6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The following message regarding the death of Major-General Bridges has just been received from the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces: -
General Bridges died on passage to Alexandria. Whole force mourns his irreparable loss. Avenged yesterday in brilliant action by his own troops, who inflicted loss of seven thousand on enemy at a cost of less than five hundred to themselves. -IanHamilton..
– Prior to the meeting of the House, after the dinner adjournment last night, I heard from two or three sources the sad news of the death of Major-General Bridges, and, in subsequently referring to the matter in a speech, I was not aware that the news had not been made public. Now that I know that Major-General Bridges’ death had not then been publicly announced by the Government, I fear that my remarks may have caused pain by the premature disclosure of the facts. I do not think that that is probable, but as my speech may have had that effect, I apologize to the Minister and to the friends of the deceased officer for my premature mention of the occurrence.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence aware of the deplorable and dangerous condition of the men at Broadmeadows, owing to the unsuitability of that locality for a military encampment?Is the honorable gentleman not aware that, in other parte of Victoria far removed from the metropolis, there are places which are admirably suited for an encampment, though not so convenient of access?
– Only yesterday I spoke with the Minister of Defence re- garding the dampness of the . Broadmeaows site, and he assured me that drains are being cut and that everything is being done to make the land as dry as possible. He has also decided to take into consideration the question whether a more suitable site could be obtained, but he has not yet arrived at any decision on the matter.
– In view of the fact that soldiers at Broadmeadows suffering with chest complaints have to stand in the ‘ rain, if it is wet, awaiting the examination of the doctor, will the Defence Department see that a tent is provided to protect medical patients from the weather, and thus give them a chance to shake off their complaints ? Will the Assistant Minister of Defence also inquire whether it is true, as stated, that No. 9 pill is used universally to cure all diseases?
– The Department of Defence is doing everything possible at Broadmeadows for the relief of those whoare sick, and the Minister is now negotiating with persons owning large buildings in Melbourne to secure those buildings and have them fitted up as private- hospitals, where properly-trained women nurses will be installed, and the best medical attention given.
Dr.Carty Salmon. - A great deal of illness could be prevented by shifting thecamp.
– We are doing all that we can to insure that the best attention shall be given to those who are ill.
– Has the Assistant. Minister of Defence read the statement in this morning’s newspaper that Lord Kitchener, in forming a new Army, hasreduced the height limit to 5 ft. 2 in.? That being so, will the Defence Department here reduce the height for recruitsin Australia, so that men who are now under the regulation height may have an opportunity to enlist?
– Any number of recruits of the standard height are offering themselves in Australia, and there is, therefore, no need to alter the regulation. Should occasion arise, the Government would consider the matter.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy if he has any direct information as to whether the Parliament of Italy yesterday declared war against Austria?
– I have no information.
Mr.FISHER.-The news has come to hand that the Parliament of Italy has decided by a large majority to intervene. Italy has not declared war.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that many retail traders have not1 lb. of sugar on hand, and can get no definite reply from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company when applications are made to it for supplies? Is this Parliament able, under the Constitution, to deal with the position that has arisen ?
– The information obtained on inquiry bears out the statement that the position is as put by the honorable member, particularly in Victoria. I was informed yesterday that the wholesale houses in Melbourne have not 150 bags between them, and that many towns in Victoria have no sugar at all; that grocers are quite unable to supply their customers, and that the wholesale houses are unable to supply the grocers, stocks being wholly in the hands of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which is not supplying orders as filed. Clearly the powers given to the Parliament by the Constitution are inadequate to enable us to deal with this position.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs give the House any information as to the discharge of men from the east-west railway works, and the reason for it?
– Owing to shortage of water, the difficulties arising from having to use bad water in the engines during the severe drought, the failure of contractors in Australia to supply locomotives and engine boilers to contract time, and the absolute necessity for overhauling existing locomotives, it has been necessary to temporarily reduce the rate of plate-laying, which has entailed dispensing with the services of about 150 men. The water difficulty has been mitigated by rains within the last few days, and when sufficient locomotive power is available it is proposed to increase the number of men employed. I can assure the honorable member that I shall do my utmost to keep up the number employed, but with severe drought, war, and other circumstances against us, the difficulties have been great.
– If the men who are discharged go to Adelaide or to Port Augusta, and are compelled to return within a week or two, will the Minister pay their railway fares?
– I shall have the matter looked into.
– In reference to the publication of the 19th casualty list last night, is the Assistant Minister of Defence in a position to state what date that list covers?
– I am not in a position to answer the honorable member’s question. The list contained the latest news received by the Defence Department up to twenty-four hours prior to its publication.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence bring the matter raised by me last night in regard to payments to the wives of British reservists before the notice of the Minister?
– I will endeavour to comply with the honorable member’s request.
– A number of complaints have reached me of delays in the delivery of cablegrams to the wounded in Egypt, and the time occupied in receiving replies. Can the Assistant Minister of Defence give the House any explanation for those delays, or say whether it is likely there will be an early improvement ? I understand there has been delay not only in official messages, but also in the case of private cablegrams.
– I should like to inform the House, in reply to this question, that it is impossible for the Defence Department to keep everything up to date. Every man at the front is fighting for his life. Those who are wounded are placed on board ship as quickly as possible, but it is impossible to get information straight away from the seat of war. Honorable members may picture to themselves what is going on where everybody is fighting for life, and where we are outnumbered to the extent of ten to one. There is no time to attend to little details of this sort. Honorable members must see that the work at the Dardanelles is of such a terrible nature that it is almost impossible to get a cable sent here concerning any one particular soldier. I hope honorable members will not be unreasonable in this matter, notwithstanding that they are in receipt of letters from their constituents regarding sons and husbands at the front.
– Do you intend the statement to go to the public that the enemy has ten men to our one?
– We hear that 50,000 odd Turks have been sent back as wounded, and we know how many men we have fighting at the front. However, what I want to point out to honorable members is that it is impossible for any person who sends a cable to the front to expect a reply within twenty-four or forty-eight hours, because everything there is so disturbed.
– Regarding the prohibition of the export of sugar and wheat, will the Minister of Trade and Customs have a statement prepared showing the beneficial effect of this prohibition upon the consumers of Australia ?
– I shall be glad to make available any information I have.
– The statement appears in this morning’s Age that Australian news is doubly censored before publication. Can the Prime Minister give any reason why the Australian public should not receive news that has been censored in England without further censoring here?
– I ask the honorable member to hesitate before accepting, as it appears, the statement to which he has referred. We have another idea as to the cause of the lack of information here, and now that a statement has been made on the subject by a representative of the Imperial Government - not a member of the Cabinet - we shall soon ascertain the facts.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether it is true that any portion of the reports of the proceed ings of this House are censored. If so, will he take into consideration the advisability of appointing * Committee from this House to do the censoring ?
– I think the question asked by the honorable member should be addressed to the Speaker. The Government claims no right to censor the proceedings of either House.
– I may point out to the honorable member that nobody has any authority to censor anything that takes place in this chamber but the House itself. No alteration of any kind is permitted in Hansard unless it is one that I would personally sanction, and I would not censor anything that takes place in this House except by the direction of the House itself.
– May I ask if censorship is allowed so far as the newspapers are concerned over the proceedings of this House?
-The’ representatives of the newspapers are here by the courtesy of the House. I have no control over them so long as they conduct themselves in a proper way. If the press desire to publish any information of what takes place here they have a perfect right to do so, because a few days afterwards the same information would be published in Hansard, and the newspapers could merely copy it if they desired. The present arrangement merely gives the public news at an earlier date; but I have no control over the press whatever.
– What I want to know is, has the existing military censorship the right to censor press reports of what takes place in this House, apart from Hansard 1
– I have no control over the press at all in this matter. Whatever action the military authorities may take in regard to press censorship is a matter between the military authorities and the press. It has nothing to do with us. All we are responsible for is the official publication, and of that no censorship is allowed either by the military or any other Department, apart from a decision of the House itself.
– I would like to ask you, Sir. who is responsible for preventing reports as to the shortness of ammunition from being published. This information is published in English papers, but it is not permitted to be published here.
– That is a question the honorable member must address to the Prime Minister or to the Assistant Minister of Defence.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence say whether the military authorities are preventing the publication in the newspapers in Australia of any proceedings or debates in this Parliament?
– It is quite certain they are.
– Absolutely, yes.
– The Minister of Defence has asked the censors, if they think fit, to censor anything that may be stated in Parliament. I will remind the House of the question asked by the honorable member for Bourke. That was censored.
– Yes; they censored me a couple of weeks ago.
– Can the Prime Minister say what special reason exists here for the censorship of news similar to that published every day in Great Britain ?
– None; and it is not done.
– It. is.
– We have done nothing but what we have been asked to do, and in recognition of our obligations in case of war. I have answered an earlier question from the honorable member for Henty, and we will soon discover where the cause of this trouble lies. We will then let the House know.
– Do I understand my right honorable friend to say that the Government have been directed to censor, here, news that is published at Home every day?
– No, we have not been directed, but we have general directions which we are interpreting.
– Then I ask my question again : Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the instructions are being so interpreted as to lead to the censoring of news and criticisms - reasonable, useful criticisms - such as are published in the newspapers every day in England ?
– My trouble is that the news does not come here. Let me illustrate^^
– I am not talking about news that comes here; I am talking about criticisms in this Parliament. Take the speech by Mr. Carr last night-
– Let me illustrate. Take the case of the honorable member for Moreton last night. Supposing he had made a statement inadvertently about a matter that should not then have been made public to any one in this House, he would have been very glad if we had prevented it being published in the evening papers. The same course would be taken with any statement made in this House that was not a fact, and which, if published, might reach the hands of the enemy, and do us harm.
– In view of the statement of the honorable member’s colleague, will the Prime Minister give the House an early opportunity of discussing the practice of the military censorship in censoring the debates and criticism that take place within Parliament?
– Yes. Every facility will be given to this House and the other House by the Government to discuss that matter in as full and fair a way as possible.
– Will the right honorable gentleman take a direction from the House upon it?
– I shall not. The responsibility rests with this Government in this matter. Some things might be said in this Parliament which we, possessing the knowledge Ave have, would know would, if published, militate’ against the interests and the welfare of the country. We should not, in such circumstances, allow its publication.
– Will the Prime Minister state if, since the commencement of the war, any statement has been made in this House concerning the administration of the Defence Department, or in any other way, that was onehalf as strong as statements made by the Prime Minister of England, Lord Kitchener, and others, so that he may justify the action of the Minister or the Assistant Minister of Defence in instructing the censors to exercise censorship over what has taken place in this House?
– I am not here to answer hypothetical questions of that kind. All I know is that we are clothed with the responsibility of protecting, as far as we can, the interests of Great Britain, of the other Dominions, and of ourselves, and we shall do that. If the time comes when it is considered that we are not doing it properly, then there is a proper remedy; taut there is no intention on the part of the Government to censor a. single matter that touches upon politics. That will not be done. If honorable members can quote any occasion where matters of purely party politics have been so dealt with, suitable instructions will be issued in the matter.
– I am afraid my right honorable friend is acting under a misconception in this matter. I will ask him whether he reserves to himself the right to censor any criticism concerning the administration of our Defence or any other Department?
– No. This Government will not censor any matter regarding the political administration of the Defence Department, or of any other Department.
– That is being done.
– Then it will be corrected. Every opportunity will be given to honorable members to point out where it is being done, and if it is being done it will be stopped.
– In view of the statement by the right honorable gentleman, will he take the opportunity of ascertaining by cable from the British Government whether a military censorship exists with regard to the proceedings of the House of Commons?
– Yes, and we will make further inquiries following upon the statement made by one of the junior British Ministers, that the censorship is being carried out here. We will soon discover what the statement is worth.
– If it is desirable, in the public interest, that information such as the Prime Minister has described, should not be known outside, or reach the hands of the enemy, and if, as I understand, Hansard is not being censored, how does the Prime Minister propose to deal with the difficulty? Thousands of copies of Hansard are circulated throughout the Commonwealth and abroad, and I should like to know how the Prime Minister proposes to meet that difficulty?
– We shall meet the difficulty by stopping all communications by cable of a kind likely to help the enemy. We do not propose to prevent the circulation of Hansard over sea. I do not think its circulation abroad is very large.
– In view of a suggestion that was made during an epidemic of railway accidents in England that a director of each railway company should ride on the engine of every express train, I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether he and his colleagues will consider the desirableness of requiring the Head-Quarters Staff, which is responsible for the selection of the site, and for the maintenance of the Broadmeadows Camp, to spend there a week-end under service conditions ?
– I think that I recognise the depth of the honorable member’s question. I shall be very pleased to go to Broadmeadows camp this week-end, and the honorable member may accompany me.
– I would not take the risk.
Fees and Expenses Paid
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Ifhe will submit a statement showing -
The number and designation of paid Parliamentary Committees or Commissions now existing, consisting wholly or in part of senators and members of the House of Representatives?
The total number of Members (senators and members of the House of Representatives) who are upon such Committees?
The aggregate amount paid to such Committees during the life of the present Parliament to date, for fees and expenses separately?
The number of members of Parliament who are members of more than onepaid Committee or Commission, and the amounts drawn in fees and expenses during the life of this Parliament by each member who is serving on two or more Committees?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Erection of Workmen’s Cottages
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With a view of improving the conditions of the Commonwealth employees at the Naval Dockyards, Cockatoo Island -
Will the Government consider a scheme to erect workmen’s cottages convenient to the works ?
Will the Prime Minister approach the State Government of New South Wales with a view of obtaining a report from the State Housing Board as to whether suitable sites for cottages can be obtained at Rozelle and Balmain?
