his consideration that were made by myself and other members in the course of the debate on the second reading of the Bill. As the honorable member for Flinders has pointed out, the responsibility concerning those amendments rests with the Government, and though we are desirous of helping in every way, I can see that there may be difficulties of expression which at the moment it is not easy to get over. Members on this side desire to give every opportunity for the Bill to go through. I approve of the desire of the AttorneyGeneral to free some of those whose contracts are suspended, in order that by substituted contracts their operations may be extended. In sub-clause b of clause 3 an “enemy contract” is defined as a contract in which an enemy subject has an interest. Personally, I think that ought to be modified by inserting the word “controlling” or “substantial.” “ Controlling “ interest might, perhaps, be too restricted. I agree with the AttorneyGeneral that the mere fact of registration here or in England ought not to be sufficient to prevent action. What we want is to exclude the possibility of such companies being controlled from outside, but I think, as the sub-clause stands, it permits of a most infinitesimal interest held by an enemy subject being regarded as a condition that would enable the Attorney-General to declare such a contract to be an enemy contract.
– But the Attorney-General would have discretionary power before he took action, would he not?
– The discretion of the Attorney-General is judicial, and the Bill requires the person who exercises it to act if the facts indicate that he ought to act in a certain direction. The obligation to exercise his power is upon him by the words of the Act of Parliament if the facts are established.
– What would be the effect of the words “ controlling” or “ substantial “ interest? Take the last. What would be the judicial interpretation of the word “ substantial “ ?
– Being in general terms, it would be difficult to define, and to some extent it would rest with the AttorneyGeneral to say what a “ substantial “ interest woulcl mean. As the clause stands, there is no discretion at all. For instance, if a man, being an enemy subject, had only one share in a company of 100,000 shares, that would be sufficient to have a contract declared an enemy contract.
– I do not think that any Court would so interpret it. It would keep in view the object of the Bill.
– But if the AttorneyGeneral declared it to be an enemy contract, that would be the end of it, and the decision could not be challenged.
– But in sub-clause 2 it is provided that any party may file a copy of the contract, and apply to the Attorney-General .
– Assuming that it did come before the Attorney-General, he would decide the issue, his discretion thus being a judicial one. If one person, being an enemy subject, had only one share in a company of 100,000, the contract would have to be invalidated. That is not what we desire, I think, and I ask the Attorney-General if he will give further consideration to this clause.
– I shall be glad to do so. 1 agree with the honorable and learned gentleman, but I fail to see how the position could be made clearer by inserting either of the words he suggests. If the matter comes before the AttorneyGeneral, who is seised with what the Legislature means, he will take notice of the intention of Parliament. But if the case came before a Court, “substantial” might be held to mean, and- would likely be interpreted as meaning, a “ controlling” interest.
– What about sub-clause 4?
– I think the High Court ought to be substituted for the AttorneyGeneral, and should decide whether there was an interest within the meaning of the section.
– I see that point. The only question is that in avoiding Scylla we do not run into Charybdis. What words are we going to put in ?
– I quite agree with the Attorney-General, and for that reason I prefer to suggest words for his consideration, and, perhaps, before the Bill gets to the Senate, he may be able to consider the difficulties which may undoubtedly arise. I again ask whether it is not desirable to follow the precedent of the Patents Act, and allow an application for a licence to go before a Judge. The Patents Act provides that not only may a Judge grant a licence or revoke thepatent, but no application is to be heardwithout affording an opportunity to parties interested, other than the applicant, to be heard. That is a principle decided recently in a case before the English Court, and which applies during thewar.
– The honorable member means that in the case of contracts filed with the Attorney-General a notificationshall be served on the other party, and an opportunity given to him to appear.
– In many cases, the Crown will not be able to serve a notice on the other party because he is outside the jurisdiction; but there is a procedure under which the Crown can substitute notice on somebody else, or give public notice.
– You mean that theparties shall have the right to appear and be heard?
– Exactly. I also suggest whether it is not desirable to relieve the Attorney-General of a very great strain on his time by allowing the application for a licence to be made at once through a Judge, as is done under the Patents Act.
– All right.
– There is only one other matter I wish to mention, and that is in connexion with sub-clause 5. The honorable and learned member for Flinders pointed out that there is an action pending against a bank to recover £20,000. I have not seen the writ or read of the case. I am not quite sure that the provision does affect that action. I have seen an American decision which leads me to assume that such a contract as that would not be affected by a provision of that sort. I think that the Attorney-General threw doubt upon the opinion expressed by the honorable and learned member for Flinders.
– In my opinion, the relations are fiduciary, and the bank is, infact, a trustee for the depositor.
– That may be so; at the same time, it is our duty, if possible, to remove doubts if we agree on the policy.
I think that the honorable and learned member for Flinders only urged that doubts involving the moral right as well as the legal right to a sum of £20,000 ought not to be left open to the loose words of an Act of Parliament.
– I propose to insert in that provision some words which, I think, will cover that as well as all other rights.
– Very well.
– In my opinion, those rights are not affected.
– I do recognise the difficulty there is in drafting an amendment. Suppose, for instance, that we adopted the suggestion of preserving rights where an action has been taken. That would be rather unfair, because the mere fact of a man having commenced an action ought not to put him in a better position than a person who had an actual right of action before the Act was passed. Again, it would be difficult to draft a form of words to deal with a case where a right of action has accrued before the passing of the Act, or, if you like, before the war. There would be nothing executory about it; it would cover such a case as this.
– It must relate to acts done, not to rights.
– Therefore, we will not interfere with the principle of the Act if we make these amendments. I would not even adopt the words I last mentioned where a right has accrued. Take the case of a banker. Until a man actually demands the money, or sends in a cheque, the right has not accrued. Again, a right may accrue, and there may be no right of action, because there may be a Statute postponing the exercise of the right owing to no notice having been given. There are so many legal distinctions to be drawn that I only mention them now to help the draftsman in framing words that will cover the difficulty which is, I think, acknowledged on both sides of the House.
– Perhaps I had better indicate now the amendments I intend to propose. First, I move -
That the words “ in relation,” line 32, be left out, with the view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ such rights and obligations as relate.”
At the end of sub-clause 5 I propose to move the insertion of the following words - “ or such as arise out of such delivery or performance.”….. ^
These amendments will cover the points to which criticism has been directed. 1 am sorry that the honorable and learned member for Flinders should have taken exception to anything I said or did. He will permit me to assure him that I had no intention of being personally offensive. I admit, however, that I was annoyed, not at his criticism, but at his absence.
– I was unable to be present.
– The matter has now closed. I hope that the honorable gentleman will accept my assurance in regard to it. In regard to his fear, just reiterated by the honorable and learned member for Angas, that the Bill might cover the obligations and rights of banker and depositor, I have already said that, in my opinion, it does not do so. The relations between a banker and a depositor are fiduciary in their nature; the banker is, in fact, a trustee for the depositor, and, although the relations are in one sense of the word, no doubt, contractual, they are not contractual within the meaning of this section. However, whether they be so or not, the amendments I have outlined will remove all doubts on the matter. The effect of the amendments does not stop there, but extends to all things done under a contract. Where an act has been done - money paid or work done in part performance of a contract - the clause is not operative. So much for this point. I come now to another. I quite appreciate the criticism of the honorable and learned member for Angas inregard to the possible effect of paragraph; b of sub-clause 1 - “ Enemy contract “ means any contract in. which an enemy subject has an interest.
I admit that upon a strict interpretation of- the words a man who had a nominal interest, holding a share, as is. frequently the case, for the purpose ot, complying with the terms of the Companies Act, might cause a contract otherwise good to fall under the ban of this Act; but the Act is not intended to. have any such effect. But the difficulty of making this quite clear is obvious. I ask the Committee to consider the difficulty of finding words which will removethat ambiguity, and at the same time nofr go too far. The words “ controlling interest “ would clearly go too far. Thewords “substantial interest” might go- too far, as the meaning of “ substantial “ is a matter for argument. It would be quite within judicial discretion to say that “ substantial “ meant such an interest as moulded the destinies and directed the operations of the company and of the contract, and that anything less was not “ substantial.” It therefore follows that for all practical purposes “ controlling “ and “ substantial “ are for this purpose synonymous. Since there is no difference of opinion as to the object aimed at by honorable members and the Government in this matter, we may be able to frame an amendment which will meet their objections. I suggest, therefore, that the Committee accept the clause as it stands, and allow me to look carefully into the matter to see if it is possible to frame an amendment which will deal with the difficulties under paragraph b, and insert it either here at a later stage to-day, or in. another place.
– I appreciate the remarks of the Attorney-General with regard to my personal complaint, but assure him that it was not through any want of courtesy to him that I was not present. I was unavoidably absent during the remainder of the debate. I do not think the amendments as drawn will make very much difference, and would suggest that the AttorneyGeneral should consider some amendment that would protect rights already accrued under any such contract - rights, for instance, for which the consideration has already been’ given, or words to that effect. Thus it could be provided that where the consideration has passed on one side or the other, the corresponding obligation should be protected: but as the honorable gentleman has intimated that he proposes to go into the matter with some care, I shall not attempt to formulate at this stage or consider any amendments other than those he has already suggested.
.- I would submit to the Attorney-General a somewhat broad point as to the advisableness or otherwise of giving enemy contractors equal rights with our own people to have a contract declared null and void. I do not propose at this stage to argue the question, but will give an illustration. A company like the Australian Metal Company, which, I take it, would undoubtedly be deemed by any
Attorney-General to be an enemy contractor in regard to the base metal industries, carries on other occupations. That company might contract, as the Minister of Home Affairs will realize, to supply electrical appliances for a public Department or other civil use. The due performance of that contract, although no money passes until the contract is performed, is absolutely essential to the other party to the contract. It is absolutely necessary that all these materials should come forward as required or the money will be lost; but once the contractor was declared an enemy contractor, as I read the Bill, he could say, “ I have no obligation in this matter now, and if you want your transformers you will have to pay me the present price for them, which is a great deal more than the pre-war price.” This matter is quite outside the purpose of the Bill, but I do not think it is outside its scope; and ther Attorney-General might look into it to see how it would affect contracts for the supply of materials which originally came from Germany, but which now cost more here than they did before, and in regard to which, unless we have some provision to safeguard Australian rights, the Bill may possibly be used for the benefit of enemy contractors.
– I join in asking the Attorney-General to give the closest attention to the clause, because of its dangerous character. I sympathize with the object of this legislation, provided that it can be achieved with safety and without boomerang results. It is the annulment of contracts with or for the benefit of the enemy. I had not the opportunity to hear the honorable member for Angas; but, from my reading of the clause, it is obvious that it may operate in a manner never intended. Clearly, it may be used for the benefit as well as to the disadvantage of the enemy, and I am sure the Attorney-General would be sorry if he framed a clause which had that effect. An enemy subject may have a comparatively nominal interest in a particular contract. Some of the parties who are not enemy subjects may be desirous of maintaining it, others of defeating it. A scheme or device may readily be resorted to to enable the latter to do so, or, for that matter, for an enemy subject himself to get relief and to gain some benefit or advantage. Prima facie, therefore, an enemy subject can bring about an annulment which would be a distortion of the Bill for a wrongful purpose. The Attorney-General fully appreciates the difficulty as to what are “substantial” or “controlling” interests; but I would ask him to consider the possibility of inserting a provision to get the determination of the Court, instead of the AttorneyGeneral himself. Personally, I think resort should be made to the Court or to a Judge; but if the AttorneyGeneral thinks that would be too cumbersome, I would be willing to go even so far as to say that it should be placed in the discretion of the AttorneyGeneral himself to determine whether a substantial or controlling interest exists. This would have, at least, the advantage that the merits of the particular contract would be fully considered. I think, however, that an Attorney-General would be desirous of avoiding responsibility of that character, and I urge the honorable gentleman to consider the advisability of referring these matters to a Justice of the High Court or of a State Court. The proceeding could be a simple one, viz., an application to a Judge in chambers. The end in view might be secured in that way. There is another matter to which I direct his attention. I view clauses 3 and 4 from very different stand-points. The Committee is practically unanimous in the support given to clause 4, but clause 3, I think, should be put into a separate Bill, which should be reserved for the approval of the Imperial authorities. Clause 3 goes either too far or not far enough. It has been framed to protect Australian merchants from serious hardships, but many cases of serious hardship will occur against which it provides no protection. Sub-clause 5 of clause 3 makes enemy contracts null and void “ except in relation to goods which had already been delivered or acts which had already been performed.” The commercial contracts which I wish to bring under notice, and which, unless the clause be extended, will result in serious hardship to Australian merchants, are of this nature: Goods are frequently ordered to be delivered c.i.f. & e. at a German port. Sometimes they are paid for in cash on the spot; in other cases, they are paid cash in London; but, in probably the greatest number of cases they are paid for on the transmission of the ship’s papers - that is, the bill of lading, insur ance policy, and other papers - to an Australian bank or to the Australian agent of the German exporter. Delivery is nominally taken by the purchaser when the goods are put on board a steamer at, say, Hamburg, or any other German port, and their cash price then becomes payable. In many cases goods which have been purchased for Australia under contracts such as I have referred to are still in the holds of vessels in Hamburg or other German ports, or in the holds of vessels that have been interned since the outbreak of war at intermediate neutral ports. In many cases these goods have been of a perishable character, and become worthless, or have seriously depreciated in value, because of the detention. ‘ Nevertheless, the purchasers will be obliged to pay for them when the bills of lading are delivered.
– Does the honorable member say that the Bill will compel a person who has not received goods which he has ordered to pay for them ?
– Yes. The clause seems to me to cover both actual and constructive delivery. Although the goods will never be brought here, they are held to have been delivered to the purchaser, who, after the war, can be sued by the vendor.
– In whom was the property of the goods when they were placed on board ship, say, at Hamburg 1
– The contention is that in these cases it passed to the purchaser by delivery on board ship at Hamburg, or whatever the port of export might be. I approve of the object of the clause, but its provisions do not go far enough,, and do not cover a vast number of cases of the kind to which I have referred. The cases which I have mentioned are typical of transactions involving millionsof pounds. It seems to me that the clause should be made sufficiently comprehensiveto cover hardships of the character described. It must be borne in mind that in these cases there is no actual delivery - the purchaser has not received the goods that he has contracted for.
– In the mentioned., the seller has merely a right of action. The Bill does not interfere with rightsof action. It deals merely with contracts in regard to which consideration has passed. I think that constructive delivery would be held not to be within the- meaning of the words in clause 3, subclause 5, which the honorable member has quoted.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the Bill will grant relief in the cases to which I have referred ?
– It does not touch those cases.
– In my judgment, it gives no relief in those cases. I contend that, as it is proposed to give relief in certain cases, the clause should be made comprehensive enough to give relief in the cases that I have referred to.
– The honorable gentleman wishes to get the term “ delivery ‘ ‘ defined 1
– Yes. In some cases, the bills of lading and other papers are sent to a bank, but in others they are sent to a German agent in Australia. It is probable that, even in the latter case, the Australian purchaser may be sued for the price of the goods, and be obliged to pay after the war, although he has never received the goods, and in many cases been obliged to buy fresh goods to execute his own orders. The clause practically touches only the fringe of the matter. I wish to have it widened to cover the transactions to which I have ireferred. Australian purchasers are suffering great hardships because of a war which was brought about by Germany. If there is to be a sufferer, he should be the German consignor, not the innocent Australian consignee. What I propose would considerably extend the effect of the clause on contracts and contractual relationships, and I therefore suggest that these provisions should be placed in a separate Bill, which should be reserved for’ the King’s assent, with the sole object of consultation with the British Government. I think the scope of the clause would have, more or less, an international effect, and might therefore embarrass the Imperial authorities. I feel sure that the Attorney-General would be sorry if the Bill unduly embarrassed the Imperial authorities. It is true that millions of pounds are certainly involved in these enemy contracts, and the extension to which I have referred is worthy of consideration. After all, it is only an extension of the same principle already embodied in clause 3. However, it is not a matter that can be lightly undertaken. Its scope is so wide and so serious that I consider we should not pass legislation of the kind included in clause 3 until we have first consulted with the British Government, who, as a matter of fact, have already given a pronouncement on the subject. I give no consideration to the enemy or to enemy subjects. Their conduct of the war, and their barbarous violations of ordinary civilized rules of warfare, entitle them to no consideration. I am anxious, however, to see that the British Government are not embarrassed, because if in Australia we are breaking contracts, as we purport to do, because of the war, or if the attempt was made to break them in the Mother Country, it is possible that, with its greater sources of information, the British Government would know whether, in the long run, we might not be likely to be the greater sufferers from the transaction. If the Minister cannot see his way clear to embrace its provisions in a second Bill, and reserve it for the King’s assent, I suggest that he should make the clause a little clearer in order to achieve the meritorious object which he has in view. I again urge him. to consider what I am suggesting as to making the scope of the Bill greater in the direction that I have indicated.
