6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the
Prime Minister if there is any truth in the rumour that if the first issue of the war loan is not freely subscribed for, the rate of interest will be raised! If the rate of interest is raised for any subsequent issue, will the subscribers to the first issue benefit accordingly?
– The question is an important one, and I am pleased that it has been asked. The Government have considered the matter, and are not prepared to offer any increase in the rate of interest. The conditions under which the loan is offered are sufficiently liberal to justify all patriotic persons who have money to lend in investing in the loan. The conditions under which the British loan were offered were quite different. Income tax is chargeable in respect of the interest paid on the British loan, and the loan, it must be remembered, was a conversion loan. We shall not be a party to the proposition of contingent conditions in respect to our war loan. Investors may withhold or not, as they please; we are certain to get the money at the rate of interest offered.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Oxley asked what is the number of cattle and sheep in Australia, and the natural increase, approximately, of our flocks and herds, what is our annual consumption of mutton and beef, and what is our export of meat. The following information is a reply to his question: -
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs when is it intended to proclaim the Navigation Act?
– The question was answered three or four weeks ago. The matter, at the desire of the British Government, is to be held in abeyance for the present.
– In the absence of the Attorney-General, I ask the Prime Minister whether the memorandum and agreement respecting the export of wheat, which were promised yesterday, will be laid on the table to-day ?
– The matter will have to be deferred a little, because, since the question was referred to yesterday, my honorable colleague has hardly had a minute to himself.
– If the AttorneyGeneral is unable to-day to lay on the table of the House the agreement made in regard to wheat charters, will the Prime Minister confer with him during the afternoon, and, before the House rises, give honorable members the main points of that agreement?
– I shall confer with the Attorney-General before the House rises. If the agreement can be laid on the table, that will be done, but I am not in favour of putting it before the House in piecemeal fashion.
RETURN of Wounded Soldiers : Discharged Soldiers : Recruiting Centre at Lismore : Fraudulent Cablegrams: Postal Employees and Active Service : Alleged Sale of Red Cross Stores.
– I understand that a preliminary inquiry is now being made into the complaints about the treatment of some wounded soldiers who were brought back to Melbourne by the Kyarra, and sent hence to Sydney and Brisbane by train. As it is felt that an impartial inquiry into the conduct of military officers cannot be made by a military officer, will the Minister for the Navy allow the final inquiry, should one be thought necessary, to be made by an independent civilian investigator?
– The matter might well stand over until Colonel Irving’s report has been received. Should a further inquiry be deemed necessary, no doubt the honorable member’s suggestion will be considered.
– Is it a fact that soldiers who have returned as invalids do not receive any pay? At the present time men with certificates of discharge in their pockets are to be found begging in the streets of Melbourne, and such men have informed me that they are unable to get money from the Defence Department until their pay-books arrive by some later steamer. Are men turned on to the streets without money until their pay-books arrive?
– When a soldier is invalided back to Australia because of sickness contracted through no fault of his own, he continues to receive his pay until he is discharged, and, if permanently disabled, may claim a pension. But some of the men who have returned and have been discharged are responsible for the complaints that they have contracted, and the Department cannot, at this juncture, take their cases into consideration. The Department is not responsible for men who have to be discharged because of complaints for which their own conduct is to blame. If they are walking the streets, it is their own fault.
– Can the Minister for the Navy yet make a definite announcement as to whether Lismore is to be a permanent recruiting centre? As a recruiting campaign is about to be com menced in New South Wales, will the honorable gentleman have the decision of the question expedited ?
– I shall be glad to confer again with the Minister of Defence on the subject.
– Arising out of a letter which I have received, I ask the Minister of Defence if he is aware that fraudulent cablegrams asking for money, and purporting to come from soldiers at the front, have been received in Australia. In a case brought under my notice, the cablegram was certainly a fraud. Will the Minister consider the advisability of warning the public against the possibility of imposition of this kind?
– The Minister hasalready given a warning to the public on the* subject, but I think that it istime that another warning was given. It has been brought under my notice that certain persons have received cables purporting to come from relatives at thefront, stating that they are wounded and are stranded in Egypt, and asking that funds shall be remitted to them by urgent cable. Upon inquiry it has been found, that the persons from -whom these messages purported to come have not been wounded, so that some one over there isguilty of wrong-doing. It would be wise if those receiving such cables would inquire before remitting any money to Cairoor elsewhere.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether any impediment is being placed in the way of youngofficers in his Department going to the front? A young postal officer in the country submitted himself on the 12th inst, and passed the test at a countrycentre. He then applied to his Department for permission to proceed to> Melbourne, but to that application he received no reply. He has, however, been notified of his transfer to another office, and notice of a long outstanding promotion also accompanied that communication.
– No impediment is placed in the way of any young officer of the Postal Department enlisting for active service. If the honorable member will supply me with the name of the man towhom he has referred, I shall cause inquiry to be made.
– I desire to put a question to the Minister for the Navy. A statement has been widely circulated to the effect that those in charge of Red Cross goods in Cairo are charging ls. 6d. for a pair of socks, and 10s. 6d. for pyjamas. Those are the amounts given to me as having been charged wounded soldiers.
– On a point of order, I draw attention to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that a question on this subject is already on the notice-paper.
– That being so, it is not competent for the honorable member to ask the question.
– By way of personal explanation, I should like to state that, had I known that such a question was on the notice-paper, I would not have asked it.
– “When I questioned the Minister for the Navy a few moments ago as to the position of certain returned soldiers, I had in mind the case of a returned soldier who has testimonials from the Commanding Officer at Cairo stating that he proved himself thoroughly trustworthy. This man, who was injured by a kick from a horse, is now walking about the streets of Melbourne, and says that he cannot obtain any pay. I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy whether that statement is correct? The unfortunate man says that he has made application at the Barracks, and has been informed that no payment can be made to him until the books arrive from Egypt.
– If the returned soldier has been injured while on active service, there can be no question as to his being entitled ro a pension.
– Would he not receive his ordinary pay while returning to Australia ?
– A soldier is supposed to l reeve hia pay up to th-3 dato of his discharge.
– Would the man be discharged in Cairo or here?
– Why not give his name?
– If the honorable member will supply me with this man’s name I shall have the matter at once inquired into.
– Is the Minister for the “Navy aware that on the arrival of the re turned soldiers in Sydney, two or three days ago, there was such a vast congregation of people on the railway station, aud so many motor cars and ambulance waggons drawn up outside, that it was almost impossible to get within halfamile of the platform?
– I have heard that the wounded soldiers on their arrival in Sydney received a magnificent reception.
– That is quite correct.
– Will the Minister for the Navy state whether detailed arrangements have been made for the transfer of returned wounded soldiers for New South Wales and Queensland who are to arrive by the Ballarat, and whether, in considering the arrangements, the desirableness of sending the men on by sea instead of by train will be favorably entertained ?
– Every comfort will be provided for wounded soldiers on their arrival in Australia. We have under consideration the question as to whether it would not be advisable for the steamer by which the wounded soldiers travel to call at the principal port of each State, so that the men may be landed direct from the sea.
– In regard to the transport of wounded soldiers from Sydney to Brisbane, will the Minister for the Navy consider the advisability of giving the men the alternative of travelling by sea or rail? Many, by travelling overland, have an opportunity of seeing relatives along the line.
– I am inclined to think that the soldiers from each State should keep together. Still, I think the soldier should have the choice of travelling by rail or sea.
– I gathered, from remarks made yesterday by the PostmasterGeneral, that it is hia intention to require female telephone attendants to do all-night duty, and that he said they had expressed their desire to do such work. I am informed that they have not done so.
– Order ! The honorable member is now debating the question.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether it is a fact that such a desire has been expressed, and, if not, will he see that female telephone attendants are not required to do allnight duty ?
– I made no such statement as that referred to by the honorable member. My reference was merely to female telephone attendants in South Australia, who had petitioned to be allowed to take charge of night work. That petition was granted, and the work has been going on satisfactorily.
– Does the Minister intend to institute the same system in Victoria ?
– I cannot say at present. It may be introduced in any part of the Commonwealth.
Visit of Mr. Blau to America
– Is the Minister for the Navy in a position to-day to make available the papers regarding the permit to visit America which was given to Mr. Blau ?
– There has not yet been time to obtain them ; but I shall endeavour to have the papers ready for the honorable member by Wednesday next.
-As the AttorneyGeneral is not present, I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will lay on the table of the House next Wednesday, or otherwise make available for the perusal of honorable members, all the papers in the possession of the AttorneyGeneral’s office in connexion with Mr. Blau’s visit to America, and subsequent references to the importation of 4711 Eau de Cologne into Australia?
– They will not be in the Attorney-General’s Department.
– A great many of the papers are in the Attorney-General’s Department; but, in order to make the file complete, will the Prime Minister also arrange with his colleagues - the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the Minister of External Affairs - to produce any papers in their Departments relating to the same subjects?
– I shall bring the matter before my colleagues, and unless there are good State reasons rendering it inadvisable, the file will be made available.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question, and, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, to state the facts on which it is based. While in Sydney during the week-end, I found that the State Government were distributing cards through the agency of the police, and taking a census of all males between seventeen and forty years of age. I found, further, that many people were confusing this action with the taking of the Commonwealth census. I should like to know if the Prime Minister could arrange with the State authorities to prevent this confusion and duplicatiou of effort ?
– The question is a very useful one. It would seem that great ideas are running in the minds of great men in different parts of the country. The honorable member is right in saying that if the operations are similar, then it is a waste of effort on the part of the State Government to anticipate the thorough census that is to be taken by the Commonwealth .
– They are adopting the card system.
– The details for the Commonwealth census have not yet been finally arranged, but a census must be taken in respect of the whole Commonwealth. I shall communicate with the Premier of New South Wales to ascertain if we can work together.
Assent to the following Bills re ported : -
War Census Bill.
War Loan Bill (No. 1).
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Removal of Lithgow Small Arms Factory.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Macquarie that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public business, namely, “ the implied intention of the Government to transfer the making of small arms from Lithgow to Canberra.”
Five honorable -members having risen in their places,
.- I bring forward this” question, firstly, because it is of very vital importance to the town of Lithgow, which I have the honour to represent; and, secondly, because I think, on national grounds, there is every justification for leaving the Small Arms Factory where it is and effecting any necessary extensions there, instead of incurring the enormous expense of transferring the whole plant and the men to’ Canberra, in addition to installing any new plant that may arrive at the Federal Capital. Apart from the intrinsic merits of the proposition, to my mind the Public “Works Committee, in the first place, and the Government, in the second place, have been guilty of tactlessness of the most extreme character in announcing at this particular juncture that it is intended to transfer the manufacture of small arms to Canberra. After considerable agitation and a great deal of trouble we have stimulated the Small Arms Factory to work a double shift. The assistance of the people of Lithgow has been a material factor in bringing about that result, and in many cases they have voluntarily suffered inconvenience in order to accommodate the extra men now employed at the factory. The general impetus given to Lithgow by the establishment of the factory there was very great, and an additional impetus was given by the announced intention of the Government to increase the size and output of the establishment. The whole people were unanimous and happy in rendering all possible assistance to facilitate the output of arms in this time of national trouble. But suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, comes the proposal to shift the whole concern to Canberra. “When the transfer is to take place is not stated in the report of the Public Works Committee, and when I put a question to the Prime Minister he replied that it was not intended to move the factory - I did not for a moment think it was - but that a new building was to be erected in the Federal Capital area which would house the new machinery when it, arrived.
– That is a misleading answer.
– There is nothing satisfactory in it. Even were it advisable to remove the factory from Lithgow, it was distinctly unwise to announce the fact at this juncture, when the Government are asking for the unanimous co-operation of the people resident in the centre where the small arms are being manufactured, and who have ‘ been of material assistance in increasing the output. This new policy is announced without justification, and even if there were justification, the unwisdom of taking such a step now must be apparent to all. Already the town has stagnated, and whereas up till about a week ago, the Town Council was receiving applications for twenty building permits per week in order to accommodate the extra workmen, it is now receiving none. Those people who are temporarily housing the extra employees of the factory find that responsibility irksome and require further accommodation. Instead of providing th em with that accommodation, we are imposing on them the burden of keeping those men, knowing all the while that in the course of time the factory is to be shifted. The folly of such an announcement is hard to assess. Even if it be necessary to remove the factory from Lithgow, knowing that the transfer cannot be effected for a couple of years, why should the Government throw a pall over the town now ? We might as well have a German aeroplane hovering over Lithgow. The enthusiasm of the people has vanished; their aspirations are ended, and the heart has been taken out of the town. The lack of imagination on the part of the men who recommended this step is beyond my comprehension. We, as a party, were particularly careful in nominating to the Public Works Committee the cream of the party, men of judgment - men who it was thought would not commit an error of this kind. So careful were we on this point that we declined to give the Opposition a full snare of representation, and insisted on having six members on the Committee to the Liberal party’s three, because we desired to assure ourselves that what was done by the Committee would be sound. But what have they done? They have come forward with a scheme that cannot be carried into effect for two years, and by the announcement of which they are cutting across the grain of the efforts which the townspeople of Lithgow are making to meet the sudden demand for arms. They are suffering by this announcement of policy, and their properties have been depreciated by 50 per cent. What sort of imagination must the members of the Committee possess when they could put forward such a proposal? To-day there are weeping women in Lithgow because the prospects of their husbands are ruined. The whole proposal to my mind is an outrage, and represents a tactlessness that it would be hard to parallel. After all that has been done to get this factory going at Lithgow, this is the result. We are told by the Prime Minister that the factory cannot be moved - in fact that it will not be moved - and the meaning of that can only be that the plant will be ultimately taken away. This, of course, is just as bad as if it were taken away at once. It is sufficient to damn the prospects at Lithgow, and a proposal of the kind is deserving of the severest censure. Not only is the contemplated action tactless, but the whole idea is entirely impracticable for various reasons. To quote the high-flown language of the limited report which the Public Works Committee has supplied, I say that, “ on broad national grounds “ it is unwise to have this factory removed from where it is to the Federal Capital area. If it is not intended to move the factory as it stands, with the men and machinery, it is intended to have two factories, with two sets of overhead charges and other incidental expenses; and such an idea seems to me altogether too foolish, even for the Public Works Committee or the Government. It is suggested that the removal of the factory will make no difference to Lithgow, where some other industry may be undertaken. But I say that it will make a difference to that town, because there is nothing that can be substituted for such a permanent undertaking, and the severing of personal interests cannot be atoned for. If there be a demand for some other kind of factory, let Canberra have it - let Canberra have the benefit of the new idea; it is not required in Lithgow, where there are many advantages for the manufacture of small arms not presented at the Federal Capital. I should like to quote some of the figures of the Public Works Committee to show how impractical their proposal is, and how ill-digested their report. And this is the committee which was appointed from the cream of our party to see that no errors of the kind were made ! The Committee say that for the extra land and buildings at Lithgow, including power plant and so forth, the cost will run to £66,000, and that they can put up a building, with power plant, at Canberra for £92,100, with twice the capacity of the present factory.I deny that that is so, and I shall tell honorable members why. To begin with, the £66,000, the estimated cost for the additions at Lithgow, includes £10,000 for additional power plant, while there is no allowance made in the £92,100 for a similar purpose. Why? Because there is already at Canberra a gigantic power plant with very little to do.
– But that plant at Canberra is just large enough for the efficient service of that place, and it would have to be added to for the purposes of a Small Arms Factory.
– Whether that be so or not, the fact remains that in estimating the cost of a new factory, any sound business man, with an elementary knowledge of bookkeeping, would allow for the cost of a power plant. In order, however, to discredit the existing factory, the Public Works Committee, with their idea of concentrating all works in this Utopia they are dreaming about, leave out, as is customary with dreamers, the actual cost that must be faced, though they do not forget to include it when they speak of works at Lithgow. I suppose Canberra is going to be the haven of officialdom; and the Public Works Committee have apparently accepted official ideas on the subject; in fact, the members of the Committee have simply been bulldozed. Further, the Lithgow estimate makes the assumption that 10 acres of ground will cost £300 per acre, that 50 acres will cost £250 an acre, or £12,500, and another 50 acres will have a similar price, making £28,000 in all. I am in a position to say, however, that I could get the necessary land at Lithgow for £10,000 or less.
– How many acres?
– The acreage estimated here, namely, 110 acres, I would undertake to get for £10,000 while the Committees say it will cost £28,000. The value in my opinion, has been intentionally inflated by the officials, who have not gone the proper way to work to ascertain how the land can be bought. If the Government, some years ago, had taken the advice of the honorable member for Darwin, when he was a Minister, they would have adopted a cheap and effective scheme ; hut, as is usual when a practical, commonsense proposal is made, they turned the deaf ear, preferring to listen to officials who, of course, know everything. The idea of men, who claim to be business men j asserting that similar land at Canberra will cost only £550 ! I have yet to learn that land in the Federal Capital will be of less value than Lithgow land. At any rate, there is the potential value in the Federal area.
