6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at. 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Having regard to the serious nature of the European outlook, the rapidly-mounting casualty lists, and the desirability of enabling the whole people to concentrate their united energies on the prosecution of the war, will the Prime Minister reconsider the decision to submit the referenda with a view to their postponement until the war pressure has been relieved ?
– The Government is of opinion that the referenda will not weaken, but will strengthen, Australia in its attempt to make good in this war. and for that reason - although we do not question the bona fides of those who are opposing what we propose - we cannot comply with the suggestion.
– Is it proposed to increase the telephone rates by regulation before the question of an increase has been submitted to Parliament?
– The telephone rates will be adjusted by regulation, and I shall presently lay on the table a schedule of the proposed new rates.
– Is it a fact that the Government have prevented the Government of New South Wales from dealing with its meat as it wishes ?
– Some New South Wales mutton - I do not know that it is Stateowned, and have reason to believe that it is not, but is being held by the Meat Exporters Association there - is being treated in the same way as all mutton has been treated in Australia during the past eight or ten weeks, the exportation of mutton being prohibited at present.
– Is it not a fact that beef was taken away by the Changsa? If so, what quantity was exported, what was the destination of the beef, and on whose account was it shipped ?
– The prohibition covers only the exportation of mutton and lamb. Beef has been exported from Australia on account of the Imperial authorities, and to a place to which the Imperial Government asked us to allow it to be sent.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral noticed that pigs have been declared by the New South Wales Government a necessary commodity, and is he aware that the effect of this declaration is to stop any Inter-State trade in pigs between New South Wales and other States ? For years past a large proportion of the pigs raised in the Northern Rivers district have gone to Queensland. Will the honorable gentleman give the people of that district assistance in establishing their right to maintain their trade with the markets of Queensland ?
– I am not aware of the declaration referred to, which is in violent conflict with the Mosaic law; nor am I aware that it will have the effect of stopping the trade in pigs between New South Wales and other States. It certainly should not have that effect. I shall be glad to assist the honorable gentleman’s constituents in maintaining that steady and progressive flow of pigs to Queensland markets which seems to be necessary for the prosperity of the Northern Rivers district.
– I continue to receive letters from parents who complain that sons who are their only means of support, and have been accepted for service abroad, are being sent back for a fortnight or so after enlisting, and do not receive any pay for that period. Do I understand that it is the intention of the Department to pay all volunteers from the date of enlistment, and not from the date on which they are sent into camp, if that date be somewhat remote from the date of enlistment?
– The Minister is having the matter inquired into. The Commandant of New South Wales is said to have taken action without the Minister’s instructions, and has been asked to report on the subject. I shall be pleased to answer the question as soon as the Minister is in possession of the necessary information.
– Has the Attorney-General given further consideration to the question how the 5 per cent, charterers’ commission shall be dealt with ? Does the Government still intend to grab the greater part of it, and pay it into the public revenue?
– The honorable gentleman refers to that part of the commission which has hitherto come out of the pockets of the farmers, and gone into the pockets of the charterers. Henceforth this 3£ per cent, will go into the revenue of the general community.’
– When may we expect that portion of the wheat charter agreement which covers the relationship between the Commonwealth and the
States in reference to the liability for charters pending the requisition of the ships by the actual wheat shippers?
– Such liability has been regarded as contingent. At any rate, it has not been reduced to writing. The whole liability is borne by the States in proportion to their exportable surplus. Has the honorable member any particular and concrete case in mind ?
– Yes; very often charterers cancel their charters and pay penalties. Has any agreement been arrived at defining the relationships of the States and the Commonwealth in that direction?
– Where there is liability, it is shared by the States on the basis of their interest in the venture, and is determined by the amount of their exportable produce. If there is no liability, of course, neither the Commonwealth nor any State is interested.
– Has the Minister for the Navy noticed that a report has been made on the military camps in New Zealand by a Commissioner appointed to make inquiries and recommendations concerning them ? Will the honorable gentleman communicate with the Government of New Zealand with a view to obtaining a copy of the report, so that, should any of the recommendations be applicable to our conditions and of value to us they may be adopted ?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member refers, but if it deals with military matters I shall make inquiries and bring it under the notice of the Minister of Defence, with a view to complying with the honorable member’s request.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
– Can the Prime Minister tell us when the complete report of the Commission on the New Hebrides Mail Service will be laid on the table ?
– I admit it is convenient to have the report printed before it is presented, but it will be distributed to honorable members within a few days.
– It was recently announced, on the authority of the Prime Minister, that the policy of preference to unionists was not to apply to returned soldiers; and I should like to know whether it is a fact that, for some weeks, District Military Orders have contained an instruction that preference is to be given to returned soldiers on condition that, if they are not already unionists, they immediately join a bonâ fide union. If that is a fact- and whether it be so or not - will the Prime Minister be good enough to announce definitely what is the policy of the Government?
– I have not seen the orders referred to; but the policy that I announced stands.
– What is it?
– I should like to have some information regarding the conflicting answers given by the Ministers who represent the Department of Defence in the two Houses. Honorable members will recollect that the other day the Minister of Defence definitely told us that Dr. Barrett was returning.
– I do not think so.
– It is so reported in Hansard. The Minister told us, in the most definite way, that Dr. Barrett was returning, while his colleague in another place said that, so far as he knew. Dr. Barrett was not returning. Which of these answers is the correct one ? Then the other day, in connexion with the proposal for camp visitation-
– Will the honorable member ask one question at a time?
– It is the same question. My question is not as to any particular case, but as to why there is this frequent conflict between the answers. We are repeatedly getting contradictory answers concerning the same subject.
– Was I replying to a question on notice ?
– I do not know whether there was notice or not, and I do not see that it matters. The Minister for the Navy said that the War Com- mittee has charge of camp visitations, and all matters concerning the administration of the camps, whereas the reply of his colleague ,in another place was that it is not correct to say that the War Committee, or any Committee, has control of the arrangements at the camps.
– The War Committee has power to inquire and recommend.
– That is not so.
– There is developing a kind of debate upon the honorable member’s second question, and it cannot be permitted, unless the idea of asking questions is to be altogether put aside.
– I desire to know what is the reason for the contradictory answers given by two Ministers representing the same Department?
– As to Dr. Barrett, I do not remember having given the answer indicated, unless it was by way of interjection, or in reply to some statement of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. So far as I recollect, it was that honorable member who brought the question up, and I think I put a qualification on my answer, because I knew nothing of the matter at the time. I think I said, “ If it is so “; but whether or not that appears in Hansard I cannot say.
– The Minister for the Navy said that Dr. Barrett was to take charge of the Red Cross arrangements.
– I do not think that I said that. However, with regard to the other question, I think - I have been advised - that the Committee appointed from both sides of the House is having matters submitted to it by the Minister of Defence; and, so far as I am aware, one of those matters is recruiting, and so forth, in connexion with war purposes. I do not know but that even the concentration camps may not come within their purview. I may have been misled with regard to the latter point, but I am certain that recruiting has been left to the Committee by the Government.
– Is the Attorney-General prepared to consider his decision under which enemy companies and persons are being permitted to dispose of their stockintrade and assets, to the detriment of our suppliers and traders?
– I am perfectly prepared to reconsider my decision, but I am not ready to make any rule that is not general - if it applies to one firm it must apply to all. In view of the importance of the interests involved, I have written the State Governments, the Federal Departments, and the municipal corporations of the great cities, who are very much interested in the matter, to show cause why these importations of supplies should not cease. If they make out a case, well and good. If not, I shall be in favour of such a policy as will stop all consumption of German goods, no matter from what source they may come.
– As the Continental Tyre Company has been given permission to dispose of its very large stocks on the ground that they would deteriorate unless sold, I ask the Attorney-General whether he has taken into account the time those stocks have already been held, in order to ascertain whether already such deterioration has taken place, as to render their sale to ‘the public unadvisable ?
– I have made no further inquiries into the Continental Tyre Company’s stocks. Statements have b.een made in regard to the position of stocks held by the Australian Metal Company, Siemens Brothers, the Continental Tyre Company, and other people, and the whole question has been looked into, and all the circumstances reviewed. I do not say that the question of whether they should have permission to sell their goods is not arguable, but I do say that there cannot and should not be one rule for one company and another rule for another company. I am not prepared to accept the responsibility of saying that the Victorian Government must not go on with its railways electrification scheme, that the Federal Government must not go on with the various works that it has now in course of construction, or that the Sydney Municipal Council must not go on with its differentundertakings which involve the use of material from these firms, unless and until all these bodies have been heard. The firm of Siemens Brothers is a large concern, but it has no more right to consideration than the Continental Tyre Company, or any other firm. I am waiting until I receive replies from these public bodies before I make any rule upon the matter. I ask honorable members to realize that we have no principles for our guidance. To refer to international law helps us very little, because, in the face of the Lusitania and Arabic outrages, international law at the present time is a dead letter, and, in any event, is inapplicable to the circumstances of modern war?
– The Attorney-General last week promised that he would ascertain for the information of the House the quantity and value of the goods held by the Continental Tyre Company. Is the Minister in a position to give the House any information on the subject?
– As far as I remember, the value of the goods held by the Continental Tyre Company was £122,000.
– In view of the great expense that will be occasioned by taking the war census, and in view of the fact that it has already been announced that there is an insufficient staff of confidential officers, will the Government consider the matter of issuing an invitation to a body of men already bound to secrecy, namely, the sworn valuers under the Supreme Court rules of each State, who, although unable to go to the front, would willingly offer their services for bare expenses?
– The Commonwealth Statistician, who has the administration of the War Census Act, has been given carte-blanche in regard to his staff. No limit has been placed upon him except that he has been told to get the work done well and speedily, and that he must pay the market rates for the labour employed. I have not been informed, and I do not know, that there is any shortage of labour of the kind desired, but I shall bring the suggestion of the honorable member before the Statistician in order that he may express an opinion upon it.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General a question in regard to a number of notices which have been sent out from his Department in cases where there have been reductions of a few pounds, or a few shillings, in the allowances for small allowance offices, and where the people conducting these offices have said that they cannot carry on for the amounts offered. I ask the PostmasterGeneral does he intend to carry out the threat of the Department to pull down the telephone wires and close the offices in such cases?
– I am not aware that there is any such proposal.
– There are hundreds. I shall quote them to you directly.
– When the honorable member does, we can have the cases investigated.
The following papers were presented : -
Proposals by Committee of Investigation in regard to meeting the Deficiency.
Charges for Telephone Services - Revised scale.
Ordered to be printed.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Return showing Penalties accruing through late payment of tax which have been remitted, in respect of assessments for the financial years 1910- 11, 1911-12, 1912-13, and 1913-14, during the period 1st July, 1914, to 30th June, 1915.
Public Service Act -
Promotions of -
Intoxicating Liquors - Correspondence relative to the Measures taken in certain Foreign Countries for the Restriction of the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors since the Outbreak of War - Paper presented to British Parliament.
– May I ask the Prime Minister if he is aware that provision is made in the Murray Waters Agreement for the appointment of a Board, and that such Board cannot be appointed until this Parliament has ratified the agreement arrived at between the States concerned ? Will the right honorable gentleman, therefore, in order to avoid delay in this matter, endeavour to secure the passage of a Bill ratifying the agreement before Parliament adjourns ?
– I do not think there will be any delay in the creation of the machinery required to carry out the agreement. The adjournment will be only a very short one. It will not extend over more than a month.
Hospital Management in Egypt: Allowances to SOLDIERS’ Relatives: Information as to Casualties: Seymour Camp : Visits of Ministers to Camps.
– Will the Minister for the Navy endeavour to have placed on the table of the House all the papers in connexion with the investigation into hospital management in Egypt, giving the reasons for the investigation and the evidence given, together with the findings, so that honorable members will be in a position to understand the situation ?
– The honorable member’s question shall be brought under the notice of the Minister of Defence. I will give him a reply to-morrow morning.
– I have just received a communication from Western Australia dealing with the case of a sergeant now at the front. He left an order that his wife should receive 9s. 6d. a day out of his pay of 10s. 6d. per day, but the representatives of the Defence Department in Western Australia have declined to pay the wife more than 4s. a day, stating as their reason for doing this that under the regulations a greater sum than 4s. cannot be paid until word is received from Egypt. Will the Minister for the Navy have the matter looked into and rectified promptly?
– The honorable member’s question shall be brought under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– I have received a communication from a parent, who states that he received a cable from Malta on 14th August, informing him that his son. had been wounded, yet he has neceived no notice from the military authorities. This parent’s excuse for making this inquiry is that on a previous occasion another son was six weeks in hospital, and that he has not yet received any notice from the military authorities. In view of circumstances like these, will the Minister for the Navy bring the matter forward in order that strong representations may be made to those responsible, in order that some improvement may be brought about in the notification of cases like those to which I have referred ?
– Similar cases to that referred to by the honorable member have been brought under my notice, and also under the notice of the Minister of Defence. Unfortunately, these complaints do occur-
– I would point out that the man referred to in the case to which I have drawn attention is in hospital.
– I will bring the honorable member’s query under the notice of the Minister to-morrow morning.
– On Saturday and Sunday I was waited on by men from Seymour Camp, who complained that the food is often undercooked, and that, even when it is properly cooked, there is not enough of it. I was also informed that a man has to nearly succumb in his tent or on parade before he receives medical attention. Will the Minister for the Navy make investigations in order to ascertain whether these allegations are correct ?
– Yes, I shall.
– In view of the many allegations made in regard to the conduct and administration of the various military camps, I should like to know whether the Minister for the Navy or the Minister of Defence ever visits the camps with a view to ascertaining whether these allegations are well founded or otherwise.
– I am quite sure that the Minister of Defence has on several occasions visited the camps, and has expressed himself, more than once, as well satisfied with everything there. Of course, things may change from time to time, and, according to reports, have changed. I myself have visited the camps on three or four occasions in Queensland and Victoria.
– And found everything right, I suppose?
– However, I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– May I ask the Postmaster-General, regarding the new “Council of Three” that has been appointed to inquire into their own mismanagement, who will perform the duties that they are supposed to carry out whilst they are conducting their investigations ?
– No such council has been appointed yet.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– I understand the right honorable the Prime Minister desires to make a statement to the Committee in reference to the schedule dealing with the Department of Trade and Customs. Has any honorable member anything to say in regard to a prior Department ?
– I should like to know whether that will affect any other question honorable members desire to discuss ?
– Does that mean that no honorable member will be able to say anything about any other Department than that of the Customs?
– No. I invited the Committee to inform me if they desired to deal with any prior matter.
– I am sure that the Committee will not think me impertinent if I remind them that the further consideration of this Bill was postponed until to-day, at the instance of the Leader of the Opposition, on the distinct understanding that it would be passed within two hours. It should certainly be passed through all stages before the adjournment for dinner. I do not know what is the purport of the matter to be brought, forward, but I shall be glad to hear it.
– I do not intend to take up much time but there are a few matters to which I desire to refer.
– It is only fair to remind the Committee that the whole Bill would have been passed on Friday but that a postponement was allowed for a specific purpose.
– What purpose?
– To enable us to deal with the question of jute goods.
– As there seems to be some conflict of opinion, I shall submit the schedule in Departments, and confine the discussion in each case to the particular Department before the Chair.
– In these circumstances, the Prime Minister cannot hold me to the arrangement.
– If this is an attack on the Government by the Opposition, then we will take it at any time ; but it should be taken in the House.
– It is nothing of the sort.
– It is a dirty, flank party movement.
– That is a scandalous interjection; we are only doing our duty.
– I rise to a point of order. All that I have to say of the statement just made by the Prime Minister is that he agreed with me on Friday that this particular matter in regard to jute goods should be taken to-day. He offered not the slightest objection. If it is a “dirty flank movement” now, it was a “ dirty flank movement “ then, and he agreed to it. If this is to be the result of making arrangements with the Prime Minister in regard to the conduct of business, I am wondering whether it is any use to try to make an arrangement with him about any matter. An amicable arrangement having beendeliberately made, to which the Prime Minister offered not the slightest objection, I object to his now charactsrizing it as a dirty flank movement. The remark should be withdrawn.
-I am sure that the Prime Minister will withdraw it.
– I withdraw the word “ dirty,” but should like to say in reply to the Leader of the Opposition that he told me on Friday that a number of his party were away, and that he wished to bring up this matter. I agreed that it should be brought up, but I did not think the right honorable gentleman was in it.
– What does the right honorable member mean by “ in it?”
– I did not think it was part and parcel of the Opposition policy. If it is, then I desire to meet it in the House.
– By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that I told the Prime Minister as plainly as I could that I personally intended to test this matter in Committee.
– Those words are not in my mind, and I can only say that I did not hear them.
– On a point of order I would point out that many honorable members seem to know what is coming on, but others do not. I wish to know whether a matter that is in no way concerned with the Bill before us, and which is listed for consideration in the shape of another measure, can now be dealt with ?
– I shall give my ruling on that point when the occasion arises. I shall put the schedule in Departments.
The Parliament, £11,631.
.- I take it, Mr. Chairman, that, following the usual practice, you will allow a general discussion on the first item?
– A general discussion has taken place on the Bill itself, and I shall ask honorable members to confine themselves to the discussion of the particular Department or item before the Committee.
– Very well; I want no further privilege. We shall take our own course.
– In connexion with the question of finance, the whole of the Estimates require to be very carefully examined.
– The Estimates are not before us.
– We have before us a Supply Bill covering the whole of the Departments and their administration. It is customary in Committee to allow, on the first item, a discussion covering the administration of the Departments.
– I have already ruled that the discussion must now be confined to the item before the Chair.
– I can only protest against your ruling, sir, as not being in conformity with the established practice.
– The honorable member knows what his remedy is.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Prime Minister, £14,770, agreed to.
Department of the Treasury, £279,770.
– I take it that I shall now be in order in dealing with the general question of finance. The financial situation at the present time is most disturbing to all who can foresee to what dimensions future taxation is likely to develop. It is only a few years since our total annual income did not reach £15,000,000. In 1909 our revenue for the year in round figures was only £14,555,000, while our expenditure, including the amounts that we had to return to the States, was £15,700,000. We have now advanced to an estimated ordinary expenditure of £26,500,000 for the present year, and one cannot view these extraordinarily high jumps in Commonwealth expenditure without grave misgivings as to where such extravagance is going to land us. Special appropriations alone this year show an increase of £1,294,374 over those for last year. The special appropriations last year totalled £653,246 whereas this year they amount to £1,947,620. I do not propose to discuss the figures in detail, for they have already been dealt with exhaustively by the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Swan. The people of New South Wales are suffering very severely through the large increase of taxation which this enormous additional expenditure has involved, and, unfortunately, we cannot see a prospect of the burden being lightened. On the contrary, we are likely to be faced with increases in the near future. The Prime Minister urged upon the people the necessity for rigid economy in connexion with their expenditure, but the right honorable gentleman, as Treasurer, instead of setting an example of economy in the expenditure by public Departments, has allowed the ordinary expenses of administration to be increased by upwards of £3,000,000, exclusive of the special expenditure in connexion with the war. One hesitates to criticise the war expenditure, but, as public men, we have our duty to do, even in that regard. However, irrespective of the war expenditure, which is already more than double the ordinary expenditure, and exclusive of this proposed new taxation, the people of New South Wales are being taxed to-day at the rate of £31 16s. 8d. per annum per family of five. When the proposed new taxation is added, that amount will probably be increased to £40.
– A desire to expedite public business prompts me to rise to a point of order. I have looked very carefully through the items in the schedule, and I cannot discover that the honorable member is speaking about any one of th em.
– I may be speaking on the “ miscellaneous “ items.
– Nothing in the honorable member’s speech has had any reference to the items appearing in this schedule. I submit that we are considering the details of the schedule, and are not engaging in a general all-round debate on the financial situation.
– Are we not discussing the vote for the Treasury Department ?
-We are discussing certain items in that vote. Whilst I have no desire to stifle free speech, I submit that the honorable member is too discursive, and ought to be pinned down to some particular item. If he is permitted to continue his remarks in a discursive fashion, we shall not have finished our business before Christmas.
– In the past the practice has been to allow a good deal of latitude to honorable members when discussing matters contained in the schedule of a Supply Bill. I was following the remarks of the honorable member for Lang very closely, and waiting for him to connect them with some item in the schedule. Up to the time that the point of order was raised I did not feel called upon to ask the honorable member to limit the scope of his remarks.
– I may inform you, Mr. Chairman, that I have concluded my speech.
– If the Committee desire me to strictly adhere to the rules of debate, I shall do so, but they must not blame me afterwards. I know that in the past rules have been strained in order that latitude might be allowed, but I hope any leniency on the part of the Chair will not be abused.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Attorney-General’ s Department, £15,390.
.- I am not inclined to vote money for any member of the Attorney-General’s staff until it is shown who was responsible for what took place recently in connexion with the alien, Julius Blau. We remember the great fanfare of trumpets which heralded every investigation when the AttorneyGeneral’s Department first took steps to deal with firms supposed to be trading with the enemy. Officers were sent from the Defence Department to the premises of the suspected firms, the press were notified of intended raids, and the greatest possible publicity was given to every such action. At that time applications were made by a number of people in all the States for permission to leave the Commonwealth, and in some instances good cases were made out. According to the particulars given to the House last week by the honorable member for Wentworth, Julius Blau also was desirous of leaving the Commonwealth. There is not the slightest doubt that he was an enemy sub ject, although he was naturalized; but the Attorney-General was particular to point out to the House that this man was a Hungarian, not a German, and, therefore was less liable to be dangerous.
The Defence Department was exceedingly anxious to prevent this gentleman leaving Australia. Its anxiety was founded upon evidence which had been obtained from the Censors’ Department, and which was put before the Attorney-General at the time. The most explicit information was forwarded to the Minister of Defence and the Attorney-General as to why Mr. Blau should not only be prevented from leaving Australia, but why a prosecution should be instituted against him for attempting to trade with the enemy. The correspondence dealing with the matter shows that Colonel Wallack wrote to the Defence Department as follows: -
I should be glad to know what decision is arrived at, and would suggest that an early prosecution of this or some other suitable case would greatly assist thelocal efforts to prevent enemy trading.
The Attorney-General, however, considered that there was no case against Mr. Blau. Later on Colonel Wallack wrote -
In view of the apparent decision of the
Attorney-General that the evidence referred to in my97/4/186 of 4th inst. does not amount to enemy trading, I would suggest that a copy of the opinion on the case be forwarded for the guidance of those officers who are looking after this section of the work of the staff in this district.
Here was an extraordinary thing. After all the information had been forwarded to the Attorney-General and the Defence Department
– I think that we ought to have a Minister present to hear the remarks of the honorable member, and I therefore call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– It is indeed remarkable that the Attorney-General should be absent from the Chamber when his con- duct is being questioned in connexion with this perfumery business. I was pointing out. that the decision of the Attorney-General was regarded as so extraordinary that the Commandant of New South Wales desired that a copy of it should be sent to the staff in order that its members might know what they would be able to do in the future. Colonel Wallack went on to say -
I think that this is necessary, as the officers concerned, two of them are barristers by profession, were of the opinion that the evidence disclosed a very clear case. It is impossible for these officers to carry out their duties properly without some knowledge of what the
Attorney-General wishes to be proved to constitute an offence.
That is an extraordinary statement to emanate from the Staff to the Defence Department in connexion with this case. Yet, in the face of all these reports, Blau was allowed to leave Australia. The Attorney-General has assigned certain reasons for having permitted him to do so. He has stated -
This is the one case in which, since I took office, I have accepted statements of this kind as reliable.
In saying that, he was, of course, referring to the statements made by Mr. Blau. But I know of no instance, even in which a prosecution has been launched, in which the evidence against the suspect was so clear as it was in this case. In short, there is an extraordinary difference between the treatment which was accorded to Mr. Blau and that which has been meted out to other persons in similar circumstances. I feel that this matter ought not to be allowed to rest where it is. Indeed, I unhesitatingly affirm that if honorable members opposite were allowed a free hand, and if a vote of censure had been submitted in reference to this case, it would have resulted in a change of Ministry. The Attorney-General has told us that he obtained a bond from Mr. Blau. But the facts show that the securing of that bond was quite asecondary consideration.
– With great reluctance. I desire to raise another point of order. The matter of the bond given by Mr. Blau is now before the Court, and I submit that it is not competent for the honorable member to discuss it. I think that you, sir, will see that to debate it at this juncture may prejudice the case for the Crown or the case for Mr. Blau, and I am sure that the honorable member for Dampier does not desire to do that. Our British Courts of justice are held up as models all over the world. We are following in the footsteps of the Old Country, and cases before the Court are never discussed in the House of Commons.
– The Attorney-General stated that this matter was not before the Court, and he discussed the matter himself the other day.
– He did not discuss the question of the bond.
– He sought to defend himself by abusing Mr. Blau.