– I do not admit that the objection of the honorable and learned member for Flinders in regard to the Bill and its effect upon the rights of depositors in banks is sound, but I quite admit that if the Bill does affect such rights, this was not the intention of the Government. I therefore propose to submit an amendment with the object of making the matter clear. I suggest the adoption of the following words : - “ or such as arise out of, or in consideration for such delivery or performance.” That will, I think, meet the objection of the honorable and learned member. Now, with regard to the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Kooyong. I must say, first of all, that I do not agree with him as to the expediency of reserving this Bill for the King’s assent, which suggestion was also made by the honorable member for Balaclava. The reservation of Bills for the King’s assent is very unusual. Reasons for so doing must be overwhelming. A Bill reserved for the King’s assent must relate to matters Imperial in their nature, which have regard to the general commercial or legislative relations inter se of the various parts of the Empire. The Commonwealth Parliament is clothed under a Constitution with certain powers, which we must very jealously guard, though we should be most careful in their exercise. We should not reserve measures for the King’s assent unless it be clearly shown that conditions exist which make the suspension of our legislative powers desirable. I cannot admit that such conditions exist at the present time. The honorable and learned member’s argument was hardly elaborate enough in this regard. He was satisfied to make the suggestion and leave it with the explanation that the Bill might embarrass the British. Government. I can hardly see how it can do so. The Bill does not propose to deal with relations, trade and otherwise, between Germany and Great Britain; it affects only the relations between Australia and Germany; and if w© are not competent to legislate in regard to this matter we ought not to be here at all. All that we have asked the British Government to do in this connexion is io pass complementary legislation in relation to, and only in relation to, Australian contracts for the supply or delivery of Australian goods.
I conic now to the argument of the honorable and learned member that the Bill in regard to clause 3 goes too far, or not far enough. I do not admit that it goes too far, and I have not been persuaded by the honorable gentleman that it does not go far enough. The honorable gentleman, in order to support his contention, mentioned the position of an Australian contractor where goods ordered by him had been placed c.i.f. on board a boat at Hamburg, but not delivered. He contended that there wa3 in that case constructive delivery to the Australian consignee. I do not admit it. I do not think that any lawyer would say that constructive delivery always follows the delivery of goods c.i.f. to a ship. The usual method by which international trading transactions are carried out is that the transaction is only complete, and the money due, upon either a bill or lading . or papers sent to the agents of the consignor or a bank, as the case may be. Further, I do not admit that “ delivery “ under the clause would include such constructive delivery. But supposing that there is constructive delivery in the manner indicated by the honorable gentleman, and that “ delivery “ under the Bill covers it, the position of the Australian contractor is not affected by the Bill. At any rate, the measure does not put him in a worse position. The honorable gentleman said it should put the Australian contractor in a better position. That is the point. Should it do so? The obvious conclusion that we are to draw from the remarks of the honorable gentleman is that in an action by the enemy at the conclusion of the war the Court would decide that the enemy had a good right of action in respect of goods delivered on a ship at Hamburg, but not delivered to the consignee; but I doubt very much whether any British Court would give such a decision at the conclusion of the war. It must be remembered that the Court must have regard to the circumstances, and though I do -not say that no such decision could be given, in all human probability no Court would decide that delivery c.i.f. at Hamburg was delivery to the Australian contractor in such a way as to give to the consignor a right of action against the consignee.
– If that is made clear in the Bill I am satisfied. I may say, however, that I do not agree with the honorable gentleman’s conclusions in law.
– All I can say is that that is the position as it appeals to me. I come now to the honorable gentleman’s criticism that since there is a doubt such contractors in any case should be put in the same category as Australian contractors generally who have contracts with the enemy; but this criticism arises out of a total misconception of the principle of the Bill. The honorable gentleman says that the principle is the same in both cases, but it is totally different. The Bill does not aim at taking from any enemy any right of action. It annuls the contract to which he is a party save always in respect of those things already done under it. It reserves to the parties their rights for acts done under the contract, whatever those acts were, and the Australian contractor and the enemy contractor are in that respect placed in the same position. Thus, if, at the conclusion of the war, the enemy contractor at Hamburg can prove that he has done all that he humanly could to carry out his contract, should the sword of Damocles contained in this Bill not fall in such a way or at such a time as to cut the contract by the sharp edge of the measure, lie will be entitled to recover for what he has already done. His rights are only affected in regard to things he has not done. What he has done is not affected by the Bill. The consignee and the consignor are placed on a perfect parity with contractors generally in regard to contracts falling under the scope of the Bill. In regard to paragraph b of sub-clause 1 of clause 3, the honorable gentleman suggested that one way out of the difficulty would be to leave the definition of “interest” to be “as determined by the Attorney-General.”
– Or “ the Court.” I prefer determination by the Court.
– The Court will determine in any case what the interest is. It might be a one-millionth part.
– What I said was “substantial or controlling.”
– If we put in those words we are limited in two ways; firstly, by the words themselves - they are words of limitation of some sort - and secondly, by the interpretation which the Court would put upon the Bill, having regard to its purpose and scope as deduced from the measure itself. I come now to the suggestion that the sub-clause as it stands is, possibly, too vague, that its scope is too wide, and that the question of interest should be narrowed and determined by previous reference to some person other than the Court. A contract would be brought before the Court, and the Court would ask itself whether the contract was one in which an enemy subject had an interest. It might be shown that a German held two shares, and the contention of the honorable member for Angas is that in the face of that fact the Court would have no option; that the sub-clause limits the discretion of the Court so that such a contract must be declared an enemy contract. As I understand the honorable member for Kooyong, his suggestion is that to a certain extent we might widen and sweeten this provision with the sweet grace of reason by saying that an enemy interest is one which has been so determined to be such by some defined authority.
No reasonable person would say that a firm with 100,000 shares, one of which was held by a German, was an enemy firm within the meaning of the Act. I say that no person of commonsense would say that, but the contention is that the Court would have no discretion, that it must declare such a firm to be an enemy firm.
– Under this provision the Attorney-General would not have any discretion either.
– The suggestion of the honorable member for Kooyong was that if the interest were determined by the Attorn ey- General-
– Having added the word “ substantial “ or “ controlling.”
– I maintain that once we insert words of limitation we limit the discretion of everybody. The authority would then be limited by the words. In the Bill there is no limitation. The AttorneyGeneral would say, “ This Bill is for the purpose of stamping out, not a firm which has a one-millionth part of enemy blood in it, but one which is for every real and practical purpose an enemy firm.”
– I understand that the point taken by the honorable member for Angas is that, as the clause reads now, the Attorney-General is obliged to rule a contract to be an enemy contract even if there is only £1 worth of enemy interest in it.
– We are beset with difficulties. If we attempt to define enemy interests with words we limit the scope of the measure, and we do not desire to limit it in such a way as to reduce the whole thing to a nullity. At the same time, we are faced with the fact that the sub-clause as at present framed might be held to annul every contract with a firm, in which one share was held by an enemy subject. I- confess that that is not desirable, and I ask the Committee to assist the Government in making suggestions that will get over this difficulty. The words “ substantial “ and “ controlling ‘”’ are too narrow; “ interest” as it stands now is too wide. The suggestion is that it should be referred to some person to say what the interest is, and then the Court will understand where it is. I will leave the matter to the
Committee., and either during the discussion of the measure or later I shall he pleased to receive suggestions in regard to this point.
– I regret that I was not present last week to take note of the very interesting discussion that took place. I wish to make my position on this matter very clear, and it is this : Whilst we on this side of the House offer criticism, I hope the Attorney-General will understand that such criticism is entirely of a constructive character, and is offered with the one object of carrying out the honorable member’s fundamental point of view, as expressed in the Bill. I am in total agreement with the sentiments uttered by the honorable member for Kooyong, that we have no sort of consideration, and should have none, so far as the German element is concerned in connexion with these contracts. Our primary object is to eliminate from them, as far as possible, all German controlling influence, so far as it may be injurious to us and of assistance to the enemy. Those are the considerations governing all our criticism, and governing the Bill itself. The object of the Bill is to do us some good, and, if possible, the enemy some harm. That is the aim with which we set out, and to accomplish which my honorable friend has framed this Bill.
– If the right honorable member means by “ harm “ not only commercial harm, and by “ good “ not only commercial good, I am quite agreeable.
– I mean harm in its widest sense. We are fighting the Germans, and I have not the slightest objection to fighting them in this, as well as in any other way. But what we are anxious to do is to take care that, while aiming a blow at the enemy, we are not throwing a boomerang, which will return and hit us worse. That is the whole point of the criticism that has been addressed to the Bill from this side of the House. The Attorney-General will admit that the circumstances are extraordinary, and that the Bill is of a most extraordinary character. I dare say this is the first time in the history of the world when such a Bill has been passed in any legislative assembly. I am not sure that this is not the first time in the history of the civilized world that powers of this kind have been given into the hands of an Attorney-General under a system of responsible government.
– That should not be surprising, under the circumstances.
– I am not expressing surprise. I am saying that the only thing that would surprise me would be to find that anything of the kind had ever been done before - for the simple reason that I doubt that there were ever circumstances similar to those in which we find ourselves to-day.
Our position is that the bulk of our base metals is taken charge of by a country with which we are at war.
– We want to protect ourselves even when we are not at war.
– When we were not at war, we could not blame the Germans for what has been done. The fact remains that, owing to our own lack of initiative, and perhaps of science and organization - I do not quite know how to put it - at any rate, owing to the circumstance that we have not done this thing, and the German has done it, we derived a good deal of benefit from what he has been able to do in times of peace.
– We would have derived a great deal more benefit if the work had been done by our own workmen.
– I am not denying that. But why has the work not been done by our own workmen? That question leads into an inquiry that does not boot anything in connexion with this Bill. The reason why we have not done it is that we do not organize our industries or occupations as the Germans do. It is obvious now that the reason, for instance, why they obtained the control of the aniline dye industry was the lack of business organization on* the part of those who originally discovered and owned those dyes. It is well known that in Germany the bankers are more generous in regard to financing these enterprises than are our own people. I am not sure that the word “ generous “ should be used. What I mean is this: If in Germany you can show a bank a business proposition, the bank will finance you on condition that it secures a monopoly of your banking business. In that, and in many other ways, the Germans have been able to get hold of many of our own discoveries, and by their better business organization, have taken away many industries that properly should have belonged to us. That fact is awkward in time of war, and it is equally awkward in time of peace, since it helps to build up the enemy’s resources for war time; and if we can in any legitimate and proper way, without hurting ourselves, strike a blow at the enemy through the medium of trade, we are entitled to do it just as much as in any other direction. I, for one, will welcome any proposal that will do the enemy injury, and at the same time do us little harm.
But in those words I am only stating the problem of this Bill and the difficulty in framing such a proposal. Once again the AttorneyGeneral has made himself the “ Pooh Bah “ of the whole proposition. What this little man is going to do with all the staggering load of responsibility on his shoulders this deponent knoweth not. He is to decide everything about our patents; he is to decide everything about the whole of our commercial transactions; and the whole of our trade, worth hundreds of millions of pounds annually.
– I am perfectly willing that the sub-clause should be struck out so that the matter is taken straight before the Court.
– I cannot but think that if some summary method, some method that was prompt and quick, were to be applied, this responsibility would be infinitely better off the honorable member’s shoulders.
– You make a practical suggestion !
– Surely the honorable member and his expert advisers can frame the suggestion into words.
– After careful consideration, the proposal contained in the Bill appeared the best to the mind of the Government. But it would be a good thing if the honorable member could give us a better suggestion.
– The honorable member has framed the simplest method, I have no doubt; but I marvel at the readiness with which my honorable friend takes the whole burden of the world on his shoulders. I suggest the making of some sort of facile Court to which these matters can go without trouble.
– The day when such a thing can be done will be the day when we can put on our haloes and wing our way hence.
– If we make the procedure a summary one in chambers, there will not be much delay about it.
– I was about to ask if there is not such a person as a Judge in chambers who could determine these matters. I do not see why they should not be dealt with summarily by that means, especially as it is pointed out that that course is adopted in connexion with the Patents Act.
– It is done under the Act of 1909.
– The matter under discussion is of infinitely greater importance than any under the Patents Act, and, therefore, requires the greatest possible care. As the Bill stands, the parties have to go to the AttorneyGeneral, and he has to declare what is an enemy contract and what is not. Then, in clause 3, the Attorney-General ties his own hands by determining beforehand what his action is to be. As I read the clause, it simply means that the AttorneyGeneral ties his hands when, later on, he comes to determine what an enemy contract is.
– The honorable gentleman has already said that an enemy contract is one in which an enemy has any interest, even if only to the extent of 5s.
– Therefore, if an enemy subject has an interest, even to that small extent, the Attorney-General is bound to declare that there is an enemy contract.
– I say that that is undesirable, and I am trying to find some means of doing away with that provision.
– I am sure of that. It does not appear to me that it would be supremely difficult to say what and where the malign influence is which vitiates these contracts from our point of view. The more I look at the measure, the more it seems to me that we need not trouble ourselves so much about the gold we have of the enemy, so long as we can control it, and use it to our advantage, and not to his. I should think that the complaint ought to lie with the enemy. What we require, if possible, is some words which will give us the control and direction of this money, whether it be German, Austrian, or any other. To me it seems that one sovereign is as good as another, so long as we can control it, and take care that it does not control us.
– I do not agree with that.
– I am sure that the honorable gentleman, to-morrow, would like nothing better than to have control of German money to do as he liked with it. What does it matter how much money is in these enemy companies if we can control it?
– Because the profit earned by the money will go pro raid to Germany.
– That, of course, is the whole question. Do we get more benefit out of it than does the enemy ? Are we injuring him and benefiting ourselves ?
– If 20 per cent, of a company’s shares are held in Germany, then, at the end of the war, Germany will get 20 per cent, of the company’s profit, whatever it is, and it is our business to see that Germany does not get any profit. The only way is to stop the enemy having any benefit from trading under any contract. The method proposed is the only one, unless we. take their money, and we do not propose to do that.
– If we make 7 or 8 per cent, out of their money, and afterwards give the enemy subjects 4 or 5 per cent., who is the gainer when the war is over?
– Then they are helped to the extent of 4 or 5 per cent. The profit comes from the enterprise of Australian people, and we shall actually have been working to build up a great fund for Germany at the end of the war.
– Yes, I see that, but also a much greater one of our own. May I remind the honorable gentleman that the people in a company, if they are our own people and have control of the company, will be able to say whether it pays them better than to have the matter arranged otherwise. The great point, it seems to me, is to have full control of the company. However, I have only to express the hope that the Attorney-General will find some words to provide that his hands are not tied, for otherwise I can conceive that, in trying to hit Germany to a small extent, he may be hitting Australia a smashing blow in the face. We can, I think, injure the enemy without injuring ourselves. I should not mind if we injured ourselves a little, but I do not see why we should punish, ourselves more severely than we punish the enemy - that is what I am anxious to guard against.
As to the advisability of reserving this measure for the Royal assent, the more I think the matter over, the more I am of opinion that the Imperial Government would not care to see that step taken.
– It is our own business.