– We can only get the real value by placing works there.
– Then let us place our new works there. Why destroy a flourishing town to build a fanciful capital? The proposal is open to the gravest possible objection.
– They ought to take all the works from my electorate to the Federal Capital.
– The honorable member talks very largely and easily, but if he looks into these matters he will see that they develop an entirely different aspect. In order to show the absurdity of the estimated cost at Canberra, let us consider what was the original cost of the Factory at Lithgow, exclusive of land and fittings. According to the original contract, the buildings at Lithgow cost £55,890, exclusive, as I say, of land and equipment. Since then - though the report of the Committee takes no cognisance of this - somethink like £10,000 has been spent on additions to the buildings, and, approximately, £10,000 on officers’ dwellings! - which are of the best in Lithgow, and may be described as palatial. After all this has been done, it is proposed to play fastandloose with the interests of the town. If we add this £20,000 to the original cost, we find a total expenditure of £75,890. The two items’ of £10,000 each are my own, but they are substantially correct. The Committee, however, did not take them into consideration, but only had regard to the original contract price. The Committee, in their report, go on to say that for the £92,100 at Canberra there will be provided a complete structure with twice the capacity of the present works. In order to obtain a fair test, we must deduct from that £92,100 the sums mentioned in schedules 2, 3, and 4 in appendix A of this report. These figures total £24,600, and include such items as moving the existing machinery to Can berra - showing clearly what the idea is - water main at Canberra, railway, sewerage, and a number of smaller items. That total deducted from £92,100 gives us £67,500 as the estimated cost of new buildings at Canberra that are to have twice the capacity of the existing Lithgow factory. Is it likely that we can, for that .sum, put up at Canberra a building that will have twice the capacity of buildings that cost £75,890 in Lithgow ? Is that common sense ? Where in such a recommendation do we see the intuition of those gentlemen who were elected to the Public Works Committeebecause of their assumed superior ability in matters of this kind ? The figures will not bear investigation. Any school boy knows that we cannot get at Canberra, an out-of-the-way place in the bush, for £67,500, twice as much as we have already had to pay at Lithgow £75,890” for. The thing, on the face of it, is ridiculous. Cartage charges at Canberra would1 be altogether disproportionate to what they were at Lithgow, and we have alsoto take into consideration the pace at which works are likely to be constructed at Canberra, all of which mean increased cost as compared with the Lithgow buildings that were constructed by contract.. The Federal Capital is more or less a haven for both officials and workmen. It ought to be better than most places, T admit, but I think I am fairly safe inassuming that, on this ground, the cost of the same buildings at Canberra would: be proportionately greater than at Lithgow. Labour difficulties have also to be* considered, and we have also to bear in mind there will be no educational and other facilities, all of which will tend to discourage men from going there. Men employed at theSmall Arms Factory are for the most part trained men, of high intellectual order. They draw good wages, and they want educational facilities in order togive their children a chance in life, and they do not want to be taken away from all the conveniences of civilization. Added to this, we have to bear in mind that all the people who go there will be disfranchised. Before any recommendation was made by the Public Works Committee, all preliminaries of this sort should have been threshed out. There is no parliamentary representative there, and thebody of officials who will live at theFederal Capital will be able to do just as they like. For all these reasons, I say that the proposal is impractical, and its presentation means that the Committee has been doped - the Government has been doped, too, for that matter - and has committed the unpardonable offence of presenting a hastily-drawn report calculated to seriously damage the town of Lithgow before our being in a position to do anything at all. If the Public Works Committee and the Government had been really keen and genuine on this question of extending the output of the Small Arms Factory, and equipping it with extra machinery, they could have done much by the use of facilities already at hand. I have on a previous occasion told the Government that there is at Randwick a plant capable of adding 100 per week to the output of small arms. Yet that plant has been idle for twelve months because of some dispute between Mr. Balsillie, the Government wireless expert, and the owners of the place. I understand that Father Shaw is one of the principals ; I do not know who is identified with him - but the position is as I have stated, nevertheless. The premises were offered to the Government for £45,000. Included in the offer was machinery which alone cost £75,000, some of it equal to anything we have in the Small Arms Factory; yet nothing has been done. I am told that we shall have to wait twenty months before we can obtain machinery, from Pratt, Whitney, and Company, in America.
– If they are as slow as they were in the first contract, the period will be much longer.
– Then that makes the position all the more untenable. We are proposing to do something which we cannot possibly do for two years, and, in the meantime, we have damaged a flourishing community like that of Lithgow by this premature announcement. In my opinion it is a shame and disgrace that the machinery at Randwick should have been allowed to remain idle on account of some paltry dispute brought about by a gentleman who came out a discredited man, and who, I make bold to say, is a further discredited man because of his recommendation regarding this plant. The Public Works Committee, and the Government, too, are discredited for permitting this machinery to remain idle, as they have done, When the cry is “ Arms for our men “ - when arms means lives saved at the front.
– When did you bring this matter before the Public Works Committee.
– I brought it before the House.
– The Committee knew nothing of it.
– I have done a good deal more than bring it before the House, but the machinery is still idle. It could have been taken to Lithgow, or men could have been employed straight away at Randwick.
– Is the factory yon speak of a factory for the manufacture of small arms f
– The machinery is adaptable for the manufacture of small arms. I have gone into the matter carefully, and I make bold to say that there is machinery in this factory that, if applied to small arms purposes, would increase the output of rifles by approximately 100 per week.
– It is the same old tale - they must have the exact machinery or they will have nothing.
– Able engineers have advised me on this point, and, though I do not know much about machinery, still I can tell one machine from another.
– Are these machines still idle?
– They are, and have been for twelve months. We understand that output at the present moment is everything, and, while that is so, the Prime Minister is fiddling about, trying to settle a dispute between Mr. Balsillie and.FatHer Shaw. What has that dispute to do with a critical situation like that before us? I say that Mr. Balsillie has been the cause of more trouble than enough, in all the disputes he has got into in the infringement of patents and all sorts of things. I am not in a position to know definitely, but I can express the opinion that he is in the wrong in this particular matter, and that the owners of the factory are right; but that is beside the question. We want arms.. Pratt, Whitney, and Company cannot supply plant for twenty months or two years. We have machinery in this country that can be adapted to the manufacture of arms, and yet this machinery has been ignored in a manner that amounts to criminal negligence, whilst the Public Works Committee is still dreaming about the Utopia at Canberra and bringing in a proposal that will only have the effect of disturbing all the carefully-prepared efforts that have been made to stimulate the output of rifles, and taking the heart out of the people. The Public Works Committee would have been much better occupied had it given attention to the housing of our soldiers, instead of making suggestions of this kind, which cannot take effect for some years. I draw attention to the injustice of what has been done. The Government owes something to the town of Lithgow. Surely it is not a function of government to lift towns up, and then to drop them again. Surely it is not the business of Governments to boost a township here, and another there, and then to withdraw all support, leaving the townsfolk to struggle as best they may, after they have spent their money in making accommodation for the works that the Government had established. This wanton action is as vicious as it is disastrous. The proposition that has been made has affected, not merely the original settlers in the town, but at least 200 of those who have gone there comparatively recently, and have invested in property there. The Committee puts down the number as only ninety-five. The value of the houses and property owned by these persons runs into many thousands of pounds, but the announcement that the Small Arms Factory was to be removed to Canberra has been as effective in depreciating the value of that property as the removal of the Factory would be. The townspeople have provided accommodation for the convenience of the 500 men who have been brought to Lithgow to work in the Factory, and should receive some better return than the wholesale depreciation of their town values. Confidence in the stability of the Factory has gone, and confidence in the stability of the Government is gone too, so far as Lithgow is concerned. Other towns will, no doubt, feel much as Lithgow feels, and wonder when the long arm of the Federal Government will be stretched forth to steal away what they have been giving, in order that this isolated refuge which the officials have made for themselves at Canberra, and which is going; to be made for workmen as well, may be fostered.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am glad that the honorable member for Macquarie has raised this question. I have not been able to find, either in the report of the Public Works Committee, or elsewhere, any justification of the step recommended. The honorable member has dealt faithfully with the main lines of the recommendations of the Committee, but, to my mind, these recommendations are more to be deplored because of what is omitted than because of what is stated. The Committee speaks of the cost of building at Lithgow and Canberra, the cost of land at the two places, and the cost of installing machinery at one place, without taking into account the cost of installing it at the other; but it has entirely overlooked the prime essentials that govern the considerations of business men when they locate a factory : these being, first, availability of raw materials, and, secondly, availability of labour. In regard to these essentials, it is proposed to go from a place which has them in part, to a place which is wholly without them. There is no steel at Canberra, no iron, and no coal. Every ton of coal that is used there must be brought there by train, and enormous freights must be paid for its transport. Similarly, every ton of steel that is used there will have to pay heavy railway carriage. Then, when the rifles have been made, it will be found that the freight from Canberra to the sea-coast is larger than that from Lithgow to the sea-coast. I do not say that Lithgow is an ideal site for the Small Arms Factory. Personally, I think that the Factory ought to have been established in a large centre of population, such as Sydney or Melbourne, but preferably Newcastle. But if you go away from such cities as those, I doubt whether you can get a much better place than Lithgow. You certainly have advantages there which do not exist at Canberra.
– Lithgow is connected by rail with districts to the west, south, east, and north of it.
– So far as I can see, Canberra has no advantage for the successful manufacture of rifles. In a casual conversation with the Director-General of Public Works, I asked what he thought the cost of making rifles at Canberra would be. Of course he could not be expected to give an exact answer offhand, but, at least, the Committee should have gone into the matter. I asked him what would be the additional cost with which every rifle made at Canberra would be loaded, and his reply was that he did not know, but that he thought that it would not be much. Would a business committee appointed to inquire into a business project overlook such elementary considerations connected with the establishment of a factory ? I cannot see why this recommendation has been made; but reading the Committee’s report, I can see that its leg has been pulled. The Committee gives as one of its chief reasons for establishing a factory at Canberra the desire to settle a large population there. Are you going to take population from other Australian cities to build up a population for Canberra ? Is the Federal City to be a sort of cancer, to grow at the expense of every other Australian city ? Could anything be more absurd ! The Chairman of the Public Works Committee laughs.
– I am laughing at the absurdity of the honorable member’s remarks.
– If Parliament cannot get a man with more business brains than the honorable member possesses to run the Committee, it should tear up the Act.
– The honorable member for Wentworth knows as well as I do that he must not use personalities of that description.
– I withdraw what I said, but it was in return for a personality of the honorable member for South Sydney.
– Had I heard the honorable member for South Sydney use a personality to the honorable member for Wentworth, I should have stopped him, but I did not hear him say anything.
– If the honorable member for South Sydney will exercise his undoubted intelligence and his inordinate business experience, if he will go to- those magnates in the industrial -and financial world who will appreciate his extraordinary genius to understand things with which he has never been connected, he will, no doubt, ultimately be led to the belief that it is wise, when you are thinking of establishing an industrial enterprise, to ascertain whether the raw material that you wish to manufacture into finished form is available, and whether you will be close to a suitable labour market. Had the
Public Works Committee dealt with this most important though elementary matter, the proposition that it lias recommended would never have been carried. It is not enough to consider merely the cost of establishing a factory at Canberra. You must also consider the cost of manufacturing in that factory. Apparently the Committee was swayed by its knowledge of the fact that there is at Canberra a power-house, built when the honorable member for Darwin was Minister of Home Affairs, which was supposed to be just about sufficient to meet the requirements of the city that is being created. I ask the honorable member for Darwin if he did not understand at the time from his Director of Works that it would be so?
– That is right.
– We have not yet got the city, but we have the power-house.
– We shall not need for a year or two all the power that can be obtained from the power-house.
– That is the very interjection that I wanted. The Public Works Committee saw that for a year or two power was to be had for nothing. Therefore its members said. “ We shall not take into account the cost of adding to the power-house the machinery necessary for a Small Arms Factory after the city has grown to its estimated size.”
– It is a matter of being on the job quickly, and utilizing the power. The honorable member, though a shrewd business man, cannot see that.
– I do not know what is meant by “being on the job quickly”; but it will be two years before this power can be used in a Small Arms Factory.
– Does the honorable member think that rifles can be turned out at Canberra next year?
– I should be surprised if they were not turned out within eighteen months.
– The Minister, who speaks of the advantage of ** being on the job quickly,” would not venture his reputation on that. He would only be surprised ! If it were necessary to improvize machinery for manufacturing small arras, we could do what is being done in Great Britain in a vast number of factories. All sorts of machinery there have been used since the war started for the making of rifles. Here machinery could be similarly adapted. This could be done in the main centres of population. How long is it since we were told that it would be impossible to make a shell in Australia, and how long is it since we saw the shell that had been made by a mining company, which had adapted -to its manufacture machinery imported for another purpose ?
– Does the honorable member know that the shell is a good one- that it will not explode among our own people?
– My honorable friend is that kind of shell. He seems to cause more consternation among his friends than among his opponents.
– The honorable member is the greatest professor of “bunkum” in Australia.
– What is true of the manufacture of shells is true of the manufacture of rifles, though, of course, it costs more to manufacture with improvized machinery. Shell cases made here can be filled and inspected in England, and as to rifles, we can provide for their inspection ‘here. It is a simple matter to improvize machinery for the manufacture of rifles. The rifles thus made will cost a little more, but the urgency of supply is a sufficient excuse. We shall not assist the conduct of the war one iota by starting a factory at Canberra, which the Minister says will be able, perhaps - or he will be “ surprised “ if it is not- to turn out rifles eighteen months hence. It is about time the House and the country woke up to what i& being proposed. The Government are proposing to remove the Small Arms Factory from a centre where iron is being produced from native ores, where there is already an unlimited coal supply, and the elements of all the materials of manufacture, to another site where we have at present no industrial population, and no raw material for the manufacture of rifles, and where the cost of manufacturing rifles in Australia will be loaded for all time. The proposal should be dropped. It is about time the people realized what is sought to be done, and that it is altogether wrong. I hope that the Government will not proceed with the proposition, and that, if on no other grounds, they will, at any rate, take time to consider the whole matter on the plea put forward by the representative of the district that the removal of the Factory will destroy the loyal co-operation of every person connected with the turning out of rifles at Lithgow at the present time.
– Already it has had that effect.
– If so, it is deplorable. The only way to stop the damage that has been done, and which will be vastly increased, is to recede from the utterly untenable position which has been taken up’ by the Government at the instance of the Public Works Committee.
.- I find no fault with the action of the honorable member for Macquarie in bringing forward this matter, and doing his best for the district that he represents. Indeed, I congratulate the electors of Macquarie upon having as their representative an honorable member who is so vigilant in its interests. The Public Works Committee does not hold a brief for either Lithgow or Canberra. Our sole duty is to determine from the evidence submitted to us what should be done. And what are the facts? Captain Clarkson, who was first manager of the Factory, has said that he did not think Lithgow was a suitable site for a Small Arms Factory, and he could not understand on what grounds it was selected.
– What were his reasons for objecting to the site?
– Time will not permit of my giving them at this stage. Mr. Wright, the next manager of the Factory, who was brought from the United States of America, told the Committee that Lithgow was not a suitable site for a SmallArms Factory, and that had he been consulted, he would not have selected it, but that since the Factory had been established there, he would not shift it.
– Captain Clarkson said that as it was there he would not shift it.
– His evidence was that it was a bad site, but since the Factory had been established, he would not have it removed.
– I suppose it is also a bad site for an iron works !
– I shall have something to say in a moment as to the iron works. The new general manager, Mr. Ratcliffe, who was also brought from America, gave evidence that Lithgow was totally unsuited for such a factory, and that he would never recommend the establishment of a Small Arms Factory in a hollow between two hills, which is the situation of the Lithgow site. Here, then, we have the evidence of three of the most expert men in Australia in the manufacture of rifles that it was a mistake in the first place to erect the Factory there. That mistake was made before the appointment of the Public Works Committee, and prior to the selection of the site for the Federal Capital. In view of all these facts, the Public Works’ Committee had to determine what was the best course to pursue. The honorable member for Wentworth has said, “ The Public Works Committee are proposing to remove the Factory from the district where the raw material, in the shape of pig iron and steel, is manufactured, to a site where there is none.” Such a plea might carry some weight with those who are not acquainted with the actual facts. The truth is that not one ounce of locally manufactured steel has been used in the production of rifles at Lithgow. All the steel required for the manufacture of rifles has to be imported and carried from the seaboard by rail to Lithgow. So much for the first argument.
– Will it not have to be carried much further if the Factory be established at Canberra?
