6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Ab I understand that the House Committee met this morning, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if the closing of the bar in the refreshment room at 9.30 p.m. was considered, and, if so, -what decision was arrived at?
– There was no meeting of the House Committee this morning, though I understand that there is to be a meeting about 5 o’clock this afternoon.
– I ask the Minister of Home Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a complaint of the Building Trades Federation about the favouring of the contract system instead of the daylabour system ? Is it a fact that the Department of Home Affairs is ignoring the day-labour system, and has let a contract to an Adelaide firm for work to be done in Melbourne, although there are in this city- unemployed carpenters and joiners who. are looking for work I
– The Government favour the day-labour system, but it must ha obvious that there must be some work which should be done by contract. The Commonwealth could not carry out all its own joinery work unless it had a joinery factory, and there is not sufficient joinery work to justify the establishment of a factory. The particular contract referred to was let to the lowest tenderer. The Departmental Board examined the tenders submitted, which were then placed before me in the usual manner, and I indorsed the recommendation that the lowest tender. should be accepted. That is the only way in which I think tenders can be dealt with. Fortunately or unfortunately for me, the’ tender accepted was made by Messrs. Pengelley, of Adelaide. I should like to add that Melbourne tenderers have been successful in getting many Commonwealth contracts for work to be done outside this State. . Victoria has had a remarkably good deal in these matters, and has little cause to grumble at “the treatment which she has received.
– By leave of the House, I wish to make the following statement: - On the 9 th July, the Government made to the Imperial authorities the following alternative proposals -
I am pleased to be able to announce that the Secretary of State for the Colonies has now advised us that the Army Council gratefully accepts the first alternative offer, and appreciates highly this further generous assistance on the part of the Government of the Commonwealth. -
– I ask the Minister for the Navy if any check is kept on men who are medically examined’ in the country, and are given railway passes to .enable them to travel to Melbourne to enlist f The rumour has reached me that a number of such men have used their passes merely to get a holiday on the cheap. Will the Minister have the matter inquired into, and if an .improper use has been made of railway passes, will he see that punishment is meted out to the offenders?
Mr. JENSEN. ^1 shall be pleased to inquire into the matter’.
– With reference to the projected . War Committee to consist of “an equal number of members ‘ of both parties in Parliament, I ask the Prime Minister if the House is to formally appoint this Committee after its members have been chosen ? It seems to me: that the Committee might very properly be set up on a formal motion moved in the House.
– What would be the use of. a formal’ motion appointing the Committee if its members had already been chosen?
– The Committee cannot be said to be a Committee of the House unless the. House appoints it.
– - Would that mean that the Committee must report to the House ?
– I am not so much concerned about that, but I think that the Committee should be formally constituted by Parliament.
– It is not intended that the Committee shall be a Committee of the House. It is to be a Committee consisting of an equal number of representatives from each political party, and, therefore, non-partisan, to deal with questions referred to it by the Executive. If it . were appointed by Parliament we should have two Executives. We, on this” side, have selected our representatives in the expectation that the Opposition would do the same. I thought it advisable, of course, to require an equal representation from each State, but now I am of opinion that it will be better to remove any limitation as to State representation, -leaving each party to make ah unhampered choice. Although the number, of Ministerial members largely exceeds the number of Opposition members, .we have agreed to the equal representation of parties on the Committee.
– What are we to. understand from the reply of the Prime Minister ? Is the House to appoint the Committee, or is it not? I do not see what status the Committee will have unless the House appoints it. An additional reason for the formal constitution of the Committee by the House is that the Committee is not to be a party one. I think that we might very well allow the House to set up the Committee on an absolutely non-party basis.
– There is no doubt of the intention of the Government that the Committee shall be non-partisan, but there cannot be two Executives. The Committee, to be of any use, must be an advisory body, consisting of an equal number of representatives from each party and chosen by the parties respectively. It will be announced to Parliament that the Committee has been formed, and the Committee will act without direction from’ Parliament, as the circumstances require. If the Committee were appointed by Parliament there would be two Executives, and the last stage would be worse than the first.
– I should like to know from the Prime Minister why the. original ‘intention, as announced in this House, to make the War Committee representative of the various States, has been departed from’ ?
– It can be departed from only because of a desire on the part of the political parties to elect their best men.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Committee now sitting in Melbourne, and representative of each State of the Commonwealth, will have to do with the organization of labour to carry on the ordinary industries of the country as well as the organization of labour in connexion with the manufacture of munitions of war? For instance, will the Committee see that proper provision is made for reaping the coming harvest, and so forth ?
– If the suggestion that I threw out earlier in the sitting is accepted by the Opposition there is nothing that the Committee may not be asked to do.
– I am not speaking of the Parliamentary Committee.
– As I say, there is nothing that they may not be asked to do-; and to prescribe .their labour by given directions would simply spoil their efforts.
– I mean the Committee that is now sitting in Melbourne, representing each of the States. ‘
– It’ would be better not to limit or restrict Committees in any way as to what they may do. They are advisory Committees.
– I only desire to-‘know .whether they will inquire into other industries as well as the industry of ammunition making.
– The honorable member’s question is now known to my colleagues. There is no limit to the assistance that may be asked for and rendered by these Committees.
Civilian Gifts- Delay in -Enlistment - Liverpool Camp - Notifications- of Death-
Mr.- SAMPSON. - I have received a letter from a constituent at Lake Boga, offering . a- certain number of stretchers for the -use of our soldiers in camp. -Is the Minister -prepared to receive those stretchers -if they are sent along ? Further, is the Minister prepared to . en. courage local Committees to give similar assistance in order to promote the comfort of our troops in training?
– Yes; the Department will be very pleased to encourage all such efforts.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for the Navy the fact that men, who have enlisted in Ballarat, have come down to Melbourne and have been here three days without being able to complete the business, being compelled, in the meantime, to walk the streets of Melbourne. Will the Minister make immediate inquiry into these cases?
– In view of the statement in this morning’s newspapers regarding the unhealthiness of the Liverpool Camp, has the Minister for the Navy seen fit to change his opinion expressed yesterday? Is the honorable gentleman quite satisfied that this is a healthy site?
– This camp, and everything in relation thereto, are to be inquired into; and I, therefore, have at present no comment to make.
– In reference to the matter I brought before the notice of the Minister for the Navy yesterday, I should like to know if he has made any further inquiries into the question of what the Department regards as the official and definite notification of death ?
– I think that question should be submitted to the AttorneyGeneral .
– It affects the Department over which the honorable member presides.
– I will obtain an answer for the right honorable gentleman, and endeavour to give it to him to-morrow.
– Is it a fact that there is a joinery branch in connexion with the Post Office, and, if so, is there any objection to that branch doing joinery work for other Departments ?
– It is true that joinery work is done in the mechanical branch of the Post Office, but there is neither room nor plant to permit of work being done for other Departments. That could not be done without some extension of the branch.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware of the regulation which limits the employment of casuals in the Postal Department to six months, and, if so, does he not consider, in view of the present condition of affairs, that it would be advisable to relax that regulation in the interests of those employees who have great calls made upon them at the present juncture? Is the Postmaster-General aware that in the town of Maryborough, Victoria, there has been discharged a casual employee at the expiration of six months who has a wife and eight children entirely dependent on him, while a young, able-bodied, single man has been employed in his place?
– Every possible consideration is given to those in casual employment so as to avoid hardship, but it is not proposed to make any change in the provision of the Public Service Act referred to. We have to consider those who have passed and become qualified for permanent service.
– I am speaking of casuals.
– If the honorable member will give me a specific case, I shall inquire into it.
Designs fob Buildings.
– What stage has been reached in the calling of designs for the Parliament House and other buildings at the Federal Capital, and when is there likely to be finality in the business?
– The position is very simple. Certain conditions were drawn up in regard to the designs for Parliament House, and a copy of these was sent to Mr. Griffin. I have not yet received from Mr. Griffin a report on the matter. I sent another copy of the conditions to the Institute of Architects, because I thought that such a body was entitled to express some opinion before a final decision was arrived at. The matter is now being considered by a Committee, and I expect in a short time to have their report.
– I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether the contributions to the proposed war loan of £20,000,000 will be free from income tax, so far as the Federal Parliament is concerned, and whether a provision to that effect will be embodied in the Loan Act? I need hardly say that such a provision would be in accordance with the practice of the States, and would veTy much improve the Act.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the matter.
– That is a question of policy. The Government do not intend to make these amounts taxable. I think there is hardly any doubt that the Com mon wealth has power to decide its own policy in this matter, except as regards trustees; we cannot create this a trustee stock, but the States will be asked to do so. I ask the right honorable member to wait for further information until the matter comes before the House.
– Does the appointment of a Minister for the Navy mean that there will be created a new Department, with the necessary staff and equipment ?
– I am unable to say; but the Minister for the Navy has asked for no extra staff up to the present, and everything seems to be going well ; we have only tolook at the honorable gentleman to see that.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral endeavoured to make any arrangement with the State Governments, so that the mails may be carried on the trains throughout the country districts, and thus give the settlers some reasonable service in the way of communication, while saving the Department a large expense in the way of hiring motor cars?
– That is a big question, which cannot be settled hurriedly. The contracts do not expire until next year, but notice has been given, and we are taking the preparatory steps to a new arrangement. In the meantime, we are seeing that settlers do not suffer in connexion with the mail service.
– May I ask the Prime Minister a question regarding the appointments to this Committee ? Do I understand that honorable members on this side of the House, in selecting their representatives, are restricted to the choice of two senators and four members of the House of Representatives, each representing a different State, or shall we be entitled to select any six members of the party ?
– Our first idea was that selections should be made on the basis of State representation, but seeing that this is a War Committee I think that for practical purposes it should be left to either party to select representatives as the party thinks best. That is the intimation I have made to the Leader of the Opposition.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether this Committee will be able to deal with any matters on its own initiative, or whether its services will only be required to consider matters submitted for report to the Government?
– There will be no limit to the subjects which the Committee can investigate. The Executive will be responsible for submitting questions to the Committee whenever it is thought its opinion will be of assistance, and I have no doubt the Committee will be fully employed.
– What I wish to know is whether the Committee will have power to initiate any subject, or whether they will have to wait until a question is submitted by the Government for report before they can deal with it?
– I have no doubt that the Committee will be able to initiate a great deal, becau.se they will be able to bring their ideas before the presiding Minister, who will in turn discuss them with the Executive; but matters upon which the advice of the Committee is sought must be referred to the Committee by the Executive. The Committee cannot be permitted to roam all the world over. They can only deal with matters that are directly concerned with the protection of the realm.
– With a view to saving expense, and, in many cases, of preventing disappointment, will the Minister for the Navy endeavour to see that recruiting depots are established in large country centres. I may point out that intense disappointment exists amongst a largo number of young men -who have already come to Melbourne. Changes have been made in the recruiting status, and these men hardly know what their position is, having been once rejected.
– I have already brought the matter under the notice of the Minister ,of Defence, and he is giving consideration to it. . Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON. - Will the Minister for the Navy state whether in any contemplated arrangement for providing facilities for recruiting in country districts, arrangements will also be made for the acceptance of the local medical officers’ certificates as to fitness?
– That matter shall also be brought under the notice of the Minister of Defence. I think it is a reasonable proposition.
– Will the Prime Minister instruct the heads of his Departments when they are dealing with correspondence, to see that business methods are carried out, and have the departmental telephone numbers printed on the correspondence?
– It is a very good suggestion. I shall be glad to do what the honorable member suggests.
– Will the Minister for the Navy state whether he has yet obtained a list of Australian prisoners interned in Turkey? I understand the names” will have to be obtained through the United States Ambassador. If the list has not been obtained, has the Minister any idea when he is likely to receive it?
– I will endeavour to answer the honorable member to-morrow.
– As gold for war purposes is greatly in demand at the present time, will the Prime Minister take into consideration the desirability of initiating some system whereby the Government may be able to assist the gold mining industry of Australia with a view to securing an increased output ?
– Naturally . the more gold that is produced in Australia the better it will, be for ourselves, and any- . thing the Government can do to facilitate production will be done; but I think the honorable member for Melbourne Ports knows very well that our position, as a Commonwealth, does not give us many opportunities to help in the direction he suggests, except in our own territories.
– Will the Government be prepared to take into consideration the advisability of subsidizing prospecting parties in what was German New Guinea - a territory that I believe is very rich in gold ?
– That is a matter of policy. We have already assisted gold mining in our own territory, and I think we should be entitled to do so in this other territory, though, pending the settlement of matters arising out of the war, I think, perhaps, we ought to leave the subject mentioned by the honorable member as far as possible in statu quo.
– The Minister for the Navy promised a few days ago that -he would obtain certain information with regard to the business concessions made at the Enoggera Camp. Is he yet in a position to give that information?
– The information may have arrived by now. If it has, I will give it to the honorable member tomorrow.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs hurry up the Government Printing Office in reference to the printing of the papers relating to the Federal Capital, and Mr. Griffin’s request for assistance ?
– I will intimate to the Government Printer that members are anxious to obtain these papers, but the Government Printing Office has a great amount of work on hand at the present time, and I take it that it cannot help itself.
– I should like to ask the Minister for the Navy whether the Defence Department cannot follow the example of the Old Country, and give preference in the matter of supplies for the troops to British firms to the exclusion of those of German origin, or that are owned by German shareholders?
– That is the policy of the Government.
-‘-They are not following that policy.
– A few days ago I asked the Minister for the Navy if he would make a definite statement to the House regarding the Red Cross funds now being collected for the benefit of Australian soldiers1. Is the Minister yet prepared to make that statement?
– Yes. I will answer the honorable gentleman’s query now. Red Cross funds are used’ mainly in three ways - (1) By establishing and workin’g hospitals and other institutions for invalided soldiers. There are several on the Continent entirely controlled by Red Cross Associations. A home for invalided Australian nurses is established near Alexandria by the Red Cross Association. (2) By supplying goods (clothes, extra foods; delicacies, and equipment)’ for use at hospitals. The difference between articlles supplied by military authorities and the RedCross Association is that military equipment and stores are on charge, and cannot be given away, but must be accounted for.On the other hand, Red Cross stores are given away in large quantities. Military equipment is supplied according to a regular scale. Red Cross Associations supply anything required.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1.Yes.
INCREASE OF INTEREST RATE.
asked the Prime Minister, uponnotice -
In view of the proposed loan at4½ per cent., and the action of the Victorian Savings Bank, as announced yesterday morning, with reference to tat increase of interest on Savings Bank deposits, will he suggest to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank the desirability , of increasing the present 3 per cent, interest rate?
– I do not think this is a convenient time to make any overture to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in regard to this matter.
Riflemen as Musketry Instructors.
– asked the Minister for the
Navy, upon notice - 1, Whetherlie intends to availhimself of the services of expert riflemen who arewilling to give their services free to assist in imparting musketry instruction to Victorian recruits ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The following papers were presented -
Defence- Act- Military Forces; - Regulation’s Amerid’edf (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915;. No. 109.
Public Service Act -
Regulation Amended - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 103.
Regulation Amended- (Provisional)” - Statu tory Rules 1915, No. 116.
Promotion of E: P. Ramsay, as Superintendent, 1st Class, Mail Branch,- Melbourne.
Alcoholic Drink and Lost Time, &c. - Return to an Order of the House of Commons, dated 29th April, 1915, for Copy of Report and Statistics of Bad Time kept in Shipbuilding, Munitions, and Transport Areas.
Censorship - Memorandum on, presented to the British Parliament.
Employment, Provision of, for Sailors and Soldiers disabled in the War - Report of the Committee appointed by the President of the Local Government Board of Great Britain.
Press Bureau, Official - Memorandum on (re Censorship), presented to the British Parliament.
Rescues, Navy - Return presented to the British Parliament, showing the number of Rescues that hare been effected from German War-ships by H.M. Vessels and from H,M. Vessels by German Warships respectively.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1913.
. I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Treasury Bills Act 1914.
– What are the objects of the amending Bill?
– This Bill, together with that which I have just obtained leave to introduce, is incidental to the new Loan Bill which we propose to bring down.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to withdraw Notice of Motion No. 3 standing in my name, asking for leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for compulsory voting at all referendums under the Referendum (Constitution) Alteration Act 1906-12, since it is proposed to introduce the measure in another place.
Motion (by Mr. Jensen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the War Pensions Act 1914.
Proposed Adjournment or Parliament - Parliamentary System and Party Government - Commonwealth Bank - Post Office Administration : Allowance Post-offices : Country Mails : Casual Employment : Preference to Unionists - Supply of Munitions by Foreign Companies - Military Pensions - Old-age and Invalid Pensions.
Question- That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- It is proposed to close this Parliament almost immediately. Statements to that effect are appearing in the daily press, and we know that they are being actively canvassed by honorable members in thelobbies of the House. To that proposal I wish to offer, a respectful but most emphatic protest.
The situation, both at Home and abroad, is critical, and it is imperative, and urgent that it should be met with all the intelligence and energy we can command. Our requirements demand -
The outbreak of war created the very. problems that now confront us. The.:months . that have elapsed serve but to emphasize them the more. These problems- were not: provided for in relation to our.! present-, dire necessities in the policy speeches of ‘ the recognised party leaders. Our! difficulties arose from special circumstances out of which by popular consent - instinctively - the ballot-box became articulate- with directions. It is with1 these . problems that this Parliament is expected to deal. A clear analytical conception of “ the national expectation of the Federal ‘ Parliament is essential, for the great facts which have, and do now, challenge us are only now coming to be falteringly recognised. The nature and seriousness of our national perils require that we should sweep away all hindrances to theirspeedy, effective, a.nd scientific treatment, and that our methods should be up to- date. In this regard I invite consideration of -
Our obsolete parliamentary ma chinery should be reformed to remove the obstacles which prevent the great ability of the people’s representatives being fully devoted to public service.
The war broke out on the 31st July, 1914. This Parliament was elected on the 15th September, 1914. This Parliament is a War Parliament - elected after the outbreak and during the currency of war. Have we fully appreciated the situation that existed at the time of our election, and still exists? What was in the minds of the electors when they expressed themselves at the ballotbox? What are the special duties and obligations of this Parliament? What was the imperious will and mandate- of the country? What was and is expected of us? Have we realized those expectations? Are we facing and discharging our most serious and sacred responsibilities courageously and wisely?
The conditions 31st July to 5th September, 1914. The outbreak of war, unexpected and sudden, was sensational. Something approaching financial, industrial, and commercial panic was in evidence. These subjects monopolized the space in the newspapers. The speeches of public men had to be attuned to meet, relieve, and allay popular anxiety. Surely there is no need to emphasize that point. There is no man in the Federal Parliament but knows that after the outbreak of war he was compelled to deal with the great issues that arose out of the war every time he addressed his constituents. The war - our means and resources to wage it - offensively without, defensively within - finance - unemployment - food supplies - in a word, the war, its consequences and effects, not party political shibboleths, were the issues upon which we were elected, and with which we were and are expected to deal. Let us analyze the situation.
Finance. During the month prior to our election, the stock exchanges of Australia, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Vienna, Amsterdam, Milan, St. Petersburg, Liverpool, Manchester, Montreal, and other world centres closed. The British Bank Act was suspended. A quasi moratorium was royally proclaimed in London. British Government stock depreciated £30,000,000 in a week, and European securities £100,000,000 in the same period. The British bank rate rose to 10 per cent., the highest figure it has reached since 1860. Indeed, there were financial disturbances in every land, including Australia, of immediate and farreaching consequences. Finance in all its aspects and the relationships of the Commonwealth thereto were matters of public discussion. “Unemployment. During August, 1914, the prices of many of our primary products suffered a serious slump. Tin fell ill per ton, and was £100 below the price for the corresponding period of the previous year. Copper declined £3 10s. per ton ; silver fell 1 1/4d. per oz. The Continent refused to buy wool. Bradford markets were cautious and weak. Sheepskins seriously receded in price. Wooltops dropped lid. per lb. The market for scoured wool closed. Employment in. all these industries was seriously curtailed. Large numbers of wharf labourers were thrown out of employment. Several great mines at Broken Hill were closed. The despatch of mine produce was suspended. The train service between Broken Hill and Adelaide was curtailed by half. Several large coal mines closed. Other mines closed were - North Farrell Silver Lead, Bischoff and Magnet silver mines, Arba tin mines, and there were serious diminution of operations at Mount Lyell copper mines, Tasmania; Cadia copper mines, Whim Creek Copper Mine, and Tingha tin mines, New South Wales; and Wallaroo and Moonta copper mines, South Australia. Brown’s and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s steel works at Newcastle closed. During that month of August last at least 100,000 men were thrown out of employment.
The prospect before the workers of Australia was gloomy indeed, and the opportunities of betterment in this connexion under the respective Federal political parties were thoroughly canvassed.
Food Supplies and the Necessaries of Life. During the month of August the prices of wheat, flour, . cheese, butter, meat, and other foodstuffs increased by leaps and bounds. The Premiers of New South Wales and Queensland announced that urgent action was necessary to prevent a rapid inflation of prices. In this respect the utmost concern was experienced by the householders of the Commonwealth. In pressing their claims to election, Federal members urged their desire to relieve the situation.
War Measures. During this month preceding the election the problem of meeting the defence necessities in Australia and abroad was exercising the mind of every thoughtful citizen. In his extremity he pondered on the constructiveness and purposefulness of Labour control of Commonwealth affairs in 1910-13, when naval and military schemes, with their accessories in munitions and equipment factories, were established, and when the Commonwealth Bank and the note-issue were inaugurated; and he reflected upon the oft-repeated statement that Labour had special qualifications for, and a special interest in, dealing with the questions of unemployment and food supplies. These considerations turned the party scales in the election. In the hour of peril, faced with dangers from within and without, unknown in their extent and effect, the electors returned this Parliament. Those are the outstanding; facts and circumstances as they existed. This Parliament- was elected specifically to deal with the war problems enumerated. Ministers have since been elected. But no member can shift or evade his responsibility. He must satisfy himself and face his constituents and his country -yes, and his children and his children’s children- with the consciousness that everything possible has been done to promote the national efficiency and security.
Coalition Government. Before offering respectfully certain constructive suggestions it is advisable to clear away probable misapprehension or confusion of thought. In what is about to foe submitted no such thing as coalition is involved. A coalition was practicable in
England, because there no vital or basic principle divided the two dominant parties. For the opposite reason a coalition Government is impossible in Australia. Here we have two distinct schools of political thought - legislative and administrative acts are based upon two opposing and warring principles.
– Who has asked for a coalition Government ?
– The daily press have been clamouring for it.
– Do you regard the two parties in Great Britain as warring against one another?
