6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the . chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers. papers.
The following papers were presented : -
Business Management of the Department of Home Affairs -
Report byMr.R. M. Anderson.
Preliminary Notes on Mr. B. M. Ander son’s Report, by the Acting Secretary of the Department.
High Commissioner - Correspondence respecting extension of term of appointment of the Right Honorable Sir George Raid, P.O., G.C.M.G., as High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Australia in London.
Norfolk Island - Report of the Administrator for the year ended 30th June, 1915.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Act - Regulations -
Employment of Persons other than those employed in Government Factories - Regulations (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 162.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Regulation Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 174.
Military Forces -
Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 161, 173.
Post and Telegraph Act -
Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 118, 147, 164, 167. 168, 178, 180, 181.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 122, 142, 146, 148, 153, 169, 170, 171, 177, 188, 189.
Public Service Act -
Promotions of -
W. Benson, as Clerk, 3rd Class, Accounts Branch, New South Wales. G. West, as Clerk, 4th Class, Central Staff.
Universal Training -
Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 160, 163, 165, 172.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 183, 184, 191.
– I wish to know fromthe Minister for the Navy if he intends to remove the training ship Tingira from her present mooring at Rose Bay? If not, will the honorable gentleman make provision for the sick , to receive medical attention off the ship, and provide for new arrivals to bo medically examined before they board the ship, to prevent epidemics of sickness in the cradle of our Australian Navy?
– The removal from Rose Bay of the training ship Tingira has been under the consideration of the Naval Board, and we have received from Commander Robins a report suggesting that, in view of the possibility of epidemics breaking out on board, it might be advisable to remove the vessel from Port Jackson to some other Australian port. That suggestion is . under consideration. I have called for a report as to the cost incurred in providing moorings at Rose Bay, laying on water and telephone communication, and other expenditure which I believe was considerable, and also for an estimate of the cost of making the vessel seaworthy for a journey to some other port, which I believe would be very large. I might inform the House that I must be assured that the removal of the vessel from Rose Bay is absolutely necessary before I shall consent to it.
– Is it intended to remove the vessel to Port Phillip?
– I have already answered the question. No decision has yetbeen come to.
– By leave of the House, I wish to state shortly the policy of the Government, and to announce the measures to be submitted to Parliament before we again adjourn for an extended period.
– In the first place, let me declare clearly the policy of the Government with regard to the war. Ministers consider it vital that there shall be no departure from the policy laid down by the Fisher Administration. They are of opinion that the war should be prosecuted with the utmost vigour until a complete and final victory is assured, and will not consider any suggestion for a peace until that victory has been secured.
During the present sittings we shall ask Parliament to deal with an Iron Bounty Bill, whose provisions differ in some minor respects from the legislation on the subject already on the statute-book. Honorable members will be asked, also, to sanction the extension of the railway from Katherine River to Bitter Spring. A Bill to amend the Income Tax Act, which experience has shown to be necessary, will be introduced. Two months’ Supply will be asked for, and there will be a Bill to authorize the borrowing locally of £10,000,000. There may be one other measure.
– What about the Murray “Waters Agreement?
– I thank the right honorable member for reminding me of it. A Bill will be introduced to give effect to the. Agreement, and, as doubt has been raised as to the liability of the Commonwealth under the Agreement, we propose to state in plain language that it shall not exceed £1,000,000. Nothing else need be said now concerning the measure, as it will merely ratify the Agreement on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– Has the Prime Minister a statement to make to the House and to the country as to the progress which he has made in securing wheat charters for the coining harvest?
– A Conference to decide the rate of freight will take place tomorrow.
– I ask whether the question is not out of order, as it anticipates one of which notice has been given?
Mr.Richardfoster. - My question deals with a different matter.
– It is, of course, impossible for me to keep in mind every question of which notice appears on the business-paper for the day; but the anticipation of such questions is out of order. I can hardly see that there is such anticipation in this case, and I think that the Minister is entitled to reply to the question.
– I shall furnish a reply to the question of the honorable member for Wakefield, but I may inform the honorable gentleman that the information he has asked for cannot be given at the present moment, because the Conference to which I have referred is alone in a position to supply it. The Conference will meet on Friday, and may probaby continue its deliberations over Saturday and Monday. We shall announce the rates of freight, and proceed to its allotment as early as possible.
– I desire to make a statement on . behalf of the Minister of Defence, in reply to statements made yesterday by the honorable members for Newcastle and Melbourne.
– In reply to the statements made in the House yesterday-
– On a point of order. The honorable member has frequently asked for leave to make statements of this kind. I do not object at all; in fact, I welcome them, and I think that a statement on this subject ought to be made. At the same time, I submit that statements of this character should be laid upon the table of the House, and not made in the way the honorable member proposes. If the honorable member will lay his statement on the table, and then move that it be printed, some other honorable member may have an opportunity of discussing it. As it is, honorable members cannot do that.
-Will the honorable member state his point of order?
– My point of order is that it is not in order for a statement affecting administration and policy to be made, under cover of the leave of the House, without an opportunity being given for any honorable member to reply. It appears to me that, in this respect, we are developing a system that is wrong.
– The point of order raised by the honorable member has been considered by me and, I think, by former Speakers on frequent occasions. The practice of honorable members asking for leave to make statements has somehow grown up, and requests for such leave seem to become more frequent as time goes on. The House, in its generous mood, offers no objection, with the result that a statement is frequently made to which several honorable members may desire an opportunity of reply. Then difficulty arises. The whole system is irregular, but I am in. the unfortunate position that when an honorable member asks for leave to make a statement it is my duty to ask if the House will sanction the granting of that leave. The point raised by the right honorable gentleman raises the question as to whether there is likely to be anything in the statement the Minister now proposes to make that may call for reply. If it were desired to make a reply, the only way that could be done under present circumstances would be for some other honorable member to ask for leave, and the whole thing might go on indefinitely, and, of course, irregularly. Some better method of dealing with matters of this kind might be adopted than that which has hitherto been accepted.
An Honorable Member. - The honorable member may conclude with a motion.
– If the practice develops of an honorable member moving that a paper be printed, the Standing Orders will be practically set at naught, for there may follow endless debates on matters which may be important or unimportant, whilst the actual business of the House will be. lost sight of. In that case the Standing Orders would have to be suspended entirely, or a new set of Standing. Orders drawn up to meet the situation. What I suggest is that leave should be granted in those cases where it is desired, to make a statement of sufficient importance to warrant this course being pursued, but not otherwise.
Mr.WATKINS.- As I understand the statement that the Minister desires to make follows upon remarks made by me yesterday, I think correct procedure would be established if I were to repeat’ the question now. I therefore ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence why it is that officers have been appointed to supersede those officers who have been recommended for appointment by the Commandant and Board in New South “Wales?
– In reply to the statements made yesterday by the honorable member for Newcastle and the honorable member for Melbourne in reference to the appointment of officers in the Australian Imperial Forces, who were not fit t» lead the men, the Minister for Defence makes the following statement: -
The statement is a general one, and, considering it as a general statement, it is most certainly inaccurate. No officer is sent away in charge of men unless he is qualified for his position and passes the necessary tests, which are of a practical as well as a theoretical character. He also has to be recommended by the Selection Committee of the District, the. Commandant of the District, and the AdjutantGeneral of the Military Board. That the officers so chosen have justified their selection, is shown by the many eulogistic references that have been received from those in command at the front, and also bj’ the fact that many of the junior officers have been the recipients of honours conferred for distinguished service.
Amongst the thousands or officers who have had to be appointed, it is of course possible that there may be some who have npt been fairly selected, and if the honorable members, who make the general statement have knowledge of such cases, and will bring them under the notice of the Minister, he will have ai thorough investigation made with a view to rectifying them. The Minister, therefore, appeals to the two members requesting to supply him with specific information so that he can have the necessary inquiries made.
– Will the Minister for the Navy, as representing the Minister of Defence, make available to honorable members the qualifications of the officers appointed to officer the Army Service Corps Unit now at the Warren, Marrick- ville, New South Wales, who were appointed directly from Melbourne, against the recommendations of the special Officers Appointment Committee established in New South Wales?
– I will lay the papers on the Library table this afternoon.
Mr.RODGERS.- Will the Minister of Trade and Customs inform the House which Australian ports have received permission to export beef, mutton, or lamb, and to which Australian ports that permission has been refused. Will the Minister also state why any discrimination has been made?
– Permission has been granted to those States which have agreed to the condition that meat should be made available to the people of Australia at the same price as it is placed f.o.b. Directly meat exporters in Victoria fall into line, they will receive exactly the same permission that has been granted, in other States.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether, in consequence of the threatened increase in the telephone charges, a large number of old subscribers have given notice that they propose to discontinue their service? If so, is it the intention of the honorable gentleman to withdraw from the proposed increases, and thus, while giving greater services to the public, securing a larger revenue ?
– I have no knowledge as to- whether or not a number of old subscribers have ‘given notice of their intention to withdraw from the service. As to the second part of the honorable mem- ber’s question, when I have had time to consider the matter, I shall furnish him with a reply.
– In respect to the contemplated increase in the telephone rates, will the Postmaster-General considerthe question whether there should not be discrimination between the country and the capital cities?
– I shall review the whole question at the earliest opportunity, and let the honorable member know of my decision.
– I wish’ to ask the Treasurer whether he intends to place the Estimates upon the table of the House before the Christmas vacation takes place ?
– It is not intended to lay the Estimates on the table of the House before the adjournment. They have not yet been finally dealt with.
– I wish to ask the Minister, of Home Affairs whether it is correct, as reported in the Sydney press, that, without waiting for parliamentary authority, it is proposed to proceed with the erection of a Small Arms Factory at Canberra ? If so, will the Minister further consider the matter with’ a view of deciding whether, in the present crisis1, it would not be more advantageous to make additions to, and increase the output of, the factory already in existence at Lithgow ?
– I shall give immediate consideration to the matter.
– Will the Minister for the Navy, as representing the Minister of Defence, cause inquiries to be made into my statement that a number of State and Commonwealth public servants are drawing double pay - one as public servants and the other as military officers - at the Camps?
– I shall be glad to have an inquiry made and to report the result to the House.
– I desire to congratulate the Prime Minister on his appointment and, in wishing him success, to ask whether, when the referendum is being taken, he will give the electors an opportunity of voting on the question of whether or not they favour conscription ?
– I thank the honorable member for his1 congratulations. The
Government will not put an eighth question, of that kind at all events, to the people.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs lay on the table of the House a copy of all papers relating to the resumption of lands at Conwaytown, near Port Augusta, the proposed construction of workshops there, and the estimated cost?
– I shall be pleased to lay the papers on the table of the Library.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the arrangements that are being made with regard to freights deal with freights ‘ to such countries as Java ?
– Under the declaration of freights, the Eastern markets will be considered, and a special rate will be declared in respect of them.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs be prepared to reconsider the decision of his Department in regard to the application made by the mill-owners and mill-workers of Tasmania respecting the supply of sleepers for the transcontinental railway ?
– I shall look into the matter.
– Mills are closing down.
– I shall consider the matter to-morrow.
Nationalization or the LIQUOR Traffic.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs state whether it is a fact that the nationalization of the liquor industry in the Northern Territory occasioned an immediate increase of 100 per cent, in the pay of those engaged in the trade, and whether such increases have been made contrary to the advice of the officers on the spot?
– It is quite correct that, on the hotels at Port Darwin being taken over by the Government, a demand was1 made for increased wages on the ground that, haying regard to the conditions of the country, those which had been prevailing for some time were inadequate.In one or two cases, I think, the increase amounted to about 100 per cent., but the total increase is comparatively insignificant. The honorable member, I am sure, will be gratified to hear that the new industry taken over by the Commonwealth Government is flourishing, and is likely to be very remunerative.
– I should like to know what are the reasons for the closing of Brock’s Creek Hotel!
– So far as I can make out, the reason seems to be that the patrons of this particular hotel have been reduced to some two white men and a blackfellow.
– I presume that the answer of the Minister is given on reliable information, and I therefore desire to know whether he will place the papers regarding this hotel on the table,or in the Library, so that we may see whether the patrons of the hotel do consist’ of two white men and a blackfellow ?
– I shall endeavour to give the honorable member all the information available in the Department.
– Does not the Minister of External Affairs think it derogatory to the best interests of the country that the Commonwealth should engage in a trade which he says is remunerative, but which means remuneration at the expense of the bodies and souls of many thousands of individuals?
– The honorable gentleman has raised a very controversial question which he can hardly expect me to answer on the spur of the moment. I assumed he would be interested in the fact that the Commonwealth was not losing any money in this business.
– I say we should not make any money in such a business.
– I assume, however, that the honorable member will be glad to know that we are at last engaged in a remunerative Commonwealth enterprise.
– According to the press, there has been a strike in connexion with the hotels in the Northern Territory; and I should like to know whether the Minister of External Affairs has any information regarding it? Has this first strike finished, or is it still going on?
– I think the strike is over.
– How long did they do without their beer? That is what I should like to know.
– As a matter of fact, the bars were all closed ; but I believe the principal inconvenience was experienced in connexion with the dining rooms.
– Has the Prime Minister further considered the effects of the recent action of the Government respecting the issue of licenses to use certain German trade names, such as “ aspirin “ ? If not, will he give the House an opportunity to consider and take a vote upon the advisability of retaining such trade names?
– I explained yesterday the position of the Government in regard to this matter. I am afraid that no opportunity of dealing with this question can be given other than that which will be afforded honorable members on the motion for Supply ? If the honorable member has any suggestion to make - if he has any specific case in his mind where an injustice is being done, or an opening has not been availed of - I shall be glad to hear of it, with a view of taking what steps may be necessary.
– Is it true, as reported in the press, that the Government have decided to abandon the competition for designs for the new parliamentary buildings at Canberra, and, if so, what are the reasons for such action ?
– I have not yet had time to look into these matters. I find that my Ministerial digest has gone, and I shall not be able to afford the desired information until I get started again.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to confirm the reply given by the ex-Prime Minister to the railway employees of Sydney, who offered their services gratuitously in the manufacture of munitions?
– I must ask the honorable member to put that question to the Minister who represents the Minister of Defence, or to place it on the notice-paper, when I shall endeavour to get the information and make it available - perhaps to-morrow.
– Has any complaint been made that the passports issued by the Department of External Affairs have been found insufficient in the case of travellers crossing France? If no complaints have been made, will the Minister inquire into the matter, as I understand that people have had to pay heavy fees for new passports on arrival in that country?
– This is the first intimation I have had of any complaint regarding passports. I cannot conceive of any objection to the passports, because they are issued in the latest form adopted by the Imperial Government, and I fancy that if any serious trouble had arisen the Department would have heard of it before now. However, if the honorable member knows of any complaints, and will let me know the particulars, I shall have inquiries made.
– On what constitutional authority does the Minister of Trade and Customs rely for his action in determining the price of meat in Australia ?
– I am not determining the price of meat in Australia.
– You have just said you were.
– No. All I say is that when the meat exporters of Victoria enter into the same agreement that has been entered into in New South “Wales and Queensland, they may export under similar conditions.
– But what as to the price ?
– In New South Wales and Queensland meat is being made available to the butchers at the price at which it is placed on board ship.
– You insist on that condition here?
– Right; that will do.
– Is it the intention of the Postmaster-General to continue the practice of employing “ listeners “ to hear conversations between telephone subscribers ?
– So far as I am concerned I shall endeavour to see that the telephones are used for their legitimate purposes.
– Can the Minister of External Affairs inform the House how far the Commonwealth buildings in London have progressed, so far as their erection is concerned, and when he expects them to be completed?
– I cannot give the honorable member the desired information from memory, but if he will repeat the question to-morrow I shall see that full particulars are supplied.
Report of the Public Works Committee, with an appendix, on the provision of barracks, quarters, gun park, &c, for the Royal Australian Field Artillery, Enoggera, Queensland, presented by Mr. Riley, and ordered to be printed.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Corio, in which he expresses his desire to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the inadequate system of the Defence Department in paying its soldiers and their dependants.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I desire to enter a most emphatic protest in regard to the disorganization which exists in the Defence Department, particularly in connexion with the payments made, or supposed to be made, to soldiers and their dependants. I regret that such a motion should be necessary when a Labour Administration is in office. This matter has caused me a great deal of work and anxiety during the last six months, and if I could see the slightest prospect of a discontinuance of the present state of disorganization, I would preserve silence. But, as time goes on, I find the conditions becoming worse. There are a number of cases of injustice to which I could allude, but I desire to bring under notice the particular case of Private P. Ryan. Neither this soldier nor his wife has received any payment from the Defence Department since the month of August. Several letters have been written to the Department by both Private and Mrs. Ryan, but to not one of them did the Department have the courtesy to reply. On the 9 th September this case was placed before me, and I at once wrote to the Paymaster in Victoria, Mr. Bolle, giving him all the facts. After waiting a week, I received a reply to the effect that Private Ryan and his wife had received all the money due to them, and, as this soldier had left the Expeditionary Forces without permission, he would receive no further payment. I investigated the case thoroughly. I found that Ryan enlisted at Geelong, and was transferred to Seymour, where he was placed in “ S “ company. Becoming ill, he was sent into hospital at Sandringham House. After being there for some time he was advised to return home for a week’s rest, and to then report himself at Seymour. At the end of a week spent at his home in Geelong he returned to Seymour, and found that his company had been transferred. He saw the Camp Commandant, who could only advise him to return to Geelong, and await further directions. He did so. While at Geelong he became ill again, and was placed in Osborne House, where he still remains. I placed all those facts before the Paymaster, and asked him to have them verified. To that communication I received no reply. Again I wrote, pointing out that the wife was penniless, that one child was sick unto death, that the family was nearly starving, and that the owner of the house in which they reside had given them notice to quit, because they were in arrears with the rent. Still I received no reply. I then sent a telegram of about thirty-two words to Senator Pearce, placing the facts before him, and asking him to investigate the case at once. Receiving no answer to that telegram, I sent a further message that the child had died, and that the wife had no money with which to make arrangements for the funeral. But for the charity of a few friends, God knows what would have happened to the unfortunate woman. Still I received no reply. After a few days I came to Melbourne, and got into touch with Colonel Thomas, a member of the Finance Board. He informed me that my telegram had been handed over to him. I asked him if he had done anything in the matter, and his reply was “No, I am just about to make inquiries.” I asked him if that was a fair way to treat a man and his wife when they were giving their all for their country, and, like the usual official, he was silent. intimately he did promise that he would make inquiries. I heard nothing further from him. Last week I interviewed the Assistant Minister of Defence, Senator Gardiner, and he agreed with me that the treatment meted out to Private Ryan was not that which a soldier should receive. He sent a note to Colonel Thomas, and we waited twentyfive minutes without getting any reply. Senator Gardiner then said, “ Apparently the officers cannot discover anything regarding the case of Private Ryan ; we will go to lunch, and I will guarantee to have the matter settled this afternoon, and to advise you by letter of the result of the investigation.” I returned to Geelong, and next morning received a letter from Senator Gardiner. After nearly six weeks of writing, telegraphing, and personal inquiry, I was advised by Senator Gardiner that the Defence Department knew nothing about Private P. Ryan, and I was asked to send further particulars. The Assistant Minister’s letter also stated that the Department was telegraphing to Ryan’s mother for particulars. I do not know what she had to do with the case; she had never complained to me, and” my representations to the Department were solely on behalf of the wife. This morning I received a letter from Geelong, stating that the agent had given Mrs. Ryan until next morning to vacate the house. Apparently, some landlords think that it pays to preach patriotism, but not to practise it. It is a scandalous state of affairs when a woman ‘to whom the Department is indebted, and whose husband is offering his life for his country cannot be trusted by the landlord for a few shillings.
– If the Department had done its duty, there would not have been any trouble with the landlord.