– No. The honorable member for Macquarie has laid great stress on the point that the removal of the Factory from Lithgow will greatly disturb and upset that town. No town in the Commonwealth owes more to the Federation. Lithgow, which, according to the honorable member, will be ruined if we remove this factory, has received, by way of bounties from this Parliament, no less than £180,000 to keep its iron works going, to say nothing of the benefit that it has derived from the employment of a large number of men in the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory there. The people of Lithgow have no reason to complain of their treatment at the hands of the Federal Government. The Public Works Committee must be guided by the evidence, and there is an overwhelming volume of evidence that Lithgow is not a suitable site for a Small Amis Factory. If a mistake was made in establishing it there in the first place, surely we have no right to perpetuate that mistake by proposing to extend the Factory. An important consideration is that the making of additions to the Factory would interfere with its output. In order to duplicate it, one end of the Factory would have to be taken out and partitions put up. That would interfere with the work of the Factory at the present time. Then, again, a further proposal was that another story should be added to one part of the building, and that additions should be made to the front elevation. We could not make such alterations without upsetting the arrangement of the Factory.
– The making of additions need not have that effect.
– Those who have drawn the plans say that it would. If additions were made, then the power plant would also have to be increased. That, in itself, would be an expensive item. Turbines and additional boilers would have to be put in, and this -work would also hamper the output of the Factory. The members of the Public Works Committee considered that they should endeavour, if possible, to devise a scheme whereby the output of rifles in Australia could be increased without any interference whatever with the present work of the Factory. The honorable member for Wentworth, cheered by the honorable member for Macquarie, said that there was railway communication between Sydney and Lithgow, and that all the material could be brought up at very little cost. The cost of building the Factory at Lithgow, however, was largely increased by reason of the. fact that there was - and there still is - no railway communication with the site, so that the material had to be carted over very bad roads for a considerable distance. At Canberra, on the other hand, we have one site, amongst others, that is almost alongside the railway line. Material would not have to be carted half-a-mile from the railway to that site. Then, again, it is proposed that the Factory at Canberra shall be built of concrete, and in the bed of the river, quite close to one of the suggested sites, there is an unlimited supply of material for the making of concrete. That material will cost us nothing since it is in our own Territory. As one who is in the building line, and, therefore, knows a little about building, I venture to say that the making of additions to the present Factory would be very costly. Additions to a building are always tedious and difficult to carry out, whereas a new building may be erected without trouble. These are some of the reasons that have induced a majority of the Public Works Committee to recommend that the Factory be erected at Canberra. The honorable member for Macquarie has said that land can be purchased at Lithgow for £100 per acre.
– I undertake to get it.
– The Government could not obtain it at that price.
– Because the Department did not know how to go about the matter. I have the land under offer from the owner.
– Evidence given by one of the men in the Small Arms Factory, who, with others, had sought to buy land at Lithgow, was that it would cost over £300 per acre.
- Mr. Ryan’s evidencewas that it could bo bought for £60 an acre.
– Others have given estimates running up to £500 an acre. If we brought in a report recommending the duplication of the present Factory, would it not have a tendency to increase the price of land up there?
– Local land-owners would give the Government the land required rather than lose the Factory.
– No doubt. At Canberra we have a fine site for a factory - beautiful land, which cost, the Commonwealth only £4 10s. per acre. It is an essential part of the Government1 scheme, and of that of the Public Works Committee, that in connexion with every Government factory provision shall be made for housing the workmen. If wo arc going to build cottages for -the workmen at a reasonable price, it is essential that we should have good and cheap land. We ce’rtainly f.ould not obtain it at Lithgow for £4 10s. per acre, and I arn satisfied that if the honorable member for Macquarie had been a member of the Public Works Committee, ‘ and. had heard the evidence, he would have agreed with the recommendation of the majority. We have no feeling in this matter. Our sole desire has been to do the very best in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– The figures arc against the recommendation of the majority.
– Figures can be made to prove anything. I think we shall be able to show, however, that they support our recommendation. I have read a paragraph in a newspaper in which people with vested interests at Lithgow were invited to attend a meeting to protest against the removal of this Factory.
– That is not fair.
– I am stating what is a fact. Owners of property at Lithgow will naturally protest against the removal of the Factory, since its removal would affect their interests. They are quite within their rights in doing so, but we have a right to assess such a protest at its true value. Why should the Commonwealth have acquired 900 square miles of Territory if it is not to be put to any use? The Federal Territory belongs to the whole of the people, and it should be developed in the interests of the people.
– By destroying other towns ?
– How did Lithgow exist before the Small Arms Factory was established there?
– It was not half its presentsize.
– The Commonwealth has given Lithgow £1SO,000 by way of bounties on the local production of pigiron and steel, and it buys steel rails from the local factory yet, because it is proposed to remove the Small Arms Factory 10 our own Territory, we are told that we are. going to ruin that town.
– The Government have value for the money they have spent in Lithgow.
– Some people think we have not.
– They are very foolish.
– That may be the honorable member’s opinion, but 1 take the view that wo have not good value for our money up there.
– More bad management!
– If we take the factory away from Lithgow we may secure better management in connexion with it. We as a -Parliament have a right to look ahead. Even if the present factory were duplicated, it would not be sufficient to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth for all time. Whether the factory be removed to-day or twenty years hence vested interests are sure to protest. I feel sure that when, in a few years’ time, that Factory is established at Canberra, and there is a model suburb there-
– We will never have it.
– Let the honorable member make no mistake about that. I hope the common sense of the House will decide this question. It is true that there is no population at Canberra at present, but if good conditions are offered to the employees at the Small Arms Factory, we shall soon have population there. At the present time there are nearly 1,000 men working in and about the Federal City. They have not ideal homes to live in, but still they go there to work.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not wish to go into the general question of the recommendation of a majority of the members of the Public Works Committee to remove the Small Arms Factory from Lithgow to Canberra. I desire only to offer some observations on the proposal of the Cabinet to establish a new factory at Canberra, and to allow the existing factory to continue at Lithgow - for how long, I do not know. This is entirely a new proposal. The majority of the members of the Committee decided ‘ that it is desirable to transfer the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory from Lithgow to Canberra, and that a building of double the capacity of the present factory be erected in the Federal Capital area.” Six members voted in favour of and three against that proposal. The minority were of opinion that the existing factory at Lithgow should be doubled in size. When the Committee’s recommendation comes before the House, I hope to have an opportunity of explaining my own action in voting against the transfer of the Factory to Canberra. In my opinion, the weight of evidence presented to the Committee was in favour, not of removing the whole factory to Canberra, but of doubling the size of the existing establishment at Lithgow. Members of the Committee will agree with me that the question of allowing the present factory to continue to manufacture rifles at Lithgow, and at the same time to erect a separate factory at Canberra, is one that was not seriously considered by the Committee; at any rate, the records will show that no decision was given by the Committee on that particular issue. Now a new situation has arisen by the decision of the Cabinet to spread the manufacture of small arms over two factories of equal size. The conduct of two separate factories must increase the overhead and administrative costs, and also the cost of the product. I desire, by an argument on purely business principles, to show that if the decision of the Cabinet is carried out it will involve the Commonwealth in an enormous expenditure which is entirely without justification.
– Do you think it was wise to make an announcement of the transfer at this stage?
– I think the decision of the Cabinet was unwise. I do not propose to deal with the matter of the erection of workmen’shomes. It is possible to purchase land at Lithgow for the purpose of increasing the number of workmen’s homes, in addition to the 100 houses or blocks of land which have already been purchased by the Factory [workmen at Lithgow. If a factory is established at Canberra, the land required for workmen’s dwellings will probably cost £1 per foot, or £50 or £60 per block. It is not a fair argument to say that land can be bought in Canberra for £4 10s. per acre, because the enormous expenditure there will mean that every workman who acquires a home will hie required to pay a ground rent that will probably be equal to the interest that would be paid on the freehold value of land at Lithgow. However, I shall deal with that aspect of the matter when the Committee’s report is under consideration. If the new plant which has been recommended by the Committee is installed in a separate factory of the same size as that existing at Lithgow, instead of being added to the plant in the present factory, and if it is desired to get from the second factory the same output as from the first, it will be necessary to incur an expenditure, based on that of the Lithgow establishment, of not less than £155,000. Mr. Wright, in his report for the year 1913, said that the cost of buildings already erected at Lithgow was £55,890, and of plant £79,871.
– Do you think that we have gained nothing by experience?
– As a matter of fact, we shall have to pay more for plant now because the price is increased on account of the war, and, whilst the cost of the buildings was much in excess of the original estimate, I have yet to learn that it was excessive for buildings of that character. The power, heat, and lighting plant cost £12,966, office requisites, furniture and fittings £1,639, factory fittings and furniture £3,611, and vehicles £1,038, making a total of £155,000 for the buildings and machinery, and excluding the cost of the land. We can duplicate the present building at Lithgow, and install the machinery that is on order, and which would double the output, at a total cost of £95,000.
– How are we to house the workmen?
– Ninety-five married men employed in the factory have erected their own homes, or have arranged to erect them, and other land could be purchased in Lithgow, the interest on which would not be greater than the ground rent that will necessarily be charged on the holdings at Canberra. At both places the housing problem can be overcome without difficulty, but I am dealing exclusively with the factory. The Home Affairs Department has estimated that it will cost £60,000 to erect a factory at Canberra.
– But the buildings at Canberra will be double the size of the existing factory.
– I am speaking of a Canberra factory, half the size of the Lithgow establishment, as announced by the Government, Already the Lithgow factory has cost for buildings and machinery £153,000, and the same expenditure will be required in Canberra to establish a factory of the size necessary to duplicate the output from Lithgow.
– The evidence does not bear out that statement.
– lt does. 1 am -quoting the figures of Mr. Wright in his report for the year 1913. We can purchase additional machinery for the factory at a cost of under £40,000, and we can erect another building, to double the size of the existing factory, at a cost of approximately £60,000. Thus we can duplicate the output at Lithgow for a total expenditure of £95,000, which would represent a saving of about £60,000 on the probable cost of erecting a half -size factory at Canberra. I shall not touch on the question of a doublesize factory at Canberra, but am confining my attention to what we understand to be the decision of the Cabinet to allow the existing factory to remain at Lithgow, erect a smaller factory at Canberra, and have the two establishments running simultaneously. Such a policy would be ruinous, and would mean the expenditure of £65,000 of public money without jus tification, and materially increase the cost of the production of rifles. I think the Minister should tell the House whether the Government intend to adopt the recommendation of the Committee - with which I disagree also - and so let honorable members have an opportunity of discussing the whole question ; or whether the Cabinet have decided to build a factory at Canberra similar in size to the one at Lithgow. I desire also to emphasize the point that if the Government are proposing to start a separate plant in Canberra the plant already ordered will be probably £50,000 or £60,000 short of the plant that will be necessary in order to attain there an output of rifles similar to the present output at Lithgow.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie might at least have given the Government or me some intimation that he intended to move this motion.
– I informed the Whip. What more could I do?
– I heard nothing . of the honorable member’s intention. I do not object to a motion of this character, or to any criticism, but there ought to be a rule of courtesy so that a Minister may be given an opportunity of looking into a matter before it is discussed in the House. The honorable member has undoubtedly taken advantage of me, and I shall be obliged to depend entirely upon my memory. We have heard a great deal about business methods; and we have been told that the Lithgow estimate connected with the power plant should have been taken into consideration. This, of course, depends entirely on the point of view. We, as the trustees for the people of Australia, have for some time past been manufacturing small arms at Lithgow; and it is satisfactory to know that the output there has been doubled. There are proposals - to which, I think, the Leader of the Opposition is favorable - to still further increase that output. Independently of the war, it is essential that our trained troops in the future should be kept fully supplied with rifles, and to that end it has been thought necessary to have another plant. Now, what is the best thing for us to do?
– Use the plant that is available .
– I do not think so. Is Canberra to be regarded simply as a picturesque spot in the wilderness, to be photographed and admired, or is it to be of some use and value to the Commonwealth? We are faced with the necessity of increasing our output of small arms, and I have heard no reason yet why there should not be erected a factory capable of doubling the present output, thus really making the production of rifles fourfold what it was some little time ago. There is the fact that at Canberra we have the necessary power, and it ought to be utilized. Further, I do not believe in dual control - in allowing a State authority to have anything, directly or indirectly, to do with works that are necessary in the Commonwealth - and any works erected at Canberra will, of course, be under our own exclusive authority. The question of the interests of particular districts should not be introduced into a matter of this kind. If such questions are to be introduced, then I may claim to have a grievance, because I think that the Small Arms Factory ought to have been in Hindmarsh. I am not a Canberra fanatic, and I do not for one moment suggest that every activity should be centred there, regardless of common-sense considerations. We have been told, however, that it is possible to put up a building more cheaply at Canberra than elsewhere.
– We do not believe that, as I shall show.
– There are two reasons why we should take the step I have referred to.
– Will the Minister state what is the decision of the Cabinet in regard to having two separate factories ?
– I shall deal with that matter before I sit down.
– Do the Government propose to submit this question to the House before proceeding with the works, as, I think, they must do under the Act?
– I take it that the Government are prepared to submit anything that the House desires to have submitted. However, I am not the head of the Government, and that question might be put with greater force to the Prime Minister, especially in view of the fact that I am now at a disadvantage, in not having been made aware that this question was to be raised.
– I did not know you were “ in it.” It was the Public Works Committee to which I desired to refer.
– As Minister of Home Affairs, I feel sure that had I been absent when a question of this kind was discussed, I should have been open to the accusation of discourtesy. The Department of Home Affairs will have much to do with this work.
– That does not apply to the question of policy, but only to the carrying out of the work after it has been sanctioned.
– I do not propose to indulge in any hair-splitting. However, we ought to be able to build cheaper at Canberra, seeing that the material is all at hand; and, further, there is the advantage that we shall be able to avoid mistakes that may have occurred in the erection of the Factory at Lithgow. If we cannot do better than we did at Lithgow, then I shall think that my Department is not what it ought to be.
– What is the Government’s intention?
– To my mind, the intention is to put up a Factory at Canberra which will enable us to double the present output at Lithgow; but the idea of permanently having two factories going is utterly absurd. Further, it would be sheer insanity, in my opinion, to stop the works at Lithgow until the plant is in working order at Canberra.
– Why paralyze Lithgow?
– The honorable member seems to be the only one in any way paralyzed.
– You go to Lithgow, and the people will blow you out of the town.
– I really do not understand the honorable member, and I am surprised that he should be so thinskinned.
– The Minister would be thin-skinned, too, if Hindmarsh were involved.
– I do not know that I should, though I dare say that, like the honorable member for Macquarie, I should have made a demonstration. Be that as it may, we all know that the exigencies of trade require that factories shall be shifted from one locality to another; and the fact that some few years ago the Commonwealth Parliament took a certain stand, is no reason why it should continue to take that stand for ever.
– There is an obligation not to ruin people, any way.
– Well, I must say I am surprised.
– So am I.
– I have only been to Lithgow on two occasions, and I should say that it is not a place likely to be easily ruined, though it did not appear to me to be a second Garden of Eden.
– What is the Government’s intention?
– The right person to apply to for the policy and intention of the Government is the Prime Minister. I am merely saying what is in my own mind ; and it does not occur to me that two factories can be kept permanently going. Does the honorable member for Macquarie think that it is the intention of the Government to raffle the Factory at Lithgow ? Is there no other purpose to which that Factory could be put ?
– Use Canberra for other purposes.
– The time of the Minister has expired.
.- I have some sympathy with the Minister in being asked to discuss a question without having been given proper notice. At the same time I think that, with the information we have, and which, I presume, was available to him, he should have been able to give a very definite answer to the question raised by the honorable member for Macquarie. To my mind, the answer given by the Prime Minister yesterday was quite misleading. I am strongly of opinion, and I am supported by the information before us, that the Department of Home Affairs is preparing plans for a factory which is going to house, not only the plant that has been ordered, but also the plant at the present time at Lithgow. As the Minister has said, it would be absurd to have two factories going ; and if a straightforward answer had been given, the House would doubtless have been informed that it is the intention of the Government, as soon as it is necessary, to move the machinery from Lithgow to Canberra. I have no particular anxiety for the residents either of Lithgow or Canberra in dealing with this matter. To me the only question is as to what is best in the interests of the Commonwealth, and I can see not the slightest justification for the suggestion that the Small Arms Factory should be removed. The site at Lithgow did not appeal to me at any time.
– It is not the best, but it is a good one.
