6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether the Government have taken any action regarding the export of sheepskins to America which, as I have previously pointed out, has assumed very large proportions since the outbreak of the war ?
– While the export of sheepskins to America is greater than it has been in previous years, it represents only about one-tenth of the total export trade in that commodity. The Government have decided that steps shall be taken under the powers which I possess as Minister of Trade and Customs, to prohibit for the time being the export of sheepskins to America.
– The right honorable member for Swan asked me a question on the 29th ult. as to the water supply on the east-west railway. I now lay upon the table a report by the EngineerinChief for Commonwealth Railways, giving particulars available, as follows: -
Department of Home Affairs
With reference to the question asked of the
Minister by the Right Honorable Sir John Forrest, M.P., P.C., G.C.M.G., namely: - “ Will he obtain and place on the table a report from theEngineer-in-Chief for Railways, as to the water supply on the east to west railway, showing -
I have to report as follows: -
None of the reservoirs are yet complete. The weir at Cardonia has conserved approximately 700.000 to 800.000 gallons: the silt pit at Bookaloo approximately 500.000: and at Lake Windabout approximately 50.000 gallons.
In addition to the tanks being constructed in the Eastern Division, as referred to in the foregoing item (re) land at Phillips’ Ponds (approximately 114 miles from Port August a ) was acquired, on which there is provided storage for approximately 2.000.000 gallons. This storage is now being increased so as to provide at least double that quantity of water. Also an old tank at Monalena (approximately 70 miles from Port Augusta) has been taken over from the South Australian Government. This provides for a storage of approximately 97,000 gallons.
Commonwealth War Loan: Common wealth Bank and State Savings Banks.
– I have received from the honorable member for Kooyong a letter intimating his desire to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The flotation of the war loan and the treatment of the State Savings Banks by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in connexion therewith.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I desire to bring before the House, and especially under the attention of the Prime Minister, a matter of urgency and importance relating to the treatment of the State Savings Banks by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. My. complaint is that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has rejected the patriotic offers of help and co-operation made by the Victorian State Savings Bank in connexion with the flotation of the war loan by refusing to supply it with the printed forms of application. In the prospectus of the loan, which was issued on 24th ult., it is provided, amongst other things, that application forms may be obtained from and deposits forwarded through the media of head offices and branches of any bank throughout the Commonwealth or any Post Office where money order business is conducted. Mr. Emery, the Inspector-General of the’ Victorian State Savings Bank, applied to the Melbourne manager of the Commonwealth Bank for the necessary forms to enable him to secure applications and deposits in the usual way, but was informed that he could not be supplied with them without the authority of the Governor, Mr. Miller, who was then in Sydney. It was promised that he should be communicated with without delay. Some few days elapsed, and the application was again made. Mr. Emery was then informed that Mr. Miller would not allow these forms to be issued to the State Savings Banks. No reasons were given for this decision. A week later, namely, on 2nd inst., the Commissioners of the State Savings Bank instructed the InspectorGeneral to write to the Prime Minister, and on that day he wrote to him as follows : -
The prospectus of the Commonwealth War Loan states that applications, deposits, and instalments may be received at any bank. This should apparently include the State Savings Bank, but so far we have not received the necessary authority or forms, though we have applied to the Commonwealth Bank for them.
It is the desire of my Board that the fullest facilities be given to the depositors in the State Savings Bank to subscribe to the loan, and also that depositors should understand that the loan has the fullest support of the State Savings Bank. Many of our depositors being unable to obtain in the bank where they are accustomedto transact business the facilities which it is announced are offered at all banks, will be discouraged from applying for the bonds.
In bringing the matter under your notice, it is hoped that arrangements may be made to place this bank in the same position as all other banks.
It is tlie duty of the Commonwealth Bank to enlist the aid and co-operation of every institution, and particularly such a valuable institution as the State Savings Bank, in the notation of this loan. But if the Governor of the Bank was under the misapprehension that the bankers mentioned in the prospectus did not include the State Savings Bank, I tell him that the High Court has held that the State Savings Bank is a bank.
– The High Court decided the very reverse of that.
– The right honorable gentleman is utterly wrong. The High Court decided by a majority of four to one that the State Savings Bank is a bank. But even were it not so, I say that if such a technical objection has been taken by the Governor of the Bank it is a paltry one, and should not be tolerated for one moment. The State Savings Bank is a recognised public institution of great standing; it is the people’s bank, and to reject and. spurn its co-operation in a matter of this kind is most unworthy, and constitutes an act of grave indiscretion.
– I thought you wished to keep the Commonwealth Bank free from political influence.
– Certainly, but in this connexion the Governor of the Bank is usurping an authority which he is not entitled to. I am not proposing to interfere with him in the administration of the affairs of the Bank. This loan is being floated by the Treasurer with the authority of Parliament, and the Commonwealth Bank is a mere agent for doing what the Prime Minister, as Treasurer and representative of this Parliament, desires that it shall do. On the 2nd August the letter I have already quoted was written to the Prime Minister by the Inspector-General, at the instance of the Commissioners of the State
Savings Bank, and, -having received but a formal acknowledgment, Mr. Emery saw the Prime Minister, and told him exactly what had taken place. The Prime Minister thereupon agreed with the Inspector-General, and, to his credit, approved of tlie contention of the State Savings Bank Commissioners, and promised to communicate at once with Mr. Miller. I understand that on the 4th August, the Prime Minister did communicate with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, but as the InspectorGeneral heard nothing further, he interviewed Mr. Allen at the Treasury, on the 6th August. Mr. Allen informed Mr. Emery that the Prime Minister had forwarded to Mr. Miller his approval of the State Savings Bank’s request for forms, and had even added a wish that the forms should be supplied. On the 9th August Mr. Emery again saw Mr. Allen, who informed him that no reply had yet been received from the Governor of the Bank. Mr. Allen very courteously promised, no doubt, at the instance of the Prime Minister, to communicate again by telegram with Mr. Miller, and urge that the request of the State Savings Bank might be complied with. That was on Monday last. Yet, although three weeks have elapsed since this question was raised, up to this moment those forms have not been supplied, notwithstanding the fact that application for them has been made in both Sydney and Melbourne.
– What is the injustice to the State Savings Bank ?
– If the honorable member cannot judge that matter for himself I shall not attempt to explain it further than to say that this great public institution is not being treated in the same way as the private banks. I desire to draw special attention to the fact that in Sydney also applications were made by the head of the State Savings Bank of New South Wales to Mr. Miller, who directly refused to supply the forms.
– Did Mr. Miller assign any reason for his refusal?
– No. If the Governor of the Bank wishes to rely on his technical view of the law that the State Savings Banks are not included as banks, I draw attention to the case of The Commissioners of the State Savings Bank of of Victoria (defendants) appellants, and Permewan, Wright and Company Limited (plaintiffs) respondents, on appeal from the Supreme Court of Victoria. The High Court held -
That the Commissioners of the State Savings Bank of Victoria, whose real and substantial business was of that nature, are bankers within the meaning of section 88 of the Bills of Exchange Act 1909, and section 83 of the Instruments Act 1890 (Viet.), notwithstanding that under the Savings Banks Act 1901, repayments of deposits were only permitted on production of the depositor’s pass-book with his order for payment.
– Is that the latest decision ?
– That is the decision of our High Court. It was so held by Justices Isaacs, Duffy, Powers, and Rich, the Chief Justice alone dissenting. I ask honorable members to reflect for a moment how great and serious this indiscretion is. Here we are launching, for the first time, a large loan on our local markets; and it is a loan for an amount that must, more or less, strain our resources, while it is accompanied with the knowledge that possibly other loans are to follow. It has been made essentially a people’s loan, launched, to a considerable degree, on the same lines as Che loans of the Imperial Parliament, the idea and aim being to democratize the financial operation by the fixing of the denominations. It would be naturally thought that aid would be sought from the State Savings Banks, which could be of the greatest help and value - those democratic institutions which are well and favorably established in every State. There are something like 2,000,000 people - almost half our population - associated with the Savings Banks, and to their credit there is upwards of £82,000,000. Thousands of people throughout Australia have been accustomed to do all their business through the Savings Banks; and, remembering that, we can realize how grave a mistake- has been made by the Commonwealth Bank in not securing their help.
– Can the honorable member say whether the application for the forms was made in the interests of the Savings Banks themselves or of the depositors ?
– It was made solely and purely for patriotic reasons. It is to the disadvantage of the State Savings Banks to co-operate in this way, because it means the withdrawal of moneys from these banks and their investment, in the war loan.
– Why, the Victorian Savings Bank has tried to stop the war loan by raising its interest!
– It is the first essential that every facility and encouragement should be given to the people to invest in the loan, and the people would naturally be anxious to operate through the banks to which they have been accustomed. I am speaking now, not on behalf of Victoria alone, but also on behalf of New South Wales, because the Savings Bank of the latter State has been in cooperation with the Inspector-General-
– For how long?
– I cannot say. The Inspector-General in Sydney directly appealed to Mr. Miller himself, and was directly refused, much to his indignation.
– The interest given by the Savings Banks is less than that of the Commonwealth loan.