– He discussed some correspondence which the honorable member for Wentworth referred to, but he did not discuss the merits of the case, which will be tried before the High Court at a very early date. I submit that, in the circumstances, the honorable member for Dampier is not in order in discussing this matter.
– I direct your attention, sir, on the point of order, to a copy of Hansard, from which you will see that the Attorney-Goner al himself discussed this question. The honorable member for Capricornia was present at the time, and heard the Minister say that the matter was not before the Court.
– The honorable member for Capricornia makes the statement that a case in connexion with this matter is before the Court. I have no official knowledge to enable me to say whether that statement is accurate. If I knew that the case was before the Court I am aware of no rule of Parliament which would strictly debar any member of the Committee from referring to it. It would be a matter of taste whether it was referred to or not. I am not at present in a position to say that there is any rule of parliamentary procedure which would justify me in calling the honorable member for Dampier to order for referring: to this case, even though it should be before the Court.
– If the honorable member for Capricornia will look up Hansard., he will find that the statement he has made is not correct. The AttorneyGeneral did deal with the bond in this case, and at some length. He read a portion of the bond in this chamber.
– We are not supposed to know what takes place in the House. .
– The honorable member cannot refer to something which took place in the House.
– I thought that that was what the honorable member for. Cap~ricornia was doing. I say that the bond was a secondary consideration. It seems that a number of firms here became aware of the fact that Blau was going to import this special perfumery, and they drew the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to the matter. Then T believe this bond came into existence. The AttorneyGeneral told us that it contains the following : -
Whereas Julius Blau, the managing director of the said company, has applied for permis sion to visit America for the purpose of obtaining plant for the manufacture of perfumery and soap and engaging a skilled chemist, and permission has been granted to him.
Honorable members must bear in mind that, while Blau was in America, the following words were inserted after the word “chemist”: - and for the importation of perfumery and soapmanufactured in America.
This is the bond on which the AttorneyGeneral now says that he is going to prosecute. It has been clearly demonstrated by the honorable member for Wentwortb that these goods have been, and are being,, imported, and they are undoubtedly German goods. They carry the German trade mark. There is a slight alteration, and it is said that the perfumery has been bottled in America. The report* show clearly that this man was makingspecial arrangements–
– Order! I understand the honorable member to say that the Attorney-General stated that he intended to prosecute. If that be so, I ask him to consider whether it is wise or judicious on his part to discuss the merits of the case in this Committee.
– Decidedly it is. because I want to see the importation of these goods prohibited. We have heard a very great deal about what has been done to prevent the importation of enemygoods. What is the use of this wretched’ bond, which is not worth the paper on which it is written? These people are under the bond given permission to import goods manufactured in America. It isan absurdity for the Attorney-General to say that he will prosecute under the bond which allows them to bring thesegoods into the country. They have been imported, and they are being imported.
– If the goods are not manufactured in America, the company can be sued’ under the bond.
– But why allow these goods to be imported ? I think that they should be seized. There is not theslightest doubt that the Chamber of Commerce directed the attention of theAttorneyGeneral to the fact that these importations were being made. He said that he was not aware that any importations were to be made; and that if he had been aware of the fact, he would have stopped them. Why has he not stopped their importation? Reports were sent by the Customs Department to- the Attorney-General in regard to these importations, and showing that the Act in regard to enemy goods was not being complied with. I rose because I did not desire that the vote for the Attorney-General’s Department should be allowed to go through without some explanation of this matter. Other honorable members, more conversant with it than I am, are now quite prepared to deal with it. From my knowledge of the papers, I am inclined to think that if the Attorney-General bathed in this eaudecologne for the rest of his life he would not be able to get away from the smell of this transaction.
– That is a very nasty remark to make.
– Does the honorable member impute bribery.
– There has been something in connexion with the matter which merits investigation, and we are justified in insisting that it shall be threshed out. We cannot forget the action which the Attorney-General has taken in regard to other firms, and the statements he has made about enemy trading. To my mind, no clearer cass of enemy trading than that which has occurred, in this instance has been brought before the public. The only information we have as to the action the AttorneyGeneral proposes to take is that he is going to prosecute on a bond that is not worth the paper on which it is written.
– The honorable member must admit that on the bond the Attorney-General can prosecute if it is shown that the goods imported are German goods.
– It is the importation of the goods which I wish to see stopped. If there is anything in the bond, that can be looked into later. Another matter about which I wish to say something is the proposed Metal Exchange. We have a right to know something more about it. I represent a very large mining community in Western Australia. In the far north of that State there are deposits of copper ore, and the people there have been exporting copper ore to Swansea, in England, for treatment. From what I can learn about the Metal Exchange, nothing is to be done in connexion with the smelting of ores, but the proposal is merely to create another middleman. Nothing is to be sold except through the medium of the Metal Exchange. I cannot see how that is going to assist the metal industry in Australia in the slightest degree.
– Is there any limitation of the quantities to be sold through the Exchange ?
– I do not know what are to be the rules of the Exchange. The only rule I have seen, so far, is an extraordinary one forbidding any person who is not a British subject to be a member of the Exchange. That is a nice thing to tell our French ally. France is a very good customer of ours for various metals, but apparently we are to tell her that no Frenchman can be a member of the Metal Exchange in Australia.’ The rules have not yet been approved, and it is possible that this rule may be amended. If all sales and importations are to be made through the medium of the exchange, grave harm is likely to be done to the production of our baser metals in Western Australia, and I ask the House to pause before agreeing to any such proposal. At Whim Creek, in the northwest of Western Australia, there is a mine which prior to the war employed from 150 to 200 men. The difficulties are too great for them to smelt the ore there, and they have been shipping it direct to Swansea. It would be absurd for them to have to make all their arrangements and effect their sales through the proposed exchange, and surely big firms like the Broken Hill Proprietary can manage their own business better than the gentlemen who will be connected with the exchange can do it for them. In any case it would simply mean that a commission would have to be paid to the agents, and I cannot see how the arrangement can be in any sense beneficial to the industry in the slightest degree.
.- The honorable member for Dampier has raised briefly the question I submitted to the House a short while ago in connexion with’ the importation of 4711 eaudecologne. When raising the question I in no way touched on the case pending before the Court, and in no way canvassed its merits. I submitted a case against the Government for deliberately allowing a man of enemy origin to leave Australia after the strongest case against him of attempted enemy trading had been submitted by the authorities, and for allowing him also to bring goods in afterwards, despite constant warnings as to their real enemy origin. The case against the Government has not yet been met. The Attorney-General, in his reply, contented himself with abusing Mr. Blau, but tons of abuse of that person will not clear the Minister from the charges which the papers in the case bring against the Attorney-General of extraordinary carelessness, if not worse, throughout the whole business. When he gave permission to Mr. Blau to visit America, he knew from the papers in his possession, and from the copies of and extracts from Blau’s correspondence, that he was arranging to meet one of the heads of the German firm in America. He knew also from a letter from the American branch to Mr. Blau in Sydney that all moneys that Blau was to remit to them were to be credited to Blau at the head office in Germany, that the American firm admitted the German firm as the “mother house,” and, from the headings of invoices of the German firm and its catalogues prior to the war, that the American house was merely a branch establishment of the great Cologne house in Germany.
But, apparently, the AttorneyGeneral was too busy to keep his memory in working order. It failed him. Although he told the Minister for the Navy in his own handwriting that he had gone fully into the case, and given it the amplest consideration, his memory was so bad that he thought it was safe to let Blau go, and he specially asked in that letter that Blau should be allowed to leave Australia to meet this man in America. His memory was also bad as regards the warnings against enemy importations subsequently addressed to him. On the file appears letter after letter which came to the Attorney-General, but each correspondent was merely informed that the subject-matter of his letter would receive consideration. The whole thing was buried, so busy was the Attorney-General on other matters. I started the ball rolling in this House by asking the Minister of External Affairs if he was aware that the house in America was a branch of the Cologne firm, and the Minister replied that he had not dealt with the matter himself, but that the AttorneyGeneral had, and that the Attorney-General “-vis inquiring of Mr. Blau whether this was so. Yet, within a few weeks the AttorneyGeneral told the House in effect that lie had discovered that Blau was a most infamous person, when the goods began to arrive. Indeed, he said he had warned his colleague the Minister of Trade and Customs ! I think the first’ lot of goods had actually arrived when I asked his colleague that question; and, at that time, so infamous was Mr. Blau, that the Attorney-General actually went to him for information as to whether the New York factory was a branch of the Cologne house or not!
The next stage was that the Prime Minister promised that the papers should be produced. The Prime Minister could see ‘no objection to their publication, and the Minister of Defence had no objection, but the Attorney-General said subsequently that, as some of the papers were confidential, they could not be laid on the table of the House, but would be open to the inspection of honorable members at the Prime Minister’s office. I went and read them, but there was not a single paper amongst them that should not be published in the public interest. Not one was confidential in the public interest sense, although some Defence papers were marked confidential or “ secret,” as are papers in the Defence Department, that are meant for the personal eye of the Minis1ter. Why, then, were they not laid on the table of the House? As soon .as I had seen the file I realized that the Department was not anxious for the fullest publicity in connexion with the whole* matter. The last paper on the file was a letter from the Attorney-General, dated 3rd August, to Mr. Blau, calling him a few names, and telling him that he proposed to estreat his bond. This was after the matter had been raised in the House, and almost immediately after the AttorneyGeneral had been corresponding with Mr. Blau in the most friendly way, according to the reply of the Minister of External Affairs in this Chamber, asking him whether the firm in America had any connexion with Mr. Blau’s principals in Cologne. Thus, at one time, Blau was a proper informant for the AttorneyGeneral on a matter of fact, and a few weeks afterwards, when the matter had been raised in the House, Mr. Blau was every sort of a scoundrel, and his bond was to be estreated !
I went a step further, and saw the bond. I saw, also, the words written into it. The Attorney-General says he had never seen them. If so, it is the gravest possible reflection on the administration of the AttorneyGeneral’s Office, for anybody who took up the bond could not help seeing the interpolation. It was in the clearest handwriting, in the very centre of the front page. A child could not miss seeing it, and yet the Attorney-General talks as if it was evidence of some sinister cunning. I do not know whether it was or not.
– Did they know the handwriting?
– The alteration’ was initialed at the side by the two young Blaus, who signed it, their father being then in America, because the AttorneyGeneral did not exact the bond until after Blau had left for America.
Now, when I told the AttorneyGeneral that I proposed to move the adjournment of the House on this subject, he said that he did not see how either he or I could say anything against Mr. Blau, in view of the fact that th© Commonwealth Government were going to take action against him on his bond. I pointed out that I did not wish to say anything against Mr. Blau, but that I desired to deal with the action of the Minister. Yet when the matter was before the House, the Attorney-General himself forgot all about the difficulties he had spoken of, and his speech in reply was one long abuse of this gentleman, whom he had befriended in such an extraordinary way during the previous six months ! The speech was no answer at all to the charge which I brought against the Government for allowing this man to leave the country against the advice of the Defence Department.
Then, when the honorable member for Dampier asked the other day why the Attorney-General had retained Mr. Blau’s son-in-law to conduct the prosecution in the case of a German who had left Australia without the permission of the Defence authorities, the AttorneyGeneral asked how on earth was he to know that this man Curtis - an Australianborn barrister, and probably an excellent man - -was a son-in-law of Mr. Julius Blau ?
- Mr. Blau could not help Curtis being a son-in-law.
– We are not blaming Blau or Curtis now. I want merely to direct attention to Mr. Blau’s statutory declaration before he left Australia.
– Where is it?
– I will read the declaration for the benefit of my honorable friend. The second paragraph of that declaration, which the Attorney-General himself gave to the House, and with which the Attorney-General must have been thoroughly conversant, reads as follows: -
The whole of the capital of my company is held by myself, my wife, my two sons, Oscar and Robert, and my son-in-law, William James Curtis, barrister of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I would point out that one of our Standing Orders is to the effect that an honorable member shall not read from Hansard of the present session, and that is what the honorable member for Wentworth is doing.
– If the honorable member for Wentworth is reading from Hansard of this session, he is not in order.
– I was merely quoting, for greater convenience, from the statutory declaration made by Mr. Blau, and which was read in its entirety by the AttorneyGeneral in this House. If I have been out of order, I regret it. The fact is that the Attorney-General must have known who this man Curtis was, although when he gave his reply to the honorable member for Dampier, he pretended to have no knowledge of the case. The AttorneyGeneral is not altogether to be admired for his memory on these points. I admit that the Attorney-General is an extremely busy man, but if he has too much work to do, his colleagues ought to share some of it with him, so that such a thing as this shall not happen again in the future.
I am sure honorable members on both sides of the House desire that this surreptitious trading in enemy goods shall be stopped, and I would suggest to the Government that it should be made illegal for goods bearing an enemy trade mark to be dealt with in Australia. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, we can stop importations at once. We can issue a proclamation making it illegal to import any goods covered by an enemy trade mark.
– But is not this trade mark registered in Australia?
– What I mean by an enemy trade mark is a trade mark owned by an enemy company or agent, such as, for instance, this article of perfumery, No. 4,711. That trade mark is the property of Ferdinand Muhlens, of Cologne, and any goods sold under that trade mark are obviously being sold - unless the Trade Marks Act is being set at defiance - for the benefit of Ferdinand Muhlens.
– He might have sold the trade mark to the American firm.
– No. The American factory deals with all the American affairs of Ferdinand Muhlens, as the correspondence in the possession of the AttorneyGeneral goes to show, and all the money sent by Blau to that firm has to be credited to Blau in Cologne. The same thing can be said about many other lines in the druggists’ trade. One of these is laxatine, I think. In this case the trade mark is identical on both bottles, butin the one case it is alleged to be made in England, and in the other in Hungary. The point I want to make is, if during the war we kill a trade mark, we can kill the trade absolutely, because, if we kill the trade description, there will not be sufficient inducement for these men to run all the risks necessary to keep this hostile trade alive. If, by using the same trade mark, and by still requiring people to ask for the same things, they can keep the trade alive until after the war, they will have achieved their purpose. Take the case of aspirin, which has been before the Courts recently. Aspirin is manufactured in England - under another name it is true; but the public had been educated to ask for aspirin, and the enemy want to make the public ask for it until the war is over.
– What is the name?
– Aspirin is, I think, manufactured in England by an English firm under the name of Emperin. There is no secret about aspirin ; it is simply a chemical which anybody can manufacture. If the Government were to prohibit the use of the name “ aspirin “ every one would begin to understand that emperin would produce similar results, and the Government would transfer enemy trade and “good will” at once into the hands of their own friends. It is the same with “ 4711.” There is no secret about its manufacture. It is simply a trade cologne. In Adelaide, cologne is being manufactured quite as good as “ 4711.” There is no magic in the trade mark”4711,” except the trade value of the reputation - a reputation built up, not necessarily by merit, but by business organization. As Germany has seen fit to make war on the world, why should we keep her trade reputations alive ? Why not wipe out the use of these articles ?
I remind the Minister of Trade and Customs that the Prime Minister expressed a cordial sympathy with this idea of mine when it was first mentioned in the House about a week ago. He has since expressed the same sympathy with the idea.
– That is about the enemy trade mark?
– It is about prohibiting enemy trade marks. I would go further and prohibit trade descriptions also. The right honorable gentleman has expressed general approval of my idea, and I would like my honorable friend who is in charge of the Trade and Customs Department to act.
– The question of trade marks is dealt with in the Department of the Attorney-General.
– The prohibition of imports rests with the Department of Trade and Customs.
– I do not think that the Chairman will allow you to deal with that question until the vote for my Department is reached.
– I hope that the honorable member will not try to shirk the responsibility of acting. As the AttorneyGeneral himself is not here, most advisedly, I ask his colleague to make this business his own, and see that a move is got on to prohibit enemy trade marks from entering Australia during the course of the war.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is now discussing a subject which is outside the question before the Committee.
– If that course is taken it will undoubtedly wipe out this surreptitious enemy trading, otherwise it will continue.
– !No fear. It will not have a chance if we put on protective duties.
– It is my honorable friend’s own Minister who has given Mr. Blau this chance. It is his own Government who have been in charge of the Department for the last year. This thing has been going on freely and widely. I believe that the American Government could offer no objection to a straight-out declaration of our views on those lines. They might feel some difficulty if we were to act as private detectives too keenly in America with regard to American manufactures. But if we were to make a straight-out proclamation that for the future we will allow no goods covered by an enemy trade mark to enter Australia, and to notify those trade marks in neutral countries, Ave would have no difficulty from this time out to the end of the war.
– Let us do it by a Tariff.
– It cannot be done by a Tariff. Is my honorable friend willing to admit German goods here as long as the duty is paid 1 If not, what is the use of making an interjection of that sort? It is a. matter for prohibition, not for a tariff.
– We will put on a prohibitive tariff, so that the goods cannot be brought in.
– Wo are talking now of dealing with enemies. These goods are all coming - if not directly from an enemy country - for the benefit of an enemy manufacturing or trading concern. From whatever neutral country the enemy are operating, it will kill the trade if we prohibit the importation of goods covered by an enemy trade mark. I make an earnest appeal to the Minister of Trade and Customs to bring this matter up in Cabinet at the earliest possible date, and if possible to let the House know before it rises what are the intentions of the Government.
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER (Wakefield)
S4.46]. - Under the item of contingencies wish to deal with the question of the charges for the transport of the forthcoming wheat harvest. Unsatisfactory as this business has been from the very beginning, the crowning point was reached in the determination of the Government, re-asserted to-day by the AttorneyGeneral, to appropriate 3-Jths of the usual charterage commission of 5 per cent, for the purposes of the public revenue. I believe that that amount is to be shared - in what proportions I do not know - between the Federal Government and the Governments of the four wheat-growing States. In my opinion, the initial mistake was that the Attorney-General, on behalf of the Government, deliberately failed, if he did not refuse, to consult the wheat-growing interests on a matter so peculiarly affecting themselves as this does, and in regard to which there existed as complete and perfect machinery for chartering as could be found outside in shipping circles that do not touch the wheat interests as regard buying and shipping. When this matter cropped up at first, I could get no satisfaction, in answer to questions, from the Attorney-General, and I urged the Prime Minister to consider whether it was not a proper matter to be referred to the War Committee. .If it had been submitted to that body it would have been considered by gentlemen who were conversant with the wheat business, and probably a good deal of trouble would have been avoided. I feel confident that a more satisfactory arrangement would have been made, because a less satisfactory one is not conceivable. The reply of the Prime Minister to me was that it would probably be a proper matter to refer to the War Committee if there was no urgency, and on that account it had to be dealt with without seeking the advice of a body which was specially created for such purposes as the one under review. Although the matter has been declared so urgent, pretty well a month has elapsed since the beginning of the negotiations, and things have only just been completed and the agreement laid on the table. I urged the Attorney-General at the beginning to take counsel with the wheatshipping interests, mentioning that the president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce in Melbourne could bring delegates here from the Chambers in the wheat-growing States within forty-eight, if not within twenty-four, hours, and that the Chamber of Commerce of each State would, no doubt, send representatives from its wheat section. But it was not until the Attorney-General and the State Ministers for Agriculture had been in conference for two days or more, and had completed the arrangements, that those connected with the corn trade were consulted, although representatives of the trade had been available in Melbourne for a considerable period. When called in they could not put their case effectively before the Minister, because he informed them that arrangements had been already determined upon. The need in this abnormal time for a central and exclusive authority to handle the wheat chartering is recognised by the trade, and I am not objecting to that. But the agreement is not at all satisfactory. Not only did the Attorney-General fail to consult the trade, but he showed no readiness to consult members representing wheat-growing districts, who would have been only too glad to advise him as to the best methods to adopt in the interests of the country as well as of the wheat-growers, whose interests should be paramount. The wheatgrowers have been selected as victims to be fleeced by the Government by the imposition of a tax which will amount to not less than Id. per bushel on the whole of the wheat grown in Australia this year.
– Under standing order 274 a member may not anticipate the discussion of business set down on the noticepaper, and I submit that the honorable member is anticipating the discussion of Order of the Day No. 5.
– That being so, the honorable member is not in order in proceeding.
– The Order of the Day is one for the consideration in Committee of a message from the GovernorGeneral. No measure has been introduced.
– Anything comprised in an Order of the Day is business set down for the consideration of the House.
– Shall I be in order in dealing merely with the money that is to be taken from the farmers to be paid into the public Treasury?
– Not at the present time.
– On a point of order. There are many phases of the wheat question, and some of them are not covered by the Order of the Day.
– Can the honorable member raise a point of order now, a ruling having been given?
– I do not yet know what the honorable member’s point is.
– My point is that there are phases of the wheat charter question which are not covered by the Order of the Day. Is it not competent for honorable members to discuss them now?
– The Order of the Day clearly and distinctly deals with the agreement which the honorable member for Wakefield was discussing, and nothing else affecting the wheat trade comes under the administration of the AttorneyGeneral.
– The Order of the Day deals with the agreement between the AttorneyGeneral and Messrs. Elder, Smith and Company and Gibbs, Bright and Company, but there is a contractual relationship between the Commonwealth and the States which is quite outside that agreement. Is it not competent for honorable members to discuss that and similar matters now?
– Not on the vote for the Attorney-General’s Department.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of External Affairs £170,018.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (Lang$ [5.0].- The sum of £1,000 is set down as a grant for the expenses of the administration of Norfolk Island, but I do not know what items it covers. I wish to point out very briefly the need for tha establishment of a wireless station at Norfolk Island. Vessels are to be employed in the New Hebrides trade which, I understand, will be fitted with wireless; and it will be an advantage if they can communicate with Norfolk Island, which is a cable station, but has not a wireless installation. A wireless installation would be of advantage, also, in times of war, in enabling information to be given concerning enemy vessels and other matters, and might sometimes assist in the finding of steamers which had broken down. Norfolk Island is out of the track of many vessels; but it occasionally happens that a steamer, many of which have only one propeller, breaks down and is unable to make port under «ail. Such a vessel, if equipped with wireless and within call of Norfolk Island, could make known her plight and position, and information of her whereabouts could be sent from Norfolk Island by wireless or by cable to the mainland. I understand that the cost of a wireless installation would be very small, because there is already a power plant connected with the cable station. I ask the Minister of External Affairs, in framing future Estimates - if provision has not already been made for this work - to seriously consider the advisability of establishing a wireless installation on Norfolk Island. I also call his attention to the need of supplying the Administrator, Customs officer, and visiting medical officer, with some means of transit between the shipping and th© shore, instead of compelling them to depend, as at present, on boats belonging to private persons. Two small companies own all the boats on the island, and Government officials having business with ships lying off the island are entirely dependent on them for transport to and fro. It was related to me that on one occasion some one threatened to leave the Customs officer on board a vessel which he was visiting, because of action he took in the discharge of his duties. A Government official should not be dependent on the good-will of private persons for necessary transport. What is needed is a steam launch, or an oil launch, and one or two other boats. A launch could be used, not merely to convey Government officials to and from the shipping, but also to assist the local whaleboats, which occasionally get into difficulties in negotiating the heavy surf through which they have to go to land on the beach. Fortunately, there have not been any accidents very lately; but a powerful launch could render great assistance in a case of difficulty, and should accidents happen at sea could assist in the rescue of shipwrecked crews and do other useful work. There are no harbors in the island, and no wharfs. I hope that these matters will receive the attention of the Minister.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence, £13,449,380.
– I am sorry that the Minister for the Navy is not present, because there are one or two matters of administration to which I should like to draw his attention. In any case, it is not of much use speaking to the Minister for the Navy, because it is difficult to get matters brought under the notice of the Department, in consequence of the Minister of Defence not having a seat in this Chamber. However, there are, as I say, one or two mat ters in regard to which I must voice my dissent. Quite a number of Ballarat recruits, who are at present at Broadmeadows, Seymour, Flemington, and Ascot Vale, are desirous of going to a camp at Ballarat, where they will, of course, be near to their homes ; but the Commandant informs rae that the medical authorities will not permit the transfer owing to a fear of spreading the disease of meningitis. This is a peculiar attitude to adopt, in view of the fact that every night we may see hundreds of men from the camps in Melbourne, and only on Friday last 30 or 40 of them went to their bornes at Ballarat. The men from the camps are allowed to mingle with the public in Melbourne and Ballarat, and yet there is this unwillingness to transfer- the recruits of whom I have spoken to a camp at Ballarat. I suggest that a second site should be selected at Ballarat, and the local men transferred there and isolated, perhaps, a week. This, I think, would do away with any danger of the disease spreading, seeing that, according to the authorities, the germs of meningitis do not live for more than a few hours. While the recruits are in Australia we ought to give them every POSBible comfort, and there are many advantages they could enjoy if the Ballarat men, and others from Bendigo and Geelong, were sent into local camps. Heaven knows they will presently have discomfort enough in Egypt, Gallipoli, or wherever they have to do the fighting ! From what I have seen, I do not think that the Minister of Defence is very anxious that honorable members should visit the Ascot Vale or other camps; but, in my opinion, every opportunity should be afforded us to inspect all of them. It is very annoying to see a Defence Department motor car containing women rushing past when one is walking to the camp. It is not that we particularly wish a ride in a motor oar, but now that the war is on we are engaged from 15 to 18 hours a day attending to the interests of our constituents, and we cannot afford the time to go by rail. The Victorian State Government provide cars to carry members to the various Departments, and I trust that the Minister for the Navy will make similar provision to enable members of this Parliament to visit the various military camps. There is no doubt that when we do get to the camps we desire thoroughly to look into matters ; but I was told by a corporal the other day, when I was at Ascot Vale, that I had no right there. I contend that it is my duty, as a Federal member, to go everywhere in a camp, and that any order to the contrary should be cancelled immediately.