– It may be the business of the Imperial Government too; and we must remember that the ground is not cleared any more for them than it is for us. I am not quite certain that the Imperial Government would care to have the responsibility thrust on them in a matter like this, as to which there is so much unexplored land, legally and otherwise. I think that, perhaps, they would rather leave us, in our own comparatively little way, to “flap our wings” to our heart’s content, while they looked after Imperial interests, which are of such magnitude and overpowering importance. Australia has been called the experimenting ground of nations : and we, perhaps, may do here things that cannot be done in the older countries. I can well understand Great Britain hardly caring to venture into this field. National investments abroad are stupendous - those of Germany, we are told by the statists, being about £ . 1,000,000,000 ; while Great Britain has £4,000,000,000 similarly invested. So we come back to the question which should govern all this legislation - are we hitting the enemy in reality and substantially, or are we hitting ourselves more than we hit the enemy? With all these overpowering interests of the Old Country - with so much at stake - the Imperial Government may well pause before entering into a field, into which we, perhaps, may rush, feeling ourselves confident and safe. I rather think that, in the circumstances, the Imperial Government would prefer that we went “ on our own “ in this matter, for the reason that we do so with a consciousness of limitations of our own. The Imperial Government will, however, not be so powerless, after all, to control matters, even if we do not ask for the Bill to be reserved. Section 75 of the Constitution provides that His Majesty may disallow any law within one year from the Governor-General’s assent.
– That applies to all legislation, and not specially to this.
– Quite so.
– Is the honorable member inviting the British Government to disallow this Bill?
– Quite the contrary. In view of the section I have just referred to, if the Imperial Government regard the Bill as impinging on Imperial interests, the remedy has already been provided for them in our Constitution. I take it that nobody in the Chamber would desire that this legislation should remain if it were injuring the international relations of the Imperial Government. We are with the Old Country, and we are one in the last analysis, in all matters pertaining to the efficient prosecution of the war, not merely in the field, but in all trade and other relations in which it is being fought so bitterly. It seems to me, therefore, that the Imperial Government have already got a little “ pull “ of their own in our self-imposed limitation in the Constitution; and, therefore, I am not so much concerned about reserving the Bill.
The point raised by the honorable member for Kooyong is a very pertinent and rather a serious one. If it be a fact that goods are constructively delivered when they have been put on the ship, and the papers have been sent along, it seems to me that we require something more than constructive delivery under this Bill. Constructive delivery may be all very well in peace time, when it is practically certain that the goods will follow in due course; but we can be sure of nothing of the kind in war time.
– The goods are insured, and if they do not arrive, the proceeds of the policy are available ; but that is not so now.
– Does the honorable member wish this Parliament to take the risk ?
– If it is intended torelieve any hardship, yes.
– Does the honorable member for South Sydney desire our own traders to suffer?
– Certainly not.
– Sometimes, in carrying out a great reform, somebody has to suffer.
– If so, there is no escape. The great object in the Bill is to hurt the enemy, as far as possible, without hurting ourselves ; and that is the consideration which all my colleagues and myself have been urging.
– The Attorney-General has promised to frame a clause to suit the Opposition.
– Not in connexion with the matter of constructive delivery. It is our duty, as an Opposition, to criticise all these Avar Bills, so long as the criticism is fair - so long as it is not captious, and does not seek to take any advantage of the object the AttorneyGeneral has to carry out. What we are trying to eliminate from our industrial concerns is the control which Germany has hitherto been able to exercise; and our desire is that, as far as possible, there shall be British capital in British industries, so that we may be self-reliant. That, however, , does not relieve us from the obligation to criticise the Bill, which, by reason of some of its clauses and terminology, may hurt us unnecessarily in our effort to attain the object we have in view. The Attorney-General has promised to make one or two amendments which we on this side of the House gladly welcome, but it must be remembered, both in this and other legislation, that the Government is responsible. We do not take the responsibility of objecting to clauses even if we think they may be wrong. Our duty is to point out where we think they are wrong. Having done that our duty ceases. I can only say, therefore, in conclusion, that I hope the AttorneyGeneral will succeed in his endeavour to prevent enemy trading, to release our men from the toils of those who are seeking to destroy us, and to turn into more appropriate channels the stream of capital which is necessary to fertilize all our industries. If he does that, all concerned will be satisfied. Our duty ends when we draw attention to what we consider the defects in the Bill which the AttorneyGeneral has brought forward.
– I do not wish to delay the passage of this Bill, but I hope that the AttorneyGeneral, in acceding to the wishes of those members of the Opposition who desire to see some of the provisions of the Bill made more elastic, will not rob it of much of its virtue. As I understand it, one of the principal reasons for bringing this Bill forward at all is that a large number of our own companies interested in the metal industry of Australia are desirous of freeing themselves from German contracts and German control. That being so, if we adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Kooyong, that there should be Court proceedings in order to define the position of the various parties-
– Summary Court proceedings.
– It will mean that the provisions of this Bill are not going to be as effective as the majority of honorable members desire. We have seen how in other matters proceedings have been taken from one Court to another, and in the cases covered by this Bill, if such a course were adopted, it might mean that the war would be over before some final decision had been arrived at. I think the Attorney-General was very wise in making sub-clause 6 what I might describe as of a “ tying-up character,” m so far that it refers to an enemy who may only have an interest. It is a wellknown fact that, if when the war is over goods can be obtained from an enemy country at even a 5 per cent, reduction on the prices current in the British market, or an Allies market, some of our Australian citizens will trade with the enemy. I believe that is so, but surely the Leader of the Opposition would not care for us to revert to a position of that kind after the war. I know that the honorable member, and other honorable members, look at measures of this kind as harassing, and as likely to hinder the international trade that prevailed prior to the war.
– I always try to look at our own interests.
– I hope the honorable member will continue to do that. At all events I give him credit for doing so. But I would point out that the military side of the war, awful as it is, is only one side of the conflict that is now going on, and, sooner or later, it will come to a close. But while the actual fighting may only last for a limited period, the economical, or industrial, or commercial war will go on for all time. Our object in this Bill is to try to maintain the trade that justly belongs to our own Australian people. We have only to study the various share markets to see that what may be a British company to-day maybe a German company to-morrow. Shares may be bought in the open market on the British Stock Exchange and on the local exchanges by the purchaser who is prepared to pay the highest price, irrespective of his nationality, so that in a very limited period a British company may become subject to the control and influence of an enemy country. It is only necessary to study the information printed in the local papers to realize that there are now great movements on the part of various financial groups for the purpose of laying hold of the metal markets of the world. The Morgan financial group in America is to-day purchasing up all the small arms and other arms jn the United States of America, ostensibly for the purpose of supplying the Allies with rifles and other apparatus of war. That may be quite right, but it is possible to conceive that these strong financial groups may eventually control the output to such an extent that the time may come when they may be in a position to act very detrimentally to our own Empire. So that these organizations need to be watched. I have read the speeches made at the meetings of various public companies asking shareholders to authorize the issue of certain debentures so as to raise sufficient capital to permit of various amalgamations, with the object of dealing more thoroughly with the base metals taken from our Australian mines. And, while I admire all this from a patriotic point of view, yet we never know that even some of our own people, whom we thought to be so exceptionally patriotic, may not be prepared to engage in trade with the enemy, or with those who would do us harm. Only this morning the cable flashed over the information that, even in that wonderful country of Germany, a German senator has been arraigned before the Courts, or before the Kaiser, I do not know which, for taking part in certain transactions that were supposed to be beneficial to the British Government. If in such a well-organized country as Germany men are prepared to take such risks, I think we may find persons here in Australia, and in other parts of the British Dominions, prepared to take similar risks in order to make money. And I say we ought to be very careful of these gentlemen. I do not wish to cast any aspersions upon anybody, but if we follow the ramifications of our share market, the operations of the financial rings, and the great commercial reformations that are taking place, we may imagine that results may occur more to the disadvantage of Australia than were the conditions existing before the war. It is proposed, in some cases, to remove the treatment of our own Australian metals, probably to the United States. I have no complaint to make of that.
– You will have to be very careful of a good many things. You are building up on that side just now more monopolies than you will ever break down. Do not make any mistake about that.
– All I can say is, that if a measure of this kind is going to result in Australians controlling their own industries, and particularly the metal industry, God speed to it. I do not wish to say anything harsh about anybody, but we have to be very careful.
Take the case of copper, which is playing such an important part in the war. Copper is one of the great needs of Germany today. We have made copper a contraband of war, and are trying to prevent it from reaching Germany, because we believe that, if she is deprived of copper, her manufacture of munitions may decrease to such an extent that it may influence the conclusion of the war. But I have here a letter dealing with the situation in copper. I am sorry I cannot disclose the name of the writer, for the reason, as is well known, that persons who have dealings with those who control copper have to be exceptionally careful as to what they write. All I can say is that it comes from an authority who is second to none in Australia, and from a firm using considerable quantities of this material. This is what the letter states -
The firm of Aaron Hirsch and Sohn, to a large extent, control the Australian metal output. The anomalous position is that copper produced in Australia can be purchased for local consumption only through Germany, and paid for according to the price quoted on the New York market. Anything that can be done to throw, off the German grip on the metal industry, and to foster the treatment of our own ores in our own country, will meet a very hearty support ‘from all true Australians.
That comes from a thoroughly reliable quarter. Even in connexion with the manufacture of our own ammunition here in Australia - I do not know whether it is the case just now, but prior to the war we were absolutely dependent upon German sources for our supplies of copper. This is a position that we, as an Australian Parliament, should not tolerate for a moment longer than we can possibly help. We produce far more copper than Germany produces, but, notwithstanding the fact that Germany only produces 30,000 tons per annum, her trade organization is such that she, in normal times, treats in Germany over 300,000 tons of copper every year. These figures show how much Germany is dependent upon outside countries for her raw material, and how she has been building up her industries at the expense of Australia and other countries. The honorable member for Kooyong mentioned that millions of pounds worth of goods were involved. I am going to take his figures, but I do not know that any measure was ever passed by this Parliament that did not, to some extent, inflict hardship upon some section of the community. In this case we are dealing with legislation of an exceptional character to meet exceptional circumstances, and of necessity there must be some injury done to somebody; but in order to minimize the injury to these few people, we ought not to open the gates so wide that others may come in and operate as they did in the past. I shall not attempt to follow the legal members who have already spoken on the subtleties of the legal situation, which, as laymen, we do not always understand ; but, as a layman trying to bring common sense to bear upon this subject, I have mentioned how the situation appears to me. This legislation should be framed, not only to secure those people who wish to free themselves from German control in regard to the contracts that are already in existence ; but, in my opinion, it should go further. I would almost advocate that the Government should have a controlling influence in future contracts relating to locally produced metals. I understand that the State Parliaments are to pass complementary legislation, and, that being so, we should give them a good lead. A State Legislature, in considering such legislation, may be of the opinion that we have not gone far enough, and the provisions of the measures it passes may be much more drastic than ours. One question which will probably be asked in every State Parliament in the discussion of such legislation will be why they should depart from the text of the measure passed by the Federal Parliament. In the circumstances, I hope that the Attorney-General will make as few alterations in this measure as possible, and that, while he will, as far as practicable, conserve the interests of those who have goods in German bottoms located in German harbors, or interned in neutral ports, he will, at the same time, in view of the importance of the wider question, be careful to conserve to the very utmost Australian interests, particularly in the metal industry. I do not think that this will be the last measure introduced here to deal with this question. I hope that it will not, and that, later on, we shall be in a position to pass legislation which will bring all these contracts under the absolute control of this National Parliament.
– I do not propose emphasizing any further the boomerang character of clause 3, but I do once more say that I believe it is more serious than the AttorneyGeneral thinks it is. Relying upon the consideration which the Attorney-General has promised to give to the matter, I shall not further discuss the hardships in connexion with the commercial contracts, to which I have already referred, but I ask the honorable gentleman to make it perfectly clear that the Bill will cover contracts of the kind. I have told the honorable gentleman frankly that I do not concur in his opinion that the measure, as it stands, will cover those contracts. When I suggested that clause 3 should be embodied in a separate measure to be referred to the Imperial Government, all I desired to convey by the suggestion was consultation with the Imperial Government. So far as we have had an opportunity to learn the views of the Imperial Government, they appear to be against this particular class of legislation. If the Attorney-General gives me the assurance that the terms of this Bill have been communicated to the Imperial Government-
– They have.
– And that no objection has been raised by them to the measure, I have nothing further to say in that connexion. My anxiety is not as to compliance with the formality of a reference of the measure to the Imperial Government, but that they should be in consultation and agreement with us upon its provisions, in order that, in view of the international character of the questions involved, the Imperial authorities should not, because of this legislation, be embarrassed upon any occasion. If I can* secure from the Attorney-General an assurance in that regard, I shall withdraw the objection I previously urged. As to the reference to the power of the Imperial Government under section 75 of our Constitution to disallow this or any other measure passed by this Parliament, I think that they would be loath to exercise such a power, and it would be placing them in a wrong position to expect them to exercise it. In sub-clauses 2, 3, and 4 of clause 3 a certain procedure is provided for. Then, in sub-clause 5 there seems to me to be a substantive declaration that certain contracts shall be void, or may be set aside. I point out that sub-clause 2 says that an enemy contract may be submitted by one of the parties to the Attorney-General, who may thereupon declare that it is an enemy contract, and after that declaration has been published in the Gazette, it is deemed to be an enemy contract. I wish to know whether we are to understand that this is to be a condition precedent to an enemy contract being declared void in the terms of clause 5 1
– No. It is for greater certitude, and the convenience of parties; otherwise, I take it that the Bill operates ipso facto.
– Then I point out to my honorable friend that it may involve a conflict between authorities: - the Attorney-General on .one side and the Court on the other. If a contract is £o be deemed an enemy contract upon the publication in the Gazette of a declaration that it is an enemy contract, I apprehend that that will be a final decision.
– That is so.
– Then the AttorneyGeneral really does propose to constitute himself a judge as to whether a contract is or is not an enemy contract ?
– In regard to those filed.
– I think that to provide for a difference of procedure is undesirable.
– There is no difference of procedure. There is a course of procedure for those who care to take the action provided for in sub-clause 2, but in other cases, where no such action is taken, the contracts will be annulled without that procedure. .
– As regards cases where no such action is taken before the Attorney-General, it seems to me that, before there is any certainty as to the validity or otherwise of an enemy contract it would in many cases be necessary to go to a Court. I think it would be more desirable to adopt either one course or the other. My own view is that the question should not be the subject of lengthy legal proceedings, but itshould be within the power of any party to a contract to go to a Judge of a Supreme Court in chambers, and, in a summary way, by very simple procedure, obtain a declaration from the Court as to whether a contract is or is not an enemy contract. That would relieve the Attorney-General very considerably. If the honorable gentleman is not disposed to accept that suggestion, then I prefer that he should have discretion in accordance with the terms of sub-clauses 2 and 3 of clause 3 in regard to all contracts - that all such contracts should be referred to him, and he should exercise his discretion in giving a decision upon them. In order to effect one of the conditions in connexion with sub-clause 1 of clause 3, the honorable gentleman should be clothed with that discretion to enable him to say whether a contract is an enemy contract within the meaning of that subclause. It is strongly contended that there is no discretion resting in the AttorneyGeneral at all, and that, no matter how infinitesimal the interest of an enemy subject in a contract may be, he will be able to declare the contract an enemy contract. If the honorable gentleman enlarges -his powers of discretion to declare whether a contract comes within sub-clause 1 of clause 3, then to some extent the difficulty to which I have referred will be overcome. I should very much prefer, however, to see the matter referred to a Judge of the Supreme Court.
– A Justice of the High Court in chambers.
– To a Justice of the High Court, or of a Supreme Court, by a simple summary procedure in chambers for a declaration as to whether a contract is or is not an enemy contract.
– That would allow persons appearing for both sides to argue the case.
– I think that would be a very fair thing.
– That might involve protracted proceedings.
– My friend, the honorable member for Angas, reminds me that that is provided for in the Patents Act we have passed. We might provide specifically for a summary procedure in Chambers, and it would then be within the power of the Judge to say whether he would permit any one to be heard upon an application of the kind.
– This matter concerns a very large number of persons very intimately. ‘ Not only certitude but expedition is necessary. Is the honorable gentleman not.overlooking the fact that in the one case we have certitude and expedition assured, whereas if the matter is left for the decision of a Court it is probable that the proceedings may be much more prolonged ?
– It is for my honorable friend to decide in this matter. I say that I prefer that the matter should be decided by a Court or a Judge, but if he is against that view, I desire that the discretion shall be vested in the AttorneyGeneral, and I should like to have words inserted in the clause making it clear that it is within his discretion to decide whether or not a contract is an enemy contract within the meaning of sub-clause 1 of clause 3.
– I should like to hear some representations by the commercial community, or some representative of it, as to which proposal the commercial community would prefer. It would be very much better for my Department that such matters should be decided by some other authority. The question is what will be the best for the commercial community.