– Of course it is. As Victoria has been referred to, let us look at the state of affairs in that State. We have a population of 1,300,000, or 1,400,000; and no fewer than 700,000 people have accounts at the Savings Bank, representing in this one State alone a credit of upwards of £25,000,000. When an appeal, as in this case, is made to the many rather than to the few, as in previous cases, the Savings Banks are, above all other institutions, those from which cooperation and help should be sought - they should not only be invited to help - but that help should be catered for. The Savings Banks have expressed their anxiety to help; and this, it must be remembered, to their own disadvantage. But their anxiety arises from purely patriotic reasons. However, their overtures in this connexion are rejected and spurned. I desire to make no reflection on Mr. Miller, whom I believe to be an earnest and zealous public officer; but in my opinion he has made an egregious mistake. This is a matter in which we should all pull together - no source of help should be rejected - and the Savings Banks should have been taken to the arms of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank rather than contumeliously put aside. Mr. Miller has, I think, misconceived his position.
– It must be more than a mistake - it cannot possibly be a mistake !
– I do not pretend to say. I can only tell the honorable member that three weeks of work and help from the States Savings Banks has already been prevented by reason of this mistake on the part of the Commonmon wealth Bank Governor.
– The loan will be a success without the help of the State Savings Banks !
– Of course it will; we dare not contemplate for a moment that it will be anything but a success. It would be a great reflection on the people of Australia if it were not; but if we are to make this and subsequent loans a success, we must all co-operate in this great patriotic work. Any financial institution would fail in its duty if it did not proffer its aid; and I repeat that, of course, the loan is going to be a success. What I wish to say is that the Governor of the Bank appears to have altogether mistaken his position in this matter. He is not the principal, but is only the agent of Parliament and the Government; and the Treasurer is our mouthpiece. The Treasurer has expressed his approval of these institutions being availed of, and it is contemptible to advance technical reasons why it should not be. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will explain why his -wishes, which should be law in this matter, are not absolutely respected. It cannot be suggested for a moment with reason or justice that this is an attempt to interfere with the management or administration of the Commonwealth Bank. I cannot help being amused to see, in the prospectus and advertisements of the loan, the prominence that is given to the Commonwealth Bank, as though it were the principal. It would appear that the prospectus had been issued from the Bank itself. However, that is simply by the way. I have no feelings regarding Mr. Miller except those of respect, an5 I have already paid my tribute to him as a public officer ; but when a _ great mistake such as this is made, it is the duty of Parliament to see it rectified. I desire, moreover, to say to Mr. Miller that he lays himself open to the gravest suspicion, and, indeed, to the charge, that the object he has in view - I do not make the charge or say this, but people generally do say it - is- to divert the customers of the States- Savings Banks to the Commonwealth Bank in order to secure some of tlie business of the former. Personally, I do not think Mr. Miller should be charged with anything improper without direct proof.
– Make the attack on me.
– The right honorable gentleman is responsible.
– I do not make any attack on the right honorable gentleman.
– But I ask you to, as does also the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Treasurer has done what would be expected of a common-sense business man under the circumstances. He has expressed his approval of the co-operation and help of the State Savings Banks being secured, but his approval and wishes in this .matter have been flouted, and the wishes of Parliament have also been flouted.
– They have not.
– The wishes of Parliament have not been flouted ?
– My instructions have not been flouted at all.
– Perhaps it would be more correct to say that they have been ignored.
– Nor ignored; but let the honorable gentleman make out his case without dealing with me. I shall have the opportunity of reply.
– I am simply making a statement of the facts. I would ask my right honorable friend to be good enough to send for the letter of the 4th August to Mr. Miller, and the telegram from Mr. Miller on the 9th August, and verify to the hilt everything I have said. They will, no doubt, speak for themselves. May I also say that Mr. Emery was received most courteously by the right honorable the Prime Minister.
– I receive everybody cour.teously
– I am not reproaching my right honorable friend for that. I am simply desirous of showing that he approved of the request - and this is what I want to emphasize - that forms should be supplied to the States Savings Banks. I have no personal feeling in the matter at all, but I ask the House to contemplate whether it is not exceedingly unwise in a time like the present, when all should be co-operating and helping, to reject the offers of a State Savings Bank, which should have been the first to have been accepted in this matter. I feel especially strongly upon this point, because I know that the Savings Bank had no selfish motive to serve, and that all the overtures made were animated solely by patriotic motives. The bank was anxious to do something which, though- it would have been to its own disadvantage, would have had the higher object of securing the success of the national loan. I would suggest, notwithstanding the loss of three weeks of valuable time, in view of the prestige which will be secured by the successful flotation of this loan, and the effect of this prestige upon any future loan, that the Prime Minister should, at least, see that the mistake of the Governor is rectified, and that facilities are at once given to the State Savings Banks in the direction they desire.
– They have the facilities now.
– No, they have not.
– They can go to any postoffice and get the forms.
– Let me tell the honorable member-
– Order ! Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am sorry I did not hear the opening remarks of the honorable member’s speech, but since I came into the Chamber I have heard more about the patriotism and the determination of this bank to help the Commonwealth loan, than we are likely to hear about any other matter for a long time.I am not here to complain at the attitude of the Victorian State Savings Bank, but it is a singular fact that immediately the Commonwealth war loan was announced it altered its conditions of investment in a way that was not calculated to benefit the war loan.
– Its interest rate is still 1 per cent, below the loan rate.
– What does that matter ?
– Having stated that, I want to add that the Bank has a perfect right to manage its own business in its own way, and for its own protection. Not a single word of complaint at the Bank’s action has been uttered by any responsible man associated with the Commonwealth Government.
– Was it done with patriotic motives?
– Now the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has been attacked, and, incidentally, the Government’s position has been also attacked - because the honorable gentleman cannot dissociate himself from the remark of the Leader of the Opposition that I am the person to be blamed.
– I did not say the right honorable gentleman was the person to be blamed. I said the right honorable gentleman was responsible.
– Exactly ; and if I am responsible, who is to blame ? Nobody else will get the blame if I am responsible. I do not ask to be sheltered from any responsibility of mine by somebody eke being made a victim. The fact is that it was long after the loan had been launched that Mr. Emery saw’ me.
– My right honorable friend was not in the chamber when I said that within two or three days application, was made to the Melbourne manager of the Commonwealth Bank for these forms, but they were not supplied. Mr. Miller was subsequently communicated with, and he also refused to give them.
– The rate of interest in the Victorian State Savings Bank was raised, on the issue of the prospectus for the Commonwealth loan, to 31/2 per cent, on deposits ranging from £1 to £350. Previously the range was, I believe, £1 to £150 at 31/2 per cent. It was also raised to 31/2 per cent, on deposit stock from £10 to £1,000, and on deposits and deposit stock together up to £1,350.
– Have all the State Savings Banks put up their rates in the same way?
– I do not think so.
– It is a deliberate blow at the Commonwealth Bank.
– I do not say that it is, but, on the authority of the honorable member for Kooyong, the whole of the attitude which some persons have recently taken up, and also displayed in theHouse, has: been inspired by “ purely patriotic motives.” That is my rejoinder.
– If so, it is a very poor one.
– It is just a preliminary comment.
– Does the Prime Minister say that the rate of interest generally has not increased ?
– Order ! There has been a good deal of excitement this morning. I have heard some mention of keeping heads cool. I trust that honorable members will -bear that advice in mind. Six minutes of the Prime Minister’s time has expired, and as he has only a quarter of an hour in which to speak, I ask honorable members to refrain from interjecting.
– A quarter of an hour will suffice me. The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has not disobeyed any of my orders. He has not been dilatory to any extent that would cause me to reflect upon his conduct. I am in favour of the States Savings Banks being given every facility to assist in the flotation of our loan, but I am desirous of knowing whether all the States are in favour of it. Victoria has communicated with New South Wales, and New South Wales and Victoria have acted together. Lately they have generally done so - “ from patriotic motives.”
– Is there anything wrong in their doing so ?
– Nothing at all, but, immediately, the public became acquainted with the fact, and the matter finds its way into politics, action is taken, not to the advantage of the public interests, but, in my opinion, to the detriment of them. But I am not here to complain as to that. The States Savings Banks will get their opportunity in ample time to perform all the patriotic services that they are capable of performing. They have even the opportunity of reverting to their old rate of interest if they so desire. They can go back to the position that obtained prior to the issue of the Commonwealth War Loan. They can render such purely patriotic services as will tend to make this loan secure, but before they became anxious about the loan, its success was already assured, since, apart from the States Savings Banks, or even other banks, the feelings of the people of Australia generally, those with little to spare as well, happily, as also those who have much to spare, have been so aroused for patriotic and financial reasons - they recognise that it is a good investment - as to assure the success of the loan. The honorable member for Kooyong need not be under any misap prehension with regard to the opportunities and facilities that will be offered to the States Savings Banks. They will receive their prospectuses. We shall send them to them.
– I said “forms,” not “ prospectuses.”
– I have listened very carefully to the Prime Minister.
– Does the right honorable gentleman propose to pour oil on the troubled waters?