– It is generally recognised that a member’s pass permits him to go anywhere.
– That ought to be so, and I think that the Minister will admit that the suggestion I have made is a reasonable one.
– I understood that it was the policy of the Department to put recruits into local camps.
– I do not know what the Government policy is - it is most remarkable in. regard to some matters. There are numbers of men from Bendigo and elsewhere at Ballarat, but scarcely a local man amongst them. It is curious that the other day, when ‘ I was in the camp, I saw a lot of new coppers branded “ Made in Germany.” Of course these coppers may have been commandeered by the Defence Department; but, in any case, such a brand does not look well in an Australian camp, and if any official has purchased these goods, I should say that he could be charged with trading with the enemy. As to the cooking arrangements at Ascot Vale and Ballarat, they are just about equal to those of the blackfellows hundreds of years ago. A trench is dug, and there are a few old pots which are not dirt proof, and how the fires are kept alight in such weather as we have had recently I cannot comprehend.
– The men are being “ broken in “ for the front!
– At the front there are travelling kitchens, and, surely to goodness, after twelve months’ experience, cookers could be provided for the camps? At the least, the men, while in Australia, ought to be supplied with decent food. The pots that the food is boiled in are not air-tight, and, in one case, two cigarette butts were picked out of the food.
– Cigarette butts have been found in the bread before to-day.
– There can be no excuse for the absence of cookers.
– What are the Defence Committee doing?
– I do not know that the Defence Committee have anything to do with this : but we ought to have better methods after twelve months’ experience. There is another and a more serious matter to which I desire to call attention. Every morning four men are taken from each camp for fatigue duty, and they are supposed to peel potatoes and onions, carry meat and bread, and otherwise assist the cooks. They take the waterproof sheets they have slept in, throw them over their shoulders, and on them carry the meat. An inspection of the -men took place two weeks ago, and, though I cannot speak as to the result, we can imagine what was probably discovered. This is a” dirty method of carrying food about, and hundreds of innocent lads may be ruined by it. Surely the Department could provide vehicles of some kind in order to insure the clean transport of the food ? The other morning, in G Company, at Ascot Vale, the men could not eat the stew that was provided for breakfast, but they were told by the commanding officer that dry bread would not hurt them, and that it was good for heartburn. I feel sure that he did not have such a breakfast. The men have stew for breakfast, stew for dinner, and bread and jam at tea time. Most of us here had a three or four-course meal at 1 o’clock to-day, and, though we have been merely sitting here since, most of us will doubtless have another similar meal this evening.
– Ask the Minister for the Navy what he thinks of all this!
– I am speaking to the Minister for the Navy, who looks as though he were “ taking it all in.” The men get a meal at 12.30 o’clock, but the method of serving it is certainly not the best, the meat being set down without being cut up, and it is left to the soldiers to each cut off what he wants. The most goes to the strongest, and it is a brutalizing and demoralizing method. After dinner the men do about three hours’ drill, and then have their tea of bread and jam, and it is not to be wondered at that, with such feeding, there is a lot of sickness. After three hours’ drill a more substantial meal is certainly necessary; but if you go to the Department, and complain, there is produced a list showing that 4 ounces of jam and so many pounds of meat per day is served out,- and are told that this represents bigger rations than those of any army in the world. That is not the question; the question is whether what is given is enough. It is no use giving the men all this food at one meal, because that can only mean waste. The recruits are physically the fittest in Australia, and no man working on a farm, or any other ordinary occupation, would be satisfied with bread and jam at 5 o’clock, with nothing to follow until breakfast the next day. I hope that all this will be altered, and that good wholesome meals will be provided. The officers are not given bread and jam at 5 o’clock, but have their own mess, and, of course, good food. It is true that they pay for the luxuries they get, but there is a vast difference between their meal, with the accompaniment of a military band to give them an appetite, and the meal given to the men. The strains of the band can be heard by the privates, and the smell of the officers’ food can also reach them ; but these do not fill empty stomachs. I have already brought before the Defence Department the question of the appointment of Militia officers to all the good positions in connexion with the training camps. I refer to men who will not volunteer for active service, and whom the Department is encouraging in that attitude by making sure that they receive all the good positions that are offering at exorbitant salaries. I have a list of these salaries, which I have taken from the Argus of Friday last. A colonel is paid £2 5s. a day, with a field allowance of 7s. 6d. a day; a lieutenant-colonel is paid £1 17s. 6d. a day, with a field allowance of 7s. 6d. a day; a major is paid £.1 10s. aday, with a field allowance of 5s. a day; a captain is paid £1 2s. 6d. a day, with a field allowance of 3s. 6d. a day; and a subaltern is paid 15s. a day wi th a field allowance of 3s. 6d. a day. We cannot buy cookers for men in the camp, yet we can pay Militia officers, who are too cowardly to go to the front, the same salaries as are paid to the men who are fighting for us. We are throwing money away.We are paying boys £7 a week as lieutenants, yet the sergeant-majors, the foundation of our defence system, the men who have done all the good work, are given no chance of promotion. If a sergeantmajor wishes to go to the war he can do so only as a sergeant-major, and he must go under the command of the boy that he has trained to be a lieutenant. I am tired of drawing attention to this injustice, and of asking the Minister of Defence to alter the rates of pay. But, first of all, I would not employ those Militia officers who will not volunteer for the front, though for years the country has been preparing these men for just such a crisis as is now occurring. We naturally expected that these men would be the best fitted to lead our boys on the battle-field, but to-day, when we need six majors to go with our troops, though there are many who are qualified to go, they will not volunteer, and the Department encourages them by giving them all the positions in the camps in Australia at the same salaries as they would receive if they went to the front.
– Their names should be published.
– The names of these men who go strutting about in uniforms, making out that they are the saviours of the country, should be published broadcast. If the country had to depend on them for its safety it would be in an extremely bad way.
– Of course, there are many men who would like to go, but as their services are required here they are not allowed to go.
– I am not referring to those men; I am dealing with those who will not volunteer.
– Many Militia officers have volunteered, but have been turned down by the medical examiners.
– I know one man who was in a good job and who volunteered. He had a paragraph put in a newspaper to the effect that he was rejected because of an old strain. A thousand to one he told the doctor all about it, and never intended to go. In fact, it was a strain on him to go so far as to get examined. However, he was well rewarded, for he was appointed to a position at £540 a year. Class distinction is just as rife in the Australian Army as in the British Army. Every sergeant-major who got away at the outbreak of the war was made a captain in the Imperial Army, and reports have come to hand that the British authorities cannot understand why the Australian authorities have not made use of the services of their sergeant-majors at the front and given them commissions. The trouble is that there seems to be a little circle about the Minister of Defence which is determined that the sergeantmajors shall not be dealt with justly.
– Is it not the duty of the Minister of Defence to break up that circle ?
– Certainly; and I am trying to help him to get rid of the crowd that advise him in these matters. We want our Australian boys to go to the front led by the ablest officers we have, and they are the sergeant-majors. At Flemington one sergant-major has charge of 6,000 men. He does all the drilling. The Commanding Officer goes round once a week, and has a look at things. One man receives the salary and all the honour; the other man does all the work. We are crying out for the best men to lead our Forces, yet we will not give these sergeant-majors, who are willing and anxious to go to the front, commissions enabling them to do so. I do not blame them for not desiring to go as sergeant-majors. Why should they leave here under the control of a man such as one I know, whose first order on getting his commission was, ‘ ‘ I. 11 in men, two thick!” Such was his idea of his work. Sergeant-majors are supposed to volunteer and go to fight under such men. Language is not strong enough to condemn the Department for its treatment of these- non-commissioned officers.
– The charges of the honorable member are worse than those that were made by the honorable member for Nepean.
– The honorable member for Nepean did splendid work. The pity is that honorable members have to do this -work. Unless something is done in regard to these abuses, my party will fall in over this Defence question, because the country is seething with discontent about it.
– It is your party.
– Yes, and my party will right it. I am doing my best to assist it in doing so. The other day Senator Lt.-Colon-el O’Loghlin was sent away in charge of a troop-ship; but I say that there is no need to appoint these men in charge of troop-ships, because the men who are to lead our boys on the battle-field should be well qualified to take charge of them on troop-ships.
– Quite a number of colonels have gone in charge of troopships.
– It is a splendid seatrip for them. The quarter from which I am being applauded makes me suspicious, but I know that I am speaking the’ truth. Men who are going to lead our boys on the battle-field should have charge of them on the troop-ships. The Selection Committee in Victoria should be chosen from the General Staff, from among the men who are our recognised experts, and who are responsible for the training of the troops. We do not look to find expert military men among the Militia officers. We get them from the General Staff. I am not surprised that we are not having the best officers recommended for appointment; and I suggest that the Minister should dispense with the services of the Militia officers on the Selection Committee, and appoint three men from the General Staff. We are sending boys to the Dardanelles without rifle practice. That was one of the charges made by the honorable member for Nepean, and I think that it was proved. I know of a lad who, while he was in training here, fired out of a rifle once, and within five weeks of leaving Australia word was received that he was killed at Gallipoli. I have spoken to a lad who has been a month or six weeks in a training camp, and asked, “ Have you seen a rifle?” and he replied, “No; I do not know what a rifle is; I have never been near one.” When we want these lads to do work for the Empire we should certainly see that they are trained in the use of the rifle, otherwise it is of not much use sending them away.
– What is the War Committee doing in this regard ?
– We all know that the Minister’s position is no sinecure at the present time, and that it is an absolutely impossible task for him to supervise everything. The War Committee should be’ given some power, otherwise it will be a useless body. It should be their business, and not that of the Minister, to go to the camps and see what is going on, and they should have the power to rectify the evil’s that are apparent. It is not the wis>h of the Government or of the people of Australia that our boys should be treated badly in the training camp or on the battle-field. We are not responsible for many things that occur at Gallipoli, but we can rectify every wrong that is existing in the camps in Australia. In fact, they ought to have been rectified long ago. Evidently the Minister has too much to do.
– What is he doing?
– One has only to look at him to see that he has the appearance of some of the returned wounded soldiers.
– He must be giving his attention to a lot of insignificant details.
– Insignificant details ought to be given over to the War Committee or to the Munitions Committee.
– Every honorable member complains that the Minister should attend to details, and when he does so complains again that he should not do so.
– If the conditions at Ascot Vale are as the honorable member has described, some of the officers who are responsible should be dealt with immediately.
– I can vouch for the fact that the waterproof sheets that the men sleep on are used by the four fatigue men for carrying meat and bread. I can vouch for the fact that the cooking methods are obsolete and dirty. Cookers should be installed. Wiles’s cooker, though it is made in Ballarat, is, I consider, the best that has been invented; yet one cannot break down the prejudices of the officials. I vouch for the fact that the evening meal consists of bread and jam only. Those who order bread and jam for the recruits take very good care that they have the best of everything for themselves. When I asked the men what they had for supper they nearly dropped.
– Order ! The honorable member has reached his time limit.
– I do not wish to detain the Committee very much, but there are one or two matters that I desire to discuss as briefly as possible, things that I consider need ventilating, and I follow up the suggestion made by the honorable member for Ballarat. At some camps - at I believe nearly all of them - breakfast is fixed at 8 o’clock. The men get some kind of meat for this meal ; they have a substantial meal in the middle of the day, and at 4.30 in the afternoon they get bread and butter and jam.
– They get no butter.
– Then it is bread and jam. They get nothing from half-past 4 in the afternoon until S o’clock next morning - and it must be borne in mind that the 4.30 o’clock meal consists of only bread and jam. The result of this dietary sometimes has been that men on early duty - before they get breakfast - have been known to fall to the ground through sheer physical weakness. It ought to be remembered that, as a rule, in Australia, the substantial meal of the day is taken after work is over. That is, i think, a very sensible and proper way of dining, for a heavy meal taken in the middle of the day, or in the midst of active physical exercise, is not good for any one. I do not see, therefore, why this mid-day meal should not be transferred to the evening, and made a little later; or, if that cannot be done, some supper should be provided for the men before they turn in. To ask any man who is undergoing the hard physical strain of military training to go without anything to eat from 4.30 in the afternoon until S o’clock the following morning is absolutely preposterous. In the Imperial Army the practice is as has been adopted here ; but it has to be remembered that men attached to the Imperial Army can make arrangements amongst themselves for an extra meal before they turn in, and that, as a rule, in most of the military quarters in Great Britain, these extras can be obtained at very little trouble and expense. Arrangements of this sort cannot be made in our camps, and in consideration of the well-known fact that the great bulk of our men are recruited from homes where the food is substantial and abundant, we ought, at any rate, to let them down gradually. Goodness knows that when they go to the front things will be rough enough. They will face the hard conditions like men, as they have always hitherto done; but whilst they are in training in Australia an effort ought to be made to give our soldiers fairly substantial meals at reasonable hours.
A few evenings ago I saw a newspaper report to the effect that a certain Colonel Pethebridge had been received with great eclat at Rabaul. I believe that Colonel Pethebridge is none other than the gentleman who is Secretary of the Defence Department, and who, until recently, was known as Commander
Pethebridge. How has this gentleman been able to change his rank from naval to military in this way? What is the meaning of it? Surely we attach more importance to these positions than this change would indicate! Why is it, also, that this gentleman, who ought to be here at the Central Administration of the Defence Department, is away in New Guinea on this fantastic expedition? Au acting administrator was in charge there during the absence of Colonel Pethebridge, and managed perfectly well. Why was he not left in charge, and why was not Colonel Pethebridge brought back to the work that is waiting for him at the Defence Department here? Instead of this, .he has gone off on this holiday, and gets1 out of all the racket here. I contend that Colonel Pethebridge^ place is in Melbourne, at the centre of the Defence Administration, and that he has no business to be either in New Guinea or anywhere else than Melbourne at the present time.
– He is the administrator for the Defence Department in New Guinea.
– I do not care who he is the administrator for. Men can be obtained in New Guinea to do the work necessary there; but a man of Colonel Pethebridge’s, or Commander Pethebridge’s, experience in regard to the administration of matters with which the Defence Department is concerned ought to be here at this juncture. I think it is about time that the Minister of Defence and his colleagues seriously considered whether Colonel Pethebridge, or Commander Pethebridge, or whatever he is, could not be better utilized at headquarters, in his own position, than in New Guinea. I want, also, to emphasize what the honorable member for Ballarat has said with regard to the employment of militia officers in camps. I know one camp - Seymour - where there is a considerable number of what are known as “ school sergeants “ - that is to say, sergeants who have gone through the school of training for military officers, who have passed with credit, and who are only waiting for their commissions. They will obtain these commisisons when they go to the front, but, for the time being, they have to stand aside, while militia officers are brought in to take charge of the men in camp. I may say, too, that my information on this point agrees exactly with what the honorable member for Ballarat has said - that some of these militia officers are not fit for the work, and that they should not be holding important positions. Common sense will suggest that the “school sergeants,” who are to have the handling of men when at the front, should also handle them in camp. The sooner they get down to their real duties the better, but it appears to be necessary to find lucrative billets for some of these militia officers, and, in consequence, the men who ought to be in charge remain in lower positions while the militia officers make some pretence of doing the work. This matter is one which I think might very well receive the serious consideration of the Minister of Defence and his colleagues.
May I elaborate somewhat on the interjection I made a little while ago? There can be no doubt at all that the Minister of Defence is passing through a period of considerable difficulty, and I keenly sympathize with him on that account; but it appears to me that that honorable gentleman to some extent has lost himself in the Department. There are many matters regarding which he ought to be in evidence, yet we cannot find him . I have no doubt he spends long and laborious days dealing with matters of administration that might very well have been intrusted to some of his permanent officials - for instance, such duties as those that ought to be carried out by the permanent head of the Department, who just now happens to be in New Guinea. I know that the Acting Secretary, Mr. Trumble, is a very fine fellow personally, and a very capable officer, but he has not had the training that Colonel Pethebridge has had, and, being only temporarily in charge, he lacks that sense of responsibility that can only come to a man who holds the position permanently. If Colonel Pethebridge, or Commander Pethebridge, is the officer that he ought to be, as the permanent head of the Department of Defence he would be at head-quarters taking a considerable share of the burden off the shoulders of the Minister. But as regards some of the larger matters that have been recently brought to light, it is impossible to acquit the Minister of Defence altogether. It is quite true that subordinates may have been responsible for many of the shortcomings that have occurred, but if” we are to have representative government, we must hold the’ Minister responsible for the acts of his subordinates, and if the Minister has not the capacity for organizing his Department that he ought to have, then the consequences must be upon his own bead. 1 very much regret that at the present juncture we should find the Defence Department in such a state of confusion. It appears to me that right through the Department, from top to bottom, a certain class of individual whose one idea has been to swagger about in a flash uniform, has got there in times of peace, and now, when we are face to face with the actual conditions of war, we have not a man at the head who can hunt these wasters out, and get the right men put in their places. We want a Lord Kitchener hero. That was one of the first duties Lord Kitchener put upon himself.
– The honorable member must not forget that Lord Kitchener has been subjected to severe criticism in England.
– There is no doubt that Lord Kitchener has been subjected to criticism, but so far as I know that criticism has been only in regard to munitions. Any one who knows anything at all about the work that Lord Kitchener has done, can only have an overwhelming feeling of admiration for that very remarkable man; but when we come to the head of our own Defence Department - is there any honorable member who can tell me, definitely, what the present Minister of Defence has done? I do not think there is a single act of his that stands out - that we can identify with the present Minister. Wherever we look we find nothing but mistakes and shortcomings, and we cannot find that the Minister of Defence put out his hand to remedy any of these defects until he was compelled. Take the Small Arms Factory, for instance! Take the Liverpool Camp! Take the conditions at all the other camps! There has had to be a hullabaloo about them all before anything was done. It is nothing short of a misfortune to Australia that we have not a man with more grit and driving power than appears to be the possession of the man at the head of the Defence Department at the present time. I think even honorable members opposite are seised of this. While I recognise the hugeness of the task confronting the Minister of Defence, I cannot blind myself to his imperfections, and I want to point out that in all probability the country, and certainly the Parliament, according to all methods of parliamentary procedure, must hold the Minister of Defence - and his colleague, too, I am sorry to say - responsible for the things that have been the cause of so much grumbling and complaint. With regard to the Defence Committee, I have all along held that it ought to have been given executive power.
– Executive power!
– Yes. The Minister of Defence and his colleagues ought to have agreed to hand over certain executive and administrative powers to that Committee. Otherwise its appointment is little more than a matter of form, and the Committee can do very little good.
– The Committee as it exists at present is useless.
– We know that it is. If it is to do any work it must be given more power. The Minister of Defence and the Minister for the Navy might very well consider the matter, and agree to hand over some portion of their admittedly heavy burden to these honorable members, who have expressed themselves willing, and who, I know, are able to carry a considerable share of it.
.- I agree with some of the observations that have been made by the honorable member for Ballarat, and the honorable member for Perth, more particularly with regard to the appointment of experienced officers to take charge of the training of men in our camps. I dare say that most honorable members have received letters similar to those sent to me on this subject. In one of these I am informed that a sergeant-major with many years* experience, and through whose hands thousands of men have passed, is in camp under the control of his own son, who has had but a year or two of experience. The son has acquitted himself well during his short military career. His advance ha3 been more rapid than that of his dad, and he finds himself to-day in a position of command. The sergeant-major, who, I was going to say, has forgotten almost more than his son ever knew, has to do his bidding. Despite his training he can obtain no advancement. Such men should be entitled to more consideration.
– I suppose that he could pass the practical, but not the theoretical test.
– Quite likely, and in these matters we need practical men.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the theory tests should be abolished?
– No; they are all very well so far as they go, but they should be scattered to the winds for the time being, and practical men who are fit to occupy these positions should be appointed to them.
I am glad that the Minister for the Navy showed his readiness to take immediate action when complaints were made regarding the fitting out of transports. I am pleased that he handed over the matter to that very able public officer the Auditor-General, and I hope that wherever the’ Minister of Defence and the Minister for the Navy have the slightest suspicion that business arrangements in connexion with the war are not going on correctly, the Auditor-General and his staff will be allowed a roving commission, so that military and naval men, who know little about business methods, may be pulled up.
– The Auditor-General has thrown out valuable hints of which these officers have taken no notice.
– I gather that the Defence Ministers have practically authorized the Auditor-General to keep an eye on the naval and military expenditure. The Auditor-General can deal with any injudicious expenditure of public funds. He can pull up even the Prime Minister, and I am glad that he has taken a hand in this matter. Already great savings have been effected, I believe, through the action of the Defence Ministers in entering into fresh agreements. I have not received this information from a Minister, but I understand that during the last ten months officers of the Auditor-General’s Department have been inquiring into various matters of Defence expenditure. They are endeavouring, as far as possible, to bring naval and military men down to business lines, and to instruct them to conduct their business in such a way as will be more conducive to economy and efficiency.
– There is plenty of room for improvement.
– Is that not the position everywhere? We are told that even in well-organized Germany, with its complete system of espionage and Governmental control, the Government of that country have been got at to the extent of about £5,000,000 by contractors and others. It is upon such men that we need to keep a watchful eye. We have in Australia men who deserve to be treated as the Generalissimo of the Russian Army said he would deal with those who rob the Government. “ The man who steals,” he said, “should be shot or hanged.” Where a man wilfully takes out of the public purse more than that to which he is entitled, he should be treated in this way. The Hansard report of the House of Commons debates shows that complaints in this respect are even more bitter than are some of the comments made in this Parliament. Wherever war is, there seem to be a number of harpies who call themselves patriots, but are prepared to rob their country in the time of its greatest need.
– The Government in Great Britain have thirty times as much to do as we have.
– And thirty times as many men to deal with it. The position there has been improved since the formation of a National Government. Men who occupied high Ministerial office in Great Britain have been brushed aside, because of the belief that they were not fully capable of carrying out their duties, and others have been put in their places.
I am in favour of treating our troops as well as it is possible to treat them, more particularly in regard to food supplies; but even under the most advanced systems, mistakes are likely to occur where large bodies of men are congregated. We seem to have some few men who are unable to look after themselves. While in Sydney recently, I sat at breakfast with a man who informed me that he was preparing to go to the front, and that he had been in the Liverpool Camp for three months. When I remarked, “ We have heard a lot about the camp ‘lately,” he replied, “ Yes; but speaking for myself and a number of others, I can say there is no cause for complaint. If other men would do what a few of us have done for ourselves there would bono trouble.” He proceeded to show that he and others occupying the same tent had brought to bear a little practical experience in so fitting it up as to make it very comfortable. Some of the men look for too much.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that there was nothing wrong at the Liverpool Camp?
– No. As soon as the honorable member for Nepean made his request for an inquiry into the camp,’ I anticipated what the disclosures were likely to be. A Commissioner in New Zealand has just reported a number of deficiencies in connexion with the Trentham and other camps in the Dominion, which are almost identical with those found in respect of our camps. The professional soldier ought not to make mistakes; but I think we should regard a little more considerately than we do those who are really only amateurs in matters of defence. The organization of a body of from 120,000 to 125,000 men in a country of magnificent distances like Australia must be attended with great difficulties, and it would be strange if many mistakes were not made. A thousand and one duties devolve upon the Minister of Defence; and I am grievously disappointed that members of the War Committee should say that, for all they can do, the Committee might just as well be disbanded. I had hoped that, with the assistance of this Committee many of the Defence Department’s difficulties would disappear. If the Committee have not the power they require, they should certainly have the power of suggestion with respect to camp improvements and the provision of munitions.
– If they see anything wrong in camp, they should be able to say at once “ That must be altered.”
– If they mentioned it in the House, it would soon be altered.
– Why should they not have authority to order right away any necessary improvements.
– They should be able to make recommendations to the Minister. If members of the Committee visit, say, the Flemington Camp, and find that reforms need to be effected, are they to remain silent and to make no recommendation to the Minister?
– The Committee do just what the Minister asks them to do. They are merely allowed to make recommendations to the Minister, and these in tarra are submitted to the Cabinet.
– I would give the Committee power to initiate reforms.
– Surely the honorable member would not give them Executive power ?