Can a practicable scheme be successfully carried out so as to house the workmen close to the place of their employment?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the Prime Minister’s reply to the question of the member for Hume, in connexion with the Land Tax Office, Sydney, in which he said, inter alia - “I took steps to get other premises at a reasonable rate” - will the Prime Minister place on the table of the House all the papers dealing with the proposed removal of the Land Tax Administration from Bent-street, Sydney?
– For greater convenience the papers will be placed on the table of the Library.
The following papers were presented: -
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at
Booroomba, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Chatswood, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Euoolo Creek, South Australia - For Railway purposes.
Depôt Creek, South Australia - For Railway purposes.
Further correspondence (dated 2nd April, 1015) between the United States Government and His Majesty’s Government respecting the Rights of Belligerents.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 20th May, vide page 3323) :
.- I do not propose, at a time like this, to discuss the Defence Department in its general bearings.
– Why not do so, if press reports of what is said here are to be censored ?
– That is the very point to which I propose briefly to address myself. It came to me as a considerable shock to learn from the Prime Minister a few moments ago that the very proper attitude he is takingup as to information that should not be published is in relation only to circulation abroad. Newspaper reports of speeches made in this House apparently are to be censored, but the official records, which are easily obtainable in any part of Australia, are not to be censored, and may be sent oversea. Could we have a greater tangle of nonsense?
– The Prime Minister said that Hansard reports are not to be cabled oversea.
– The honorable member must see as clearly as I do that the whole position in this regard is utterly hopeless. I take it that the Prime Minister would stop the cabling oversea of a Hansard report, but would allow Hansard to be transmitted through the post to some oversea destination.
– Yes, because by the timethat it had reached its destination through the post any danger attaching to premature publication of news would have passed.
– Then the Government are going to allow Hansard to be sent oversea ?
– The information given in it so far as defence matters are concerned might be valuable from an enemy point of view for only a week.
– Is it on that basis, then, that we are going to allow Hansard, uncensored, to be circulated locally? The right honorable gentleman will see that the case set out by him is utterly untenable. I suppose that the circulation of Hansard is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60,000 copies per week.
– But the point is that no cable can be transmitted from Australia without our knowledge.
– That is so whether a cable be sent by a newspaper or a private individual. The Prime Minister’s answer to my inquiry draws attention to the fact that this action on the part of the authorities can hardly be so much to protect the public welfare- as for some other purpose.
– This question of interference with the publication of news is going to be raised later. We shall be prepared to open that discussion at any time. If the Opposition desire to raise the matter now we are prepared to allow that to be done.
– That is the answer of a man sure of his majority.
– No. The charge made is either a serious one or nothing at all. Those who make it should come right into the open.
– We cannot come into the open, seeing that although the Government say “ Come out,” .they use all the powers of the law to censor what we say. By way of illustration, let me point out that we had last night from an honorable member opposite a very valuable contribution to the discussion concerning the Small Arms Factory. This question of munitions has been fully and freely threshed out in England, and threshed out, it is believed, for the benefit of the people as a whole. But here we are not allowed to discuss the question of whether there should be one or two shifts per day at the Small Arms Factory - whether we should work at full or only half our energies because, prithee, it is dangerous that the enemy should know that we are not working two or three shifts at the factory, and still more dangerous that the public should know that we are utilizing only half our energies.
– The same question is being discussed in England.
– In every country, with, perhaps, the exception of France, it is being publicly urged - without interference from the censor - that every legitimate means should be employed to secure the utilization of their full energies in turning out war supplies. But in this country it is apparently an iniquity - so iniquitous that it should be hushed up - ‘for an honorable member to suggest that an instrumentality under the Government is not working full time. I would urge upon the Prime Minister that it is ridiculous and absurd to censor the newspaper reports of our proceedings - in other words, to censor publications which Australian people read - and at the same time not to censor Hansard, which is open to any alien, naturalized or unnaturalized, who chooses to buy it.
– The Defence Department has no power over Hansard.
– This shows the utter futility of the whole thing. Here we have the–
– Should a Committee of the House censor the House? The honorable member does not like it.
– There are many things I do not like, but I do not object to your trying them. I think even the honorable member will appreciate the fact that it would be very difficult to censor any statement until it had been made, and as this is supposed to be a deliberative assembly it would be utterly impracticable, even for the honorable member, to devise any means of censoring an honorable member. But we have been censored outside. I do not think I have made any statement in this House about the Small Arms Factory, but regard the question of whether or not the Small Arms Factory is putting forth its best energies as a very proper subject for discussion. Every one desires that it shall do so, and if such a matter may be discussed in England, the great munition supplier of Europe, surely in the Commonwealth, where we are turning out only a few thousand rifles–
– Our enemies probably know more about the Small Arms Factory than does the Parliament or the Minister.
– It is quite true that the capacity of the factory was made public to the world, through ordinary parliamentary papers, long before this war was thought of. It is well known everywhere in this community - except by the general voting strength of the community - that the factory is not working a double shift.
– The men there are doing their very best. They are working from 7.30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. We are not attacking the men.
– The men do not desire these long hours. They prefer a double shift.
– I am not attacking the men or the system; but I contend that an inquiry into the matter is a very proper function for this Parliament to undertake. We want to know whether we are doing our best. Under the practice to which I am taking exception, Australia is debarred from learning whether we are or are not doing so in this regard. This is not an occasion requiring philippics against some unpatriotic person, but it is an occasion requiring the display of a certain amount of common sense. There is an extraordinary conflict between the two positions which the Prime Minister has taken up.
– I do not wish to go into particulars, nor do I wish to answer the views put forward by honorable members. At the present time the Government have only one aim and purpose in regard to this matter, and, though it may be mistaken, it is not political. I have a suggestion to make. I shall be glad to consult with a representative number of honorable members of the Opposition upon the matter. It is too big a question about which to quibble, or to make political capital.
– I feel that already something has been gained this morning by securing from the Prime Minister, for the first time, a statement to the effect that he will consult with Opposition members regarding this very important question of censorship. I can tell the right honorable gentleman that honorable members have not taken action without having the fullest possible justification for so doing. Criticism which is intended to facilitate the discharge of the obligations arising out of the war is being censored - unwisely and unduly, I think. I hold very Strongly that the action of censoring such criticism tends to inefficiency and not efficiency in the conduct of the war. Our supreme object should be the public interest. What is the public interest? Surely it cannot be injured by a free, full, and frank criticism of the way in which the war is being conducted. Almost every day such criticism takes place in the Old Country. In fact, in a recent speech Mr. Asquith invited it. He said -
To-day all our efforts and energies are concentrated upon tlie war, and we are all in absolute agreement that it behoves every man among us, here or elsewhere, by act of service, or, if that is impossible, in such other channels as may be open to him - and of these appropriate parliamentary criticism is not the least important - to subordinate every other interest to the one overmastering purpose.
What boots parliamentary criticism here if the public may know nothing about it ? Take, for instance, the speech delivered last night by the honorable member for Macquarie. I did not hear the whole of it, but that portion of it which I was privileged to hear seemed to be criticism of a temperate and capable kind directed to a subject with which the honorable member’s very position as representative of the Macquarie electorate makes him fully acquainted. Yet in this morning’s newspapers there is not even a reference to it. Such censorship cannot be in the public interest. If there should happen to be some concern under the control of the Government into which, in the opinion of capable judges outside, there should be an inquiry, and about which there should be free discussion, surely there ought to be no censoring of such a matter as that. The honorable member was referring to the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. My opinion is that this factory is in such a condition that some action of a special kind should be taken in regard to it, because, while munitions are our overmastering requirement at the present time, the gates of that factory are closed every Saturday religiously at noon and not opened till Monday morning. Such a state of affairs is an absolute farce; in fact, it is a tragedy. We may as well give notice to the Germans that we are not fighting at the week-end as to stop work in our preparations for battle. As Lord Kitchener has repeatedly told the workmen in the Old Country, the battle is being fought in our workshops. But, apparently, what Lord Kitchener can tell the workmen in Great Britain we are not permitted to say here. That is our complaint. In Australia we are not permitted to do anything like what people are permitted to do every day of their lives in other countries of the world, and I maintain that it will be wrong to permit such a state of affairs to continue. The Prime Minister has given his assurance that no political considerations enter into the attitude which he and his Ministers assume in regard to censorship. I give him credit for that statement, but may I suggest that this morning for the first time has he taken the only course which can put it to the proof. He will recollect that immediately war broke out Oppositionists were appointed to the control of the censorship in the Old Country in conjunction with Government men. That was the best proof that the Imperial Government could give that no political considerations were to prevail in connexion with the censorship.
– The British Government appointed an Oppositionist as censor.
– Mr. F. E. Smith was Chief Censor for many months.
– He was the Government Censor, but he happened to be a member of the Opposition. We have been doing likewise here. Opponents of the Government are doing the censor work, and doing it very well.
– I am making no complaint except upon one point, namely, that the Ministry are directing the censorship of criticism, which is intended to be helpful, and which, I believe, is helpful. Before long I shall make the right honorable gentleman aware of the kind of criticism that is being censored - if he is not aware of it already. I maintain that a very serious state of affairs is growing up in connexion with this matter. Apparently. whatever a Minister or an officer may say goes in. I heard an officer saying the other day that we had arranged for about 20,000 more soldiers than we had rifles available. Could a statement like that help our people here or help recruiting ? I had to correct the officer on a public platform, but of course the whole thing was censored. I think the only thing published about the meeting was that a dog was howling while I was speaking. I have not inquired as to whether I am subjected to a rigid censorship by some newspapers that I could name, but the fact remains that oftentimes when I have essayed to give particulars which I have thought would be useful, and facts concerning the present situation, I have found no mention of them in the newspapers.
– In the first five years of our public life we were both censored unscrupulously.
– I get plenty of censuring and censoring. I appreciate the spirit of the Prime Minister to-day, and I tell him that the invitation which he has given to the Opposition will be most cordially accepted, and that we shall do our best to put this matter on a proper basis. But at the same time I wish to remind honorable members of the importance of this matter, and to quote one instance which indicates it. I am told that if any news is censored the man concerned may not be told by the newspaper proprietor that his news lias been censored. Is that not an absurd condition of affairs, that a man may not be told that an important deliverance of his own has been censored ? I wonder how far this is to go. If it is to continue, this thing may happen - I do not speak of the present Ministry; I am merely illustrating the principle of the matter ; but there have been incompetent administrators during a period of national crisis, and men have been put out of office for not doing what they should have done, and because their removal has been an overpowering national necessity. If the, censorship is to be the exclusive prerogative of the Minister or an official who may be censurable and incompetent- I do not make any reflection on present Ministers; I do not wish to do so; I have no justification for doing so; I am speaking absolutely impersonally and putting a hypothetical case, and in the history of the British Empire incompetent men have shielded themselves by preventing the publication of anything relating to their administration or incompetency - it comes to this that we may push the point of censorship to the point of injuring instead of helping ourselves in the prosecution of the war. Is criticism which tends to efficiency to be censored ? That is the over-mastering question, and the only consideration. If we are to permit an undisputed censorship by the very people who are affected by that criticism, we are doing a very wrong thing in connexion with the prosecution of the war, and may defeat the very purpose we have in view, namely, the preservation of our efficiency in the conduct of the war in the most vigorous way, and under the most advantageous terms to ourselves. The
Prime Minister asks us to come out in the open. The answer is that we cannot come out in the open for the simple reason that if we make a statement to the newspapers it is censored, and we may not even ascertain from those newspapers the fact that it has been censored.
– Is not half the trouble due to the fact that the censors have no expert knowledge of newspaper work ?
– I should think that that fact has a good deal to do with the matter. But I maintain that criticism of facts that makes for greater efficiency at tlie Small Arms Factory should not be absolutely shut out as is now done. Here in Australia we are told that we must not say anything about the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, and that, if we do, our remarks shall not appear in public.
– Or the Empire would collapse.
– Yes; if the public should happen to know that we were not getting quite as many rifles as “we would like to get. Lord Kitchener is telling the British people every day that he is not getting the munitions he requires. He is not afraid to let the enemy know that he needs more munitions. The statement is being circulated throughout the Empire.
– Every issue of the Times has an article upon the subject.
– Every issue of the Times certainly contains criticism which would not be permissible under our censorship in Australia. Does the Prime Minister remember the castigation the Times gave to Winston Churchill the other day ?
– Apparently there issomething wrong if we judge by the reconstruction that is now in progress.
– It is fair to assume that there has been an overpowering public desire in Great Britain that something more should be done.
– I hope that no censorship here has been exercised in regard to the actions or statements of Ministers.
– I am able to tell the honorable member that a statement, not reflecting on the Minister, but suggesting another course that the Minister should take at the Small Arms Factory, has not been allowed to appear in the public press, That statement had been carefully prepared by the ex-Minister of Defence, but was not allowed to appear in public print. If that act of suppression does not approach suspiciously near the introduction of the political element into the censorship, I should like to know what does.
– Did not that statement by Senator Millen appear in tlie press’?
– It did, but the Minister had the last say on the matter, and nothing further has appeared. Enough said ! That sort of censorship should cease, because no one could read the statement by the ex-Minister of Defence on a question with which he was entirely familiar without feeling that it was a criticism that was both, appropriate and deserving of consideration. Let us. see what had happened in England. According to a leading article in the Times, of 16th March, Lord Kitchener told the Empire - that although the manufacturers of munitionsof war have been working at “ the highest possible pressure.” the output does not only not equal our necessities, but does not fulfil expectations.
Senator Millen never said anything half as severe as that.
– I think there is method in Lord Kitchener’s statement.
– And there ismethod in our criticism, I think; but whilst our statements are suppressed, criticism in England is allowed to be published broadcast.