– Undoubtedly, the Department is to blame. But I may inform the House that I placed the whole of the facts before the agent. He is aware that certain sums are due to the woman from this Department, and why cannot he wait for his money until she receives that payment ? I have brought before the Department many cases of this kind. In the case of Private Hargreaves, after six weeks’ hard fighting, I obtained an admission from the Department that 105 days’ pay was due to that man. Is it just to keep a soldier and his dependants waiting 105 days for their money? “What would the Minister of Defence say, if he were at the front, and received word that his wife was to be turned out of her home, and that his children were starving? I fancy that, however great his patriotism might be, his resentment would be strong. I had no desire to occupy the time of the House in bringing forward these grievances, but I am compelled to adopt this course when I am unable to get satisfaction from any of the officials. I have found that in many cases the wives have been short-paid. They receive the correct amount for the first fortnight, but they may be paid £1 or 30s. short for the next fortnight, while, in some cases which I have fixed up, as soon as the matter has been settled the Department has the happy knack of forgetting to pay for a fortnight. I could read many letters which would serve to place all the facts before honorable members, but here is one communication in reference to a case I took up on behalf of a private in Geelong -
I want to thank you for having inquired at the district head-quarters about pay being due to me for the period 29th July to 15th August. I received the letter sent on by you saying that the amount due, £4 10s., had been received by me on the 4th inst. Unfortunately, that statement is absolutely incorrect, because I have not received that pay yet.
This was written on the 27th October. If the disorganization which undoubtedly exists in this Department which is managing our great Defence scheme, and on which the life of our nation depends, is common to all the Commonwealth Departments, God help Australia ! I find also that as soon as a man is transferred from one unit to another, the Department seems to lose him, and he is missing from the pay-sheet. If a soldier becomes sick, and is sent away from his particular company, he receives no more pay, neither does his wife. Here is another letter which I received -
I beg to draw your attention to the unsatisfactory conditions under which we in camp suffer, namely, from sick pay. I enlisted the 3rd day of August, and the last pay I received was 15th August. I left camp on Friday last, 22nd October, and never received any money except for the first fortnight. My case is not the only one. There is a large number in the same position and worse.
What is wrong with the Department? Cannot the official mind introduce a scheme to overcome the difficulty of transfers? I have told Senator Pearce that I have had considerable experience in dealing with large numbers of men, making out their payments of different values, and of transferring men from one unit to another, and that if his Department was not capable of introducing a system to meet this difficulty, I would be pleased to help him. Unfortunately, Senator Pearce is like some other Ministers. They are not desirous of receiving help. They do not seem desirous of fighting the various heads of their Departments, and are sufficiently complacent to let the machine run on in the good old way. Yesterday the Prime Minister read a message from the King; in which His Majesty called for more men to save the Empire from annihilation. I ask honorable members whether the matters that I have brought forward indicate a way to encourage recruiting. These men who are prepared to give their lives for their country want to be satisfied when they go away that their wives and children whom they leave behind will be looked after, and this is the way in which a paternal Government, and particularly a Labour Government, is looking after them. These men are patriots. They are ready to fight and. die for their country, but the treatment does not seem to be peculiar to Australia. In yesterday’s issue of the Melbourne Herald the following cablegram appeared - lt is a scandal that convalescent Australian and New Zealand soldiers should be forced to sleep on the Thames Embankment. Even there they arc moved on by the police. They are enduring hardships, are friendless, receiving no pay, and are stranded.
It is a most remarkable thing that when any highly-paid head of a Department or official makes a blunder, nothing is said, but if an unfortunate private does not return from leave in time to fulfil his duties, he is heavily fined. The other day two privates who were escorting some prisoners from New South Wales allowed two of them to escape. What happened? They are to be court-martialled. Is it not time that some of the men in the Department who are responsible for the disgraceful conditions to which I have drawn attention should be courtmartialled?
– They should be sent to the front.
– As they are of no use here, they would be of no use there. At the front, men of ability are wanted, men who will be able to uphold the honour of our country. If men would manage matters at the front in the way in which they manage them here, they would be useless there. We have had a reconstruction of our Ministry. It seems to me that reconstruction should extend through many of our Departments.
– Order !
– However, I ask the Minister to consider these matters earnestly, so that all anxiety will be taken from the shoulders of the men who go to the front. The men who have done such magnificent work at Gallipoli, the men who I am sure will follow in their footsteps, and the heroines at home who are giving these men to the Empire, are worthy of the utmost consideration from the Government, and I appeal to the Minister to go into the cases which I have brought forward, and re-organize his Department in such a way that a similar scandalous state of affairs will be impossible in the future.
.- The House is indebted to the honorable member who has brought this matter forward, and I would like to trespass on the patience of honorable members for a few moments in the same spirit in which the motion was moved, in order to urge ‘with repeated emphasis on the Minister’s attention the desirableness of effecting reforms by creating an atmosphere of responsibility among the officers who are administering the Defence Department. One thing that stands out at the present time, and which has always been patent to a certain extent, is the feeling that if a blunder is committed there will be no questions asked, so long as it has been committed by a person high in authority. I do not intend to throw bricks at those who are endeavouring to struggle with the difficulties connected with the organization of a force infinitely beyond the dreams of any person in Australia not so many months ago ; but I am not forgetful of the fact that the great fault in the Department for years past has been too great a concentration of responsibility and initiative in one centre in Melbourne, with negation of that responsibility and initiative at the head-quarters of the military districts in the various States, with the result that there is no one in Australia high up in the Defence Forces who is prepared to accept responsibility, display initiative, or do anything of his own accord. It is that negation of individual responsibility which is at the root of nearly all the chaos that there is in matters such as have been submitted to the House by the honorable member for Corio. Let me give honorable members an illustration. Some time ago it came to my notice that the dependants of a number of Australian soldiers, who had been sent on special duty from Egypt to Malta, were no longer being paid by the Defence Department here, on the ground that those on whom they were dependent had been struck off the strength. These men had not, in fact, been struck off the strength, but notice had come from Egypt that they had embarked at Alexandria for some place not mentioned, and had been struck off the strength in Egypt. Thereupon the pay offices in the various States declined to meet the obligations of the Commonwealth in respect of them.
– How long ago was that?
– About four months ago. I looked up the papers affecting men who had gone from Sydney, and ascertained that the paying officer in Sydney was aware of the true position. He had seen letters sent by these men from Malta to their dependants here, and knew that their allowances should be paid. He had wired and written to the Central Office for authority to pay, but had received no reply; and, in the absence of authority, he felt that he could not do anything. I said, “ Do you not think that you could accept responsibility in this matter, and pay without authority?” and, being a good man he agreed to do that. On my return to Melbourne, I mentioned the facts to the Minister, and made a statement on the subject in this chamber, when the ex-Prime Minister thanked me for having put things to rights in New South Wales. My public statement on the subject was made with the desire to secure in the other States the action that I had secured in my own State. One of the most important things that Ministers have to do is to get their executive officers in the various States to assume the responsibilities properly attaching to the positions which they hold. We want them to do tilings.
There are two other matters to which I wish to refer. Nothing should move one to greater sympathy than a sight that can be witnessed in Sydney any day after the arrival of a transport in Port Jackson. Crowds of convalescents and’ other returned soldiers are then to be seen waiting all day long at the Victoria Barracks for instalments’ of pay due to them. They have to hang about as if they were beggars, instead of being men to whom this country owes, not merely money, but the fullest gratitude and consideration. What happens in Sydney no doubt happens in the other capitals. I implore the Minister to give his personal attention to this matter, so that this affliction may no longer be thrust upon our returned men. Then there have been muddles in connexion with the reception of returning soldiers, who, after having counted the hours to elapse before their arrival in Sydney, and their meeting again with their dear ones, have been kept on board their transport in harbor for twenty-four hours, merely because persons on shore were not ready with motor cars to take them round the city. What did the men care about a parade in motor cars? Their first wish was to meet again their flesh and blood ; but, because of some muddle, and, perhaps, in the hope of covering it up, unnecessary suffering was imposed upon them.
– I think that the authorities were at the races. That is what the newspapers said.
– I do not wish to raise that issue. I know that the Red Cross authorities had their motor cars ready. But what the men most desired was to see again the wives, the mothers, the sisters, brothers, and fathers whom they had left behind. Ought they not to have been allowed to see their friends and dear ones as soon as was possible, instead of being kept waiting for twenty-four hours to cover up a departmental mistake? I do not know who was responsible for the blunder, but whoever he may have been, he should have been made to toe the mark, and then other mistakes of the kind would not be likely.
Again, nothing is ‘so calculated to discourage recruiting in a country like Australia as injustice to dependants. In the smallest town, as well as in the largest centres of population, men will say, “ How can I leave the wife whom I am supporting, or the old mother who depends on me, unless I know that she will be properly looked after in my absence ? “ Could anything be more calculated to destroy the enthusiasm of those who are fit to serve with the colours than uncertainty as to the treatment of their dependants? I thank the honorable member for Corio for having given an opportunity for the ventilation of this matter.
.- When listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Corio I felt that something should be said on the subject by other honorable members as well. As citizens of an Empire to which we are proud to belong, our first duty is to see that the dependants of those who are fighting for us are properly fed and clothed, and every man would be ready to raise his voice against such a state of things as the honorable member for Corio disclosed. In this case, when a father was away fighting at the front, and there was death in a home in which there was no money and no food, application was made to the Defence Department for assistance, but without response, although money was owing to the absent soldier. The case is one of the most cruel that I have heard of. Even had the mother been paid £5 or £10 too much, could not this great Commonwealth have afforded that expenditure on behalf of the dependants of a man who had offered his life for the defence of its existence? Some of those in authority must have hearts of stone. The honorable member for Corio appealed to them, and then received a letter from the Department telling him that they knew nothing about the case. If I were the Minister, I would make those responsible for such mistakes toe the mark. The honorable member for Wentworth said that no one would have thought twelve months ago that the Defence Department would have done as well as it has done. My opinion is that anything that military gentlemen touch they muddle. From the inception of this Parliament military ad ministration has been a matter of muddle and mix, and get through as easily as you can.
– Military officers are not business men.
– Honorable members have repeatedly asked Ministers to appoint business men to deal with the business affairs of the Department. Fighting men cannot be expected to know much about business methods. You would not go to the undertaker for steak, nor to the grocer for a motor car; yet our military geniuses are expected to know all about business methods, and are quite willing in many instances to give their opinions on business matters. I have never met one of them who did not think that he knew everything, not only about military matters, but also about business matters. At the same time, I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth that since the war the Department has done remarkably well. In Queensland, at all events, returned soldiers have been treated with the greatest sympathy by every man in the Defence Department, from .the officeboy to the Commandant. All assistance possible has been given to them, and their path has been made as easy as it could be made.
– No thanks to the Head-quarters Staff in Melbourne.
– I do not know anything about that; but surely the honorable member would give credit where credit is due? What has gone wrong in the other States can, and should, be rectified. We should not humiliate those who have served at the front, and it is not the desire of any honorable member that they should be ill-treated. But we know how careless military officers are concerning all except themselves. If there is promotion to be obtained, a captain will go to the other end of the world to be made a major, and will no sooner have attained his object than he will come back again to be made a lieutenant-colonel. But I have had a great deal to do with the Queensland branch of the Defence Department, and I know that everything possible has been done by its members to help the men who have returned. There are no complaints from Queensland. I hope that the Minister will look personally into the case mentioned by the honorable member for Corio. He will find that It is not the only one of the kind. There are hundreds and thousands of other cases, and the number is growing.
– Every honorable member has cases of this kind brought under his notice.
– I am glad that none has ever come to me from Queensland. Everything that the authorities there can do they do at once. But the accursed system of centralization hinders them. Sanction for everything has to be obtained in Melbourne, They dare not .buy a broom without authority from head-quarters. If they do, they are told that they are liable to have to make good the cost of their purchases. I hope that this will be the last we shall hear of the ill-treatment of the wives and families of the men fighting at the front.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Corio on having brought the case of Private Ryan before the notice of the House. I believe with the honorable member that transfers are to a great extent responsible for the difficulties that pay officers frequently find themselves in. Similar complaints are very prevalent in New South Wales. A man may become a contact, and be placed in the measles compound. After completing twelve days there, instead of being sent back to the base with which he was identified at the time he became a measles contact, he is transferred to some other company. The result is that his name does not appear on the pay-sheets of his old company. Complaints are made not only in regard to the transfer of sick soldiers, but in regard to the ordinary transfer of men from one company to another. I am inclined to think that a good deal of the fault is due to the fact that the pay corporals in many instances are not men possessing the necessary experience, and have not appreciated the necessity of sending the papers on at the time a transfer is made. Wives and dependants of soldiers may have been receiving their pay quite regularly, but immediately any transfer takes place, the pay system seems to break down, and the wives and dependants are unable to get their money. I had brought under my notice recently a case where the wife of a soldier - she had been dangerously ill, and had also lost an infant child - came from Manly to the payoffice in Sydney on three different occasions without being able to obtain her money. Her case is almost on a par with that mentioned by the honorable member for Corio. Difficulties arose simply because the man had been transferred from the Liverpool Camp to the Sydney Agricultural Ground. I have suggested- ‘ that in the various camps inspectors should be appointed to interview the pay corporals every morning, and discover if during the previous day any men have been transferred from that particular company, and, if transfers have been made, whether the necessary papers have at the same time been forwarded..
– Surely some papers are forwarded at the time of transfer.
– Yes; but I can assure the honorable member for Cook that there are hundreds of cases in New South Wales where something seems to have gone wrong on the occasion of transfers being made. Another case that came under my notice was a very hard one. Two months ago a constituent of my colleague, Brigadier-General Ryrie, wrote to me stating that she had received no pay since 11th July. I made it my business to inquire at the Victoria Barracks regarding her husband - Arthur John Smith - who, I understood, had left with the 12th Light Horse. A register was produced at the barracks, upon which Smith was marked as a deserter. I communicated with the wife, and when she - a delicate woman with two children - one in her arms - came to see me. I asked her if she had any reason to believe that her husband had been left behind when his company sailed. She said she had not. “Were you on good terms”? I asked. “Yes,” she replied. “Was he fond of his children”? “Yes.” I told her I was sorry to say doubt has been raised as to whether her husband had actually left for the front, and that he had been marked as a deserter. I asked her if she saw her husband off. She replied that she went down to the boat and saw him on board, but did not wait until the boat sailed, as she had to take her child to the doctor’s. I asked her if she had received any communication from him since then. She told me she had received a letter containing £2. I asked her if she had a copy of the letter. She said she had not; it had been destroyed. When I went back to the Victoria Barracks, and placed “these fresh facts before the paymaster, further correspondence was turned up, and on the margin of one communication was written “ Arthur
John Smith. Put ashore with measles.” It did not say, however, where he had been put ashore. The paymaster dictated a cable to Egypt, asking if Arthur John Smith was there with the 12th Light Horse. We waited for about a fortnight or three weeks before getting a reply, which stated that Arthur John Smith could not be found in Egypt. As the result of further information, the authorities came to the conclusion that the man may have been put off at Adelaide, and a wire was sent to the pay office there asking for information as to any record of Arthur John Smith. That was about three weeks ago. Last Wednesday, I was at the Barracks again, and ascertained that no acknowledgment of this wire had been received from the Adelaide office. Meanwhile, the wife was actually dependent on the kindness of her neighbours, who provided her with food and lodgings. I sent her to the Red Cross office, and they were good enough to allot her some money until such time as this difficulty is settled. Subsequently I put it to the pay officer, “ Now it is evident that your information with regard to Smith being a deserter is wrong, and that he was on the boat when it left; cannot you give this woman the money due to her until such time as you find out where her husband is ? “ He said “ No . “ They must have the information contained in the note on the margin verified before they could pay this woman any of the money her husband had allotted to her. There are many complaints from all the States, for which the system is responsible, but, at the same time, there does not seem to be that sympathetic assistance shown by the officers to the men that there should be. A new system is now being inaugurated in New South Wales, and there are hopes that it will prove successful. It seems to me that the various officers in the different States do not recognise how essential it is that the people who are dependent on the men fighting at the front should receive their money regularly. I have seen the pay-sheets of men sent from one State to another showing that their dependants have had to wait six weeks before receiving any pay after the transfer was effected. I agree with the honorable member for Corio that if there are any weak links in the chain, it is time that they were taken out. It is not right that these people should be put to all this pain of mind, and to all this incon venience, in order to get that to which they are justly entitled. If the present system is too cumbersome for the military authorities to deal with, why is not the assistance of some commercial men sought in order, that some better system may be established? The same thing, unfortunately, exists in Egypt. I brought a case before the House quite recently showing how soldiers in a certain hospital in Egypt had received no sick pay for eleven weeks, and that they were dependent upon the charity of visitors for many of the little things of which they were in need. Something is radically wrong somewhere, and it is time honorable members of this House did something to prove that they had the interests of these soldiers at heart. It is no good our coming here to ventilate their grievances if what we say has not its influence in the proper direction.
– This sort of thing is taking “lace elsewhere. The cables tell us that convalescent Australian soldiers are wandering about the Thames Embankment, in London, begging for food.
– That is a bad advertisement for Australia. I believe a good deal of all this dissatisfaction is due to the centralization of the military authority. An Assistant Minister has recently been appointed - I refer to Senator Gardiner - and, as New South Wales is the largest State, why cannot the Government send one Minister into that State, giving him power to deal with matters that arise on the spot, without having to refer everything to Melbourne? Matters would then be dealt with more expeditiously, and many of the troubles now existing would be overcome. I repeat, that the honorable member for Corio deserves the commendation of the House for bringing forward this matter, and I hope the action he has taken will be the means of some good being done.
.- I have the greatest sympathy for Senator Pearce in his difficult task of administering the Defence Department, but it is quite apparent that whatever good qualities Senator Pearce may possess, he does not understand anything of the business systems for dealing with correspondence that are in existence in the various commercial houses in this and every other country. I have, too, a number of instances that will show that there cannot be any system at all operating either at the central office or at the local offices. This lack of system seems to be one of the chief characteristics of a Government Department. Where a business firm has to live in competition with other business firms, it is imperative that correspondence shall be dealt with promptly and satisfactorily, otherwise business will go from one house to another. In a Government Department, however, there is no competition. A man cannot go somewhere else if he is not satisfied, and the absence of incentive seems to be largely responsible for this lack of organization that exists in the various Departments. There is a cure for it, by introducing inter-departmental competition. We should then have economy and efficiency. But our present scheme of official advancement encourages sloth and incompetence.
– What was the man’s name?
– He was a man named Metters, from Mascot, in my electorate. I wrote about the matter in February, and sent a reminder to Senator Pearce on the 24th April. I than received the letter to which I have just referred, asking for full particulars, and stating that there was no record of any previous correspondence. On 3rd September last I received a letter from the man for whom I was interceding thanking me for what I had done, and stating that the whole matter had now been arranged; but, so far, I have had no reply from the Department itself. My constituent could tell me that the matter had been satisfactorily dealt with, after months of delay, but I have had no communication whatever from the Department.
– The honorable member cannot be a friend of the Department.
– It is not a matter of friendship. I hope that I am a friend of the Minister and also of the Assistant Minister of Defence. It is my public duty to call attention to these cases. My constituents blame me, and think that I am not attending to their business, whereas I always deal with it promptly, and am careful to follow it up.
If there was any system whatever in the Defence Department it must have shown that I had written on the subject, and therefore I should have been communicated with when a settlement was arrived at. As I was not it is quite apparent that there can be no system.
– What was the subject of that correspondence ?
– It related to the promotion of a military officer. Whatever may be the subject of any letter addressed to the Department there should be some reply to it. My complaint is not that the replies received are not exactly what I desire, but that there is a lack of system, seeing that letters such as these are not dealt with.
– Does the honorable member say that this man was put under arrest to prevent his giving evidence before the Commission?
– Yes; he was put under arrest, and for a considerable time no charge whatever was laid against him. He was put under what is known as open arrest; he had to report himself, and was not free to come and go as an ordinary citizen might do. I asked for an inquiry into the matter, and I am informed by the man himself that an inquiry has taken place and that he has been exonerated and reinstated.
– He had a splendid scheme to submit to the Commission.
