6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
War Loan Bill (No. 2)(United Kingdom). Loan (Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway) Bill.
Appropriation Bill 1914-15.
By leave, I move -
That we, the Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, do, on the expiration of a year of war, present to His Majesty our most loyal service, and record our unchanging determination to continue to a victorious end the struggle for the maintenance of the ideals of Liberty and Justice which are the common and sacred cause of the Allied Nations.
This is a fitting occasion for the renewal by this Parliament, representing as it does the Commonwealth of Australia, of our pledge of loyalty to His Majesty, and for a declaration to all our brothers of the British race and to the nations with which we are allied, of our undaunted determination to see the war through to a successful end.
When the war broke out many thought that the year would see its close; to-day no one would predict when it will finish. It is enough to say that a successful end will be our aim and object. We are determined to make every sacrifice necessary to achieve it.
The war has involved eleven nations. Fighting has taken place on three continents - America and Australia alone have been spared the spilling of blood. But, though Australian territory has remained unviolated, Australia’s sons are acting their part at the seat of war. Our justification for the part that we are playing in the conflict is that our interests, equally with those of the Mother Country, are involved. And Australia has no cause to feel other than flattered at the way in which her sons have responded to the call of arms - 75,000 of the best and bravest have gone to the front overseas. More than 40,000 are undergoing training here in preparation for despatch. Those of them who have been privileged to meet the foe face to face have well upheld the honour of their country. Indeed, they have added lustre to her name, and have gained imperishable renown for themselves. But all has not yet been done that must be done. No one can foresee the necessities of even the hour, and we know not what the future will demand, but whatever the sacrifices that we may have to make, let them be made cheerfully. Far better that we should die than be under the servitude of the nation which is our enemy.
A singular series of incidents marked the commencement of the war. Servia found herself in difficulties with Austria, and Russia took her part. Germany thereupon declared war against Russia. But she did not immediately commence to make war upon that country. Her first step was to invade - not Russia; not even Servia; but Luxembourg, a neutral state. She then demanded of France what that country proposed to do, and when France replied that it was her intention to protect her own interests, Germany declared war against France. Yet the first blow fell - not upon France, but upon Belgium, with whom Germany had no quarrel. In neither case did Germany attack in the first instance the nation against which she had declared war. Having declared war on Russia, she fell upon Luxembourg. Having declared war upon France, she fell upon Belgium. That fact in itself condemns that nation in the eyes of every free and freedom-loving people in the world. Whatever the military power and prestige of the Germans, it is the duty of the rest of mankind to put the German nation into its proper place.
I believe that Australians will do in this war more than the most optimistic of us could, before war began, have believed possible. I believe, too, that our patriotism will rise to the measure of our requirements. It becomes us all, whatever may be our position, our wealth, or our ability of personal service, to do what we can to maintain our just cause. To repeat what I said at the very beginning, Australia in this business must be with the Mother Country and for her, to our last man and to our last shilling.
It was only on my return to Melbourne to-day that I learned of the intention of the Prime Minister to submit this motion, and I did so with unalloyed satisfaction. It is meet that on this anniversary of the declaration of war we should express our unchanged and unchanging determination to see the thing through. That seems to me to be the keynote of the right honorable gentleman’s motion and of his speech. There is only one thing for us to do, and that is to continue to strive to the uttermost, with all our will and all our strength, until the war is over, to win the victory for the cause of justice and humanity. Ours is not the role of merely an outside interested spectator. We are in this war through and through. It is our war as much as it is the war of the Allies - as much as it is the war of the Empire at large.
After a tragic year of fighting and struggling, the causes still remain, and so many of our best have been laid low that we owe it to them to continue the work they have carried on so successfully, adding fresh laurels to our national fame, and covering themselves with an imperishable glory. Belgium still remains under the heel of the oppressor. That was one of the reasons why we sprang to arms. It is worth while remembering that in the hour of her trial Belgium appealed, not to her next door neighbour, but to us who are far away. Her appeal was to the British Empire, for protection, for preservation, for security. Belgium still exists - a fugitive nation, a suffering nation, a bleeding nation, a nation bereft of home, bereft almost of government, bereft of all those things that make for our national pride and honour. While ever Belgium is in that position we must not relax a single effort. We must see her through. We must avenge her fully and completely for all that she has suffered in the interests of humanity. Then, that swaggering, blustering, theatrical monarch is still astride a section of Europe, boasting of his destructive sword and all that it is to accomplish. I hope we shall see the proper sequel to that boasting soon. I imagine that when our great armies get moving thoroughly, when our grand reserve has been properly mobilized, that we may break the blade of that sword, or, at any rate, make it of non-effect.
These are causes for which we are still fighting, and for which we must continue to fight. There are other considerations, too, which come home to us at this moment. Our own Empire is threatened. Our own old home - that home we all hail from, and are so proud of - that home which is the centre of all our parliamentary institutions and of nearly everything that we revere. That fact alone must surely make an appeal to us as parliamentarians. Many other thoughts come to mind as one considers that old home, with its freedom, its pieties, its associations, its history, its literature. If there be one thing more than another for which the British Empire has always stood, it is for its love of liberty and of law; and it is that love of liberty that has been one of our most inspiring motives in this mighty war. Our own Australia is at stake, too, with all its freedom, its sunshine, its prospects, and all that it connotes for a wider, wiser, and more humane civilization than this world has yet seen.
It is for the future that we fight, as well as for the maintenance of the traditions of the past. I hope nothing will interfere to make for an inconclusive peace. To stop the war at present by any means whatever would be the greatest tragedy which could happen to civilization. We cannot have a repetition of this struggle. We must finish it while we are at it, no matter what its cost may be, and, therefore, I welcome the expression - I put all the heart and soul of my being into that expression - “ unchanging determination.” It does not need many words to commend a motion of this kind. We are all of one heart and purpose in the prosecution of the war to a successful conclusion, and on this anniversary of its outbreak we are more determined than ever to maintain those ideals for which our Empire stands, and for which we are associated with our Allies. Onward lies peace and progress and prosperity and national honour. To hesitate at this time would be to earn the contempt of the generations that are to come for having toyed with our glorious heritage and risked their destiny. That, I trust, shall never be said of us; and, therefore, I second this motion with the greatest possible heartiness, and I hope we shall carry it unanimously, and with acclamation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the foregoing resolution be forwarded through His Excellency the Governor-General.
– After the very eloquent and fervent forecast of the difficulties of the Empire and of Australia to which we have listened, I should like to know whether the Government intend to plunge this country into a constitutional struggle during the next three months?
– May I say, in answer to the honorable member for Parkes, that this Government will not plunge this country into any dispute of any kind, unless people are unpatriotic enough to make it do so?
– Will _ the Attorney-General say whether he is in a position to place the chartering agreement in connexion with the export of wheat before the House?
– The agreement is not yet prepared, but I hope to cbe able to do as the honorable member asks this week.
– I have already promised the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition to lay the arrangement cn the table - as soon as it is available. I shall do so.
– The honorable member for Melbourne, on the 30th June, asked me to prepare a return showing the exports of a number of items from Australia from August, 1914, to June, 1915. I have had the return prepared, but I would point out to the honorable member that a return covering any series of months is, as a rule, inconclusive unless it can be compared with similar months for previous years. I would also point out that included in these exports are the foodstuffs required for provisioning the transports which have recently left our shores.
Payments to Soldiers in Hospital: Motor Ambulances and Travelling Kitchens: Delay in Reaching the Front. *
– Is the Minister for* the Navy aware that a statement is in circulation to the effect that the pay of wounded soldiers, on their going into hospital, is reduced to ls. per day, and that, in consequence, money has to be remitted by relatives for their support. Will the Minister say whether the statement is founded on fact?
– Any soldier who has to go into hospital to receive medical treatment on account of wounds received at the front remains under whole pay conditions, and receives his pay, without any deductions, until he is discharged. If such a statement as that referred to by the honorable member for Hunter is in circulation it is utterly without foundation.
– I understand that a private, on leaving for the front, is entitled to draw only ls. per day of his allowance, and that the balance is retained for him, or distributed by the Department as desired by him. For at least some little time after going into hospital wounded soldiers were prevented by either an Imperial or a Commonwealth regulation from drawing that sum of ls. per day. I wish to ask the Minister for the Navy whether the men in hospital are now receiving it?
– A private is entitled to 6s. per day, of which 5s? per day is payable to him either weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, and may be allotted as desired by him. He may elect to draw only 2s. per day for himself, and to request the Department to pay the balance of 3s. per day to his mother, his wife, or some other relative. The remaining ls. per day is deferred pay, and is not payable to him until his discharge.
– Is the Minister for the Navy able to tell us why the motor ambulances and travelling kitchens, the cost of which was subscribed by generous citizens at the end of last year, have not yet reached the front, and what is the cause of this unconscionable delay?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information, and advise the right honorable member.
– I desire to ask the AttorneyGeneral, as the Minister who has been mainly interested in the matter, whether he is now in a position to lay on the table the papers from his own Department, as well as from other Departments, concerning the Blau case?
– I shall be glad to make available the papers in the Blau case which have been collected from the various Departments that have dealt with it; but, as the file contains confidential reports, it is impossible to lay it on the table. It is in the hands of the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, who will make it available to honorable members.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs yet arrived at a decision regarding the conditions that will govern the architectural competition for the Parliament House at Canberra?
– Not yet.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that in Melbourne, Sydney, and other parts of the Commonwealth persons are permitted, week after week, to address large meetings of their fellow citizens urging them not to enlist, or to take part in the war, and pointing out that the war is an unjust one. For obvious reasons, I do not wish to be more specific.
– I think the honorable member ought to be.
– I do not wish to name either the persons or associations concerned. I ask the broad question whether the Prime Minister is aware that persons are doing this, and doing so with some mischievous effect, and whether he does not think , it possible to take some steps at this crisis to prevent the continuance of such treasonable practices.
– But for one or two references in the press, and a statement or two in Parliament, I am quite unconscious of any serious feeling in the direction suggested by the honorable member.
– It is going on.
– Subject to the exceptions I have mentioned, I am not cognisant of any serious feeling of the kind stated. I am sure that those who are talking in the way mentioned by the honorable member are but a negligible fraction of the community.
– In view of the answer just given by the Prime Minister to the question addressed to him by the honorable member for Flinders, I wish to ask him whether a resolution passed by the Clerks Union, and published in the Argus of 24th ultimo, which is supposed to have been sent to him, has yet reached him. The resolution is as follows: -
Further, the union wishes to impress upon the Federal Ministry and the Federal Labour party-
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond the asking of a question.