– I am glad that my friends .opposite are in a grinning mood to-day. They seem to grin at the slightest provocation. I do not know whether to sympathize with the Prime Minister or condemn him, but I have never heard such a long drawn-out sneer in this Parliament before against the States, and all that concerns them. His speech, from beginning to end, contained nothing but innuendoes, sneers, jibes, and jeers, at these great State institutions. Why? These institutions are entitled to do what they have done. All through his speech the Prime Minister communicated no facts. He simply indulged in’ one long drawn-out sneer against the States Savings Banks and their management: simply because the rate of interest paid by these institutions had gone up. Has not the rate of interest been going up in every financial institution in Australia ? Does not the rate of interest in the Savings Banks always bear a definite relation to the amount that the State Governments pay for loans? That has always been the case from time immemorial. Why, therefore, should a readjustment of those rates excite all these jeers and jibes from my right honorable friend ? I have said that he is responsible, and not Mr. Miller. Mr. Miller is merely the agent of the Treasurer in this matter, and my right honorable friend has to take the responsibility for whatever the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank does, so long as it is done,, as in this case, with his knowledge. The right honorable- gentleman has not given us any reason for the delay in refusing to give the States Savings Banks these facilities for the last three weeks.
– The Prime Minister has told us that he approved of granting these facilities to the StatesSavings Banks.
– It is quite clear that Mr. Miller has been flouting the Prime Minister for at least three weeks in this matter, and if the trouble is now to be remedied it will be so much the better. It is better to do it late than not to do it at all.
– The Prime Minister did not say that application forms would be forwarded.
– I take it that the right honorable gentleman intends that the States Savings Banks will get the forms.
– I have said that they will get them. They will be sent to them.
– What more does the Leader of the Opposition desire? I
– I desire nothing more, but I think that there is justifiable cause for complaint in the fact that whereas private institutions have been given every facility by this Socialistic Government, socialistic institutions have been treated by it with contempt.
– This is non-party warfare, is it?
– Was the Prime Minister’s speech, a non-party speech? I deeply regret this kind of temper and treatment of the States at the present juncture. If ever there was a time when the States and the Commonwealth, particularly in regard to financial matters, should act in close and cordial association and co-operation, it is the present. There should not be this feeling between the Prime Minister and the managers of these State institutions that apparently exists. What is wrong with two State Banks cont erring as to or conducting common business upon the same principles? They have to do it in close associationwith their State Governments. Why should they not confer ? Does the Prime Minister believe that, when they meet together to settle their own common differences, they are. doing something unpatriotic ?
– Certainly not.
– In so meeting they are setting the Prime Minister a good example, and he ought to meet with them, although he is in antagonism with them in. all these financial matters.
– When I see them, I have to look out.
– I always understood that the right honorable gentleman was quite able to take care of “himself and his Government.
– Not with them.
– It seems to me that when we have stripped of all their verbiage these cryptic utterances on the part of the Prime Minister, the plain fact remains that Mr. Miller has been trying to steal a march on these gentlemen, and that he has been trying to obtain for himself and his Bank some advantage at their expense.
– I do not think that is so.
– No one can look at these facts without having such an impression burnt into his mind. Such an attitude towards State enterprises and State Governments at this, of all times, is most unfortunate. What reason can there be for not giving these State banks an agency just as it is given to private banks ?
– There is no question of agency concerned. It is a question of dignity.
– Even if they work for nothing, there is a question of agency involved. The private banks have deposits amounting to £170,000,000 or £180,000,000, while the State Savings Banks have deposits amounting to over £80,000,000. They represent half the total savings of the people. They represent more particularly the savings of the workers, and- they ask for facilities for their clients, just, as the private banks desire, facilities, for those who do business with them. But the Government, which is supposed chiefly to represent the great working classes of Australia; - it is constantly making that claim - has deliberately set aside the State Savings Banks as agents of workmen, while at the same time it places all possible facilities in the hands- of those who represent the private banks. All should have been treated alike, and I am pleased’ that the Prime Minister has said that, even at this, the eleventh hour - because there is not much time left - he is going to “ take care that the State Savings Banks are treated in the same way that private banks are treated.”
– The State Savings Banks could always obtain the forms; but we shall now send them to them.
– They could not obtain them.
– Some one is making an incorrect statement.
– All that is involved is a question of dignity.
– The allegation made here this morning is that the Victorian State Savings Bank asked for these forms, and could not obtain them. Representatives of the bank then interviewed the Prime Minister, and received a promise that their request would be complied with, but that has not yet been done. That is the complaint, but if the Savings Banks are now to get what they want no more remains to be said on the subject.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Will the Treasurer consider the advisableness of remitting to the Public Accounts Committee the question of the creation of a Supply and Tender Board, so that it may examine the machinery at present in existence in the various States, and furnish a report on the subject?
– Yes; I think the idea is a very good one. The sooner we have a Supply and Tender Board consisting of men of the highest capacity obtainable the better. The appointment of such a Board, in my opinion, has been delayed far too long, but in war time it is difficult to break in upon existing practices. I view favorably the suggestion made by the honorable member.
– Can the Prime Minister state whether steps have yet been taken by the State Parliaments to legalize participation by trustees, on behalf of their beneficiaries, in the Commonwealth War Loan?
– I think that Bills dealing with the matter have been introduced in all the State Parliaments, and passed by one or two of them. I shall ascertain the exact position later in the day, and advise the honorable member. It is essential that such measures should be passed by all the State Parliaments. The State Governments have promised that they shall be, but some of them are suggesting a compromise. In no circumstances can we compromise in a matter of this kind, and the States must decide either for or against the proposal. The power of the Commonwealth has been limited again and again by the eternal system of compromise.
Report by Mr. Anderson.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Postmaster-General, whether an assurance can be given that Mr. McC. Anderson’s report on the Postal Department will be laid on the table of the House before the proposed adjournment takes place ?
Special Charge for Troopship Messages
– Yesterday I desired to send a wireless message to the troopship Runic, and was informed by the officer in charge of the telegraph office in these premises that the charge- was 5d. per word. He subsequently advised me that he had received from head-quarters an intimation that while that was the ordinary rate, a special rate of l1d. per word was charged in respect of troopships. Can the Postmaster-General advance any reason why the men on our troopships or friends desiring to communicate with them by wireless should be charged double the ordinary rates?
– I think the honorable member had better give notice of his question, so that I may give him full information on the subject. I would point out that in this respect troopships are in a very different position from ordinary merchant vessels.
Mr. Atlee Hunt’s Visit. - Acquisition of Hotel Properties
– Can the Minister of External Affairs give any reason why Mr. Atlee Hunt, secretary of his Department, should have been despatched to the Northern Territory, seeing that the Administrator was here only two months ago ?
– First of all, the Administrator was not in Melbourne two months ago. To be exact, he has been in Darwin since March. Mr. Hunt has been sent to the Northern Territory for several good reasons, any one of which would be sufficient to justify his visit. We are initiating there a new policy in connexion with the liquor traffic, and it is necessary that he should visit the Territory to assist in establishing that policy. Then, again, the Administrator has for some time been urging that the lands officers dealing with lands in the Territory, and now stationed in Melbourne, should be transferred to Darwin. Opinions on the point are divided, and it is necessary that Mr. Hunt should go to Darwin and look intothe matter himself, so that we may avoid the risk of sending these men up there only to have to bring them back again. There are other reasons why Mr. Hunt should visit Darwin at this time, and I anticipate that the Department will reap considerable advantage from his trip.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs state whether any definite principles have been laid down by the Government as to the basis upon which hotel properties in the Northern Territory will be acquired, and, if so, whether it is intended to deal with the matter by special Ordinance?
– No arrangement has so far been made, but we shall probably deal with the matter by special Ordinance.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a sub-leader in to-day’s Age dealing with the manufacture of machine guns in Australia, and to ask whether the Government will take the matter into immediate consideration, and, if necessary, place themselves in communication with the Imperial Government with a view to the manufacture of machine guns in Australia ?
– Months ago this Government ordered machinery for the manufacture of machine guns.
– When will that machinery arrive?
– We paid a special premium to secure early delivery, but I cannot say on what date the machinery will be delivered.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Murray Waters Agreement Bill has been passed by all the State Parliaments concerned, and if he proposes, during the current financial year, to advance to those States the £1,000,000 promised, in connexion with the Murray waters scheme?
– I answered this question yesterday. The Government will not take action until all’ the State Parliaments concerned have passed the necessary Bills to give effect to the Murray waters scheme. When they have done so we shall be prepared to pay our proportionate share. I think I may make the same promise on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, because both parties are pledged to allow the work to go on.
– Will the Prime Minister introduce a Bill to provide for it ?
– We ought not to do anything of the kind until the States have taken the necessary action; but I am sure the Leader of the Opposition would not object to the Commonwealth making a small contribution, even without the direct authority of Parliament, in order to give effect to the policy to which we are pledged.
– Hear, hear!
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
In regard to a naturalized Chinese, named Leung See, otherwise known as Ah See -
Did he work, as a carpenter, to the satisfaction of the railway officers for a period of twenty years?
Has he now been dismissed; and, if so,. is it because he is non-unionist?
Is it known that he is willing to become a unionist, but cannot do so, because Chinese are not admitted?
Was his claim for employment supported by the Government Secretary at Port Darwin?
Were instructions issued that he should be dismissed; and, if so, by whom, and was it because of unionist pressure ?