– Yes; he is a most capable man. He wrote recently thanking me for having interceded on his benal , and saying that the matter had been satisfactorily settled; but I have never received from Senator Pearce any reply to my communication.
There are other cases, but sufficient have been given to substantiate my contention.
When letters addressed to the Department remain unanswered for six months and upwards, and when, in the case of a reply being made it is addressed to the individual and not to the member interceding on his behalf, it must be obvious that there is no proper correspondence system in existence in the Department.
The honorable member for Nepean has referred to the question of transfers. There are firms in Sydney who have to deal with equally big cases. Farmers, and Messrs. David Jones and Company, have mail-order lists relating to customers all over Australia, aB well as in the islands of the Pacific. They have between 100,000 and 200,000 such customers, and if they were to deal with their correspondence as the Defence Department does, they would not be able to exist.
Then, again, the honorable member for Melbourne, who has been in the practice of his profession for a number of years, and has dealt with 100,000 cases in the last twenty years, has a system under which, if he were asked to supply particulars of the case of Andrew Smith, whom he treated nineteen years ago, he would be able to give full information within ten minutes.
At the Melbourne Hospital, particulars can be obtained almost immediately of any case treated there during the last fifty years. Complete systems of the kind are everywhere in existence.
There are great periodicals published in Great Britain and America, which give the most up-to-date systems of office and correspondence management in the whole world. I refer to the British magazine Business and the American magazine System. Many firms subscribe to these magazines, and require their managers to read details of these up-to-date systems. It would be well for the Minister to visit some of the great commercial houses, such as those of the Vacuum Oil Company, Melbourne, the London Stores, Messrs. Foy and Gibson, and to examine the systems which they have in operation.
– But surely the honorable member does not expect public Departments to adopt systems such as are followed by private enterprise?
– Our public Departments, under the guidance of either political party, should be able to do so; but even a gentleman like Mr. Agar Wynne, who is said to have made a fortune in private business and who was able to systematize his own work, did not apply system to a public Department.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am very pleased that this matter has been brought forward. It has occasioned me considerable distress, and I had thought of moving the adjournment of the House in order to direct at-, tention to it. I refrained from taking that action only because anything coming from this side of the House with respect to Defence matters is always regarded by the Government as being in the nature of party politics. We have now an opportunity to discuss the question on a motion submitted by a supporter of the Government, and I am glad to avail myself of it. The point on which we need to focus our attention is the absolute failure on the part of the Department to supply any information at all in connexion with these matters. Answers are forthcoming from the State Commandant and the Camp Commandant, but so far as the district paymasters and their various staffs are concerned, one might just as well throw a letter addressed to them into the wastepaper basket as send it on.
– That is not correct.
– It is, at all events, my experience.
– My experience of the gentleman in charge in this State is that he is very courteous.
– I am referring to the district paymaster’s office, and I repeat that from that office I can obtain no information. I have been following up this question for some time. I wrote to the State Commandant with regard to certain cases, and received the ordinary reply that the case would be considered. I followed up this action by writing to the Camp Commandant, and received a reply to the same effect. In respect to one or two of these cases, I have been working for months, and I at last wrote to the Acting Secretary of Defence, asking to whom I should apply in order to obtain finality. I got an answer from the Secretary for Defence to say that the case would be looked into; but he never told me to whom I should apply to get an answer, and I am just as much’ in a fog as ever. To-day I went direct to the pay-office of the Expeditionary Forces at the Victoria Barracks, where the officer-in-charge told me that, as this man was in camp, that was not the place at which to apply. I may say that I was sent to this place by the inquiry office, and that I proceeded in proper form. The officer at the pay-office told me that he had to deal only with men on active service in foreign lands; and he very. courteously sent an officer to show me to the proper place. We went downstairs and round about, and, after asking a number of questions, we found the proper officer. I was told that I would have to leave a list of the cases which I had in my possession, and that they would then be inquired into. I pointed out that I could not leave the list, as it contained some private memoranda; and thereupon I was handed a sheet of paper and pencil to write out a list that I could leave. I wrote out a list and left it, and no doubt “ due inquiry is going to be made.”
– Is the list still there?
– I left it only today, and doubtless it will be there for another two months. Some time ago Private Alfred Joseph Atherton, of E Company, Geelong, joined the Forces, leaving his wife, apparently, without any cash; and in this case the woman was able to get neither pay nor allowance - indeed, she was reduced so much in circumstances that she had to go about the streets of Colac borrowing money from her friends.
– Had this man- been transferred?
– No ; this was what might be called a “straight” case. Nothing could be done until the State member went to the barracks, and managed to get the case settled, though how he did it I do not know. There are other cases on similar lines to which I need not refer. A case in a different category is that of a man who served eighty-eight days in the Seymour Camp, and was then discharged because his knee was weak. This man’s conduct had been good, and his discharge was in proper order; and yet he has received only 30s. for his eightyeight days’ service. When he left for his home he was told that his pay would follow; but a fortnight has elapsed, and, apparently, the pay is not likely to be forthcoming for some time. Another case is that of a married man who was sent to the Base Hospital about the 1st September ; and though there might be cause for trouble here, there could be none in the case of Atherton. The case to which I am now referring is that of Private A. E. Turner, of B Company, Seymour; and it would appear that from the time he left the camp at Seymour for the Base Hospital he was lost, so far as the payoffice is concerned. He went back to the camp a week ago, and is now on his final leave; but while he was at the hospital he got no pay at all. Either it is too much trouble, or the men in charge have not the business capacity, to see that a record is sent to the hospital, showing that a man had left the camp, and should be placed on the pay-sheet of that hospital. I am told, however, that this course is going to be followed in the future, and I sincerely hope it will. Another married man, under similar circumstances, told me that if his wife had not his father and mother to live with she would be absolutely stranded, without a penny. It would be the easiest thing in the world to keep such a record as I have suggested ; but, apparently, there is a certain indifference in regard to paying the men. It is notrecognised that they are dependent for the support of their wives and families on what they receive from the Government, and those in charge do not seem to care whether a man gets his money this week or next month. Then, again, men who were sent away from camp to Melbourne on their final leave were thrown on the streets of Melbourne without a penny in their pockets. The men are driven into public-houses because they have no other place to go to; but surely it ought not to be too much trouble to issue a special pay, so that they may, under the circumstances, have a pound to spend.
– The honorable member for Corio is to be complimented on bringing this question before the House; and I trust that before this short session is ended these complaints will receive more attention from those in charge. Judging, however, from the meagre attendance of honorable members at the present -moment, I am not too hopeful of any remedy being applied in the near future. Nobody seems to be listening or caring what takes place.
– The Minister for the Navy is here.
– But he is talking to somebody about something else. I think that no member has had as much to do with the Victoria Barracks . and the authorities there as I have had during the last six months; indeed, with the thousands of cases that have come under my notice, I have practically lived there.
– Then no wonder other members have no chance !
– Ballarat has loyally sent so many men to the front that naturally they provide a large number of cases. Although there are complaints it must be admitted that, in view of the new organization that had to be created, the administration in regard to the camps has worked fairly well; but regarding those who are taken ill, or are transferred from one camp to another, their treatment is nothing less than a scandal. I believe that the trouble arises from the fact that those placed in charge of the Pay Office are appointed, not because they know anything about finance or camp business, but because they are lieutenants, captains, or sergeants in the militia, and hold a certain seniority. In nine cases out of ten they are absolutely ignorant of the ordinary methods of business, and do not attempt to make themselves acquainted with the details of the work. There have come under my notice cases of men who, after being home at Ballarat for nine or twelve weeks on the sick list, have found it almost impossible to get their pay. In regard to these matters I have not gone to the Minister of Defence, but direct to the officer in command; and I find that the main reason for the present state of affairs is that when a soldier leaves a camp on sick leave, he is wiped off the camp books, and no record is kept of him - he is, as it were, dead, and no consideration is given to those dependent on him. If a man is taken to the Base Hospital, the same thing occurs; and surely the Minister of Defence, with his two or three Assistant Ministers, could devise a system by means of which the Pay Office could keep in touch with the soldiers. Would it not be possible, when a man is sent from camp ill or transferred, to insist on the Commanding Officer sending on information to the Pay Office? I think that if a few of the officers in charge were fined a few pounds for negligence, there would be less trouble in the future.
– Sack some of them.
Mr.McGRATH.- Most of them should never have been there, belonging, as they do, to the “ cold feet” brigade,’ which will not go to the war, but prefers to remain here and draw nearly the samepay as the Forces at the front. If inquiries are made at the Pay Office, it is found that the officers there know nothing about the men who have left camp. There has been established a new office, called the Debt Office, to deal with soldiers who are on sick leave in hospitals or at home. This office, however, is only about 10 feet by 1.2 feet; and when I was there I guarantee that there were about 100 soldiers crowding nt the door, about twenty soldiers inside, and twenty clerks. Under such circumstances, it is impossible that business can be conducted in a satisfactory way. Men are badly wanted at the front, and it seems to me that a serious effort must be made to stimulate recruiting; but such cases as I have referred to are not likely to have that effect. When the camp was formed at Ballarat, and men were sent there from Melbourne, I had to financially assist about twenty wives who were unable to obtain pay. Then when men are taken before the Medical Board for examination, some of them, of course, are discharged; and it will be scarcely credited by honorable members that it takes from a month to two months before the formal discharge is issued. In the meantime, the soldier cannot go and look for work, and the country has to continue to pay him until the discharge is given, although the formality could be complied with in two seconds. When the doctor certifies that a man is unfit to remain in the Forces, there ought to be a clerk present to at once write out the discharge paper. I have had to beg the Adjutant-General to expedite matters in certain cases.
Debate interrupted under standing order
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he state what arrangements have yet been made for the shipping of wheat from each State for the coming season?
– A conference of representatives of the States and the Commonwealth is to meet tomorrow to declare rates of freight and to allot freight.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay all papers on the table of the House relating to the formation of a metal exchange in Australia?
Mr. TUDOR (for Mr. Hughes).There are no official papers relating to the formation of a metal exchange. The exchange is an association of individuals who submit to Government control in certain respects, and with whom I have conferred on several occasions.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr. TUDOR (for Mr. Hughes).The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Gregory) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House all papers and documents relating to the statutory orders recently promulgated restricting the export of molybdenite, wolfram, and scheelite to British and French Army and Navy munition manufacturers, the fixing ‘ of export standards and prices for the above-mentioned tnctals, and the granting of a monopoly to
Messrs. Dalgety and Company as exporters of these metals?
Mr. TUDOR (for Mr. Hughes).The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The only statutory order restricting the export of molybdenite, wolfram, and scheelite is a proclamation under the Customs Act, dated 4th September, forbidding the exportation of metals, alloys, and minerals from the Commonwealth, unless the consent of the Minister of Trade and Customs has first been obtained. In pursuance of an arrangement made with the British Government, the Commonwealth is acquiring the output of the minerals mentioned, so far as they conform to Imperial requirements, and has appointed Messrs. Dalgety and Company Limited its agents for this purpose. The papers, excepting such as, for military reasons, it is expedient to withhold, will be laid on the Library table.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Governor of . the Commonwealth Bank is being communicated with. The building is being erected under a contract let by the Governor.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
That the message be taken into consideration in Committee forthwitn.
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the Iron Bounty Act 1914.
Honorable members are aware that the iron bounty has been in operation for about seven years, and that the whole matter of Tariff revision has been under consideration by the Inter-State Commission for the last twelve or eighteen months. The bounty expired in July, 1914, and as the Commission’s report was not then available, Parliament appropriated a sum of £30,000 for the purpose of continuing the bounty . in operation for a further eighteen months. By the same Bill, the bounty, which previously had been 12s. per ton, was reduced to 8s. per ton. The Government had not an opportunity of dealing with the Tariff last year, and it was considered advisable to extend the bounty until the end of 1915 in order to keep it in operation until such time as the Tariff could be dealt with. The same conditions still obtain. We have not yet received the report of the Inter-State Commission, and this Bill, therefore, proposes to. appropriate a further sum of £30,000, which will make the bonus available until the end of 1916. The bonus will remain at 8s. per ton.
Mr.Fenton. - How much has the Commonwealth paid away in the form of an iron bounty?
– I have not the figures available. Another alteration which the Bill proposes is that the bounty shall be payable only on pig-iron used for foundry purposes. That is to say, no bounty will be paid on pig-iron used for the production of steel rails, girders, joists, beams, (fee. The reason for this alteration is that the Tariff now in operation imposes an import duty of 17s. 6d. per ton on steel from the United Kingdom, and 25s. per ton on steel products of foreign origin.
– How much per cent, does that represent?
– I think the price of steel rails is between £7 and £8 per ton. The price has been as low as £5 within the last couple of years. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company has not claimed any bounty on pig-iron used for the production of steel rails. I took the opportunity of consulting Mr. Swinburne, of the InterState Commission” on this subject. He is an authority upon the iron question, and has recently visited the works at Lithgow, and those of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company at Newcastle. The suggestion was made to the Inter-State Commission that’ no bonus should be paid on pig-iron used for protected articles, and Mr. Swinburne advised me that, in his opinion, this is the best course to adopt in the circumstances. As we are protecting steel rails, and other steel products, I think it is wise to con fine the bonus to pig-iron used for foundry purposes. I feel certain that the iron industry cannot live in Australia if it is subjected to free competition. It must have the assistance of either a bounty or direct Tariff protection. I admit that the present high freights give local producers a better protection than they can derive from either the Tariff or the bonus. It is not within our power to deal finally with this subject until we receive the report of the Inter-State Commission; but if that report were available, I should prefer to go the length of even inserting an additional line in the Tariff, if necessary. Lacking that opportunity, the best thing that Parliament can do is to approve of the continuance of the bounty for another year, subject to the alteration I have indicated’.
– I shall offer no objection whatever to this proposal, which is one of very modest dimensions. I cannot conceive of anything of more real, sterling importance to the country than the encouragement of iron production. It is one of the primary industries in the fullest sense of the term, so far as it relates itself to this bounty. In another sense, it is one of the fundamental industries of the Commonwealth, an industry that is vital in nearly all the manufacturing ramifications of the country in every respect. I have always held the belief that any system of Protection should specially relate itself sympathetically to the iron industry.
– Are you trying to change your opinion now?
– I do not think so. I regard a bonus of this character as a really good investment in the bank of our national resources. Of all the forms of primary production to which the bounty principle could be applied, this is easily one of the most useful. The only doubt in my mind is as to the modest scale of the payments to be made. At this moment I do not know, nor can the Minister tell me, what is the effect of the limitation which he proposes. Does it put the manufacturer of steel rails in a better or a worse position than he occupies at present ? The Minister says, properly, that he is withholding the bonus from articles which are protected; but is the Protection equal to the bonus?
– I believe it is.
– The only point to be decided is as to whether the bonus is fair in its application. I understand that 2 tons of pig-iron are required to produce 1 ton of steel rails. -Assuming that it does, this means the substitution of a duty of 17s. 6d. for a bonus of 16s., so that it comes out practically the same. I ask the Minister whether this bonus was paid heretof ore on articles which were dutiable, and when this duty was imposed on steel rails?
-On the 3rd December last, but there was a duty on steel rails prior to that.
– I distinctly remember that Parliament imposed a duty of 10 per cent, and 15 per cent, on steel rails some years ago, and I venture to think that a duty of 17s. 6d. per ton will be found to be a little lower than the duty which we imposed seven or eight years ago.
– Fixed rates of 17s. 6d. and 25s:. are the nearest approximate fixed rates at which we could arrive in order to equal the 10 per cent, and 15 per cent, duties.
– I cannot understand why the duty was changed from an ad valorem rate to a fixed rate.
– That was done because of the variations in price. We had a case in the High Court, and it was shown that all the States in Australia were affected. They could not tell the price of the rails at the port of shipment at any time.
– Having regard to the gigantic difficulties connected with the establishment of an iron industry in a country like this, I cannot help feeling that the encouragement given is on a very modest scale, and I should be very loath to see the Minister do anything that would in any way interfere with any of these industries. Of all times, the present is one when we should give them a fillip. They are not at all out of the wood. I was born among iron works, and therefore I know something of the tremendous difficulties surrounding the beginning of an industry of this kind, and 1 know that the difficulties to be overcome at Newcastle and Lithgow are stupendous. If this war has emphasized one thing more than another it is the fact that a nation with 5,000,000 people should become self contained as quickly as possible so far as its great fundamental industries are concerned - and iron is one of those vital, fundamental industries. It is the basis of all other industries, and that nation which develops its iron industry- to the greatest perfection has the greatest basis for the efficient conduct of war and for the conduct of all its other industries in peace times.
– We should deal with the iron manufactures as soon as possible.
– The Inter-State Commission has not yet dealt with iron.
– When we have a protective Tariff we must apportion it fairly, and do justly by all the various undertakings in Australia. The greatest obligation of the Minister is to make a duty apply equally and fairly, having regard to all the difficulties to be undertaken and to the nature of the industry itself. But I suppose that the Minister has compared these matters. If he is satisfied that he has given these industries a fair deal by inserting this very serious limitation, which, if prices go up - and they are up now - will really curtail the modicum of protection given to our manufacturers seven or eight years ago, the proposal may very well be allowed to pass. I am glad to see the Minister introducing it, because it will relieve the minds of those gentlemen outside who are beset with difficulties on every hand in their heiroSo ‘attempt to establish this great fundamental industry in Australia.
.- I am glad to see that the Government are taking steps to assist the iron industry on to a solid and enduring basis, because it is essential that we should put our house in order at the earliest possible moment ; but this proposal deals with the manufacture of the raw material for large numbers of our most important industries, which are in a languishing condition, because we take action in the direction of encouraging them. I understand from an interjection by the Minister that the Inter-State Commission has not furnished a report on this matter.
– I said that the InterState Commission had not furnished a report in regard to iron; in fact, it has not dealt with any of the iron section.
Mr.J. H. CATTS.- I do not see why we should worry our heads as to whether the Inter-State Commission have dealt with it or not. We should deal with it. I believe that somewhere or other the Minister himself has said that he was not going to wait for the Inter-State
Commission to deal with the Tariff, but that Parliament was to do its duty by the Tariff. I am sorry that Parliament has not dealt with it. As far as I am concerned, I urge strongly on the Government that the whole of this matter of the encouragement of our languishing industries should be dealt with with the least possible delay.
– I am in the same position as the honorable member for Cook. I think that we should deal, not only with the iron industry, but also with all other industries, because there is no better time to do so than the present, when the people are ripe for giving every encouragement to production in Australia. There are many antiGerman people in my State who have been Free Traders for a number ©f years, and have done all they could to import every mortal thing into Australia, not caring a button where the article came from. In this way they were assisting the enemies of the Empire.
– That is correct. The bulls of the imported iron and wire came from Germany.
– I regret that the idea of not discussing contentious matters in this Parliament is not wiped out, and that we do not proceed with business. I hope that when the referenda are carried, the Government will take steps to deal, not only with the iron industry, but also with every industry, and that they will not be led away by our friends on the opposite side of the chamber, many of whom, being Free Traders, do not wish us to deal with the iron or any other industry.
– Order !
– I am referring to the iron industry. There is hardly anything with which we can deal into which iron does not enter. It constitutes about a third of the material required for a building of any magnitude. However, I am glad of this opportunity to emphasize my view that the Government should give Parliament the chance of dealing with the industries of Australia. The people are ripe for doing so, and those honorable members opposite who deprecate the introduction of contentious matters, are merely thinking of the importers, and not of the industries of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported, and adopted.
That Mr. Tudor and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Tudor, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Bill has just been put into our hands, and as I am not sure as to what it intends, I think the Minister should give further information than he gave in dealing with the message. He has said that it is proposed to give the bounty only on iron for foundry purposes. Why should the Minister confine the bounty to pig-iron manufactured .fox foundry purposes? There must be a number of other purposes for which pig-iron is manufactured.
– It is manufactured either for steel or for foundry purposes. I have informed honorable members that the steel products are protected by an import duty, and that I do not think it wise to give a bounty in addition to an import duty. We have not been making steel rails in Australia for more than twelve months.