– Then, sir, I shall ask the Prime Minister whether he nas received a copy of the resolution in question, in which statements were made that would undoubtedly restrict enlistment, and whether he intends in the future- to. insist that such people shall receive preference of employment in the Public Service?
– I cannot say whether or not the resolution has been received by my Department. I do not know what were the terms of the resolution, or whether any treasonable statement was made in it. I do not understand the interest displayed in this matter. I can only say that I could, if necessary, point to a few men on both sides of politics who are insane on the subject.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to have inquiries made into the truth of the general allegations I have made, and if he finds that there is truth in them, Will he, as Leader of the Government, be prepared_ to announce publicly in clear and emphatic terms that the conduct of any person or any body of persons on any side in politics who urges others not to enlist is a form of treasonable practice that is punishable under the laws of the country?
– As Leader of the Government and the Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth I decline to declare to the people that unless they obey the law they will be punished. That fact is known to every citizen, and a mere threat would be worthless. If the honorable member for Flinders will supply information which will enable the Government to charge any person or persons with a violation of the law affecting recruiting, or anything else, the Govern-, ment will take action.
– Will the right honorable gentleman have an inquiry made?
Experiments at Newport WORKSHOPS
– In view of the fact that the State Munitions Committee is inquiring into the question of erecting new factories for the manufacture of machine guns, will the Minister for the Navy request the Minister of Defence to ask that the State Government of Victoria experiment at the Newport Workshops to demonstrate if machine guns, as well as high explosive shell bodies, can be successfully made there?
– I shall be very pleased to bring my honorable friend’s question under the notice of the Munitions Committee.
– Has the Minister for the Navy made inquiries concerning the statement I made last week to the effect that 900 military horses were being starved in a paddock near the abattoirs at Adelaide? If so, will the honorable gentleman state what action, if any, has been taken?
– Action was immediately taken to bring under the notice of the authorities concerned the statement contained in the question put by the honorable member, and I think that the trouble has been remedied.
– Has the Treasurer seen a statement published in the Melbourne Herald of Monday last, which may possibly have the effect of deterring people from investing in the present issue of the Australian War Loan? The statement in question was to the effect that the right honorable gentleman had been asked whether there was a probability of those now investing in the loan being given, later on “a more equitable advance “ - a higher rate of interest, I presume - and that the Prime Minister’s answer was non-committal. Had the Herald any ground for making such a statement, and does not the right honorable gentleman think that it is calculated to have a prejudicial effect upon the success of the Australian War Loan? If he has not yet made a statement on the subject, will he now state emphatically his view as to whether those now investing in the present issue will be likely to secure, later on, a higher rate of interest? I hand the Prime Minister a copy of the statement in question.
– I had not seen before the statement which the honorable member has just handed to me. I find that it was published in the “ Markets and’ Money “ column, a column that deals more with markets than with money. Those investors who are waiting for a higher rate of interest, on the second instalment of the loan, will be disappointed. So far as the Government are concerned, that point has been settled definitely and distinctly, and our decision has been conveyed frequently to the public and the people concerned. It is a mischievous thing for any writer, claiming to have financial knowledge, to say that my statement was non-committal. My statement was direct, and my only doubt is as to whether the interest to be paid is not too high.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that trustees in the various States find some difficulty in investing in the War Loan owing to the State Parliaments not having taken action ? Will the right honorable gentleman endeavour to expedite such State action in order to get a more ready response to the loan ?
– I thank the honorable member for Wentworth for asking this question. All the State Governments have agreed to take action, and as the State Parliaments are in session, I was hoping that they would deal with this matter as one of urgency. I will communicate further with the State Premiers this afternoon.
– Has the Prime Minister received any communication from any of the firms who are said to have overcharged for nurses’ outfits? If so, will he disclose the nature of such communications ?
– I received one communication from Ball and Welch, and another from David Jones and Company, I think. Both firms asked that an investigation be made.
– What steps have the Government taken?
– That question should be addressed to the Minister for the Navy.
Gifts for Soldiers
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that there are continuous rumours that the gifts of the people of Australia to the Red Cross Society are not being distributed to the soldiers at the front as gifts, but are being charged for? Will the Minister inquire into this statement, and if he finds it to be true, take action to see that the practice is discontinued ? If the statement is not true, will the Minister make a public pronouncement to that effect at once?
– I made the statement in this House last week,” I think, that all these goods sent to the front are distributed to the soldiers as gifts. My opinion is that many of these rumours are unfounded, but if the honorable member knows of any specific case of the kind he has indicated, and will mention it to me, I will have it investigated.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the words in the instructions issued to the heads of Commonwealth Departments recently with reference to the employment of casual labour, namely, “ Soldiers and sailors returned from active service are to be given preference,” mean that returned soldiers and sailors are to be given preference of employment, irrespective of whether they are industrial unionists or not?
– In view of the action of the Government of New South Wales in absolutely prohibiting the export of butter from that State, and of the Government of Queensland in preventing the export of meat to other Australian States, and also the claim of the Victorian Government to control the export of meat, will the Attorney-General state what action the Commonwealth Government contemplate taking to prevent the existing functions of the Commonwealth being exercised by the States?
– It does not come within the province of a State Government to prohibit the export of any commodity unless the State has previously acquired that commodity. As to Commonwealth action, until some person who is aggrieved makes complaint the Commonwealth Government cannot act. Under the Wheat Acquisition Act of New South Wales, the same position arose. The Commonwealth Government were waited upon by a deputation of persons who had been prevented from sending wheat across the border. We asked those citizens to make a definite and detailed statement of their position. They did so, and upon that statement we took action. We shall take what action we can in regard to export - and I confess that the remedy does not appear very clear on the face of it - when any citizens claim that they have been refused permission to trade freely throughout Australia.
– Will the Attorney-
General say whether the War Committee have come to a final decision in regard to the second schedule of the War Census Bill? If so, is a copy of the finally approved schedule available to honorable members ?
– The War Committee had approved of the schedule, hut some’ re-arrangement of the questions relating to the values of land and improvements thereon have ‘been suggested by Mr. Knibbs and the Commissioner of Land Tax, Mr. McKay. The Committee has been this afternoon considering these questions, and has adjourned, but will re-assemble later on in order to settle them. The schedule in substance, however, has been settled, and for the honorable member’s information I may say that there have been no radical changes. No other information than that which was contemplated when the schedule was before the Chamber is being sought. The arrangements by the Committee are in the direction of making the questions clearer and more in telligible to the public. The amendments are in their nature verbal.
– Will the Government lay on the table the report of Mr. Justice Rich on the Liverpool Camp, and, if so, when ?
– So far as I know, the report is not completed.
– Some time ago the AttorneyGeneral made a preliminary announcement with regard to the arrange-, ments for the acquisition of Queensland sugar, and promised to make a further statement. Is the honorable gentleman now in a position to make that statement, and also to inform the House as to the nature of the arrangements he has made with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ?
– As to” the first part of the question,
– I desire to ask a question in reference to the Small Arms Factory, and, perhaps, as this is a matter of policy, the Prime Minister is the proper person to address the question to. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the notification already made by the Government is having very serious consequences in Lithgow - that things are becoming unsettled, and people are prevented from building houses and providing other accommodation for those who work at the Factory ? In the next place, will the Prime Minister submit to the House the proposal embodied in the recommendation of the Public Works Committee to remove the Small Arms Factory, or rather to build another factory at Canberra; and, if so, when?
– The Leader of the Opposition wishes to make Canberra a failure, I suppose? Any attempt to make the Capital self-supporting he desires to kill!
– It is out of order to reply to interjections, but, if it were not so, I should like to tell the honorable member that I am not particularly anxious to begin residence at the Federal Capital by living in the centre of industrial noise and smoke. The Prime Minister will realize the effect of the present position of affairs in Lithgow; and I ask him when- the matter may be expected to be decided, and whether it will be decided by this House?
– This is really a matter which comes within the purview of the Minister of Home Affairs.
– It is a matter of policy.
– The question contains a statement which I do not accept as a fact.
– What is that?
– I refer to the statement as to the transfer of the Factory from Lithgow.
– No, no; I asked whether you were aware of the unsettling effect of the present arrangement in Lithgow, and whether you proposed to carry out the recommendation of the Public Works Committee? I further asked whether the recommendation would first be submitted to the House?
– In the first place, the removal of the Factory from Lithgow is not involved; it is a matter of duplicating the Factory, and I understand that the facilities in our own Federal Territory are greater than elsewhere for the erection of a new Factory, with the object of doubling the output.
– Will you forgive me? Is it in contemplation to keep two rifle Factories going at the same time? Come now !
– That will be a question of utility, and it is one for debate. I have only to say that the Government will not do anything that they cannot maintain in this House. The question of the site will be submitted to this House and Parliament.
– Soon ?
– Yes; you will have plenty of opportunity for discussion.
– Is the Minister of External Affairs aware that, in January, Japan issued an ultimatum to China, and that, as the result of the negotiations, there has been a compulsory military unification of Japan and China, practically under the dictatorship of Japan, and that thereby the balance of power in the Pacific has been radically altered ? It is stated iu the press that the British Government were consulted; and I should like to know whether the Minister of External Affairs has been in any way informed in regard to this matter ; and, if so, whether he can inform the House as to the actual position?
– I have no recollection of the . Department having received the information to which the honorable member refers. I did see in the press vague statements of which the honorable member has conveyed the substance, but I do not think that we have any official knowledge that the steps taken, or alleged to have been taken, by Japan have actually been taken.
– They have: it is all fixed up.
– I shall make further inquiries, and let the honorable member know.
Delayed Payment of Men in Hospital.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that complaints are coming from Egypt to the effect that men in the various hospitals there have not received any pay for the ten weeks preceding 19th June, and that they have been dependent on charity for any little extra comforts they need ?
– I am not aware of that. I shall consult with the Minister of Defence concerning the matter, and let the honorable member know the result of my inquiry. /
– Is the Minister for the Navy yet in a position to state what arrangements have been made for the transportation of the wounded soldiers who are to arrive this week, from Melbourne northwards?
– I shall give the information to the House to-morrow.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister of Trade and Customs if he would communicate with the States to ascertain whether there is available a supply of corn sacks sufficient for the coming harvest, and he promised to do so. I ask the honorable gentleman what replies he has received ?
– I have no doubt that the States were communicated with through the Prime Minister’s Department, but I am not aware that any replies have yet come to hand
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware of the present location of the vessels of the Australian Navy - I do not ask him to tell me where they are - and is he advised from time to time of their movements and their whereabouts?