– I agree with my honorable friend. I suggest one course of procedure rather than two, as the Bill provides for at present, and in the event of the honorable gentleman rejecting the suggestion that the matter should be left to a Judge in Chambers, I further suggest that every enemy contract, and not only some, should be submitted to the Attorney-General for a declaration as to whether it is an enemy contract or not. Some of these cases will involve so much that it is necessary they should have full consideration and a representation of the interests on each side, and that is the reason why I think it would be better that the decision should be left to a Judge in Chambers. I may say that even if the matter is referred to the Attorney-General he will probably say, “ I should like to hear the parties.”
– I quite see the position, and the objections that lie to the Bill as it stands. There would have to be a bearing or an opportunity for a hearing. I say frankly that it would be very much better for my Department if a Judge in Chambers were to hear these cases. The only point is : Would that be the best course to adopt in the interests of the commercial community ?
– I think it would. I think it would be fairer to both parties. We have established recognised judicial tribunals to whom we are accustomed to refer the settlement of conflicting interests. There would be less room for party influences in a decision by a judicial tribunal than there would be in a determination by the Attorney-General.
– Would the honorable member allow sub-clause 1 of clause 2 to stand?
– I have already emphasized the view which I hold on subclause 1. I have said that the clause is of a boomerang character, and that it is too comprehensive. I hold that a fuller discretion should be given to a Judge, so that no infinitesimal interest in a contract should enable the parties to it to determine it. I think that a clause might very fairly be framed which would give full discretion to a Judge in the matter of safeguarding the public interests, having regard to the spirit of the measure.
.- I have taken a good deal of interest in this Bill, and it seems to me that an attempt is being made to defeat the intentions of the AttorneyGeneral, whose action will be applauded by the whole country. This clause plainly provides that a contract in which an enemy subject is interested shall be rendered null and void. Until this measure was brought forward, our people had no idea that the base metal trade of Australia was in the hands of Germans. We cannot send copper or spelter from the Commonwealth unless we send it through a German firm. As a matter of fact, we have no control whatever over our base metal trade. If the war has done us no other good service, it has exposed this deplorable position. We ought to seize the present opportunity to conserve that trade for the benefit of Australia. Some honorable members opposite have urged that the Bill should be divided into two parts, so that one portion of it might be reserved for the Royal assent. In replying to a question by the honorable member for Barrier, the Attorney-General brought under our notice the position of the Commonwealth in regard to .the Broken Hill and other mines, from which we are obtaining the metals referred to. In this connexion, perhaps, it would not be out of place if I quoted a cable published in the Argus in December last, and which reads -
Considerable interest is being taken in the statement made by the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral (Mr. W. M. Hughes) in the House of Representatives on Thursday in regard to the German monopoly of the base metal industry.
The Financial News, commenting on Mr. Hughes’ announcement, states : - “ The Imperial Government should take the lead. Unless something is done soon the exchanges between Great Britain and Australia will be seriously affected, because if Australian merchants are unable to export metals, and they are similarly, placed in regard to wool and other products, the financial position will become unsound.
In reply to the statements of the honorable member for Balaclava, I desire to point out that there is in our midst an Australian stevedoring company with a capital of £3,000 in shares of £10 each. Only one share in that company is held by a person in Australia, and not a solitary share is held by a British subject. Prior to the outbreak of war that company was doing a very large trade in Sydney. I have in my mind a couple of other companies similarly situated; but I do not know the exact amount of German capital that has been invested in them. Honorable members opposite who are so anxious that the Royal assent should be withheld from clause 3 of this Bill, evidently forget that they are living in a self-governing Dominion. I do not believe that the British Government will intervene in this matter, which is one that concerns only Australian trade with the outer world. I ask the AttorneyGeneral to stand by the Bill in the form in which it has been introduced, because I believe that it will give effect to the intention of the Australian people. I know that honorable members opposite have not the courage to vote against it, or against any portion of it.
– Do not talk such silly nonsense. Who suggested such a thing ?
– If honorable members opposite have no intention of voting against the Bill, why all this opposition?
– There is no opposition.
– If honorable members opposite are not opposing the measure, what are they doing ? Did not the honorable member for Balaclava oppose it?
– Why is the honorable member ‘ ‘ stone-walling ‘ ‘ the Bill ?
– I could not understand the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. He reminded me very forcibly of my old friend, Sir George Reid. He wanted to play a “yes-no” part. He said that the measure would seriously affect somebody. I hope that it will seriously affect German interests in our midst. I trust that every contract in which an enemy subject has an interest, and which was made prior to the war, will be broken. The Financial News, in speaking of German contracts, says -
The Germans believe that in the interpretation of contracts the period of suspense will be added to the contract upon the termination of the war.
Is not that a beautiful suggestion? Can we make the provisions of the Bill too drastic to prevent such a state of things coming into existence?
– We have not discussed the clause dealing with that matter yet.
– But honorable members opposite have suggested the advisableness of clause 3 being withheld for the Royal assent. The Financial Nevis proceeds -
This would be intolerable, as British capital would be prevented from treating concentrates during the war, yet would be compelled to hand over the business to the Germans afterwards.
If the Victoria Cross could be bestowed upon any of our public men there is no man in Australia who would get it sooner than would the Attorney-General.
– Hear, hear! We will give him the Iron Cross.
– The honorable member is ko much a German that he can think of nothing else. The whole discussion of the Bill by honorable members opposite has been in defence of Germany. Every speech which they have ‘delivered has been aimed at the prevention of interference with German interests. What else have they been arguing about? They have not attempted to protect the rights of our own race. Not one of them has expressed a wish to uphold Australian interests under this Bill. They have merely endeavoured to conserve German interests.
– The honorable member is a silly old man, and he does not know it.
– I call upon the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it.
– The Financial News continues^
The smelting industry in America belongs to the Germans, so it would be playing into the hands of the enemy if the Broken Hill directors made a new contract with an American company.
That is the difficulty. The same journal continues -
The Imperial Government should determine the contract with the Germans, and close the English Courts against them.
When we propose to do something of this sort, the gentlemen sitting opposite appear to be ready to defend the German interests.
– You must be absolutely bankrupt in argument to say that.
– I regret having to make the statement, but I feel I must express my views on this subject. The general public can hardly be expected to know what is the real position, and that, prior to the war, so many large concerns were almost entirely controlled in the interests of Germany. This fact cannot be disputed, though the ordinary man in the street does not know anything about it.
– Will you be good enough to explain clause 3 ?
– The action of honorable members on the other side of the House over this matter is quite wrong. Anybody who puts an obstacle in the way of the passage of this Bill is not acting in the best interests of Australia. We should endeavour, as far as possible, to indorse the Government proposals.
– But you have not explained clause 3 yet.
– I am in favour of clause 3. It provides that any one with an interest in an Australian mine or an Australian contract-
– It says nothing of the kind. Can you tell us where those words occur!
-The honorable member does not understand the clause, and he is trying to make us believe that it means something else. Now, referring to the liability of shipping, the honorable member knows very well that, when indenting goods, the contract provides for insurance against all the disabilities referred to.
– The honorable member is absolutely wrong. To cover those risks you would have to pay an extra tax in war time.
– I hope the Bill will pass in the form in which it was introduced, as I believe that would be in accordance with the wishes of the Australian people.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.- This Bill dealing with the interests of Australian industries is one with which I am in hearty accord. I believe it is the duty of Parliament in this time of war to protect Australian industries and to allow no contract between the enemy and Australia to interfere with the development of those industries. I quite understand the difficulty in dealing with not only contracts made with the enemy, but subordinate contracts to enable residents In Australia to carry out agreements one with another. It is very desirablethat a very wide discretion should be given In order to differentiate between certain classes of contracts. I believe that Parliament is not desirous of taking advantage of the present situation to annul contracts so that we may profit thereby, but is anxious to protect the industries of Australia. The principle of this measure is a sound one, but the Attorney-General ought to make its terms wide enough to cover the multitudinous class of contracts which will necessarily come under his purview, and on which he will have to give a decision. It would have been better if this legislation had been brought as far as possible into harmony with Imperial legislation. Perhaps the AttorneyGeneral may be able to inform the Committee, before the clause is dealt with, whether he has received any further communication from the Imperial Government, and, if so, whether an opinion has been expressed on the text of the measure as cabled to London. If the Commonwealth has received a favorable communication it certainly would be reassuring, and show clearly that in this Parliament we are endeavouring to bring our legislation into harmony with the intended legislation of the Imperial Parliament, As I said before, we owe a duty to the industries of Australia, and that is to see that no industries, more especially the metallurgical industries, are allowed to suffer in development because of the existence of contracts with enemy subjects. As regards clause 3, if it could be proved on the facts of the case that the smallest interest was held by an enemy subject in a great and influential company in Australia, according to a strict reading of the clause the AttorneyGeneral would probably have to rule that it was an enemy company. I think that none of us desires that. I quite recognise that when a substantial or fair proportion of interest is held in a company by enemy subjects, some discretion should be given to an outside power, whether it be the Attorney-General or a Court, to determine whether it is an enemy company or not. There is a great deal to be said in favour of the contention of the honorable member for Kooyong that there should be inserted in paragraph b some words which would give a wider discretion to the presiding authority in the interpretation of the clause - that is in respect to the enemy interest in a particular company registered, operating, and trading in Australia. It would be very much more satisfactory if the discretionary power in the sub-clause were widened. I suggest that in subclauses 2, 3, and 4 a Court should be substituted for the Attorney-General. I understand that if a wider discretion is given it will involve a legal interpretation, and probably the Attorney-General would like to be relieved of that responsibility. Again, in the place of “an interest,” in paragraph b of sub-clause 1 of clause 3, we might substitute such words as “a material interest.”
– An appreciable interest.
– Yes ; we might use in paragraph b the words, “ in which an enemy subject has an appreciable or a material interest,” and allow the Court to determine later whether such interest is sufficient to constitute it an enemy company. I hope that the Attorney-General will take my suggestions into considera tion, and amend the clause in the directions I have indicated.
– Before dealing with some of the further points which have been urged, I desire to supply the Committee with details of the information which I gave generally on Friday, but which I promised to supplement. I ask the permission of the Committee to hand in the matter, so that it can appear in Hansard. I do not want to read it all, as it is very voluminous.
– What is the purport of it?
– It is a summary of metallic contents, values, and destination of products of the Broken Hill Silver, Lead, and Zinc Mining and Treatment Companies, and other mining and smelting companies throughout the Commonwealth, compiled from official reports and balance-sheets of the respective mining companies, covering twelve months’ operations in each case. The first table deals with silver lead concentrates; the second table deals with zinc concentrates; the third table deals with copper ores; and there is a general summary of the returns. This shows that the gross value of minerals exported, controlled by German influence and capital, amounts to - Lead, £1,825,871; zinc, £4,753,160; and copper, £2,237,604; making a gross total of £8,816,365. In addition to this, not less than 50 per cent, of the metallic lead produced in Australia has been controlled by the Lead Convention, which was completely under the control of the Germans, and that, of course, increased the proportion of the Australian metallic products which were controlled by Germans. That left under British control 27 per cent., and under foreign control 73 per cent.
– Are you able to say whether we took out all the gold, or is there gold in addition ?
– I read the figures from the fourth table. If the right honorable member will look at the returns carefully, he will see that the last sheet but one is a summary. I submit that this information, which the Department has gone to considerable trouble to obtain, ought to be placed at the disposal of honorable members. I gave a statement broadly on Friday, and said that I would supply the details, and I now ask permission to do that.
– Will this information go into Hansard?
– Yes, if I may put it
The returns speak for themselves. The sources of information, and all matters in connexion therewith, are stated. The statistical returns for the State of New South “Wales, prepared by the Mines Department, and sot forth on the last page, may he taken as a check on the others. So far as lead and zinc are concerned, that State practically covers the whole of the metal products of Australia. I shall he very glad to answer any questions relating to this matter, but I would like to be permitted now to pass on to something else.
– What year does that return cover ?
– Twelve months’ output in each case. The exact dates are stated in the second column. The figures are taken from the last balance-sheets available, but the years of the companies do not all terminate in the same month. There is a footnote stating that the output of each mine is not to be assumed to be that stated in the return, because some mines send their output to be smelted at other mines, but for our purposes this point is negligible. But it is not to be assumed that the importance of a mine can be gauged entirely from the return.
I come now to the broad question with which the Bill deals. The Leader of the Opposition argued that the Bill ought not to go further than is necessary to protect our interests. I quite admit it; but the question is, how far it is necessary to go to do this. The right honorable member made the general statement that, so long as we control an industry and benefit by it, there is no reason why enemy capital should not be invested in it. In ordinary circumstances, substituting the term “foreign capital” for “enemy capital,” I should say that was a. sound proposition. In our present circumstances I not only dissent from it, but assert that if we accepted such a principle, we should lend ourselves to a course of conduct that would result in pouring into the coffers of Germany after the war the profits of that capital which she has invested in this country. Although she could not get it during the war, she would get it after the war, when she will want it, as we all shall, very much indeed. I am, therefore, totally opposed to a dictum that enemy capital can now, with benefit to Australia, be permitted to engage in profitable enterprise. The position of the Government is that now is our opportunity to enable Australian enterprise to be developed by Australian and British, and not German, capital. This is our position. I submit it is a sound one.
I am never tired of emphasizing the extent to which German control of the metal industry went, and still goes. Honorable members may think I have become obsessed by the idea, and perhaps
I have; but it is not only excusable but necessary, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, to point out the systematic and complete manner in which Germany has proceeded for many years to secure control of the metallic trade, not only of this country, but of the world. To prove this, let me quote from the Lloyd-Zeitung, the official organ of the Norddeutscher-Lloyd, published in Berlin. In the issue of the 22nd June, 1913, appeared an article by Professor Robert Liefmann, of Freiburg, in which, after pointing out the extent to which this control had gone, and the amount of capital invested in the industry, he stated -
There remains, therefore, the trade in copper, lead, and zinc, as also in silver, tin, mercury, antimony, and aluminium. There are in the principal producing and consuming countries a small number of firms who control this trade, and some of whom are standing in very close relations to each other. They are, for the most part, private firms; but even in those cases where they have formed into companies, their capital, as a rule, remains in a few hands, and is not introduced at the exchanges. That is the reason why there is little known about the internal affairs of these concerns and of their mutual relations. In Germany, the centre of this very wealthy and influential trade is, as we have said above, Frankfort-on-Main, in which city its two leading representatives - the Metallgesellschaft and the firm of Beer, Sondheimer, & Co. have their seats.
He explains how these great firms have secured this control, and shows how in America, as in other countries, they have taken upon themselves the national cloak of the country, and states -
In America as well as in Germany this participation of the great metal firms in foreign mining enterprises by-and-bye assumed such proportions that their own capital did no longer suffice, and foreign capital had to be invited to a great extent. In both countries the same very modern measures for the attainment of this object were taken, that is to say, participation and promoting companies were established. The former had for their object the taking over of the stocks of existing mining companies, and to control the latter by right of possession of the shares (controlling companies), whereas the latter have to provide the capital for new enterprises, and thus undertake the financing of these. In both cases there was obtained: 1, an equal distribution of the risk, inasmuch as the stocks were allotted to a special company, whose principal shareholder was the metal firm which backed it, but did not hold itself responsible for any debts of the daughter company; 2, in this manner, foreign capital could be attracted without the metal firm losing the control over the producing companies, and this was done (a) by letting the promoting company take over only the minority of the mining companies’ shares, and keeping the majority to themselves, so that the whole capital of the controlling company was issued without the metal firm losing the control over the producers; or (6) the promoting company only got the majority of the mining shares, so that the minority of its own shares could be issued in public, and the metal firm still retained the control over the mines, but reduced its need for capital.
Of the daughter companies, for whose liabilities no responsibility is taken by the Metallgesellschaft, the Australian Metal Company stands out as a type. In the number of the same journal issued on 8 th July, the same writer says -
Lastly, there belong to the Merton Concern two more companies which bear testimony to the international character of the Concern by their very name, viz., the African Metal Company and the Australian Metal Company, of London and Melbourne. These two companies are sub-companies of the Metallgesellschaft and of Henry E. Merton and Company, and transact for the latter firms the purchase and sale of metals in Africa and Australia. They are, therefore, agencies which were given the titles of independent companies chiefly for legal reasons. I have not been able to ascertain whether they in their turn are partly interested in the production enterprises of the Merton Concern, but that may be taken for granted with some certainty.