– I am inclined to think that a number of girders have been manufactured from Australian pig-iron when turned into steel.
– They are protected.
– Are not many of them manufactured from Australian pigiron?
– They may be made at Newcastle; I hope so.
– They will be, I think. There is only one thing in my mind. I wish to be reasonably sure that the Minister is satisfied that the Protection which the Tariff gives to the manufacture of steel rails and other steel products is sufficient without the bounty on pig-iron used for the making of steel. I also wish to know whether the Minister is satisfied, if he can be sure, that the pig-iron on which the bounty is paid will not go to steel works?
– We can make reasonably sure of that.
– In that case, I do not know that there is anything in the Bill to which exception may be taken. It would be a great mistake to save a few thousand pounds in bounty at the expense of the steel industry, which is in its infancy in Australia.
– I should not like to have my name associated with a measure of that sort.
– I do not think the honorable gentleman would. I am sure that we all desire the development of industries, so that in the future Australia may be able to make everything she may require, even including vessels of war.
– I hope that the honorable member is expressing the sentiments of his party.
– I believe that I am. Events are moving so rapidly nowadays that it is being forced on the Australian people that we cannot continue in our present condition of dependence on countries oversea for commodities necessary to our national existence, and that we must, at the earliest moment possible, become self-contained in regard to the productions of the great secondary industries. I would rather see additional encouragement given to the iron industry than have anything done which might retard its progress. This is not a time when we should jeopardize such an industry. The Minister is in a better position than I for the discussion of this proposal, because I did not know that it would be brought forward this afternoon. Had I done so, I should have endeavoured to discover whether, in the opinion of those interested in the industry, their operations will be hampered. Under the circumstances we must pass the proposal as it stands.
– The bounty has been in operation for the past twelve months.
– We are now imposing a limitation on it.
– Hitherto, the bounty has been paid on all pig-iron produced in Australia, but it is now proposed to limit the payment of bounty to pig-iron produced in Australia which is not to be used in the manufacture of steel rails or of other steel products. The ground for this limitation is, I understand, that the steel industry is sufficiently protected by the Tariff.
– There is a duty of 17s. 6d. per ton against British importations, and a duty of 25s. per ton against foreign importations, these rates being equivalent to ad valorem duties of 10 and 15 per cent, respectively.
– The Minister says that he is satisfied that the Protection given to the steel industry is sufficient, though I doubt whether it is.
– We are granting what was asked for before the Inter-State Commission by the man who has claimed all the bounty.
– Then possibly the proposal is the proper one; but, were it necessary for the development of the industry, I should be willing to vote for a bounty on all pig-iron produced in Australia.
.- I congratulate the Government on this proposal. There never was a time when it was more necessary than it is at present that the industries of the Commonwealth should be stimulated in the hope that when the war is over the country will be self-contained. I understand that it is now proposed that a bounty shall be given for the production of all pig-iron that is not used in the manufacture of steel. Will that sufficiently protect the iron and steel industry ?
– Steel is being made at more than one place in Australia.
– A great deal of steel is being imported.
– Both our steel works are employed to their full capacity, and some of the orders are six months behindhand.
– Then we should offer inducements for the erection of larger works.
– If the Minister doubts whether the protection now afforded is sufficient, he should increase it. There are other industries which also need the stimulus of a bounty.
– Wool tops?
– Order !
– I am not going to say more than is necessary to express the hope that the Minister will not lose an opportunity of stimulating the textile industries. This country should abound in textile factories, producing as it does such an immense quantity of the necessary raw material. Certain bounties would enable us to capture markets which would be useful to us after the war. I do not wish to deprive the iron industry of assistance, but I hope that other industries will receive the attention of the Minister. If this Parliament does its duty, it will stimulate other industries by the offer of bounties.
– The honorable member must not ‘discuss general Tariff matters.
– I was making merely an incidental reference. I congratulate the Minister on his forethought and courage in submitting a proposal the effect of which I hope will be to make the iron industry flourish. I would point out, however, that at Newcastle, where a large amount of capital is invested, they will receive no benefit from the bounty, because they turn the iron ore directly into steel, whereas at Lithgow it is made first into pig-iron.
– The manufacture of steel is protected by import duties. The company to which the honorable member refers has not claimed any bounty.
– Probably because it knew that the Act under which the bounty was paid would shortly expire. I am not speaking in the interests of any particular company, but I think that no discrimination should be shown between one industry and another. I hope that the Bill will be carried.
.- The honorable member for South Sydney seems to be under some misapprehension. It was originally the law that bounties should be paid on all pig-iron produced in Australia, and it is now proposed that bounties shall be paid only for such pigiron as is not used for the manufacture of steel rails and other steel products, that manufacture being held to be sufficiently protected by the Tariff. In my opinion, the Minister would not have been justified in proposing to continue the bounty for the production of pig-iron used for the manufacture of steel, seeing that the steel industry is sufficiently protected. The manufacturers of steel rails get the benefit of protective duties, which appear to be calculated to increase the price of their products, and inasmuch as the Government is the only buyer of steel rails. I have no desire to trespass on the time of the House in this matter, except to commend the action of the Minister. I think it would be quite wrong to pay a bonus on steel rails whilst at the same time manu facturers were in receipt of the protection afforded by the present Tariff.
.- I am pleased the Government have decided to continue the bonus on pig-iron. Honorable members only need to go back a few years to the time when the Government called for tenders for steel rails to remember that, because the then Minister decided to go outside certain agents and certain lines of tender, these agents made the Government pay an extra £1 per ton for rails. Nothing can bring home to an individual the facts of a situation more quickly than his having to pay for them, and we know well enough what the effects of this small ring meant to Australia. All the raw material required for railmaking was at hand, and yet we were placed in the position of having to go, cap in hand, to a foreign syndicate for rails with which to build our railways. I do not believe in protective duties as a rule, but if there is one industry more than another that should be protected and husbanded, it is the iron industry. Where one man is employed in any other industry, thousands are employed in the manufacture of iron and in the allied industries its manufacture creates. I have seen manufactured at Maryborough, machinery that would compare favorably with machinery manufactured in any part of the world - machinery that could not have been manufactured there at all but for the existence of a duty. I hope, even at this late hour, the Minister of Trade and Customs will see his way clear to give the iron and the allied industries greater protection than that afforded by the existing Tariff. An extended iron industry not only means increased employment; it means increased skilled employment, and where there is increased skilled employment, more unskilled labour is necessary. I hope that manufacturers, particularly those in the State of Victoria, will be encouraged to increase their works as the result of the support they will receive; and I am glad to know that the Government have decided to continue this bonus on raw iron.
.- There is no doubt that any country situated as Australia is situated ought to do all it can to establish its iron industry. The war has shown how necessary development in this direction is from the point of view of defence; but, apart from that aspect, iron forms the basis of so many other industries that the country should make every effort to establish its own iron industries within its borders. I have some doubt as to whether the method proposed under the Bill is the best to achieve the object in view. I have no doubt as to what the Minister intends. The only question that arises in my mind is one of policy.
– Had the honorable member been in the House, he would have heard me say that this was only a stopgap measure, intended to meet the situation until the matter is deal with finally in the Tariff.
– I am very glad to know that the Minister regards this as a stepping-stone, rather than any attempt to deal with tlie situation finally. I remember when the question of support for the iron trade was first brought up, many honorable members were of the opinion that the iron industry could be better established by means of a duty than by a bonus. I know that at that time negotiations took place between people in Tasmania and the Old Country, with a view to opening up large iron deposits in the north-west of the island. People interested in the business were of the opinion that the best way to establish the industry would be to do it by means of a duty, and certain newspapers in Australia seemed to hold a similar view. When Sir William Lyne introduced the subject” into Parliament, the point was one of serious debate amongst some of us. What the Minister says, however, shows that the whole subject is going to receive further consideration, and I shall be glad to support anything that is done now to effect the object we have in view. As I said, I have Some doubt as to whether the bonus will. do this, because it will only be paid in respect of businesses already established. It will not induce new companies to arise to deal with our vast iron deposits. We should not only desire to see men making our own rails, but we ought to have thousands of men mining the ore and sending it away to where it can best be smelted. I recently had the opportunity of going over the new works established by the Broken Hill Proprietary at Newcastle. What has been accomplished in two years at Walsh Island shows what can be done when people enter upon an undertaking in earnest. I suppose it was the presence of coal close by that took the works to Newcastle. The iron ore comes from Iron Knob, in South Australia, and the company has arranged to take its limestone from Tasmania, where there is a large deposit containing the correct amount of silica. In view of the Minister’s statement that this is merely a stop-gap measure, I have nothing to say against the Bill, and will do all I can to support it.
– When moving the second reading of this Bill I did not make a speech, as I had already gone into the matter on the introduction of the message; but one or two points have been brought forward during the debate to which 1 should like to refer. Fear has been expressed that in limiting the bounty to iron for foundry purposes the Government may be doing an injury to the people engaged in the production of pig-iron. Mr. Hoskins, who has been the only man to draw any bounty at all, in giving evidence before the Inter-State Commission on the 28th July, last year, stated -
I am applying for a bounty of 10s. per ton on pig-iron made for foundry purposes only; but not for pig-iron to be used for steel or wrought-iron making.
Mr. Hoskins applied for the bounty at the rate of 10s. per ton in December last year, but the amount was reduced to 8s. per ton in the Bill last year, and it’ is proposed in this Bill to continue the bounty at that rate.
– On iron for foundry purposes only?
– Exactly. That is what Mr. Hoskins asked for. May I point out that Mr. Hoskins further stated in his evidence before the Inter-State Commission -
My present application amends my first request 1 re bounty on pig-iron by making it read, “ Not for steel or wrought-iron making.” We make different pig-iron for foundry purposes, with¾ per cent, phosphorus in it; but for steel making we eliminate the phosphorus as far as possible. For wrought-iron making we use what is known as grey iron for puddle purposes. It is nearly the same for steel. Pig-iron made for foundry purposes cannot be used for the manufacture of steel or wroughtiron. The iron made for foundry purposes is made into pigs; but the iron made for steel is not made into pigs mostly. It is only at the end of the week that we make it into pig. That would not be sold. Most of the pig-iron made in Australia is used for making cast-iron and chiefly pipes. There is only one place in Australia where the pig-iron is made into wrought-iron. That is at Lithgow. A method of distinguishing “ foundry purposes “ could be arranged. The pig-iron used for foundry purposes can be easily distinguished from that used for steel or wrought-iron - one is more brittle.
As to the cost of pig-iron - a pointraised by the honorable member for Parramatta - Mr. Hoskins, in his evidence, said -
The cost of pig-iron in England is 45s. to 47s. a ton. . . . The price of Middlesboro was 50s., but in two months, it went up to 70s. A speculator named Watson was “ rigging “ the market. When it got to 70s. he committed suicide. From the time of its being 70s. it was back to 51s. in fourteen days.
The average price of pig-iron in Great Britain before the war was about 50s. or 51s. per ton. Under the Bill as framed, I do not think any injustice will be done to those in Australia who are manufacturing pig-iron for steel making. There is already a duty on steel products. Under item 154 of the present Tariff, the duty on steel rails from the United Kingdom is 17s. 6d. per ton, while under the general Tariff it is 25s. per ton. On rolled iron, or steel beams, channels, joists, girders, columns, and “bridge iron and steel not drilled or further manufactured, there are like duties.
– The duty on steel rails is about equal to 10 per cent.
– It is more than 10 per cent. Steel rails were purchasable in Great Britain over twelve months ago at £5 or £6 per ton.
– But the cost landed here would be greater.
– Yes; we estimate the duty on the f.o.b. price at the port of shipment. We are not now dealing, however, with the duty. The reason why the further provision has been eliminated, and provision made only for the payment of bounty, is that steel products are protected under the Tariff. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company has not claimed bounty upon any of its products. The reason for this no doubt is, as Mr. Hoskins pointed out, that, although the Commonwealth Government may import its rails free of duty, it has always agreed to pay a price such as would be payable if it had to import the rails, and pay duty upon them. The honorable member for Hindmarsh who, as Minister of Home Affairs, entered into many contracts with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, could, no doubt, tell us if he were present, that this advantage has been extended both to that company and the Lithgow Iron Works.
– But is not £5 per ton a very low rate?
– It is; but at the present time freights on goods from oversea are so high that manufacturers here are enjoying an advantage infinitely greater than they could hope to secure under a Tariff. Freights, as our producers unfortunately know, are exceedingly high.
– But that is merely a temporary condition of affairs.
– Quite so; but it is still operating, so that there is not much fear of goods being dumped here, as I believe they were prior to the war. The Government, however, realize that the manufacture of pig-iron in Australia would be impossible without either a bonus or a protective duty.
– Both are wanted.
– I think that most Treasurers would prefer a protective duty, under which they would derive revenue on any goods coming in, to a bonus system, which means the paying out instead of the receiving of money. I personally hope that we shall have in force such a Tariff as will thoroughly safeguard not only this, but every other industry that can be carried on in Australia, and prevent goods that can be made here from being imported in any quantity.
– Is much pig-iron imported from Japan?
– I understand that the manufacturers fear imports from India and China. I do not think that any pig- iron as being imported from Japan, but it is feared by those concerned that the Tartar Iron Works, India, which are of great magnitude, may be shipping iron to Australia. This bounty is practically to tide us over the next twelve months.
– Is it limited to a twelve months’ period ?
– I estimate that the £30,000 will be absorbed within that time. There is only one other point to which I desire to allude. Under the previous Bill, we provided that the Minister should have power to make application to the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court for a declaration as to what wages and conditions were fair and reasonable for the manufacture of pig-iron. We referred the matter to the President of the Court; but he declined to deal with it, stating that the High Court had decided that we had no power under the Constitution to refer such matters to him, and that, therefore, he could not deal with the application until it had been before the High Court. The Attorney-General now has the matter under consideration. I have represented to him that if we have power to grant a bounty, we surely should have the right to say under what conditions that bounty shall be payable. Just as the honorable member for EdenMonaro, when administering my Department, laid down certain conditions in regard to the sugar industry in Queensland - conditions which I subsequently varied, as he no doubt would have done had he remained in office - so I think we should have a right to lay down the conditions under which this bounty may be earned. Mr. Hoskins has been in conference with his employees, and has agreed, subject to the bounty being re-imposed, to grant an increase in the wages of his employees equal to the increase that has taken place in the cost of living. He has given me an undertaking in writing to that effect. The agreement was arrived at some two months ago, when the House was in session, and when it was hoped that the Bill now before honorable members would be dealt with.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Amendment of the schedule).
.- The Minister has told the House that this Bill is merely designed to provide for the payment of the bounty for a period of twelve months. If, within that time, the iron industry suffered any disability by reason of large importations, notwithstanding the operation of the Tariff, I presume that the honorable gentleman would consult the House in regard to the matter.
– The honorable gentleman has already said that serious competition is expected from certain quarters ; but I am satisfied with the assurance of the Minister that, should anything of the kind take place, he will bring the whole matter before the House.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Tudor) read a first time.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
Estimates - Budget - Financial Position of the Commonwealth and States - Loans - Supply and Tender Board - Military and Naval Works - Case of H. C. Robbins - Military Pay - Military Camps : Canteen Charges and Profits : Hut Accommodation and Living Conditions : Week-End Leave : Waste of Food Supplies : Bread from New South Wales State Bakery - Gilgandra Route March - Pay of Recruits - Recruiting - National Government - State and Commonwealth Savings Banks - Commonwealth Bank - Mail Contracts and Reduced Mail Services - Telephone Rates and Revenue - Enemy Trade and Trade Names: Aspirin - Manufacture of Chemicals - Industrial Competition : Protection - Expeditionary Forces : Casualty Lists and Communications to Relatives.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
In Committee of Supply:
– Mr. Chairman-
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– We are glad you have come into your own.
– I am profoundly moved by the reception I have received from honorable members on both sides of the House. I take the position of Treasurer at, I suppose, the most critical period in the history of the Commonwealth, and shall spare no effort to discharge the duties of the office in such a manner as will, I hope, meet with the same appro- bation as the efforts of my distinguished predecessor. I move -
That a sura not exceeding £7,201,735 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1916.
The proposed expenditure is based upon last year’s Estimates, and will suffice to pay salaries up to 28th February next.
– Does that mean that we shall have to be back here in February ?
– No. We shall have funds enough to carry us on till about the 15th March. No extraordinary expenditure is included, except for war purposes. The sum of £5,713,816 is asked for for the Department of Defence, most of which is for war purposes which did not find a place in last year’s Estimates. No increases are proposed in the salaries of higher-paid officers. The only advances are the automatic increments of civil servants receiving up to £200 per annum. The Leader of the Opposition asked me why it was not proposed to lay the Estimates on the table. My distinguished predecessor determined that, owing to the uncertainties resulting from the war, he would not make his Budget speech until the early part of next year, and I have had no opportunity of considering the Estimates of any of the Departments. I propose, when introducing a War Loan Bill next week, to make a brief statement about the financial position of the Commonwealth.
– For how much will the War Loan Bill be?
– That matter is under consideration.
.- I regret that the Leader of the Opposition is temporarily absent. Like myself, he was under the impression that Supply would not be brought on this afternoon, and when he spoke to me a few minutes ago he thought that a Railway Bill would come forward before Supply was taken. I am sure that, in the circumstances, he would particularly have liked to be present when the new Treasurer made his opening remarks. I take this opportunity of offering the honorable gentleman my congratulations on the attainment of his high office, and expressing my sympathy with him on having to take the reins of the Treasury at a time which imposes on the Treasurer a burden greater than has ever been placed on any previous Trea surer in Australia. We recognise that the times are exceedingly critical, and that the difficulties besetting his path are not only numerous, but serious. ‘ In the circumstances, ‘ I can assure him, for myself and those with whom I am associated, that he will encounter no carping criticism from this side, so long as he exercises due discretion in effecting economies without sacrificing efficiency. I should have been much more satisfied had the Treasurer been able to announce that, before this short part of our session closes, he would lay the Estimates for the year on the table of the House. We are rapidly approaching the end of the year, and the Prime Minister has already announced that he hopes the House will rise at the end of next week. We then expect to go into the country, and not return until next year; and by that time we shall have got very near to the end of the financial year. It is quite true that the ex-Treasurer presented to the House, a little while ago, a temporary financial statement, which no doubt, to some extent, covered the ground usually covered by the Budget. The figures, however ^ submitted some months ago were necessarily more or less guess work, and we think that by now the Treasurer ought to be in a position, and his officials ought to be in a position, to give us the full and accurate figures for the year. It seems to me that at a time like this there is additional reason why Parliament should exercise the closest possible control over the finances of the country; but we cannot exercise that control unless we have the particulars in front of us. I certainly hope that the Treasurer will see his way to reconsider the decision that he has come to, and that before the House rises he will place in honorable members’ hands the facts and figures which I think ought to have been supplied before now. It is quite true that time will not permit of our giving those facts and figures that detailed consideration they demand, but honorable members ought to be fully seized of what the position is. The Prime Minister has announced this afternoon that he proposes to submit shortly a new Loan Bill, but though he announced the amount, he said nothing as to the time or terms of the loan. We, none of us, know what the position is - we do not know exactly how far the recent loans will carry us - but it was the idea of honorable members when the
Bill was passed that the loan moneys would take us, at all events, to the end df the year. We have not had from the Treasurer in the short statement he made any particulars on which to “form an idea of how far the anticipations of the exTreasurer, as indicated in the short statement made some time ago, have been fulfilled or otherwise. On this occasion I think the Treasurer might have given us a few more particulars in order to show in a clearer way what the financial position is.
– The Treasurer has not had much time to obtain them.