– Captain Clarkson, who also objected to it, pointed out in his evidence before the Public Works Committee that the site at Lithgow was so far away from any large centre of population that he thought that the labour difficulty would become acute. Had he had his way, Engineer Clarkson said, he would have established the Factory near Melbourne or Sydney. In answer to a question by myself, Captain Clarkson said he did not think it would be a good business proposition to move the Factory to Canberra, and he repeated that if he were to select a site he should look for one near a centre of population. If any change is to be made in the location of this Factory, according to the expert evidence, it should be to some site where the management would be able to get plenty of labour, and have a good choice of workmen. How are we going to improve the position from this point of view by going to Canberra? Lithgow already has a magnificent water supply, coal, gas, and other conveniences. We have iron and steel there, and I believe that if the requirements of the Small Arms Factory were sufficiently great, we should be able to get all the steel we require either from Lithgow or Newcastle. The same cannot be said of Canberra. The last balance-sheet issued in respect of the Factory’s operations in 1913 showed a deficiency of about £190,000, after a heavy expenditure on machinery and stocks. We know, also, that there was a big initial loss, which might occur again at Canberra, and are we going to repeat that loss simply because somebody with a fad thinks we can use the Lithgow Factory for some other purpose than that to which it is now put? I agree with the member for the district in what he has said regarding the schedule that has been placed before us. In that it is suggested that a factory can be built at Canberra for less than the additions at Lithgow would cost. I say now, after giving full consideration to the statement I am making, that I believe these statements were made either without proper care, or that they were deliberately misleading. Misleading statements were made in regard to the value of the land at Lithgow. It was pointed out in the evidence before the Public Works Committee, in the first place, that 10 acres of land at £300 an acre would be required.
– I thought it was to be £150 an acre.
– We were told that if we wanted this 10 acres we might have to pay £300 an acre. We were also told that 50 acres would be required at £250 an acre.
– What fort
– For workers’ homes.
– I will get it for less than £100 an acre.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that it would be impossible to obtain 50 acres of land in Lithgow similar to that referred to without going out of the town, and I am quite certain that land could have been obtained for £60 or £70 an acre. The estimate of 50 acres of land at £250 an acre appeared twice in the schedule. No explanation was given to the Committee why this was done, and the duplication was not discovered unless one carefully perused the schedule. It was deliberately misleading to the Committee, and I drew special attention to it at the time.
– The honorable member ought to have an opportunity of proving that statement. It was explained, and the honorable member knows the explanation. I am surprised at the honorable member.
– I should be glad of a further opportunity to do so. At Canberra we have no population. We have no coal, and no steel, and the only object of the present proposal is that honorable members should be able to start one of those industrial enterprises which is to be controlled by the Government. I hope, however, that honorable members will realize what this proposal means, because the expenditure will not begin and end with the £92,000 mentioned. I do not propose to deal further with the matter now, as we shall have a further opportunity of going into it fully. I only want to say that I support the honorable member for Macquarie in his protest, and I hope, in the interests of the Commonwealth, after the huge expenditure that has already taken place on the Small! Arms Factory, that this removal will not. be made. I think we should give someconsideration T/u the efforts that have been made by the people of Lithgow to find room for the large number of workmen, employed at the Factory; to the men who have expended their money in building homes for themselves, and to the special’ efforts that have been made in order toincrease the output of rifles. I regret that this bombshell has been thrown downat this juncture; but I hope the Government will give very serious consideration to the whole subject before consenting to the removal of the Factory. (Debate interrupted under standingtor der 119.]
– The honorable member for Dampier yesterday asked the Treasurer the following questions: -
The replies are as follow: -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether he will state, in reference to the proposal to form State committees for the production of munitions -
Bow these committees are to be constituted?
Who will elect them?
What will be their duties?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Vide Ministers statement to Inter-State Conference, which is as follows: -
Statement Presented to Delegates from State Governments, Chambers of Manufactures, Chambers of Commerce, Universities.&c., at Conference held in Melbourne on Wednesday, 14th July, 1915.
When the Commonwealth Munitions Committee was formed, it was asked to consider the following questions: -
And in its investigation it was instructed to consult with sectional trade committees which might be formed, or with individuals.
For the information and satisfaction of the delegates of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures and Commerce, States Governments, universities, &c, the following brief resume of the work of the Commonwealth Munitions Committee is given: -
Large quantities of war materiel of Australian manufacture have been, and are still being, supplied to the Commonwealth Government for the equipment of the Expeditionary Forces.
The Committee is collecting information for the preparation of a report on how best to increase the output from Government workshops of rifles, small arms, 18-pr. cartridges, cordite, &c., and what new factories should be erected for the manufacture of machine guns, tubes, fuses, &c, so as to render Australia independent of outside sources for the production of munitions of war, and the raw materials used in the manufacture thereof.
The Associated Chambers of Manufactures have been asked to supply a list of munitions of war (exclusive of shells and ammunition) which it considered its members could supply, and the Commonwealth Munitions Committee now awaits this information. Light rails, sleepers, and waggons, which the Committee was informed could be expeditiously supplied in large numbers, were offered to the British Munitions Department, but a cable reply was received yesterday (12th July), that the supply of these items in Britain exceeds requirements. When the report of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures is to hand, other items will be submitted to the Home Government with a view to securing contracts.
As regards shell bodies, cartridges,&c, for same, the manufacture of these could not be commenced until the Commonwealth Government had from the British Government some definite assurance that it wanted shells, information as to type of shell required, and whether Australian -made shells would be accepted. Because of the huge amount of work entailed in the organization of the new Department, the British Munitions Department was unable to give early attention to repeated cabled requests for information from Australia, but a reply has now been received that high explosive shell are required, and will be purchased at a price, and that full specifications and drawings have been sent, but until these arrive, the work of making shells cannot be proceeded with. Meantime, every preparation possible has been made; a specification of the steel to the correct formula has been issued, sample casts have been made by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and a sub-committee of experts is at present in Newcastle inspecting the processes of manufacture of the steel with a view to making physical and chemical tests. To commence, it is proposed to make forgings of shell bodies at two selected centres (preferably one in New South Wales, and the other in Victoria), to facilitate inspection, and for the same reason the number of firms asked to finish the first shell bodies will be limited until the best procedure of handling, manufacture, and inspection of shells has been discovered and approved, when provision will be made for the instruction and training of mechanics in the making of shell bodies.
In order to further facilitate this work and secure uniformity in all manufacturing centres, the Commonwealth Munitions Committee think it desirable that the various subcommittees in each State, comprising Government representatives, Chambers of Manufactures and Commerce, universities, labour organizations, and large engineering firms, &c, should amalgamate, forming what may be styled State Munitions Committees. The subcommittees in each State would be represented on, and would report to, the State Munitions Committee, which in turn would report to the Commonwealth Munitions Committee in Melbourne. All instructions, &c, from the Commonwealth Munitions Committee would be issued through the State Munitions Committees. Letters have already been addressed to the Premiers of each State suggesting the above amalgamation. I propose to this Conference that each State Committee should be asked to nominatea member to represent that State on the Central Munitions Committee.
Co-operation of various educational bodies and large engineering firms is desired in the matter of selecting suitable inspectors for shell.
Gauges for high explosive shell are now being made, and, as soon as tested and approved, the necessary number will be completed. Twenty-five provisional drawings of high explosive shell will be issued immediately. Provisional specification for manufacturing is now being compiled, and instructions for, and duties of, inspectors have been almost completed, so that until drawings and specifications and the forged blanks are available, much further advance cannot be made.
It is, however, recommended that intending manufacturers of shell bodies should select and prepare such existing lathes and grinding machines as they may have available in their shops, so that no time may be lost when the forgings are ready for them. Shops will be inspected as soon as reported as suitable for manufacturing shell, but the Commonwealth Munitions Committee desire to draw particular attention to the repeated warnings in cablegrams from the High Commissioner that many difficulties are encountered in the manufacture of shell bodies, and that the percentage of rejections have in the early stages of manufacture been extraordinarily high. Forthe purpose of conducting experiments, the sum of £2,000 has been approved by the Minister on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Munitions Committee.
Attention is also called to the demand for the following items: -
Field wireless sets,
Signalling electric lamps,
Cable (various), and samples of these will be made available for the inspection of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures at the earliest possible moment.
Toluene. - The manufactureof toluene from gas tar is being investigated for the purpose of export to Britain, and the Commonwealth Munitions Committee is hopeful of securing satisfactory supplies.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is - 1 and 2. Suitable accommodation has been found for the members of the Dental Examination Board, and they are comfortably housed in a tent in front of the Engineer Staff Office.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he obtain and place on the table, a report from the Engineer-in-Chief for Railways as to the water supply on the East and West Railway, showing -
The situation of the wells, tanks, and dams already finished or in course of construction, and their capacity?
The number of bores put down for artesian supply of water, and what success has been obtained in securing fresh water?
How much water has been conserved in the respective tanks?
– The report will be obtained as desired.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the “Red Cross and Patriotic Leagues organized by the Lady Mayoress and others are compelled to purchase through the Defence Department all the flannel, 4 c., required for their work?
– Yes; the Defence Department having requisitioned the full output of all the woollen mills in the Commonwealth, it is necessary that all who require material to supply the needs of our soldiers - contractors, Red Cross, and patriotic leagues alike - should procure their requirements through the Department. By this means the distribution of available supplies is regulated to the best advantage, and uniform quality assured.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiry is being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Can he say whether any steps are being taken by voluntary organizations in this State, which have funds subscribed for the purpose, to supply comforts to wounded soldiers now in our hospitals, and to give them such outings and recreation as will tend to their happiness and early recovery, and which can best be arranged by voluntary effort?
– Yes; every possible action is being taken by the voluntary organizations’ to secure the comfort and happiness of our wounded Australian soldiers. An efficient sub-committee, to .also provide for outings and recreation for convalescent patients, is already in existence.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether, in order to establish a no-delay telephone trunk line service, it is proposed to charge an extra rate for urgent calls and give preference to such calls?
– There is no present proposal to charge an extra rate for urgent calls.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will consider the granting of a destitute allowance to any inhabitants on their signing a statutory declaration that they are insufficiently fed, clothed, and sheltered?
– Consideration will be given to the matter at an opportune time.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether, when selecting horses for oversea purposes, arrangements will be made to utilize geldings as far as possible, so that the mares may be available for re-stocking purposes in Australia?
– Yes. It has been the policy of the Department, when purchasing horses for the Australian Imperial Forces, to keep the percentage of mares as low as possible.
The following papers were presented : -
Liverpool Military Camp, New South Wales - Further Interim Report on, by His Honour Mr. Justice Rich.
Ordered to be printed.
Dominions Royal Commission (Imperial) - Natural Resources, Trade, and Legislation of certain portions of His Majesty’s Dominions - Minutes of Evidence taken in Newfoundland in 1914.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at -
Burwood, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Chippendale, New South Wales- For Postal purposes.
Enmore, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Launceston, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Townsville, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Transcontinental Railway Route - South Australia - For Railway purposes -
At 158½ miles from Port Augusta.
At 187 miles from Port Augusta.
At 205½ miles from Port Augusta.
Waverley, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Wynyard, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
War Precautions Act - Regulation amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 119.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 28th July, vide page 5440) :
Clause 2 (Commencement).
.- I would like to know if the Minister can inform the House what is the position with regard to the pay or allowance for a wounded soldier?
.- That is a very difficult question for a Minister to answer, as it depends upon the extent of the injury and the state of incapacity. If a soldier is only partially incapacitated, he will, in all probability, be able to earn a certain amount of money.
– I mean, what allowance is made while he is wounded and under hospital treatment?
– A soldier gets his full pay until he is discharged. He is, of course, in receipt of pay while in hospital at Alexandria, on board ship, or in hospital in Australia.
– I would like to hear an explanation from the Minister in connexion with a case in my own district. A lady, whose husband has been in an asylum for the last seventeen years, has two sons at the front, one being a married man. I understand that, in the case of incapacity of her sons, she cannot sign the papers, because she is not a widow.
– The honorable member can discuss that case under clause 12, which deals with the amendment of section 8 of the principal Act.
.- I do not know whether we can discuss under clause 12 the matter discussed by the honorable member for South Sydney, but it is one of very considerable importance. I know of a case in which the circumstances are similar.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing it on this clause; he will have an opportunity later on.
– The case I have in my mind is that of a mother who has two lads at the front. One has been killed, and the other is still serving. The father is unable to work, and yet the mother cannot claim that she is wholly dependent on one of the sons, as both were contributing towards her support. I think the amendment circulated by the honorable member for Richmond might meet this case; but we ought to get a declaration from the Minister in charge of the Bill. It will be foolish to pass the Bill without provision to meet cases of this description. I fear we are going to be landed in endless trouble because of the manner in which the Defence Department have been circulating statements regarding the pensions to be paid. In one poster, signed “ George Pearce, Minister of Defence,” it is stated that dependants of a lieutenant will receive £90 a year as a pension, but I know of two cases in my constituency in which one lady receives £65 a year and another £54 a year. Naturally, these people feel that they are not being justly treated. The circular should never have been issued, because it is misleading. Those people, of course, were under the impression that they would get that amount of pension, but when one of them made a declaration the other day, she was quietly informed that, as she was the widow of a deceased clergyman, and in receipt of a pension from that source, she could not get the amount stipulated in the departmental statement.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing that matter at this stage. He will have an opportunity later on.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Amendment of section 2).
.- I would like to get from the Minister some declaration with regard to the case I mentioned.
– Order ! The honorable member is now discussing the definition clause.
– I want an explanation from the Minister. I do not want to give tup my rights merely in order that the Bill may go through.
– The honorable member is not giving up his rights, nor do I desire that he should do so ; but I might point out that there are other clauses upon which he will have ample opportunity to discuss the matter he mentioned. Clauses 11 and 12 will give him that opportunity.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Commissioner, &c).
– Under this clause we are practically : giving to the Commissioner, I under- stand, the right of final decision, and I, for one, as a member of this Committee, see no reason why we should depart from the good rule which we established of allowing the Minister to .be the final arbiter in the matter of pensions. By this clause the Minister is cut out entirely. I do not know whether the Minister has received the information which I sought from him yesterday as to the pensions paid in Great Britain, New Zealand, or Canada, compared with those paid in Australia. It is a well-known fact in connexion with the old-age pensions that the Minister is sometimes appealed to, and I would like to see something of that kind included in this Bill.
– It is provided in sub-clause 4 -
There shall be a Commissioner of Pensions, who shall, subject to the control of the Minister, have the general administration of this Act.
Therefore, that matter will be under the control of the Minister.
– The position will be the same as under the Old-age Pensions Act. The subclause quoted by the Minister places the Ministerial responsibility in this House for the administration of the Act upon the Minister. This might mean the
Treasurer, or other Minister in charge of the administration of the Act. This power coincides with section 5 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, which states -
There shall be a Commissioner of Pensions, who shall, subject to the control of the Minister, have the general administration of this Act.
The Minister will be in the same position. He will not be able, under this Bill, any more than under the Act 1 have mentioned, to act contrary to the provisions of the law. It will be his duty to see that the law is carried out, just, as the Minister to-day sees that the old-age pensions law is carried out. At the present time all war pension recommendations have to be submitted to the Minister for his approval. I think that the system will work well, because responsibility for the administration of the law will rest with the Minister, who will see that its provisions are observed. In the interests of the claimants themselves, definite rules of law must be laid down, and the Committee is* now engaged in laying down such rules. The registrars will take evidence respecting claims, and forward it to the Deputy Commissioner of their State, who will consider it, and give his decision on the case, and an anneal from his decision will lie to the central authority. But some clear principle must be laid down in the Act for the determination of all cases.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Duties of Deputy Commissioners) .
.- I move -
That the following new sub-section be added : - “ (3) In assessing the rate of pension due to a dependant the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner shall assess it at a rate not less than the amount contributed by the member for the support of the dependant during the period of twelve months prior to his death or being incapacitated : provided such assessment shall not exceed the amount specified in column two of the schedule opposite to the rate of pay of the member.”
I hope that the Government will accent the amendment, or something like it. When speaking on the second reading. I indicated what was in my mind in regard to this matter, and the case cited this afternoon by the honorable member for
Ballarat is an example of the sort of case in regard to which I think a definite rule should be laid down for the guidance of those who are to administer the law. The widow of a clergyman of the Church of England, who is in receipt of £26 a vear from church funds, has lost at the front a son who was a first lieutenant. The Act provides that the maximum pension payable to the dependant of a first lieutenant shall be £91 per year, but the Pensions Board, in dealing with the case, apparently argued that the intention of Parliament was that £91 a year was the maximum income that should be assured to a pensioner, and, therefore, allowed to this widow only £65 a year, which, with the £26 that she receives from another source, makes up £91. In my opinion, it was not the intention of Parliament that pensions should be allotted in that way. What was intended was that dependants should be paid for the loss of the breadwinner the full amount of compensation set down in the Act. I desire, therefore, that it be enacted that if a person can show that for twelve months prior to the death or incapacitation of a soldier, he or she was dependent on him, the Commissioners shall assess the pension at an amount not less than the support contributed, so long as that amount does not exceed the maximum pension provided in the schedule.
– Should not we fix the pensions definitely ?
– I am not opposed to that being done. Under my amendment, if a person could show that during the twelve months preceding the death or incapacitation of a soldier, he or she received £100 from him by way of maintenance, the full pension of £91 would be given.
