6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following Bills reported: -
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1013-14. .
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1913-14.
Enemy Contracts Annulment Bill.
The following papers were presented: -
Inter-State Commission Act -
Inter-State Commission - Tariff Investigation - Appendices to Reports : Statistical and other information, and Evidence -
Apparel : Women’s and men’a outer garments, and piece goods.
Hats and caps.
Horseshoe nails. (Hire oil.
Pickles, sauces, and spices.
Type - printers’ metal.
Netherlands East Indies- Report - The Fiscal
Policy, Local Government, Civil Service, Native Government, and Economic Development - By the Hon. Staniforth Smith, Director of Agriculture, &c, Territory of Papua.
Ordered to be printed.
Electoral Act -
Joint Electoral Rolls in Tasmania - Provisional Regulations - Statutory Rules1915, No. 76.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1915, No. 54.
War, the- .
Correspondence between His Majesty’s Government and the United States Ambassador respecting the Release of Interned Civilians; and the Exchange of Diplomatic and Consular Officers, and of certain classes of Naval and Military Officers, Prisoners of War; in the United Kingdom and Germany respectively.
– It is reported in
Sydney that the Government have prevented the Colonial Sugar Refining Company from cabling an order for sugar to Java. I ask the Attorney-General, who has been inquiring into the position of our sugar stocks, whether he knows the statement to be true, and if he can give the House any information as to steps being taken to safeguard the public in regard to the sugar question ?
– It is not true that the Government have prevented Mr. Knox, of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, from cabling to Java. The circumstances surrounding the censorship of cables may be shortly set out. The Government, which is charged with the duty of insuring to the people of this country an adequate supply of food products, has been notified by this great combination that there is likely to be a shortage of sugar in the near future. This duty of safeguarding the interests of the people has to be performed at all times; but at this juncture an even more vitally important duty devolves upon the Government: that is, to prosecute the present struggle for our national existence with every ounce of energy that we possess. The Government are responsible for the feeding of 15,000 soldiers, and for insuring supplies of the necessaries of life to those engaged in manufacturing ammunition, and the general impedimenta and necessities for carrying on the war. It is imperative, therefore, that we should take every precaution to safeguard the community against a shortage of sugar. The Government have exercised their power to take such steps as are necessary to insure the availability of an adequate supply. It is not true that Mr. Knox has been prevented from obtaining supplies of sugar from Java. His cablegram, like the messages of every other commercial man relating to the supply of food products, was examined, in order that we might see that there was no attempt at manipulation of the market or exploitation of the public at this juncture.
– Is it a fact that Mr. Knox’s cable was censored, and did it contain material which it was necessary to censor? Will the AttorneyGeneral tell the House plainly what it is that he has done in connexion with this matter, and in what way he has interfered with Mr. Knox’s attempt to obtain more sugar for Australia?
– The cablegram to which reference is made in Mr. Knox’s communication to the press was, I understand, an acceptance of an offer of some 2,500 tons of sugar at 16s. 9d. a cwt. There is nothing in that cablegram to which exception could be taken, nor was exception taken to it.
– But it was delayed.
– The cablegram was held back for twenty-four hours. There has been no delay other than that, and no interference with cablegrams relating to the supply of sugar, whether sent by Mr. Knox or any other person.
– Are we to understand that a cablegram of this importance, having reference to the food supplies of the people, is not considered to be unduly delayed when held back for twenty-four hours ?
– The Government are concerned with seeing that an adequate supply of sugar is made available in Australia. Mr. Knox has stated that 11,000 tons of sugar had already been bought. We are endeavouring to ascertain the circumstances under which that sugar was bought and the price paid for it, so that we may know that the price asked for it by Mr. Knox is a fair one for his company to charge.
– In view of the Attorney-General’s statement, that it is the duty of the Government to see that necessary commodities are supplied to the people, will he assure the House and the country that the requirements of Australia in the matter of sugar will be met ?
– The House has already been informed that inquiries are being conducted in order to ascertain precisely the whole position in regard to sugar, and I hope to be able to-morrow to make a full statement regarding it. As to an assurance that the requirements of the people of Australia will be amply met, so far as the Government can insure it, that assurance has already been given.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral discovered anything in the cables which have been censored and delayed - in the one case for twenty-four hours, and in the other case for a longer period - which he considers to be detrimental to the public interest? Will he lay what information he has on the table, so that we may see what the Colonial Sugar Company is doing to the injury of the public interest in this time of war ?
– I have already told the right honorable gentleman that I saw nothing to take exception to in that cable; but it is the business of the Government to see that supplies are obtained, and it was in order to see that they are obtained that the cables were examined. It is not true to say that any cable was delayed more than twentyfour hours. It is not true now to say that cables are being delayed twenty-four seconds.
– Does it take the Attorney-General twenty-four hours, with all the resources of the Government behind him, to be made aware of the contents of a cable message?
– As the right honorable gentleman knows, the cables were received and despatched from Sydney, and had to come here. That was the cause of the delay. Since then arrangements have been made whereby they are telegraphed over.
Messages to Wounded Soldiers : Broadmeadows Camp : Hospital Accommodation : Parcels Distribution : Casualties: Errors in Cable Reports : Nursing of Invalids.
– Can the Assistant Minister of Defence inform the House if it is possible for parents whose sons have been wounded at the front to ascertain where they are, so that they may get into cable communication with them ?
– Unfortunately, very many of our soldiers have been wounded, and as they are being distributed among a number of hospitals which are located at great distances from each other, it is difficult to ascertain immediately the whereabouts of any particular man. I think that an answer that I have prepared to reply to a question which the honorable member for Barrier is to ask will give the honorable member the information that he desires.
– Is it the intention of the Government to remove the camp from Broadmeadows, and, if so, will full consideration be given to other places thatare eminently suitable ?
– Yesterday the Minister sent Colonel Fetherston, Colonel Stanley, and Captain Murdoch to view Broadmeadows Camp, to inquire and report as to its suitability. The report of these officers has been received by the Minister, who has decided to have the camp removed to Seymour.
– There will be just as much mud at Seymour as there is at Broadmeadows.
– We cannot please everybody. The Minister has already given instructions for the men and tents to be immediately removed ; but he desires it to be thoroughly understood that this is only a temporary step. During the absence of the recruits, it is intended, if possible, to remedy the defects at Broadmeadows. It is not intended to move the present wooden buildings, but, on the contrary, to continue erecting huts and making the conditions more suitable.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence aware that the hospital huts that are being erected in Sydney for the care of the wounded and sick soldiers are being roofed with galvanized iron, which will practically render the buildings unfit for their purpose? Will the Assistant Minister take immediate steps to see that throughout Australia these temporary hospitals are roofed with ruberoid, or some other cool material ?
– I shall bring the question under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– Free cable inquiries can, I understand, be sent by the Department in the case of dangerously and seriously wounded soldiers only, and not in respect of wounded or slightly wounded. What arrangement can relatives in the latter case make who desire to cable inquiries at their own expense? Can they cable to the O.C., Australian Base Depot - cable address, “ Stralis,” Cairo - and prepay reply? If so, what is the Tate per word ?
– The honorable member was kind enough to inform me that he intended to ask this question, and the answer is as follows: -
Relatives of wounded or slightly wounded members of the Australian Imperial Force, to whom the free cable inquiries sent by the Department do not extend, who desire to cable at their own expense, arc recommended to address their messages to the member concerned at Cairo. Tho address should contain the number, rank, name, and designation of Unit. It is important that tho word “ Australian “ should appear in designation of Unit. Messages so addressed will be delivered to the Officer Commanding, Australian Base Dep6t, Cairo, who will be in a position to forward them on to the addressees.
Australian casualties arc distributed over several hospitals in the Mediterranean and Egypt, as well us England, and it would not be possible’ for any officer in Egypt, without much delay, to obtain information regarding wounded or slightly wounded men making satisfactory progress. It is not thought that the hospitals can be asked to do more than report progress of dangerous or serious cases, as is being done at present.
Week-end cables may be sent at the rate of l0½d. per word, but if the sender desires to propay the reply, such must be paid for at ordinary rates, viz., 3s. 5d. per word. The person receiving the prepaid cable may forward his reply by the ordinary rate, deferred rate, or week-end rate, up to the amount deposited for the reply.
No charge is made by the cable companies for the three free inquiries which relatives of dangerously or seriously wounded men are allowed to make through the Defence Department.
Week-end telegrams from or to members of the Australian Imperial Force in Egypt arc accepted at the rate of l0½Jd. per word, without the usual minimum charge of18s.
– Are we to understand that ordinary cables during the week, sent by relatives or friends, must still be paid for at the full rate, andl that the concession of 10½d. per word has reference to only week-end cables ?
– In the answer I just now gave there is the following : -
Week-end cablegrams from or to members of the Australian Imperial Force in Egypt are accepted at the rate of 10½d. per word, without the usual minimum charge of 18s.
I think that is the most moderate scale in operation just now.
– That has reference only to week-end cables. There is no further concession ?
– No; but, as honorable members know, in the case of a person dangerously wounded, a free cable may be sent.
– But during the week the ordinary rates prevail ?
– Will the Defence Department make arrangements with the Railway Department of Victoria to carry parcels of comforts, and so forth, to the troops when the camp has been shifted to Seymour? Further, will the Minister kindly see that there is proper organization at the Seymour end for the distribution of such comforts to the men for whom they are intended, now that relatives will not be able to visit the camp ?
– As to the former part of the question, I shall bring it under the notice of the Minister ; and, as to the suggestion contained in the latter part, I can assure the honorable member that it will be carried out.
– In view of the very satisfactory arrangements which the Government have made for the tern, porary removal of the camp from Broadmeadows - owing, I believe, to criticism in this House - what provision is being made for those men who at present are in the field hospitals at that place?
– I notified the House last week that the Government were providing suitable buildings to which all cases of sickness will be sent with proper trained nurses in attendance. The Government are now making final arrangements with regard thereto.
– I should like to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence what steps have been taken to put the cable system at the other end on a better footing so far as the reporting of casualties is concerned. Both he and the Prime Minister promised us last Wednesday that something would be done. To illustrate the seriousness of the position I should like to point out that I have received a telegram from Richmond, New South Wales, stating that on the 11th. instant a cablegram announcing the death of Captain William Bowman Douglas was received by his wife, and that a memorial service was held on the 19th instant; but that yesterday Mrs. Douglas received from her husband a cablegram dated “ Cairo, 21st May,” and containing the one word “Well.” This date has been confirmed. The whole district from which Captain Douglas comes is excited, according to the message I have received, and the family are distracted. I believe there are a number of such cases, and I should like to know what steps the Government have taken to reorganize the service at the other end. This incident can only be the result of rightdown carelessness, or something of the kind on the other side. There must be something wrong with the whole system. I instance this case so as to urge the Minister still further to see if something cannot be done to bring about a reorganization at tbe other end of the service.
– I shall endeavour to furnish the right honorable member with a full reply to-morrow.
– In putting to the Assistant Minister of Defence a question regarding the Broadmeadows Camp, I should like, as one who very early in the agitation raised the question of the unsuitableness of the site, and who had some hard things to say concerning it, to express my appreciation of the. prompt, action taken by the Government. It has been intimated in regard to the matter of nursing at Broadmeadows and at the new camp that skilled nurses will be supplied at the base hospital. I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether some better provision will be made for nursing at the intermediate or clearing hospitals now erected. I spent the morning at Broadmeadows, and saw a young fellow who had had a sudden collapse, and was receiving, no doubt, very skilled medical attention; but in my judgment the nursing attention was not sufficient.
– Order !
– Will the Minister confer with the medical officers with a view to securing the services of University medical students who are prepared to volunteer to attend to these intermediate cases?
– It is the intention of the Department that any soldier in camp reported to be suffering from any serious sickness shall be immediately removed from the camp to a properly equipped hospital.
– -Before moving the whole of the troops in training to the distant town of Seymour, will the Assistant Minister of Defence consider the very generous offer made by Mr. W. H. Croker, of Melbourne, to allow the Department the use of about 400 acres of land at Altona for the purpose of a temporary, or, if necessary, permanent camp ?
– The Minister of Defence has already considered that proposal, and it is his intention to take the course which I indicated to the House this afternoon.
– I would like to ask the Acting Minister of Defence if, before shifting the camp to Seymour, he will have an inspection made of what is known as the Police Paddock, at Dandenong, which, to my knowledge, is a very suitable place for that purpose. It is under the control of the State Government. Will the Minister make the inquiry, and see whether the camp should not be shifted to that locality in preference to Seymour, or whether an auxiliary camp could be established there ?
– The Department issued instructions to officers to go into the matter, and submit a report, and we are acting on that report. I dare say that while I am speaking preparations are being made to shift the camp to Seymour. It is not desirable, therefore, to have any reconsideration of the decision arrived at.
– Has the attention of the Assistant Minister of Defence been drawn to an article in the Age this, morning it which it is stated, in connexion with the proceedings against a Corporal Archibald, that the Magistrates first of all dismissed the case, and then, thinking to better conserve the interests of the accused, brought him back and inflicted a fine upon him, thus proving him guilty of a charge of assaulting a woman ? Will the Assistant Minister make inquiries regarding this soldier, and see that he is not promoted over the heads of better men ?
Mr.JENSEN. - Inquiries will be made into the case referred to by the honorable member.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence state whether the cable companies have made any concessions as regards cable rates since the outbreak of the war?
– No charge is made by the cable companies for the inquiries which relatives of dangerously or seriously wounded soldiers are allowed to make through the Defence Department. That is the only concession.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral be good enough to table all thepapers relating to the application of Miss Fanny Mason for an old-age pension?
– I will do so.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware, notwithstanding that the dairying districts in New South Wales have had a bountiful season”, and that no exports of butter from New South Wales have been allowed for some time, that the public of Sydney cannot get butter? Will the Minister use the machinery of his Department to find out where butter stocks are being held in New South Wales so that the public may, have an opportunity of knowing who is cornering the market and trying to force butter prices up?
– Personally I am not aware that any butter has been placed in cold storage but I will endeavour to find out the position and let the House have the information,
– Will the Minister of Customs say whether he can compel ships trading on the coast of Australia to be fitted up with wireless ? If he can, will he compel owners of the Oonah and the Rotomahana to have wireless installations placed upon them?
– We have no power to do that at present,, but we shall have when the Navigation Bill becomes law. We are waiting for a small amending Bill to go through the House, and we hope then to bring it into operation as early as possible. When we have power to deal with the matter, every company will be called upon to comply with the terms of the Act.
– I wish to announce to the House that we have been officially advised’ that Italy has declared war against Austria-Hungary, and that Germany has declared war against Italy.
– May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, a question-? I notice that at the present time a Bill is before the Victorian Legislature to secure the closing of hotel bars at half -past 9. If that Bill becomes law, will you apply it to the liquor bar upstairs, or will you take a referendum of the members of the House upon the subject?
– May I point out to the honorable member that I am not here to answer hypothetical questions.
Report on the sewerage scheme for Flinders’ Naval Base presented by Mr. Riley.
Motion (by Mr. Riley), proposed -
That the document be printed.
– I take this opportunity of asking the Chairman of this Committee whether, in the publication of these reports, it cannot be arranged for the questions as well as the replies to be printed. It is very difficult to understand the evidence contained in a reply unless one understands the form in which the question was put. I offer this suggestion to the honorable member. It will help honorable members considerably if it could be acted upon.
– Some time ago, on the presentation of a report regarding sewerage at Yass-Canberra, I brought before the notice of the House the necessity of including in the evidence copies of drawings that were presented to the Committee, on the ground that it was practically impossible for any honorable member to get a full grasp of the evidence without having available the tracings relating to it. The reproduction of such drawings is one of the simplest processes in the printing art, and there could be no objection on the ground of expense. This, I understand, is the time to raise the question. I should like to know, in connexion with the report just presented, whether any drawings which were presented to the Committee illustrative of the evidence given have been included. If I cannot get the information, perhaps it would be better for me to move the postponement of the printing so that honorable members may have an opportunity of looking at the document. If we do not take action now, it will be too late afterwards to raise a complaint. I should’ like to move that the printing of this paper be postponed until tomorrow, to enable honorable members to ascertain whether there is any such omission from the report.
– If honorable members desire an opportunity to see the report before it is printed, I would suggest that the adjournment of the debate be moved.
– The honorable member could achieve his object by asking leave to continue his speech at a later date.
– Very well, I do that.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– In view of the in creasing dearness of meat; will the Prime
Minister consider the advisableness of requesting the State Premiers to put a stop to the poisoning of rabbits while the price of meat foods continues to be so high ?
– I shall have much pleasure in transmitting the honorable member’s question to the Premiers of those States in which rabbits exist.
Offer of German Club, Sydney
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence aware that the German Club, Sydney, has been offered to, and accepted by, the military authorities as a military hospital ? Further, will the honorable gentleman, ascertain whether the offer of this splended building, in which wounded British soldiers may be efficiently attended to, has been made by German citizens as a protest against the methods being adopted by Germany in this war?
– I will obtain the facts for the honorable member, and acquaint him with them.
Character of Employees
– From a report in the press, I understand that some new rule has been laid down by which a man may not be employed on the KalgoorliePort Augusta railway unless he has received a certificate of discharge of a satisfactory character from some former employer. I should like to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if this is true; and what is the distinction between this system and the ordinary system of blacklisting which has existed from time immemorial in connexion with private employment ?
– The rule applies particularly to the Traffic Branch, and not to the Construction Branch. There have been too many accidents upon the railway, and I believe that some of them are attributable to the fact that the men might have been more sober than they were when these mishaps occurred. In the early days of creating a railway and building up a new staff, the Commonwealth were obliged to get the services of men possessing railway experience; but as in many instances such men, who had been discharged from other Government services, have not turned out very satisfactorily, the desirability of employing men without clear tickets from their former railway employment has been a matter of serious consideration. It is not a matter of black-listing. I am not a teetotaller, but I intend to see that we have sober men employed on the railway, for then I feel that the accidents will be less. At any rate, I do not propose to issue to the other railway services the notice “ Rubbish may be shot here.”
– In view of the reflections made by the Minister on the men employed on the transcontinental railway, will the honorable gentleman lay on the table of the House a list of the cases where accidents have occurred as the result of drunkenness on the part of the employees in his Department?
– I have not reflected on the employees. My remarks apply to a portion of them only. I do not care to lay the papers on the table, as the honorable member wishes. I prefer that honorable members should see them in the Department, because, as a matter of fact, very often papers which are laid on the table of the Library become lost.
– Does the Minister wish us to understand that certificates of discharge will only be required from men seeking to be engaged on the traffic side of the Department, and that this requirement does not relate to the employment of men generally on the railway construction ? Because, if that is so. the position will be entirely satisfactory.
– It will apply only to the Traffic Branch; and I think the House and the country will realize that such a regulation is desirable, in the interests of guaranteeing the protection of the travelling public and fellow workmen.
– Are we to understand that if a man in the Traffic Branch of a State railway is discharged on account of drunkenness, he cannot get employment at navvying work in the Construction Branch of our railway service?
– Certainly not. There will be no objection to employing any such man in the Construction department: but, at the same time, he will be expected not to lose time through intemperate habits.
– As information as to the amount of and manner in which British capital is invested in Germany, Austria, aud Turkey, may be of some consequence when the terms of settlement of the present war come to be considered, will the Minister of External Affairs cause inquiries to be made, and make the information available to honorable members?
– I am not aware of any machinery at the command of the Government that would enable us to obtain the information which the honorable member requires. I apprehend that an application to the Imperial Government might later on be successful, but at the present time there would be some difficulty in eliciting information. When the war is over, it will be a very pertinent inquiry to make, and I shall then be glad to give effect to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether, if there is any truth in the statement that Lieutenant Moore, who was lately before a court martial in Sydney, has had some punishment meted out to him, he will say what the extent of the punishment is, by whom it has been recommended, and by whom it has been imposed ? The newspapers say that he has been dismissed.
– I have heard nothing of the matter. The papers have not come before me. If the honorable member will supply me with particulars, I shall have inquiries made.
– In view of the recent change of Government in the State of Queensland, and the stimulating circumstances leading up to it, is the Prime Minister in a position to say when he is likely to submit questions to a referendum with a view to amending the Constitution?
– Apart altogether from what has happened in Queensland, my wishes are that Bills to amend the Constitution shall go to the people early, and, if necessary, often.
– I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you heard the statement made by the Minister of Home Affairs a few moments ago, that papers laid upon the table of the Library had disappeared from time to time? If so, will you, as custodian of the papers, take such steps as will prevent the possibility of a recurrence of such a thing ?
– No such complaint has been brought under my notice, but I should like to explain to the House that neither I nor the officials take any responsibility for papers that are laid on the table of the Library. We have no means of knowing whether any file produced contains all the papers That it purports to contain, and. therefore we are not in a position to know whether any papers are missing or not. In order to prevent certain papers becoming public property a practice has grown up in this House of laying such papers on the table in the Library, so that they may be perused by members. Unless some officer is appointed to watch over those papers, and hand them out from time to time to members, we can have no control over them, and even then, we should not know whether any were removed from the file, unless we had somebody watching members while they were perusing them. I would suggest to honorable members that when they desire the production of certain papers the proper course is to make a motion to that effect, and then a complete copy of the papers could be produced. When original papers are laid on the table of the Library there is always a danger of them going astray. It would, perhaps, be better for the Government to insist that they would only produce a copy of any particular papers when those papers were asked for by a vote of the House. The production of duplicate papers on the mere request of a member might lead to a lot of work and expense in making a copy, the perusal of which might show to the inquiring member that there was nothing in the file to warrant the preparation of a duplicate.
– How could the House know whether the papers were important or not without seeing them?
– I take it that the proper course would be for a member to peruse the papers in the Department, and if he then thought it necessary that they should be made public in the interests of the community he could move for a return.
– A Minister will not always show the papers to a member, but he will always obey the House.
– If a Minister refused to show a member papers he inquired for, that member would have an opportunity of making a complaint to the House. Until this afternoon, I had not heard of any papers being missed from the table of the Library but I would again explain to the House that the custodians of the Library cannot take any responsibility for the papers that are laid on the table there, and I would therefore advise that papers be produced only in duplicate form.
– I can see what the difficulty is, and I shall be glad to consult with the Leader of the Opposition on this matter. The Government have no wish to prevent members seeing papers of public importance.
– In order to prevent any misconception arising outside the House as to the safety of documents in the precincts of the House, I should like the Minister of Home Affairs to say whether, since he has been a Minister, any portion of a file laid on the table of the Library has disappeared.
– Not since I have been a Minister.
– In the event of the Constitution Alteration Bills being submitted to a referendum before our troops have returned from the war, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of making provision for soldiers absent from Australia to record their votes ?
– The matter will be considered.