– I quite admit that the Treasurer, new to his office, might have some difficulty in collecting the necessary material, but the officers of his Department have all the particulars in their possession ; and it would have been a very simple matter to give us to-day some slight idea as to how far the anticipations of the late Treasurer have been realized, and, approximately, how we stand. This is all the more necessary in view of the fact that no Budget figures are actually before us; and these are times when there should be the fullest candour, particularly in regard to the financial position. In what I am saying now, I am only indicating what I am sure is in the minds of honorable members on this side. What we desire is to know, approximately, how things are going; and this is one of the opportunities which is afforded the Treasurer, from time to time, to let us know. We consented recently to increase the burdens which have been placed on the shoulders of the people. We have raised, or are raising, enormous sums by additional taxation, and we ought to be made aware of the exact financial position. I do not propose to delay the passage of this motion, because we shall no doubt have ample opportunity at subsequent stages to criticise the various Departments. I hope, however, that between now and the end of next week the Treasurer will take an opportunity to inform the House fully of the financial position up to date. If that opportunity is not taken at a later stage of this Bill, I hope it will be taken when the Loan Bill is introduced. I must again congratulate the new Treasurer, and wish him a very successful and happy term of office.
.- I wish to preface my few remarks by offering my personal congratulations to the new Treasurer and expressing my delight at seeing him occupy the seat of honour at the table to-day. Every honorable member realizes and appreciates the difficulties that confront the man who has the courage to “take the Treasury in hand at a time like this. Our financial affairs are a serious consideration; and every country in the world to-day, particularly those engaged in the great war, are faced with very great financial problems. There are. times when a short speech from the Minister occupying such a responsible position has some advantages. To-day if any criticism or comment might be made on the speech of the Treasurer, it is because of the brevity of that speech. This is a time when we “ want to know,” particularly in regard to the finances of the country. We can lay no charge of discourtesy or inattention against the present Treasurer, seeing that he assumed office practically only a few hours ago. But I am concerned with the fact that we are now asked to pass a Supply Bill which will carry us on until February of next year. We have been accustomed to expect the Budget speech and papers just about this time of the year; and while the new Treasurer, of course, cannot possibly have had the time or opportunity to prepare anything in the nature of a Budget statement, it does seem unfortunate that in all probability we shall have to wait until March next before we can have the Estimates and Budget statements before us. That means that we shall be within four months of the close of the financial year, when two-thirds of the expenditure has been incurred, before we shall have the Estimates before us, and probably it will be the end of the financial year before the House has finally dealt with them. To my mind, there never was a time when the House was called upon by the country to be more careful and more keenly critical of the expenditure than the present. Undoubtedly an enormous waste is taking place in some of the Departments of the Commonwealth. Some Departments are very careful, and spend their money to useful advantage, but in the Defence and Navy Departments particularly, the Commonwealth is to-day losing an enormous sum of money. It seems to me that under the existing circumstances honorable members are to be seriously handicapped in criticism that in other circumstances ought to have been, and must have been, one of the most important features of the sitting. This sitting could have been utilized to no greater advantage than in a thorough discussion of the financial position of the Commonwealth, with particular regard to our relations with the States. The various States, equally with the Commonwealth, are troubled in regard to their finances. I have no knowledge of the Treasurer’s attitude towards the States, but I am disposed to think that he will adopt a very benevolent and friendly attitude towards them. The financial problems confronting Australia at the present time, and extending into every department of public and private life, seem to demand a benevolent attitude on the part of the Commonwealth and the States towards each other. The State Governments are faced with financial difficulties. This morning’s newspaper contains an announcement that one State is floating a 5 per cent, loan of £2,000,000 at £99. Other States will be compelled before very many months have passed to seek for money, and I anticipate that ere long the rate of interest will have to be raised probably to 6 per cent, in order to attract money. If the Commonwealth is unable to find money in London for its purposes, and has to depend on the internal resources of Australia, there must be competition between the States and the Commonwealth that will lead to serious financial troubles.
– I am afraid that you are too pessimistic.
– I admit that I am pessimistic in regard to the financial situation. I am not at all pessimistic in regard to the ability of Australia to carry the burden, but I am apprehensive of the consequences of the present lack of unanimity and cohesion in connexion with financial affairs. The lack of coordination in these matters is one of the most fruitful sources of expenditure. The Commonwealth and the States are carrying on Departments which, if concentrated and worked in co-operation, could be conducted much less expensively. There are forms of expenditure by the States and the Commonwealth the coordination of which would bring an advantage in regard to both the cost and quality of the results obtained. This Supply Bill will afford honorable members an opportunity of dealing with departmental matters. But I desire now to express the hope that the new Treasurer will, in a general way, keep a very tight rein on the expenditure of some of the Departments. I am convinced that one great reform which this Parliament should immediately insist upon is the appointment of a Board to take absolute control of the supplies for all Departments in every branch of Commonwealth activity. No more stupid and unbusinesslike proceeding could be adopted than that whereby each Department manages its own contracts, provides for its own supplies, arranges its own prices and keeps its own stores with its own particular staff, when by a concentration of all Government supplies under the control of a .Supply and Tender Board a saving of tens of thousands of pounds per annum could be effected. In fact, an honorable member who has had much larger experience than I have had told me that I was very modest in estimating a saving of tens of thousands of pounds. He was convinced that an economy running into hundreds of thousands of pounds would follow the placing of the .whole of the supplies for Commonwealth Departments under one authority. I commend to the Treasurer the possibility of providing against a great leakage of money by the appointment of a Board with full power to deal with all Commonwealth supplies. I am well aware that recently a proposal was made that a number of officers drawn from various Departments should buy, issue, manage, and be responsible for the supplies for all Departments. That proposal has nothing in it to commend it to me. It does not seem to offer the protection and the possibilities of saving which I am suggesting can be made. Departmental officers have a considerable experience along certain lines; but, as the honorable member for Maranoa remarked in regard to military officers, we are asking too much of human nature when we expect them to be experts in every branch of business connected with Defence matters. And we are expecting an unreasonable standard of efficiency, a standard that is not within the ordinary compass of a human being, when we ask our departmental officers to understand all the ramifications of business, particularly in dealing with supplies. At present, each Department works its own sweet will, unconscious of and sometimes in conflict with, other Departments which are seeking the same goods. The Treasurer will be faced with a problem of making ends meet, and I think he might well consider the possibility of saving a considerable amount of money in the direction I have indicated. There is another way in which I think the finances of the Commonwealth could be protected. Under the present system, each Department undertakes its own public works. The Postal Department engages a staff of men to carry out its works; the Department of Home Affairs undertakes other works, and engages a similar class of labour. The Customs and Defence and Navy Departments do the same.
– In the construction of lighthouses we have obtained better results in that way than could be obtained bv any other system.
– I admit that very little . construction work is done by the Customs Department. Each Department is to a large extent carrying out its own works in its own way, and under its own direct supervision. The time has arrived when we should have one Department, which should be responsible for all labour that is engaged, for all materials used, and for the due carrying out of all works. We tolerate in public affairs things which in our private business we would not put up with for ten minutes. We see things being done with public money that we would not for a moment permit in the management of our own affairs. We shall not be doing our duty as trustees for the public if we do not seek to close up these channels of extravagance and secure the best value for the expenditure we incur.
– Of what use is it to talk in that way if we do not do something ?
– I intend to suggest something that we might do. I do not call out “ Wolf “ unless I am prepared to shoot; and, in dealing with this matter, the first Departments at which I would shoot are the Military and Naval Defence Departments. I know of no public works for any of the Departments of the Commonwealth that need’ closer attention and criticism than do those carried out by the Military and Naval authorities. It is most unreasonable to expect naval and military men to know all about works construction. They know about fighting, and I give them every credit for their abilities in that line; but it is altogether too much to expect them to be experts in building construction, excavation, and the purchase of building materials.
– They are good at excavation - trench excavation.
– In the matter of trench excavation, one of the wisest things that has so far been done by the Military Department has been the formation of a’ miners’ corps. This will be a body of men who, because of their trade, will be particularly fitted to carry out excavating operations. Their best qualification will be their ability, not to fight, but to excavate the trenches for those who are able to fight. Without further loss of time, works for the Military and Naval Departments should be brought under the control of the Home Affairs Department Only works that might be regarded as of a secret character should in future be carried out by the Military and Naval authorities.
– Should not the Home Affairs Department control the purchase of stores as well?
– I have already dealt with that matter, and have recommended that all stores and supplies for all the public Departments should be brought under an independent Supply and Tender Board. I believe that hundreds of thousands of pounds might be annually saved in that way.
– There is a Supply and Tender Board established now.
– Things are improving, I know; and there has lately been a very commendable move for taking certain works out of the hands of certain public Departments and placing them under the control of the Home Affairs Department. The Home Affairs Depart ment should be looked upon as the constructing Department of the Commonwealth. It is not given a fair chance if only certain works are referred to it, and other works are carried out by other Departments. A building is being erected just now as an addition to the Victoria Barracks on St. Kilda-road, and thou eh that work is being carried out by the Home Affairs Department, the Defence Department has also a Director of Works, and the plans for the building have travelled between the two Departments before they have finally settled down to the construction of the building. I am quite well aware that the Home Affairs Department must consult with the Departments for whom it is constructing works. That is common sense. But once the Department interested in the construction of a particular work has come to an agreement with the Home Affairs Department as to the accommodation required, all the rest of the work of construction, from the beginning to the finish should be entirely in the hands of the Home Affairs Department, without interference by officers of another Department.
– Does not the difficulty arise from the fact that a Department cannot come to a determination as to the accommodation required until a building is in course of erection?
– If that be so, it is one of the strongest reasons why such a Department should not be allowed- to carry out the work. If its officers are so lacking in a knowledge of its requirements as to be unable to forecast the accommodation that is required they are not fit to be intrusted with the expenditure of money in the carrying out of public works.
– It is almost the invariable experience that a Department discovers that it requires additional accommodation when a building being constructed for it is half finished.
– My experience as a member of the Public “Works Committee has given me the fullest confidence in the ability of the officers of the Home Affairs Department to carry out works for any of the Departments of the Commonwealth. “We are particularly fortunate in the men who are in charge of the Works Branch of the Home Affairs Department. To give them charge of works for all the public Departments would mean merely the extension of an already existing, useful and satisfactory staff, whilst it would prevent the duplication and extravagance engendered by the practice of permitting two or three Departments to exercise control in connexion with a particular work.
– The Military and Naval authorities do not appear to know the value of money.
– The idea that a work is for the defence of the country is, in the view of Military and Naval officers, a sufficient reason for the expenditure of an unlimited amount of money, and this alone shows that they ought not to be intrusted with the carrying out of works for their own Department. What we want to-day more than anything else is the concentration of efficiency. We have certain men capable of doing certain things, and we should keep them at those things, and expect them to do them well. Men capable of doing other things should be given the other things to do. We have men occupying certain positions, and expected to know a little about everything, which generally means that they do not know much about anything, and to give them control of works is an extravagant and foolish policy. For the relief of the taxpayer and of the Treasurer, I have been anxious to show the honorable gentleman how considerable sums might be saved. I regret that it will be another four months before we can hear the Budget statement. At this juncture, when we should be keeping a particularly tight hand on the finances, we are placed at the serious disadvantage of having no control over them until the whole of the money has practically been spent. I was wondering whether the Treasurer could assist honorable members, or whether we could assist him, if, between the rising of the House at the close of the present sittings and the meeting next year, some indication of the financial position could be given by the circulation of Budget-papers. I do not know whether it has ever been the practice to circulate Estimates before they are laid on the table of the House by the Treasurer. Certainly the Treasurer can only announce the financial policy of the Government in this chamber. From what I can gather, however, the Government propose this year to follow the basis of last year in regard to all expenditure exclusive of war purposes, and I must express my very hearty approval of their decision not to give any increases to the higher paid officers this year. The motion I moved upon the last Estimates could have had no effect on the finances of last year, but I am glad to notice that it has had some effect on those of this year. This is not the time for increases in salaries such as we found on last year’s Estimates. The Government are on fairly safe ground in following the lines of last year’s ordinary expenditure, but at the same time extravagance is rife, money is being wasted, and the administration of the finances is being made unnecessarily difficult. I hope that the Treasurer will have the time and opportunity to see what he can do to remedy this deplorable condition of affairs.
.- I add my congratulations to the Treasurer on his advent to office. I am sure he will do justice to it from the zeal that he has shown during his political life, and from the ability which we know he can bring to it. But he will have an onerous time ahead of him. No new Treasurer could be expected to come down to the House within a month with a full statement of the financial position presented in the light with which we have become fairly familiar during the last six or eight months. No one can expect a radical change of policy. We must face our obligations as suggested originally by going upon the loan market, and by making provisions by taxation, as we have done, in order to provide for interest on our loans, and for a reasonable sinking fund to discharge our obligations in this regard. To show what these obligations are, one need only refer to the figures given to us by the late Treasurer, in the light of some of the statements published within the last week or ten days. Prom what I can gather, the total expenditure for the year is £74,043,104, against which we have an ordinary revenue of £23,540,000, the whole of the Commonwealth loan of £20,000,000, the British loan of £10,400,000, and the estimated proceeds of the income tax, £4,000,000. Thus we should have £57,940,000 to meet the expenditure for the year, leaving a shortage of £16,103,104, and indicating the extreme necessity for avoiding extravagance in the sense of misplaced expenditure.
– How far will that expenditure take us ?
– To the end of the present financial year, assuming that the Military Estimates have not been exceeded. According to the Estimates, the actual expenditure caused by the war was to be £47,554,716, and, in the light of recent experience, I am not quite sure whether that estimate was not under the mark.
– The late Treasurer said that it was under the mark.
– I am not sure about it. However, from what I have been able to ascertain, the deficit of £16,103,104 is not likely to be exceeded. I hope that the Treasurer will have the opportunity of going into the matter carefully with the aid of his experts, and giving us, before we rise, some idea as to the position. We must take into consideration the great increase in our debts. The Commonwealth indebtedness about a month ago was £37,000,000, against which stood the valuation of transferred properties, namely, £10,777,000; but, as the States owed £301,000,000, we may take it that Australia is fairly close to an indebtedness of between £330,000,000 and £340,000,000. And we are really only commencing. I hope that the public will apprehend the necessity for insisting upon true economy by the Governments, State and Commonwealth, apart from any economy which is possible on the part of the people themselves. Some very fantastic schemes of economy have been put forward, and there is a possibility that within the next few years all money that is available, public and private, will have to be put to the very best use possible. In regard to the note issue, there is something which is confirmatory of the vaticinations of honorable members on this side. Originally the notes held by the banks amounted to about half the total issue; but, according to the latest figures, they now hold 72 per cent, of the issue, showing that honorable members on this side have been right in saying that the public could not be forced to take more than a certain amount of currency. We may make our £5,000,000 currency £10,000,000, but we cannot force the public to take up any more than a certain circulation. The figures have grown to from 72 per cent, to 73 per cent, in the last six weeks.
– The public will not take more than is necessary for their business.
– It was thought at one time by certain honorable members that the public would have to take the notes if they were issued ; but the real position is that the banks have to take the notes. However, I do not intend to go into this matter now. I hope that the Treasurer will endeavour to make the best of his resources to discharge this tremendous obligation confronting the people in meeting the very large war expenditure before us.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) proposed -
That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year ending 30th June, 1916, a sum not exceeding £7,201,735 bc granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. ‘
– I was very pleased indeed to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Corio, because, if there is one Department of the Commonwealth more than another which merits trenchant criticism at the hands of honorable members, it is the Defence Department. It was, therefore, more than ordinarily refreshing that the attack came from a Ministerial supporter, seeing that whenever honorable members upon this side of the chamber venture to criticise the Defence Department, their action is attributed to party motives.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Department has been well criticised ?
– It ‘has not been criticised half enough. The complaints in respect of it are becoming far too numerous, and it is a great “pity that when the Ministry was reconstructed honorable members opposite did not take into their serious consideration the advisableness of supplanting the Minister of Defence. After all, he is the head of the Department. It is all very well to point to sins of omission by certain officers, but, after all, the Ministerial head of the Department is the person who is primarily responsible for their shortcomings.
– Why does not the honorable member take out the Minister of Defence and hang him ?
– The honorable member himself went close to hanging him this afternoon.
– I did not blame him - I merely blamed the system.
– Why does not the honorable member put .the system right ?
– I wish that the opportunity to do so were afforded me.
– Honorable members opposite did not afford the honorable member the opportunity he desires, but if I had had any say in the matter he would have been the Minister of Defence. I believe that he has forgotten more about Defence matters than the present Minister ever knew. I desire to bring under the notice of the Committee the case of K. C. Bobbins, an exemplary young man, who formerly resided in the township of Wellington. He responded to the call of his country, enlisted for service abroad, and in due course went to the front. He was the sole support of his aged and widowed mother. But, through some oversight, the Department was instructed to pay to his own credit in the Savings Bank the pay which became due to him, instead cf paying it to his mother. Before leaving for the front he wrote to his mother assuring her that she had been provided for, and that a certain proportion of his pay was to be placed to her credit. Alter his departure, however, she found herself stranded, without means. Thereupon a business friend of hers wrote to the Department requesting the authorities to look into the matter, with a view to rectifying the mistake which had been made. This gentleman wrote again and again, but failed to elicit a reply. Thereupon he communicated with me, and I wrote to the Minister oi Defence. Failing to secure satisfaction, I saw the Minister for the Navy, who promised to do all in his power on behalf of this poor woman. Some weeks elapsed, and then I waited upon the Defence paymaster, who promised to send a cablegram to Egypt, with a view to getting the soldier to authorize the payment of his wages to his widowed mother. That cable is alleged to have been sent some two or three months ago. As no reply was forthcoming I went to Sydney from my home in Blayney to personally urge upon the paymaster the desirableness of sending a second cable. That cable was despatched, but again it failed to elicit a reply. Some three weeks ago, in answer to another letter which I forwarded to the Department, I was assured that a further cable would be despatched asking the authorities in Egypt to have the desired allotment of this soldier’s pay fixed up. The matter has now been in abeyance for six months. The widow to whom I have referred is too proud to beg, and rather than complain to her friends she has had to enter domestic service. She is of an independent spirit - just such a woman as one would expect her to be, seeing that she is the mother of such a brave son.
– Has the honorable member any suggestion as to how the difficulty may be overcome?
– I suggested that the Department should cable to Egypt with a view to securing an alteration of the allotment of the soldier’s pay, in order that his mother might receive an adequate allowance.
– The honorable member says that the authorities have already cabled three times.
– But no reply has been forthcoming. Only a fortnight ago I wrote to the paymaster informing him that, unless I obtained satisfaction, I intended to bring this matter before the House. To that communication I have received no reply. It is high time that the mistake of which I complain was rectified. When Senator Millen occupied the position of Minister of Defence he laid down the principle that, if the Department was to be conducted on proper lines, the business portion of it should be controlled by business men. If the Government acted upon that idea, I believe that a decided improvement would be effected. Another matter to which I desire to direct attention relates to tbe Liverpool Camp. Recruits who are in training there naturally like to partake of a cup of coffee and, perhaps, a little cake before retiring at night. When they visit the canteen they can obtain this refreshment, but they are required to pay 6d. for it. Surely the Department could provide it free of charge.
– The men get the benefit of any profit made by the canteen.
– I have not heard of a trainee making a penny out of the canteens.
– Every man participates in the profits.
– I know that they do not. The opinion of most of the trainees is that the Commandant has an interest in the concern, and makes a profit out of it. A stop should be put to this. I know that if the Treasurer were the Minister of Defence he would put the matter right with a stroke of the pen. Why is it, when the canteens of the Salvation Army, Church of England, Presbyterian Church at Broadmeadows, and other religious bodies supply coffee and cake for 2d., that the Military canteen charges at Liverpool the extortionate sum of 6d., and the same price for soap, which can be bought in George-street, Sydney, for 2d. a cake?
– The Military authorities have nothing to do with the canteens.
– They are controlled by the Military authorities.