– If a sister had been receiving as a gift £150 a> year from a brother killed at the front, would she be entitled to a pension ?
– I do not think that that is a case in point, unless the sister was dependent on her brother, and it should be easy to establish dependency. In most cases, the amount that is given by way of support is paid regularly, weekly or fortnightly, and the amount of a pension should not be reduced bv the amount of any other income that the dependant may have.
– Many brothers give allowances to their sisters. Would such sisters be dependants?
– The Deputy Commissioners would be guided in their decisions by the evidence in each case. The word “ dependant” is defined in the Act, and my amendment would not have any force except in regard to those who proved that they were dependants. If the claimant had been receiving gifts only, and was not a dependant, he or she would not be entitled to a pension. I am confident that honorable members do not desire that the War Pensions Act should be administered on the lines on which the Oldage Pensions Act is administered. Parliament has decided that no person who has an income of £1 a week shall receive an old-age pension. If a person has. an income of £26 a year, the old-age pension may be £26; if the income is £30 the pension may be £22, and so on, the principle being the greater the income the less the pension. In regard to war pensions, however, the full amount stated in the schedule should be paid to all persons who prove that during the twelve mouths preceding the death or incapacitation of a soldier they were dependent on him.
.- I. trust that the Minister will accept the. amendment. It seems to me to be an. eminently reasonable one. In the case which I cited,, the mother is no better off because of assistance that she receives from a church fund than if she had no> assistance at all, and it was not anticipated by Parliament that the War Pensions Board would take into consideration the fact that the dependants of soldiers were drawing small pensions from othersources. The amendment does not increase the number of persons entitled to pensions, and does not alter the definition of “ dependant.” In my opinion it merely secures to dependants what Parliament in the first instance decided that they should get, that is. the full pensionset out in the schedule. I draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that in a poster and advertisement issued bv theDepartment, bearing his signature, it is stated that the dependants of lieutenants killed at the war are entitled to a pension of £91 a year. This statement will cause a lot of trouble, because the fact is that it is only the dependants of a first lieutenant who are entitled to a pension- at that rate, the pension for the dependant of a second lieutenant being only £77 10s. Nothing is said in the advertisement of two rates of pensions for the dependants of lieutenants, and many persons do not know that there are first and second lieutenants. Two or three cases, in addition to those I have mentioned, have been brought under my notice, where pensions less than those advertised are being paid, and are quite in accordance with the Act. I am complaining, not of the amount that is being paid; but of the misleading advertisements published by the Defence Department as to the pensions actually payable. If the Government wish to avoid trouble, they should withdraw these advertisements, and publish others which will show the actual position. I am quite in accord with the amendment. I do not believe that the mother of a man who has been killed at the front should be awarded less than the full amount of the pension to which his position entitled her merely because she happens to be drawing a small pension or allowance from some other source. Why, for instance, should the widow of a clergyman, who is receiving a small allowance from the deceased clergy fund, receive a smaller pension on the death of her son than is given to the dependant of another man who is not in receipt of such an allowance? Surely it was not intended that the mother of a deceased lieutenant should receive a pension of only £54 instead of the full pension of £91 per annum, because she is drawing a small allowance from some other fund.
– From what other fund is she obtaining this allowance?
– In one of these cases I am told that the lady is the widow of a clergyman, and is drawing a small allowance from a deceased clergy fund. I have heard honorable members of Parliament read from public platforms advertisements published by the Defence Department, setting out pension rates which now prove to be incorrect. I am sure honorable members on both sides desire that justice shall be done to those who have allowed their sons to go to the front. Surely their financial position today should not be allowed to be worse than it was prior to the enlistment of their sons. It is our duty to see that they suffer no financial loss by reason of the death of those on whom they were dependent. I hope the amendment will receive favorable consideration.
– The honorable member for Fawkner has intimated that he desires to move a prior amendment.
– I am prepared to allow my amendment to be temporarily withdrawn.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- It is with regret that I have to say that some of those who have gone to the front did not make provision for their mothers to receive out of their pay the amounts to which they were properly entitled, and I fear that, under the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Richmond, a grave injustice might be done to the parents of such men. Sub-clause c of proposed new clause 5a provides that each Deputy Commissioner shall be charged with the duty of - assessing the rates of pensions of members of the Forces and their dependants, and determining the dates of the commencement of such pensions.
I move as an amendment -
That the following words be added: - “providing that such assessment shall not be less than £52 per annum.”
If my amendment be carried, it will be provided in the Bill itself that the amount of the assessment of a pension shall not be less than £52 per annum.
– The honorable member’s amendment would apply to the case of a man who had been only slightly injured as well as to the man who had lost his life. Many men might be only slightly injured, and entitled therefore to a pension of only £10 or £15 a year.
– My chief object is to insure as a right the payment of a pension of not less than £52 per annum, where a soldier has lost his life, or has been totally incapacitated. As the law stands at present, the dependants of a man who has lost his life have to plead poverty, so to speak, before they can secure a pension.
– They have not to plead poverty. Where a pension is claimed on the ground of total or partial incapacity a doctor’s certificate as to the injury received must be produced, and to that certificate great weight is attached in determining the amount of pension. Each case is dealt with equitably.
– The production of proof of injury or death has nothing whatever to do with the financial position of the claimant. Under the principal Act, even as amended by the Bill as it stands, the father or mother of a man who has been killed at the front will have to go before the Commissioner and plead straitened circumstances in order to secure a pension. The parents of a young man who have allowed him to go to the front should be able to claim a pension of at least £1 per week if he falls. They should be able to claim it as a right, and not merely because they are in straitened circumstances.
– Would the honorable member allow them to claim it irrespective of their financial position ?
– Yes. The financial position of the parents of fully 90 per cent, of those who have gone to the front would not put them above the claiming of this pension.
– If the mother or father of a man who had fallen were well off, would the honorable member allow that mother or father to receive a pension of not less than £52 per annum ?
– I would rather allow the small percentage of persons so situated to draw such a pension as a right than require others less fortunately placed to claim it as charity. Unless this amendment be made, men and women deserving well of their country, because of the services rendered by their sons, who have fallen in defence of the Empire, will have to appear before the Commissioner, and, in all humility, plead their poverty in order to obtain a pension. I maintain that these pensions should be claimable as a right - as a reward for services rendered. In indorsing the remarks made this afternoon by the honorable member for Ballarat, I must say that the posters and advertisements published as to the rates of pensions have misled a number of those who have gone to the front. Many have gone to me front, believing that should they be injured, they will be entitled to a pension in proportion to the pay they receive, and apart altogether from their financial position in life. The position of the wives and children of soldiers who have benn killed or totally incapacitated is clearly defined in this Bill, but the doubt in the Act, and in these amendments, is in regard to the parents of soldiers. It is for their benefit I desire to see this amendment inserted.
– The purpose of the Act is to give pensions to dependants. If any person can claim a pension because his son is killed, irrespective of whether he has been dependent on that son or not, the cost of the war pensions will be increased by a considerable amount.
– Such an increase would go to those who were absolutely deserving of a pension. Though the public may desire this Parliament to exercise economy, I do not think they wish any saving to be made at the expense of the soldiers who are rendering such invaluable service.
– Such an amendment would alter the whole principle of the Bill.
– The Bill requires alteration. I shall not agree to give the Commissioner power to ask a father or mother, who has lost a son, what his or her exact condition in life is before the granting of a pension. If the claimant parent has another son or daughter working. I do not think that the earnings of that son or daughter should be taken into consideration bv the Commissioner when fixing the pension.
– Section 3 of the Act makes provision whereby any person who was not dependent at the time the soldier went to the front, but became dependent within five years, will still have the right to apT>ly for the pension.
– What I object to is that when a man has laid down his life for the country’s cause, his parents, who have had to make the sacrifice of allowing their son to go to the front, must plead poverty to the Commissioner in order to obtain recognition from the Government of the services rendered by the son. ‘
– There is no disgrace in pleading dependence, because the Act provides for that.
– Even under the amendment of the honorable member, before a man could receive the pension of £52 he would have to prove that he was dependent.
– If we made a mandatory provision that parents should be entitled to the £52, the question of dependence would not arise. I trust the Committee will be able to devise means of fixing the pension in such a way that a parent will be legally entitled to the minimum amount of £52 per annum. I would prefer that claims should be made by people who are in comfortable circumstances rather than that deserving men and women should have to plead poverty before they could establish their claims.
.- I am not in favour of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Fawkner, or that indicated by the honorable member for Richmond, although I am in favour of the principle of both of them. I was sorry to hear the Minister state yesterday that a pension would be granted because the applicant was needy. I think a pension should be granted as a right, and not because the claimant is in need of it. Is a man who has been injured expected to plead that he is a pauper before he can receive his pension? A soldier who has been totally incapacitated is entitled to a pension of £52 per annum, but am I to understand that the soldier must prove that he needs the pension before he can draw it?
– I think I was discussing dependants when I made the remark to which the honorable member refers.
– The Minister stated that if a pensioner was convicted, and sent to prison, he was being maintained by the State, and, consequently, he was not entitled to draw his pension during the term of incarceration, because that would be equivalent to a second maintenance. The inference was that the pension was give.n only to persons who needed it.
– That remark related only to dependants.
– If the Minister had a son who had been injured at the war, would that son be deprived of his pension because his father was in a position to maintain him?
– I have never suggested such a thing. I replied to the honorable member for Batman yesterday that a pension was to bo given to a man for injuries received, irrespective of his class.
– Then the son of a rich man will be entitled to a pension?
– That is right and honorable. I desire exactly the same principle applied to the relatives of the deceased.
– It is possible for a man to get a total pension of £52 a year, his wife to get £26, and each child 5s., making up £100 odd.
– But I am speaking of a young fellow who has neither wife nor children, and contending that he or his dependants are entitled to a full pension, irrespective of their position in life. I am with the honorable member for Fawkner in urging that these pensions ought not to be regarded as a charity, but absolutely as a right; and what a man is entitled to as a right should, in the case of his death, go to his dependants as a right.
– Is it right that parents, if they are wealthy, should be paid a pension ?
– If a man is killed at the front, his dependants, under the definition in the Act, should te entitled to a pension according to his rank in the Army.
– Dependants are entitled to a pension now, provided they prove they are dependants. Why should they not prove that?
– But we have been told of cases where a certain portion of the pension has been deducted because of the fact that the recipients were in receipt of some other allowance.
– That is according to the principal Act.
– This is an amending Bill, and I am in favour of altering the Act in this respect. It appears, from what we have heard this afternoon, that if it can be shown that a dependant is in receipt of some other pension or allowance, his pension under the War Pensions Act is reduced to that extent.
– That is so.
– There is quite a number of honorable members who think that it should not be so ; at any rate, the principle is not applied under the Maternity Allowance Act, by which a mother, irrespective of her position, is entitled to £5.
– The principle that the honorable member is advocating is not applied in the case of old-age pensions.
– Personally, I have always advocated its application to oldage pensions. I suggest that the honorable member for Fawkner should withdraw his amendment, and allow me to move one which will go as far as he desires, and further. The case has been cited of a woman who receives a pension of £26 from some church fund or other. I take it that if that woman were to give up that allowance she would be entitled to claim the full pension under the War Pensions Act. At present a dependant can get a pension only when it is proved that he or she is a dependant, and the amendment I suggest, although it would increase the amount paid, would not increase the number of dependants. A father, for instance, in fairly good circumstances is not entitled to claim under the Act, but if within five years he can show that he requires the services and support of his son who has been killed at the front, he is entitled to claim. Then there is the other case of parents who are in poor circumstances to-day, but who in five years’ time may have had some good fortune, and be independent of such assistance as the Act affords. Is there anything in this Bill to say that the pensions shall then cease?
– Such parents then cease to be dependants.
– Is there any provision for such cases? Have those people to come forward every year and declare that they are paupers ?
– Under section 7 of the Act the Commissioner, for sufficient reason, may review any assessment or determination.
– That covers some of the objections I have raised, but I submit that the Act is not based on a legitimate right, but upon practically a charity. Many of the men who are going to the front are, in my opinion, too young; and this means practically that those who become dependent are mainly fathers and mothers. Wives and children are entitled to the pension in any case; and it would not mean much more money to carry out the suggestion I have made, and so assert what I regard as a sound principle. We ought to provide that a man who goes to the front is entitled to so much per day while sick and to so much per day if he be incapacitated; and, if he be killed, that his dependants have an absolute right to an allowance.
– There is no objection to dependants being paid a pension; but the honorable member apparently desires to provide for others than dependants.
– I wish to provide for only those who come within the definition.
– There might be six or seven dependants of one man, but the whole aggregate pension must not amount to more than that set down in the schedule.
– I am not suggesting that more than the full pension should be paid.
– I take it that the honorable member desires to put dependants in the same position as widows and children ?
– Exactly- to place the father or mother in the same position as the wife.
– Not necessarily. For instance, the honorable member himself has a son at the front, but he is not dependent on that son.
– That is so; but I do not wish, it to be incumbent on mothers to have to declare that they are paupers before they are given pensions. The very fact that she is the mother of the man killed ought to entitle a woman to a pension, if, of course, the deceased man has neither wife nor child.
– If, unfortunately, the honorable member’s son were to lose his life, I am sure that the honorable member would not like his wife to take a pension of £52 a year for the rest of her life. That is the position the honorable member is putting to the Committee.
– Not at all. I do not say that every woman should take a pension; but if, under the circumstances I have indicated, a woman asks for one, she is entitled to get it without answering all the questions that have been drawn up. As I say, the only question to be decided is whether she is the mother of the deceased man, and, if she is, she ought to be entitled to a pension.
Mr. GREENE (Richmond) [5.501.- I am inclined to think that an amendment on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Barrier would go a good deal further than either the honorable member or the Committee would desire. I understand the honorable member wishes the pension to become practically an inalienable right attached to enlistment-
– Under the voluntary system it ought to be.
– To be legally inherited by any person who is a dependant.
– So it ought to be. While a. big majority of our people have cold feet, these who have gone to the front should have a fair and square deal.
– As far as I can make out, the honorable member desires that the next of kin shall be legally entitled, on the death of a member of the Expeditionary Forces, to draw whatever pension appears in the schedule opposite the actual amount of his remuneration while a member of the Forces. The honorable member for Fawkner argued on somewhat similar lines, with the difference that he would limit the pension to a certain sum.
– To not less than a certain sum !
– That is so. I am inclined to think that if the Act “were amended in accordance with the ideas of those two honorable members, it would go further than the Committee would desire, and further than the country’s resources would warrant. Whilst I contend most emphatically that those who are dependent upon the pension due on the death of a member of the Expeditionary Forces are entitled to the whole of the pension, whatever it may be - I think that was the intention of the original Act - yet to say that this pension shall be an inalienable right, passing naturally to the next of kin of a deceased soldier, irrespective of his or her position in life, is to determine upon a pension bill that will be simply staggering. It is unfortunately true that a large number of those who have already gone to the front have sacrificed their lives, and, as far as we can see, the war is not yet nearly at an end. The number of troops required at the front will be very great; and whilst we ought to treat those who go with the utmost liberality that our finances will permit, the Committee should hesitate a long time before committing itself to the payment of pensions as a legal right possessed by the next of kin.
– The main Act Refines whom the dependants are.
– But the honorable member wants to go a good deal further than the original Act.
– He said the pensions should be paid as a matter of right.
– To those who are defined as dependants.
– How can a mother and father be dependants if they are well off ?
– What the honorable member for Barrier was contending for was that it should not be incumbent upon these persons to prove that they were dependants - that all that they must do was to say, “ I am the mother,” or ‘’ I am the father,” and receive the pension.
– Decidedly !
– But we must go further than that. We must know that they are dependants before they receive a pension, so that there must be an investigation. I do not think that it is possible to go as far as the honorable member for Barrier desires, and in my view it is absolutely necessary that we should lay down the principle that, as the pension is to be payable to dependants and dependants only, they must prove the extent of their dependence, before some sort of inquiring tribunal.
– The cost of an investigation would be as much as the amount of the pension.
– I doubt if it would be any more costly than the investigation new made under the Old-age Pensions Act. But we ought to insist upon dependence being established. Having done that, then those who are entitled should receive their full pensions under the schedule.
– That is all I am asking for.
– I think the honorable member went a good deal further than that. I thought that the Government might hesitate before committing themselves even to that extent, and, consequently, I framed my amendment on the lines that, provided a person could show definitely that for twelve months he or she had been in receipt of an amount of money from the member of the Force either equal to the amount of the pension or exceeding it, the assessment of the pension should not be less than the pension specified in the schedule.
– The widow of a deceased soldier has not to prove her dependence. She has simply to prove relationship.
– I want the same principle to be applied to the mother and father, always providing that the pension shall not be less than £52 per annum.