- No; but just as it is competent; for an honorable member, on the noor of the House, to suggest improvements, so the Committee should be able to suggest improvements to the Minister.
– Some of the members of the Committee are getting round to that view, but at present we deal only with what we are asked to consider.
– We thought that improvements would be effected by the Committee, believing that with the information before them they would be in a better position to make prompt recommendations.
– They are not allowed to do a thing.
– I arn surprised that the Committee, including as it does many ex-Ministers and solid fighting men, should be prepared to sit down quietly and say, “ This Committee is not going to be effective.”
– We do not say that. We have so far clone very good work ; but we deal only with matters referred to us.
– If the honorable member for Balaclava saw that some reform was necessary at a camp, would he refrain from mentioning it to the War Committee ?
– We are not empowered to deal with such matters.
– The honorable member is placing too narrow an interpretation on the terms of the appointment.
– Why should not the Committee be given entire control of the administration of the camps, apart, of course, from their military side?
– Why not elect the Committee as the Government of the Commonwealth ?
– I am not prepared to go so far, but I certainly thought that the Committee had power to make suggestions and to initiate reforms. I am not criticising the members of the War Committee, but I am surprised at the admissions they have made, that they are practically hobbled and hand-tied.
– T do not think anybody has admitted that.
– Some of the members <o£ the Committee have said that they are like a truck for which there is no further <use, and which is shunted into a siding. If that is the position, I cannot see the value (of a Committee of that kind.
Both in Australia and in the Old Country it is easy to criticise the Defence administration. Huge mistakes have been made, blunders that in some cases in Great Britain have nearly cost us our nationality. But the mistakes are being rectified. Only two months have elapsed since the British Government awakened to its real duty in connexion with this war. We in Australia are mere babies so far as the conduct of war is concerned, yet, because a few mistakes have been made, all sorts of accusations are being hurled at the heads of Ministers.
– They have escaped lightly.
– I do not think so. Hours of the time of this Legislature have been devoted to listening to complaints and criticisms in regard to Defence matters which, if they had been privately conveyed to the Minister of Defence, would have been speedily attended to.
– Nothing has been brought forward in the House which has not been first submitted to the Minister of Defence.
– -That may have been so in some cases. There has been so much display about the ventilation of mistakes that I cannot help coming to the conclusion that these criticisms were being utilized for party purposes, as a demonstration against the referenda.
– No one could expect the honorable member to say any- thing else. Party feeling is coming to the surface now.
– I think it is about time it did ; and if I had my way we should have delivered blow for blow. There would have been counter-strokes to some of the attacks that have come from the members of the Opposition. Com.n I n 111 t s in regard to the Defence organization are not peculiar to the Australian Parliament. I asked a question of the Minister for the Navy to-day in regard to the Commission that investigated Defence matters in New Zealand. I had two objects in view - firstly, to obtain the findings of that Commission, and, secondly, to discover if any suggestions had been made which might be applicable in the camps throughout the Commonwealth.
In regard to the treatment of sick soldiers, everybody sympathizes with the men who have enlisted, and desires that they shall have proper housing accommodation, food, and training. We should do the best we possibly can for them. But there are two sides to the question. There is not only the sickness in the camps, but also the pessimism which some honorable members seem to voice. Surely there is left in us some optimism. In all countries which are engaged in this war delicate men have been passed into camp, and their successfully undergoing the medical examination has caused surprise. Yet they have passed through the camps of training, and some men who entered camp weighing not more than 8 stone, in Egypt have turned the scale, aswell trained men, at 10 stone and 11 stone. Remarkable physical development has followed the camp training in many cases, and we must bear in mind that beneficial result in contrast to the sickness of which we hear so much. There are many things that yet require attention, but the Ministers are doing their best. If the men under their control are not carrying out their duties, they should be dealt with at once, but I am confident that no men in Australia are more inclined to do their duty to our departing soldiers, in order to send them to the front physically fit, well trained, well armed and well equipped, than are the members of the present Ministry.
– Have you heard that some men have been returned from Egypt because they have not been able to stand the strain ?
– No doubt there are some such cases. I am prepared to criticise Ministers if I find they are in the wrong, and to make suggestions that will lead to improvement. I believe Ministers are prepared to receive such suggestions; but if I find them stubborn, mv criticism will become more severe. Members desire to see the conditions made better than they are, and, that being so, Ministers should pay attention to their criticisms. I am sure my remarks this afternoon have been listened to sympathetically by the Minister for the
Navy. I know that he has done good work, and recently he took a step which will mean a saving of thousands of pounds to the Commonwealth. Again, I would urge that business men should have charge of business affairs in the Defence Department, even if such an arrangement means the standing aside of some of the military officers. If the Minister will engage practical men to keep a watch on the expenditure, we shall carry out our war preparations in a much less expensive manner than in the past.
– With a great deal of the criticism which the honorable member for Maribyrnong has launched against the Administration I am in entire agreement; but after the speech he has delivered it is rather cool on his part to accuse the members of the Opposition of criticising Defence administration from a partisan stand-point. There has been no such intention on the part of any honorable member on this side of the House who has made representations or complaints about Defence matters. Apart from the recent findings of Mr. Justice Rich in regard to the conditions at the Liverpool Camp I would remind the honorable member that much of the criticism and some of the most damaging complaints that have been made have emanated from Government supporters. But in every instance the complaints from Opposition members have been first made to the responsible authorities. Therefore, the charge of the honorable member for Maribyrnong that the complaints from this side of the House had a party complexion is unfounded and unworthy. I desire to call attention to a matter which I made the subject of a question to the Minister of the Navy, and in regard to which T had expected a reply to-day. I told the Minister at the time that I had good and sufficient grounds for the question I was asking, and those grounds are contained in the following letter which I have received from a constituent: -
My son left Sydney on the Karoola, A 03. on the 1 0th June. He’ had been just over three weeks in camp since enlisting: lie was eighteen years of age, and had four years’ training in the Cadets, and was just accepted as a trooper in the Light Horse when he sailed on active service. The most of his comrades in his company (I think all) had never had any training at nil. Yet in Monday’s paper, by the casualty list, I see they have been in the trenches for some time, and officers and men are wounded: and it is only* eight weeks since they loft those shores, so they have evidently been taken straight to the front, most of them untrained. This is the point: I had the evidence of the military officers in the inquiry made by Mr. Justice Rich, who stated that no one was sent to the front without proper training.
The writer of that letter is Mr. William Maston, a reputable business man of Spring-street, Sydney. There we have a statement that those boys had never received any training, and yet they were reported wounded eight weeks after they had left Australia. When such a statement is made by a reputable and responsible citizen, there must be reasonable ground for it. I do not charge the Minister with any responsibility in the matter ; but I ask him to hold an investigation in order to see whether the statement is correct, and, if so, discover who is responsible. Such an inquiry is especially desirable, in view of the evidence given before Mr. Justice Rich that nobody had been sent to the front without receiving proper training. Any one who is responsible for sending raw lads straight into the trenches is guilty of a crime little short of murder.
– Are not the authorities in Egypt responsible for thos© men being sent to the front?
– Probably ; but who is responsible for sending them from Australia without adequate training? Statements have been made by the honorable member for Ballarat that some troops have been in camp for six weeks, and have never even seen a rifle. They are expecting to be sent away at any moment. They cannot obtain rifle training whilst they are on board ship. I have conversed with many of the men who have had experience of transports, and they assure me that the only training they received on board was in the nature of ordinary physical exercises, such as they would get in a gymnasium. I mention this matter in the hope that some inquiry will be made into the allegations embodied in the letter, with a view to insuring that steps shall be taken to prevent raw recruits being sent into the trenches. I hold in my hand another letter from a retired clergyman who is now in receipt of an old-age pension, and which voices a complaint that is very common at the present time. It reads -
I have already a son at Gallipoli. He en listed last February, and left here in May. He was paid from the day he enlisted, I remark, and leaves a wife and child in receipt of the bulk of his pay. Another son, aged twentytwo, had been earning £3 a week for a length of time; he lived with us, and was our mainstay. On 10th August, this lad (George Donati) enlisted, and was “ given leave “ without pay till 25th August, yesterday, when he went into camp. Now, will you kindly use your influence to have this iniquitious robbery ended and rectified. To us it means a dead loss of £0, and has already involved me in grave difficulties and unexpected liabilities, so much so that I shall get very little from my pension for some time to come.
These are matters which require immediate attention. When we are calling for volunteers for service abroad, I cannot understand why recruits should not be paid from the date of their enlistment. Many of these men have voluntarily given up their employment prior to enlistment. They cannot get that work back again. They enlist under the impression that they will receive their soldier’s pay from the date of their acceptance. Complaints of this kind have been common for some time. Yet the only reply vouchsafed by the Minister for the Navy is that the matter is under consideration. It cannot be under consideration for ever. Finality should be arrived at without further delay. I suppose that the experience of many other honorable members is somewhat similar to my own. When I am at home a great deal of my time is occupied in answering the calls of persons who have enlisted for service abroad, but who say that they cannot get any money from the Defence Department. They have been ordered to submit to vaccination, and by so doing have rendered themselves unfit to undertake physical labour. They have also been told to report themselves usually on a date about a fortnight ahead. During the interim some of them have no means of sustenance, and are actually driven to begging from door to door. The members of my own family have to answer frequent calls from men who say they have enlisted, and who ask to be provided with a meal. That is not creditable to the Government. Because these men have had the patriotism and courage to offer their services to the country in time of national peril they ought surely not to be penalized in this way.
– Has the honorable member the names of any of the persons who have begged for meals?
– Yes, but I do not wish to mention them here.
– Does not the honorable member think that it is advisable to mention them?
– What good will that do? The Minister has merely to say that men on enlistment shall be paid from the date of their enlistment, and the trouble will be ended. There is no need to publicly proclaim their names.
– I take it that the honorable member is quite prepared to privately supply the names to the Minister !
– Undoubtedly, if circumstances warrant it; but I do not see that even that would accomplish any good.
– There is no need to give the names. What the honorable member complains of is a general practice.
– The Minister has only to declare what is the policy of the Defence Department in reference to this matter. Are recruits to be paid from the date of their enlistment or are they not? I hope that the matter will be looked into, and that a speedy determination will be- arrived at. I think that the honorable member for Hunter made complaints of a similar character. But he was not asked to supply the names of the men concerned. He was not called upon to publicly advertise these men as paupers. It is only when an honorable member upon the Opposition side of the Chamber voices a complaint that he is requested to supply their names. Although I am unwilling to do that, I am quite prepared to vouch for the cases which have come under my own notice. I do not wish it to be understood that because I mention these evils, with a view to securing their remedy, I am making a hostile attack upon the Government. I am doing nothing of the kind.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.J/.5 p.m.
– Army contracts have been made the subject of somewhat severe criticism, particularly by honorable members opposite, and I should like to say that I fully agree with the proposal that matters of a business and. commercial character arising in the Defence Department should be separated from purely military questions. I think that we should have a commercial as well as a purely military branch in the De- fence Department, That in my view is necessary to avoid some of the disabilities arising from the present system of dealing with army supplies. Some effort should be made to secure an effective supervision of the food supplied to soldiers on our transports. I do not know whether the complaints recently voiced in this House, and published in the press, about the quality and cooking of food served to wounded soldiers returning from Egypt have been seriously considered by the Government. The complaints may have arisen in connexion with some vessels that have been under the control of the Imperial Government, and if that be so, perhaps the Government of the Commonwealth could not have exercised the supervision they would have been in a position to exercise on transports under their own control. I think that in connexion with transports under our control some special effort should be made to see that a proper scale of provisions of the right kind for returning wounded soldiers is adopted. Invalids cannot be expected to thrive on food suitable for robust, healthy people. A dietary scale suitable to the requirements of invalids should be provided on transports bringing wounded soldiers to Australia. It might be worth the while of the Government to consider the desirability of appointing members of this House to various Committees to whom might be given the supervision of a number of different matters. For instance, local military hospitals should not, I think, be left entirely to the control of the military authorities. A committee might be appointed to supervise the general arrangements of these hospitals, to attend to and rectify complaints and generally to assist the medical authorities in charge. It appears to me that a great deal of good might be achieved by the appointment of such committees, and I offer the suggestion to the Government in the hope that something in this direction may be found possible. I have no doubt that many members of the House would be willing to assist the Government in the way I have suggested. With regard to the supply of munitions and arms, every one must recognise that the most pressing need of the moment is the supply of a sufficient number of machine suns. Some steps should be taken to utilize the resources at our command to turn out as rapidly as possible all the machine guns that our engineering shops are able to manufacture. A very interesting article on this subject appears in the last issue of the Sydney Sun. I propose to quote one or two passages which, I believe, are worthy of consideration. Ih the course of the article it is stated -
If the Government will only give the word, Eveleigh engineering workshop can be transformed at a stroke from a foundry for the construction of locomotives and railway material into a factory for the construction of the most intricate of munitions; or, better still, an arsenal…… Three thousand skilled workmen, and many more assistants who know their business, can at a moment’s notice turn their attention to the making of any article that requires engineering skill. This is no idle boast. It was announced recently that shells had been made there - not merely cases - but shells, with all the intricate mechanism for timing the fuse. Now, we have a steel helmet for the protection of soldiers - turned out with all the readiness of artificers skilled in the hammering of armour. It is no reflection on the workmanship or the usefulness of the articles to say that these are mere toys compared with the work that can be done. Nor will such work be limited to the making of one or two models - both shells and helmets could be turned out by the thousand weekly.
– Is the article by an engineering expert?
– I do not know; it is not a signed article.
– As a matter of fact it is not correct to say that a shell with fuse and all complete has yet been manufactured in Australia.
– The article says that a complete shell has been manufactured at Eveleigh. In another portion of the article in connexion with the equipment for the manufacture of machine guns the statement is made -
If some additions were made to the equipment - and some of these were already in view before the outbreak of war - Eveleigh would not only be able to turn out projectiles, but would be able to make the guns to fire them.
– Mr. Cutler, who represents New South Wales, admitted in my presence to-day that they’ have not, in New South Wales, the plans or ‘specifications for the manufacture of machine guns.
– I understood the Minister, in reply to a question submitted a few days ago, to say that these plans have been received.
– No : they are only on their way out. The plans and specifications for shells have been received.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON. _ I understood that plans and specifications for the manufacture of machine guns were already here. In any case we should be prepared to make use of them at the earliest possible moment after they are received. Very small alterations will be necessary to convert the. Eveleigh factory into an arsenal, and the sooner some arrangement is made with the New South Wales Government for the work of conversion the better. This is a matter which, I think, the Government might relegate for inquiry to the War Committee.
– There is already a Committee dealing with the matter - the Munitions Committee.
– Have the members of the Committee visited Eveleigh ?
– No, but they are going into the question. Mr. Cutler represents New South Wales on that Committee.
– I hope that something will be done to bring about ,the early manufacture of machine guns. The article from which I have quoted continues -
The urgent need of machine guns for the equipment of our Forces at Gallipoli need not worry the Defence Department. If the Lithgow ‘arsenal will provide the tubes, Eveleigh could - if permitted - turn out 1,000 machine gnus of the Caldwell type in a few months’ time. The Caldwell weapon is simplicity itself, and its relative proportion of parts is 100 compared with 1,000 of the machine guns of other types. It was invented by an Australian engineer, and was constructed at a bench with ordinary tools. With the machine tools at Eveleigh, drilling through feet of solid steel in a few minutes, planing the hardest metal with the ease of a carpenter cutting wood, and the moulding of metals into any shapes, the making of the parts of a machine gun would be no more difficult than the making of the parts of a locomotive. All the steel that is required can now be procured in Australia - but there are ample supplies for this undertaking on the spot.
With regard to the making of tools, it is further stated in this article that they have at Eveleigh all the appliances for the making of the tools necessary for the manufacture of machine guns. The article concludes -
Every spark that flies from Krupps’ furnaces, every blow that is dealt with a hammer, every wheel that revolves in the workshop, every bar of steel that is heated, is a danger to us - is a unit of a mighty weapon of strenuous warfare. Why should we be idle when wo have a weapon like Eveleigh workshops to turn against the enemy?
I was glad to hear the honorable member for Fremantle say that the Munitions Committee are looking into this matter, I hope that, as a result of their inquiries, the reports they will be able to make will be of such a character as will commend to the Government the wisdom of embarking without delay upon an enterprise of this kind. The war has demonstrated above all other things the importance of having a sufficient supply of rapid-firing guns. We cannot at present undertake the manufacture of the heavier guns, but I hope that at the earliest possible date provision will be made in Australia for the supply of machine guns to our own units, and, if necessary, to the British Army. My remarks have been offered in no spirit of hostility to the Government, notwithstanding the severe criticism of the honorable member for Maribyrnong levelled against members of the Opposition. The honorable member’s criticism might have been more appropriately directed to honorable members on his own side. The suggestions I have made have been offered with the most earnest desire that the Defence Department should be made as effective as possible for the successful prosecution of the war. All the time at my disposal is gratuitously at the service of the Government in any capacity in which I can be of use to them for the successful prosecution of the war. I am perfectly sure that other honorable members take the same attitude, our sole desire being to secure the greatest efficiency of our Defence Forces.
– Earlier in the afternoon I did an injustice to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition, and I wish to take the earliest opportunity to correct the statement I made. I find, after consultation with the Government Whip, that the right honorable gentleman’s statement as to the conditions of the arrangement was correct. The main point was not in my mind, and I have some excuse for not remembering it. The honorable member for Maranoa informs me that the right honorable gentleman could not have referred to any other arrangement. In the circumstances, I feel that I am in duty bound, at the earliest possible moment, to withdraw what I said, and make this explanation to the Committee
– I should like to say that I appreciate the spirit which has prompted the Prime Minister to make the statement to which we have just listened. I am glad that he has made it, because it is a serious matter that there should be such a divergence of opinion concerning arrangements made by representatives of political parties. I am very pleased that the Government Whip has been able to put matters right between us.
.- I have been glad to learn from honorable members that the recommendations of Mr. Justice Rich are to be given effect to. I hope that they will be given effect, not only in’ connexion with the Liverpool Camp, but in connexion with all the other camps. When I heard’ from the Minister that all these recommendations were to be carried out, I was extremely pleased. I hope they will be, because they are essential to the welfare of our soldiers.’ The Minister said that orders were issued as early as March last for the supply of the necessary clothing for the troops, specifying overcoats, Cardigan jackets, etc., but added that orders were not of much service when not carried out. I would emphasize the necessity of making the officers who issue orders responsible for seeing that they are carried out. The Minister also contrasted the condition of things in the German Concentration Camp and the military camps, but said that the officer who had control of the concentration camp was in exactly the same position as those in control of military camps. Why, then, is there better management and control in the one than in the other? The only possible answer is that in the first we have a man with force of character, and the courage of his convictions, prepared to make his subordinates do their duty. If we have men at the concentration camp able to do things properly, there must be some serious defect in the case of those placed in charge of the other camps. The following is a striking instance of military mismanagement: - When orders were given to remove a number of men from the Seymour Camp, it was necessary to shift some of the tents, and with them the tent floorings. It took over a week to cart them away to Melbourne, and at the very time that this was being done, other tent floors were still arriving at Seymour! That is one instance of many, showing a lamentable lack of business capacity. The general management of our camps, apart from the military part of the business, ought to be put in the hands of business men rather than military men. If that is done there will be a marked improvement. It is asserted, also, in the Ministerial statement, that practically all the recommendations in Mr. Justice Rich’s interim reports have been carried into effect. I wish that was true, but it appears doubtful, judging by the following letter from a man in camp at Seymour, forwarded to me by the Rochester Recruiting Committee-
Some 400 men have been placed in hospital because there are a few cases of sickness. The place they occupy is known as the pig-sty. We are a lot worse off than those are who are in the trenches. We have been here four days now, and have not been able to get a drop of water to wash.
Mr. Justice Rich found that common sense was not exercised at the camp in the matter of bathing and cleansing facilities, and that things obviously needed were not provided. To confine a number of men in a comparatively small space because a few of them, may be sick, under conditions where cleanliness is impossible, is the way to kill them, and not to improve them. Men who go into camp are making a great sacrifice, and the writer of the letter complains bitterly that this is not the way to encourage them to enlist. He says -
As to the meals, the menu is half a bucket of stew and oho large loaf of bread amongst twenty men for dinner; and for tea a small loaf of bread and half a tin of jam between eight men, which, if you do not get in early, you get none of.
I believe ample food is provided, but that proper methods of distributing it do not exist. The men are put on a certain allowance, and at the same time there is a scandalous waste of good food taking place at all the camps. The people are willing to pay whatever taxation is necessary or give spontaneously all the money required, but at the same time they want to know that the money contributed will be wisely and carefully expended. It is all a question of organization. The fact that the officers at the concentration camp are permanent, while those at the military camps are continually coming and going, may explain some of the differences in management, but I believe the actual reason is that at the German camp there is a real business man at the head of affairs. Until we get business men to look after the business part of these things we shall continue to suffer, no matter what pledges the Minister makes, or what recommendations the authorities make. Every officer intrusted with the responsibility of issuing orders should also have the responsibility of seeing that they are obeyed. Whatever we do, we must find out who is responsible for the mismanagement, because the men who are doing things detrimental to the welfare of the soldiers are traitors to their country. A very important question was raised by the honorable member for Ballarat regarding the considerable number of officers in the Military Department who are receiving exactly the same pay as men who have gone to the front; but who have not volunteered, and are not willing to go. This is not fair to the men at the front. They are heroes, but the men who hold commissions in the Army and fail to go to the front, or to offer to go, cannot be classed in the same category. We do not keep them to be simply ornamental appendages to our military concern. We spend money in qualifying and equipping them, and when the necessity arises for their services at the front they should be available. I should like to know how many of these there are, and it would be interesting if the Department would tabulate a list of all those in the service of the Crown as military officers who have not volunteered for the front, are not willing to go, and are yet receiving the same pay as those who have gone. It is to the credit of our soldiers that only a comparatively small percentage disgrace themselves with drunkenness, but there are enough of them to disgrace the King’s uniform to a certain extent, and bring great discredit and discomfort on others who happen to be in the same tents with them. I was previously very strongly in favour of the dry canteen, but I confess that I have become a convert tothe other view. We enlist men to qualify themselves as soldiers, and then allow other men to sell them a commodity which demoralizes them. The best thing to do is to make it an offence to serve any man wearing the uniform with drink outside the camp. If the men must have a certain amount of alcohol, I would give it to them under proper conditions in camp only. If this reform were effected it would lead to a great improvement, and there would be less inclination on the part of the men to leave the camps, for it is obvious that there is far too much of leaving the camps during the time they are here. Of course, as they are practically volunteers in Australia, they cannot be treated with the same strict discipline as when abroad ; but the present system is doing them a considerable amount of harm, and one serious result is that it causes a number of parents to decline to allow their sons to enlist. In my opinion all men who go to the front ought to be in the same position, but that is not the case. Men in private employment, if they go to the front to serve their country, in a majority of cases receive the promise that their places will be kept open for them when they come back; whereas men in Government employment, if they enlist, have the difference in salary made up to them by the Department. Therefore, the latter stand in a different position to that of the volunteer in private employment. A member of Parliament, if he enlists - even if it be only for a pleasant sea voyage - doubles his income. This condition of things ought not to exist, especially in the case of a man who offers himself, well knowing that the age limit will prevent him from qualifying to go to the front.
– You are playing it pretty low down
– Am I? Well, if I were to offer my services, I would expect to be in precisely the same position as other men.
– Your remark is a reflection upon members of Parliament.
-Every honorable member of this House, I think, ought to set an example of patriotism to the men outside.
– You are quite right.
– I have a right to express my convictions, and I say that the man who volunteers, knowing that the age limit would prevent him from being sent to the front and to face danger, is not in the same position as the younger man who volunteers for the firing line. I feel somewhat warmly on this subject, and, as a member of this Parliament, I want this House to stand absolutely right in the matter.
.- It is not my intention to occupy the time of the Committee for very long to-night, but I want to say a few words with regard to the military camps. As one who has taken soma interest in this matter, having visited several camps, including Broadmeadows, the Show Ground, Bendigo, and Castlemaine, I think it is only right that I should tell the House what has been my experience. The honorable member for Nepean said that at the Liverpool Camp the men were treated “like dogs,” but that was not the information I received during my visits to the various camps. The men to whom I spoke did not know me, and I received no complaints that would justify me in stating to this House that the Defence Department treated volunteers like dogs. At the Seymour Camp, where the men were crowded ten and twelve in a tent, they did complain that they did not have, sufficient food for tea, but I had no complaints from the other camps about the food supply. In every instance they told me that the cooking was good, and that the food was ample.
– You have not visited many camps, then.
– 1 have visited the camps more often than has the honorable member.
– No, you have not.
– It is quite true that when you get a large number of men together you are bound to get complaints from some if they are not treated as parlour soldiers.