In the number of 22nd July, to show that the object was to attract local capital, but at the same time to keep control in the hands of the German company, the same writer points out -
Not a single one of these enterprises being in the hands of the public, there had to be created a company, on the basis of the substitution of securities, whose securities could be issued to the public. This company might have been given a minority of the securities of all the various enterprises, and its entire capital might then have been issued. That would have been for the public who bought the shares a capital investment company about the development of which the managers of the Concern need not have troubled any further. But considering their great capitalistic powers, it was a matter of course that they should secure the decisive influence also in those enterprises to which the public were admitted, and for this reason the Berg- und Metallbank and the Schweizerische Gesellschaft fur Metallwerte were established as controlling and promoting companies to the main companies of the Concern.
These words, written a year before this dreadful war broke out, attracted no attention, and struck no responsive chord in the minds of Australian or British enterprise, yet, nevertheless, they were a plain declaration of the existence of a state of affairs absolutely incompatible with that commercial control which Britain had long boasted of possessing, but which was slowly slipping from her grasp. He adds these words -
All this has not only tended to promote the numerous manufacturing . industries of Germany, such as the great electrical industry, which depends, to a large extent, upon the supply of copper and lead, or the chemical industry, which requires these and other metals, or the precious metal industry, &c, all of which carry on a large export trade, but the numerous German enterprises abroad are strengthening the prestige and importance of Germany and her economical life in those countries. We may, therefore, be justified in attracting the attention of the general public to this hitherto little noticed branch of German enterprise.
That is the position, as plainly stated by a German writer eighteen months ago. It shows clearly the extent to which German control had gone, and the way in which it had been built up. And it disposes completely of the contention of my right honorable friend, that so long as enemy capital can be used for the benefit of Australia it should be regarded as welcome. I say that it cannot be used for the commercial benefit of Australia now without resulting in the commercial and national benefit of Germany, and to the national and commercial disadvantage and detriment of Australia, the Empire, and our Allies at the end of the war. Therefore, the Bill aims at severing every thread that binds this country to Germany, and at breaking every fetter that links individuals in this community to enemy subjects.
I come now to the particular arguments addressed to the clause. As paragraph & of sub-clause 1 leaves wide room for doubt whether a company in which one share was held by a German would be an enemy company within the . meaning of the Bill, I suggest that the paragraph should be altered to read - “ In which an enemy subject has, in the opinion of the Attorney-General, an interest.”
– That amendment would overcome a great many objections, but I think that the words “ or the Court “ should be inserted, as the question may come before a Court.
– If a matter affecting a contract to which an enemy subject was a party, or was for the benefit of the enemy, came before the Court, the inter pretation of /paragraph b would not arise; but, if the case concerned a contract to which one of the parties was, not an enemy subject, but a company in which an enemy subject had shares, the question whether the contract came under the clause would, as the Bill stands, be determined by the fact that an enemy subject had an interest in the company < We have considered at some length the difficulty of determining the extent of interest which might be regarded as dangerous, and I think honorable members are agreed that it would not be sufficient to speak of a “ controlling “ or a “substantial” interest. But if we say, “ has, in the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral, an interest,” we have a provision sufficiently elastic to insure the practical administration of the measure without narrowing its application. I shall be glad if the legal members of the Committee will give me the benefit of their opinions on the suggestion, either now or later.
– Would the honorable gentleman treat all contracts uniformly? Is this provision to apply to every enemy contract ? Under the Bill as it stands, only some contracts would go before the Attorney-General.
– I think that the question whether the interest of an enemy subject in a contract is such as to make the contract an enemy contract ought to be determined by the Attorney-General. As to whether sub-clauses 2, 3, and 4 should be retained, and, if so, whether a party to a contract should file a copy of it with the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, or with some other authority, I would remind honorable members that we must deal with this subject in a practical way. It is not my desire that the measure shall open up a profitable field for litigation, in which the members of my honorable profession may browse comfortably, even in times of drought. Whether a contract is or is not an enemy contract is a question which must be capable of being determined in some definite, economical, and speedy way, and its determination must, therefore, be left to a defined authority. Any one who has had experience of Ministerial office knows that it is easiest for a Minister to have as few questions of this kind as possible left to his determination. But I am not sure that it would not be best for the commercial community to have the determination of this question left to the Attorney-General. If it were left to the determination of a Judge in Chambers, the decision of the Judge of the Supreme Court of one State might differ from that of a Judge in another State. The case of 2’he King v. Snow was recently decided in Adelaide, after a trial which lasted for some time, it being held that there was no case against Mr. Snow. Yesterday, in Melbourne, Judge Eagleson, sitting in another case, said that he did not agree with the South Australian decision. Now, whatever opinion may be held as to whether the Attorney-General should be the authority to (decide whether a contract does or does not come within the scope of the measure, all must desire uniformity in practice. I do> not think there is any doubt upon that point, and I ask honorable members to consider it. I also ask them to consider the position of a man in Great Britain who is party to an enemy contract within the scope of this Bill. To whom has he to apply? To a Judge in a British Court? If so, the Judge in a British Court might decide upon principles quite other than those accepted by a Judge in Australia. That would be most undesirable. The argument for uniform treatment appears to me to be very strong. But I am entirely impartial in this matter, and I leave it to honorable members to say which method we shall have. Certitude and uniformity are necessary, as I have shown, but expedition is also necessary. A man who wishes to enter upon other contracts will be anxious to know whether he is free to do so. There should be no litigation or danger of it. I am justified, therefore, in taking up this perfectly fair position: The clause will remain as it is printed, but if the Chambers of Commerce of the various States, upon fair consideration of the position, prefer that the matter shall be dealt with in some other way than by reference to the AttorneyGeneral, I will give every consideration to their representations, and insert the necessary amendment. But there must be a consensus of opinion. If these bodies in the various States differ upon the point one must) exercise one’s judgment; but if these Chambers of Commerce, through their mouthpieces, indicate that they prefer to leave the matter to a judicial tribunal, their desires should certainly be, and will be, listened to. This will clear up the point at issue between us, and I ask the Committee now to direct their attention to paragraph b, and see whether the suggestion that I have put forward to amend it is desirable. I am at a loss to understand the point taken by the honorable and learned member for Kooyong, that there should be one and not two classes of procedure for contracts falling under clause 3, because there are not two procedures. There is but one procedure. First of all, the Bill says that enemy contracts are null and void. There is an end, then, of all enemy contracts; but a man may ask, “ Have I an enemy contract?” It is important he should have this point determined. If one is told that he can get 3d. a head for wallaby scalps, he wants to be in the position of knowing -whether the scalp that he has in his possession is a wallaby’s scalp, otherwise, when he comes along and claims 3d. for the scalp that he displays, he may be told, “ That is not a wallaby’s scalp, it is a cat’s.” Certitude in the matter is essential. Instead of a man going about with untold riches in his bag, he may find that he has nothing. Instead of having an enemy contract he may have a contract that binds him. There is no opportunity of going to law to determine the matter, because the Court cannot determine it unless it hears the other side, and there may not be any other side available - the other side may not be able to appear. To leave the matter to the parties, and only annul contracts upon application by a party, would be most unwise, and totally opposed to the principle of the Bill. The ties of commerce are very strong. A man with a benefit under a contract might let it continue, and, keeping his candle of patriotism under a bushel in order that he might make a profit, at the termination of the war take the benefits from the contract. We cannot allow individual caprice to determine a great question. It must be determined by this Parliament on a settled principle, namely, that for the good of the nation it is necessary that we should sever all contractural relations with the enemy. And this principle must apply automatically. The only question is - How is a man to know whether it applies in the case of his contract? He is to know by going to some dulyappointed person, and asking, “ Is thi3 a contract to which this measure applies. Yes or no ? “
– That only states the trouble. It does not solve it. The question still is, “ What is for the good of the country?”
– This is like the riddle of the Sphinx, but in this case a man will get some one who can answer him, and I submit that that some one should be one who can answer quickly, and upon some definite and fixed principle uniform to all. As the result of telegrams I sent to them recently, I have had from the Premiers of the various States, except Mr. Holman, a statement definite and sufficient that they will introduce the necessary complementary legislation. I wrote to Mr. Holman some months ago, and he promised to cooperate cordially. I have sent him a copy of the Bill, which he has acknowledged, but he has not yet sent me a statement in regard to it.
– Is there any assurance that the phraseology of the State Bills will be the same as that of the Commonwealth measure?
– That is the idea. I showed the Bill to all the Premiers who were in Melbourne recently, except Mr. Earle, the Premier of Tasmania, and they were quite agreeable. I explained the measure to Mr. Earle, and he has agreed to pass the necessary legislation. Mr. Holman in his letter to me said that he was keenly desirous of helping us in this matter, and Sir Alexander Peacock, Premier of Victoria, has authorized me to say that the Legislature of Victoria will pass complementary legislation.
– I wish to put myself straight m this matter. In controverting some statements of mine before the adjournment, the Attorney-General said that inasmuch as after the war some profit or interest or money would be accruing to the Germans, the public interests of Australia would suffer disadvantage. That may or may not be so, but whether it will be so will depend on quite other considerations. My position can be put in a nutshell. If we can eliminate all German capital, and substitute British capital for it, and yet achieve the same end that we are achieving now, and do it without any German capital, good luck to us. Nobody will be more pleased than I will be. But what will the Attorney-General be doing by eliminat ing every atom of German capital, and not guaranteeing the miners of Broken Hill their weekly wage and weekly work? They are the persons about whom I am chiefly concerned. I know nothing about the magnates in the city; I am not concerned with them. They may be left to look after themselves, as I have no doubt they are well able to do. But I am concerned in seeing that nothing occurs which will deprive the great body of miners in these industries of their employment. Therefore the only question is : by eliminating all this German capital, irrespective of any control on their part or of any other consideration, by simply pushing the capital out, even when we control it, can we do the best for the interests of the country? If the AttorneyGeneral is satisfied that British capital can be found, and that we can arrange these matters equally satisfactorily for Australia, I have nothing more to say; but I have yet to learn, as an economic proposition, how anybody’s capital which I control under my own terms and conditions can injure me. It can only do so if I permit it to do so. However, I pass by that point. But I do sincerely urge the Attorney-General not to take upon his shoulders this responsibility. He recently quoted the case in South Australia of The King v. Snow. I understand that, after a long legal argument extending over months and costing many thousands of pounds, it has been decided that there has been no trading with the enemy within the meaning of our penal sections. The Attorney-General says that a Judge here may differ from a Judge in Adelaide. Apparently this legislation is, after all, not so simple a matter as the Attorney-General would have us believe. He says, “ Judges differ, but I, William Hughes, will cut the Gordian knot and solve the whole thing with my simple dictum.” His attitude reminds one of that other proposal of his with regard to monopolies in the Refer.enda Bill. He told us in one breath that the legal talent of the world had never been able to define what a monopoly was; then he added, “ I will satisfy the world; I will declare in this Parliament what a monopoly is, and a monopoly it shall bc.”
– The Judges would never settle that question till the Day of Judgment.
– The honorable member knows the old adage that certain persons rush in where angels fear to tread. What Judges could not do in a thousand years the Attorney-General would do in one minute by a simple declaration in Parliament. The honorable gentleman has only shown how complex these questions are, and how difficult it is to deal fairly and justly with them. The very fact that the Judges disagree as to whether wrong has been done is offered as a reason why the AttorneyGeneral, sitting in his office, shall settle all these matters and be done with themonce and for all. I would remind the honorable gentleman that if Judges differ, so will the traders, and so will the public. If two men apply to the AttorneyGeneral’s office, and one gets his contract licensed and declared to be aboveboard, and the other man’s contract is declared to be otherwise, we know what will happen. It is better for the Judges to differ in the open Court than for men outside to be saying that they have not had a fair deal in the Attorney-General’s chamber.
– Let the commercial people say what they think ought to be done and I will do it. I cannot say anything fairer.
– The proposal now made is infinitely better than what the Attorney-General previously suggested; but, in my judgment, the honorable gentleman would be doing himself justice and relieving himself of a load of responsibility if he removed this matter from his jurisdiction altogether.
– If I consulted my own inclination, I would strike the provision out, but the Bill has been public for some time. I have invited the commercial people to express an opinion, and I have not been able to get one opinion adverse to the proposal.
.- I do not think there need be much difficulty about this question, because there seems to be a consensus amongst honorable members as to what ought to be done, and we all agree with what the AttorneyGeneral is aiming at. Let me suggest what may be done. Under the Patents Act an application may be made for a revocation or a licence. The application is made to the Commissioner. If the
Commissioner thinks a prima facie case is established - and he can settle that point in a sitting of a day or half a day - he can send the application to a Judge of the High Court, and that Judge can, in a simple and brief hearing, decide the whole issue. Moreover, he decides it with that judicial balance which certainly is the intent of even the Attorney-General, and also with that time which no AttorneyGeneral can have. If we adopt for this measure the principles of the Patents Act we shall be adopting a procedure which is applicable to matters of this sort, and the decisions will be uniform, because they will be those of a Court. The Attorney-General can take the position of the Commissioner, and give a prima facie decision.
– Is there not an appeal from every decision of the Commissioner?
– I do not think there is, but, at any rate, we can modify the procedure of the Patents Act by making the matter final when it comes before the Judge.
– Let me be clear as to what your proposal is. A man files a contract before the Attorney-General; the Attorney-General may then decide this way or that. What, then, can the applicant do?
– If a prima facie case for a licence is made out to the Commissioner, he can send it on to a Judge for final decision ?
– The Commissioner is to be the judge whether there is a primd facie case?
– He would act just as the Police Court does in a preliminary investigation. Provision could be made for the parties interested to be summoned and appear. Of course an enemy subject in another country cannot Be summoned, but an enemy subject here may be, and many of them are here. If the party cannot be summoned, we might adopt the procedure that is adopted at Home, where a decision cannot be given against an enemy subject without affording him an opportunity of being heard. Some one in the absence of the party may be appointed to act for him, or it may be proclaimed by notice that he must appear at a certain time, thus affording him an opportunity of being heard, and complying with an essential principle of English justice. We could, therefore, allow the
Judge to declare, under paragraph b of clause 3, that, as a fact, there was an interest, but it would be within his discretion to say whether he regarded that interest as substantial. If the matter were left with the Attorney-General, then it would be for him to decide, in his discretion, as to the interest; and I think that a contract would be an enemy contract, within the meaning of the Bill, if the interest were, in his opinion, substantial or controlling. But the weakness in that is that the provision would apply only in an application made by a party; though I freely acknowledge that that would cover nearly all cases.
– I would not say that, but rather that it would apply only when there was no application before the Court.
– I see the same weakness in that. It is said that if the matter be left to the Attorney-General every application ought to come before him, because people would never know their position unless it was challenged. I do not think there is much in that, because any party who is in doubt may make application. If an enemy subject is in doubt, let him apply, and not wait for the question to be raised in a Court of Justice; if he wishes to know his position, let him make a challenge. But every case of moment to a person who is not an enemy subject will be brought by him or by the other party before the Attorney-General. I therefore think that if the Attorney-General did adopt the amendment he has now suggested it would virtually cover everything desired by us, notwithstanding that the contract might not otherwise come before the Court. But this still leaves the clause open to the objection that it is the AttorneyGeneral who has to decide. In order to get over that, I suggest that we ought to adopt the principle of the Patents Act; and, instead of referring to the Attorney-General, and then from the Attorney-General to the Court, enable an application to be made at once to a Judge in Chambers for an immediate decision, notice being given to the opposite side. There is another matter to be considered. If the decision is not left to the AttorneyGeneral or the Court as to what is a substantial interest, there is nothing to prevent our adopting the principle of the Land Tax Assessment Act. Recognising the difficulty of giving definite interpretation or connotation to “ substantial “ or “ controlling,” or general terms of that sort, which might receive interpretations differing in degree in different Courts, we, in the case of the Land Tax Assessment Act, attempted to arbitrarily define what we meant. For instance, there was a provision in reference to cases in which two or more companies were established practically for the same objects, and one company had shareholders who exercised a controlling influence over another company; and, realizing its weakness, we defined what we meant in sub-section 2 of section 40, by stating that if not less than threefifths of the paid-up capital was held by certain parties they came within the meaning of the term “controlling.” However, I see the difficulty of making such a. definition in the present case, and therefore I do not suggest that we should do so. Without elaborating the matter, I advise that we substitute a Judge for the Attorney-General. in connexion with the whole clause. That would still leave the provision in sub-clause 5, which declares enemy contracts to be absolutely void; but in order to enable the commercial community to obtain a decision at once, I would allow an application to a Judge instead of the Attorney-General, and give the Judge full discretion, after affording an opportunity for the parties substantially interested to be represented. If it is not desired to do that, I think the suggestion of the Attorney-General is a good one, namely, to leave the matter to his discretion. I believe that in a majority of cases application would be made for that by the persons substantially interested, and those who did not apply would have nothing to complain of.