– I have been informed by a gentleman of some standing in Sydney that he was asked to contribute to a Liberal patriotic demonstration at Ashfield, in aid of the Belgian Fund, and that he refused, because half of the proceeds were to be devoted to the funds of the Liberal Association. Will the Assistant Minister of Defence ascertain if that statement is accurate, and, if it is, will, ha take steps to see that functions of that character are not used for partypolitical purposes?
– That matter does not come within the purview of the Defence Department.
– Nor of the Government.
– With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask the honorable member for Cook a question concerning the statement which he has just made with regard to a certain Liberal organization.
– Under what rule are you acting ?
– I am acting under the ruling of Mr. Speaker, and with the consent of the honorable member who made the statement.
– Why discuss it now?
– Why discuss these innuendoes ? I am surprised at the honorable member. I want to ask the honorable member for Cook, if he cares to answer it, who told him that a Liberal organization in a certain district had used these means to get fund’s for their own party propaganda?
– On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, I point out that there is no standing order under which the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition can ask a question unless it concerns some public business on the notice-paper.
– I was going to point that out to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition when the honorable member intervened. The question which he has asked has nothing to do with any business on the notice-paper, and, therefore, I cannot allow it.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, do I understand you to rule that an honorable member may ask a question of Ministers having nothing whatever to do with the business of this House, and then decline to allow anything else to be said about it?
– That is the position I take up.
– On a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that the information on which I based my question was supplied to me last week by one of the most prominent and largest manufacturers in Sydney.
– Give his name.
– I am prepared to ask his permission to do so, and if I” receive it I shall give his name.
– Order ! I would point out that the honorable member is going beyond a personal explanation.
– I would like to ask the Attorney-General whether his attention has been directed to a circular issued by the Federal Liberal Organization of New South Wales. In the top left-hand corner of that circular there appear the words, “ President, Right Honorable Joseph Cook, P.C., M.P.” That circular sets out that in view of the referenda being proceeded with, funds are requested to fight the proposals. If the Minister’s attention has been drawn to that circular, will he take such steps as may be necessary to see that the money so obtained is expended within the four corners of the law in influencing the public with regard to the referenda?
– I doubt whether it is fair to me to ask off-hand for a legal opinion upon this circular, but if the honorable member will allow me - to take a copy of it, I will look into the matter to see how far it is covered by the law.
– I would like to ask the Prime Minister or the AttorneyGeneral whether, in view of the fact that it is necessary to send out these begging appeals for funds, the Ministers will withdraw those infamous imputations made some time ago against the Liberal League that it was rolling in money ?
– Is that a question or a joke?
– It is a joke from this side of the House, but a question from that side. I now have the circular referred to, which I find reads as follows : -
Re the referendum. In view of the definite statement by the Prime Minister that the referendum is to be proceeded with without delay, the trustees of the Liberal Association would be grateful for a donation towards the expenses which will have to be incurred in opposing the Labour-Socialist party.
Now, in view of the fact that the Liberal Association has to beg so hard for funds, will the Attorney-General withdraw those imputations which he made against the Liberal party of having unlimited funds supplied by a few rich people with which to carry on its propaganda ?
– The right honorablegentleman’s question, if it can be called’ such, is framed too vaguely for me toanswer. I do not know what unlimited! funds be alludes to.
– That quarter of a million that, on the platform, you have alluded to more than once.
– Oh, that was a past allusion. I do not know anything about it.
– I understand some statements were made by the honorable member for Moreton with regard to the shareholders in the company which had secured the bread contract for the Enoggera Camp, and I would like to ask the Acting Minister of Defence if he has investigated the charges concerning the personnel of the company?
– I have net investigated it, but I have received a telegram from, I think, Mr. W. Shead, who says that the statement made by the honorable member for Moreton, that Germans were among the shareholders, is absolutely untrue.
– I desire to call the attention of honorable members to the fact that question No. 1 contains three extracts taken from a report from certain papers. If I permit that sort of thing to go on it will mean that, on somefuture occasion, members can come along with a whole leading article, and have it put on the notice-paper as a question. I can see endless difficulty if this is allowed, and although the question has gone on to the paper this time in the form in which it stands I want to warn honorable members that I will not permit it in the future.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he ask Mr. Bell, the Engineer-in-Chief of Railways, who has recently returned from inspecting the work, to report as to the accuracy of the following extracts from statements- appearing in the West Australian newspaper of 17th April last, from its special correspondent, in regard to the manner in which the work of construction on the western end of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta is being carried out: -
Extract 1. “No one can be acquainted with the history of this railway, no one can have visited it and have seen, with observant eyes, the work in hand, without recognising that the command of the industrial side of it rests with a crowd of workmen who, for the most part, recognise neither responsibility to themselves nor to their employers, the taxpayers. The Government stroke is carried to an extreme which would bc considered impossible did not the lamentable facts testify to it.”
Extract 2. “ For the money they receive, the workmen on the whole are not giving a fair return. This is strikingly true of the track-laying gang. The platelayers refuse to do a stroke of work after a mile of rails has been laid during a day, and as a mile is usually put down in from 54 to 04 hours, these men, when the distance has been accomplished, sit down and watch their fellows of the muck-work spin out the eight hours….. These men were offered a bonus on the length of track exceeding one mile laid in a dar, but refused. They sit on the plain and watch other mcn pottering about until five o’clock.”
Extract 3. “ I affirm that, considering the excellent treatment of the men and the multitudinous provisions for their health and comfort, their industrial conduct as a whole has been characterized by ingratitude and miserable selfishness.”
– The following report has been received from the EngineerinChief for Commonwealth Railways : -
Whilst I was in Western Australia, I perused the article which appeared in the West Australian, and had the opportunity of inquiring first hand into the conduct of operations at the western end. I was well satisfled with the manner in which the work is being carried out, and good progress is being made with all sections of the work.
Extract 1. - The supervising engineer has full control over the mcn, and their employment or dismissal is in his hands. The men are required to work as well for the Department as they would for a contractor.
Extract 2. - The number of men on the tracklayer has been fixed so that a mile may bo laid each day. When the tracklayer is working smoothly, it is not unusual for the mcn to finish their work before the eight hours have expired. When this occurs the men are paid for the full eight hours, although they may only have worked six or seven hours. This is the common practice in platelaying, and has prevailed in Western Australian Government construction gangs for a number of years. Our mcn were offered an increased rate by the Supervising Engineer in the event of their laying a greater length, and there was some dispute as to the number of men required to carry out the requisite work; but these matters have now been adjusted.
Extract 3. - The men are well provided for, and every effort is made to give them reasonable attention. In return I have every reason to believe the Department gets better service.
Free Cables - Arrangements for Returned Wounded
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– In answer to the honorable member’s questions, the following information has been supplied by the Department of Defence: -
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What arrangements are being made to house the wounded soldiers returning to Australia; also, are any special steps being taken to secure competent nurses to attend these men?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
Arrangements are being made to provide the following accommodation : -
The services of trained nurses will be secured for each hospital and convalescent depot.
asked the Assistant
Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 3. The matter was first raised in March, 1013, and again in June, 1013. The decision of the previous Government to obtain tho expert advice of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice regarding the base caused the matter to be deferred pending decision as to actual site for the base.
After receipt of the report of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, tho Defence Department, on 14th October, 1014, again requested the Department of Home Affairs to take steps to procure the area recommended by him. Funds were not available for the purchase of the complete area, and this caused some little delay.
– On Thursday last the honorable member for Gippsland asked the following questions: -
In reply to inquiries which were then being made, reports furnished by all the Deputy Postmasters-General gave the following information : -
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 21st May, vide page 3377) :
Upon which Mr. McGrath had moved -
That subdivision 1 - Military Pay, £44,468 - be reduced by £1.
Mr.KING O’MALLEY (Darwin) [4.16]. - In discussing this subject previously, I ventured the assertion that the trouble with the British Army all along has been lack of ammunition, and that we ought to make the Lithgow factory run three shifts a day. It is a great mistake to work overtime, because to work men over eight hours destroys their capacity for work next day. I have never done much work myself; but good unionists have told me that to get efficiency a man must have good rest. The loafer ought never to have the loaves; but it is not loafing when a man takes sixteen hours to rest and enjoy himself. Eight hours is as long as an efficient man can work honestly ; in fact, seven hours would be better.
Mr.Webster. - Six would be better still.
Mr.KING O’MALLEY.- It would be if we could make more men work. The trouble is that we have no legitimate business organization. If we had our workers, our industries, and our finances organized, our great public Departments systematized, and our instruments of exchange and credit mobilized, nobody would be out of work. I heard to-day that an officer of the Defence Department actually censored a business man’s telegram for the purchase of materials to be distributed among the people. Just imagine an official in the Defence Department interfering with a telegram from a business corporation to its agents instructing them to purchase certain materials.
Mr.KING O’MALLEY. - According to the statement made here this afternoon the Defence authorities censored a telegram from Mr. Knox to his agents in Java directing them to purchase sugar. Ever since the American War I have held the opinion that the gentleman in khaki would boss the nation whenever he got on horseback. I remember when the military authorities used either to shoot a Johnny rebel or send him to gaol for three or four months.
– They took him away from his family, consigned him to gaol, and kept him there. If they had shot him there might have been some sense in their action. I say that nobody should be vested with such extraordinary powers. I intend presently to quote from a British Conservative journal - the National Review - with a view to showing that both Britain and Russia are suffering from a shortage of munitions of war. Until recently, even France was short of ammunition. It was the big combinations of capital in England, France, Germany, Belgium, and Russia which, in 1886, established the great ammunition factories of the world. They invited the Yankees to join them in the venture, but the latter will have nothing to do with any enterprise which they themselves cannot control. These capitalistic combines built great ammunition factories in Germany, a few in Russia, a few in the north of France,and one or two in Belgium. It was British capital which established the great factories that to-day are supplying Germany with munitions of war for the destruction of her enemies, such as shells, &c. I said the other day that the manager of our Small Arms Factory at Lithgow was relinquishing his position to take the management of a factory in the New England States, which has an order for 1,000,000 rifles. I find that I made a. mistake. That factory, I learn from American newspapers, has an order for the manufacture of 3,000,000 rifles. I repeat that to-day the Allies are labouring under the disability of a shortage of ammunition. I am perfectly satisfied that it is only a matter of time when the Teutonic nations will be defeated. But they will not be defeated quickly, becausebanking statistics show that in 1913 Germany had $4,200,000,000, or £800,000,000, in the Savings Banks. I say that we should work our Small Arms Factory to its highest capacity. By so doing, we should provide employment for thousands of our own people. If we have 33,000’ men unemployed to-day - notwithstanding the number who have already gone tothe front - it is an evidence that something is rotten in our methods of organization.
– I think that wesecured the services of the wrong man as manager of our Small Arms Factory. He is a Yankee, and wishes to return to Yankee land.
– He is returning there because he is to receive three times his present salary, and is to be the head of an organization which is backed by millions sterling. We cannot blame him for that. After all, during tho few years that one is in this world, he naturally wishes to get as much as possible out of it.
– What does the honorable! member suggest?
– My suggestion is that the factory should be put under the control, hot of a technical man, but of an organizing business man like Mr. McC. Anderson. He would then pick his technical men and place them over the heads of the untrained men. During my sojourn in Australia I have learned that the Australian is very quick off the mark. He does not require much teaching. Nowadays, factories are divided into sections, and different sections are managed by different individuals. All the rough work is done by amateurs, audi the skilled men are employed to do the finishing. At the Small Arms Factory one shift, say, the night shift - should bo employed to do the ordinary work, and next day the skilled mechanics should come along and finish their work.
Mr.Webster. - That system could not be adopted in the Small Arms Factory, because the whole of the machinery has to be kept going.
– But there is always a certain amount of rough work to be done.
– Sweeping up?
– No. There is, for example, the work of getting the first parts of the rifles ready. The men who arc trained should be placed over those who are not. A man has to serve some sort of apprenticeship to every trade.
– Not in order to become an insurance agent.
– If he does not, he will surely starve. If a man has sufficient ability to become a success as an insurance agent he must be pretty clever. An individual who can make a fortune at life assurance can hold his own with any man who was ever born. In discussing the question of munitions of war the National Review says -
Mr. Vollmer freely admitted that an embargo on the exportation of arms to the Allies was the great desideratum of German-Ameri- cans, as” it is not a comforting thought for us that American machine guns, rifles, and ullets should be killing in Europe thousands of our own flesh and blood.”
If Germany had an equal chance to import the sinews of war from tho United States we should not seek to deprive the Allies from getting them. That is just tho point. The -chances are not equal. The situation, thanks to British command of the sea,, is unfair. Until It is equalized we believe the dictates of American sportsmanship and impartiality - -qualities of which the Anglo-Saxon is accusiiomed to claim a monopoly - demand that the Allies should be prohibited from enjoying advantages beyond the reach of Germany.” There liavn been many grim jokes in this war, but none eclipsing the frank demand of the friends of Germany that in the name of “ sportsmanship “ the Americans should step in to nullify Great Britain’s “unfair” C07nmand of the sea. We might as well ask the Americans to step in to stop the Germans? “unfair” command of the- land in Belgium, Northern France1, and Poland, where nameless horrors are being perpetrated.
However, this big hostile movement has been formed for the purpose of Germanizing Ameri can policy backed by a vast well-organized vote under the following auspices: -
Honorary President: Herman Bidder (editor and proprietor of the New York Staats Zeitung.
President: Richard Bartholdt (the Germain mouth-piece in the House of Representatives).
First Vice-President: Mr. Thomas C. Hall (an Irish-American theologian, from County Armagh and “ Rooseveld Exchange Professor “ elect at the University of Berlin, 1915-16).
As a fog threatens to envelop the relations between London and Washington, which powerful political interests are seeking to embroil, it is as well to place before the reader the text of various documents recently exchanged between the two Governments concerning measures to which we are driven as a belligerent.
I have read in the press a statement by a good many persons that the Kaiser ought to be sent to St. Helena, where Napoleon was confined. I object to that, and I hope that if the Commonwealth Government have any say in the settlement they will persevere with the Allies and have the Kaiser sent either to America or to Australia.
– What would you do with him ?
– We could get him info the Labour party and convert him. We would make a Christian of him and put him into this House; he would make a good. Labour man after he was converted, or we could send him to America.
– Keep him in America.
– Numbers of Germans there would put the Kaiser in Congress, after a while. I think it was a great mistake to waste Napoleon’s brains in St. Helena. He might have been employed in drafting a great scheme for the amelioration of the workers. Never destroy the brain power of a man like that; utilize it. If the Kaiser were brought out here, millions of persons would pay their fares out. and stay at hotels for months, in order to have a look at the “ rooster,” thus circulating money.
.- I desire to draw attention to a matter of some importance to the coal trade. When the war commenced it was found necessary, in consequence of enemy war-ships being at large in the Pacific, to put certain restrictions on the export of coal which retarded the foreign output to a very largo extent. We all realize that when the nation is at war it is essential that every precaution should be taken, but in taking, such precautions it means that very often a considerable sacrifice has to be made by some portion of the community, if not by the whole. In this case the miners in the Newcastle district did not demur, because they considered that the Government had acted wisely. But now that we have captured the whole of the enemy war vessels which were then in the Pacific, there does not appear to be any necessity for continuing the regulation which I have referred to. It is hardly fair for the Commonwealth to hamper the coal trade if no good purpose is going to be served thereby. The export of coal from New South Wales has decreased considerably; there is a very small tonnage going away, and, in consequence, the miners in the Newcastle and South Maitland districts are working very short time. The owners of the mines say that it is largely due to the fact that the Defence authorities continue the restrictions in regard to the export of coal. What I suggest is that Ministers should determine whether the Government, along with the Admiralty, could not take into consideration the advisability of removing the embargo, because it is of no use to punish ourselves if no purpose is to be served by such punishment. If the time of danger has gone by, and there are no enemy ships in the Pacific, why should we interfere with the coal trade so far as the Pacific is concerned ? I ask the Minister to give my suggestion earnest consideration, because we do not desire to have a large number of our men thrown out of employment unnecessarily. The position in my district at the present moment is very acute. In very many cases the men are receiving no pay at all, while in some cases they are getting two or three days’ pay per fortnight. That has been going on for & long time. The miners have been very loyal, but they cannot long stand such a strain if there is no necessity for it. I invite those who have to deal with this question to give it very careful consideration, with the view to seeing if they cannot relax the regulation, and thus give the owners of the mines an opportunity to export their coal to different parts in the Pacific as they did prior to the war.
.- I am very pleased at being able to congratulate the Government upon their decision to temporarily remove the camp from Broadmeadows to Seymour. I am exceedingly glad to find that the representa tions made have had a certain effect. It is an important matter, because a large percentage of our young men who have gone into camp have developed complaints there which it is pretty certain would not have been developed but for this camp experience.
– What is the percentage?
– I do not know what the percentage is, but I know that it is large, and that, in consequence, some very fine young fellows have been buried who would have been in training now or on the high seas going to the front but for pneumonia, measles, and other ailments which broke out in the camp. I have not heard a word of complaint from any man who has enrolled as a soldier, but I have questioned one or two men and found that common-sense methods have not prevailed. While the men are in camp in our own land, we should do our best to see that they have a dry bed. It is all very well for some persons to say that we must make soldiers of the men and bring them down to service conditions. But it is simply courting disaster in my opinion to. ask men, who have been accustomed all their lives to wholesome sleeping accommodation, to sleep on the ground or on straw which has become damp. I asked one man, “ What is the position when one set of men leaves the camp and is sent across the water ; are the new recruits put into that tent provided with new material and all that sort of thing?” And he said, “No, by no means.” He made no complaint; I simply asked a question and that was the answer. When the occupants of the tents leave the camp, fresh men are enrolled and go into the tents practically as their predecessors had left them. That is not a proper condition of things, and is one which could be remedied at very little cost. These young men are the pink of our manhood, and it is too bad to endanger their health by subjecting them to ill-conditions which can be prevented. However, it has now been announced that the camp is to be moved to Seymour. I trust that it is to be placed on sandy soil, which will dry rapidly after rain. As is well known, the Broadmeadows soil is clayey, and, when rain falls, is quickly churned up into mud, the moisture being retained for a very long while. It is not to be assumed that because men are military officers they are, therefore, masters of all knowledge, and it seems to me that in the laying-out of a camp there is room for engineering skill. The tents should be so placed that the drainage will run away from them, instead of into them. Our desire is that the men who enlist shall be sent to the front in the best of health, and, therefore, they should not be subjected to conditions under which they are liable to contract diseases which make them inefficient and prematurely old. Seymour should prove a capital location for the new encampment. In many parts of the district sites can be obtained where the soil and situation will be everything that could be desired. What is happening in the Old Country in regard to Cabinet changes is wholly commendable. I do not know what hasled up to these changes, but, seeing that the nation is called upon to defend itself against a strong enemy, it is well that the Executive power should be in the hands of a Cabinet representing every shade of political thought in the Empire. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has made a good suggestion - that both parties in this Parliament should meet in camera to discuss matters of military importance - but, to my mind, it would be a master stroke of policy were Ministers to so arrange matters that some of the members of the Opposition could be received into their counsels. Although the Labour party has a very large majority in both Chambers, the electors whom it represents do not largely exceed in number those who are represented by the Opposition members, and I feel satisfied that, wore the Prime Minister to bring into his counsels some of the tried and trusted men who represent the minority in the Commonwealth, the result would be good. All sections of the community would then feel that national matters were being dealt with by a National Government, and that the highest intelligence of Parliament was being devoted to the solution of the difficult problems which confront us. What I suggest would involve Ministerial changes that might be painful to individual Ministers; but the true expression of statesmanship is sacrifice, and there should be in the Government men who would’ be willing to sacrifice their personal interests to enable the Cabinet to represent every shade of political thought in Australia.
– The honorable member is going rather wide of the Defence Estimates.
– I admit that I am going a little beyond the subject-matter of the Defence Estimates, but I was following in the wake of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, who made what I consider an excellent suggestion, although, in my opinion, he did not go far enough. Our Defence expenditure is very large, but I do not think that any person in the community would object to necessary expenditure on defence. I think, however, that the people are not- satisfied with the knowledge that the Small Arms and Ammunition Factory is not working at high pressure. I join with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat in saying that the time has arrived for working that factory under the highest pressure. If enough skilled men to provide three daily shifts are not available, men should be imported. We cannot afford to take any risks. I am an advocate of the employment of Australian labour wherever it can be obtained, but the fact that only one shift a day is being employed at Lithgow clearly indicates that the Government cannot find enough men for extra shifts, and therefore the factory is producing only about one-third of the number of rifles that could be manufactured there. If there is a similar condition of things in other factories, it should be altered. Our men are willing to work energetically at jobs for which they have the skill, but I understand that at Lithgow the work is of a kind for which men of the necessary skill are not available, and I therefore recommend that skilled men should be brought here to make up additional shifts. There are, however, many men in Australia who have been employed at engineering tasks connected with the making and repairing of motor engines, who should be able to quickly adapt themselves to the work for which hands arc required at Lithgow.
– The necessary labour could be obtained at Lithgow.
– I assume that the Government has done its best to find the labour that it needs, and has failed to do so.
– The men employed at the Lithgow works are working sixty-eight hours a week.
– In my opinion, an eight hours shift is long enough for any skilled worker. What is needed at Lithgow is an arrangement of three shifts. Then each set of men would commence fresh, and would be able to do his best during the whole time that he was employed. Every man who is employed in making saddlery, ammunition, rifles, and clothing is helping to fight the battles of the nation. He is not taking the same personal risk as the men at- the front, but he is helping his country in the most effective way. I hope that the requisites of our soldiers will be manufactured at high pressure, and that all the Government factories will manufacture at their full capacity instead of producing only about one-third of their possible output.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY (Indi) £4.53]. - I have one or two matters which I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister very briefly. A subject to which reference has not yet been made, and which, to my mind, claims attention, is the possibility of preventing waste in regard to soldiers’ clothing. I take it that any suggestion which might result in economy will be welcomed by the military authorities. At the present time, when senior cadets pass into the Citizen Defence Forces, their greatcoats, trousers, shirts, and so on, are cast aside. This clothing cannot any longer be worn, either when the men are serving in a military capacity, or when they are acting as private citizens, and it is therefore left to be eaten by moths. Similarly, a great deal of clothing is discarded which has been served out to men who have become unfit, and week by week, and month by month, many persons are declared unfit for some reason or another. From information I have received, I believe that thousands of pounds’ worth of material are at present being eaten by moths. I make this statement for what it is worth, but I have it on the testimony of a number of Area Officers.
– What material is this?