– I know the present location of all the vessels of the Australian Navy ; and when they are moving from one place to another I am informed of their movements.
– About a fortnight ago we were promised that there would be an inquiry to ascertain what officers were responsible for muddling the arrangements for the transport northwards of wounded soldiers who were brought back by the Kyarra. When will the Minister for the Navy be able to lay on the table the report of the officer who was deputed to inquire into the conduct of two other officers who were suspended for neglect of duty in connexion with this matter?
– I hope to be able to lay the report on the table at an early date.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Government of New South Wales has set aside about 250,000 acres of wheat-growing land for returned soldiers, and has decided to give them preference in the ordinary balloting for Crown lands? Will the right honorable gentleman represent in a friendly way to the other States the advisability of following the example of New South Wales, so far as their respective circumstances will permit?
– We shall be glad to do that.
– I ask the Treasurer whether there has been any communication between him and the Premiers of the States as to the loan requirements of the Commonwealth and the States in the immediate future ?
– Yes, but mostly in regard to loans from the Commonwealth to the States. Generally speaking, the States are not embarrassed at the present moment, but the honorable member knows that they are largely debtors of the Commonwealth
– The Prime Minister has invited members to mention specific instances in which money belonging to the Red Cross Society has been used to buy military necessaries at Liverpool. I ask, therefore, whether the right honorable gentleman is aware that Professor Sir Thomas Anderson Stuart has given evidence before Mr. Justice Rich that he found that camp necessaries had been applied for to the Red Cross Society, and supplied out of the Society’s funds, and is he aware that the professor said, further, that had he known the Government would be relieved of. its duty in regard to the supply of these articles he would have hesitated about contributing to the Red Cross funds. If the Prime Minister is not aware of these statements will he look into the matter?
– I have not seen the statements referred to. The matter is one for further inquiry. I understand the honorable member to say that Professor Sir Thomas Anderson Stuart has stated that the Defence Department seized some Red Cross goods.
– No; that it applied for and received from the Red Cross Society camp necessaries which the Government should have supplied.
– By way of loan?
– No, it is alleged that the people in camp had to go cadging to the Red Cross Society for things with which the Government should have provided them.
– I am not acquainted with the facts. I regret to hear the Leader of the Opposition suggest that some shortage has occurred through maladministration. My view is that anything that has been taken from the Red Cross Society should be returned, and I shall see that that is done.
– Will the Prime Minister refer the honorable member for Parkes to a letter which
appeared in yesterday’s
– He did not justify it.
– All I can say is that I deeply regret that charity should be concerned with the supplying of camp necessaries. I understand that the evidence of Professor Stuart was given before a Royal Commissioner, who has not yet furnished his report. If that is so it was most unseemly to bring the matter before this House.
– Last week the Prime Minister said that the wheat charter agreement was made as a matter of urgency, and the Attorney-General promised that we should be furnished with a copy of it. The AttorneyGeneral has since stated that we may have a copy of the agreement next week. In view of the fact that a harvest of approximately 120,000,000 bushels of wheat is affected by the arrangement, I ask whether the agreement has yet been reduced to writing and its terms finalised?
– There is no agreement in the sense in which the honorable member spoke of the matter. An arrangement has been come to under which the Commonwealth, acting for the
States, is the sole agent for securing freight for the export of wheat and other produce from Australia during the coming season. We have engaged the two firms whose names have been mentioned to act for us in this matter. I hope soon to lay on the table of the House the understanding that has been arrived at. As soon as the firms have supplied me with the necessary information it will be made available to honorable members. I hope that that will be to-morrow.
– Have these firms the exclusive right of chartering for the export of the coming harvest?
– It is the Commonwealth, and not our agents, that has the right of exclusive charter. The firms mentioned have no right to charter a single vessel without the approval of the Government, and the arrangements made with other shipping firms are such as to disturb them as little as possible, if ali all.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral see that sufficient wheat is retained in Australia for the consumption of our people, so that we shall not have the farce played of sending Australian produce to the ‘ other end of the world and bringing it back again to meet our requirements?
– That is a matter exclusively for the States. Our only power is that over exports. So far as I know there is not the slightest danger of more than the surplus produce being exported. The arrangements are being made with a view to the exportation of the produce that is not required for the people of Australia.
– Does the agreement provide, or does the Attorney-General intend to provide, that no one except those named by the Government will be permitted to charter ships? In other words, is the Government going to direct what ships may carry away wheat from Australia ? I ask, too, whether any provision has been made regarding the percentage which, under ordinary circumstances, is allowed by shippers to the producers of wheat. I understand that the custom has been to give a rebate to the farmers which increases their price. Has the agreement which has been entered into secured this 4 or 5 per cent, to the farmers? Is there a specific provision regarding the commission that has to be paid to the two shipping companies, and if so, does it prevent the payment of a commission, the benefit of which, hitherto, by agreement between the shippers and the farmers, has been given to the farmers ?
– I understand that the customary arrangement is for the charterer to receive lj per cent, and the shipper 3J per cent. This arrangement will not be disturbed. As to ohe chartering of ships by persons other than the firms named, the object of the arrangement is to secure the co-operation of every agency that will bring freight to Australia, and all we insist on is that arrangements for freight should go through the channel that we have provided. A larg-3 amount of freight, . perhaps the greater amount, is furnished by the regular liners, tramps, and the Government transports. Our arrangement is to provide supplementary freight, which would not come here under normal circumstances. I have asked the representatives of the shippers of wheat to meet me on Friday to discuss some of the matters to which the honorable member has referred.
– Has the Commonwealth Government given to Gibbs, Bright and Co. and Elder, Smith and Co. the exclusive right to secure space or to charter vessels on behalf of the Commonwealth, or is the Government free to engage other agencies if necessary ?
– I have, already answered that question, but perhaps I had better make the situation quite clear. The present position is that, with a fluctuating wheat market, with wheat values possibly falling, we have a stiffening freight market. It is very obvious that if there are twenty or thirty operators on that market, higher freight values may result, and higher freight values may spell ruin to the farmers of Australia. For this reason we have arranged that there shall be only one operator acting on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia. That is the position. Every man would do the same in his own business.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy, following the promise he made some weeks ago that all the papers in connexion with the Enoggera bread contract would be -laid upon the table of the Library, if he will see that they are so placed on the table ?
– I understood these papers had been placed on the table of the Library. If the honorable member has not seen them, I shall have pleasure in placing them there.
– Will the Minister for the Navy say whether it is the intention of the Government to take any steps to replace the two Australian submarines that have been lost during the present war?
– Yes. The Government have already asked the Admiralty to have two submarines built for the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister of External affairs,
Whether he will supply a list of the names of the persons receiving the literary pension, the dates on which said pensions were granted, and by whom the pensions were recommended ?
– The information desired by the honorable member is as follows: -
The names of persons at present receiving assistance from the Commonwealth Literary Fund, and the dates from which they received such assistance, are : -
Mrs. E. Farrell, N.S.W., 1st July.
Mrs. C. Kendall, N.S.W., 1st July.
Mrs. A. Krefft, N.S.W., 1st July.
Mrs. J. H. Nicholson, Queensland, 1st July.
Mrs. J. B. Stephens, Queensland, 1st July.
Mrs. W. H. Traill, Queensland, 1st July.
Mrs. M. Wells, N.S.W., 1st July.
Mrs. A. Britton, N.S.W., 1st January.
Mrs. Essex Evans, Queensland, 1st January.
Mrs. M. E. J. Pitt, Victoria, 1st July.
Miss E. B. Stenhouse, N.S.W., 1st April.
Miss F. Y. Stenhouse, N.S.W., 1st April.
Rev. J. H. L. Zillmann, N.S.W., 1st May.
Mrs. F. S. Becke, N.S.W., 14th April.
Dr. John Service, N.S.W., 14th April.
Mrs. G. B. Barton, N.S.W., 15th April.
John Grattan Gray, Victoria, 1st November.
Mrs. M. L.. Turpin, N.S.W., 15th April.
Mrs. M. Vivienne, S.A., 15th April.
Assistance was granted in each case on the recommendation of the Committee appointed to deal with the applications submitted in connexion with the fund.
On the 8th May, 1908, the following gentlemen were appointed to constitute the Committee : -
Mr. F. M. Bladen, N.S.W.
Mr. E. H. Sugden, M.A., Victoria.
Mr. Reg. H. Roe, M.A., Queensland.
The Hon. Sir Langdon Bonython, S.A.
The Hon. J. W. Hackett, M.L.C., W.A.
The Hon. Sir N. E. Lewis, Tasmania.
At the same time Messrs. Bladen, Sugden, and
The personnel of the Committee is the same to-day, excepting that Dr. Frederick Watson, of New South Wales, has replaced Mr. Bladen, who died on the 21st September, 1912.
asked the Minister for the Navy,
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for the Navy,
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
Ample space for the extension of present camp exists within the Liverpool training area, but the Commandant of the District has been specially instructed to inspect all likely sites and places near the city wherein suitable depot accommodation for troops might be made available, to make provision for any rapid influx of recruits at short notice.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs,
Would he ask the Commonwealth Statistician to supply the following information to the House : -
The number of tons of spelter (a) manufactured and (b) consumed in the United Kingdom and Germany respectively for the last five available years?
The number of tons of spelter imported into and exported from Norway, Sweden, Hol land, and Denmark respectively for the last five available years ?
The market price of spelter in London, Frankfurt-on-Main, and New York on the 1st day of June, 1914, and of succeeding months until the latest available information?
The market price of copper in the same places and on the same dates?
– The information, as far as it is available, has already been supplied to the honorable member by the Commonwealth Statistician, and is as fol-. lows: -
asked the Min ister of Home Affairs,
Is he aware that the schedule of tenders for supply of timber called for by his Department for the Port Augusta railway restricts tenders to following varieties : - Stringybark, Wandoo, Messmate, Bunga Pine, California Bed Pine, and Mountain Ash?
– The answers to the honorable members questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs,
Who were the owners of such land, and what price per acre was paid in each case?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. An area of 40 acres was acquired by the Commonwealth on the 5th April, 1913, for the purposes of a Naval Depot and Camp. In view of the possibility of further acquisitions of land it is not advisable in the public interest to publicly make known the price which was paid for this land.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a third time. I desire to say that, in compliance with the promise I made to the Committee last week respecting two amendments then suggested, that the points raised have been looked into by the Attorney-General, and the Government are now willing to have the suggested amendments incorporated in the Bill when it is dealt with in another place. One provides for the further definition of what a dependant is. Under it, the term dependant means the wife or widow and children of a soldier, and such other members of his family as were wholly or in part dependent on his earnings at any time during the period of twelve months prior to his enlistment. We propose also to make the further provision that a child who, on attaining the age of sixteen years, is, in the opinion of the Commissioner, unable to earn a livelihood, may then be granted a further pension as’ a dependant, during the remainder of his or her life. That is, of course, provided the child was dependent at the time her father was killed or totally incapacitated.