.- I venture to interpose for a moment in the struggle between the legal gladiators of the Committee. There are so many issues that are legal that one hesitates to offer a suggestion; but I think the main question is one which laymen may with propriety decide for themselves. Apart from the differences of opinion between the AttorneyGeneral and the honorable member for Angas, the broad question is - To whom shall we assign the duty of deciding the varied and complex issues for which the clause provides? I was profoundly influenced in my judgment at a certain point by some remarks of the
Attorney General, who said that promptitude, certitude, and uniformity were absolutely essential to the discharge of these important duties to the satisfaction of those interested. If that be so, I then thought the Minister alone would be likely to give an absolutely uniform and swift decision. But there are other reflections that suggest themselves. Take the position in the Mother Country to-day, in regard to quite a number of important problems. The British Government have practically taken the Chief Justice, Lord Reading, from the Bench, apparently with the consent of himself and his colleagues, in order that he may discharge important, novel and interesting war issues. Why cannot the Commonwealth Government, for very obvious reasons, some of which I will endeavour to explain later, ask the Chief Justice of the High Court to appoint a Judge to whom might be immediately relegated all applications under clause 3 ? That Judge would act in his original jurisdiction, and not as a Court to hear appeals from a decision of the Minister, for that would be somewhat invidious. This suggestion, if adopted, would secure promptitude, certitude, and uniformity; and whoever the Judge was, acting in his judicial capacity, he would have the confidence alike of the Government and the people.
– Are you speaking of a particular Judge?
– Yes. I have no doubt that when the Attorney-General of England sought the advice and assistance of Lord Reading, he did not ask for that Judge alone, but probably for the assistance of one of the Judges of the Court.
– Of course that is a matter for the Chief Justice, who allots the business.
– Quite so. There was, possibly, a special reason why Lord Reading should have been selected, in view of his recent and intimate acquaintance with problems of politics. There is no such reason here, and either the Chief Justice or any other Judge could be allotted. If this suggestion is adopted, what will be” the position of the Attorney-General and his staff? We are piling high the pyramid of duty and responsibility upon them at a time when the Department have already, under the War Precautions Act and the Patents Act, very heavy duties, and their task will be extremely onerous and difficult. I doubt whether the Attorney-General, with all his marvellous industry and with all the loyalty of his staff, strengthened as it may be, will be able to properly cope with the duties that will be cast upon him by this measure. The examination of a contract to ascertain whether it is within the meaning of this measure an enemy contract will very often -be extremely difficult. Why - not with any desire to alter the character of the decision, but to render available a tribunal in which the community will have equal confidence, and which will be able to give undivided attention to these problems - not take the suggestion offered by the honorable member for Angas in his closing observations?
– I hope the honorable gentleman has no doubt that his argument is applicable to the High Court, and that, already breaking down as it is with the work now imposed upon it, it will not regard this last blow as altogether too heavy.
– I am only speaking as a layman whose knowledge of the law Courts was gained in a somewhat recent action, but I take leave to say that I do not think there is any Judge in Victoria who is overworked at the present time, whether he is associated with the service of the Commonwealth or of the State.
– Every Act we pass creates more work.
– How many Acts have we passed yet? Very few; and I think the Chief Justice or one of his colleagues might be set aside for service in this particular direction. All the work under this Bill will come’ at one time. .As soon as it receives the assent of the Governor-General, or if it is reserved, the assent of His Majesty, there will come a flood of applications to the Department for immediate decision, and the Department will find it impossible to discharge these duties either to its own satisfaction or to the satisfaction of the community. I think the Attorney-General was distinctly fair and generous when he said that if the commercial community express their approval of this provision he will not have need to alter it, but if they desire an alteration such as has been suggested, he will be prepared to make it later.
– I mean those who are chiefly concerned - the representatives of those persons who hold contracts that are liable to be voided.
Mr.WATT.- Quite so. If a general opinion is expressed that the measure as we are now attempting to pass it is wrong, and that some better tribunal, or some other ‘tribunal, should be created, the Attorney-General is prepared to introduce amendments to give effect to that view. That, I think, is very fair; but I think it would be better to do it at this stage before the Bill leaves this Chamber. I suggest, therefore, that we introduce an amendment to the effect that we will not cast this additional burden upon the Attorney-General, but give it to a Judge of the High Court, who shall devote himself to this business, and decide all applications under clause 3.
– Before any amendment is submitted I ask leave to withdraw the amendment I previously moved with a view of substituting another amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I do not desire to follow the argument of the honorable member for Balaclava in regard to the AttorneyGeneral. Naturally, I am placed in a rather invidious position in arguing this matter, but I still say - and I put it to the Honorable member, who has had ample experience of what Ministerial responsibilities are - that it would be very much to my personal interest, as well as to my own inclination, to pass this duty on to somebody else. Nevertheless, the arguments I have heard have not convinced me that it would be to the interests of Australia, or to the commercial community, that this duty should go to somebody else. If those who are more nearly concerned say that it should, that will be sufficient for me. But the honorable gentleman must permit me to say that I must have something more than’ an exhibition of great concern for my own comfort before I consent to an amendment on the lines he has foreshadowed. I think that is perfectly fair. The honorable gentleman is in a position to move the commercial community of this great continent. Let him move it, and I shall be prepared, probably for the first time in my life, to move along with it. I propose now to move -
That paragraphb of sub-clause 1 be amended by inserting after the word “has” the words “ in the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral.”
– The amendment now proposed is an improvement on the clause as it stands, but it does not by any means overcome the difficulties which are present in our minds, because it will not go as far as the honorable gentleman thinks without some further qualification. The fact may still remain that an interest may be a very small or insignificant interest, and yet the Attorney-General cannot deny that there is an interest. If the word “ substantial “ were inserted - I know the honorable gentleman has an objection to the word because it would, more or less, limit the effect of the clause - the chief objection would be removed; but, although his desire is to give further discretionary power, I am not quite sure that this amendment does that. The honorable gentleman has proposed the insertion of the words “in the opinion of the Attorney-General” before the words “ an interest,” but I suggest that, even if the clause be so amended, it, will not yet give him an opportunity for the exercise of full discretion. I think it is necessary, further, to insert after the word “ interest “ the words “ injurious to the public,” orwords of that kind, in order that the honorable gentleman may have something upon which to exercise his discretion.
– How would the honorable gentleman define that expression “ injurious to the public “ ?
– The AttorneyGeneral would define it. He would exercise his discretion in deciding whether the interest held by an enemy subject in the contract would be such as to render it injurious to the public.
– Has he not that discretion under the clause as it stands?
– No, I think not. It has been suggested that we might use the words “material interest,” or “appreciable interest,” instead of the words I have suggested, and the use of those words would be an improvement upon the clause as proposed to be amended by the Attorney-General. The honorable gentleman will be giving the matter his attention, and I suggest for his consideration the insertion of the words “injurious to the public” after the word “interest.” He has said that he does not agree that there are two courses of procedure provided by this clause. He must realize that sub-clause 5 must necessarily be the subject of much litigation. Proceedings will be taken under various contracts liable to be tainted or affected by this Bill, and it is only when those proceedings are taking place in the Court that the question of the validity or otherwise of the contract will, for the first time, arise.
Mr.Hughes.-It may arise out of an action for breach of contract.
– Yes, and out of fifty other things incidental to a contract. That is one of the courses of procedure to which I refer. The other course of procedure is that provided for in subclause 2, when a man, who may conceive it desirable in his own interests, may go to the Attorney-General, lay before him a contract, and ask him, in the exercise of his discretion, to say whether it is an enemy contract or not. On that procedure he would be entitled under sub-clause 2 to a declaration by the Attorney-General as to whether or not the contract would be valid under the provisions of this Bill. Those are the two courses of procedure to which I refer. I entirely agree with the Attorney-General when he advises that, in connexion with the operation of this measure, there should be uniformity, certainty, and expedition. In all that I have said I have borne those conditions in mind. That is why I ask the honorable gentleman to provide for a uniform procedure.
– I still do not see that two forms of procedure are provided for. A’ man is brought into Court by another man for a breach of a contract. He says that there is no breach of contract, because the Enemy Contract Annulment Act has broken the contract. He is asked how he proves that, and the reply is, “ Here is the certificate of the AttorneyGeneral.” The Court then deals with the matter, and decides whether it is or is not a valid contract under the Act.
– The AttorneyGeneral’s statement shows that there are clearly two courses of procedure provided for. The Court decides the matter in one case, and the Attorney-General decides it in another.
– It is so. In the majority of cases the Court would decide whether a contract was null and void ; but in some cases a man might conceive it to be to his own interest to go to the Attorney-General, file a copy of the contract in which he was interested, and ask for his declaration.
– But there are not twocourses of procedure provided, so far as the annulment of a contract is concerned, but only in regard to actions that might arise under the contract.
– That will constitute the majority of the cases that will arise under the Bill. That is one of the reasons why I urge upon my honorable friend the desirability of adopting the uniform procedure of obliging the parties interested to go to a Judge in chambers and ask him to give the declaration which the Attorney-General, in his official capacity, would have to give under subclause 2.
– That brings us back tothe alternative proposal which I have already said I am willing and anxious to adopt, provided the commercial community say that they want it. If the honorable gentleman could stand up here and say, as the representative of the commercial community, that they do want it, that would satisfy me ; but the honorable gentleman is not in a position to do that.
– No,. I have not consulted the commercial community.
– I say that when a measure of this kind, affecting great interests of unprecedented importance, has been before the public for a fortnight, and I have not had a solitary suggestion from a commercial man in the country, I have a right to believe that the members of the commercial community are satisfied with the Bill as it stands.
– That is not what is guiding me solely, though I appreciate the importance of the contention. We are dealing with a matter in which the public interest generally is concerned, and if we were to decide which would be the better tribunal in the circumstances, from a parliamentary stand-point alone-
– Parliament will have to decide.
– I believe that, from the parliamentary stand-point as well as from the point of view of public interest, the better plan to adopt is to give the decision in these cases to a Judge in chambers, because he will be free from all the considerations to which a public man and a party politician would necessarily be subject.
– I have made up my mind to wait to hear what the commercial community have to say, and I shall follow their advice. I cannot do more.
– I shall be content, although I do say that, in the interest of the public generally, and from the parliamentary stand-point, what I have suggested would be the better course to pursue.
.- As a matter of drafting, I wish to point out that, as the Attorney-General proposes to amend the sub-clause, the exercise of his discretion will only be final as regards contracts coming under paragraph b. The decision in the case of contracts under paragraphs a and c will come before a Court. I would suggest that it would be better to make, the amendment read -
In this section, “ enemy contract “ means any contract-
» « » »
That would involve some concession to judicial methods of proof. I also desire to point out that, under the clause as it stands, the discretion of the AttorneyGeneral is not quite as wide as he seems to think it is. Let us suppose, for example, that an application were made in respect of an enemy company. He would first have to decide as to the meaning of a generality which we will not tolerate under this clause, but which we do tolerate under clause 2. Under this Bill, that company would be an enemy company only if it were carried on “wholly or mainly “ for the benefit of enemy subjects. Then I would remind the AttorneyGeneral that his decision as regards a company may be challenged. He has no discretion at all in that matter. I would suggest to the Attorney-General that he should look into the matter carefully, and, if he will bring down a redraft of the clause at a later stage, honorable members upon this side of the Chamber will, I think, do all in their power to facilitate its speedy passage.
– The point which the honorable member for Kooyong fails to see is that, under paragraphs a and c, in an action for breach of contract, the party concerned - if he did not possess a certificate of the Attorney-General or of some other competent authority - would have to show, to the satisfaction of the Court, that his contract was or was not an enemy contract.
– But I was referring to sub-clause 2.
– The honorable member is now harking back to the question of uniformity of procedure, whereas I am speaking of the discretion of the Court. The honorable member for Angas has suggested that the clause should be amended to provide that “ enemy contract “ means a contract in which an enemy subject has a “controlling or substantial” interest. I am opposed to the introduction of the word “ controlling,” because, in my opinion, it goes too far. Who is to determine at what point the interest of an enemy subject in any contract becomes a “ controlling” one! It is a very common thing for those who hold a minority of the shares in a company to control that company. Anybody who is familiar with the way in which board meetings are conducted knows that the majority of shareholders rarely have a look in. As to the word “substantial,” I was a member of a Government which went out of office on that blessed word. The question at issue was whether a trade union “ substantially “ represented the workers in a particular industry. The Opposition had a majority. Upon that question we differed, and there was much fury in the manner and method of our difference. As a result, ‘ we went to that place from which men occasionally return, but about which the least said the soonest mended. I do not know what ‘ ‘ substantial ‘ ‘ means. If I want a substantial lunch, I understand what that means. But if I am asked, “ What is a ‘ substantial ‘ interest in a company within the meaning of this Bill,” I do not know.
– Nor does anybody else.
– I do know that a man may own 10 per cent, of the shares in a company and yet run the entire business. He may have interests in this and that direction - he may have complete control of another company of which the smaller company is merely a subsidiary one. I am not in favour of permitting anything of that sort. “ Substantial “ is a word which has lost that definite and meticulous meaning which is necessary for our purpose. A “ material “ interest is something appreciable. How would the word “appreciable” fit the clause? Let us pass the provision as it stands, and I promise to look into it very carefully, with a view to seeing if it cannot be amended in a way which will meet with the approval of the Committee. We may be able to strike some via media.
– Nothing is more amusing or more interesting than to hear the AttorneyGeneral assign reasons for not accepting an amendment. He has told us that he does not know what anything means. Poor simple man, he would have us believe that he has never been to school, and that he knows nothing. He tells us that he does not know what “ substantial “ means, and that he does not know what “ controlling “ means. Of course it would be possible for us to go through all the words in Shakspeare, and to say that we do not know what any of them mean. But we are not now conducting a school of philology. Further, I would like to remind the Attorney-General that the words “controlling” and ‘” substantial “ are to be found in a hundred Acts of Parliament. I venture to affirm that the word “ controlling “ has now a definite meaning attached to it by our Courts in connexion with companies and business matters.
– I may say definitely that I am opposed to the insertion of the word “ controlling.”
– Then I see that. the Attorney-General does understand its meaning.
– I understand it in part.
– The honorable gentleman says, “I do not understand the meaning of the word ‘ controlling,’ but I am opposed to its insertion.” Could we have a more intelligent reason advanced than that? “ I do not understand it, and, therefore, that is my decision upon it.”
– I did not say that.
– I know the Attorney-General’s little ways. But this is not a question of language at all. The Attorney-General proposes to make the clause provide that “enemy contract” means any contract in which an enemy subject has, in the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral, an interest. Does the hon orable gentleman know what the word “ interest “ means?
– It is something which is obtained by the loan of principal.
– The AttorneyGeneral understands every word that he wants to get through in this Bill, but if he does not want to get a word^ through, he is completely ignorant concerning it. I was going to point out in all seriousness the position that the Attorney-General will be in. Under this proposal, as amended, he will be compelled to declare a contract an enemy contract if there be only a nominal share registration of any kind. Even if the enemy interest is only to the extent of sixpennyworth of the share registration, the whole contract, involving perhaps millions of money, would have to be voided.
– I am perfectly prepared to put in the word ‘ ‘ material ‘ ‘ if that will meet the views of the honorable member.
– Many honorable members regard the word “ material “ as being very much better than “ substantial.”
– I move -
That paragraph 6 of sub-clause 1 he amended by striking out the word “an” (second occurring), with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ in the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral a material.” .
The paragraph will then read -
In which an enemy subject has, in the opinion of the Attorney-General, a material interest, or
– I am loath to interpose with an objection, but in my opinion the word “ interest “ should not be qualified in any way. After listening to the arguments from both sides of the House, I feel convinced that it is possible that thepublic interest - which, of course, is above the private or corporate interest - might render it necessary that a contract in which an enemy subject might hold only a slight interest should be dealt with.