– Material in greatcoats, trousers,, puttees, undershirts, and so forth. I understand that when cadets pass into the Defence Forces they are provided with a new outfit, the old outfit being discarded; and my suggestion is that all this material at present going to waste should be utilized. At Broadmeadows, a little while ago, it was customary for boots that had got into a state of disrepair to be cast aside; but a suggestion by myself,, amongst others, that boot-menders should be employed has, I am glad to say, resulted in a saving of hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds-. I do not suggest that this clothing should be called in by the Defence Department and used for the soldiers; but we have a number of Red Cross Societies, and I have no doubt that the material would prove of infinite use at the present time. We know that now it is scarcely possible to purchase woollen underclothing, owing to the fact that most of it has been commandeered by the military authorities, and surely some method could be devised, by which such garments could be called in by the Area Officers and used in some way. I should now like to learn from the Assistant) Minister exactly what method is being adopted - in our camps in regard to promotions. Is there any method at all ?
– And we ought to know how recent promotions affect those who, in the first place, went to the front.
– That is another serious matter. At any rate, the present method, whatever it may be, seems a most unfair one. I do not in any way blame the Minister, or the Assistant Minister, but I think we are all of one mind in this - that there is something radically wrong. Two officers who called on me this morning declared that all they desire is equal opportunity for’ promotion; and, I think, that is a very reasonable request. One captain, to whom I spoke yesterday, said that, had he been in the
Citizen Forces, he would have received his appointment as major before now, seeing that he has passed all the necessary examinations. As a matter of fact, other officers who have not passed the examinations have been promoted over his head; and his case is typical of a dozen that I am aware of.
– The honorable member is wrong, because there is no promotion without examination.
– I can assure the Assistant Minister that I am correct in my facts; indeed, T intend, later, to give names to the honorable gentleman. There is a School of Instruc tion at the camp, anr! officers are supposed to attend there for six days as the concluding part of their examination. I am further informed that there was a number who volunteered on the understanding that they were to get promotion to the position of major; and there are two such cases that I know of myself. Whether these officers got the guarantee before they went into the Forces or afterwards, it is a fact that when they got there they received promotion.
Mr.John Thomson. - Had those officers seen service before?
– They had seen service before.
– I know a case where a man who had been in neither the Militia nor the Citizen Forces got his promotion.
– There is no doubt that some of the cases of which we hear complaints are genuine, if that be not so in the great bulk of them; but if there is only one genuine case, it ought to be immediately inquired into. I do know of one case where a man was appointed captain, and later major, without passing an examination ; and his name I shall give to the Minister later.
– Had that person had any previous experience? Had he passed prior examinations?
– I am told not.
– I know lots of complaints the other way - complaints that men have passed their examination and cannot get appointments.
– And they rightly complain, I should say. But I wish to know why those who do not pass the examinations should get promotion.
– The whole business of promotion is in the hands of the Selecting Board. The Minister takes no part, so that he may not be charged with favoritism.
– A Board of that kind should not have a free hand, if it does not do the fair thing. There should be some way of insuring fair play and justice.
– No doubt the influence exercised is far worse than political influence.
– Political influence is not “ in it “ with the other influence that is exercised.
– There are most remarkable rumours as to how some promotions are obtained.
– There is no doubt about that. However, I know of the one distinct case I have mentioned, in which a man, who had passed his examinations, and would have received his promotion in the Citizen Forces, has been passed over for others who have not passed examinations. The other day, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Wimmera, the Assistant Minister said that a captain had been brought from Queensland and placed in charge of a squadron here because n competent man for the position could not be found in Victoria. This seems a most extraordinary statement on the part of the Assistant Minister. The position given to this man was one for major, although he is only a captain, and yet he was promoted over the heads of two Victorian men who had passed all their examinations for the rank of major, and who are consequently his senior.
– Are not Victorian officers transferred to other States in a similar way?
– But why should this particular transfer have been made? The case is typical of many others, and there is sufficient evidence to show that there is something radically wrong, either with the composition of the Board orwith its methods. Not a day should be allowed to elapse before an inquiry is made. I should not be doing my duty as a member of this House if I did not raise my voice in protest against the most unfair method now adopted. The only other matter I wish to mention is that of the transfer of the Camp from Broadmeadows. We were told to-day that three officers had reported against the present camp, but I should like to know whether these, or any other three officers, have taken any trouble to inquire into the suitability of places besides Seymour. Have they made quite sure that exactly the same set of circumstances will not arise at Seymour as at Broadmeadows? I do not desire to take a narrow view of the question, but I know of a number of places in my electorate far more suitable than Seymour.
– Benalla is one of them, with a contour of country and other conditions eminently suitable for a camp of this kind. I am not as familiar with the contour of Seymour as the honorable member for Echuca, but I do know something about it, and I have a very grave suspicion that it will not be found more suitable than the present camp. It would be a very serious matter if the Government went to all the expense of removing the camp, before a thorough inquiry as to the suitability of the site selected had been made.
– Did not we have a report regarding Seymour, in which the place was condemned?
– That was only a toy affair compared with this.
– I have no prejudice against Seymour, but I would like the Assistant Minister to say whether the three officers who reported against Broadmeadows, or whether any three officers, have taken the trouble to inquire into the suitability of any other place.
– They have only reported in favour of a temporary removal. It may be for only a week or two. I cannot say.
– Surely they have satisfied themselves that what has occurred at Broadmeadows will not occur at any new camp. If they have done that, and have made a thorough investigation, we will have to accept their judgment.
– The complaint is not only against the site at Broadmeadows. It is the administration - the method of running the camp - that is bad, and will have to be radically altered.
– I have already had something to say with regard to what is going on there, and I hope it will be rectified. There are quite a number of matters that require to be put right, but it would be most serious if the camp were removed to a place that is likely to have the same drawbacks that Broadmeadows has. I do not say this because my own electorate is affected, but if a Committee of Inquiry had gone further up the line, they might have found several places where the ground is higher and eminently suitable for a camp. Above all things “a camp should not be placed on flat country. If there are suitable sites anywhere else, it should have been the du«,y of the Defence Department, which has charge of the lives and health of the men in camp, to have examined them. Nothing could militate more against successful recruiting than the fact that men are asked to live in a camp situated in unsuitable country. I hope the suggestions I have made with regard to this, and the matters I referred to earlier, wherein many thousands of pounds might be saved, will be considered. Perhaps the Assistant Minister will say whether any suggestion has been made by which the Department could utilize all the clothing material which is now being eaten by moths. It is a pity that so much material should be going to waste in the manner it apparently is.
.- I do not intend to occupy the House for more than a few minutes, having already spoken, but I should like to bring before the notice of the Minister the question of the allowances that are made to nurses going to the front. We know that the greatest auxiliary an army has is its ambulance corps and field hospitals. The efficiency of those hospitals has been raised to a high standard by the splendid services of noble women who have gone to the front at the Empire’s call. A splendid example was set to the nation by Florence Nightingale in the year 1854. In the Crimean war, according to McCarthy’s History, and other publications, up to the time that Florence Nightingale took charge of the field hospitals, something like 54 per cent, of the troops died from blood-poisoning. When she and her noble army of nurses arrived on the scene this mortality was reduced to about 2 per cent. We desire, as far as possible, to encourage the women of this country capable of undertaking this work to offer their services; but I find that nurses are placed on an entirely different footing from the soldiers. When a soldier volunteers, he is provided with the necessary equipment and uniform ; but when a nurse offers her services and takes the risks attendant upon the horrors of war, she has to provide herself with costumes, clothing, equipment, and even surgical instruments. I have good authority for saying that nurses have to provide themselves also with other requisites, amounting altogether to a total of between £40 and £50. This appears to be offering a premium to the wealthy. Only wealthy nurses can give their services under such conditions, and those who have been seized by the idea of serving their country, if only possessing limited means, have been compelled to borrow money from their friends in order to provide the necessary outfit. I think the Minister should take this matter into consideration and see if these nurses cannot be provided with equipment when they volunteer for the front. Before I pass from this subject I should like to refer to the heroic action of the three nurses who went to the front in Belgium. 1 was very pleased to read the other day that the King of the Belgians had presented each of them with the Leopold Cross. In the face of a withering fire, and at the risk of being killed, these women rescued several wounded Belgian soldiers, attended to their requirements, and brought them into the safety zone. One of these ladies was an Australian named Miss Muriel Thompson, who, if I am not mistaken, I had the pleasure of meeting at Burwood some years ago. I think she is a relative of Sir Phillip Jones, one of our leading surgeons. Anyhow, a lady of that name happened to be a nurse in Sydney. She went to the war, and, I believe, she has covered herself with glory. The point I wish to put forward is that it is just as important that we should look after the nurses who go to the front, offering themselves as sacrifices to the nation, and often taking their lives into their hands, as that we should look after our brave soldiers themselves. Another matter which I would like to bring before the notice of the Committee has reference to Federal Government House, Sydney. Some two years ago the State Government thought fit to cancel the lease of Government House to the Commonwealth Government, with the result that the Governor-General now resides entirely in Melbourne, and that these beautiful buildings, situated in an ideal position overlooking Sydney Harbor, and surrounded by a park, are idle. Government House would form an ideal spot for a convalescent home for returned soldiers, and I think this Government should move heaven and earth in order to bring some influence to bear on the State Government to permit the house to be used for some such purpose.
– It is not suitable.
– Absolutely suitable.
– They have reported against Government House in Sydney.
– We want the best place we can get, and I say that a house which was deemed worthy of being the residence of the King’s representative in
Australia should be an eminently suitable spot for our returned soldiers.
– A big body of public opinion is in favour of this in Sydney.
– May I point out to the Assistant Minister that many Germans, naturally looked upon by us as our enemies, have offered their clubs for the use of the returned soldiers, and I do not think that this big, beautiful, residence could be utilized for a better purpose than for the accommodation of convalescent troops. I hope the Minister will also take into consideration the desirability of instituting three shifts at the Small Arms Factory, so as to accelerate the manufacture of firearms at Lithgow. I was at Cowra, in my own electorate, in connexion with the Empire Day celebrations, and I received numerous complaints from the members of the rifle association there that they could not get sufficient rifles. One man assured me that thirty or forty young fellows in that district had gone to the front without ever having handled a rifle in their lives. They had gone to fight the Germans, and before leaving Australia did not know what it was to handle a rifle. That is a nice state of affairs. Why were they not put through a course of musketry? Why were they not allowed to go to a rifle range and practice? Simply because they had not any rifles. The statement was made to me by the secretary of that club, who should be in a position to know.
– It is notoriously true that most of the big rifle clubs of this State are short of rifles.
– But not about the men going to the front?
– Yes, it is.
– They do not go from rifle clubs to the front.
– Yes, they do. Earl Roberts said that if he had 60,000 men who were true and accurate shots, he would not be afraid of going anywhere with them. I would once more impress on the Assistant Minister of Defence the desirableness of accepting what is the advice of practically every honorable member, that theSmall Arms Factory should at once be put in order, and three shifts a day, if possible, instituted.
At the risk of being accused of undue persistency, I once more appeal to the Minister of Defence to consider the claims of that large and increasing body of men who are desirous of serving their country, but who, because they are below the regulation height, are debarred from doing so. I hope that the Minister will yet recede from the attitude that he has adopted on this question. I would remind him that the General who is to have supreme control of the Italian Army is of exceptionally small stature. The leader of the army of our most recent ally has risen from the ranks to the highest position in the service, notwithstanding that he is a comparatively short man ; and it is surely about time that we removed this embargo in respect of Australians who are below the present standard height. The regulation might have been all very well in the early days of the war, but I think the time has come when it should be amended in the direction I have indicated. Whilst I take this stand I do not doubt for a moment that, as the Minister says, we can fill the bill with men who are over 5 ft. 4 in. in height. But there are a number who ardently desire to fight side by side- with their brothers in this campaign, yet are refused, permission because they have not been blessed with a- sufficient stature. I had a letter a few days ago from one of my constituents who described himself as the parent of a number of bantams, and who said that one of these was so anxious to go to the front that he was prepared to pay for his own kit - his own rifle and uniform - and to serve without pay. This is an illustration of the intense desire of many men to serve their country, but who are set aside as not being required at the present juncture. I hope that the embargo will soon be removed. I do not urge that we are in great need of the services of these men, but I feel that they should be allowed an opportunity to take part in the defence of the Empire. Throughout Australia to-day we are training thousands of cadets who will not reach the standard height now prescribed for men for active service. We shall make them just as efficient for the defence of the country as taller men will be.
– The training will make them grow.
– It will assist in their chest and general muscular development, but they will still have a great difficulty in overcoming what I may describe as the disadvantage of their ancestry in this respect. No doubt, a search would show fiat many of the ancestors of these ban tams, as they are called, have been among the bravest defenders of the British Empire.
– What are the reasons given against the employment of these smaller men ?
– Two exceptionally trumpery reasons have been given. One is that the trenches are too deep for them. As against that contention, I would point out that there are many men now serving who are 6 ft. 6 in. in height, while there are thousands of others who are only 5 ft. 4 in. There is a far greater disparity in their case than there is between men of 5 ft. 4 in. and 5 ft. 2 in.in height. How is that disparity met, so far as the trenches are concerned ?
– But what is the average height?
– There are a hundred and one things which a man may do at the front without entering the trenches1. The Japanese are more even in height than we are, but their average height is far below ours, and the position is the same in regard to the French Army. I think that the average height of the Italian Army will be found to be below our own, but the Italians will fight as valiantly and as well, as our big men who are over the regulation height. I. know of many young men - and so does the Minister - strong, sturdy, fine young fellows who are. prepared to fight, but who are not tall enough to secure enlistment.
– Is there any instruction on the subject from the Imperial authorities ?
– The announcement that Lord Kitchener in raising his latest addition to the British Army intends to abolish the regulation height, and to enlist men of smaller stature, should be- a sufficient guide for the Defence Department of Australia. In Lancashire, some three months after the outbreak of war, the standard had to be reduced, and later on it was reduced in the case of twenty or thirty British regiments. On certain occasions our men will have to fight side by side with these British troops, so that the argument as to difficulty in regard to the employment of small men in the trenches must- go by the board. The further objection that a short man cannot keep step with a tall man is to my mind absurd. I am not suggesting that there is any shortage of men of the regulation height, but a few months after the outbreak of war there were 70,000 men in Great Britain who were debarred from enlisting because they were below the standard. That embargo has now been removed in the Old Country, and we shall only be malting a belated effort to follow the British decision if wo reduce the standard to 5 ft. 2 in.
There has been a great outcry on the platform, in the press, as well as in this Parliament, regarding the Broadmeadows Camp, but from my knowledge of Seymour, and of quite a number of districts where camps have been held, I have no hesitation in saying that wherever there is a considerable pedestrian, horse, and vehicular traffic, there must inevitably be in winter time a good deal of mud. I do not know whether the Minister has received any complaint regarding the Liverpool Camp, but it is certainly on an area more flat than that of Broadmeadows. The troops there, no doubt, have to suffer greater disabilities than have been experienced at Broadmeadows, but we have heard no complaints in this House regarding the Liverpool Camp.
– We have there a better climate.
– I think not. The honorable member for Balaclava will support my statement that there is no more salubrious spot than the Broadmeadows heights.
– I think that is right.
– Although only 10 miles from the city, Broadmeadows is 400 feet above the sea level. The climate in winter is somewhat severe, but with proper attention to drainage and the general lay-out of the camp, I do not think a better site could be found. My knowledge of Seymour leads me to believe that by removing the camp to that district we shall only repeat the dose. I question whether the military committee who have been investigating this matter are not as far astray in their decision as they have been in connexion with many other matters relating to the preparation of our troops for active service.
– Has the honorable member seen the new site?
– I may say in no boastful spirit that I know far more of the Seymour district than does the honorable member for Echuca, who commended the action of the Government in making this change. Whilst I think that we should endeavour to make our men as comfortable as possible while in camp here, I feel that, seeing that they are soon to take part in theworld’s greatest war, we should not pamper them. We should conserve their health, and do everything possible to reduce sickness to a minimum, but wherever a large body of men are congregated the percentage of sickness must be considerable. I was rather surprised to hear the honorable member for Calare assert that we had sent to the front men who did not know how to shoot.
– Who could not handle a gun.
– Then I should say that they are going to perform duties that have nothing to do with the first, second, or even the third firing line, unless ample provision is made in Egypt to train them in the use of the rifle.
– The statement is quite correct. I have a letter in my pocket which bears it out.
– It is not correct.
– If it is correct, I should say that the men will not be sent into the firing line until they have been trained in the use of the rifle. Thousands have enlisted for the front who, prior to going into camp, knew little or nothing about the handling of a rifle.
– And some of them have been made lieutenants.
– That may be, but I agree with the view that there is no better recruiting ground than our rifle clubs for men who would serve our country well. Some of our greatest military experts have said, “ Give me an army of good rifle shots, and I am prepared to go almost anywhere with it.” One reason why that noble little people, as I suppose’ we may now describe the Boers, were so long able to withstand hundreds of thousands of British troops in South Africa was that they were expert riflemen. I wish to know whether, in removing the camp to Seymour, the Government will give the men the facilities they now enjoy for rifle practice at Williamstown, Port Melbourne, and elsewhere.
– Facilities will be given if they are to remain there.
– I should say so, for rifle practice is an essential. Whilst there are some disadvantages attaching to a camp adjacent to a great city like Melbourne, there are many advantages, and one of these is that the men can visit the rifle ranges at Williamstown and Port Melbourne, where there are many targets, and get far more practice in a day there than they would get in a week in a district where there is only a small range. I do not care where the camp is situated, so long as it is the most suitable place for the preparation of men in the most expeditious fashion to take their place at the front; but some of the harsh words which have been used in regard to Broadmeadows may leave some stigma on the district, whereas those who know it well know that there is no healthier spot in the Commonwealth.
There are many things in connexion with the Defence Department that could be discussed; but we all realize that there are many matters about which it is not desirable to talk at this juncture. However, I do wish to speak in regard to the manner in which mails arrive, or rather do not arrive, in Egypt and other places. I admit that in such a great organization as the Defence Department there are bound to be pardonable mistakes in war time, but I have received communications in regard to this matter, and one letter states that the writer, although he had received letters in Egypt from Sydney and America, had not, at least to the time of writing, received any communication from Victoria, where most of his friends reside. He contends that there must he some mistake at this end; but I am not altogether prepared to agree with him. Nothing can cheer a man preparing to go into battle more than receiving letters from those who are near and dear to him at home. The soldier on the battlefield does not like to be without some communications from his friends at home. It has a bad effect on him; it makes him anxious.
As I said on Friday last, I would like to see a meeting of all the members of the two Houses held, at which we could go into the whole matter, and see how far we could assist Ministers. It would not be for the purpose of indulging in carping criticism. At this important juncture in the history of our country members in both Houses are desirous of doing anything in their humble way to help Ministers in the task of preparing to send men to the front. The Defence Estimates would have been a long time before this Committee had there been no war; but, owing to the trying and difficult circumstances in which we meet, we must refrain from that vigorous discussion that undoubtedly would have taken place had we been living in normal times. I trust that Ministers will see their way clear to give information to honorable members on various points. If this is given, it will be more conducive to good feeling in this Chamber, and, at the same time, it will be helpful to Ministers in their task of carrying out the arrangements that must be undertaken in order to conduct the war in the way in which it should be carried on.
.- Of course, it is only natural at this particular juncture of the history of the world that we should be giving some special attention to the Defence Department. Undoubtedly honorable members are restrained from speaking openly and freely about those topics which are of vital importance to Australia and the Empire; but, nevertheless, it is only right and proper th’at we should not hesitate about expressing our minds freely with regard to the general features of the Defence policy. In one respect the Defence Department and the Government as a whole have neglected what appears to me to be an obvious duty in that they have not given that encouragement to recruiting which the occasion and the necessity justify. We hear of the efforts that have been made in Great Britain to let the young men of the country know how much depends on their filling up the ranks of the regiments, and creating new regiments to meet the enemy. We are told that pictorial and other posters are shown in abundance all over the country, and that meetings are held in which members of the Government and the Opposition participate, and call attention to the vital struggle in which the Empire is engaged. But one can travel from one end of Australia to the other, and, unless he consults the newspapers, be quite unaware that a war is taking place in Europe which will determine the fate of the Commonwealth. No special call for recruits is made by our Government; no effort whatever is made to attract our young men into the ranks of the Expeditionary Forces that the Government nave pledged themselves to send; and when we remember that the Prime Minister talked of “expending the last man and the last shilling” in this struggle, it would seem that Ministers have fallen very far short of the ideal that they set before themselves at the outbreak of the war. I should like to see the Government place on each railway station, and at each postoffice, a plain but forcible statement of the position Australia occupies in regard to this war, containing an appeal to the young men of the country to come forward and take their part in this great historical straggle. To one who has to travel about Melbourne and go to and from the suburbs in railway trains and other conveyances, the very little interest that is being displayed in the progress of the war by people with whom one rubs shoulders is most disheartening and depressing. To a large extent, sport and pleasure occupy the thought of the great bulk of the community, though since Australians have been engaged at the front, and lists of killed and wounded have come to hand, there has been a keener realization of what war means. Nevertheless, a great deal still remains to be done in order to get the very large indifferent section of the community to understand how much of their own interests hang upon the war. There is nothing more certain than that if the war goes against us, we shall exchange that free democratic government we have for a Prussian military despotism. There is no question whatever that Australia would be one of the prizes that our opponents, if they were in a position to do so, would take early steps to seize. If we could only have access to the particular pigeon-hole in the German “War Office, where all the plans and details of their scheme for entering Australia, and- seizing it, and ruling and dominating it, are to be found, the result would be very illuminating to us. There is no doubt whatever that a scheme of this kind is in existence, and we may be quite sure that long before this war commenced Germany had made all the necessary, investigations, and acquired all the requisite information, that would enable it to take control of this great island continent of ours, leaving very little that was new to be arranged. Therefore, I think that it is the duty of the Government to stimulate public interest in the war, and, above, all, to stimulate recruiting, instead of throwing the obstacles in the way that have been referred to in the Chamber during the last few months.
I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong that the exclusion of small men from the ranks pf our Expeditionary Forces is quite unnecessary and uncalled for. In a charge on the enemy we would not expect men to keep step. “When men are trudging to the front, we would not expect them to keep step. In such a case, as a rule, they march at ease. Therefore, the Minister of Defence, in putting forward such excuses in order to justify his refusal of the small men, must be identifying the war with an ordinary route march or sham fight. Very little interest is shown under the conditions of war in the matter of keeping step. What we need are sturdy, brave fighters, and I make bold to say that we can find among the little men as much pluck and muscle-
– Aud quite as much power of endurance.
– Probably more. We can find as much pluck and muscle as is necessary to make a thoroughly brave British soldier, and, as the honorable member reminds me, the smaller man often has a greater amount of endurance than the larger. I have seen nothing in the reasons put forward to justify the Minister in refusing the enlistment of small men. When the honorable member for Maribyrnong referred to the possible difficulty of a small man being at a disadvantage in a trench, I interjected that the making of a step in the earth that would enable him to fire over the top of a trench that might be otherwise too deep for him would be the easiest thing in the world to do. I was met with the interjection that other men might trip over such steps.