– I hope the Minister will permit me to draw his attention to the fact that the honorable member for Richmond raised the question of the amount which had been contributed to the support of the dependant by a soldier prior to his death or permanent incapacity. The honorable member’s point was that, in the event of a person contributing to the support of a dependant for a period of twelve months prior to his death or permanent incapacity, a certain definite sum, if that sum did not exceed the amount stated in the schedule, the Commissioner should take the sum as evidence of the extent to which the person was dependent, and make the pension at least that amount.
– That point will be considered in this proposed amendment.
– The Bill is going to the Senate now, and will come back for further consideration, when we shall have to consider the amendments made by the Senate ; but the reason I mention the matter briefly now is that it may save discussion in another place. I do not think any time will be lost by having the position stated clearly.
– If the honorable member reads the proposed amendments, he will see that they embrace what he has in mind.
– I do not .think they do. It seems to me that the amendments only deal with the definition of what is a dependant, and not with the point raised by the honorable member for Richmond, which was, I think, originally mentioned by the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I informed the honorable member for Richmond that I could not give any promise regarding the whole 06 his amendment, but I think the amendments to be made embrace a good deal of what he had in mind. A dependant will now be able to explain to the Commissioner what he or she received from the deceased or incapacitated soldier.
– According to the present law, that evidence can be given. The trouble is that the Commissioner is notbound to award the amount contributed.. A dependant’ may say, “I was in receipt of £1 a week,” and the Commissionermay award 10s. That is the trouble.
– Looking at the administration as it is, has the honorable memberany doubt on that point?
– I may have no doubt,but a case was mentioned by the honoLiable member for Parramatta ,in which that, was actually done.
– It was stated during; the debate. The honorable member quoted* the case of a widow who received much* less than the sum she stated she received) from her son. I quite agree that it seemsextraordinary that any Commissioner should set aside specific evidence on Such a point. The amendment foreshadowed! by the Minister seems to cover the point, raised by the honorable member for Gippsland that a dependant means the wife or widow and children of a soldier. The idea, was that a wife and child shall be regarded as dependants without being called upon to give proof of the fact.
– As I understand it, the position will be this, if the amendment is accepted : A widow and a child, no mat-. ter how much their income from private sources may be, will be absolutely entitled to pensions, according to schedule rates,, without their other income being taken into consideration.
– At full rates!
– Yes. That is the intention of this amendment, and the Minister indicates that I am stating the position clearly. I think it is what the House, desires *
.- Whenthe Bill was being discussed in Committee the other night, the desire was that a widow or child should be entitled to theension as a right and not as a dependant, have not seen the proposed amendment, but it seemed to me while the Minister was reading it that it would -again group up “wives and children” with “ dependants.” The difficulty could be overcome by an amendment of section 3 of the principal Act, which is the operative provision so far as the payment of pensions is concerned. It declares that the Commonwealth “ shall, subject to this Act, be liable to pay to the member or his dependants or both “ a pension. If we substituted for those words the words *’ shall be liable to pay to the member, his wife, child, or his dependants “ our intention would be made clear. The desire expressed by the Committee when the Bill was before us last week was that the widow and children of deceased soldiers should receive their pensions as of right, and that it should not be necessary for them to prove that they were wholly or in part dependent upon the deceased. If the Bill be amended to carry out that intention, we shall be satisfied.
– I am very glad that the Government propose in another place so to amend the Bill as to make it clear that the widow and children of a deceased soldier shall be entitled to the full pension payable in respect of a man of his rank. The amendment, however, while excellent as far as it goes, does not go far enough.
– What about the widowed mother ?
– That was the point to which I was about to refer. It seems reasonable that the first call should be made upon unmarried rather than upon -married men with families, and there can he no doubt that the majority who have gone so far are young unmarried men. That being so, the Bill, as proposed to be amended in this respect, will not apply to the majority of our men at the front.. T recognise that there are difficulties iu the way of achieving the object I have in view; but unless we place widowed mothers in the same position as the widows and children of deceased soldiers, we shall have not merely anomalies, but very serious hardships. The honorable member for Fawkner cited a case which was very much to the point. He told us of a young fellow who was practically the mainstay of his mother, and who desired to go to the front. His mother was not very anxious that he should go, but he pressed her for permission to enlist, saying, “ Never mind, mother; if I go, and am killed, you will be provided for; you will receive a pension of .£52 a year. ‘ ‘ He went, and was killed, but because his widowed mother was not wholly dependent upon him, since she had two daughters who were able to contribute to her support, she was deprived of the pension.
– Under the Bill as proposed to be amended, if that mother can show that she was dependent to some extent upon the young man prior to his enlistment, she will receive a pension.
– The full pension- the £52 per year?
– She will receive by way of pension the amount to which she is entitled.
– That is quite another matter. That means that she will not receive £1 a week, although the widow of such a man would do so. The honorable member for Richmond last week told us of the mother of a young man killed at the front who had been awarded a pension of only £26 per year, because she was drawing £26 per annum from another source.
– The Commissioner will have extensive powers under the Act.
– He will; but the regulations must be drafted in accordance with the Act, and it would be unfair for this House to find fault with the administration later on if it allowed the Bill to be framed in such a way that regulations under it contained provisions to which they objected.
– Would the honorable member wish the Government to give a pension to a person who was not really in need of one?
– I. have taken up the stand that payment of the full pension, according to the rank of the man, .should be absolutely assured - that it should be regarded as part and parcel of the conditions of enlistment. The full pension should be payable as of right just as is the maternity allowance.
– No country could do that.
– Then it is unfair to accept the services of those who are willing to volunteer, and not to make adequate provision for those whom they leave behind. If conscription were in force the position would be different. But we are appealing to men to volunteer, and the vast majority of those who remain at home have quite as much at stake as those who go.
– “What country is doing as much for its men as Australia is doing !
– Why should we not do what is right, irrespective of what other countries may he doing? If China elects to pay its men only a few pence per day, is that any reason why we should do the same?
– I had in mind, not. China, but Great -Britain and Canada.
– Our soldiers are receiving better pay than any others at the front, and we have in force the best of all war pension measures. Do not cripple the Government altogether.
– I do not wish to cripple the Government. The Minister asked a few moments ago whether I desired that these pensions should be payable to persons whether they were in need of them or not. I would remind him that the amendment proposed to be made in another place will give the widow of a deceased soldier the right to a pension whether she requires it or not. Why should not a widowed mother be placed in the same position? Why should a soldier’s widow who is receiving £5,000 a year be able to draw the full pension, while the mother of a deceased soldier who has an income of only £26 a year is to be allowed to draw only half the pension? I am not blaming the Government for the amendment they propose to make ; my only complaint is that it does not go far enough. The Government are undoubtedly right in applying this principle to the widows and children of deceased soldiers, but they should extend it to the widowed mothers of deceased soldiers. I know of a young fellow who is under age, and who is extremely anxious to enlist. His widowed mother is not at present dependent upon him. ‘She is sacrificing herself in order to enable him to go to the University, in the hope that he will qualify for a profession, and will ultimately be in a position to maintain her. But if he goes to the front, and is killed, his widowed mother will receive nothing, since she will not be able to show that she was dependent upon him at the time of his enlistment.
– If the widowed mother of a deceased soldier can show that she was dependent upon him, she will receive the pension, or if she can show that she was partially dependent upon him she will receive a proportionate allowance.
– But why should the widow of a soldier be entitled to draw the full pension?
– Because she was entirely dependent upon her husband.
– Kb such condition is imposed by the proposed amendment
– If the mother becomes dependent within five years, she will be entitled to a pension.
– Quite so; but if she is in receipt of £26 per annum, she cannot receive, by way of pension, more than a further £26. Then, again, if a soldier returns from the front incapacitated, is he to draw the full pension, irrespective of any income to which he may be entitled? The honorable member for Wimmera has handed to me a regulation under the principal Act, which suggests that those whocome back incapacitated do not necessarily receive the full pension. They have to answer a question as to whether they are entitled to any other pension or superannuation allowance. Why is such a question asked?
– It is understood that if a soldier is incapacitated he has a right to a pension.
– He has to prove that he is incapacitated.
– That is so.
– I think that is right. If a soldier is wounded, but by the time of his return to Australia is well and strong again, there is an end to the matter; but if he is permanently incapacitated, is he entitled as of right to the pension, or has he to give an account of his possessions ?
– I do not think he has togiv’e an account of what he has. He isentitled to the pension as a right.
– Then why should the regulations cast any doubt on the subject?
– This is a matter to be dealt with by the regulations.
– And they cannot be more expansive than the Act.
– No. They must be based on the Act itself.
– Sometimes regulations, do not correctly interpret the Act under which they are made.
– Owing to a misapprehension, a regulation that was not really in accordance with the Act might be drafted and put in force. It would be manifestly unfair to find fault with the administration of the Act because of any question put to a soldier or his dependants under regulations that were in conformity with the Act as passed by us, but which did not embody what was the actual intention of the Legislature. We should have a definite assurance from the Minister- one way or the other.
– So far as I know from the Attorney-General, any incapacitated soldier can draw a pension as a right.’
– If we have an assurance from the Minister that no question will be asked as to the soldier’s ability to maintain himself, and that all he will Joe required to prove will be his incapacitation, I shall be satisfied. Whilst I am pleased that widows and fatherless “children are to receive their pensions as a matter of right, I am sorry that the Minister .does not propose to accord the widowed mother the same treatment.
.- I welcome an amendment to meet some of the cases mentioned hy honorable members when this Bill was before the House last week-; but, like the honorable member for Barrier, I regret that the Minister has not seen fit to extend the scope of the amendment, in order to include also the widowed mother.
– Under the existing provisions of the Act the widowed mother will receive a pension if she can prove that she ds dependent.