– At Home there are unlimited opportunities of producing munitions of war.
– And in our case it is alleged by competent authorities that whilst our opportunities for producing munitions of war are not unlimited they are much more than are being taken advantage of. It is that criticism, that judgment, that conviction, which is not allowed to appear in public print by direction of the Minister himself. Clearly it is criticism of the Minister’s administration that tlie Minister himself will not permit to appear. Lord Kitchener further said -
In other words, we are delayed in putting our new armies in tlie field, and in bringing the war to a successful termination becausewe cannot get arms, and ammunition, and equipment fast enough.
No statement could be stronger, yet it was published in the Times, which circulates all over the British Empire. Senator Millen made a statement which was not one-tenth as serious as that of Lord Kitchener, and the Minister would not allow it to appear.
– There is to be a conference; why say more at this stage?
– I hope we are going to confer, and I am furnishing reasons why there should be some conference.
– Does the honorable member’s hope imply a doubt of my statement?
– I hope not. The Times article continued -
Lord Kitchener acknowledged that the majority of our workmen were toiling loyally and well, but he also said bluntly that there were casus where “ absence, irregular time-keeping, and slack work “ had led to a marked diminution of output.
Lord Kitchener is reported in the same issue as having said - “ I can only say that the supply of war material at the present moment, and for the next two or three months is causing me very serious anxiety.” He wished the workmen to realize that it is absolutely essential, not only that the arrears in the deliveries of our munitions should be wiped off, but that the output of every round of ammunition was of the utmost Importance. The new Defence of the Realm Bill, for the mobilization of our industrial resources was, in his opinion, imperatively necessary.
Then a statement was published in the Melbourne Herald, which purported to come from the Glasgow correspondent of the Times. I venture to say that such a statement would never be permitted to come from the mouth of any critic in Australia -
We have a very unpalatable message to give to the public in regard to the production of munitions in the north. Only after consultation with responsible persons I decided to write. If there were a prospect of improvement I would not speak, but the strong force of public opinion is needed. It is no exaggeration to say that not merely the successful prosecution of the war, but its whole issue, is jeopardized by the industrial inefficiency in the north.
I say nothing as to the justification for that criticism. I am only instancing the fact that the most scarifying criticism in regard to the production of munitions of war in the Old Country is permitted to appear in the public press every day as a matter of course. That Glasgow correspondent continued -
The country is living in a fool’s paradise. 1 believe that the Government, too, is a most important cause of the attitude of certain sections of organized labour.
One could not get a statement of that character published in our Australian newspapers. If any Australian public man were to dare to say that we are living in a fool’s paradise, and that the whole issue is being jeopardized by the actions of the Minister - but perish the thought; no one has ever suggested such a thing, and if any one had suggested it, no newspaper would be permitted to make the statement public. In that fact lies the distinction and the difference between the censorship in England and the censorship here. The Times, criticising another speech by Lord Kitchener, said -
He sought the publicity of the House of Lords in order to have a straight talk with the working man on drink, irregular timekeeping, slack work, and trade union restrictions on the one hand, and on wages and war rewards on the other.
So the criticism goes on. To it must be added the statement by Admiral Jellicoe that his ships were being rendered inefficient by the lack of industrial efficiency in the workshops and arsenals, and Sir John French’s statement that his operations were hampered because he required more men and more ammunition. But here in Australia one must not say a word about our little factory at Lithgow lest it should jeopardize the conduct of the war. Such an attitude is farcical. Regarding the Small Arms Factory, I desire to call the attention of the Ministry to a few facts, mention of which is appropriate just now. I realize that, although I may mention these facts in the House to-day, they will not be permitted to be published in the press to-morrow. First of all, let honorable members get into their minds the fact that the war machine at Lithgow does not work at night, or at week-ends. The enemy is fighting every night and all night - on Sundays and on Saturday afternoons - but those men at Lithgow, who have as much to do with the successful prosecution of the war as have the men at the front, are not permitted - I will put it that way - to work on Saturday afternoons or on Sundays.
– We have 33,000 men out of work.
– I understand that the reason given for not working more than one shift in the Small Arms Factory is that there is not available a sufficient number of trained workmen.
– More men cannot be put on to work, if there is not the material.
– Is that the point ?
– I am not saying that it is.
– If there be anything in the suggestion, could there be a more utter condemnation of the management of this place ?
– The honorable member himself could not manufacture if he had not material.
– Does the honorable member not see that it is the prime function of the management to have material on hand ?
– Did the honorable member know that war was going to break out at the time it did? The management knew no more than he did.
– That is no answer. A management, which is making rifles for war, is making them, in the light of war, which may break out at any moment. All this is news to me, but if it is true that there is no material
– I do not say “ no” material.
– Then, no material for a second shift-
– Perhaps so.
– If that be the case, I think somebody ought to be questioned on the point. As to the training of men for this work, honorable members will recollect that last year I persuaded Mr. Swinburne, of the Inter-State Commission,, who is a trained engineer, and has had to do with engineering works all his life, to proceed to Lithgow, not only to settle the dispute that was then on, but to try to arrange a set of working conditions that would be mutually satisfactory for the future. Mr. Swinburne spent his New Year’s holiday over this work; and in the course of his report, which has been laid upon the table, he, speaking of the dispute, said -
The A.S.E. contend that the whole of the toolmaking, from beginning to end, is mechanics’ or engineer’s work. They readily admit that part can be clone by unskilled labour, but demand that that part should be done by apprentices to the trade, and not by men, or older youths, brought in from the manufacturing branch. It docs not matter how competent the unskilled labourers may have proved themselves, or if they are competent the A.S.E. insist on having the right to say whether they are so, and, if they are, they may be admitted as members of the A.S.E. to the grade of machinists.
This is what I wish to call attention to -
The management contend that, with the exception of the making of jigs, gauges, vyces, parts of machines, and the higher class work, all the smaller tools, such as cutters, drillers, reamers, and repetition work, can, under the supervision of mechanics, be made by hands who have not served their apprenticeship as mechanics, by the special automatic or semiautomatic machines which have been, or are being installed in the tool-room for that purpose; and, further, say that it is customary at other works. Mr. Wright instances American and Birmingham practice in support of his view; while, on the other hand, the A.S.E. instance Enfield practice, at which latter place it is said the tool-room is altogether run by mechanics and apprentices.
The point is that, when there was a dispute with the Engineers Society, the manager of the factory said that anybody, when once shown, could do the work under the direction of a few skilled workmen, but now, when it comes to the matter of a double shift, he declares that men cannot be trained. One statement is at variance with the other, so far as I understand, and I cannot believe that this factory could not be so managed, as to put all these automatic and high-grade machines to their full use.
– Things may be better when Mr. Wright goes away.
– I am not criticising Mr. Wright, unless it is by implication in my remarks. I am mentioning facts that Mr. Wright himself has stated, and these are all fair subjects for criticism. When such criticism is made, either here or outside, it ought not to be subject to the censorship. Nobody, so far as I know, would think of telling the enemy how many rifles were turned out, or anything of that kind. Of course, such information as that would be censorable; but, surely, criticism directed to making the establishment more efficient, and to the multiplying of the munitions of war, ought to be regarded as legitimate, reasonable, and helpful?
.- A most remarkable spectacle is presented to Parliament and the country this morning, though, perhaps, I ought not to say that it is presented to the country, because the chances are that the outside public will know nothing about it. Here we find a party and Government which is supposed to be upholders of public liberty pursuing a policy of suppression so utterly bad, that the very friends of suppression are led to protest against it. We are told this morning by one member of the Government that there is to be publicity, and from another member of the Government that he is quite prepared to see Hansard itself censored. If that be so, it is evident that the Government speaks with a divided voice on the situation; and it appears that these two gentlemen are to confer with members of the Opposition as to what ought to be censored. But the honorable member for Parramatta has said that the supreme factor for consideration is the public interest. If what was said by the honorable member for Macquarie last night be true, and if what the honorable member for Parramatta says is true - that the supreme factor is the public interest - we are confronted with a condition of things so absolutely rotten, so corrupt, and so evident of incapacity that the public interest is threatened, and the public safety endangered.
– The honorable member is overdoing it when he says that the administration is “ rotten “ and “ corrupt,” and I take exception to those words.
– The honorable member for Bourke is certainly overstating the case.
– Under the circumstances, the honorable member for Bourke must withdraw the words.
– Why should I withdraw the words?
– According to the rules of Parliament any words that are objected to as offensive must be withdrawn.
– All right; I shall withdraw those words, and put the statement in another form. I say that the conduct of this Department is so absolutely bad as to endanger the public safety, and to be inimical to the public interest.
– The Assistant Minister had better wait until I have concluded. In the first place, we have been told by one Minister that nothing will be censored except what in his opinion is prejudicial to the public safety. Only a fortnight ago we were told, clearly and distinctly, by the Minister of Defence that he had informed the members of the press that they were not to report a question that had been put in this Chamber by myself. Who is to be the judge of these things? What is to be the criterion ? How can incapacity or improper conduct be brought to light, or how can errors and wrongs be rectified, if not by public criticism ? Parliament is the only channel by which a member has any assurance of having his views placed before the public. Only the other day a man who had served his country for a long time was suddenly called out and dismissed without a moment’s notice or without being told why. He was cast out upon the streets, although he had been in the service for twenty-five years, and had, by arduous effort, rendered valuable assistance to this Democracy. What is the common right of a human being, if not to be faced with his accusers, told what the accusation is, and to be tried ? If such a man is found guilty, then he may be punished either by the Courts, or by being deprived of his employment. But the man to whom I refer was not faced by his accusers, had no accusation made against him, and was not tried by the Courts; he was simply thrown out on the streets by an arbitrary Minister, and his wife and children left destitute. Is this what is called justice and honour in such a party and such a Parliament? We had a statement yesterday by the Minister in another place. Senator Millen made various statements, and asked questions of the Minister of Defence, and an investigation is supposed to have taken place in reference to the Red Cross goods alleged to have been sold at Rabaul. The Minister of Defence in the Senate yesterday said the Court of Inquiry had found -
That the statement made by Private K. B.. Campbell in his letter to his mother is untrue.
That Campbell admitted to Colonel Watson and Captain Lane, in the presence of Warrant Officer Inglis, that the statement in question was untrue.
That this admission was reduced into writing, in duplicate, and signed by Campbell.
The Minister of Defence gives credence to such statements; but let any man look up the record. I say that that record contains evidence of conspiracy to discredit one man because he is in a humble position, and to free social criminals from their responsibilities. This is the case in which the Sim newspaper made various statements in regard to these Red Crossgoods, alleging that the soldiers had tobuy the things that had been presented to them. In this connexion questions were asked by Senator Millen - not by me, the outcast, but by a responsible man who is respected by the Opposition, if not by this side. That honorable senator yesterday asked a question, and got an answer. He was informed by the Minister that there was correspondence regarding the matter, and that inquiry had been held. What happened ? The main allegation was that this man had not only admitted that he had lied - that before Colonel Watson and Captain Lane he admitted that he had lied in connexion with these officers, and admitted that the officers were honest men, and that this confession had been reduced to writing in duplicate. In his sworn evidence, however, this man, Campbell, said that he never did make any such confession, but adhered to his original statement. How and by what means can the truthfulness or untruthfulness of either side be proved? By producing the written confession. It is said that one copy of this confession was sent to the editor of the Sim newspaper, and one given to Colonel Holmes, but no such document can be found in -the records.
– Is there no copy of it?
– Not a copy- not a pretence of a copy. One officer says that this private did make a statement, a second officer says that he saw him make it, and a third1 officer says that he received a copy. Where, then, is it? Colonel Holmes said that he sent a copy to the Minister. On the 8th May Colonel Holmes wrote a private letter to the Minister, beginning, “ Dear Mr. Pearce,” <ind saying -
For your private information, and not with any idea of forestalling any inquiry you may see lit to hold, I will now recapitulate all the circumstances.
That letter is put on the official files; and here is a question for Parliament and the country: If the Minister thought fit to put the private communication of Colonel Holmes on the public files, why did he not also put on the files the copy of the confession which Colonel Holmes says he sent to him 1 I ask the Minister where is the letter that Colonel Holmes says he sent to him some months ago in connexion with the matter? Why is it not on the files? In the same private letter, Colonel Holmes said -
Colonel Watson at the same time handed me a copy of a letter of explanation which Campbell had written to the Sun newspaper denying the report they had published.
Where is that letter? If Campbell did write such a letter or make such a confession, it is evidence of his guilt, and of the officer’s innocence; but it is just these essential documents that are not forthcoming. Yet a Minister of the Crown presents the report he did, as a bond fide justification of the officers, and a ‘condemnation of the private soldier. Three things were alleged in the sworn evidence, namely, that one duplicate of the confession was sent to the Minister, one to Colonel Holmes, and a third copy to the editor of the Sim newspaper. The first two copies mentioned are not produced, and the editor of the Sun newspaper says that he never received one. Here are the findings of the court martial -
That the statement made by Private K. B. Campbell in his letter to his mother is untrue.
That is simply a matter of affirmation and denial -
That this admission was reduced to writing and signed by Campbell.
Where is that admission; which Campbell denies he ever made? -
That one copy, or part, was sent to Administrator by Officer Commanding tx-oops, and copy forwarded by the Administrator to the Honorable the Minister for Defence.
That the second copy, or part, was addressed and posted by Captain Lane personally, by the express order of the Officer Commanding troops, to the editor of the Sun.