– I ask that this question be postponed. It is very difficult to obtain replies to questions which are tobe asked on Friday morning if notice of those questions is given only on the previous day. Notice should be given on Wednesday so that the officers may have time to secure the information required. In this case the officers of the Department received the notice-paper at 9 o’clock this morning, and the House met at 10.30. The information sought in the question must be obtained from Port Darwin. In future when the honorable member has a similar question to place on the notice-paper, I hope he will give us sufficient time to enable us to obtain the information.
– I do not know why the Minister has read such a homily to me. As a matter of fact, I did hand in the question on Wednesday, but the Speaker requested that it might be abbreviated, and consequently its appearance on the notice-paper was delayed.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether any further action has been taken to establish a testing station for explosives?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
In response to a cabled request by this Government, the Imperial authorities have agreed to supply plans and specifications of their testing station atRotherham, and also to permit of the attachment to that station for a period of training of an Australian technical officer. This officer, after training, will supervise the erection of the Commonwealth station, and conduct the tests therein. Arrangements are now being made for the despatch of an officer to England for this purpose as early as possible.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the State Government of Victoria is using large quantities of native timber in the erection of public buildings, notably State schools and railway stations, and also that flooring of mountain ash is being used for the Commonwealth Buildings in London, will the Minister for Home Affairs give instructions to his officers that local timbers must be used wherever possible in the erection of drill halls, instead of so much imported timber?
– It has been a standing instruction for years to the officers of the Home Affairs Department to use Australian material, whenever the circumstances - quality, price, and delivery - will allow, and I know that generally the officers are keen patriotic followers of this policy. I will look into the matter of timber for drill halls.
Commonwealth Bank Agency at Dardanelles.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Will the Minister inform the House if an
Agency of the Commonwealth Bank has been established for the convenience of the soldiers at the seat of war at the Dardanelles; if not, will he state the nearest point where such an agency has been opened?
– No agency has yet been established in the firing line, as money is not required there. There are agencies at Cairo, Alexandria and Malta.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 3 (Definition).
Senate’s Amendment - After “ amended “ in line 11, and before paragraph (a), insert the following now paragraph: - “ (aa) by omitting the definition of ‘Dependants ‘ and inserting in its stead the following definition: -
Dependants ‘ means the wife or widow and children, or ex-nuptial children of a member of the Forces, whose death or incapacity results from his employment in connexion with warlike operations, and includes such other members of the family of that member of the Forces as were wholly or in part dependent upon his earnings at any time during the period of twelve months prior to his enlistment, or who would, but for such incapacity, have been so dependent, and parents who, though not dependent upon the earnings of the member at any time during the period of twelve months prior to his enlistment, are, at any time within five years after his death, without adequate means of support; and where the member -
Clause 14 (Pensions payable for limited period in certain cases).
Senate’ Amendment.* - At end of clause add - “ (3.) A child to whom a pension has been granted, 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 pension at such rate as may be assessed by the Commissioner, but not exceeding the rate specified in column two of the Schedule opposite the rate of pay of the member:
Provided that an application for the pension shall be made to the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner within six months of the child attaining the age of sixteen years.”
.. - I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
These amendments are in conformity with the promise I made to this Committee before the Bill was sent to another place.
– The amendment moved by the honorable member for Richmond has not been given effect to by the amendments before the Committee. I desire to know whether the Government have considered that matter. When speaking on the third reading the Minister announced that certain amendments would be made in another place, and I drew attention at the time to the fact that he had not indicated that the amendment moved bythe honorable member for Richmond would be made. The contention of the honorable member for Richmond was that if a soldier contributed to the support of a person before death or incapacity the Commissioner should take it for granted that such person was to the extent of the help received from the soldier dependent upon that member of the Forces. It was pointed out that in several instances the Pensions Committee had given an amount as pension less than the amount the dependant had been receiving from the soldier. Such cases are not dealt with by the amendments made by the Senate. The responsibility will still rest upon the Deputy Commissioner when determining a claim to ascertain, as a question of fact, the extent to which the person has been dependent; whereas had the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond been given effect to, the amount of the pension to be awarded would be determined by the amount of contribution previously received by the dependant from the killed or incapacitated soldier provided it did not exceed the amount stated in the schedule.
– The object of the honorable member for Richmond has been partly met by extending the definition of dependant to include persons who were dependent during the twelve months prior to the soldier’s enlistment. That is as far as the Government are prepared to go.
– But the real substance of the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond was that the Commissioner, in assessing the amount of pen- sion, should be governed by the amount actually contributed by the soldier prior to his death or incapacitation.
– I brought the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Richmond under the notice of the Attorney-General. The Government could not accept the amendment in the form in which it was drafted, but we have endeavoured to achieve its purpose as far as practicable by including dependency during the twelve months prior to enlistment. That is to say, if any person was dependent on a soldier during the twelve months preceding his enlistment, that fact is to be taken into consideration by the Commissioner when fixing the pension. To include all persons dependent on a soldier prior to his enlistment, and to make mandatory the payment of the amounts mentioned in the schedule, would involve a very large expenditure. Each claim must be settled by the Commissioner investigating it. The Government have gone as far as they can in the direction of complying with the desire of the honorable member for Richmond.
– I brought under the notice of the Committee when the Bill was previously before us the case of a woman who has two sons at the front, one of whom was married. Her husband has been in hospital for seventeen years, but, although’ she is in a worse position than if she were a widow she cannot draw the separation allowance that is allowed to a widow. What I desire to know from the Minister is whether the Commissioner would have discretion to makea special exemption in such a case. I think it was the intention of Parliament that a woman so situated should be able to draw an allowance as if she were a widow wholly dependent on the earnings of her unmarried son.
– The separation allowance is not affected by the War Pensions Act.
– Would the regulations cover such a case ?
– The request that the honorable member is making seems a reasonable one. and in such a case the Government ought to be lenient and considerate.
– A full allowance ought to be granted to this woman because she is in poverty, andyet simply because her husband is alive, although he is a. confirmed invalid, she cannot draw the full allowance from the Government.
– I desire to call the attention of the Minister to the case of a man who served in Egypt for some months, and who, through riding ou a wet saddle day after day, and sleeping on damp ground, has contracted certain maladies, which have incapacitated him from hard physical labour. He has been discharged by the military authorities, and his discharge is good. He holds the Queen’s and the King’s South African medals and five bars. Although he has earned distinction, he now finds himself unable to return to the front, although he is anxious to do so; and he has a wife and two children dependent upon him, and is, I think, justly entitled to consideration.
– How does the honorable member connect this with the Senate’s amendment?
– I am speaking in connexion with pensions.
– I have allowed certain latitude, and do not wish to restrict the debate too much, but the honorable member’s remarks are altogether outside the amendment of the Senate. If I allow such observations in one case, I must allow them in others.
– I may be permitted to ask whether this man will be entitled under this Bill to claim a pension ? Then, as to the promise that returned soldiers would receive preference in employment, I find, en application to the Federal Public Works Department and the representatives! of the Public Service Commissioner in Sydney, that no instructions have been given in this regard.
– Two cases of a similar nature have been brought under my notice, and one of them is very sad indeed. The man in the latter case might as well be dead, so far as his wife is concerned, and he really wishes he were, though he does not desire to take his own life. Nothing is asked for in the way of generosity, but merely what can be given in justice. I do not think this man has made any claim, because; under the provisions of the Act, he regards that as hopeless. All we desire is an assurance at the. present juncture that such cases will -receive special consideration.-
Mr. MANIFOLD (Corangamite) ing to induce as many men as possible to go to the front, some of the cases brought under our notice seem extremely hard. One man was invalided home from Cairo, I believe, with pneumonia, about three days before the troops went to Gallipoli; and on arrival in Australia he was almost immediately discharged from the Base Hospital and sent to his home, with a verbal assurance that he would receive full pay for a month, but, after that period, nothing. This man’s local doctor certifies that he will not be able to do any work for three months; and unless his pay is continued for that time he will be left for two months without any means of livelihood. So far as I can ascertain, this is not a case for a pension, but I know that the Minister desires that the Act shall be administered as fairly as possible. In another case the mother of a man who has been killed at the front is not able to sign the declaration that she was dependent on the boy, though she had been dependent upon him for about twelve months, her husband having received an injury which prohibited him from earning anything. If this woman were paid a pension for about six months it would be of great assistance to the family, though I do not know whether such a thing as a temporary pension is allowable.
– The Commissioner has certain power under which he can consider such cases.
– Has the Commissioner power to grant a temporary pension ?
– I should think so; under the Act he has very extensive powers.
– The Deputy Com: missioner looked into the matter, and told me he would do his best in both cases. I only hope that under the Act it is possible for these people to receive fair treatment.
– When the Bill was last before this House I refrained from moving an amendment in the definition clause, simply because I took it that the Minister, although he gave no absolute assurance, was agreeable to some alteration being made when the Bill was before the Senate. I was under the impression that in the definition of “ dependants “ a widowed mother would be included, but I find from the Bill, as returned to us, that that is not so. Not only I myself but other honorable members cited cases which showed distinct hardship in the case of widowed mothers of fallen soldiers in that they are receiving only half pensions. If there is any person in the community deserving of being treated in a manner that we shall not call liberal but just, it is the widowed mother of a fallen soldier.
– She is just as important as the widow of a soldier.