– It seems to me that if we are to go on these lines we cannot very well lay down that the minimum shall be £52. In my view, the minimum should be that stated on the schedule itself.
– The wife of a soldier is his dependant. The father and the mother may not be.
– The wife and children may not be dependants; they may have an independent income.
– The honorable member for Gippsland has touched upon a point I was going to bring forward. I understand that when a widow proves that she is the widow of a deceased soldier, she will get her pension, but I understand the Pensions Board has made inquiries as to whether a widow has been in receipt of a private income.
– That inquiry is provided for under the Act.
– That is the whole point for which I am now contending. What is suggested is that, notwithstanding that a widow may be in receipt of a private income, if she can show that she was in receipt of a contribution towards her support equal to or exceeding the actual rate of a pension specified in the schedule from a member of the Force, then the Commissioner should be prohibited from assessing her pension at a less amount than that specified in the schedule. To that I heartily subscribe.
.- I hope the House will insert in this measure some definite regulation regarding ,thepayment of pensions, and not leave the amount at the discretion of the Commissioner. I take it that the widow of any member of the Force killed at the war is entitled to her pension as a widow, irrespective of what private income she may be in receipt of. Similar provision, I understand, is made for children. They arc entitled to their pensions owing to their being the children of a soldier killed on active service. On that point, the Act seems to be clear. I also see nothing in the Act that gives the Commissioner, or any other person, power to alter the sum payable to a soldier who is totally incapacitated.
– But they are altering them.
– Then, in my opinion, they are going outside their powers. In the matter of the dependants, however. the position is different. Assuming that 1 had a son killed at the war, under the scheme suggested by the honorable member for Barrier my wife would be able to claim £52 a year for the rest of her life because my son is killed. I do not think it was the intention of the Government that this should be so.
– It is not the intention of the Government; you are quite right there.
– In the case of a parent who was dependent upon the son prior to his going to the war, the pension should be paid, and I agree with the honorable member for Fawkner that no pension in such circumstances should be less than £52 a year. It was never intended that pensions should be provided for all persons who might lay claim to any sort of dependence, but I think consideration might be extended to any dependants who are really suffering. I am sure that it was not intended that, because the honorable member for Barrier and myself have sons at the war, our wives, should those sons be killed or totally incapacitated, should draw war pensions for the rest of their lives. That, however, seems to be the proposal of the honorable member for Fawkner. Certainly, the dependants of those who are killed or incapacitated should receive assistance, and the amount paid to them should be at least £52 per year.
– I hope that the Committee will not support the amendment of the honorable member for Fawkner, which if agreed to would entirely alter the principle of the Act. The effect of the amendment would be so serious that the Government should have had notice of the intention to move it, so that Ministers might consider whether they are in a position to increase the pension expenditure in the manner proposed. A large sum of money is involved.
– Does the proposal involve anything that is unjust?
– There are many things which Parliament cannot provide for although they may be just. What I understand the honorable member for
Fawkner to propose is that the parents of any soldier who may be killed or incapacitated shall be entitled as of right to a pension of not less than £52 per year each. It must he remembered that a soldier may leave a large number of dependants. The persons who may be dependants are the members of a family who comprise the wife, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, step-father, step-mother, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, step-son, step-daughter, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, adopted child and mother-in-law. But neither the father nor the mother of a soldier who falls may have been dependent upon him.
– The wife may not be a dependant.
– The Act provides that the wife may receive a pension.
– She has to fill in a form.
– Yes, but she has a claim to a pension as of right. The contention of the honorable member for Fawkner is that no parent should be compelled to claim a pension by way of charity. He says that if a mother has lost her son at the front, she is entitled as of right to a pension, without making any declaration of dependence.
– She should not be obliged to plead poverty in support of her claim.
– If we are going to pay pensions to every father and mother whose sons fall in the war, we shall be involved in an immense annual expenditure on pensions.
– We cannot help that.
– The soldier who falls sheds his blood in the service of the country. He foots the bill, and we have to find the money. Ours is an easier sacrifice than his.
– We are intrusted with the care of the public purse, and the question we have to consider is whether we should provide for the giving of pensions to persons not actually in need of them. The Act provides fairly well for widows and children of fallen soldiers, and those arrangements in regard to them are- not being interfered with, except to the extent of further protecting the children of a fallen soldier whose widow may die and leave them to the care of some one else.
– What about the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond 1
– I shall consult the AttorneyGeneral regarding it, and if he sees no objection to its acceptance, I shall offer no opposition to it I have only to add that the Act now provides that, should a father or mother, within five years of the death of a soldier son. fail into a position in which, had the son been alive, they would have been dependent on him for support, they may he given a pension.
.- I do not see why we should not amend the principal Act if in any particular it has been passed without sufficently careful consideration. The Minister seems to think that wives and children are entitled to pensions as of right, but, in ray opinion, they, just as other persons, are required to prove their dependency on tha fallen soldier. Section 3 says that upon the death or incapacity of any member o’ the Forces, the Commonwealth shall be liable to pay to him or to his dependants, or to both, pensions at the rates set out in the schedule. Dependants are defined as such members of the family of the soldier as were wholly or in part dependent on his earnings at the time of his death, and members of the family in elude, among others, wife, son, and daughter. Pensions are payable only vo dependants. Dependants are members of the family of the soldier who were wholly or in part dependent on his earnings, and include wife, son, and daughter. Section 8 says that the rates of pension shall be so much to a widow, so much ‘o a child, and so much to other dependants. Really a wife or child is entitled to a pension only if a dependant, and i* they apply for a pension are liable to the same questioning as any other applicant In my opinion, this is a humiliating position in which to put them. I take the view of the honorable member for Fawkner as to the sacrifices made by our soldiers. I think that we do not value the sacrifice of life as highly as we should value it. The honorable mrmber says that the soldiers who fall give their lives to the country. That is, they give everything, and all we are asked to do is ti foot the bill. We, for our part, should be only too thankful that we are left to foot the bill. The best that we may do will never make up for the loss of the man who has gone.
– There is some force in the point raised by the honorable member for Gippsland, and it would be well for the Minister to consult the Attorney-General upon it, as well as in regard to the other matters mentioned by him. I fail to see why the Government should not accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Richmond. It was the intention of Parliament, when passing the original measure, that the dependant of a soldier killed or incapacitated while on active service, should receive a pension equal to the amount of support which the deceased was contributing, but limited, of course, by the amount fixed in the schedule. The Leader of the Opposition, however, pointed out yesterday that this intention was not being carried out. He cited the case of a soldier killed at the front, whose widowed mother was not receiving, by way of pension, a sum equal to the amount which he was contributing towards her support prior to his death. The payment to her was less than the full pension rate allotted to a man of his rank. The honorable member for Richmond’s amendment would get over that difficulty, inasmuch as by its adoption we should declare in the Bill itself that the Commissioner, in assessing the payment to be made to a dependant, should fix it at a rate not less than the amount contributed for twelve months prior to death or incapacity, provided that it did not exceed the scale in the schedule. I do not think that this would involve an excessive appropriation. It would certainly carry out what is the evident wish of the Committee, and the Minister should have no hesitation in accepting it.
– I do not agree with the proposal made by the honorable member for Fawkner and the honorable member for Barrier, inasmuch as in adopting it we should be absolutely in the dark as to what its effect was likely to be. We are asked to agree to the making of a payment which we cannot compute, and which might involve the country in an altogether unreasonable expenditure. If we knew exactly how many were likely to come under the proposal, the position would be different, but I am not prepared to vote in the dark. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Richmond is a reasonable one, and goes quite as far as honorable members generally, in my opinion, are prepared to go. The honorable member for Barrier asks that the relatives or next of kin of any man killed or totally incapacitated at the front shall receive the full amount payable by way of pension under the schedule to the principal Act, whether that next of kin is or is not a dependant. If that were provided, a difficulty might arise. Very many of those who are going, or have gone, to the front have no dependants, and many prior to enlisting were dependent upon those whom they have left behind.
– In many cases, under the honorable member for Barrier’s proposal, the pension would go to a father who was well off.
– Undoubtedly. I know of several young fellows who have gone to the front, and who have never contributed, and have never been asked to contribute, a penny to the support of those whom they have left behind. On the contrary, those whom they have left behind have been contributing to their support. If the honorable member for Barrier’s proposal were adopted, these persons would be entitled to the full pension.
– If they asked for it. The point is that those persons have allowed their sons to go while others have kept their sons at home.
– I am prepared to admit that that is so. Those who agreed to their sons enlisting did so in a spirit of patriotism. Persons who were not dependent upon a relative who went to the front will not require, in the event of his death, to have something by way of pension which they never enjoyed before.
– Take the case of a father who has sacrificed himself for the sake of his son - who has spent hundreds of pounds in the education of his son, in the hope that later on that son will be of some advantage to him. If such a youth goes to the front, and is killed, surely the father should be entitled to the full amount of the pension.
– The trouble is that, under the honorable member’s proposal, not only would men so situated receive the full amount of the pension, but those who had never received or wanted any contribution from their sons would be treated likewise.
– They would represent, perhaps, 5 per cent, of the total.
– Unfortunately, we do not know to what expenditure we should be committing the country by adopting the honorable member’s suggestion. The honorable member for Gippsland has raised a question concerning which we ought to have a definite statement from the Minister. The wife of a deceased soldier is required to fill in a printed form, and so make out a case for the payment of a pension before she can secure it. 1 understood that under the principal Act the widow and children of a fallen soldier were entitled in any circumstances to a pension.
– We all thought that was the position, but it appears that it is not.
– The widow of a fallen soldier has to make application and fill in the printed form just as any other dependant is required to do.
– That is very wrong.
– But is she entitled to a pension on making application?
– Yes, if she can show that she was dependent on the deceased.
– Then the law in that respect needs to be amended.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4-5 p.m.
– I have always been of opinion that there should bc no necessity for the wife of a fallen soldier to be put to the trouble of filling up an application form for a pension. According to the spirit of the Abt, the widow is entitled* to a pension without going through the form of proving that she is a dependant, but the Minister says that it is necessary for her to go through that form. In that respect, the Act should be amended.
– Do you mean to say that a widow should receive a pension, no matter how rich she may be?
– So far as widows are concerned, I would make no distinction ; but in regard to other dependants, I am in accord with the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Richmond. I understand that the proposal of the honorable member for Barrier is that the next of kin, in any clr. cumstances, should be entitled to the full pension, irrespective of his or her position in life. If we were to adopt that proposal we should be taking a step in the dark, because we do not know what expenditure it would entail. We ought to see that the letter of the Act is brought into conformity with its spirit, and then, after the war is over, or at some future date, we could regulate the pensions scheme in accordance with the financial capabilities of the country. It is the administration of the Act which is at fault at the present time. I know of one case of hardship in my own district. A private who has been killed at the front left two children to the care of his mother, his wife having predeceased him by some years. The grandmother of the children is allowed 5s. per week for each child, but for herself she is allowed nothing, although she was practically dependent on the deceased soldier. I do not think it was the intention of the Act that a woman who waa dependent should be cut off entirely from all pension assistance. In that case the soldier’^ mother comes under the operation of the section relating to dependants, and I think it is the administration, and not the Act, that is to blame for her being refused the assistance she deserves.
– If my amendment be accepted, such an injustice will be impossible.
– I realize that the virtue of the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond is that it will make such cases impossible. The Act is not being administered as sympathetically as it should be. The Minister having said that the widow must fill in the form certifying her dependence, the Bill should not be allowed to leave this Chamber until that objectionable feature has been amended. It should be sufficient for a woman to prove that she had been the wife of a fallen soldier.
.- 1 quite recognise that some of these amendments are of a far-reaching character, and that the Minister was not in a position to accept them without consulting the Government. When I spoke earlier in the afternoon, I was under the impression that the widow had to prove that she was dependent; but two or three legal members of the House assured me that that was not so. It is now clear that under the terms of the Act the widow is obliged to prove her dependence.
– I think the regulations compel her to do so.
– As the regulations are in accordance with the Act, we cannot find fault with them, because the Act must be administered according to the form in which it is passed by Parliament. The officials can take no heed of the intentions of Parliament, but only of our enactments; otherwise they would find themselves in a dilemma. When it was contended that we need only make provision to give a full pension to the father or mother, seeing that the widow and children were automatically in receipt of a pension, I expressed the opinion that the increased amount of money required would not be very much. However, the Minister has since admitted that the pension does not fall to the widow automatically.
– The regulations say that, no matter what the relationship of the applicant to a member of the Forces may be, a pension cannot be paid until dependence is proved.
– The Minister formerly was of opinion that the widow was entitled to the pension by the mere fact of being the soldier’s widow. Therefore, if an amendment is made to insure the payment of the pension to the widow, no objection can be raised by the Minister on account of increased cost, because the Commonwealth will not be called upon to pay more money than he thought it was liable to pay prior to his discovering his error.
– That was my own view, but it may not have been the view of the other members of the Government. I think that what we have now discovered is news to many honorable members.
– It is so. In view of the factthat it has been proved very conclusively that the widow is not entitled to a pension without proving dependence, it would be wise to adjourn the further consideration of the Bill until next week. The discussion this afternoon shows how necessary this amending Bill is. I think it would be advisable to postpone its further consideration, however, until next Wednesday, the Minister in the meantime to consider whether it is possible to meet the wishes of a number of honorable members. If it can be shown that what the honorable member for Fawkner and myself desire will not prove a crushing burden on the country, I think we shall have the support of the honorable member for Indi, whose objection is that we may be called upon to vote in the dark.
– That is the objection of the Minister.
– And it is a very fair objection; By next Wednesday the Government might be prepared to accede to our request, or show conclusively it is impracticable. There is, I think, one objection to the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Richmond, which, as I understand it, provides that a widow shall receive an equivalent to what she had been receiving from her son before he went to the war. A son of eighteen or nineteen may earn only a small salary, and yet give his mother the greater part of it, while the son of another woman may earn a larger salary and give his mother more than the former, but no more in proportion to what he earns. I take it that under the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond, the mother of the lastmentioned son would receive a higher pension.
– That is not so, because I have used the words “ not less than.” It does not mean that she shall receive the same amount, but that it shall not be less.
– But in some cases a mother could receive more than £52 ?
– And beyond £52, the amount would depend to some extent on how much the son had previously given to his mother?
– No, that is not what I endeavoured to express, or whatI think I expressed.
– We shall have an opportunity of discussing that later on.
– If the matter is left over until next week I shall not be here.
– However that may be, this is a Bill which, I am sure, every honorable member desires to make as effective as possible. I should like to see the form under the regulations, if any have been issued, which a man who has been wholly or partially incapacitated has to sign. Acts of Parliament are peculiar things even to lawyers, and we have seen some difference of opinion between the honorable member for Darling Downs and the honorable member for Gippsland. The honorable member for Darling Downs gave us to understand that under the Bill a widow, as a widow, is entitled to the full pension.
– I said that that was the intention.
– I understood the honorable member to say that that was the law.
– I asked the Minister to look into the question.
– And the Minister seemed satisfied that the law was against the honorable member, and in favour of the view of the honorable member for Gippsland. The Minister now assures us that a widow is not entitled to automatically receive a pension, but only to receive an allowance to the extent that she was dependent on the deceased. Under all the circumstances I suggest that the consideration of this matter should be postponed, if only in view of the fact that it may probably mean considerable expenditure,- and that the Minister does not see his way to decide the point “ off his own bat.”
.- I think that the request for a postponement might be acceded to by the Minister. The discussion has been such as to warrant our giving some reconsideration to important clauses, especially that which defines ‘ ‘ dependant. ‘ ‘ I am in agreement with the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Richmond, but I am not quite sure that the requirements of the Act in regard to dependants will not put another difficulty in the way. It seems to be competent for the Commissioner to make a pro rata reduction if it is shown that the claimant is in receipt of a certain income; and if the Act makes it mandatory to pay not less than the amount received by the claimant previous to the death of the soldier, the Commissioner may more strictly interpret “ dependant.” Under all the circumstances, I think that the Minister might consider the arguments advanced to-day with a view to introducing an amendment making the provision more elastic. I have in my mind a case of a lieutenant who was killed shortly after the first attack at Gallipoli. Previous to joining the Forces, this lieutenant was the right-hand man of his father in a small business. He received no salary, but had his living, and no doubt pocket-money; and the small amount sent to the father while the son was at the front was some kind of compensation for the absence of the latter. There is a probability that if the father sent in an application for a pension he would have to prove that he had been dependent on his son, and, as the father has some property of his own, that might be difficult, although there is no doubt that he is entitled to some consideration for the loss he has sustained. We may be sure that there are hundreds of similar cases, and the Minister would do well to allow the clause to be postponed, with a view to introducing some provision to meet the wishes of honorable members.