As I have said, the editor of the Sun denies ever having received such a document. If Campbell swore falsely in giving his evidence, why has he not been prosecuted for perjury? He said -
I did not write any letter beyond my first mention of the matter to my mother. I did not write to the Sun denying Colonel Holmes5 statement about my having written to them. I wrote to the Sun contradicting Colonel Holmes’ statement, and the reporter then came out to see me. … I signed no statement before Colonel Watson that I did not buy the pyjamas from the Government store.
Campbell went on to say that the profits of the sale of these goods went to the officers, and Captain Goodsell went into Court to contradict this. And how did he do that? He said that Campbell’s statement could not be true, for the simple reason that no profits were made. And how was that? Captain Goodsell said that no profits could be made on the dry canteen because what was for sale was dead stock bought from Burns, Philp, and Company, and that the men would not look at it. This Department - the men who are said to be not corrupt or operating in a manner inimical to the public interest - admits that it bought from Burns, Philp, and Company useless stock that the men would not buy. There were rotten rugs, and tobacco that wa3 stale and unsmokable; and these facts are put forward in order to show that Campbell’s statement could not be true. As a matter of fact, this is the strongest condemnation of the Department that there could possibly be. Captain Watson said that he posted Campbell’s letter to the Sun, but the editor of that journal denied having received it. Any one who reads these documents through will see in them ample evidence of organized conspiracy by the officers to save themselves. He said, too, that he wrote in duplicate on the subject, one copy being sent to the Administrator. This matter should not be allowed to stand where it does- There is ample evidence that in a country which is not within the war area justice should be administered by tribunals which are not court martials. We have had private soldiers judged by their officers and officers judged by each other. Lord Russell of Killowen told Queen Victoria that the members of court martials are so steeped in prejudice regarding questions of what they call honour that they are incapable of doing justice. Campbell says that when he made a statement regarding the matters referred to he was called upon at a moment’s notice to pack his kit, and was sent for monthspatrolling the islands. The officers say that nothing of the kind happened, but that applications from those who were willing to accept extended service were asked for, and that Campbell applied. Campbell says that that is a lie. It can be proved whether it is or is not a lie. Did Campbell volunteer? If so, where is his written application, or the proof that he volunteered by word of mouth. The papers which have been laid before the Senate show on their surface evidence of deliberate conspiracy. They do not contain the documents that are essential to the justification of the position taken up by the military authorities. Until the confession which this private soldier is said to have made has been produced, the Minister, Colonel Holmes, and the whole Administration must stand condemned as mere concocters and conspirators against the public interest. I leave the matter there.
– I must object to the language used regarding the Minister. He has been practically called a conspirator.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the word “ conspirator.”
.- We should have a statement from the Assistant Minister of Defence on this subject. A most serious charge has been made by the honorable member for Bourke. Papers have been laid on the table of the Library which purport to be the full file, but, according to the honorable member, they are not complete. That charge, if incorrect, should be easily answered. The Assistant Minister should have no difficulty about producing Campbell’s letter. I do not think that we should proceed with the consideration of the Estimates until we have had a reply from the Assistant Minister. It is awkward that the Minister of Defence is not a member of this House.
– A big Department like the Defence Department should be represented here.
– We know that the Assistant Minister, not being in charge of the administration of the Department, is not as well acquainted with all that takes place as is the Minister himself. The latter, of course^ has his hands very full at the present time, but if we want our young men to continue to enlist, we must make them confident that they will receive fair play from their officers. The statement of the honorable member for Bourke has been made with a full sense of responsibility, and the knowledge that if it is untrue the honorable member will forfeit the confidence of the House and of his constituents. Campbell, said that his mate had purchased certain clothing which was proved by a card enclosed with it to have been sent by the Red Cross Society for free distribution to the men. He wrote a letter containing that statement to the Sydney Sun-. An inquiry was held later, and it was reported that Campbell confessed that he had been telling a lie. The honorable member for Bourke contends that Campbell’s denial of his first statement should be produced. I think that the Committee should insist on its production, and to confine the discussion to that question, and insure a full explanation by the Minister. I move -
That subdivision 1 - Military Pay, £44,4GS - bo reduced by fi.
.- The case that has been brought under notice, though, perhaps, not a very important one in itself, contains elements which strike at the very root of our military administration, and cannot be ignored by the Minister. The House and the country wish to know whether those who enter our Military Forces are to be treated as justly as they would be treated were they in civil occupations. Will they be given the opportunity to make good any charge, on the understanding that they must suffer penalties for any wrongdoing ? If the charge of the honorable member for Bourke is proved, a private has been slandered by his officers. I do not know Campbell, but I understand that he discovered that certain indiscretions, or certain offences, had been committed, and brought the matter before the Department, and made it public. In my judgment, to purloin an article given by a charitable organization, and to sell it to men to whom it had been given, is a worse crime than stealing, involving, as it does, breach of trust, and the taking of money for something which there is no right to sell. The reputation of certain military officers is at stake, as is also that of Private Campbell ; and the obligation rests with the Minister of Defence to bring the facts to light. If Campbell has made a confession denying his original statement, that confession should be produced. If it cannot be produced, the Minister has a hard case to answer. A straw will show how the wind blows, and the allegations of the honorable member for Bourke, if true, indicate that justice has not been done to the men by their officers. In a free country the humblest individual is entitled to justice, and no man should be branded a perjurer until there is full proof that he has committed perjury. If courts martial are to continue to produce injustice such as has been alleged, no Minister with any self-respect can continue to support their existence. Ministers have great responsibilities cast upon them at the present time, and my sympathy goes out to them; but that sympathy will not be nearly so intense if matters that go before them for adjustment or adjudication are not dealt with in accord- ance with the principles of British justice. Unless all doubts regarding the justice of the Department are removed, a blow will be struck at the public confidence in the Administration. The Minister cannot allow the humblest man under his care to be slandered, or maligned, or unjustly dealt with. This case cannot be allowed to rest, until the alleged confession has been produced and its authorship proved. If the confession cannot be produced, the Department will have a difficult case to answer. I hope that in the interests of our military system the Minister will be able to clear up this matter, and that in future honorable members will not have the unpalatable task of bringing similar cases before the House. This is no party matter. The obtaining of justice for the men who are fighting our battles is far before any question of party politics, and is a sacred trust imposed on us. I, therefore, appeal to the Minister to clear up this case, and thus prevent the impression on the public mind that wrong will not be righted as soon as it is exposed, and that justice will not be done even to the humblest man in the ranks.
.- I have listened to what has been said by the honorable member for Bourke, and must confess that the business is one which at present appears very unsatisfactory.
– There is nothing in it, as honorable members will soon see.
– There may be nothing in it, but any one who has taken the means available of making himself acquainted with the circumstances, must feel that there is something behind this matter which has yet to make its appearance. Speaking as a member of this House anxious only for the reputation of Australian troops and of Australia, my feeling is that this Rabaul business requires further investigation. I deprecate very strongly any references to officers and men as though we had in the army two classes, one in direct antagonism to the other.
– But it is so.
– .Some honorable members make it appear, perhaps unintentionally, that all officers are more of less tainted with a class bias against the private, and that it is impossible for anything like justice to be obtained by a private from a court martial constituted as courts martial are. I feel sure, however, that that is an entirely erroneous view. I am proud to think that there are many officers who are entirely honorable men, and who are prepared to give the humblest individual in the ranks a fair and square deal. I deprecate very strongly the insinuation that there has been a certain amount of class antagonism in this Rabaul trouble; but it appears to me that the only way in which we can reach any definite conclusion will be by the appointment of a Parliamentary Committee to investigate the matter right from the beginning. There is no doubt whatever that courts martial are not entirely satisfactory.
– You ought to see one. Then you would think so.
– I may have had some acquaintance with courts martial in times gone by. That does not matter; but reading the newspaper proceedings of these two courts martial I cannot help feeling that there is something behind these proceedings which requires further investigation. Take, for instance, the report appearing in the Age to-day of the court martial that tried a certain Captain Ravenscroft. I find that Captain Ravenscroft, in the course of cross-examination, is reported to have said that if he went into a private house, and the owner was away, and could not be found, he or any other officer or man would be entitled to take the property which they found there. That is a most remarkable expression of opinion from a member of our Defence Forces occupying the responsible position of provost marshal.
– That is recognised in the military.
– Oh, no, it is not. We have men in the Military Forces whose moral code is quite as good as that of individuals outside, and it does appear to me very unfortunate that an individual holding these remarkable ideas regarding meum and tuum should have been appointed to such a position.
– He may not have been correctly reported.
– I am merely going upon the newspaper report, which puts a statement of a very definite character into this individual’s mouth.
– Is there not the qualification that that position would be acf> ‘ cepted in time of war ?
– The statement requires a very considerable amount of qualification at any time, especially in regard to a person whose duty it was to safeguard private property which came into the possession of the Australian troops. I do not want to commit myself to any opinion other than the general opinion I have just expressed until I know more about the whole position, but T do suggest to the Assistant Minister that this matter cannot be allowed to rest where it is. The honour and reputation of Australia are at stake, and if there are any guilty persons connected with the allegations of looting at Rabaul they ought to be found and punished, no matter whether they are officers or privates. I therefore trust that steps will be taken to get at the bottom of this business, if only for the credit of Australia.
– The honorable member for Bourke delivers any speech he makes in a manner which has the effect of almost compelling every honorable member to believe what he says. This morning he has quoted certain things, but he has not quoted everything. He has omitted some very vital points which, if they had been given, would have put a different complexion upon this case straight away. With regard to the letters of confession to which reference has been made, I tell the honorable member and the Committee at once that neither the Minister of Defence nor the Defence Department have received any such letters. The question is not one of having omitted them from the file which has been tabled in the Library. The letters have not been received.
– Do you think they exist ?
– I cannot say. I have had a chat with the Minister of Defence since the honorable member delivered his speech, and he assured me that if any such letters had ever reached the Department they would have been placed on the file.
– Then that statement of Colonel Holmes is not true ?
– The circumstances connected with this matter are as follows : - -
On the 7th instant, Senator Millen referred to some statements which have been circulated in regard to Red Cross material forwarded to Rabaul. The charges were, briefly, that Private Campbell was in the company of another member of the Expeditionary Force to Rabaul, who purchased two suits of pyjamas containing notes from Red Cross workers in Sydney, at the dry canteen there. The report was denied by the Administrator, Colonel Holmes, who stated that Private Campbell was writing to the Sun newspaper, informing it that the pyjamas in question were privately purchased from another member of the force. Tlie Sun, however, stated that it had not receiveda letter from Private Campbell, and, further, that the latter denied writing such a letter. Campbell further stated that he was paraded before the officer commanding the troops, Lieut. - Colonel W. W. Russell Watson, in regard to the original report, and as a punishment he was sent away at a few hours’ notice as ship’s guard to outlying island. On his return from this duty he stated that he personally purchased pyjamas at the dry canteen, which did not have Red Cross tickets on them, but were labelled” O.S.M”, which he took to be the initials of a Red Cross worker. A final statement is that the profits of the canteen did not go to the soldiers.
The matter was referred to a Court of Inquiry in Sydney, composed of the following officers: - Colonel G. Rarnaciotti, O.C, 11th Infantry Brigade; Lieut. -Commander J. O. Graham, R.N., and Major Edwards, Sydney University Scouts. The Court took evidence on oath, and reported on the 13th inst. as follows: -
The Court find -
That the statement made by Private R. B. Campbell, in his letter to his mother is untrue.
That Campbell admitted to Colonel Watson and Captain Lane, in the presence of Warrant Officer Inglis, that the statement in question was untrue.
That this admission was reduced into writing in duplicate and signed by Campbell.
– That is the point.
– The finding continues: -
– May I interrupt at this point. That is the only question. Where are those letters?
The Court arc of the opinion that Private R. B. Campbell is of weak character, and does not appear to realize either the seriousness of his statements or his position.
– That is abuse.
– You want to know the whole position; I am telling you.
The papers have been laid on the tablc of the Library for the information of members, but I desire to add that the Red Cross Society in Sydney lias advised that the names alleged to have been inserted in the garments do not tally with any of the workers for the society in the districts mentioned, and that Private Campbell must be mistaken.
That seems to me to be proof conclusive from the Red Cross Society by which these garments were supposed to have been given.
The pyjamas sold at the dry canteen were manufactured and supplied by Geo. Hird.and Company, of Sydney, who state that the letters “ O.S.M.” mean “ outside men’s size.” The editor of the Sun stated that he had no evidence in support or rebuttal of the charges.
The profits of the canteen amounted to £420 for the whole period of which £150 went to the men’s sports club and £270 to the Belgian Fund. Private Campbell was sent on the Meklong to outlying islands, because he was one of those who had volunteered for extended service, andhe was selected for this work in the ordinary way of duty by a subaltern, Lieutenant R. H. Norman.
– In the report read by the Minister we have the statement that the Court found that Campbell had made certain admissions in writing. Where are those admissions?
– The honorable member for Bourke enlarged on that one point and failed to refer to others which ought to have been mentioned.
– No. The statement that Campbell made a written confession, and the fact that that confession has not been produced, goes to the very essence of the matter.
– So far as the Minister is aware there is no written confession in the Defence Department. The point that I wish to emphasize is that there has been no holding back of information on our part. The honorable member for Bourke at least inferred that the Minister had held up certain papers.
– I did not.
– The honorable member said that there was a sort of conspiracy.
– But cannot the Minister ask to be supplied with these written admissions on the part of Private Campbell?
– It certainly looks as if they had been kept off the file.
– So far as the Minister is aware that written confession is not in the Department.
– I did not wish to infer for a single moment that the Minister was holding back certain papers.
– I shall say no more on this particular point.
– ‘But will the Minister ask to be supplied with the written admission referred to? That is a fair and reasonable thing to do.
– If these papers are not in the hands of the Minister, they ought to he.