– Were the honorable member for Oxley to enlist, he would ascertain that my statements are correct. The same criticism applies to the canteens on board the troopships. A young fellow who left my town said, in writing home, that the charges were prohibitory. All that is asked is that our soldiers shall be treated properly, and that every encouragement shall be given to recruiting. The PostmasterGeneral, who has been doing some recruiting work lately, knows that the recruiting campaign would be greatly aided by the removal of these grievances. The people of New South Wales are very proud of the route march which was inaugurated by the boys of Gilgandra, who started twenty-five strong, and have increased, as a snowball gathers size, in advancing, so that to-day, having reached Bathurst, the company is 150 strong. The Government show themselves unsympathetic towards this movement, and have done nothing to encourage it. Last Saturday, when I was in Orange, some 5,000 persons turned out to give the lads a welcome as they passed through the town, and, in conversation with Major Wynne and Captain Hitchin, who are in charge, I ascertained that the Government had practically done nothing for the men, who have not been supplied with overalls, hats, or boots. They desire that the men should be regarded as enlisted soldiers, and paid accordingly. When I mentioned the request to the Minister of Defence, he seemed sympathetic, but he has now changed his tune, and to-day gave me to . understand that they will not be paid until they have reached Liverpool. At Dubbo, there is a concentration camp, with a medical officer and other authorities, and the men could have been examined and formally enrolled there.
– Then why did not they offer themselves there?
– The Department says that they must reach Liverpool first.
– They are getting all the glory of the march to Sydney. The honorable member knows that they did not wish to stay at Dubbo.
– They are marching to Liverpool, and the Government should pay them 5s. a day as privates until they reach that place.
– They could present themselves to any medical officer, and enlist immediately.
– They entered upon the recruiting campaign at Gilgandra, hut will not be enrolled until they reach Liverpool. It may happen, should they reach Liverpool 300 strong, that half of them will be rejected, and those who are rejected will have been marching for weeks without pay or reward. They are now 30 or 40 miles from Lithgow, where there is another recruiting camp. Why should not the Government make arrangements for their enrolment there, so that those who may be unfit need not go further? This route march is one of the best efforts that has been made for the furtherance of recruiting, and those who have taken part in it should be assisted. The people of Australia seem to be more enthusiastic and earnest in the matter of recruiting than are Ministers. The recruiting associations are doing yeoman, service. Their members devote valuabletime to the work,- and it would be a good thing to have, in Sydney, a conference of their representatives to thresh out various questions. The Liberal associations and Labour leagues hold such conferences, and at this juncture the efforts that are being put forward by the recruiting associations will do more than anything else to secure the safety of the Empire. The Government should offer every encouragement, call conferences in the big cities of representatives from the north, south, east, and west, and let them thresh out the various questions, with the result, I think, that a great deal of solid, sound sense would be expressed. I have not touched on this point before, but I think that the Government are greatly to blame. The Right Honorable Andrew Fisher might have made a name for himself which could have been handed down to generations to come if he had taken the step which he ought to have taken, that is, if he had acted in consonance with the Dominions overseas. At the present time, the Mother Country has the advantage of a National Government. It does not know anything about Liberals or Conservatives. It has just one party controlling the destinies of the British Empire, and that is the War party. The statesmen in the Old Land have dropped all their differences and formed a coalition Government. Although the Liberal Government of the day had a majority of ninety-eight, yet they sank all their differences with the Opposition, and there is now a coalition Government prosecuting the war - I hope successfully. In Canada, the statesmen followed the splendid example set to them by Great Britain. The Dominion Parliament comprised 134 Conservatives and 87 Liberals, and, although the Government of the day had a majority of 47 members, they put everything into the melting-pot and formed a coalition Government for the successful prosecution of the war. In the new Parliament of South Africa, the Bothaites number 54; Unionists, 40; Nationalists, 27; Independents, 5 ; and Labourites, 4. As soon as the elections were over, General Botha offered a position in his Government to Mr. Merriman. The statesmen in that Dominion dropped all their differences and formed a coalition Government. Just across the sea, in New Zealand, the same thing happened. The Government had a majority of two members.’
– What a big majority!
– What about the big majority of ninety-eight members in Great Britain ? Never mind about the majority. Little or big, the Mother Country and the Dominions overseas are all in step. They dropped all their differences and formed a National Government. That is the only way in which we can successfully prosecute the war. I think it is a lamentable shame that Australia has not a National Government.
– What are they doing in Victoria ?
– Never mind about the State Parliaments. We should have a National Government in the Commonwealth and set an example to the States. It is not a question of what Victoria is doing, but of what the Commonwealth is doing. We should drop our differences. The situation has become very serious indeed. Only three or four days ago,- the Governor-General, in addressing the operatives at the Small Arms Factory in Lithgow-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will not be in order in bringing the Governor-General into the debate.
– The highest authority in this land made the remark three or four days ago that he believes that the Germans-
– Who is the highest authority 1
– The representative of the King.
– Order ! I trust that the honorable gentleman will not proceed in that way.
– I consider that the exPrime Minister might have loomed very big in the eyes of the people of Australia if he had done this grand and mighty thing, if he had dropped all petty differences and formed a National Government, and so let both parties concentrate their efforts with a single eye for the successful prosecution of the war.
.- I have risen merely to reply to a few of the remarks made by the honorable member for Calare. He accused the Military authorities of mismanagement in every possible way. He, like many honorable members of the Opposition, is always prepared to find fault with anything which the present Government are associated with, or make an attempt to carry out. We all know that the Defence Department in Australia, as is the case with many other nations, is going through a most strenuous time. We are also aware that it is impossible for a big Department of that kind to be free from faults. One of the charges which the honorable member levelled against the Department was in connexion with the management of the canteens in the various Camps in the Commonwealth.
– At Liverpool.
– The same condition exists in the Camps throughout the Commonwealth.
– Not at all. They are quite different.
– As regards the canteens, the same regulations govern the whole of the Camps.
– The management is not the same.
– The honorable member for Calare referred to the prices charged to the troops for coffee and othrefreshment. Whatever charges are made in the Military Camps in the Commonwealth are arranged by the troops themselves. That custom obtained in Brisbane.
– Not at Liverpool.
– On the departure of each batch of troops from Brisbane, whatever profit had accrued iD the canteen dur ing their term in Camp was divided among them.
– -Not at Liverpool.
– I have here a statement from the Auditor-General regarding the Camp at Broadmeadows, and I propose to read the figures for the honorable member’s special benefit. From 4th November to 5th December, a profit of £871 was made by the canteens, and that amount was distributed amongst the troops on their departure. From 6th December to 2nd January, a profit of £949 was made, and that amount was distributed amongst the troops previous to their embarkation.
– The honorable member for Calare did not mention the Broadmeadows Camp.
– The same conditions obtain at Liverpool as at Broadmeadows.
– They do not.
– If the conditions obtain in Queensland, why should the authorities make a difference in Victoria ? I am prepared to take the word of the Assistant Minister in that regard, and that is the information which I have just obtained from him. The same conditions obtain at one camp as at any other. Do honorable members deny the statements contained in the Auditor-General’s report?
– They do not affect Liverpool.
– I submit these figures for the consideration of honorable members as a reply to the allegations made by the honorable member regarding the charges levied by the Military authorities at these camps.
– At Liverpool?
– I am prepared to deny the accuracy of the honorable gentleman’s allegations. I have with me the whole of the figures, and any honorable member who desires may inspect them.
– Those figures have nothing to do with the Liverpool Camp.
– The Liverpool Camp is run on the same lines as other camps; and why should the conditions there differ from the conditions anywhere else? From 4th January to. 13th January, the balance of profit from the canteens available for distribution was £749 15s. 6d. ; from 21st January to 26th February, it was £920 4s. 9d. ; from 1st March to 27th March, it was £108 13s. ; from 28th March to 1st May, it was £710 16s. 10d.; from 3rd May to 29th May, it was £491 5s. ‘2d. ; from 29th May to 3rd July, it was £317; and from 4th July to 31st July, it was £513 3s. 8d. Let me assure the honorable member that every penny of this money was distributed amongst the troops immediately prior to their embarkation from Australia; so that any allegation with respect to the charges levied in the canteens cannot affect the Government. The profits made in the military canteens are the property of the troops, amongst whom the money is distributed before they leave Australia.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– Before I bring one or two matters under the notice of the Treasurer, may I congratulate him on having attained his present high and important office. He has now an opportunity of showing how it is possible for economies to be effected in the country’s finances and of doing something to bring about a better understanding between the States and the Commonwealth in their financial relationships. The position is becoming intolerable. At the time of Federation a promise was made that there would be some kind of consolidation of the State debts; that there would be some central borrowing power on the London money market - two developments that would be to the distinct advantage of the Australian people. Federation has been in operation for fifteen years ; but we do not seem to be any nearer a proper understanding with the States now than we were then. Rather do we see that it is possible for one State to practise a system of extravagant and prodigal borrowing - in a manner calculated to injure the credit of the whole Commonwealth. That sort of thing should not be possible. With the introduction of double taxation throughout the Commonwealth, and with unrestricted borrowing by every State, we are approaching a climax when the taxpayers of Australia will find their burdens too great for them to bear. I hope that the impending Conference to take place between the Treasurer and the State Premiers will evolve some scheme of dealing with the financial situation, or that the Treasurer, as the result of friendly discussion, will be able to reach some ‘arrangement with the State Premiers, so that the Commonwealth shall not in future be charged with not having made the utmost endeavour to bring about a much-desired understanding.
This is not the time to go into the general question of the duplication of Departments; but we know that a great deal of work is now being done by the Commonwealth and duplicated in almost every State. Take the Statistical Department, for instance. Large savings could be effected if some amalgamation were brought about between the various Departments of State and Commonwealth where duplications occur; and in many other directions the old system of extravagance is continuing without any attempt being made on the part of either Commonwealth or States to reduce expenditure, even in this war period, when all-round economy is asked for.
Another matter that the coming Conference might discuss is that affecting the Savings Banks. I always strenuously opposed the establishment of the Commonwealth Savings Bank as a competitor with the various State Banks. I believed this was an invasion by the Commonwealth Bank of the States’ sphere of action, and that the Commonwealth Bank should limit itself to ordinary banking operations. It is no use protesting now about the operations of the Commonwealth Bank. The Bank is there, and it can be made an institution of enormous service to the people of Australia. Its sphere of operations may very easily be enlarged. I hope the time will come when the note issue will be associated with the Commonwealth Bank. In my opinion, it is only a matter of time before the Bank will become the most important banking institution in the Commonwealth. At the present time, however, the position we have to face is that there are two Savings Banks operating in every State but one. There is the State Savings Bank; there is the Commonwealth Savings Bank. I hope that the Treasurer will, at the conclusion of the Conference to which reference has been made, be able to announce that his first act as Treasurer has been to arrive at some understanding with the Premiers of the States, in order that the various State Savings Banks may be utilized in conjunction with the Commonwealth Savings Bank in a manner that will prevent the duplication of service that is, to a large extent, now unavoidable. There are branches of the State Savings Banks all over Australia, each with its own set of administrative officers. Side by side with these there is a Commonwealth Bank established at the various post-offices and other branches. All are heaping up administrative expenditure at the cost of the hardearned savings of the people. The Commonwealth Treasurer, by reason of his high position, can lead the way in a scheme of amalgamation that will protect the people’s interests, prevent the overlapping that is now taking place, and make for an economy which must be to the interest of dep®sitors. Away back in 1912 there was a conference between the State Premiers and the Commonwealth Treasurer on this particular subject. The Commonwealth Treasurer at that time offered that 75 per cent, of new business should go back to the States, so that it could be used in the way of investment and to encourage production, the understanding being that if the States did not require the money it could be used for ordinary Commonwealth banking purposes. Whether that would be the basis for the future consideration of this important question is a matter for the Treasurer to decide when he meets the Ministers of the various States in conference. I am not saying that that should be the basis of a scheme, but the proposal in 1912 was along these lines.
– The States turned it down.
– I do not want to take up the attitude of favoring either one side or the other. We want to go into this great question carefully, and come to some understanding that will be satisfactory to all concerned; we want a scheme that will make for economy of administration.
– Victoria would have been better off if she had accepted the offer.
– There were merits in the proposal. I do not know what objections were raised by the various State Treasurers at the time, causing them to turn it down. The time has come when the “Commonwealth and States should not continue to duplicate Departments, and increase expenditure that has to be borne by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. As I have already said, we have the Commonwealth and States taxing the same people, and taxing them in the same way. That cannot go on for ever. Moreover, we have no control over the borrowing powers. While there is duplication of taxation, there is no system in borrowing to meet the public needs of the Common wealth. That question requires the gravest consideration by the Treasurer ot the Commonwealth. Now is the golden opportunity, when in this time of war we, ‘ as a Parliament, are asking the people to subscribe to war loans, to patriotic funds, and to accept all forms of sacrifices, and when so many valuable Australian lives are being sacrificed on the battlefield. This is the time when we should exercise economy of administration, so that we may contribute materially to success in thisgreat war. How is it possible to do this if we fail in the essentials by not adopting a system of economy in public expenditure? This economy can be effected, probably without striking off £1 in expenditure on necessary public works. I would like to commend this view for the consideration of the new Treasurer of the Commonwealth, so that he might signalize his accession to his high and important position by bringing about a better system, and some reduction in our national expenditure. This economy should have been undertaken long ago.
I would like also to draw the attention of the Postmaster-General to one item that I think should receive consideration at the present time. We have contracts with the various Railways Commissioners of Australia for carrying mails over the railways of this country ; and, as far as I can gather from the terms of the contracts, the bargain is a very one-sided one. because it gives no protection in certain instances to the interests of the Commonwealth. We expend about £300,000 a year for the conveyance of our mails throughout the various parts of Australia, and according to the contracts, if any new lines are opened, an additional amount, on a mileage basis, has to be paid to the various States; but if there is any reduction in the train service there is no corresponding reduction in the total amount to be paid to the Railways Commissioners.
There has been a reduction of the train service to the extent of one-third on certain lines. I have recently travelled through the outposts of my own district, and I find that great inconvenience has been caused to the people in those places remote from the centres of population by the curtailment of the train service. This is felt more particularly in places where the people have been deprived of their mails and daily newspapers. In many instances, it was arranged that the trains should reach the terminus by the evening, so that the people could receive their mails and read their daily papers in the evening; but owing to a reduction in traffic, train services have been curtailed in many far-off country districts of Victoria, and, as I have said, the people are now very seriously inconvenienced. If there had been a corresponding reduction in the amount paid to the Railways Commissioners for the reduced train services, there would have been ample money left to enable the Postal Department to subsidize coach or motor car services, so that the same mail service could have been continued in very many of the districts.
– Why should there be contracts in favour of the fat and against the little man 1
– There seems to have been an oversight. I do not know who was responsible for those contracts, but that is the position. An amount is paid according to the mileage on the railway,, irrespective of the frequency of the train service, and if any new line is opened an increased amount has to be paid to the Railways Commissioners for carrying the mails over that new line; but if the Commissioners desire to reduce the train service by one-third, or even one-half, there is no corresponding reduction in the amount paid by the Postal Department to the Railways Commissioners. I hope that the Postmaster-General will make a note of the position occupied by country residents owing to the one-sided character of this mail contract. He might, perhaps, arrange a conference with representatives of the Railways Commissioners.
– The matter is under review.
– The Commissioners should be prepared to agree to some variation of the contract, having regard to the disabilities suffered by country residents owing to the reduced train mileage, with the consequent cutting down of mail services, and the inability to obtain their newspapers at this time of crisis.
– Who entered into that contract?
– I have not looked into that point, but it is quite immaterial. I hope that at the Premiers’ Conference negotiations will be opened up with respect to the important question of finance to which I have referred, and that some reform will be brought about in that regard as well as in respect of the Postal Department.
.- I was’ very disappointed with the statement made yesterday by the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Attorney-General, in regard to the subject of aspirin. His predecessor in office had grasped the importance of destroying the good-will of enemy trade in Australia now that we are at war with the Germanic powers. The German interests generally throughout - the world are instinct with activity, their object being to keep dormant, and ready for their subsequent enjoyment, the trade which they have laboriously built up in all the countries with which they are now at war. The usual practice followed is to trade through branch factories of the German houses in neutral countries. Where that is impracticable they will seize upon any pretext for keeping alive a German trade name. Let us take the case of aspirin, which the AttorneyGeneral yesterday appeared to treat as a substance rather than as an actual trade description of German ownership This name, “ aspirin,” has been given by German manufacturers to a well-known chemical which is manufactured by chemists all over the world - by a number in England, and by some. I understand, under other names, in Australia itself. And yet the name “ aspirin “ is the best known of all, solely because the German organization for the sale of it has made it the popular name. If we keen alive that name in Australia while the war is on, then the moment the war is over its ownership will revert to Germany, so that we shall keep alive a German good-will in order that Germany may ultimately benefit.
– Why not impose a duty that will keep it out ?
– War should keep out any German product, but what we desire to do is to shut out the German trade names.
– But aspirin, I understand, is not a German word.
– It is a German registered word, and the moment the war is over it will cover an article that can be sold only by the German manufacturers.
– We can fix that.
– We are fixing it in this way : we are giving people, of German name, in Australia, the right to manufacture aspirin here, the right to use that name to keep it alive, and so to induce the public in Australia to continue to ask for aspirin, so that when ultimately the war is over, German traders can come back to the Commonwealth and live on a good-will which we ourselves have maintained for them.
– Could we get the public to understand that it was the same article if we applied another name to it?
– There are medical men in both parties in this House, and they will assure my honorable friend that the ingredients of this article are well known, and that it is manufactured to-day under a number of names. I do not wish, for . obvious reasons, to mention any one of those many names; but in a very short time, if the use of the word “ aspirin “ were prohibited, the public would find that they could get exactly the same results from any one of a number of different trade names of the same drug.
– Assuming that we succeeded in popularizing a different name as applied to the same drug, what would prevent Germans coming along after the war and sellinor aspirin under that name ?
– The use of a registered trade name by any person not authorized to do so is an offence. After the war is over, if the honorable member, for example, proceeded to manufacture aspirin here he would be prosecuted by the German owners of that trade name.
– It all depends.
– It does not; it is the German ownership of the name that has to be considered. I do not think that the Attorney-General, keen as he is on these questions, has quite grasped this particular side of the matter. Some time ago he actually facilitated the visit of an enemy-born citizen to the United States in order to establish in Australia the manu facture of a particular German-owned brand of eau-de-cologne, although we have here, and had at the time, manufacturers of other brands of eau-de-cologne which would have been in competition with the German-started business which the AttorneyGeneral was proposing should be set up in Australia.
– Can the honorable member tell me what is eau-de-cologne?
– I can tell my honorable friend what it is not. The AttorneyGeneral seemed to be of the opinion that it would be a fine thing to bring about the manufacture of this particular brand of eau-de-cologne in Australia. All that would have resulted had this little scheme come off is that a factory would have been started in Australia to manufacture for the time being an article that the Germans would have manufactured and have imported to Australia for the benefit of German capitalists so soon as the war was over. The same situation exists in respect of aspirin.
– Is the honorable member losing sight of the Tariff?
– One cannot deal with a trade description through the Tariff. What I am anxious to see done; and what the ex-Prime Minister agreed should be done, is to prohibit the importation into Australia of goods bearing enemy trade marks and trade descriptions, from whatever country they come. We should utterly prohibit their importation, making the trade mark or trade description the basis of the enemy character of the goods, as it is, in reality.
– Any patent which has enjoyed a two years’ monopoly in England must, then, be manufactured there.
– The late Prime Minister agreed to that principle, but the present Prime Minister sees difficulties in the way. He has quite recently given a licence for the manufacture of aspirin to Messrs. Shmith, Nicholas, and Company, the members of the firm being Harry Woolf Shmith, George Richard Rich Nicholas, Charles Shmith, Alfred Michael Nicholas, and Joseph Wilhelm Broady. These chemists with good Australian names have now a licence from the Government to keep alive a German trade description, that will ultimately be of immense benefit to the great chemical house which has created this good-will. We are under no obligation to treat German trade in our midst with any particular kindness. It is our duty to try to abolish it, and the only way to do it is to hit at the trade description and the trade mark which, our enemies are trying to maintain. It ought not to be a hard thing to ask the Australian who has stayed at home to refrain from buying a thing with a German trade description upon it. Whilst our fellows are fighting for us, those who have stayed behind should at any rate refrain from trading for the ultimate benefit of the enemy.