– They need not make such deep trenches for the small men.
– Trenches are made of a uniform measurement, and they could hardly be varied to suit men of different sizes. Nevertheless the small man in a trench a few inches too deep for him would soon find a means of raising himself to the necessary level.
A great deal has been said about the Broadmeadows Camp. As a temporary resident of Melbourne, I have watched with much apprehension the course of events in connexion with that military depot. I had a fear at the outset that Broadmeadows would not prove a suitable place for a military camp, because I bad lived in the district, and knew that in winter the soil is a tough, intractable clay of an almost glue-like consistency. The water cannot soak through the soil, and lies about in puddles until it evaporates. Many of us knew what would be the conditions of the camp when the rains came. I give the owner of the land credit for the greatest possible patriotism and disinterestedness in making the offer, but, if my information is correct, as much money has been spent in fitting the camp for military requirements as would have bought the land outright. The honorable member for Maribyrnong said that Broadmeadows is a very healthy locality, but every one knows that a tough clayey soil is not suitable for residential purposes. The ideal building soil is a gravel, and the next best, sand, and the choice of Broadmeadows as a depot for the training of troops proves, to my mind, that those responsible for that selection knew nothing of what they were doing. On the opposite side of Melbourne are large areas of ground, which are much more suitable for military requirements than Broadmeadows. I noticed in the press a few days ago that the Minister of Defence said, in justification of Broadmeadows, that a clay soil was really better for pitching a tent on than sandy soil, because, although the clay might be muddy outside the tents, it would be very firm inside, whereas sand carried the water inside. Any one who has had any experience of camping in the open would laugh at such a suggestion. The outside mud cannot be prevented from getting inside the tent, and I know positively that men have had to lie down in those tents at night literally in the mud. No matter how determined we are to make the men hardy and fit for active service, the camping under present conditions is putting an unnecessary strain on their health. They can be made fit by exercise and plain food, and yet, at the same time, be given a decent bunk at night. In that way they can be made more fit for war than by exposing them to cold, pleurisy, and pneumonia, which have been so rife in the camp. If the tents had been set in sandy soil, the water would have percolated below the surface so quickly that the ground inside the tent would have remained practically dry. But, in any case, a water-proof sheet laid on sand, even if damp, makes a much more comfortable bed than if in cold, clammy mud. I believe that Seymour was chosen some years ago for a military encampment, and that the camp was flooded out. Therefore it seems that the proposed change is not likely to be a very great improvement. Whilst I believe that the camp should De removed some distance from a large centre of population, I consider that Seymour is too distant. I agree with those who suggest that in the vicinity of Sandringham there is plenty of ground that would be much superior to Broadmeadows, and I am inclined to think that it would be much better than Seymour also. I hope it is not too late for the Defence Department to - make further inquiries, because those who in the past were responsible for the selection of Broadmeadows are not fit to be again trusted with the selection of a camp site. I desire to say a few words regarding the censorship, which seems to me absolutely useless and almost foolish. There was in Great Britain a very serious necessity for strict censorship, and similar caution may have been required to some extent in Australia in the earlier stages of the war, but the same necessity for it no longer exists.Letters that are to go abroad have to run the gantlet of the censor, presumably because it is assumed that they may contain information which might be of advantage to the enemy. The Government must be very simple if they imagine that agents of the enemy will run any risk by committing to letters any information they desire to send to Germany or Austria. I venture to say that already our enemies know everything that it would be necessary for them to know, if they had the opportunity to take possession of this continent, and, so far as concerns the movements of our troops or our preparation of men for the Expeditionary Forces, I have not the least doubt that our enemies are better informed than many members of Parliament. Their system of espionage is remarkably perfect all over the world, and we may be sure that their private intelligence department is busily at work in Australia, and that it has obtained all the information which it thought worth while. All this secrecy regarding the output of the Small Arms Factory and the movements of our troops is, I believe, being laughed at by those whose duty it is to keep the enemy posted in regard to all matters of consequence. If any information is to be sent out of Australia to enemy countries, the simple and sure course will be taken of sending that information by an individual who will leave Australia by one of the mail boats and get in touch with German agents at the nearest neutral port.
– No Germans or Austrians are permitted to leave Australia.
– It is quite possible that these agents successfully masquerade as Britishers and leave and enter the country without let or hindrance. Therefore, I suggest again that the censorship -should be applied only in a rational way, and should not be carried to the extraordinary extremes we are now experiencing.
– If we did not take such strong steps you would be condemning us for our indifference.
– That is not so. On the whole, the censorship has not been exercised wisely in Australia. I do not think it has had the slightest effect in preventing any information of value from reaching the enemy; for I feel confident that there are ways and means open to the enterprising Intelligence Department of the German military system that are not touched by the censorship.
– The wrong class of men have been picked for censorship duty. The Department should have selected pressmen.
– We have had many complaints with regard to mails and telegrams for the Australian troops, and I would suggest to the Minister that some one should be sent away to straighten these things out. It is no use attempting anything of that kind by correspondence, because official correspondence is always slow and roundabout, as no doubt the Minister has discovered by this time, lt would be better to obtain the services of a suitable, live, level-headed man to put fight all these defects that have arisen. I feel sure that only a little reasonable practical readjustment is required to give us all that is necessary in this respect.
I would like to say something regarding the equipment of our troops, but I am a member of a Committee which has been making some inquiries into matters incidental to this particular defence question, and I therefore refrain. In the meantime I only wish to- say that the greatest difficulty that confronts us with regard to the equipment of our troops is one which could have been, and should have been, overcome long ago. I think the Minister and the Government ought to have been seised of the necessity for making a change, and should also have discovered ways and means of making it before now. I do not wish to detain the Committee any further. I trust the Government will attend to these matters.
.- I am glad the matter of the camp at Broadmeadows has been referred to. I visited the camp last March, and when I came back I reported to Parliament that it was in the wrong place, and should never have been put there. There are iff Australia many men who are quite capable of making a better selection of a site than was done by the Defence Department.
– This Government did not select the Broadmeadows Camp. It was handed over to us.
– I reported the matter to the Acting Minister of Defence, and said it was no place either for horses or for men. I have seen more sick horses there than anywhere else. There are many suitable sites not far from Melbourne; places with light sandy soil and not far from the sea, where the horses could be exercised and given a swim occasionally, so that they could be kept in perfect health. I am sorry to learn that the site at Seymour is very little improvement on that at Broadmeadows, and I hope, therefore, that the Minister will make full inquiries before the camp is shifted to Seymour, or any other place. The Minister should see that the site of the next camp is in good sandy, dry country, especially as we are likely to have a wet winter. I am sure that we could form a Committee from members of this House to pick a camp that would be in every sense desirable. I could do it myself, for I have had wide experience in matters of this kind, and I know something about the business. If our young men were forced into the Broadmeadows Camp by the enemy, they would have to stay there, of course; but I am sure that no Australian would ever stay there unless he were forced to. I would not remain there five minutes, unless I were obliged to. I told the House last March that the site was unsuitable, because there would be so much mud in winter, and so rauch dust in summer. I hope that better provision will be made in the future for the training of our young men. Put the railway through to our own Territory and you will have access to plenty of land in every way suitable for a military station. The military men would probably fall in with this suggestion. The honorable member who was speaking just now made a plea for the small man. I agree with him that small men, well developed, can stand just as much hardship as big men. It is ridiculous that, because a man is an inch below the standard height, he should be denied the opportunity of fighting for his country. I am sure, however, that the Minister of Defence is doing all in his power to meet the requests of honorable members. But still these complaints come to hand. I was sorry to learn from an old friend of mine at Beachport, South Australia, Mr. Corigliano, who has two sons away at the war, that he has had no word from them for the past six months. One of the young men is on the Australia.
– It is not likely that he will get word from that son if he is on the Australia; the Minister has nothing to do with that matter.
– I feel satisfied that the Minister is doing all in his power. I know how difficult it is to arrange for correspondence when one is travelling about the country, for on some occasions letters are delivered after a man has reached his own home again. In this matter, therefore, Ave must be careful not to worry our Minister of Defence too much. I have previously said it would be much better if the Minister could spend more time in his own office looking after important details connected with the Defence Department than to be in Parliament answering questions day after day upon all conceivable subjects connected with the war. It would be much better if we had a War Committee to deal with those matters that crop up from day to day, mid give the Minister more time to attend to the affairs of his Department. We are all anxious to do our best in the interests of our own country, and therefore we should see to it that the best conditions possible are obtained for men who are offering their services. We should see to it that when they leave these shores the men and the horses are thoroughly fit for the work they will be called upon to do. I would suggest to the Minister, therefore,” that those gentlemen in this House - and there are many - who are thoroughly acquainted with camp problems should be asked to confer with the Military Department in order to select the best camp site available for the future training of our troops.
.- I have refrained from taking part in this debate up to the present, because I felt that unless I could offer some practical suggestion to the Minister or the Government it would be far better not to rise in my place and indulge in what might be regarded as carping criticism. My views, however, have changed, and I feel that the Ministry acted wisely in having an open, candid criticism of their administration in connexion with the Defence Department, and their conduct of the present war. I am quite aware that the Government were faced with a gigantic task when they were called upon to raise, equip, and maintain a force of 70,000 men, secure their supplies, and provide for their transport to the other side of the world. No Government had ever before, in the history of Australia, been faced with such a problem. I think the House can very well congratulate the Government and tho two Ministers - the Acting Minister here and the Minister in another place - on the manner in which they have met suggestions made by members privately, and the way they have attempted privately to give as much information as they could under the rigid conditions of censorship. I now feel it is my duty, as a representative of the people, to offer a few criticisms on some phases of the Defence administration. I refer particularly to the Broad; meadows Camp. It has been my unpleasant duty in this Chamber to refer to the lamentable case of Private Dancocks, who met his death at Broadmeadows. There was the case of a young man in the full vigour of life, who had offered to serve his country, but who had died under conditions which, in my judgment, reflect no credit on those who are responsible for the health of the soldiers there. I do not propose to lay before tho Chamber the full details in connexion with that case. A statement of the case was given to the Minister by the family, and was passed on to the departmental officials for investigation and report. The Assistant Minister read to the Cham- ber a report by the Inspector-General which, in my judgment, knowing the facts from the relatives’ point of view, amounted to very little less than bluff and procrastination. Those are strong terms, but it is a serious matter when a young fellow loses his life at Broadmeadows, and that life might have been saved. The Assistant Minister told me that an opportunity would be afforded me to meet the Minister with the family and put their facts in answer to the InspectorGeneral’s report before him. I met the Minister with two close friends of the family, and the Minister was very open. He said, “Here are two sets of facts, and you ask me to believe yours. My officers submit their case, and I feel it my duty to accept their statements.” He said that much that had been complained of as to want of nursing attention and hospital comforts has been remedied recently. I asked that an opportunity might be afforded to those two close friends and myself to visit Broadmeadows, and investigate the conditions there thoroughly. The Minister gave us a note to the Commandant, and we spent the whole morning there. I was very pleased to hear the announcement of the Minister that the Government had decided to remove the camp temporarily from that site. I was one of the first to raise in the House the question of the unsuitability of Broadmeadows during the winter months. The Government have come to a wise and prompt decision, and are to be commended for it. I cannot speak as to the wisdom of the site they have selected, but I hope they have made a wise selection. Men do not go into camp to mob together during the winter months, but to have a period of effective training preparatory to going on the battle-field. The clayey nature of the soil at Broadmeadows makes it most unsuitable as a camp during the winter months. I am prepared to trust the Government in the matter, and am satisfied that they will not select an unsuitable site.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was referring to the sad case of the late private Dancocks, who died at the Broadmeadows Camp. I desire to acknowledge the opportunities which the Minister of Defence afforded us for a thorough investigation of the conditions which at present obtain at that camp, as against those which prevailed at the time of Private Dancocks’ demise. I recognise that, in the interim, a great improvement has been effected in that portion of the camp which is set apart for the treatment of soldiers who are suddenly seized with illness, and who, as a consequence, are placed under observation. At the same time, I do not wish it to be understood that I accept as satisfactory the attitude of the Defence authorities in the case of young Dancocks. His family are not at all satisfied that he was given a fair chance. When we reflect that our young men who are volunteering for service at the front have, in many cases, relinquished important posts in order to serve their King and country, it will be recognised that we ought to give them, as one soldier colloquially remarked to me, “ a fair run for their money.” Above all, we should see that they are saved from the enemy at home - that is, a sick bed. We desire them to show to the world that they can put up a fight wherever a fight is necessary, and we cannot expect them to do this if we do not take every wise precaution to insure that they shall go to the front physically fit. It seems to me that, during the temporary removal of the camp to Seymour, . an opportunity will be presented to the authorities to secure a thorough re-organization of arrangements at Broadmeadows. The Assistant Minister of Defence spoke of the camp being removed for a week or two, but I cannot believe that the authorities will seriously contemplate the removal of all the impedimenta from Broadmeadows for such a brief period.
– I would not like to say that the camp will be removed for only a week or two. The removal will be a temporary one, but I cannot say what period it will cover.
– We are now face to face with three winter months.
– But we may be able to effect substantial improvements at Broadmeadows, which will enable the soldiers to remain there during any weather.
– I admit that the Department will now be afforded an opportunity for doing that. But if the Broadmeadows Camp is a supreme test of equipment, I have no hesitation in saying that it is no great testimony to the engineering skill of the Department. I am sorry that the Department’s engineers and experts had not sufficient forethought to prepare during the dry months of the year to meet a contingency such as that with which we are now faced. Only to-day, in company with two other persons, one of whom was a lady deeply interested in Private Dancocks’ case, I visited the Broadmeadows Camp. This lady was determined to traverse that portion of the hospital quai,ters of the camp which was dry on tho occasion of her previous visit, and was also intent upon seeing the spot where Private Dancocks died. In giving effect to her determination, she had, at times, to wade almost knee-deep in mud. It was a condition of affairs that one would not see at the Newmarket stockyards. If the authorities would only raise a strip of ground above the ordinary level, and cover it with gravel so as to make it possible for the officers to inspect their men in comparative comfort, a great improvement would be effected. I repeat that the temporary removal of the camp will afford the authorities an opportunity to put their house in order. I am one of those who believe that, as the result of this war, we shall have a permanent military camp in all the States of the Commonwealth. The great lesson which the titanic struggle now being waged has taught us, is that we should be ready for any emergency. Of course, it was not to be expected that a young country like Australia would be prepared for a war of this magnitude. But we have now learned the lesson that the best way to avoid such conflicts is to be prepared for them. I wish to tell the Assistant Minister of Defence that I am not at all satisfied with the answer which he gave to a question put by the honorable member for Grampians to-day. He assured the honorable member that it was the practice of the Department to provide skilled nurses at the base hospitals, and also at the convalescent homes. If the attendance of such nurses be necessary at the convalescent homes, how much more necessary is it at the intermediate hospitals? Whilst at Broadmeadows to-day, I saw a young man brought in from his post to the intermediate hospital in a state of utter collapse. Every one of the attendants there seemed to be thoroughly alarmed. It was evidently a very grave case. The young fellow’s countenance was very pallid, and it was apparent that he was in “a critical condition. It is in such circumstances that the presence of skilled attendants is necessary.
– We are making that provision. We are negotiating for two large buildings in Melbourne, to which patients will be removed immediately the doctors have certified that they require skilled attention. At these institutions such cases will get the services of the best medical officers and of nurses.
– That is very satisfactory so far as it goes. But it does not meet the case to which I have directed attention. I take it that, unless they are summoned to the hospital by the attendants, the doctors would not visit it more than twice a day. We know perfectly well that pneumonia develops very rapidly. What I suggest is that an attempt should be made to secure the services of advanced students from the University to attend to cases at the intermediate hospitals, in lieu of the present attendants there. It would be an experience of great value to them, and, on the other hand, they would be rendering a service to the community, and also to an admittedly undermanned medical staff at the camp. I do not suggest for a moment that a medical practitioner will incur any risk with a patient. As a matter of fact, we are under a tremendous debt of gratitude to the members of that profession for the manner in which they jumped into the breach the moment that the Empire called. We know that men with immense incomes have abandoned their professional practice, and have promptly offered their services at the front. But there is, nevertheless, or was recently, a dearth of medical practitioners at the Broadmeadows Camp. If we could secure the services of semi-qualified professional men who can be safely intrusted with the duty of watching dangerous cases at the intermediate hospitals, the Government would be saved a .great deal of bickering and heartburnings on the . part of parents and families.
– The Government have never yet refused an application for anything required by the medical officers at the camp. Everything for which they have asked has been sent along to them.
– But surely it is the duty of the Government to organize in order to meet these cases?
– There is the chief medical officer of Australasia in the Department.
– The Assistant Minister of Defence cannot ignore the fact that the public mind has been inflamed because of the treatment to which soldiers have been subjected at Broadmeadows. Many serious cases have not been taken in hand with sufficient promptitude. These young medical students might be regarded as outposts-
– Seeing that we. have sent sufficient medical men to Broadmeadows, are we to blame? The honorable member is charging the medical profession with not doing its duty. When we have provided sufficient medical men, we have done our duty.
– My voice will never be silent while cases similar to that of Private Dancocks can occur. I think that the Government could materially relieve the high tension which exists in the minds of relatives of soldiers at Broadmeadows if they would undertake to augment the present medical staff. In place of the young boys who are in attendance at the intermediate hospitals, we should have semi-qualified professional men. An attempt to get into touch with the University authorities would, I feel sure, speedily overcome this trouble. The question of food supplies becomes a very important and difficult matter when we are facing our first war. Concerning the output of factories, I believe that we could do more than has been done up to the present time. I hope the report of even Mr. Anderson will do something to place at the disposal of the Government information on practical lines, which will result in an increased output. I do not think that there is any man at this moment - I do not believe that there is any workman in this country - but will agree to the principle of two or three shifts. In my opinion, the workmen of Australia are sufficiently patriotic to recognise that they are not being run out of a job if it is necessary to put on other men to quicken the output. With regard to food supplies, I hope that the Government have been far-seeing, and entered early into contracts with a knowledge of the exceedingly droughty period we have gone through, with a depletion of stock, especially of fat stock, and with an inflation of values such as occurred yesterday and to-day in the markets and big centres. I hope that the Government have been wise enough to enter into contracts for continuous supplies of foodstuffs at reasonable rates’ for the Army. I make that statement because I am not able to compliment the Government and the administration generally on the way in which tho question of fodder supply was handled. We have approximately 30,000 horses in use for defence purposes. I suppose it is pretty safe to say that those horses will consume up to 5 tons of chaff each before they have discharged the duties for which they are required. That means a consumption of 150,000 tons of chaff. With the knowledge that in November last the Government had to face a shortage of fodder, not only in Victoria, but in every one of the States, in my judgment that was the time for the Department, which knew its requirements, to act. That was the time when officers ought to have gone into the market. I do not care what powers they might have exercised.
– They had plenty of power.
– I believe that they had. At any rate, that was the time for the Department to have gone into the market and arranged for the supplies that were necessary,” and not to have obtained them ton by ton, nor day by day, in competition in a short-supplied market, thus forcing up the price to the man with a cab-horse,who had to compete with the Commonwealth Government with their 30,000 horses. If that has been the plan adopted by the Government to get the whole of their supplies, they have yet a good deal to learn. I make all allowance for the fact that this is our first great war, and that it is a tremendous task for a Government to undertake; but surely, on the declaration of war, when the interests of the country were at stake, when young men had to be sent to the front to fight the battle of the nation, when they were giving to the service of the country everything that they possessed in this world - placing their very lives at the service of the nation - there was nothing wanting in the exercise of power by the Government to secure the necessary supplies, to preserve the lives of the men, to give them a chance to be in the fighting line, to safeguard their health, to provide doctors and nurses, and to pay for suitable assistants. Surely it was the duty of the country to give the men a straight and clean passage to the front, to give them a chance to show that they can fight, to prove to their relatives and friends that they are of the right class of stuff. Again, with regard to camp outfit and requirements, no conditions can be too good for the soldier who is prepared to give up his life for his country. I do not care where the ground is - I do not care whether it is held privately or by the State - any spot in Australia which is best for a camp should be put at the service of the Commonwealth. I do not look at politics in this matter. When a man is prepared to go to the front and give up his life for the sake of the country, anything which can be done to equip him and secure him a fighting chance, so as to come back to his wife and family, should be done.
– That is being done. Our soldiers at the front are claimed to be the best clothed soldiers there, and they have any quantity of the best “of food.
– I do not question that.
– The honorable member is trying to make out that we are neglecting the men.
– I have not made any reference to the matter of equipment.
– What about the lack of overcoats at Broadmeadows?
– I am making this speech, and am prepared to take all. responsibility for’ it.
– No man goes to the front without an overcoat, either.
– They are dying at Broadmeadows from the want of them, though.
– I believe that the necessary organization has not been carried out. What proportion of the Australian people are efficient marksmen ? It cannot be said that they are not able to learn to shoot, nor that they do not possess the skill, because we read only the other day that in the competition for the Kolapore Cup the keenest eye in the wide world was a young Australian. The most effective method of preparation for the defence of a country is to teach the use of a rifle. No system will be complete or make for the complete defence of the Commonwealth until every Australian is able to hold and use an Australian rifle, and every man sent into camp is a marksman.
– Order 1 The honorable member has reached the time limit.
– Very well, sir, but may I be pardoned for expressing the hope that the Minister will not think that I set out upon a general indictment? I hold that whatever can be done for our men in camp, whether at Broadmeadows or elsewhere, should be done, and the best equipment which can be got should be obtained, regardless of cost.
.- So far I have not taken part in the debate on the Estimates, and particularly on the Defence Department, because I feel, in company with most honorable members, that a reasonable amount of restraint must be observed at a time of pressure and crisis like this. The few observations I propose to make will be directed exclusively to the conduct of the camp and to the amplification of some of the suggestions and criticisms already offered. I do not want to say anything which will discourage enlistment, but I do believe that the conditions which have prevailed, if representations that have come to us are correct, have done more during recent months to bring about that undesirable result than any criticism which could be offered in this House. I have received quite a mass of correspondence from relatives and friends of soldiers who have been or still are in the depot or brigade camp, and if one-tenth of what they seriously represent is correct, there must be in existence a very grave state of negligence or maladministration for which some person, military or civil, is responsible. Having had these tilings told to me, and strong views put to me, I feel that I would not be discharging my duty if I did not relate them to the Minister, so that he may note them and have them examined. In his recent correspondence with me, one man gives a number of statements, some of which I will read to the Committee, and he concludes by saying that if one-half of these things were alleged to have taken place with British prisoners in Germany, there would be a wild outcry of horror and indignation from the British people at such treatment. He wishes to know how it is that, with or without the knowledge of the Government, there can be such gross negligence, leading to serious illness, to great trial and misadventure, and in many cases to death. First of all he speaks, as many others do, of the food conditions in the camp. I thoroughly indorse, so far as my information enables me, the judgment of the Assistant Minister as to the way in which our troops are landed on foreign soil, clothed and fed. I think that there is no doubt that the clothing with which they leave here and the food that they get thereafter speak to the credit of this country.