– She is more important, because the widowed mother must be fairly advanced in years, and, therefore, not as capable of earning a living for herself as is a young widow.
– The honorable member must not forget that the widowed mother is already provided for, and if her claim is genuine and good she gets a pension.
Mr.FENTON. - But the Bill has made, if I may say so, a definite definition, and although the wife, widow, or child of a fallen or incapacited soldier is entitled to the full pension, a widowed mother is put to all kinds of trouble and difficulty in order to prove her claim. My desire is that the widowed mother shall be placed on the same plane as the widow.
– That would give a pension to every rich widowed mother.
Mr.FENTON. - But under the Bill every rich widow, who is probably a young woman, is entitled to a pension.
– That is quite a different thing.
– I am glad that the definition clause has been made more clear in the Senate, but we ought to give every consideration to the widowed mother. I hope that the cases are not numerous in which the pensions of widowed mothers have been cut down to £26.
– In such cases the widowed mother must have some other income.
– It is all very well for the Minister to say “must have”; but I shall test the feeling of the House by moving that widowed mothers be included. I really thought that the Minister had given his assent to this course when the Bill was previously before us, though, as I have said, he made no definite promise, merely stating that the Bill would be altered in certain particulars to meet with the wishes expressed by honorable members. The honorable member for Ballarat and the honorable member for
Fawkner then spoke of cases of the kind, and these certainly should receive consideration. I wish it to be understood that I am making no charge against the Minister, but merely stating what I expected would be done. I do not think that the amendment I have suggested would involve any large expenditure ; but, in any case, it is due to the people of Australia, and this Parliament, to generously treat the dependants of our soldiers, especially those who have fallen. ‘ Of course the Minister may have figures to show that the addition would involve great expenditure, but even if he has I believe the House would grant, what I shall not call a concession, but a right. I move -
That the Senate’s amendment be amended by inserting after the word “ children “ the words “ widowed mother.”
.- While I strongly support the amendment, it is only fair to say that when the Bill was before us, the Minister opposed the inclusion of widowed mothers, apparently on the ground of expense. My opinion, however, is that we ought to do what is fair and just quite regardless of what the expense may be. Under our voluntary system, mothers are allowing their sons to go to the front; and we are in a very different position from that of a country where conscription is the rule, and every man is called upon. I do not see why a mother, who gives her son to the Empire, should not be treated generously; and, as to the matter of expense, we are prepared to pay a widow, however wealthy, the full amount to which her husband would have been entitled by way of pension. It is obvious that a widowed mother must be older than the widow of a soldier ; and consequently, if we regard the matter from the point of view of expense, we must realize that it would take less money to pay the pensions to widowed mothers than to wives, seeing that most of the latter are young. The widow of a soldier would in all probability be considerably younger than a widowed mother, and, therefore, the expense of paying a pension, in the manner that is being suggested to a widowed mother, would be less than that of paving a pension to a widow, with any children she might have. When the matter was previously before the Committee several honorable members were anxious to force this point to a division, but refrained, thinking that the Government would meet their wishes. The Minister in charge then said that as the proposal would mean added cost, he, as an individual member of the Cabinet, could not accept the responsibility for it. Since then, however, the Cabinet has been able to deal with the proposal, and the Minister is now in a position to give not only his own views but those of the Cabinet, and if the Cabinet do not see their way to agree to this proposal, I, for one, shall not hesitate to vote for it if a division is taken. I hope the honorable member for Maribyrnong will press his amendment, for, in my view, it should not be necessary for a widowed mother to prove absolute dependence before becoming entitled to a pension. The mere fact that she has been willing to give up her son should be sufficient. Speaking in Melbourne recently, the Minister of Defence made flattering allusion to the fact that 15 per cent, of the adult male population had volunteered. That means that 85 per cent, of the population have not volunteered. We have, therefore, every reason to consider the 15 per cent, generously, because it cannot be said that they have any greater stake in the community than the 85 per cent., or that they are risking their lives for anything more than is left behind in charge of the 85 per cent. I am sorry the Government does not see its way to accept this amendment.
– I want to say at once that the Government have made provision for widowed mothers in this Bill.
– But there are restrictions.
– Of course there are, but the restrictions are genuine restrictions. Why should a widowed mother get a pension if she is not in need of it?
– Why should a widow?
– A widow loses her only breadwinner.
– But even if the widow is rich she is still entitled to a pension.
– Generally speaking, a widowed mother is a person of about sixty years of age. There are other provisions, besides this pension, made for her, and I do not think it is reasonable that the Government should be asked to amend this Bill in the way suggested when those other provisions are operative.
– They are only one-half of this.
– The case quoted by the honorable member for Maribyrnong suggests that the person to whom he referred must have had some other form of income, for a genuine dependant is looked after under the existing law, and the further provision is made that if a person becomes a widowed mother within five years of her son’s death she -may make application for a pension if she is in need of it. In carrying out the promise I made to the Committee some time ago, I brought this matter before the Government, but the Government could not see their way to make it mandatory that a widowed mother should have a full claim to a pension, whether she needed it or not.
– Very well; we will appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober.
– I would be the last to stand in the way of ample provision being made for a widowed mother, but I think ample provision is made under the law as it now stands. If a widow can show that she has no income the Bill provides that she shall obtain a pension.
An Honorable Member. - No.
– Decidedly it does, and that being the case, the Government, I think, have done their duty by the widowed mothers. If the Government had failed in that, I should have been pleased to have the point further considered. But it has’ been gone into, and the Government are unable to accept the amendment by the honorable member for Maribyrnong. I have now to ask your ruling, Mr. Chairman, on the question as to whether any honorable member can move an amendment which will add largely to the expenditure provided for in the Bill. I am forced into this position by honorable members, and I ask for a ruling as to whether the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, which will have this effect, is in order ?
– I regret the Minister has taken this point of order. It is a most unfair position for him to take up.
– He has to do it.
– He has not to do it. There is no need for him to take such a. course. It suggests that the Minister has-, more sympathy for the moneyed class thanhe has for the widows whose children have gone to the front.
– I understand that when the matter was before the Committee on a previous occasion, the Minister gave an assurance that full opportunity would be given for the discussion of this point when it came back from another place.
– The Minister promised to recommit the clause, but the clause was not recommitted.
– I understood that the Committee would have the fullest opportunity of discussing this particular question after the Bill had been dealt with by the Senate.
– Order! That has nothing to do with the point of order.
– I claim that the honorable member for Maribyrnong is quite within his province in moving this amendment. The Bill provides for pensions to the dependants of soldiers who have lost their lives at the front. The amendment submitted by the honorable member simply seeks that a widowed mother shall be placed in the same position as a widow. I submit that the amendment is perfectly in order.
– I also claim that the amendment is in order. As I take it, the Minister’s objection is that its incorporation in the Bill will increase the expenditure. If that objection is valid, the Committee would have no power to increase a proposed pension from £52 to £52 10s.
– We could not do it?
– You cannot increase expenditure without a further message from the Crown.
– Since the Bill was introduced an amendment has been accepted by the Government in another place which has had the effect of increasing the pension payments.
– The Government put that amendment in the Bill. They made it.
– Exactly; but without any extra message. .
– The Government moved the amendment in the Senate.
– What difference does that make ? The Minister says this action was taken in the Senate, but the original message was delivered to this House. Is it suggested that an amendment of this description can be made in the Senate and not here?
– The action of the Senate was covered by the original message.
– We do not admit that pensions have been increased by the amendment moved in the Senate. We only admit that the definition has been altered.
– It is of no use to argue like that. We might just as well argue that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Maribyrnong will not increase the cost, but will simply make an alteration in the definition. This is not a comic opera; it is a Parliament. Supposing grandchildren had been omitted from the list of possible dependants, and the Committee desired to put them in, is it suggested that the Committee would not have power to make that addition? It seems to me that the point raised by the Minister is not tenable.
– I am surprised at the point of order raised by the Minister, because, rightly or wrongly, there was an impression in the minds of several honorable members, when the Bill was before us previously, that some alteration would be made in another place.
– No. I promised that I would bring the matter under the notice of the Government.
– I am sure that the. Chairman will not be a party to tying the hands of honorable members in the matter of moving to add to the list of dependants. It would be an amendment relevant to the Bill if we were discussing the measure itself, and we are in exactly the same position to-day. All that we ask is that widowed mothers be added to the list of dependants.
– The Minister in charge of the Bill has asked my ruling on the point of order - that as the insertion of the words proposed by the honorable member for Maribyrnong would increase expenditure, they are not covered by the Governor-General’s message. It is not my province to restrict debate, but if my attention is called to a specific matter, and I am asked to give a ruling upon it, I am bound to do so in accordance with the rules of the House, apart altogether from what may have been done previously, as suggested by the honorable member for Barrier, in regard to a matter which is not before the Chair to-day and has not been before the Chair at any time. The rules of procedure are clear. All Money Bills are preceded by a message from the Crown making provision for certain expenditure and no more, and the provisions of the Bill must be kept within the limits of that expenditure. Apart from the statement of the Minister that- widowed mothers are already provided for in the Bill, and therefore there is no necessity for the amendment, as the Minister in his responsible position says that the insertion of the words proposed by the honorable member for Maribyrnong would increase the expenditure beyond the provision in the Governor-General’s message, I am bound to rule that the amendment is not in order. The only method honorable members could adopt to secure the end they desire would be to solicit the Government to bring down another message to cover the addition to the Bill which they propose. The amendment is not in order.