– She has to prove dependence, and if she has any other income n corresponding deduction is made from the total amount of pension which she would ‘Otherwise receive. I hold a letter from a widow, whose only son went to the front as a first lieutenant. Prior to joining the Expeditionary Forces he was helping to maintain his mother, and he told her that if he were killed she would be entitled to a pension of £91. This young man was killed whilst fighting with the now .famous 3rd Brigade. The mother states that she gave him willingly for his country, but she has living at home with her three daughters. One of them is attending school, and the others are learning some avocation, which will enable them to support themselves later on. Meanwhile they are chiefly dependent on their mother. The mother is the widow of a clergyman, and is in receipt of £1 per week, and that amount has been deducted from the pension of £91 to which she would have been entitled but for this small income. The son who has to support his mother stands in quite as honorable a position as a husband supporting his wife. The mother is equally dependent on the son, and I cannot see how the Government can separate the relationship of the widowed mother to her son, who is her sole support, and the relationship of a wife to her husband. If consideration is to be extended to the widow and children, the same consideration should be given to widowed mothers. I do not urge that all parents should receive pensions regardless of their financial position, hut I venture to say that not more than 25 per cent, of the total number of widows would he found to be well provided for apart from the help received from the son. The allowance of £1 per week received by the clergyman’s widow to whom I have referred, is probably not more than sufficient to pay house rent, and she would require the full pension to which she was entitled through the loss of her son to maintain herself and three daughters. It is difficult to prove what proportion of widows are dependent on their sons, but if statistics could be obtained they would probably show that fully three-fourths of the widows are so dependent.
– If a widow is dependent she will get the pension.
– Will the Minister assure the House that if a widowed mother is able to show that she was partly dependent upon the earnings of her son before he went to the war she will be entitled to the full pension?
– We propose to move an amendment in another place to make the Act read that dependant means the wife or widow and children of a soldier.
– The widowed mother is justly entitled to the same treatment, and I hope the Minister will promise to widen the amendment in that direction.
.- I desire to say a few words on the subject dealt with by the last three speakers. The following letter has been received f rom the Treasury by the widowed mother of a young soldier who fell at the front: -
Prior to her son going to the front, this widowed mother had been obliged to support an invalid husband for a number of years. The young soldier was an only son and, I believe, the only child of the family. The mother is well advanced in years.
– She must be drawing another pension.
– Did the son contribute to her support?
– Yes; he was practically her only support.
– Do you know the whole circumstances of the case? Perhaps the woman has not told you her own position or that of her husband.
– I met the lady only through being called upon to assist in drawing up her claim for a pension. I know her circumstances, and if any woman is entitled to full consideration under the War Pensions Act, this one is.
– There must have been some reason for the Board awarding only £26.
– In these days of high cost of living, the woman has to pay 15s. for board and lodging with a pension of only 10s. per week.
– She must have other income, or she would have been awarded £52.
– I am safe in saying that this mother is fully fifty-five years of age, and, owing to her severe struggle in life in having to nurse and help to maintain an invalid husband, she has so worn herself down that she is not fit to undertake work to earn her living. While she may be able to earn a few shillings to-day, in a few years she willbe almost wholly dependent on the pension of 10s, per week.
– If the honorable member will supply me with the woman’s name, I will have inquiries made.
– Even if she has a few extra shillings coming in, I consider that she is still entitled to a full pension. The position of the widowed mother is often much harder than that of the woman who
Loses her husband. The great bulk of the men who have gone tothe war are under thirty years of age, and, except in rare cases, the wives of, our soldiers are young women, full of vigour, and able to undertake work to earn their own living. The widowed mother, on the other hand, is often in her declining years. In this case the mother has, if I may so put it, a more rightful claim to consideration than would a younger woman.
– A mother in her declining years has a right to another pension as well as this.
– That is true.
– Surely that must be taken into consideration?
– But this mother has not reached that stage. At any rate, in. such times as these, under a Bill of this kind, we may afford, I think, to treat the mother very well indeed. I shall give the Minister the name of the woman to whom I have referred, and I think he will regard it as an exceptionally hard case, though there are many others like it. I do not wish to utter anything in the nature of a threat, but if an amendment is not made here, I hope our friends in. another place will make one, thus assuring to the widowed mother rights to which I think she is entitled.
. -In fixing the machinery for a. measure of this kind, a certain amount of common sense ought to be exercised, as was done in the case of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. There ought tobe left with some man the right to discriminate, because, as we all know, it is very hard to pass any Act of Parliament that will have universal effect. Every case ought to be dealt with on its merits ; and, in view of the circumstances related by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, it would appear that the Act, as it is at present, is not elastic enough.
– The Commissioner has extensive powers under the Bill.
– The trouble is that the Commissioner is an official. Under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act there is a Deputy-Commissioner in every State ; and, unfortunately, in some of the States, these Deputy-Commissioners deem it their duly to save as much as they can to the taxpayers. They do not administer the Act according to its spirit, but confine themselves strictly to the letter, and nave an idea that they are doing a service to their country if they can deprive some individual of a pension.” This may seem rather a nasty charge to make; but such is the fact. In Victoria, we have, I suppose, actually the best man in Australia tor a position of the kind. He deals with «very case on its merits; and I understand that, because of this, he is not popular as an official. From what I have Sheard, however, if any one endeavours to take down “ the Department, he is more severe on the delinquent than, perhaps, is any of the other officials; but, at any rate, he never throws obstacles in the way of claimants. What we require under Acts of this kind is sympathetic administration ; and all of the thousands,, and tens of thousands, of cases ought to be dealt with on their merits. In my own constituency there is a dear old soul who has two sons at the front. Like a good many Australians, they were, when at home, prone to travel about a great deal, (but they always did what they, could for their mother, though it might be in rather -a careless manner. However, when they went to the front they both made arrangements to allow her so much, and the old lady naturally thought that she would have a right to a separation allowance. Of course, like many others similarly circumstanced, she could not make an affidavit that she was solely dependent on her sons; but she found that her other sources of income vanished in view of a feeling that she was getting a separation Allowance on account of her sons. At present the position, so far as this old lady is concerned, is not so acute; but it would be very different with her if anything were to happen to her sons. If the Defence Department will accept no re- sponsibility now, it will be hard to fix any responsibility upon them in the future, in the absence of proof that the mother was absolutely dependent on these men for her support. ‘ The war has reached such a phase that it is not decent for us to “ split hairs “ in this way. Of course, every one thinks that some one else should bear the brunt of the necessary taxation; but when we urge men to go to the front, surely we, as a nation, can afford to put cheeseparing on one side in the case of dependants and semi-de pendants. It was found necessary to amend the original Act, and now we have before us further proposed amendments, which, I admit, make the measure much more generous. There is no doubt that, as time goes on, experience will show the necessity for further amendments; and I hope the Minister will take special note of the cases that have been mentioned.
– The Commissioner must be controlled by the Act.
– No Parliament yet has passed an Act sufficiently comprehensive to cover every possible case; and we must not forget that, in connexion with mothers and wives and children,, there is as much sentiment as business. If we cannot cover cases of the kind to which reference has been made, I do not care to be asked to mount a platform and ask men to go to the front. When I have done so, I have promised that the interests of those left behind shall be looked after, and I expect that promise to be honoured. There is another case which is interesting. A constituent of mine, whose wife had two brothers at the front, enlisted ; and the brothers made arrangements for so much to be paid to the mother. While in camp the husband - who, by the way, had two children - became sick, and arrived at the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that, owing to the state of his eyes, it was of no use for him to go to the front. One of his. tent-mates wrote an anonymous letter tothe Department alleging that this man had put tobacco juice in his eyes in order to make them bad; and I must say that I am surprised that the Department should take any notice- of anonymous letters, the’ writers of which can only be described as “things.” Even if it were evident that a man had done something of this kind, his wife and children should not suffer; but he is now in gaol, and those dependent on him are without support. My contention is that wives, children, and other dependants should receive consideration irrespective’ of anything that the husband or son has done. I know that in this respect the Act has already been considerably broadened; and I suggest that, failing the Commissioner, there should be an appeal to somebody or other, in order to insure that each case shall be considered on its merits : otherwise, I am afraid the Act will not commend itself to those who are asked to urge men to go to the front.
.- While I congratulate the Government on its effort to decentralize the administration, and to make the Act more liberal, I think there are certain blemishes that ought to be removed. I think that the widowed mother ought to be placed on the same footing as the wife; and there is no doubt, from what we have heard during the debate, that that is the wish of the majority of honorable members.
– Honorable members would lead one to suppose that the widowed mother is outside the scope of the Act, whereas she is not.
– .She is, so far as a full pension is concerned.
– She will get a frill pension if it is shown that she should have one.
– The other night I referred to the case of a lady in my constituency who has two sons at the front, but who, because she has an invalid husband, who has been in an asylum for seventeen years, is debarred from receiving anything on account of the one son who is unmarried. In another case, a woman whose son is at the front was refused any allowance because she rents a large house, portions of which she sublets in order to enable herself to live rent free.
– Why should “she have an allowance if she, as is admitted, has other income ?
– She merely rents this house, and lets portions of it out in order to enable her to pay the rent.
– You will discover what this War Pensions Act means in a couple of years, when you have to foot the Bill.
– What we are trying to do is to remove anomalies in the Act; and I suggest that the two cases which I have cited are hard cases for which provision should be made. I believe that the country would indorse our action if we placed widowed mothers on the same plane as wives. A mother is often called upon to make a greater sacrifice than is made by a wife. As a rule, the soldier’s wife is a young woman, while his mother has spent her strength in the bringing up of her family, and, on the death of her son, loses her sole support. Should we, when a son has given his life for the country, cavil at the payment of a. small pension to his mother 1 In my opinion, the widowed mother should be on the same footing as the wife, and the aged father who has be,come too infirm to work, and depends on his sons for his support, should be in the same position as”?he widowed mother. I understand that the Government is prepared to move certain amendments in the Senate, and should the Bill return to us unamended, we shall have a right to protest against some of its. provisions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move - That this Bill be now read a second time. This is purely a machinery measure tomake necessary amendments in the Inscribed Stock Act 1911-13, and to extendits provisions in certain directions.
Section 5 of the principal Act limits, the rate of interest on stock to £3 10s. per centum per annum, and obviously, aswe are now asking the public to lend us money at 4 per cent., it is necessary to* amend this provision, which is done by clause 2.
Then, again, as at present stock cannot be legally transferred in any amount lessthan £50, to popularize Commonwealthloans it is proposed to amend the principal* Act to allow of transfers of stock in such, amounts as may be approved by the GovernorGeneral. Thus we intend to provide for the transference of small amounts* of stock and for the conversion of bonds into inscribed stock, and of stock intobonds as may suit the convenience of the. lender.