– I will read out a few of the menus for the information of the Committee if it is desired.
Mr.WATT.- At camp?
– On ship, and everywhere else.
– On ship and abroad I believe our men are as well fed and cared for as they could be if we can judge from the information which is trickling back from Egypt and elsewhere, and the general satisfaction that is felt about the equipment of these men. Here is one of the troubles with regard to the food in the camp. The breakfast is supposed to be all right ; the midday meal is supposed to be all right; but the men are called upon to enjoy only a bread and butter tea or bread and jam tea after the day’s hard work is over. The cause of complaint, even among the reasonable men, who know what hard life is in the bush and elsewhere, is that they do not get, to put it plainly, a decent feed at the close of the day. That is a matter which the Minister will be able to judge for himself.
– Will the honorable member say that the men get nothing but bread and jam for tea?
– I understand that, at breakfast and midday, they get meat, and at tea, bread rind jam with no meat.
– Nothing else?
– I understand not. Certainly not a meat dinner at the end of the day. I can only speak from my own experience as a man who leads the ordinary kind of life. After a hard day’s work, such as some of us do occasionally, we feel inclined for a fairly solid meal at the close of the day, especially if the afternoon has been spent in manual labour. Without unduly stressing it, I draw the attention of the Assistant Minister to that point, in the hope that he will note it, if possible reply to it in satisfactory terms, and, if not, correct it.
– He has just gone out of the chamber to get some information.
– Unfortunately, what I have to say is for his own ears, but I do not blame him for leaving the chamber to get official information. The other question I desire to refer to - proceeding during his absence - is that of clothing. It is quite true that all the men depart from the Commonwealth with an overcoat, and with a satisfactory khaki and underclothes equipment, but the trouble is that during the week that is now closed - and it is anticipated that this will continue during the coming winter months - the bulk of the men did not get overcoats, and were called upon to do marching and sentry work in bitterly cold weather without overcoats. We desire to see our men go away with clean clothes, and clothes which will last them through the campaign, of course, but we also want to give them all the comfort possible while they are here. They will have to do quite enough roughing it, in all human probability, when on service in the trenches in Europe, or Asia, or Africa. I think they ought to have healthy and warm clothing while they are here, even if it means additional expenditure on another overcoat for each man. That is a cause of complaint which I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, in the absence of his colleague, to note.
– I have made a note of it.
– It is chiefly a matter of warm underclothes, and, above all, of overcoats, particularly for sentry work in all kinds of weather. Another question is that of sick parade. That is apparently the invention of the medical officers in charge of the camp. My informant told me that it is no uncommon thing for between 100 and 150 men to line up from 6.30 in the morning to await the attendance of a medical officer, although some of them are suffering from measles. They have to stand for an hour in bitterlycold weather - the worst thing which could possibly take place - particularly in the case of an adult afflicted with measles.
– Especially when just developing.
– The doctors are trying to make the men hard.
– Other complaints may be caused by treatment of that kind. According to my experience of measles - and I have had them both as a child and as an adult - the one essential treatment is the provision of warmth to sustain an even temperature. Surely it is a wrong thing for men to have to stand out in an unsheltered position waiting for a medical officer to come, whether it is a case of incipient pneumonia or of developing measles. There ought to be a better system of medical inspection in the camp. In regard to this matter I acquit the military authorities and the Minister of all but indirect responsibility. It is the medical officers who should have devised a more satisfactory system of inspecting and diagnosing the cases coming to them for consideration. As to the treatment of cases, I have not been to the camp recently, and therefore cannot speak from direct personal knowledge, as the honorable member for Wannon has done; but I have been told that the hospital arrangements are unsatisfactory. Inexperienced lads of eighteen or nineteen years of age are called upon to perform the service of nursing. If female nurses are to be sent to the camp, it may be advisable to put in charge women of mature years; but nursing is certainly of the first importance in the early stages of most of the cases that occur, and I believe that the Government would be acting wisely for its own reputation if it changed the present system and provided proper hospital accommodation, with satisfactory female attendance. That, I think, would be best and cheapest. It may seem a big thing to have to erect a hospital to accommodate 150 men, but it will not seem so much if the institutions of this State, with which I have been somewhat closely associated for the last eight years, are studied. If the Minister would send to the Greenvale Sanatorium - which is not far from the Broadmeadows Camp - a couple of competent men, I think that they would recommend for the camp buildings such as have been erected at Greenvale for the reception of cases of incipient tuberculosis. The system is known as the tent system, but is really a bungalow-house system.
– It has done good work.
– Splendid work for the tuberculous cases for which this institution was designed, and for many other diseases. Under this system, when communities are attacked by zymotic and epidemic diseases, standard houses, each accommodating 4, 6, 8 or a dozen beds, are erected, their cost being reduced by standardization to about £12 a bed. The arrangements are the most comfortable and sanitary that can be obtained in buildings that are not intended to last for more than five or six years. I recommend the adoption of a hospital modelled on this system at Broadmeadows, or at Seymour if the camp is transferred there, for the treatment of the men who may fall ill during the pitiless months that are to come. The cost of the buildings is small, and will be relatively less than the cost of the nursing reforms that I have recommended. The Broadmeadows Camp is not as numerically strong now as it was before the battalions left for service at the front, and I do not know how many cases of sickness there are there at present; but I have been told that there are between sixty and seventy men needing hospital attention, some of whom are getting it. That is rather an alarming number. The honorable member for Maribyrnong said that he regarded the sickness at Broadmeadows as reasonably low, but I do not so regard it. The boys there are the pick of our young manhood. They have been medically examined twice, and in some cases three times, and should be freer from sickness than any section of the people in town or country.
– Sickness at the camp should be below the average.
– Very much below any average drawn from the experience of outside society either in town or country. Taking into account age, fitness, training, and other circumstances, the sickness there during the last three months has been alarming. I place the responsibility for this upon the medical staff ; the Minister can be held only indirectly responsible. But we are not to keep silent because the fault is a medical, and not an official, one. I hope that the Minister will send to his principal medical officers, who are men of high standing and reputation in their profession, the complaints that have been made, so that they may examine them. Military men and civilians will not know half as much as they do of the causes of the trouble, and they should be able to suggest a speedy remedy. As to the deaths that have occurred, I shall, with your permission, Mr. Chairman, read a communication that I have received from a friend of twenty years’ standing, though, of course, I cannot vouch for his statements as of first-hand knowledge. I may say, however, that he holds a responsible Government position, and having had charges hurled against him in the past, does not make them recklessly against others. He writes to me that on the 23rd May, in company with another reputable citizen, he visited the camp to examine into the statements that have been made to him. He says -
Having heard that twenty deaths had occurred at the Broadmeadows Camp during the last ten days, I made it my business to go to the camp, accompanied by Mr.- and others, to endeavour to find out if the rumours were true. From inquiries made of dozens of privates, I feel convinced that the mortality is as reported. Could you call .for a return from the Registrar of Deaths at Broadmeadows, which would show the exact number? I have not had time to do that, and I do not know that it is the right procedure to adopt.
– The Defence Department should supply the figures.
– I hope that the Minister will note these statements, and probe them. If they express only half the truth, they are sufficiently alarming to interfere with enlistment, and to cause great anxiety among the parents and relatives of those who have enlisted. My correspondent adds -
One hundred and fifty men have to wait out in the cold from 6.30 a.m. to see the doctor, and, as only one medical man is on duty to see these patients, you can calculate they have a lonely wait for hours in the cold and rain this weather, even if a most cursory examination be given. I was told that one private on sentry duty was picked up dead at 5.30 a.m. with his face in the mud, and another sentry was found dead in an outhouse with his rifle in his hand. They had evidently died from pneumonia, or some such complaint, while on duty. As measles are prevalent in the camp, it is little short of murder to have men waiting in the cold for medical advice.
He elaborates these statements, and deals with the questions of hospital provision and nursing. If the Minister desires it, J shall give him the whole communication, which is marked “ urgent.” Having received that and other similar communications, I should be recreant to my duty if I did not mention them to the Minister, who, having heard my statements, will have cast upon him the responsibility of considering them. I now leave the complaints about the camp, which I have made more in sorrow than in anger, and without any desire to embarrass the Minister, who, I am sure, is doing his best. I feel that a blunder is being made in moving the camp from Broad meadows to Seymour. I know both districts pretty well, and most other honorable members who know them will agree with me that we are taking a risk in going to Seymour. I do not know what officers reported on the matter, and examined the available sites, but I can suggest a site in one of the most sheltered places in the State, which I think could easily be obtained from the Government of Victoria, though I know nothing of the views of that Government on the subject. The place to which I refer is the police camp at Dandenong, a large permanent reservation of Crown lands, occupied only by troopers’ horses and black trackers. They could be shifted to neighbouring country in two or three days. A valuable watercourse runs by the property. Speaking from experience of some years ago, I should say that one portion of the ground is subject to inundation in winter time, but the country is undulating, and drains very rapidly, and, altogether, is highly suitable for a military encampment. So far as I am able to judge, the site I suggest is as good as that at Seymour, and bettor than that at Broadmeadows. It is more adjacent to the city than is Seymour, being only about 20 miles distant by rail, although one member has observed that from certain po.’ Tits of view that is a disadvantage.
– Is there sufficient area for the camp above the inundation mark?
– Quite. I forget what the acreage is, but there is ample room, not only for a camp, but for rifle butt3 as well.
– What about the water supply ?
– The Dandenong Creek runs close by.
– But the water is not drinkable.
– At that point it is; indeed, it is as good a water-course as any in Victoria.
– I do not think that the water would do for the troops.
– It is as good as the water from the Goulburn River, whence the water supply for Seymour is obtained.
– The water supply for Seymour comes from above the Trawool Falls.
– Seymour is infinitely superior in the matter of water supply.
– I think tho same rain falls in both neighbourhoods, and there cannot be more than about the same degree of pollution.
– There is a more dense population at the head of the Dandenong Greek than at the head of the Goulburn.
– I do not presume to say the last word on a question of this’ kind, but I think the water supply of Dandenong is quite satisfactory; at any rate, the neighbouring land-holders use it, and I have heard of no excess of sickness or mortality. However, that is a matter for experts to determine. There is no doubt that the camp ought to be shifted from Broadmeadows during the months of heavy rain ; and I do not suppose that, if a move be made to Seymour, there will be any attempt to return to Broadmeadows for actual service until September or October. The removal we may regard as a three months’ experiment, and that period is long enough to permit of the most careful inspection of sites and the most elaborate preparations. Even if the men were dismissed for another week, as they have been during the past week, the result would be worth the delay. I hope I have made clear the views I have on this question. I have attempted to do so with the object of stimulating the Department to administer the camp better than it has been administered in the past, so that our boys may feel that, whatever faces them abroad, they have a “ fair show “ here. Those who visit the camp - and these are chiefly women, who have to bear so much of the anxiety that follows enlistment and departure - ought to feel that the Government will father and mother our soldiers, so far as they can, before the actual fighting days arrive.
– It is not worth while labouring this question, because the true position must be very evident to the Government. I am rather afraid that the move to Seymour will not have the effect that is expected. Every person who has seen the site at Broadmeadows must admit that it is one that lends itself to drainage as well as any other. There is a natural drain between the two hills, and only artificial assistance was necessary to make an ideal camp; but that assistance was not rendered. I do not wish to charge the Defence Department with improper administration, because I feel that they are not a bit worse than military authorities elsewhere. In the Old Country at present, the public feel called upon to criticise the British war authorities on many points, and the Commonwealth Government cannot object to similar criticism. At Home the authorities have been accustomed to war and war preparations for centuries, and in the British Army are men who are ever considering in detail the essentials for a time of conflict. I feel certain that, as far as human foresight can go, every endeavour has been made to meet the demands of the occasion ; but we know that there have been mistakes made, or, at any rate, circumstances have arisen for which no preparations were made. The criticism offered tonight is only of a general sort, with a view to improve the position. I make no pretence to be an authority, but over two months ago I suggested to the Defence Department that more money ought to be spent on the drainage of the Broadmeadows camp. It is common knowledge that running through Essendon and Coburg there is a stratum of black volcanic mud, but it is agreed that, after wet, it drys very quickly. As a matter of fact, after a heavy shower one may see the cracks in the ground through which the water has run.
– Why, it is impossible at the present moment to stand up at Broadmeadows !
– That is because of the enormous number of men there. I am now talking of the general effect of rain on this particular belt of ground. The generality of Australian young men are used to camps, and know how to fix the tents; and the ordinary course is to carry a drain around with an outlet running down hill. If the Broadmeadows Camp had been contructed on that plan, there would have been none of the present trouble. The ground is high, and there is a fall from every portion, making a proper system of drainage quite easy. It has been suggested that the ground might be raised, but the more sensible way would be to lower it; and this could have been done if the Defence Department had taken the advice of an individual like myself two months ago. At that time it was proposed that men who had been engaged on drainage works there should be discharged, and I urged that they should be kept employed; but, as I have said, my advice was not accepted. I am not blaming the officials at the camp, because I do not think that the present position is due to their fault. They knew just as well as anybody what the case demanded.
– Whose fault was it?
– I do not know.
– It was nobody’s fault, I suppose.
– I can say that it was not the fault of Major Darvall or his adjutant; and, perhaps, the Minister can find out whose fault it was. I know well the site recommended by the honorable member for Balaclava, and I agree that the water supply there is as unpolluted and as good as any elsewhere.
– Where is the water supply from?
– The upper reaches of Dandenong Creek, which is practically the same water as that of the, Goulburn River, only on the other side of the hills. What is the use of going to Seymour or to Dandenong, where the ground will require draining, just the same as does the Broadmeadows ground? What is the use of going to a lot of expense when there can be no better result?
– Go to New South Wales, where the men will be well looked after !
– I understand that the Liverpool Camp is under water. What I wish to point out to the Defence Department is this: The camp is going to be moved somewhere else, and we know this cannot be done in one day or in two. I understand that on Saturday last the men were given leave until the following Wednesday, with a view to getting the camp dry. The most sensible course to follow, so far as Broadmeadows is concerned, would be to keep the men away for a week, and, during their absence, to put into operation a system of drainage that would be equal to the occasion. Such a proceeding would not render necessary the expenditure of a very great sum of money.
– With all the drainage in the world, Broadmeadows will not recover this winter. That is the trouble.
– I believe that one fine day would see the camp at Broadmeadows dry.
– I do not agree; and I have known that country for close upon ifty years.
– We know that water and earth only require to be stirred up in order to make mud. Naturally, the ground at Broadmeadows is hard, and the surface is now more like glue than mud. But one fine day’s wind will dry it. I do not know about the twenty deaths that are said to have occurred at the camp, but I have made certain inquiries, and I believe that there have been five or six. It is lamentable that the pick of Australia should die in camp like this.
– How many men are there?
– Some thousands, I think; but what I suggest is that it would be a useless proceeding to go to Seymour and put the camp on the same class of land as at Broadmeadows without some better drainage system.
-Youaremistaken in that respect.
– I may tell the honorable gentleman that Broadmeadows is not in my electorate. If I wished to suggest a place in my electorate, I should say that the Yarra Bend, which is fairly sandy soil, would be the ideal place for a camp. But I am not looking for the camp in my electorate. No matter where the camp is fixed, it will be difficult to drain it properly, and I think the best method would be to do as I have suggested: Let the men stop away till the end of this week. The camp will become dry in the meantime. Before I close, I wish to refer to the vexed question of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. We are told that the output is not what it ought to be, and reasons have been advanced why this is the case. With all the time and energy occupied in developing that establishment, it is disgraceful that we are not able to turn out rifles more quickly than they are being turned out. I would like to have the attention of the Assistant Minister of Defence for a few minutes on this question. We are told that there is a shortage of the material used in the manufacture of rifle barrels.
– Who told you that?
– Well , I heard so.
– I thought you told me that you did not believe all you heard ?
– And I was told that the material they are short of was supplied by a British firm through a German agent.
– I doubt that.
– The Minister has never told me it was not so. And what I want to say is that it is an unfortunate circumstance that that establishment is supervised by a gentleman who, to my mind, has not the British instinct, but who is an American. I do not say that he is not a good business man, or does not understand his game. I know nothing about that, but I would rather have seen a Britisher at the head of that establishment.
– He is a Britisher.
– Well, he has been under a good deal of American influence evidently. But I ask: Is it a fact that the commodities we are short of were to have been supplied by a British firm through a German agent? The Minister shakes his head, but I have asked the question before without getting an answer, and I blame the management for making an error of that character if it exists.
– It is not correct. We have had sworn evidence on the point that it is not so.
– He may be a good Scotsman.
– You cannot go very well by names. We all remember the eminent Chinese firm of MacPherson, and we know that there are plenty of German firms with good old English names painted over their doors. The Minister has admitted that there is a shortage of supplies, and it may be for some reason other than I have mentioned.
– I have not admitted anything.
– We know that a demand from all parts of the world for the commodities required for this factory would create a scarcity, and if the Minister had entered into a contract with the British firm he might have thought he was doing all that was necessary; but we know that all over the world, in Australia as well as elsewhere, there are German agencies selling British material, and British agents selling German material. Commerce is so intermixed that it is dim- cult to discover everything, and this matter is one that it might be worth while investigating. The honorable member for Dampier has assured me that the Public Works Committee has a statutory declaration that it is not true that the Small Arms Factory has obtained supplies from a British firm through a German agent.
– It is not true.
– I am very glad to hear it, but it still seems to me that there is something wrong with the management of the establishment. I understand that the gentleman who has been running the show is leaving, and I have heard that his departure is lamented; but, in conclusion, let me say that I do not think the establishment can be in a much worse position under new management than it has been under the present, and I hope some reason will be given to the people of Australia why the manufacture of small arms has not been expedited to an extent which would have made the output what it ought to be.
– I have listened with surprise to the statements made by the honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports as to the Broadmeadows Camp, the want of munitions, and many other shortcomings, all of which tend to slacken our preparations for defence and to prevent us from putting in the field as many soldiers as we should be able to do, and as thoroughly equipped as they ought to be. Let me deal, first of all, with the question of Broadmeadows Camp. I fail to understand why the site should not be made a suitable one for our soldiers. If it has become a perfect quagmire, then it would be well to remove the men to another site where a camp has been prepared for them. The trouble seems to be that the authorities took over ground totally unprepared for the purpose, put the men there, and let them get, so to speak, up to their necks in mud, so that it is now found impossible to rectify the trouble. All this shows a lamentable want of foresight on the part of somebody. My honorable friends have done nothing to-night but try to put the blame off some one’s shoulders. Where does the blame rest? Who ought to be blamed for the trouble? We are told that the Ministry are not to be blamed, nor is the Camp Commandant. I can only say that when men are dying like flies, as it would appear, from the reports we have received, some one should be held responsible. If it be because of lack of clothing or lack of drainage, some one should be held responsible, and if the Camp Commandant, who, under the Minister, has sole charge of the camp, is not responsible, who in the name of goodness should be ? The responsibility cannot be divided.
– If the officers in charge at Broadmeadows Camp notified the Minister that it was necessary to spend a certain amount of money there, or to remove to another site, the Minister would immediately agree to their proposal.
-I understand that the Minister has now become convinced that it is necessary to move the camp.
– Yes, for the present.
– Then he has become aware that the camp is in such a condition as to be a menace to the health of the soldiers. That, I presume, is the only reason for shifting the men. Has the Minister gone further and tried to ascertain why the camp has become a quagmire? The Minister’ must either take the responsibility .upon himself or visit it upon the shoulders of some one else.
– Hear, hear! Some one is - responsible.
– Undoubtedly; it is idle to say that no one is responsible. Men have died, others are dying, and many scores are ill in the camp - so we are told. If these things are true, it is time that somebody was brought to a sense of his responsibility in connexion with a matter of such serious importance.
– Are no other people contracting pneumonia, although living under the best conditions? One would think that it is only at the Broadmeadows Camp that men are dying.
– Who put them there in the first place?
– What has that to do with the matter? Because a previous Government put these men in the only place available at the time, does that justify the present Government, nine months after, leaving them there to die? What an inane interjection!
– Who put them there?
– I do not know.
– The Government is not leaving them to die. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition did not mean to say that.
– No, but my honorable friend’s argument is that since some one else selected this site that someone else should be made responsible. If we are to take the responsibilities of this
Government for all time, then will honorable members opposite say so.
– No, you are not to do so.
– In making such an interjection the honorable member for South Sydney is writing down his own Government as a set of incompetent noodles.
– Why did not the honorable member’s Government look for a good site?
– The president of the Public Works Committee should not interject, so foolishly. It makes one wonder whom we have presiding over the Public Works Committee when we hear such inane and inept statements.
– The right honorable member is trying fo make a little capital out of the fact that some of the men in camp are sick.
– Then the honorable member says that everything is all right up there?
– Will the right honorable member address the Chair?
– I am, sir, and addressing it very earnestly on the most important subject that has come before this Chamber for some time. The health of our troops just now is all important, and no party insinuations should be made in a discussion of this kind. What does the Assistant Minister of Defence mean by his interjection, “Does no one living under healthy conditions die of pneumonia?” Does he think there is nothing wrong with the camp? Does he think that the sickness there is not inordinate?
– I merely said that other people, living under the best conditions, were dying of pneumonia.
– Certainly other people die of pneumonia. I do not know what the Minister means by the “best conditions.”
– Warm houses and good wives to look after them.
– The honorable gentleman does not know much of medical science, or he would be aware that pneumonia patients are kept, not in warm houses, but, as far as possible, in the open air. A camp that is high and dry, thoroughly drained and ventilated, is about the most healthy place in which to place strong men.
– What brings on pneumonia ?