– No. They are not divided by any vital or basic principle. Here, on the other hand, the political parties are divided into two distinct parties, the collectivist group and the individualistic group. There are wide variations of principle or type within these two groups of political economists. On the collectivist side there are those who would go further than others in giving effect to collectivist ideals. On the individualistic side, while there are extremists who would go to the utmost extremity of individualism, there are those who hold much more modified views in that respect. Whether the collectivist group is called Labour or Socialistic, or the individualistic group is called Liberal or anti-Socialistic, or whether they are branded with other names from our multitudinous political nomenclature, the distinctive differences and basic principles between these two parties still remain; the fundamental mainspring of thought and action of each is diametrically opposed. There can be ‘ no assimilation of these two fundamental opposites, any more than there can be assimilation of such” fundamental opposites as Christianity and paganism, light and darkness, or oil and water. They are instinctively and fundamentally opposed. Consultation, conference, discussion, and the correction of - weaknesses and defects by publicspirited criticism and investigations of methods and means of either party by the other are invaluable. But a division of authority between these two opposites in a Government would do nothing but engender dissension. It is, however, both possible and desirable to maintain our party ‘systems and principlesintact, and at the same time arrange our- parliamentary machine, as distinguished from party political methods, so that every electorate may usefully submit its quota to the directing national intelligence. The plain fact is that, without readjustment, our up-to-date party systems and the ancient customs and practices of parliamentary procedure are mutually destructive.
The ancient fetish of Responsible Government. When the war broke out, Messrs. Fisher, Hughes, and Pearce journeyed to Melbourne, and placed their services, their ability, and their experience in a consultative capacity at the disposal of the Cook-Irvine Government. Their offer was met with indifference. That of Senator Pearce was ignored.
– What does the honorable member mean? Allow me to say that they came here at my invitation.
– Was Senator Pearce in consultation with the right honorable gentleman?
– I was consulted and was a party in regard to bringing Senator Pearce, the previous Minister of Defence, from Western Australia, so that his services and his experience might be available in a consultative capacity to the Cook-Irvine Government, but he was left to strut about the streets of Melbourne. For the past eleven months the position has been reversed, but the forms and ceremonies and dignities common to all governments have operated in such a way that the Leaders of the Opposition in turn have not been sought in consultation in the inner counsels of the nation. Responsible government, which means sole responsibility in the few and irresponsibility in the many, has developed into a fetish, both nauseating and harmful. It is undignified, and, indeed, almost improper, for Ministers in all Governments to accept, openly and above-board, suggestions for the public weal. To do so is regarded as tantamount to a confession of incapacity, whereas the highest form of capacity is the ability to extract and utilize the best from all sources in order to accomplish a great purpose. The rule referred to is time-honoured, though it has its exceptions. It is a custom crystallized into law. The present ancient machinery of Parliament, with all its ceremonies, precedents, practices, and prejudices, operating under the newer party system, serves to suppress individuality, to kill initiative, and to prevent the united intelligence of the representatives of the people from being fully devoted to the public service. Recently I said that there were some men in Parliament who had no ideas. I have, on reconsideration, corrected that judgment. There are some members in Parliament who offer no ideas, not because they have none, but because the parliamentary machine creates the minimum of responsibility-bearers, and the maximum of irresponsibility.
– Is that a reason why the honorable member does not offer ideas ?
– He is offering some now, and doing very well, I think.
– No suggestion for the betterment of the conditions of the great toiling masses can be offered in this Parliament without meeting with the sneers and jeers of the honorable member for Barrier. It is becoming a commonplace. In Parliament there are many things that one may not do, and very few that one may do. One may speak interminably; but move a specific resolution, seek to translate thought into action, and one finds oneself up against an insurmountable barrier which makes progress impossible. I have acted perfectly within my rights as a member oi this House. I have acted within the rules and practices of Parliament, and within the limitations of my party plat-‘ form, and yet it has been difficult ;in the utmost to submit my ideas to the House in the form of a resolution. The public outside do not realize these obstacles and disadvantages. On the 3rd June I offered constructive proposals for dealing with the foodstuffs difficulty. All the wit and ingenuity of Parliament was arrayed in opposition to this laudable effort. The Minister in charge of the House at the time said that it was impossible to do anything like what was proposed, yet within a fortnight the Government decided to carry out the proposal.
– Then the honorable member effected his purpose. It is the unhappy fate of all reformers to see the credit taken by some one else.
– No matter how serious may be the issue - though the question have no place in the party platforms - there is no convincing ground in
Parliament where intellects may grapple freely and frankly.
The British Conservatives, Sir Henry Dalziel in the Commons and Baron St. Davids in the Lords, were groaning only last week under the ineptitude of the nation’s representatives in the face of this mass of parliamentary practice and procedure. Lord Crewe, President of the Council, announced that every effort was being made to introduce business methods and scientific knowledge into the conduct of public affairs. We have long since discarded the political economy which finds favour in Great Britain, but we continue to slavishly follow the precedents, practices, customs, and ceremonies associated with the parliamentary machine of that country. An honorable member sets out to effect some reform, and is immediately confronted with text-books based on the practice of the British House of Commons, which confuse and confound him at every turn.
The fate of the Government should be open to challenge only upon party “principles and party measures. This would free the representatives of the people to act over a large extent of really neutral ground, and much good would result.
We propose to clothe the people with the initiative and referendum, the power to initiate and veto legislation upon all subjects. Surely we should grant to the representatives of the people in Parliament assembled the initiative and referendum over a more restricted area, namely, that outside of their respective party principles and platforms. Let the people of the country know that the initiative and referendum that we propose to confer upon them has not been conferred upon their representatives in Parliament.
Do not close Parliament. For the most part, the great national issues upon which we were elected, and which have been referred to remain undecided. Finance, unemployment, foodstuffs, and some phases of defence necessities still require attention according to some systematic, well-defined plan. This Parliament has done nothing to date in regard to the issues now under discussion except to pass a War Pensions Act, and pass several temporary Supply Bills. Certainly there have been some executive Acta. Under these conditions, not more holidays, but more work is required. Do not let it be said of us in regard to the vital matters referred to -
They promise, pause, prepare, postpone, And end by leaving things alone; In fact, they earn the people’s pay By doing nothing every day.
We require, not more dependence upon others, but more individual application and more unity of purpose in dealing with the situation. Arrangements could be made to relieve Ministers greatly whilst utilizing members in working out a solution of our difficulties. Let the whole Parliament - both Houses - be set to work as follows: -
Form Committees to deal with -
Existing Committees, and the new Committee about to be created, could be used under this scheme. All questions not involving party principles and measures should be decided by the untrammelled vote of Parliament as a deliberative assembly. In regard to party matters referred to, members are pledged to their constituents. Except for the necessary adjournment associated with constitutional referendums, Parliament should not close until it has done its best to grapple with the problems enumerated.
The present international situation. The position of the Allies is anything but reassuring. Although the war has been in progress for twelve months, the forces of Germany and Austria continue to make headway and to maintain their supremacy on the territory of our Allies. The supposed invincible Russian hordes have just been hurled back 100 miles, and the press informs us that this drive is continuing at the rate of 5 miles a day. Russian territory is in German hands, and Warsaw, the capital of Russian Poland, is threatened. Although immense forces are being hurled at the Russians by the Germans, the Allies have been able to make no headway against the Germans on the western front, where British, French, and Belgian forces are combined. Germany has consolidated h exposition in the West in such a way that its line is now one great, long fortification. No doubt the same purpose will be effected upon the eastern and other fronts. On the Gallipoli Peninsula no progress is being made commensurate with the awful casualties incurred by our own brave soldiers. Hide the truth as we may, and however much our sympathies may predispose us to minimize enemy successes and to take comfort from the victories of Allied Arms, the plain and incontrovertible fact remains that Germany and Austria are still in the ascendant upon the battlefields of Europe.
The financial position of the Allies has also shown symptoms of late which cause some anxiety, dependent as we are upon such countries as Japan and America for large supplies of war munitions. The war to date has cost the British Government £.1,000,000,000. At the commencement of the war America was debtor to Great Britain to the amount of £80,000,000; to-day Great Britain is debtor to America to the amount of nearly £300,000,000. The fact that the Morgan Banking Syndicate is raising in America a paltry £25,000,000 for Great Britain, and a paltry £10,000,000 for France, are two very grave features. The fact that Great Britain and France are both asking the working men and women of their country to lend to their respective Governments the few shillings that .they have hoarded up in their stockings is significant. We notice that in America another great banking syndicate almost equal in its financial power to the Morgan Syndicate - the banking corporation headed by Schiff - is buying up the raw material necessary for the making of munitions, and cornering it, with a view to raising the price to an almost impossible figure, if not of preventing its purchase altogether. This . is intended to embarrass the Allies both financially and in regard to supplies. It is eloquent testimony to the extensive influence of the Teuton race. The fact that the Commonwealth is about to raise a local loan which necessity alone could justify, as against appealing to the London market in the present circumstances, is significant.
But above and beyond all is the distress signal sent out by Lord Kitchener, ‘ the British Minister of War, in the Guild Hall, London, last Friday. Of that meeting the London Times, in its report, says that the Lord Mayor introduced Lord Kitchener to the meeting, “whose hands were shaking slightly, and who was breathing heavily with excitement. He put on his spectacles, and drew a thick sheaf of manuscript from an inside pocket.” … He said, “ that in regard to men, we are in an immeasurably better situation now than ten months ago, but the position is at least as serious as it was then. There was,” he continued, “in every man’s life a supreme hour towards which all his earlier experiences move, and from which all future results are reckoned. That solemn hour is striking now for every Briton.” Lord Curzon, Lord Privy Seal, speaking on the same evening, said, “ The struggle, I believe, is nearing the supreme crisis.”
– How does the honorable member make out that that is Lord Kitchener’s “distress signal”?
– No thinking man can read these terrible utterances with anunderstanding heart, in the light of the surrounding circumstances, without feelings of the gravest apprehension. The report in the Times goes on to say that Lord Kitchener’s speech was read from a typewritten document, showing great deliberation. Some of us have had the pleasure of meeting Lord Kitchener. His dispassionate temperament is a commonplace throughout the British Empire. He is a man of mature years - the warrior of a hundred battles-. That is not the type of man whose hands tremble with emotion, and whose breast heaves with excitement, for nothing. These circumstances, this typewritten document, and the emotion of Lord Kitchener - taken “in conjunction with the terrible statements lie made, are such as to power- . fully arrest our attention.
It must be remembered that, in the previous week, Lord Kitchener had visited the allied generals, and had held consultations with French Ministers, returning then to London to issue this statement to the Empire.
Mark you, it was not a statement delivered to a mere local meeting, but bad pointed reference and stated intention to be brought to the notice of Britons in every part of the Empire. Lord Kitchener says that the position in regard to men is better than it was ten months ago, but that the situation itself is at least as serious. This means that, in spite of the feverish energies and preparations of the Allies over the last ten months, Germany is, at least, in as strong a relative position as she was then. Lord Kitchener said, “ The supreme hour is striking now for every Briton.” Ominous words! Lord Curzon, another member of the British Cabinet, said that we are approaching “the supreme crisis.” What is a crisis in the case of a patient? It is that time when the doctor says to those anxiously awaiting relatives and friends, “ If the patient survives the next half-hour, or next hour, there is some chance for his life.”
British Cabinet Ministers do not issue these significant statements to be read throughout the length and breadth of the British Empire without knowing the consternation they will cause when they are read by those who have the capacity to analyze and fully realize their import. There are a great many people who read things, but do not appreciate their significance. They see without realizing. They hear without understanding. The hearing ear and the understanding heart are not common attributes. Lord Kitchener’s statement is the S.O.S. signal to the British Empire. It is the cry for help ! help ! ! help ! ! ! This country will not be in a proper position to help until it deals with questions such as those of finance, unemployment, and foodstuffs - questions which are causing anxiety in every man’s home. It is impossible for men with social perplexities and domestic difficulties to do the best for the Empire. Free them from such anxieties - at least, do the best we can to free them - and we shall unloose potential forces for the protection of our freedom and liberties both at Home and abroad. ,r
– The honorable member is not overlooking the State Parliaments and their powers in regard to unemployment?
– No, my friend; but we must not endeavour to see Bow much responsibility we can pass on to somebody else. We should consider how much responsibility we can take on our own shoulders. We need not tell the people of this country how much power the States have to do this, that, or ohe ether. What they want to know is how much power this Commonwealth Parliament has, and whether it is prepared to act to the extent of that power. Whether in connexion with our defence preparations, our finances, unemployment, or foodstuffs, no man can show any definite detailed programme to which we are working. Much good - great things have been done. The fact that the Federal authorities have sent nearly 100,000 soldiers to take part in the defence of the Empire is a truly magnificent performance. But because we have done well in one respect, is certainly no reason for our not doing those things we have the capacity and opportunity to do if we have the will.
There is the proposal to close Parliament. This is not the time to contemplate closing the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. There is no suggestion to close up the Imperial Parliament. The great outstanding questions that challenge the attention of the public men of the country are those of finance, unemployment, foodstuffs, and defence necessities at home and abroad, and until we can face the people of the country and honestly say, “ We have accepted our responsibilities; we have done the best we can do in regard to these matters,” then, and not till then, will it be time to promulgate the idea of closing up the National Parliament.
.- I do not propose to say more than a word or two in connexion with the interesting speech to which we have just listened. The honorable member seems to take as the_ keynote of his views the undoubted seriousness of the present position, and to argue, following from that axiom, that it is essential that Parliament shall stay in being, in order that the full intelligence of Australia shall be exemplified in all we do to bring the war to a successful conclusion. .1 am sorry that the honorable member did not go a little further in the elaboration of his argument, and tell us exactly how a Parliament sitting can help, for instance, a Minister who is endeavouring to devote himself to the intricacies and difficulties of a Department overwhelmed, especially at a time like this. The honorable member, I think, hardly realizes what a drag on mere administrative routine a Parliament is, and how essential to the well-oiled and well-conditioned working of a Department is prompt attention to that administrative routine. The mere answering of questions - the mere preparation of .an answer to an argument suddenly sprung on a Minister in Parliamentmeans that somebody has to cast down the work on which he is engaged, and deal with the other until the Minister’s difficulties are got over.
– That would not be the case under the scheme 1 suggested. The honorable member was not present at the time.
– I listened attentively to the honorable member’s speech from start to finish. While he elaborated his scheme of committees, for which I think there is a great deal to be said, he also forecasted that Parliament should stay constantly in being. Now, whilst Parliament is in being, Parliament is not mute. Ministers may be examined, and they may be called to the bar, and thereby forced to compel their officers to handle these passing questions - perhaps merely to satisfy the curiosity of some honorable member - instead of dealing with the pile of troubles awaiting in his Department.
– What about the Imperial Parliament? There is no suggestion to close that?
– The Imperial Parliament, as my honorable friend knows, has been closed from time to time. There have been continual adjournments over a week or a fortnight.
– Would that be. done here?
– I understand that that is what we are going to do. “
– I think not.
-The honorable member may be in a position to know better than I do myself; but I understand that Parliament is not going to be adjourned to any particular date. I take it that Parliament is merely going to rise in order to enable Ministers to devote themselves, -apart from any trouble of a purely political nature, to their Ministerial responsibilities. .
– Who will call Parliament together?
– A Parliament adjourned can be called together by the same authority that adjourns it.
– That is not so. Parliament adjourns itself, and, once adjourned, it cannot call itself together.
– I have -known Parliament to adjourn until such time that Mr. Speaker notified that it should meet.
– ‘That was done on the last occasion.
– I see nd difficulty at all. But while I strongly, hold that the existence of Parliament, under its . ordinary pi’e-war conditions, does not help Ministers, I do think Ministers might get a great deal of help they do not now get from parliamentarians.
– Do not the UnderSecretaries in England do a great deal that Ministers are asked to do here’?
– In this country the administration is too much centred in a Minister’s hands; and I think the work could be divided in every Department with immense benefit to the State. It would result, I think, in an increase in the rapidity of public business, and, generally speaking, as soon as public servants were trained to take the responsibility, give rise to considerable improvement in the Departments themselves. But we are not acting under these conditions. Every Minister keeps in his own hands as much of the minutiae of the departmental administration as he possibly can; and the result is that’ his responsible officers become very loath to share it.
– A Minister is responsible for his Department.
– Quite so; but every . man who has occupied a Ministerial position will realize the truth of what I say. It is rather unfortunate that in Australia we should have erred in this direction.
– It was the principle the Commonwealth started on.
– Exactly ; and I think it was a great mistake. However, we are not here to argue that point. The inevitable result is that, while Parliament is in being and Ministers are compelled to attend, they cannot keep their departmental business evenly flowing and the activities and agencies in a constant state of useful motion. We have congestion, with papers piled high ; and then people begin to tear their hair, and complaints are made about delays in the handling of business. It means not only delay in any particular business, but a general, all-round slackening down of enthusiasm amongst th« officers; and this is very vital. While I hold that Parliament might well remain in readiness, although adjourned, for any emergency, I think that the Administration has not made, and does not now propose to make, sufficient use of the material which members of Parliament themselves offer for various work in connexion with any Department. Take, for instance, the work of the Defence Department itself. There are numerous matters upon which Ministers might come to members of Parliament, knowing their disinterestedness, and knowing that they are ready to do any work that is placed in their hands, and ask them, as one friend to another, to investigate. I might mention the unrest regarding the non-delivery of letters in Egypt, which has been responsible, not for so much waste of time - that is, perhaps, hardly the correct phrase - but which has caused such a great consumption of the time, both of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and of the Department of Defence. What could be easier for a Minister than to say to any member of this House, “ Go to Egypt for me; just have a look into this matter, and tell me what you think of it. Tell me what you think is wrong”? For a request of that kind formal seal is not wanted. Personal communication as between Minister and member should be sufficient to enable work of this character to be undertaken at any time.
– Do you not think the English Post Office is a bit disorganized?
– I am afraid both English and Australian offices are disorganized.
– I have heard complaints that letters cannot be obtained from here, irrespective of the war.
– That may be so, though I have had no dislocation in my own correspondence.
– I have in mine.
– It may be so; but, in regard to this non-delivery of letters to our troops, there is a solid complaint; and the fact that there is complaint means that dissatisfaction and irritation - which may have a serious influence upon the enthu siasm and confidence that is essential if we are to carry this great crisis through - exist.
– Is your theory that the fault is not so much British as our own ?
– There is a good deal of fault on both sides, but have we been making an effort to overcome it?
– Letters are delivered every day to the British soldiers in the trenches.
– I dare say there is such a delivery in cases where the trenches have been stationary; but the point I am trying to emphasize is that the Government are not trying to make an earnest effort to utilize the material at hand in honorable members themselves. The appointment of a Committee of, say, a dozen men will not get over the innumerable difficulties that exist. Formal appointments are not required for what I have in mind. What is needed is an atmosphere - a feeling that we are all partners in one great concern, interested only in the defence of Australia, and that all are equally ready to do our share in whatever task we may be called upon to perform without any expectation of remuneration or profit - that we are prepared to do something for the country that sent us here, that in place of serving our parties we are ready to do anything that the State may require of us. I believe every honorable member of the House will be prepared to do anything that the Minister may place in his hands. We have brains in this House; we have enthusiasm; we have patriotism. We do not require red-tape. We do not need formality.
– And we do not want pay.
– Of course we do not want pay. We simply want the cooperation of all concerned, and I hope the Minister of Defence will realize what a field he has in this House for this sort of co-operation.
.- I did not expect to hear the honorable member for Cook to such advantage this afternoon. His speech was so eloquent, and contained such an amount of deep thought, that I do not think it should be allowed to pass without one or two observations from those who heard it. The honorable member’s’ trouble, it seems to me, arises from the fact that we have changed our political methods. There was a time in the early history of Australia when the party was created by the leader - when Sir Henry Parkes, for example, found himself formulating what, in his opinion, was a policy for New South “Wales, and called for politicians to follow him. Political questions in those days were not submitted to the electors as part of a programme. Rather were the electors invited to say whether they were prepared to support Sir Henry Parkes or Sir John Robertson, or Sir George Dibbs.
– He came a long way afterwards.
– He came a long time after the others, of course; but the same system prevailed in the time of Sir George Dibbs. In the Old Country it was the same. Gladstone was such a leader; so were Disraeli and Pitt, and others who might be named. They were men of outstanding eloquence and ability, and political support was extended to them chiefly on personal grounds. I believe members followed Mr. Gladstone’s lead in the House of Commons when they did not know anything about the question that was before the House. When I have looked at one’’ of the old Acts of the British Parliament I have been interested to observe the very long preamble - a preamble that was in the nature of a brief speech - explaining what the measure was intended to do, and I am inclined to think that that system arose so that members of the House of Commons might be the more speedily informed as to what the particular Bill was about. Members in those days followed their leader. It is now evident that such a system of government had to find its limit. There arose in Australia, just as there arose in other parts of the world, a public opinion which objected to it. Out of that public opinion arose the Australian Labour party. This party and its supporters are not prepared to follow any one man. It is not the leader, - it is the light, as an honorable member suggests, that the members of the Labour party follow, no matter who the leader may be. There are political associations by the thousand throughout Australia, and these associations furnish the ideas that eventually find a place on the platform of the Labour party - after the Inter-State Conference, so far as the Federal party is concerned, and after the State Conference so far as the State parties are concerned. To a certain extent, the same observations apply to the Liberal party. They have their political associations. I suppose there are a score of political parties, all bearing different names, in Australia, all of - which are, generally speaking, massed under the Liberal banner. That party is not so highly organized as the Labour party. It has not the same ideals. Our ideal is to take a man in the manner described by Booker Washington. If he is down we try to raise him to something like what his Creator intended him to be. I am afraid that amongst the political associations to which our friends on the opposite side are attached there are people who fight the Labour ‘party believing that if a man is down he was so created by his Maker, in order to do the labouring work for the people who are at the top of the tree.
– Is this a “ stone-wall “ ?
– That interjection is quite irrelevant. The honorable member for Cook finds himself in this position. He is a man of very strong individuality. I know no more persevering man, I know no man more methodical, and I know no man who more resents what he would describe as the tyranny of rulers than the honorable member for Cook.
An HONORABLE Member. - What about the tyranny of the majority?
– The honorable member objects to the tyranny of the majority.
– No, I do not object to the tyranny of the majority, but I object to being deprived of my rights by the majority.
– I think the honorable member must realize that he is objecting to the rule of the majority. He is now up against the party system.
– No; it is the parliamentary system, as opposed to the party system, that I object’ to.
– The parliamentary system under which we are now working is the result of the party system. Under our system a majority of the party elects a Government to carry out the programme of the party, and the members of the party have to support that Government. The other day, when the honorable member submitted a motion that he thought ought to be carried - I think it was a motion referring to stocktaking and sugar - his proposal was tantamount to a suggestion that the business should be taken out of the hands of the Government. The Leader of the Government could not permit a private member to do that. The honorable member discovered that the debate upon his motion was adjourned, and from that day to this he has not been able to discuss the question.
– But the Government acted upon my idea, which shows that honorable members ought to have, an opportunity of putting their views forward.
– The honorable member was silenced, so to speak, by the parliamentary machine; but that which wa3 good in his proposal was taken up by the Government, and, as he says, is in operation to-day.