In connexion with the issue of Commonwealth loans it is important that the-, lenders should know how they stand in relation to taxation. We are satisfied that the States cannot impose taxation.upon interest received from Commonwealth securities, and it is the intention of the Government that persons who lend money to the Commonwealth shall not be compelled to pay back to us in the form of taxation what they receive as interest. The Bill provides that stock - and bonds and interest thereon shall not be liable to stamp duty under any law of the Commonwealth or of a State, arid’ that the interest shall not be liable to- either State or Commonwealth income tax. There may be a difference of opinion as to the wisdom of this arrangement; but, in my opinion, it is best to make the interest on the Commonwealth loan free from taxation.
– Why should it be free from taxation ?
– The lenders, both small and great, will know that during the term of the loan they will receive. the net rate of interest which we offer for their money, and that, however other securities may fluctuate, this investment will not change in value owing to any alteration in taxation. As the loan affects the credit of the country, it is advisable that it should not fluctuate in value for such a reason.
– Where is revenue to come from in the future if Government securities are not to be taxed?
– Happily the Commonwealth has not yet borrowed money from any private person.
– The Prime Minister seems confident that he will not have to do any borrowing in respect to other matters.
– I do not pretend to any great financial knowledge beyond the advice I receive and my own rough and ready experience, but I ask the people of Australia to believe that there is no hope of financing the present situation without heavy borrowing. We declared this afternoon that we would see the war through to the bitter end, and I know of no way in which sufficient revenue can be raised by taxation to finance our obligations. Imagine what it would cost if we had to raise and equip 200,000 men. We could not do that out of revenue. It is therefore our duty to make the credit of the Commonwealth such that our citizens, rich and poor, will be willing to invest their money in Commonwealth loans. Those who cannot fight at the front will be given an opportunity to make sacrifices to assist the financing of the Commonwealth obligations. The proposal to exempt from income tax interest on the loan is made to secure the absolute certainty of the whole amount being subscribed. In my opinion it was a right thing to offer to pay 4$ per cent, interest for the money borrowed, and the fact that the short-termed Imperial loan is down to £97§ gives an idea of the state of the money market.
Honorable members will recollect that last year we passed an Act imposing duty of probate on the estates of deceased persons. This Bill provides that war loan holdings shall be accepted at par for the payment of such duty. This should prove a great convenience.. When a large estate has to be realized to pay probate duty, the market is often unnecessarily disturbed; but the acceptance of war loan stock at par for the payment of such duty will prevent that, and will prove of distinct advantage to the beneficiaries. This statement deals with practically all the provisions of the Bill, which is purely a machinery measure, and has been considered very carefully, so that, I think, the whole ground is covered.
– I understand that the Bill is intended to adjust machinery which has been in existence for some time to the new and extraordinary conditions that we have to face, and it may therefore be allowed to pass. No doubt the proposal to exempt from taxation interest on the war loan is debatable. On the whole, the exemption ought to give satisfaction, as I understand that all the States free their loan transactions from income tax. Whether, in these circumstances, and at this time, that should be done, is a point that is open to argument.
– I admit that.
– At the same time, the real way of looking at it is that the exemption is part of the price we have to pay for the loan. What it will amount to when some of the higher graduations that have been suggested in the papers are concerned, I do not pretend to say. Instead of 4^ per cent., we may be paying actually 5 per cent., or something like that.
– It may be more than that. I would ask the right honorable gentleman to consider what the position would be if the investment were made out of this year’s income, and 25 per cent, were deducted by way of taxation from that income before” its investment. If a person whose income is involved in the. higher grade of taxation desired to invest in this loan, he would have only 75 per cent, of his income to invest. Can the honorable member calculate the interest on that?
– I hope we may soon have the right honorable gentleman’s full financial proposals bet ore us.
– Next week.
– This Bill provides for the necessary machinery, no matter what the amount of the tax or the loan may be. This machinery is necessary for the purpose of floating loans of any kind, both now and hereafter; and it follows on the old beaten track kept to for so many years by all the States, though the Commonwealth is entering upon a new career.
– We have not yet been on the market at all.
– My honorable friend is always saying that, and I am always trying to remind him that he may have to go on to the market yet, even, in connexion with the note issue, the full sequel of which has not yet appeared, though it will appear by-and-by. It is scarcely worth while opening up that debatable ground at the present juncture, and though the Treasurer has difficulties ahead, we need only concern ourselves with what is immediately before us in the way of adequately financing our war preparations. Any proposal to do that will, I hope, always commend itself to the House, and to the reasoned judgment of the people as a whole.
– As the Treasurer has pointed out, this Bill simply makes an amendment in the existing law, in order that he may have the elasticity he desires in connexion with the proposed loan flotation. Under the existing law, the Treasurer is limited to the payment of 31/2 per cent, interest, and the Government’s aim is to remove that restriction so as to be able to offer higher rates of interest, in order to attract the requisite loan money for the purpose of carrying on the war.
– The honorable member is quite right.
– I think no one will adversely criticise that proposal. Further elasticity is to be sought by repealing section 32. The present position is that no transfer of stock of a smaller amount than £50 can be made without the permission of the Treasurer. If this Bill is passed, that provision will be repealed.
– The now proposed minimum is £10, but we may come down to £5.
– The law at the present time makes £50 the minimum.
– That is so.
– The Bill also will enable the Government to issue Treasurybonds from time to time.Under the existing Act, that provision does not exist, and it is for that reason that section 51a is inserted in this Bill. The clause gives as wide a direction as the Government could desire. A most material point is that mentioned by the honorable member for Parramatta providing that interest on the loan shall not be liable to income tax under either Commonwealth or State laws. That is to say, that it is the intention of the Government, if the Commonwealth income tax is imposed, that people need not include the sum received as loan interest in their income returns as part of their taxable incomes.
– That is so.
– It will not be subject to taxation, not even if it has the effect of placing an individual in a higher scale.
– It will not affect the income as to taxation in any way.
– That provision will undoubtedly come as a considerable relief, also the declaration that the States must not lay hands upon this interest income for their purposes either. It has been already held in the High Court that the States have no power to tax the incomes of Federal servants. That is the law at the present time. The law gives a general protection to Commonwealth instrumentalities and agencies. If the States had power to tax they would have the power to destroy. They would have the power to impede and hinder Federal agencies, and I think the Prime Minister is quite right in his statement that if the States had power of taxation, and sought to exercise it to anunlimited extent, they might considerably impair Commonwealth securities. I think it is only fair and proper that the Com- monwealth should seek to throw some protection over its own instrumentalities.
– May I say - and in this I am expressing but my own opinion - that I think it is a mistake that the Government of a country, which has the defence of the country to maintain, should be limited in regard to its taxation.
– We have no limitation in our power of taxation. The States have very serious limitations. It is a question as to the extent to which we should exercise it.
– The power of taxation is an independent one.
– The Commonwealth power is an independent power.
– So, too, the State.
– But the State is restricted, inasmuch as it has no power of taxation in regard to Customs and Excise.
– I put, in all friendliness, the question as to whether a Government, responsible for the defence of the nation, should have any limitation placed upon its power of taxation over any citizen within its country.
– The point is that the States have no assets.
– As a matter of fact, under our existing Constitution the Commonwealth has practically unlimited powers of taxation; but the point raised here is that the States have also their own powers of taxation, which might he exercised in a manner calculated to impede or hinder, or impair, Commonwealth instrumentalities or agencies. What is being done in this declaratory clause is to make it clear to the States that, as far as this loan is concerned, the citizens of Australia will have unlimited power of investment without being interfered with in any way - that they will have full freedom of action for the purposes of investment. So far as the Commonwealth public services are concerned, similar freedom and immunity exists, but the Commonwealth very properly maintains this position: That all public servants and officials shall be upon the same footing as the rest of the citizens of the Commonwealth, and the States were given power by Commonwealth legislation to tax their incomes just as they tax the incomes of the other residents within their States. In that way equity is done. But here we are dealing with an entirely different problem. The war has. to be financed, and as Australia is thrown upon her own resources, the desire is to induce everybody who has capital to assist in financing this war, and the desire of the Government in making this exemption is to encourage people, not only from motives of patriotism, but from motives of self-interest to come in. To that extent I can see no objection to the proposition, although it would be open to argument, were we dealing with the subject of loan interest apart from the war.
I think the Government, if this measure becomes law, will obtain the elasticity that they desire, and the proposal is one which will receive assistance, rather than hostility, from me.
.- Any one who has followed the history of Federation must feel a sense of disappointment that, after all that was said regarding the credit of the Commonwealth in the matter of borrowing money, and as to the ability of the Commonwealth to borrow money at lower rates of interest than any of the States, we should now be offering terms very much higher than any of the States have offered for a long time.
– That is on account of the war.
– I know we are in exceptional times.
– Can the honorable member give an instance where the rate is lower ?
– Not in recent loans.
– Within a year of the war.
– I suppose if we take the whole of the State loans of Victoria, the rate offered in this loan is higher than has been paid by the States.
– I think the right honorable gentleman will find that it is so. The State of Victoria does not pay 41/2 per cent, interest for all the loans running at the present time.
– Recent loans.
– I am not talking about recent loans.
– The honorable member is not taking into account the expenses of flotation, which often run to about £2 10s.
– I recognise that we are passing through exceptional times, but I express my sense of disappointment that the Commonwealth, on the first occasion of its entering the money market, is not going to realize the expectations of those who took an active part in the advocacy of Federation, that it would be able to raise, at 3 per cent., all the money it required. ‘ Even in this time of crisis, it should he possible to float a loan of £20,000,000 at per cent, without offering investors additional inducements. The Government, however, are holding out the special inducement that interest on this loan shall be free from income tax and stamp duty. It is rumoured in the press that the income tax rates will run up to 5s. in the £1 in the case of incomes in excess of £7,500 per annum, so that a large investor in this loan, who draws from it by way of interest £10,000 per annum, will receive a gift amounting probably to over £1,000 per annum. He will secure over 5 per cent, for his money.
– If the amount invested had been accumulated out of his income this year, it would be taxed.
– The Government would collect income tax on the amount he had earned during the previous twelve months, but this loan will run over fifty years.
– No. The currency of the loan is ten years.
– During the whole of that time, investors in it, having regard to the exemption
from income tax “and stamp duty, will earn 5 per cent. The Herald a few days ago reported a meeting of a
prosperous mining company - the Al Gold Mines Company No Liability - at which a
dividend representing £16,229 in respect of the preceding twelve months was
declared. One of the speakers at that meeting was
– Not the slightest. The gentleman in question was merely blowing bubbles in the air.
– The Treasurer has told us that the war can be financed only by borrowing as proposed by the Government.