– I do not know, but I do know that I have seen pneumonia patients on hospital verandahs. They are kept, not in warm rooms, but, except in very severe cases, in the open air. I therefore say that in a healthy, well-found camp the casualties due to sickness should be less than in ordinary civil life. If the statistics prove that the casualties at Broadmeadows are below the normal level, then there is no more to be said on the matter. Everybody recognises that a certain percentage of sickness is inevitable; but the statement is made that in this case the percentage is above the normal. If it is not, then there is no cause of complaint against the Camp Commandant, the Minister, or any one in his Department. I venture to say, however, that these camps are not the perfect places that Ministers would have us believe. Not Only is Broadmeadows under attack, but, for the same reason, Liverpool. Men there have to parade when ill. They have to leave camp, whether they candrag themselves along readily or not, and waiton parade, during these cold, dark, damp, winter mornings, until a doctor comes to see them. This should not be. If a man is sick his place is in bed in camp, and the doctor should go there to examine him. He should not be dragged to a spot far distant from his own tent in order to be examined. These are troubles that can be readily remedied byany one of ordinary commonsense. It isnota matter of hygienic science or of special medical knowledge ; it is rather a -matter of everyday ‘Common sense. Amy one whosaw these troubles taking place couldrectify them. The complaint is that ordinary precautionary measures are not being taken to deal with those whoare sick, and todealwith other troublesconnetted with camp life. Ihave not visited Broadmeadows. I had intended to visit the camp with thehonorable member for Wannon, but was unable to do so, and he went there alone. I know something, however, of the Liverpool Camp. The infantry therecamp on the bank of the river, and while the site is flat, thereis ampledrainage afforded by theriver runningclose by. I believe that it needs ordinarydrainage only to make that camp high and dryin almost all kinds of weather. Ihave never seen the river so high that it overflowed its banks. I do not think it does so, and I believe that the work of draining it would not be a difficult matter. There are miles of undulating country, high, dry, and sandy, in which to hold an encampment. But wherever the camp may be, the least that we can do is to insist upon the ordinary hygienic rules being applied, and upon the provision of proper drainage, proper water supply, and proper food and clothing. These are not occult things ; they are ordinary obvious measures, required by the very fact that there are soldiers in camp. In a word, it is a matter of organization. But what arewe to do if there is no one responsible for the organization? The Camp Commandant, we are told, is not responsible; the Minister is not. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whom he holds responsible for the lay-out of the camp?
– Will the honorable member give me the opportunity to supply the latest information that has come from the camp?
– It is as follows: -
Colonel Cuscaden, the Principal Medical Officer, indignantly denies that there are 150 cases of illness in camp. He was at camp today, and there are six cases of measles and eight cases of influenza, none of them serious. The percentage of mortality, considering the complications which ensue on measles, is no greater than ordinary.
That is all that is wrong at the camp now.
Mr.Rodgers. - That is all in the clearinghouse, but how many have been passed on?
– If men have been passed on to hospitals it shows that the soldiers are receiving attention.
– How long has the Minister been in possession of that information?
– It has just been handed to me.
Mr.Jensen. - Because of this debate.
– Complaints have been made in this House day after day, and if the Minister remains silent when he has a complete answer-
-i have just been handed that report.
– But why is it that theremust be a row in Parliament before wecan get any information?
– Ministers are replying to questions every day.
– If there is no sickness at the camp, and if everything is all right, why is the camp to be shifted?
– In order to get better conditions for drilling, and for other reasons.
– Better conditions where? Is the camp to be at Seymour?
– Yes, for a time.
– I understood that the great difficulty in connexion with Seymour was that there were no opportunities on that site for manoeuvring owing to the land being privately owned.
– Can we make a camp, such as honorable members desire, with all the men walking about it?
– Then give us the opportunity to put it in a proper state.
– If the statements in that report are the facts-
– They are the facts.
– Then they are an answer to what I have said, and I am only too delighted to hear them. Have any other arrangements been made about compelling the sick men to go to a hut to be examined - the “line-up examination,” I understand they call it - or the medical parade?
– I can assure the honorable member that the greatest kindness is to be extended to every recruit in the camp, and that there is to be no undue hardship. Everything possible will be done for the recruits.
– It seems, now, that all this resolves itself into nothing. In fact, there has never been anything the matter, according to the Minister.
– “We do not say that the Broadmeadows Camp is absolutely dry. We say that it is wet, and we cannot help that; but that we propose to try to make it better, and that if we cannot make it suitable we shall not send the troops back there, but will discover some other place. We are not lacking in brains to the extent that we cannot do that.
– I am glad to hear it; hut I still desire to know why, if the mortality is so small, and if the sickness is so small, the camp is to be shifted ?
– I have just told the honorable member that we admit that it is wet at Broadmeadows, and that there is mud there. Do you think that we are so foolish as to deny that?
– I do not know what the Minister will deny. I accept the statement of this medical officer, and I am glad to hear that the Government propose to remove these troops to high and dry ground. I have never blamed the Government for any of these troubles. I simply ask for an answer to the statements which the public are making outside from time to time; and if Ministers have an answer, that is all we can expect from them.
– That report is my answer.
– The suggestion is made by an honorable member that the patients are not at Broadmeadows, because they have been sent away to hospitals in Melbourne.
– Is that not what we have been asked to do - to make provision for their comfort?
– But the Minister must see that, standing by itself, the report he has read is entirely misleading. Beading it by itself, one woild imagine that the figures referred to all the sickness in the camp, whereas I understand that the sick are removed daily to hospitals.
– That is what I told the House last week.
– Will the Minister supply us with statistics as to the amount of sickness in the camp for the last fortnight?
– With that information we should know the full strength of the case. If the facts are as alleged, that there is a sort of clearinghouse for the sick, it would account for the very favorable statement as to the number of sick remaining in camp. The real fact is that the sick are shifted daily. I ask the Minister to allow the medical officer to furnish figures and details, and this matter can be set at rest.
– They shall be supplied.
– It is of no use having honorable members arguing day after day about this matter, if the facts and figures can prove that there is no need for it.
– Nearly every week I have read out the figures as to the illness and mortality in the camp, and yet the honorable member asks for reasons and figures at this juncture.
-We want figures, and not a statement. The statement supplied by the Minister is entirely misleading if taken by itself. People would imagine from it that the soldiers were being cured at Broadmeadows, whereas they are brought away from the camp and treated elsewhere. The statement is absolutely misleading standing by itself.
– The honorable member had better wait until he gets the return. I have promised the return, and still he keeps on making accusations.
– When will the return be submitted to us?
– I will try to get it tomorrow.
– We have been discussing this matter for a fortnight. Is that too short a time in which to get a report from Broadmeadows? If it is, there is something wrong with the organization out there. If what the Minister tells us every day is true, the men in the camp must be a very unreasonable lot.
– Some honorable members wish to put them in glass cases.
– The complaints seem to be coming from some electorates only.
– I fancy that the complaints come from those honorable members who have most soldiers in their electorates.
– I think there are more soldiers in my electorate than in any other electorate in Australia.
– Yes; but the honorable member has about 2,000 golden reasons for holding his tongue.
– I have not received one complaint.
– Perhaps the people think it is of no use to complain to a representative who is a member of the Ministry. All I ask is that the Government shall take every reasonable precaution against the illnesses which are overtaking the soldiers at Broadmeadows, and which ought not to overtake them to any material extent if the conditions out there were made such as the people of Australia desire for the men who go forth to fight our battles. The Government must expect a little criticism now and again, because they give no information unless it is dragged out of them. In that respect, they are different from any other Government in the Empire at the present time. There is no portion of the Empire to-day where there is not some sort of War Committee in being. In this matter the Government ought to give the House the fullest possible information, and there ought to be some co-operation between all parties in the Commonwealth with regard to matters pertaining to the conduct of the war. It has been said that a report of the kind I am asking for will arrest recruiting. I do not think that there is much trouble with the recruiting so far as the men are concerned. Our trouble is that there is an arrest in the equipment, the munitions of war, and other things which are quite as important as men. We heard once again to-day from an honorable member in the Ministerial corner that one of the troubles at the Small Arms Factory is the lack of material. It is a puzzle to me that the authorities should be making this excuse. There is enough material in Australia today to make rifles for all the men we can ever send away. It seems to me that no effort out of the ordinary is being made to get this material. We have read of what is taking place in other countries which are at war - how the whole industrial resources of the State are being organized and put on a war footing, and how materials are being commandeered by the Government in any way they can lay their hands on them. The Government ought not to stop at anything in order to keep the Small Arms Factory working night and day. The output of small arms is the crux of the whole question, and I do not believe, having regard to the resources of Australia, that the Government cannot get the material to make the bronze fittings and other attachments for the rifles. Has a serious effort been made to get this material?
– I assure the right honorable gentleman that the Minister of Defence made a special visit to the Small Arms Factory with that end in view, but he received certain reports.
– Can the Assistant Minister tell the Committee what the
Minister of Defence has done in order to try to get the material ? I suppose that some contractor has not supplied the material that has been ordered. My point is that there is plenty of material. in Australia, and it can be obtained ; the getting of it is only a matter of organization. Honorable members cannot tell me that for all the rifles we could make there is any shortage of material in Australia. I do not believe such a statement for one moment. I am quite prepared to believe that the material is not in the factory, but it can be put there if an effort at organization were attempted by somebody specially commissioned by the Government.
– How do you know that there is a shortage of material ?
– People say these things. But if there is no shortage of material, I wish to know why an establishment engaged in making rifles, which are the prime necessity at the moment, can work only one shift a day, and close its gates religiously at 12 o’clock noon on Saturday? If the honorable member is complacently satisfied with the way in which the war is progressing, I tell him plainly that I am not satisfied. The months are roiling on, but our men are not rolling on sufficiently fast. They are doing wonders, but the plain fact is that every one of our men is doing what three men ought to be doing. As Sir John French stated, the trouble at the seat of war is the insufficiency of men and munitions. All Australia has been able to do in nine months has been to send away some 50,000 men, of whom perhaps less than 30,000 are taking part in the fighting at the present time. Such a contribution is not sufficient. It would be enough if the way were clear, but we have not enough men in Flanders and France. That is the complaint. Anybody who reads his newspaper every day will know that this is the complaint which has been made all along. I suppose that the Minister read his newspaper this morning, and saw the statement from a bishop who had just come back from the front to the effect that there is a widespread feeling amongst the men that they are not receiving that support from Home which they should get. I suppose people there are talking just as they are here, and are striking an optimistic note, thinking of the tremendous amount that they have already done. So we have done a great deal; but we have not done half enough, in my judgment, and we shall have to do even more before the war is through.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The criticism which is levelled at the administration of the Defence Department with the object of trying to spur the Department to greater efforts in the output of munitions and equipment ought not to be taken as a criticism of a party character in any way. That criticism, I am sure, is the outcome of a patriotic instinct. As far as the Lithgow factory is concerned, one of the Ministers said just now, I think, that there was a lack of material; and I urge that if there are resources in Australia capable of turning out large supplies of ammunition and war materiel generally, and if these resources are not being utilized to the utmost, that is a reflection not only on the Government, but upon the Australian nation, because we know perfectly well that the British Forces and our Allies have not sufficient of this materiel to carry on the war as vigorously as would be the case if there were an adequate supply. If, therefore, we can turn out this materiel in excess of what we might require ourselves, it could all be well placed, and, in addition, employment would be given to Australian artisans and labourers at a time when it is sorely needed, for we learn that at the present time there are 33,000 men out of work in this country.
Now, I want to leave that matter for a moment, and direct the Minister’s attention to the affairs of the Continental Rubber Company in Sydney. I wish it to be understood that I cannot vouch for the correctness of the statement I am about to make, but I ask the Minister to look into the matter. The Continental Rubber Company has a factory in Marrickville, Sydney, and I believe that, out of a shareholders’ list of about 5,000, all the shares, with the exception of three, are held by residents of Germany. The company came before the Courts recently on a charge of, I think, trading, or attempting to trade, with the enemy, with the result that the High Court appointed an official to supervise the management of the concern. Now, statements are being made - I received my information from a public man well known in Australia - that this company is being carried on at a loss, and that, because the Commonwealth appointed an official to control its operations, the Commonwealth, therefore, is financially responsible for the loss. That statement does not coincide with my general view regarding the appointment by a Court of an official such as I have described. As far as my knowledge goes, a company, and not a Government, would be responsible for any loss. In the case of a bankrupt where a Bankruptcy Court appointed a receiver, or somebody to take charge temporarily of a business, any loss resulting from the operations of that concern would not fall upon the State. In this case, I cannot conceive that any loss should fall upon the Commonwealth, merely because it was through the action by the Commonwealth that a controller was appointed; but I would like this point to be looked into by the Minister, in order to clear up the doubt. If there is a loss occurring, and the Commonwealth is responsible, then it would appear that the Commonwealth is carrying on a nonpaying business of a German firm to enable that German firm to ‘take up control again at the conclusion of hostilities, the Commonwealth having tided it over its period of trouble.
– A report is furnished regularly regarding the company. The assetsare greater than any liabilities which the Commonwealth might incur.
– The interjection by the Minister seems to indicate that there is some justification for the statements that have been made regarding the financial responsibilities of the Commonwealth in the conduct of this company’s operations. The factory in Sydney is valued at £25,000, and it has been stated that, although the affairs of the company are being carried on at a loss, extensive additions are now being made to the factory, and, furthermore, that this work is in the hands of a German contractor, who is employing German workmen. As I have already said, I cannot vouch for the truth of the statement, but I think we ought to have some information, in order to clear up the position. If, as has been suggested, contracts have not been completed, there would be every justification for any action by the Government in commandeering the whole place and having it put into working order at the earliest possible moment. We know that there must be a considerable demand for motor car tyres, even for the vehicles that are being sent with our Australian troops as our contribution to the war; and, quite apart from that, there must be a tremendous demand for rubber tyres for vehicles being used by the British Army and by the Allies.
– They were purely an importing firm.
– They were, but they have made extensive preparations for manufacture, which, I understand, are not altogether complete. The factory, when the controller was placed in charge of it, was valued at £25,000, but the work is proceeding at a very slow rate. The Commonwealth having gone to tho extent of appointing a controller through the Court, might surely facilitate the work of putting the factory into thorough going order, so as to turn out supplies urgently required by the British and Allied armies.
– The ultimate result of your proposal would be profit to the German company.
– Certainly not.
– The controller merely holds the money in trust for them.
– I would go further, commandeer the whole thing, and run it as a Government factory until the war is over, when it could be decided what should be done with it.
– You will simply be establishing a business for the ultimate benefit of the German firm.
– We shall be establishing something for ourselves while the urgency for these materials exists. When the war is over, and the question of indemnity comes to be settled, I have no doubt that the investments of Germans in Great Britain and Australia, and British investments in enemy territories, will be taken into account. If we have the means to pay ourselves through German investments, surely that is a lever in discussing the terms of settlement.
– It depends entirely ou the weight of the counter-lever.
– Certainly. The honorable member must know that the German vessels in our waters are in a somewhat similar position. We are using them for the transport of troops, and partly in our ordinary commercial relations. Some of them have had to be docked and painted, and put in better working order, and it may be said that we are simply improving them to hand them back to Germany when the war is over. But that does not prevent us taking advantage of them now, and getting the best we can out of them. As the Minister points out by interjection, every one of the vessels was surveyed and valued when taken over.
– You are creating by Government instrumentality the good-will in a certain article which will ultimately be used for the profit of the enemy.
– If all the obstacles that can be suggested by the honorable gentleman’s fertile mind were heeded we should never use the vessels at all. I should like the Minister to confer with the Minister of Trade and Customs and obtain information on the points mentioned.
– I desire to discuss the responsibility for the position of affairs at the Broadmeadows Camp. It has been urged by one honorable member that the medical staff is responsible for a certain number of cases of illness which it is alleged’ have been followed to a remarkable degree by death. The medical staff had nothing whatever to do with the selection of the camp, and have very little to do with the routine arrangements of the camp. We were told that there were 150 cases of illness there at one time. I Jo not know whether the present time is meant.
– I have the latest figures here. There are sixty-four cases at the base hospitals in and around Melbourne, which have been sent away from the camp; twenty of those are accident cases.
– I have also the particulars regarding the men actually ill in camp at the present moment. The policy adopted by the medical staff has been this: When a man falls sick he is not paraded at 6.30 in the morning in the rain, and compelled to wait there until the medical officer comes to examine him. He is attended to by those who are responsible for the platoon or company to which he belongs. He is brought into the hospital tent at the most convenient time to him and to those who bring him. A sick parade at 6.30 a.m. is an almost unheard of thing at this time of the year. No case which shows complications is allowed to remain in the camp. Directly any complication presents itself the man is at once transferred to the base hospital at St. Kilda-road, where he has the very best attention and trained female nurses. There are only fourteen cases of sickness in camp at the present time. Six of them are simple cases of measles, all doing well, and the other eight are simple colds, some of them of an influenzic character. These are facts. They are not based on letters sent from hysterical relatives, or those who desire to have a tilt at the Army Medical Service. That is the actual position at Broadmeadows at the present moment, and those fourteen cases are under the care of sixteen legally qualified medical practitioners. What warrant is there, then, for making these alarming statements with regard to the treatment to which the troops are subjected? All the cases were visited to-day by the -Principal Medical Officer, and they are all comfortable and in a thoroughly satisfactory condition.
– It is to be hoped that the outrageous statements made will be censored, and not allowed to go forth to the public as facts.
– I hope if they do go forward my statements will go forward also, made as they are with the full knowledge of the responsibility of my position in the House, and in the Army Medical Service. We heard of two sentries being found dead at their posts, or rather that one was found dead at his post, and another in an outhouse clutching his rifle. I have watched very carefully the reports regarding the camp, especially with respect to the medical side. I have never heard of inquests being held into the causes of the death of two men at the camp. Honorable members will recognise that it would be quite impossible for a medical officer to give a certificate of death in the case of a sentry found dead at his post. A proper inquiry would have to be conducted into the circumstances surrounding his death. Consequently I leave it to honorable members to judge how much truth there can possibly be in the statement to which I refer. We were also told that there had been twenty deaths in fourteen days. As a matter of fact, there has been only one death during that period. We cannot gather together 4,000 or 5,000 men at any place without some of them proving the victims of accident or of disease.
– Are there more accidents and deaths at Broadmeadows than there are at similar camps in other places ^
– I do not think so. A great deal has also been said in regard to the necessity for providing female nurses at the Broadmeadows hospital. I wish to point out that a great number of the male attendants there are members of the Army Medical Corps - medical students in their first, second, and third years. Surely it cannot be argued that they are incapable of looking after men who are suffering from. measles or from influenza colds. In addition to these medical students, a number of men were taken from the Melbourne Hospital and drafted into the Army Medical Corps. That corps also includes men who have risen to the rank of sergeant, many of whom are chemists by profession, and who have had plenty of experience in other military camps. It has been suggested that female nurses should be sent to Broadmeadows to attend the sick. It is an admitted fact that female nurses are far better than male nurses, but anybody m who has had experience of public institutions will recognise how impossible it is to employ female nurses without providing them with proper accommodation. What accommodation could be provided for them at Broadmeadows? Of course it may be urged that they could be taken to and from the camp - that they could get their recreation outside. But who would subject them to the fatigue of travelling to and from Broadmeadows, whilst expecting them to efficiently attend to their duties there ? It is hardly possible that their services could be utilized under present conditions. When we recollect that for a considerable time every case that has assumed anything like a serious complexion has been immediately transferred to the base hospital, where patients receive the most up-to-date nursing and the most skilled medical attention, it will be admitted that tho authorities have not been lacking in a realization of their duty. I am sorry that I have again had occasion to address the Committee upon this question. Previously I spoke of a danger that I felt was imminent, but I did not suggest that we had to deal with anything like the serious cases to which reference has so frequently been made to-day - cases which have been brought forward by honorable members upon mere hearsay, which is evidence of a character that one should hesitate to accept when ventilating this question in a deliberative assembly.
.- I am extremely glad to have heard the statement just made by the honorable member for Grampians. If anything has been demonstrated in connexion with the present period of mental unrest, it is the absolute necessity which exists for being able to kill any rumour before it assumes great proportions. At one period of the war every man was prepared to dig up his back yard in order to discover whether any cement foundations were hidden there. At another period there were constant suggestions that things were going wrong. The prime duty of those who occupy responsible positions is to check every rumour of this kind before it is able to inconvenience public activities. Perhaps one of the most important functions of the Minister ought to be to watch public opinion, and whenever he finds a mischievous impression which can be refuted gaining ground, to immediately make the facts known, and thus reestablish public calm. I think the Assistant Minister will admit that I have done all that I possibly could to help the Department privately. There is, however, one matter which gives me some concern, and it has reference to our field artillery. At the outbreak of the war I urged that, with a view to allowing our artillery to volunteer for service abroad as units, the men of the various batteries should be called out for continuous training, not for two or three weeks, but until they were fit to meet any artillery which might be, brought against them. I do not think that Australians, because of the pioneering stock from which they spring, need anything like the same period of training as do men of other nationalities. They are also of better physique, I believe, than is any other race on the earth. But a scientific arm like that of artillery requires a considerable training - a training which in the armies of Europe extends over two or three years. I hold that it would have been better if we had been in a position to call out all these batteries. I know that the Assistant Minister would have liked that to have been done. The previous Minister of Defence was anxious to do it. But difficulties were raised - difficulties of a technical character - which applied only to the training of one or two men on every gun. This opportunity is one which has been allowed to slip. I speak now with less certainty on the question than I would have spoken nine months ago, because, owing to the changes which have taken place, I think that the possibilities of the war being of comparatively short duration are very much better now than they were at that time. But, in my opinion, it is a matter which even now should not be lost sight of, and I hope that my honorable friend will again look into it. Continuous training would be of immense value apart altogether from the actual firing of the guns. .
There is one other matter to which I ask my honorable friend’s consideration, and that is the financial arrangements between the Central Office and the various Commandants. So far as I know, the principle of requisitioning is still in full swing. Everything more or less has still to be requisitioned for, entailing enormous delays and giving rise, not only to the loss which delays in themselves entail, but to a friction amongst the people from whom we expect the loyalest work, which is more important than the actual delay or loss that one suffers. I think that there is nothing to which a Minister could devote himself personally with greater effect than the question of eliminating red-tape in the ordinary administration of his Department. I suggest to the Assistant Minister that if he were to go up quietly and unostentatiously to a big centre like Sydney, see what works are necessary to be requisitioned for, and observe exactly the latitude which is given to a Commandant, for the sake of argument, before any simply local work can be carried out, he might come to the same conclusion as myself, and that is that it is about time that the mountain of red-tape was cut down and the work of the Department simplified for its proper purposes.
Another question I wish to deal with is that of starting artillery factories and generally increasing our ammunition possibilities. I know that in this country we have begun to consider ourselves somewhat in a sort of backwater of the world’s industrial progress. That is a pity - I am not speaking of the other side of the House-
– We consider ourselves right in the forefront.