– My complaint has nothing to do with the party system. What I object to is the parliamentary machine as against the party system.
– Does not the honorable member realize that the party system is responsible, for the parliamentary system, whatever it may be? If, for instance, the party objected to the order of business in this House, an alteration would quickly be made.
– We had this machinery in operation before our party came into power. It came to us from the House of Commons. That shows that it has nothing to do with our party system.
– The honorable member has made a suggestion by way of motion in this House, and the Government have taken it up. On an occasion such as this, there is always an opportunity for honorable members to air their grievances, and to make what suggestions they please ; but I admit that the honorable member for Cook is right in saying that he will be deprived of any opportunity to put forward a suggestion if the House is adjourned over -a considerable period. .In that respect, the honorable member has raised a question worthy of consideration - the question of the wisdom or otherwise of closing this Parliament for a month or more. I personally feel that we must have considerable sympathy with the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the
Cabinet, who are engaged at present in conducting the government of the country, and in endeavouring to meet important situations as they arise. As has been admitted by the honorable member for Wentworth, the Government at times find themselves very much embarrassed by questions that are raised in Parliament. During the last three months, the Leader of the Opposition, and others of his party, have reiterated the desire of the Opposition- to help the Government in every possible way; but they have spent most of their time in raising questions that embarrass the Ministry.
– What, for instance 1
– On one day alone, over forty questions appeared on the noticepaper.
– The majority of the questions asked come from the honorable member’s side of the House.
– On the day to which I refer, there were forty-eight questions on notice, and of these forty came from the Opposition. These questions mostly concerned the Department of Defence. They sought to elicit information, amongst other things, as to the capacity of certain State works to manufacture munitions. They suggested incapacity, and sought to bring out information which would be of service to the enemy if there were in Australia people who could send information abroad by way of cypher or other messages. That is the class of help which the Opposition have been extending to the Government. It has, no doubt, occurred to honorable members that it would be well to close the mouths of the Opposition for a few weeks, so that Ministers might be able to push along with their ordinary administrative work. The honorable member for Cook has mentioned several important matters, such as the questions’ of finance, defence, the supply of foodstuffs, and provision for the unemployed. When the honorable member referred to these, I interjected in no unfriendly, way, although at the time he appeared to think the interjection was unfriendly, that he appeared to be overlooking the existence of the State Labour Governments. We have in Australia five State Labour Governments. The State Labour parties . now comprise some hundreds of men,, many of whom are known to me personally, and I believe them to be quite as capable as any honorable member of this Parliament. They have brains, honesty, and sincerity of purpose. Their whole lives prove that is so, and the State Labour Governments can operate all the powers which are not included in the Commonwealth Constitution. Those powers cover unemployment, and such matters as the supply of foodstuffs. We cannot deal as efficiently as the States can do with certain foodstuffs.
– We are going to deal with the sugar crop, and there is now a suggestion that we should handle and finance the’ whole wheat crop.
– No doubt the State Governments can do a great deal. The honorable member will admit that we could do nothing in regard to the sugar crop without the assistance of the State Governments. They have joined with us in the effort to secure to the consumers of Australia a supply of sugar at a reasonable price. And so, with regard to a number of points raised this afternoon by the honorable member, I would remind him that the five State Labour Governments are able to help. They may not be able to do as much as the National Parliament could have done, if our referendum proposals had been carried, but they can do a great deal. So far as finance and defence matters are concerned, what could be done that we are not doing? The Prime Minister has come forward with a proposal to float a loan of £20,000,000.
– But have we any definite financial scheme?
– I apprehend that the Government will shortly bring before the Parliament, not only their proposal to raise a loan of £20,000,000, but a proposition that the people who are able to pay shall furnish some -ready cash to meet the war expenditure. We shall undoubtedly be faced with a very heavy public debt. What it will amount to no one can say at the present time -; but it is obvious that we cannot meet the war expenditure out of our present revenue, and to provide for it we ought to take a portion of the incomes over and above a certain amount enjoyed by the people. That will be done before Parliament closes.
– What authority has the honorable member for that statemerit ?
– I shall vote against any adjournment of the Parliament until that has been done.
– Is there’ not a difference between dealing with a definite scheme and dealing with things spasmodically ?
– My honorable friend’s main objection is that, under our present system of dealing with business, it is impossible for a private member to be heard in this House. That, unfortunately, is true.
– I should like to see the honorable member when he cannot make himself heard in any House.
– I can only say that I should like to see the time when ‘we shall not be able to hear the right honorable member for Parramatta in this House.
– I desire to offer the honorable member for Cook my congratulations upon the splendid speech that he made this afternoon, and with which I fully agree. I have often wondered why it should be necessary to have seventy-five members in this House and thirty-six members of another place, since ten men in Cabinet settle everything for us. The Government come down with their proposals, and if they are opposed on the slightest detail - on matters outside of party principles - it is said that want of confidence is expressed in them. Finally, after a great deal of talk, we acquiesce in their proposals, and they become the law of the land.
– The honorable member did not say that when he wasin the Cabinet.
– What did I” say? The honorable member was then one of the muzzled dummies. He had always to come down and do what he wastold.
– That does not apply to me.
– No mancan be a member of :a . Cabinet without standing by the ruling of that Cabinet.
– That is true.
– Then the honorable member is a muzzled dummy when he comes from the Cabinet toCaucus. I wish to show -that the thinkers -and ‘they are generally young men - never get to :the front under our present: parliamentary system, owing to the fact that we have an antiquated, fossilized system of government that one would think was founded centuries before the Flood. An effort is being made to-day to conduct the business of the country on this antiquated basis. It cannot be done.
Take, for instance, the position of the country which we are fighting. It is an organized machine, and an unorganized machine is trying to fight it. In 1910, when I held office as Minister of Home Affairs, I desired that a census should be taken of the wealth, the gold, and the industrial resources of Australia. But could I secure it? Is it not a fact that the little I did succeed in getting was objected to in the Senate by Senator St. Ledger as an attempt to get into the pockets and the homes of the people ? He described it as a mere Yankee idea, and asked why it should be persisted in.
It is useless to fight this great battle with slipshod .methods. What is wanted is initiative. We hear a great deal of talk about the initiative and referendum, but the average man in the street has no more idea of what it means than has a child. Initiative means imagination in action, but show me where any imagination is displayed here.
Some people cannot see two hours ahead of them. What provision has been made in Australia for the future ? In Melbourne, for instance, we find the General Post Office built on a small piece of ground, purchased by or reserved to the Crown many years ago, without any regard for future necessities; so that when we wish to extend our national and public activities in this connexion we shall have to pay an enormous price for the land required for any additional buildings. That is an example of genius - of genius on the part of the fellow who has property to sell. N/o one thought of providing for the future in this regard.
Then, again, when I desired the Government of which I was a member to acquire for necessary public purposes a block of ground in Sydney, which could have been purchased at the time for about £800,000, out for which we should now have to pay over £2,000,000, the Attorney-General said, “ If ever an Arabian Nights should be written in Australia, King O’Malley will write it.” And this was said simply because I wanted to look ahead in the interests of Australia.
Again, when I acquired a site for postoffice purposes in Perth - a site from which we are now drawing a revenue of £10,000 or £12,000 a year- the Opposition said that we had not the power to acquire it. If we do not look ahead we shall never do anything. I believe in doing things, and fighting out later any question relating to them.
Let us perfect our organization. Our present methods are slipshod and indifferent. The greatest animals of. ancient times have all passed away. Why? Because, whilst they developed their bulk, they did not develop their teeth, and the rats came along and gnawed their legs .off. That is the position the Empire is in. All those animals have passed away, but, in the British Empire, we are still living in the age of the theosaurus and the mastodon.
Thirteen or fourteen years ago I moved in this House for the establishment of a national bank, and I leave it to leading bankers to say whether, if that bank had been established on the lines I drafted, with the States as partners, with a board of directors on which all the Governments interested should have equal voting powers, and the Governor should exercise a casting vote, there would be any necessity to float a loan in Australia to-day? The bank would have been such a powerful institution that the Commonwealth’s monetary requirements could have been financed through it. But we had the Australian idea, the little idea, and the result is a Commonwealth Bank, which is an appendage to the Private Banking Association, a sort of dog’s tail.
For fourteen years I never lost an opportunity of discussing the National Bank in this House; but what sort of a bank is that which we ha,ve to-day? I shall die without living to see it become a National Bank. Is it possible to do anything for the future in this Commonwealth ? Thirteen years ago I told the people that if we must fight Germany, the time to fight was then. That argument was laughed at.
When I proposed that there should be a Commonwealth building in London there was much ridicule hurled at the suggestion by honorable members opposite, and “ Billy “ Wilks desired to know it I proposed to put Sir George Reid on top of the building as a weathercock.
– You ought to put Cook at the bottom.
– I have great admiration for “ Brother Cook.” Tor fourteen years I have seen him standing up in this House fighting for what he considers right.
Let me quote another instance of foresight. I went to Lithgow and arranged to purchase a big piece of land, on which the Commonwealth would build houses for the working men associated with the Small Arms Factory. I could look ahead, and I secured that land at a low price, because I am a business man, and the owner knew that he had to sell at a low price, or not at all. At my instance plans were prepared for nice little homes for the workmen, and I desire honorable members to realize that we shall never build up great industries in Australia unless good homes are provided for the workmen. But what happened to this scheme? Unfortunately, I inserted in the purchase contract the words “ subject to Cabinet’s approval,” and Cabinet gave the deal the royal order of the boot. Often a Minister is prepared to do things, but lie has to satisfy a majority of ten.
The time is coming when we shall require a benevolent despotism in Australia, and when the Commonwealth shall he put under control of a Commissioner. Our trouble in Australia is that we are not organized. Yesterday the Prime Minister had to call a conference of all the bankers to discuss with him his projected loan. I do not object to that course, but if the Commonwealth Bank occupied the big position it ought to occupy, and had been organized on a solid Australian basis with the States as partners, and with balances totalling £5,000,008 or £6,000,000 passing over the counter every week, the Bank could lend Australia £50,000,000 or £60,000,000. To-day its capacity is limited, and we have reached a time when we must stop and think seriously. The British Empire cannot lend us any more money. Lately the Argentine Republic sent to the London and New York markets §50,000,000 worth of bonds, but, with the exception of £300,000 or £400,000, London’s half of that stock had to be taken up by the underwriters. The Argentine Republic was then notified that no more money could ,go out of Great Britain until the
Empire had financed itself. At the outbreak of the war American people travelling in Europe had cashed their letters of credit, bills of exchange, and other instruments’ of financial transfer, but those bills had not been returned, and America had not paid them. The American bankers consulted together, and sent £40,000,000 to Canada, and the American debt was liquidated. The editor of the London Statist, one of the great financial journals of the world, was sent by Mr. Lloyd George to Canada and the United States of America to arrange a system of exchange with which to carry on the great commerce of those nations. Not only has that American debt been liquidated, not only lias millions of pounds’ worth of securities passed back to the United States of America and been paid off, but to-day the balance of trade between America and Great Britain is against the latter to the extent of over §1,000,000,000, and J. P. Morgan, the head of the great banking firm in Wall-street, has been financing the Allies.
Gold is an international medium of exchange, and people in foreign countries may refuse to accept any other medium of liquidation. We must not forget that fact. A Yankee who passed through Australia recently told me that the moment he landed in Germany he was compelled to hand over what gold he had. The authorities in Germany have made it a- penal offence for an individual to carry gold; they have gathered- the whole of the gold into the Reichsbank, and have created a gold reserve of £100,000,000. The whole of “the gold in the Bank of England at the outbreak of the war was £92,000,000. There may be another £90,000,000 worth of gold in the United Kingdom, making a total of £182,000,000. If the whole of that gold were sent to the United States of America it would not liquidate Britain’s debt to the American people. That instances the need for banking credits.
If Australia were properly organized financially, and had a great national banking system, such as I have endeavoured for twenty years to establish, and every man in the Commonwealth had an account in that bank, we could carry on the whole commerce of Australia. The greatest currency the world knows is the cheque. To my mind the note-issue is a tin-pot currency. The note-issue is the capital of the National Bank, and until it is transferred to the Commonwealth Bank, the Bank will never cut any financial ice.
– I suppose you know that a number of your colleagues have said in the country that the Commonwealth Bank has pulled us through the crisis.
– I remember when I first became a member of the Labour party in this House, and had been talking in the party room about banking, the then Leader, Mr. Watson, said, “ Remember, we are workers, and not bankers; if we were bankers, we would not be workers.”
– The Commonwealth Bank has assisted.
Mi-. KING O’MALLEY.- I will admit that the Commonwealth Bank has kept down the interest rate, but my idea of a National Bank is one that carries its operations into the back-blocks, and helps to put the little man on the land, and to keep him there. Of what use is it to bring immigrants to Australia if thirty or forty of them have to wait for one of my houses ? Will any one say that a private business could be carried on with the red-tape, overlapping, duplication, confusion, and conflict of . functions which are characteristic of Government management when incompetent Ministers are in charge ? I have the greatest respect for the officials, but they are men who went straight from their cradles into the service. They started their working life in a Government Department, and they have become official machines. How could they develop initiative ? We ought to consider a reconstruction of the Departments from the top downwards. I would have the courage to go outside and put a business man of the capacity of Mr. Knox, the manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, in charge of the Post Office. I would pay him £5,000 a year. I am. not afraid to pay salaries. Napoleon said, “Man is everything ;- men are nothing,” and the Kaiser evidently thinks the same, if we are to judge by the way he is having them killed. In regard to party, no doubt, when a man is appointed a Minister, he becomes inflated in his ideas, but why cannot private members make suggestions? Why should we pay honorable members JE600 a year and bring them here day after day, and yet give them nothing to do ? Why should we not divide this House into Committees on different matters as suggested by the honorable member for Cook, and give honorable members some power, and something to do, and then, if some one brings in a Bill containing good ideas, it could be handed over to the Committee of Finance, or to the Committee of Unemployment, or to the Committee, of Foodstuffs, or the Committee of something else.
– We have a majority here. . Mr. KING O’MALLEY. - True. If
Ave had not we would be more ticklish.
– I mean that these Committees would not endanger party principles.
– Certainly not. What we require is business progress. We. ought to be able to get ideas. When I was in control of the Department of Home Affairs we had a suggestion box, and offered a reward for new ideas as to systematizing or carrying on that great Department in the most expeditious and efficient method, but we got no ideas from that source. The honorable member for Moreton asked me how this came about, and I soon ascertained what the trouble was. If an under fellow makes a - suggestion, the big fellow regards it as an insult, and is in fear of being made an excess officer, or of not getting an increment or promotion. We must do away with all that.
In the saw-mills of America, if two or three men show genius, the manager gives them a separate room, and ‘ puts others to help them. In the same way, Edison, at his great works, where he has 12,000 or 14,000 people employed, picks out any who show genius, and puts others to help them, and if they succeed they are eventually made partners. Mr. Ford, the great manufacturer of motor cars, .pursues the same system; but there are no such opportunities in a Government department. Any under fellow making a suggestion to a Government is spotted. We watch the machine, and we see it wasting every day. It is reported that one of our best hospitals went to Turkey without any Australian supplies. It may not be true, like many other rumours, but still -that is1 the report: …. .The” Minister of Defence has been overworked. Had there been a Committee of the House connected with the Department dealing with this matter, such a thing could not have happened. Why should we have to depend on buying surgical instruments in other countries?
We cannot go much further with our note issue; and we cannot borrow any more money in Great Britain at present - that is a certainty - yet the great States of the Commonwealth, ,with their mighty activities, which are giving employment to thousands of people, must be carried on, and the Commonwealth must go on with this great war. What are we to do? I have no hesitation in saying that the Prime Minister should call together the Premiers and Treasurers, and the ablest men of the States, and reconstruct the Commonwealth Bank. He -should not mind whether, in regard to the establishment of this Bank, he has made a mistake. No man is infallible. I am not infallible. Had I stayed in America with the “ boodleiers,” I would probably have been a multi-millionaire. The Prime Minister should get all these people around a table, and they should endeavour to come to some understanding whereby the Commonwealth Bank may be developed and expanded to do the great work of the Australian people.
– I got them around a table, and they agreed to a scheme; but the honorable member’s party flung it away.
– I admit that the right honorable gentleman got “her” going a bit, but “she” did not run too smoothly. At this Conference, I would be willing to invite the attendance of the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Balaclava, for whose ability as a financier I have always had great admiration, because as Minister of Home Affairs I had a lot of business to settle with the honorable member when he was Premier of Victoria, and it was always settled in a few minutes, without waiting for red-tape.
As for myself, I had nearly seven years in a bank. I went from ledger-clerk to the head of the credit department in a bank in a big city, yet I was never invited to ‘any conference of bankers while I was Minister. I suppose that I would not understand conditions in ! Australia. I am not supposed to know them. I came from the wrong country to know about anything except what I learnt in that country. The manager of the Mount Lyell Company, which has a bigger revenue than the Tasmanian Government,came from the Boulder Mine in Montana, showing that it is not always necessary for a man to be in a local concern to understand local affairs.
I have no hesitation in saying that every man’s brain should be used on this wonderful occasion; the services of every man who has any organizing ability should be utilized. We should not raise the question of what our rights may be. The all-important question is what our duty is. The men who advance in the world are not those who study their rights, but those who do their duty.
We have come to the end of our tether. The floating of one loan of £20,000,000 will be of no use. We shall have to float another loan, and perhaps another. .Would it not be better to see whether we cannot organize Australia so that one cheque will go all over the continent? I have no doubt that bankers would be willing to enter upon the scheme, and then we could make the Commonwealth Bank a great bank of reserve, such as is the Bank of England, and ask the other banks to deposit their gold in it. What caused the great financial crisis in Victoria in 1893? Every bank has to keep a certain reserve, and must go into the -market to buy gold. The banks scramble against each other for gold. “No bank can maintain its reserves without taking from some other bank’s reserve. If we have one bank of reserve, like the Bank of England, all the private banks will keep their gold in that Government bank, which Will then be in a position to enable small farmers and producers in the back-blocks to increase their production at a low rate of interest - not on gold, but on credit. If production is increased, then exportation increases, and so we shall have a large bank balance returning from abroad to Australia for Australia’s’ benefit.
Yesterday I saw a Government prohibition against the exportation of gold. How can we stop gold leaving Australia if we are purchasing materials that other countries have to supply, while, at the same time, we are not exporting produce, the sale of which will enable us to purchase bills of exchange and liquidate our obligations? The only means we have of liquidating our obligations is gold, the international medium of exchange, and the Government may issue a million prohibitions against gold leaving Australia, yet the gold must leave the country if we want to get the things the Australian people require from overseas.
My idea is that the States should join with the Commonwealth in setting aside 1,000,000, or 2,000,000, acres of ground, which can be cultivated by the people who are out of employment, and as fast as these people became competent and trained in scientific, chemical farming applied to the raising of big crops, as is done in Germany and France, they could be given the land and settled upon it. This should be done year after year.
There should not be any continuance of the waste of the, people’s money in ordinary make-shift works started with the idea of giving temporary employment. Temporary employment on make-shift works is a wasting of the wealth of the people of Australia; it is not creating reproductive works. What I suggest will put grain into our elevators, and find employment every year for thousands of young men who are now idle; and the sooner we carry out the idea the better. We should also have a great scheme of irrigation and water conservation.
We should dam the rivers and conserve the water, in order to fertilize the lands of the Commonwealth.
– That is for the State Parliaments to do.
– We could do it in co-operation with the States, and not in little sections. America, that great individualistic country, is doing it with the assistance of the States.
– And doing it well.
– Yes. Instead of wanting to get rid of the one Yankee we have, we ought to try to get a dozen to come here.
– Elwood Mead came from the United States of America.
– And that country bought him back at a big salary.
According to the statistics compiled by Mr. Knibbs there are 33,000 men out of employment in Australia.
– More than that.
– Those are the figures that I read a couple of weeks ago. What is the cause of unemployment? It is that our system of finance has never been adjusted to make the unemployed fit in.
– It is not so adjusted inany country.
– There is no unemployment in Germany. The whole matter is one of finance. Many persons have said to me, “ There should be no unemployed in Australia now, because 100,000 men have been withdrawn from their usual occupations.” My reply has been that that does not better the situation.
– We could employ a great many more than we do if we paid only the low rates of wages which are paid in Germany. ,
– Germany has an instrument for dealing with unemployment, and we have not.
– There are unemployed in Germany. ‘
– Men remain unemployed there only for a day. If a man remains unemployed for three days a constable wants to know why he is unemployed. I do not say that I should like to see that system introduced here. In Germany, if a man is a loafer, he is sent to a place where, for about six months, he is made to work, his earnings being given to his wife.
The withdrawal of young men from reproductive works injures the community, because it reduces production to a much greater degree than it diminishes consumption, and, consequently, supplies decrease and prices go up. With 100,000 men withdrawn from reproductive work for military service, and 33,000 unemployed, things naturally increase in price.
What is the Government doing to reduce the cost of living? As the honorable member for Cook put it, we cannot do anything without organization, without proper scientific efficiency, and without the mobilization of the instruments of credit and exchange. Have we in Australia mobilized our instruments of credit and exchange? We have not.
Parliament can talk, but that will never change anything. Why? Because it is not the leading business men nor the thinking men who are given a chance to “ run the show “ ; it is the expediency men, those who never tread on any one’s corns, and never say an unkind word, the praying men, who are chosen. How are we going to get efficiency? It seems to me almost impossible.
Why should a Minister of State have to ring a bell to summon the Secretary of his Department to tell him what is being done ? Knowledge is power, and power is freedom, and that man in the Department who has knowledge is the boss of the Department. When Napoleon was organizing for his great campaign in Russia he called Talleyrand to him, and said, “ I do not want you to tell me things ; I want to know things for myself.” The digest system and the costing system of the Home Affairs Department will tell what is being done in that Department, if they are kept up. How can you tell the difference between day labour and contract unless you have columns comparing prices of materials, labour, and management, and can strike a balance? Unless you organize your finance you must continue in a slip-shod fashion. Australia will have the highest taxation in the world if she does not systematize- her business and finance, and does not utilize the collective power of the nation for the benefit of the individual.
I congratulate the honorable member for Cook, who is a methodical, careful, studious man. He, like myself, sits here and grieves. We grieve, not for office, but because of the state of_ hopeless wastage which we see in this country. I had hopes that Labour Ministers would free the great Departments of government from, the curse of egotistical, stupid, self-satisfied indifference to the public demands, to outstanding facts, and to the necessities of a great people. I had hopes that by this time we should have a great Commonwealth Bank to meet any trouble that might arise. We have got part of the banking scheme. The Bank we have is all right. I have faith in her. She is Bock of Ages so far as she goes, but she has not gone any distance. She has not spread her wings over this great continent of Australia.
– It took some time for the Bank of England to grow.