– I said that that was my opinion.
– The honorable member for Calare, who, I understand, is interested in banking, made the interesting statement that the Associated Banks, if allowed to issue their own notes, would be prepared to provide this £20,000,000.
– The Associated Banks did not say anything of the kind.
– The honorable member informed the House that he was speaking on behalf of a banker in New South Wales.
– Some old woman.
– Such statements cannot be brushed aside in that way.
– It was only so much nonsense.
– Does the Treasurer say that the Associated Banks could not raise the money in the circumstances indicated by the honorable member?
– They could not float a loan of £20,000,000.
– Not if they were allowed to issue their own paper money in respect of it ?
– It would be bad business.
– It seemed to me that if the Associated Banks could do such a thing the Commonwealth Government should be able to finance the war in the same way.
– We have done it beyond the dreams of the most sanguine.
– The Treasurer is referring to the note issue with its gold backing. Would it be unbusiness-like to have a special war note issue, coupled with direct taxation, to provide a fund to redeem a certain amount per annum?
– It would be a delightful way of financing the war if the honorable member could tell us how the necessary money, could be raised by taxation.
– If we desired to raise £20,000,000, could we not obtain the money in the way I have mentioned, at the same time imposing a special tax to enable us to redeem it at the rate of £1,000,000 per annum? Does the Treasurer say that that would not be a sound, business-like proposition? .
– When the taxation measures are introduced it will be for the honorable member to say whether he is in favour of increasing the proposed taxation to provide such a sinking fund. My own opinion is that to do such a thing would be to cripple the country for a time.
– I differ from that view. I have heard what Germany has been able to do by means of her internal note issue, and if she can do it I fail to understand why we should not be able to act similarly. Another point to which I wish to draw attention is the effect which the floating of this loan at a high rate of interest is likely to have on the States when they desire to borrow in the same market. Then, again, is it not likely that money now invested on mortgage, in industry, and in various companies will be withdrawn and invested in the war loan, to the detriment of the country?
– That objection would apply also to taxation. What is the point of the honorable member’s criticism ?
– I contend that since the Commonwealth is offering 4£ per cent, it should not be necessary for it to hold out these extra inducements to the people to invest in a war loan, and that, instead of going into the market to borrow, we might have financed the war in another way.
.- I have no opposition to offer to the pronosed war loan. I am very glad that the Treasurer has decided to raise it, and I hope and believe that there will be a great demand for our inscribed stock. At the same time, we cannot close our eyes to the fact that the floating of a loan of £20,000,000 on the local market must more or less entrench upon the working capital of the country. I am afraid that many people from whom it is expected to collect heavy income tax will avoid that tax to a large extent by investing in this loan. This might prove highly detrimental to many small farmers who haVe mortgages on their property. An investor who has loaned £20,000 or £30,000 in various amounts upon the security of farming properties will probably call in that money if it is now falling due, and put it into the Government war loan. If that is done to any extent farmers will suffer very serious hardship. Money is not obtainable at anything like the rate at which it could be secured some years ago. It may be said that even if no war loan were floated, mortgagees would call in their mortgages as they fell due, and ask the farmers to pay a higher rate of interest.
– That is a certainty. Dic the honorable member ever hear of a mortgagee who was prepared to renew a mortgage at the old rate of interest in a rising market?
– I have not, but I believe there are mortgagees who are prepared to renew existing mortgages at 5 per cent, for some considerable time. If, instead of doing so, they decide to invest in the war loan, mortgagors will be placed in a difficulty, since it is hard to raise money at 5 per cent., even on the best of landed securities. I am concerned regarding the position of the small farmers, who are the backbone of the country, and represent one of the most deserving sections of the community.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the proposed loan should be withdrawn ?
– Certainly not; but I am anxious to put these facts before the Treasurer so that, in framing his income tax proposals, he will endeavour to make them as equitable as possible. No one can be ignorant of many of the great difficulties which confront the Treasurer at the present time. He has our sympathy. But this is a time of stress.
– We have not yet begun to feel the pinch.
– Then I hope that the. right honorable gentleman will make his income tax rates as low as possible. Any one who is called upon to change his mortgage will find it difficult to raise money at 5 per cent., although a few years ago plenty of money was offering at 4^ per cent.
– Does not. the price of money rise and fall in the market like anything else?
– “Unfortunately it does; but the interest rate has been rising for some time, and the money market is growing tighter. There is no prospect of any immediate reduction in the interest rate, and in these special circumstances I ask the Treasurer to take care that the incidence of taxation is made as equitable as possible. A tax of 5s. in the £1-
– The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the Bill. He would have been in order in referring to that matter when the Loan Bill was before the House.
– I shall conclude by asking the Treasurer to make a note of the points I have raised, and I am sure that if he can do anything to meet the position of small farmers and others with mortgages on their property he will do so.
– I notice that the Treasurer is issuing bonds, but I am not aware whether he intends to allow any registration. Treasury-bills very often are issued so that scrip can pass from hand to hand ; but there is also power to register at the Treasury, and then the coupons must be indorsed, or they will not be capable of being cashed. That is a protection to the public.
– I think the bond will be a personal security payable to the hearer.
-Are there not to be any coupons ?
– Only for the payment of interest.
– If they are lost, they can be cashed by anybody.
– The Commonwealth Bank will accept and keep the securities free of charge.
– That seems a roundabout way of attaining the same object. There is a simpler method - registration, to prevent cashing without indorsement. I think there is an idea abroad that Commonwealth securities are exempt from State taxation. I believe that is correct, but a reciprocal obligation applies, and if the State cannot tax a document of instrumentality without the Commonwealth’s permission, the Commonwealth cannot tax without the State’s permission. I do not know whether the Treasurer has come to any arrangement with the States.
– I shall not give up any of the Commonwealth’s powers.
– I quite agree with that view; but the States are as much within their sphere of taxation as we are, although the paramount consideration at present is that of defence. In this Bill we say that there is to be no taxation of income derived from scrip which the Commonwealth issues. The States, seeing a Commonwealth loan being issued at 41/2 per cent., are raising their rates of interest. Within the last week the State Treasurers have discussed the issue of Treasury-bills, bearing interest at 41/2 per cent., on what they consider to be as good terms as the Commonwealth offers. Do the Commonwealth Government intend to try to tax income derived from State securities? The States are entitled to know the Government’s intentions in that respect, so that there need be no un certainty about the competitive value of the stock they place on the market. I suggest that there ought to be a common understanding between the Treasurers of the States and the Commonwealth.
– Our loan is for expenditure on defence of the country, and we must maintain all our rights.
– In other words, we reserve the right to tax the securities of the States, although we say the States are not to tax Commonwealth securities, and we plead, in justification of that attitude, the necessities of defence. I quite appreciate the Treasurer’s position. He was confronted by States anxious to’ borrow, and there is a lack of financial coordination, which, no doubt, has hampered him. Steps should be taken to check that competition in the one market between organs of government in an emergency such as the present. We are obliged to deny to the States a right which we seek for ourselves, simply because we are driven by the competitive conditions on the market to adopt that course. I do not intend to say anything in justification or criticism of that policy; but I hope that some understanding may be arrived at between the Treasurer and the States, so that when they float their stocks the exact value of them in relation to taxation will be known.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– Do I rightly understand that there is no limit to the interest payable on Treasurybills - that the Government can pay any interest they choose?
– That is so, but I think it is necessary that the Government should have that discretionary power.
– It seems that we are handing over a very big powerto the Government.
– I think that in ft Loan Bill we can still condition a loan.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Minister and Treasurer) [5.591. - The Treasurer cannot issue any loan unless it is specifically authorized by Act of Parliament.
– Will that apply to Treasury-bills ?
– It will apply to all money borrowed. I can relieve the minds of honorable members by assuring them that I shall not issue any stock without the authority of Parliament, even if any loophole for so doing does exist.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Although this Bill contains a number of clauses, it is entirely a machinery measure. Under the present Act, the Treasurer is obliged to pay interest quarterly on all loans. These payments are too frequent, and in these times are found very inconvenient. The main purpose of this Bill is to enable the Treasurer to establish a current account of Treasury-bills, interest to be paid on the daily balance, instead of issuing a separate Treasurybill on each occasion on which advances are made from the Australian Notes Account. This will obviate a great deal of complication and detail.
.- The Bill goes much further than the Treasurer has indicated. Under section 8 of the Australian Notes Act, moneys which are derived from the issue of the notes are paid into the Australian Notes Fund, and money standing to the credit of that account is held by the Treasurer. Not less than one-quarter of the amount must be kept in gold. The balance may be invested by the Treasurer, either on deposit or in securities of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, or any State. If Treasury-bills are issued under the Act at the present moment, the Treasurer may invest portion of the Notes Fund in such bills, and then he has to hold in his possession those securities, so “that every time money is borrowed from the Notes Account a separate bill has to be deposited, and interest paid on it quarterly. This Bill removes the provision for quarterly payments of interest, and provides that when the Treasurer desires to borrow money from the Notes Fund he need not issue a Treasury-bill at all.
– If I issued a Treasurybill, I would have to use it for loan purposes.
– Yes; but the intention of the Australian Notes Act was that the currency should be secured by having either gold, bank deposits or securities of the Commonwealth or States, or of the United Kingdom - that was the whole basis. Under the Bill, the Treasurer, so far as moneys which are borrowed from the Notes Fund are concerned, need not issue any Treasury-bills; and probably what he would do would be to practically make a book entry. As a matter of fact, it would be a regular current account with the Commonwealth, pretty much as a current account in a bank; and from time to time, when the Treasurer borrowed, there would be a debit, and when the loan was refunded there would be a credit to the Treasury. I understand the reason for the alteration.
– It makes it more mobile. We safeguard the Notes Fund in the Bill.
– As a matter of convenience to the Treasurer, this Bill will give great relief; and no doubt it will facilitate very much his arrangements with the Treasury. But thereis another aspect which the Treasurer ought to consider. The intention of the Australian Notes Act was to regulate currency - to provide a note currency backed up by the credit of the whole Commonwealth. The Treasurer, in his capacity of Treasurer, is a sort of trustee for the currency fund.
– He is not a sort of trustee - he is one.
– He is, in effect, made so by the Act. In Queensland, where this idea was originally carried out, there was created an entirely independent board, consisting of the Speaker, the Treasurer, and a third person appointed under the Treasury-Bills Act 1893 which authorized the issue of Treasury-bills to secure the retirement of notes. I cannot help feeling that, if there were an independent board vested with entire control of the currency, they would insist on having a bond for every penny that was borrowed. There is, to some extent, a danger - though it may not be at present a serious danger - that people might confuse the relationship of the Treasurer in his capacity as trustee for the notes account, and as the custodian of the Consolidated
Revenue. There may be a danger of weakening in the public mind the feeling of security in the basis of our currency legislation in such abolition of the machinery provision requiring the deposit of securities.