Amendment (by Mr. Mathews) proposed -
That the War Pensions Bill 191.5 be referred back to the Governor-General with the view of making provision for the widowed mother and the mother dependant who is in the same position as a wife of a member of the Expeditionary Forces.
– Placed as I am, in charge of the Committee for the time being, I can only deal with the specific matter referred to it, namely, the amendments made by the Senate. The Bill itself is not now before the Committee, and as the amendment submitted by the honorable member refers to the Bill, he must take some other step to have it considered. At the present juncture he is not in order in moving it.
– I recognise that your previous ruling, Mr. Chairman, was correct, but I believe that the Committee is empowered to deal with the matter in a way that will carry into effect the wishes and desires of the majority of honorable members.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. The Committee has the power to do what it chooses, but not at this particular juncture. I must confine the debate to the matters embodied in the amendments made by the Senate and sent to us for acceptance or otherwise. Opportunity will be afforded to the honorable member at another time to seek what he desires to obtain.
– I desire to speak to the amendment made by the Senate. It is quite evident that the desire of the majority of members of the Committee is to liberalize the provisions of this Bill to a greater extent than the Government propose, and I am surprised that the Government have not recognised the fact. Honorable members are just as responsible to the community as are the Ministers. We are constantly asked whether such and such a provision is a fair way of dealing with men who go to the front, or their dependants. Many of us have attended meetings and urged that the men of the country should volunteer for the front, and without any qualification we have asserted that the country would look after their dependants. We could not ask a man to go to the front unless we made that assertion. I suppose every honorable member has said it. The trouble, however, is that, although we pass a Bill for that purpose, much of it is rendered useless by regulations.
– Do not let us shelter behind the regulations. They are based upon the Act.
– .1 have in mind several instances in which regulations have prevented the wishes of honorable members being carried into effect. In one case the wife of a man who had been but eleven mouthy in Australia before volunteering to go to the front is in ill-health, and has two children. She is anxious to return to England for the period of the war, because she has no friends here, and she knows that during her ill-health she can find friends in England, who will look after her and her family. She has no desire to leave Australia altogether. If her husband returns from the war, it is their desire to settle in Australia ; but the moment she leaves Australia she gets nothing from us, and is thrown on the world. That is done by regulation. In another case, a young man who was a shipwright earning £3 12s. a week, and kept his mother in England, submitted to the Defence Department the receipts for the money he had sent to her. He was desirous of having her put in the same position as if she lived in Australia, but now, because he has enlisted, his widowed mother loses her source of income, and gets nothing. That also is done by regulation, and I do not think it is fair.
When we ask these men to go to the front, ;those who remain behind talk about the , Cost. They should be prepared to provide the money to treat our soldiers and their dependants in a fair and square manner. While I am desirous of supporting the Government in order that we may have the Bill liberalized in the direction that honorable members desire, I shall vote against this amendment that comes from another place. Surely the wishes of honorable members who are trying to do their best in regard to the great recruiting movement for the defence of the Empire are worthy of consideration.
– The widowed mother is provided for.
– I have given cases in which she is not. As I could not get any satisfaction from the Defence Department, I submitted them to the Prime Minister. In another case a widowed mother with two sons at the front receives nothing because she is not dependent on either of them. I know three cases of women dependent on sons, but they are not widows. In one case the husband is an invalid; in another case the husband took a moonlight flit, and went to the South African war, and did not come back again.
– Do not the sons leave anything behind for their mothers?
– They leave a certain amount of their pay behind. They leave what they can. A man who goes to the front needs at the very least 2s. a day. The allowance to dependants is not adequate enough to keep the mothers in the way in which they were kept prior to their sons going to the war. Why should the mothers be penalized because those who maintain th’em have gone to the front? Bringing this question down to one of hard, matter-of-fact, fair dealing, these mothers should be considered.
– They are considered.
– All I can say is that I shall do all I can to prevent this House adjourning for any protracted period while the war is on, because this Chamber provides us with the only opportunity we can have of ventilating grievances. The War Committee is making provision for a big recruiting movement, but I think I am justified in refusing to do anything more until provision is made for the dependants of those who go to the front. I shall vote against the amendment until specific provision is made to deal fairly and squarely with all these cases. We should not leave them to be dealt with by regulation. We should know what these regulations are to be before we agree to the Bill.
– The Minister has scarcely investigated the possible effect of widening the term “dependant” in order to meet the wishes of a majority of the Committee. If he had studied the expenditure involved he would have no hesitation in giving effect to that desire. According to the latest Common/wealth Y ear-Book there are in the Commonwealth 475,000 married women between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five. We may take it that the widows ‘of soldiers killed and the wives of those incapacitated would be amongst those who are between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five years. The wider definition made by the Senate, so as to include all married women ‘regardless of their financial position, would cover all women who are bereft of their husbands. The widowed mothers who have sent sons to the front may be inferred to be those over forty-five years of age; and there are in the Commonwealth between forty-five and sixty-five years of age 54,000 widows. Under the Act in its present form the great majority of widows will be provided for because they are mostly dependent 1 on the earnings of their children, and therefore the inclusion of widowed mothers without any condition as to dependency would involve only a very small additional expenditure. I admit that the widening of the term “ dependants “ in regard to the wives and children of those soldiers who are killed or incapacitated will mean a substantial increase in the total war pensions. But the inclusion of the widowed mother will not increase the expenditure by many thousands of pounds. The Minister has conceded that the claim on behalf of the wives and children of those killed at the front is just, but I do not think that any one will dispute that the widowed mother has an equal claim, and in 90 per cent, of the cases she will be found to be more or less dependent on the earnings of her children. According to the income tax returns the number of widows receiving an independent income is very small, and therefore the amount that would be paid in , pensions to those widowed mothers who enjoy such incomes would be a very small addition to the total amount paid.
All of the half-million married women between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five years would be entitled, without any conditions being imposed, to draw pensions in the event of their husbands being killed or incapacitated. But the widows of the Commonwealth number only about one-tenth of the married women; many of them are provided for under the present terms of the Bill, and therefore the additional number that would be included it the amendment 1 am suggesting were made would not be very great, and the increase in expenditure would be very small. Yet by that small expenditure justice would be done to women who are equally as deserving as the wives of soldiers. At this time, when we are asking the best manhood or the Commonwealth to go to the front we should give an assurance that reasonable justice will be meted out to the dependants of those who are killed. If we do not give that assurance now we shall not give it at all. Even if the meting out of justice involves a very large expenditure of public money, it is the duty of ourselves and of the generations that will follow to shoulder that expenditure. It is not a matter of generosity but a simple act of justice, and the payment of these pensions is a proper responsibility to be shouldered by those of us who do not go to the front.
.- I move-
That the Senate’s amendment No. 1 be amended by leaving out the words “ by omitting.”
If this amendment is carried it will be an indication to the Government that the inclusion of the widowed mother is desired by members of this Committee. The Government have stated that they are not prepared to accept the responsibility of including the widowed mother as honorable members have suggested, but I suppose the Government will obey the expressed wish of the Committee. If my amendment is defeated that will end the discussion, but the carrying of it will be an instruction to the Government to make the necessary alteration. If the Government refuse to make the amendment that is desired the House will be able to deal with them afterwards.
– The amendment is moved no doubt with a definite intention. .
– - And determination.
– And determination. The question now arises - what am I to do? In order that I may confer with the members of the Government, I think that we ought to report progress.
Sitting suspended from 12.51 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 12th August (vide page 5751), on motion by Mr. Archibald -
That, in view of the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, it is desirable that a Small Arms Factory, with necessary provision for housing workmen, be erected forthwith at Canberra.
.- The Public Works Committee gave full consideration to this question, free altogether from party considerations. Although the division of the members of the Committee on the question might suggest a different conclusion, I do not believe that there is really any party tinge in the matter. The members of the Committee are working very harmoniously together, as I think is shown by the amount of work done. The Committee, when it has presented its report to the House, has done its duty; and the acceptance or rejection of the report cannot mean any reflection on its members.
– The Committee have exceeded their duty.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– It is a matter of law.
– Evidently there are many lawyers on this side, but cheap law is not good. As I say, it is for the House and the Government to adopt or reject the report; and whatever the decision may be, it will convey no reflection on the Committee. Personally, I have no feeling in the matter. As chairman of the Public Works Committee, I considered the evidence with an open mind, and gave a vote which I believed to be in the interests, not of any particular place, but in the interests of the whole of the people of Australia. The Commonwealth possesses a territory of 900 square miles, of which we ought to be proud. What does the Commonwealth propose to do with that territory? Is it proposed to keep it for sheep and cattle grazing, or just for spectacular purposes ? If this Government and Parliament are not prepared to develop the Territory they should hand it back to the State of New South Wales.
– Ever since the Territory was taken over the New South Wales people have been wondering for what purpose the Commonwealth wanted it.