– The Bank of England is a private shareholders’ bank. It has only a guarantee from the British Government for its note circulation. It is the bank of reserve for the British Government, and for other British banks. The gold of England, Ireland, and Scotland goes into the Bank of England. If any man in the United Kingdom wants gold, he gets it from that bank, and after the gold has been used it drifts back to the bank. The Bank of England controls the exchange of the Empire. ‘
– So will the Commonwealth Bank control the exchange of Australia.
– I have had great experience of banking business, and I assure the Minister that the Commonwealth Bank, as she is now organized, has not a hope of doing that. She has got to have the capital of the States. You might as well expect a horse to win a race with only three shoes on.
– The Commonwealth Bank must be a bank of issue, of deposit, of exchange, and of reserve.
– Yes ; what the Brisbane Conference laid down. If the note issue were connected with the Bank, its position would be different. The Bank has other assets besides the nation’s credit. It has the nation’s credit equally with the Treasury, but, in addition, it has several millions of deposits which gives it another credit. If the Bank had the business of Australia, the business of the Metropolitan Board of Works, of the State Governments, and of other authorities, the position would be very different. I rose to again urge the Ge vernment not to allow the great opportunity which ‘ now presents itself for improving the position of the Bank to pass unused. The States would be only too glad to come in on just terms. They are the foundation of the Commonwealth, which in itself is nothing. The Commonwealth arose out of the States surrendering certain specified political powers, and now stands over the States. Why should not the Commonwealth and the States try to create a financial system that would be beneficial to all? A great many persons think that the Treasurer of a State ought to go to the banker. If there were a Board on which a representative of each State had a seat, it is natural to suppose that the State representatives would be the men in charge of their Savings Banks. The Commonwealth Bank would thus be kept constantly reminded of the requirements of the States, of their maturing obligations, of the need for overdrafts for the carrying on of reproductive works. The management of the Bank would also have the benefit of the brains of these men, and of their knowledge and experience. They would help the Governor to deal with great issues. Now the Governor of the Bank has to take all responsibility, and it is not fair to put the tremendous financial responsibility which he has to bear on the shoulders of one man. “ Hope sees a star, and listening love hears the rustle of her wings,” and I hope that something will be done towards creating a Commonwealth Bank which will be a Bank for all Australia.
– I am sorry to disturb the little tea-party that they are having on the Government side this afternoon. We have heard som© good sound horsesense from the honorable member for Darwin. I regret that the Commonwealth Bank was not established on lines such as he laid down, because, had it been, it would be stronger and better for the people than it is. I have always favoured a Commonwealth Bank. I congratulate the honorable member for Cook on his plain speaking. It would be a good thing ^ if we had a little more plain speaking occasionally from honorable members on both sides. I rose to ask the Postmaster-General to tell me why he is cutting down the allowances of postmasters and postmistresses? Last night he fenced my questions by saying that the payments of £14 and £10 that are made to these persons do not constitute salaries, but are merely allowances. It is only juggling with words to make such an excuse. These people are expected to take this money as an allowance, and to engage in some occupation other than conducting the post-offices of which they have charge, in order to earn a living. I had the honour to preside over the Post Office at one time; and, if my memory serves me aright, even when the revenue fell, it was laid down as a golden rule that these allowances should not be reduced until a new postmaster or postmistress was necessary, and the smaller amount was then offered. In my opinion it is despicable, in the case of an old and tried- servant sometimes of thirty -or forty years’ standing, who has to handle a dozen or two dozen, mail bags a week, and to attend the office from 9 in the morning to 6 at night, and often later, to reduce the allowance by a few shillings . or a few pounds a year. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will look into this business, and refuse to be bound by red tape. The honorable gentleman has told us that he knows that the mail contractors, owing to the increased price of fodder and the increased cost of living, have had a very bad time, and that he finds it necessary to come to the assistance of some of them. By the way, there does not appear to be much tangible proof of any such assistance being handed out to contractors; and if it is not speedily forthcoming, we shall find that many of the contractors’ horses are dead, and their bondsmen bankrupt. I do not blame the Postmaster-General for the present state of affairs; I can only. think that he is not aware of the facts. I ask him, however, whether he considers it fair, to make all calculations of the kind on the basis of the revenue earned. If there are a few less letters in the mail bag, that does not make the work any the less ; and my opinion is that the allowance should be according to the work done, and not according to the revenue derived from the work. I do not wish to cavil or find fault, but there is something -radically wrong, and it ought to be probed to the bottom ; otherwise it would be better to have a Commission to run the Post Office on business lines.
– That would be a bad day for the country districts!
– 1 think not. Common-sense men realize that such a Department as this cannot be run on commercial lines.
– Those are the lines on which a Commission would run the Post Office.
– The honorable member is defending the Postal administration, but I fancy that some of the population in his district* will not appreciate his attitude.
– I do not defend the administration, but I do not desire to go from bad to worse. I have lived in the country, and I know what Railway Commissioners are”.
– The honorable ‘ member will have an opportunity to defend the Department later on. The
Postmaster-General has a thorough knowledge of country conditions, and I believe that he does his best, and that it is the system that is to blame. It is certainly not right to “ rob Peter to pay Paul “- to take money from these- allowance-office people and give it to the mail contractors. This matter has been drifting on for about six months; and now notices have been sent out to those who run these postoffices, informing them that their allowance of from £10 to £20, or so, is to be reduced. I could give forty or fifty instances in Eden-Monaro, and I cannot suppose that that district has been singled out for this kind of treatment. The PostmasterGeneral ought to find out all about this regulation. In every case these people have to provide office, light, and so forth, for a paltry pittance of, in many cases, from 5s. to 10s. a week, although they have long hours and plenty of work. The honorable member for Gippsland will doubtless receive some communications on this subject, because, I suppose, similar reductions must have been made in his electorate. If the Postmaster-General does not take action after what has been said to-day, he must take the blame. Some of the officers of the Department require “ shaking up,” for a change is urgently necessary in postal matters and administration. I see it is proposed to meet any loss by increasing the telephone rates. Of course, it is. . easy, in the case of a monopoly, to do that sort of thing; but . it will not make the Postmaster-General’s Socialistic ideas any more palatable to the people. If the Department were run on proper business lines, it would not be necessary to increase the telephone or any other rates, because, under private management, the business would be made to pay handsomely. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to. remind the Treasurer that twelve months ago I had a motion before the House to increase old-age and invalid pensions by half-a-crown a week. At the subsequent elections, the’ Government and their supporters told the electors that the pensions would be increased; but, although the proposal found a place in the Governor-General’s Speech, nothing more has been done. The Government must know that, owing to the increased cost of living, .many of the pensioners are practically half -starved ; and, as a result of my repeated efforts to effect a reform, I am told that the matter will be dealt with in a financial statement to be made. I appeal to the Prime Minister to give the pensioners a fair deal, because they cannot keep ,body and soul together on 10s. a week. I think it inopportune on the part of the honorable member for Cook to cast blame upon the Government. Our mission at this time should be to help the Government; and I do not criticise Ministers, because I know the difficulties that they are facing. I can say, personally, that I am not tied in any way, and, in anything they do for the benefit of the country, they will have my generous support. As to the allowance post-offices, I can only say that if any private individual did to his employees what is done in the Department, he would be hounded out of the country with shame. I have been told of men being pinned down to mistakes they have made, and so treated that they have absolutely committed suicide. I do not wish to mention any particular officials, but I shall be obliged to do so unless there is some change in the administration. It is regarded as unfair to mention officers here, where they cannot speak for themselves, but, unless there be an alteration, in my district, at any rate, I shall give the PostmasterGeneral names, so that he may be prepared to defend the officers when I refer to the matter in the House. There is too much false delicacy here; and officers, not only in this, but in other Departments, are inclined to shelter themselves behind the parliamentary custom to which I have referred. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to display some strength, and “play the game” fairly - to give the same consideration to postal officials that he would to men in his private employ. I am sure that, as PostmasterGeneral, he is paying allowance men and women as. he would not dream of paying them as an individual.
.- I had not intended to speak, but I do not wish my vieWs to be misrepresented. After hearing the honorable member for EdenMonaro, and also various PostmastersGeneral, I can only wish that honorable members would hold the same opinion in office that they do when in Opposition. A number of reforms are always talked ‘ about in Opposition, but, when that Opposition secures office,’ those reforms are ‘ never carried out. This trouble about the allowance offices is not of recent date, but dates quite as far back as when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was Postmaster-General.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– These allowance offices have constituted one of the greatest difficulties that Postmasters-General have had to face
– The statement that the honorable member has made regarding myself is untrue.
– I must ask the honorable member for EdenMonaro to withdraw those words.
– I withdraw them, but they are right all the same!
– The honorable member must withdraw unconditionally.
– I made the statement that there was a different state of affairs when I was in office, and the honorable member for Gippsland said that I did the same as other PostmastersGeneral have done. Am I not to be protected against such statements?
– The honorable member is so old a member of Parliament that he knows the rules of debate must be obeyed, and he has broken one of those rules.
– In deference to you, sir, I withdraw the words, but I must ask that the honorable member for Gippsland be compelled to withdraw his statement, which does not represent the facts.
– Has the honorable member for Gippsland said anything offensive? Does the honorable member for Eden-Monaro say that what the honorable member for Gippsland said was offensive?
– Yes. The honorable member stated that the same conditions. that are now complained about were existent when I was PostmasterGeneral. I say that that was not so; and I ask him to accept my assurance.
– I shall have to accept the honorable member’s assurance, that is all ; but I shall tell him presently of something that was worse when he was in office than it is at the present time, so far as the representatives of country districts are concerned. As I was saying, these allowance offices have always been a difficulty. Long before the present PostmasterGeneral was in office I heard it stated that these allowances are not intended to .be living salaries, but merely as a return for some little extra work that people may do in connexion with post-offices supposed to be attached to some private business. The trouble is that many of the appointments have fallen into the hands of women who have nothing else to do, and to whom the allowance has really become their only means of subsistence. Looked at from that point of view, the allowances are altogether inadequate. In country districts these allowance offices are generally attached to stores, and prove a great draw to the business; and, as I say, the allowances are based on the idea that they are a small remuneration for some extra trouble. Over and over again I have heard Postmasters-General say that the allowances are not intended, and do not profess, to be living salaries. At the same time, I cordially agree with the denunciations of the reductions that are made from time to time. Some of them are exceedingly petty. I know of one case where, because the business had fallen off as compared with that of the preceding year, the allowance of £5 a year was reduced by £1. It is a pettifogging thing for a great Commonwealth to insist upon a reduction of £.1 per annum in any individual’s allowance, and I think that allthese matters might very well be looked into, so that some general rule might be adopted upon the subject. Another matter of objection relates to country premises taken by persons who believed the post-office allowances are fixed. These offices may have other businesses attached to them, and in many cases they change hands on the understanding that the old allowance will continue. When the businesses are taken over the newcomers suddenly find that their allowance is reduced by £6 or £7 below the amount that they expected to get, for no apparent reason. Only a day or two ago I sent a complaint to the Department on behalf of such a person, whose allowance had been reduced £3 or £4 below what his predecessor got. I think the Postmaster-General ought, in the first place, to lay down a definite rule that no reduction ‘ shall be made in the .allowances to any office unless there has “been such a reduction in the amount of business as to raise the question of whether the office shall he discontinued altogether or not. With regard to the suggestion that the Post Office ought to he managed by a Board of Commissioners, I join issue completely with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, as I do with every other honorable member of this House who attempts to argue in favour of the appointment of Commissioners. If Commissioners are appointed they will be told to run the Post Office “ on business lines “ - to make the postoffices pay. We hear that demand made continually in the metropolitan newspapers, and that demand, if acceded to, means that the metropolis will receive all sorts of additional conveniences, whilst people living in country districts will be deprived of many of their conveniences. As a resident in a country district in Victoria which knows something of the methods of Railway Commissioners, I say emphatically that I will always protest against the Post Office being handed over to Commissioners acting independently of Parliament, in order that it may be run on what are known as business lines. We have seen enough of that sort of management in Victoria in connexion with the railways. Country people cannot get anything like an adequate train service, yet the lines are duplicated and other conveniences are provided for the people out at Caulfield. Whereas all sorts of accommodation is provided in Melbourne, we in country districts are denied an efficient railway service because, we are told, “it will not pay.” That is why I oppose the idea of the Post Office being handed over to Commissioners. As long as Parliament has as one of its members a responsible Postmaster-General we shall have some hold over the Postal Department, and have some means of having attention paid to complaints from country districts. A few moments ago I said I would mention one matter that, from the point of view of the country districts, is infinitely better now than it was when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was in office. I refer to the telephone system. Previous to the second Fisher Government coming into office, country applicants for telephone , lines were told that their applications would be granted provided that they would guarantee to refund the whole of any deficiency. The second Fisher Government reduced that guarantee required to one of 50 per cent, of the deficiency, which was a very great consideration, and I have never failed to give credit to this Government for having made that reduction. I think, however, that no guarantee ought to be required at all. I only rose for the purpose of clearing up what would have been a misrepresentation of my views as they would, appear from the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, as they may be read in Hansard. I desire that it shall be clearly understood that, in my opinion, the Postal Department is not a Department that ought to be run for the purpose of being made to pay. The Department was established for the purpose of furthering the social and commercial intercourse of the people, and the places where the services of the Post Office are mostly required, and are of most value to the individual, are in those country districts where the post-office does not pay, and where it probably will not pay for very many years. The large surpluses made in the cities could not be better expended than in giving better postal communication to country districts, and I hope that we shall soon reach the time when, wherever there is a reasonable settlement, the people there will not only have a decent mail service, but decent telephonic communication as well, without their being called upon to contribute anything by way of a guarantee. I quite recognise that people who reside in the back-blocks do not go there from motives of philanthropy. They go there, just as other people reside in towns, to make a living for themselves, but we ought not to forget that, whatever the motive that takes these people, into the back-blocks, they are doing a great work in developing the country for the benefit of the Commonwealth as a whole. I think, therefore, that such people deserve the very greatest sympathy and support both from State and Federal Governments - from the State Government in the way of good roads and good railway communication, and from the Federal Government in the provision of reasonable mail and telephonic communication.
– I desire to say a word or two on the subject of the Post Office, and I want to indorse all that has been said upon the subject by” the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I have brought this matter before the PostmasterGeneral on several occasions by way of questions, and I can only express my regret that the Minister does not show more practical sympathy with certain Post Office employees who, in my judgment, have been treated by the Government in a very off-hand and arbitrary fashion. The amount paid to the postal agents in! the country is very small, and the services they render cannot be calculated by the number of letters which pass through their offices. To apply such a test to them is not fair at all. Under the present system of payment, no account is taken of the rooms provided or of the constant attention necessary if the work is to be properly and adequately done. It is quite possible that in some country districts the number of letters is not large, but will the Minister say that the Government should be entirely guided by that in fixing the remuneration?
– Letters do not count at all.
– What do?
– There are quite twelve different matters that have to be taken into consideration.
– Then I will leave letters out. I think I am safe in saying that the number of telephone misssages is taken into account in any calculation made in regard to payment.
– Here T say again, such a test cannot be a fair one, because these people have to be at their offices from 9 o’clock in the morning till 6 o’clock at night. Whether they receive a message or not, they must be on the spot to take any message that may come, and, in my view, they should be paid as any other workman is paid. I would like the Minister to say whether he thinks it right that any workman should be paid, not for the time that is spent in attending to his work, but for the actual exertion which he puts forth in order that his work may be accomplished.
– Their whole time is not engaged.
– The Minister forgets that where there is a telephone these people must be there ready to answer the telephone.
– But they are on their own premises, going about their own business.
– A good deal has been said by the honorable member for Gippsland with regard to country stores in this connexion. Amongst the letters that I have received during the last few weeks upon this subject there is not one single letter from a country storekeeper. Every letter that I have received comes from the occupier of a private house - from <i person who has placed his premises at the disposal of the Government, and whose allowance has now been cut down in this arbitrary fashion.
– Such offices should not have been established.
– Would you allow them to do” anything else?
– Surely the honorable member does not suggest that people who are drawing £8 or £10 a year for doing postal work should be limited to that work altogether?
– Decidedly not.
– I know the honorable member’s party believe in one man one job, but I did not think they were” going to carry that policy to such a ridiculous extreme as to urge that people should be compelled to give their whole attention and their whole time to work which the Department values, in many cases, at £8 a year.
– Decidedly not; but how are you going to regulate it?
– The rules lay it down that no such person shall be employed.
– These people should be paid in accordance with the value of their services to the State.
– That is the basis upon which they are paid.
– I beg the Minister’s pardon, but they are not. They are paid in accordance with the revenue that the State derives from the work they do.
– They are paid for the value of the work that is to be done) - according to what is done.
– I am surprised to hear the Postmaster- General say that. I may be wrong, and I may be doing him an injustice,* for the system may have been altered recently ; but when
I was previously a member of this House, the system of payment in operation involved revenue at the beginning and revenue at the end.
– I say a large section are paid upon the valuation of their work.
– They are not paid on the valuation of the services they have rendered, but on the amount derived by the State. That is not a correct manner in which to deal with this work, or to pay the people who are performing it. The basis should be the value of the work done for the benefit of the State.
– Generally, if there is less revenue, there is less work.
– Most frequently it happens in country places that where there is least revenue there is most work.
– How are you going to deal with it?
– The honorable member for the Barrier sat there complacently during the time he was PostmasterGeneral, and allowed these things to go on in just the same fashion that they are going on to-day. I attacked him in this House for his want of sympathy with the people who are doing such valuable work in maintaining communication between those who reside in the far-out districts of Australia. These people are performing a great work. Their responsibilities are great, and it is unfair to expect them to continue if they are to be treated in the fashion that they are being treated to-day. The circumstances under which we find ourselves living are such that these people are deserving of real practical sympathy from *.he Government, instead of being subjected to paltry reductions which are being made in a roughandready, rule-of-thumb fashion, based almost entirely, if not altogether, upon the amount of revenue the State derives from the work they are carrying on.
-Have there been any reductions lately ?
– Yes; a large number of reductions have been made in my own district - some from £28 a year down to £8 a year.
– In official offices?
– In allowance offices. With regard to the question of placing the Postal Department on a busi- ness basis, when I retired from the Postal Commission I sent in a report to the GovernorGeneral making certain recommendations, and amongst them was one based on the idea of placing the Post Office under business management. It provided, also, that there should be certain provision made for other works that had to be carried out; but it is perfectly clear, from that report, that no suggestion was made that the Postal Department should be treated as a business concern which ought only to pay interest upon the money invested in it. That is where the honorable member for Gippsland is entirely wrong. Surely we ought to be prepared to say that we will introduce business management into the Post Office. Business management does not mean that we ought to grind the last ounce out of our people in order that the Department may show a profit; it means that we should provide, at the least possible cost to the State, the greatest convenience to the people. That, in its essence, is what the Department should exist for, and those who decry business management are either doing so in ignorance, or with the desire to deceive those who will not trouble to think for themselves. If we apply this system of management to the Postal Department, its affairs will be in a much more satisfactory condition than they are now, and I say, without hesitation, that the result will be a considerable saving. There is nothing more wasteful or extravagant than this system of “grinding down those who are receiving the lowest amounts, and allowing money to be lost in almost wholesale fashion by lax management. I just want to make one reference to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. When he was Postmaster-General, he conferred a benefit on country districts that they previously had not enjoyed. It was he who had the courage to run country telephone lines along wayside fences, and to suspend them from trees, and but for his action we should not have been able in many country districts to secure the modern convenience of the telephone. For the manner in which he grappled with the difficulties, and initiated a system that is now approaching a high state of efficiency, he deserves the thanks of the community. The honorable member for Gippsland has referred to the action of the present Administration in no longer asking for the guarantee which. was .previously required from those who desired telephone communication. But, after all, is not the change merely one from King Log to King Stork? White the -guarantee is no longer required, the people to be served by a proposed line are called upon to bear the whole cost of constructing it on the understanding that they will be recouped upon its completion, and they have to wait months for their money. Within my own experience, during the present year, people have been kept waiting for their money six months after the completion and passing of a line. This is not business management. It does not show a proper realization of the obligations that are part of every contract. I wish now to refer to the question of casual employment. I mentioned in the House to-day the case of a man who had been working as a casual lettercarrier in the town of Maryborough until a week or two ago, when the term for which he could be temporarily- employed under the Act came to a close. He then left, and in his place a strapping, stalwart young fellow, unmarried, and, so far as I am aware, without any dependant, or any obligation, was appointed. The man whom he succeeded has a wife and eight children to support. The Minister should, at this time, give sympathetic consideration to1 cases of this character. People are suffering because of the increased cost of living.
– It is the Public Service Act which governs the position.
– Quite so; but there are ways of getting over the difficulty.
– There are hundreds of similar cases.
– I think that the difficulty in this case might, at least, have been minimized. The postmaster at Maryborough should have been advised by the Department that preference must be given to a man who has a number dependent upon him. Had that been done, although the married man to whom I have referred would not have been able to continue in the employment of the service, I think that another, with something like the same responsibility, would have been appointed in his stead. As it is, there are two casual employees in the Maryborough Post-office, both of whom are single, and. so far as I know, have no obligations. I recognise that questions of this kind are -dealt with, not by the PostmasterGeneral, or the officers at the head of his Department, but by -the ‘local postmasters. They are left to make a selection, but a direction from the PostmasterGeneral that special consideration should be given at this juncture to cases of the kind I have mentioned would meet with a very ready response, and do a great deal of good. During the last few weeks applications for casual employment have been more numerous than in normal circumstances, and I ask the Government whether they intend to continue the rule that every applicant for casual employment in the Public Service shall be a member of a recognised or registered union. I recognise that the Government and their party are pledged to the principle, but I would put it to them that their duty to the country as a whole is even above such a pledge. .
– What about the appointment of doctors? Must they not belong to a union?
– There is no union of doctors.
– There was some trouble between the British Medical Association and the friendly societies in different parts of Australia a little while ago.
– I am not aware of it.
– The fact was mentioned in the newspapers.
– If the stand alleged to have been taken by the British Medical Association was wrong in the opinion of honorable .members opposite, then I would remind them that the Labour party are doing exactly the same thing in connexion with temporary employment in the Public Service. Why do they complain ?
– We are not complaining.
– I am surprised to hear it, because if what the honorable member has suggested is correct, those who vote for the Labour party must . have been the principal sufferers, and honorable members opposite should be more careful of the interests of their supporters than to condone such an offence. I hold very strong views as to the question of medical men and unions. The position of the medical profession is slightly different from that of men following other employment.
– The position of the doctors is different from that of the navvies? Let us have the difference.
– In the exercise of his profession a medical man is subject to a statute-law, whereas a navvy is not. At least five years must be spent at a university, a considerable sum of money must be expended, and a certain amount of brains is necessary to pass the examinations required by law in the case of a medical man. An ordinary workman is not under that obligation.
– He has not the same opportunity.
-We are discussing qualifications, not opportunities. A medical man is subject to a statute-law which compels him to prove his capacity to practise his profession.
– He has a licence to kill, has he not?