Mr.Joseph Cook.- It is still left to the discretion of the Attorney-General to define the word.
– But if you insert the word “material” or “substantial “ you at once open the way for endless discussion.
– That is quite true. The sub-clause should be left as it is.
– I am not a lawyer, but a. layman, and I hold the view that our laws should be so clearly expressed that he who runs may read. The less legal verbiage we have about them the better it will be for all concerned. I feel that a mistake will be made if the AttorneyGeneral qualifies this sub-clause in any way. He ought to leave it as wide as possible, so that he may exercise his “discretion, which surely will always be tempered by the knowledge that he will have the public behind him.
– The public which he has behind him?
– In this matter I think the Attorney-General has the whole of the public of Australia behind him. We want to do all we can to secure Australia from a repetition of anything like that which has happened in the past to limit our trade and production. This we can do by taking the opportunity in this Legislature of introducing measures of this character. Therefore, I view with apprehension any attempt to minimize the strength of the weapon which has been forged by others, but which is now ready to our hand.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That the words “ in relation “ in sub-clause 5, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ such rights and obligations as relate”.
That the following words be added to subclause (5) : - “ or such as arise out of or in consideration for such delivery or performance.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 (Power to terminate contracts suspended by war).
.- I do not wish to suggest any amendment of the clause, because, from the point of view of the purport, the wider it is the better, but there is one matter I have mentioned, though there may not be much in it. Where a contract is suspended by operation of the law, it will fall within this provision. I refer to contracts suspended as a matter of common law. Take the case of the metal company. Assuming that this were a foreign company - we are not pre judging it in any way - and it had a contract with the Broken Hill Company. As a matter of common law the probability is, or at all events it is possible, that the metal company would not be considered as having a contract tobe suspended, and taking the decision ot the English Courts, the question would be determined by the place of incorporation. I have since looked up the position with regard to the effect of a “ controlling “ interest, and I find that a good many reliable authorities approve of the principle of making the “ whole “ control or “main” control, and not the registration of a company, a determining factor. But the law, as laid down up to the present time, would be the law which would apply. If so it may be that the metal company would not have a contract which would be suspended by operation of law.
– I think it is suspended by a term of the contract.
– It might be. The rest of the clause is perfectly clear and, I think, quite consistent.
– I think that the metal company is registered here or in London.
– According to an English decision, it would not be regarded as an enemy company, I think.
– Then its contract with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company would be valid, and you want to abrogate it.
– It would be suspended only by a term of the contract.
– In that case it would be covered. I think that there is a fundamental weakness in the part of the clause which depends upon the suspension of the common law merely.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
.- I ask permission to make a statement.
– I regret very much, sir, that I have to make a statement in connexion with submarine AE2. The following cablegram, relating to the reported loss of the submarine and the capture of her crew, was received from the Admiralty to-day: -
No communications having been received from submarine A E2 since 26th April, her loss must be presumed. From a report received through diplomatic channels at Athens, it would appear that three officers and seventeen men were taken prisoners out of the total of three officers and twenty-nine men. Every effort is being made to ascertain further particulars of the survivors.
Board of Admiralty desire to record their deep regret at the loss of this vessel with so many of her gallant crew, after a memorable feat of arms, and congratulate the Commonwealth on the high qualities of their officers and seamen.
Directly news is received by the Minister of Defence as to the condition of the members of the crew who were known to be on board, the next of kin will be at once communicated with. We all deplore the loss of the submarine AE2 and those on board of her. We feel that they have not been wanting in daring feats. There is no doubt that they have risked their lives in the Dardanelles and performed good work. It must not be forgotten that since their arrival in Australia, the two submarines AE1 and AE2 have travelled thousands and thousands of miles - a feat practically unknown in submarine warfare. Submarine AE2 was recently up at Rabaul. I was on board of . her when she returned to Sydney, and conversed with the captain and the crew, who told me of all their dangers while at New Guinea and off the coast of Australia. It appeared to me from the information I then received that the feats which they performed were marvellous. Considering the hardships which the men had to endure on such a small vessel, it was simply astounding that they were able to perform their arduous duties under such conditions. The space where thirty-odd men had to live was hardly as large as a room in an ordinary house. It is something terrible to endure the heat and the air in such vessels. Our hearts go out in sympathy to every one of the relatives of those who were on board of the submarine AE2, because of the loss they have suffered. We trust that at least the three officers and seventeen men who were taken prisoners may be yet alive ; it is possible that they are. There is no doubt that the feat of this submarine in getting through the Dardanelles into the
Sea of Marmora was a very daring one. If it should prove that they have been lost in that sea, we at least recognise their good qualities and daring action in the interest of the Empire.
In Committee of Supply” (Considera tion resumed from 23rd April, vide page 2625):
Department of External Affairs
Divisions 34 to 41 postponed.
Department of Defence
Division 42 (Central Administration),
.- We should have a statement from the Minister as to the position of the Acting Secretary for Defence. The Secretary is away acting as Administrator of the Islands in the Pacific. The Assistant Secretary is doing his work for £624 a year, and that work at the present stage is superhuman. The Secretary draws £900 a year. Is it the intention of the Government to give the Assistant Secretary a bonus for the extra duties? A man should be paid according to the work he does.
– The Secretary, Mr. Pethebridge, has gone to New Guinea, and is there administering the new Pacific Possessions. He was sent there because of his intimate knowledge of the Defence Department, but he is only acting temporarily, and may be recalled at any time by the Minister.
– Is he given any increased salary 1
– Not to my knowledge.
– Surely he is getting allowances ?
– Undoubtedly. The honorable member would not like to go up there without allowances.
– He should certainly get allowances.
– The Government have considered the position with regard ‘ to the departmental officers, and it has been laid down that it is not to be recognised as a general rule that increases are to be given this year for any work they have performed.
– Do you remember the fight put up here for the gentlemen in the Senate ?
– I remember it very well.
– I am not complaining about Mr. Pethebridge’s position; I want to know what is to be done for the Assistant Secretary.
– If an officer is acting in a higher grade for three months or more, surely he should get the minimum salary of that grade?
– There may be something in that contention. The Acting Secretary, Mr. Trumble, is a valuable servant, and is doing splendid work. I am not in a position to say whether he is to get any extra remuneration; but I shall make inquiries and let the Committee know.
– We shall have to lay down a policy in the matter covering this special time.
– What are you going to pay the man for doing this special work ?
– These are old Estimates. The new Estimates will have to be brought down in a month’s time. These might well be called the “ never-never “ Estimates.
– We all recognise that the Assistant Secretary is doing good work; but this financial year is about to close, and when the new Estimates are brought down the honorable member will have a chance to fight the Assistant Secretary’s case if the Government do not give him an increase.
– Will you guarantee to give him an increase in the next Estimates ?
– I will guarantee that the Government will have a policy for all these acting men.
– This gentleman’s case will receive just consideration from the Government. The expenditure has increased by millions, owing to the war; and it is the duty of every officer in the Defence Department to do his best at this juncture. I do not know that we should hold out the promise of big increases to officers who are getting good remuneration because of extra services rendered on account of the war.
– The honorable member should not put it that way.
– But for the war, Mr. Pethebridge would probably be still at the barracks. If we had to give increases to every person who has to do a little extra work while the war is on, we should have to go right through the Defence Department. I have found Mr. Trumble to be a most valuable and energetic officer. He puts in such a lot of his time there that he practically sleeps on the premises.
-Do you think that while the war is on no increases should be granted ?
– I would not lay that down as a rule, but we ought to be very guarded as to what increases we do give, seeing that the expenditure is piling up to such huge amounts. If the right honorable member was on this side of the House he would be very concerned about giving increases at this juncture. The Department is now preparing the Estimates for the coming year for submission to the Treasury. I will promise the Committee that officers who are doing special work, such as those who are relieving others, will get consideration from the Minister. I cannot say whether increases of salary will be granted, because that is a matter for the Minister and the Government to . decide. All I can promise is that when the new Estimates are being prepared consideration will be given to the honorable member’s request.
.- I would direct the attention of the Assistant Minister of Defence to rates of wages operating in other branches of the Department. The other day I read a newspaper article in which the writer took exception to a movement on the part_ of certain trade organizations for increasing their wages, though their request was, in my opinion, a reasonable one. Certainly I think that this Parliament should do justice to those who are employed by the Departments of Government. The Defence Department and other Departments are getting a great deal of work done by contractors.
– Honorable members opposite will not have their work done by Government.
– This Government, I understand, is prepared to do all the work that it can, where it has the necessary facilities, but the war came upon us so suddenly, and has made such heavy demands, that the Government have been compelled to get much of its work done by private firms.
– When it could get work done by a State Government, it preferred to employ a contractor.
– The honorable member refers to -the fitting up of certain transports. In connexion with that work, this Government claimed only the right that private individuals enjoy - that of enforcing the conditions inserted in contracts.
– So long as the “fat” contractor will pay good wages, honorable members do not care what monopoly he may have.
– This Government gave certain work to a State Government to perform, but the latter failed to comply with the conditions imposed on it, and the Commonwealth Government was therefore justified in taking the work from it, and arranging for it to be performed under its own supervision.
– Does it not conflict with the socialistic ideal to hand over Government work to private enterprise?
– I do not object to contractors doing certain work, if they give fair and reasonable conditions to their employes, and make only a fair and reasonable profit, but I object to the exploiting of the community by contractors who pay less than a living wage.
– So do we all.
– A number of men are to-day employed on work which is being done for the Defence Department, and are getting only 8s. a day, which, taking into consideration the cost of livingj is not a living wage. I am not very desirous of giving increases to men whose salaries range from £600 to £1,000 a year, but I feel that no man who is directly or indirectly employed by the Government should be paid less than 9s. a day for his labour.
-What men are receiving only 8s. a day?
– At least 150 men are employed at a place on the Yarra Bank, on work which is being done for the Defence Department, and for which they receive only 8s. a day, which, under existing conditions, is not a fair and reasonable wage, especially when the nature of their work is considered. I have been interested in this matter for some weeks, and have obtained a promise from the Minister that Ss. 6d. shall be paid; but, in roy opinion, 9s. is the least that should be given. To-day I have learned that the majority of the men still receive only 8s.
– What work are they doing ?
– They are employed in making bits and stirrups, with which the firm of Robertson Brothers is supplying the Defence Department. The Government, in letting contracts, should compel the contractor to give fair and reasonable conditions.
– Is there no Wages Board award fixing the rates of pay for those engaged in the class of work which these men are now doing?
– I do not expect this Government to be guided by the decisions of Wages Boards, many of which have fixed rates of 7s., 7s. 6d., and 8s. a day. I desire that it shall be a condition of all our Government contracts that a living wage shall be paid. Many of the rates prescribed by Wages Boards and other authorities are not sufficient to give a fair return for the labour performed. I wish the Minister to give this matter his earnest consideration, with a view to fixing the wages of these men at 9s. a day, at least.
– That cannot be done if they are in the employ of a contractor.
– If the contractor is at liberty under his contract to pay 7s. 6d. or Ss. a day, the Government should make up the difference between that rate and what would be a fair living wage.
– The honorable member asks that a minimum shall be fixed?
– Yes, and that it shall be not less than 9s. a day. A man cannot do justice to his wife and children on. less than 9s. a day, and if we are to look to any one to provide in conditions of contract for the payment of a fairly good wage, we should certainly look to a Labour Government to do so. Even prior to this contract that I have mentioned, a successful tenderer for Defence Department work had men in hia employment doing work for the Department and receiving 7 s. a day. Though certain employers may attempt to justify the payment of such wages, no Government, Liberal or Labour, can justify the letting of tenders to individuals paying them.
– It would be contrary to a resolution of this Parliament, which, in its first session, passed a motion with regard to the provision of a minimum rate of wage in all contracts.
– The Government are acting in accordance with a resolution of the House that the legal rates operating must be the minimum rates observed in Government contracts; but the legal rates in Victoria for unskilled workers run from 7s. to8s. 6d., and I desire the Government to rise above these rates and insert in their contracts the condition that no man shall receive less than 9s. a day. That would be doing nothing more than justice to a large body of workers who are bearing their share of the burdens and responsibilities of citizenship in this country.
.- I wish to draw attention once more to the regulation recently issued regarding the age of officers permitted to serve at the front. The Assistant Minister has already promised to have an inquiry made; but, in my opinion, a great injustice is being done to officers in our Forces who are under twenty-three years of age. I admit that we must be careful in the matter of selecting officers to take charge of men in the fighting line; but there are many quite capable young men who are desirous of going to the front, and who would volunteer to-morrow if they could be accepted. It seems to me only fair that the young men of Australia who have had five years of training since the initiation of our compulsory system should have the opportunity to accompany those who volunteer from their companies, and to hold commissions. It is urged that they are too young to hold commissions in such circumstances. 1 venture to say that the great majority of the officers who have taken part in the operations at the Dardanelles are under twenty-three years of age, and that when we get the full account of those operations we shall find that these young men have done excellent work, showing plainly that they have a full knowledge of the responsibility devolving upon them, have good judgment, and are, consequently, well fitted to hold commissions in the fighting line. To bring in such a regulation at this stage and prevent others who are desirous of going to the front from doing so is not fair to them. A man who has just reached the age of twenty-three years can go; but one who is a month under twenty-three, though in every respect quite as capable as the other, is debarred from going.
– Well, we have had no intimation given to the House to the contrary, though I did read a statement from the Minister of Defence the other day in the press to the effect that provision had been made whereby a young officer could be accepted if the Commandant approved. But, in my opinion, we should make the matter clear, and not compel the officer to ask for the Commandant’s approval. The time may come, though I hope not, when it will be necessary to amend this regulation, in order to meet the stress of circumstances. Since I spoke on this matter previously, I have received a letter from a gentleman who states that he knows of a father who went to an officer and asked for a commission for his son. The son was taken, and placed for a month with the Instructional Staff, with a view of receiving a commission, though I understand that only commissioned officers are allowed to go into the Instructional Staff. This man got a commission while others who have been training ever since the compulsory system came into force are deprived of the right to go to the front. Who are the better men, I ask? Those with one or two months’ training, and probably with sufficient education to pass the theoretical test, or men who have not only passed the theoretical test, but, in addition, have had five years’ training, and know every military rule? I maintain that it is a shame to prevent young men with that knowledge from going to the front, and that this matter should receive the earnest consideration of the Government. One of these young men was accepted, and was in camp, and was appointed as an officer, and even got married on the eve of his departure to the front, when this regulation came out, with the result that he was not permitted to go, though he had been an officer in our Citizen Forces for a number of years. The hardship which this regulation inflicts on our young men should appeal to the Minister. I think it will appeal to the people when they know that, though we have young men quite capable of taking charge of the soldiers at the fighting line, they are debarred from going to the front.
– What reasons have been advanced for reducing the age?
– We have heard of none. Tlie regulation simply appears prohibiting persons under twenty-three years of age from holding commissions, although already men under twenty-three years of age have been permitted to go, and although some of the very best of the officers of our Citizen Forces are men who have been in training since the establishment of our compulsory system.
– If you say that men who have had no military training are appointed as officers, it is a scandal.
– I have known of cases of men who have never worn uniforms being given commissions.
– All these things go to show that this matter should be probed to the bottom. There should be no favour to any one in our military system. At least, if there is any preference shown, it should be to those who have been in our Forces since the inception of compulsory training. Who is the best man to lead our soldiers at the front, a man brought up among them, whom they all know, and who is fully qualified, or a man who, because of some influential friend, is able to get into a position of this kind ? I hope these matters will be looked into, and that nothing will be done to prevent any capable young Australian from taking his position in the battlefield as an officer.
– Do you not think that twenty- three years is a young enough age for officers who are to be put in charge of men ?
– The question to be considered is the capability of the man. Men may be appointed at thirty or forty years of age, who ought never to have charge of men. The door is being left open for the appointment of men who have no practical training at all. The only test applied to them is a theoretical one in conjunction with a little drill for a month or two while they are in camp. I would prefer the appointment of a competent young man, even though he be under twenty-three years of age. to a man of forty years of age who has not had the necessary training.
– Other things being equal, fE is better to appoint as officers men over twenty-three years than men under twenty-three years of age.