– In the report from which I have quoted it is stated that the Court found that Campbell had admitted that the statement in question was untrue and -
That this admission was reduced into writing in duplicate and signed by Campbell.
– Apply for that admission in writing.
– The honorable member for Bourke maintains that that paper should be produced. The Court found further -
That one copy or part was sent to the Administrator by the O.C. troops, and copy forwarded by the Administrator to the honorable the Minister for Defence.
The Minister of Defence states that he has not yet received that- copy.
– Then on the face of it that report is a lie.
– There is a discrepancy that needs to be cleared up.
– There may be, but why should the honorable member for Bourke say that the Minister is practically in league with Colonel Holmes and other officers to shelter certain men ? The Minister can deal only with what is before him.
– But the report which the Assistant Minister has. been quoting compromises the Minister.
– What is the date of the Court’s decision?
– It is the 13th instant. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and the honorable member for Bourke, seem to infer by their interjections that we have not in the Forces officers vTio are honest and good enough to try a man.
– I have not said anything of the kind.
– Both these honorable gentlemen have said day after day that our officers are unfit to try the men.
– I have not said so; but what I do say is that every good officer is compromised by the bad officers. Far be it from me to say that all the officers are bad.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has urged that all members of the Defence Forces, charged with an offence, should be dealt with by some outside tribunal.
– Hear, hear. There should at least be a right of appeal to a civil court.
– I dissent from the view expressed by the honorable member. I should be sorry to believe for one moment that the officers of the Defence Forces, of which we are so proud, are corrupt. Many of these officers have risen from the ranks, many of them were working men.
– The report read by the’ Assistant Minister is a proof of the incompetence of some of them.
– It is not. The papers may come along at any moment, and as soon as they do the Minister will acknowledge their receipt.
, - I have’ listened carefully to the statements of the Assistant Minister, and feel that while one may regret the length to which the honorable member for Bourke allowed himself to go, the fact remains that the Court found that Private Campbell had made certain admissions, and that those alleged admissions cannot be substantiated by one scrap of writing of any kind. The Court makes the statement that he signed an admission of the untruth of his statements. Surely the Court, before arriving at that finding, must have seen that written admission. There is of course the alternative that it had the statement of a number of men, and believed it, that they had seen such an admission. There is, however, something that needs to be cleared up. To my mind this is perhaps the most serious of the criticisms that have been made against the administration of our Forces in Rabaul. If it be true that these men have been selling Red Cross pyjamas, and so making money for their own use, they will have earned the reprobation and disgust of all right-minded men. It is so very serious that the whole matter should be cleared up. If the Court has made the finding mentioned by the Assistant Minister, then it ought to say why in reporting that finding it has not produced the papers alleged to have been signed by Campbell. The whole question is too serious to be allowed to stay where it is, particularly having regard to the further allegation made by the honorable member for Bourke that this selling of Red Cross pyjamas was a cold-blooded commercial transaction to make good some bad purchases previously made from Burns, Philp and Company. That further allegation also requires to be looked into, although it is not so serious as the other. In war time we cannot guarantee that everything we buy is all that could be desired, particularly when our purchases are made under pressure and stress. We have to take lots of risks.
– There has been a lot of stuff sold since the war that it was impossible to sell previously.
– I have no doubt of that, and many people have been glad to get it. Take for instance the failure of the sugar supply reported in this morning’s newspapers, as well as the difficulty in obtaining men’s underwear of certain quality. War dislocates all our ordinary business transactions, so that this later allegation is not so serious as is the earlier one. If an officer has made a mistake during war time in making purchases, he can be excused, but there is absolutely no excuse for a man selling Red Cross goods, except under the direction of the Red Cross authorities themselves, and for good cause shown. That they appropriated to their own use the proceeds of the sale of Red Cross pyjamas is a heinous crime with which to charge any officers. It would be a heinous crime against the Army as well as against the country, and should be sifted to the bottom. On the evidence before us it is difficult to say whether Campbell did or did not make any such admission as has been alleged. The Court only says that the charge made by him is not proven, and unless it can be disproved by documentary or other evidence, I should hesitate to condemn Private Campbell. We have it on the authority of the Court that a confession in duplicate was signed by Campbell, and therefore T should imagine that the Court is responsible for the production of that confession to the Minister. That point ought certainly to be cleared up.
– It is peculiar that the Court should send on its findings, and all the other papers, and yet fail to forward this alleged written confession.
– It is, to say the least, peculiar. We should require the Minister to clear up the matter, and, in the meantime, suspend our judgment.
– I do not, as the Assistant Minister would have the Committee believe, delight in charging military officers with all. the crimes in the calendar. I have no desire to do anything of the kind. Military officers are only human, and it is really in the interests of those who discharge their duties in a proper manner that we bring forward these matters. For centuries past, in war time, charges have been made against military and naval men in connexion with the commissariat and hospital supply departments. We sometimes hear members of Parliament charged with bribery. Men have gone out of their way to tell me that members of Parliament enjoy various pickings as well as their salaries; and where it can be show that a member lias been guilty of bribery or improper conduct, we should be ready at once to take action. And so with a naval or military officer against whom charges are made. Officers and non-commissioned officers in every army have, at various times, been committed to gaol for peculations, and surely when an accusation of this character is made against men who ought to.be honorable, and whom we hope are honorable, they should be proved or disproved. The charges laid against the administration of affairs at Rabaul do not rest on the alleged sale of Red Cross pyjamas in the dry canteen. Men who have returned have said that in a German store they saw exhibited for sale goods which must have come from the Commissariat Department. Surely when a charge is made, and there is a chance to investigate it, the investigation should proceed in a proper manner. The Minister thinks that the fact that the letters O.S.M. were on the pyjamas proved that these goods were not Red Cross goods, but he has no document from Campbell to show that the pyjamas did bear these letters on them. The statement is not Campbell’s. It is the officers’ statement. Every man in the trade knows the meaning of these letters. What does the Minister gain by introducing them in his attempt to disprove that these goods were Red Cross?
– The Red Cross Society state that they did not send such articles to Rabaul.
– They say that they did not send these articles to Rabaul bearing the letters O.S.M.
– What they do say is that those marks do not correspond with the names on any of their goods.
- Mrs. Fisher and other ladies having interested themselves in the matter of sending pyjamas to the Red Cross Society, I did not think it beneath my dignity to sit down at a machine and sew for two days at these pyjamas. Therefore, I know exactly what was done with the pyjamas sent to the Red Cross Society. I took part in the manufacture of dozens of them, and there were no sizes marked on them.
– Some were made by manufacturers.
– Let me make my own point. There are two documents necessary, and until they are produced I shall condemn these men. On the one hand we have the statement of Campbell that he purchased pyjamas with Red Cross signs on them. On the other hand it is said that they were not Red Cross signs, but were the marks showing the size of the garment. But how can the officers prove that the pyjamas Campbell purchased were marked O.S.M. unless Campbell has said it, and if he did say it, where is the document in which he did so? If the Department cannot produce the document in which they claim that Campbell denied the truth of the charges he had made, at least we may ask where the document ‘is in which they say that Campbell said the pyjamas he purchased had the letters O.S.M. on them. However, the Prime Minister has asked me to resume my seat, whilst some other business is brought before the Committee.
Debate on Estimates postponed.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime are anxious that the Senate should sit next week, it is necessary to give them some work to go on with, and, therefore, I submit the Supplementary Estimates for 1913-14 covering money actually expended though not yet appropriated. These will enable the Senate to enter upon a discussion of the Estimates.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charges for the year 1913-14, for the several services hereunder specified, viz. : -
The Attorney-General’s Department, £4,341.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty, to the service of the year 1913-14, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding £34,029.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means covering resolutions of Supply adopted.
That Mr.Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in Bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and passed through all its stages, without amendment.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and passed through all its stages, without amendment.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from page 3362) :
– It is not my intention to protract the discussion, but I desire to say that while many of us do not feel inclined to use the language of the honorable member for Bourke, we do agree that there is much in his contention. We quite understand that the honorable member always expresses his opinions in that style which is characteristic of him, and that lie does not intend to give any offence. In my opinion, it is the duty of the Minister of Defence, in order to settle this matter in the interests of the officers and the people at large, to produce the document wherein the man Campbell wrote that there was no truth in his statement in regard to the pyjamas he had purchased. The endeavour which has been made to prove that the pyjamas were not Bed Cross articles is, to my mind, another evidence of the guilt of the parties concerned. There can be no charge against the Minister of Defence, unless he fails to produce the document, or to deal with those who have said that such a document exists, because if the document is in evidence, as well as the statutory declaration by Campbell that he did not withdraw his statement, it is the duty of the Department to charge that man with perjury.
– It is my desire to make a few remarks concerning the unsuitability of Broadmeadows as a site for the purpose for which it is being used. In my opinion, that site has only one thing to commend it, and that is the fact that it is in the angle of two railway lines, and in connexion with the north, the northeast, and the southern portions of the State. That is undoubtedly a valuable consideration from a military point of view, but in every other respect Broadmeadows is unsuitable.
– I believe the War Council recommended it.
– Perhaps so, but I think that after having had twenty years’ experience in military camps in this State, I am entitled to form an opinion as to the suitability or otherwise of any site. The consequences which follow the selection of an unsuitable site are felt most by that branch of the service to which I belong, because the medical officers have to correct the errors made by those responsible for camping men on unsuitable ground.
– Should not the water supply be taken into consideration ?
– Undoubtedly, but will the honorable member contend that there is a good natural supply at Broadmeadows? There is a good supply of water there now, but it may be interfered with to the detriment of the health of the men who have to camp there. I have heard that there is a disposition on the part of the Defence Department to make a permanent camp at Broadmeadows. Against such a course I emphatically protest. Because of its nearness to railway communication and to the head-quarters, Broadmeadows may be considered a comfortable and convenient place at which to camp troops for a brief period; but as a permanent camp it has only its convenience to railway facilities to recommend it. In summer time the dust rises in clouds, and the food and equipment of the men is made in a condition too awful to describe. In many other ways the men feel the strain of having to return to such insanitary and unsuitable surroundings after a hard day’s work. In winter time the disadvantages are aggravated to an enormous extent. The men are almost knee-deep in slush and slime, and although some are able to mitigate the effects of such conditions by providing themselves, at their own expense, with rubber boots that reach to the knee, those men are the exception. I cannot help feeling that it is the self-interest of those who are in authority which has maintained the camp on the present site. It is near Melbourne, and is in telephonic communication with the city and headquarters, and mainly for those reasons the troops have been subjected to conditions which were avoidable. Whilst some may approve of the hardening process, I think we must realize that the preparation of the men should be carried out under the best conditions obtainable. The mere fact that land is occupied by the Government at no cost is not a sufficient reason for endangering the success of thousands of men who may have their constitutions undermined by these surroundings at a time when the best that can be provided should be placed at their disposal. Much has been said of the patriotic attitude of theproprietor of the land. I understand that he is not receiving any direct payment from the Government, but he has a means of recouping himself by supplying necessaries to the troops, and in that way he is amply comnensated for granting the Government the use of this land. I urge that the Assistant Minister should acquire personal knowledge of the conditions under which the camp is being conducted at Broadmeadows. I cannot accent the kind invitation of the Minister to accompany him to the camp for a week-end, because, having a wife and family, I do not feel inclined to run the risks that would be attendant on such a visit under present conditions. I am confident, however, that if the Minister were to make a personal inspection of the camp and undergo the discomforts, not to say dangers, which the troops are undergoing, the camp would speedily be removed from its present situation. We have been told that inquiries have been made, and a more suitable site has not been found. I ask the Minister what fault can be found with Langwarrin ? That locality has been used for military camping purposes for many years; there are a number of permanent buildings that can be used with advantage and the soil is of so sandy and porous a character that even after a heavy downfall of rain the camp is soon dry.
– Is there dust there in the summer time ?
– Yes; but every camp that the troops have used in Victoria is second to Langwarrin as a dirty-weather camp. Then there is the area at Seymour where the camp was held with great success during Lord Kitchener’s visit. If the Minister were at Seymour now, immediately after a heavy downpour of rain, he would find a dry site where troops could be properly drilled and trained without detriment to their health. The water supply, too, is admirable. There is a further objection to Broadmeadows on account of its adjacency to Melbourne. A great deal of trouble would have been avoided if our troops had not been camped so near the city. I cannot help being impressed by the effects which have followed the bring ing from all parts of the country of numbers of young men, in the full strength of manhood, and placing them within such easy reach of the temptations of a large city.
– Seymour would not be an improvement, because it is flatter than Broadmeadows.
– The honorable member cannot have been there.
– I have lived in that locality.
– And I have attended two camps there.
– And there were bitter complaints.
– Will the honorable member say that the objections to Seymour are comparable to the awful results which have followed the placing of a large body of men at Broadmeadows? We were all proud to see our magnificent troops marching through Melbourne on two occasions, but we, also noticed that at the end of their march many of the men showed by their fatigue that they were unfitted for the work iu which they were engaged. What had unfitted them? There is no doubt in my mind that that result was due to their nearness to a great city, and the temptations that were thrust before them. I have always held the opinion that the enemy had no better assistants in Australia than those men who were continually treating the troops whenever they came to the city. I would go so far as to intern men who were seen giving our soldiers opportunities for over-indulgence in drink.
– You cannot treat soldiers like children.
– I have been long associated with soldiers, and I have no desire to do so. But surely, if we find the men succumbing to temptation, we should either remove the temptation from the men, or the men from the temptation ; and we should not be treating them as children, but as fellow human beings in whose welfare we have a deep and lasting interest. I hope the Government will pause before they give further favorable consideration to the idea of making a permanent camp at Broadmeadows. In summer the heat there is almost unendurable, and in winter the place is absolutely dangerous to the health of the men.