– My honorable friend is speaking from his own experience. My experience is that the licence is a licence to cure. Returning to the question raised by the honorable member for Barrier, I may say that I have never known, and have never had exercised, any restriction whatever upon my liberty to do just as I please with regard to every case under my care. That is the sort of union man I am.
– The honorable member is a member of the British Medical Association ?
– I am not ashamed to say that I am not.
– The honorable member is one of the non-unionists?
– No ; there is no such thing as a medical union ; and if I were called in to a case a member of the British Medical Association would not say a word as to his willingness or otherwise to meet me. There is something more than membership or nonmembership of a union in connexion with our profession. We have amongst ourselves a sort of code of honour.
– Let us hear what it is.
– The ‘ honorable member would not understand it. Our code is an honorable one, and it requires us to recognise our responsibility for the lives and the well-being of those under our care. - a
– Is that the” position with regard to the dispute between the doctors and the friendly societies in New South Wales? Then there was also the Ade’laide Hospital dispute.
– No doubt there are disputes. I do not suggest that a man, merely because he becomes a member of the medical profession, loses his faculty for disputation or obstinancy. That is not confined to a trade unionist; it is common to all classes of the community. I am a strong supporter of the principle of unionism, and those who were in this House in the early days of Federation will know that I have done everything in my power to preserve and protect throughout the Commonwealth the principle of industrial unionism. But when we are dealing with the distribution of public funds contributed by the whole of the people, according to their ability to pay, we must take care that every individual in the community is given a fair opportunity to share in that distribution. By imposing the barrier of preference to unionists in the case of temporary employment in the Public Service, the Government and those who support them are lowering the standard which it has taken so many years to raise in Australia. They are, indeed, inflicting incalculable injury upon the very system which has cost so much to build up, and will in time,, I believe, bring about its destruction. The system is. too good, too valuable, to be destroyed or limited; and the attempt that is being made from day to day to require all who’ desire Government employment to join a union is more than any Government or any party has a right to do. I ask the Government, especially at the present time, to relax this restriction. I asked the Prime Minister yesterday whether it was intended to apply the principle to the large number of temporary employees who will be required to do clerical work in connexion with the manhood and wealth census. Many men are already registered for employment on this work, but I, and others, have had to tell them that -their registration will avail them nothing unless they join the Clerks Union. It is unfair that men who, owing only to the’ adverse circumstances of the present time, are out of employment should be ‘compelled, in order to share in the distribution of public funds to which they themselves have contributed, to join an organization which, although ostensibly industrial, is also undoubtedly political. The Prime Minister did not answer a further question I put to him as to whether it was intended to apply this principle to voluntary workers. Are these voluntary workers to be asked to join a union, and if they fail to do so, are their services to be declined? Hundreds are asking for an opportunity to show by practical exertion their sympathy with their country in the great crisis through which it is passing. They are not physically competent to take their places in the trenches, but they are asking that the strength and ability they do possess shall be utilized by the State, without fee. and without any other reward than they will derive from the knowledge that they have done their duty as citizens. Is this differentiation to be applied to them ? If the Government are consistent in the attitude they are adopting, they will say, “ You will not be allowed to work at all unless you join the union.” If they adopt any other attitude, they will be making a distinction between those who receive pay and those who do not. Under those circumstances I think they will be compelled to decline to accept the services of those who are so anxious to show, in a practical fashion, the support and assistance they are prepared to give to the Government in. these trying times.
– The same statement has been made in regard to recruits.
– I think the Government have said that they are not interfering in that matter. I would ask the Government to consider carefully what they are doing in regard to the obtaining of military supplies. I have reason to believe that portion of those supplies is being procured from people who have small, if any, interest in Australia or the British Empire. They are being supplied by companies whose shareholders are in America and other parts of the world; and it argues very little indeed for the patriotism of those in power and occupying positions of responsibility if they allow goods manufactured by those people to be used rather than those made under control and supervision in Australia.
– Do you say that German goods are being supplied?
– I say that goods are being supplied by companies which have German shareholders, who are getting their share of the profits from our Australian orders.
– Germans living in Australia ?
– Germans living in Germany.
– Has this happened since the outbreak of war?
– It is continuing to-day.
– The British Government are getting supplies from America.
– The British Government must get munitions wherever they are to be had.
– I take it that the Government do not know that there are German shareholders in the companies with which they are dealing. It is your duty to tell them.
– It is the business of the Government, who have brought down Bill after Bill dealing with enemy traders, to see that their own house is put in order, and that the business is done, for preference, with those people who have British sympathies.
– What company are you alluding to ?
– A company of which the honorable member thinks a great deal, but which I shall not mention at the present time.
– You ought to state the name of the company.
– I will say just as much as I please. The Government have a bounden duty to make inquiries, and I will giv.e them all the assistance in my power. The only reason why I do not mention the name of the firm is that I may be accused of personal feeling in the matter. The firm I have in mind is a competitor with me, and J do not care to use my position in the House for the purpose of interfering with a business competitor. I will give the information to the Government, and I hope they will show themselves just as eager to take action as, apparently, the honorable members who have been interjecting are.
– The Western Electrical Company has no German shareholders.
– Has it not? There are a number of other questions that I might deal with; but I shall not detain the House further. I hope the
Postmaster-General will give personal attention to the matters which have been brought before him, and I am sure that if he does so, action on his part will follow. He is too truly sympathetic to allow the conditions I have referred to to continue, and people to bear unfair burdens, and receive inadequate remuneration. There is one other matter into which the Postmaster-General might justly inquire. A man in my district took a contract to carry mails at a price 50 per cent, lower than that of the previous contractor. The man acted in ignorance, and the discovery of his mistake had such an effect on him that he committed suicide. Since his death, the two bondholders have been compelled to carry on the service. The deceased left a widow and family, and £130, and the whole of that sum has been used to carry on an unremunerative contract, which the officers of the Department ought never to have given the man. They knew the cost of carrying on the service, because they had called for tenders prior to letting the contract to him. The man was driven to end his life, and the Department is compelling the bondholders to carry on the contract at a tremendous cost. In conclusion, I should like to ask the PostmasterGeneral if he has made any inquiry in regard to a cheque contained in a registered letter which was delivered to the wrong person, and for which I hold that the Department is responsible?
– No responsibility rests on the Department.
.- Of the complaints that reach me as a representative of a country constituency, the majority relate to the Postal Department. I have not risen for the purpose of directing unfair criticism at the PostmasterGeneral and his staff, because I think that, under existing conditions, we have set them an unduly heavy task; but I do think that remedial steps in regard to the country services could be taken even under the present system. If it is true that the loss on the operations of the Postal Department is mainly due to ‘.inprofitable city services, that trouble could surely be overcome. My conviction is that a great mistake was made in instituting penny postage. This huge Department is doing a pioneering work throughout Australia by assisting to bring about conditions which make life in the country more tolerable. Its work is re flected in property values and unimproved values, and some subsidy from the State or the shire councils might be given if the system of penny postage is to be retained. We should at least compel the people in the city to pay for value received, because it must be admitted that the same indirect advantages and the same assistance in the creation of wealth that follow the giving of cheap and effective postal and telegraphic facilities in the country, are not attendant upon the giving of those facilities in the city. In recent months the disabilities of the people in the country have been accentuated. The important town of Grenfell, in my electorate, which, during the last seven or eight years, has enjoyed the record of having received more wheat than any other country railway town, has had for over forty years a daily mail service, but when the New South Wales railway authorities restricted the passenger service to three trains a week, the onus was thrown on the’ Postal Department of furnishing another means of giving people at Grenfell a daily mail. I understand from the Postmaster-General that the actual quantity of mail matter carried is the basis upon which payment to the railway authorities is made. The same quantity of mail matter is being delivered at Grenfell, and presumably, at other towns similarly situated, as heretofore, and surely the onus of making arrangements for a daily delivery should have been placed1 on the State Government, which receives money for carrying the mails. The Department runs stock and freight trains on days when there is no passenger service, and if the onus of delivering the mails daily were put on the State Government, they would provide a means of carriage. In any case, a duty is cast upon the Postmaster-General of providing some sort of makeshift mail on the off days.
– Is this not a question of contract between the Commonwealth and the State Government?
– I understand that the State Government carries the same quantity of mail matter in three days as it carried in six, and receives the same payment. It would be just as sensible to ask a man to take the whole of his meals in three days instead of six as it is to ask the people to take the whole of their mails in three days instead of six. The disability consequent upon the reduction of. the service has been so great, that, the residents of Grenfell are offering to subsidize a motor service from Cowra in order to. secure a, daily delivery. I know that the problem of finance is at the back of all- these troubles. One suggestion that appeals to me, and which might be of assistance to the Postmaster-General, is that the Department should be; a- little less, liberal in regard to the parcel post system, by which the whole of the country districts throughout. Australia are deluged. Everybody who- can do so sends to Sydney for him goods, and the life, of a country mail contractor has become scarcely tolerable. Contractors’ vehicles are loaded up like ships, of the desert with parcels from the city stores, and the people who avail themselves most of this service are those who are for ever preaching decentralization. With the remarks which have been made by the honorable member for Grampians on the subject of the inadequate- allowances to: country storekeepers- and others- who. attend to postal duties I am in full sympathy, but one of the chief grievances of these people in bush offices is that, under the regulation, they are not allowed to have on- hand postal notes above a certain total; value, I think £10, at any time. Consequently, on account of the huge parcel-post business, they do not have sufficient postal notes with which to meet the local demand pending the arrival of a second supply. The parcel-post system not only injures the country storekeeper, but also effectively retards development of country interests, because, our practice being so different from our professions, fanners who profess willingness to deal a death-blow to the ascendency of the city subscribe to that ascendency on. every occasion on which they can save a penny by using the parcels post. Those people who run country mails in sulkies or twohorse coaches through most inaccessible parts, where traffic .is almost impossible in a bad winter, are entitled to our greatest sympathy, and I am glad that they have been promised some financial assistance. I hope that something will be done soon to give them relief. A few months ago, while riding along a country road, I encountered a mail contractor who had been striving to get along in the difficulties that I have just described. His horse was dead in the sulky shafts, and in order that His Majesty’s- mails might reach their destination, I had, perforce, to put my own saddle horse in its place. The principle on which these contracts for conveying bush mails are let is rotten. It allows indiscriminate sweating. In a good season a man who is a bit of a horse dealer will tender for half-a-dozen small mail services, and he can carry on so long as feed is plentiful and there is plenty of cheap, what I may term, secondhand labour available, especially when he undertakes the business as an adjunct to horsetrading ; but in times of extreme difficulty such as we now have his position is. pitiable. Many of these men have been absolutely ruined. As people in outlying districts are entitled to something in the shape of an effective mail service, I suggest that the Postmaster-General should get his capable officers to make an. estimate of the actual cost of running each mail, and the amount of revenue derived, and that tenders should be called on fixed prices for each contract, with specifications which, it should be intimated, are to be rigidly enforced. In any case, I should not allot more than one mail service to any particular individual in a town or village, because one mail service under such circumstances is one man’s job-. We have a greater feeling of confidence in the effectiveness of the service where the contractor is running it than we can have when the work is done by a man who is receiving 15s. a week, and carries it out in an ineffective way until such time as he gets into disgrace. Day after day mails are not delivered; coaches break down, and things happen that should not happen. All these things militate against the country districts, and make life there less endurable. I recognise that these reforms can only be effected if we provide the sinews of war, but if it is true that the loss sustained by the Postal Department is in the city service, a re-arrangement of rates ought to insure something like a fair opportunity being afforded to this huge Department to carry out its legitimate and all-necessary functions for the country people. The Postal Department, being one with which every individual in the Commonwealth has dealings, has the fiercest denunciation and criticism levelled- against it. I do not think that it should be placed under a Commission. Notwithstanding that much can be said of the disabilities im- posed’ upon people in country districts1, in*s my. opinion their position- would’ be infinitely worse if the> Post Office were placed- under the business management- of a. set of- Commissioners, because we recognise in some degree that, in the- development of a huge continent, the1 tentacles of advanced- civilization must precede settlement in order to render it possible-, and, therefore, there- must be loss-, for example, to the- Post Office-. However, if it be true that this loss is< greater in the city than in the country, a state of affairs- is’ revealed that does- no- credit to’ the system at present in operation. I hope that the Post- “ master-General will stay his hand in the matter of- curtailing allowances to keepers of little country post-offices. To measure the amount of work done by these people who place their homes at the disposal of the- Department for the convenience- of the people by that done by experts who are specialists- at the work in city offices’, isi unfair; that work furnishes a very poor’ standard’ on which to pay these people- who are doing such essential’ work- for country- people. If the Department errs- at all in regard to the treatment of these people it should err on the side of- liberality. Finally, I hope that something will’ be done in the matter of giving important towns on railway lines, such as Grenfell, far better services than have been possible under a system which is all to the advantage of the State, and’ not to the advantage of the Postal Department’s revenue.
.- I had not- the slightest idea- of speaking until the honorable member for Grampians raised again the question of preference- to unionists, and said something which we had often heard before in this House. The honorable member said that he had done a great deal for unionism-, a-nd that he was prepared to do a> great deal more- for. it in the future, but, as. he thought that it was very wrong for the Government to limit the expenditure of public money to unionists, I may be pardoned for referring to something in connexion with the medical profession. That profession is amongst the noblest of our professions, and’ contains some of the ablest and noblest men in the Empire, but the Nineteenth Century- of December last contains a very interesting article d’ealing with the case of a Dr. Axham, and commencing with the. following- paragraph taken from the Times-: -
It is time Dr. Axham were reinstated in the position from which he ought never to have been driven, seeing that the- only ground for taking his- name oil’ the Medical Register was that he assisted a master of manipulative surgery to relieve human suffering from which no relief could be found elsewhere.
This case has some reference to the question of preference to unionists, and the right of a Government to employ unionists only, to the detriment of nonunionists. This doctor was entitled to add the letters M.E.C.S. (Eng.) and L.R.C.P. (Edinburgh) to his name, but, because he was adjudged guilty of infamous conduct in a professional respect, his name was erased from the Medical Register. Under the law of Great Britain the matter of placing a man’s name on the Medical Register is. in the hands of a Medical Board, and- if a man’s name is not on that register he is debarred from - any appointment as a physician, surgeon, or other medical officer, either in the military or naval service, or in emigrant or other vessels, or in any. hospital, infirmary, dispensary, or lying-in hospital, not supported wholly by voluntary contributions, or in any lunatic asylum, gaol, penitentiary, house of industry’, parochial union, workhouse, or poorhouse, parish union, or other public establishment, body, or institution, or to any friendly or other society for affording mutual relief in sickness, infirmity, or old age, or as medical officer of health.
Thus not only must a- man be a doctor; but also he must be a member of a particular union before he can be employed in any Government’ capacity.
– That has nothing to- do with unionism.
– No, it is not a union ; it is an association.
– Would the honorable member call a university a union?
– I am afraid that my honorable friend has not caught my point. I am not’ objecting to the fact that a man must possess certain qualifications. It is quite right that no one should be allowed to practise unless he. has qualifications gained through a university course. But the man must also satisfy the Medical Board.
Sitting, suspended from 6.S0 to 7.^5 p.m.
– In Great Britain, to hold a Government medical appointment it is necessary, not only to qualify as a doctor, but also to be on the register of the British Medical Association, which is governed by an executive appointed by the medical fraternity, over which the Government have no control. Dr. Axham was a gentleman seventy years of age and of irreproachable character, who had practised as a doctor for fifty years, and had served hiscountry in various ways. He was brought before the executive of the British Medical Association because of his connexion with a Mr. Barker, a man who, although without medical diplomas, was a most wonderful bone-setter. Mr. Barker’s practice was not confined to the ignorant and illiterate; he had, among his patients, a number of well-known persons, such as Lord William Cecil, Lady Exeter, and Count Gleichen. Mr. Barker invited medical men to attend and witness his operations, and Dr. Axham, amongst others, availed himself of the privilege, and was so impressed by what he saw that he devoted forty-five afternoons to attending further demonstrations. As Mr. Barker employed no anaesthetic, a good deal of pain was attendant upon his operations, and Dr. Axham, noticing this, suggested that anaesthetics should be administered. Mr. Barker was only too glad to comply with the suggestion, and at his invitation Dr. Axham gave anaesthetics. For this he was brought to book by the British Medical Association. When he was summoned into the judgement-hall, the proceedings were these - He was asked, “ Have you anything to say? “ and replied, “ I have nothing to add to the statement that I have already made in writing.” As he was not prepared to dissociate himself from Mr. Barker, he was asked to leave the room while the General Medical Council considered its decision, and a little later was recalled, when the president of the council said -
Mr. Axham, I have to inform you that the Council have judged you to have been guilty of infamous conduct in a professional respect, and have directed the Registrar to erase from the Medical Register the. name of Frederick William Axham.
The removal of his name from the register made it impossible for the doctor to continue in the employment of the Government, although he still possessed his medical qualifications and his career for fifty years had been a most honorable one. On one occasion he had received an honorarium of £700 from the Government for work done among the troops.
But, as he had given anaesthetics to patients of Mr. Barker, the General Medical Council erased his name from the register of the British Medical Association, and thus forced him to resign all his Government appointments. In view of the statements of. the honorable member for Grampians, I thought it would be interesting to draw attention to what the medical fraternity is prepared to do in support of unionism. I hope we shall not again hear it stated that the Government, in giving preference to unionists in regard to public employment, are dealing unfairly with the money of the taxpayers. I have merely to add that the British Parliament has passed an Act which makes it impossible for any person to obtain or retain a Government medical appointment unless he has the qualifications of a doctor and his name is on the register of the British Medical Association.
.- While the honorable member for Grampians was speaking, the honorable member for Werriwa made an interjection In regard to the attitude of the British Medical Association towards . friendly societies which the honorable member for Grampians said was not true; but I am in a position to show that the statement of the honorable member for Werriwa was absolutely correct. I had the honour to be the first president of the Australian Natives’ Association in New South Wales, whose motto is Pro patria semper. A leading medical man, a native of Australia, joined the association, beingappointed medical officer of the No. 1 branch in Sydney, and shortly afterwards he was informed by the British Medical Association that if he did not resign that position he would not be recognised by other doctors, and they would not appear in consultation with him. The members of the British Medical Association were prepared, no matter how serious the case, to decline to consult with this doctor should a consultation be necessary in the interest of a patient. The dispute continued for some time, and the matter became so grave that, had I not entered the Federal arena, I should have introduced into the New South Wales Parliament a Bill to compel the British Medical Association to withdraw from its position. The association has come into conflict, not only with the Australian Natives’ Association, but also with theForesters, the
Oddfellows, and kindred organizations, and has adopted the same attitude towards them. If the honorable member for Grampians will allow his memory to travel back to the period to which I have referred, he will know that the facts are absolutely as I have stated them. As president of the Australian Natives’ Association, I took part in innumerable conferences with members of the British Medical Association in the endeavour to bring about a reasonable state of affairs. I regret that the Postmaster-General is not present, because I wish to say something about the allowance given to those in charge of what are known as allowance post-offices. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro and others have dealt with the subject, but the impression has been left in the minds of many honorable members that the persons to whom the allowance is paid have means of. living other than their connexion with the Postal Department. I am aware that many of them are not dependent for their livelihood on their connexion with the Postal Department, and I do not speak for those; but the Postmaster-General should do .something for persons who are wholly dependent for their living on what they receive from the Department. Let me mention a case which has been brought under notice on several occasions. There is in the Barrier division - it was formerly in the Riverina division - a place at the junction of three, or four important mail routes, such as those to Hay, Balranald, and other places, where there is no township, but only a couple of houses. The post-office used to be in charge of the local hotelkeeper and storekeeper. But this combined store and hotel was situated some 12 miles from Deniliquin, and honorable members know that in country hotels scenes sometimes occur which parents would not like young children to witness, and the people living round about were in the habit of sending their children, sometimes young girls, to the hotel for their mails. I brought the matter under the notice of the then PostmasterGeneral, and it was decided that a widow lady living in the place should be allowed to look after the postal business, which she undertook to do. She has been doing so ever since. In the first place, she got what might be termed a living allowance, though’, in my opinion, it was not sufficient, and since then it has been very seriously reduced. She is on duty from 4 o’clock in the morning until half -past 9 o’clock at night; and, very often, in the winter, until 10 or 11 o’clock she has to be on duty to receive and despatch mails amounting to something like fifteen or sixteen bags every day. Then from half -past 9 o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock in the evening she has to be there to answer telephone calls. She provides her own dwellinghouse, office, and all necessary appliances; and, as it is necessary, in view of her early rising, that she should have some rest, she has to pay a boy 2s. 6d. a week to give hex some relief from the last-mentioned duty. She has no store, and. cannot add to her income in any way. I may add that there has never been the slightest complaint about the work or attention at the office ; and all this unfortunate woman is allowed is 16s. a week. A case like this - arid there are others - is not creditable to any Department, no matter what the laws or regulations may be.
– What is the revenue at this office?
– I do not know. The statement is made that the revenue does not warrant any increase; but, in my opinion, it is not a question of whether the revenue will warrant any increase, because the residents in these isolated districts should have as much consideration from the Department as have those who are more favorably situated in the large cities. If this woman, to-morrow, were to refuse to continue her duties any longer, there would be a great outcry in the district, and the Department would be compelled to provide a postmaster and postoffice at two or three times the presentexpenditure. Formerly this lady did not feel her position so much because she had some sons, but these have since died, and all she has to rely on is what she receives from the Department. I have previously asked the Postmaster-General, and I ask him again, to put aside the regulations altogether in cases such as I have described. This person is doing the country’s work, and we ought, at least, to give her an allowance to enable her to live decently. Such a state of affairs would not be creditable to any Government, and it certainly is discreditable to the present Ministers, who have always claimed to look after the interests of those who cannot look after themselves. I hope I shall not be again called upon to allude to this matter, but, if I am, and there is any undue delay in dealing with it, I shall have to take- a course which I should’ not like to take, not only on behalf of this particular person, but on behalf of many others similarly situated’.