– Certainly the Commonwealth has not done much with it up to now, and it will be a reflection on us, as representatives of the people, if we are not able to rise above mere parochial interests, and concentrate our energies on making the Territory worthy of the Commonwealth. What right has the Commonwealth to monopolize 900 square miles of land unless it is prepared to develop it? We have already spent enormous sums in purchasing land there; and if the area is to be of any use, we should make it the centre of all Federal factory and other utilities, with a view to bringing in some return.
– Or else abandon it.
– Or else abandon it. The honorable member for Gippsland has expressed the opinion that the Public Works Committee went outside their reference and functions when they recommended the removal of the Small Arms Factory to Canberra. We may - I say, we “ may “ - have been at fault there.
– That is the legal aspect.
– I shall come to the honorable member for legal advice later on. It is the policy of the Labour Government and party that this Territory shall remain the property of the Commonwealth for all time in the interests of the whole of the people; and we have now a golden opportunity of demonstrating to the civilized world what can be done in the way of nationalization of land. We have an opportunity of getting away from the slum conditions that prevail throughout the world, and building up a model city with good social conditions for the industrial classes; and yet we find honorable members who are prepared to regard, I shall not say personal interest, but personal views, as to the claims of a certain district, in preference to looking at the matter from a broad national stand-point.
– Why not spend the money in providing more rifles?
– The honorable member for Lang has always advocated the furtherance of the Federal Capital scheme; and I shall be very much interested to note how he votes on the present occasion.
– This is not the proper time.
– Not now, Oh Lord, not now ! We have, as I say, an opportunity to place a large population of a manufacturing class within the Territory; and by doing so we shall not add to the value of private land, but add to the wealth of the whole of the people. Like the honorable member for Macquarie, I am a representative of New South Wales, and might be expected to take a similar stand ; but I was returned as a representative of the Commonwealth as a whole, and must take a broader view. The honorable member for Perth, who is a member of the Public Accounts Committee, spoke last night on this question, and was quite logical from his point of view. He asked what need there is for a Small Arms Factory elsewhere now that two shifts have been established at Lithgow ? He is against the expenditure of money on additions to the factory, because the two shifts now working are turning out almost as many rifles, some 2,000 a month, as could be turned out if the Factory were duplicated and worked eight hours. In view of what he believes will be the early close of the war, the honorable member does not see any need for greater expenditure on military preparations; and, moreover, he has told us that the rifles at present in use will be obsolete in a few years, rendering unnecessary any new factory or plant for their production. But if that argument is worth anything at all, it applies, not only to other classes of armament, but also to warships. When it was proposed to build war vessels for Australia, there were honorable members who declared that, before they were completed, they would be obsolete.
– The Brisbane will not be far from obsolete !
– At any rate, an obsolete war vessel is better than no vessel at all. The small Navy we have has been some protection to our people, although there were some who sneered at it. It is true that there are always continual changes in armament, but that is no reason why we should not continue to prepare for the worst.
– Why not spend the money on machine guns, which are infinitely more important than rifles?
– -But I suppose the honorable member thinks that it would not be wise to build those machine guns at Canberra? The Labour party came into power pledged to a policy of proper Defence; and if the Government had not made provision for increasing the production of small arms they would have met with much adverse criticism from the Opposition. The Government ordered a complete plant in view of “the duplication of the present factory, and now because the Public Works Committee, in considering that question, came to the conclusion that it would be more advisable to have a great arsenal in the Federal area for the production, not only of rifles, but of machine guns, and all other kind of armament, the Opposition, with the exception of one or two intelligent men, are against the recommendation. If the Works Committee had recommended the duplication of the Lithgow factory, the Opposition would have said that we were increasing the wealth of the landed proprietors of Lithgow, although we had Federal territory of which we could avail ourselves at no expense for land. As a matter of fact, it is the Opposition that is using party strategy to bolster up private interests. If I were a member of the Government, I know where the new factory would be located. Certainly, it should be placed in Federal territory. The good people of Lithgow have placed in our hands a pamphlet in which Canberra is compared disadvantageously with Lithgow. Lithgow, it is urged, possesses cheap bricks, cheap lime, cheap steel, and other cheap commodities. At Canberra, however, the Government manufactures the very best bricks much more cheaply than such bricks can be obtained at Lithgow.
– Is that why it is proposed to make the buildings of cement?
– If bricks were used, they could be obtained more cheaply in Canberra than in Lithgow. As to lime being cheaper in Lithgow than in Canberra, let me remind honorable members that most of the lime used in Sydney comes from the Goulburn district, which is close to the Federal Capital territory. However, we intend to use, not lime, but cement, and, for the making of concrete, good sharp sand and gravel are obtainable from the bed of the Molonglo River at Canberra, close to the site of the proposed works. At Lithgow, sand for concrete would have to be bought and carted to the site of the works, and stone would have to be broken up to make concreting material. It has been said that cement can be taken to Lithgow more cheaply than at Canberra; the Department of Home Affairs, by cabling to the High Commissioner at the outbreak of war, secured some thousands of casks of cement in London at 7s. 6d. a cask, and this cement, being brought out in vessels chartered by the Government for transport work, costs only about 8s. 6d. a cask.
– Then we are sweating our English brothers.
– No; we are belting out the Australian ring.
– At all events, this cement will cost the Home Affairs Department only 8s. or 9s. a cask, and at the present time we cannot buy imported cement in Melbourne or Sydney for less than 22s. or 23s. a cask. We are told, again, that timber can be obtained at Lithgow more cheaply than at Canberra. But timber is now being sent from Canberra to Lithgow for use in the manufacture of rifles. At Canberra, thousands of feet of timber have been stored and seasoned.
– Was that timber grown at Canberra?
– That I may have an opportunity of obtaining information on the subject, I ask leave to continue my speech on another occasion.
– I object.
– There being an objection, the honorable member must either proceed or lose his right to speak again.
– As to the cost of freight, it must be remembered that the Commonwealth has a branch line running off from the New South Wales railway system into the Federal Territory. That line passes the spot which has been recommended as the site of the factory, and transport on it will cost nothing. But if a new factory were erected at Lithgow, all the material for its construction would have to be carted from the railway station at considerable cost. At Lithgow, we are told, land can be obtained for from £40 to £50 per acre, but there is evidence showing that it would cost £600 per acre. Averaging its cost at £200 per acre, there is an immense difference between that price and £4 10s. per acre, which is the value of land at Canberra. Cheap land means cheap rent. This Government and party stand for improved social conditions, and we have now a golden opportunity to do something for the betterment of the workers. Had the pioneers of this country reserved from alienation in fee simple the land within 14 or 15 miles of Port Jackson and Port Phillip, we should not have to go to the London market to borrow money for public enterprises ; there would be a sufficient revenue from the land itself.
– Is the honorable member looking at this matter from the point of view of Canberra, or from the point of view of the manufacture of rifles?
– I am looking at it from the point of view of posterity. I have not one eye on the Age and the other on the Argus.
– I am afraid the honorable member has both on Canberra, and neither on the manufacture of rifles.
– I desire to move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Prime Minister, who, unfortunately, is compelled to remain at home, is keenly desirous of speaking on this subject, and in order that he may have an opportunity, I ask honorable members to agree to the adjournment.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to ask the Minister when the House may expect the subject of the Small Arms Factory to be again brought forward? The Government clearly see that the House is against them, and I suggest that the project should be either dropped or proceeded with at the earliest possible moment.
– I quite agree.
– I hardly expect that the House will see the motion again.
– “ Not lost, but gone before!”
– Then, may I ask that the honorable member will be good enough to indicate the order of business for next week?
.- I wish to record my protest against the manner in which the Government have treated the question of establishing a Small Arms Factory at Canberra.
– Order! The honorable member cannot debate a matter that has been adjourned. It may be discussed next week, in which case the honorable member would be anticipating the discussion of business on the noticepaper.
– I merely desired to take this opportunity of entering my protest, and I understand that this is the time for that protest to be made.
– I understand the honorable member desires to refer to the action of the Government in seeking the adjournment of the debate. The honorable member will see that when the adjournment of the debate is agreed to no discussion on that adjournment can take place. If I were to allow the honorable member to proceed on the lines he has indicated, as the honorable member can readily see, the original motion would be rendered valueless.
– I do not wish to discuss the matter. I merely wished to raise my protest. I have done so.
.- As there is some probability that additional training camps will shortly be established in New South Wales, as has been done in Victoria, I desire to bring before the notice of the Minister the claims of Maitland, which, situated in the centre of the northern coal mining district, should not be overlooked in case additional camps are established.