– I should be the last to do anything of that kind.
– I think the Treasurer may urge in reply that the Bill is only permissive, and not compulsory. Although the Act provides that this accountkeeping can be carried out, it is only optional with the Treasurer; he, as custodian of the Notes Fund, will still have power to require Treasury -bills if necessary.
– Do you not see the difficulty of issuing Treasury-bills ?
– I see the difficulty which arises from the fact that the Treasurer, in his capacity as Treasurer, is continually making loans from himself as trustee of the fund. If there were a separate independent body, such as a corporation, there is no doubt they would take the stand that for every penny issued there would have to be a bond to represent it.
– The honorable member must be careful; he spoke of loans from the Treasurer to myself as Treasurer.
– The difficulty arises from the fact that the Treasurer occupies two capacities.
– How would it do to have two Treasurers?
– I think I expressed my opinion, on a former occasion, that it would have been better to constitute an independent currency commission. However, what I have pointed out seems to me to suggest the only element of danger, though, of course, I speak without any actual experience on the Treasury side.
– The Treasury-bills Act gives the GovernorGeneral in Council power to issue Treasury-bills for raising by way of loan any money authority to borrow which has been granted by an Act. Unless there is authority to borrow money in this way, Treasury-bills cannot be issued. I now have to refer to what has become very common in the Treasury, namely, borrowing from the Notes Fund; but I think that the provision in the measure cannot give the Treasurer any power to borrow money from the Notes Fund, unless for purposes which have been authorized by an Act of Parliament.
– Certainly not.
– At the same time, I think the Prime Minister will agree that what is proposed makes the dealings between the’ Treasurer and the note issue a little more loose - if I may use such a word.
– Say that it makes it more flexible.
– Very well, I shall use the word “flexible.” In fact, it has become a practice of the Treasury to treat the note issue fund, so long as the money is available, as a sort of current account, though I am inclined to think that payments into the current account are not so common at present. I do not know that it is wise for the Treasurer todo this. By this Bill the Treasurer can borrow from the Notes Trust Fund and merely make a book entry; and those in charge of the gold have no negotiable documents representing the gold issued. Say that £100,000 in sovereigns is taken out of the Notes Trust Fund for the purposes of the Treasury under authority of a Loan Act, there will, under this Bill, be no negotiable documents held by the custodians of the gold representing that number of sovereigns. This comes about because the right honorable gentleman is the custodian of the gold, and at the same time Treasurer of the Commonwealth. The practice to which I have been accustomed when the State or Commonwealth Government has borrowed from Trust Funds, Has been to deposit a negotiable document to the value of the sum borrowed; so that if the worst came to the worst, money could be raised on it, or it could be sold. Of course, I know that under existing circumstances such a document could be made out by the Treasurer at any time. If there were a rush on the Treasury for gold, he could at once make out such an instrument as I speak of, and have it negotiated; but the practice has been to lodge such a document at the time the money is borrowed. The Treasurer proposes merely to keep a debtor and creditor account of the transactions.
– To the extent to which those transactions affect the Consolidated Revenue.
– No doubt the method proposed is the easier method ; but I am not sure that it is the wiser one. If there were a Commissioner in charge of the notes gold, he would require the deposit of a negotiable document as security for any advance.
– He would get a certificate.
– But, in this case, no provision is made for the issue of even a certificate. There are to be merely book entries.
– There will be a check on all transactions.
– Some tangible negotiable security should be given when money is borrowed from the Notes Fund. Another matter to which I direct attention is the inadvisability of having con- . tinual borrowing transactions from the Notes Fund. If the Treasurer were dealing with a financial institution, he would not borrow one day and pay back the next, and have a series of small transactions; he would borrow a considerable sum to carry him on for a certain period.
– This is an exceptional time.
– Yes; but the fewer the transactions in connexion with the Notes Fund the better. There should not be daily borrowings, but merely borrowings now and again in considerable sums as the money is required. That would be better than to treat the threefourths available as a current account. At the same time, I am not prepared to ask the House to oppose this proposal.
– I assure the House that it is not only not my intention to reduce the gold reserve - below the statutory 25 per cent. - but it is not my intention to reduce it below one-third. I should not make any reduction below onethird without communicating my purpose to the House. As to the other point, it is only a small amount that will be dealt with in the way proposed.
– Will there be Treasurybills for the larger amounts?
– No. The right honorable member for Swan spoke as if we had no need for daily transactions, but he does not know what happens in these times. We have to finance the States as well as the Commonwealth, and the call for defence expenditure may have to be met most unexpectedly. Happily there are plenty of resources. Should there seem to be any danger in the present practice, I shall give the House an opportunity of considering it.
– When a large sum is involved for any specific purpose, will Treasury-bills be issued ?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses l and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Borrowing money from Australian Notes Account without issue of Treasury-bills).
.- The effect of the Bill is practically to limit the Treasurer to the amount of the Treasury notes issued. Another effect that there is not so very much in is that if you do not give Treasury-bills, and there is an appreciation of value, you will deprive the Treasurer of the advantage which he might gain by going into the market. But he reserves to himself the power to fix the interest. The interest is a check on the Treasurer. Why should it not be up to the level of the Treasurybill? Then the Bill will be consistent with itself. As it is, you might have 1/2 per cent, interest, and the whole security would be gone.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The object of the Bill is to provide for compensation to certain people who have suffered in various ways. Some of the men to whose relatives compensation is proposed to be paid lost their lives on the Endeavour, one was a military officer who, unfortunately, lost his life while serving in Canada, and another is a special allowance to the widow of a military officer who died in South Australia. The others are persons who have suffered in exceptional circumstances, and the Executive, after the closest investigation into those circumstances, think they are entitled to compensation. I shall not give details, but I assure honorable members that great care has been exercised by the
Government, and that they feel justified in asking that this Bill should be passed.
– I rise to support the Bill very cordially. The amounts do not appear to be excessive, but, on the contrary, seem to be small. I would like to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the case of the widow of Colonel Le Mesurier. That seems to be very small indeed. Last year we gave to the representatives of a gentleman a little higher, nominally in command, an amount, I think, of £1,200 or £1,500; but for Colonel Le Mesurier’s widow the amount provided is only £362. I do not want to make any distinctions at all; but I see that the father of J. Hamilton, formerly labourer at “Woodlark Island, is to get £390.
– It has been based on an actuarial computation.
– I understand that Hamilton did not come under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, and this is the amount lie would have received under that Act.
– I am not complaining that it is too much; but I am saying that the widow of Colonel Le Mesurier should, I think, have received better treatment. That officer went through the Boer War, and was one of our coolest and most intrepid troop leaders. He fought many a brave battle, and his whole ambitions were centred in the Defence Department. I know that bis widow is not well off, and I cannot help feeling that the Government might have been a little more generous.
– His widow is dead, and the provision should, therefore, be for the children of the widow.
– I was not aware that she was dead.
– Yes, she died a month ago.
– The Bill will have to be amended, then.
– We were not aware that she had died.
– The amendment can be made in Committee.
– I want to bring under notice the case of Harrisson. If I remember rightly, he was the biologist on the Endeavour. We are all aware of the deplorable circumstances connected with that vessel. In that case, in addition to £500 under the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act, it is now intended to vote only £20. I can only ask that the full circumstances of this particular case, and of the widow, be investigated.
– The amount fixed is equal to two years’ pay in each case - Harrisson, Pirn, and Dannevig.
– What I cannot understand is, in the case of these men we are giving compensation equal to two years’ salary, and in the case of an ordinary labourer three years.
– I cannot pretend, at the present moment, to bring all the circumstances before my honorable friends, because I have not the facts before me; but I would ask that this case - which I know is a very serious one - might be looked into a little further.
– I would plead with the Prime Minister that, as the principle of the Workmen’s Compensation Act is compensation on the basis of three years’ pay, in the case .of Pim Harrisson, and Dannevig the rule should not have been departed from. I think in Colonel Reade’s case the recommendation was considerably more.
– You are awfully anxious about the officers; but you have not a word to say about the privates.
– It is grossly unfair for the honorable member to say that. Are not the officers entitled to justice?
– Yes; and so are the other men; and you are not saying a word about them.
– As a matter of fact, they are provided for, and their representatives get compensation on the basis of three years’ wages.
– I understood that this was a deliberative assembly, in which we were entitled
to put each case before the Committee; but, according to the honorable member for
Maranoa, it is an offence to claim fair treatment for certain people. In regard to
the cases mentioned, and particularly the cases of
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
There shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, the following auras: -
To the widow of Colonel H. Le Mesurier, formerly Commandant, Military Forces, South Australia, £362 10s.
Amendment (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to-
That after the word “ widow “ the words or children “ be inserted.
Clause, asamended, agreed to.
– Will the Prime Minister undertake to review the case of Colonel Le Mesurier? The amount is one of the smallest on the list, and the officer devoted a life-time to the service.
– I may be guilty of a default due to the head, but not of any due to the heart, and if anything can be done in the matter it will be done.
Preamble agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
. -I appeal to the Prime Minister to give us an adjournment over next week. We have been anticipating a recess for several weeks past. It was fully believed that, by the end of July at least, honorable members coming from distant States would havean opportunity to visit their constituencies. We have been here now for four months, and it is but fair that honorable members coming from distant electorates should be given such an opportunity. I should not press my request if there was any hope that the House would adjourn after next week. If a financial statement is made next week it will probably be followed by a long discussion. There are many reasons why it would be well to adjourn over next week.
.- I echo the sentiments of the honorable member for Brisbane. Some honorable members have been four months away from Queensland, and others four months away from Western Australia, whilst members coming from the other States are able to get to their homes every week-end. If honorable members had known that there would be only half a day’s work this week many of them could have taken a week off from Friday last.
– In reply to honorable members, I may state that if I had known last week what I know now I should not have been in the position I am in to-day. Circumstances over which I had no control have placed me in that position. I remind honorablemembers that the sooner a financial statement is made the better, as it may have some effect upon the loan.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Thefollowing papers were presented : -
Public Service Act
Appointment of J. T. Sutcliffe, as Computer, Class E, Professional Division, Statistical Branch.
Promotion of -
Regulation amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 131.
House adjourned at 6.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 August 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150804_reps_6_78/>.