.- I support the suggestion that the keepers of these country offices’ should be treated more generously. In my own district, we find very great difficulty - though our . trouble is somewhat different from that which has been disclosed this evening. We find that we do not get from some railway offices that attention we have the right to expect. Preference is given to railway business; and, in one instance, that of a newly-opened line, the people are so disgusted that they threaten to give up the use of the office. I have received a letter, the writer of which tells me that he had to ride 8 miles to another office in order to get through a message of importance. I am sorry to say that there is not that cooperation there ought to be between the State and the Federal authorities. I came to this Parliament under the belief that the blame’ was more with the Commonwealth, but I have had reason to alter that view. In my own State, at any rate, it would seem’ that the Railway Department is bent, on making as much money as possible out of the Commonwealth, instead’ of co-operating to give the people in sparsely settled districts proper telephonic and: postal facilities. I hold that the telephones, the telegraph, the Post Office; and the; railways should all be combined to make life bearable in undeveloped districts, because, until something like that is done, we cannot expect settlement to progress. It is a mistake, I think, to introduce a spirit of commercialism, which can be altogether overdone. The proper point of view is that, if we facilitate settlement in the country, the Treasury, through the Customs House, will be recouped for whatever loss may occur; at any rate, if we do not make life tolerable in the bush, we cannot expect the country to be developed as it should be. I hope the Postmaster-General will not look at this matter too closely from the poundsshillingsandpence point of view, but will strive to give the people those facilities for communication to which they are entitled, and look for his reward in extended settlement.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the conditions obtaining at- the- allowance- office at West- End’, in my electorate. The- postmistress there- is in receipt of £80 per annum, out- of which- she- has1 to pay 18s. a week as rents She has been ill for some months: and the Department- at first refused to pay either rent or allowance during that period. This is a thickly populated district, and considerable business is* done at this post-office. It is true that’ the Postmaster-General has practically agreed to pay the rental during the period of the illness, but he has refused to make any allowance whatever.
– Is the Department using the premises?
– Yes. When all deductions are made, the salary, of this woman amounts to only 13s. 1 1/2d. per week, so that, even if it were- paid- for the full period of the sickness, I do not think it could be described as any great generosity. The Department has. to-night been severely criticised, but I think that, when we get- the report of Mr.. McAnderson, we may find some recommendation to increase, the charges* in certain directions, so as- to permit of larger allowances being made. There are, unfortunately, many similar cases throughout the country. I am not altogether surprised-, to learn that the Department is. not. in a position to pay larger salaries- or allowances until some change has been made im regard to the,, charges levied for services it renders. I hope, that the PostmasterGeneral will, in. the near future, consider some reforms- in this- direction. In the particular district to which I have referred the office- should be a fully equipped one, as, indeed, it practically is, with a. Savings. Bank branch- and all arrangements for the usual business of a post-office. There is no arrangement, for the paying of- old-age- pensions, and- it is about time this office was made- a. branch for’ that purpose. Under all the circumstances, I hope the Postmaster-General will give serious consideration to the’ case I have presented.
.- I desire to- return to* a charge* T made the other night; and I< think nearly every country member will agree with me as to the administration of the Postal Department at” the present time. I mentioned previously that in Western Australia the State Government had spent over £500,000’ in constructing a railway of 198 miles, in order to- open up new territory., and that, although trains, are; running four or five times a week each way, the> Postal Department are chasing up these trains with, motor cars in order to give a mail service about once a. week. Such a position is. too absurd to be tolerated for a moment. I have received a. reply from the Postmaster-General that the- agreement made with the Railways Commissioners- six or seven years ago has another year to run, and. that when it has expired some consideration will be given to a change.
– Where do the motor cars run from?
– I explained, the situation the other night, and without a map. of Western Australia it would be very difficult, to make the position understood. From Midland Junction, near Perth, to Geraldton, there is a privately owned railway, and a Government railway from Geraldton to the Murchison, where the people are responsible for a very large quantity of mail matter. Some few years ago the Western* Australian Government authorized the construction of this railway of 198 miles, running’ parallel with the Midland railway, and now- this State railway connects with the Murchison railway. We had hopes when the State railway was constructed that the Commonwealth Government would1 assist in every possible way instead of patronizing privatelyowned railways. If the Postal Department would only1 have the1 mails to the Murchison field’ carried by this railway there would, I think, be a sufficient amount of mail matter to justify even the price for carriage that the Railway Commissioners are charging at the present time. But the Department prefer to carry the mails, not only for the Murchison, but for the large area which has been opened’ up by the new railway, by other means-. In the- first instance, the mails are carried to- a place called Moora by the Midland railway; then they are taken east’ a- distance of 30 miles by motor, which also runs alongside the railway a distance of 40 miles more in a northerly direction. Further north, at Three Springs, motors are- similarly sent out and- connected with the railway to the east. We are all agreed that the States should own the railways, and- surely it- is a most unbusinesslike thing to- have four or five trains running weekly over this- large area, none of them carrying any mail” matter, while the Postal Department is willing to- pay £900 or £1,100 a year for motor cars. I admit this price is cheaper than the price that would have to be paid1 according- to the railway contract- of £7 10s. per mile entered into some- six or seven years ago; but if the Western Australian Government and the present postal administration had any desire to help those who are trying to develop the back country of Western Australia, some arrangement could very easily be come to between the Railway Commissioners and the Postmaster-General.
– You would have this arrangement apply to the whole of the States?
– Yes. I think there should be an agreement between the PostmasterGeneral and the States that wherever railway trains run they should carry mail matter. It seems absurd to have trains running, over large distances, as they do in Western Australia - and I believe the observation applies also to Queensland - whilst at the- same time the postal authorities pay for motor cars to carry the mail matter over practically- the same route. I feel quite satisfied, that the Postmaster-General has only to ask in order to secure an alteration in the terras of the old agreement. In fact, I know- perfectly well that, so far as. my- own State is concerned, representations have’ been made on this very subject, but they do not seem- to have been- made- in the proper quarter.
– Railway Commissioners govern the railways in New South’ Wales.
– I know perfectly well that Commissioners control the administration, but- when it comes to questions of finance, and a State Government expresses the desire that certain things shall be done’, the Railway Commissioners do not often object.
– Who was Minister when that contract- was entered into ?’
– I was myself Minister for Railways some six or seven years ago, but this difficulty had not arisen then. I did- not know about the agreement that wag entered- into between the- railway systems of Western Australia and the Postmaster-General until afterwards, and had this state of things occurred while I was in office I should have insisted’ upon some alteration. When the State controlled the Postal Departments the great desire was to help the people in the back country, who had a better service then. I do not desire to reflect upon members of the Commonwealth Parliament, but State members had a better knowledge of the requirements of the people in the various States than members of this Parliament can, in a general way, possibly have. Nevertheless, I think the Prime Minister will agree with me that it is absurd for a State Government to be running trains into the back country whilst the PostmasterGeneral at the same time has a fleet of motor cars chasing them. I am quite sure that if proper representations were made the difficulty could be got over, and that the State Government of Western Australia would be only too happy to come to some terms with the Postal Department so that this grievance, which affects many parts of Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, could be got over. Mr. Johnson, Minister for Lands in Western Australia, will be in Melbourne in the course of a day or two. If the Postmaster-General will only see him, and show some interest in this subject I think he will be able to do something. Honorable members know the difficulties which people living in the back country have to contend with. Yet the position is such that, whilst the State has spent half-a-million of money in opening out this particular district in Western Australia, the Commonwealth is so mean that it will not spend even £5,000 in constructing a telephone line along the railway. Such treatment to people who are trying to develop the country is not fair. In case of sickness or accident, two or three days is now occupied in sending a message for the doctor. Ten or eleven days, or even a fortnight, has often to elapse before a reply can be received to a letter sent to Perth. During the past two years these people have had a most disastrous time. Nearly every one has had to appeal to the Government for food and seed- wheat to enable them to carry on, and if anything can be done to give relief in this particular matter, it ought to be done. The question is not altogether one of finance, though I believe if an agreement were entered into with the State Government, money would be saved. The trains have to run whether they carry mail matter or not, and, as I said before, surely some arrangement can be arrived at under which the expense of running both trains and motor cars through the same districts can be obviated. This is the second or third time that I have ventilated this anomaly, and I hope, in the interests of the people who are doing so much to build up this portion of the Commonwealth, more attention will now be given to it.
.- I am sorry the Postmaster-General is not in the House, but perhaps the Prime Minister will be good enough to give some attention to the matter I desire to bring under the notice of his colleague. The case I have in mind is a pretty’ hard one. A constituent of mine, whilst temporarily employed by the Post Office, had his leg broken by a telephone post falling upon him. He went to the hospital, where he contracted pleurisy and pneumonia. When he was discharged from the hospital he worked for some time as a casual half-time employee, receiving 27s. 6d. per week - that, whilst the Labour Government was in power ! Again and again appeals were made that he should be given full time. Four oi five officials at Ballarat stated they could find full time for him. It did not matter, however, what the officials said, the request could not get past somebody in the Department, and the man, who has six children to keep, was kept on half time.
– Was he unable to work full time on account of ill-health ?
– No; he could have worked full time on the class of employment they were giving him. He was injured before the Compensation Act came into ‘force, and up to that time was treated fairly well. He was paid while in the hospital, and afterwards was employed on full time, but subsequently he was given halftime employment. During the last few months his illness has developed considerably, mainly on account of the cold he contracted in the hospital, and he is now lying in a tent, receiving nothing. He had 27s. 6d. per week for about twelve months, and during the last few months has been unable to earn anything at all. I have appealed to the PostmasterGeneral for special consideration to be given to this case. No private employer would have treated his employee as the Postal Department has treated this man, for where a private employer is fairly well off he does not allow any employee who meets with an accident to lie in a tent without having a single penny piece, and I appeal to the Prime Minister to give favorable consideration to this case by making a grant of, say, £100 or £200.
– What is the name ?
– Gomer Jenkins. I know the circumstances very well, and I know the individual has given good service to the Department. I will leave the matter, for I see that the Prime Minister is making a note of it, and probably something will be done. I want now to refer to one matter in connexion with defence. I have here a notification - it is hardly an advertisement - published in the Herald. Appeals are being made for volunteers, and it is stated in this notification that pensions to soldiers who are killed will be, in the case of lieutenants, £91 a year. Two instances have been brought under my notice this week where two such pensions have been fixed - one at £65 a year and the other at £54: a year. Relatives of these people have cut out this notification and have sent it to me, wanting to know why it is that they are not to get £91 a year.
– Were they solely dependent ?
– Then they ought to get it.
– Have the cases been dealt with by the Pensions Board?
– Yes, and official no- ‘tification has been received that the dependants of one - a lieutenant - will receive £61, and the dependants of the other - a second lieutenant - £54. The mothers think the Government is treating them badly.
– I do not think that “ notification “ is an advertisement.
– It is not an advertisement. I said so at the outset.
– All the same, that is what the Government announces it will pay, and these people ought to get the money.
– Did you ask the Pensions Board for any reason why they refused the amount?
– They have been asked, but no answer has been given. I think in a case like this the Government ought to take immediate steps to let the people know the exact position. I want to refer also to the subject of separation allowance. We have drawn up regulations making provisions for wives whose husbands have gone to the front, and for mothers whose sons have gone, and in these we set out the amount of separation allowance that can be claimed. There is one set of cases not covered by these regulations. I refer to the position of a girl whose parents have died, leaving her to act as the guardian of a young family of brothers and sisters. I know of one case where a lad has gone to the front, and his sister, who is in the position of guardian to the rest of the family, cannot obtain the separation allowance. When I brought this matter forward the Minister for the Navy suggested that I should raise it when we were dealing with the amending Pensions Bill. As a matter of fact, it has nothing to do with pensions, or with the War Pensions Act. The separation allowance was fixed by regulation, and all that is necessary is to so alter that regulation as to meet the case of guardians, situated as this young woman is. Surely a girl, who is in charge of a small family of brothers and sisters, without mother or father to care for them, should be entitled to the separation allowance where her brother, who has been acting as the breadwinner of the family, goes to the front. I trust that the Prime Minister will give his attention to these matters.
– I shall do so.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 14th July (vide page 4874), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- At the close of the very learned and eloquent address delivered last night by the honorable member for Angas, it seemed to me that the debate on the motion for the second reading of this Bill might well have been concluded. Other honorable members, however, saw fit to follow him, and brought down the question more to the level of the ordinary man. The honorable member for Brisbane talked round and round the question. He seemed to fear that there was something very dangerous in connexion with this proposal to take a census of the manhood of the Commonwealth, and he told us that his fears were due to considerations of liberty. I do not know whether honorable members have ever seen an old cattle-dog walking round and round a porcupine, wishing to attack it, rushing at it again .and again, with his lips drawn back, and then, suddenly remembering that he has no teeth with which to catch it, ‘drawing away. I do not wish to compare the honorable member for Brisbane to a toothless cattledog, but the way in which he approached this question last night reminded me very much of such an incident as I have described. He approached again and again what he seemed to regard as a proposal most dangerous to the people of Australia, yet he never once closed with the subject. It appears to me that those who really do believe in liberty - those who stand for freedom - must accept this measure. It is strange that I should be found supporting something which the present Attorney-General has proposed.
– The greatest sinner may relent.
– The greatest sinner may relent, and the Attorney-General in this case has certainly relented. Any man having at heart the interests of, not only Australia, but the Empire as a whole, would’ feel constrained to support this, measure, no matter by what party it was introduced. We are not fighting for liberty in the ordinary sense of the term, nor are we fighting for individual freedom as it exists under the ordinary processes of government. We are fighting, in reality, against the greatest menace with which modern civilization has been confronted, and even those who raise their cries of liberty ought surely to wake up to the fact that Australia to-day is . being menaced in a way that cannot be overstated. Things at the front may or may not be progressing well for us. It is very difficult for us at this distance from ‘ the scene of operations to ascertain the truth. But, whether all is well or not, the position is so serious that we must be prepared to put aside the things which under ordinary circumstances would count, and brace ourselves to meet the actual position that confronts us to-day. It seems to me to be positively childish for any honorable members to say, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong and the honorable member for Brisbane did yesterday, that we must beware of this measure and deal with it cautiously. When we have ringing in our ears the shrieks of outraged Belgium and broken France, and when the blood of our own boys is being spilled on the hills of Gallipoli - are we to discuss this measure in -academic terms, as if the position that it is designed to meet were something altogether remote? If we’ approach the consideration of this question <from the lowest possible plane - from the stand-point of ‘the safety of Australia alone, and not from considerations .for the ‘safety of civilization as a whole–
– The honorable member has made a great mistake in his reference to me. I gave the Bill my wholehearted support, saying that I would support it even in time of peace, since I believe in organization.
– If I have done the honorable member an injustice by bracketing his name with that of the honorable member for Brisbane in this connexion, I regret it. I can only say that I listened to his speech and failed to detect much enthusiasm in his remarks. Even before the outbreak of war Germany was undoubtedly attempting to conquer Australia by peaceful methods. The process was long continued, showed every sign of pre-arrangement, and appeared to have been perfectly worked out. The Prime Minister, in answer to a question which I put to him yesterday, informed the House that there were over 34,000 Germans and Austrians within the Commonweal th. These figures do not include Australians of German parentage, some of whom are quite as alien in feeling as are their parents. Most people born in this country of German parentage .are loyal to our flag and to our institutions, but some of them are as bitter against us as are their old folk. We may safely say, therefore, that there are within the Commonwealth 40,000 of these people who are alien in spirit, and when we realize that they comprise a great many thoroughly trained men, the position assumes a serious aspect. We all know how Germany was quietly taking possession of our trade before the war. But we do not know what many Germans are doing in Australia to-day. I propose to give the House an incident that occurred a little while ago in Sydney. In that city there is an Australian girl who married a German. When the war broke out, her /husband said to her, “ While this war continues let us not discuss it in any way. Let us keep clear of the subject, so that there may be no dissension between us/’
The compact was ‘kept. After a time, the woman found that her husband was giving, as she thought, card parties in his office, and she was delighted to believe .that he had in this way found a means of taking his mind off the war. But one evening, chancing to visit the office rather early, with the object of consulting him,, .she found there over thirty Germans. -Her husband’s office was simply a gathering place for his fellow countrymen, who were plotting against this community. She promptly informed on the party, including her husband, and all of them were interned. That sort of thing can take place to-day, for the precautions taken to prevent such occurrences have been far too few. There is, I know, a feeling on the part of certain honorable members that the proposed registration of the manhood of Australia is a step towards conscription, and those who, like the honorable member for Brisbane, are blind in one eye where liberty is concerned, are afraid that this Bill will mean an improper interference with individual liberty. It is highly essential, in my opinion, however, that this registration should be made. I also cordially indorse the proposed census of the wealth of the community. There are in Australia many conservative minds who will view it with disfavour. There are a few who will be afraid of it, and not without reason, because a few of the wealthy people of Australia - not many, thank God - are not giving to the Empire in this time of crisis as they should do. The Government are justified in coming forward, and telling them that they must do their part. Every person in the community must be prepared to make sacrifices of some sort. No sacrifice is involved in giving that which we can afford to give. But at this time, we have to make sacrifices. No great deed was ever accomplished without sacrifice, and the time has come when we must be put to the test, along with the rest of the Empire, and, indeed, of the civilized world. If a man has money to give, let him give it. If he is well and fit, and free to go, let him give himself for the service of his country. If he has any special ability let him place it at the service of the community. If he has nothing but his life’s blood to give, then, if he be a true Australian, he will be prepared to give even that. I think this census of the wealth of Australia will be attended in many respects with good results. It will serve, for instance, to show what a lot of money is lying idle in Australia. In a young country like this, with all its potentialities, ‘and offering, as it does, so much scope for development, it is shocking to find that there is no less than £177,000,000 lying in .the banks at fixed deposit. In addition to that vast sum there are large sums in the banks at current account. The money lying to credit of current account will naturally be put to productive uses, since it is kept to meet the operations of men in business ; but, on the other hand, we have £177,000,000 simply on fixed deposit at 3 per cent, and 3i per cent. Surely, it is time that the people recognised to what little use we are putting our money in this country, and when this is brought plainly before us it will be realized by the people that there is something that needs to be remedied. It is to be hoped that members of this Parliament and of all the State Parliaments will set themselves to the task of solving the problem as to how this money shall be turned into productive sources. Despite what has been said during this debate, it seems to me that a great deal of “time and labour can be saved in taking this census by the utilization of State figures. I know of no reason why the State figures in connexion with the income tax, and particularly the land tax, should not .be adopted. The States have the most full and complete returns on all matters relating to land, and I fail to see why the Commonwealth should not avail itself of this information, and so save much time, and avoid a great deal of clerical work. If there is any definite reason why this cannot be done we should be told of it. The AttorneyGeneral, when introducing this Bill, said that it had been put forward that schoolboys and others might help to gather the harvest which, we hope, will be a very heavy one. There is no doubt that present prospects are for an excellent harvest. It is, however, very early yet to make an estimate. Seasons equally promising at this time of the year have ended disastrously. But the prospects at present are undoubtedly that we shall have a really heavy harvest, and it has been suggested by some of the leading schools in Melbourne that many of their scholars might be prepared to help during harvest time. There is no doubt that the boys would enjoy the work, but some consideration would require to be given to those scholars who are preparing for the usual examinations. The Attorney-General has said, however, that this service cannot be availed of. In this connexion also we should have some definite reason supplied by the AttorneyGeneral. Why cannot those boys go out into the country and lend a hand ?
– Lack of mechanical knowledge.
– Anybody with or without mechanical knowledge could sew up wheat bags or take horses to an’ from water; and scores of the boys at these schools are capable of harnessing horses, and many of them of driving strippers.
– A schoolboy could not put in order a stripper if it went wrong.
– How many persons can fix up a stripper if it goes seriously wron?? If the machine went only Slightly out of order there would be somebody ai hand to put it right. In every wheatfield there is more than one person employed. What is the reason that these boys, and all persons who are offering their services freely at the present time, are not to have their services availed of as seriously and eagerly as they are offered? If there is any reason behind the Attorney-General’s attitude let him state it, because the time has come when all the cards should be laid on the table. If we know the reason we may be able to find some other way of utilizing the available talent, energy, and patriotism of Australia.
– If there is a shortage of labour you may be compelled to utilize the services of the voluntary workers, but if there is a surplus of labour those services will not be required.
– I suppose the honorable member refers to the unemployed, but amongst the unemployed there are many who would not be worth a position in a wheatfield. On the other hand, there are plenty of schoolboys and persons in clerical and other positions who would do valuable work. Because there is unemployment, surely we are not to be debarred from utilizing the services of those who wish to be of some assistance during this crisis.
– The boy who gives his services free to the farmer is giving free service to the nation?
– I do not suggest that they should give their services free, except in the case of farmers who have gone or who wish to go to the war. The honorable member must know that there are many farmers who are anxious to go to the front, but are afraid that their crops will be neglected.
– Do you seriously suggest that boy labour would be of much use on the farms ?
– Of course I do; and the honorable member must know, if he has had any experience of boy labour, that such services are valuable if there are people to direct the effort. There are young men at the universities, and at the public schools, who would render valuable service if there was some direction of their energies. A certain amount of fear has been expressed in regard to this measure. It has been said, in more than one quarter, that the Bill is a direct menace to the people. I see no danger whatever in the proposal. The Bill, having fulfilled the functions for which is is to be passed, can be repealed after the war as easily as it has been brought into existence. I hesitate to believe that the Government would, under cover of war necessities, introduce a measure which they proposed to use for other purposes. Although Ministers have not told the House why some of the suggestions which have been put forward are not practicable, I do not believe they would ask us to give our support to this measure in ignorance of the use to which it was to be put. They have told us that the Bill is merely a war measure, and that it will operate only during the currency of the war. We accept that assurance, and, if it be desirable to continue the wealth census after the war, it will be a very simple matter to bring a Bill .before the House again. Just now we have to look at everything through glasses which, unfortunately, are clouded by the war. It is of no use at this juncture attempting to decide what we shall do for future generations. We are here to do service for the present generation, to meet present needs in the existing crisis. We are told that we should depend on the moral impulses which men may feel to offer their services at the front, and that, if we even approach conscription, we shall be damaging the liberties of the people. No man has more respect than I have for the liberties we enjoy under our Constitution. Any person who has studied the affairs of this country, and the growth of the Empire, and has glanced back along the paths by which civilization has come,’ must realize what the winning of our liberties has cost in broken lives and wrecked hopes, and the trouble and pain that have been endured by the people of succeeding generations to bring us to where we now stand. Realizing those facts, we should shrink from doing anything that would endanger our liberty. But by adopting conscription in this crisis we should not be interfering with the liberties we enjoy.
– Do you favour conscription?