– It is the uniform that makes any bad behaviour conspicuous; no notice would be taken in the case of civilians.
– I arn not saying one word about the conduct or behaviour of the troops; I am speaking of the physical and moral effects of indiscriminate treating. The Australian soldiers would compare most favorably with any similar body of men in any part of the world, and I speak from personal experience. It has been said that the Australian soldier is not amenable to discipline, but I absolutely deny that that is so. The Australian desires to know why he is asked to do a thing, and no more obedient man will be found when he once understands what is expected of him. As a consequence, I suppose, of their life and surroundings, a great many of them do not care to regard themselves as simply cogs in the wheels of a great machine. They have an amount of initiative, which more than compensates for the doglike obedience on which some people, I think, place an exaggerated value. Has the Minister received any further information respecting that enormous body of derelicts who were supposed to have reached Egypt from Australia, but about whom we have heard nothing since they were sent away from that country ? Where are the physical wrecks who, we are told, passed the medical officers here in such vast numbers, and were trained at great expense and sent to Egypt, only to have it discovered that they were suffering from all sorts of diseases, which unfitted them for the ranks? It is only fair that we should know what warrant there was for the statements which appeared in the press from time to time. As to the censorship, I feel that a great mistake was committed by those responsible in allowing such palpable attempts at selfadvertisement on the part of a number of men who ought to know better - men who desired to secure attention that they, probably, could not otherwise expect. I cannot help feeling that a number of members of the medical profession, who are supposed to set their faces against advertising for self-interest, have done this, careless altogether of the effect on the large number of men who have shown in the most effective fashion that they are not only well trained, but possess every attribute necessary for the efficient carrying out of the important work in which they are engaged. Before the next lot of Light Horse leave Australia, I think some further examination should be made of the horses. We have gone to tremendous expense in order to obtain the best horses procurable in Australia; but if some of those I have seen go to other parts of the world, they will be a sorry advertisement for the horse-breeders of this country. Some of the veriest “ crocks “ have been purchased ; and I am assured that a num-“ ber have died either from old age or for want of those teeth which are so necessary in the recruit, but which do not seem to be regarded as necessary in the animal that has to carry him. The whole matter deserves the most careful inquiry at the hands of the Government.
– Have the Government been buying aged horses ?
– The Government have been buying all sorts of horses.
– These may be “ gift” horses.
– Very possibly. At any rate, it would be interesting to have a return of the number of horses bought and of the number that have survived.
– A number of them have been sold for about one-half of what the Government gave for them.
– I am afraid the Government have been “ sold,” and very often “ sold.” We have heard statements made about the action of the Government in allowing those who act on their behalf to act also for themselves; and I hope that, -as this is the first, it is the last time we shall hear of any such thing. We surely have sufficient men to secure a most careful selection of what we deem to be necessary; and there is no more certain way of hurling our men into disaster than giving them horses which are unfit.
– Not very long ago the Government were purchasing the horses first, and then having a veterinary examination, and the result was that 30 per cent, were rejected.
– That is a clear case of “ putting the cart before the horse “ ; and I am sure the Government will not allow this sort of thing to continue.
– At the same time, some of our farmers have been getting pretty low prices for their horses.
– Owing to the scarcity of fodder, some farmers have not been able to sell their horses at all - apparently have not had sufficient influence to enable them to do so. One aspect of the question deserves attention, and that is the number of unbroken colts which are. placed in the hands of our young trainees. Lads of eighteen years of age, who have just left the Cadet Forces tor the Militia, are given the control of, and are expected to break in, a number of young horses; and this is a dangerous and unnecessary proceeding.
– There are any number of men available to break horses.
– Then those men should be employed. The number of injuries the men receive in the training camps would be considerably reduced if they were not compelled to do this work. There is no more certain way of turning a decent horse into a rogue or an “outlaw” than to place him in incompetent hands. Above all things, we should have the services of men who thoroughly understand horses; and there are a. number of such, who, while unfit for active service, would be quite prepared to do this duty at Broadmeadows. The whole question of defence has been brought most vividly before the people of Australia by recent happenings; and I hope that what I have said will not be regarded as merely captious criticism of either the Department or its heads. I recognise the great work that has been done by the Department, and the loyalty of the Minister to the principles we have established in Australia. I feel, however, that very often the head of the Department, or the representative of the Government, is prone to take the advice of those who are in authority below them, rather than seek information at first-hand. All I ask is that the Minister and the Assistant Minister shall avail themselves of opportunities to get personal knowledge of the conditions. From my experience of both these gentlemen, I feel sure that we should have some very rapid effects, and eventually a satisfactory solution of a problem which at the present time is causing a great deal of unrest to those to whom we ought to be anxious to render every assistance and help.
.- If the genera] administration of the Defence Department is in an unsatisfactory state, honorable members have no way of ascertaining the fact, and a great deal of the criticism is of the most disquieting nature.
– I do not think it is altogether justified.
– If it is not, we should have some means of satisfying ourselves and the public as to what the position really is. The system of placing the whole administration in the hands of one or two men, no matter how capable, honest or honorable they may be, is a mistake.
Reference has been made to the censorship of news. Could there be anything, I was going to say more idiotic or futile than the present system ? Criticism of a constructive, as well as criticism of a destructive, character is offered in this Chamber; and it appears that the censors prevent the newspapers from publishing reports of speeches of the kind. In the first place, I think it is highly objectionable that anybody should step in between a member of this National Parliament and his constituents, and prevent them from knowing the manner in which he is rendering an account of his stewardship. In the second place, the system is most futile, for there are always the records of Parliament, in the shape of Ilansard, which is distributed throughout Australia. The public are not permitted to have the news through the newspapers, but they have full access to the official volumes of that publication. I have been told that the circulation of Hansard is about 60,000; but I should say it is more like 6,000.
– It is about 10,000.
– That is a very considerable circulation. I suppose that any person interested in an enemy country, who desired information of the kind, would not trust to the abbreviated reports of the newspapers, but would use Hansard, which is on public sale.
– The only difference is that Hansard is published two or three days later than the newspaper.
– That would make very little material difference. The whole facts show that the military censorship of newspapers is an absolute farce. It places no obstacle upon alien enemies obtaining parliamentary news, but places the Australian public at a disadvantge. If under pressure of business such, an absolutely silly and futile proceeding can take place, similar foolishness may be perpetrated in many other instances. That being so, the sooner we have an opportunity to go into the whole business the better.
– If an honorable member of this House stated that there was a shortage of equipment, or that our armaments were defective, would not the censor be justified in preventing the _ publication of the statement in Hansard?
– They do not do that at Home.
– It takes my breath away to hear a representative of the people suggesting that the official records of Parliament should be mutilated by a censor.
– Only at the present time.
– I heard a Minister say something of the same kind.
– Lord Kitchener says every day that he is hampered for want of ammunition.
– Cable messages give us a great deal more information regarding the war preparations of Great Britain than we can learn in this Parliament of our own preparations. This secrecy is absolutely futile. How would the publication of news in the newpapers assist the enemy? Australia is an island continent, tens of thousands of miles distant from the great centres of war. We have censors in the post and telegraph offices, so that not a telegram can be sent away until it has run the gauntlet of the censorship, and every letter is subject to the same scrutiny. Business men have told me that their letters have sometimes been detained for weeks because of the censorship, This is perfectly right. The military authorities are able to board vessels with a view to seeing that information is not sent out surreptitiously, and no letter can be handed to a passenger on a ship. It is perfectly right to take those precautions. But, all channels of communication between Australia and other countries being thus guarded, what is the sense of preventing the Australian public from knowing the condition of our defences, and the manner of the administration of the Defence Department?
– As for the Small Arms Factory, any one has simply to perch on the top of the hill near by to see what is being done.
– Any one going to Lithgow “could get all the information that he needed.
– We have no right to give away this information.
– Certainly not. But we do not know what will be the outcome of the war. The Allies may be defeated, and we may he called on to defend our own shores. We do not know that the Small Arms Factory is turning out one-third of the number of rifles that it could turn out.
– I think that that point has been settled beyond controversy, having regard to the number of men employed, and the hours worked.
– We do not know that two or three shifts could not be worked.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ settled “ ?
– I have information. I was at Lithgow at the beginning of last week.
– I have information, which I do not intend to divulge, but it does not satisfy me.
– I know what the present output of the Small Arms Factory is, and it is certainly a long way from being satisfactory to me. If there is no other way of allowing Parliament to take an active part in public affairs, we should have some sort of secret session, in which members could bring their knowledge and experience to bear.
– A caucus of both parties !
– The representatives of the people should be satisfied that the best is being done for the successful prosecution of the war. Let us meet and take counsel together on this matter, irrespective of party. We are asked to trust the Minister. In my opinion, the Minister of Defence and the Assistant Minister, who might well be called the Naval Minister, are two of the ablest members of the present Administration, if not two of the ablest administrators, that we have had since Federation. But if one pair of shoulders can bear the great responsibility of managing the Department at a time of national danger, why could not the Minister, in times of peace, have the same undisputed authority ? Yet, in less strenuous circumstances, no Parliament would allow its power of direction to be superseded. In my opinion it is practically impossible for these Ministers to properly handle the situation.
– In time of peace Parliament was not prepared to make the necessary preparations, and now it desires to accomplish in a few weeks what it failed to do in years.
– This House has never refused the Minister of Defence money during the past five or six years.
– Even if we have made mistakes in the past, we should not continue to make them. My complaint is that we know nothing of what is being clone. If one asks for information he is told that under the circumstances it would be better not to press the question. It may, however, be more in the public interest that the matter should be ventilated. Facts that have come to light show the need for investigation.
It is patent that the House as a whole is not satisfied that the Rabaul charges have been answered. Coming to the matter of recruits, can any honorable member inform me whether the British Government desire more troops than are at present being sent overseas by Australia ?
– Yes; Lord Kitchener says he wants 300,000 more men.
– A leading article was recently published in the Sydney Morning Herald, in which the public men of Australia were charged with failing to do their duty in that they did not go out and address recruiting meetings. In order to find out what exactly was the position, I asked the Minister in the House whether all the recruits that were required were coming forward, and I was told that as many men as were wanted were offering. Obviously it is no use holding recruiting meetings if that is the case. I am prepared to go through my own district and address meetings in order to point out the necessity of joining the colours, if it is necessary, but when I am told by the responsible Minister that this is not required, there is no necessity for me to do anything of the kind. Yet, a few days after this answer was given, I saw that the Prime
Minister stated in Sydney that the best thing a man could do was to join the colours and enlist for the war. Where, then, are we? The honorable gentleman who sits opposite interrupting me assumes that he can tell me how many more men are required, but I do not know.
– We have no information. We ought to know how many men we have contracted to deliver by way of reinforcements before we can judge.
– Certainly, and there is not the slightest doubt that double the number of men who have already enlisted would be prepared to come forward at once if the matter was one of urgency. We ought to know whether it is. A question was asked this morning as to reducing the physical standard of recruits. I quite agree that if there are a sufficient number of men offering of the necessary physical attainments as at present prescribed, there is no need to make any reduction. It would be foolish to take men who have physical defects if we can get men in perfect physical condition.
– A small man is as good as a big man.
– He may be for certain classes of work, but in the case of work with the bayonet, or work in the trenches, the small man has got no show at all against the big man.
Again, we do not know what the position regarding equipment is. It may be that more men can be secured, but that we have not got the equipment for them. We do not know anything about it. We are entirely in the dark. Surely this Parliament has some responsibility in connexion with this world war. Our united efforts could direct the organization of munition and equipment services. Yet we are told, in effect, that we have no responsibility at all, and that we must trust the Minister and leave him to do everything.
– We should be told all these things in camera.
– That is my argument. Even if we have a secret session, we should have some opportunity given of going into these matters. With agreement on the utility of joint action, a via media could readily be found. At present, even the Government party cannot supervise or control the defence activities as in ordinary times. The Minister has so much to do that he is probably working with insufficient rest. That in itself means that he is not in a physical condition to initiate matters that might be helpful to our country and Empire at this time. It is not possible to get more than a certain amount of work out of one body.
– The bulk of the work is being done by one or two; that is becoming very noticeable.
– It is. The Minister of Defence and the Assistant Minister are two capable, painstaking, and efficient Ministers, and I am not casting any reflection upon them in my criticism, but we know that the tendency is to limit responsibility and power to one or two who may object to any criticism being passed upon their actions. At the same time Parliament has every right to know what is being done, and no Minister has any right to regard himself as immune from criticism.
Take the question of finance. Is any honorable member of this House satisfied about the financial arrangement, either so far as it concerns the present prosecution of the war or what may be expected afterwards? Who knows what the position is? We do not know what is being spent. We do not know what we have been committed to. We have to take all we hear on trust. Now is the time to arrange our finances and industrial conditions to meet the economic adversity following immediately upon all wars.
In regard to military contracts, we know that information comes to every honorable member here which, in the interests of the Ministers and in the interests of the Government, ought to be ventilated. I am very distrustful of military officers. As soldiers, I have every confidence in them. That is their profession ; but as business men and as judges in cases where good conscience and equity should prevail, I have no confidence in them whatever as a class. There may be good men among them; there may be bad men among them; but as a class I have no confidence in them at all, and we know, in regard to military contracts, that cases have been brought forward where the most elementary business principles have been neglected. Why? To place the most generous construction upon it, because the military officers have been engaged in a business for which they have no qualification, or whose only qualification regarding the handling of money is the ability to spend it. This Parliament ought to have an opportunity of going into these matters. We might be able to discover some better means of expending the public money, we may be able to check abuses, and we might be able to save millions even upon the expenditure that is now going on. We know there lias been a great deal of waste. Mr. Anderson was appointed as business expert to lay down certain principles upon which the accounts might be kept, but it would be impossible for Mr. Anderson to have done more than go into the general system of bookkeeping.