.- I desire to refer to a similar matter. Only to-day I put upon the notice-paper a question asking the Minister to take into con- sideration the advisability of establishing training camps in the principal towns in every Federal electorate on grounds of decentralization. Last week I was one of a number of honorable members invited to Orange to address a recruiting meeting. A few days previously I read in a Sydney newspaper that recruits from such places as Dunedoo, Gulgong, Mudgee, and other parts of New South Wales had had to travel all the way to Lithgow to meet tlie recruiting sergeant. I happened to be in a train from Dunedoo along with seven or eight volunteers. These men had a splendid send-off at the local railway station ; speeches were made, and. the men left their town amid the applause of the admiring residents. They arrived at Lithgow between 1.30 and 2 o’clock the following morning. Nobody was there to meet them. Fifteen young fellows from Orange had a similar experience last Monday week. They had offered their services to the Empire, and on their departure from the town they were given a good send-off. On their arrival at Lithgow they expected to be met by an officer of the Defence Department. In this they were disappointed. When they got out of the train they asked a policeman where the recruiting centre was. The policeman pointed out a certain house, in which they saw a light burning. They went across, knocked at the door, and the light went out. The men had to look after themselves as best they could. All the hotels were closed, and, according to a report in the Bathurst Times, when they went to the railway station for shelter they were actually expelled from the premises, and they had to spend the night under the trees in the streets. It is disgraceful that men should be treated like this. Before I visited Orange I wrote to the State Commandant in New South Wales complaining, and I am glad to know that Colonel Wallack, when expressing his regret, said that in future a recruiting sergeant and medical officer should be sent to Orange for the purpose of examining recruits. If these officers can be sent to Orange, they can also be sent to Dunedoo, Gulgong, and other places in New South Wales.
– Does the honorable member want the thing settled, or does he_ want to go on speaking for ever?
– I want the thing settled.
– I will settle it if the honorable member will sit down.
– Will the honorable member guarantee to me that a recruiting camp will be established in the township of Orange?
– I will have the matter inquired into.
.- May I bring before the notice of the Minister for the Navy the fact that considerable attention is being given by charitable people in Sydney to the housing of returned wounded and convalescent soldiers. A large proportion of the Destitute Children’s Asylum at Randwick was offered to the Department free of all cost, and the offer was gratefully accepted by my honorable friend’s colleague in another place. Since then, the New South Wales Government have intimated their intention of resuming the whole of this institution’s premises, an action that would seriously dislocate its work of attending to the destitute children of Sydney. I am sure the Government does not wish to see that charity in any way disorganized, and I am satisfied that the Government was in earnest when the Minister of Defence expressed gratitude for the splendid offer that the institution made. I should like to ask the Minister to state that he is grateful for what the institution has done, and his hope that the institution’s good work Will not be completely dislocated by the State Government acquiring the whole of its property.
– I appreciate the way the honorable member has brought this matter forward. The Government recognises the generous offer made by the Randwick Destitute Children’s Home, and in acknowledging it, I am sure that we have no desire to see the institution’s ordinary work dislocated in any way. It is to be hoped that our acceptance of the institution’s offer will not jeopardize its future.
.- I should like to bring under the notice of the Minister for the Navy a matter concerning the promotion of the men who are now fighting in the trenches. Complaints have been made that, owing to the large number of officers killed and wounded on the battlefield of Gallipoli, the privates who have been fighting in the trenches have had their opportunities of promotion cut off, because their officers have been unable to report upon the work they have done. More than one reference has been made to this difficulty, and I think the Minister might make some investigation in order to assure the House that proper steps are being taken to recognise the bravery of the men fighting in the trenches attached to the battalions whose officers have been killed. By way of further explanation, may I be permitted to read the following extract from a letter I recently received?-
My main point re anomalous promotions is not that brave deeds and good service are not recognised, but that the men in the trenches have their chances of securing promotion from the ranks put aside for men who have enlisted much later, and who have had inferior training, in fact, no training in war. I know several who deliberately waited until the field of selection was narrow, and who pulled strings until they were certain of a stripe or two, to say nothing of better advancement. My son was a few weeks ago one of three representing the sole survivors in the trenches of his original company of 250. Yet boys who had been his subordinates in the Senior Cadets and Citizen Forces come over with their stripes gained through waiting back sufficiently long, and take charge of him and the others.
I shall hand this letter to the Minister for the Navy, with the hope that, later on, he will he able to assure the House that the men who are fighting in the trenches, and who have been responsible for some of the bravest deeds recorded there, will not have their opportunity of securing promotion cut off through the death of the officers immediately commanding them, and have the commands to which they, because of their brave deeds, should be entitled, taken by men who are their juniors.
– I wish to speak on a similar matter. The same principle seems to have been adopted in regard to the men of the Army Pay Corps, who should be entitled to promotion in accordance with the service they have rendered in Egypt and Galli.oli for months past, but whose claims, ave been overlooked by the appointment of new officers from Australia. I hope that the Minister will look into the matter, and see that length of service is also taken into account in this particular branch of the Army Service.
.- 1 also desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for the Navy a matter worthy of consideration. There are thirty convalescent wounded soldiers at the Randwick Hospital, two of whom waited on me the other day, and pointed out that there is a good deal of dissatisfaction among the convalescents because of the fact that they are receiving the ordinary military rations. In fact, they told me that the system of distributing the food also left much to be desired. One man had been in the institution for a week and the other had been there for a fortnight, but they had not had a midday meal in the hospital. Considering what these men have gone through, in my opinion the military authorities should relax the rules in regard to their rations, and give these men food more in keeping with their condition. Will the Minister have inquiries made into this matter?
– I am glad to havethe Minister’s assurance.
.- I would like to get some information concerning Defence matters. Unfortunately we can ask for information until we are tired, but we get none. We are not in a better position to-day than when we had an Assistant Minister assisting the Minister of Defence, for then we did have in the chamber some one who knew something about the business of the Defence Department, whereas now we have no one here knowing anything about it. I am anxious to know what the Department propose to do with reference to the public scandal of militia officers who are shirking their duty, and yet at the same time getting all the lucrative positions that are offering. For twenty years we have been training these men and equipping them, and fitting them out as soldiers, but now, in the hour of the country’s need, they will not volunteer, but wait to fill all the good positions in the training camps ; and the Defence Department are encouraging them to stay back by appointing them, at very high salaries, to these good positions. Militia officers who refrain from volunteering should not be appointed to positions of profit under the Defence Department. They should be compelled either to volunteer or to return their uniforms to the Department. But, instead of this being done, these men are strutting about in their uniforms, giving people the idea that they are making some sacrifices or effort on behalf of the country. In all parts of Victoria they can be seen strutting about in their uniforms like peacocks. And while they are getting all these good things from the Department, they make no sacrifices on their own part. It is time that the Minister of Defence took some action in regard to them; but he is so hedged round by the military class who are continuously making these appointments, that, though we may protest again and again, practically no notice is taken of what we say. This is a matter which I urge the Minister for the Navy to bring under the notice of the Minister of Defence, in order to see whether some action cannot be taken. According to a letter that I have received from Ballarat to-day, a boy seventeen and a half years of age has been appointed, at £6 a week, to some position in the camp there. It is a shame. Here, again, I draw attention to that splendid class of military officers, the sergeants-major, who can get no encouragement or promotion. They belong to the masses, they are not commissioned officers, and the officials in the Defence Department will not recognise their work. To some extent, these men will be under a hoy seventeen and a half years of age.
– Have you sent along this matter to the Minister?
– I am sick of sending things along. This is the place where attention should be drawn to them. However, I have only received a letter relating to this particular matter today. Surely we are not going to tolerate boys seventeen and a half years of age giving instruction to the men who are ‘ going to the front to fight for our freedom at the Dardanelles? That is work men should do; but we do not employ the best men, because they are sergeantsmajor. Surely in this time of peril, the Department could overlook these distinctions, and appoint these men to commissions. I hope that some representations will be made by the Minister for the Navy to the Minister of Defence in these matters that I have brought underhis notice.
Mr. JOHN THOMSON (Cowper) £3.9]. - I take this opportunity of bringing under the notice of the Minister for theNavy the desirability of making some fresh arrangements with regard to our training camps. Since recruiting commenced, the policy of the Department has been to establish large camps in the principal centres of the Commonwealth; but it has been proved that the principle of having concentrations of men in large camps has been against the best interests of the men in regard to the general camp conditions and management, and, above all, their health. I think it can be shown very easily that the system hitherto pursued has practically broken down. I therefore urge upon the Minister the desirability of establishing camps in other places than the vicinity of the capital cities. It came under ‘my notice yesterday that men who had recruited in considerable numbers at Bellingen, and in the adjoining Dorrigo district, and were ready to leave their occupations and go to Sydney, have been told not to go there for a fortnight. The trouble is that there is no accommodation at Liverpool, and these men will have to wait until there is accommodation. In another case men from Grafton passed the local medical officer’s test, and proceeded to Sydney, where they were again medically examined. Some failed to pass the second test, and they were left to find their way to their homes again the best way they could, while the others were turned adrift in Sydney, and told to return to the depot in a fortnight’s time. This system is one that must be altered. Camps should be established in the larger towns, such as Grafton, where there is any amount of accommodation. The local committee are prepared to offer to the Defence Department the ample accommodation at the show-ground, with its water supply and cooking conveniences. The same remarks apply to the Jockey Club, who have on their race-course appointments second to nothing outside Sydney. When people are prepared to meet the Department in every way, the Department should show some earnestness in accepting their offers. A camp at
Grafton wouldserve the district from the Queensland border to Coff’s Harbor. At any rate, a better system should be established. I ask the Minister for the Navy to consider this matter. I hope that the system of having large concentration camps will be substituted by one such as I have suggested.
.- It is the intention of the Prime Minister to go on with the financial debate next week, and if the Attorney-General has the Income Tax Assessment Bill ready that will be the next principal business. Much will depend on the health of the Prime Minister, which, unfortunately, has not been as satisfactory as we all would wish.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 August 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150813_reps_6_78/>.