– I am afraid we are not. I fear that in this country we have shown ourselves to be probably the only community under the British Flag which is not trying to increase its possibilities in the directions I have indicated. Take, for instance, the manufacture of guns. I admit at once that the question of materials presents difficulties. But I do not think that we would have had any real trouble in getting from America, for instance, the steel and various other things we would have required. At any rate, it would have been of enormous advantage to us to know that we had made a start. I think that even now the attention of the Government might well be directed to the matter, in order to make a start with the manufacture of artillery and various other things which are necessary in order that we may be self-supporting in connexion with the output of war materials. But artillery I place as extremely important, and in this connexion I invite my honorable friend in charge of the Department to consider whether we might not be utilizing some of the artillery materiel we have in Australia to-day. Very sensibly the Government have decided to send, away the garrison gunners, who will be equipped with their siege artillery on the other side of the world. In the same- sense entirely, if we are- not prepared to send more field batteries fully equipped, we might send the guns. I can conceive of no international possibility until this particular war is over which requires the Commonwealth to keep here guns which it is not using. I am not going to put the matter higher than that for obvious reasons. I do invite my honorable friend to see whether he cannot take that course. Goods lying idle when they are wanted are goods wasted. Here are guns which might be used. If we have not the gunners to send with them, let us make a balance, and send the guns. Let us, by all manner of means, do what we possibly can.
– There are guns and gunners who want to go.
– I admit that it was not my honorable friends opposite who were not prepared to act upon my suggestion in the first place. I believe they acted upon departmental advice, but I do say that had they called these men out for continuous training they would have had the field, batteries volunteering for active service en masse; because every one who is interested in citizen training is anxious to secure this unique opportunity to fit himself for a noble profession.
– Are you seriously suggesting that we should send away the guns we have for the defence of Australia?
– I certainly do. What else have you done; why should you not?
– You have an extraordinary notion of defence.
– I am not an admiral of a training ship.
– I think you are a bit of an ass to talk like that.
– Of what use is a field gun in Australia to-day? These field-guns are here for the defence of Australia certainly - like all the other field guns which have been sent away from here.
– But a few years ago the honorable gentleman did not see the use of an army or a navy.
– If the honorable member will look into the facts he will find that I strenuously opposed, in this House, the small torpedo navy which he was advocating, and which could not have done what the Sydney and the Australia have done.
– They would be very glad of their service in the Old Country to-‘ day.
– Of the torpedo boats?
– That is a point I am coming to. We have a few torpedo boats on our coast, and the men in them are very anxious to get away; in fact, there is not a man in our Navy who is not anxious to get away. Why should they not be allowed to go?
– I can tell the honorable member.
– Until the honorable member for Henty came to the conclusion that I was an ass, because I thought that we ought to send the field artillery guns out of Australia, this discussion was proceeding on temperate lines.
– I did not say those guns.
– I was talking of nothing else but field artillery guns from start to finish.
– Yes, you were.
– If the honorable member had awaked earlier in the discussion he might have understood it.
– You are so smart that you will trip over yourself directly if you do not take care.
– There has been a lot said to-night about sending more men to the front. I think I am fairly safe in saying that in proportion to population Australia has sent a greater number than any other Dominion.
– I do not want to argue that at all.
– Yet we are being condemned wholesale.
– I do not want to argue that point. I have not been dealing with the matter in that light.
– I should doubt that statement very much.
– I am suggesting to the Assistant Minister ways by which he could do more, and I am sure that he does not resent that.
– Not at all.
– I am convinced that he is as anxious as any one else to do more if it can be done.
– I do not want a false impression to be created.
– I think that we can do a bit in the way of sending out the field guns that we have lying idle. I have to put it clearly, because otherwise the honorable member for Henty would not understand it. We have field guns lying idle - some of them in store - and they might be utilized as I suggest. But if the Minister cannot send the guns, let him send the gunners without them.
– Of what size are they?
– They are the modern 18-pounder guns.
– Would you he prepared to see Australia unprotected if something were to happen?
– I do not think that a field gun in store is a protection.
– It is handy.
– If you are not training with a gun, or using it, you might as well have it on the field.
– My information is that the guns are of no use.
– I can assure my honorable friend that these are the modern British field pieces. The Minister can give him the exact number of 18-pounders that we have lying in store here. They ought to be used. We know the great difficulty which the factories in England have in turning out a sufficient number of guns for the front. We cannot, unfortunately, help at this stage with ammunition; but at least let us send guns if we can do so, and cannot send the gunners with them. I am. sorry to have broken into this debate at this late hour of the evening. I have only done so for the pur- pose of assisting those in charge of the epartment; and I hope that the Minister will take a note of what I have said, and, particularly, go up to Sydney, and look into things, where he will find that he can do endless good. I presume that the Home Affairs Department is carrying out the military works in connexion with barracks and central places just as it was doing when I was administering the Department. Tou will need to watch one side of that work rather closely. A lot of money may be wasted by killing enthusiasm. It is better to spend a pound or two more and keep people keen than to make them unhappy by retrenching to an extent that will not be felt. I understand that the Home Affairs Department is building for the Defence Department a number of socalled temporary huts, to be used for military hospital purposes. In a place like Sydney, one could not be expected to be happy under a galvanized-iron roof.
-The Home Affairs Department is not erecting such buildings.
– Nor is the Defence Department erecting them for hospital purposes. It is going to erect good buildings.
– I have seen such buildings in oourse of erection.
– For hospitals?
– Yes. The galvanized iron was lying in readiness.
– We are putting up huts to accommodate soldiers.
– The huts to which I refer are to be used for hospital purposes. The matron of the hospital told me that that was to be their use. Every one who occupies those huts will feel that he has a grievance. I do not know whether the inmates are to be invalids sent back from the front, or sick cases from Liverpool, but, in my opinion, the roofs are not suitable. Ruberoid would be almost as cheap as galvanized iron, and would make a cooler roof, and give satisfaction.
.- There are a few matters that I would like to put before the Minister. Judging by the honorable member for Wentworth, the new way of making speeches is to ask a series of questions, and obtain information as you go along.
– Not a bad way, either.
– It is a good way when you have nothing to say. With regard to the Broadmeadows camp, I think that if the land were properly drained, the situation would be found as good as any in Victoria, unless one with sandy soil were obtained. It has been pointed out by those who know the site well that by proper draining it could be kept dry, though the soil, when wet, becomes a blue, sticky mud. That could be prevented by throwing down ashes, or gravel, or by making asphalt paths. According to the statistics of the life insurance societies, if you took any 10,000 persons in the community, you would find that at the end of twelve months 120 of them would be dead; but if you chose 10,000 persons whom a medical examination had declared to be perfectly healthy you would find at the end of twelve months that only fifty of them were dead. The men at Broadmeadows may be considered picked lives, and, according to the information of the life insurance societies, in the natural course of events, fifty of every 10,000 such men would die within a year. Therefore I do not find any quarrel with the Government regarding the site of the camp or its management. The questions that have been asked in this chamber, and the discussions that have arisen here since the war, have been prompted mostly by the complaints of constituents, who desire that the best shall be done for their sons who have volunteered for the front; but we must all sympathize with those who are saddled with the great responsibility of administering the affairs of the nation at this juncture. This is the first war worth speaking of with which Australia has been associated, the Boer war being a trumpery affair in comparison. Mistakes will therefore necessarily be made, and it is the desire of every member, in voicing complaints from time to time, not to find fault so much as to give opportunity for the correction of mistakes that have been made, and for the prevention of such as might be made. I have been informed on more than one occasion that men who have since left for the front were five months at Broadmeadows without being given practice in the firing of a rifle. The reply of the Department was that they would have time for that when they got to Egypt. Judging by the results at Gallipoli, they have been taught pretty well, and whether they learned to shoot here or in Egypt is of little moment so long as they are able to use their rifles with precision when in the fighting line. But I have been told that after having been months in training at Broadmeadows many of them did not know how to load and sight a rifle. Considering the large area of open country behind the Broadmeadows Camp, it should have been possible to provide rifle ranges there, if it were not convenient to take the men to Williamstown. I understand that there is very little shooting at the Williamstown butts during the greater part of the day.
– There is a great deal. I have been there three or four times, and have always seen a large number there.
– I believe there is more than there was, but, in any case, the men at Broadmeadows are not being sufficiently trained in rifle shooting. Lord Kitchener, when he desired to enroll territorial troops, declared that the first essential was to shoot, and to shoot accurately; and therefore we ought, as far as circumstances permit, to enable men to obtain the necessary training before they leave Australia. In all probability the reinforcements now going away will not have the same opportunity in Egypt for practice that the first contingents had; and it is necessary, before they leave, that they should, for their own preservation, have every opportunity to make themselves proficient marksmen.
– They are being taught the use of the bayonet here.
– Yes; and I believe they are doing very well, although I am not one of those who can swallow the statement that an Australian can put a bayonet into five men, one after .the other, and toss them over his shoulder. Even a man of the magnificent stature and evident strength of the Assistant Minister of Defence would not be able to perform a feat of that kind. There is another matter that is causing anxiety, though it is one for which, as a matter of fact, the Government are not responsible. I refer to the difficulty that the parents of our soldiers have in getting information about their wounded sons.
I can quite understand the Minister of Defence and his colleague, plied as they are with questions from all sides, urging that information should be given in this or that case, getting a little callous. The word “ callous “ is, perhaps, not the proper one to use in this connexion, and 1 would rather say that they must be getting somewhat surfeited with such questions and requests. It must be remembered, however, that the questions are prompted by the anxiety of fathers and mothers who have sent their boys to the front to fight for their country, and who find that, being wounded, their sons have been sent to some hospital we know not where. It is most natural that they should ask the parliamentary representative of the district to find out, if possible, where their wounded relatives have been sent, so that communication may be opened up with them. We have been informed by the Assistant Minister that every opportunity will be given, and is given, to transmit free cables to men who have been . seriously or dangerously wounded; and for this, of course, the public are very thankful. But I should like to see established at the principal base in Egypt some responsible official, or officials, whose sole duty it would be to find out to which country and hospital members of the different units have been sent, and communicate the facts to the Defence Department here at the earliest moment. This would enable parents, who so desired, to cable at their own expense inquiries as to their sons’ welfare. This object might be attained by handing over the duty of collecting such information to some clerical branch of the Defence Force at the base; and I am satisfied that it would prove of great value to the public. Another matter to which I should like to call attention has to do with the prescribed height of recruits. The British Government, I believe, have reduced the standard from 5 ft. 4 in. or 5 ft. 4^ in. to 5 ft. 2 in., and we have in this community quite a number of men below the standard height we have fixed, who are anxious and competent to serve, and are as physically fit as many a man of greater height. In modern warfare a man of 5 ft. 2 in. ought to be quite as able to shoulder a rifle, fire a shot, and do the necessary marching, as any man of 5 ft. 4 in., or even 5 ft. 10 in.
– What about using the bayonet?
– Could the Minister of Home Affairs use the bayonet?
– I was thinking of the Minister of Trade and . Customs and the Minister of Home Affairs, who are both
Undersized, and really I should not care to stand up in front of either of them armed with a bayonet. I am- quite satisfied that, so far as their strength in proportion to their height is concerned, they would be quite as competent to handle a bayonet as men of greater size. The smaller men have usually as much strength in proportion to their physique as have bigger men; and after some considerable experience of workmen in different walks of life, I find that the short, thick-set person can do as hard a day’s work as his taller brother, and is generally more competent.
– Small men have not the same reach with the bayonet as have bigger men.
– The main point in the use of the bayonet is strength; and from all we can gather from newspaper photographs of men in the trenches, it is not a case of one standing up against another, but rather that the bayonet is used in some other way. There is a story told of a man who, going to the front, asked a tailor to put a brass plate over his heart as a protection. In action he was the first man to run away, and in his flight he was shot. “When he fell down, thinking that he was about to die, he was in a dreadful state; but he suddenly realized that he was not so badly wounded as he thought; in fact, he found he was not wounded at all, and the only comment he made was that the tailor knew better where his heart was than he knew himself. Such a story, of course, could not be told of our men, and it certainly does not apply to men who are undersized. If there is any diminution in the applications for enlistment, the widest latitude should be given to enable men under what we call the standard height to join the reinforcements. A matter that can be discussed in a very few words is that of the censoring of news, and of information regarding the movements of troops. During the Boer war, the whole of the people of Australia knew every movement connected with the despatch of troops.
– But did the Boers have a fleet?
– -No. and I quite agree with the Assistant Minister that the policy that has been pursued by the Department was a correct and wise one, so long as there was the slightest danger of any of our troop-ships being followed or torpedoed on the ocean. At the present time, however, the enemy has not a single vessel floating on the water, and there is, therefore, no reason for the strict censorship that we are experiencing in this regard. The publication broadcast of every movement of our troops in Australia would be absolutely useless to the enemy. What could be more encouraging than the sight of troops going away, and being farewelled by their relatives and friends as they are leaving for the front? That used to be the practice always in Great Britain, and it was also the practice here. I happened to be on the railway pier as a privileged spectator on the occasion of the departure of the first contingent. There was a good deal of excitement when a picket Avas placed at the head of the pier. Thousands of people were at that send-off, and they broke through the picket like a flood of water rushing over a weir - and what harm was done? The regulations which may have been all right at the time they were adopted, ought now to be abolished, for there is absolutely no danger, and no reason why people should be shut off when troops are being placed on board ship. The public ought to have every opportunity of seeing the ships depart, and I think the Minister might well make a recommendation to that effect to his colleagues.
– Do you not think some other consideration should be given to that matter? Does the honorable member think there are no enemies within the Commonwealth ?
– But supposing there are, what can they do?
– Well, we are taking every precaution, and we are going to continue to do so. If we allowed such reasons as that to influence us, we should be howled down from the other side.
– There is absolutely no reason to-day why information should not be given as to the movement of troops.
– I am talking about the risks of allowing people to go on board ship, or alongside.
– They need not necessarily go on board ship, but they might go on to the piers and see them off.
– They could do a good deal of damage from the pier.
– But with regard to the movement of troops, the matter is talked about everywhere. I can tell the honorable member when the next contingent is going away. He never informed me; I got my information in the street.
– Then what are you complaining about?
– I am not complaining. I am only saying that, when information is so well known, it ought to be made public officially,, so that the parents or the people generally who want to see their sons or friends leave for the front, may have an opportunity of doing so. The Government can have no object in trying to keep the thing secret when they know they are unable to succeed. With regard to the censoring of news, I do not think there is the slightest doubt that news has been censored here after it has been passed by the British censor and published in the British press. The Prime Minister promised to look into the matter the other day, and make a statement to the House. He has not done so up to the present - probably he has not had any information from Home. In a community like this, democratic in spirit and temperament, the people are naturally anxious to get all the information they can ; and it is probably hard for our constituents to realize that Ministers are placed in such a position that they cannot give information broadcast; but there is a great difference between a situation of that kind and the timidity that exists in giving any information at all. I think the Minister, upon reflection, might strike a happy mean, and give information that would be interesting to us, and of no value to an enemy, even though he might be in our midst.
.- Before we depart from this item, I should like the Minister to give an explanation of the matter raised by the honorable member for Bourke in connexion with the charge made by Private Campbell in reference to the purchase of pyjamas, which he stated had been presented by the Red Cross Society for the use of the soldiers at Rabaul. In the course of his speech the honorable member for Bourke, dealing with the official report of the proceedings, read out a statement that Campbell was alleged to have .confessed that he had written an untruthful statement to the Sun newspaper. I have here the file of papers with the report of the trial, and in this report it is stated that there was a confession. The remarkable thing about it all is that the confession has not been produced, and from what I can see of the report of the inquiry, it was not produced there. Yet at the inquiry Campbell denied having made any confession. The situation is a remarkable one. One would have thought that the first action of those in charge of the inquiry, after Campbell’s denial that he had confessed to an untruth had been made, would have been to produce Campbell’s confession. Yet it has not been produced. The Minister of Defence, Senator Pearce, speaking in the Senate, is reported to have said that he had a copy of Campbell’s confession. The other night the Assistant Minister told us that the Minister of Defence had not received a copy of the confession.
– That is quite correct; he has not.
– He has not received one?
– He is reported to have stated the day before yesterday that he had received it. At any rate, this is a serious reflection upon the officers engaged on that inquiry. Either an injustice is being done to them or to Private Campbell, and we certainly ought to have that confession produced. If Campbell made a confession, why has it not been placed upon the file of papers purporting to contain all the particulars in connexion with this inquiry that was laid upon the Library table? Yet this most important document is absent. Surely we ought to have some statement from the Assistant Minister of Defence as to where that document has gone to, if it ever existed. It must be remembered that Campbell absolutely denies that he signed any confession. We have no proof that he did sign a confession, and yet upon that alleged confession this report was drawn up. If the Minister is not prepared to make a definite statement as to what further action the Defence Department or the Minister intends to take, I can promise him that something more will be said before the Estimates go through. I will exercise my right to deal with the matter on every possible occasion until we get some further inquiry into this matter, which the Minister could settle at once. If the officers who are reported to have obtained that confession will produce it there will be no more trouble. I will leave it at that, trusting that the Minister will make some statement now regarding that confession.
.- I have had a consultation with the Minister of Defence, and he assures me that no such confession has been received by him or by his Department. It has beeu stated that this confession was sent by the Administrator from Rabaul to the Defence Department in Melbourne. The Minister assures me that he is not in possession of any such document, and that if he had had it he would have been only too pleased to have produced it, in order to satisfy honorable members.
– I believe he would.
– “Why condemn the Minister of Defence ? If he had possession of that document he would certainly have produced it.
– I am not condemning the Minister; I am condemning the officers.
– The honorable member is condemning the officers, and yet he says that unless he gets some statement from the Minister concerned, or if the paper is not produced, he will keep on raising this question. If the Minister had the confession he would produce it quickly, in order to prove his officers’ statements. It has been said that the paper in question was posted at Rabaul by the Administrator, but the Minister has not yet received it.
– I understand that sufficient time has not elapsed to allow of the arrival of the mail. Is that so?
-It may be, but I doubt it. As to the debate that has taken place regarding the Broadmeadows Camp, I think it is to be regretted that honorable members should allow their better judgment to be carried away by outside statements made to them on the subject. We have had to-night a report from the principal medical officer in charge of the camp, which absolutely up sets nearly every statement that has been made by honorable members regarding cases of sickness at the camp.
– Not at all.
– It does.
– That document is misleading.
– I have further information which will perhaps be interesting to the Leader of the Opposition, who contends that the document is misleading because it refers to only some fourteen cases - six cases of measles and eight cases of influenza. There are only sixtyfour cases being dealt with outside the camp. All these are being treated at the base hospital, which is situated at the Victoria Barracks, and twenty-four are the result of accidents. That being so, apart from the fourteen concerning which I have already given information, there are only forty cases of sickness outside the camp. We have, and have had for some time, some 6,000 soldiers or recruits at the camp, so that the percentage of sickness is very small. Yet we have had honorable members making absolutely misleading statements concerning sickness at the Broadmeadows Camp which will be published broadcast amongst the people. I believe that honorable members have been actuated by the best of motives, but simply because they are button-holed first by one and then by another, and erroneous statements are presented to them, they make these allegations.
– Is there no truth in the statement regarding the number of deaths at Broadmeadows?
– From information I have received, I can say that there has been only one death at Broadmeadows Camp during the last fortnight. I shall have prepared a statement for presentation to. the House to-morrow, giving the record for the last month. As to the Small Arms Factory, I think the least said the better at this stage.
– Because the Government are looking into the matter, and are going to do the best they can for every one.
– But they have looked into it.
– And are still looking into it. I have no further information to give the Committee to-uight concerning the factory. I am not going to make any admission, but shall allow the matter to stand over for another twenty-four or forty-eight hours, when, in all probability, honorable members will hear something, of it. The honorable member for Hunter has said that officers who are trained here, but are under twenty-three years of age, are not allowed to go to the front. If an officer under the age of twenty-three years shows special ability he is not stopped from going to the front.
– That is the trouble. There are so few who seem to be recognised as having special ability.
– It is not the trouble. We are not short of officers. We have many over twenty-three years of age who are available for service at the front; but I repeat that if any officer under the age of twenty-three years shows special ability he is not prevented from going to the front.
– Lord Kitchener has asked for the services of every officer in the Imperial service who is medically fit, whether he is over or under the regulation age. The Minister says that we have plenty to spare. Why do we not send these officers to the front, seeing that Lord Kitchener wants them?
-It is for the Prime Minister to answer that question. He alone can make an offer to the Imperial authorities.
– Is the Department appointing as officers men under twentythree years of age who have had little or no previous experience?
– It is being done.
– I should not like to admit that any man with no previous ex- perience has been appointed as an officer, ach individual case is inquired into, and recommendations made by superior officers.
– What about the charge made by the honorable member for Ballarat ?
– The honorable member has seen fit to select an isolated case concerning which he has heard something very similar to the statements we have heard about other matters to-night.
– I have it from the honorable gentleman’s own lips that what I have said is true - that this officer was only six weeks in camp when he was made an officer.
– The honorable member had a report from the Department - not a statement by me.
– It is just the same.
– Certainly not. I rely on the reports of my officers.
– What does this report set out?
– That the officer to whom the honorable member for Ballarat refers had former experience - that he had proper training and had undergone certain instruction.
– Is he the officer whom the honorable member for Ballarat said had never worn a uniform ?
– I am afraid that some honorable members become interested in certain persons as the result of being pestered. I am pestered from morning till night by persons seeking promotion. The Minister of Defence leaves to the Selection Board in each State the making of recommendations for promotion. The Board makes a careful inquiry concerning the claim of any officer seeking promotion, and then submits its recommendation to the Minister for approval or otherwise. Promotions are made only in that way. There is no political or Ministerial influence.
– But there is social influence.
– That is a reflection on the officers of the Department.
– That is what I meant.
– The Selection Board consists of officers of high standing and repute in the Commonwealth, and yet we have it suggested that nothing that is done in the Department in this regard is clean. I should be glad if honorable members would disabuse their minds of such an idea. Surely wo have not reached such a position in the Commonwealth. We ought to be proud of our Forces - proud of the way in which they have been brought together and proud of what they are doing.
.- During this debate many grievances relating to the Department of Defence have been ventilated by honorable members on both sides, and certain complaints have been formulated by them. We are now told by the Assistant Minister of Defence that honorable members who make these charges are mere receptacles of idle rumours and baseless statements having no foundation whatever in fact. I have heard certain statements made in reference to the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, the miserable treatment of the sick at Broadmeadows, the medical officers, and so forth, and the matter of promotion. I have had dozens of petitions brought to me, but I have always said that unless the men were prepared to set down their complaints in black and White I was not willing to say anything about them. All I have to say now is that if all these statements about the medical treatment of the sick, the medical officers, and the question of promotion, are baseless, we have at Broadmeadows the greatest aggregation of liars that could be got together in any part of the world.
– The Minister has ascertained that the scale of rations at Broadmeadows is absolutely the best in the world.