– The British Government have a number of experts assisting the officers in these important functions. Why should not we do the same ? They have a Shipping Committee, a Finance Committee, and other commit tees outside Parliament.
– I agree. Both in regard to the immediate financial arrangements in connexion with the war, and also in the arrangements which will have to be made afterwards, we do not know where we are or where we may be landed. What provision are we going to make to meet the financial obligations that we have undertaken? The present arrangements are only temporary. Some permanent arrangement will have to be come to, and no honorable member of this House can say that he is satisfied with what he knows of the arrangements that have so far been made. I feel certain that every honorable member who knows anything about the subject, instead of being satisfied, is abundantly dissatisfied. The right honorable member for Swan thinks satisfaction should be obtained by action of a party character. It is not long since I heard the right honorable member urge in this House that there should be no attempt to make party capital out of the situation in which we find ourselves - that all parties should, unite in doing the best for Australia and the Empire. That is the stand I am taking, so that it does not come very well from him to urge me to attack Ministers, and to try to do them some party injury. I believe that a lot more can be done for Australia and the Empire by an alteration of the present system of management.
Coming to the question of munitions of war, the output of rifles, and the management of the Small Arms Factory, sufficient has been said by honorable members to show that there is a very general belief that there is room for much improvement. We are told that it is impossible to obtain the additional men required to work a second shift at the Small Arms Factory. I have here, however, a letter from a man who is competent to undertake work in the manufacture of rifles’, and munitions, and who has written to ask me if there is any chance of his being employed by the British Government, since he is prepared to go to Great Britain, and is fully qualified to engage in this class of work. Then, again, I saw recently a statement, by either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defence, that he had been inundated with applications from men who were prepared to go to Great Britain to assist in the manufacture of munitions of war.
– Then why not have a second shift at the Small Arms Factory?
– The point I was about to make is that if we have these men here we should employ them at the Small Arms Factory. I have no doubt that every ounce of ammunition and every rifle we can make that we do not require for our own use can be put to good purpose by our Empire and our Allies.
– I was told, by interjection from the other side, that it was a question of material. We have had no official intimation of that kind.
– If it is, then we ought to know in respect of what material any shortage exists. If there is a shortage of steel, the sooner we know it the better. This Parliament ought to be prepared to spend £50,000 or £100,000 at the earliest possible moment in laying down a plant to make all the steel that we require. We should also establish a plant for the seasoning of timber. We have an abundance of iron ore deposits in Australia: There are large deposits in the east, the west, and the south, if not in the north, and to say that, in a country that has all the raw material necessary for the purpose, we cannot obtain the material required for the manufacture of rifles and ammunition, and that in face of that fact we are doing nothing to avert such a calamitous situation, seems to me to be absolutely indefensible. We are told that we must not go into such matters. We must not mention that there is any shortage in respect of the manufacture of these things. The Minister holds up his hands in holy horror and says, “ You are giving information to the enemy,” if we talk in this strain, and ask that something should be done.
– The honorable member is getting on fairly well if it be true that we are not allowed to mention these things.
– When I heard the statement made in the House this morning, in answer to questions put to Ministers, that anything said here that did not please the military authorities would be censored, I came to the conclusion that we should be at liberty, in such circumstances, to go thoroughly into questions of this kind.
I come now to the Cockatoo Island works, where our warships are being built. We were told a little while ago of a cruiser which was ready for launching, but which was high and dry, and needed only to be put into the water to be placed in commission within a very short time. There was some question of the building of a coffer-dam.
– Where is the Brisbane now ?
– That is what I wish to know. Is the cruiser Brisbane still, like Mahomet’s coffin, suspended between heaven and earth, or is it any nearer the water than it used to be ? Are we to have any information on this subject? Are we to take any steps to facilitate the carrying on of these works? Is there room for more men to be put on at Cockatoo Island works? If there is. they should be employed. All these and others are matters which this Committee should have an opportunity of dealing with. We should insist upon thorough organization and efficiency.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not propose to occupy the time of the Com- mittee at any great length this afternoon, but I must express the pleasure which the remarks just made by the honorable member for Cook have afforded me. 1 do not think that we quite realize our responsibilities to the Empire. The British Government, in my opinion, are prepared to receive as many troops as we can send; aud, if the Minister of Defence would advise them that we have another 10,000 or 20,000 troops prepared to go to the front, I am sure that their services would be gladly accepted. We read only two days ago of the statement made in the British Parliament by Lord Kitchener that he is desirous of obtaining another 300,000 troops. In view of that statement, I think we in Australia should loyally respond to the Empire’s call and fill up the breach. I listened also with great interest to the remarks made last night by the honorable member for Macquarie in reference to the Small Arms Factory. He is naturally anxious that it should succeed, and 1, as the representative of a neighbouring electorate, sympathize with him in that desire.
– The honorable member is one of my constituents.
– T am; and am very glad to see the honorable member doing his duty in this matter. The original cost of the Small Arms Factory was £300,000, and, taking the interest on that outlay at 4 per cent., we find that we are paying practically a rental of £12,000 a year for the factory.
– The honorable member’s figures are too high.
– I have taken them from a statement made in this House by the ex-Prime Minister. I understand, although I am not quite sure of my figures, that the output of rifles from the Small Arms Factory is about 12,000 a year, so that we are paying, in the way of interest on machinery and plant, £1 per rifle per annum. If we employed three shifts at the factory, the output would be 36,000 per year, bringing down the interest charges on premises, machinery, anc* so forth, to 6s. 8d. per rifle, or one-third of the amount at present being paid. I have heard some unpleasant rumours regarding” the factory. There is a movement on foot to remove it to Canberra. I cannot understand why, when one Government has seen fit to expend £300,000 in erecting the factory at Lithgow, another Administration should be prepared to uproot this valuable institution and plant it somewhere else.
– The proposal is to build another.
– The situation of the factory is convenient to Sydney. It has coal supplies close at hand, and is near to the railway station. There is every convenience, and there is no reason why it should not be carried on in its present situation.
– What constituency is it in?
– It is situated in the constituency of the honorable member for Macquarie, where I live. There is every convenience, and there is no reason why the factory should not be carried on at Lithgow. We should make up our minds now to manufacture the ammunition we need. Australia is separated by 12,000 miles of water from the Old Country. Suppose that things had gone against us in the war, and that we had been left to our own resources. Would not every honorable member say that the Australian Parliament should provide at once some means by which ammunition could be manufactured here quickly?
– What class of ammunition - big gun?
– All sorts of ammunition.
– We are manufacturing all the ammunition for the small arms, and supplying parts of the British Dominions. We are doing it very well.
– All the same, some of my constituents complain that they are not supplied with rifles and cartridges. Rifle clubs have been formed all over my electorate. The members of two or three clubs were informed that they could not get the rifles, and were, at the same time, told to drill. As a matter of fact, one man suggested that the men should use broom handles. Apart from that, however, let us consider the state of unemployment in this country. Walking out of Collins-street the other day towards a park I noticed a crowd of men standing there. I asked a gentleman who they were, and he said that they were the unemployed. I think that we could do something for the men, and at the same time a great deal for the Empire, by establishing a factory to manufacture ammunition, and also explosives for mines and various callings. It was only the other day that I read in a newspaper that Canada had entered into a contract to supply the War Office at Home with ammunition to the value of £14,000,000. What Canada can do, surely Australia can do ! I have also noticed that, so far, the United- States of America have supplied the Old Country with £100,000,000 worth of ammunition. One of the reasons for the present situation in Australia is, as the honorable member for Hunter pointed out, .that we have no testing plant. If any persons go in for the manufacture of ammunition, it has to be sent to England and tested there before it can be used here. Many of the miners in the electorate of Hunter are denied employment, while many cannot work for such high remunerative wages as otherwise they would be able to do. I would like the Minister to inform the country day by day, or week by week, where the Expeditionary Forces are.
– Oh !
– I do not know that it is an unreasonable request, considering that we have 50,000 or 60,000 troops abroad.
– That is a remark which should be censored. I have a great interest in the Forces, but, all the same, I do not think that that information should be published.
– I am informed that the Light Horse regiments are in Egypt.
– I am informed that they are of no use there.
– At all events, they are in Egypt. Numbers of my constituents are asking me where their sons are, and I get very indefinite replies from the Minister.
– They will have to wait.
– Now and again some information is published. The other day I saw n. letter in which it was stated that Colonel Ryrie had sent to his wife a cablegram saying that they were all happy and doing well in Egypt. If officers can send messages to their friends advising them where they are, and there is no censoring, there is no reason why the Minister should not tell the House and the country exactly where the various regiments are. Does my honorable friend opposite mean to say that the Turks do not know that the Light Horse regiments are stationed in Egypt? Yesterday, the honorable members for Ballarat and Fre mantle complained of the lax. way in which promotions are made, and demanded, above all things, that the one consideration should be efficiency. They urged that the results of competitive examinations should decide whether men ought to be promoted or not. I happen to be on very friendly terms with an Area Officer, and he has confirmed what they said here. Only a few moments ago I spoke to this gentleman on the telephone, and he told me that there is a great deal of truth in the assertions made in the House last night.
– What right had he to say that to you ? He ought to be court martialled, for it is rather a serious thing for him to do.
– I, as the representative of an electorate, have the right to ventilate these grievances in the House. I was very pleased indeed to see those two honorable members so exacting with their own Government as to demand that efficiency should be the rule for promotion in the Defence Department. I hope that they will remember their statements of last night, and apply the rule to all the Departments. We do not want any preference to unionists; we want efficiency every time. Efficiency should be the guiding principle. It is one which is observed right through the Empire.
– The words “efficiency” and “unionist” are synonymous.
– I was born in India, and associated a great deal with members of its Civil Service. When I went to school in England, I noticed that examinations were always set for the Ceylon and Indian Civil Service, and that no person was allowed to enter the Service unless he had passed them. He was tested as to physique and ability. I think we might well apply those tests in our own Civil Service, and only grant promotion where it is deserved by the proof of efficiency, eliminating every other consideration.
– I think that a very large volume of criticism and talk would be avoided if some of the suggestions made this afternoon and -previously were carried into effect.
– And if honorable members refrained from speaking.
– Yes. There is an evident desire on the part of honorable members that they should, as far as practicable, be fortified in their own minds with sufficient information - not to be published - to enable thom to tell the public at large that things are going on all right. I do not know whether there is anything in the Standing Orders or the rules of Parliament to prevent the Senate and the House of Representatives from meeting as one body. I believe that a good heart-to-heart talk in camera among members of both Chambers, with the advantage of the attendance of Ministers and ex-Ministers in the Senate and Ministers and ex-Ministers in this Chamber, would throw a great deal of light upon the movements now afoot, which would be of considerable benefit. I am satisfied that there would be a cessation of rauch of the criticism which is now being indulged in, and that there would be a better understanding between all parties.
– By ordering strangers out, we could attain the same object in this Chamber, if the Government were agreeable to do so.
– If the Minister of Defence could come into this chamber and give full particulars of Defence matters, we should derive considerable advantage from it.
– The Minister of Defence should always be in this Chamber.
– Without going into that aspect of the question, I believe that the present Minister of Defence, the Assistant Minister of Defence, and Senator Millen, the ex-Minister, know more about the defence of Australia than any other persons. Every honorable member has a certain amount of information of a confidential nature, but Ministers are in possession of most confidential information which they cannot now divulge, but which they could divulge at a joint meeting in camera. Many of us approach a debate of this character with the knowledge that we must restrain ourselves in regard to talking about much of the information that we have been able to obtain, but which we might be able to divulge at a meeting in camera with benefit to each other. I believe that a meeting such as I have suggested would do away with a considerable amount of heart-burning and misapprehension, and would establish a firmer and more united feeling in regard to the war than now exists in this Cham- ber. I do not know whether our Standing Orders will permit it.
– We can do anything we desire.
– We can suspend any standing order.
– Then I should like to see two days next week devoted to giving honorable members that enlightenment which they need as to the serious position in which we find ourselves as part of the British Empire. With that knowledge in our possession, our proceedings would be more beneficial to the Empire. Reference has been made to the number of rifles turned out by the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, whereas I know it to be a fact that the output of the factory is much in excess of the figures mentioned.
– Has some one been giving information here this afternoon ?
– The Leader of the Opposition knows that some of us have become possessed of certain information.
– We have had two sets of calculations to-day - one from the honorable member for Cook, and one from the honorable member for Calare.
– And they are both below the actual figures.
– I said that the output was 1,200 rifles a month.
– The honorable member is wrong. His figures are below the actual output.
– Any difference is not worth quarrelling about.
– There is a considerable difference. I would like to have the number of rifles over the honorable member’s estimate. But we cannot expect even the Assistant Minister of Defence to give us that information in the full gaze of the public. I do not claim to be the father of the suggestion, for a meeting in camera. I simply indorse remarks that have already been made; but I trust that the meeting will be held, and that honorable members will be informed of the true state of affairs, because then recriminations, which should not exist at a time when we have such great issues at stake, will be prevented, and honorable members will be able to go to the public outside more confidently, not to give information, but in order to assure them that Defence matters are all right.