– We should stick to Australian goods at all times.
– The best way to do it is to abolish all goods of German trade description now. We hear from honorable members on both sides, “ After the war is over we shall set it all right.” The time to set it right is now.
– Who said that we will deal with it after the war ?
Dr.Carty Salmon. - The honorable member for Maribyrnong said so a little while ago.
– I have heard that view put.
– By whom?
– It is of no use to go into these purely personal matters.
– We ought to have a Committee of both sides to deal with it.
– I shall be delighted. If a small committee were formed of men who would give up their whole time to it we should get to the very bottom of this business and settle it once and for all.
– The Government ought to do it.
– They should, and without any urging, but if the AttorneyGeneral insists upon issuing these licences to maintain German trade names in Australia the least he can do is to bring in an amending Act here and now, abolishing not only for the duration of the war, but for always, German ownership in trade names in this country. If we do that we shall do something to kill German trade. If we do what we are doing now, under a measure brought in, not, as was stated at the time, to hit enemy trade, but merely to keep alive trade here until it could revert to its legal ownership, we help Germany in a way that the most credulous Teuton would never have expected from us. We should either abolish the trade description and trade mark altogether, which is the best course, or, if the Government insists on issuing licences for German trade names, bring in amending legislation abolishing for all time any ownership whatever in these particular trade names. I should not even given a licence to one particular person, thus giving a monopoly for the production of goods to a German trade name, but would throw the whole thing open to anybody who cared to manufacture. By that means we should guarantee that clever people were not keeping the name alive for the ultimate benefit of Germany. It is so essential to our trading interests to tackle this matter immediately that I make no apology for bringing it before the House again, and commend my suggestions to the earnest attention of the Prime Minister.
.- Will the Postmaster-General give the Committee an assurance that the new telephone rates regulation promulgated by the late Postmaster-General during the adjournment will be held in abeyance until he can go thoroughly into it and get all possible information from the different States ? The honorable gentleman understands the position in regard to telephones both in the country and the cities as well as any man in the House, and I am sure that if he seeks further information and goes into the matter fully he will reach a conclusion satisfactory to all concerned. I have worked out a scheme in my own mind, but what puzzled me was how to give the business people the cheapest possible telephone service consistent with efficiency and good management. They are the principal users of the service, and I came to the conclusion that the wisest course would be to allow them to remain almost as they are at present. My idea was to charge½d.percallforallcalls from 8 o’clock in the morning to 6 o’clock in the evening, but allow no reduction on a certain number of calls during the half-year;1d. per call for calls from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., 2d. per call for all calls from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m., 2d. per call for calls on all public telephones at all times of the day or night, and 3d. per call for all calls on Sunday. The new regulation introduced by the exPostmasterGeneral provides for1d. per call for private subscribers, 2d. per call on public telephones, and no increased rates on Sundays. Country telephones are in exactly the same position as city telephones. People in towns pay £4 per annum in rent to the Department for their telephones, irrespective of calls. Surely regular customers are worth considering ? And there is another factor that the Department has not taken into consideration. For night work an extra rate has to be paid, although the calls are exactly the same as in the day time, while for Sunday work time and a half, or double time, has to be paid, although there is no extra charge to the public at those times. Some honorable members may argue that if the charges be put up too high on Sundays or at night there will be no work for the attendants. If that should be so, I should say “ good luck “ to the attendants. I should like to see the exchanges shut up altogether at such times, except for urgent business.
– There would have to be somebody there.
– There would have to be one or two. In the town of Brisbane alone I know of seventeen people who have notified the Department that if the new charges come into force they will give a month’s notice to have their lines cut off. On Sundays, for the trunk lines, the rate has been doubled, and yet after 8 o’clock on ordinary nights the rate is reduced by one-half. Where the business management conies in, I do not know. On the very lines that people should be induced to use as much as possible - longdistance lines from country towns, and so forth - the rate has been doubled on Sundays, and yet town subscribers pay nothing extra. A man does not pay 2s. 6d. or 5s. for a telephone call merely for the fun of talking. In any case, I do not believe in Sunday work, but would do away with it altogether; if Sunday is a day of rest and gladness for one set of persons, it ought to be the same for every worker. By charging a .3d. rate on Sunday I believe we should do away with a lot of social gossip over the telephones. If it be possible, I ask the PostmasterGeneral to stay his hand in the matter of these new regulations. Of course, if nothing can be done, the regulation must -stand ; but my faith in the PostmasterGeneral is such that I believe that if he ;gives his mind to it he will find a means of making the service thoroughly efficient, Mid, if not cheaper, just as cheap as at present.
– The honorable member for Oxley, referring to some remarks by the honorable member for Calare, said that an attack had been made on the canteen system in all the camps of the Commonwealth. That, however, is not so, because the honorable member for Calare was careful to confine his references to the camp at Liverpool. The systems at Broadmeadows and Liverpool differ very materially. At Broadmeadows, the canteen system was started by the then Minister handing over to an individual, who had been engaged in the grocery business in Melbourne, the whole conduct of the business, with the stipulation that the profits should be divided amongst the men. This person was given certain military rank because of his appointment, and the arrangement worked out very satisfactorily from his point of view, and with a certain amount of satisfaction to the Department, though not altogether to the’ satisfaction of the men. In the first place, he prevented the men from getting certain articles which they desired, setting forth a list of those which he was prepared to supply. He had an actual monopoly, and utilized it in the most tyrannical and despotic fashion. Although requested over and over again, he absolutely refused to stock certain things, and the men had to take what he supplied. At the Liverpool Camp that system did not obtain, although I believe the advice of the gentleman from Broadmeadows was sought. The plan adopted at Liverpool was to give a monopoly to a merchant in Sydney, a monopoly which, I believe, is held to-day, for the supply of the. camp, the only stipulations being that he should place at the disposal of the soldiers an amount of money which would bear some relation to the profits made at Broadmeadows, and that no more than Sydney prices should be charged. It will be seen that the honorable member for Oxley is not altogether correct when he says that the whole of the profits go to the men.
– Last month, the profits made at Liverpool were more than the profits made at Broadmeadows.
– I dare say, but that is not to be wondered at, if, at Liverpool, the men are charged 6d. for an article which is elsewhere sold at 2d. It is not a question of profit; the whole question is one of principle. Is the Government, or anybody else, justified in giving an absolute monopoly to an individual, and thus securing profit to that individual? And I can tell the honorable member that the merchant in Sydney has made a very decent profit. Honorable members seem to have a very hazy idea of what has really taken place, or they have no information at all on the subject. In the past, military canteens were conducted on an entirely different basis. We then had a committee of those concerned who bought the articles, and the whole of the profits went to the soldiers1.
– And these were “wet” canteens.
– Whether the canteens were “wet” or “dry,” both were run under the same conditions.
– Out of which was the biggest profit made ?
– That is a question we need not discuss now - it would be comparing things which are utterly unlike. The Government cannot escape their responsibility, seeing that they have handed over to an individual the absolute conduct of the canteen business. Wherever we have Government control we should have a fair field and no favour to any individual, and every supplier in the great centres where camps are held should be placed on an equal footing with regard to supplies. The business should be open to public tender, the quality of the goods should be assured, and the contract should go to the man who is prepared to supply them at the lowest price.
– The Liverpool canteen will be run on the co-operative system.
– The honorable member knows now more about canteens and the conduct of them than he knew half-an-hour ago. I am glad to find him so receptive, and I ask him not to dogmatize in future on a subject of which he has shown so palpably he knows so little. I am very glad, indeed, that it was not my business to inform the Committee, as the honorable member has just informed them, in the light of the further information which he has gained, that there is to be an alteration at Liverpool. No one will be more pleased to hear that announcement than the honorable member for Calare, who did not, and could not, know that such an alteration was contemplated. I should like to see an alteration made at Broadmeadows also, because I do not consider that, because a gentleman placed his land at the disposal of the Government, he has provided sufficient reason why he should be given such a tremendous power - which he has exercised in a tyrannical way - as was conferred upon him by the Minister of Defence. I desire to say a few words in regard to the matter referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth. Earlier in the sitting I addressed an inquiry on the subject to the Prime Minister, and he was good enough to say that he would be glad to hear something from me at the Committee stage of this Bill. I urge upon the Government the vital necessity that exists for taking action in the direction indicated by the honorable member for Wentworth. What is the use of our fighting with all our strength and cheerfully making sacrifices in the interests of the Empire, and especially of this country, if, when the awful struggle is over, our markets are to be captured by those with whom we are at death grips at the present time ?
– When we are discussing the Tariff will be the time for dealing with that matter.
– I have been twenty years in public life, and I have found that there are always those who are prepared to say that the present time is not opportune. I say that the statement that we should leave this matter until the Tariff is dealt with is made by honorable members with their tongues in their cheeks. They know far better than I when this House is likely to deal with the Tariff, but I will give place to no man in my anxiety to so deal with the industries of Australia that we may be able to place them upon such a secure foundation as will insure that we shall be able to compete successfully with those whom we are now fighting on the battlefields of Europe.
– Your leader agreed to the postponement of the Tariff.
– I do not hold my place in this House at the will of any leader or any particular section. When I enter the House I regard myself as a representative of the people of Australia, and I place their desires and their welfare before any private feelings of my own. I am asking the Government to consider a most important and vital question of policy which does not affect only one drug or product. We all know that the industrial and commercial preeminence which the British nation has secured as the result of the struggle for supremacy through the centuries has been most seriously challenged by those against whom we are fighting to-day, and we ought to realize that when the present war is over we shall have to meet very much greater vigour on the part of that most serious competitor. Therefore, I say that we are not doing our duty to those who are sacrificing their lives for the protection of this continent if we allow any means to continue to exist whereby the fruits of victory may be snatched from us when peace is declared. After the sacrifices we have made, and must continue to make, we are entitled to some protection from the German nation, which at the present time is treating us so cruelly. Our people are suffering to-day because they are not able to get those products for the supply of which they have relied upon the German nation. In the past we have supinely allowed the Germans to capture our markets. The Old Country is suffering even worse than is Australia. Industries are there languishing because of the lack of those products or raw materials which were so enterprisingly supplied by Germany. And in perpetuating these trade names and keeping before the public German-made articles under familiar titles we are preserving the Germanic trade. It is our duty to do our part at this particular juncture by so dealing with all the ramifications of trade and commerce as to secure for the people of Australia that which they are entitled to have. In regard to the familiar item of aspirin, honorable members seem to think that that drug cannot be manufactured here. It can be, and is being manufactured. The process is comparatively simple - far more simple than the manufacture of many of those other things which are now being produced in England under such adverse circumstances, and which previously were secured in large quantities from Germany. Honorable members will allow that on this subject I speak with some degree of knowledge. We ought not to lose sight of the fact that no matter to what extent this drug is manufactured locally to-day, directly the war is over and our military antagonists become again our commercial antagonists, we shall find them attempting to regain entrance to those markets from which they have been temporarily excluded. We could give them no greater .aid than to keep alive for them during the currency of the war the trade terms under which they have. previously conducted their business. It is our duty to destroy absolutely every one of those familiar terms, and to see that there are substituted for them terms for the- ‘same goods which will become, in course of time, just as familiar, and which will be the means of protecting the manufacturers of those goods from German manufacturers after the war. If we now give to an individual, or individuals, a right to the use of a particular trade name for an article, no other manufacturers of the article will be able co use that name. Directly the war is over those to whom we have given the right to use the trade name may enable the German manufacturers to re-enter the field which they have exploited to their own advantage for many years past. The chemists of Australia have suggested that the name of “ spiro “ should be substituted for “ aspirin.” There is no reason at all why the term “ aspirin “ should not be destroyed, because the drug it represents will be just as accessible under the new name suggested; and, by destroying the term “ aspirin,” we shall destroy the trade which the enemy nation would otherwise be able to revive and take advantage of at the close of the war.
– Is the trade in aspirin very considerable?
– It is an enormous trade. Honorable members should realize that the Germans have captured the trade in nearly the whole of chemical manufactures. What is being suggested from this side should be applied, not only to aspirin, but to formalin, sanatogen, and other chemical manufactures.
– Hardly to formalin, as even before the war we were manufacturing more formalin than we import.
– We are m*k ing “aspirin” here also, but the Government propose to give a certain number of individuals the right to use the trade term “ aspirin,” which will exclude others from using it, and the persons to whom the right has been given may transfer it to German manufacturers immediately the war is over. The same course should be followed in this regard in respect of every product of German origin whether in the shape of machinery, fur- uiture, clothing, or medicine. The same argument will apply to them all. It is our duty to seek out every one of the articles of German origin, and to refuse absolutely to give to any individual or set of individuals the right to use a trade name for- those articles which may be transferred to German manufacturers at the close of the war. I am astounded to find that, amongst honorable members opposite, there should be any desire to obstruct the end we have in view.
– There is no such desire.
– The honorable member does not realize that the Attorney-General has given the right to the use of the term- “ aspirin “ to persons whose names I will say are of questionable origin.
– They are Australians.
– Presumably they are, but their names are of questionable origin. It is not right to run the risk of giving, to even the most loyal Australians, the right to the use of a name which after the war they may sell to a German firm, and thus interfere with the trade of those manufacturing, a similar article in Australia. It is the bounden duty of the Government to protect the future trade of Australia for Australians. They should use every means in their power to secure to Australian manufacturers the right to manufacture articles required by the Australian people.
.- Honorable members on this side will heartily concur in the sentiment expressed by the honorable member for Grampians at the close of his speech. He is emphatic in his desire that the Government should secure to Australian manufacturers the right to manufacture goods which have in the past been manufactured by German chemists. I am prepared to go with the honorable member to a certain extent, but I do not think that either himself or his colleagues are likely to accept the suggestion I make to bring about that result. The only way to secure that these goods consumed in Australia shall be manufactured by Australians is for the Government, through their own chemists, to undertake their manufacture for the peonle who require them.
– And make a failure of it. as thev do of everything else.
– Long before Labour parties were thought of in Australia, Government Departments in all of the States were carrying on important enterprises. A list of those enterprises could be mentioned, and no honorable member opposite would have the temerity to advocate that in future they should be conducted by private enterprise.
– Will the honorable member go before his constituents and advocate that the Post Office should be run by private enterprise ; or that the railways of South Australia should be run by private enterprise?
– I could mention some things the cost of which has been doubled under Government enterprise.
– The honorable member has not the courage to suggest that many services now conducted by the State should be run by private enterprise. I should be glad to appear on the same platform with him, and be able to reply to his advocacy of such a thing, and take a vote of his audience to determine whether those undertakings should be handed over to private enterprise.
– The honorable member means a Yarra-bank audience.
– No; I should be prepared to meet the honorable member in the town hall of his own electorate. The referenda campaign is coming on, and we could make a night of it. In these days, it is admitted that it is essential that certain enterprises should be run by the State, and there is no reason why we should not extend the activities of the State to other lines.
I may have to join issue with some honorable members on this side when I indorse the remarks which have fallen from the honorable member for Maranoa. That honorable member said that prior to the Postmaster-General allowing the regulation issued by the previous Postmaster-General increasing the telephone rates to come into operation, the House should be allowed to express an opinion upon it. or that. the issue of the regulation should be delayed until the House was given that opportunity.
– And keep on losing money on the telephone service all the time.
– The city people are the principal users of telephones, and we have the astounding fact in the figures given to us by the officials that there is only one capital city in Australia where the telephone service does not pay.It gives a profit of over £50,000 a year in
Melbourne, and over £30,000 in Brisbane. There is also a profit in Adelaide. In fact, in every capital city, with the exception of Sydney, the telephone business is paying handsomely.
– This is pure Victorian jealousy.
– I have no wish to pit one capital against another, or to say anything to the disadvantage of Sydney, but every one knows that owing to the manner in which the sea penetrates so many parts of that city the telephone lines have to take circuitous courses.
– We shall lay out Sydney better when it is as dead as Melbourne.
– The honorable member did not get his figures from the Department. There is a loss of £296,000 on telephones.
– Part of that loss is made on country lines. I was talking of the cities only, and the most expert officer in the Department in this connexion will supply the honorable member with the figures that I have given.
– I have had all the figures supplied to me.
– The honorable member will not dispute the fact that the telephones pay in Hobart, Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth, and Brisbane.
– They are not paying anywhere.
– Yes, they are, and they are showing a handsome profit, as disclosed by the most recent figures available.
– It is strange that the late Postmaster-General differs from the honorable member. Who has the better knowledge?
– The officer who has the conduct of telephones in Australia should know the position as well as any one.
– The accountant’s figures are the onlv reliable ones.
– During the past four or five years very large capital expenditure has been incurred in undergrounding telephone lines. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent in this direction.
– “ The man on the job!”
– The honorable member is always ready to sneer at the men who are absolutely the best in the community, and who to-day are fighting the battles of the Empire. Without the working men the British Empire would crumble to-morrow; yet these are the men at whom the honorable member is always very glad to sneer.
– I was referring to the men who do not work.
– The honorable member will find more loafers and wasters in Collins-street than in any other place in Australia. I refer to those “boodiliers” whom honorable members opposite are always defending. If we were conducting a private business, and our initial outlay, though a considerable one, was likely to result in a great saving, we should certainly allow it to be in operation for a few years before readily making up our minds to inflict increased charges. I challenge any honorable member to disprove the figures that I have given. They have been supplied by experts, and they show that in five out of six capital cities the telephone business is showing a profit. In some cases, in putting the telephone lines underground, it has been necessary to tunnel through rock, where it has not been possible to use blasting material on account of the liability to damage the foundations of buildings. On this account the cost - as also the time occupied - has been greater than it would have been had the workmen been able to blast this rock instead of having to adopt the slow process of removing it by the use of chisel and gad. However, as the expenditure has been incurred upon work which will last for at least a quarter of a century, surely we need not pop up the telephone rates at the first possible provocation. I agree with the honorable member for Maranoa that a large number of people will cease to be subscribers if the charges are exorbitant. Certainly if the increased rates will result in a loss it will be a bad business policy to pursue. In regard to some of the remarks of the honorable members for Wentworth and Grampians, I am not here to defend those who are fighting us, but at the same time I am not here to condemn every man who may have a name with something of a German twang about it. If honorable members object to every such person, I ask them to peruse the lists of those who have gone away to take part in the battles of the Empire, for they will find among them a large number of German names, including the names of some of our best medical men, who are at the front administering to the welfare of our soldiers and tending our wounded. I dare say that the honorable member for Grampians knows some of them. A man or a firm need not have a German name to prove disloyalty to Australia or the Empire. Here and in Great Britain men possessing names that are exceedingly British are among the biggest traitors to the Empire. We cannot always judge men by their names. We need to be careful lest we do injustice.
– There are three German names in the particular syndicate referred to.
Mr.FENTON. - I am not dealing with aspirin, but I am dealing with the general condemnation that we have heard in regard to German names.
– But that was the only one to which I made reference.
– During the course of his remarks, the honorable member for Wentworth several times emphatically declared that no person possessing anything like a German name should be granted any privilege whatever during the continuance of the war, and for some time after its termination.
– He did not say that.
– The honorable member is not the interpreter of what the honorable member for Wentworth said.
– I heard what he said. He said that German names, when applied to articles, should not be protected.
– I understood him to say that nobody possessing a German name should be protected. “ Aspirin “ is not a German name.
– The word “ aspirin “ was made in Germany.