– I am not saying whether it is or not. I simply say that if all these accusations are baseless, if they are only idle rumours, we have at Broadmeadows the greatest aggregation of liars on the face of the earth. I have the statement of a man named Long. He writes that he had an injury to his shoulder, and that his commanding officer gave him a note to take to the hospital. He says that he went to the hospital and stood there for two hours in the wet, and then when he got inside and showed the note, the doctor said, ‘ ‘ What is the matter with you?” and he said, “ I think I have dislocated my shoulder.” The doctor then asked, “ Where is your form?” and the man replied, “ There is the note from my commanding officer.” This man says that the doctor then said, “Get it on the proper form.” He replied, ‘ That is all my commanding officer gave me. I think that I have my shoulder out,” but the doctor said, “ I do not care if you have broken your b - - neck ; go back and get it on the proper form.”
– Who was the man, and who was the medical officer ?
– That is only one case. With all respect and deference to, and without any desire to augment the troubles of, the Minister, I ask what the duty of the Minister should be? It is not to support wasters among the ranks or incompetency among the higher officers. It is to elicit the truth, to investigate every accusation, and see what lies behind it; to accept nothing as a fact until it has been properly investigated ; to hold the scales fairly and see that justice is applied to all. To-day we had a statement by the Leader of the Opposition, and then the report of Colonel Cuscaden was produced, upon which the honorable member for Swan spoke to the honorable member for Parramatta, and that honorable member then pointed out that Colonel Cuscaden was not referring to the whole body of sick men, but merely to the few who happened to be in camp during the day. It was shown that the statement to the effect that there were only a very few cases of measles and influenza in the camp had no application to the men who had been sent to hospitals outside the camp. If Colonel Cuscaden made his report in reply to the assertions made in the Chamber, his statement, which any Minister would accept in good faith, and which purported to be, and actually was, an answer to the statements as to the amount of sickness in the camp, misled the Minister, inasmuch as it did not refer to the men sent to the hospital. Therefore, Colonel Cuscaden ought to be reprimanded for a dereliction of duty.
– Colonel Cuscaden distinctly says that the numbers mentioned covered those whom he found at the camp on his visit. I have already explained that there are sixty-four cases at the base hospital, of which twenty-four are accident cases; and that is the total sickness among the troops in Melbourne to-day. It is a very small percentage.
– Then we come to this position : there is nothing wrong at the camp, the camp is as clean as can be, the food is the best that can be supplied, no one is sick, the officers are the purest that can be got, and the men are the rottenest liars on the face of the earth; and it is the one ultimate duty of the Minister to support his higher officers and not to make investigations. Now I come to the point on which the honorable member for Ballarat took action in regard to the so-called sale of Red Cross goods in New Guinea. Several questions were asked in regard to this matter dealing with the honesty and integrity of the report furnished to the Minister. I put one question. What :s the duty of any Government, Labour or Liberal? Is it to shelter its officers or to elicit the truth, and give fair play to the humblest man in the ranks?
– It is to elicit the truth, and that is what the Government are doing.
– If they are doing so, there is no harm in my speaking. If they are not doing so, there id still no harm in my speaking. A certain man in New Guinea, Private Campbell, having in a letter to his mother made statements which appeared in the Sydney press, the Minister of Defence sent a telegram to New Guinea, and asked the Commanding Officer, Colonel Holmes, for an explanation; and Colonel Holmes, in his reply, said, “ This man is a liar, and he has confessed that he is. In the presence of Colonel Watson, Captain Lane, and Major Maguire, he made a written confession. It was made in duplicate, and one copy was sent to the Sydney Sun, the other I hold.” And so the matter went on, until Senator Millen raised a question the other day, as the result of which an inquiry was held in Sydney, where Private Campbell swore that he had never made a confession, and said that the officers who had made the statement that he had done so were perjurers and conspirators. Colonel Holmes, Major Maguire, and Colonel Watson went into that inquiry and swore that this private soldier had made a written confession; and Colonel Holmes said, “I have the confession.” The court of inquiry was put in the position of having to judge between the man and his officers. Either the officers were perjurers, or the man was a perjurer. The man said, ‘ ‘ I stick to my original statement. I do not deviate one point from it. If these officers swear that I made a confession, they are perjurers and conspirators.” The court was in the predicament that it had to judge between officers and a private soldier; but was it not the .duty of the officer presiding at such a court to say, “ Since we have to judge between you, and since so many have sworn that this man made a confession, and you, Colonel Holmes, say that you possess it, it is fair to ask where that confession is. It was right that it should be preserved and presented to the court, for then the man can be proved to be a perjurer, and what he says about the Red Cross goods is false.” But did the president of the court ask that? No. If the Government wish to elicit the truth; if they believe in justice for the poorest as well as for the rich, and for the lowest as well as for the high - five days have now elapsed since the honorable member for Ballarat put his question - was it not their duty to say to Colonel
Ramaciotti, who was in charge of this court, “ How did you dare to give a verdict on evidence that you did hot see or hear? Why did you not ask Colonel Holmes to produce this document?” The man who did not ask for its production ought to have been considered unfit to hold the position of president of such a court.That was the first stage. When this question was raised in the Senate and in this House it was the duty of this Government, if they wanted to elicit the truth, and to do justice, to say to Colonel Holmes, “ Where is that document which you swore in the court you possessed, and upon the foundation of which that soldier was condemned?” Five days have elapsed, and the Government have not yet PUt that question to the president of the court martial or to Colonel Holmes. Until Colonel Holmes produces that confession to this Parliament he is unfit and unworthy to hold a commission in the Army of this country. Colonel Holmes wrote to the Minister of Defence on the 8th May, “ Colonel Watson handed me a copy of a letter of explanation, which had been written to the Sun newspaper, and I then wrote to you and forwarded a copy of Campbell’s letter.” Did he? The file I hold is headed “ Alleged Sale of Red Cross Pyjamas at Rabaul,” and it professes to contain all the documents pertaining to that incident. Where is that letter? The trouble first arose when the honorable member for Illawarra raised the question in the House in December last. Following that question, the Minister of Defence sent a cable to Rabaul, in reply to which Colonel Holmes intimated that he had written a letter which the Minister of Defence subsequently said he had received. Now we are told that the Minister did not receive the letter. What are we to believe? Did the Minister receive a letter or did he not? Colonel Holmes stated the other day that he had received a confession ; now he says that he has not received it. If he has received that confession it is his duty to produce it. This file, that purports to contain all documents in relation to the alleged sale of Red Cross pyjamas, does not contain all the preliminary documents in connexion with the case. A private soldier is charged with having committed perjury against his officers; if he did commit perjury he should be in gaol. In this case we have a repeti- tion of the Dreyfus case, although not on so gigantic a scale, and there is a modern Esterhazy, who swore in court that a man had made a confession that he had not made. It is not the duty of the Government to protect an officer because he is an officer, but to ever seek to elicit the truth and to do justice, no matter who is injured. What are we interested in if it is not in the securing of justice for all?
– Have not these officers made an explanation of why they cannot get the confession?
– We cannot get an explanation. Is not the elucidation of this matter ns much to the interest of every honest officer in the Australian Forces as of the public generally? The Assistant Minister of Defence stated the other day that we were making attacks on officers as if none of them was honorable, but that is not trite. Amongst the humblest who fight in the ranks there are no doubt some discreditable men, but in the interest of the country the Army should be purged of all such men, no matter what positions they may hold. It does not follow that all are bad because some Ti ave been found at fault. The great bulk of the men in our Defence Forces are clean and honorable, and the exposure of the exceptions is no reflection upon the others. In the interest of the cleanliness of the Army the poorest soldier who fights for his country should have in this Parliament a champion of his rights. The clearing up of this matter should not be delayed. Before Colonel Holmes is allowed to hold another command in the Army he ought to be called 11 DOn to produce the confession which he claims to have received.
– Why go to Colonel Holmes for the confession? You have said that the Minister has stated that he received it.
– The Minister did not say that.
– There is a difference between a letter and a confession.
– We are told by Colonel Watson that this confession was taken in duplicate. One copy was sent to the Sydney Sim, but disappeared, for it never arrived at its destination, and the other was sent to the Minister. We have two statements from the Minister; one that he did receive the confession, and another that he did not.
– If the Minster says that he received it, why trouble about Colonel Holmes?
– The Minister says that he received the letter; that is not the confession.
– The honorable member for Parramatta wishes to mix up the copy of the confession with the confession itself.
– I understood you to say that the Minister stated that he had received a copy of the confession.
– The Minister says he has not received it.
– The honorable member for Bourke says that the Minister stated that he had received a copy of the confession.
– Perhaps I had better explain the whole incident. In the first case, Colonel Watson swore that the man Campbell made a confession in duplicate. One copy was sent to the Sydney Sun, but never arrived at that office, and the other was held by Colonel Holmes, in whose hands it must still remain. Then Colonel Holmes asserted that he had sent a copy of the confession to the Minister.
– And the Minister said he received it.
– And then he said he did not.
– But did the Minister say that he received the confession?
– The Minister of Defence stated in the Senate on 7th May that he had sent a telegram to Colonel Holmes in regard to statements which had been made in Parliament, and then he went on to say, “ I have here the report of Colonel Holmes, which had apparently been drafted before our inquiry reached him, because it commences, &c.” Having read the report, the Minister interpolated this remark : “ Then follows the letter which has been quoted by Senator Millen.” What was the letter quoted by Senator Millen? Senator Millen referred to the alleged confession of the man Campbell, and then followed the statement of the confession made by Campbell. That is what I am complaining about. Which is true : The statement in Hansard, or the assertion that the Government did not receive the copy? If it is true that the Minister of Defence did receive a copy of the confession, the right honorable member for Parramatta is correct in his deductions. But we have the statement made since, wherein the Minister of Defence said he never received such a confession from Colonel Holmes. In the interests of common justice it is the duty of this Parliament to have this matter cleared up. That is a fair statement, and surely I cannot be charged with acting improperly towards the Ministry in making the demand. It is a matter which should receive the support of every member in this Chamber who loves truth and justice, and wishes to see these principles applied to the rich and poor alike.
– It certainly ought to be cleared up.
– Then why does not the right honorable member get up and say so ? Before we go any further there ought to be an explanation. We ought to get a clear statement from the Ministry upon these matters. The president of the court martial ought to be asked, “Why did you not ask for the production of the confession by Private Campbell ? “ Colonel Holmes swore that he had the confession in his possession, and surely he should have produced it. What became of the document which it was stated was sent on to the Minister? It is a fair inference that, in order to cloak up their crimes, the officers entered into a conspiracy with the object of committing perjury.
– There must be something more than that. If you make that inference you must also infer that the court was in this conspiracy ?
– Yes, that is the position. Do not make any doubt about it. I say that whether the court was in it or not, at least Colonel Ramaciotti failed in his duty as president of the court. When he found there was a conflict of testimony he should have asked for the production of the proof. In this case the proof was the original confession.
– It often happens that, in a civil Court, a Judge has to decide between two men making conflicting statements.
– That is quite true, and in a civil Court a Judge who had to decide between two men would base his judgment upon the volume of evidence obtainable. In this case the evidence was the man’s confession, which it was stated had been given to Colonel Holmes, but which Campbell denied having made.
– What does the court say about these things? What does it say about Campbell ?
– I will read what the court said. The court found -
But what was that based upon ? The court said that Campbell had made a baseless accusation against his officers, - but the court did not ask for the production of the confession which Campbell swore he never made. A further finding of the court was -
– The Minister states that the copy which was sent by the Administrator was not received.
– It was stated that Campbell made a confession, but he denied it, and neither that confession nor the copy forwarded by the Administrator was produced. There was not one tittle of evidence produced.
– Have you given us the whole of the finding?
– No ; the honorable member has. only given isolated paragraphs.
– I have given the court’s finding on that particular point. I am not saying whether there is any truth in the allegations concerning the Red Cross goods or not. That is not the question at all. It is a question of this file, and the confession which Campbell swore he never made. It is a question of perjury on the part of somebody.
– I should think the first question to be decided is : What kind of a man is Campbell? Does the court say anything about him?
– Yes; let me tell the Committee what the court said -
The court are of opinion that Private B. B. Campbell is of weak character, and does not appear to realize either the seriousness of his statement or his position.
– It makes no difference to me what kind of character he has. If he made a statement it should be produced.
– If the man was of weak character, as alleged, it was the duty of the court to protect him, and help him, but there is no evidence that the court helped him or protected him in any way. This is a letter from Campbell himself -
According to Colonel Holmes’ report, he tries to make out that I wrote the account to your paper. I now wish to deny the facts put forth by Colonel Holmes. The pyjamas in question were purchased by Private Jones in my company, and paid 23s. for the two suits. When he arrived at the garrison barracks, he was admiring the suits, and discovered Red Cross tickets in the pockets by Mrs. Dalton, of Mosman, and Miss Wilson, of Vaucluse. As far as writing to the newspaper is concerned, I never wrote the report. The only description of the affair was written to my mother, who was connected with Red Cross duties. I might also mention that, as soon as word came to hand that the report had by some unknown source drifted into publication, I was promptly sent for by O.C. Troops. I was asked what I meant by writing to the Sydney newspapers about the tactics that were going on. I replied saying that I never wrote to the paper, and I was at that time under the impression that my mother inserted the report, but have since learnt that no report was inserted by my mother. After the discussion at the O.C. Troops’ office, I was ordered to pack up my traps and report to the O.C. Troops’ office at 2 p.m., which I did, and was promptly sent away on board the s.s. Meklong, and sent away as ship’s guard to deliver various stores to outlying islands, with the idea to get me out of the way, and give Colonel Holmes a chance to get to Sydney and hush the matter up.
That does .not sound like the letter of a weak-minded man -
While I was away, Colonel Holmes left for Sydney with a small detachment of troops by the s.s. Eastern. Independent of Colonel Holmes’ instructions to keep me away and force me to sign on in the tropics for four months after the war, and keep me quiet while Colonel Holmes whitewashed the pyjama incident, the captain of the Meklong arrived back at Rabaul, after several weeks’ cruising in the Pacific, two days after Colonel Holmes left for Sydney. Being too late to get to Sydney with Colonel Holmes, I was determined to go home under the command of Colonel Paton, V.D., who, by the way, was left to bear the brunt of starving troops. I put in my application to return to Sydney with the homegoing troops, and the application was accepted in the absence of Colonel Holmes.
Amongst the men who gave evidence was a Major Maguire. I do not think there was a stronger crowd sailing the Spanish main in the old buccaneering days than were up New Guinea way. Colonel Holmes said, “ Nobody must loot; it is absolutely dishonest. The more you take, the less there will be for us.” I got this letter from Dr. Pockley, 227 Macquarie-street, Sydney, dated 24th April- his son, Captain B. C. A.
Pockley, was killed in action in New Guinea -
After his death, Major - then Captain - Maguire was told to take charge of all his effects, and send them to me by the first opportunity. Some of his things were on the H.M.A.S. Sydney, and these, as Captain Glossop, of that ship, wrote me, were packed by my son before he went ashore, and after his death were sent to the Berrima. I regret to state that a great number of my son’s things have not come back, and, from the evidence of officers and men, there is no doubt that some of them, if not all, have been stolen. I have written to the Minister of Defence, asking that an inquiry should be made, and that certain questions might be put to Major Maguire. I received a reply from the Secretary for Defence, quoting a statement made by Major Maguire’ on the matter, but not answering the specific questions. I wrote again three weeks ago, asking that specific answers might be given to the questions I had asked, but have not yet received a reply, and yesterday wrote again a third time to the Secretary, asking for a reply to my question.
He wants to put to Major Maguire this question: “What did you do with my son’s things?” I got this wire to-day, “ No reply. No satisfaction, though have written repeatedly since.”
– That is as bad as the other case.
– I venture to say that Colonel Holmes will not go a step further in the Army of Australia until he produces that confession alleged to have been made by a private soldier.
– I have not had the opportunity of reading all the evidence taken by the court martial held recently in Sydney in regard to these charges of trouble in Rabaul. I understand that what the honorable member has handed me is a true copy. If so, there is sufficient in it to warrant one in believing that the whole thing is quite unsatisfactory, and that there has been neglect of duty on the part of the person in charge of the court martial.
– Who appoints these courts martial?
– I presume they are constituted by the Minister under Statute and regulations. No one challenges their constitution. A challenge has been made now that this court martial failed to act as a court martial ought to have acted on the evidence produced before it. I am not assuming that the court martial was biased, but the proceedings were unsatisfactory and cannot stand there. The matter cannot be allowed to remain where it is on this evidence, showing, as it does, that a question was not asked to elicit a fact which, in my opinion as a layman, is not only material, but vital.
– I ask leave, in view of the promises given by the Prime Minister, to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I desire to intimate that I have received a letter from Lady Bridges thanking honorable members for the resolution of condolence with her, which was adopted by the House.
Australian-made Motor Cycles - Censorship of War News.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I must apologize for having to trespass upon the patience of honorable members, but I desire to refer to a matter of some importance and urgency connected with my electorate. The Postal Department recently called for tenders for forty-two motor cycles for New South Wale9, and six for Victoria. The tenders closed on the 6th and 18th inst. respectively. There is a factory in my electorate which is engaged in manufacturing motor cycles of a very excellent quality. These machines are being made almost in their entirety at Alexandria. Until recently I was not aware of the fact that motor engines could be made in Australia; but, as a matter of fact, they are being made by this factory from start to finish. The firm has a foundry in Melbourne. Only the carburetter, the hub, the magnetotubing, and one or two minor accessories, are imported.
– What about the spokes?
– The spokes are imported in wire lengths, and, of course, the tubing cannot be manufactured in Australia. But there is comparatively little in the whole make-up of the motor cycle which is imported. It is an article of genuine manufacture.
The price quoted for a 4-horse-power twin cylinder machine is £90, and the selling price of a 3½-horse-power single cylinder Douglas machine is £93 10s. This is an English machine which is very popular here, and which has been taken as the pattern of the Australian machine. It may be possible to obtain a cheaper article, but for the standard and quality it is a cheap machine. There are better guarantees with the local than with the imported article, for the reason that a plentiful supply of duplicate parts is available. I have examined the locallymade article, and as one who has had experience of motor cycles I can say that it is thoroughly efficient.
There is a large firm, which has a very scattered connexion in the back-blocks of New South Wales - I refer to Messrs. Permewan, Wright, and Company - who have been using these machines, and before the tender of this firm is turned, down, I would like the PostmasterGeneral to ask the manager of that company for a report upon them.
I am urging that special attention should be given to this matter. I recognise that if once this machine can be advertised in Australia as being in use by the Commonwealth Government, its reliability will be established. I am confident that a trial of these machines by the Department will be justified. I would point out, too, that the wages paid to the mechanics employed at the Alexandria factory are higher than those paid to artisans employed on the imported article. We ought to encourage the manufacture of this machine for defence purposes. If we ever have to defend ourselves it will be of immense importance for us to have a factory capable of manufacturing these machines for scout work.
It appears that some of the officers in the Department have been using imported motor cycles for so long that they look askance at a local article, and think it cannot be up to the standard of the imported. I have gone into the matter carefully, and I ask the PostmasterGeneral to give special consideration to this firm’s tender, and to see that it is not turned down without ample justification.
– I am very glad to hear from the honorable member that we have firms in Australia which have progressed beyond the stage of merely assembling parts, and have reached the stage of manufacturing as far as it is possible. I quite agree with the honorable member that every encouragement should be given to Australian manufacturers, and that is the policy which I am following in the Department, and which it is in favour of. Even the Tender Board, which deals with the whole of the tenderB, is allowed to give a percentage preference to Australian manufacturers. The Board says that Australians come first in the acceptance of tenders, and the British next. I will have a thorough inquiry made, and take into full consideration the statement which the honorable member has made.
.- A few sittings ago a question was raised that the censorship exercised in Australia was not exercised in London, and attention was drawn to a statement made by Mr. Rae in the House of Commons on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Colonies that the Commonwealth had censored matter which was free in England.
– Will you just wait a minute until I fetch in something?
– The right honorable member cannot speak. The Prime Minister is replying.
– Still, it is only fair that the right honorable gentleman should have the opportunity to hear me. On behalf of the. Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Rae replied to a question in the House of Commons. The Government take the strongest exception to the statement made that we had censored here information regarding our troops which was allowod to be published in England, and in accordance with the promise given to the House we made strong representations through the GovernorGeneral to the British Government practically in these terms -
My Ministers take strong exception to the reported statement made by Mr. Rae on behalf of Secretary of State regarding censoring Australian press news published in London that responsibility rested with Commonwealth Government.
The facts are that Commonwealth Government have followed implicitly secret and confidential instructions from the British Government in relation to all these matters. No advice of any kind has reached my Ministers which amplified tho terms of my telegram of 7th May.
Fact remains that on 2nd Marchsecret cable that Australian troops on way to Dardanelles, but no further advice received of their participation in action, and was compelled to assume that congratulatory message released press news, which was all we had.
That is, when the King sent his message congratulating us on the magnificent charge which had been made by the troops, we assumed that we were then free to make available the news, but we never received any proper official intimation that that was so. After all, it was an assumption that we could do that. The message continues -
Ministers press for more consideration in these matters, and desire clear statement of position at earliest possible moment, as much public anxiety and condemnation of Government for withholding news.
The reply from the Secretary of State, dated 25th May, is as follows: -
Your telegram 22nd May. Much regret any misunderstanding. Question and answer contained no reference to publication . or nonpublication of news as to Dardanelles. Question asked whether I could tell House what provisions are made with regard to censoring news destined to appear in Australian press; whether I wasawara that news already published in London had again been subject to restriction before publication in Australia; and, if so, what are public grounds on which such a course could be justified. I was not aware whether or not, in any case, your Government had withheld news published in London, and, therefore, answeredas follows : - “ The responsibility for carrying out press censorship in Australia rests with Commonwealth Government, which has entire discretion in the matter of judging what may properly be published in Australia.” I bad no intention of suggesting that your Government had not loyally carried out tho instructions from Home, but wished to indicate that they were free to delay publication in any ease if they thought fit.
– Or to publish.
– Our instructions are definite, distinct, and clear, and we would be wanting in common sense if we did not interpret them in the way we did. Until the message came, until we were released, we had no right to publish anything, and I regret that I have to say so in such straightforward terms. Until we are released we assume that common-senso action will be taken, and that we will he notified when news of importance may be made public.
– Do you think that common sense . is . always used by the censor ?
– We have not got to that point yet. The Government have been censoring matter in accordance with the instructions of the Imperial authorities, and have laid down this principle which we will act upon-
– The trouble is that you have been censoring stuff here.
– I ask the right honorable gentleman not to mix up the two things. We have said to the Imperial authorities that what they think necessary we will do, and we are not here to interpret a direction now in one way and then in another way, but now that the matter has been raised in such a direct manner, and we have been practically misrepresented in the House of Commons by an answer to a question, we want a definite and distinct statement as to what our position is.
– Mr. Speaker
– Order ! The Prime Minister has replied.
– I understand that the Assistant Minister of Defence moved the adjournment of the House.
– No. The Prime Minister moved the adjournment, and I called upon him in reply.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 May 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150526_reps_6_76/>.