.- There is on both sides of the chamber a growing and natural desire for legitimate information as to some of the important phases of our preparations for home defence and fighting overseas, and Ministers should recognise it. This is the first great international struggle in which we have been active participants. It is true that we have not learned the discipline of the older fighting nations of the world, who are content to take their punishment silently, and very often without a knowledge of the facts. In Australia, we have a very inquisitive and intelligent Democracy, and on the occasion of our first big blood-baptism we seek to know of many things that older nations are content to leave to their leaders. In this House, this feeling is utterly irrespective of party. From all sides the Assistant Minister and his colleagues are plied with all sorts of questions about which honorable members have imperfect information, and about which they desire to know something, but not with the idea of eliciting information the publication of which might prove hurtful to the country. That being so, it is time that the Ministers in charge of the Defence Department should take counsel with their leader and colleagues in Cabinet, and see whether there could not be, at an informal joint sitting of both Houses, as suggested by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, or in the respective Chambers with strangers ordered out, a heart-to-heart talk, as the honorable member calls it, about many of the important phases of tlie war. A debate on the question would not be sufficient, and would be .an improper way of dealing with the matter. I think that the Ministers, who would be very fully posted with information, should welcome questions put in an entirely non-party way. If we do this, many of the doubts and some of the anxieties that honorable members feel would be set at rest. I hope that the Assistant Minister, who, I believe is doing his best amid the enormous pressure of the Department to keep himself abreast of the problems and the information that honorable members desire, will at an early date take the suggestion to the Prime Minister. Let me give an illustration. I give it with some degree of diffidence, but with the knowledge that if it is not deemed wise to give it publicity outside the columns of Hansard, the censorship will exclude re ference to it in the public press. This is a case which came under my own knowledge. I do not know all the facts, but I know some of them. Before Christmas I endeavoured to elicit information at the time that the thing occurred, but the Minister, with the reticence that seems to cover him occasionally, declined to make reference to it. It appeared a very grave scandal to those who knew anything about it. The Government chartered a ship known as the Kyarra, altered her whole condition, and fitted her as a hospital ship, with the Red Cross flag flying above and painted on her side, and despatched her with a large hospital equipment to Egypt. She flew the international flag of peace. Some of the hospital equipment, together with doctors, nurses, and stretcherbearers was embarked either at Sydney or Brisbane. The vessel then came to Melbourne, and when the authorities were preparing to put on. board the final peace stores, they found, to their astonishment, that there was at least 500 tons of contraband of war stored in the hold. The thought occurred to some of us: If that contraband material had not been discovered, and that vessel had been held up and searched by one of the German cruisers which were abroad at that time, what greater advertisement could Germany have giver, to the world than that one of the daughter Dominions of the British Empire was sailing a vessel under the flag of peace with contraband of war in her hold ? Surely that incident was a scandal which should have been- raked to its foundations. I endeavoured to get information about it, because I saw the ship loaded in Melbourne; but so far we have had no information that any investigation took place, or that any person, military or civilian, was punished or held ^responsible for the mistake. If the incident had been found out by Germany, Australia’s name would have been covered with ignominy in the eyes of the thoughtful world. There are a number of other things about which, we desire information, and I venture to say that if we could have an assurance that the Department is working efficiently and thoroughly all honorable members of the House would co-operate loyally with the Government in carrying out the great task that confronts them. The rifle range problem is a question of deep concern to many of us. Some of us have .asked questions of Ministers on the subject, but, so far as we can learn, nothing has been done. I attend meetings all over the State to help the recruiting movement, either for service overseas or for defence preparation in Australia, and at every meeting I ask myself what is the good of increasing the membership of rifle clubs if the members cannot obtain rifles and ranges upon which to shoot. I have seen men who live within 100 yards of my residence go Saturday after Saturday to Williamstown or Port Melbourne and return in the evening without having fired a shot, though they had waited on the ranges three or four hours. The rifle ranges adjacent to this capital city are so congested that even the present members of rifle clubs cannot get any practice. The condition may bo the same in all the capital cities of Australia.
– They can fill in their time effectively with drill.
– They are doing that. One of the most pleasing phases of the movement is the number of officers belonging to the Forces who are giving up their time to assist in drilling the riflemen, .and making them efficient. I do not wish Ministers to think that I am saddling them with the blame, but that there is a grave problem in connexion with secondary defence goes without saying. Tt may be that we have not the rifles for the use of the men who are engaged in this secondary defence movement. If that is so, men can still shoot with borrowed rifles, and drill with or without them ; but there should be some chance of them shooting on rifle ranges, and becoming accustomed to the use of firearms, even though a big expenditure of ammunition be involved. It seems to me that there are many ways of overcoming the present difficulty. Without anything like as extensive a knowledge of the area surrounding Melbourne as is possessed by the Defence officers, I could mark halfadozen sites on the railway line, and within reasonable distance of the central railway station, where admirable rifle butts could be erected, and where men could be encouraged to engage in this preparatory work at least once a week. It is time the Department made a move in that respect, if it has not already moved. So far as we can see, the Department is not moving.
– Would you allow men who are medically unfit to practice rifle shooting ?
– I would place no conditions on the Defence Department in that respect. If the Department says that rifle clubs should consist only of men who are physically fit, I would offer no objection, or if it said that all men who could use a rifle should be given the opportunity of learning to handle a rifle, as was done by the Boers, who put up an excellent fight in the defence of their homes, I would say that those men should be given a chance. I would allow the Defence Department to settle the question, but the Department should move at once in one direction or the other. That is another illustration of the kind of information we are asked for by our constituents, and which we are unable to get from Ministers without endeavouring to publicly probe matters that are regarded as secret. I sympathize with Ministers. Often I have been requested by interested persons to ask questions, which, in my opinion, would have involved the disclosure of information which Ministers consider should not be made public, and I have declined to do so. Often Ministers have asked that questions should not be persisted in, and I think, with reasonable deference on both sides of the House, we have taken the nod from the Minister, and have not persisted. But, after allowing for all the privacy and secrecy which the enormous amount of confidential information in the possession of Ministers demands, there is a limit to such secrecy in a Parliament such as this, and I feel that Ministers would be consulting the best interests of both parties, and of the united Parliament, if, at the earliest possible moment, they took honorable members of both Chambers into their fullest confidence in camera. Those disclosures ‘ might require one or two sittings; if so, the time would be well spent.
– A mutual admiration society !
– Admiration is what the honorable member would never have from any honorable member of the House. The honorable member ought to know, if he has enough brains with which to bait a fishhook, which I very much doubt, that 1 am not proposing a discussion on those lines. I shall conclude with a reference to a matter which is not quite related, but is of some importance, and about which I have endeavoured to elicit information, from the Minister. I refer to the censorship of mails. As the honorable member for Cook observed, the commercial community is subject to a good deal of unnecessary delay and embarrassment. We should all endeavour to relieve the business forces of this country, which mean employment and safe finance, of all unnecessary embarrassment or rigidity in connexion with the censorship. But I have heard of firms who do business with Europe, the Orient, or South Africa, sending their mails to the General Post Office in good time before the advertised hour for closing the mails, but, in some cases, they have sent letters to the railway station, and paid the late fee, and to their astonishment and chagrin, they found that the late-fee letters were passed uncensored, and the other letters which had been lodged at the General Post Office had been detained for one month. I do not mean that the censorship occupied a month, but the delay in censoring the letters resulted in their missing the mail, and they had to wait one month for the next mail. One firm doing a thoroughly reputable business with the East in clothing supplies lost £1,200 through the missing of one mail. I had that on the authority of the head of the firm, whose business I am somewhat acquainted with, and whose word I accepted with every assurance.
– Was the late letter fee mail censored ?
– The letter had reference to orders which had been posted an hour before, and when the firm in Japan or China got it, they did not know anything about it, because the order did not go forward until a month later. It is important that we should help our business people to keep their concerns going. When I brought this matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General, he replied in perfect good faith yesterday that it was in the hands of the Defence Department, and that representations had been made with ‘ a view to having it inquired into. The Postal Department should be kept in close touch with the Defence censors, who should know how long it would take to censor a given number of packages. The Department knows what mail matter is carried to tlie East, Japan, Java, and other places, and if the
Department were to say to the business men that the mail closed at 4 o’clock on any Tuesday, but that if they wanted their letters to go through they should be handed in by Saturday, the commercial community would see that this was done.
– I am getting some information on that aspect of the question at present.
– I am glad to know that. If the Postmaster-General would consult with the Assistant Minister and the Minister of Defence on this question, I feel confident something could be done to make these restrictions fall more lightly on the commercial community.
– I have been listening with a great deal of attention to this important debate, and I want to say at once that the question which the Committee is discussing is a very serious one, for it concerns the most important crisis in the history of the British Empire, if not the whole world. When I hear that the Small Arms Factory is only working one shift, and that we have 33,000 men out of work in Australia, I am compelled to assume that there is a serious want of business organization somewhere. It is nonsense to say that the men cannot be trained to do this or that particular work in the Small Arms Factory. I cannot see why men cannot be taken from the factory and put at the head of another shift, whose particular duty it should be to do only certain parts of the work, leaving the completion to the more experienced men. It is all a matter of business organization. I am sorry I was not in the House when the honorable member for Macquarie was speaking, but I do say that if we had a business Committee from both sides of this House, we could have a very useful discussion with the Minister. The trouble is that some men think they know everything, when, as a matter of fact, they know nothing. I found that out when I was Minister. There are brains at the bottom, but often they can never come out on top because there is no conduit. I want to emphasize the fact that the cry in Britain, in Russia, and in France to-day is for more ammunition. Here, in the New York World of Sunday, 28th March, is the statement, “ Russia short of munitions.”
– That is why she is backing out.
– The other day our own papers told us that General French was not able to go on, and it is admitted now by the American papers that at Neuve Chapelle he broke through the German lines, but could not go on because of the want of ammunition.
– Kitchener practically contradicted that the other day; and he emphasized the fact that it was not munitions, but men, who were wanted.
– Will my friend please allow me to proceed 1 I am as well posted in the affairs of the world as any man in Australia, for, while I get a great deal of information from the Age, the Herald, and occasionally from the Argus, I find time to read papers from America, and so keep myself posted up on outside events.
– I suppose it is all gospel in those American papers.
– The matter I refer to was written by men who are allowed to travel with certain armies, and who, before their articles appeared in print, submitted them to the Generals in charge. If it is not true that Great Britain is short of munitions, why is it that, at the beginning of the war, America owed the Britishers $400,000,0.00, and sent gold over to Canada to meet the obligation) Now, after eight months of war, the position has turned until the balance is nearly $1,000,000,000 against Great Britain. We do not want to ask any further questions than that. Men who understand dealing with “boodle” know what that means.
– That is the balance of trade, due to supply of munitions of war.
– It is because the United States of America is supplying the Allies with war munitions. The United States of America sent over nearly 140,000 horses, as well as 1,500,000 rifles and munitions. The United States, says Professor Muensterberg, “ sacrificed the noble rôle of the non-partisan.” The Germans now hate America because she is furnishing the Allies with such large supplies of war munitions. Gold has been made the international medium of liquidation, and every nation now demands gold. The Bank of England has only £92,000,000, so where are we to get our gold to carry on the wart The fact of the matter is that America, according to the World, is now financing the world.
– America financing the world?
– England had a credit of $100,000,000, and Russia a credit of $40,000,000.. That is the balance of trade, and Germany says that this is lending money; and this is the cause of the feeling of Germany against America. I bring these facts forward to show that we Australians ought to turn night into day in order to get out ammunition to help the Old Country. It is idle to come into this House and say that we cannot get the men, for I guarantee that if I were placed at the head of the Lithgow factory, I should have three shifts going in two weeks. The whole trouble is that we hire a .technical mau and put him at the head; but, while a technical man is good on a section, he is not good at “running the whole show.” We ought to hire a thorough business man, and then put the technical man in one corner, the general man in another, and the official man in another, and leave the business man to keep all these “ roosters “ working. There is another point that appeals seriously to me. I can remember that from 1873 to. 1875, after the war, 2,000,000 starving men were tramping the United States; and we here ought to organize our financial system so as to be able to meet the conditions which will surely arise when this war is over. The trouble is that England, like America, is a commercial, a thinking, an inventing, and a developing nation which has been sending the peace missionaries of commerce throughout the world; and all the time that these two countries have been doing that, Germany has been preparing for “ stoush.” In 1886 the capitalists of Germany, England, Belgium, France, and partly America - as America could not get the “big end of the stick” she did not join - organized a great munition trust.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment. *
Australian Troops in Action.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– A resolution passed by the Newcastle branch of the New South Wales Railway and Tramway Service Association has been forwarded to me,and I desire to take this opportunity to place it before the House. It is as follows : -
Auderton-strect, Islington, 9th May, 1915.
Mr. J. H. Catts, M.H.B.,
Federal Offices, Sydney.
Will you please convey to Federal Parliament, to Prime Minister, and Minister for Defence the following resolution carried at our brunch meeting to-day: -
Resolution carried, with all members standing out of respect to our gallant heroes - “ That we, as members of the Amalgamated Railway and Tramway Service Association, while feeling proud of the gallant dash and bravery displayed by our Australian troops at the front, in their first encounter with the enemy at the Dardanelles, we at the same timeregret and express our sorrow at the heavy death rate, and large number of wounded, who have suffered in the carrying out of their noble duties. We also send out to the bereaved relatives our deep regret . and sincere sympathy in their sad losses under such trying circumstances.”
Yours faithfully. thos.Godfrey,
I regret that circumstances prevented my presenting this resolution when this matter was officially before the House.
.- The Prime Minister is unavoidably absent, but I feel sure that he would join with me in saying that the sentiments expressed in the resolution just read are shared by all Australians. We are delighted at the way in which our fellow citizens have done their duty at the front, and are sure that they will continue to do so, though, of course, we hope that the war will soon be over, and that there will be no further need for their services.
Question resolved in affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.2 p.m. .
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 May 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150521_reps_6_76/>.