– Would you consider bread and jam for tea sufficient T
– I have seen the food distribution at the various camps, and I have been informed that it is ample. At one of the camps, where the men paid for it, they were able to get other food. The Salvation Army, for instance, was represented there, and sold hot pies, with a cup of coffee, for 3d. They also gave the guard a cup of coffee free. The men thus spent some of their money in that direction, but, as far as the supply of food was concerned, in nearly every instance, it was ample and was well cooked.
– I do not think the complaint is that there is not enough food, but that the food is not efficiently distributed.
– Another complaint made about the camps has been in reference to the cooking. I have been told that in the Queensland camp, where the best bushmen are to be found, excellent results were obtained owing to the manner in which they built trenches and placed the pots over the fire. Still another matter to which I desire to direct attention is the fact that it costs us £85 per head to train and place a man in the firing line. We know that in Egypt a number of these men are brought into an atmosphere of temptation which is even worse than that of this city, and the results are deplorable. I have no doubt that the records are in the possession of the Department. I think, therefore, it should be the duty of the Department to take steps to warn men of the dangers that are likely to confront them, and of the probable results. This was one of the reasons why I was in favour of the decentralization of our camps, because at country centres soldiers will not have to combat the temptations that meet them in the cities.
– It is the best thing the Department ever did.
– When I mentioned this matter of decentralization first, I was greeted with loud laughter, but the Department has seen the wisdom of this course. By concentration it is quite possible that we might save a few pounds in the training of the troops; but I take it that, after all, the health of the troops is the most important consideration, and in the end the decentralization system will prove the most economical, because the Defence Department will get the men efficient and fit in a shorter time than under the old conditions. With regard to the manufacture of shells in Australia, I understand that the Minister of Defence has intimated that the Department intends to call for tenders for steel, and that the price will be £10 per ton. It has occurred to me that the Department might do better by approaching manufacturers who are prepared to turn out shell bodies, and fix the price at a flat rate which would leave the ordinary manufacturer a profit. If tenders are called, there is a possibility that two or three big firms will do the whole of the work, and that will hardly be desirable.
– I must express my regret at the statement made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong. According to the honorable member, no honorable member from this side of the House has any right to take any interest in the military camps or to offer any criticism of the Defence Department. I want to say, however, that honorable members of the Opposition have at all times assisted the Government as far as possible. The criticism offered by the honorable member for Nepean has been justified in every respect. On many occasions I have had in my hands information which I could have brought under the notice of honorable members of the House, but, instead of doing that, I went straight to the Minister, or some of the heads of his Department.
– Did you get the complaints dealt with effectively?
– If the statement made by the honorable member for Ballarat be true, that the men get only bread and jam at night, and nothing till breakfast-time, the position is really serious.
– It is true.
– That is one of the worst things that could be done to the men. If, however, they were given a cold lunch in the middle of the day - and while they are working that would be quite sufficient - and were given a good solid meal at night-time, they would be all the better for it.
– If a man is working hard, he wants three good square feeds a day.
– Even if the men were living under the most exceptional circumstances, and they had comfortable beds to sleep in each night, they would want something more than bread and jam to go to bed on ; and when they have to sleep in the stalls at the Royal Show Ground there is all the more reason why they should have a good meal after their work is over. The men really want something to last them through the night. I do not know whether the Citizen Forces are treated in the same way, but I know that in the past the system was much different. Indeed, in the old militia days, men had a good cold lunch in the middle of the day, and were given a really good feed at night-time. And they wanted it. I think that a grave mistake has been perpetuated by the Defence Department. When the war broke out - and I suppose that we were all led to believe that it would not continue for so long as it has done - what was the system followed ? The Inspector-General, the late Major-General Bridges, was sent away with the first troops, and no sooner was a man trained to fill that position than he was sent away with troops, and an other man has now to be trained to fill that position. It has been exactly the same with the Army Medical Corps. The officer who was DirectorGeneral of that corps when the war broke out was sent to the front. Another man was put in his position, and as soon as he was commencing to know where to lay his fingers on different documents, and how to give an answer to any question asked, and direct things as they should be directed, he was sent to the front. I refer to Colonel Fetherstone. Another man has been put in his place, and it will take him just as long to learn the duties of the position as it took his predecessor.
– What have you done with the “bloke” who was sent away first?
– I do not know to whom the honorable member is referring. In peace times we have trained men to fill certain offices. We have spent money freely, and trained men to be ready to direct the various branches of the service under their control. But as soon as a strain is put on a branch, the head is taken away, and a junior officer is put in his place. That has been the cause of the trouble to a very great extent. The honorable member for Echuca has referred to a statement which he received from the Seymour Camp in a letter dated 25th August. I received from that camp about three weeks ago a letter containing practically the. same statements. It was to the effect that some disease broke out, and that the men were sent away to an isolation camp. My letter went further than did that of the honorable member for Echuca. It stated that the men were not only put into an isolation camp, but that they had no water to wash with; that they could not get even enough water for washing their plates; that they had to obtain water out of puddles in the locality ; and that on one occasion - I think it was last Thursday - they were thrown one meal of bread and jam in the day. I ask the Minister for the Navy to inform the Minister of Defence that I have brought this matter before the House, and, of course, I am not acting in a party spirit in so doing. On a Thursday I went to the Minister of Defence and handed to him the letter, which was verified. The writer I knew, and the person who handed the letter to me I knew. Senator Pearce said to me, as he has always done on such occasions, “ I will get an inquiry made into this matter, and let you know the result as soon as possible.” I said, “ Will I get a reply on Saturday?” “No,” he said, “you will not, because I am going to sift this matter to the bottom. If such things are going on at the camp as the writer of the letter states, I will send up a special officer, not a military officer, and he will sift the complaint to the bottom, and be able to report to me.” I went to Senator Pearce last Wednesday or Thursday, when he informed me that the whole of the charges contained in the letter were groundless. Yet on the 25th August, the honorable member for Echuca received a letter containing practically the same statements, namely, that the men are not being fed properly; that the meals are thrown to them in a bucket - handed to them in any way that is possible - and that even on the 25th August there was not sufficient water for them to wash with. I believe that Senator Pearce got a report, and that the special officer he sent must have misled him.
– All the officers will, do that.
– The Minister promised that he would not send one of his ordinary men, but a special officer, so that he could probe the matter to the bottom, and that is the report he received. I am aware, of course, that the Department is being subjected to a very severe strain, and it has been my desire right through not to bring up any question in the House. I would not have brought this matter up to-day, but would have gone to the Minister again, and asked him to make further inquiries, only that the honorable member for Echuca has quoted a letter written by a person in the camp, and stating that practically the same sort of thing is still going on. I think it is about time that the matter was inquired into properly, and that the Department got a snaking up.
– In this debate references have been made to the munition works in connexion with the Defence Department. It would appear from their utterances that certain honorable members are not aware of the existence of an organization in connexion with that Department. For six or seven months, if not longer, a Departmental Munitions Committee has been at work. About two and a half months ago the Committee, in conjunction with the Minister, met representatives of the Chambers of Manufactures and Chambers of Commerce of Australia, inviting them to meet in conference in Melbourne, and, as a result of that conference, steps were taken to form in each State a State Munitions Committee. I listened very attentively to the extract quoted from the Sydney Sun by the honorable member for Lang. To a person without inside information, it would appear from the extract that the Department was certainly not taking any steps to provide for the manufacture of munitions in Australia, and that, as it was ‘very gracefully put, the wheels might be set revolving in a very few moments, shells could be turned out, machine guns could be provided, and everything could be done ; in fact, the definite statement was made that an 18- pounder shell, complete in every respect, had been manufactured. That is not correct. As a matter of fact, the plans for the lS-pounder shell cases were only received in Australia six or seven weeks ago. As the result of careful investigation, standard and master gauges have been prepared, and to-day the Minister was in a position to announce to the public that tenders will be called immediately, aud will close on the 20th September - that is, three weeks from to-day. . I do not think that there is any honorable member who will cavil at giving the manufacturers a period of at least three weeks in which to prepare tenders. Some reference has been made to the question of calling for tenders as against fixing a fiat rate, but I remind honorable members that in this regard we have been travelling over an entirely uncharted sea. There has been nothing to guide the Department or anybody else as to what would be the cost. We certainly have the English cost to compare with, but, owing to the different conditions prevailing in Great Britain, it is very difficult to make a comparison with Australia. We have had experience in this regard in connexion with other branches of industry which are under Government control. We find that the English costs are not, and cannot be treated as, a correct guide. I understand that the War Office pays 22s. for a completed shell case, delivered at Woolwich. It has been stated that in Australia there are some manufacturers who are prepared to ask for a much smaller sum. I want honorable members to realize that they are completed shell cases, and right up to the standard. In the manufacture of a case alone there are over 150 different gaugings which have to take place in order to determine that a case is absolutely accurate. Then we have the question of the varnish which is used inside - a small matter, an honorable member might say; but if too much lead is used in its composition it will be apt to generate a very dangerous gas indeed, and you will get a dangerous explosive inside the shell itself.
– I read the other day that some of the blacksmiths in country districts of France were making shells at their forges.
– I do not credit all that I read in the press, and I do not think that the right honorable gentleman believes everything that he reads there.
– I do not know what sort of shells they were.
-I remind honorable members that Canada, which is much ahead of Australia in the manufacturing business, has not been in a position to manufacture these shells without making mistakes, and that a great many of its shells have been rejected. It is a serious proposition to the manufacturer, as well as to the Government. Each of these various phases has received very serious attention at the hands of the Munitions Committee.
– I suppose that there are all sorts of shells and all sorts of textures.
– I expect that there are, but I am dealing particularly with the 18-pounder shell. The New South Wales Government undertook to experiment in connexion with the manufacture of machine guns, but the report we had to-day from their representative on the Munitions Committee was not by any means a complete one. It showed that practically nothing is possible of accomplishment until the plans and certain other specifications have been received from the Old Country. I am sure that honorable members generally will credit me with the desire to see as many guns as possible made quickly in Australia. At the same time, we have to make haste slowly, as we are going along an entirely new road.
– The Government ought to have taken my advice months ago, and sent a Minister to London.
– Will the honorable member explain how it is we are so far behind Canada?
– We are not a great way behind the Dominion, which is only four or five days’ steam from the Old Country, as compared with four weeks’ steam from Australia. True it is that the cable is available, but all particulars cannot be sent by that means, and consequently we have to wait very often for information. Besides, a number of difficulties had to be overcome in connexion with the War Office, which the honorable member heard explained a few weeks ago, and which militated against action being taken here. It has not been our fault that the delay has occurred. The Munitions Committee has also taken up the question of general equipment. Some honorable members lose sight of the fact that the Defence Department alone has spent millions of pounds more than the whole of the Commonwealth Departments expended during the previous financial year. There have been all sorts of criticisms passed on the Minister. If he was the best man who has ever walked the face of the earth, he would be criticised. But when we remember the point from which we started ; when we realize how much the Department has done; when we put on one side its achievements and on the other its failures, is there really very much for any one to complain about? It has done a truly great work. But it would be an absolute scandal that men should be sent from our shores without having had rifle practice. One such instance has come under my own notice.
– Honorable members opposite seem to think that ‘they may criticise as much as they please, but that no one on this side may do so.
– They are patriots, but we are only partisans.
– I have never taken up that attitude. If what the Defence Department has accomplished be put against all that can be found fault with, it will be seen that there is not much to complain of. It is, however, a great scandal that men should be sent from Australia before they have gained a thorough knowledge of the weapon with which they will be called upon to fight. A question to which we all might well turn our attention is the finding of employment for returned soldiers. I believe that the Committee of which the Leader of the Opposition is a member has taken the matter in hand, and is trying to find avenues of employment for these men. After the Boer War many men who had fought for the Empire walked the streets of our cities, unable to find work. We should welcome every concrete suggestion in the interest of our soldiers. There is a very wide field for endeavour in this matter. I urge the War Committee to give the question still further consideration. The difficulties will become more pressing as time goes on, because the number of returned and wounded soldiers will continually increase. There are, unfortunately, maimed soldiers already in our midst, for some of whom it will be very hard to find places. Some of them will be able to do light work, but others may not be able to help themselves at all. These are provided for by the pensions schemes. But every effort should be made by the people of Australia to do everything possible for those who have risked their lives in defence of the Empire.
.- I am in sympathy with most of the complaints made by the honorable member for Ballarat about the military camps. At Seymour the latrines were so vilely constructed that the officers responsible for them must either have had no noses, or have lacked the brains of ordinary men. Soldiers had to take off their boots and stockings, and roll up their trousers, before walking to these places, because of the filth. One does not wonder that diseases of a terrible kind have occurred. The surgeons employed in the British Army have had to compete in the most severe surgical examination in the British world. Even the terrible examination for a Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons, London, is not so bad, because it is not competitive. Some of the most brilliant men in my year were unable to get into the first class. They did sufficiently well to be admitted into the Army
Medical Corps, but they could not get the positions that they coveted until they had submitted themselves a second time. I have great admiration for our young soldiers, who have done voluntarily, because they possessed the innate pluck of Australians, what the soldiers of the European armies have had to be forced to do. It is ridiculous that our men should get nothing after a meal of bread and jam and tea at 5 o’clock at night until next morning. Once upon a time the British Government used to starve the sailors on their men-of-war. I believe that there is plenty of food, but the saying that “ God sends food, and the devil sends cooks “ receives too much exemplification in our service. How could the best cook, with a dessert knife, carve satisfactorily for 100 or more men ? Why cannot we have permanent kitchens and permanent cooks? Why should not men with the credentials of cooks enlist as cooks? Napoleon said that an army moves upon its belly. Men fight all the better for good food. It makes me sick to hear of men being rejected for bad teeth. The late Mr. Smith, of Sydney, first drew my attention to what is known as Fletcherism, the proper chewing of food. It’ is only starchy foods that need chewing. Meat can be shredded with a knife and fork, and then allowed to slip down the throat; but starchy foods should be well chewed, and a man who is without teeth can sufficiently saturate with saliva such food by turning it over against his palate with his tongue. A man possessing not a tooth in his head, but who kept his food in his mouth until it was thoroughly mixed with the saliva, would have a better digestion than a man with a good set of teeth who merely bolted his food, or, worse still, took first a mouthful of food, and then a drink, which is as absurd a practice as it would be for a sheep to alternately crop a mouthful of grass and take a drink of water, then return to grass and then to the water, and so on. My principal object to-night is to expose one of the vilest and most terrible occurrences that has ever come within my knowledge. I was approached by a man in my own district, and I said that I would go with him to inquire, not as a medical man, but as a member of Parliament; and that attitude I maintained right through. I took a magistrate with me to verify what might be said ; and hore is the statement of the poor, wretched man as to his treatment - 58 Walsh-street, West Melbourne. 27th May, 1915.
Dr. W. Maloney,
Federal Parliament House,
I beg to complain that I am a patient in the Base Hospital, St. .Kilda-road, invalided by the Medical Board in Egypt, with paralysis, caused by a kick in the spine from the doctor’s horse in Egypt.
For the sisters and hospital treatment generally I have the highest feeling of gratitude and praise.
Such medical officers as Dr. Fred Bird, Dr. Springthorpe, and others of like repute, tried every means of getting me to use my legs; all to no avail until the latter end of my time in Egypt, so I was invalided home. This Dr. Mead, at the Base Hospital, from my very first acquaintance with him, told me that I was a malingerer, a schemer, and impostor, a crawler, and all that is base and indecent, though he has never advanced any motives for me being In the state I am in. His arrogant manner was overbearing and cruel in the extreme.
T fought my way, sir, in Africa, with the Naval Brigade through Belmont, Enslign, Modder River, Magersfontein, siege of Kimberley, and the storming of Pekin. in China, and I resented this doctor’s imputation. No complaint or entreaty will induce him to give me humane treatment. His antagonism was unbearable, and one morning I respectfully told him so; he there and then determined to have me court-martialled for being a schemer; but, in the face of the medical testimony of the medical gentlemen whom I have mentioned, I was found by the court martial not guilty. I was discharged without a stain on my character ; but my health in the same wretched state. Where can I go or what can I do for succour? His attitude towards me was worse than ever. He became livid in the face and white with passion, and came to mc denouncing the gentlemen of the court martial as a set of blockheads.
I would bc better dead, sir, than have to submit to this kind of treatment, so I decided to apply to get out of it to go to my home. My request was refused, so I got a friend with a motor car to get me out in the middle of the night. I expect to be punished for this, but he will heap no more insults on my body until I get better.
When we landed from Egypt we were allowed to bring ashore £10 worth of Egyptian goods. Many men had them stolen at the hospital, mine included. When I complained to Dr. Mead he only laughed. Ho said he wanted to hear no complaints or comments, or we would find ourselves in the cells.
In a most flagrant manner our clothing is being sold by some one for small sums to mcn from Broad m endows. Now. dear sir, I am not seeking to be vindictive, but I was induced by the doctor attending me now to write to you.
Hoping that you will see that I get a square deal without any unnecessary fuss. I can substantiate all T have said to” the hilt.
I am no stranger here in union and political circles. The reasons I advance for complaining are humane, not political nor influence-seeking.
I remain, sir,
Yours respectfully and sincerely,
I think that the officer in charge of the court martial was a splendid man - Mr. Cox Taylor. I want justice for this poor fellow - I want the promise kept that when a man returned injured he shall be paid 6s. per day, as has not been done in this case. Again, as a member of Parliament and not as a medical man, I wrote to Senator Pearce as follows: -
My Dear Sir,
Ite enclosed letter from Walter Perry, of 58 Walsh -street, West Melbourne. The matter has been brought to my notice by my constituents. He has made a statement before a magistrate.
Two doctors state that there is no malingering. As a representative for Melbourne I have seen Dr. Mead, who was very courteous, and explained his position. The case is a serious one, and I strongly urge you to appoint an honorary committee of laymen (neither surgeon nor physician), one of whom should be a magistrate, and the committee’s duty should be to visit the hospital at any time and investigate any complaint.
The danger of hospitals being under the sole control of medical men is widely known. Kindly order that no arrest be made of this poor injured man for leaving hospital without leave, for, if he be arrested, I greatly fear trouble from the public and the union, and serious results for him.
I may say that I think that Dr. Mead honestly believes that this man is malingering, for he applied electricity, and had him watched. I intimated that if this poor fellow were arrested, I should hold public meetings of protest in Melbourne. I may here tell honorable members why I believe in the nationalization of health. I remember that when I was at St. Mary’s Hospital, London, one of my chiefs definitely stated that cancer had been planted in the breasts of twenty innocent women in Germany to see if the disease would develop; and, further, that in a large hospital in Vienna one of the sexual diseases, known as the red plague, had been planted in innocent men so that students could see the symptoms. That sort of thing could not possibly happen in England, because committees of laymen control the hospitals; but there are no laymen in control in Berlin and Vienna, only army surgeons with their discipline. The answer I got to my letter was the stereotyped one to which we are all too used. It will be noted that my letter was dated 14th June, and the reply, the 20th July following, time having been occupied in making inquiries -
With reference to your letter of the 14th ult., forwarding enclosure from Mr. Walter Perry, of 58 Walsh-street, WestMelbourne, a returned invalided member of the Australian Imperial Force relative to his treatment at the Base Hospital, Melbourne, I am directed to inform you that the matter has been carefully investigated, and the report received on the matter does not disclose any maltreatment of Perry by the medical officer in charge of that hospital.
In regard to your suggestion concerning the formation of an honorary committee of laymen to visit the hospital and investigate complaints, I am to add that the Minister has considered the matter, and regrets that he cannot see his way to adopt the suggestion.
Later on, I wished to know why this man had not received the 6s. per day to which he is entitled : and God knows that 42s. a week is not too much for a man who is confined to his bed and has to receive particular attention - a man who cannot contain his urine, and thus shows what is well known as one of the symptoms of spinal trouble. I wrote on the 27th July -
Re Mr. Walter Perry, of 58 Walsh-street, who is an invalid confined to his bed, may I ask you what payments are made on his account to his wife? Anearly answer will oblige.
Re your letter 40500 A.I.F. 201/1/327, I am considering its contents before seeing the Minister.
After twelve days - although I know that the officials of the Department are working overtime, while there are numbers of people out of work - the answer I got was -
With reference to your letter of the 28th ult., relative to the payments being made to the wife of Mr. Walter Perry, of 58 Walshstreet. West Melbourne, I desire to inform you that they arc as follows: - 4s. per diem allotment money. 1s.9½d. separation allowance per diem.
This lady called on me to-day, and if ever my heart bled for another human being it did then. And no wonder I got angry when I learnt that she had not had one penny piece since 30th July. I should like to make these heads of the Departments live on such terms. Who is at the head of the medical branch at the present time ? A man whose whole experience has been in the diseases of women. Are we to open a women’s hospital at the front? I have no desire to hold up the finger against the ability of our medical officers. I believe they are splendid in regard to women’s diseases, but the fact is that they have under them men far more versed in the surgery that is required on the battle-field. Let examination for entrance to the Army Medical Corps be on the lines of the British service. I ask honorable members to peruse these documents in Hansard. I wish to add my meed of praise to the Herald in regard to that infamous case of which I spoke on Friday last, and which was nearly as bad as that to which I have just drawn attention. A man with three shrapnel wounds who was brought to the hospital from Gallipoli and operated on without chloroform - without chloroform in these days! - when asked to undergo a further operation, under the nervous strain produced by his previous treatment, refused. He was right in his refusal. I admire him for not having obeyed this order of the surgeons to be operated on again without chloroform, but owing to his refusal he is not receiving his 6s. a day. I hope that the War Committee will be given more power. I hope that they will consider these papers that I have read to-night. I hope honorable members will realize that the two facts which I have narrated determined me to work towards the nationalization of medicine and surgery, so far as my brain could think, my lips speak, or my hand write, but I little dreamt that in Australia a man would be court martialled because one medical man, untrammelled by any committee of laymen, considered him to be malingering. I readily believe that the doctor thought so, but where he failed was in not securing the opinion of other surgeons. One of the greatest surgeons we have in Melbourne - Dr. O’Hara - has offered his services in an honorary capacity, and his suite of rooms for the benefit of the Defence Department, but they did not choose to accept either. Why they were not accepted I do not know.
– Why should a man malinger in a base hospital ?
– God only knows. As the spinal cord is an elongation of the brain, honorable members can readily understand what a terrible tiling is an injury to the spine. Two doctors of standing have definitely stated that this man is not malingering. The magistrate said that no one could look at the man and say that he was malingering. The court martial has said the same. I leave the matter to honorable members. I think they will agree that I have been justified in bringing this terrible cas© before the Committee.
.- For the last hour I have listened to statements from the other side which, had they been made on this side, would have laid the Opposition open to charges of party feeling and party display.
– Yes, the honorable member has not been in the chamber, else he would have heard his own confreres trouncing honorable members of the Opposition for attempting to make party capital out of these matters. Nothing has been said on this side half so strong as that which has come from the benches opposite. I ask honorable members to be a little fair, and not to assume the attitude that everything in the way of criticism of the Defence Department from their side is said from high patriotic motives, and that everything mentioned on this side is necessarily the reverse. In these matters we should give each other credit for the best intentions. Since the criticism began to-night on the other side of the chamber I have received a letter from one of my constituents detailing the treatment that his son is meeting with even now in the Liverpool Camp. I have not made that letter public; I have given it to the Prime Minister to have it investigated ; but there are shoals of these letters coming along, and I think that it is a little “over the odds” when we get tirades of abuse such as came from the honorable member for Maribyrnong tonight the moment we mention anything in the Chamber. No honorable member offers so many complaints as does the honorable member.
– When have )’0u heard me making any complaints?
– The honorable member should obe the last to chide any honorable member of the Opposition, and accuse his opponents of attempting to make political capital out of these matters. I know of no such attempt having been made by the Opposition at any time. The honorable member for Maribyrnong said that he had come to the conclusion that the charges made by the honorable member for Nepean emanated from political motives.
– I did not say that.
– The answer to the honorable member is that everything that the honorable member for Nepean said, and a great deal more, has been proved to be true.
– I said that I knew the charges would be proved.
– We need to try to remedy these things, because they are affecting recruiting.
– The very fact that the big recruiting campaign in Victoria took place after those charges were made disproves that statement.
– We should remove these abuses. They ari* abuses, and they are removable. The complaint I have received to-night is not that there is no food in the Liverpool Camp, but that, despite the report of Mr. Justice Rich, no officer has been detailed to see that the food is properly distributed. There is a sheer lack of organization. It does not matter what food is provided ; it might just as well not be there if the men cannot get it. These matters should be investigated as fully as it is possible to investigate them, and honorable members on both sides of the Chamber ought to give each other credit for being actuated by the best intentions when they mention these things, with a view to their rectification. I hope that no honorable member will ever attempt to make political capital out of them. The Minister must not be blamed unduly. He must be held to account, of course ; otherwise there would be no rectification and. no remedy. Every allowance must be made for the fact that Ministers cannot be everywhere, though I candidly believe that with three Ministers controlling this Department - the Minister of Defence, the Minister for the Navy, and the Assistant Minister. Sena, tor Gardiner - and seeing that the Navy is away from Australia, Ministers ought to be able to see to these matters themselves.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman think that the Government should be given every credit for the manner in which they acted after the Liverpool trouble was mentioned ?