– Not at present; but unless we face this matter fairly, the day may come when we shall have to resort to conscription. According to Mr. Knibbs there are in Australia to-day 500,000 unmarried men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five years, and over 100,000 unmarried men between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five. If the majority of that first 500,000 do not feel themselves called upon to go to the war, the time will come when the Commonwealth will require to face the question of compulsory service squarely and bravely. If the single unattached men do not offer for service the married men must go, and we know what that means. I could state cases that would tear the heartstrings of honorable members in regard to married men who have gone to the war. We all know how many widows and orphans have been created throughout Australia already. But this is not the place for us to deal with the sentimental side of the question. We must look at the system of enlistment in its business aspect. If we continue to allow to go to the war great numbers of married men with dependants, what will be the result? The Commonwealth has instituted a liberal system of pensions, and we hope that the country will be able to honour its obligations in that respect to the full without the financial burden becoming too great for the people to bear. I know of a man from near my electorate who has been killed in action, and has left a widow and eleven children without support. In the last letter which his wife received, this soldier said, “ I think if the single men had enlisted, there would have beet no need for the married men to come. You must pray night and day for my safe return, but I- do not think I shall come home again.” And he will not come home. His death means that his widow and eleven children will draw pensions from the Commonwealth, and it is quite right that they should. But are we prepared to continue to allow married men to go to the front, and involve the Commonwealth in the great responsibilities and heavy charges which the pensions mean, when there are single men who are fit to fight, and who, for the sake of the financial stability and prosperity of the country, should go to the war? According to the Pensions Act, if a lieutenant is killed at the front his widow will receive a pension of ?91, the widow of a sergeant will receive ?70, a corporal ?68, and a private ?52, and every child ?13 per annum. Honorable members can very easily calculate the difference in cost to the Commonwealth between the loss of single men and the loss of married men. From a sentimental point of view, there can be no question as to which man should go first, but for business reasons also the single men who are available and fit should be induced to volunteer, and if the necessity arises they should be forced to go to the front. We cannot afford to thoughtlessly and unnecessarily pledge the future of this Commonwealth to such an alarming extent. If it be necessary for all men to go to the front, all who are fit will be prepared to go. But let the Commonwealth decide that men shall go in the order which sentimental and business considerations alike show to be proper. If necessary, every man in Australia will be prepared to shoulder a rifle, because we all recognise what we are fighting for. None of us believes that any of the single men will be afraid to go when they realize that they are wanted, and that they are to fight, not only for civilization, the Empire, and Australia, but for the sanctity of our homes and the purity of our wives and daughters. In bringing forward this measure, the Government nave taken a step which will help largely to influence the young men to realize their duty, and to place plainly before them the fact that unless they fulfil their duty they will be recreant to the trust reposed* in them. If they can be made to realize the situation, there will be no necessity for conscription. Australians are of the right stuff, and when they know they are wanted they will answer readily enough. The Government wilT be well advised to pass this measure at the earliest possible moment, in order to consolidate all our forces of wealth, ability, and physical strength for application to the attainment of the one great end - our success in this, the greatest crisis the Empire has known.
.- The Bill has been discussed by many honorable members, and I have been pleased to hear very little opposition to it. I am sorry to say that the opposition that has been offered to it has come from members of our own party.
– Not all of it.
– Practically all of it. The right honorable member for Swan objected to a portion of the Bill, as we expected him to do. I am pleased that the Government have decided to establish this form of organization. Those who have paid any attention to the war so far must agree that the weakness of the British Government has been the absence of any organization at its command at the outbreak of the war. After many months of fighting and the loss of many valuable lives, Great Britain has recognised the necessity of adopting the same system of organization that Germany has had in operation for the past twenty-five or thirty years, and has recognised that Germany’s great strength has been due to the fact that her very complete system of organization enabled her at the outbreak of the war to know exactly where her men were, and how best they could be used. Now that Great Britain is adopting the very same system of organization that Germany has had in operation, we can have greater confidence in the efforts that the Allies are putting forth with the small amount of organization that has been employed so far, and I have no doubt that Australia will benefit very considerably by imitating this scheme of organization, which is in existence all over the world. Germany was so completely organized that at the outbreak of the war she knew how many bushels of wheat, flour, rye, and other foodstuffs she could control, and how best she could make use of all her produce. The Allies ‘were not in that happy position, and through their inability to control foodstuffs great unrest was occasioned, whereas Germany has had a peaceful passage in that respect, and her people have not been exploited as have been the people of her allied enemies. In Australia, though late in the day, we have recognised the necessity for taking steps to organize our forces, and though many opinions have been advanced as to the powers given by the Bill before us, and as to its utility, I am of the opinion that it will prove very valuable, and that, though the present intention is to limit its provisions to the period of the war, we may find a continuation of the organization which it will establish of considerable value for a long time ahead. Much of Germany’s success has been due to the fact that she has been organized, not only in regard to the war, but also in regard to her industries. In Australia we may meet with the same rapid success as regards industrial progress if we have in force the same system of organization of our industries that Germany has possessed for the last twenty or thirty years. In regard to utilizing the labour that has been offered gratuitously to the Government for the purpose of taking the census for which the Bill provides, the AttorneyGeneral should confer with the Chief , Electoral Officer. If the latter will agree to it, the work of conducting the census should be intrusted to the Divisional Returning Officers throughout the Commonwealth. I believe they will be permitted by the Chief Electoral Officer to undertake it - if it is carried put by these men it will be done satisfactorily, because they are in close touch with the people in the different electorates, and would know exactly how to handle the matter. There would then be no need for creating new machinery for the purpose of taking the census - while the labour that is being offered gratuitously in all parts of the Commonwealth could be used by allotting portions of the different electorates to different individuals who would distribute the census cards, assist the citizens to fill them in, and afterwards collect them. That would be a valuable way of using the labour that is offering, and in all probability it would be the easiest way of securing the information that the Government require. I do not know what the Attorney-General proposes, but it will be necessary to have officers of some kind in all the capitals as well as in many of the big centres of the Commonwealth, and it will be a simple matter to add to those on the electoral rolls the names of citizens between eighteen and twenty-one years of age.
The work will be more easily executed by electoral officers than by any new men who might be appointed to do it. I concur in the remarks of the honorable member for Robertson relative to the despatch of unmarried men to the war. It is estimated that the proportion of married men in Kitchener’s latest Army is 65 per cent. Great Britain is already recognising the heavy responsibility that is being daily incurred by the death of married men at the front in respect of the heavy liability for pensions, and, remembering that liability, the despatch of married men will be a very serious matter for a young country like Australia. We are likely to have a very heavy pension list. Although we have not the same number of men fighting as Canada has, our casualty-list is already considerably higher than that of Canada, which estimates that her pension bill for the year will be £9Q0,000. We may, therefore, conclude that our pension bill will be considerably more than that of Canada, and if we are to continue allowing married men to go to the front, we shall have a still heavier bill to pay in a year or two. In my opinion, if we have any money to spare for pensions it would be better to allow single men to go to the front, and be in a position to allow their dependants a higher individual pension than to have the amount of money available split up by having to pay pensions to widows and a great number of young children. According to the latest statistics, Great Britain has available for fighting, 7,839,000 men between the ages of nineteen and forty, and it is estimated that half that number are unmarried. In Australia we have more unmarried men available for fighting in proportion to population than has any other country. Mr. L. G. Chiozza Money. M.P., according to the Sydney Sunday Times, recently said -
At 27 years of age, the men of the country arc as nearly as possible divided between married and unmarried. Below 27 years of age the majority are unmarried. Here are some interesting facts on this head: - At 27 years -of age, as I have said, one man out of every two is married; at 26, however, only one out of every three is married; at 23, one out of every five; at 21, one out of every 15; at 20, one out of every 34; at 10, one out of every 125.
The men referred to by Mr. Money are the best that we can recruit as soldiers. They have the best physique, and stand the hardships of the battlefield better than any other class of man. In Australia we have available 10 per cent, more of unmarried men than any other country in proportion to population. As a matter of fact, we have sufficient unmarried men to fill all our requirements, without sending any married men to the front. I hold the same opinion as the honorable member for Robertson - that we should not permit married men to leave Australia while there are unmarried men available and willing to go to the front. When the honorable member for Flinders was discussing this matter the other day, he said that the age of recruits should be raised from eighteen to twenty years. The Prime Minister held a different opinion. The remarks of these honorable gentlemen have been commented on in the Sydney Sunday Times by Colonel Foster, who states plainly that men between eighteen and twenty years of age have shown the best fighting qualities of all the soldiers who have taken part in the battles of Europe. The majority of the men engaged in the battle of Mons were between eighteen and twenty years of age. It was the same in two or three other battles. Colonel Foster is of opinion that men of eighteen years of age are fully matured, and make the best soldiers.
– They cannot stand hardships so well as older men.
– According to the reports from Europe, they stand hardships better than any other soldiers. That is the opinion of Colonel Foster, who has had wide experience, and who thinks that the age of military service should not be raised from eighteen to twenty years.
– Young men will go anywhere, and have good-healing flesh.
– There is something in that. I am sure that young Australians will continue to enlist. Young men have served Australia magnificently. Our men have put up a performance which, before the war- began, even the most imaginative could not have believed possible. In the Old Country trouble has been caused by the conditions in many engineering shops, clothing factories, and collieries. There has been unrest and discontent because the men found themselves exploited by their employers, who were speeding them up in order that huge profits might be made out of the manufacture of war materials of one kind and another. The men were also being exploited by the sellers of foodstuffs, and could not get the Government to take action. In my opinion, the Bill will put an end to unrest and discontent of this kind in Australia, and will prove of value to the people at large. I hope that the public will not complain, as some honorable members have done, of the request for information regarding the wealth that is held. The information regarding the wealth of the community will probably be of as much value as that regarding the number of men between the ages of eighteen and sixty. Some honorable members on this side have said that the Government had already the machinery to do what it wishes to do. But the Commonwealth Statistician has told us on several occasions that, in regard to many matters, he has to rely on statistics furnished by State authorities, which are often received very late. It will be necessary for the Government to give consideration to the appointment of statistical officers in each State, in order to bring the Tear-Book up to date. The last T ear-Book published has not the correct figures relating to the number of cattle in Australia, and does not contain the latest information regarding many branches of production. There is a shortage of 1,000,000 in the cattle of Australia, but that does not appear in the T ear-Book. There is also a shortage in sheep of 5,000,000. The Bill provides machinery for bringing our statistical knowledge up to date, and will give an opportunity for the organization that is so necessary. Some of the statistical information published by Mr. Knibbs is often eighteen months or two years old. I think that the complete information which will be obtained by the collection of information under the Bill will justify the expenditure that must be incurred.
– I agree with the Attorney-General that the best assistance that honorable members can give to the Government in connexion with this measure will be in making their constituents acquainted with its provisions, with a view to the quick collection of the statistics that are desired. The object of the Bill is the organization of the resources of Australia and the ascertainment of full information regarding our men and our wealth. The proposal is to issue a proclamation specifying those who must make returns concerning their age, occupation, and so forth. These persons must obtain for themselves the forms on which the information required of them is to be furnished. Failure to obtain and fill in these forms subjects the offenders to a penalty. Now ‘the Government have an enormous task in making forms available throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I hope that it will take advantage of the post-offices and police stations, and also of the State schools.
– Cannot the Returning Officers attend to this matter ?
– They cannot do all the work that has to be done. Having had to administer the first Electoral Act, I know what a task the distribution of ballotpapers is, and the distribution of these forms will be a similar undertaking. Two returns will have to be made, one dealing with age, occupation, and so forth, and the other with the possession of wealth. Obviously the information in regard to the possession of wealth should be treated as confidential, and the forms should be so prepared that those engaged in the collection and transmission of statistics should not be able to acquaint themselves with the returns which they handle, which should be open only to the officers to whom they will be sent for compilation, who will be sworn to secrecy. A storekeeper in a country ‘ town might be seriously injured if the information that he furnished regarding his stock-in-trade were seen by a rival, who might be the man in charge of the local post-office*.
– The information will be furnished on cards which can be sealed in envelopes.
– That will be a satisfactory arrangement. I take it that the schedules which have been placed before us are merely tentative. Obviously the time has been too short for their proper preparation.
– We have many amendments to suggest.
– I notice that provision is made for the returning of assets, but no provision for the returning of liabilities.
– There should be a return of liabilities. The Commissioner of Taxes has made some very valuable suggestions regarding the schedules.
– The word “ income “ is used without a definition, and a Judge has said that it is “ as large a word as can be used.” In returning income there should be a “Seduction of the money expended in earning the income, but that is not provided for.
– We shall endeavour to cover the whole ground, and are glad to receive suggestions. The Commissioner of Taxes is giving us his full co-operation.
– I am glad to know that. The Attorney-General will find that more than seven days will be needed for the filling in of returns, because, under the Acts Interpretation Act ‘ ‘ persons ‘ ‘ includes corporations1 and companies, and unless returns were obtained from the big banking, commercial, and other corporations a great deal of the wealth of the country would not be accounted for. Now, unless the time at which the return has to be made happens to synchronize with the annua] stocktaking of a big firm a considerable period will be necessary to make a’ special stocktaking for the purposes of the Bill.
– It has been suggested that the return should be made out to show the position on the 31st December last.
– Some business men have their stocktaking, and make out their position at the end of the banking year. Others follow the calendar year, and there is also the parliamentary year. If stock has only recently been taken, there is no doubt that a return could be furnished within a week, but I think it will be necessary to give some latitude, and to accept approximations subject to revision. I think the value of the stock-in-trade, as taken at any time within the last six or twelve months, should suffice.
– I think that for income tax purposes the returns are mostly made up to 31st December.
– That is so, and I think it might be advisable to make the date 31st December, 1914, instead of the 30th June, 1915. What is proposed is the year of war operations, whereas the other would be a year half normal and half abnormal. After all, I take it that the object is not so much to get complete and absolutely correct returns as to get an indication of the wealth of the community - to ascertain the capital of the country, with a view to future financial necessities, and to provide that, should it be necessary to introduce taxation, we may approach the subject with knowledge. The Bill is not meant for taxation purposes, and the schedule could not be accepted as the basis of taxation ; it is only for the purpose of ascertaining the amount and the various kinds of wealth in the Commonwealth. A point of detail is as to the cost of the census, which the Attorney-General has put down at £100,000. A good deal of that, I take it, may be put down to postal charges; and I suggest that it might be advisable to insert a clause to provide that postal matter shall be carried free, as electoral matter is now. As to the underlying principle of the Bill, it is advisable for a nation in a time of war to be organized completely, both in regard to its manhood and its wealth resources, and with that principle I quite agree. This Bill is not, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Brisbane and the honorable member for Oxley, supplementary of the law relating to census and statistics, but is an entirely separate and different measure, as shown by the fact that it is a temporary one. The object of census and statistical inquiries, generally speaking, is wider and has purposes of another character. A Census and Statistical Department, to some extent, is a sort of general intelligence branch of the Administration, intended to advise us regarding the trend of trade, commerce, industries, cost of living, and other aspects of our social life. We look on society as a living organism with its different branches, and census and statistics are intended, to adopt a well-known definition, to provide a measurement of the social organism, regarded as a whole, in all its manifestations, we are enabled, as a community, to estimate exactly the social conditions of the people and legislate accordingly. This Bill is for an entirely different purpose. We are faced with a serious crisis in the history of the nation - a crisis the seriousness of which is sufficiently indicated by the request of the Prime Minister of England for every man we can make available, either with or without equipment. That request is, in itself, sufficient to make us, as part of the Empire, realize our responsibility. The Empire is at war, and when the Empire is at war, Australia is at war. The Empire’s responsibilities are our responsibilities; the Empire’s dangers are our dangers. We have seen that in the
United Kingdom the Government feel it necessary to take similar action to that we are now considering. This Bill, in itself, is not in the nature of conscription. The measure, when carried out, may give us certain information that will prove of use if conscription becomes necessary ; but if we are to have conscription it will have to be introduced in an altogether different measure, in order to make our men available for service beyond the sea. So far voluntary service has been followed throughout Australia, and the response, not only here, but throughout the Empire, has been unparalleled. This shows distinctly how the nation feels and realizes, first the Empire’s necessity, and, secondly, the justice of the cause for which we are fighting. The call was magnificent and the answer splendid, as witness the services of the Canadian troops on the battlefield of Europe. There were those who despised the British nation - who referred to the decay of the manhood of Great Britain - but the answer to those critics has been given on the battlefields. Not only Canada, but South Africa has responded, and no name will stand out more conspicuously in Imperial history* than that of Louis Botha, who has proved himself in every way a true citizen of the Empire. We could not have had a better illustration of how the Empire rests on the two principles of liberty and justice. Only recently the Dominion of South Africa was treated according to those principles; and the response made is such as to show that the hearts of our fellow citizens there are as deeply impressed with Imperialism as are our own. As for Australia, she gave her answer at Gallipoli. At the same time, although this voluntary response has been made, we feel that it is necessary to have the nation completely organized in view of the fact that the war is not yet over, and that, for some time .to come, there will be a steady drain on Australia. What we need is the systematizing, so far as that is possible, of all those who are going to the front-some means by which we can keep up the steady flow of reinforcements, while at the same time retaining those men we need for the production of materials and munitions. I take it that in this connexion will be obtained some of the most important information contemplated by this Bill. We shall be able to ascertain what artisans there are in Aus- tralia, and their classification, where they are employed, how they can be made available, and whether or not it is desirable they should go to the front. Incidentally, I think we ought to pay a tribute of praise to the work that has been done in Victoria by Mr. Brookes and the Chamber of Manufactures in calling a conference of delegates from all over Australia - a conference which acted very quickly, and was able to at once get into touch with the Minister of Defence and the Committee of Munitions. This conference has already started voluntarily, not to organize the resources of the country in the way the Bill proposes from a statistical point of view, but on a practical .basis. As a result of these efforts it is probable that, in a very short time, we shall be able to offer material assistance, not only to our own men, but to others engaged in this great war.
– Was Mr. Brookes responsible for summoning the conference? Mr. GROOM. - Mr. Brookes took part in it, but I am speaking of all concerned in the movement. We should congratulate, not only the employers, but also the workmen.
– They have to do the work.
– It is not only the doing of the work we admire, but also the spirit of readiness shown by the response made in a time of peril.
– The success of their labours ‘ will principally depend on that information from the War Office which Ministers have been trying to get for the last ten months.
– I quite agree that success will depend on the information that is obtained. In Queensland, for some time past, the professors of the University, acting in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce and others engaged in industrial pursuits, have made a most careful inquiry into the resources of the State.
– I think that all the States have been doing that.
– In their several ways the States have. Of course, these inquiries and organizations are entirely different from anything contemplated by this Bill. Some time ago, in the United States, a very important Conference, convened by Mr. Roosevelt, was held, with a view to gaining information with regard to the natural resources of the country, and a very complete report was obtained. Following on this, the Commonwealth Government approached the States of Australia some years ago with a request that they should have a sort of stocktaking of their natural resources, mineral as well as productive; but I regret to say that the States turned down the proposition. Had the States accepted the suggestion then made, a good deal of most valuable information would have been available before the outbreak of the war. However, the chief point is that Australia does now seem really awake to the seriousness of the situation. Those engaged in industries are coming forward in a ready and willing spirit, and the prospects are that, very shortly, the country will be able to do its utmost for the assistance of the Empire. There are other aspects of the Bill of interest, but they are more a matter for consideration in Committee. I again say that, if we, as members, wish to help the Ministry we ought to get back to our constituencies pretty soon, in order that we may make known the provisions of the Bill, and do what we can to insure its smooth working. There will doubtless be plenty of complaining and grumbling, especially on the part of those who have to make complicated inquiries and returns as to their positions; and our efforts, as I say, ought to be directed to smoothing over difficulties, so that the desired information may be obtained as speedily as possible. I desire to again bring before the notice of the Attorney-General the item of “ income “ in the census. I suggest that he should make the year referred to in that item synchronize with the year adopted by the States for the purposes of income tax.
– Because then he would be able to get the return almost immediately. All the State returns would be available, and a good deal of trouble and expense in compilation would be saved.
– Besides, there is only one income.
– Quite so. Of course, there may. be different standards of defining income, and that being so I do not see how we can hope to get other than an approximate return. If later it becomes necessary to impose an income tax, a complete and uniform definition covering the whole of Australia will no doubt be made. I am glad to be able to assist the Government in passing this measure, and I hope, in my own State, to assist in securing complete and adequate returns.
.- I do not desire to detain the House for any lengthy period in expressing my indorsement of the action of the Government in bringing forward this Bill. Fear has been expressed by many people that the intention of the Government was, sooner or later, to introduce a system of conscription. I was pleased to hear the assurance given by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General that the Bill is not for that purpose. Some honorable members have gone so far as to express the opinion that, notwithstanding these assurances, conscription was still the intention. I am perfectly satisfied, however, after the assurances given by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, that conscription is not the intention. The primary object of the Bill is to enable the organization of our Forces to be completed in case some crisis should occur, or in case Australia may at any time be thrown entirely upon her cwn resources for her defence. With that object I entirely agree. Until recent years we in Australia have never carried our fair share of responsibility in the matter of national defence. Almost from the inception of our history we have been content to leave that responsibility in the hands of the people of the United Kingdom. Only in recent years have the people of this country awakened to the fact that they had a country worth defending, and our experience during this war has been that, whatever money we have spent during recent years on our defence system, both naval and military, every penny of that expenditure has been well justified. But even that expenditure could not have saved this country from the danger of invasion had it not been for the great burden which the people of the Mother Country have borne year in and year out in the maintenance of that Navy of which we are all so proud. That Navy has enabled the people of Australia to enjoy that feeling of security which follows upon the belief that there is no possible danger of invasion so lone as it retains its power. Disaster to the British Navy is not likely to occur, but Ft may occur, and should success attend the German arms in Europe and on the sea, our present feeling of security would immediately disappear. We have no absolute guarantee that something of that sort may not possibly happen, and under the circumstances this Parliament would be failing in its duty at such a time as this, if it did not make the best possible use of all the powers at its disposal, to obtain all possible information that might help it to make any system of defence effective, or to mobilize, if necessary, every man in the country for the purpose of the country’s defence. I believe that is what the Government had in view in introducing this measure. I desire also to deal with a matter referred to by the honorable member for Darling Downs. During recent weeks, the Minister of Defence has been the recipient of fierce criticism, both on the floor of this House, and from the press, because of his apparent inaction in not trying to establish factories for the manufacture of munitions of war. It is only recently that the Minister of Defence has been in a position to give that information which he felt in duty bound to withhold, not only from the people of Australia, but from the members of this House, believing that in so withholding information, though he might be suffering personal injustice at the hands of both Parliament and press, he was doing the right thing by Australia and by the British Ministry, in whose confidence he was.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to pursue that line of argument.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs referred to a conference now being held between the heads of the engineering firms in Australia. I am prepared to say that the brains of the employing section of the iron trade were at that conference, and we all hope that, as a result, good will eventuate. T desire to say, however, that whatever success is achieved will depend upon information which, up to the present, has been withheld by the War Office regarding the manufacture of shell cases-
– Order ! The honorable member is now going right away from the question before the Chair. He is going into details of quite another matter.
– I understand that the object of this census is to discover what our resources in men, material, and wealth are. I desire at the present moment to deal only with the question of material.
– The honorable member will not be in order in going into details.
– Then I will say this. I commend the Government for taking this action, because I believe they will find that we have in Australia all the necessary material to do all the work that is now being done in other parts of the world, with the exception of that work which must necessarily depend upon information which has so far been withheld from us. Another subject mentioned in the course of this debate has reference to the question of labour. Many offers of assistance have been made to the Government for the carrying out of this census. I hope the Government will make the fullest use of all these offers of voluntary labour, only when . they have exhausted the services of the large number of men now out of employment, who are able and willing to do the work. Another honorable member made reference to the necessity for giving assistance to the farming community, and it has been suggested that boy and girl labour, voluntarily offered, might be useful. I believe if it were possible for us to obtain the information direct from the Defence Department - we may get it as the result of this census - we should find that only a very small percentage of actual farm hands, or men directly connected with the farming industry, have, up to the present time, volunteered their services as a result of the call that has been made. Ninetyfive per cent, of recruits from the country districts have not been working upon the land. They are men who have been employed in mining and in small manufacturing industries carried on in our great country towns. I should not make this statement if it were not for the positive information I have received from individuals who have been recruiting in country districts. One gentleman who has been recruiting in several of our farming districts tells me that the response from such communities has been anything but flattering to them. For this reason I am convinced that there will not be, as many people fear, a shortage of labour for the harvest.