.- There are several amendments with which I disagree, and other proposals that I consider require amendment. I suggest that if we consent to pass this clause, the Minister should give us an assurance that the Bill will be recommitted next Wednesday. This would give us an opportunity to obtain the opinion of the Attorney-General on some of the clauses. I referred earlier to the case of a lady who has two sons at the front, and whose husband is how in a hospital, and has been unable to earn anything for the last seventeen years. Under these circumstances, this lady cannot make an application, because she is not a widow, although really and truly she is one, and entirely dependent on the sons.
– Could not she sign an application as a mother t
– She would only get what one of the sons liked to leave her. One son is married, and his wife, of course, has to be provided for, so that the mother is really dependent on the other. This lady desires to have the 10s. a week proposed to be given to widows; and such cases ought to be provided for. If the Minister will not accept the suggestion I have made, an amendment will have to be moved.
– The whole matter is provided for. My marginal note on the subject escaped my eye, but such cases are covered by section 8 of the Act now. The honorable member for Darling Downs has looked into the matter.
– The point raised by the honorable member is one of importance. The Bill was only introduced yesterday, and the secondreading debate took place before we had time to closely examine it, and I have not had time myself to do that yet. I understood that the Minister stated that an alteration was being made by the Bill providing for the payment, in every case, of pensions at the full rate to widows and children in cases of death or permanent incapacity. Section 8 of the original Act merely sets out that the rate of pension shall not exceed a certain sum, which seems to suggest that pensions may be less than the amount specified, and therefore, under this Bill as submitted, provision is made that “ the rates of pensions payable under this Act shall be as follows.” This fixes the amount to widows and children in case of death or total incapacity. The Minister explained such to be the alteration yesterday.
– The honorable member is referring to section 8. We have not come tn it yet.
– I think the feeling of the Committee is that widows and children shall receive the full amount specified in the schedule in cases of death or total incapacity of a member.
– It is intended to provide for that in an alteration which will be submitted later.
– The honorable member for Gippsland also pointed to an ambiguity. He admitted that that was the intention of the Bill, but he raised grave doubts as to whether that intention would be given effect to in the Bill as it now stands, pointing out that the definition of “ dependant” was such that, read alongside section 8, it might be that, though a widow and child ultimately received the full amount specified in the schedule, they would be called upon to prove actual dependence before receiving anything at all.
– Will they have to do that, or will they not?
– That is the point raised by the honorable member for Gippsland, and I think there is some force in his argument. I suggest that the Minister should put this point of view before the Attorney-General, in order that all possibility of doubt may be removed, because the intention of the Committee, so far as I can gather, is that widows and children shall not receive pensions simply because they are dependants, but that the pensions specified in the schedule shall come automatically to them, no matter how rich or how poor they may be.
– The proposed alteration to section 8 will bring that about.
– I would suggest to the Minister that that point should be brought before the notice of the legal officers of the Crown, in order that it may be cleared up beyond doubt.
– 3 can promise the Committee that if the Attorney-General has any doubt on the point the clause will be recommitted.
– That is perfectly fair.
.- There is another matter which I should like the Minister to bring before the notice of the Attorney-General. Section 3 of the old Act simply says that the Commonwealth shall be liable to pay to dependants, and it seems to me that unless the words “ widow and child “ are added to section 3 in addition to the word “ dependants “ they will receive pensions, not as the widow and child, but as dependants.
– The Attorney-General, I think, should also look into that point, in order to place it beyond doubt.
. There is a clause in the regulations that makes me doubt how the dependants of a soldier who might be killed in camp would fare. Clause 7 of the regulations seems to suggest that the Act will only apply to a member of the Commonwealth Naval or Military Forces on active service outside Australia. In case death occurs as the result of evolutions in camp in Australia, will not widows and children be entitled to a pension?
– They are. They are entitled to their pension, should death occur, as soon as a man has enlisted and is sworn in. I am given to understand that pensions have already been paid in respect of deaths which occurred under such circumstances.
– I was told of one case where a pension had been refused in respect of a man who became ill, on the ground that he was not engaged in warlike operations.
– The definition, as I read it, seemed to indicate that pensions are only payable in respect of those who go outside Australia. With the Minister’s assurance that such is not the case however, I am content.
– Pensions are payable in respect of members of the Military Forces “enlisted or appointed for active service.” Men in camp are “ appointed “ for active service.
– What about the words “ outside Australia “ ?
– They are appointed to go outside Australia.
– I am satisfied with the Minister’s assurance. There may be difficulties with some of the succeeding clauses, to which amendments may be required, and I want to add my request to those already made to the Minister to recommit any clause upon which difficulties may occur, after he has had a consultation with the* legal advisers of the Government, in order that we may have the matter before us in a form that will be more clearly understood.
.- In my view there is no question that the widow and children of a deceased soldier are entitled to pensions. It may be as the honorable member for Gippsland has pointed out, that further amendment will be required to clause 3, but that will not affect in any way the proposal I submitted in the amendment that I have for the time being withdrawn. I should like the Minister to give me some assurance that if this Bill is held over till next week, the point I raised will receive some consideration.
– I will give the honorable member a similar promise to that I have made to other honorable members. I will bring the honorable member’s suggestion before the notice of the Cabinet, so that the Government may consider whether the point shall be taken up as a Government matter.
– I hope the Minister understands what it is I have in mind. I want to make quite sure that where a dependant, other than a widow, shows clearly that he or she has been in receipt of an amount from the member of the Force who is dead, either equal to or exceeding the pension awarded by the assessment, that fact shall be presumptive proof of dependence to that extent, and that it shall then be incumbent upon the Commissioner to grant a pension not less than that which appears in the schedule. In asking for that, I am asking only for what is reasonable and fair, and what is,
I think, the general desire of honorable members.
.- The Minister has assured the Committee that men who are invalided home are entitled to pensions.
– If a man recovershis health in a hospital, and is discharged well, and fitted to earn his livelihood, he is not given a pension, because he is not incapacitated.
– I hold that a man is to be regarded as on active service from the moment he is sworn in and goes into camp, and is entitled from that time to all the benefits of the Pension Act.
– That is the intentionof the Act.
– I think so, but it is not being administered in that spirit. I have brought under the notice of the Department the case of a soldier who was injured on a transport while engaged in duties allotted to him, and who was put ashore at Fremantle, brought back to Melbourne, and discharged. For ten or twelve weeks subsequent to his discharge he was practically a cripple, but, after his discharge, he did not receive a penny from the Department by way of compensation. The position of the Department seems to be that directly a man is discharged its responsibility in regard to him ends.
– How was this man injured ?
– He was assisting in the cooking, and his foot was badly scalded.
– If the honorable member will lay all the facts under my notice, and they bear out his statement, I shall see that the man is properly dealt with.
– Every man should be cared for by the Department until a doctor has certified that he is medically fit to earn his own living.
– Or, in the case of incapacitation, until his pension has been arranged for.
– Did the man to whom the honorable member refers in any way contribute to his accident by having drink aboard ?
– Is he quite well now ?
– Yes, but for a considerable period he, his wife, and two children were in distressed circumstances because of the unsympathetic treatment of the Department.
– Did he enlist as a soldier or as a cook?
– As a soldier, but volunteers were asked for assistance in the culinary department, and he was one of those chosen. So far we have got no satisfaction from the Defence Department. I understand that the Minister has promised to recommit certain parts of the Bill in the event of his obtaining certain advice from the AttorneyGeneral.
– The Government has taken a certain stand in regard to pensions, and if there is a doubt as to whether effect is given to our intentions, the Bill will be recommitted to remove it. .
– I should like Ministers to look at the matter from my point of view, and to provide that pensions shall be given as a right, and not by way of charitable dole.
– They are given to dependants as a right. The honorable member goes a little beyond the proposals of the measure.
– The Minister and I differ as to what is a dependant. I say that the mother of a young man who goes to the front is, to some extent, a dependant, and she, having sacrificed her son to the service of the country, should not have to plead poverty to obtain a pension.
– Mothers are not dependent in every case.
– In the majority of cases they are. I know the contention is that if we give pensions to all parents, the Commonwealth will be compelled to pay away an enormous sum of money; but I am not impressed by that argument. We should not consider £52 a year an exorbitant payment to parents who have had the courage to consent to their sons going to the front, should those sons lose their lives in the service of the country. I do not like the idea of persons having to expose their circumstances in life in order to make good a claim on a pension fund. Have I an assurance from the Minister that the Bill is likely to be altered in the manner I advocate?
– The proposal of the honorable member entails such a large expenditure that it would have to be considered bv the Cabinet.
– I admit that it means a large expenditure, and the increasing of taxation; but the privileges which our people will enjoy in the future will have been maintained for them bythe young fellows who are laying down their lives in Gallipoli to-day. I desire that the fathers and mothers of these young men shall be able to claim pensions as of right, instead of being compelled to plead poverty to obtain them. Although this will increase the expenditure of the Commonwealth, we should not shirk our duty, or fail to show appreciation of the sacrifices of our fallen soldiers and their parents.
– The subject of pensions opens up a very wide question. I have always held, and still hold, that there should be only one pension, and that every man and woman should receive an equal sum. The most up-to-date Socialistic view - I think . it is that of Bernard Shaw - is that, while it may be impossible to get equality of brain and equality of muscle, it is possible, in a well-ordered community, to have equality of revenue. It has always seemed to me that the widow and children of a private should not be treated differently from the widow and children of an officer. I am the guardian of what is known as an ex-nuptial child, so branded by the infamy of law, man-made, not by the great Creator. The father, who has gone to the front, has made an allowance to that child, and has asked me to be his guardian; but it is doubtful whether, should the father die, the child will be able to get a pension as a dependant. I understand that some doubt has been expressed as to what would be the position of the mother in the event of the father’s death. An honorable member of the Opposition, who is a member of the legal profession, has stated that she is properly secured, but if, upon consideration, it is found that a further amendment is necessary, I am sure that the Minister will agree to recommit the Bill.
– The Minister has agreed to recommit the clause.
– Then I shall say no more about the matter. I am sure that we are all anxious that this Bill shall be held up as a monument of fair play to the dependants of those who are risking their lives at the front. I confess that I never refer to the subject of war without feelings of hatred and anger because of what I have read in the Book of Kings. I hope that at the end of this war there will be no room for Kings or Kaisers or War Lords, and that when the Allies march through the streets of Berlin, every male member of the Kaiser’s family will be strung up at the street corners.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 -
After section seven of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 7a. If any pensioner is convicted of an offence and sentenced to any term of imprisonment, the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner may suspend his pension during the term of his imprisonment or any portion thereof or forfeit any instalment thereof accruing during such term or portion.”
.- Under this clause the Commissioner may suspend the pension of any pensioner convicted of an offence and sentenced to any term of imprisonment, or forfeit any instalment accruing during his imprisonment, or any portion thereof. The honorable member for Batman last night took exception to the clause in its entirety, holding that a pension, once having been granted, should not be withheld in any circumstances. Whilst I do not go as far as that, I think that the clause as it stands is not equitable. It was urged last night that if a pensioner committed a crime which led to his imprisonment, it was only reasonable that his pension should be suspended, since while in prison he would be maintained at the expense of the country. On the face of it, that seems to be a reasonable argument; but if the clause be passed as it stands, I am confident that it will give rise to a great deal of hardship. A soldier who is totally incapacitated is entitled to a pension of £52 per annum, and his wife to £26 per annum, while a pension of £13 per annum is allowed in respect of each child. If a pensioner with a wife and two children were convicted of an offence, his wife would lose the £52 per annum to which he was entitled, so that the total allowance drawn by the pensioner and his family would be reduced by one-half. Thus, in addition to the husband being imprisoned for his offence, his wife and children would be penalized. That,I contend, would be unjust. I do not think honorable members would care to place a woman and her children in such a posi tion because of some act on the part of her husband which we could not condone. I therefore move as an amendment -
That the following words be added: - “provided that in the case of a pensioner with dependants upon him the amount forfeited during the term of his imprisonment shall be paid to such dependants.”
If the clause were so amended, the pension, or any portion of the pension, payable to a pensioner, but suspended by the Commissioner, would be drawn by his wife and children during his imprisonment. It would not affect the position of a single man without dependants. His pension would be suspended while he was in gaol, and neither he nor the country would suffer.
– Why not use the words “wife and children” instead of “dependants “ ?
– Because the word “ dependants “ is used throughout the Bill.
– A pensioner convicted of an offence might have a widowed mother dependent upon him.
– Quite so, and if the words “ wife and children “ were used, a widowed mother who was entirely dependent upon a pensioner convicted of an offence would receive nothing during his imprisonment. I hope the amendment will be agreed to.
.- I support the amendment. Why should we deprive a man of his pension under this measure because he happens to be convicted of a misdemeanour? Public servants who are entitled, under the State law, to a pension are not deprived of it when convicted of any offence, or in the event of their bankruptcy; and where a man has earned a pension by fighting for his country, why should we provide that it shall be payable to him only during his good behaviour? I hope the clause will be negatived. We do not desire to have an army of detectives watching the conduct of pensioners under this law. If a man is awarded a pension, it should be given to him for life, free from all conditions.
.- I gave reasons last night why, in my opinion, the whole clause was bad and ought to be omitted. I have not departed in any way from the views I then expressed. It is true that the Minister for the Navy answered the - points I raised with the contention that these pensions were merely given by way of compensation for injuries received in war, and not because of service at the front. But we should put the whole scheme upon a higher ground by declaring that every man who becomes entitled to a pension under this measure shall receive it - free from any grudging condition or restriction - as an absolute right covering the whole period of his life. If we give him anything less than that, we shall place him at a disadvantage, as compared with an ordinary citizen in his own walk of life who has given no service to the community as a soldier. Surely at this very time, when we all feel a sense of gratitude to, and pride in, those who are entering upon the risky and onerous work of soldiering, we are not going to look ahead to a time when possibly one of these men who comes back and is awarded a pension shall in some way or other transgress the law. Surely we are not going to hold up to him an Act of Parliament in which we say, “ Although we think you worthy of this pension, we want you to remember that if you should at any time, because of weakness or. acting on a sudden impulse, transgress the law, so as to be cast into prison for a few days, we shall stop the payment of this pension which you have earned.”
– He may be committed to prison for exercising the right of freedom of speech.
– There are many slender grounds on which a man may be put in prison, and, on the other hand, there are persons guilty of culpable conduct who are not put in prison at all.
– The administration of this clause will be at the discretion of the Commissioner. If the offence were a trivial one, no doubt the pensioner would get sympathetic consideration.
– Section 7 of the Act provides for a review of the assessment or determination. That ought to be sufficient, without holding before men who have served at the front the threat that they will be liable to lose their pensions if they are guilty of unlawful conduct. By agreeing to this clause we shall be putting the soldier in a worse position than the ordinary citizen. Suppose two men, one a pensioner, who has served his country at the front, and the other a waster, jointly commit an offence, and are sentenced to the same term of imprisonment. The less worthy member of the community, having served his sentence, is considered to have expiated his offence and to be entitled to go free, as he ought to be. He has paid the penalty, and the law says that a man shall not be saddled afterwards with the consequences of his offence. Why, then, saddle the consequences of his offence on the second offender, the man who has rendered signal service to his country, by depriving him of portion of his pension? The proposal is illogical, but even if it were not, we shall be treating these men grudgingly if we hold before them the threat that, should they undergo imprisonment for some offence, they will also suffer a proportionate loss of their pension. I hope the clause will be negatived ; but, if it is not, I shall support, the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter. The Commissioner ought to be in the position to hand over the money, to which the pensioner would be entitled in other circumstances, to his wife and children, so that they, at all events, might not be the sufferers through his lapse.
.- I do not favour the elimination of the clause. It is quite competent for the Commissioner, as custodian of the funds, to see that the pension is properly directed. The pension of a widow ceases when she re-marries, though one would think that was a commendable action on her part. We also reserve the right of disfranchising persons who have committed certain crimes. In this clause we are only following the same principle, and holding a kind of censorship over those persons who, by their own act, have deprived themselves of the right to enjoy the privileges of citizenship. I agree with the honorable member for Batman that the pension, once granted, should have a reasonable permanency associated with it, but the State should retain the right to direct that the pension be paid to the person really entitled to the use of the money, so that it can be expended for the support of the dependants in accordance with the intention of this Parliament. I think all requirements will be amply met by the amendment of the honorable member for Hunter.
.- I would prefer to see the clause struck out rather than that the amendment should be carried. I take the view that the pension belongs to the person who has won it by risking his life and suffering incapacitation. If a person commits a crime he is punished by the law of the land, and it is not just to further punish him by taking away his pension. It is a reflection on the men who have gone to the front to suggest that there will be such a percentage of law-breakers amongst them on their return as to make necessary such a provision as this. Section 9 of the Act makes it possible to commute a pension by the payment of a lump sum, and I imagine that it is not the desire of Parliament that, if a pensioner is imprisoned after he has received such a lump sum, portion of the money shall be recovered from him. Yet it would be equally unfair to interfere with his pension if he were receiving it in periodical instalments. 1 shall vote against the amendment, in the hope of having the clause struck out.