– I regret to say that the instructions given as the result of Mr. Justice Rich’s report are not being carried out as Senator Pearce imagines.
– The Government acted immediately the complaint was made.
– Senator Pearce may issue his instructions; he may detail the things that are to be done; but his responsibility does not end there. Senator Pearce’s full responsibility only ends when he has sent somebody after the instructions to see that they are carried out.
– A body of civilians will be required to do that. I thought it was to be the work of the War Committee.
– I cannot help the feeling that with three Ministers at the Defence Department, one might pay a few more visits than are now being paid to many of these camps. I have never criticised any of the arrangements made by the Defence Department without trying to suggest a remedy, and what I suggest now is that somebody should visit these camps in order to see that what is recommended is carried out. Otherwise it would bc better if no recommendations were made. I do not want to take up any more time on this subject, and I would not have risen to-night but for the fact that almost every honorable member who has spoken on the Government side has preluded what he himself has had to complain of by sonic reference to the unpatriotic attitude of honorable members on this side whenever they have lodged a complaint. So long as a friendly attitude is adopted honorable members on both sides ought to be able to bring the matters that, come under their notice before the Minister, and nothing but good should follow. I do not think I ever heard of a more shocking case than that referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne. I hope sincerely that there are some mitigating circumstances, for the case, seems to be an alarming one ; but what I want to impress upon honorable members is that it is time they gave honorable members who sit on the Opposition side a little credit for other than ulterior motives when they try to help along matters that have arisen in connexion with the war.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs, £132,840.
.- In connexion with the prohibition issued by the Government of Victoria against the importation of live stock into Victoria, I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs what is actually happening in the Adelaide market. I have with me a quotation from the Adelaide Weekly Review of 25th August, which, after pointing out that on that date the supply of cattle was considerably better than expectations, states that 204 head were imported from Queenslaud, 210 from New South Wales, sixteen from Victoria, and eighty-six from Western Australia. At the Adelaide sales on that day, prime beef realized from 67s. to 72s. 6d. per 100 lbs. According to the Stock and Land Journal of 25th August, the prices on that date in Victoria for prime beef were from 90s. to 95s. per 100 lbs. I believe this difference in price is wholly accounted for by the fact that South Australia has freely admitted live stock from Western Australia and Queensland to its markets. Victoria is suffering keenly as the result of the high price of beef. Stock cannot be admitted from either Western Australia or from Queensland, with the result that the market is depleted and prices are high. On 23rd August cattle from Western Australia and Queensland were sold in Adelaide alongside cattle from South Australia, all in the open ring, not in pens, as is the custom in Victoria, and after that sale twentysix head of cattle were landed in Ballarat, seventy-two head were landed in Geelong, and over 100 head were landed in Melbourne. It will be generally recognised that if cattle from Western Australia or from Queensland are allowed to mix with South Australian cattle, the probability is that most, if not all, of them will be classed as South Australian, and will be able to gain access to Victoria. It is well known that South Australia is the cleanest State in the Commonwealth as regards tick.
– South Australia is not cleaner than Victoria.
– In South Australia there are no regulations against the importation of cattle, and I think the explanation of the South Australian immunity from tick is that, as soon as the cattle enter a cooler climate, the tick dies.
– There is a great deal of doubt about that.
– I have discussed the question with drovers, and they are of the opinion that the tick cannot live in a cold climate, and I believe that to be the case. At any rate, my statement that cattle from the other States are being sold in the open market at Adelaide cannot be disputed. I do not think, also, that there can be any doubt that some of them are being sent to Victoria, yet we are not hearing of the presence of any tickinfested cattle in Victoria. In the last session of Parliament I urged the desirability of the Government taking over the full control of inspection of all the produce passing between one State and another. The constitutional question was then raised, and it was argued that that could not be done until the referenda proposals were carried. But other constitutional authorities differ from the Minister of Trade and Customs in this matter, and declare that the Commonwealth Government have power to do this. If the Minister wishes to benefit the consumers of meat in Victoria, he will seriously investigate this question. If he is satisfied that we have not the power to deal with the matter, he should make representations to the Victorian Government, with the object of inducing them to repeal the State regulation under which the introduction of cattle from Queensland and Western Australia is prohibited. Western Australia to-day has no refrigerating works of any size, and it is sending chilled meat to Victoria, where it is being sold at £3 per 100 lbs., while the local meat is bringing £5 per 100 lbs. Honorable members will recognise what a difference there would be in the price if live stock could be brought here. Taking the weight of a bullock as 800 lbs., the market quotations I have given show a difference of £8 10s. per beast in favour of South Australia as against the price paid in Victoria. According to the supplement to Elder’s Weekly Review, the reduced price in South Australia at the present time is due to the influx of live bullocks from Western Australia and Queensland. The point that I wish to emphasize is that the graziers of Victoria are not being protected by this prohibition against the importation nf live stock from other States, and that the Minister, if he finds that we have not the power to deal with the matter, should make serious representations to the Victorian State Government to take decisive action in regard to it.
– I propose to move -
That the subdivision “ Contingencies, f 1,000,” be reduced by £1.
– Is this a vote of want of confidence ?
– I do not see why it should be so regarded. It is time that we entered a protest against these childish cries of “ party “ and “ want of confidence ‘ ‘ which come from the Government benches every time that a member of the Opposition rises to speak. Since the honorable member talks about this being a want of confidence motion, I am constrained to remind him that a large number of his own party are in favour of it.
– What is the right honorable member’s proposal ?
– I am submitting this amendment with the object of inviting the Government to see if they cannot remove or suspend the duties on jute goods, and to relieve the farmer.
– This is an opening of the Tariff.
– Of course, it is; to this extent and for this particular purpose.
– I rise to a point of order. You ruled to-day, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member for Wakefield could not discuss the question of wheat freights on this schedule, and that the honorable member for Lang must confine his remarks to the item immediately under discussion. The Leader of the Opposition now proposes to avail himself of the item of “Contingencies” in the division relating to the Department of Trade and Customs, with the object of submitting an amendment to raise the Tariff issue. I submit that he will not be in order in anticipating the discussion of the Tariff. No one knows better than he does thai he intends to deal with the Tariff schedule.
– The right honorable member himself said that we should not deal with it.
– Quite so. He has said on more than one occasion that the Tariff should not be discussed until the war is over.
– I am not asking that it should be discussed’.
– If the right honorable member does not propose to discuss the matter, then I presume that, having stated that “lie submits his amendment with the object of inducing the Government to remit the duties on jute goods, he has attained his end. I am anxious that the Standing Orders shall, as far as possible, be observed.
– On the point of order, I do not intend to ask for the reopening of the Tariff.
– The right honorable member said that he did.
– T do not think so; nor have T ever asked, as the honorable member for Hunter interjected, that no part of the Tariff should be proceeded with. What I have suggested is that there are some items df the Tariff which both sides could agree, without discussion, to have rectified. That was my original proposal. My present proposal is that the Government shall treat jute goods - the raw material of the farmer - precisely as they have treated his finished product.
– I ask the Leader of the Opposition to discuss the point of order.
– My point is that I am not seeking to re-open the Tariff. I desire only the suspension of this duty that the farmer has to pay - that the Government shall do with it what they have done in regard to his finished product. I submit I am perfectly in order in making that proposition.
– The honorable member for Capricornia has sought my ruling as to whether a member of the Committee would be justified in submitting at this stage any motion or amendment relating to the Tariff. If the right honorable member for Parramatta proposes to deal with the Tariff in any way, I have no hesitation in saying that he will not be in order, as the Tariff has not been referred to the Committee. The Committee can deal only with matters referred to it. What has been referred to the Committee is the appropriation of certain moneys for administrative purposes, and debate must be confined to that issue. I understood that the Leader of the Opposition was about to make a motion to amend the schedule. Perhaps I am a little in error in having told the right honorable member on a previous occasion that I thought it would be possible to move an amendment in order to discuss any matter within the confines of the schedule. If the right honorable gentleman intends to conclude his remarks by a definite motion to reduce the item by fi, I find by a close consideration of the authorities, our own and also those of the House of Commons, that such a motion will not be in order. Our own Standing Orders being silent on’ this subject, we are referred by standing order No. 1 to the practice of the House of Commons, and I find in May, 11th edition, page 595, that no motion or amendment can be moved to reduce or omit any item in an Appropriation Bill. In fact, the authorities go so far as to say that it is out of order to even discuss an item in the schedule of an Appropriation Bill.
– This is not an Appropriation Bill; it is only a Supply Bill.’
– In the opinion of the Chair we are dealing with an appropriation of moneys for administrative purposes. I have to treat the measure as an Appropriation Bill, and it is so referred to in May, who says -
No grant of supply is effected by the Bill; its provisions are solely administrative; the sole object of the Bill is to insure the application of the grants made by Parliament to the objects defined by the resolutions of the Committee of Supply. Accordingly, debate or amendment must be restricted to the matter of appropriation; and the conduct of the officials or of the Departments who receive the Supply grants cannot be challenged in the Committee on the Bill.
We are now at that particular stage. May continues -
Nor can amendments be moved to its clauses, or to the schedule, to effect ‘the omission or reduction of the amount of a grant, or of the appropriations in aid of it, or an alteration in the destination of a grant.
That being the case, I have to rule that any proposal to amend the schedule by the omission or reduction of an item will not be in order.
– May I ask what we are to do with this schedule ?
– Pass it or reject it as a whole.
– The ruling makes this whole schedule sacrosanct; it must not be touched; all the Committee has to do is to vote on it.
– An amendment could have been moved in Committee of Supply. We are now in Committee on the Bill.
– This is the first time we have had the schedule before us. Surely there is something wrong in a ruling which deliberately takes away from us the right to challenge any item in a Supply Bill. Why is the schedule put before us in Committee if it may not be altered ?
– I may remind honorable members that I am not here to make standing orders or rules of debate. I am here to interpret the Standing Orders to the best of my ability, and with due regard to the freedom and liberties of every member. I have endeavoured to do so. It is not agreeable to me at all times to give certain rulings, but I am determined to act conscientiously in conformity with the authorities, and when my attention is called to any point, it becomes my bounden duty to make myself thoroughly acquainted with all the authorities dealing with it. T believe I am correct in saying that the point which has been raised to-night was decided in a previous Parliament on the same lines as those upon which I have already ruled. If the right honorable member for Parramatta disagrees from my ruling his proper course is to move dissent.
– I shall certainly move, sir, that your ruling be dissented from, but before doing so may I suggest that a mistake has been made. You, sir, have quoted from May the proceedings on an Appropriation Bill, which always follows a detailed examination of the Estimates in Committee. We have never previously had this schedule before us for examination. This is the first opportunity Ave have had of considering it at all; therefore I think that the passage in May which you have quoted does not apply to the Bill we are now discussing. It is true that certain limitations are placed upon an’ Appropriation Bill in the House of Commons. There it cannot be introduced until the Committee has examined every line of the schedule. Then the report is adopted, and an Appropriation Bill founded upon the approved schedule is introduced. That is not the position of this schedule, and it cannot rightly be ruled that a schedule which has never been considered at all, cannot be amended in any particular. I submit, sir, that you should fall back upon our own practice, and not bind us by the practice of the House of Commons, which follows a procedure totally different from our own in connexion with money Bills. How can we control the finances of the country if we are not permitted to consider the schedule?
– The honorable member is now shifting his ground. He gave as his reason why there should be a reduction in this item of £1, his desire to deal with a Tariff question.
– I wish to deal with an item which is contained in this schedule, and the Chairman has ruled that the schedule cannot be amended. The position has only to be stated in that way to show that the ruling is an incorrect one. I submit that this is not a case which is covered by the ruling in May, which has reference to an Appropriation Bill following upon a detailed examination of the schedule in Committee.
– I understood that the honorable member had risen to a further point of order.
– The Leader of the Opposition distinctly stated when he rose that he intended to dissent from my ruling. In the absence of that statement, I certainly should not have allowed him to proceed. He has, however, concluded his remarks without submitting a motion of dissent. Does he intend to do so ?
– I do not desire to submit a motion of dissent from your ruling. But do I understand that that ruling is that no item in this schedule may be amended ?
– My ruling is that it is not competent for the honorable member to move an amendment in favour of the reduction of any item by £1.
– Then may I move the omission of the word “ Contingencies “ from the schedule?
– Before you, sir, rule on that point I should like to say-
– Order ! The honorable member for Parramatta is in possession of the Chair.
– I am very much amazed that the honorable member for Capricornia, with all his knowledge and experience of parliamentary practice, should endeavour to prevent the Committee from having anything to say upon this schedule. I move -
That the word “ Contingencies,” subdivision 2, be left out.
– What does the honorable member propose to do in reference to his threatened motion of dissent?
– I do not intend to proceed with it. I submit the motion with the most friendly intent, and with a view to intimating to the Government the desire of the Committee that the farmer should be relieved from taxation on his raw material.
– The honorable member will have his ingenuity taxed. now.I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member is now endeavouring to evade your ruling. You, sir, have already ruled him out of order in attempting to move the reduction of an item by £1 in order that the farmers may be relieved of certain taxation. He now proposes the omission of the word “ Contingencies” with the same object in view. Had he contented himself with merely submitting the motion without assigning reasons for it, he might have been in order. That is what I intended to convey when I said that he would find his ingenuity taxed.
– May I remind you, sir, that you allowed the previous speaker to discuss the whole question of stock-producing in Australia. The honorable member for Ballarat clamoured for relief for the people of Victoria by removing the embargo upon the introduction of stock. He discussed the question of ticks-
– Did the honorable member object to his action ?
– Certainly not; but now the administration of the Minister is in question. I submit that anything relating to the Department of Trade and Customs may be discussed under a proposal to votemoney for that Department.
– The honorable member knows different from that. He knows that notice has been given to amend the Tariff in reference to the very item that he desires to have wiped out.
– Where is the notice ? I contend that I am as much in order in asking for relief for the farmers in this way as the honorable member for Ballarat was in order in seeking relief for them in another way. Of coure, if honorable members opposite wish to block the consideration of this matter, all right. That stops me.
– May I be allowed to point out that the Leader of the Opposition proposes to discuss what is really an administrative act of the Government. The Tariff to which the honorable member for Capricornia has alluded is only an administrative act, and is in no sense before the Committee. If you, sir, search the business paper you will find that that is so. I take it, therefore, that the Leader of the Opposition is strictly in order.
– Then his proposal is not intended to help the farmers ?
– Oh, yes, it is.
– The Leader of the Opposition now seeks to amend the schedule by omitting one word. The authority from which I have previously quoted lays it down -
Nor can amendments be moved to its clauses, or to the schedule, to effect the omission or reduction of the amount of a grant.
I am not in a position, at this stage, to know whether the honorable member’s proposal would effect the omission or reduction of a grant. I may, however, say, in anticipation, that any general debate upon the Tariff, or upon any portion of it, will be out of order. But I cannot say, at this stage, that the honorable member’s proposal is out of order. I cannot intervene until his position has been developed in debate.
– I beg, sir, to dissent from your ruling. The honorable member for Parramatta has stated distinctly that he proposes to leave out the item “ Contingencies,” with a view to informing Ministers that it is the desire of the Opposition to relieve the farmers of certain burdens.
– That is quite right.
– I cannot allow that to go any further. I understand that it is your decision that thehonorable member is quite in order in submitting his amendment. If that be your decision, I beg respectfully to dissent from it.
– The honorable member will give me his dissent in writing.
– I have put my dissent in this form -
I beg respectfully to dissent from your ruling that the honorable member for Parramatta is in order in moving that the item “ Contingencies “ be struck out in order that the Ministry may he made aware that the Opposition desire that the farmers may be relieved of certain burdens.
– Hear, hear; that ia the idea.
– I point out to the honorable member for Capricornia, and also to the Committee, that the notice of dissent as submitted to me is not quite accurate. I gave no ruling on an amendment proposing the striking out of the item “ Contingencies.” What I gave my ruling upon was an amendment submitted by the honorable member for Parramatta to strike out the word “ Contingencies,” and not the proposed vote of £1,600 for contingencies. If the amendment submitted to the Chair had embraced tlie striking out of the item including the word “ Contingencies,” and the figures of the proposed vote, I should have ruled it out of order at once. As the honorable member for Parramatta has moved to strike out only the word “ Contingencies,” it is impossible for me to say whether its effect would involve the omission or reduction of the grant. In the circumstances,’ I ruled that the amendment was in order. In fairness to the Chair honorable members should first decide that question.
– If you, sir, think that I have been in any way unfair to you, I will withdraw my notice of dissent.
– I do not say that the honorable member has been unfair, but that his notice of dissent does not accurately state my ruling-.
– I withdraw my dissent if your ruling was not as I have stated it. ‘
– I understand that the amendment -has been put.
– I propose to speak to it unless the Prime Minister intends to stop me. He can do so if he likes.
– I have no such intention. We hear the honorable gentleman so seldom.
– The Prime Minister need not say that he has no intention to stop me, because for halfanhour now honorable members have tried to prevent me saying anything on this matter.
– Quite right, too, because the honorable gentleman is out of order, and he knows it.
-“ Quite right, too,” says the honorable member for Maribyrnong.
– We can take another course.
– We need not trouble about another course. This is good enough for my purpose.
I want to say why I think the Minister of Trade and Customs should grant some relief to the primary industries of this country, that have passed through a severe drought afflicting Australia from end to end.
– What is the nature of the relief the -honorable gentleman proposes?
– Will my honorable friend mind waiting a little. He will have plenty of time in which to take his point of order later on. In the meantime, if permitted, I shall confine myself for a few minutes to showing that the primary producers of Australia have been in a bad way lately, that they are in a bad way to-day, and need all the sympathy and relief this House can place at their disposal by any means within its power. We have passed through a drought unprecedented in intensity and severity, notwithstanding the fact that the Prime Minister has called it a little one. It unfortunately has been a very terrible one, so far as Australia is concerned, and far greater than the drought of 1902. I have compiled some figures which lead mo to the conclusion that the people concerned in our primary industries have been hit terribly hard.
– And only a few days ago the honorable gentleman was suggesting the taxation of kerosene and tea!
– Here is another of those statements for which there is not a tittle of foundation. I only wish that the people outside, to whom my honorable friends opposite, will go shortly to make them believe that they are their friends, could see them grinning here, and their attitude generally when we ask for a little relief for them.
– Because we know it is all show.
– Order 1 I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to address the Chair.
– If I feel a little strongly, it is owing to the treatment I am receiving when discussing a matter of this kind. Let honorable members opposite laugh if they like at the calamities of the people.
– We laugh at the honorable gentleman’s mock heroics.
– The honorable gentleman is playing to the gallery - ‘ ‘ kid stakes.”
– “Mock heroics “ are they ? I am “ playing to the gallery,” am I? I hope all those remarks will be recorded in Hansard.
– That is all you are doing it for. There is no sincerity in you.
– It is time those engaged in the primary industries were made sensible of the callous attitude of honorable members on the other side when we come to consider their interests.
– Order ! I must appeal to the Committee to assist the Chair. The House did me the honour to place me in this position, and I am called upon to conduct the proceedings in accordance with the Standing Orders, but the continuous interjections make it almost impossible for me to hear what is being said. I was about to ask the honorable member for Parramatta how he proposed to connect his remarks with the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs, who deals with questions relating to stock, with the export and import of grain, and the administration of commerce generally, is the gentleman to whom I must look for relief from some of these pressing burdens. What are those burdens, and what is the condition of the people for whom I am pleading ? The loss in sheep alone last year owing to the drought amounted to £35,000,000. That, I believe, is an under-estimate. The loss in cattle I am under the mark in stating to be another £10,000,000.
– B!ow can the honorable member connect those remarks with the amendment?
– The amendment refers to contingencies in the Trade and Customs Department, contingencies are connected with the administration of the Department, and it is the administration of the Department that I am speaking about now. I am asking for administrative relief for the farmers, and pointing out why they need it. The loss in wheat last year was £20,000,000 sterling. There must also be added the losses suffered by dairy farmers and others.
– On a point of order, how can the Minister of Trade and Customs by any form of administration relieve the people on the land from the losses referred to?
– That is a question, not a point of order.
– Order ! I have made several appeals to honorable members to assist the Chair. I shall appeal no more. If honorable members persist in interjecting, I shall name them, and let the Committee deal with them.
– My point of order is that the Leader of the Opposition is wilfully disobeying your directions-
– On a point of order, I demand that the words “ wilfully disobeying “ be withdrawn.
– If the honorable member has said anything objectionable I ask him to withdraw it.
– The Leader of the Opposition is attempting to convey the impression that the Minister of Trade and Customs is responsible for the losses of sheep and cattle caused by the drought.
– I did not understand the right honorable member for Parramatta to argue in that way.
– I am told I am well within the mark in putting down the loss in the primary industries for one year at over £85,000,000.
– I rise to order-
– Order! No one in this Chamber is better acquainted with parliamentary procedure than the right honorable member for Parramatta, and he must see that the responsibility for the loss of wheat or stock cannot be placed at the door of the Trade and Customs Department. The Minister of that Department deals with imports and exports, but neither he nor his officers are called upon to administer the internal production of the country. Any remarks on that subject will be distinctly out of order, and I ask the honorable member not to pursue it.
– I propose to deal with the imports and exports, but it seems that I am not to be permitted to develop my case. If so, I shall have to try some other way of doing it. There are plenty of other ways, and I warn honorable members opposite that they are only wasting the time of the Government.
– Let us deal with the whole Tariff when we come to it.
– The honorable member keeps interjecting about the Tariff, but I am not talking Tariff at all. I am talking of the load of taxation that the farmer has to bear, and that makes his lot so much harder. . The returns for the land tax last year clearly showed the severity of the drought.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are certainly not in order.
– Do you rule that we are not to discuss taxation on a taxing Bill?
– I have no desire to enter into a controversy with the honorable member, but the debate must be confined to the subject before the Chair. The Committee can deal only with matters referred to it by the House, and the honorable member’s remarks are distinctly foreign to the question before the Committee. He must confine himself at this stage to matters which come within the scope of the administration of the Minister of Trade and Customs or of his officers.
– Am I not in order in asking the Minister to use his administrative powers to give relief to the farmers ?
– The honorable member did not do so.
– That is precisely what I am establishing a case for, but you will not let me get the facts out.
– If the honorable member will state his case I shall see how far he may elaborate it afterwards.
– I am showing first that the farmer stands more in need of relief than any other section of the community because of the terrible drought which has raged. He, of all others, has been made to suffer almost beyond the possibility of conception.
– We cannot relieve him under these Estimates.
– May I make this appeal to the honorable member? I made an arrangement with his leader and his whip that this amendment should be taken at this very place to-night.
– Well, take the vote.
– The question of duties is not involved in “ contingencies.”
– It was in connexion with this Department and its administration
– The honorable member is saying “ No.”
– I was most generous, anyway. It was decided to close this matter on Friday night.
– Who said that?
– The right honorable member. It was to be closed on Friday.
– Yes, it was.
– I have never made any arrangement with the right honorable gentleman that I have not faithfully carried out, and I am asking him now to assist me in carrying out this undertaking. I told him frankly what I wanted to do, and told him the place where I wanted to do it. I went so far as to - but I will not mention that.
– Yes. mention everything.
– Well, I am going to mention everything. I consulted the Chairman himself about this very matter and the course of procedure, and now it seems it is all wrong. It is not wrong, and if the Chairman rules me out of order now, I shall sit down, because I can do no more. But I will have done my best to adhere to the agreement. I submit that I am putting a reasonable case before the Committee. Honorable members before me have discussed the whole question of stock and its passage through and out of Australia. This subject has been discussed time and again in this Chamber, and by the very men who, after taking this means of ventilating their grievances with regard to Customs administration, are now trying to stop me from referring to the matter in any way. I was referring to the severity of the drought and the way the farmer has been hit over it. Our wheat production last year was less by 78,000,000 bushels, which, at 5s. per bushel, represents a loss to the farmers of Australia of about £20,000,000 sterling.
– We shall have a record season this year.
– In addition to the failure of the harvest last year, the little crop of wheat that the farmers did have in another State was seized by a benevolent Government at 5s. per bushel, whereas if a market devoid of wheat had been opened to them the farmers would have received 7s. or 8s. per bushel for their product.
– I rise to a point of order, which I base upon standing order 274-
No member shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion; nor anticipate the discussion of any other subject which appears on the notice-paper.
I contend that the Tariff Bill appears under the heading “ Ways and Means “ on the notice-paper, and, therefore, the honorable member for Parramatta is out of order.