– Does the honorable member say that farming people, as a rule, are not enlisting?
Mr.HANNAN. - I say that 95 per cent of the men coming into camp from country districts have not been employed directly on the land.
– The honorable member must be speaking of Victoria. That is not the experience in New SouthWales.
– If it were possible to obtain from the Defence Department the actual figures, I think it would be found that my statement is correct, and that it will apply not only to Victoria, but to the other States. Before concluding my remarks, I wish to refer to the position of married men who are going to the front. All honour to the married men who feel the call and respond to it But, as representatives of the people, we must have been very much impressed with the information we have received as to the probable cost of the war to the Commonwealth. Only a few days ago the Treasurer intimated the intention of the Government to float a loan of £20,000,000, and it should be our endeavour to safeguard, as much as possible, the financial interests of the people. The wisdom of sending married men to the front, while thousands of single men are offering their services, has been questioned to-night, and, as bearing on the subject, I have prepared a rough statement, showing the position of a family that has come under my notice. The father of this family was one of the first to be killed at the front. He has left behind him a wife and four children aged one year, three years, five years, and eight years respectively. Here are some figures showing how the war pension scheme will operate in connexion with this one particular family. In respect of the child one year of age, a pension of £13 per annum will be payable to the mother for fifteen years, representing a total of £195; in the case of the child now three years of age, the pension payable until it reaches sixteen years of age will amount to £179. The mother will draw in respect of the child now five years of age a total of £143; whilst in the case of the child of eight years, the mother will have drawn, when it reaches sixteen years of age, £104 ; making a total of £621 as the pensions payable’ in respect of the four children. If the mother is spared to rear her children until the youngest of them shall have reached the age of sixteen years, she will have drawn by way of pension £780, making a total payment of £1,401 in respect of the family of this one man. . I have maintained ever since the outbreak of the war, and the determination of Australia to participate in it, that this Parliament cannot do too much to protect the dependants of those who go to the front. I have taken exception to certain lack of provision in the existing War Pensions Act; but while I am desirous of making all the provision possible for the dependants of those who fall at the. front I consider it to he a ruinous policy, from a financial point of view, to send to the front married men with families of young children when thousands of single men are prepared to take their places. . In the circumstances, I hope that the Committee which is now being formed from both parties in this Parliament will give this question the most serious consideration. There is a great deal of good work to be done by this Parliament, and we should be particularly careful to look after the interests of the people as a whole, while trying to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth, by giving whatever assistance we can to the Mother Country in her present hour of trial. I hope that this phase of the question will receive the consideration it deserves from the Committee that is now being appointed.
– I do not propose to prolong the debate on this Bill, because it seems to me that all that is required of us is that we shall back up the efforts that the Government are making, and which are so necessary at the present time. This Bill, as I understand it, means that a census of the wealth of Australia is’ to be taken, to assist ‘the. Government in finding the revenue neces-. sary to enable us to do our part in the defence of the Empire. Objection has been taken to the measure by some honorable members on the ground that theproposed manhood census will lead to. conscription. I should like to make my position clear. I have too good an opinion of our young Australians to fear conscription. If conscription became absolutely necessary, I should reluctantly vote for it, but I certainly do not think it is necessary to-day. The recruiting that has taken place in Victoria during the last few days shows that we have still some of the old blood in us, and that the young men of this country do not require compulsion in so far as the protection of the Empire is concerned. They are prepared, if necessary, to give their all, their lives, in defence of it. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has made a comparison of the town and country recruiting results. My experience is that the country districts have done their share. May I remind the honorable member that men in the country districts have very great responsibilities? Many families - many homes and farms, the important primary industries of the country - are dependent upon the exertions of these young men, and they have to put to themselves very serious questions before they determine to enlist. As a matter of fact, young men in the country districts who have not enlisted are holding back, not because they are shirkers or slackers, but because they feel they have certain responsibilities which must be faced, and believe that there are others who have no such obstacles in the way of their enlistment will surely go first. The result of the recent recruiting campaign in Victoria must force us to the conclusion that it will be a very long time before conscription will he necessary. I hope that time will never come. It is one of the traditions of our race that we need no compulsion, that we are ready to volunteer for service in the defence of our country, and Australians have shown, during the present war, that they can uphold the best traditions of our people. I well remember once climbing Vesuvius with a guide, who asked me from what country I came. I replied, “Australia.” He thought that I said I came from Austria, and when I repeated that I came from Australia he said he had never heard of that country. That will never againbe said. Wherever we go we shall be able to say with pride and satisfaction, “We are Australians,” and our country will be known. The Dardanelles will live for all time in the memory of the peoples of the world. It was men from the back-blocks - the back stations and farms of the Commonwealth - who upheld our names at the landing there, and it is a libel upon them to say that those engaged on the land have not played their part. These men do not need conscription. I am prepared to go to the front if I can be of any service, and I am sure that every other Australian is ready to do so. Those of us who cannot go to the front can help in another way. We can give and give and give again, and those who have wealth must give with a liberal hand. I have tried to do my share. I have only two boys in this world and they are very dear to me and mine, and, although it is a most anxious time, I thank God that they are in camp to-night, willingly and cheerily doing their duty to their King and country. Some of the wealthy people of Australia have not done as they might have done in this respect. This, perhaps, may be due to the fact that they, like many others who have not yet volunteered, are merely awaiting their opportunity. We’ shall see on Australia Day what they are prepared to do, and I am hopeful that many will do the right thing. If they do not, the Government, by means of the information that they will obtain from this census will be able to make them. If it is necessary my vote will be given to make those who have wealth disgorge a portion of it by compulsion if they will not give it willingly. When we see our boys marching through the streets of this city, as we saw them to-day, we are justified in asking the wealthy people of this country to contribute their fair share to the cost of the war. Many wealthy people are giving freely, but there are some skulkers who will give nothing and do nothing. This Bill will enable the Government to reach the men who are prepared to let others go to the front and do all the giving. No term is too harsh to apply to such people. The Government should be in aposition to mark them. They should be marked and known. What will it profit them to have broad acres, large houses, and big banking accounts if the Germans become their war lords? I shall not debate this question further. I congratulate the Government on the introduction of this Bill, and believe that it would be wise to tap, and tap rapidly, the incomes of the people to augment our revenue. An income tax is the fairest of all taxation. We should be careful not to come down too hard upon the man with only a small income. We must tax lightly up to the bread-and-butter line, which in these days of high prices, I should say is £300 or £400 per annum. In respect to incomes above that amount’, there should be a substantial tax. No tax can be too high in respect of surplus income. Those who have surplus income must give, and we shall back the Government in insisting upon such people contributing their fair share to the cost of the war. I hope such a step will not be found necessary, but, if it should be, my vote will be given to the Government, and I do not think there is anybody in this House who would be so craven as to throw difficulties in their way. Often I have felt inclined to criticise actions of the Government, but I have felt that this is, not the time for criticism. We must remember that Ministers have a heavy war burden on their shoulders, and we must help them in every possible way, not only in war legislation, but in all other matters, so that we may show to the world outside that there is only one party in this Parliament. This is the gravest hour of our lives, the supreme call has come to us, and, whatever we can do to answer it, we should do quickly and well. One pound given now will do more good than £10 given months hence, when the money may be too late. I ask honorable members not to show the slightest party feeling; there is none on this side. I do not think there is one man in the House who wishes to take advantage of this time of stress and trial to obtain a party advantage. As. a man who has sons about to enter the fighting line, I speak feelingly. We should do all we can to assist our country. Some may assist with their wealth, some with their labour, and some with their lives. We shall always remember with pride and satisfaction what our Australian boys have done at the Dardanelles, and what the Australian Fleet has done. To-day, thanks to the British Navy, people are still able to book passages to London, because they know that Jellicoe and his men are on watch, and that the seas are open to us. We should be proud of all our fighters, and be prepared to do every- thing in our power to back up the Government in whatever they are doing. We need not dispute as to who initiated our Defence measures. In this fight we are brothers. Therefore, let us put aside all party considerations and do the right thing for Australia and the Empire. If we do, we shall be able to look back with satisfaction when the fight is over. I ask myself whether we shall win, and I answer “Yes.” Are we downhearted? No ! But we cannot win unless we have money, men, and munitions. The Government propose, with the aid of this Bill, to obtain those three essentials. Whatever they do, I shall not be too critical. I shall give them what help I can, and wish them God-speed. Let us pass this Bill through as soon as possible, and let us all be able to say that we have in all respects done our duty.
, - I have listened with a great deal of interest to the debate on this measure. Had it not been for the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro about the laying aside of party issues, I should have had something to say in regard to the manner in which men who previously held the opposite view are now subscribing to the necessity for organization. I find myself in a peculiar position, because I believe sincerely in organizing , our resources. Not merely during the war should we have our resources organized and thoroughly tabulated, but in connexion with our industrial warfare also there is necessity for organization. However, I shall content myself with saying that I have long held that view, and it is pleasing to me to find honorable members opposite now acknowledging the wisdom of some of those things which 1 have advocated for a considerable time. In connexion with the propositions that are facing Australia today, and more particularly in connexion with the wheat harvest and the wool clip, we shall need to be thoroughly prepared to handle our products to the satisfaction of the producer and the consumers in Australia and abroad, and I think that we shall need to investigate’ very carefully the whole question of the war census. The work that has been undertaken up to date in connexion with munitions is, of course, very necessary, and I realize also that the organization required to render to the Mother Country the utmost assistance of which Australia is capable is of vital- import to us as a community. But I wish to stress this fact: The Commonwealth Parliament is about to pass this Bill; the Mother Country has already in existence an Act of similar provisions, and, although this does not provide in any way for. compulsory service abroad, there is a feeling prevalent in the Mother Country that such service is the intention of the Government. I wish to draw a distinction between conscription and compulsory service abroad. I have taken the trouble to inquire from those who know regarding the system of conscription in operation in European countries, and I was surprised to find that such conscription does not of necessity involve foreign service. It means service for the ‘defence of one’s country, but the European Governments could secure soldiers for service outside their own territory in a very simple manner. Regiments are paraded and told that the country is at war, and those who have no desire to face the common enemy are requested to step out of the ranks. We can well understand what form of compulsion that must be. I feel, therefore, that when we use. the word “ conscription “ we are apt to misconceive its meaning, because those European countries claim that the men who serve outside their own countries are volunteers. I am glad to say that the voluntary system in Australia has not broken down. It is producing a large number of recruits, and it has been productive of the greatest good in Victoria during the past ten days. But I am fearful in regard to this matter of moral compulsion. Clause 7 of the Bill provides - me forms which may be required to be filled up shall be in accordance with the forms in the First and Second Schedules to this Act, with such modifications or additions as are prescribed.
As one who does not believe at the present time in compulsory foreign service, I would like the Attorney-General to explain exactly what was in the mind of the Government when that clause was drafted. The printed schedule contains no special question in regard to foreign service, but I take it that, under clause 7, the Government would have power to insert such a question, and demand from every citizen1 a reply.
– The only question that could be inserted is. “ Are you willing to serve abroad ? “
– That is so. I listened carefully to the honorable member for Flinders, and he dealt with this matter very fully. He believed that that question would be necessary, in order that moral persuasion, as he called it, should operate, and that each individual man should be asked directly why he did not offer to go to the front. That leads me to a question that probably may be asked of me, and I wish to explain my position to the House and to the country. I am privileged to be the youngest member of this Parliament, and I am well within the age for active service. My position will be best explained if I simply read to the House the following letter which I wrote to’ the Minister of Defence on the 8th July -
Dear Mr. Pearce,
As intimated to you personally, I have for several weeks past felt the call of my country at this critical period in our history, and my object in writing to you is to unreservedly offer my services, to be utilized in any capacity whatever. I would gladly follow the usual course and enlist as a private, but cannot pass the necessary medical examination. My idea is that there may be some opportunity to use my talents (great or small) in some capacity, at home or abroad, and thus release some one else who is medically fit for active service. As you are aware, I have had some years of experience in transportation work, and there may be some scope in that direction. Further, from 1900 to 1903 I was a member of the then Defence Forces (infantry) at Fremantle, Western Australia. Finally, if it is not possible to give me any official position, I honestly and sincerely beg that you will consider whether I cannot have my services utilized in any fashion whatsoever. If not possible to place me on the strength in any way, I would like to state pecuniary reward is not sought. 1 feel very keenly on this matter, and I sincerely hope you will not hurriedly decide the issue, but, if at all possible, give me a chance.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) Keg. J. Burchell.
I saw the Minister of Defence to-day, and my friend, the honorable member for Robertson, was with me. We are both in the same situation; we are anxious to serve in any way we can. Honorable members who know me well are aware that I would not be addressing the House to-night if I had been able to enlist. Having explained why I have not obeyed the call for voluntary service I wish now to emphasize the necessity for care and caution in passing a measure of this kind. I believe that England is approaching compulsory service abroad for all available men. I have no desire to be accused of crying “stinking fish.” I believe that our flag and our Empire will come out on top. I agree with all the sentiments that have been expressed regarding the pre-eminence of our nation, for I am just as great a believer in the British Empire and Australia as is any honorable member of this House. But we have to realize that the Empire has apparently not, under the voluntary system, done all it could do. I am not going to discuss Old Country politics, except to say that, whilst the Home Government seems to be driven towards the principle of compulsory service abroad, we, in Australia, are in the happier position of knowing that, at present, men are coming forward voluntarily to do service in the interests of this part of the Empire, and for the protection of our homes, and all who are near and dear to us.
– Do you not think that, if the British Government paid its privates more there would be a greater rally to the colours?
– No doubt there would. Australia has set a good example by its payment to its soldiers, and the provision it has made for pensions. In regard to the issue and collection of the cards, the Attorney-General stated that all cards would be required to be returned to Melbourne. I think it would be a very wrong move, and I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will not insist on it. I agree with the honorable member for Flinders that the collection of the information in regard to wealth will be a much longer job, and one that of necessity mustbe undertaken by chosen officers; but the work of compiling information in regard to the men available could very well be undertaken in the different capital cities. Decentralization will be the best course to adopt in this regard. It is absolutely necessary in the case of Queensland, where such great distances have to be covered, and also in regard to the vast spaces of Western Australia, and in view of the fact that the latter State is at present four days by water from the nearest place of railway communication. Once we divide the work - the wealth from the manhood census - it might as well be separated, at least so far as the initial stage of the work is concerned, enabling a rough idea of the information required to be arrived at in all the States. There has been a splendid response to the call for recruits, but we are faced with the fact that many men who will be required in connexion with the manufacture of munitions are leaving us. However, the classification of the men in their different trades and callings will enable the Government and individual honorable members to point out to these men how necessary it is that they should remain in Australia, and do the service which is required of them here. We know that Great Britain is bringing men back from the front to work in the factories and workshops, and we should avoid having to do that so far as Australia is concerned. I believe that the Government are sincere in their desire to do all they possibly can to further the cause of the Empire, and not only furnish men, but also equip them as far as can possibly be managed with the resources at their command. That being so, I am inclined to agree with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in saying that, outside the question of compulsory service abroad, the Government are to be commended for organizing the forces of the community. I hope that when the war is over, the lesson of organization that we have learnt on this occasion will not be lost to us from an industrial standpoint, and that we shall be able to enjoy a greater era of prosperity, owing to the fact that our organization will prevent much of the wastage that is now in evidence.
– I quite agree that this Bill is not being dealt with on party lines, but I must draw attention to some remarks made yesterday by the honorable member for Capricornia, who wished the country to believe that his party were opposed to war on all occasions, and were not a war party, and inferred that the Opposition were a war party. The honorable member is very seldom serious, but yesterday the appearance of his face led me. to believe that at last I had caught him in a serious mood. As rumours of that kind need a little correction, let me tell the honorable member for Capricornia and every honorable member that this war was not sought by the British Empire, nor by any individual in it; it was forced on the Empire, and is a war in which every man of the Empire is bound to take his part. In Australia we are a peace-loving nation; we do not want to fight; we seek only to live in peace. I do not wish remarks such as those made by the honorable member for Capricornia to go forth to the people of Australia uncorrected. I am pleased that the Bill has, or at least has to a considerable extent, the support of both sides of the House. A few honorable members on the Government side have given it their blessing, but in a very mild way indeed. I suppose that there are certain honorable members on that side who fear what may take place in regard to the registration of the manhood of Australia. It is a splendid idea to have this registration. I do not believe that the Government intend to use it for conscription purposes; but we do not know what is going to happen during the war or at its winding up. I dread the winding up business more than . I do the war itself ; and if it should be necessary to call upon the manhood of Australia to defend the Commonwealth, this census will enable us to place our hands on every man, to know his particular ability, to know where to find him, and to know what to do with him. It is a precautionary Bill if trouble does come to Australia. If that crisis does come about, we shall all have to fight; every man will have to go, no matter what his age is, if he thinks his life is worth giving for the Empire. I approve of the portion of the Bill relating to a census of wealth. It will be a very good thing to ascertain the amount of the wealth of the Commonwealth; but it is unfair to the men who are called wealthy when honorable members like the honorable member for Eden-Monaro get up and say that, as a body, they are not doing their duty. I believe that there are many men in the Commonwealth possessed of wealth who are unable to go and defend the Empire, but are doing their duty - and perhaps people do not realize to what extent they are doing it. Nevertheless, there are many wealthy people who do not realize the position, as in the same way the manhood of Australia did not realize until about a month ago what this war meant to them. The manhood, particularly of Victoria, was holding back and saying, “ It is not my turn, let some else go. Let So-and-so go as long as you do not take me.” But it has now wakened up. The recruiting week in Victoria has brought into the minds of many the fact that it is their duty to go to the front and be ready. to fight. In the same way the wealthy men of Australia have not realized the position, have not realized, many of them, that the Empire is at war, and have said, “ Let So-and-so give, he has more than I have. Let him give as fast as he likes.” I. am not opposed to any form of taxation which may be -put on the people of Australia; but fear has been expressed by many people that this census of “the wealth of the Commonwealth means considerable taxation. This fact was brought home to me the other day, when I asked why certain individuals in the Commonwealth were not contributing according to the wealth they possessed. Even among my own class I presume we know pretty well the value of different persons’ estates. These people have said to me, “Look at the taxation we have to pay now, and look at the enormous amount of taxation that will have to be paid by the people of Australia.” They fear the taxation that is likely to be imposed more than they would dislike it if it were already in existence. But they do not realize that they, as members of the Empire, have a duty which they ought to be proud to perform. They ought to be proud to contribute as much as it is possible for them to give. I know of many men who have given a few hundreds who would have been but doing their duty had they given their thousands. We are collecting an enormous amount of money in Australia, but those who give, and give in large sums, are the same people every time. It is people who can least afford to give who are contributing most liberally to these funds. It is really wonderful when you go into some of these country towns where, so far as you can see, there are not many wealthy men, and when you have one of those “stir up” meetings which honorable members occasionally address, to see how the money comes into the boxes. You could go round to the. same place in a month’s time and you would get just as much. You can start your Belgian fund one month, and your Bed Cross fund the next month, and it is really wonderful to see how the money rolls in.
– Those who can best afford to give contribute nothing at all sometimes.
– If the honorable member had been in the House he would have known that I have, been spending- the last ten minutes trying to make it perfectly clear that, in my belief, it is the people who can least afford it who are contributing most generously to these funds.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon, and I withdraw the statement.
– My point is that there are many wealthy men in the community who have not given to these funds as liberally as they should have done, and that the money collected comes from the people who can least afford to give. I do not fear at all what taxation may bring upon the Commonwealth. We have to face the responsibility. We have this special war expenditure now to provide for. and we will have the back-wash of the war expenditure afterwards - an enormous pension list and all the other attendant expenditure. “Whatever scheme the Government may bring in; whether a land taxation scheme or not, if the tax is collected equally from all classes of the community according to the amount of wealth they hold. I am sure they will not find 1 per cent, of the people who have the money complaining about having to pay the tax. We have to realize that if an enemy came here and took this country,’ our wealth would not- be worth much with an enemy Government taxing us and taking probably an enormous amount of money out of our pockets. There are just a few details concerning the Bill upon which I should like to have- the attention of the AttorneyGeneral. If these cards are to be distributed and collected through ‘the Post Office, an enormous amount of labour will be thrown on the postal officials. We know that a great deal of voluntary work has been offered to the Government in connexion with this matter, and I believe that in the larger towns, if the Government were to call upon the volunteers, they would he able to man an office for seven days, and have the work expeditiously and satisfactorily carried out. The volunteer’ workers could supply the whole of the information, and do all the detail work which, if thrown upon the postal officials, would tax their resources very heavily. It will be practically impossible for the postal officials to get all the people to call for the cards, and to explain to them the nature of the inquiry, so I feel satisfied that if the Government could secure the help of the voluntary workers in the larger country towns, valuable assistance would be secured.
– You do not suggest any nucleus organization already in existence, do you ?
– No. I am referring to those who have volunteered their services. The local municipalities and the shire councils could, perhaps, do something, but there is only one centre in local governing areas, and there might be several large towns. Still. I think the municipalities could give a considerable amount of assistance through their presidents or mayors. Something of this kind, will have to be done as regards Melbourne and the big cities, because it will not be practicable to drive the people to the postoffices to get the cards. I am certain that the classification of the census cards could be done to a great extent, and quite satisfactorily, . by non-skilled labour ; I mean by people who have had no special training. There is only one other thing I want to refer to, and that is the schedule dealing with the valuation of household furniture. I realize that furniture in hotels and warehouses constitutes wealth, but do the Government intend to put upon every person who occupies a household, upon every cottager, the responsibility of sending in a return 1 I hope they will be able to see their way clear to exempt personal furniture in homes, because its value as wealth is nothing, seeing that it is not producing any return on the capital outlay.
– Many small homes are furnished on the time-payment system.
– Yes; and some of the larger places, and it will be a very great inconvenience to prepare a valuation, because it will have to be something in the nature of a probate valuation. Probably experts will have to be brought in to prepare it. If the Government are going to compel all small householders to make a return of every article they possess, they will call down upon their heads something else than blessings from the people.
Debate- (on motion by Mr. Parker Moloney) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Seenate without amendment.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill..
That the message be considered in Com mittee forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the. raising and expending of the sum of Twenty million pounds for war purposes.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and read a first time.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the Governor-General, recommending appropriations for the’ purposes of the following Bills: -
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 July 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150715_reps_6_77/>.