– In the very serious libel case, Ronald v. Harper, the man who was convicted of having suborned witnesses to commit perjury in behalf of the defendant, and who was sentenced to imprisonment for three years, did not lose his pension.
– Who was the man?
– Paddy Hill. That person showed the vilest ingratitude, because it was Mr. Ronald who had obtained for him his pension. I think this clause must have been culled from the Old-age Pensions Act. Frequently in the Courts of Melbourne old-age pensioners have been sentenced as vagrants for having no visible means of support. A magistrate who would sentence an oldage pensioner as a vagrant either says that the Commonwealth does not pay the pensioners enough to exist upon, or he does not understand what he is talking about. I was hurt to find the Commissioner of Old-age Pensions taking a month and a week to answer a letter inquiring which magistrate it was who had sentenced a certain old lady ; and when I got the reply it was simply to say that no record was kept. If that was the only reply that could be sent, then I think it ought to have come by return of post. That old lady’s pension was taken away, and I resented that action, as I should any similar action taken under the clause before us. If the Minister cannot see his way to withdraw the clause, I hope he will accept the amendment of the honorable member for Hunter, which, at all events, would limit the power of the Commissioner, and insure that, in the case of a serious criminal offence, those dependent on the criminal would not be deprived of pensions. In the case of the electoral law, a man who has served a sentence is allowed to resume his citizen rights after a short interval; and, surely, similar consideration may be shown in the case of war pensions.
– This clause is inserted because there is a similar provision in another Federal Act; and I myself think it is necessary. It is provided that if a pensioner is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, the Commissioner “ may “ - not ‘ ‘ shall ‘ ‘ - suspend his pension during the term of the imprisonment, or any portion thereof, or forfeit any instalment accruing during such term. It will be seen that the whole matter rests with the Commissioner, who, I take it, as a man of common sense and judgment, will investigate every case. Of course, if a man is only convicted of some such trivial offence as that of being intoxicated, the Commissioner, I take it, would not interfere; but, no doubt, he would if a man were sentenced to imprisonment for five or ten years. In any case, the offender’s wife and children should not be called upon to bear a double privation. The amendment will not cause any extra expense, and, under the circumstances, I am prepared to accept it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 11 (Amendment of section 8).
– This clause proposes to amend the section by inserting the following in relation to payments to dependants: - (iv.) to the other dependants such rates as are assessed by the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner, as the case may be, but not exceeding in the aggregate the rate specified in column two of the Schedule opposite to the rate of pay of the member plus Fifty-two pounds per annum:
Provided that the maximum rate of pension payable to any one dependant of a member shall not in any case exceed the amount specified in column two of the Schedule opposite to the rate of pay of the member; and
I should be glad if the Minister would explain what is meant by this paragraph.
It appears to me that the effect -will be that, if dependants are in receipt of £52 a year, the full pensions -will be paid, but that if they are in receipt of more than £52 per year a pro Tata reduction will be made; and, personally, I do not think that ought to be. The principle I wish to see embodied is that if dependants can show that they have been dependent on the earnings of a member of the Forces prior to his death, up to a certain point, either the equivalent to or more than the actual pension, then the pension should be granted in full, irrespective of what the income may be beyond that. Take, for instance, the case of one of our Generals who was killed the other day. I do not know of the circumstances of his dependants, but if they are in receipt of an income of, say, £150 per year, this clause will absolutely do away with their pension rights, except, of course, in the case of the widow.
– It is practically a legal point that the honorable member has raised, and being a layman I shall have to consult the Attorney-General with regard to it. I take it that this amendment is inserted in order to insure that the Act shall work smoothly; but if the clause be passed as it stands, I shall have to make inquiries, and if there ia any serious amendment required it may be considered when the Bill is re-committed.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 19 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. FISHER) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
Postal Servants: Arbitration Awards - Casual Letter Carriers - “Women Telephonists : Night Duty - Telephone Construction : Engineers - Letter Carriers’ Half-holiday.
– I think it is too late to bring on further business. I therefore move -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I am glad the Postmaster-General is present. From a report which appeared in the Sydney Sun of Tuesday, 27th July, it appears that great dissatisfaction exists at the General Post Office, Sydney, in regard to a matter that I brought under the Minister’s notice a couple of weeks ago. The reference is in Hansard, No. 41, page 4499. This is a brief statement of the position -
The mail branch of the G.P.O. is on the verge of striking and holding up the delivery and despatch of the business houses’ letters.
The men say that they were told by. the present Government to appeal to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a redress of their grievances. This they did, but, instead of receiving benefits, they have been cut down in salary, and are now worse off than ever.
The letter carriers appealed to the Court for an award, which came into operation on 1st July. On 16th July the postal heads are declared to have committed a breach of the award. The men state that they approached their head, who refused them any redress. The result was that the whole of the letter carriers threatened to walk out of the G.P.O. unless their demands were satisfied. The Department then agreed to the terms under the award.
The postal sorters then received their award, which is to date from 1st August. Even in the face of that award, it is stated that the Postal Department has introduced provisos and barriers which Mr. Justice Powers did not stipulate.
The officials have communicated with the central executive in Melbourne to make representations to Parliament, and if their demands are not satisfied, an ultimatum will be sent to the Prime Minister threatening to cease work on a date to be decided upon.
Mr. Christie, superintendent of mails, does not regard the threat to strike very seriously. He says that the sorters are a reasonable lot of men, and he does not believe that they will resort to extremes.
Mr. Christie explained that the trouble with the letter carriers had arisen from a misunderstanding on the part of an official who had unwittingly worked a man overtime, but this matter had since been rectified.
It appears that there is more in this trouble than is admitted by the Superintendent of Mails. I do not expect the Postmaster-General to be in a position to give a definite reply to this matter offhand, though the probabilities are that it has been brought under his notice during the last couple of days by Sydney officials. If that is so, and the honorable Minister can say whether an inquiry has been made, I shall be glad to know what information he has got. Otherwise I will ask him to have inquiries made, in order to discover whether the dissatisfaction cannot be redressed.
.- I also desire to bring before the notice of the Postmaster-General a matter concerning casual letter carriers. Prior to the award of the Arbitration Court, men of between eighteen and thirty-five years of age were engaged to do this work, but since the award was published, the Deputy Postmaster-General of Victoria - I do not know what is happening in other States - has issued an order to postmasters in all inland towns, instructing them that, where possible, they must engage youths to do this work. This means that, whereas under the award it would be necessary to pay 8s. 6d. a day, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral proposes to employ boys, and pay them 5s. 4d. a day. lt seems to me that some officials take a special delight In defeating an award of the Arbitration Court. I have written to the Postmaster-General on this subject, but so far I have had no reply, though the matter is, I think, one of urgency. In the House the Minister stated that the Department were not going to dispense with the services of any of the casual letter carriers. It may be perfectly true that they are not going to dispense with any who have not served for six months, but when the six months is exhausted others will be employed. I do not suggest that youths are not fit to do this work. If they are fit enough to go and fight for this country, as they have been fighting in Gallipoli, they are fit enough to earn more than a paltry 5s. 4d. a day. The position of a letter carrier is one of some responsibility. No Liberal Administration ever made any attempt to bring in cheap labour to do the work these men have to do, and it remains for the Postmaster-General in a Labour Administration to send broadcast through Victoria the order to which I have referred. I trust the Postmaster-General will see that it is cancelled.
.- As we have the Postmaster- General witu us, I should like also to bring forward a matter for his consideration. Some time ago I asked him whether it was a fact that the young women in the Telephone Branch of the Postal Department were to be called upon to work all night. The PostmasterGeneral then assured me that, as far as he knew, there was no such intention, but that nothing would be done without consulting the young women concerned. I am now informed that this reform - if it is a reform ; I think it is a retrogression - is to be brought about, and I understand that it is alleged, also, that the women concerned have been consulted. I am satisfied, however, that they have not been consulted in the proper sense of the word. In this matter, also, it seems that only the will of the departmental head has been considered.
– What staff are you referring to?
– I am referring to the Melbourne staff. I am told that it has been reported to the Postmaster-General that it is the wish of the staff that this change should be made. Such is not the case.’
– I have not heard a single word about Melbourne.
– Then I think that is a just ground for complaint. Why has not the Minister heard of it? I have heard of it.
– I understood the honorable member’s question referred only to Sydney.
– I referred only to Melbourne. The honorable member for South Sydney raised a similar question regarding Sydney. I know there is immense dissatisfaction on the part of the young women who have been called upon to work all night at the Melbourne Exchange. It is neither proper nor neces-sary that this should be, and I would point out to the Postmaster-General that the reason alleged for these young women being employed all night is that the young men who formerly did that work are anxious to go to the war, and that they are to be encouraged in their desire. But the fact is that this work was previously done by lads of between sixteen and eighteen years of age, and nobody under the age of eighteen can go to the war. I would ask the Postmaster-General to consider whether it is either fair or necessary that this change should be made. If it is not absolutely necessary, I would urge him to take a vote amongst the ladies themselves in order to discover what their attitude is. If the change is necessary, I do not object; but I do not think that the change should be introduced by the P’ostmaster-General under any misconception as to what the wishes of the people themselves are. The lady telephonists are worthy of consideration. They are. as a class, courteous, conscientious, and quick witted, and, I am bound to say, in marked contrast to some of the men employed in the telephone exchanges. I hope that consideration will be given to what appears to me to be a just complaint, and that the female telephonists will not be compelled to work all night.
– I wish to give the Minister timely notice of a complaint with which I intend to deal with more fully on some other occasion. Of recent years, it has become the practice of the Department, especially of the Telephone Branch, when engineers are required, to appoint men from overseas, alleging that the men trained in Australia, and acquainted with Australian conditions, are not capable of filling the more important positions. Honorable members know, however, that the undergrounding of the telephone wires in the main cities of the Commonwealth has been carried out under the supervision of able engineers, who learned their profession and acquired their experience in Australia, and naturally such men resent the giving of the plums of the service to engineers from Great Britain and other places. Some years ago there came under my notice the case of a young man who was fully qualified for a certain position, and had been performing its duties to the satisfaction of his superior officer; but the Public Service Commissioner held that, as he was only twenty-six years of age, he was too young to receive the salary attached to that office, which was £310 per annum as a minimum. That is no way to encourage smart young Australians. The Postmaster-General, I know; is willing to give encouragement to Australian industry and to Australian workmen, and he does not object to the men joining associations so that they may express their grievances firmly and obtain redress. Surely Australian-born and Australian-trained men are entitled to more consideration than men from overseas. We have it on the best authority that there were telephones in Melbourne before there were any in London, but the Department is bringing from Great Britain men of limited experience who have no knowledge of Australian conditions, and some of these men have put the country to considerable expense by pulling down useful works in order to erect others of their own design, which may suit London, but not Australian cities. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will look into the matter, and see that no more appointments of this kind aremade.
.- The letter-carriers of the city of Sydney have a half-holiday on Saturday afternoons, and so, I understand, have the lettercarriers of Melbourne and its suburbs; but the letter-carriers of the suburbs of Sydney do not enjoy the Saturday halfholiday. I brought the matter under the notice of the last Postmaster-General, and he promised to look into it. I have received several letters from lettercarriers to say that no change has been made.
.- Withregard to the matter referred to by the honorable member for Cook, all I know of the alleged trouble at Sydney is the statement published in the Sydney Sun, which I am loath to accept as reliable. Since the award was made, the definitions adopted by the Judge have been carefully drawn out and submitted to the Deputy PostmastersGeneral, and the instruction has been given that the conditions of the award are to be observed. The postal service is practically fully organized, and the executive officers of the unions do not neglect the interests of their members, but, very properly, promptly bring complaints under the notice of the authorities. Therefore, I think that the press statements are incorrect, nothing having come to my ears either from the union or from the Deputy Postmaster- General at Sydney. But I have asked the Central Office to inquire into the matter. Of course, when a new award comes into operation, some changes are necessary. It has been stated that no increases have been given; but the award itself contains certain increases - in the case of lettersorters, for example. Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to the interpretation of a clause of the award, and then matters are referred to the Public Service Commissioner. Certainly, the policy of the Department is to give effect to the awards. As to the matter referred to by the honorable member for Ballarat, I see nothing wrong in the circular to which he draws attention. Boys employed in country places are paid the rate awarded by the Judge. It is not necessary in many small towns to employ regular letter-carriers.
– Ballarat is not a small country town, and the instruction is being put into force there.
– It ia not intended to ap!ply where regular letter-carriers are employed. As to the employment of female telephonists all night in Melbourne, it is news to me that any request for their services has been made. In Adelaide, the female telephonists petitioned to be employed at night. This waa a surprise to the departmental heads, and the Chief Engineer looked into the matter, and, he being satisfied, we complied with the petition, and provided every comfort for the operators. The report is that the arrangement is satisfactory, and that the operators are content. Every one knows that lady telephonists do their work well. In the small suburban exchanges only males are employed at night. There is very little justification for keeping open some of these exchanges, but it is. urged that it may be necessary to use the telephone now and again in cases of sickness. One would not dream of putting a lady in charge of such an office all night. As to the position of Sydney, it is to be remembered that the extension of automatic exchanges will practically abolish telephone operators, and we are making every effort to prevent the telephonists from losing employment.
– What is going to be done with the men who are losing their work!
– No male- telephonist over twenty-one years of age is employed. It was decided to allow two of the female telephonists in Sydney to visit Adelaide, the Department paying their expenses, to report on the arrangements there. But at a meeting, the Sydney telephonists decided not to appoint any one to go. The Adelaide supervisor was then sent to Sydney to explain the Adelaide arrangements, and a meeting was called to give her an opportunity to state the position, but that meeting was boycotted, those immediately concerned not attending. That is the stage at which the matter stands. I decided that nothing should be done until I could visit Sydney and look into the question.
– It is said that the girls have received an intimation that the alteration will come into effect next month.
– I do not Believe such statements. I have no knowledge of any such instruction having been issued, and such an instruction would indeed be con trary to the policy that has been laid down. I ordered that no action should be taken until I had visited Sydney. I do not know of any such direction having been given in respect of the female telephone attendants in Melbourne.
– I am told that they also have been advised that the change is to be made.
– They sometimes become very excited, perhaps naturally, when any change of the kind is suggested. I am not expressing any opinion as to the wisdom or otherwise of such a policy. I shall visit Adelaide this week-end, and shall make inquiries as to how the system is operating there. Random statements have been made that the female telephone attendants were coerced into all-night work. There is no evidence, so far as I can discover, to support such an allegation.
– In what year does the honorable gentleman propose to visit Sydney ?
– Three weeks have elapsed since I waa last in Sydney. It is the first time for many years that I have been so long away from it. As to the position of the engineers to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I may say at once that no engineer in the Department is going to suffer by reason of our action in bringing from the Old Country two electrical engineers. They are not to take the place of any man at present in the Department.
– They will prevent the promotion of others.
– I have heard what the men in the Department have to say on the subject, and it has been made clear to them that their promotion will be in no way affected by the engagement of these two engineers. The two men coming out will not pass over them. One of the first proposals of which I approved on taking office was one for the training of men required foi- every section of the service, including that of engineers. - It is proposed - we nave yet to obtain a vote for the purpose - to establish here an institute similar to that in connexion with the Postal Department of the United Kingdom, and in which our young men will be trained. I think it- is also a good plan to send officers from time to time to the Old World as well as to the United States to gain information that will be of service to the Department. That has been done in connexion with the telephone branch. Unfortunately, owing to the outbreak of war, the officers whom we sent to Europe were not able to visit Germany, but they brought back some valuable information from America and elsewhere. Upon their return a conference of heads of Departments from the different States discussed the suggestions which they had to make, and some were approved, and are now being put into operation. I repeat that the two engineers to whom reference has been made are not being brought out to take the place of any man already in the Department. There is a shortage of such engineers in Australia, and I do not think any harm will be done by the introduction of a little new blood into the service. Upon their arrival, stops will be taken to give men already in the service some training regarding the conditions operating in the Old World. I know that some of the men have expressed the fear that they are going to be “shunted.” I should be loth to allow anything of the kind. It would be unfair to displace any of our own men. The authorities agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong that our engineers are as good as those of any other country. No complaint or reflection is made regarding Australian engineers. It is not suggested that the men who are coming out are better than our own. The trouble is that we are short of such men, and that private enterprise does not train men for us.
– What about the letter carriers ?
– So far as it is possible to introduce the Saturday half-holiday system we are doing so. It is not possible to bring it into operation all over the Commonwealth. In some cases local bodies are opposed to it, but we are hopeful of extending it very considerably.
– I have just received a message from the Senate, and I ask that the motion for the adjournment be withdrawn in order that I may read it.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
House adjourned at 10.7 ‘ p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 July 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150729_reps_6_78/>.