– As far as I am aware, the Tariff does not appear on the notice-paper.
– Perhaps it will relieve honorable members opposite if I resume my seat at this stage, for it seems to me that I am most unwelcome to them. I ask you, therefore, Mr. Chanter, if you can suggest when I may discuss these matters more appropriately than at this stage.
– If the right honorable member will take a suggestion from me, I would say that he could discuss these matters by moving a definite motion in the House.
– A definite motion ?
– Yes, a want of confidence motion. That is what this is in disguise.
– That is not what this is at all.
– Yes, it is a disguised attack on the Government.
– Pure subterfuge!
– I certainly would suggest to the Minister of Trade and Customs that he should get Dr. Cumpston to examine the Prime Minis- ter.
– Order, order!
Honorable Members. - Rubbish !
– It is time these inane ejaculations ceased. This cry of “ Wolf “ is being raised, no matter when we get on our feet.
– We are never so vulgar as you are, anyway.
– I would be obliged, Mr. Chairman, if you could protect me from this constant fire of interjections from honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Maribyrnong frightens me with his look ; he looks more like a wolf than a man. My purpose now is to make a suggestion to the Government, if they will regard it as a friendly one. I do want some relief for these suffering, overburdened farmers. If, by asking for that relief, I am raising a sinister party question, and indulging in a flank movement on the Government, then I will plead guilty to it; but that is really all I desire.
– What relief do you want?
– I want the Minister to do something administratively with regard to the duty on wheat bags, as he did with regard to the fodder duties.
-And the wheat.
– I want him to suspend the duties until better times come, and until we may consider this matter in connexion with the Tariff. I am asking him to take administrative action, as he has done with regard to other matters ; but Ministers will not listen even to the figures. These producers are suffering perhaps as they never suffered before in the history of Australia, and I urge the Minister to take administrative action to give them relief.
– Will you get the merchants who cornered the bags to unload a bit?
– If merchants have cornered the bags, and are inflicting a hardship upon the farmers, all I can say is that the Minister is criminally neglecting his duty if he does not stop them. If the Government know that these things are being cornered, they have the power to stop the cornering; and if the Minister is not moving in that direction he is neglecting his duty to the farmers of Australia. That is all that I have to say to him.
– You will not let Parliament get the power to act.
– “ Mesopotamia” is not in the thing with this blessed referendum. Like the political quacks my honorable friends are it is their cure-all for everything. Why are they so frightened? I will sit down, as my arguments seem most distasteful to them. As they decline to hear the facts, I will content myself with moving this amendment as a friendly instruction to the Government by the Committee to grant some relief in this way by an administrative act pending the rectification of the Tariff at an appropriate time in the future.
-What about the Tariff now?
– There is no Tariff in the matter at all.
When an impost is put on a manufacturer in the city he can relieve himself of it; he can add the impost to the price, and so pass it on, but the man I am pleading for cannot do any such thing. The manufacturer in the city may set his machine going and gauge to mathematical accuracy the return from the machine down to the fraction of a farthing.
– What about the time? Has not the honorable member been speaking about an hour?
– I have not been speaking very long, but it appears that it has been much too long for my honorable friends on the other side. I wish to say a word in protest against this dastardly attempt to close my mouth in connexion with this matter.
– Chair! That is a reflection on the Chair.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw the word “ dastardly.”
– I withdraw the word, and shall I say instead most unfair, most unprecedented, most unusual? Never in the history of Parliament have I known such a determined attempt toprevent any reference to the burden of the men in the interior as I have seen on this occasion. I did not expect it, speaking frankly. I thought that we would have plain sailing. I made a definite arrangement the other night that we should consider this matter, and consider it here and now. Every one knows what this movement means. Honorable members on the other side do not want this proposal to go to a vote, because they know that nine or ten of their own men are in favour of it.
– I rise to order. The honorable gentleman has been speaking for more than half-an-hour, and I submit that he is only entitled in Committee to half-an-hour.
– Order! The right honorable member for Parramatta commenced his speech at 9.28 p.m. There were several interventions on points of order, which occupied a considerable amount of time, and which I felt should not be counted in his time-limit. The discussion of the points of order lasted until 10 o’clock or afterwards. The right honorable gentleman’s time has now expired, but when the point of order was taken he had half a minute to go.
– May I have that half minute, sir?
Mr.Fisher. - Hear, hear!
– I rise to order. Your ruling, sir, will establish a precedent. I think that it has been ruled here, both by the Speaker and by the Chairman of Committees, that the standing ordercontains no provision for an allowance for interjections made in an honorable member’s time. You will remember, sir, that on a memorable occasion, when honorable members indulged in a procession in and out of the chamber, a speech by the honorable member for Echuca was interrupted about every third minute, but no allowance was made for the interruptions, and he had to sit down at the end of his half hour. I rose, sir. in order that you might be seized of the fact that a precedent would be created by your ruling.
– Very well. If I have erred, I have erred on the side of liberty of speech, but I will take it now as a direction from the Committee that in future the time of an honorable member will count from the moment when he rises, irrespective of whether any portion of the time is taken away from him by points of order.
– On a point of order, sir, I wish to say that you will do a very strange thing if you do. It will simply mean that an honorable member may get up, and may not be allowed to speak at all.
– That has been done.
– There has been more than half-an-hour of an honorable member’s time taken up to-night by honorable members on the other side. I take it, sir, that the standing order means that the speaker shall have halfanhour in which to speak, and not that he shall merely stand here while somebody else does the talking for him. That cannot be the intention of the standing order, surely.
– Order ! I trust that the honorable member will not discuss the matter.
– Am I to sit down, sir? Am I finished, or what is the position?
– The right honorable gentleman rose to a point of order. I decided one point of order.
– You decided that I had finished my speech.
– On a point of order, sir, I submit that immediately an honorable member has exhausted his time, he cannot continue for another half-hour.
– Mr. Chairman-
– Never mind; there is somebody who can speak if I cannot.
– I regret the proceedings.
– You never attempted to stop them, you know.
– Order !
– You have helped them.
– I regret the language of the Leader of the Opposition.
– What language?
– I protest against the language used in relation to myself.
– What language?
– That I should be taken to a medical man to be examined. Not only was it impertinent, but I think it was beneath the dignity of any honorable member, and there are few honorable members who would utter such remarks.
– The remark was intended as a joke, and I apologize for making it.
– I accept the apology. This is a time of war. I have heard from time to time a great deal of promised help from the Opposition. I have heard them say that we should have no struggles between parties during this most trying and most terrible war. I have heard that sentiment from the right honorable gentleman very often.
– And you will hear it again, too.
– When we talked about the Tariff - may I mention it for once, sir? - the cry was, “Go on with the Tariff? No! Disturb the whole Parliament; arouse issues that will estrange the members and prevent us from having a united front? No!”
– You ruled, sir, that I might not refer to the Tariff. I ask you to rule that the right honorable gentleman may not do so.
– The Prime Minister is no more in order in referring to the Tariff than any other member of the Committee would be. I have allowed him some latitude, because I thought he was making a mere personal statement.
– I said that I would mention the Tariff only once, and I have done so; but I withdraw what I have said .
– What is all this fuss about?
– An attempt has been made by the Opposition to raise a question whereby they thought they could defeat the Government. They canvassed the members of this party.
– We did not.
– An interview was sought with me, knowing that a particular item might be picked out in regard to which the public mind and honorable members generally might be disturbed, and that thus a party advantage might be gained, and thus at a time when every one is doing his best to help to fight the battles of our country, and to support our brilliant and valiant sons at the front.
– Will the Prime Minister say who did that?
– When the House met to-day an inquiry was made about the referenda. “Don’t go on with them,” it was urged. “ Why disturb the public mind in these desperate and daring times?” Immediately afterwards a dagger was drawn against the Government.
– The Prime Minister knows th at that is not so.
– One arm has been thrown round our neck, and with the other a political stiletto has been thrust into us, in the name of a suffering class which honorable members opposite have been holding up and supporting all these years.
– Will the Prime Minister say who on this side did any canvassing ?
– It was members of his side who did the canvassing. They came to me.
– The honorable member for Grey came to me.
– The discussion is entirely irregular, and I am not inclined to permit it to go further. If there are explanations to be made regarding a breach of an agreement, I ask that they be made in the House, not in Committee.
– The Government has no serious objection to the matter which has been mentioned being brought on in the usual way, and will afford ample opportunity to deal with everything, but no Ministry worth its salt could accept an instruction - that was the word used, if you please - from the Opposition about the raising of money for the carrying on of the war. The money that the Committee is being asked to vote is required to carry on work in connexion with the war, and the Opposition wish to pick out this, that, and another item for alteration as it may suit them. Let the country go where it will, they are determined to secure whatever advantages they can. A political gain is of more importance to them than anything else.
– I throw that remark back in the right honorable gentleman’s teeth.
– An attack has been made on the Government and on its finances. No one knows better than do the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Swan that no Ministry worth its salt could continue for a day and permit that.
– The matter was introduced by the honorable member for Grey.
– We were to have a Government of all parties, every one helping. This Ministry will have none of that. If we are to be attacked, let the attack be a frontal one. Tell the people that we are unworthy and incapable, if you wish, and we shall be ready to meet the attack; but I hope that this is the last that we shall hear of such talk.
.- -The display of theatricality which we have just had is entirely out of place at this time, and in connexion with the subject under discussion. The honorable member gasconaded, waved his arms, and made wholesale charges, imputing every unworthy motive that he could think of. My conscience does not accuse me of any wrong-doing. To my knowledge, no Government has ever received from an Opposition fairer treatment than this Government has received. Every one knows what the right honorable gentleman’s display meant. Every one knows that there was not an atom of reality in it, and that it was made to cover up the fact that his own supporters are expected to vote out this and every other proposal. Every one knows that the right honorable gentleman’s followers are as keenly in favour of this relief being given as is any one on this side. There has been canvassing; but it was initiated by them.
– They were on the deputation, too.
– Until now, this matter has been treated by both sides as a non-party question. That is my reply to the theatrical gasconading of the Prime Minister. There have been deputations about it to the Minister which have been of a non-party character, both sides having been represented. The facts are a sufficient answer to the tirade of abuse that we have had from the Prime Minister. I say to him here and now, despite his display, that I cannot acquit him of a good deal of sheer political hypocrisy in this matter.
– The Leader of the Opposition must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. But what can one think of a man who made this agreement with me last Friday, and never once raised a tittle of objection, now making the speech that we have just heard?
– I have allowed considerable latitude for personal explanation to both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. But’ I do not intend to allow these personalities to be indulged in; and I ask honorable members on both sides to confine themselves to the item before the Chair.
– I am unfortunate in being the only one to be pulled up all the time.
– The honorable member is incorrect in saying that, because I have given him ample latitude.
– You did not pull up the Prime Minister when he was making all sorts of charges.
– I spoke for only seven minutes.
– I shall confine myself to saying that we made an agreement, in the most friendly and cordial way, to discuss the question here and now; and the right honorable gentleman went so far as to give me more time than I asked for.
– Hear, hear!
– Then what is the meaning of all this display now ?
– The agreement was for half -past 6 o’clock.
– Did you mean it, when you made it? If you did, what is the meaning of this demonstration now? Why did you not take the objection then ? There was not a symptom - nob a breath - of objection; it was all right then. But now, when the matter comes up, according to agreement, everything is wrong; and the most infamous motives are being placed at my door. I care nothing for the imputations. I have done my duty in asking this Committee and the Government not to regard this as a party matter at all; but to treat it as an expression of opinion of this House. And this House and the Prime Minister are in favour of the proposal. Do honorable members hear? The House is in favour of the proposal.
– Then let us have a vote:
– The House is in favour of relief being given to the farmers.
– How do you know, if you have not canvassed members? Nobody in the House knows.
– Does any honorable member say that he is not in favour of the proposal?
– I say that neither the Leader of the Opposition nor anybody in the House knows it.
– Is the House against this relief being granted to the farmers ?
– We shall find out when the Tariff comes on.
– Exactly. The reason we know that the House is in favour of it is-
– I was never in favour of the Tariff being blocked.
– The reason we know that the House is in favour of the proposal is that so many honorable members on the other side have expressed themselves in favour of it. That is my final answer to the Prime Minister’s statement that this is brought forward as a party issue. Does he think that his own followers would act in collusion with us for party purposes? In making such a statement or suggestion he is reflecting on his own party, as well as on the party over here. There never was a touch or tincture of party feeling in the matter, and such was never intended. I tell the right honorable gentleman frankly that if I thought I could dispossess the Government with a vote of the kind, I would not give it for such a purpose. I say more. If the right honorable gentleman regards a friendly motion of this kind, supported by members on both sides, as a direction to quit office, he has a total misconception of what his duty to the country is. I do not wish to dispossess the right honorable gentleman - nobody over here does. We are not such fools as to imagine that we could dispossess him. We know that we cannot do so, and we are not trying to. We are asking the Government, in this time of unprecedented severity, to perform an administrative act, entirely within their competence, which will afford some relief to the long-suffering farmers of Australia, who have been so sorely hit by the drought. I repeat that behind this request is the majority of the House. I regret to say that the right honorable gentleman’s intention and purpose in making these displays to-night is to try to erect this into a party question, in the hope that he may deprive the farmers of much-needed relief.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Minister and’ Treasurer) (10.50]. - I have about six minutes in -which to explain my position. The Leader of the Opposition speaks of the arrangement made with me. The right honorable gentleman knows very well that I got a wrong impression on my mind, and that there was a misunderstanding - that is, if he believes me. He understands - everybody understands - what my position is at the present time. It is known how limited are the hours during which I have each day to deal with all classes of people, and watch everything, more or less. I did not think at the time that this was the question that was to be dealt with, but that it was some other question that was regarded as of importance to some of the right honorable gentleman’s followers. The right honorable gentleman wanted two hours at this sitting, and I agreed just as I went out of the door. I was under a misapprehension.
– It is very remarkable !
– And so, sir, is your interjection. I can only ‘ say, in the circumstances, that there are some people who have known me longer than has the honorable member. I have not always sought the easiest course.
– I know you can be mistaken.
– I can be honestly mistaken ; but I am bound to say that I cannot alter my opinion that this matter is pressed for - well, interested party motives.
– An infamous suggestion !
– It is !
– I shall follow with a statement that may probably assist honorable gentlemen opposite. If we have to deal with this matter, I can say, on behalf of the Government, that we shall seek an early opportunity to afford honorable members all the privileges necessary to give effect to the views of Parliament on this and other Tariff questions.
– I do not know why so much heat has been imported into this discussion, especially on the part of the Prime Minister, because I can assure him that, so far as I am concerned, there is no ulterior object or motive. The Minister of Trade and Customs knows that every honorable member who represents a farming constituency throughout Australia, has sent him petitions on this question. Personally, I have forwarded a good many, but, instead of being told at once that the request could not be complied with, the various people and societies interested all over the continent were informed that the matter would receive consideration.
– When the Tariff is considered.
– In consequence of that reply, we took no action until we were informed by the Minister that he did not intend to make any alteration. That was a great disappointment to all of us under the circumstances of difficulty in which the farming industry found itself. In letters to my constituency I expressed the opinion that the Government would accede to the request, but when that anticipation was not realized we took steps to get a vote in order to see whether we could not induce the Government to take the desired action. I had good reason for thinking that there is a majority in the House in our favour, because there are so many honorable members on both sides who represent farming constituencies, and I thought that the Government would meet the wishes of that majority. It was never even suggested that our action would be taken as a vote of want of confidence. I do not wish to hamper the Government, but honorable members in Opposition have responsibilities to those who send them here. In. my constituency an immense number of people are engaged in cultivating the soil and in raising wool, and without exception they are in favour of this relief being given. In ‘these circumstances, does the right honorable gentleman blame me for trying to get from the Government the relief which they seek - a relief with which I am altogether in accord ?
– Have you ever known such a step to be taken on a Supply Bill?
– Times out of number there have been amendments to reduce items with the object of intimating to the Government the wishes of honorable members. There was an instance of this in connexion with the Defence estimates in the early days of the Commonwealth Parliament. It is quite a common thing for amendments to be moved with the object of getting the Government to give relief that is asked for by honorable members, and they are never considered as hostile votes. As for the statement of the right honorable gentleman that honorable members have been canvassed in regard to this matter, I may say that though there is no one more interested in the matter politically than I am, because my constituency is largely made up of farmers, and though I am desirous of getting some measure of relief, I have not asked one honorable member how he intended to vote. The fact is that the whole of the Opposition’ and several members on the Ministerial side are in favour of bags and sacks of all sorts being on the free list. I wrote to my constituents and told them that I thought the relief would be given, and afterwards, when the Government said that they would do nothing, I wrote to say that we would have a vote taken on the matter in order to let the Government know the strength of those who were in favour of the granting of this relief. There was no secret about the matter; I have written dozens of letters to that effect. I have not, however, asked anyhonorable member on this side or on that side how he proposed to give his vote.
– Then how does the right honorable gentleman know what is the feeling of honorable members?
– They have told me. I have not canvassed any honorable member in regard to this matter, and I have not heard of any one else having done so. I regret that honorable members on this side should be charged with attempting to put a “ dagger” into the Government. I plead not guilty to that charge. I have done nothing in that direction. I merely wish to show my constituents that we have endeavoured to do our best. I have received letters saying that we have done nothing, and have replied that we have done what we could, but that we could not bombard the Government until we knew what they were going to do. Seeing that the Government have announced that they intend to do nothing in the matter, we are now taking the legitimate course of getting the feeling of honorable members by moving this amendment. We are doing our best, even if we are not successful, and why we should be charged with doing things that are discreditable from a political point of view I do not know. I cannot understand why the Government do not accede to the very strong request coming from all country districts. J cannot understand why they should give relief in the matter of fodder and refuse it in regard to bags and sacks. The attitude of the Government is inexplicable in these times of dire distress. In Western Australia the State Government has had to find half a million pounds in order to buy seed wheat and keep the farmers on the land. Why should the Government seek to place new burdens on these people? It is no wonder that the farmers proclaim that the present majority in the Federal Parliament has no sympathy with them, when in their time of difficulty, and, in many cases, almost bankruptcy, the Federal Government chose to place new burdens on them. The outburst from the Prime Minister is outrageous. His charge against the Opposition of attempting to put a dagger into the Government was unjustifiable, as well as offensive. That is not the object of honorable members of the Opposition. Their desire is to put those who so strongly favour this relief in a proper light before the country, and to show the people that they have done their best to induce the Government to reduce this burden at an unprecedented time, when the farming community are unable to bear the burdens they already have, let alone these additional imposts.
– Apparently honorable members opposite think that only one item in the Tariff should be reopened, but I know that there are many others which honorable members think should be re-opened. I did receive a deputation about this matter, but more honorable members came to -me on a deputation in regard to cinematograph films. Again, we have been told by honorable members opposite that country newspapers are being penalized to a terrible extent by the duty on paper. If we are to re-open the Tariff in regard to one item we should certainly go right through the 400 odd items in the schedule, and not pick out one or two which happen to affect honorable members. It is my opinion that this matter would not have been raised had it not been for the belief that political capital could be made out of it.
– That is a grossly unfair remark.
– I absolutely believe that it would not have been raised had it not been for the purpose of making political capital out of it. The deputation which came to me from honorable members opposite
– And your own side.
– I think there was one honorable member of my party at the deputation.
– Your Caucus was sitting at the time.
– I think your party caucus had adjourned, in order to attend the deputation. I defy any honorable member to refer me to a similar amendment to a Supply Bill.
– Amendments have been moved on the annual Estimates.
– There have been amendments on the annual appropriation. In one case the Barton Government was defeated in regard to its Defence proposals, and again in regard to its Loan Bill. We have passed the Estimates since the Tariff was introduced, and every item in the Customs administration has been under discussion.
– We were then waiting an answer from the Minister on this subject.
– I told honorable members, when that deputation waited upon me, that Cabinet had decided not to reopen the Tariff, but that I would submit the representations then made to the Government. I was perfectly fair.
– That was two months afterwards.
– It was not two months afterwards. The honorable member for Wakefield asked me a question on about the Wednesday following the day on which I met the deputation, and I told him then that the Government had decided not to re-open the Tariff. The Government’s attitude on this question has been perfectly clear. They have no intention to re-open the Tariff on this or any other individual item. If Parliament decides that the whole subject of the Tariff is to be re-opened, well and good ; but we have no right to amend the Tariff so far as it concerns any one particular item.
– What about the fodder duties?
– I brought that matter forward with the consent of every member of the House.
– If the Government would let the Committee express its opinion on this item, I think it would be perfectly unanimous.
– I do not think so; but in any case we have no right to amend the Tariff for any one item. If we did that, any honorable member might move that a similar alteration be made as regards paper. Other honorable members might want similar concessions for machinery, chairs, chocolates, or any other item. The Government could not sit here for five minutes if they consented to the proposition that has just been made.
.- I should not have entered into this discussion at all, but for the outrageous statements that have been made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs. The suggestion that this matter has been brought forward with any ‘ party motive behind it is absolutely without foundation. Nobody knows that better than the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not impute motives.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs has discussed this subject with me. I have discussed it with the party whip, and a member of the Government side of the House approached me and asked me to find out how many members on the Opposition side would vote for the proposal.
– I cannot remember discussing the subject with the honorable member.
– The Minister discussed it with me on Friday afternoon last.
– Who from this side approached the honorable member ?
– Never mind! An honorable member from that side did approach me, and for honorable members to> come along to-night and say that we have done this for party motives is despicable. It is outrageous. The argument put forward by the Minister of Trade and Customs that a similar course would have to be pursued in regard to other items in the Tariff will not hold good for a single moment. The only reason why it is so absolutely necessary that this item should be dealt with now or not at all is, as all honorable members know, that the bags required for the forthcoming harvest are now on the water approaching Australia. No one knows that better than the Minister of Trade and Customs, and if this proposal is held over until the Tariff is re-opened, the whole of the duty on bags required for this season’s harvest will have been collected before it can be dealtwith, and it will be utterly impossible to give any relief. That is the only reason for action at this juncture, and as I say. the prime mover in it was a member of the Government side. All I have done has been done at the request of a member of that side of the House.
Several Honorable Members. - Name him !
– I did endeavour to ascertain how many members on this side of the House were in favour of the proposal ; and when we found that a good majority of members generally were in favour of it, we told the Government plainly of the action we intended to take, and asked for their co-operation andhelp. Up to the time the honorable member for Parramatta began to speak, we believed that we had the assistance and cordialco-operation of the Government.
Motion (by Mr. Boyd) negatived -
That the question be now put.
– The honorable member for Richmond pointed across to this side of the House in the course of his speech; and in order to clear up the situation, so far as I am personally concerned, I challenge the honorable member, or any other honorable member, to say that I have spoken to any honorable member of this House in regard to this proposal. I can guarantee that no honorable member knows how my vote will be recorded. I have never at any time during this session been in favour of postponing the consideration of the Tariff, and I have said so, time and again ; but on numerous occasions I have heard from honorable members opposite - and particularly from the Leader of the Opposition - the desire expressed that they should have nothing to do with the Tariff in any shape or form.
– Let me inform the honorable member that that is not so.
– The honorable member’s words are in black and white in Hansard.
– They are, but they are not as the honorable member represents them. What I have always said was that there are two or three items upon which both sides could agree.
– I will quote the right honorable gentleman. In Hansard, page 4738, he says -
My own opinion is that the Tariff schedule should wait until after the war is over -
– Quite right; I say so now.
– because it may then be necessary to readjust the Tariff in order to meet a set of circumstances of which we now have no know ledge at all.
I do not know that anything could be clearer.
– I say that now.