– I am not denying that. But I wish to give the young man who is fully competent an opportunity against the man who has had no training at all. There is one other matter upon which I desire to touch. Port Stephens is considered by Admiral Henderson and other experts to be one of the most suitable places in Australia for a Naval Base, and I think I can safely say that it has one of the best harbors in Australia, a harbor which, if developed, would be equal to that of Sydney. No honorable member who has visited Port Stephens will deny my statement. Money was voted on the last Estimates for the carrying out of the preliminary work for the creation of the naval sub-base there ; there is a further vote of £5,000 on the Estimates now before the Committee, and we are informed that a survey is about to be made, or is being made. I believe that a survey was made a considerable time ago, and I am at a loss to understand why it is necessary to make an additional survey. To have two surveys seems like incurring a good deal more expenditure than is necessary. The work at Port Stephens ought to be pushed ahead just as rapidly as that at Western Port. At the latter place a considerable sum of money has already been spent; a report submitted to-day by the Public Works Committee deals with a proposed further heavy expenditure on buildings, and other proposals for works there are to come before us ; yet nothing is done in regard to so important a place as Port Stephens, which it is admitted will be one of the most important Naval Bases in the Commonwealth. I ask the Minister to give this matter consideration, and not to continue talking about making a survey, having regard to the fact that a survey has already been made, and that land has been acquired for the purposes of a Naval Base. This work should be carried out without delay, because if it is ever necessary to defend Australia, Port Stephens will be one of the most important strategic points on our coast. It will be the base from which we shall have to control the whole of the coast from Sydney to Newcastle, and thence northward, to Brisbane.
– That work should be proceeded with at once.
– There is no doubt about that. We are spending money in many other directions, whilst one of the most important naval works we could undertake is being neglected. I ask the Government to proceed with this work, and do something in reality, so that if our coast is ever attacked this Naval Base will be available to assist in its defence.
– The honorable member for Blunter has brought forward a matter which should be probed to the bottom. In olden times it was the custom to say that officers of the Military Forces depended entirely upon their social position, or the influence of wealth, to secure their commissions. But I thought that in Australia we had done away with any suspicion of such a system, and I was sorry to hear an honorable member, who spoke with such earnestness, say that he is prepared to give specific instances in which unfairness has been shown to a number of young officers who have given splendid service under the compulsory training system, and who, if put to the test, would answer just as nobly as have many of the men who have gone to the front already. An honorable member interjected a few minutes ago that a man had been given a commission as an officer in the Expeditionary Forces who had never previously worn a uniform. That statement should be laid before the Minister of Defence. If any man who had never previously worn a uniform has been appointed an officer, a great scandal has been perpetrated. No man who has not had practical as well as theoretical training should be placed in charge of the lives of the men we are sending forth to defend the Empire. It is monstrous that the Government should have allowed this unfair system to exist for one moment. I have a great deal of sympathy with those young men who have, with so much sacrifice, attended night after night, at not only the compulsory drills, but also the voluntary parades, in order to fit themselves for the positions they hold. The invariable custom is that men are first promoted to a non-commissioned rank, and eventually receive their commission after a test and merit examination.
– The noncommissioned officers have no chance of passing an examination now.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about when he makes that statement. The man who has passed through the rank of non-commissioned officer has the first claim on any commissioned office.
– That ought to be so.
– It is so. The regulations provide for that system of promotion, and the officers in charge of the various divisions follow studiously and loyally the regulations “which have been laid down for their guidance in that regard. Any man who has been passed over through non-compliance with the regulations has only to make a complaint to the honorable member representing his district in order to have that complaint promptly investigated. I have been connected with the Defence Forces of Australia for twenty years, and I know from actual experience the splendid work which is being done by the officers who have charge of the administration of the compulsory training system which we inaugurated with such success. I ask the Assistant Minister to give the Committee to-morrow some indication of what is being done in regard to the widows and mothers who were dependent upon the soldiers who have fallen at the front. I wish to know whether the payments due to the fallen soldiers are being made available to those who may be left behind. I am afraid that a great deal of unnecessary delay has taken place in this regard. Men have died at the front, and the widows and families do not get readily from the Department the payments which the fallen soldiers have amply and fully earned. There is another matter to which I wish to direct the attention of the Assistant Minister. I applaud highly the decision of the Government to provide a separation allowance for wives whom the soldiers have left behind. I regret very much that the cost of obtaining these allowances is so considerable. In Victoria, at any rate, 7s. 6d. is charged for every birth certificate^ although, in my opinion, the authorities might very well be satisfied with what is known as a substitute certificate, acceptable in Courts of law, and which costs only 2s. 6d.
– I support the statements of the honorable member for Hunter and the honorable member for Grampians in regard to the age limit of officers who are permitted to go to the front. I understand that a regulation has been passed that no man shall have a commission unless he is twenty-three years of age or over; and it seems most extraordinary that, after men have served and obtained their commissions in the Citizen Forces, and have studied to the best of their ability, they should, on such a ground, be deprived of the opportunity of seeing active service. In the British Army, I understand, a man may have a commission at eighteen years of age; and men who went into the Mons encounter as subalterns, not yet twenty-three years of age, came out as acting captains. If that is good enough for the British Army, it ought to be good enough for the Australian Forces. There is now a grand opportunity for our men to obtain practical experience of warfare, and fit themselves to become most useful officers of the Citizen Forces should they survive. Duntroon boys, just through their examinations, are allowed to go to the front as subalterns, although they are below the age set forth in the regulation. The only way in which the young officers of the Citizen Forces who are still under twenty-three can get to the front is to resign their commissions and go to England, where they will be gladly welcomed, and given the rank they merit.
– A number of them has done so.
– Yes, and their being driven abroad puts them to great expense. In answer to the honorable member for Wimmera to-day, the Assistant Minister said it was true that a squadron leader had been brought to Victoria from Queensland for the 13th Light Horse, and that there were no men available in Victoria for the position. I pass over the appointments of the colonel and the major, because the Government have a perfect right, and it is absolutely necessary, to select the best men for the position, regardless of any other consideration. If there was no colonel in Victoria fit to command the 13th Light Horse it was perfectly proper for the authorities to get a man from South Australia, and also a man for the position of a major from Tasmania ; but surely there were men in Victoria fit to act as squadron leaders ! I understand that the Victorian officers have been passed over in every case. The adjutant appointed was not even a captain, but a lieutenant, in Queensland, and he was only given the position of captain here when appointed adjutant. This is causing a great deal of soreness amongst the Victorian men, and it is particularly hard on those officers who have been doing all the drudgery at Broadmeadows for so long. I know very well that the answer given to-day to the honorable member for Wimmera was simply a departmental one; and I trust that the Minister will make a note of what I have said, and see that Victorian officers are given a status equal to that enjoyed by their fellow officers in other States.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Last night I attended a meeting held for the purpose of bringing under the notice of the different authorities concerned the position of a large body of men in Victoria. I know that the Prime Minister attended the Premiers’ Conference last week; but I saw no announcement in the press, and he has made none here, as to whether that Conference gave any consideration to the question of unemployment as existing in Australia to-day. I give credit to this Government for having rendered every possible assistance to the Mother Country in the present crisis. The people of Australia have responded nobly to the appeals made on behalf of suffering Belgium. Other appeals have been responded to handsomely ; but whatever appeals have been made on behalf of the men who are suffering from unemployment, and on behalf of the wives and children of those men, have been practically made in vain. While we are justified in doing all that we can to assist those who are in distress in other parts of the world, under no circumstances should we forget our own people. I should be very glad if the Prime Minister would make a statement as to the Government’s attitude on the question of unemployment. The amount of money which has already been subscribed has been far too small to assist those who are suffering, and I think the Government should do all in its power for our own people in the crisis through which they are now passing. I am connected officially with two unemployment committees operating in this State, and as a member of these committees have brought under my notice day after day cases of hardship. Yet while I know that this hardship does exist, I read statements in the press, made by public men, that there is no unemployment. Men who are responsible for statements of this kind are doing a great injustice to a large body of honest, well-deserving individuals.
– They do not know what they are talking about.
– That is so. A gentleman holding a high official position here was waited upon two or three weeks ago by a deputation, which asked him to extend the same facilities for raising money on behalf of the unemployed as were granted to the other bodies. He refused, on the ground that he did not want the fact paraded that we had unemployment in our midst; whilst, as a matter of fact, we have thousands of men in Victoria out of work to-day. I look to this Government, if they have the means at their disposal, to put into operation any works that can in any way lessen the want now being experienced as a result of unemployment ; and I ask the Government to do this now, and not hold the works over until things become normal again, when private employers will be competing for men, and the State Governments will again be raising the cry of immigration. I shall take every possible opportunity of bringing this question before this Parliament, and I hope that the Government will not be lacking in its duty to those who are suffering in our midst to-day.
.- The honorable member has spoken of unemployment in Melbourne. As representing a country constituency, I can tell the House that in Ballarat there is unemployment of a very severe character indeed. We have formed a local committee in connexion with the Trades Hall, and have received £200 in response to our appeal; but we have 400 men applying for two days’ work per week.
– We have 700 unemployed in the South Melbourne district alone.
– It is impossible for the workers themselves, although they are contributing generously, to meet all the demands that are made upon them. The Prime Minister promised, when the
Belgian grant was voted, that we should look after our own people; and I would ask him to-night if it is not possible, in those districts where unemployment is rife, to subsidize the amounts that are being raised by local committees. The money that is being distributed in Ballarat is not being given in charity; it has been given in return for work done - beautifying the city and other work of a beneficial character - and the local people are subscribing as much as they can. I admit that the Government is limited in its scope, and that there are not many works which it can carry on ; but I do not think there is any limitation as to subsidizing amounts subscribed locally. I can assure the Prime Minister that in Ballarat we have cases of actual want due only to the fact that fathers of families are unable to obtain employment. Coming down in the train yesterday, I noticed dozens of men carrying their swag going to look for a day’s work potato-picking. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of them out of work, and yet we here in the Federal Parliament are unable to help. I am not going to detain the House any longer ; but I do hope that we shall get a favorable reply from the Prime Minister, not only as to pushing on with public works, but giving assistance to those bodies who are trying to cope with the problem.
.- I want particularly to call the attention of the Government to the fact that in the district which I represent, owing to the action of the Defence Department in placing an embargo on the export of coal from the port of Newcastle, the export mines have been left practically in a . state of idleness. Many of their men have not had a day’s work for two or three months, and there must be close upon 3,000 men idle.
– That has been done by the Labour Government. ,
– Does the right honorable gentleman desire that we should provide the enemy with coal?
– I can say, in reply to the right honorable member for Swan, that if the Newcastle miners thought that the coal would be going into enemy ships, they would suffer idleness rather than permit that to be done. Owing to the war and to the dislocation of foreign shipping, unemployment in my ‘ district has been brought about. Six hundred or 700 men working at one mine have been given notice that it is closed down. I admit that the opportunities afforded the Federal Government for giving employment to people are very limited when compared with those which may be exercised by the State Governments, but there are certain works in the Newcastle district which should have been begun by the Federal Government over twelve mouths ago, and there is no reason why they should not be put in hand. I ask Ministers to abolish the red-tapism which makes it necessary to have so many surveys of a harbor like that of Port Stephens. There is money on the Estimates for the clearing of rifle ranges, and some employment could be given by the expenditure of that money. I hope that every effort will be made to afford relief to people who are in distress as the result of unemployment.
.- I desire to support the remarks made by the honorable member for Newcastle. A great many persons have been thrown out of employment owing to the war, and through no fault of their own, but it is very possible that a considerable additional number will be thrown out of employment because of the difficulty of obtaining permitted explosives. I asked a question on this subject to-day, because I desire that all that is possible should be done to secure the importation of the permitted explosives necessary for the winning of coal in certain mines. Honorable members generally may not know that in gaseous mines only what are termed permitted explosives may be used, and for this purpose explosives can only be passed in the Old Country. There is, therefore, no inducement for the manufacture of such explosives in Australia. The owner of one of our mines in which only permitted explosives can be used has requested the met) to try to scollop the coa] out. He is prepared to give them 3d. per ton more if they do this, but the men cannot accept his offer, because they could not make a living at the price. The Prime Minister will recognise how necessary it is in the circumstances that the Government should arrange to have supplies of permitted explosives sent to Australia for coal-mining purposes. If this is not done, a great number of men must be thrown out of employment, even in districts where there is a demand for coal. The mines of the
South Maitland field have a demand in the Inter-State markets, but if they cannot get the necessary explosives they cannot get the coal that is required. I hope that the remarks of the honorable member for Newcastle will be given consideration. I might remind honorable members that I have brought the question of the establishment of a testing station for explosives under the notice of the present Prime Minister and of his predecessor at different times during the last three or fouryears. I hope that something will be done to establish such a station. If we are to be a self-contained people, we should take the necessary steps for the establishment of the manufactures we require. If explosives are manufactured here, they have to be sent to the Old Country to be tested before they can be used in gaseous mines. The questions which have been raised are serious, and are well worthy of the consideration of the Prime Minister.
– I shall first deal with the matters which were last referred to. I. heard of the request made by the honorable member for Hunter for the first time to-day, and brought it under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs. We have cabled to various countries where permitted explosives may be obtained, with the object of securing the introduction of this material necessary for obtaining coal in the Newcastle and other districts.” We are prepared to co-operate with honorable members and mine-owners in an effort to bring that about. I have always been strongly in favour of the establishment of a testing station for explosives in Australia, because it is not fair that patent and other explosives made here should have to be sent to Europe to be tested. This condition places the local inventor and manufacturer of explosives at a very great disadvantage, as compared with manufacturers in Europe. Because war has broken out we are doing some things which we would not otherwise do, and honorable members have to bear that in mind.
The honorable members for Fawkner and Ballarat have called attention to a very big question. With regard to what was stated by the honorable member for Ballarat, I hesitate to say that any Government of the Commonwealth would be justified, under our present Constitution, in subsidizing contributions for relief of any kind. I doubt whether even those who are suffering from unemployment would, if they looked into the matter seriously, approve of such a proposal:
– “Was the question discussed at the Inter-State Conference?
– Not while I was there. I was happily able to finish in one day with the nineteen matters in which I was specially interested. The Conference sat for . a long time after I left, but I have not had time to go through all that was done there.
– Doe’s the right honorable gentleman not think that we have the power to subsidize amounts raised locally for relief?
– I believe that the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to dispose of its moneys in its own way, but I should not advise what the honorable member has suggested. I shall tell honorable members why. The State Governments have control of the whole of the lands, and practically of the whole of the means of affording employment for the production of wealth. -Honorable members are aware that almost every piece of land the Commonwealth holds to-day has had to be purchased from the State Governments, and they know the difficulty of our position in the matter of providing relief for unemployment. . I can say for the Government that we have exercised every power that we possess to give as much employment as possible. We have given employment in the renovation of this building, and there is £500 to be spent upon the improvement of the gardens surrounding it. Every proposal which Ministers have brought before me for expenditure upon work of a utilitarian character I have agreed to.
– I mentioned works at Port Stephens and for the clearing of rifle ranges, for which money has been placed on the Estimates.’
– The work of clearing rifle ranges will be proceeded with. I am not so well acquainted with the position of the other matter referred to by the honorable member, but I Wish to assure honorable members generally that nothing will he left undone which this Government can do to provide for expenditure for the relief of the unemployed. The proposal made by the honorable member for Ballarat raises a serious question of policy. It would involve the Government subsidizing contributions to private funds raised not only in the cities and large towns, but in every village and small settlement throughout the country. I have no hesitation in saying that, rather than accept that proposal, I should prefer to face the whole question of the taking over of the provision for relief of every kind by the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The right honorable gentleman “cannot blame the workers if they come to him, seeing that he has asked them not to trust private enterprise.
– We have never said that private enterprise cannot be trusted, but I venture to affirm that our troubles at the present time arise largely from so-called private enterprise. If the honorable member will introduce controversial matters, I say that the State which has had the least of Labour administration is the State which is worst off to-day-
– The Government have the responsibility.
– We accept it. We will not shirk the responsibility which lies before us, but we will not embark on! projects of a charitable character when the citizens whom we wish to shield are willing to give their labour for any wage that they can get. The independence_ of the humblest workman is of more importance than the welfare of any Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned st 10.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 May 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150519_reps_6_76/>.