– I admit that the Germans have been very cunning. They have consistently endeavoured to secure control of the world’s trade as speedily as possible; and wherever an English, Irish, American, Swiss or Dutch name would assist them to achieve their object, they have not hesitated to adopt it. They have been prepared to overcome every obstacle in order to gain their ends. My own idea is that at the end of the war we shall be called upon to face just as big and important problems as those with which we are confronted to-day - problems which will perplex the highest statesmanship in every country of the world. At the present time there is being built up in Australia a trade with which it will be impossible for anybody living under Australian conditions to successfully compete. Ships plying from various countries are discharging their cargoes here in such a fashion that if their operations continue unchecked, Australian industries will be wiped out and thousands of our own workmen will be thrown out of employment. We need to realize that today we are faced with industrial competitors who are really bigger enemies to Australia than are some of the countries against which we are lighting in a military sense. It is incumbent upon us to make preparations to meet this competition. There should be more organization in the Commonwealth. Australian manufacturers and chemists should be turning out goods which are now’ being supplied by countries in which the industrial conditions are far worse than those which obtain in Germany and Austria.’ In the coming year we shall require to take into serious consideration the protection of our industries in this connexion. I hope that we will not be too reckless in attacking men who possess names with a German flavour, seeing that many individuals bearing similar names have gone to the front to fight our battles, and have proved themselves to be better Britishers than many of those who boast of their British origin. We have amongst men with English names some of the biggest traitors in the Empire. For example, Merton and Company is an English name, and yet that firm was subsidized by the Germans, and until a month ago dominated the copper supplies of the British Government, particularly in respect of small arms. Nine months ago the present Prime Minister indicted that very firm before honorable members in this House. On that occasion he was asked to be careful, but to-day his indictment is borne out by some of the most reputable and well-informed journals and statesmen in the Old Country. As a matter of fact, some of the most reputable firms in Sydney and Melbourne would do business on similar lines to-morrow if it paid them to do so.
– Then destroy the name.
– I am heartily in agreement with any scheme that will lead to the better development of Australian industry. I wish to see less revenue collected through the Customs, and more local production. In conclusion, I trust that before the new telephone charges become operative, honorable members will be afforded an opportunity of expressing their views upon them.
.- As several references have been made this evening to the canteen system,, and as a fair amount of skirmishing has taken place around the Liverpool Camp, I may be permitted to inform honorable members that an alteration in respect of the canteen arrangements there is shortly to be made. For some time past the men at the Camp have not been satisfied with the existing conditions, and quite recently they emphasized their dissatisfaction in a somewhat drastic manner. On Monday last notice was given to the present canteen contractors that at, the expiration of a month their services would be no longer required. These contractors were paying £150 per month per. 1,000 men into the canteen fund. In other words, they were returning to that fund a profit of 3s. per man per month. That seems a fairly generous concession ; and when we consider that the number of men in the Camp varies from 8,000 to 12,000, we must recognise that the canteen fund is rather a big one. The honorable member for Oxley stated that this fund was disbursed amongst the men who leave for the front. To some extent, that is so; but whilst the inquiry into the conditions which formerly obtained at the Liverpool Camp was in progress, I was not altogether satisfied with the way in which this fund was allocated. It was then explained to the Court that when a company was leaving for the front, the officer in charge was given an amount proportionate to the time his men had been in camp, and proportionate, also, to their number. The money thus handed over to him was supposed to provide the men under his command with sports on the voyage, and with other requisites after they had reached Egypt. But as the result of personal interviews with many returned soldiers, I do not hesitate to say that there appears to be a great deal of mystery surrounding the disbursement of this money after it has been handed over to the various officers upon leaving camp. I do not say that the money has not been spent, but the men have not been told that the goods, if any, were purchased with canteen funds.
– It was said tonight that the money was given to the men.
– That has rarely happened. Recently ls. 6d. per man was distributed; but it is the only case that I have heard of. The contractors lease the various stores in the camps, and charge a fair rental for them. I believe that at Liverpool between fifty and sixty persons are doing business with the men, and paying fairly high rates for the privilege. For some time past I have been voicing to the authorities the complaints of the men, and have spoken of the need for their representation in the disbursement of the canteen funds. At Liverpool the contractors on Monday last received notice of the cancellation of their contracts, the authorities having determined to run the canteens in the interests of the men. We ought not to make a profit out of these canteens; the goods sold should be given to the men at cost price, plus expenses. A suggestion that I would make is that returned soldiers should be employed in the camps as barbers, waiters, and in other positions. That would give employment to a large number of men who have served at -the front. At the Liverpool Camp ls. is charged for a hot bath; but at the German camp those who are interned can get a hot bath for 2d. It is said that the latter rate does not cover the expense; but if money is to be lost, we should lose it in providing comforts for our soldiers rather than for our enemies. During the recess I visited the various camps, and am pleased to say that they have all greatly improved. The camps at the Agricultural Ground, Sydney, and at the Warren, demonstrate that the short cut to efficiency is to make the men contented with their surroundings. At these camps the men are entering into their work with an enthusiasm which is refreshing; there being a healthy rivalry between companies as to the performance of the duties that have to be undertaken. At Liverpool the cooking arrangements are much better than they were, so that the food is better, and there is more variety, and, consequently, less dissatisfaction. New showers and other conveniences have given much satisfaction. The dust nuisance, however, is serious, and, I believe, largely responsible for the sickness that prevails, it being reasonable to assume that where large bodies of men congregate the dust must be laden with germs. My suggestion is that the ground surrounding the huts, cook-houses, showers, and latrines should be asphalted. The honorable member for Brisbane spoke of the extravagant way in which some of our public works, and particularly military works, are undertaken; and I can illustrate his remarks by reference to what has occurred at Liverpool. Some months ago I advised the Government to copy the huts that had been erected at the German Concentration Camp. Those huts are enclosed on three sides only, so that the inmates sleep practically in the open air. At the time about twenty huts had been erected at Liverpool; but now there are fifty or sixty huts there, enclosed on all four sides; and, the ventilation being found insufficient for the summer, one side is now being opened again. Had the suggestion been adopted at first, a considerable sum would have been saved. Apparently economy does not enter into the official mind. Another question I wish to bring under the notice of the Government - and this applies to all the camps in New South Wales - is the question of week-end leave. A very great deal of dissatisfaction exists because the men are only getting leave once in five weeks. The married men, who have their wives in Sydney and suburbs, consider that they have just cause for complaint in that respect. Considering that the men knock off at noon on Saturday, and that there is no other work for them to do until Monday morning, I cannot see the sense of keeping them unoccupied in the camps for all those hours, when they might just as well, many of them, be at home with their families. As many of these soldiers may never return, why not give them more leave than is allowed at the present time ? Twenty per cent, are allowed off each week, yet, strange to say, in the management of the various camps no consideration is given to that fact by those who provide the food for the camps. The same quantity of food is issued on Sunday as on Saturday, notwithstanding the fact that there are 20 per cent, less men in the camps. The result is that in one camp I know of - only a small camp, comprising about 600 to 700 men - it is quite a common thing on Monday morning for close on 200 lbs. of meat to be placed in the incinerator, with a considerable quantity of bread, through the men not being in the camp on Sunday.
– That is a wanton, wicked waste.
– There does not seem to be proper supervision in regard to the quantity of food issued. It ought to be easily rectified, because if a man applies for leave he must give twenty-four hours’ notice. There should be an easy means of checking the number of men absent from a camp on Sunday. This waste is taking place in the camps throughout the Commonwealth.
– Has the honorable member brought this matter under the notice of the Minister?
– He is doing it now.
– He could do it in another way if he has the information.
– It ought not to be necessary.
– I think that if the Postmaster-General has been reading the daily press he will know that there have Jbeen frequent comments of this kind.
– I do not mind the press. The Minister is the proper authority to refer to.
– There is another very just cause for complaint in regard to the various camps, and that is the quality of the bread which has been issued to the men by the State bakery.
– It has saved the Department thousands of pounds.
– Yes, in flour, by the short weight which it has given to its customers.
– Can you prove that?
– Yes. Complaints are frequently being made about the shortage of weight in the loaves from the State bakery.
– In spite of a regulation by the State’s Chief Secretary that every loaf shall be of a certain weight.
– In spite of the fact that Mr. Black, the Chief Secretary, has issued a regulation compelling private bakers to make even their fancy bread 4 lbs. in weight, the State bakery is continually serving loaves to the various camps which are not up to that weight.
– It is sold by the total weight.
– If the bread is sold by the total weight, how are you going to discriminate between the loaves baked for the soldiers and the loaves baked for private customers?
– Mr. Black’s regulation states that loaves shall weigh 4 lbs., 2 lbs., and 1 lb., respectively, and no other weight. o
– Recently a deputation from the bakers waited on Mr. Hall on this very question.
-All the public institutions are supplied with bread at per lb.
– Here is a letter from a foreman who, I understand, went with the deputation to Mr. Hall -
I wish to bring under your notice the fact that the State bakery is one of the most slumming bread-manufacturing factories that I know of. I have information from some of the men that have been employed in the above factory, and also from a man that- is working there at the present time. They tell me that the dough is done up ready for the oven straight off the scale. Now, in my opinion, as a tradesman of twenty-six years, and also foreman of a large bakery, this way of baking is only spoiling flour. It will make the bread a bad colour, very dry when about twelve hours old, very crumbly. It will lose a lot more weight in the oven, and also when it is taken out of the oven. A few months ago our union approached Mr. Hall about this, what we bakers call, sweating in the baking trade, and still the thing goes on just the same. We as a trade union expect a better example than this slop-up, sweating style of manufacturing bread from a State Labour Government.
These loaves are becoming known in the camps as “ ironclads.”
– Where did you get that statement ?
– We call our best bread upstairs “cobble-stones.”
– I always wondered how it was that the Military authorities took such care respecting the teeth of the men who offer themselves for enlistment. I know now. The soldiers have to eat this State bread.
– I can assure the honorable member that his description of the bread is quite untrue.
– I know what I am talking about. I remember that honorable members on the other side said that my last set of charges was untrue.
– I did not say that.
– I know that the honorable member did not.
– But you are wrong on this occasion, I can assure you.
– Give us your authority for that statement.
– My authority is a union man of twenty-six years’ standing.
– Why do union men go to Mr. Orchard?
– Is it only from honorable members on the other side that unionists can expect redress?
– Is it the man who ran the picture show at Liverpool who gave you that statement?
– No. Considering that many honorable members opposite have said that 75 per cent, of the men who are going to the front are unionists, it is a marvellous thing to me that they have allowed their Government to neglect the men in the way they have done.
– Why not give your authority’s name*
– Does the honorable member want my authority for the statement that this bread is short in weight?
– All right; here are the “ironclads.” One loaf is 8 ozs. short in weight, and the other is 10 ozs. short in weight. The inside of some of the loaves is so bad that you can take it out and mould it into any shape which your fancy may suggest.
– How old is that bread in your hands ?
– This was delivered on Tuesday morning last to the officers. Heaven knows what is given to the men. The shortage of weight in this bread from the officers’ camp represents a profit in itself. In the case of one loaf it repre- sents a profit of 12½ per cent., while in the case of the other it represents a profit of 16 2-5th per cent. There are many businesses which are run on less profit than that.
– You say that it is an “ ironclad.” What is wrong with that loaf? Break it in half, and let us have a look at it.
– Having broken the loaf, the honorable member will see the colour, of which the men complain, to start with.
– There is nothing wrong with that bread.
– There is a serious shortage in the weight of the loaves, which were picked out indiscriminately from amongst those served to the officers. If honorable members wish to make further inquiries into the matter, I will refer them to the Military authorities in New South Wales.
– Do they say the bread is not good?
– I do not say that every loaf served to the Camp is bad, but these complaints have been going on for some time. The two loaves I have in my possession were selected more from the point of view of their weight, and they were not weighed until they came into my possession.
– If that loaf is 10 ounces short, it is robbery.
– One loaf weighs 3 lbs. 6 ozs., the other 3 lbs. 8 ozs. What would be the position of a private customer who purchased this bread honestly believing that it was of correct weight, that is, 4 lbs?
– I hope bread like that will be served to the troops in Egypt.
– These particular loaves may be fairly good, so far as their quality is concerned; but, generally speaking, the men complain of the quality of the bread served to them. In fact, I am assured that in the Holdsworth Camp the position has been so bad that State bread has been turned down, and supplies are now being obtained from a local baker.
– The honorable member is stretching his imagination somewhat, I think.
– The honorable member stretched his imagination a good deal when I spoke on the last occasion, but he fell in, and .he has not had the decency to apologize since.
– Order! Will honorable members cease from interjecting?
– I wish now to refer, to the case of a constituent of mine whose husband, a soldier named Private Beasley, was killed at the front. The first information that the widow, who has eight children, received of her husband’s death was in a letter from his commanding officer, Lieutenant Hart, conveying the news that Beasley had been unfortu nate enough to lose his life by the bursting of a nitro-glycerine bomb. She has not received any official confirmation of that notification yet. Some months ago I urged upon the Government the necessity of endeavouring to set aside a sufficient number of officers to systematize the supply of lists of killed and wounded in Egypt, in order to relieve the anxiety of relatives at the earliest possible moment. I was then informed that this was an Imperial matter, and that our own officers were doing their best; but as complaints are continually being made, I feel satisfied that our own officers are not doing all they possibly could in this matter. The Government should take
Borne steps to alleviate the anxiety of the relatives by letting them know at the earliest possible moment of either the wounding or death of their relatives at the front. Recently a lady writing me on this particular subject enclosed a communication that she had received from the Canadian Red Cross Society’s officer in London. This lady had one son fighting in Flanders and another at the Dardanelles, and both were wounded. On 24th May last she received from the Canadian Red Cross Association a letter as follows: -
Dear Madam. - I beg to inform you that Corporal W. J. Smith, 77637, of the 16th Battalion, who was wounded in the head and arm, is now at No. 11 stationary hospital, Rouen. Our authorized visitor has been to see him. She will do all she can to make, him happy, and to see that’ he has everything he wants. We will write you again when we have further news of his progress. - Yours truly, Bertha CANNHILL Information Department, Canadian Bed Cross Society.
This lady informed me that she received letters weekly advising her of the progress of her son. But mark the difference in our own case. Her other son was woun’ded in the Dardanelles, and, with the exception of an official wire from the Department, she has not received any information as to the condition of her boy.
– How long ago is all this?
– They were wounded six months ago, somewhere about the same time. The letter I have read is dated 24th May. Surely our own authorities) working in conjunction with the Red Cross Society, should be able to do something in a similar direction. It is a source of comfort to this mother to receive these communications, which show that somebody is taking an interest in her boy, and there must be in Egypt many women who would be only too delighted to give their time and services as authorized visitors to hospitals where Australian boys are lying wounded.
– Our mothers cannot even find out where their wounded children are.
– Order ! The honorable member has reached the time limit.
.- The honorable member performed a public service when he called attention to the position at the Liverpool Camp; but I want to assure him, as one who probably knows as much about bread as he knows about watches, that in this particular matter he is absolutely wrong. Although honorable members may not be aware of it, I have made hundreds of tons of flour into bread. I conducted a business for a number of years, during the course of which I often carried out contracts for bread for public institutions. Bread is not sold to these institutions at so much per loaf. It is always sold at so much per pound. The loaves are put upon the scale, and if the weight is not what it ought to be, other loaves are put on to make up the requisite weight.
– Then where is the point in the Chief Secretary’s regulation ?
– I remember that Sir George Reid once said that if ever he had an expert witness in the box, he always took care to get him out as quickly as possible, and did not ask him too many questions, as he could not contend against expert knowledge. I would suggest to the honorable member for Hume that he might remember that.
– But I am only ‘asking where is the point in Mr. Black’s regulation?
– The regulation issued by the Chief Secretary of New South Wales applies to private bakers who are selling bread to the public at per loaf. That regulation provides that the loaf shall be of a certain weight. But the bread from the Government bakery is not sold to the public at all. It is supplied to public institutions. This is one of those cases which looks differently when you come to know the facts.
– What about the quality, of the bread ?
– Will you tell us how it is issued to the soldiers ?
– I do not know how it is issued to the men.
– I do.
– In any case, that has nothing to do with this question at all.
Mr.Fenton. - It is a mere subterfuge.
– The question now at issue is as to whether the State bakery is giving to the Military authorities value for their money in supplying this bread. I presume the honorable member for Nepean does not complain that the soldiers do not get enough bread to eat ?
– I can hardly say that.
– The honorable member evidently has been misled in his contention that the State bakery is not giving proper value in weight to the Military authorities.
– When the bread is issued to the men, some would get more than required, while others would not get sufficient.
– The difference of an ounce or two in the weight of a loaf is not going to make much difference to the amount of bread the men eat.
– But one loaf is 10 ozs. short, and the other is 8 ozs. under weight.
– When did the honorable member weigh it?
Mr.Orchard. - On Tuesday.
– Has the honorable member weighed it since then ?
– Evaporation is a big element to be considered. The honorable member contended that the State bakery was practically defrauding the Military authorities by selling bread less than the standard weight; but, as I have shown, the regulation refers to private bakeries selling bread to the public.
Now, as to the quality of the bread, I want to say this loaf was baked on Monday. There is nothing wrong with its quality.
– You would not eat that bread upstairs?
– Well, I have seen much Worse bread than this upstairs. Of course, if ah honorable member breaks this bread now he will find it stale, because, as I have said, it was baked on Monday in the daytime - and this is Thursday. Its appearance is darker than a sheet of paper with which the honorable member for Calare compared it. The bread, I admit, is not of a very good colour; but that is due to the fact that, as there was a shortage of wheat in New South Wales, flour was imported from America, and that flour is dark in colour. Manitoba flour will bring probably four times the price of ordinary flour, and two or threescoopsful added to Australian flour make a wonderful difference in the quality of the bread.
Mr.Richard Foster. - But this is not Manitoba wheat.
– I am aware of that. But, generally speaking, flour from American wheat is darker in colour than Australian flour, and thus the appearance of the bread may be affected. In the same way, the imported sugar sold recently was much darker than ovr own product. Australian sugar is the whitest and’ best in the world.
Now,, aa to the condition of the State bakery, I desire to say it is in my electorate, and I have never worked under conditions anything like as good as those under which the men are working there. The conditions are as near perfection as it is possible to get them
– What do you say with regard to the contention of the man whose letter I read !
– I think probably that man had been to the State bakery expecting to get a foreman’s job, and because he did not succeed, he turned “sour.” I have known cases of the kind; and, as a matter of fact, men have come to me in that frame of mind, and I have advised them not to follow a certain course of action. Only a few days ago, I was at the State Bakery, and saw the bread being turned out. The most up-to-date machinery is installed, so that the bread is hardly handled by the men at all. The old order of things has changed. The men have no longer to bend over bread troughs and mix up flour by hand. A half-a-ton of flour has no longer to be mixed by a couple of men. Everything is now done by machinery. Instead of a man having to stand with his head halfway into a hot oven while putting in the bread, there has been installed the most up-to-date ovens, amongst which is an automatic oven whose floor slides out. In this oven a batch can be baked every hour during an eight-hour shift.
– The Military authorities themselves have had to complain to the State bakery of the quality of the bread supplied to them.
– If my honorable friend were a supplier of foodstuffs, he would know that some people at times will complain when supplied with a first-class article, while on other occasions they accept without demur an article concerning which there is room for complaint. A great deal depends on the state of their livers. If they are a little out of sorts, they will complain freely, even without cause; but if they are . in good health they will take no notice of the supply of an article which may be a little inferior.
If my honorable friend has brought into the House this loaf of bread, which is four days old, as a sample of the bad bread which he says is supplied to the Military authorities, I can only say that I hope that when the men now in Camp reach the trenches they will be supplied with bread of equally good quality. In the main, I think he is quite in error, so far as the bread supply is concerned. I know nothing, of the other matters to which he has referred. He has rendered a. great public service in connexion with. the Liverpool Camp; and I may say in passing that, after he brought forward the conditions of affaire there, I did a good’ deal to help him. He may accept my assurance, however, that everything that baa been told him about the bread supply is not gospel.
Bill presented, by Mr. Tudor, and read a first time.
Report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Commonwealth Naval Dockyard, Cockatoo Island, New South Wales, presented by Mr. John Thomson, for the Chairman, and ordered to. be printed.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 October 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19151028_reps_6_79/>.