– The right honorable member’s speech covers several pages, but the quotation I have made is sufficiently definite. I have never subscribed to such a view. I, and the majority of my party, I believe, have always taken the view that the consideration of the Tariff should not be postponed, and but for the objections of the Opposition we should have dealt with it, and with the particular item now under consideration, not in the underhand manner now proposed by the Opposition, but in a proper way. I do not desire a six weeks’ adjournment; I am prepared to remain here and proceed with the consideration of the Tariff, and then we could deal with this item in the proper way. If honorable members opposite had been serious about this matter, it would have been unnecessary for them to come along to-night with their mock heroics and “hifalutin,” which I regard as merely an attempt on their part to play to the gallery - to the farmers of Australia. So far as the Opposition are concerned, it is a case of protesting too much, and the farmers have long since dropped to them. I have not pledged myself as to how I shall vote on the question of the duty on jute goods. There is a ring operating in connexion with everything that the farmer uses, and even if we were to remit this duty of 10 per cent. to-morrow we have no guarantee that the difference would go into the pockets of the farmers. On the contrary, I believe that it would go into the pockets of those who are accustomed to farm the farmers, and they are the people for whom the Opposition have on every occasion a word to say. The Opposition said nothing when the Victorian Liberal Government - the last of the Liberal Administrations in Australia - appointed a Price of Foods Board, which fixed the price of wheat at 4s. 9d. a bushel, and so entailed a loss of 3s. per bushel on the farmers of this State. The appointment of theBoard was a mere bit of window dressing for electioneering purposes. As soon as the election was over the Board was abolished . Meantime, however, farmers had sold their wheat to the speculators at the price fixed by the Board, and after the abolition of that Board they had to buy it back again for seed purposes at an advance of about 3s. per bushel. But we did not hear a word of protest from any member of the Opposition, with the exception of the honorable member for Wannon. Where were the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Swan when the farmers of this State were subjected to this loss. The duty of 10 per cent. on jute goods amounts to less than¼d. per bushel, and the Opposition make a loud outcry about it, but with the exception I have named they had not a word to say as to the action of the Liberal Government of Victoria, which meant a loss of 3s. per bushel, and in some cases more, to the farmers. Everything that the farmers use to-day is controlled by a ring, a trust, or a combine, and when we ask for power to deal with these combines the Opposition do not show any disposition to help us. I wish to put it clearly and unmistakably that I am one of those who have always desired that the consideration of the Tariff should not be delayed, and but for the objection of the Opposition we could have dealt with this matter in a proper way to meet the wishes of the farmers. I am not going to be snared by the underhand tactics of the Opposition.
.- The Leader of the Opposition has given good reasons for his request that this relief should be granted to the farmers of Australia. The item , in question has no parallel in the other items to which honorable members opposite, and particularly the Minister of Trade and Customs, have referred. The Leader of the Opposition saidhe was able to trace from the drought a direct loss of £85,000,000 to those for whom he is seeking this relief, and the honorable member for Indi has advanced another good reason for our request by his reference to the action of a State Government in fixing the price of wheat. I wish to put on record the fact that the relief in respect of jute for which the Leader of the Opposition asks on behalf of the farmers of Australia will mean to the wheatgrowers, on the estimated crop, £172,600; to the wool-growers, a saving of £30,092; to the oat growers, on the estimated crop, £22,200; to the maize growers, £9,375; to the barley growers, £6,666; and to the potato growers, no less than £22,500, or, taking a reasonable estimate of the forthcoming crops, a total of £263,000. This does not take into account the relief to the sugar-growers and users of bags in connexion with all other root crops. I think I can convince even the Minister of Trade and Customs that I have not made an excessive estimate.
– It is altogether too high.
– No. I. have examined very carefully the latest available items of production assupplied by Knibbs, and have made a reasonable estimate of the coming wheat crop. The prospects are uniformly good throughout the States, and the areas under cultivation are vastly in excess of those for last year. In addition to these facts we cannot forget that, as admitted by the Attorney-General, the Commonwealth and State Governments will make a united levy of at least three-quarters of the wheat freight charters’ commission. That levy will amount to £350,000, so that there will be, in respect of these two items alone, a gross deduction of over £600,000 from the earnings of the farmers. The price of wheat was fixed in New South Wales at 5s. per bushel when it cost 12s. or 13s. per bushel to grow it. The position was much the same in Victoria during the last harvest ; it cost £1 per bushel to grow wheat on a yield of 1.38 bushels. For these and other good reasons I support the amendment. Like the Leader of the Opposition and other members of our party who have spoken, I am unable to understand the attitude taken up by the Prime Minister. As showing that there has been no concerted action on the part of the Opposition to take advantage of the Government, I would point out that our party waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs, accompanied by the honorable member for Ballarat. That honorable member brought with him an explanation from the Opposition members that they were not able to attend, thus clearly showing that there was no design to embarrass the Government, but merely a wish to secure a deserved concession in the direction indicated.
.As honorable members on the Opposition side seem desirous of carrying on the debate until we lose our trains. I see no reason why I should not make a few remarks. Any one who knows the right honorable member for Parramatta and the right honorable member for Swan must realize what brilliant actors they would have been had they gone upon the stage.
– It seems that anything can be said about members on this side.
– I am surprised at the Leader of the Opposition taking exception to a tender remark like that, when he has accused an honorable member on this side of being fit for examination by a lunacy commission.
– You know that was a joke, and I apologized for it.
– What is the use of insulting an honorable member and then apologizing afterwards? I cannot believe that honorable members opposite are in earnest in this matter, and I think the Prime Minister truly characterized them as assassins. They have one arm round the neck of their friends - the Government - and the other contains a stiletto, ready to be inserted below the Government’s sixth rib. They have observed that the political wind is commencing to blow towards the Ministerial benches, and they are beginning to emit poisonous gases for thepurpose of asphyxiating the Government. Those honorable gentlemen are the modern political Huns.
– Order ! The honorable member is discussing something outside the scope of the question.
– The honorable member’s remark was not an insult, was it?
– I meant the expression in a Pickwickian sense. I do not wish to insult the honorable member. The members of the Opposition are doing their duty as good politicians representing the so-called Liberals of this country. They desire to prepare the way for unseating the Government.
– I say there is not an atom of truth in that statement.
– The right honorable gentleman has made that statement so often that he will excuse me if I do not believe it. Ever since this Parliament opened there has been criticism uttered with the intention of discrediting the Government. What are the Government doing in regard to the making of munitions? Nothing! What are they doing in Defence matters? Nothing! And all the while honorable members say that in bringing forward these matters they are not in any way actuated by party motives. They could have taken these complaints to the Minister of Defence in his office, but they wanted to bring them forward in the House.
– I have already said that nothing has been brought forward in the House which has not been first placed before the Minister of Defence.
– All the time honorable members are attacking the Government, while pleading for the suspension of party warfare and the establishment of a Coalition Government. I may refer the Leader of the Opposition to a little quotation with which he is no doubt familiar, and which he often uses on pleasant Sunday afternoons, “ Can the leopard change his spots, or the Ethiopian his skin?” The Opposition, I submit, cannot change their skin or their spots. They are bent on trying to discredit the Government. They claim to be taking this action tonight for the purpose of assisting the farmers, but the honorable member for Indi has pointed out that the proposed relief will amount to less than¼d. per bushel. The price of bags does not enter into the question of the price the farmer is to get for his wheat. Sometimes thosepeople who farm the farmers give them 2s. 6d. a bushel, and at other times 5s. But the price of bags does not enter into the farmers’ calculation. It enters into the calculations of the big speculators. The estimate given by the honorable member for Wannon to-night was something stupendous. The honorable member told us that £2,000,000 worth of bags is to be im ported to deal with the farmers’ products. One would think there was not a bag in the whole of Australia. There is no escaping the fact that the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Swan, and those other honorable members who have torn a passion totatters to-night, are actuated by political motives. They think their action will dam age the Government, and they are hopeful of getting a division. The right honorable member for Swan stated that somebody had told him casually that a majority of the members of the House were in favour of removing the duty on jute goods. How would the honorable gentleman know there was a majority unless canvassing had taken place? Of course, he would not canvass; he has reached an age and a position when canvassing on his part would be quite undignified. Therefore, some honorable member of the Opposition would be deputed to find out what members thought on this question. However, as I understand honorable members are prepared to take a division on the question, I will resume my seat.
– I regret very much that heat should have been generated in this discussion. After the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition to-night as to the agreement arrived at with the Prime Minister, and the subsequent explanation made by the honorable member for Richmond, the action which the Opposition have taken cannot bear aparty complexion. The reason why I regret that avote is not being taken on this question, apart altogether from party considerations, is that this proposed duty of 10 per cent. on cornsacks is a tax on exports. It has already been explained that the duty will mean a tax of not less than £200,000, and it has no protective incidence at all. This impost does not suit the Protectionist party, nor does it suit the farmers to have a tax placed on their raw material. It cannot be the intention of the Government or the Minister of Customs to place a direct tax on the exportation of not less than 25,000,000 bags of wheat, which is the estimated surplus to be available forexport. The retention of this duty will impose a direct tax on the export of wheat from Australia, a trade which should be encouraged in every possible way, especially in view of the disastrous drought which has been experienced during the past year. I regret that the Government have not risen to an appreciation of the importance of our primary productions by voluntarily agreeing to forego the duty.
. -In view of the promise of the Government to consider this matter in response to the enormous number of petitions in reference to it which has been received from all parts of the country, I regret that no action has been taken in that direction. I am very pleased that the matter is now going to a division.
Question - That the word “ Contingencies “ proposed to be left out stand part of subdivision 2 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Home A fairs, £341,650, agreed to.
Postmaster - General’s Department, £1,330,020.
– To-night, in reply to a question which I put to him, the PostmasterGeneral stated that it was not a fact that he had threatened to close some of the small allowance offices in New South “Wales because the persons in. charge of them are not prepared to accept the salary offered by the Department. I wish to read some correspondence with a view to showing that my question was based upon facts. Here is a letter which I received from the Department, dated 27th August-
With reference to your communication of the 30th ult., forwarding one from Mr. John Jones, Langley, Kybean, requesting that the further period of seven years for which it is necessary that the residents maintain theNimmitabelKybean telephone line be reduced to three years, I haveto intimate that the matter has received consideration, but it is regretted that no reduction can be made in the prescribed period. I may add that it is advisable for the residents concerned to intimate whether the conditions specified in my letter of the 12th idem attached are acceptable to them, as otherwise the question of dismantling the line will need to be considered.
J. Young, D.P.M.G.
Here is a threat to dismantle the line - to pull the wires off the poles. Another communication addressed to me under date 13th August, reads -
I have to intimate that, prior to the 1st June last, the postmaster at Coolangatta (Mr. A.T. Cummings) was in receipt of an allow- ance at the rate of £ 17 10s. per annum. The allowance justified on the figures for 1014 is £12 per annum, but the postmaster is unwilling to carry out the duties for this amount. In view of this decision, and as no other suitable applicant is at present available, it will be necessary to proceed to close the office unless a satisfactory nomination is made for the position of postmaster at the regulation rate of payment mentioned within two months from this date. I may state that remuneration at allowance offices is regulated according to a scale which provides for payment on the business transacted and attendances outside ordinary hours of duty, accommodation and light provided, &c. It will be seen from the particulars on the attached form how the amount payable in the case of Coolangatta office is made up.
J. Young, deputy Postmaster-General.
This man has been receiving £17 for many years, and the Postmaster-General is now going to cut him down to £12. He has to look after postal articles, to pay pensions, to look after the telephone office, to attend to the mails daily, to sell postal-notes, and to do generally the work of a post-office. The PostmasterGeneral told me emphatically to-day that my statement was incorrect.
-I did not; I said I was not aware of what the honorable gentleman stated.
– All I can say is that the honorable gentleman ought to have been aware of it. The conduct of the Post and Telegraph Department at the present time has become a public scandal. I know that in saying this I shall not be accused of attempting to make political capital out of the business. We had a report upon the management of the Department by a Commis sion of members of this House, and recently we have had a report from Mr. Anderson, who made a special inquiry into the working of the Department. He has recommended the appointment of a general manager. What is the answer of the Postmaster-General to that? He proposes to put in charge of the Department the officers who have been responsible for this mismanagement. He tells me that he is not going to do anything of the kind. But does the honorable gentleman know what appears in the Herald to-night and in the Argus of this morning? What has he to say to that? Does he know that three of the principal officers of the Department, who with others are responsible for the mismanagement and trouble, are now being appointed by him, or in his name, to inquire into their own mismanagement? Does the honorable gentleman know that, or is he a political know-nothing? It is all very well for him to grin in that inane way; but I say that a responsible Minister should know what is being done in his Department. He proposes to meet the trouble by charging an extra penny on toll calls. Has he inquired whether1d. per call will give him more revenue? I reduced the charge for telephone calls from 3d. to1d. when I was PostmasterGeneral against all the official advice, because I was quite satisfied that the 1d. rate would give us more revenue than we derived from the 3d. rate. It did do so, and in some cases three or four times as much. Under the honorable gentleman’s proposal the convenience will be restricted, and the revenue will be diminished; but perhaps he has not inquired into that. Does he propose to shut the offices in my district to which I have referred, or to pull the wires off the posts? If he does not. why does he permit these responsible officers to send me communications like those I have read, and then have the effrontery to say that I have not spoken the truth ?
– I did not say so.
– Is the honorable gentleman going to have the wires pulled off the posts?
– I expect so.
– What has the Prime Minister to say to that.? Did any one ever see such an exhibition by a responsible Minister of the Crown? I appeal to the Prime Minister to look into this Department, and to prevent people in isolated districts who are de- barred from enjoying many of the advantages of civilization, from being treated in this way. A cut rate must be accepted for the carrying on of the service, or the wires will be pulled off the posts which were put up by the people themselves. I ask the Prime Minister to inquire into the matter, and not to permit of the farce of the men at the head of the Department, and responsible for its mismanagement, being appointed to inquire into their own work. Who is to do their work while they are making the inquiry ? The newspapers tell us tha. the Cabinet will have a say in the matter, because the Postmaster-General is to report every three months to the Prime Minister, who has enough work of his own to do without having to shepherd the little details of the Post and Telegraph Department. In my district at least sixty small offices have been put on starvation rates, and if those in charge did not accept them, I suppose the wires would have been pulled off the posts. The work of the Post and Telegraph Department should have a civilizing influence in the opening up of the country, and to retard or interfere with that must be injurious to the country. I know that the Prime Minister, because of the terrible war, is a busy and overworked man, and I do not care to harass Ministers at this time ; but I ask the right honorable gentleman not to permit us to run into a further mess with the Post and Telegraph Department. If the proposal to have the Department conducted by the three men who have been suggested is carried out, it will be practically shut up. Reading the report of Mr. Anderson on the Post and Telegraph Department is like reading an account of a comic opera. We find that men sitting in the same room have been writing minutes to each other.
– What happened in the honorable gentleman’s time? They did the same thing then.
– They did not. If they did that kind of thing in my time I ought to have been kicked out. It is well known that I would not stand that sort of thing. During the time I was Postmaster-General no report upon the Department such as that presented by Mr. Anderson was ever published. I did not try to carry on the Department by raising rates, or reducing small salaries. I have a record in connexion with my management of the Department which the honorable member for Herbert would be proud to have. I, no doubt, resisted his cajoleries, and that may be rankling in his mind even yet. I do not say that what I complain of is the fault of the Postmaster-General, but it is the fault of the system. I appeal to the Prime Minister to look into the matter, because there is a danger of this Department breaking down. I do not say anything against the PostmasterGeneral personally. I know that his intentions are good, but I know, also, that the way to a very warm place I have heard of, and to which people who criticise me very often go, is said to be paved with good intentions. I appeal to the Prime Minister not to let public officers ruin a great Department, the reputation of the Postmaster-General, and of the Government, for whom I have very great consideration. I want the matters about which I have complained rectified, and if the Postmaster-General attempts to pull down the wires in my district, or close any small offices, I will make him regret it.
– In connexion with one of the two cases referred to by the honorable gentleman, it is possible that there is a legitimate reason for the threat to remove the wires. In the other case, of the reduction of the allowance, the whole of the fuss which the honorable gentleman has raised is due to the fact that the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales, in carrying out the rules, has notified the person who had charge of the office referred to that the business done there does not warrant a continuance of the former allowance. The allowances are fixed according to a scale.
– Which every one of the honorable gentleman’s predecessors refused to follow.
– That is not so. In this case a man is informed that his allowance is cut down from £17 to £12, because the business of the office has diminished. He is notified that if he is not prepared to carry on the office at the reduced allowance, which is in accordance with the scale, some other person will have to be secured to carry it on. What is there wrong about that?
– He is not told anything of the kind ; he is told that the office will be shut up.
– That may he so, if some one else cannot be found who will carry on the work at the reduced allowance. There is nothing new about this. The Deputy Postmaster-General has only carried out a general rule. If he is to pay any regard to the scale, why should one man have preference over the other ?
– How much are you going to save on the lot?
– It is not done for the sake of saving. An unfair attack was made, and wild statements were indulged in before this evening about there being a cut down, and sweeping reductions being made. As a matter of fact, there is an increased payment for the Commonwealth for the year just ended of over £11,000 to allowance offices as compared with the year before.
– There are a greater number of offices.
– How does the honorable member know?
– I have had some created myself.
– The honorable member must take the whole Commonwealth. The correct figures show a percentage of increase of expenditure in every State. I said before that I could not state positively whether the scale of allowances was exactly fair or not, and that I intended to make inquiries. I had a test applied at Elmore - an .official office, and not a very large one, but a fair one to take. The whole business of the office for the last year was taken, and it was calculated what it would amount to on the basis adopted for allowance offices. The result came to £516 lis. 4d. The exact cost to the Department was £344, so that there wa£ a difference of £172. That is a very fair comparison. The instructions given everywhere are that an allowance office is not to be given to anybody who has no other business. In some cases there is very keen competition- to get the work. If a man is dissatisfied because he has a big business to attend to, and does not want to bother about the postal work - as sometimes happens - there are always others eager to get it, because it frequently brings trade. In some cases they make double what the allowance is worth by the increased trade. Occasionally, when a widow or other poor person takes the work without other occupation, it becomes a very hard case, because, in a small office, the allowance is not enough by itself to provide a living. Members sometimes appeal for an allowance office to be given to a widow or some other deserving person, and when it is given they say the Department is sweating them, and that it does not pay them a living wage. I have been unable to obtain verification of the statements made here on this subject previously. The departmental officers cannot find any verification for the statements about certain offices having been reduced. They were not reduced last year, at any rate. In regard to the case brought forward, it must be remembered that the deputies have some discretionary powers, and I did not think we should let the place go without an office.
– Has the Postmaster-General given his officers instructions to see about a re-arrangement of the mails in Victoria owing to the reductions in the train service ?
– It is not a matter for rearrangement. Mr. Bright is doing his best.
– Judging by that answer, the Postmaster-General does not think it is a very serious matter as regards the mail contracts in Victoria. I asked him previously if he would have the matter inquired into and see that the people who were accustomed to a daily mall for years still got it.
– I made no promise that they would get it.
– Evidently the Postmaster-General does not think it worth while to trouble about them.
– I said I would try to do it, and I have tried to see if it is possible. I made no promise to give them a daily mail. I do not control the trains - at any rate, not yet.
– All I asked the Postmaster-General was to see, through his officers, that the people got a daily mail wherever possible; and that where goods trains were running on certain lines, they should be availed of. There will be three or four goods trains running on the Gheringhap -Maroona railway. Will he see that this red-tapeism is broken down so that the people may get a daily mail? They have been accustomed to a daily mail for twenty-five years past, and the Department has been to a great deal of trouble to arrange a mail service; so that in those cases I “want those responsible to see whether it is possible to continue the daily mail, especially where the coach contracts have been broken or cut OK at different points, so that they do not reach the people, ls it not possible to enter into some arrangement with the Railway Commissioners ?
– You want a readjust.ment, wherever possible, owing to the alteration of the trains and services?
– Under the contract, we cannot put our mails on a goods train.
– Will the Minister see if something can be done? The position seems absurd.
– The Railway Commissioners do not allow the mails to go on goods trains.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral send his officers to see the Railway Commissioners, and ascertain if it is not possible for these people who have three goods trains a day going past their doors, and perhaps no passenger train on that particular day, to get their mails? Surely the Postal Department and the Railway Commissioners can come together.
– That is being done, but it cannot be done in a day. If it can be done, we shall certainly try to arrange it.
– Last Thursday or Friday I told the Postmaster-General that these people did not expect the thing to be done in a day; but on Thursday their mail is going to be cub off. The matter is very important to them. Is it not possible for the Postal Department to arrange with the Railway Commissioners for what I suggest to be done as quickly as possible, because the new timetable comes in on the 1st September?
– I move -
That the word “ Contingencies “ (Central Staff) be left out.
I do so as a protest against the cutting down of the allowance offices throughout Australia. It is one of the most disgraceful things ever done by any Department here. These people were getting from £12 to £17 10s. a year. The Department applied to every one of the PostmasterGeneral’s predecessors to do this thing, and not one of them would do it, whether Liberal or Labour, since the beginning of Federation.
– That is not true.
– It is quite correct. The Department has tried to get the allowances cut down, and every PostmasterGeneral up to the present one has refused to do it. The proposal is that where the business decreases in certain post-offices the allowance shall be cut down. The officer-in-charge has to attend to a number of duties. He has’ to attend to the telephone, pay the old-age pensions, and take charge of the country post-office Savings Banks. The savings the Minister is proposing to effect will not amount to £1,000 in the whole of the postal service of Australia. It is a very serious thing for these people who are getting merely a pittance, to have that cut down, and it is a serious matter, also, for the people to have the post-offices closed. This mail service is the one thing in which Federation can help the people out in the back-blocks of Australia. Since Mr. Sidney Smith’s time the> country districts have never received the attention they deserved, and now it appears that, in order to save a few paltry pounds, the services are to be curtailed. Honorable members who . go into these country districts know that frequently they have to use all the personal influence they possess to get people to take charge of these offices. I guarantee that there is not one member of this House representing a country district who has not been called upon to urge people, almost as a favour, to take charge of these offices for the few paltry pounds’ they receive. I do not intend, at this late hour, to speak much longer, but I want to voice my pro-test against this miserable saving, and I hope the Postmaster-General will give a promise that the order will be rescinded.
– There has been no order.
– Yes, there has, for we had the instruction read to the Committee to-night.
– That refers to the scale.
– i trust the
Prime Minister will see if something can be done in this matter.
“12.9 a.m]. - If I may be permitted to make a suggestion, I would ask the honorable member not to persevere with his amendment. Honorable members are well aware that several of our members have gone home, and I am sure that the honorable member hag no desire to get a snap vote.
– Certainly not.
– I want to assure the honorable member and the Committee that I have every sympathy with the views he has expressed concerning the people in the back country. I agree that wherever possible they should have postal facilities. I appreciate the desire of the honorable member for Corangamite to secure co-operation between the Railway Commissioners and the PostmasterGeneral, in order to get mails carried by goods trains where passenger trains have been curtailed, and goods trains are still running.
– If mails can be carried on horseback, surely they can be carried on an engine?
– This is a time when difficulties should not be magnified, but when an endeavour should be made to get the best results with economy. I promise the honorable member that I will look into the matter, and I can assure him that there will be no cutting down until a statement has been made on the matter.
– I indorse what has been said with regard to the cutting down of postal services on the outskirts of civilization, and I enter my protest against this action. These postal services are absolutely essential to the development of the back country. Our pioneers deserve every consideration, and I am glad the Prime Minister has promised to look intothe matter. Concerning the refusal of the Railway Commissioners to carry mails on goods trains I would like to say that if there has been a refusal-
– There has not been a refusal, but it is in the contract that mails are not to be carried on goods trains.
– I know all about that, but I say that if any Railway Commissioner in any State is not prepared to interpret generously the terms of his contract when, in the interests of economy, he is taking trains off any particular line, that Railway Commissioner is not serving the best interests of his own State.
– We ought to know also who is refusing.
– More than one Railway Commissioner of
Australia is not very sympathetic in this regard. There ought to be more sympathy and co-operation between the Railway Commissioners and the central authorities, so far as the mail services of Australia are concerned. A case was brought under my notice this week, and I am informed that it was a third application that had been made concerning a town big enough to support two banks, several places of business, including two very large stores. Owing to the failure of a harvest, the train service has been cut down from one to three trains a week, but on alternate days there are goods trains running, and it is simply intolerable, to my mind, that in these circumstances the Railway Commissioners should refuse to carry a mail on the goods train on the alternate days.
– I quite agree with you.
.The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is to be congratulated for having brought this matter before the Committee. I know that a great number of these people in charge of allowance offices give not only their time, but are really tied to the work, and, at the same time, they have to find premises for the very meagre pittance they receive from the Postal Department. It will be grossly unfair now to cut down those services, and I am glad that we have the assurance of the Prime Minister that he will look into the matter.
– Let him give an undertaking.
– I had hoped that the Postmaster-General, in view of what has been said, would have indicated that there would be no increase in the telephone rates in country districts.
– That is another question.
– The Minister on the floor of this House mentioned that the telephone and telegraphic services paid in the country districts, and that the loss occurred in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
– There is a profit in Melbourne, make no mistake about that.
– There is a loss in Melbourne.
– I would say to the Minister that the increases in charges ought to be where the loss is occurring. Why should the country people have to pay for the loss? There is another matter to which I desire to direct attention. I have received two or three communications from New South Wales asking me to urge the Postmaster-General not to increase the postage on newspapers. The people in the country say, “Put what increases you like on catalogues and business advertisements, but do not increase the rates on country newspapers.”
– Order! The honorable member may not anticipate the discussion on that question.
– Is it not an item in connexion with the proposed vote for the Department?
– It is set down on’ the notice-paper for discussion on a future day.
– I bow to your ruling, sir.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Refund of Revenue,* £100,000, and Advance to the Treasurer, £350,000, agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 12.17 a.m. (Tuesday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 August 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150830_reps_6_78/>.